On the Making & Keeping of Promises

This past weekend I watched dear friends stand hand in hand and commit their lives to each other. My dad officiated the wedding, and he introduced the vows as he always does: “Now we come to the most important part of the ceremony.”

Without the making of promises, there would be no wedding because the ceremony, like the marriage, points to greater realities. God has made promises to us.

Lewis B. Smedes writes, “Human destiny rests on a promise freely given and reliably remembered. Besides providing a believing basis for hope, this means that whenever you and I make and keep a promise we are as close to being like God as we can ever be.”

When my friends made their vows, they bore God’s image beautifully. As they keep those promises, their imaging of God to our shared community will become lovelier by the day.

“When you make a promise,” Smede continues, “you tie yourself to other persons by the unseen fibers of loyalty. You agree to stick with people you are stuck with. When everything else tells them they can count on nothing, they count on you…A promise, then, is the human essence of freedom after the style of God—it is your freedom to be there with someone even though you cannot tell what ‘being there’ is going to be like for you.”

Kathleen Norris agrees, “The very nature of marriage means saying yes before you know what it will cost. Though you may say the, ‘I do’ of the wedding ritual in all sincerity, it is the testing of that vow over time that makes you married.”

When we make our promises, we know so little of what they will cost us. We do not know what the better or worse will be. The sickness and health are a mystery. The richer or poorer unknowns.

We may be surprised by the person we made our promises too. We will certainly be disappointed by ourselves.

Why would anyone make a promise it will take a lifetime to keep?

If our promises are grounded by our feelings or assured by our circumstances, we will be paralyzed by fear. We can never be sure of the future- not our future selves or our future spouses.

We can only be sure of God. 

Zechariah 1:11 gives us insight into God as a promise keeper. The people of Israel were people of promise. God had declared them His and promised to loyally love them. Seventy years post exile a cry goes up for mercy. God graciously reassures them, “the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.” Again. He has already comforted. He has already chosen. But He will do it again.

God’s people are the choice He keeps making. 

God keeps His promises to us day in and day out. His choice of us, His love for us, could not be more secure because He makes that choice over and over.

Last Saturday, I watched promises being made in a wedding ceremony.

Last Friday, I made promises of my own. My husband and I went before the court to legally complete the adoption of our son and daughter. We raised our right hands, and we said yes to these two children forever.

We are not strangers to the sorrow that runs through their stories, but we have watched with joy as God has begun making all things new. Even still, we cannot know everything this yes will mean. We don’t have to.

The promise will keep us. 

We love our children fiercely. Nothing has made us happier than being their parents. But as Smede writes, “A family is created and kept together, not because parenting is so much fun, but because two people dared to make and dared to keep their promise.”

So we will keep this promise. Night after night, we will pull our children close, comfort them to sleep, and remind them- you are a son, you are a daughter. Morning after morning, we will wake up into the responsibilities each new day brings and we will choose to be their parents again and again. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. 

So from ceremonies to courthouses, let us be people unafraid of covenant. We are most like our Maker when we commit ourselves to lifetimes of love. We can make our promises fearlessly and keep them faithfully. We can choose our spouses and our children and our churches again and again. God will keep choosing us. And He will keep all of His promises.

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His First Valentine’s Day…

We celebrated by taking the One Hope Academy students to get smoothies.

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I had them all read on the way to and from Jamba Juice.Image

I don’t think Zion really grasped the Valentine’s Day concept, but when I gave him a heart shaped sugar cookie, he was overjoyed.

“Mommy, would it be so good if I held it here?”

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We missed the last five years of holidays with him. It was really special to have him here for this one. 

 

Sawdust & Diamonds- an adoption fundraiser from a precious friend…

Rachel and I became friends on Skid Row.

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We were both part of a group of college students who spent their Friday nights walking through downtown Los Angeles, trying to share tacos and the hope of the Gospel with the people who lived and worked on Skid Row. There are a lot of things about that ministry that we would do differently now, but I’ll always be thankful for the way God used it in my life. We spent so many hours sitting on urine soaked sidewalks and asking God for the words to make the Gospel sound as beautiful as it really was to homeless men and women who had bared their lives and their suffering to us.

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Skid Row kept us sober, very aware that this world’s satisfaction was fleeting at best. Our desire to find truth for the people we met there drove us to seek the truth for ourselves. The friendships we forged there went so deep and have been very enduring. I’ll always be grateful.

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Since those first few nights as freshmen finding our way in this new ministry on Skid Row, God has just grown Rachel and I’s love for each other.

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We took each other’s engagement pictures and were in each other’s weddings. We have more funny, beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime moments together than I could count. We both became teachers and now she is walking with me through the journey of adoption.

Rachel is amazingly talented. She has an eye for beauty and in the last year she has started creating her own line of jewelry. She makes beautiful necklaces- bird’s nest, peas in a pod, pendants.

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From now until Valentine’s Day. she is donating 50% of all the sales in her shop Sawdust & Diamonds to support our adoption.

You should seriously go check out some of her jewelry. It’s beautiful.

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So thankful to have friends like her who are coming around us in this journey to bring her home.

“I want to come home…”

The other day Zion and I were sitting together by the fire.

“Mommy,” he said. “When I was at —(the orphanage), I used to pray and pray for a phone. And I would pray for your number so I could call you and tell you, ‘I want to come home now, now, now.'”

Zion reminds me every day why all the prayers and work and tears going in to this second adoption are worth it: God is setting the lonely in families.

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Exciting News…

While we were in Uganda, we heard about a little girl who needed to be adopted.

In December, we learned that this little girl was still waiting for a family, and we started praying about whether that family was supposed to be us.

It wasn’t difficult to find reasons why adopting again so soon was frightening, but as we prayed God led us to passages like Matthew 25:35: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.”

During the middle of our decision making, our pastor preached a sermon on Romans 8. “In light of God’s love, it doesn’t make sense to live lives shielding ourselves,” he said. “We need to ask for grace not to be cowardly, not to shrink back from the hard things out of fear.”

We talked, we prayed, and we fell in love with this precious little girl.

We said yes to adopting her.

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We’ve prayed for years that God would set the lonely in our family. After a heart-wrenching three year journey, God brought Zion home. Now we’re praying He will bring home Zion’s little sister.

We don’t have this all figured out. We just completed an adoption in 2012 that exhausted most of our resources. We won’t be able to save the funds for this adoption as quickly as we will need them.

We are confident though, that God loves this little one way more than we do. She could be in no better hands than His.

Zion prays every night, “God, please let us be her family. Please bwing her home soon.”

Pray with us.

Please.

Here are some FAQs about this adoption. Here are some ways you can help.

Why It’s Time to Start Sharing…

I blogged a lot in college, a little in our first couple years of marriage, and hardly at all these last two years. Putting myself out there in a public space has scared me.

The scars and stories we share publicly become open for public comment, criticism, and misunderstanding. That’s a sobering reality. But what frightens me most is not what others might say about what I share, but rather who I might try to be because others are watching.

Every time I approach blogging or social media, I come face to face with my own pride. The way I rewrite posts, agonize over statuses, and carefully select profile pictures reveals just how very much I care about what other people think.

I need Isaiah to get in my face and remind me: “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” (Is. 2:22). I need a bigger view of God that right sizes my view of people.

Sometimes it’s right to step aside from sharing our lives publicly to make sure we aren’t sharing our lives pridefully. I needed a season of that.

I’m not blogging again because I no longer care what people think about me. I still do. Every time I write, I will have to fight to remember that I live before the face of God, and that what He sees and thinks matters infinitely more than coming across as hip, awesome, or Pinterest-worthy.

I’m blogging again because being a Christian means being part of a family. And in the family of God, our afflictions and comforts are not solo affairs. God gives us the grace each other needs. Your insights may be the gateway to my growth. My struggles may be part of what God uses to help you finish. We need each other.

So, welcome.