"What doesn't kill you...

…will make you stronger!”

At least that’s what they say!  And while this summer held days that felt as if they might just kill me, they didn’t!  Which leads me to the conclusion my grandmother came to decades before I did!  “A little HARD work never killed anyone!”  For the sake of this long, overdue blog, I will combine the two into something like this~  “Circumstances that seem so HARD you think you won’t survive, will not kill you… but they will make you stronger!”

Trouble is, I think I’m actually writing on this subject too early, as the “stronger” part has yet to come!  Truth be known, I’m exhausted.  Weary might even be a better description of my present state.  So weary that my husband put me in a car this afternoon and sent me away to have a few days ALONE!  “Rest”, he said… “Enjoy yourself!”  Believe it or not- I resisted at his first offer to get away.  There’s just too much to be done!  (Which is exactly why I’m weary!)  I don’t have a spare minute to slip away from home by myself!  But after some arm twisting- I did it!!!  I am typing now from an undisclosed location.  But my location doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that I am here ALONE! 

Unlike my precious husband of 30 years, who loves a crowd and likes to be the last person to leave the church’s parking lot on Sunday morning, I prefer time alone!  That’s when I can think clearly, spend time with the Lord in my thoughts and hear from Him.  I am recharged by those moments spent alone, and this particular summer such moments were very few and far between.  But those long, long days of summer that left me so tired and weary, DIDN’T kill me!!!!  And now that they are finally drawing to a close and I have slipped away to take a breath, I can begin to see the strength God intends to build in me through them.

Hudson Taylor's book entitled “It Is Not Death to Die” is a sweet reminder that a season that calls me to a deeper and deeper death to self, will actually lead to a more abundant life, filled with joy, than an expected shortcut to the grave.  If the aim of this particular season was to strip me of self and teach me a bit of sacrifice in service to others, it hit the target dead on!  And while I questioned it a time or two- it did NOT kill me!  Not even close!

Sadly, I’ll have to admit that I didn’t learn this soon enough in my parenting, and my Phase 2 children are bearing the brunt of my late start!  At the ripe old age of 50- I think I might have finally caught on to something and I want to waste no time in showing my kids the real pathway to joy!  The one they will never find in front of a computer screen or with an ITouch in their hands!  In fact, I’ve decided that bringing home a child with a special need that requires much attention from everyone in the home (in this case Abby’s Down Syndrome) has not ruined the lives of my other children the way well-meaning observers warned it could.  Instead, it is teaching each of us that a life of service to others is the best life of all!  Most amazing is that I have never heard a single complaint from any of them when called to serve Abby in some way or the other.  How is this even possible, I wonder…  I suppose it’s because the instant rewards through simply being with Abby are enough to remind us all that a life of service is a shortcut to a life of joy.

I can’t imagine what my life looks like from the outside looking in these days.  I’m convinced that I should have lost my mind long ago- so it’s no wonder everyone else thinks so too!  Questions regarding our decision to adopt another child with DS are predictable and I have come to expect them.  Just this week, after spending a few hours with our crazy family, a friend looked at me in disbelief and asked,  “…and you really want to adopt another one?  Wow!”  Our lives are complicated and do not include a leisurely swim or time to lounge next to the pool.  And while this is HARD- I’ve come to realize that the hardest work is in the molding of my own heart to do exactly what God has called me to do, instead of pining away for the life He has called others to…  My nest is not empty like the majority of my friends.  God’s plan for my life appears to not include an empty nest at all!  I can either adjust my heart and attitude to this or I can grow bitter and resentful as I watch my friends relax on enviable vacations, while I find myself consumed in endless days of HARD.  I joke with friends in an attempt to explain our decision to adopt child #8 by saying- “Once you’re in over your head, what difference does another foot or two under make?”  And while I’m not stupid enough to think there is not more HARD work involved in caring for another child with significant needs, I have come to realize that the strength to give more of myself is available through the very One that calls me, and is best accomplished when I embrace that call instead of resisting it and wishing for the life and freedom of others. 

My heart is the issue… not my ability to do HARD!
The truth is that there is no limit to what any of us can do…. We limit ourselves by thinking that the HARD should be left for someone else more qualified.  Yet the qualifications are few and only include a heart that is willing!

In looking back over my life, I realize that I bought into the mindset early that my sole aim was to work myself out of a job!  The goal of life was freedom!  Freedom from endless work.  Freedom from obligation and HARD!  You know… work hard and then retire!!!  It started the day I gave birth to my first born, I guess…  Then I’d hit the restart button with each addition to the family.  18 more years… then freedom!  I clearly remember the internal struggle I had in choosing to start this journey called adoption.  I couldn’t stop thinking in terms of car seats and highchairs!  Those signified another looooong commitment and prolonged years of HARD work.  I obviously chose to take the journey anyway and now, 10 years later, I am starting again for the fifth time!!!  How comical to think now, about the time right after I got home with my first from China and started calculating the number of years remaining in my 24/7 mothering “term”!  God must have chuckled from heaven.  Little did I know that two little girls with an extra chromosome each would be in my future.  And while that chromosome makes them some of God’s most precious creations, it also likely means that there is no term limit for me as their mother! 

Gone are the dreams of freedom from HARD work!  Reality has awakened me as I have drawn nearer to God.  The freedom I was striving toward was NEVER His plan.  I am His bondservant!  I have chosen to dedicate the rest of my life in service to my King!  Freedom from HARD is not part of the deal!  My sole requirement is to do what my Master says, when He says to do it!  The resources (including my aging energy!) will come from Him alone!

My aging parents have just moved into an addition on our home.  My mom cares for my ailing father 24/7.  He had a massive stroke just months after his retirement.  I watch as my mom works tirelessly and I wish for her those lost days of retirement and freedom.  Then I remind myself that retiring from servant-hood was not a part of her life plan either.  I watched years ago as she served three of my grandparents until their death and now, is left with the sole care of her husband.  People ask constantly how she does what she does so gracefully.  Some say that they could “never do that”, as if she has a special ability they don’t personally possess.  And while I would agree that my mom is a beautiful servant and a faithful spouse, she would be quick to tell you that she possesses nothing special that any of us do not!  God chose this path for her.  She is simply doing what He has asked of her and is only able to do it with the strength He provides! 

I suppose that over the past several years I’ve heard that same statement directed at me plenty of times now too.  It’s one thing to look at someone who has given birth to a child with Down Syndrome and marvel at their ability to “handle it”, (as if they had a choice), or at someone like my mom who is simply making good on the vows she spoke 52 years ago.  But to think that someone would actually choose such a path for themselves is understandably difficult!  But be sure of this…  This is not the path I would have chosen for myself either!  My desire for relaxation and freedom didn’t suddenly slip away from my selfish flesh any more than it has from yours.  God chose this path for me and I am bound by similar vows I made to Him as a young girl when He saved me!  Mary’s words echo in my ears as she heard she was to bear not only God’s Son, but the shame of the world as well….  “I am your humble servant.  Let it be done to me as you have said.” 

Because I know the Lord loves me and is using the circumstances of my life for my ultimate good, I am not afraid of HARD anymore!  HARD serves to make me stronger.  It tests my commitment and strengthens my love.  I am resolved to not avoid HARD, because in looking back I have discovered that if God withheld the tasks many would consider HARD from my calling, I would have missed some of the greatest blessings of my life!  

Like this one~
YES!  She's gonna eat every single one of those jalopenos!!!!  Tough as nails!
Or this precious angel, who is the sunshine in our home!

For that matter, I suppose we should throw these two in as well, since they lengthened my mothering “term” substantially!   

Oh… and this one too, since avoiding anything too difficult would have eliminated him a long time ago!  ;-)  

I can’t forget this angel either, even though she’s still waiting for us in China…  
Rebekah is only 5 years older than my first grandson!  How's that for lengthening my days of 24/7? ;-)
Last, but not least…  If I had avoided HARD, no one would feel sorry for me and send me away to a beautiful retreat on the ocean where I’d find treasures like this one! 

Please... no haters because I didn't save "this one" this time!  :-)

Let's face it!  Life is HARD, but it won't kill you!  And "what doesn't kill you, will make you stronger"!!!  Let's run head long into God's will for us and discover just how strong we can be when the journey is through!


The theme of the last two years of our lives has been waiting.  Waiting for a phone call that announces a second chance for Rachel.  In the beginning, I was a vigilant, expectant waiter!  I was in a constant state of alert and every single time my cell phone rang, my heart skipped a beat and I leaped toward it, expecting to see the phone number of the Transplant Team and the news we had been waiting for!  I have found though, that as time slips by and that phone call doesn’t come, I am less and less expectant, and less and less sure that it ever will… 

But just last Thursday, while Rachel and I were waiting for our discharge from the hospital, God’s perfect providence led me to a certain passage in my daily reading of His Word that stopped me short.
          Psalm 27
“Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me. 
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” 
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn your servant away in anger; 
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me 
nor forsake me, 
O God of my salvation!  

…I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage; 
Yes, wait for the Lord.”  

A realization from His Spirit washed over me…  I have been WAITING for the wrong thing!!!!

As I look back over my life and at the lives of the people around me, I am struck by how much time we actually spend waiting!  Ask any pregnant mom or one hoping to become a mom through adoption, and they will be quick to tell you how long they have been waiting, and how much waiting remains before they will realize their dreams through the life of a child.  Ask a single girl or guy who is waiting for their perfect match, and often you will hear desperation in their voices as they continue to wait.  Will their waiting ever produce what they long for?  Or ask a parent as they sit in the waiting room of a hospital, while their child undergoes a surgery that could alter the course of their lives or waiting for test results that could do the same.  Waiting can be one of the most difficult things we ever have to do! There are waiting lists for the things we most want, and we hold our breath as we wait for our name to move to the top of the list and we see our desires finally fulfilled!  College admission, or a scholarship, or maybe just our favorite new electronic gadget… life is so often about waiting.   Check out the people in tents in sub zero temperatures and freezing rain- lined up waiting for entrance into the electronic store or the mall the night before a big sale or the release of the greatest, latest new pleasure.  Those “waiters” are announcing to the world that the object of their waiting is most important to them and they will not be denied!

I’ve decided that the things we are willing to wait for reveal a lot about who we are and what is important to us.  Think with me about the things that you are currently waiting for…  I’m betting those things are top priority to you, or you probably wouldn’t think them important enough for waiting!    But if those things never come, will your hopes be dashed?  Have you waited in vain?  What if that miracle never comes, or a broken relationship is not restored, or your child never returns… what then?  Is God too weak?  Has He failed?  Or are you just waiting for the wrong things?

I’m certain that no one would fault me for my weariness in waiting for a new heart for Rachel.  This waiting holds life or death for my child.  And still, I could hear God whisper to me from the pages of His Word…  “You are waiting for the wrong thing, Lori...  Wait for ME instead.” 

It occurred to me suddenly that nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to wait for anything apart from waiting for the Lord Himself!  This realization caused me to dig deeper and I scoured His Word for confirmation of this Truth… 

              Psalm 130
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait,
And in His word do I hope. 
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning. 
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
Oh Israel, hope in the Lord; 
For with the Lord there is loving kindness.  And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He will redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

Ahhh!  I see it now!  Our HOPE is found in waiting for the Lord!  Waiting for His loving kindness and His abundant redemption…  It is only here that we find HOPE!  Hope is found in the Lord alone!  The HOPE in Rachel’s middle name and in the name of her website was never based upon the hope of a long life through a new heart…. Never! 

Hope for Rachel has already come!!!!  Her hope is not set on a new heart or even another miracle of healing or more time in her earthly body- but on something so much greater!  So is mine!

We do not have to wait for the HOPE we possess in the person of Jesus Christ or the adoption into God’s family, purchased by Him on the cross!  And because Jesus conquered death and rose again, we too will live beyond the grave and enjoy an eternity together with Him and with each other.  We are only waiting to cross the threshold between here and eternity and the realization of the many promises that await us there!  This waiting calls for great expectation… not dread! 

So then~ what are we to be waiting for in our “waiting for the Lord”, if not the realization of His beautiful promises and His very presence in our lives?  To wait is to “expect”… knowing that our HOPE is placed in something that will never fail! 

Does this mean that we are never to pray for the things we long for, or that it is sinful to find ourselves waiting for the realization of our dreams?  Absolutely NO!  God cares about even the smallest desires of our hearts, and part of our intimate relationship is talking with Him about those things that are important to us- both big and small! 

But the bottom line is this… Every single longing we bring before Him is to be rooted in a deep desire that He be glorified above all!  If that is not the case… than all our waiting is in vain and our lives will lack the purpose He has designed them to have!  Jesus showed us how, while in the garden facing His own immanent death.  He prayed that God would somehow spare Him of the horrifying experience that lay ahead.  But He didn’t end there, nor should we!  Instead, He cried out “Not my will, Father... but Yours be done!”  Then He surrendered His life and gave it to redeem ours. 

This realization changes the way I will choose to wait and it changes my prayers as I continue waiting too...

“Lord- come near!  I am waiting for YOU… only YOU!  Whether you come with a new heart in your hand or to take Rachel’s hand to lead her home… I will wait expectantly, knowing that whatever your plan is, it is good and wrapped in your loving kindness and mercy!  I wait for YOU, knowing that You will provide every single ounce of grace I need to glorify your name in the midst of these circumstances. In my waiting, grow within me an abiding trust in who You are.  Let contentment fill my heart in knowing that your providence is perfect and not a single hair will fall from my head, or a tear from my eye, without your notice.  How I long to love you in the waiting, Lord.  Waiting here for You!

He Is Sovereign

Sovereign ~ Just the sound of that word does something deep in my soul!  If I’ve learned anything about the Lord through the journey of these past three years, it is this… He is sovereign.  And with every day that passes without a phone call to announce that a new heart has been found for Rachel, I am forced to step in a little closer and embrace this truth a little tighter.  He is sovereign. 

God, in that perfect sovereignty, has chosen to teach me these things through what appears to be an unlikely teacher.  That teacher is a nine year old girl, that until 2 and ½ years ago, had never even heard the name of Jesus, or of a God that would go to the ends of the earth to redeem her life and give her HOPE! 

Embracing His sovereignty seems to come naturally for her…. And yet, because I know that such truths are only given through super-natural means, I can only conclude that the biggest miracle of Rachel’s life is this one!  This single truth directs everything about the way she faces life and the predicted death she has been told about since before she was even old enough to understand.  It literally defines who she is...

If you met Rachel today, you would be struck immediately that there is something incredibly different and special about her.  Her eyes literally twinkle and she embraces HOPE like no one you’ve ever met before.  I don’t know why it continually surprises us and causes us to marvel, but I can honestly say that I’ve never met anyone young or old that seemed to approach life and death quite like Rachel does…  It’s taken me a really long time, but I know now what that something special is! 

Through God’s immeasurable grace, He has revealed His sovereignty to Rachel.  It’s not anymore complicated than that, and if I can learn anything through Rachel’s life, I want it to be this…  God is sovereign.  That realization alone brings PEACE.  It brings HOPE.  It brings JOY.  And those very same words perfectly describe Rachel Hope McCary.

 While listening to the song “Sovereign” ( by Chris Tomlin) as we drove to the hospital together last week, I wondered if Rachel understood the definition to this concept by which she lives her life!  Did she even know the meaning of this word that she obviously understands in the depths of her soul?  So I asked… “Rachel, do you know what ‘sovereign’ means?”  She didn’t!  I took a deep breath and tried to explain this almost unexplainable concept in words my nine year old child, still only two years into the English language, could understand.  I was proud of my eloquent explanation until I saw the look she was giving me in the rear view mirror that I have become all too familiar with!  Most people spend their lives trying to wrap their arms around this truth.  Not Rachel.  He is sovereign!  Her answer…“Duh!!!!”

Needless to say, there’s been a lot of talk in our house lately about God’s sovereignty…  Because the truth is that the journey we presently find ourselves on is a very difficult one.  If we did not fully believe that this course was chosen for us by a completely sovereign God, then I think I would have packed up and run for the hills a long time ago!  But as I learn to wrap my arms fully around the perfect, all wise, sovereign God that I love, trust grows!  And with trust, fear melts away.  If God is in control of everything and nothing slips past his gaze… what have I to fear?  I will either believe that the GRACE and HOPE He has promised within that sovereignty will be available at the moment I need it or everything else I believe is meaningless! 

 Reports have been coming home from school that Abby is struggling… especially when life feels out of her control.  She likes routine.  She likes life to be predictable.  She likes to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it.  And while Abby’s chromosomal makeup might predispose her to some of these likes and dislikes and a greater need to feel that she is in control, I am beginning to understand that I too, like to be in charge of my days and to constantly be reassured that I, too, am somehow in control!   What Abby hasn’t figured out yet (and what I am still learning!) is that even a life seemingly under her control is a facade! 

How little we are to think that our weak hands can control even the smallest of circumstances.  I must laugh as people try to comfort me these days with the well-known phrase and shallow promise that “God will never give you more than you can handle”!  Since in my weakness I can handle very little, my life rings out as perfect proof that this saying, while well intended, is garbage!  The truth is that I cannot handle anymore than you can!  Nor can anyone else!  The thought that some people have a greater capacity to handle pain or loss or even disappointment is a weak cop out for those of us that refuse to push ourselves to do more than we KNOW we could possibly handle! 

I remember years ago, while writing one of our very first ministry newsletters, including this quote as a small explanation as to why we were making what appeared to be “crazy” choices with our lives… Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ~ T. S. Eliot     It is only when we let go of what we think is “control” and allow ourselves to be swept away in something bigger than ourselves that we discover that God’s intentions were never to give us those things we can personally handle!  Instead, He is committed to putting things in our path that are far too difficult for us to carry alone, and will cause us to cry out for more of Him instead!  If this has ever been true in my life, it is true now!

I don’t remember ever thinking to myself when looking at Rachel’s file for the first time… “Sure, I can “handle” losing a child to death.  I’m strong enough for that!”  It would be foolish to look at a child considered “terminal” and think that you had some special capacity to handle such things and then embark on a journey almost guaranteed to be laced with pain.  Nor do I remember contemplating what parenting a child with Down Syndrome would look like and thinking that I was the kind of mom that could handle that with ease.  In both circumstances I knew only three things~  
    * God was asking me to do it. 
     * I could NOT handle it apart from Him. 
     * I COULD handle it as He empowered me to do what He was              calling me to do. 

Newsflash:  I CAN’T handle my life!  I CAN’T handle the heavy burdens God has called me to carry and I’m finding that even the lightest ones need His attention!     Even the smallest details of my life will be mishandled if left solely up to me!  But as I have begun to see myself as the slave of a perfectly sovereign Master, I understand that my only job is to do as He commands.  His job is to supply everything I need to accomplish them!  Whether the job is big or small, above my personal capacity to handle or below it, is not my concern… Obedience is my only concern.  May I never forget that walking in disobedience will always reap consequences far graver than I ones could ever handle alone as well!  Either way- the road will lead me straight to the foot of the cross, where I admit my lack of strength to handle the Christ honoring life He has called me to live and I find His strength alone to be sufficient!

 “I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize the Lord is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for in the easiest positions He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

 Living in the center of God’s will, under His perfect sovereignty, is the most joy-filled, beautiful way to make this journey, or any journey you presently find yourself on.  Rachel understands this…  I see it in the way she chooses to live every single day, God in His sovereignty gives her!  I see it in the way she embraces life and yet is not afraid of death!  And I see it in the way her eyes sparkle when she talks about meeting Jesus when she gets to heaven!  She told Doug and I a few weeks ago that whatever God’s sovereign plan is, it will be a Win-Win for her.  How right she is!  But how quickly we seem to forget!  Isn’t this what Paul meant over two thousand years ago, when he said…    For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21    Sounds like a Win-Win to me too!

I am humbled by the awe-inspiring faith of a nine year old girl who had never even heard the name of Jesus until she was adopted two and a half years ago and has known more pain and suffering and promised death than most of us will ever know!  What has taken me so long?   It’s high time I start living my own Win-Win for Him!

These have not been easy times for us!  There are pressures on every side, but the most difficult part of our journey is the one we are walking along side Rachel over recent days.  Can we handle it?  No way!  But with Him… absolutely!  And we can even handle it with great JOY! His immeasurable grace is almost overwhelming these days.  There is great contentment in knowing this... He is sovereign.

We have been waiting for a new heart for over 25 months now.  Our Sovereign God could bring that heart tonight, and we pray He does… But we are being forced to face the reality that if He chooses not to, we will likely lose Rachel soon.  People often ask us if the doctors can tell us how much time Rachel might have left…  I always have to refrain from laughing at such questions, since the truth is that doctors can’t figure out how she is still with us today!!!  Only a miracle brought Rachel home from China in her fragile condition when she was seven years old and only a miracle sustains that same life day after day, two and a half years later!  Our sovereign God alone knows the plans He has for her.  She feels safe there.  We do too.  It is not for us to know the time and the date of that plan…  only to walk in joyful obedience with each day as it comes! 

Rachel has made it plain and clear since the beginning of this transplant journey that she wanted to LIVE waiting and refused to wait to LIVE.  She knows that there is not a promised heart at the end of the wait, but there IS the HOPE that Jesus promises!  Because she has fully embraced the perfect sovereignty of God, she doesn’t live in fear.  She will live fully with whatever time He gives.  If He brings a heart in time… “Great!” she says!  If He doesn’t… “That’s great too, because I will be with Him!” 

That is why I have fought every step of the way that Rachel be allowed to stay at home and with the family she loves while she waits.  To sit entangled with wires and machines sustaining her body is not “living” in her book, and she wants none of that!  She proves in that living that she trusts in the sovereignty of God more than most mature believers I have met in my lifetime! 

Of all the miracles God has wrought in and through Rachel’s life, I believe this to be the most beautiful!  I have learned more about the comfort and HOPE in the Sovereignty of God through Rachel than I could have learned any other way!  I refuse to let those with less faith and fearful hearts to steal that from her or to deny me the beautiful, transforming experience of embracing that amazing truth with her! 

So as you witness our journey, know this…  Our home is not “holy ground” and we are far from perfect or strong enough to handle what lies ahead.  But we have never known the PEACE that Jesus spoke of until the circumstances of Rachel’s broken heart have caused us to come nearer and nearer to Him and to the beautiful realities of eternity. 

Never before have we known more JOY!  There is absolute joy when resting in the sovereignty of God.  This is possible even though the journey ahead is likely laced with more pain than we have known before.  But we would choose no other path than this one, because we know that God, in His sovereignty, will ALWAYS accomplish that which brings Him the greatest glory and through that, our ultimate good!   

We covet your prayers for Rachel and for our family.  But as you lift our names before the Lord and seek to walk beside us, we pray above all that you would know this one beautiful Truth that carries us along and which we place every single ounce of our faith in… 

He is sovereign!

(These special photos were taken by an adoptive mom who heard about Rachel and wanted to capture this beautiful time in her life for our family...  They are, and will always be, some of my greatest treasures!  Please consider hitting "play" on the song below and then scroll through the precious images captured, displaying her boundless HOPE and JOY!)