hope deferred

Can I be real with you for just a minute?

I love words. I love the flow of the pen across an empty page. However, there are those moments when the thoughts are swimming inside my head longing to be free, but it is as if they are stuck somewhere between my mind and my hand. And those are the times when I am reminded that I need to just stop and do some soul listening. That, my friends, is what happened to me this weekend, and I am so grateful.

In mid-June, our friends, Scott and Mindy, their six children, two neighbors’ kids, Mindy’s brother, and Gracie (the family pet from Thailand) came to visit. This was a special visit for our family because it was the first time we got to meet the sweet Asian treasure that we had been praying for and supporting for over a year and a half. Levi came home to his forever family on April 22, 2017. Never before have you seen love given so freely, without reservation, or a heart so grateful for EVERYTHING!!! And when I say everything, I mean everything. His smile, it lights up the room. You would never believe that you are looking at the same child if you saw a picture of him from nearly four months ago and a picture of him now.

Long after their return to Florida, my friend Mindy posted one of the last pictures of Levi in China and talked about his sad eyes… his sad, empty eyes. Those pictures brought to life, for me, more than ever the Proverb that says:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

My eyes were quickly drawn to two words: “hope” and “deferred.”

Hope… that trust or reliance on, desire accompanied by expectation of fulfillment…


Deferred… to put off, postpone…

Therefore, hope deferred would be to put off or postpone trust or desire. When hope — something we are trusting in or believing to come about — is deferred or put off/postponed, it truly does make the heart sick. The sick heart, the sad, empty eyes — you’ve seen them. I have seen them. We have all seen them whether we like to admit it or not… the pictures of the starving children, with the bloated bellies, in Africa… the rough and tumble group of siblings facing yet another move and another family because they are caught in the foster care system with what seems like no end in sight… or the Chinese treasure who has been sitting in an orphanage for 1,683 days waiting for someone to love him and to love on.

The coolest part of this Proverb is not the sick hearts nor the deferred hope; the coolest part of is that: a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. The longing of a heart fulfilled brings forth hope anew. That which was once on the verge of death is brought to life! This is a love so freely given. This is a heart that is finally set free… this is Hope Deferred…

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you and piercing me
What brings you so much pain?
What could it be?

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you begging to be free
What brings you so much heartache?
What could it be?

Sad, empty eyes looking out of you longing to see
Hope spring alive
Could it really be?

Hope no longer delayed
Empty eyes cease to be
Life springs forth and the heart is set free.

Dedicated to Levi Simeon Wise… thanks for letting me be a part of your circle of love.


orphan no more


[Today is post #5 in our annual, summer Guest Writer Series. Note that the opinions expressed may or may not be held by the Intramuralist.]


Close your eyes and imagine with me…

You are seven years old. You are with your family. You are at home. Home, a place that is familiar and safe. Or at least it should be. Then your father comes to you and asks you to come with him. The two of you head out the door. You ask your father where you are going, no response. You wonder what adventure you must be going on. You ask again — no response. Finally, you find yourself at the train station. You are standing on the platform surrounded by a sea of faces you do not know. You turn to ask your father where you are going. When you turn your father is nowhere to be found. You search the station but it is no use. He is gone. Finally, a woman notices the lost look in your eye. She takes you to the security officer who promptly takes you to the local orphanage.

Unfortunately, the above story is all too often someone’s reality. There are 143 million children around the world waiting, in eager anticipation, for a forever family. Why are they given up or abandoned? The reasons range from death to disease to poverty. Some are even given up for adoption because the parents realize that they just cannot handle another mouth to feed. I cannot even begin to imagine the questions that must ravage the hearts and minds of the little ones who are left in orphanages and on the streets of our cities all over the world. I think the most heart wrenching question of all must be: do they not love me anymore?

God, if you are real, do you not love me anymore?

When we are honest with ourselves, each one of us has felt the very emotions I speak of. We have asked the same questions ourselves. There is within each of us that longing and desire to belong. To be grafted in. To be CHOSEN. We long to be a part of something beyond ourselves. I believe, with my whole heart, that longing is planted deep inside of us from the very minute we were conceived. The very one who created you and me is the very one who put that longing within us and has always had adoption on His heart… “A father to the fatherless… God sets the lonely in families… for he chose us, in him, before the creation of the world.”

Despite which side of the adoption line each of us falls on, the truth of the matter is this:

(1) Each of us, deep in our souls, when we are totally honest with ourselves, longs to be loved and to belong.

(2) Each and every life on this planet matters and within us we each possess the ability to be a catalyst of change for another person. Why not be that change for 1 of the 143 million orphans in our world?

Let’s take a peak on back at that 7 year old who was left at the train station…

The story is real. The 7 year old has a name; his name is Jia Wang. He lives in China and his father really left him at the train station. For the last three years he has been at an orphanage in China. In December of 2015, Jia got to come to America on an exchange program. He was placed with a family in Jacksonville, FL where he lived for 3.5 weeks. He was shown what the unconditional love and acceptance of a real family looks like. He got to see, in action, what it is like to have a mom and a dad who love you regardless. He got to experience having brothers and sisters who loved him for who he is. Going home in January was the very last thing he wanted to do.

Little did Jia know that in January that family would do a 21-day fast where they would ask: “God, what do you want us to do in 2016?” And God would answer with: “This little on needs to be with his forever family.”

And within 72 hours of requesting to adopt Jia, the Chinese government responded with an emphatic “YES!” They had very nearly been turned down as a possible host family for Jia Wang. Now, in the final phase of the adoption process, Scott and Mindy, wait for the word “go” and stand in humble amazement of how the God that they love has moved mountains, on their behalf, to bring this sweet boy home.

I thus wait and watch daily for that sweet hashtag, that looks something like this: #OrphanNoMore.


generous love

As I was once again tempted to count the shopping days left until the retail world’s biggest annual holiday, I was prompted to pause, challenged anew to focus on the actual meaning of this season.  I’m not sure I always get it.  Yes, I get that Christmas is far more than Santa and sleigh bells and egg nog and elves.  I get that it’s more than cookies and carols and those pied pipers and presents under our tree.  I get that.  I’m just not always certain I get or we get or even society gets the depth of what the day denotes.


Then I remembered the words of a contemporary wise man who suggested that this season is about generous love.  Not just love.  Not just generosity.  The meaning of the season centers around a love that is generous.  A love that is authentic and real.


As my pause prompted reflection, I couldn’t help but wonder where now on this planet we see evidence of that love… a love that is so big, unparalleled, sometimes overwhelming, often sacrificial.  A love that leaves a mark.  Yes, generous love leaves a mark.  That’s what I think neither we nor society gets.  I think we miss the mark.


So I interacted with multiple persons for whom that mark is obvious and deep.  This is what I found… this is what they said…


“Growing up I always told my mom, ‘I want to adopt children; there are too many that don’t have anyone to love them”… “Bottom line: we wanted to be parents and to raise a family.  We chose Ethiopia because we knew there was a need”… “I always thought people were crazy to adopt internationally, and now I’m one of them.  I was always amazed by the leap of faith I saw in those families, never expecting one day that was what God had in store for our family.”


Yes, I interacted with families who have chosen to adopt.  When reflecting on generous love, what other example comes closer to the concept than persons who have made the intentional choice to share all of their emotional and material resources with another?  … to forever alter their family?


“There was nothing about our situation that made this ‘make sense”… “$23,000 and almost 3 years into an Indian adoption, we got news that India had instated a Family Limit Law that we exceeded by far!  We had no recourse and no additional avenue to take.  We were even financially tanked”… “We once had plenty of things and money.  We once never worried about making a house payment or how much gas was.”


The giving of that love — that generous love — isn’t necessarily easy…


“There is so much loss and grief associated with adoption. My children grieve that loss at a very primal level”… “She has no medical history, no cute stories of her birth, no memories that we can relay of her earliest months”… “He longs to know his birth mom, and it is a great loss to him, a part of him that he finds as ‘unknown’… “Her very first experience was of loss and rejection”… “Her sadness often comes out as rage”… “People wonder if I am her mother — assume she is with someone else. Throughout her life, I have cringed when this has happened.  She is ours through and through, but there is this constant reminder that she is different.”


And somehow this tangible process leaves a mark…  on both the kids and parents…


“People tell me all the time how lucky my children are to have me.  I tell them that I am the lucky one”… “Adoption has helped me understand the depth of the love of God”… “My love for her is fierce!”… “I learned that God’s plan was way bigger than the little box I thought my life was going to be in”… “What I know now is that this family of mine fills my soul in ways that I can’t even articulate or understand.  I am blessed.”


There is something authentic in that blessing — something that speaks to the depth of the generosity and the vastness of the love.  Something that has more to do with the meaning of Christmas than any Santa, sleigh bell, egg nog, elf or present under the tree.  Those who have chosen to adopt — as seen above in families who adopted from Africa, Asia, the inner city, and more — typical kids, foster kids, kids with cognitive and/or physical disability — infants and teens — they have a powerful message, especially this time of year…


“We have embraced the sweetness of every color, every hair type, every body shape, every language, accent, and claimed it as our family.  We’ve learned to pick and choose our battles.  We know the Lord will only give us what we can handle. We are truly blessed.  This is family!!!  This is our family!  It has grown us immensely.  These kids have humbled us, sobered us, and taught us more about our faith than we ever could have realized.”


Yes, the blessing is real.  The mark is deep.  Generous love leaves a mark.


Respectfully… and today, also, humbly blown away…