Why You Should be Glad When You Have No Reason to Be

photo-119We’ve been extremely fortunate in our foster-to-adopt situation with Baby A.

More fortunate than most people.

In a few weeks the State will change Baby A’s permanency goal from reunification with her birth parents to adoption.

We’re hoping Baby A will officially be a Toy by Christmas, which is feasible as long as there are no surprises.

We also just found ourselves in a situation where we are ready to take in another baby if the State calls us. So we’re looking forward to an addition to our family of five (two dogs) in the next couple of months.

Right now, things can’t seem to get much better, but we recognize that things could change in a heartbeat, so we live with that reminder and walk cautiously, yet graciously.

We owe our happiness to God, for He has graciously provided us with Baby A after years of praying, waiting, crying, and longing for her. The wait was worth it.

I was not a good Christian during that waiting period. I grew resentful toward God, and even hated Him for not giving us a child when I wanted. But looking back, I can see that the timing was absolutely perfect.

I just wish that while we were waiting for a child that I had acted better. I wish I had prayed more and taken the opportunity to grow in my relationship with God.

So, if you’re in a waiting period, or things are difficult, or you’re at your wit’s end, or life just seems to be falling apart around you, I can’t promise that it will get better, but the odds are definitely in your favor.

Just don’t wait for things to get better and then praise God for what He’s done, because then you’ll end up like me and feel like a hypocrite (or something… I haven’t quite figured it out yet), and you’ll feel a little out of place when you do thank God for the turnaround in your life circumstances.

So even in your mourning and your crying and your despair, God is to be praised, so that when things do look up for you, you can confidently point to Him and say, “It’s because of Him that this happened,” and not feel so out of place.

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Chuches, Why Have We Not Yet United?

Russian_orphansPastors, deacons, elders, church members, Sunday school volunteers – I’m curious.

(And please know that I ask myself this same question.)

Two questions, actually.

Two questions that could revolutionize the world.

A question that could shout volumes to the planet of God’s love.

And here’s the first question:

Why are our orphanages so full?

The way I see it is, the fuller the pews are, the emptier the orphanages ought to be.

Doesn’t that just make sense?

Here’s the second question:

It’s a bit more personal.

The last question was directed at the universal Church.

This one’s directed at you. And me. And my wife. And my neighbors. And my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Okay, so here it is:

It’s a scenario, really.

Suppose you received a text message from an unknown sender.

And it said

THERE IS A NEWBORN IN A DUMPSTER SOMEWHERE WITHIN A SIX-MILE RADIUS OF WHERE YOU LIVE.

FIND HIM. SAVE HIM.

Would you not call all your neighbors and friends and family to comb the entire neighborhood, day in and day out, until you found him?

Would you not be dumpster diving in every dark alley?

Folks, there are babies and kids dumped in the orphanages and the hospital every day.

When Sarabeth and I were visiting our Baby A. in the hospital last week, there was a premature baby tucked in the back of the room all that time, crying.

Crying.

Crying.

And no one, that we saw, ever came to visit him.

A newborn left to his own devises in this great big, cruel world.

Our social worker told us that she was on the very brink of calling us the day we brought Baby A. home because, for the life of her, she could find no one to accept the placement of another little boy who needed a home.

But she didn’t want to overwhelm us with two newborns in one day.

The title of this post is, “Churches, Why Have We Not Yet United?”

I think it’s possible, and necessary, for churches to finally come together and encourage, no – admonish, implore  – their members to go out and adopt the local orphans and unwanted children.

We observe Orphan Sunday.

That’s great to name a Sunday after those we’re to care for. But what’s the point if we’re not all going to go out and care for these orphans?

It’s like celebrating Christmas paying no mind to Christ. Or uttering no one word of thanks on Easter.

Or eating pretend food at dinner, Neverland style.

If you smell a universal Chruch-wide calling in the air, if you’re wondering the same things I’m wondering (like why aren’t we as a whole taking this calling seriously), please forward this post on to your pastors, your elders, your deacons, your Bible study groups.

Let’s start something here.

Let’s start a revolution in the name of God.

Let’s flood our country’s orphanages with not only the love, but the presence of believers everywhere, and wash those children into our homes.

Our imperfect, flawed, loving, caring, warm, welcoming, Christ-centered homes.

And change their lives – and the world – to be a little bit more like what God had intended.

If you are interested in joining me in getting the word out to churches everywhere, or if you would like your church to be involved in this, please email me at andrewtoy1208@aol.com.

Please include your church status as a church employee or member,

and please include your name of the church you’re apart of, with their website address, and tell me the city and state.

One last thing, please share your interest in orphan care, by choosing one of the following:

a) I’ve not given it much thought until I read this post

b) I’ve always wanted to be involved, but just didn’t know where to start

c) I’ve adopted/fostered, and would like to educate others about the process

d) I’ve wanted to see something like this happen for a long time – Let’s do it!

Let’s get something started.

 

She’s Not a James, But…

baby_carriage3

I’ve been married for five years, and I just fell in love again.

You’re probably aware that Sarabeth and I have been in the process of becoming foster-to-adopt parents.

We’ve been longing for a child all these years.

Well, we finally got a call last week for a little girl born a month-and-a-half early.

So through a whirlwind of confusion and excitement, we’ve been at the hospital visiting with our beautiful, gorgeous, foster daughter whom I’ll call “A” for privacy reasons.

Seriously, for the first time ever I understand what the big deal is about babies.

I mean, I’ve always been pro-life and have understood the value of a baby’s life, but loving a baby?

Yeah. That’s a new one for me.

Now, we fully understand that, as foster-to-adopt parents, we may not be able to keep her—that there’s only a chance that our time together will end in adoption and little “A” becomes “A. Toy.”

It’s a fear and a faith we’ve never known. But more on that in later posts.

She’s not home with us yet. She’s still at the hospital, but we’ve got everything ready for her big arrival day later this week.

In the meantimes, I’ve learned a few things this weekend as a foster dad:

How to change diapers.

How to swaddle.

That I chose the best wife to be the best mother.

That out of respect for little “A,” I’ll always keep my nose hairs trimmed (not that that’s been a problem).

And my tears aren’t like a Phoenix; they can’t heal my little girl’s tummy cramps, or make her sleep. (I know, I know, let the ultra-cheesiness begin.)

Oh, and I learned one more thing.

While I had given up on God waiting for a child all this time, He was busy giving A. life, forming her, shaping her, caring for her.

So even while I was angry at God for “holding out” on us, He still came through. And now, I don’t want any other baby in the universe but her. Even if she does cry and fuss all night long.

My Grouchy Morning

grumpy_pop

It’s our tradition to have the news on in the mornings while eating breakfast.

Sometimes I must not get enough sleep, or I’m just a grouch. This morning was especially bad, as I made one sarcastic comment after another about the world news and the people that are screwing everything up.

Sarabeth doesn’t appreciate these comments much, even though I personally think they’re pretty legit – and hilarious. (“They’re neither of those things” she says as she looks over my shoulder as I write this.)

It’s bad enough not being a sociable morning person, but to be a sarcastic and grumpy one – that’s just got to be hard on our spouses. It’s no wonder the pups prefer to snuggle with Sarabeth instead of me.

I forget to rejoice in each morning and be glad, for this is the day the Lord has made.

Instead, I interpret that verse, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us wait until we’re fully awake to be glad. Until then, be snappy and grouchy and insensitive and sarcastic. Even at the behest of my lovely, joyful wife.”

Sigh.

Guess it’s time to rub the milk off my mouth and go apologize. In fact, let’s all do that.

Let the grouchy cynics of the mornings unite.

If you were insensitive to your spouse this morning, fix things up, and do something nice for them today and apologize.

And tomorrow, when we wake up, let’s really rejoice and be glad, because it’ll be another day the Lord has made.

And it’ll be Friday. So really, that leaves no room for grouchiness.

 

 

Disappointment

Philip-Seymour-Hoffman-

“Did you know about this?” Sarabeth asked me yesterday as she held out the iPad to me.

I read the headline: “Philip Seymour Hoffman, Oscar-Winning Actor, Dead at 46.” 

“What?!” I said. I read that he had overdosed on heroine, then I cursed.

People aren’t calling him this generation’s greatest actor out of pity for his early death. My brother-in-law and I have loved every movie he’s in, because of him. He was probably the most well-known supporting actor of our time.

As one Fox News contributor rightly put it: “He brought his A-game to the table every single time.”

No better person could be chosen to play one of the key roles in The Hunger Games movies.

But now he’s dead, with the greatest achievements in his career ahead of him, and a rapidly growing fan base left stunned.

Yesterday was filled with all sorts of upsets, huh?

Like Peyton Manning.

The Broncos.

The subpar Super Bowl commercials (except this one.)

I was expecting a lot more from Mr. Hoffman, and I mourn his death selfishly.

We were all expecting much more from Peyton and his team.

And often, I feel like Jesus is a big disappointment too, but that’s where it’s not true.

Jesus isn’t going to overdose on heroine at the hight of his reign.

His throws aren’t going to be intercepted time after time after time.

The only reason He disappoints me is if He doesn’t go in the direction I want Him to go, or if He doesn’t work as fast enough as I’d like for Him to.

And I’ll likely be more prone to be disappointed in Him if I put too much faith and hope in the flawed people around me.

Why is that?

Because then I’m elevating them to God’s status.

In a way, Cars 2 was a blessing, because it showed me that the Pixar people aren’t perfect.

Broken promises from our presidents ought to be reminders to us that they’re not our saviors, and they, in fact, cannot fix everything.

And even the greatest actors in Hollywood have their weaknesses.

But not Jesus. We may have led ourselves into disappointing situations, or He may have allowed disappointing things to happen to us, but no disappointment will ever come directly from His hand.

And He Himself will never disappoint.

At least, that’s what I’m trying to learn for myself, anyway.

It just takes some trust and belief.

Unmet Plans

clock

I just turned 30 this year, and it was a difficult milestone, as I’m not yet the self-made millionaire I was supposed to be by this time.

I’m a tricky guy; I eat cookie dough and get giddy over a tacky Christmas light displays with all those cheap plastic light-up Santas and snowmen. But deep-down I’ve been a Scrooge. (I turned off the Christmas music a couple of days ago because it was just too much.)

But 2013 has been a difficult year.

I had high expectations to be met by this time.

We were supposed to have a kid by now, be financially stable – no, comfortable, and  have my book be a New York Times bestseller.

But with just thirteen days left of the year, it’s not likely my plans will come through, and my resolutions must be delayed another year.

But, hard as it is for me to admit, God’s plans are right on target.

And, honestly, I hate that.

It’s true that His ways are not our ways. And sometimes I just want to scream, “Why don’t You just make Your ways MY ways?!”

Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe you had big plans for 2013, too. Maybe you were expecting a promotion by now, or hoping to see a friend or family member come to salvation by this point, or… I don’t know, hoping to finish that book, or go on that vacation.

But the December 31st deadline is crushing in on us.

Something I have to realize and come to grips with is that everything’s on schedule according to God’s watch.

It’s easy to write that, and say it. But darn near impossible to believe.

Or if I do believe it deep down, it makes me angry.

Conform your ways to mine, God. You know?

One of the greatest lines of all time is from the movie Fiddler on the Roof. It’s the last verse in Tevye’s song, “If I Were a Wealthy Man”:

Lord who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.

And here it is:

Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.

It’s meant to be humorous, but it chokes me up every time.

I’m not trying to sound wise or profound here, but I think the answer to that question, as hard as it is to admit, is yes. Yes, if God were to “smite me with money” (or happiness, or wishes-come-true), it would spoil His eternal plan for my life.

I wouldn’t have to work at my day job, and, who knows, make friends with the people I work with; listen to them, laugh with them, witness to them, pray for them. (Not that I’m great at the latter two, but the opportunity is there, nonetheless.)

When self-made deadlines approach and when our dreams fall through, these are truths that are hard to face, but face them we must.

If I’ve learned anything from the Christian life, it’s that hardly anything in it makes sense. And nothing is fair.

But you know what helps? To know that others have been in your place. And they’ve made it through, alive, well, joyful, and healthy.

I guess it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun.

But you know what? I may not have everything I want, but if I did, what would there be left to fight for?

I want happiness for my wife. I can fight for that.

I want financial comfort for my family. Bring it on.

On my good days, I want my coworkers to know God. Let’s do this.

This is all easy to say and creatively write this in a blog post, but it’s another to believe it.

But, traditionally speaking, Christmas is the time for impossible belief, isn’t it? The miracle at the year’s midnight? The mustard seed planted in the eleventh hour?

And maybe – just maybe – from that seed can sprout a little hope, a little faith. Just enough to start things off for next year. A better year.

A hopeful year.

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A Cause to Pause and Reflect

Blue_candles_on_birthday_cakeThree decades.

I’ve been driving for almost half my life.

photo-4I’ve lived through two spaceflight accidents, been to three funerals, lived in four states, witnessed five presidents, owned six dogs, and I’ve seen the clocks change 60 times.

I’ll probably never again be the best man at a wedding as all of my friends are married with kids.

“Happy Birthday” has been sung to me thirty times, and thirty times I’ve woken up to the Christmas lights glowing bright in the living room on a cold winter morning.

To many this won’t seem like that big of a deal. I still look at people and think, I’ll photo-11never be that old, the way a ten-year-old might look at me and likewise muse.

Twenty-eight and twenty-nine weren’t as earth-rattling. But when your roaring twenties come to a definite close and a new decade unfolds, it gives you reason to stop and think.

If I were a clock, the long hand would be half-way through the face.

Immortality is a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it?

photo-9Leading up to my personal new year yesterday with my best friend and wife, I’ve had a lot to reflect on. Regrets have caused me to cry in the last week. Achievements came up short, as nearly all of them could be approved upon.

By this point I was hoping to have had a child, to be more mature, wise, and spiritual, and, let’s be honest, to be a best-selling author.

William Wilberforce wept over his missed opportunities in his early twenties, and spent the rest of his life vigorously making up for his youthful carelessness.

Charles Dickens was a rising star by the time he was twenty-eight. photo-8

Jesus began His official ministry at my age, and He was murdered three years later.

But when it all comes down to it, yesterday’s milestone meant very little. It defined nothing, except that I am very fortunate to be married to the love of my life, and that I still unashamedly ask for animated movies (Monsters University) and children’s books (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) for presents. (Walt Disney said, “Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”)

Yesterday’s birthday didn’t reveal whether I would die at sixty or even make it to the next Veteran’s Day weekend.

My birthday, like all twenty-nine before it, promised nothing.

photo-7But like none other before it, it did cause me to pause, and reflect. And upon reflection, I’ve recalled things that I’ve lost, regrets I carry like weights, and unpeeled old wounds I thought were healed.

But I was also reminded of the path that continues to lay before me. Sarabeth and I are just one insignificant document away from being approved to foster to adopt, I have two books written and one published, and Jesus still sits at the right hand of God beckoning me, daily, to come to Him and receive His counsel, His blessings, His discipline, and the rest of the days He freely offers to me as the greatest gift short of salvation I could ever receive.

May I live them well.

And when the spring of my life has frozen over with the icy winters of old age, and I ask  photo-10Sarabeth to tell me I’ve lived a good life, like the elderly Private Ryan does at Captain Miller’s tombstone, may she affirm that I’ve been a good man.

And in my first breath of Eternal fragrance wafting through the great halls of our Lord’s Kingdom, whenever that may be, may I hear the words echo against the golden pillars: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. You may enter fully into my Presence…”