It’s been too long

And I mean it.

I want to begin by apologizing for not writing more often.The last year has been … busy. In the last 12 months, I have passed eight (EIGHT!) kidney stones. I’ve had double exploratory breast surgery. (Don’t worry: Everything is fine.) I have also made a major career change, quitting my job to launch my own writing and editing business. This was a huge decision that felt, in so many ways, as if it were being made for me. We’ve chosen to dive in, head first, with a good amount of flailing and inelegant kicking, so that I can be more flexible for the kiddo that is coming our way. And I’ve been so grateful that through all of it, our friends and family have supported us a thousand percent.

As for adoption news, well, in some ways, there isn’t much to write. We are, still, waiting. We hope to be finished with our home study by the end of the summer. We, with the help of my incredible parents, completely renovated our back yard in the last few weeks. It is now warm and welcoming to adults, kiddos and dogs alike. I love to just sit in my little Westside oasis, smelling the lemon verbena in the breeze. It’s heavenly, and I cannot wait to teach my kiddo about the magic of gardening.

And even though it feels as if there is not much to tell, we feel that lately we’ve been working harder than ever to bring home our Little Shope. Our dear friends have held a garage sale for us, full of furniture and furnishings and trinkets donated by friends and friends of friends. I have so many thank-you notes to mail out. This sale helped us raise more than $1,000 in about 8 hours. Even our bank teller was impressed! Plus, our friends have donated so much stuff that we will have another garage sale in July. (Seriously, we have items we didn’t even get to put out last time!)

It’s this constant theme of generosity that about does me in. I am reminded of of one of my favorite verses in the New Testament. It is a reminder to me that this kind of selflessness matters to God. I know what is has all meant to Matt and I, but I love knowing that God sees it too.

Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (NIV).

That blessing, that promise, is for you, friends. You have been so generous. Not just with your money or things. You’ve given us constant encouragement, prayer, good thoughts, hugs and words and silence. You’ve given abundantly, generously. And we see it, often through grateful, messy and hot tears. God sees it too.

Even as I want to use this space to offer my gratitude, I want to also use it to ask a favor. I thank you for loving our Little Shope, someone we have never met. And I want to ask you to extend that same kind of love to the little ones everywhere who as yet have no home. There are 147 million orphans (or so). Since October, about 47,000 kids have walked into America with nothing and no one. They are kept in holding areas, crammed in like socks in a drawer. There are kids who have loving parents but who still struggle with loneliness, with anger, with mental health issues, with rejection, with extraordinary poverty, with hunger. And there are kids who are in your path who need a mentor or a friend.

I am asking that even as you pray for us or for your own kids, you pray for and defend these ones too.

Thank you, loved ones.

 

 

 

Hope for a Little Shope

It’s time.
We are officially, gleefully, carefully moving forward with our plans to adopt ababy! Hooray and wahoo!
It hasn’t been much of a secret, but we haven’t really made a big fuss about it, either.
So here’s us. Fussing. Exhuberantly.
From here on out, you’ll probably hear a lot of talk from the Shopes about the adoption. We are beginning a heavy push for fundraising and preparing. We are relying on God to provide the money. Our job is to prepare ourselves, to do the work He sets before us and to be obedient.
Part of doing the work has been to really educate ourselves and others about what it takes to adopt, about the plight of so many orphans all over the world, and about what taking seriously Isaiah 1:17 means for our lives.

Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

We are asking you for one thing right now. We are asking you to pray. For the orphans. For those who will defend them. For those of us who long to bring them into a forever home. For us.
If you feel inclined to donate, please know that we are grateful for every cent we are given. We added a button to this blog that links to our PayPal account. To be honest, the cost of this endeavor is often daunting. There have been many days when we have felt overwhelmed by the figure, knowing it is so much more than we have in our bank account. (We need just shy of $20,000 to do this. A pittance in the hands of our mighty and sovereign Redeemer.) But we believe that the money will come, that God provides the way where He has willed us to walk.
Soon, we will be announcing more opportunities for you can partner with us on this amazing journey. We cannot wait to bring home our son or daughter. And we cannot wait for you to meet him or her. Pray for this baby. Pray for us. And pray for the millions of orphans in the world today.
Home.
Hope.
Shope.

Psalms in motion

For my Old Testament History class, I have to write seven psalms, one in each of the major styles exhibited in the Book of Psalms.

I am finding this kind of writing, a way with words that is far off my usual course, rather cathartic. No wonder David found rest here.

One major challenge is to write words that are meaningful, knowing that I will be graded on how and whether they conform to particular styles.

The psalm types are: hymns, which are songs of praise and thanksgiving to God; penitential, which confess sorrow for sin and appeal to God for grace and forgiveness; wisdom, which are general observations on life, especially God and our relationship to Him; royal, which focus on the king as son of David and as God’s chosen man to rule his people; messianic, which describe some aspect of the Messiah’s person or ministry; imprecatory, which call for God’s judgment against the enemies of God and/or his people; and lament, which lament one’s condition and may include a statement of trust in God and affirmation of praise to Him (Arnold, Bill, “Encountering the Old Testament,” p. 307).

I’m considering posting these psalms here. In a way, I foresee this as yet another Ebenezer. If I raise it here, if I raise it at all, the words are out there for all to see. The psalms of lament, the psalms of penitence, the psalms that call for judgment — they will, in a way, no longer be mine. I wonder whether David and Moses knew how far-reaching the pouring out of their souls would be. Writing for me has always been personal. I wonder whether this was true for the psalmists as well.
They say, “Here is my sin, for the world to see. Learn from my mistakes. Praise always. Repent when you can’t take the weight of your own arrogance anymore. Amen and amen.”

And so I creep down this path, so unfamiliar, with a fistful of words I must set free. Praying they rise, a sweet fragrance to the God of mercy, the One whose class I am most eager to excel in.

30, married, childless — and not alone

My friend Ashley asked some terrific questions about being 30 and childless over on her blog, ashleylinne.com. Her post is worth a read, especially if you are or know someone who is 30, married and without any kids. Here are my answers to a few of her questions.

What if you don’t want to have kids? What if you just want to wait to have kids?

For a long time, Matt and I didn’t know whether or when we wanted to have kids. We weren’t those people who grew up longing to be parents. I mean, we both assumed we’d have kids some day, but we didn’t rush it and it wasn’t something that was a major priority for us. This was really hard for some members of our family to deal with. I mean, the second you get married, people want to know when kids will also be in the picture. We didn’t know, and we weren’t ashamed to say that. It caused a lot of heartburn in the family – they thought we didn’t love children or that we were going to end the family name or something. Children are our inheritance, after all. What does it mean about us if we didn’t take that really seriously?

How do you interact in a loving, Christlike manner with the above groups of people? What are some loving responses to the questions and annoying put-down remarks?

That’s the harder question. At first, we were very polite about it. When we were pressed about it, we’d say things like, “Only the Lord knows” with a sweet smile. Then, as we pressed toward 30, the questions became much more offensive. I have, on more than one occasion, burst into tears at the prodding of well-meaning people. Some family members have started to say things like, “Aren’t you so grateful you don’t have kids? You couldn’t have this career” or “Isn’t a blessing that you are barren? Just think of how different your lives would be.” And that hurts more than anything else these days – that assumption that I am grateful that I don’t have the “burden” of raising a child. As you might know, I had a woman sort of forcefully pray over “my womb” and tell me that our barrenness was sort of a result of our lack of faith. That kind of stuff was much more difficult to deal with. But the reality is the same. Only the Lord knows. It’s always been a good answer – and it’s the only right answer.

We are trying to be faithful to Him with the gifts, time, resources, etc., that He has given us. Our ears are pressed against His lips. All people need to hear is that you are trusting Him. They don’t need details, because it only makes them – those kind people on the periphery of your life – more curious and more prone to strange suggestions and remarks. We are so over keeping our story to ourselves.

What we say now is, “Only the Lord knows, and in the meantime, we have come to understand that it is His will that we are actively loving and raising up future generations to know and love Him.” That’s our truth. We are called to make disciples, whether or not they come from my womb. We are called to look after the fatherless and the widow. And there are currently 147 million orphans in the world who need homes, prayer and support. Until the Lord brings a child into our home, the best we can do is spread that message and offer those prayers for those kids.

What do you do when you’re the “last one” without kids? What about dealing with fertility issues?

I’ve been thinking about blogging more about being a Gilead Girl, and this is where that ongoing conversation would be really, really handy.

The truth is, you’re not the “last one.” You might be the last of your friends or the last of your siblings to raise a child, but you’re not ever alone. You should seek out others, constantly reaching out for the kind of support that others who have gone before you can offer. If you don’t know anybody, email me. I know lots of other women without children and in various stages of the process. I have friends who are seeking the help of fertility clinics, friends who have gone through IVF, friends who have had successful adoption stories, friends who are trying to have a successful adoption story, etc.

Also, I personally find such comfort knowing that there were many women in the lineage of Christ who dealt with infertility issues. Hannah is a personal hero of mine. In the midst of her pain and sorrow, she chose to praise God and to serve Him long before she was given a son.

Does your husband feel any pressure? How does he deal with it, and how do you deal with it together as a couple?

I think Matt feels just as much pressure as I do. His family has probably been harder on us than mine. They all mean well, of course, but their comments are little more cutting. I think Matt has always felt more secure that life would be fine whether or not we have kids. He has been such a wonderful support in getting me there too. It’s taken a long time, but the Lord has given us the comfort that He is our legacy, first and foremost. Together, we pray about children constantly. We not only pray for wisdom and direction, but we pray for the child(ren) that will live in our house. We pray together that that child or those kids will know that they are loved, that their home is a place of peace and adventure and godliness, and that they will come to know Christ. Praying about those kids with my husband is one of my favorite things. It is balm for an aching heart.

Do you have True Friend moms in your life? How can we be an encouragement to them? (You have to read Ashley’s blog to get the context and definition of “True Friend mom.”)

True Friend moms are such a blessing. I have one who allows Matt and I to not only continue to participate in their lives as individuals, but in the lives of her kids as well. She allows us to be “Uncle Matt and Aunt Tamara,” human jungle gyms and story tellers. It is important to tell them how much they mean to you. I’m a card person. I think everyone loves real mail, and everyone appreciates a thoughtful thank-you card. I am also a huge advocate of gift cards to local restaurants – we like to provide date nights for the parents, so that their marriage continues to be nurtured apart from parenthood. Which reminds me – one hugely important thing for True Friend moms is to make absolutely certain that your friendship and conversation doesn’t only revolve around the kids. Make sure she knows you don’t hang out with her just to hold the baby. Make sure she feels validated as a woman and not just as a mom. Moms give up much of their identity for the sake of their kids; the last thing they need is for you as her longtime friend to see her only in her mom mode. So continue to invite them to do the things you used to do. For us, it’s game nights and road trips. They can’t always make it, and it requires flexibility on our part, but it’s so worth it for your relationship.

Pebbles in my palm

“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”- Romans 5:10

I am constantly falling. I do it all the time. I’ve been clumsy for as long as I can remember. Let me say this about that: It hurts. It scars. I cry just about every time. It’s a terrible sensation of burning and shock.  I remember falling off my bike exactly pretty regularly as a kid. Spiritually speaking, this is exactly what salvation reminds me of. Christ doesn’t just pick me up from the ground. He dries my tears. He picks out the gravel from my scratched-up hands. He cleanses my wound, bandages it, kisses it. Then, he gives me the courage to ride again. And He doesn’t just watch from the yard, like a loving father would; He runs alongside, like Mickey in “Rocky.”

Salvation is a funny thing. When Christ died for our sins, He reconciled us to the Father. Our debts – all of them – paid. But Christ’s work on the cross was not limited to this wondrous blessing of reconciliation. (Limited here seems such a ridiculous word. As if this grace was some mere, commonplace thing. Forgive me, it is the best word I have right now.) His life is continually saving us, through His Word and through His Spirit. Salvation is like this function of physics and grace all at once. It’s constant. It’s continually moving, even when – perhaps especially when – I am not.

We were saved, we are being saved, we will be saved.

Thanks be.

I have been requiring quite a bit from the Lord lately. OK. I have been completely helpless. Perhaps this is His work, His will. He loves for me to long for Him, and I’ve learned so much about seeking His face and not His hand only. I have a few fresh knee scrapes, and more than a few tiny scratches on my palms. I’ve been staring up at Him, waiting to hear something, anything, on a few subjects for so long my neck is kinked. I was ashamed to write this at first, but no longer. I think it is perfectly reasonable to admit that I am still not eager for the waiting. I don’t gloat in this; I have just recently realized that I am OK to admit this. I will wait on Him. I will. I will not complain. I will not doubt. But I am not sure I will ever like it.

Which brings me back to that bike.

I never enjoyed the falling off part. But the breeze against my face, the sun on my back – these things God has given me to enjoy while I wait. Like a Glory-kissed appetizer ahead of the main event. Yeah, this part isn’t so bad. No, not at all.

Hello world!

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Guide me there

Good morning, friends.
It’s been so long since our last post, and for that I am truly sorry.

I wanted to talk a bit today about something that has been weighing heavy on my heart.
The idea, simply, is mentorship.
My questions to you are, what is your definition of biblical mentorship? What do you think it means? What do you think it looks like, or ought to look like? And, most importantly, do you have have or need it in your life?

For some time now, I’ve been strongly advocating something like accountability. Something that helps us stay on the straight and narrow, if you will. But for months, I have had this ache that suggests to me that we need something more than that. We need those Paul-Barnabas-Timothy relationships (someone to learn from, someone to walk with, someone to teach). My fear is that we spend all of our energy on finding those Barnabas relationships (which, in truth, are often so hard to come by).
But what about the Pauls? The Timothys? Who is mentoring you? Who are you teaching?

I’d love to see a more formal — or at least, more intentional — effort at creating mentorship opportunities, but it’s a hard hill to climb. It can be difficult finding people who “fit” you, folks you can trust enough to learn from. We’re all looking for the genuine article, here, and we’ve been so often disappointed. And so it requires a lot of faith and willingness to be raw. (Scared yet?)

Is this something you’re up for? We know it would require time and an intentional effort — things that sometimes seem too much to give.

My heart for this has come from the realization that we soon will inherit the church. That shift may have already begun. And for those of us who are mothers: We are raising up the church of the future.
Our husbands might be future elders, if not pastors.
How better can we walk the road before us if we have a guide, if we learn from those farther along on the path?
Ladies, you know it takes tremendous strength just to meet the day. It takes courage to deal with just today, right? How much more, then, should we shoring up for the days ahead?
The truth is, I would be much better off today if I had adequately prepared for it a season ago in my life.

As far as I can tell, this is our best shot at 20/20 foresight.

So, how is this done? How do I find a mentor? How do I find a young woman to share my journey with?
Or, you might disagree entirely. Maybe mentorship isn’t necessary, in your eyes. Maybe formal relationships aren’t what you are looking for. Tell me why. I’d love to engage in a real discussion about this.

Think about it, and let’s talk.

Grace and peace,
T