Tenacity

Robin in HighchairMom my tells a story about me when I was about 7 or 8 months of age.  She’d put me in my highchair and went about her task in the kitchen.  It wasn’t long until I was unhappy about sitting in my highchair and I did what any child who’s discontent with their current situation would do:  I crawled out onto a shrunk that had a hutch on it.  To my dismay, every time I tried to sit up, the hutch prevented me from achieving the upright position I so desperately wanted to attain.  At this point in the story my mom is always laughing and then goes on to tell me, “You had tenacity.  You wouldn’t give up and thought you were going to make that hutch give way to your demands.”  Apparently, I was pretty vocal throughout the whole process.  Mom says that particular memory often would replay in her mind during various times of adversity in my life and she knew that tenacity was God-given.

Recently I heard two different pastors share their views about the prophet Elisha.  I wanted to share with you some of the things that I gleaned from those sermons that have changed my view of serving Christ with tenacity.

The first thing that stuck out was Elisha’s request for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  Now that request takes tenacity!  Elisha didn’t care if he ruffled Elijah’s feathers.  Elisha wasn’t content with the same miracles Elijah had preformed.  He wanted more—the best!  He was unashamedly asking for the best.  I wonder how many times we’ve settled for the norm when all the while, if we’d just asked the Lord, He would have granted our petition.

One of the phrases I love the most (and I’ve wonder why it’s not been taken out of context and marketed to couples) is Elisha’s reply to Elijah:  “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.”  Elisha had tenacity!  Elijah tells him three times that the Lord had sent him to another town, and he tells Elisha, “Stay here.”  But Elisha, in his tenacity, says, “Nope! I’m going with you.”  Elisha knew that God would soon be calling Elijah home, and Elisha wasn’t going to miss it or any other miracle God did through his mentor.

Elisha was a significant servant.  The special thing about a significant servant is that they pass it (blessings) on.  They realize they’re only on this earth for a very short period of time, so they pass those blessings on to others.  Significant, faithful servants are people who teach other significant, faithful people who will then pass it on to more significant, faithful people.b928276d5f9c4fc65cb21ab90d72b1f4

Often we don’t see miracles because we give up too early.  I remember early on in our adoption process when things seemed at a gridlock and the agency urged us to just give up on Teagan and find another child to adopt.  We had tenacity and were determined whatever it took, we were going to fight to get the one we knew God had placed in our hearts to adopt.  It wasn’t about just adopting any child.  God had told us to go get her and we knew He would work it out even though the situation seemed hopeless.  How often do we as Christians miss God’s prize because we give up too early?  We have the faith to go one mile and we feel that’s plenty of service for the Lord.  However, we give up—quit!—when the desired end seems impossible.  We want to see the miracles in, through, and around us, but we want them without paying the price of serving with tenacity.  It’s these opportunities of serving Christ that stretch and grow faith.

One of my favorite Bible passages is Hebrews 11.  It’s often called the “Hall of Faith” chapter.  You can read down the list of God’s servants who served Him with tenacity.  The phrase, “By faith . . .” begins almost each servant’s remembrance.

You know it took Jacob fourteen long years of service to Laban before he was able to claim Rachel as his wife.  It was through this family line that the Messiah had been promised.  Verse thirteen sums it up best:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

dontgiveupOften, we don’t see what God is doing or where He’s taking us.  It’s not for us to know, but to be like those described in Hebrews.  They were persuaded that serving Christ was worth it, they embraced whatever circumstance or situation they were put in, and they knew that those situations were only temporary and there was something far greater waiting for them.

Servants who serve with tenacity see the miracles because we’re in the place where God is working.  The miracle is not through who you are, but in who God is.  Whenever you find yourself in a place or situation where no one else will go, or if they’ve given up, look up!  Because that’s when and where God is going to show up, and you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

 

You Are Special

you-are-special-max-lucadoOur kids have a book written by Max Lucado called, You Are Special.  There’s a lot of good, godly theology in the book.  It wasn’t until I re-read the book recently that the Lord used its truths to open my eyes about my struggles with the past and even the present.

In the book, there’s a little wooden boy named Punchinello who lives in a town of wooden people all who were created by Eli the woodcarver.  The book begins by telling the how Eli took time to make each Wemmick special.  He created each of them different.  Some had big noses, others large eyes, some tall, while others were short.  However, they all were made by the same carver: Eli.  The story goes on to tell how the Wemmicks would carry around boxes containing gold stars and gray dots.  They would go around town giving each other gold stars if they thought your wood was unblemished, smooth, had no visible paint chips, or if you were talented.  However, if you lacked talented or were blemished in any way, you’d get gray dots.  Punchinello fell a lot, so he had quite a few scratches and blemishes; and some gave him gray dots for no reason at all.  The Wemmicks covered him with gray dots—so many that he was ashamed to go outside; and if he did go outside he’d stay among others who had gray dots, because he felt better around them.

wemmicksThe story goes on to tell how Punchinello met a girl name Lucia who had no dots and no stars on her at all.  In fact, if anyone ever tried to put one on her they’d just fall off.  Punchinello asked Lucia, “What’s your secret to the dots and stars not sticking.”  Lucia replied, “It’s easy.  Every day I go see Eli…  I sit in the workshop with him.”  When Punchinello inquires why, Lucia encourages Punchinello to go see for himself.

special2Upon arriving at Eli’s house, Punchinello is surprised that Eli knows his name.  Eli notices all gray dots Punchinello is covered with, but assures him that he doesn’t care what others think.  “Who are they to give you stars or dots?… All that matters is what I think.  And I think you’re pretty special.”  Eli goes on to tell Punchinello how he’d  hoped he’d come to see him.  Punchinello replies, ” I came because I met someone who had no marks.”  I love what Eli then tells Punchinello: “She has decided that what I think is more important than what they think. The stickers only stick if you let them… The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers… You are special because I made you, and I don’t make mistakes.”

There are so many truths to unpack in this simple story by Max Lucado.  I found myself looking inwardly at all the “stickers” that I have allowed to clutter my own life.  How often have I allowed others thoughts and actions to effect myself and my decisions.  How many times have I not reached out to others whose “dots” were just surface deep, but inwardly, those individuals were precious jewels to be treasured.  I’ve wondered if my thoughts or actions ever made others go seek out my Creator, as Lucia’s life did for Punchinello.  Had I allowed unkind words, spoken by those I thought were friends, hang gray dots on my soul?  Did the wounds inflected by church leaders, and those in authority in the church, hide the beauty of God’s craftsmanship?  And how about the pain I’d felt after giving graciously of my time, tears, talents, and finances to those who only used me?  These thoughts began a search in my heart to find how often I had allowed others actions and deeds to define me.

Maybe you’re reading this and you, too, are thinking about specific things in your own life that have covered your God-given beauty with ugly dots.  It’s hard to let your light shine through all those ugly, gray dots.  I’m here to encourage you to Rejoice!  God loves you and it’s time to stop letting others dictate who you are—to start living as your Creator intended!  Believe me, we’ve all made mistakes.  I confess, some of the dots I found were ones I put there myself.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of letting those dots and lack of stars define who I am.  I am a child of the Creator of all the universe.  I have a God-given purpose and I am determined to live out that purpose for Him.

Like Lucia, we all need to stop and sit a while with our Creator, because He gives us a true perspective—not only of things around us, but who and what we are in Him.  I pray this story gives you hope as it did me.  I’m learning it doesn’t matter what others think, believe, or assume.  I matter to God, He loves me, and He Makes No Mistakes!

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect [and is completed and shows itself most effectively] in [your] weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure [so I am well-pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ] in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength]. 

II Corinthians 12:9-10

 

Scars

When I was growing up I thought it was normal to see doctors, have surgery, and then repeat it in a year or two.  On my legs I carry the scars of a few of those surgeries.  Years have passed and I don’t notice them too much, but there are times when I look and remember those long summer days in casts—once, up to my knees and another time, up to my hips—eight weeks at a time.  I remember the dreaded itching, and sticking whatever I could down into the cast to scratch those itches that were so maddening.  There was a rusty coat hanger that did the trick, which probably wasn’t the most sanitary.  Luckily, I didn’t get an infection in my incisions.

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I have accumulated many more surgery scars since then, but thankfully those scars are unseen.  I’ve often been asked, regarding the scars on my legs, “Wow, what happened?”  I go on to explain that as a child, I had two orthopedic surgeries on my legs.  One kept me from being crippled for life, and the other straightened my severely bowed legs.  Would I prefer not to have the scars?  Of course.  But there’s a gratefulness that swells in my heart every time I tell the story of my scars.

If the veil that covers our hearts was pulled back and everyone was allowed to see the scars that cover it, I’m sure we’d be speechless, humbled, and thankful for the scars we’ve been entrusted to carry through this life.

I remember as a child asking my Daddy about a long scar he had that ran along the back of his arm.  Daddy told me he’d broken it during his senior year at football practice.  The doctor set it wrong and he had to have surgery to repair it.  Sadly, that ended his football career.  He was planning to go play for UTK.  Football was his life, and he was devastated when he realized his dream would never come true.  Daddy would then smile and say, “But God had other plans.”  He would eventually go into the United States Air Force where he’d meet a true Christian, and that encounter would lead him to Jesus.  He finished his tour of duty, came home to finish his Bachelors Degree, and headed to Germany where he served 49 years until the Lord called him Home.  Daddy carried a scar on his arm, but his heart carried the message of Jesus’ love to so many in Germany and Eastern Europe.  If you asked Daddy whether it was worth the pain and surgery, he’d reply with his life’s verses in Isaiah 61:1-3:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

I once read, “Scars tell stories of pain—and redemption.  Our brokenness provides a pedestal for the display of God’s beauty.”  We all have scars; things or circumstances that forever changed our lives.  Jesus had scars, and it was because of those scars that the disciples, when they saw them, knew He was their risen Lord.  Remember, He told Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”  The fact that Jesus was standing in their midst and showing them his scars was a visible sign of His salvation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”  I don’t know about you, but I’ve done a lot of reflection during this COVID-19 quarantine.  I thought about painful scars that haven’t begun to heal in my heart.  Hurtful scars that I know God was using to move us as a family to a new area of service.  Sometimes, God uses hurtful scars to move you because He knows you’d never go otherwise.  Although, when He uses circumstances, people, and deeds that are less than honorable to move you, it hurts; and I guess that’s why these scars were particularly painful.  Growing up on the mission field and being a missionary kid, you see a lot.  Men who take their authority and use it for self-promotion rather than godliness; people turned away from attending church because they didn’t have the right clothing; those who needed their wounds bandaged, but instead received rejection.

Recently, I was privileged to watch a dear family walk with honor and integrity in the midst of a silent, demeaning coup attempt.  I say “privileged” because I was strengthened and encouraged in the Lord by their devotion to God, His plan, and the truth.  I seriously had to go to the roots of my faith and remember who God is and who I am in Him.  You expect the world to hurt you, but the wounds of Christian brothers and sisters are far more painful in the healing process.

My heart clings to the knowledge that one day God will right the wrong.  He knows the intents of their hearts, and He’s the judge.  I’d rather leave it in His court than man’s or my own.  Believe me: this isn’t easy.  It’s a daily, “Lord, you deal with them,” situation.

I know the scars will heal and I know, like my Daddy always said, “that He may be glorified!”  I hold to my earthly Daddy’s words and those of my heavenly Father,

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” II Corinthians 5:10

There is beauty in our broken and painful stories.  I don’t know what the beauty of these scars is yet, but I know the One who allowed them and I trust Him.  What about you?  What are your scars?  Miscarriages?  Divorce?  Betrayal?  Abuse?  The list is endless.  Remember, we live in a world of scared people.  People who need you to be their reminder that God loves them more than they could ever imagine, and He will take their scars and turn them into beautiful reminders of His love, sacrifice, and plan for their lives.  Be the one who begins to help heal their wounds and turn them into scars that they too can say, like my Daddy, “That He May Be Glorified!”

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The Grand Weaver

Recently, we were able to help an adoptive mother connect with Sister Ma at Teagan’s original orphanage.  She, too, was adopting one of Sister Ma’s little ones.  Upon returning to the U.S., she wrote us a note saying that one of the Sisters who’d cared for Teagan was studying theology in Chicago and wanted to connect with us.  Of course, we said, “Yes, give her our contact information. We’d love to speak with her.”

Sister Judith contacted us and we had a wonderful time learning more about our Teagan.  We listened with joy and amazement to hear her fond memories of Teagan. Teagan and Sister Judith voice texted with one another, which was fun for Teagan and, I believe, Sister Judith as well.  Although Teagan has no concrete memories of Sister Judith, it seemed to touch Teagan’s heart to know a little more of her beginnings.

Sister Judith not only provided a verbal history, but she also emailed us a video and never-before-seen pictures of Teagan.  We were all mesmerized watching our little girl dance with her classmates to music.  She was a doll!  I’ll share the video with you so you can see why we watched it over so many times (click the link).

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Billy and I are amazed at all the intricate little details that God is giving us about our little girl.  Her first five years were a total mystery when we went to China to bring her home.  However, now we have bits and pieces that we’re unfolding together to give her a beautiful story that only God Himself could weave so beautifully.

One of my favorite books is called the Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias.  In the book, he recalls a story told by Corrie ten Boom.

(The pictures below are the actual tapestry that Corrie held as she told this story.)

“As Tante (Corrie’s aunt) spoke, she slowly unfolded the purple cloth in her hands and revealed hundreds of strings tied in knots and pulled through the cloth.  It all looked so random.  She showed the children how the strings didn’t seem to make sense from where they sat at her feet on the floor in the living room.

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“‘That’s the whole point,’ she exclaimed.  She said it was because of our limited vision, our limited perspective of what God is doing in our lives, that we question Him.

“At that point Tante slowly turned the purple tangled mess around to reveal a beautiful tapestry:  a crown of gold with multicolored jewels.

“’This’ she said, ‘is what God sees . . . from His perspective . . . a masterpiece!’”

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Teagan entered this world and, for whatever reason, her mother decided to leave her outside the House of Dawn on a very cold January night.  When they found Teagan she was blue—purple, they said—and suffering from pneumonia after being left outside in the cold.  The Sisters took her in gave her a home and, most of all, love.  Each Sister who changed her diapers, fed, bathed, and clothed her did it with love, and I am forever grateful.

Today is Teagan’s seventh birthday and next week we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Although thousands of years separate their births, both were born and rejected.  Isn’t it amazing how God became man so that he could feel everything, including rejection. Isaiah says, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”  Although Teagan can’t see it, God is weaving a beautiful tapestry in her life and He’s gently pursuing her little heart.  I anxiously await the day Teagan accepts the Lord as her Savior!  It won’t be long, and I too can say as Mary did, anticipating the first Christmas night, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

 

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

-Grant Colfax Tullar

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One of the new pictures Sister Judith sent

 

 

 

 

The Death Crawl

My eyes filled with tears today as I took a moment to sit down in my kitchen and watch a clip from a family-favorite movie.  I’ve seen this clip a half dozen times, but today was different.  I saw it in a way I’d never seen it . . . through the eyes of my Savior.

The clip touched me so deeply I was anxious to share it with my family,  but prefaced it with these instructions:  “As you all watch this clip, think of the coach as the Holy Spirit and yourself as the player.”  To set the scene up:  The coach is struggling to get the team to give him 100% effort in an upcoming game against a real tough rival.  One of the key players smarts off that the other team is a lot stronger, to which the coach says, “You’ve already written our team off?”  The players says, “No, not if I knew we could beat them.” The coach then proceeds to challenge the player to do the “death crawl” all the way to the 50 yard line.  The player quips, “I can go to the fifty if nobody’s on my back.”  The coach proceeds to tell him, “I think you can do it with Jeremy on your back.”  The coach asks one thing of the player:  “No matter what . . . I want you to give me your best.”  The player agrees, but before he begins the coach puts a blindfold on the player.  Puzzled, the player asks “Why?”  The coach tells him, “I don’t want you giving up at a certain point when you can go further.”

This is followed by the player beginning the death crawl across the field.  The entire time, the coach is encouraging him to keep going.  “You gotta keep moving.  Don’t stop.  You can do it.  Don’t quit until you’ve got nothing left.  Your very best!  Don’t quit on me.  Keep going!  I want everything you’ve got!  Don’t stop!  Keep driving!”

With the teammate still on his back, the player complains, “He’s heavy!  I’m about out of strength!”  The coach replies, “Then you negotiate with your body to find more strength don’t give up on me. . . do not quit on me. . . it’s all heart from here. . .”

“It hurts. . . it burns. . . its too hard!”

“Keep going!  Keep going!  Twenty more steps. . . keep going. . . give me your best. . . don’t quit—no, keep going, keep going, keep going. . . don’t quit. . . you don’t quit on me. . . ten more steps. . . ”

“I can’t do it.”

“Yes you can! . . . Five more. . .  Don’t quit!  Don’t quit!  Two more. . . one more.”

The player falls in exhaustion, barely able to ask, “Did I make it to the fifty?”

The coach replies, “Look up.  You’re in the END-ZONE!. . . You are the most influential player on this team.  If you walk around defeated, so will they.  Don’t tell me you can’t give me more than what I’ve been seeing.  You just carried a 140 pound man across this whole field on your arms.  I need you.  God’s gifted you with the ability of leadership.  Don’t waste it!”  The Coach proceeds to ask, “Can I count on you?”, to which the player replies “yes”, just before learning he’d carried more than he thought:  The boy he was caring weighed 160 pounds.

There’s so much to unpack in this clip and I pray each of you will take five minutes to watch it.  How many times have I, too, wanted to give up—throw in the towel—only to be reminded by that still, small voice, “KEEP GOING!  Don’t STOP!  GIVE it ALL you’ve got!  You promised. . . DON’T STOP. . . I’ve got so much more for you. . . Trust me. . .  I know it’s hard and I know you’re hurting. . . ”  How many times have each of us heard those words from our Father?  How many times have we pleaded to know the future, only to have Him put a blindfold on us—not just so we can’t see, but so we’ll trust and not stop?  He knows exactly where He’s taking each of us, the pain we are in or will endure, the heartache over loss, the pain of rejection, the unkind words of a friend, or those you thought were your friends.

Remember the coach’s words?  “If you walk around defeated, so will they.”

How many people are watching us, and what they see will decide whether they will give up on God, or go on with God?  He KNOWS, and that’s why He’s beside us, just like that coach crouching down beside his player encouraging him to not give up. You see, He too has walked through pain, grief, disappointments, rejection, loss, and death.  He knows that Heaven—the “end-zone”—is just ahead and worth ALL of it!  Hebrews says it best:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:2)

Take a moment watch the clip. . .  see yourself as the football player and the coach as Jesus. When the player is screaming in pain, think of yours; when he says he wants to give up, think of the times you too wanted to quit; and when you hear the coach respond, hear it as though Jesus Christ Himself is speaking. . . you won’t be the same after your watch it.

 

 

Is Our Dwarfism Really That Funny?

Why does my short stature and that of my children make you laugh?
Is it really that funny?

“As a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings . . . ”  This verse reverberated in my head today as I and my children dealt with not one, but three separate incidents with people who mocked, laughed, shouted out, and video taped us.

I remember my mom telling the story of the Little Red Hen during our German youth meetings.  The story is about a red hen who gives birth to a brood of chicks.  Sadly, a fire sweeps through the country side and the farm upon which they live is engulfed in the fire.  Later, while surveying the fire damage the farmer notices this thick black ball of something that’s totally unrecognizable.  He takes his foot and kicks over the black charred ball and out comes the Little Red Hen’s brood of chicks.  The mother hen had gathered her chicks as the fire approached and she took the pain of the flames thus sacrificing her life for her chicks.

The story is a depiction of what Jesus Christ did for us.  He spread out His hands and took the punishment for our sin so that our lives would be spared from eternal separation from Him and we could have life . . . eternal life with Him.

I wasn’t laying down my life today, nor was I ever in danger of losing it.  However, something within me did die . . . a little.  All my life I have dealt with the stares, name calling, and—at times—mean, derogatory slurs.  Today was different because I was with my “chicks”—my babies.  I can’t wrap my head around why it’s so important to name call, video tape and mock us because of our dwarfism.  What is so important about taking our picture and texting it to your friend?  What is it about my short stature that makes people yell, “Hey, Mom, look at the midget!” and why does that mom just laugh along with her son and walk away.  Why would a girl stand beside me and my kids snapping pictures, then cover her mouth because she’s laughing so hard at the fact that she’d accomplished to take our picture as she walked away briskly.  Why had the parents of the two young girls not educated them that snapping our picture as we walked into the lobby of a store, all the while laughing, isn’t respectful.  Why does my short stature and that of my children make you laugh?  Is it really that funny?

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The world screams about tolerance and yet, as a dwarf, I and my children aren’t afforded this tolerance.  If I were African-American the NAACP would be calling their lawyers, if I were in a wheel chair the NDRN would be calling a press conference, and if I were in the LGBT community the American Civil Liberties Union would have me booked on every major network to report it.  However, I am a dwarf, little person, a mom, wife, sister and I am not afford the right of privacy, tolerance, or just plain good manners.

I held back tears today wishing I had wings of steel that I could have spread across my kids just to shield them from this lack of tolerance and ignorance.  I couldn’t shield them, or close their ears to those ugly words or even answer their questions of, “Why Mom?” How do you explain it?

Basically, there is no explanation for their actions.  However, I tell my children we can’t control others, but we can control our response and our attitude.  I do my best to educate through my blog, the spoken word, or just smile and walk away.  I pray that one day those of us who have been chosen by God to live out our days on this earth with dwarfism will be able to enjoy the kindness, courtesy, and respect that all of who’ve been given the breath of life deserve.

If you know a principle, teacher, or church youth leader that would welcome us to come speak, take questions, and educate about dwarfism please pass on my contact information.  We can’t change the whole world’s preconceived ideas or actions towards those with dwarfism, but we can certainly try to change those around us.

 

A Big Lesson from My Little Brother

My little (6’4″) brother Michael and I have recently been able to worship together after a long season of worshiping in our own churches.  It has been a joy watching my children learn from their Uncle Michael as he’s been leading worship to see what true worship looks like.

Ironically, I too was watching Michael and, as his older sister, was blessed to see him with joy playing, singing, worshiping, and encouraging the congregation to worship along with him.  I found myself thinking about and considering my own way of worshiping God.

On July 4th, the family got together to celebrate our nation’s birthday with the traditional grilling and family fun.  As the evening progressed, I became more and more sick. I had no idea what was going on with me.  It actually reminded me a lot of what had put me in the ER in China.  The week went on and I was unable to take in much nourishment.  I felt like I was slowly dying of something.  In a short amount of time I lost a good bit of weight.  Fortunately, one of my physicians is a good friend.  I reached out to her and she ordered blood work.  There were several abnormalities and the tests revealed that my gallbladder was only functioning at forty-five percent.  Although forty-five percent isn’t great, it’s also not super bad.  So, before she referred me to a surgeon, she gave me an antibiotic to make sure that I hadn’t picked up a parasite, and she wanted to wait a month to repeat my labs to see if my liver enzymes would return to normal.

During all of this I have been unable to take in much food without getting nauseated or having extreme abdominal pain.  As a mom, it’s been difficult because I’ve had no energy and had to lay down a little while after eating.  At times, the nausea reminded me of a “first-trimester pregnancy” nausea.  I could eat something one day, and then the next day the very thought of that food was disgusting.

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While all this was going on, Michael and I had various discussions about prayer, and what true worship is all about.  Michael shared with me how his role as worship pastor isn’t to stand up and preform a mini concert, but instead it’s all about shepherding the flock, as a pastor, to come and worship at the feet of Jesus.  He said it’s not about how good a worship pastor can sing, or how many instruments he can play.  It’s all about encouraging the church to empty their hands of whatever problems, trials, or circumstances that they’re walking through at the feet of Jesus and lift them to say, “God, You are worthy.  You know my pain and heartache.  You know what I’m walking through, and I’m dropping all of it at Your feet and lifting my hands to worship You—the One who is worthy of all my praise.”

One day, after our many talks, I was standing in my pantry trying to figure out what I could eat.  I felt so sick I really didn’t want to eat, but I knew I needed to eat something.  A verse from the song “Jesus” came to my mind and I put down what was in my hands, lifted them to the sky, and tearfully sang and worshiped.  The words I sang were:

Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me

He roars like a lion
He bled as the Lamb
He carries my healing in His hands, Jesus

I was overwhelmed thinking about how Jesus doesn’t just stand off distantly in Heaven watching me suffer . . .  but rather, He stands in the fire beside me.  Not only does He stand beside me, He’s carrying the healing my body needs in His hands.  Maybe it’s not the healing I want, but He knows what is best for me.

I am so thankful Michael had shared with me his heart about what true worship looks like and how it is so much more than a “feeling.”  It’s about your heart!  (Michael shared this quote by Matt Redman with me:  “The heart of God loves a persevering worshipper who, though overwhelmed by many troubles, is overwhelmed even more by the beauty of God.”)

It wasn’t long after our discussion that I ran across this quote by A.W. Tozer regarding worship:  “A church that can’t worship must be entertained; and people who can’t lead a church to worship must provide entertainment.” – A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer’s quote reminded me of a quote from one of my professors in Switzerland (1997):  “Are you here to entertain the goats or to teach the lambs?”

How relevant both of these quotes are in today’s church.  The church is looking for someone to entertain them, give them goose bumps, or bring an emotional tear to their eye.  There are those who say, “I’m just not into the whole ‘praising, worshiping, lifting my hands as I worship’-style music,” and yet, if they read their Bible, they’ll see that that’s exactly what we will be doing for all eternity.  The Bible says:  “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.”  If you can’t worship God here on earth, how will you worship Him in heaven?

William Borden said, “No Reserves, No Retreats, and No Regrets.”  This is how I want to worship my King—not only here on earth, but throughout eternity!

When I die, I want to be able to say:  “No Reserves, No Retreats, and No Regrets!”

God-walkers

IMG_7187Today, we received a box that, for me, was filled with the mixed emotions of hope and sadness.  The boys have been experiencing more numbness (we call it the “fuzzies”) with day-to-day activities.  If you’ve seen us out and about, you’ve probably noticed them squatting, sitting on bottom shelves or chairs, or hanging onto the buggy as we navigate stores.  The frequency of their fuzzies had become significant enough that I went on a hunt to find something they could use to assist them when those crazy fuzzies hit them.  Whenever we took a family walk, we’d been bringing Teagan’s balance bike, because it was perfect for the boys to sit on while waiting for the feeling to return to their legs. The only problem is that stores, airplanes, airports, and malls don’t allow them.  The boys, Teagan, and I are headed to New York later this month for them to participate in a measurement clinic for a drug manufacturing company.  Billy and Heidi will be in Panama on a mission trip.  Thankfully, my sister Rachel will be accompanying me to help out.  However, I still had no idea how in the world we were going to navigate the streets of New York, especially if the boys’ legs went numb and they needed to squat down in the middle of a busy New York sidewalk.  Both boys can walk and sometimes we’re amazed at how far they go without needing to squat and take a break.  Then there are those days when every twenty steps they need to squat and take a break.  Well, I quickly got busy trying to figure out what in the world we could use to help make not only our NY trip more comfortable, but even our trips to the local supermarket or hardware store.  I remembered seeing someone at our church on a knee walker, and the thought hit me that it could be used as a sit-down scooter. I started googling knee walkers, and I was excited to find out that they make pediatric ones that are much shorter, which would be perfect for the boys’ short legs.  I contacted the company that manufactures them and asked about all the specifications.  When I told them how I was planning to use it, they said they’d never heard of anyone using it as I described, but just maybe it would work.

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1st time on their new ride

As you can see from the picture, it’s perfect! It’s on its lowest setting and it’s exactly what the boys need.  You know that was no accident . . . God is good!  What I love about this picture is the fact that Noah and Micah aren’t ashamed of their need, but are thrilled to have something so perfectly suited for their need.

When I was in the first grade, my parents got me a stool to set under my desk so that I could rest my feet on it. Sadly, I was embarrassed and ashamed of it. I’d wear a sweater to school and drape it over it thinking no one would notice. As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help and that stools are just a part of a dwarf’s life, as are many other apparatuses.

I’ve striven every day to help our children accept their dwarfism and its challenges with grace and dignity.  Mostly, I’ve wanted them to see their journey in life as a testimony to a world that’s not always accepting of God’s grace and love.  I would have no greater joy as a mom than to know that when my children’s names were read in God’s story of humanity that the word “God-walker” would describe them.

 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8

Micah and Noah aren’t perfect.  However, they certainly reflect God with their kind words to those who are hurting, their pep talks to those who need encouragement, their tender hugs that are shared generously with everyone, their caring actions towards the elderly, children, and strangers they meet out in public, their tender hearts that give generously to missions or those in need, and their righteous anger towards those who mock God or belittle His Word.  Micah and Noah are an inspiration to me and all who are privileged to meet them.

When I began this post I’d forgotten that tomorrow my brave warriors will be fifteen. I’ve learned so much from them and anticipate learning more as they mature and grow in the grace and knowledge of God.

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Micah and Noah

I pray this “new addition” to our family will help the boys continue to avoid spinal surgery.  We know that whatever path the Lord chooses for their lives will be His perfect will and we will accept it.  No matter what detours may come in the boys’ lives, I pray that the boys will continue to be God-walkers.

Knee Rover Jr:

https://smile.amazon.com/KneeRover-Scooter-Pediatric-Crutches-Alternative/dp/B00IKN5D2Y/ref=sr_1_5?keywords=kneerover+jr&qid=1565823153&s=gateway&sr=8-5

Knee Walker Jr Pediatric and Smaller Adult Knee Scooter

 

 

First Forever Family Day

It’s hard to believe that one year ago today, Teagan was “birthed” into our family.  She arrived at the civil affairs office with her caretakers, all wrapped snug in a faux fur coat and a smile that would melt any heart.  When she stepped through the door and saw us, she wasn’t sure if she wanted us there.  You could see hesitancy on her face as we locked eyes for the first time.  I took out a little bag of mini Strawberry Shortcake figures and she immediately came to us, and that was the first time . . . we were able to embrace our precious little girl.  We were amazed at how quickly she warmed up to us and seemed to somehow understand that we were her forever mommy and daddy.

Most births take place in a birthing room.  Ours took place in a very small bureaucratic office on an obscure, busy street in China.  There was no umbilical cord to cut, first gasp of air to hear, or afterbirth to be cleaned off.  There were no balloons, cards, family, or friends present.  None of the typical “she has your eyes”, “Billy’s coloring”, or “she’s definitely got the Johnson nose”.

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Our birthing room was quiet, except of the interpreter speaking with the local authorities and caretakers from the orphanage.  We signed paper work, put our finger prints on documents, and took our first family photo.  I remember feeling as if I were dreaming and trying to convince myself that our dream and prayers were coming true.  Teagan was ours!

I’ve learned a lot about God through our adoption.  Through it, I’ve gained a better understanding about my own adoption into the family of God.  It’s an amazing thought that as we were pursuing Teagan, she had absolutely no idea that we were doing everything in our power to make her our own.  In exactly the same way, God pursued my heart because He loved me even before I ever knew Him.  Adoption is a story of pursuit for those who otherwise would never know the love of a father, mother, sister, or brother.  The adoption into God’s family is no different . . our Heavenly Father pursues, adopts, and gives us brothers and sisters more numerable than the sands of the sea.  Why?  It’s all about His love for you and me.

Happy Forever Family Day Teagan Joy Worley!!

Click here to hear Teagan

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I’m Gonna Make It

There are seasons in our lives when God will do whatever necessary to get our attention and refocus our hearts.  Many friends, family members, and myself seem to find ourselves in that very season. It’s as if we were all tossed off the Titanic together and we’re desperately trying to keep our heads above water.  Interestingly enough we individually seem to catch a deep breath at different times and have been able to encourage the other who seems to be at that same moment on the way under.

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Encouraging one of my friends this morning the Lord brought to remembrance a verse: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Romans 8:26

It’s amazing to think that when we can’t seem to find the strength to pray or even the words to say . .  the Holy Spirit is there before the throne of God speaking on our behalf.  Seriously, the Holy Spirit understands our heart so intimately that He goes before the throne of God and pleads for us when we’re unable. Wow! That thought alone is so humbling and gives the encouragement needed to say like this song so beautifully says, “I’m Gonna Make It”.

If you’re out in the water, feeling like you’re drowning, believing you can’t keep going, desiring to pray and yet unable to utter a word, or just tired of fighting to “stay alive,”  take a deep breath, and remember: your Heavenly Father says: “You’re Gonna Make It!”

I’m Gonna Make It

Through so many dangers and toils of this life
I have already come, but He keeps on giving the
Grace and the strength, to just keep pressing on.
He’s given a promise and I’m gonna stand, on
Every word His holy word has said, and holding
His hand I’ll never fear whatever lies ahead.
I’m gonna make it, He’s already said that I would.
I’ll keep on trusting that He’s working everything for my good.
He walks beside me and heaven is in my view, I’m gonna make it through.
In spite of the good intentions I’ve had
Sometimes my strength can fail, though I have tried
The very best that I could, my weaknesses prevailed
But then I remember the promise he made, that in my weakness
He is strong and that’s when I know whatever may come
His steady hand will lead me on, and on and on,
He walks beside me and Heaven is in my view.
I’m gonna make it, He said I’ll make it.
I’m gonna make it through.
Below is a link to the Sisters preforming: “I’m Gonna Make It”