“Dear God, please make them….”

The other night I found myself praying a prayer like this.  It was after 11 and I had been trying to soothe Jack to sleep for almost two hours.  Two days before, we had spent the night in the Emergency Department getting IV fluids to combat dehydration.  My little man had a stomach virus and he was miserable.  I was also miserable.  Sleep deprived, empathizing with my sweet boy, stressed because of the holidays…at the end of my rope.

“Dear God, make this stop.  Please make Jack go to sleep.  Please make my head stop pounding.  Please make tonight an easy night.  Please change everything about this moment!  And please do it right now.  Amen.”  

I don’t believe that I am alone in finding myself praying these kind of prayers.

“Dear God, please make my husband less selfish.”

“Dear God, please give me an easy day on Monday.”

“Dear God, please change my friend’s bad attitude.”

Dear God, please make him like me back.”

“Dear God, please make Aunt Betty be nice on this visit.”

“Dear God, make them get along.”

“Dear God, cause my boss to think I am awesome.”

The trouble with these kind of prayers is this:  I want God to overpower other people and cause them to change in a way that will benefit me.  The change I want in them might even be right and good change, but the truth is that I want to shortcut the process in their lives and just, poof, have things be wonderful and perfect and easy.

We should all thank God for NOT answering our prayer sometimes.

The truth is that God does not strong arm anyone into growth.  The truth is that God does not bulldoze or sneak into people’s hearts and re-arrange the furniture, so to speak.  He does not work heart change in this way.  The truth is that God will often decide to not alter your circumstances, to not make your path easy, because He knows that the hardships along the way are working beautiful and priceless virtues and blessings into your life.

When we pound on Heaven and demand change in circumstances or in others, we are setting ourselves up to be mad at God when the easy path we desire doesn’t immediately open up in front of us.  We demand God to do what we want, what we in our finite view of life see as the right thing, and when He doesn’t do it our way, we get mad.  Because we somehow really believe we know better than God.

The other night in the rocking chair, holding my fussy son, I began to pray differently.

“God, help me to love this little boy in the best possible way.  Help me to have deep patience and abundant kindness to shower him with.  Fill me with Your strength, both physically and mentally so that I am able to care for him well.  Carry me and I carry him.  I ask for your healing touch on Jack.  Help us both to peacefully trust in You as You care for us.  Amen.”

After my first prayer, I was agitated and miserable.  After my second prayer, my heart was soothed.  My mind, clear.  I was still tired, but I knew I could go on, because God would give me all I needed to be a good mom to a sick son.  I was praying energized prayers because my prayers lined up with God’s will for me.  No longer was I trying to boss God around and “sic” Him on the things that were bothering me.  I was opening myself up to His guidance, His strength, and His presence to not only get through a long few days, but to thrive in them.

End Note:  I do believe in intercessory prayer–prayer that changes hearts and alters circumstances.  I do believe in divine healing.  I do believe in standing in the gap, pleading for God’s mercy on the undeserving.  I believe that these kind of prayers do not come from selfish “change these things so my life will be easier” heart.  These kinds of prayers are prayed from a broken heart that so loves the people involved that it must cry out to the God of Universe and invite Him to do the kind of things that only He can do.

At the end of the day, what I am learning is that selfishness can show up in all kinds of places, even prayer.  I want to pray faith-filled, open hearted prayers that will line me up with God’s purposes, power, and life.  Selfish prayers just don’t do that.  Maybe I am the only one who has ever prayed from a selfish place…but if not, maybe these words will open you up to a different kind of prayer.  Prayers that start with “God, change me.”



The Wind in Jack’s Hair

 A few weeks ago, Jack and I met a dear friend at an apple orchard near town.  Jack is still way too young to enjoy the apples and cider, or to feed the goats or ride the horses, but he did experience one incredible thing.

The wind in his hair.

I was holding him in my arms and he was hungrily working on a bottle.  A breeze blew over us and played with the shock of hair that sticks up on Jack’s wonderful little head.   Jack’s eyes locked with mine and as clear as day sent me this message:

“Did you feel that?  What is that?  Will it ever happen again?  Wonderful, amazing, delicious, scintillating! (I expect him to have a large and well-rounded vocabulary.)  Oh!  There it was again! Have you ever felt this before mom?  Have you?”

Through his experience, I felt the wind in my hair for the first time all over again.

“That is the wind, Jack.  There is nothing quite like it on a hot day.  I hope it always blows for you when you need it.  Enjoy every moment!”

I pray that I never forget the look on his face, the wonder and amazement in his eyes.  It is such a blessing to have the opportunity to see the world all over again, all new, through my son’s eyes.

Today, as you go through what is easily the 6,336th day of your life (if you are over 18, add 352 for every year), may it be with fresh eyes.  Try whispering this prayer as you move through your day:  “God, show me where You are at work here, and I will join You!”  God will open your eyes to see as He does–the person who needs a smile, the child who needs to be noticed, the trash that needs thrown away, the word of encouragement or advice that can be given.  God will show you the people whose hearts are open.  He is looking for anyone who is willing to really see the world around them.

Try it.  At the end of a day where you have allowed God to direct your attention to His wonders all around and to His work in people’s lives through you, it will be a lot like the day when you felt the wind in your hair for the first time.

And what a feeling that is!

Blessing Lottery, Anyone?

Mega-Millions

So there I was, stressing.

Stressing that the backing for “Hark” wouldn’t come through.

Stressing that we would not be able to get Jack the up-to-code crib that we had to have.

Stressing that I was going to bomb at my back-to-back weekends of ministry opportunities.

Stressing that I was stressed, because good Christians don’t ever battle stress, right?

So I found myself wishing that God would just dump all that I would ever need for the rest of my life on me, right here, right now.

Every sermon idea.

Every dollar we would ever need.

Every blog subscriber.

Every word for every book.

Every ounce of creativity, strength, and trust I would ever need.

And a never-ending bumper crop of the fruits of the spirit while we were at it.

You know what happened?

I got just what I needed, just when I needed it.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

(Insert wild celebration here for Hark backers, the gift of a crib, wonderful weekends of ministry, and the very real presence of God throughout it all!)

But one must ask,

“Why doesn’t God just provide it all, for the rest of your life, in one flood of blessing?”

This question has tumbled around in my head many times as I have seen the bank account and the bills, the calendar of events and my energy levels, the blank page and a deadline…you get the point.  We all have needs, and God has all we need.  So why does it seem to come in trickles of just enough, rather than in one deluge of goodness?

Perhaps it is because God has a something bigger and better in mind than just meeting your needs.

God desires intimacy with us; He desires to tackle this life with us, every step of the way.  He desires to point out wonder and beauty along the way, and to help us navigate every twist and turn the journey takes.

Honestly, that awesome stuff probably wouldn’t happen if God had just made one huge deposit into my “Life’s Needs Bank Account” when I was a young believer.  Sure, I would have been grateful in the moment, but I quickly would have left God out of it.

God knows that left to our own devices, we hoard, become proud, and take credit where credit is not due.

We need years of dependence on Him to really get to know Him and learn to really trust Him.  We need to experience the “just enough, just in time” blessing in order to develop the depth of relationship that we were designed to have with our Creator.

There is an intimacy that daily reliance on God produces that winning the “blessing lottery” never would.

So if you too find yourself in a place of stress, recognize it for what it really can be – a place of leaning into God in such a way that you will forge priceless intimacy with Him.

Take heart!  As you lean on Him, He will provide.  He is trustworthy.  He is good.  He has you.  So enjoy the journey; enjoy every moment and allow your love and trust to deepen, day by day.



Sherpa Dove In

When Sherpa dove in…

I was mad.

We had come to the park for a quick walk; a few minutes outside to off-set a few long week inside with a new baby.

I just needed some fresh air and for no one to poop on me.

I did not want to have to deal with a muddy, wet Golden Retriever. (Who had also spent a few weeks inside with a new baby.)

So when we came around the curve where the path begins to run alongside the creek in the park, I was already yelling.

“Sherpa, no!”

Splash.

Then I looked over the bank and saw this face:

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I was still mad, but less so.

She was having a much-needed romp in the creek.

And then it hit me – how often do I miss out on something wonderful just because I grumpily decide that I don’t want to deal with any possible mess?

Because sometimes…

…I don’t say hello to the person waiting in the line with me because I don’t want to spend the energy talking to a stranger. Besides, what if they open up?

…I don’t invite people to church events because I don’t want to face them possibly not liking it.

…I don’t give in the special offering because I am afraid I won’t have enough money for something we need.

…I don’t take risks because I am afraid of failure.

I am not proud of these moments.

There is nothing redeeming about missing out on so much good just because I am afraid of a little (or a lot) of mess.

Sherpa was right that day in the park; we must dive in!

I am trying to put my actions where my words are on this one. When I knew God was leading me to leave my 9-5 ministry and teaching job to stay home with Jack, that looked messy. How would we pay the bills? What did that mean for my ministry? I love to teach the Word of God.

In the end, the choice was clear; I was to stay home with Jack. I honestly haven’t had one regret.

But there have been messy times.

One of those is that I have finally found the time and push to do something with a story that unfolded in my mind while I was sitting at a stoplight almost two years ago. I finally wrote it down, and then found an editor, and then an illustrator, and with much encouragement have embarked on the journey of publishing.

Messy.

Right now we are coming to the end of a window of time for fundraising. If we don’t have $12,000 by October 6, the project stalls out. I totally feel like I am mid-air in my jump off the bank of the creek into the water…I have left the nice, neat, boring bank, but I am not yet splashing around having the time of my life in the creek. I am just hanging, mid-air, wondering if this is going to work out.

But at least I jumped! I believe in the message of this book, and I think it is a story worth telling. I might get a little mud in my eye, but at the end of the day I really would rather live life to the fullest, mud included, than sit grumpy on the bank.

So here’s to diving in! There are no guarantees, but a whole lot more possibilities!
Thanks Sherpa! It was a lesson worth learning.

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PS. If you would like to be part of Hark (the story I was just talking about) follow this link to find out how you can get involved and help out! The deadline for funding is October 6…either the project will move forward…or end…talk about jumping off the bank! (If all the funding doesn’t get pledged, you won’t lose your money, so it is no-risk for you. Kickstarter doesn’t pull the funds from everyone unless the full amount is raised.)



Because

Love this passage:

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge — no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

(Psalm 91:9-16 ESV)

I want all of these things.  I want protection from evil and sickness.  I want angels to be my bodyguards.  I want them to flat-out carry me through life!  I want the power to defeat every adversary.  I want God to listen to me every time I call, to rescue me, honor me, and satisfy me.  I want this rocking life!

That is not the question.  The question is, am I willing to do my part?  The first word of this passage cannot be skimmed over.

“Because.”

It comes up a few times.

Go back and take a look.

Because God can’t bless you with all of these things if you are living on your own terms, going your own way, doing your own thing.

So our prayer shouldn’t be, “Yeah God, I want all this stuff.  Amen.”

It must be more like this:

“I make You my dwelling place; You are my leader, my Lord, my security, and my foundation.  May I be ever teachable and wiling to follow Your lead, even when it makes me uncomfortable.  Even when it is difficult and scary.  Blessing is found in following, not just asking for blessing.  May I follow, and be easy to lead.  Soften my heart and open my mind to be responsive to You.  I will call to You – not rely on myself or on worldly wisdom.   I will, in faith, go where you lead me to go and do what you lead me to do.  Amen.”

Join me in praying this, and continuing to pray this, until we are living this!

And then, let the good times roll!



Being Jack’s mom

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Jack –

Momma loves you.  I…I am without many words.  Someday you will know what a big deal that is, and that it signifies when something is so so so deep that it is hard for me to express.  I don’t know how to put into words what it means to me to be your mom.  Yesterday, you had fallen asleep on my shoulder.  Something startled you–a bad dream perhaps, or some discomfort.  All I could do was comfort you.  You are going to have bad dreams.  You are going to be uncomfortable, in pain even, at times.  Sometimes, I will be able to take action and fix the problem.  More often, life’s troubles aren’t “fixable” like that.  Yesterday I said these words to you.  Today, I write them down so you can read them someday.  Hopefully by the time you read them, you will know them to be true because of how I have loved you.  

“Momma is here.  I can’t promise to be able to fix everything, but I do promise to be here.  To love you.  To be with you in it, whatever it is.”

Welcome to the adventure my boy.  Come what may, we are in it together.  

Momma loves you.

Jack was born on July 9th in Champaign-Urbana.  Aaron and I were able to be present at his birth, which was an incredible gift from his birth parents, whom we think are pretty stinking incredible.  The hospital staff was amazed at the relationship we all have with each other.  We all agree that this is something special.

To each person who has prayed, given, supported, rejoiced and gone on this journey with us, we say thank you.  I hope each one of you has the chance to look into Jack’s eyes someday; he is, well, wonderful.  And you are part of that.

Forever grateful –

Erin, Aaron & Jack

(and Sherpa…but she is only a little grateful)



Adoption Update – Jack is Home!

Jack – You were born on Tuesday at 7:42am!  You weighed 6.5 lbs and were 20 inches long.  You’ve been a big eater, and so far you enjoy being awake and lively between midnight and 5am.  You are our pride and joy, and we are so thankful that we get to be your mom and dad…

Our little boy, Jack North Campbell is finally here.  After much prayer, paperwork, hope, faith, relationship, and support this little boy came home to Rockford yesterday.  We’re not sleeping too much yet, so this will not be an extensive post… but there is a lot of story to be told in the future.  Suffice to say Jack has some of the bravest people that we have ever met as birth parents, and we already count them as part of the family!

This is the 4th day in the adventures of Cap’n Jack Campbell, and there will be many, many more to come.  Thank you for celebrating with us!

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Adoption Update #6

Baby –

 

Your stroller is all put together in the dining room, waiting to take you on adventures (or just to the grocery store…which I hear will be an adventure for me!)  Your bassinet is in our bedroom, waiting for sweet dreams and there is a rocker in the nursery ready for midnight feedings and lullabies.  You already have a bookshelf that is filling up with favorite books and the timeless tales that help us all navigate this thing called life.  It is no accident that you will come to your father and I.  We know it will be hard sometimes, but we will all be able to find peace in this truth – we belong to each other.  Our hearts are full of excitement as we wait for your arrival, knowing that someday soon you will fill our arms!  I cannot wait to tell you story after story about the love, prayers, support and gifts you have received from the ones that will be part of your extended family.  You are already loved deeply by many!  

 

Kiss you soon – 

 

Mom

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What a journey this has been–I wish I could hug each and every one of you that have taken it with us.  We have needed, and are grateful for, your support.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you!

 

The Adopt-O-Meter keeps creeping towards “Paid In Full!”  Every few days as another check arrives in the mail, or someone gives online, Aaron and I just stand in the kitchen and shake our heads in amazement.  We have the best friends and family!  This little one is about to be adopted into the most amazing extended family!  I have been laughing lately as I imagine Baby C looking up at me with a furrowed brow and asking, “Who, exactly, am I related to?”  My reply is going to be “ALL OF US!”  We really are all one big family, bonded together with the love that only comes from God.

 

We don’t have an exact timeline of when Baby C is going to arrive, so life right now feels like the stop at the top of the big drop on a roller coaster.  The last year of fund-raising, the home study, back ground checks, nursery preparations, etc. has felt like the slow climb to the top of the big drop, and now we are sitting there waiting for the real ride of our lives to begin!  We have had a few situations with birth families come up, but nothing that has solidified as of yet.  We are trusting God for the right match–He has a little one that He wants us to nurture and raise up.

 

I would not consider myself to be wise, but I have learned the hard way to allow things to unfold in God’s timing–He really does know best & we are content to wait for His will to be realized.

 

As we have taken this journey, my eyes have been opened to the need for the church to be praying for birth moms.  These women have an incredibly weighty decision to make.  The world has offered them a “solution” and it takes great courage to turn that down and decide to either raise their child or release their child.  Please add these women to your prayer list.  I would like to see Christ-followers all across the nation and around the world taking a larger roll in child welfare.  There IS something you can do!  Foster, adopt, support local groups through donations and spreading awareness, etc.   Let’s step up and take care of the single mothers & children that desperately need the church to be the church in our communities!