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!)

I will not sacrifice...

…that which costs me nothing.”

Exactly one year ago this weekend, I stood behind a microphone at a women’s retreat and proclaimed with my own lips that I wanted more than anything else to be used up completely for God!  My desire was to one day stand before Him and be completely empty- with nothing left to give!  I spoke of my life as my offering and I intended to live it as a sacrificial gift to the God I love! 

As I survey the past year, it appears that the Lord has taken me up on my offer!  I am not the same woman that stood on that stage last April.  My life is hardly recognizable.  Or maybe it is the lens that I suddenly see the world through that has changed! 

I am happier than I have ever been!  But I am more tired… no, more weary than I ever remember being before!  Jesus’ words call to me… “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest”.  I long for the rest that only He can give!  But it’s the kind of rest that only comes when one has been busy doing the hard work their Master sets before them, and they are content that they have given their very best! 

I can also say that I have never in my life experienced such absolute JOY!  This seems impossible in light of the circumstances that surround me, but it is true nonetheless!  As Jesus increases in my life and in my choices, I decrease!  More of Jesus, less of me = more JOY!  How can anything be seen as sacrifice when the reward is JOY?  I know nothing of sacrifice!

Yet, if I am to be completely honest with you, I will have to admit that it seems these days that to walk in obedience to God is indeed costly.  More costly than I ever imagined when proclaiming my intentions to sacrifice all for Him just a year ago!  I’m not talking about the kind of costly that just skims the top of your savings account, or even the kind that costs more than you think you are able to pay, because you won’t have enough left for yourself when you’re through.  Instead, it appears that to follow closely after Jesus and to live a life of sacrificial love in His name will cost you everything!   It drains every single account dry and demands more than you will ever have to give in your own strength…  This goes against every inclination of my stubborn, controlling, self-centered heart.  And yet, everything inside of me knows more than I’ve ever known before, that these are exactly the sacrifices God desires from His people!  

When our sacrifices strip us of self and cost us everything we have to give, God is most glorified!  Our offering is pleasing to Him!  I want that more than I want anything else.  That’s why I said “yes” to Abby before even counting the actual cost of such a yes.  If it was for the Lord, the cost did not matter…

Adopting Abby was a step of faith unlike any God had asked me to take before!  I had zero experience with anyone that was born with Down Syndrome, and went into it all rather blindly, only doing so because I was certain to the core of my being that it was God’s plan for us.  Abby was our daughter, and we were to bring her home and love her for the rest of our lives.  This is where “Yes Lord!” will be my only answer, and I’ll deal with each sacrifice required as it comes….  

Doug says often that the Christian life is very little about planning, and almost all about responding.  I think he’s exactly right!  I knew that to adopt Abby would change just about everything about my life as I had known it, yet I did not hesitate.  I learned long ago that a life planned by God, no matter how difficult or costly, is filled with far greater JOY and reward than any of my personal, best-laid plans!  Still, I tried to enjoy the few months before leaving for China, knowing that a massive life change awaited me starting bright and early on Abby’s Gotcha Day. 

I was right!  Abby is precious beyond words- just like I knew she would be!  She has the ability to make me smile more than anyone I’ve ever met before.  I can’t explain it, I can only tell you that it is so!  But from the moment I met Abby until this one typing a blog about her, my life and the changes she has brought into it, have been overwhelming!  Many of those changes are wonderful and I am already enjoying some of the rewards of my sacrifices to obey God’s call to adopt her.  But some of those changes are just down right hard!  Simply put… If someone tells you that sacrifice is easy, they are lying!  ;-)

Sacrifice goes against almost every inclination of our sinful hearts.  I have rarely been as keenly aware of how resistant I am to sacrifice as I was while in China without Doug’s help- adjusting to an 8 year old girl with Down Syndrome and all that her care meant to my 49 year old body!  I cried more than a few tears in my moments alone while in the bathroom or standing in the shower at night after Abby was asleep.  I was overwhelmed and felt far too small for the task. 
During those difficult first days together, God reminded me of a story from His Word again and again.  It is from 2 Samuel 24.   God had given King David plain instructions to go to the threshing floor that belonged to a man named Araunah and build an alter on which to sacrifice to Him.  David did not waste time in his obedience, as he had been suffering severe consequences for earlier lapses in obedience to God’s commands, and he hurried to the exact place God had instructed him to go.  There he offered a fair price for the piece of land on which he would offer his sacrifice to the Lord.  But Araunah didn’t want to take his money!  Instead he offered it to him for free!  “Take the land for your sacrifice to the Lord, but keep your money,” he told the King.  David’s answer was so beautiful and his words had seared themselves into my heart and were the ones God used to carry me through my difficult journey to China.  When the going got especially tough and I felt that I could hardly go on, these words came to my mind again and again….

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which costs me nothing!”

Sacrifice is hard!  But if it costs me nothing- it would not be a sacrifice at all, would it?  Yet when laid before the Lord as our offering… the cost seems insignificant in comparison to His great Love!  Joy would sneak into my heart with each reminder of these words and it carried me through another day!

One day toward the end of our journey was exceptionally hard.  We were all tired after almost two weeks away from home and Abby was struggling through so many life changes that appeared to be overwhelming her at times, as I tried to figure out a way to navigate China with a resistant 55 pound 8 year old!  I found it hard to even get my feet to hit the floor the morning of our all important Consulate Appointment.  I opted for noodles in the room over another breakfast at the buffet that I found left me exhausted before our days had even begun!  I got the three of us dressed and somehow made it into the waiting van by 6:30 AM for the hour-long ride to the American Consulate.  I don’t do life with lack of sleep very well and I don’t do weariness and massive adjustments alone very well either.  The combination left me with an overwhelming urge to cry!  But I was afraid that if I started, I might not be able to stop!  Instead I texted an SOS home to Doug with an urgent plea for prayer and some much needed words of encouragement.  It was late at night when Doug received that text and he was terribly ill, but His answer was like salve to my soul and straight from God to me through his texting fingers! 

Here’s what he said…  “You can do this Lori!  I know that this is hard, but God has called you to this and your obedience is a beautiful sacrifice to Him!  Remember the words of David…  ‘I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which costs me nothing!’”

How did he know?  I cried when I read his words!  Not tears of “I can’t do this!”, but tears of “I can!”.  God was reminding me that while the sacrifice was costly, it was beautiful to Him!  Those words carried me through the last few days of my trip and finally home into the arms of Doug and my waiting friends and family. 

But while the difficult road to China and back was behind me, the journey of sacrificial loving that God had called me to had just begun!  Jet lag hit hard and trying to adjust to my new “normal” was overwhelming.  Tears are my body’s pressure release valve, and I shed plenty of them in those first few days home.  And just like I had with each adoption before this one, I mourned the loss of the life I had left behind and wondered how in the world I would ever find my balance again or why I had ever signed up for this again in the first place!  Out of sheer exhaustion, with eyes swollen from so many tears, I dragged myself into and out of the shower and straight toward my waiting bed!  Surely things would appear brighter in the morning.  But just as I lifted my body into the bed, I noticed a piece of paper stuck to the bottom of my foot that I had obviously picked up from the floor on the way from the bathroom. 

I peeled it off and turned it over to read these words in my own handwriting from many, many months ago…  “I will not sacrifice that which costs me nothing!”

I am obviously slow to learn, so God must shout over my voices of doubt and the temptations I often have to run away from costly sacrifices when I’d rather curl up with comfort and ease!  I could hear Him loud and clear!  My sacrifice was beautiful to Him!  

It’s been over four months since that night of struggle and finally surrender.  I am often tempted to turn back on my promise and give less than my best when this new life demands more and more of me…  more and more cost… more and more sacrifice… 
But then I remind my soul these precious words of Truth that lead to my greatest JOY and I find the strength to press on…  “I will not sacrifice to the Lord, that which costs me nothing!”

Caring for Abby is one of the sweetest joys of my life!  These photos snapped in just a few seconds can only give you a glimpse into the beautiful ways this "costly" decision has changed our lives in beautiful ways!  A sacrifice in the name of Jesus brings more JOY than the human soul can contain!  My life is my offering... I will sacrifice all for Him!