When Mama died in September 2015, my relationship with the Lord changed. I'd been a Christian since I was a kid but it wasn't until I was in a pit of depression and longing for my mother did I really come to realize why He died on the cross for me- for my sin, absolutely yes, but also for my pain. My hurt. My sorrow.
God reached right down from Heaven and lifted me up. He got me out of the bed on the days it seemed impossible. He gave me joy in mourning. Comfort in sadness. Purpose in pain. His Word and His promises spoke right to my heart. He gave me a peace that passeth all understanding.
What was I going to do with this joy? With this testimony of hope and restoration that can only be found through Him?
Well, I was going to tell others all about it. Podcasts. Blog posts. IG photos of sunsets inscribed with scriptures.
People are hurting. Lonely. Living in hell- going to hell. Bondage. Addiction. Affliction. Depression. They need to know the Way, the Truth, the Life. I was put here to tell them. I mourned a mama, a daddy, a step-daddy. I watched a positive pregnancy test turn negative. I knew heartache. Dysfunction. And it was all part of a greater plan- a testimony.
Because God was there every step of the way. Lifting. Sharpening. Comforting. Restoring. And people needed to know. They needed to know if I could get through it, they could get through it.
But one day I woke up, after being so on fire for the Lord and what He had done in my life- and nothing.
I skipped that morning in the prayer closet. I just wasn't in the mood to study that day. I skipped the next morning, too. And the next. I went for a walk down the country road with my Spaniel. I didn't talk aloud to God as I usually did. Instead, I just talked to the dog about every rock and weed he sniffed.
I went to church. I didn't take notes.
I fell asleep without praying.
The Bible stayed shut. The notepad empty from weeks before.
Oh, but great things still happened. Answered prayers. God-ordained opportunities. And I mumbled a, "Thank you, Lord." instead of lifting my hands and truly praising His name. I just didn't feel it anymore. God was still good, I knew it, but the honeymoon seemed to be over. The butterflies had flown.
Fizzle. It had all fizzled.
Why do we do this, sisters? How can we be so on fire for our God one minute and bored with it all the next? As if our spirituality is related to our feelings? Aren't we to love and praise and obey even when we don't feel like it? Action is what matters. Not feelings or emotions. Feelings and emotions are fickle.
We can't give Satan credit for everything. Lord knows I don't want to be one of those Christians casting the devil out of every doorknob- but are we too stupid to see this is what pleases him?
The fizzle tickles Satan. The fizzle and the smolder. And eventually- weak rings of smoke are all that is left of what once was a raging fire. And he loves it. He revels in it. He likes when we are indifferent. Apathetic. Stagnant. Lukewarm. Bored with the story of the greatest sacrifice of all time- the sacrifice that sets captives free.
He likes when we aren't in the mood to pull out the NIV. Or talk to our Maker. Or when we fall asleep or eat the food without praying. When we can't find the time to study, but we find the time for a Golden Girls marathon.
I don't know about you, but God has been too good to me. He deserves more than being kept in a Sunday morning box. He deserves the blog posts and the IG pictures of stars and Psalms and hands raised to Heaven and shouting His goodness from every keyboard and every stage. He deserves that and so much more.
I refuse the fizzle and the smolder and to become nothing but a pile of ashes.
Refuse it with me. Rebuke it.
Fan the flame again.
Susannah B. Lewis, follow her on Facebook here
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You ALL know our sweet friend today. In fact, she’s been here before. We know you will be encouraged by her own story of how the Lord not only saved her, but continues to walk with her today. Please welcome Susannah back as she shares about God’s goodness in her life.
In September 2015, I was 34-years-old and had just self-published my first book, “Ten Years Taken”. It was a joyous time because my childhood dreams were finally coming true! Since I was a little girl, I’d wanted to be a writer. And finally, after many years of writing and editing and ripping up manuscripts, everything was coming full circle. I was travelling around the state to speak at book clubs and libraries, appearing at book signings in community centers and churches, giving interviews to local newspapers and radio stations and recognized as a real author. People even stopped me in Target to talk about my novel and the characters I had invented! It was such a surreal time, and I was ecstatic when “Ten Years Taken” was listed among the Top 30 best-selling self-published books on Amazon.
My mother was truly my biggest fan. She was on the front row at every event, first in line at every book signing and she bought 18 copies of each newspaper or publication I was featured in. She constantly advertised my book and shared my blog posts on social media and continually told me how proud of me she was. She said she’d always known I’d be an author.
One cool Saturday night in September, my mama hung the next day’s church clothes on her closet door. She placed a cup of water on her nightstand next to my novel and climbed into her plush bed. And sometime during the night, while my mother slept, her soul went to be with Jesus.
I watched my young father die of a heart attack when I was eleven, and when my mother passed away, I suddenly felt like an orphan. I felt like a 34-year-old orphan. I was so utterly lost and alone and without any roots. I didn’t know how in the world I was expected to live a lifetime without my mother because she had been my rock, my friend, my spiritual mentor, my everything.
Of course, it is normal for a daughter to mourn her mother’s death, but I went beyond typical grieving. I spiraled down into a dark, deep pit of despair. I knew my mother was resting at our Savior’s feet, without the cares of this world, but I couldn’t even find joy or peace in that beautiful truth. I just so selfishly wanted her here with me. I needed her advice. I wanted to hear her laugh. I wanted to feel her fingers running through my hair. I wanted her by my side. I just wanted my mother.
As the months passed, I was still unable to get out of bed many days. I was unable to cook dinner for my family or attend my children’s ballgames. Not only was I devastated at the void in my life, but I was bitter and angry. While spending so much time in my bed sobbing and hiding from the world, I mourned my father’s death all over again. I didn’t foresee my joy ever being restored.
I’ve been saved since I was a little girl. My mother was a great Godly woman and raised me on the promises found in the Word of God. I knew all the Scriptures about hope and restoration and how Jesus was near to the brokenhearted, but still I was utterly broken.
And finally, worn and weary and heavy-laden, I could no longer bear the burden. I was exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually, and in a moment of sweet surrender, as tears fell from my eyes, I gave it all to the Lord. I told Him, “God, I cannot do this anymore. I cannot continue living in this dark pit of grief. I need you.”
When I finally let go of the rope ‒ when I finally surrendered the hurt, the ache, the void ‒ my Savior was so gracious to catch me. He came to me right where I was and gave rest to my weary soul. He gave me peace that passes all understanding. He gave me light in the darkness. He restored my joy.
The Lord has even revealed great purpose in my pain. I’ve been able to show the comfort that He has shown me to others, just as we are instructed to do in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7. I’ve continually drawn closer to Him and relied on His sweet grace and mercy, and in turn, He’s called me to do things I never thought possible. He’s called me to speak His promises of life and hope to those who are grieving. He’s called me to point the hurting and the broken to Him. He’s called me to use my writing for His glory. He’s given me beauty for ashes not only concerning the deaths of my parents, but also infertility and alcohol abuse and many other trials.
Jesus was battered and beaten and bloodied. He was mocked and ridiculed, and then He hung on an old, rugged cross to die for our sins. What incredible pain and sorrow He went through! But the purpose, the beautiful purpose, was revealed three days later when that tomb proved empty.
And like Jesus’ pain, our pain has great purpose, too.
Of course, I still miss my parents every day. Lord, what I wouldn’t give to be able to pick up the phone and call my mother and ask her to make me a Mississippi Mud Cake. But if my mother was still here, I wouldn’t be commissioned to point others to the Great Comforter. I wouldn’t have experienced His agape love and been proved time and time again that He truly is near to the brokenhearted. I wouldn’t realize so fully how our Father truly works ALL things together for good.
No matter the pain or sorrow or longing we experience here in our temporary home, if it points us to Jesus, it’s worth it.
Untruths Which Can Unhinge Your Faith Series - Part 1
The conversation began hesitantly as one of the women asked, “How do you minister to a mom whose child has chosen to take his/her own life.” A collective moan arose from the circle of women as each of us wrestled with the weightiness of this topic.
The tragic death of a child is one thing, but when one’s child chooses to take his/her own life and commit suicide? Unfathomable. We quietly leaned in as she shared the mom’s sorrow. The “What ifs?” The “Whys?” We all grappled with what we’d say if we were in the same situation ministering to a mom with a shattered heart. Providentially, two untruths (lies) sifted to the surface and became the focal points of our discussion.
Lie #1 - Suicide is an unpardonable (unforgivable) sin.
This lie about "those who commit suicide are damned to hell forever" has pretty much planted itself as truth in the mind of many Bible believers. The evil one does not want us to know the truth, especially when grappling with life’s tough questions. How slimy of him to plant the lie that suicide is unforgivable.
- It empties the grieving of any hope of a glorious resurrection of the lost loved one.
- It causes us to question God and His goodness if there is no hope of seeing a loved one again because they chose to commit suicide.
- It creates a chasm between God and us in our thoughts and beliefs when we need to be leaning into Him most.
1. Truth exposes the lie.
Scripture states in Matthew 12:3, "Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven."
To the point, the only sin committed by humanity which will not be forgiven is to reject Christ as Lord and Savior. Henry Morris states, “The unforgivable sin of speaking against the Holy Spirit has been interpreted in various ways, but the true meaning cannot contradict other Scripture. It is unequivocally clear that the one unforgivable sin is permanently rejecting Christ.”
Yes, I believe suicide breaks the heart of God just like lust and envy and pride and gluttony does. But the act of taking one’s life does not permanently separate us from Him, only rejecting Christ as Lord does.
When Jesus was dying on the cross, He stated one of my favorite, full of hope sayings, “It is finished!” John 19:30 Because of that statement, God forgives my sins and your sins if we call Him Lord even if we choose to commit suicide.
By faith, I believe Christ’s death on the cross paid for all our sins including suicide.
2. Hope replaces the lie.
Renowned pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay lost their son, Matthew, to suicide in 2013. Kay said, “Matthew’s body was buried in brokenness, but will be raised in strength.” That’s hope, my friend. That’s truth found in 1 Corinthians 15:43:
Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.
By faith, I believe Christ rising from the dead on the third day promises a glorious resurrection for those of us who call Christ Lord, despite our sin, because of the cross.
3. Jesus defeated the lie!
I want to show you a nugget from my morning reading of Christ's death in Matthew 27:52. After Christ gave up His spirit in verse 50, look at the cool events God orchestrated to show He kicked death in the teeth:
- The veil in the temple separating man from God was torn from top to bottom.
- The earth shook and the rocks split.
- The tombs were opened.
Yes, you read that correctly! The graves were opened. You know which ones: The ones of the saints, those who believed but died. Not all of them, but just enough to show God’s power over death!
I bet those raised again were sinners just like you and me with a myriad of physical and emotional issues. I don’t know nor do I claim that one might have committed suicide. All I’m pointing out here is God’s love for all of mankind and His power over death. The day Jesus died, God raised a group of believers to live again, just like Lazarus.
Remember my post about the demon-possessed man? Jesus crossed a sea to rescue one deranged, out of his mind, senseless man. That shows the heart of our Savior. Even those whose minds are sick are precious in His sight, including those who choose to end their life with suicide.
He is the God of hope who does not change nor does He lie Hebrews 6:17-19.
The only unforgivable sin is denying Jesus as Lord. The tragic choice of suicide has not nor will it ever separate us from the love of God. Remember 1 Corinthians 15:43. That is hope you can bank on, my friend. How kind He truly is.
Next week, I’ll uncover the other lie we discussed that day, Lie #2 - God never gives you more than you can handle.
How about you? What has been your thinking on suicide and eternal life? Do you know the only one who can give your life meaning and hope? Oh, friend, Jesus loves you and longs to have a relationship with you. If you don’t know Him personally or if you have questions, we would love to talk with you. Please send us a private Facebook message or feel free to comment here.
Jesus Girl. Wife. Momma. Student. Teacher. Confidante. Lover of milky coffee, dark chocolate, deep talks, lively laughter, and a front row seat on the beach at sunrise.
Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part Two
Our pile of ashes nearly smothered us in the months after losing our four month old adopted daughter, Quinn. The month of July seems like a hazy memory as we muddled through our new normal. In early August, we were presented with another adoption opportunity that met all of our criteria so we walked through the open door still bruised. Unbelievably, this door, like so many others, slammed shut. We are so accustomed to loss and pain, that our reaction was one of acute numbness. After dinner that night, I told my husband, Josiah, “I quit. I do not want to continue this journey. It’s over for us so please can we just stop this madness.” Josiah, though with sympathy, lovingly said, “No.”
Frustrated with his answer, I pressed him and told him that I was fresh out of perseverance. He then reminded me of how far, and how invested we’ve become. He challenged me to think about what quitting would look like and feel like. I knew he was right despite my weariness. I didn’t love the idea of pressing on, and all of the scriptures instructing me to press on with joy, seemed unattainable. In early August, we pursued another adoption with an older child and thought we had finally arrived. We heard from God so clearly, and again, everything aligned with what we were praying in light of scripture. Again, God closed the door through an unexpected series of events. We were left wondering, “God, where in the world are you?” We had just chosen to press on in faith; yet, you allowed more difficulty. We were left puzzled, but burdened to keep going despite all human logic.
As my birthday approached in mid-August, we decided to go to the mountains for a long weekend. While we went to celebrate and take time for ourselves, we also went to specifically pray Psalm 4:1, which says, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” As we prayed and focused on having fun and relaxing, I kept repeating this verse over and over in my mind. In the mountains, I told God how weak, how tired and how desperate I felt. I remember having an odd peace while we were there. It was as if my mind, body and heart took a big breath of fresh air. I felt light and easy. Just 24 hours into our adoption reprieve, my sister-in-law called with a different sound in her voice. Then, we heard an unbelievable story that involved many people being in the right place at the right time.
Let me preface the story by saying that when you’ve endured the amount of trauma we’ve endured, you’re skeptical about everything. In this case, however, when Josiah and I hung up the phone while sitting in a parking lot, we said, “Well, this is random, and I wonder what God is telling us.” In true Josiah form, he went over the pros and cons, while I marveled at how God had seemingly responded to our mountain prayers. We tried to discern the Holy Spirit, and we were both concerned that our bleeding hearts couldn’t endure another path of brokenness. Time was not on our side, and decisions had to be made quickly.
Unbeknownst to us, God had been working behind the scenes as we cried out to Him in the mountains. God used several people to weave a story so completely from His hand that we’re all left saying, “Surely this is our God Isaiah 25:9.” In this story, there are hospital workers, an artist, unknowingly mutual friends, an attorney, and the Holy Spirit who wove Himself into the fabric of all of these lives on our behalf and in response to our cries. For us to reach our son, countless things had to fall perfectly into place. Only God could orchestrate and align events and people in such a way to bring beauty from ashes and joy from mourning. The Church, as you will later read, have navigated our sails in recent days. If I told you every single detail, every twist and turn of this story, you would get lost in its coincidental complexity, but ultimately, it comes down to this: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above James 1:17.” As a proud West Tennessean who has traveled across the county countless times pursuing adoption, God floored me when a healthy baby boy was born on August 23 in West Tennessee. I remember walking in the parking lot of this West Tennessee hospital laughing to myself at the sheer irony of being home in West Tennessee instead of far away. God was present in the details.
God had us right where He wanted us. He wanted us broken, bleeding, weak, and depleted. We began our journey on September 15, 2015, and have since endured six failed adoptions, including the devastating and legally unprecedented loss of Quinn, countless times of being not chosen, enormous adoption financial losses, emotional distress, physical exhaustion, and spiritual warfare. We had a choice to make. We had to decide whether to walk through this door that had opened so randomly or to let fear and the pain of the past dictate our future. Needless to say, we walked through the open door wondering what in world God was doing.
At first, it was easy to bask in the mindset of, “Wow, God answered our prayer!” But, as our entire journey has shown, God wanted more from us. How could God possibly want more from us? We had nothing left. Had we not endured enough? Why couldn’t He just allow us to enjoy the answered prayer with finality? Due to circumstances beyond our control, this placement involved multiple delays so we had to agree to take home our potential son in the interim. The thought of this made us both uneasy. While we had so much love and attention to give, we were nervous about letting him into our heart without having security. We lived this for over two months when Quinn’s uncertainty began so a few days didn’t seem too much to ask. But, it was too much to ask. We very quickly realized that within our own strength, we couldn’t travel this familiar road again. Luckily, when we are weak, His strength is made perfect 2 Corinthians 12:9. When we came home, it became clear just how raw we still were from Quinn’s loss because we had such little time to grieve. Attachment began quickly with our son, so with each delay, Satan had his way with fear. We learned that just because Satan had a doorway to our vulnerability, didn’t mean God’s people couldn’t push their fellow brother and sister in Christ through the fearful fight.
Josiah and I have been surrounded by about fifteen Kingdom Warriors, both friends and family alike, who have pushed us through the days of doubt. Only these faithful few knew about our son because we were trying to maintain privacy to ensure we would have a successful placement. We have been covered in prayer since August 23 when our son was played in our arms the morning he was born. There have been Kingdom Warriors who have prayed and fasted faithfully on our behalf. We have literally seen the Church function as a moving Body. We made it to this point because these Warriors prayed us through it, loved us through it, and encouraged us that victory was near. When our prayers were but a whisper, theirs were shouts.
Though it has been a whirlwind since August 23, I am so glad God wanted more from us even when we didn’t think we had more to give. We questioned why He wasn’t allowing it to be easy after having endured so much, but we can both say we’re thankful that God wanted more. I was reminded of a quote by Corrie Ten Boom I have in one of my journals that says, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Though we’ve spent two years in a pit, His love has been deeper still. We’re grateful that God is a jealous God that wants no one and nothing, including a tumultuous journey, to pull us away from His arms. He loves us just that much. He wants all of you. He wants all of me. He doesn’t want one inch of us to not be wholly His. When you allow yourself to be wholly His, He will transform your life allowing you to have joy unspeakable in the midst of inevitable suffering. When you are wholly His, you realize that He wants to be wholly yours.
At this point, we feel like the survivors from the front line of war duty. We have opened wounds, bandages, scars, holes and bruises. This journey has been frustrating, maddening, ridiculous, unfair, grief-filled, devastating, and emotional…but God. But God promises to restore us. He promises to bring beauty from our ashes. His Word says that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning Psalms 30:5.” Our weeping has lasted two long years, and I am sure there will be more weeping ahead since all Christ followers will walk through suffering, but we’re glad that we are made like Him in our suffering. Though weeping lies ahead, we need not be afraid. He’s already there. I remember thinking awhile back that if this road ever ended that there would be no way I could still love and trust God like I have tried to in the past. I felt that there had been too much hurt for me to still have Him as the love of my life. I had seen so many unanswered prayers and moments when His protection seemed nonexistent that loving Him like I always had seemed unlikely. I proved to be right, but not in the way I expected. I love Him more now than I ever have. He has broken my heart, but His heart has broken too as He has watched our suffering. “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him Job 13:15.”
We would like to introduce you to our forever son, Paladin Shepherd Britton. Paladin is a name from the fifteenth century meaning, “someone who fights for a cause.” We feel like our journey to Paladin has been nothing but a fight. As his parents, we vow to turn that fight into a fight of ensuring He knows and understands the transformative power of the Gospel. The kind of Gospel that brought us hope and healing when all seemed lost. We have committed ourselves to being Godly parents to Paladin, while still believing that God will use Quinn’s life for His glory and His good. We believe that Paladin will learn a lot about prayer through learning to pray for his heart sister. We look forward to what God will do by joining our family to Paladin’s birth family. Praying with his birth family at the hospital will forever be one of my most cherished moments in this life. You can never convince me that the Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell among us. He not only dwells, He engulfs and consumes. When that hospital prayer was uttered, every bone in my body felt His presence. We know that God never breaks our heart to bring us back the same.
Part 1 - "A Broken Hallelujah"
Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part One
If you aren’t prepared for a raw and vulnerable look at brokenness, do not proceed. If you aren’t ready to navigate your faith within the mess of life, do not proceed. Leaving church on a warm September Sunday morning in 2015, my husband, Josiah, and I knew the message of having radical faith was just for us. After many years of battling infertility, we were eager to begin the adoption process. As many of you know, from 2015 to 2017, brought immense difficulty. During those years, we experienced three failed adoptions. Two of those adoptions were after time was spent in the hospital holding our miracle. The third, though no less important, ended before we boarded a plane. These three adoptions were costly to us emotionally, financially, mentally, and spiritually. Then, in February of 2017, on one last leap of faith, we flew across the country to get our fourth miracle. Surely, this one would be forever. Now, four months later, our arms are empty, our hearts are bleeding, and our home is stricken with the pain of silence.
Here is where you need to stop reading if you cannot refrain from shaking your fist at God. I already know what you are thinking. Stop, take a moment, and choose to find Him in this story. We met our beloved Quinn in the wee morning hours of February 18, 2017 when she was just two days old. On February 20, she was signed into our custody and three days later we returned home to the warmest and most loving welcome that any child could possibly have.
Because of our past experiences, we, of course, had fears that would persist. When fears arose, Josiah and I would remind each other of God’s promises. Even to the unbeliever, Quinn’s story seemed to make perfect sense. On April 12, we were notified that Quinn’s birth father had decided to parent. He began doing all of the necessary legal steps in spite of his previous poor choices. Our agency and the agency’s attorney had proof that her birth father knew of Quinn’s birth and chose to do nothing.
For the remainder of April until June 20, we had to continue to parent Quinn with a heavy cloud looming above. When we think of those months of parenting with the looming cloud overhead, we can take no credit. We’d always known that God gives grace, but only until recently have we really understood just how extensive His grace is. By His grace, we were able to parent her while knowing she could easily be taken. In those months, we never thought she’d be taken so we loved harder, prayed harder, and held her a little longer. After all, she was God’s fulfilled promise to us. We felt confident so we only shared the legal battle with my brother and sister-in-law who have always been mentors to Josiah and I.
When things became more legally unsettling, we took the advice of our attorney and agency and flew across the country for the fifth time, which includes previous adoptions, to stand before a judge and plead our case. On June 20, we walked into a crowded waiting room at a courthouse far from home. In a last attempt to reach an agreement before standing in front of a judge, we sat down and talked with the birth father and his family along with our attorney and agency. Pleasantries were exchanged, and then the tough talk began. We saw a young man with three of his relatives, including his own mother. As much as we communicated, shared, poured our hearts out, the birth father wanted more. As I looked up and saw Quinn’s birth grandmother cry into tissues, I knew this was something bigger than Josiah and I. When it became clear the birth family was firm, the court session began.
As we waited in a small, stuffy room for what seemed like eternity, Josiah and I said nothing to each other. I closed my eyes and prayed claiming every promise in God’s Word that was applicable to the situation we were in. Later, our agency worker and attorney returned to the room looking ashen pale. The judge had ruled that Quinn be returned to her birth family immediately. It seemed like you could knock our attorney over with a feather. In his twenty-some years of practice, he had never witnessed a judge make such a hasty decision especially given all the evidence that was reviewed. Through tears, our agency worker, whom we’ve grown to love, explained to us again what this verdict meant. In denial, I asked, “Ok, so how long will Quinn be gone?” Both she and the attorney replied, “indefinitely.” At this moment, I was confident that death would surely be soon for me. It was too much to endure.
As the agency worker began making preparations for someone to fly Quinn back to her birth state, the heat outside weighed heavy just like our grief. Once confirmation was given that an agency worker would fly to Nashville to pick up Quinn the next day, we asked the agency to contact the birth mother to have a meeting. Legally, the birth mother had to be notified of what had occurred. Josiah and I drove away from the courthouse feeling like death. Driving down a busy freeway, I buried my face in my hands, while screaming that I didn’t know how to give my baby back. Josiah, my rock of wisdom and strength, said through his own tears, “Sarah Beth, at least we can know that we’ve tried everything, at least we can know that we’ve been faithful, that we’ve glorified God in the process. I want to lay my head down at night knowing we did everything.”
Calling my brother and sister-in-law who had been keeping Quinn during our trip was nearly impossible. They were given the impossible task of explaining to their own two children that Quinn would be going away. They were also given the impossible task of bringing Quinn to the airport. My brother, mustering all the strength he had, told his two children, who adored Quinn, and prepared for the airport the next day. After that phone call, Josiah and I met Quinn’s birth mother for the first time and met her birth grandmother for the second time. Upon seeing Quinn’s birth mom, I opened my arms and we embraced. I saw a confused and torn young person. This meeting included the agency workers and the attorney. Much was discussed, questions were asked, and information was dissected. It was quickly apparent that although the birth mother and grandmother loved us, they were sympathetic of the birth father.
The attorney discussed heavy issues concerning how things would proceed with the birth father. At the heaviest moment, I asked everyone to stop talking and give me the floor. With Josiah beside me, I explained the prayers Josiah and I had prayed all these months, I explained just how certain he and I were that all this, no matter the mess of it, was supposed to happen. Ultimately, I explained that our hope is in something greater and that the pain this situation was going to cause would be impossible to endure without our faith. After some silence, the meeting essentially ended with our attorney speaking to us privately about the little chance of fighting this successfully we had. This was especially true after hearing both sides of the birth family.
Little sleep came to Josiah and I that night as we prepared to say goodbye to Quinn the next day at the Nashville airport. What are you supposed to say to each other on a long flight home knowing your life is about to be turned upside down…again. We really said nothing other than an occasional, “Are you ok?” With the answer already known, we just stared straight ahead preparing to say goodbye to that sweet face we’d loved from the day she was born. Upon landing, we notified the agency worker where to meet us at the airport for the hand-off. When we approached my brother and sister-in-law sitting with Quinn in the waiting area, we could barely breathe. As tears hit like bullets, Josiah took Quinn from my sister-in-law’s arms and we took her into a private family bathroom and locked the door. We kissed Quinn, told her how much we loved her, and how much we would pray for her. Josiah lifted her up to play “airplane” one more time. Laughing and grinning, Quinn looked at us both. In that bathroom, agony, grief and pain were palpable. Josiah handed her to me, and I embraced her and placed her close to my chest where she laid for so many months. I wanted her to feel my heartbeat one more time.
Walking back to where we would hand her off to the agency worker was torture. I was unable to speak so my sister-in-law explained Quinn’s schedule to her, gave her enough supplies to make the trip, and packed her up. After one last kiss, we walked away. As my sister-in-law pushed an empty stroller beside me, we walked away in silence in the midst of sickening grief.
What now? Yes, we can fight this legal issue. However, we are not fighting it for two primary reasons. First, the judge reviewed most of our evidence in court on June 20. The judge was certainly unmoved by any of it. Secondly and most importantly, when Quinn grew older and began asking questions like any healthy adopted child would, we would have to explain to her that her birth father wanted her and came for her, but we wanted her too so we fought and took her away from him. As parents, Josiah and I could not do that and did not think it would be healthy for Quinn. This reason is similar to the story of King Solomon in the book of 1 Kings chapter 3 where he threatens to cut the baby in half to settle a dispute between two women arguing who the real mother was. The real mother wanted no harm to the baby. We want Quinn’s best interest to prevail.
At this point, you may have burning questions as to why the legal system did this or that, or why we did not do this or that, or why the agency did or did not do something. But, the more important burning questions to ask are those of what God is doing. All of us will experience suffering in our life. For us, it feels like suffering is unbalanced. We see others become parents so easily. We see adoptions unfold perfectly. We see others advance, gain, or receive, while we’re left picking up our shattered pieces. It is so easy to want to look up, shake your fist at heaven and question the goodness of God. We must guard our grief. We’re able to guard our grief when we remember that we have a High Priest who makes intercession for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, who has been through more than we’ve been through, and who can format mercy to fit our needs. Hebrews 4: 14-16 The day after losing Quinn my devotional said, “It is impossible to thank Him and curse Him at the same time.” Although difficult, we choose to thank Him.
Why this? Every night before putting Quinn to sleep, Josiah and I would lay her down on our bed as we kneeled with our hands on her and asked God to intervene on our behalf. We claimed His promises, we quoted scripture, and we refused to doubt or to fear. In fact, before walking into court on June 20, Josiah and I prayed asking the Holy Spirit to dwell among us and to intervene. Each time I kissed Quinn goodnight in her sweet slumber and uttered, “In Jesus name, allow us to parent this child,” God heard me. But, he didn’t allow us to parent her forever. We prayed all things in Jesus’ name knowing His Word tells us that if we do so, He’ll grant our request. But, He didn’t grant our request. He didn’t give us the outcome we wanted. The notebook of scriptures I read that morning out loud to the both of us in the hotel room didn’t work the way we thought they would or should. Why? Why has God removed Quinn from a home whose primary goal was to raise her to know the transformative power of the Gospel? She will have her needs met in her new home, and she will be loved. However, we don’t know if she will be exposed to the Gospel. Why has God allowed us to go through the absolutely painful period of suffering that we’ve endured since 2015 on our journey to adopt? Why did he allow years of infertility prior to 2015? Why has He allowed our financial resources for adoption to be totally depleted?
Where from? All believers know their help comes from the Lord. It is basic doctrinal knowledge. Until you are in the midst of pain and suffering, it doesn’t register completely. There is absolutely no way we could have journeyed this far without a supernatural strength from above. Although we do have a High Priest who knows our plight, we are still faced with the task to endure. All believers know God gives grace. Again, it is basic doctrinal knowledge. It is only by God’s magnificent grace that we were able to parent in such uncertainty. It was grace that allowed us to handle a courtroom. It was grace that allowed us to scoop up our child and tell her goodbye in a bathroom just to walk away and see strangers scolding or carrying a child they have no idea how fortunate they are to have. We loved Quinn with all we had. She was the joy, light and love of our lives. Walking that airport hallway to give her away was just an ounce of the pain that God experienced when His son, innocent and holy, walked up the hill of Golgotha to be crucified for you and me. Jesus lived 33 years, and Quinn lived with us for exactly four months.
Though my pain is incredibly incomparable to His, we have a new appreciation of what God did for us by giving us His son. When we arrived home, we felt a pain that I wish on no one. I went straight to her nursery and grabbed her favorite pacifier. Then, I grabbed the pajamas she had just been wearing and inhaled her sweet smell. She is gone. We are broken and shattered, but not without hope and grace. It’s grace that helped us walk into our home full of Quinn’s things. Her nursery, her clothes in the laundry room, her pictures on the wall. Though our home is empty, our hearts are not.
I know you’re thinking why would a good, loving God do this to people? God didn’t want this to happen, but we live in a fallen, broken world. He didn’t take joy in watching us walk away from our baby in an airport. He doesn’t take joy in the tears flowing as I type this. He did allow it, but we can rest assured that what He does is always for our good and for His glory. Quinn’s story is horribly painful, but her story will reach many lives. As my brother told me, “Quinn’s story will point others to the Gospel.” My human side is tired of losing so others can learn. However, it is not my place to know why or to understand. It’s just our job to trust. God doesn’t break our hearts to bring them back the same. Josiah and I are far from perfect. We’re a mess each day, but I can tell you this experience has changed our hearts, and we hope our hearts look more like His.
What we need?
First, use our story to evaluate your own life. Do you have enough grasp on God and His Word to weather the storm you will inevitably face? Let our story motivate you to be ever ready to praise Him, thank Him, and worship Him when you really want to shake your fist at heaven.
Secondly, don’t interact with us as if Quinn never existed. She isn’t a taboo topic. She has part of our heart forever and ever.
Third, share our story to whomever, whenever, or however. This is your permission to do so. We’ve vowed to speak out on all God has and will continue to do through this journey.
Fourth, please filter your questions and assumptions. Please try not to assume that a person or an agency dropped the ball. Though we’ll always speak of Quinn with love and fondness, please don’t ask questions that you really do not have to know the answer to. Some of you might think that this is the exact reason we shouldn’t have posted pictures of Quinn on social media. We disagree. We felt that by not doing so we were limiting God. We embraced her as ours for forever from moment one. We trusted Him to bring her to us, and we trusted Him to keep her with us.
Fifth, use our story to encourage you to take risks. Be willing to take risks and to be hurt. If you want great things in your life, you have to be willing to get hurt.
Lastly, pray for us as we try to determine what is next for us. We know that God has called us to be parents, but at this point, we are depleted of all resources to make adoption possible. It is uncomfortable to discuss how much we’ve lost since 2015, but just know it is enormous. Pray that God will make a way. He is good and faithful.
Thank you all in advance for your thoughts and prayers. The prayers of those who have known this story before now have given us so much strength. God’s presence has been so evident and the prayers of His people have been so palpable in our lives. They have carried us, and will continue to carry us. Though Quinn isn’t near, she is part of us. Because we are children of the most high King, He is near to us in this hour of darkness and for all eternity.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Part 2 - Beauty From Ashes
This booklet is filled with God’s Words of peace for His children. They do not promise us a perfect life without pain, but they do promise that Our Heavenly Father will walk us through each situation, each day, each step, each second of our lives. He dwelt among them in those days, and for those of us who have chosen to believe in Jesus and follow Him in these days, He dwells inside of us. Put this booklet beside your bed, in your purse, or somewhere you can grab it when doubt, fear or worry tries to creep into your heart. There is blank space to add more Fear Not verses as you come across them!
2 Timothy 1:7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in e very situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise- In God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord you God will be with you wherever you go.”
Be strong and courageous. Bo not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
I called on your name, Lord, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.” You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down. They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them down. I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation.
Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from His holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on ever side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most-High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most-High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely, he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
“Be strong and courageous…The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of your by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things!
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“Daddy, will you please let me drive down the back roads?”
“Daddy, can I help you mow the yard?”
“Daddy, I promise I will be careful on the four wheeler! Please let me ride!"
These are just a few memories I vividly remember from my childhood. Tomorrow, February 28th, marks nineteen years that my daddy has been gone from this life. Nineteen years! That is really hard to even imagine. I was nineteen when my daddy passed. I have now spent as much time without him as I did with him.
I was a daddy's girl for sure! I would have much rather been outside helping him in the yard than inside cleaning the house! That still stands true today!
Gotta love the old Easter Sunday pictures!
I never dreamt I would have to start dealing with sickness of a parent at the age of fifteen, but that’s what life brought our family. My dad went in for a routine surgery to remove a cyst and he was never well again after that. After so many doctors were at a complete loss, he was finally diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis. It’s a rare disorder (even more rare back then, only 150 cases known when my dad was diagnosed) that causes inflammation of the blood vessels. It is one of a group of blood vessel disorders called vasculitis. Vanderbilt Medical Center actually used my dad in their research to learn more about this disorder.
The next four years was spent in and out of the hospital in Nashville. After about three and half years, I remember my parents sitting my brother and I down and telling us the medication that dad was taking had a side effect of Leukemia. Dad now had another battle to fight. My mom did the best she could to juggle a schedule of a teenager and stay by my dad’s side. My brother is three and a half years older. He turned down a college football scholarship to attend a college closer to home so he could help our mom.
Although life was not dealing us the cards we had planned, we did what we could to make the best out of a difficult situation. I spent the majority of my years playing basketball and softball. My dad was one of my biggest fans and also my toughest critic. He loved pushing me to be the best I could be. He would always let me know what I needed to improve on. The times when he was in the hospital and couldn’t make it to my games, we would record them and he would watch them in his hospital room. Even when he didn’t feel well, he would be sure I knew what I needed to work on! The memories are oh so sweet!
I remember the day he passed. It was only six months after the Leukemia diagnosis. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I received a call right after church that I needed to come to our local hospital quickly. They were losing dad! My mom crawled up in the hospital bed with him, and we all surrounded him. The hurt and the pain that I experienced that day was like no other feeling I have ever experienced. After they told us he was gone, I crawled onto the other bed in the room and just began weeping. At the young age of forty-nine, my dad went to meet Jesus and at forty-two, my mom became a widow. Our lives were turned upside down.
Why? Why did I have to lose my dad at the age of nineteen? Why did all of my friends still get to have theirs? So many questions filled my mind and my heart was full of anger. Life wasn’t fair!
No, life isn’t fair...I just learned it at a younger age than most people. But you know what? Life also is not about me. God has a greater plan and purpose for our lives. It’s so hard to see when you are walking through the valley. But when He gives you a glimpse of the beauty He creates through the trials, it’s a wonderful masterpiece. I am so thankful that I can look back and see how the Lord orchestrated every step to get me where I am today. Would I love to have my daddy back...more than you know, but I am thankful for where the Lord has me and what He taught me while in the valley.
I thought today I would share some things that the Lord has revealed to me over the past nineteen years:
1. Don’t Take Those You Love For Granted
I was fifteen when dad got sick. It was so much easier for me to go on with life and avoid the hospital than to face reality. Would I have handled it differently and spent more time at the hospital? Sure I would have looking back now! But at fifteen, and not very mature, it was hard to deal with.
Don’t take those you love for granted! Are you estranged from a parent? A sibling? A mate? Go make it right! Don’t wait for something to happen. You’ll regret not having that time back.
If you still have your parents that you can pick up the phone and call...DO IT! One day there won't be a voice on the other end.
You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you.
And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14
2. God Always Provides
No one can ever replace my daddy, but the Lord has been so gracious to give me a step-dad and a father-in-law that love me as their own. If you have lost someone in your life, pray and ask the Lord to provide someone to help fill that void.
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
3. Marriage Vows: In Sickness and in Health
I watched as my mom cared for my dad. What a beautiful example she gave me of “in sickness and in health.” Even when she was tired and exhausted, she pressed on. I pray that if a time comes, and I have to be a caretaker for my husband, that I can be as committed to my vows as my mother was. For more on this topic, check out this post from Tammy.
He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
1 Corinthians 1:8-9
4. God’s Sovereignty
God knew long before I did that I would lose my dad, so He prepared each step after he was gone to line up with His plan for my life. Soon after my dad passed, my family’s restaurant won a cruise through one of their vendors. My mom asked if I wanted to go with her. As a junior in college, I met my future employer at dinner one night. He gave me his business card and told me to call him when I graduated. Sure enough I did and he was my first employer out of college. I could write another blog on how the Lord orchestrated each step and I am thankful He has made it so clear to me.
What a beautiful reminder even now that no matter the situation, the Lord is going before me and I need to trust and wait on Him!
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
5. The Hope of Heaven
Oh our God is so, so good! He is faithful to me now and His Word is true...I WILL see my daddy again one day! I always say that I know he will be waiting right behind Jesus to welcome me into Heaven! What a sweet reunion that will be!
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
What is it that life is throwing at you that just doesn’t seem fair? It may not be the death of someone, but we all walk through suffering of some sort. How has suffering shifted your focus towards the Lord? Maybe you are not there yet. Maybe you have lots of questions and your heart is full of anger right now. Can I encourage you to spend time with the Lord? Ask Him to teach you as you walk through the valley. You are never alone, He is with you every step of the way!
Laura is a pastor's wife, mom to two crazy fun kids, part-time marketing director, loves hanging out in her community and building relationships...oh and loves to laugh!
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
This is the song I had been singing as a lullaby to my 18 month old for weeks. The Lord was preparing my heart and I didn’t even know he was doing it.
On January 12, 2015, only a few weeks after finding out I was pregnant with Baby #2, I had a miscarriage. My husband and I had been so excited. And even though he was too young to understand, we told Carter he was going to be a big brother. I wondered why God would let this happen, and yet at the same time, in my desperation, I asked God to help me not grow bitter towards Him. I remember singing to Carter Great is Thy Faithfulness that night through tears. I knew His word said He was faithful, but I was so hurt. And I didn’t know how I could rest in His faithfulness when I felt so hopeless.
I have not been a consistent journaler throughout my life, but I have had seasons of habitual journaling. This happened to be a time in my life where I was journaling every day. I am so glad that I have that to look back on. I can see my struggles and I can see where God rescued me from my sorrow. This is my journal entry 6 days after we lost our baby:
"I am so happy we went to church this morning. I was reminded of something very true: God is worthy to be praised no matter my situation. I will praise His name when he has delivered me from despair, but also when I am in the midst of it. I went into church expecting something to be said or sung to help me in the midst of my sadness. But, I learned to praise God for being God. And, in return, that paradigm shift helped to start heal my broken heart. I think God and I will go to deeper places together this year."
And we did. On April 12, exactly 3-months after my miscarriage, we surprisingly found out that I was pregnant again! Fear came in like a rushing wave, but God was steady. I was so afraid that I would lose that baby too, but I constantly heard the gentle whisper of the Lord…”Peace, be still.”
We had a baby boy due on December 20. But in the Lord’s perfect timing, Mason David Smith was born 8 days early, on December 12. I had my miscarriage on January 12, I found out I was pregnant again on April 12, and I delivered a healthy baby boy on December 12. I love symbolism and the meaning behind numbers. When I looked up the Hebrew meaning behind the number 12, I learned that it meant “completion.” Sometimes we joke and say that must mean we are not supposed to have any more children…but I think the Lord was teaching me something else.
The Lord always redeems and restores His people. He gave me the number 12 to show me that He brought “completion” or “restoration” into my life and He did it through a new life. He ultimately restores all of us through new life...the new life that is found in His Son. That is the greatest redemption story of all time. When it comes to our personal situations, restoration may come in different ways. But, He does restore, because that is WHO HE IS. In the Old Testament we read about the Temple being destroyed and the Israelites going into captivity. It was 70 years before they were released and able to build the temple once again. There were probably few left who even remembered the destruction. God brought restoration and he did it on His perfect timeline. When the Fall came in the Garden of Eden, it was centuries before the Messiah came to redeem not only his people, the Israelites, but the whole world.
God sees the bigger picture of our lives. We can’t see past our present circumstance. God showed me that He is a God who restores. He brings fulfillment. He brings completion. Romans 8:28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. If you are a daughter of God, then you HAVE been called according to His purpose, and He WILL RESTORE whatever hard circumstance you are in.
I felt the Lord give me the name “Selah” for the baby we lost. Selah means to “stop and reflect.” There are days that I still cry over the pain caused by losing a baby. If you have had a miscarriage, you know the pain. But, when my heart and mind are thinking about the baby, I always feel the Lord, every steady, ever sure. And I stop and reflect on the beauty of His restoration.
For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.
2 Corinthians 13:9
Molly Smith is the Worship Arts Academy Director at Fellowship Bible Church in Jackson, TN. She has two fun-loving and active boys ages 2 (Mason) and 4 (Carter). She and her husband Chance, the master coder, will be married for 7 years this May. She is passionate about teaching kids about the Lord through music and developing in them a heart of worship.