National Sibling Day

I open this up acknowledging the danger this poses to my social reputation and the many negative feelings and responses I may receive from it. But, what would a big day like today be without some naysayers, right?

Regardless, I feel that what I have to say is valid. Not only valid but a hard hitting truth that you can either acknowdlege and confess of, or one that may be irrelevant to you because you actually do well with what I am saying most do not do well with.

In regards to National Sibling Day: I found myself preparing one of those crafty picture collages earlier this afternoon. In the midst of that, I felt an urge to drop it. Not only did I feel an urge to drop it, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt as I prepared to share what I honestly had only planned on receiving tons of likes and interaction from. 

When was the last time I called my sisters and told them I loved them? Encouraged them in their marriages? Their parenting? Expressed my gratitude?

Honestly, I don’t know. I talk with my sisters a lot. We have great relationships. They are better at letting me know they love me than I am with them. But do they know how much they mean to me? Will they only know that on a day where a little red notification is on their screen all day as it accumulates traffic?

I want to pause here and commend those of you who are doing a better job at this than me. You’re the real mvp.

I got word today of the passing of a friend I had growing up. I went to church with Jacob and the only reason he was at church was because a bus would show up at his house, rain or shine, and bring him. I was the pastors kid and he was a kid who by the age of 18 had lost both of his parents. Normally by the age of 13, kids would stop coming to church on the bus. Jacob was different. I remember Jacob losing some consistency, but hanging around beyond 13. Jacob was a year older than me and had a brother in my grade named Michael.  These two kids didn’t have the best homelife. In fact, I’m not sure you could even refer to what they had as a homelife. But the love these two brothers shared is a love that challenges me today. They were rough. They were involved with kids that got them in trouble, but Michael and Jacob loved each other. They were outspoken about it… It was sort of awkward. Today, the younger brother Michael has no family left. His parents are gone and this week, he lost his best friend. 

What Michael would give to hear Jacobs voice. What Michael would give to drive across town and hang out with Jacob. How insufficient it feels for Michael today to speak to Jacob in any way except to his face. 

These things challenge me. I didn’t share this in a public forum(i.e. Facebook status) because it’s something I am truly challenged by and something we should all be challenged by. I’m thankful for the fun that days like this bring where appreciation and love can be shared in the public social marketplace. Im thankful for the viral hashtags that bring and attention to others. I would rather avoid the negativity this may draw but at the same time feel burdened for myself and for the nature of what communication has become.

In a few weeks, Mother’s Day will be here. In years past, I have flown that banner of posting a collage on social media loud and proud. Each year knowing deep down that I had done very little lately to show appreciation to my mom. Simply paying her the courtesy of calling her to express my gratitude had been nearly non-existent only  proving to myself that my heart was selfish. 

In addition to the fun that social media creates with days like this, take the opportunity to call, FaceTime, face time(real time with face)someone and tell them you love them. Get over being annoyed at me for pointing it out and dig deep to see the truth we all need to hear. 

I love my sisters. I’m thankful they are good encouragers. My soul needs that from them and theirs does too.

Abortion: Slaves to Silence.

This a follow up post to an article I wrote last week entitled A note to the mom considering abortion. The response from that post has been overwhelming. From those who disagreed to those who were in full support of what was said, it was encouraging overall to see the dialogue continue.

Upon writing my previous post, I have evaluated and walked away with something that has seemed to overwhelm me over the past week. There is this sense of being a slave to the silence we offer in having discussions and confronting the wickedness that abortion is. I could take this “slave to silence” mantra about a hundred different directions. I could continue to discuss the holocaust going on inside the womb as babies are ripped limb from limb in what should be the safest place on earth. That should be on the forefront of our discussion as we continue to fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves. And, that will remain something I am vocal about.

However, these “slaves to silence” are another group of people who are damaged by our staying silent: mothers who have had an abortion.

In our churches today, overall, we have chosen to remain silent in regards to these discussions. I believe the reasons for staying silent stretch from an idea that it’s just much easier to avoid such a controversial topic to pastors who don’t know how to address it to pastors being afraid of coming across as judgmental. We often assume that being quiet about this will create more comfortable environments to those who have experienced abortion.

In turn, those who have had an abortion become a slave to her silence. They are our sisters, fellow church members and friends.They have been called to repentance in a way that will press them to share dark parts of their past. What we are actually enabling in them when we neglect to share with her the Gospel message through the lens of what she has done is her temptation to not press in, lean in and find grace in community and in Christ.

I cannot endorse the organization who published this but found a strikingly true statement released by Pulpit & Pen: “Future historians will make much of the fact that the pastors who possessed the widest influence and biggest stages were the most silent in all of America during its abortion holocaust.”

I have no interest in painting the Church in a bad light. Admittedly, it is imperfect, full of messed up people, and not perfect(did I mention that?). But, there is truth to the statement released by Pulpit & Pen. I am guilty of it. Honestly, I am more guilty of fearing what other Christians will think of me than what the world will think of me.

My goal and objective in this post is to share with you the story of a lady who has had an abortion. For the sake of context and full understanding of what she has shared, you will need to read my previous post. This girl’s experience outweighed every single response I received from last week’s article. It also did much to confirm my thoughts and feeling towards what I wrote. She courageously reached out to me after she read it and was in so many ways broken but ultimately free because of her faith in Christ’s love for her. She was also kind enough to allow me to share this.

“You hit the nail on the head with this. I don’t want to comment publicly, because I don’t really feel like I am in a place to share my experience. But in college, I had an abortion. I had both: people who told me that I was making a grave mistake, and that I would regret it for the rest of my life; also those who said “it’s your choice, your body, and you’re too young to have a baby.” I can say, from first hand experience, that those who offered the latter may have had good intentions, but those good intentions did not come from a place of love…I now understand they came from a place of not knowing Jesus, his endless grace and mercy and that the life inside me-no matter how small-was in fact LIFE. I now know it’s life because that decision has haunted me ever since. Now, ultimately the choice was mine. The choice was like being trapped in a cage and having to gnaw off your own arm to be set free. I had my mind made up and NOTHING would dissuade me. However, until you have been in those clinics and seen the disregard for human life, including the life of the mother; until you have sobbed from the deepest place inside of you because you finally realize what you’ve done, AND have heard other women who were “empowered” by their choice, you don’t fully understand. My husband and I miscarried this past year. I grieved two losses, (there is no word to describe what that pain feels like) and one was my “empowering choice.” Many other women made that choice that day, and you could hear them weeping through the curtain that divided us during recovery as a nurse laughed and said ‘it’s just the anesthesia wearing off.’ It affected all areas of my life, and to this day, I suffer the consequences. Even with Jesus’ mercy and love, you still have to live with your actions. Might I also add, that the church is the one place I have found refuge and don’t feel judged. Never ONCE did I feel like the church would judge me or condemn me…it was the people I feared and the shame that I felt. Part of the problem is that people can’t come forward with their stories. I only wish I had thought through adoption and that my little one was living with a family who cares for God’s children.”

I don’t know about you, but my heart breaks reading her story. But even more so, I rejoice in the way she has experienced grace and freedom in confessing what she experienced. What I can tell you based off the discussion I had with her is that she has never been more free. If there was ever a moment of torment, slavery within herself, it was in those moments where the horrifying topic of abortion wasn’t welcome. She obviously isn’t sharing her story with the world but God is beginning to place courage within her.

A note to the mom considering abortion.

You are tired of hearing from people like me. You are tired of hearing from Christians who seem to be judging you. Your inkling is that I am here to lambast you. But, let me comfort you with this: you are loved. You are created in the image of God whether you want anything to do with Christ or not. You are valued and grace is available to you.

I will not remain silent on the horrifying topic of abortion. Abortion is wrong and it strips a human being of it’s dignity and right to life. However, when I speak so boldly and strongly on the subject of abortion, you are not the target, per se. While you are in danger of doing something you will regret, you are valued, treasured, and loved.

You are also vulnerable. Vulnerable to what you feel you will actually lose or miss out on if you have this child. Vulnerable to what you think you will gain by getting rid of this child.

I fight against those who want to take advantage of your vulnerability. Jesus cared for vulnerable people.

Those who seem to be on your side are actually not on your side at all. Where it may seem that they are fighting for you, you are merely another project that can help them with an agenda that they believe will give them more freedom, more liberty and more voice. They don’t care for you. You may be saying “I don’t need your sympathy. I’ll make my own choice!” I believe the choice is yours and for that choice, you are the only one responsible. But, the voices of those fighting for “liberty” are aware of your place of despair and worry. The ones who got on a camera and lied to you about being void of regret and full of health and vitality, they contribute to your decision. They believed a lie and are believing a lie that it will all get better.

You are correct in that if you have this baby, you will have to make sacrifices. Life may not go exactly the way you had planned it out back when you were a dedicated, hard-working, goal oriented high school senior. You may really not know how you will care for this child or how you will feed yourself and them. You may be right in that you can’t afford this baby. The day a boy took advantage of you and gave you something that wasn’t in your 10 year plan has virtually ruined your life.

These concerns you have are legitimate.

I don’t stand for or beside your ensuing decision but I stand beside you as a friend who cares about the long term effects this will have on your mind, body and soul.

While you feel that the abortion doctor, the nurses, those encouraging you to “make your own choices based on what is best for yourself” are standing hand in hand with you, they will soon be done with you. They will move on to their next patient, their next income opportunity, and their next “project”;  anything that will contribute to their overall agenda. The way they speak to you empowers you and justifies a terrible decision. They make you feel that it will all be ok. They make you feel that you are fighting for something you will gain when it is something that will ultimately rob you of joy, happiness and sanity. To them, you are worth nothing more than a breathing, walking, pregnant billboard that will help them succeed.

Here’s the thing, Jesus stood alongside a bunch of people who were vulnerable. In your mind, Jesus doesn’t care for you. But the truth is that you are not a shock to Him. Nothing about your dilemma surprises Him and He already knows what decision you will make. In fact, even before you spent 9 comfortable and safe months in the womb of your mother, He chose to make grace available to you.

Jesus is with you now and in the tragic instant you decide to proceed with this decision, He will be with you then. But I’m begging you, don’t. When you run across someone who tells you that hell is your destiny, know that that is not the voice of Christ. Turn to Him and He will embrace you, provide for you and love you.

If you have had an abortion, the offer of God’s grace still stands. Additionally, I am upset with those who would make you feel worthless and hopeless based on a decision you made. Again, your decision didn’t shock Him. But the grace and rest and peace you will find in Him will shock you. Run to him.

“I am a daughter!”

FullSizeRender

Several weeks ago, our 3 year old came home from school with a craft in hand. It is not at all unusual for her to come home with a craft. This day, however, it hit my wife and I a little more personally. She walked in the door that day and her and mommy were chatty with each other as usual. She approached me with a piece of paper scribbled all over with crayon with the words “I am a daughter!”

This may not seem significant to many but allow me to give you some background… For the first several months of her life, our girl went through more than most of us face in an entire lifetime. She was born much earlier than she was supposed to and was born with several physical setbacks. After surgeries and therapies early in her life that remain today and parents who were unable to care for her, she wound up in foster care. At this point, she has spent more years of her life without official “permanence” in a home than she has having a permanent place to officially call home.

I may be a little biased, but I often tell people that our little girl is one of the most humble, loving and accepting girls we have ever met. She has a contagious energy but at the same time has a spirit about her that is observant and graceful. She has been through so much and is daily in an environment where children of all walks of life are represented.

So, as the day slowly approaches that we step into a court room and are legally given the title of mommy and daddy to our little girl and her baby brother, we are especially aware of God’s grace in our lives. The words “I am a daughter” hit us deep in several ways.

Over and over in scripture, the position we see the people of God in prior to salvation is that of an orphan. We are wandering and fatherless. Spiritually, we are dead. We are removed from any sort of fellowship and community that benefits us in a spiritual way. Paul tells us that once we were far off but that now because of Jesus, we are His children.

In the same breath, Jesus in the book of John diagnoses us as orphans and cures us of fatherlessness. John 14:18 says: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

It is good news when a child is welcomed into a family. A family becomes aware of a need, then learns of a specific child and does all they can to prepare themselves and their home to welcome this child. What could be better than that? Let me tell you.

What is better than that is that long before we even knew we were lost… even before it ever sank in to us that we were spiritual orphans, God knew. Not only did He know, but He accomplished adoption for us, presented us with a grace so wonderful, and welcomed us in. Ephesians says this: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”(1:3-4 ESV)

We were wandering fatherless. With less eternal and earthly hope than those who find themselves removed from a home and Christ rescued us.

As overwhelming and exciting as it was for me to say “yes baby, you are a daughter indeed”, it cannot compare to the joy we take in being called the sons and daughters of the one true God.

Adoption is a beautiful picture and opportunity to see the Gospel played out while we live on this earth.

 

A Thought on Adoption: Friend of God

It has been three weeks since our kids moved into our home. I could not sufficiently explain the joy and fun that has filled our hearts and home over the last few weeks but joyful and fun it has been.

I remember hearing from countless people on the subject of the priority you lose upon welcoming children into your home. Whether through biological means or adoption, people love babies. You are no longer of any importance once grand-babies enter the scene. And for me, that’s fine! This is one of those “good problem” situations. I rejoice in that.

For instance: I show up at my wife’s school the day after they throw a shower for us and everyone meets the kids. Where I used to be welcomed with compliments of how sweet of a husband I was to make the drive to see her, I am now welcomed with an immediate “where’s the babies?!”

More seriously, the way that these two children have been welcomed and treated with love has got me thinking about my own adoption into the family of God.

For over a year, up to the last few weeks, these children were technically labelled as “homeless.” Now, they spent a great and rich amount of time in the home of a wonderful family who fostered them and gave such Christ-reflecting love and care to them. But by definition and variables of the situation, they were still floating around without a place to legally call home. They even possessed the name of a mom and dad who chose worldly pleasures over the well-being of their children. Putting it that way, it seems like an overall sad and heartbreaking situation.

And then something happened. Not only did they receive the love and welcoming embrace of me and my wife, but they have received the embrace of being part of a family. Not just a “mommy & daddy” family but a community of people close to us, acting as a family, who love them deeply. A family that would already do anything for them. A family that will remain and a family that will bear burdens, wipe tears, and ultimately one to belong to forever.

I have thought a lot about the way these two children have been welcomed into a family. I have thought about the reality of their hopeless condition prior to the intervention of, first, the foster family and now us and the multitude of people caring for them.

I have always been blown away by what Christ says in John 15:
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

We were orphans hopeless and alone. And then came the intervening, pre-determined, pre-planned miracle of our own adoption into the family of God. Just as our two kids now have this beautiful network of people that we have connected them with, we have been connected to the family of God through the gracious intervention of a perfect savior.

There are many rich theological truths to be drawn from John 15 yet the thought that overwhelms me and stops me in my tracks is that we are no longer referred to as servants, but as friends.

The thought has ran over and over in my head that, very soon, no longer will these children be labelled as something by the state but as bearers of my name. Officially, legally, and lovingly they will be Brewers. And not only will they be Brewers, they will fully enjoy every privilege that comes with being a Brewer.

As children of God and believers in the risen Christ, we partake in all that entails. We sleep with peace, and we live with purpose and joy. Ultimately and most excitingly, we are children of God and are members of the largest and most meaningful network of family and friends that one could ever enjoy. Through faith granted to us, we are now and forever connected with Christ.

This is just one of the many aspects of adoption that theologically relate to our relationship with God. I look forward to sharing more of those with you!

If you have questions about adoption or what it takes to become a home open for fostering, please contact me at ndbrewer@me.com.

Our Adoption Journey.. And more!

Over the last 14 months, I have become overwhelmingly aware of the sovereignty of God.. His sovereignty in my joy and His sovereignty in my pain. Because of what I believe about God, His sovereignty in my joy and pain are simultaneous and ultimately meant to lead to the fullest joy and happiness in Him. I am confident in this. I am confident in this because after what God has allowed us to face I have to be. I have to be for the simple reason that if I didn’t believe He was working all things out to draw me more into Himself and make me more like Christ, I would believe He was disgusted with me with all that He has allowed us to go through. 

That all being said, I’d like to share with you what life has looked like since March of 2013. 

Lynzie and I had been trying for over a year to start a family. We longed for that. We were young and somewhat newly married but it was a great desire for us. Several have been there and know the pain of living month to month waiting on that confirmation only to be disappointed. Out of kindness, we had several people tell us we should not be worried and that our visits to the doctor were premature and we should just wait. Well come to find out, there were issues there that the doctors, through God’s grace, were able to pinpoint for us. 

In March of 2013, we received a phone call from a friend of ours who is a lawyer in Ft. Smith. She had received word that a 21 year old girl was expecting a child she did not want to keep. Three months, a closet full of baby boy clothes and a newly painted blue room later, we were childless and heartbroken. After traveling the three hours to pick our little boy up, the mother decided to keep him and send us back home without a child in-tow. 

About two months later, we received a call from another friend that informed us of another opportunity to adopt. In May, we met with a grandmother who had custody of her drug abusing son’s baby girl. We built a relationship with this lady and her grand-baby over the entire Summer only to get to August and find out she had chosen another family to adopt her baby. Again, this left us empty and broken-hearted. 

It was September when we re-visited the doctor who told us there may be some issues worth looking into through an infertility specialist. We received our appointment and began meeting with the infertility specialist monthly. He prescribed a particular medication for us to try out and January rolled around and there was no baby. 

This idea of adoption has never been a “plan B” for Lynzie and I. We knew that it was something we longed for and wanted to see happen for our family. What wasn’t quite on our radar was becoming a foster home. 

One night in November, Lynzie and I came to a point that we mutually felt God was preparing our hearts for fostering. This was a difficult step for us. We wanted a family so badly and knew what the possibilities were of opening our homes and hearts up to a baby that might not stick around long. He gave us the peace and mercy to sign ourselves up for an intense, two weekend, 30+ hour training.

Through this training and some other avenues of communication, we met an incredible family. This family had a child that they had fostered for nearly 2 years and gave more love to than I could have ever imagined a foster family could give. This family would soon be saying goodbye to this child and we became interested. We looked into the possibility of adopting and finding out more information. 

Three weeks later, I came home with Lynzie sitting at the kitchen table in tears. I knew something was different that day and wasn’t sure how to feel walking into our house. Sitting on the counter was a little white wand with two pink lines. 

Uhhh..

Wut?

Ya. So here we were; becoming certified to become foster parents, looking forward to hearing more about the possibility of the adoption.. and pregnant. 

But that is most certainly not all. One week after we found out about being pregnant, we received news that the child’s birth mother gave birth to another child. We didn’t really think a whole lot about it until the day came that DHS made a decision that whichever home the first went to, the second would as well. Our jaws dropped. Honestly, we were scared at first. Even more honestly, we said no. 

Until God absolutely brought us to our knees. 

We couldn’t walk away. We couldn’t deny that in January(and for all of eternity leading up to), when we said “yes” to all of this, He was shaping our hearts and our home. We couldn’t deny that he knew that for the Brewers in 2014, He wanted to overwhelm us with 3 kids. Amidst the myriads of people who give us crazy looks and thoughts, we followed Christ into this journey.

People literally have said to us that we should just enjoy our time together. I could go on a trail with that but I like to try to be level headed about the crazy things people say and do. I understand that we are not all in the same place. But I also know that carrying my cross may mean I get a few less hours of sleep a night to take care of the two souls God has now entrusted us with.. who previously had no home yet who to Him are image bearers. It was two weeks ago tomorrow that these children moved in with us and if all goes right, they will officially become part of the Brewer family by the end of 2014. 

Over the last year, I have learned something invaluable. It at times has been a heart-wrenching, temper tantrum throwing lesson. But this runs through my mind over and over and I wish I knew who to cite: “God will not protect us from anything that will make us more like Christ.” How true. How true that has become for me. How true that has become for my household. Whether that comes in the form of constant disappointment or overwhelming joy!

God is good in our heartbreak and in our rejoicing. God actually intends for us to see these two things with the same goal in mind: to make us more like Jesus. 

How do we respond to questions that just don’t matter?

When you’re around for 24 years, you learn some stuff… Don’t stick that metal think in the socket that looks like a happy face. Don’t touch a hot stove. Don’t associate with the wrong people. The bank might loan more than you can truly afford to pay back. Here’s a big one: I don’t know everything. I have come to learn this very well on my own. I have also come to learn it because anyone over a certain age likes to remind anyone under that certain age how naive they are. If I’m honest, being reminded of that has proved itself very helpful to me many times over the years. I am grateful for those who lovingly remind me that I am a fool in need of grace. Many people, however, aren’t so graceful and often the only thing revealed about them is their insecurity.

But what happens when an individual(despite age) has legitimate questions and needs someone older or wiser to invest energy in helping that person sort through things?

This post is meant to draw attention to two men who showed a great love by answering some difficult questions: Luke and John.

In the first section of the Gospel of Luke, he writes this in regards to a questioning audience: “..it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

The book of 1 John(written by John.. cool, huh?) comes to an end by saying this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.”

These men were faced with difficult questions. A response wasn’t fully necessary, much less an entire book! But these men walked with Christ. They knew Him. They were known by Him. More than likely, John was well over the age of 90 when he penned his gospel. Aren’t you glad John didn’t pull the age card with his younger readers?

Whether we run across someone looking for dialogue about even the most controversial topics of scripture or someone looking for answers after they tragically lose their child, we are called to respond in love. It’s popular to have the mindset of let’s just love ’em! But, if we aren’t pointing people towards the life-giving Gospel of Jesus, are we loving? A hot meal, a cool drink, a nice gesture is kind and could do such good for the soul.. but our deepest need in our darkest hour is the Good news that Jesus has conquered death and offered us life.

Even in my search for all the answers to the worlds problems, I realize that sometimes the best answer truly is “I don’t know.” But sometimes answers aren’t too far out of reach. We end up hiding behind cliches: “we just will have to figure that out when we get to heaven” or “because He’s God!” I can rejoice in the answer “because He’s God”. There are many though who have no understanding of God’s sovereignty or goodness or mercy in our lives. That sort of answer may do more harm than good when it only comes as an excuse for our lack of knowledge or interest in God’s Word.

May we devote ourselves to studying God’s Word so that we might be prepared to serve people with what they need most, the truth of a Savior. Found in his Word. For his glory. Not our own.