In the pause between Christmas and New Year’s, when things slow down long enough to think about what the new year could look like, don’t forget to make room to do the good and necessary work of tending to the unseen, hidden places of your heart and soul.
Although it is work that is often not seen by others, it serves as a foundation on which to build all the rest.
Happy New Year!
To help you with the work of maintaining a quiet, steady heart, consider taking the month of January to establish a rhythm of prayer with Secure, my prayer guide and 31 day prayer journal.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
On Thursday, the girls and I were in our playroom/schoolroom, immersed in math and history. Mia Grace had crawled over to the bookshelves across the room, picked herself out a book, and made herself comfortable against one of the chairs. All of a sudden, we heard this:
I quietly sushed the girls and we listened to MG “read” to herself for a good minute. When she looked up and saw that she had an audience, she, of course, stopped, and getting her to do it again was difficult. But to say we were tickled was an understatement! We could not stop laughing! That little thing is always in the middle of her sisters’ business, wanting to do exactly what they are doing. And if reading a book about Abraham Lincoln upside down is part of acting like a big girl, by golly, she is going to find a way to do it!
More and more, Mia Grace is fitting in to our family rhythms, while still tenaciously holding her own. For such a little thing (I think we are up to weighing 20 pounds by now), she has a will of iron, and it always tickles us to see her determination. Well, let me take that back. Sometimes it tickles us. Other times, like when she’s in the high chair, and wants to eat soup with a fork and a spoon ALL BY HERSELF, we all sigh and say, “MIA GRACE…DON’T BE SO STUBBORN!” But most the time, we just smile.
Please keep praying for Jason and I as we learn, usually by our failures, how to parent Mia Grace in all of her uniqueness. Daily I ask for wisdom from the Lord to know when to factor in her history of being an orphan for the first 17 months of her life and when to just treat her (or her stubbornness) as an ordinary, normal almost two-year-old. And the truth is, the answer always lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, factor in her history, and yes, treat her like a normal toddler. Work my hardest at helping her bond and attach and learn how to have two parents, and also work my hardest on my ability to let her go and maintain some illusion of control – with a fork and spoon in the high chair or with a book in the rocking chair. Orphan habits die hard, and she needs as much grace as I do at learning to have a mom and a dad as I do in learning how to parent a twenty-month old I had never laid eyes on until three months ago.
Every day is a search for grace, and every day, I have to believe I have found it, whether I feel like it or not. I am just thankful I am parented by a Father who never lets me go, who knows my own orphan habits die hard, and parents me patiently as I want to parent Mia Grace.
Honestly, this journey of adoption is harder than I expected, but it’s also sweeter than I expected. While my failures are big, the grace that holds all of us is big too, and I am learning to accept that grace in a way I have never needed to accept it before.
Last week I taught our Sunday School class again, and the lesson was on Luke 7:36-50, the story of the sinful woman who anoints Jesus and the parable He tells of the Two Debtors. While I expecting to find myself in the Pharisee, I wasn’t so much expecting to find myself in the woman. But there, in her tears, in her gratitude, and in the grace that was offered, I surprisingly found myself at the feet of Jesus and was strengthened and nourished for the next phase of the adoption journey.
I have never done this before, but at the risk of seeming self-promoting, I am going to include the link to the lesson if you want to listen to it.
In no way am I suggesting that I think I have words that you need to hear; but I wanted to give you access to a text that changed the way I looked at grace and the Jesus that I follow. All Luke 7 did was make me love Him more.
So here is the link to the lesson: Just go to www.hfbctheoaks.com, and the password is “theoaks” (all one word, all in lowercase letters). You will see the link to the lesson under “Podcast” in the middle of the page.
And here is the outline I had to go with it – The Parable of the Two Debtors
I am so thankful for the many of you who are on this same journey of grace, on this same journey of learning to follow a grace-giving God wherever He beckons us to follow.
May God give you grace for all of your journeys this week, and may the reality of your own adoption absolutely delight and overwhelm your soul.
The Baker Six
I’ve been doing some thinking on Ezra and the post-exilic time period in Israel’s history lately. And no, it’s not because I’m super spiritual or my thoughts just naturally turn to the Jews’ return to Israel after living for 70 years in Babylonian captivity. It’s because I’m teaching on the book of Ezra this weekend. (Don’t worry – for those who read my surgery blog last week, I will be teaching sitting down, and I am officially off of valium. Otherwise, this weekend’s lesson would have the potential to be very scary. Just ask my girls who’ve been homeschooled for the past two weeks by a mom who’s been on both codeine and valium. Yikes.) And because I am teaching on Ezra means I needed a crash course on what the post-exilic time period in Israel’s history even is, the importance of it, and how it provides encouragement and strength for the people of God today.
I have surrounded myself with commentaries, charts, study notes, and time lines, trying to figure out exactly who was reigning when, what king issued what edict in what language, where each king was ruling and reigning in relation to Israel, and blah, blah, blah. The fact that I’ve been on valium hasn’t helped. I keep having to read the same things over and over because my brain is processing things at the speed of a slug trekking across a field of jello.
Finally, yesterday, as I was trying to piece together and think through all of the facts once again, the Lord spoke clearly and directly to my heart: “Stop trying to figure out all these facts. Do you really want to know who was ruling and reigning? Me. Do you really want to know who had absolute authority? Me. I’ve never been dethroned or defeated. I’ve never had to hand my rule or my kingdom over to another. I have always been on my throne, and that’s all that really counts. Now let’s get down to the lesson.”
I am not de-bunking historical fact or the importance of verifying its details; nor am I trying to minimalize any aspect of Scripture or to make it sound dry or boring. Every portion of Scripture is active, alive, and God-breathed and has more life and excitement in it than the wildest of rides. It’s just that we can get so caught up down here from our horizontal, earthly position on earthly rule and reign. Who reigns. How long they’ve reigned. And who came after them. And we can get so tangled up in the details of earthly kingdoms. Who had what kind of power. And how they used it. Or didn’t use it.
I know I can, at least. This week, I spent hours, I mean hours, filling out visa forms for our family to go to China and renewal forms for our daughter’s 1800A forms for her immigration approval and status. (Don’t even ask me what that means. I really don’t even understand it all myself.) For a four page visa, I printed off ten pages of instructions, and had to comb through them all multiple times to fill out five different visa applications. I was concerned I was going to leave something off, mark something the wrong way, or forget to fill in a blank entirely. And at this point in our adoption process, there is NO ROOM FOR ERROR. I mean no room. We are down to the wire on expiration dates, extension dates, and travel dates. When I sat down to actually print off of completed visa forms, my printer jammed on the first page, my internet connection went out, and my printer ran out of ink. At one point I just threw up my hands – literally.
It was so easy to look down. It was so easy to become bogged down by all the earthly rules, reigns, and red tape of communist and capitalistic governments alike. At every major juncture of this adoption process – crossing a major paper work deadline or home study finish line – we have met resistance. Forms have been sent back, papers have been forgotten on an official’s desks for weeks at a time and printers have jammed. Many times over the past two years, making progress in our adoption has felt like a slug fighting through jello.
That’s why the post-exilic time period in Israel’s history was so vital for me to read about this week and remember. Talk about red tape. There was absolutely no earthly reason why the Jews should have been given permission to go back home and rebuild their temple or their walls. It’s a historic abnormality. But that’s because high and above all earthly rule and reign was a God who loves His people, has never stepped down off of His throne, and was directing the hearts of kings – multiple kings, over multiple rules and reigns. And the challenge for the Jews, just like the challenge for us today, and for me with all of our adoption paperwork, is to look vertically instead of horizontally. To look up instead of down. To look over and above instead of across. Because across is messy and depressing and full of fears about the what-ifs and what-nots and who-rules-and-who-reigns. But up is unchanging and enabling and full of peace, grace, mercy and an everlasting covenantal love. And that is where our gaze continually has to be.
Are you worried about lots of details this week? Are you concerned about someone’s specific rule and reign? Are you bogged down in trying to concern yourself in details that (listen to me here) do not matter? Hear me loud and clear: this is what matters: our God is on His throne. He has not stepped down or been pushed aside or excused Himself or forgotten where we are in the story.
He knows your story. He sees your details. And He is moving things along at His pace, according to His will, even if the pace feels like that of a slug in jello. The call He issues to us today, just as He did thousands of years ago to the Jews of Ezra’s day, is, “Stop looking across at earthly kings and look up to Me, Your Heavenly King. I have your details covered.”
Can you look up and out today with me? Can you stop worrying and start trusting? Surrender the details to Him in deep, abiding, trusting prayer, and then leave them there at the foot of the cross and at the foot of the only throne in history that has never changed rulers or reigning king.
This week, if you could pray specifically for us about the details for Mia Grace:
• That our Immigration Approval for Mia Grace would be speedily approved (specifically before May 18th). Parts of our home study expire on May 18th and we had to renew our Home Study and Immigration Approval to get her legally from China to the USA.
• That all five of our visas to get us into China would be processed quickly and accurately, and our passports and visas would be returned to us in a secure and timely manner.
• That travel details for our trip to China would fall into place. That we would know exactly when we are to go and where we are to go, and our travel itinerary would be planned by the Lord, not us, nor our agency, nor the Chinese government, and that our family would be right where we are supposed to be, right when we are supposed to be there.
Please let us know how we can be praying for you. It is our joy and delight to see the Kingdom of God, His rule and His reign, spread all over the earth through His people, in Ezra’s day and in our day as well, through dear friends and family like you. Thank you for helping to keep our faces and hearts in the vertical position; I am praying yours stays in the vertical position too.