Jesus saves!

Exodus 7:14 – 10:29 is a hard passage so I will drop the scripture given in the study I am doing here first:

The earth is the Lord’s, and [a]all it contains,
The world, and those who live in it. 

Psalm 24:1

Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
And the peoples in His faithfulness. 

Psalm 96:13

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth

1 Peter 1:17

And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” 

Revelations 16:7

They have all turned aside, together they are corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one. 

Psalm 14:3

 Hear my prayer, Lord,
Listen to my pleadings!
Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For no person living is righteous in Your sight.

Psalm 143:1-2

It is hard to see innocent people suffer, or in our own human perspective, they are innocent.  We cannot put ourselves on the same level as the Lord, however.  He is holy and righteous, and he can do no wrong.

When the Lord saw the Egyptians throwing Israelite baby boys into the Nile, He was not happy.  He bided his time and he brought judgement. 

I am reminded of the holocaust in Germany and of Holodomor in Ukraine.  Humans can produce so much wickedness. What about abortion here in the United States?

I also think about orphans treatment overseas and here, I wonder about the children trafficked in secret.

I know that there will be another reckoning one day for all those who are unrepentant. I know what happens in orphanages, and I trust that the Lord sees.

This passage reminds me that the Lord wants his name to be famous.  He wants everyone to worship Him.  He sent His son to save the whole world even the most shocking sinner, by faith.  I think about the sin in my own life and what do I deserve?

 What then? [a]Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written:

“There is no righteous person, not even one;
11 There is no one who understands,
There is no one who seeks out God;
12 They have all turned aside, together they have become [b]corrupt;
There is no one who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The venom of [c]asps is under their lips”;
14 “Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And they have not known the way of peace.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 3:9-18

[a]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, [b]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [c]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be [d]put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 9:10-13

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 

John 8:12

to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Acts 26:18

We have a lot of work to do.  Now before us, we may have a hurting child or children who need to hear about the healing work of Jesus. 

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The world asks too much of us. We can rest in God’s work.

Exodus 5:1-7:13

Just as Pharoah asked too much of the Israelites and wanted to keep them from the Lord, it is the same with the world. 

-unrealistic work schedules

-academic requirements; always needing better grades, more education, more classes

-extra-curricular actives/ overscheduled

We are always striving to shine.

It is the same in adoption.  Do we feel the pressure to be perfect parents?  So often, the message is that if we, parents, “get it right” (attachment work, trauma informed care, etc) that our kids WILL be healed.  It’s all on us.  But is it really?

Did you hear this too?  This is the message of a popular adoption conference.  It is misleading.

The reality is, while we should look at all the wisdom about trauma informed care, even with our best work, we must trust God for the healing.  “His yolk is easy, His burden is light.”

Just as the Israelites were in slavery, are we living out our adoptive parenting in slavery?  Am I toiling in other people’s expectations?  Are you feeling the legalism of perfectionism?

We are going to make mistakes.  The Lord may call you to do things differently sometimes.  Sometimes, especially with teens, we have messy, passionate discussions that were completely from the Lord, but we were not calm.  We might raise our voice!  (Our kids need to be able to say hard things too, and not worry about appearing “ungrateful” as is an expectation the world puts on them.)  We don’t have to be like Mary Poppins, and she was actually mean anyway, read the book!

Just as Moses was not well-spoken, and God used him to lead Israel out of Egypt, we as adoptive parents may not be child whisperers.  We may feel like we are the worst possible choice for our child, but just as God chose Moses, God chose you and me.   He knows what He is doing.

Exodus 4: 24-26 Why was Moses’s son not circumcised? Was there a disagreement about circumcision?

It is short, so I will drop it here:

24 But it came about at the overnight encampment on the way, that the Lord met [a]Moses, and sought to put him to death. 25 So Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and [b]threw it at Moses’ feet; and she said, “You are indeed a groom of blood to me!” 26 So He left him alone. At that time she said, “You are a groom of blood”—[c]because of the circumcision.

Exodus 4:24-26 NASB

What was that?  I know I read that several times before, but it never registered in my brain. 

So, what do we know about what happened here?  I think it’s pretty clear that Moses’s son was not circumcised and that he knew that he was called to do this.  The Lord was patient about this for awhile, but now Moses was about to rejoin his people and time was up.  We are reminded again that the Lord is very serious about obedience. 

I am curious about what brought this about and thought it would be interesting to speculate.  Today, there are often disagreements between parents about whether to circumcise their boys.  Most people in my community are Christian, so there is no biblical reason to circumcise, but there is a lot of interest in it for various other reasons.  My first thought was, what if Moses’s wife didn’t want to circumcise their son.  Maybe it wasn’t done in her culture, and Moses was trying to be patient with her, but once time ran out, Moses was the one responsible.  Maybe. It seems to fit with her response, “You are a bridegroom of blood to me.”

After thinking though, I thought about Moses’s life.  He was likely circumcised as a baby in his birth family’s home.   Then he was adopted into Egyptian royalty.  I bet he was the only boy there who had been circumcised, and I wonder how that went for him?  The Lord used circumcision to set his people apart.  Adoptees often feel like outsiders even in the best adoptive families.  This was possibly an extra reminder, and I wonder if Moses struggled with it?  Maybe he did struggle with it, but he still wanted his son circumcised because he believed in God? Perhaps both parents were reluctant to circumcise? I’m not sure, but these are interesting thoughts.

Exodus 3-4: Accepting the Call, Counting the Cost

Sometimes God withholds information so we can answer the call. It is by his grace that we don’t really know what we are getting into. We have no idea what we are capable of when God is with us.

God said he would harden Pharoah’s heart.  He also assured Moses over and over again that he would not fail. 

So it is with us as adoptive parents.  We will not fail.  God will accomplish what he set out to do even if it doesn’t make sense to us. 

I am reminded of Hannah Overton who was falsely accused of child abuse when her child with PICA ate salt and died.  Hannah now has a ministry to minister to women in prison.  She has also mentioned a healing journey her family went on when she had another baby.  (She has told her story on several podcasts, and it is absolutely worth a listen!)

When I first heard about her story, I thought why would God allow all of this when the family was obedient?   God was fulfilling his purpose.  He knew, He saw.  He had a plan to bring good out of evil.  Even one of the prosecutors was eventually changed because of Hannah’s obedience to the Lord in forgiveness. 

Back to Exodus, in Midian, Moses did not want to go.  I imagine he was very comfortable in Midian and felt safe there, but Moses still had no idea what he was getting into.  By His grace, the Lord withheld information to get him through the first struggle.  Moses had no idea what he was capable of with God. 

And so it is with us, adoptive parents, especially those of us who adopt internationally.  Often people say no at first because the financial cost alone seems alike a huge mountain to climb.  Nobody knows that the cost and the process of adoption is the easy part.  Once the adoption is final, that is when the real work begins. 

I remember in Numbers, in the wilderness, Moses crying out to the Lord under the enormous burden he could not carry alone.  The Lord gave him help, as he will give us. 

Exodus

I never finished Numbers…  but I fully plan to come back to it! 

This summer, I discovered another church in my area is going through Exodus, and I didn’t start bible study with this group until they started Numbers, so I was so excited to get to go back!  They are using same “seek and find study” that the other church was using, which is great. 

Exodus 1-2

Exodus 1-2

This is just a retelling of the story of Exodus 1-2, but with extra thoughts from an adoption and trauma perspective.

There is a lot to unpack from this, as always, I will zero in on the part that surrounds adoption and trauma.

Moses’s birth mother saw he was beautiful and hid him.  She knew what the future would bring, so when she could hide him no longer, she coated a basket with pitch and asphalt so it would float and placed the child among the reeds.

It is important to me to place myself in a birth mother’s shoes and have compassion.  Moses’s mother’s story is a perfect picture for me to do this.  I have had the privilege to know several birth mothers, and I think most probably relate to her.  Adoption can be seen as somewhere a mother can place her baby to protect her baby.  I am thinking about her nursing her son, seeing he is beautiful.  How much did she weep, mourning the impending loss?  She couldn’t have been sure if he would live. How much did she pray? Instead of waiting to be discovered, she carefully and lovingly covers the papyrus basket with asphalt and pitch.  Perhaps she has to wait for each layer to dry, testing it in the water, will it float?  Is it ready for the most precious cargo? 

I wonder if she knew that Pharoah’s daughter would go to that place to bathe?  I can’t know that of course, the bible does not explicitly say, but I know that I would have scoped out this possibility.  Did she pray that Pharoah’s daughter would find him?  God surely prepared the Egyptians heart to fall in love with him.  How loved Moses was!

Miriam, Moses’s sister stood at a distance and watched.  She also loved Moses, and I imagine her anxiety as her mother placed him among the reeds.  She was just a girl watching all this play out before her eyes.  Her little brother placed in the reeds where crocodiles live.  Waiting, trusting, hoping.

The Pharoah’s daughter decides to keep him.  It’s a miracle.  How blessed this adoptive mom is that she responds to the call of the Lord and has mercy on this tiny, helpless, loved baby.  Miriam must have been terrified, but her love for Moses wins and she approaches the Egyptian and asks if she can find a nursing Hebrew woman, and Moses is reunited with his mother until he is weaned.  My guess is that is probably around 2 years.  Remember, they didn’t have formula.  His birth mother had the privilege to watch him take his first steps and form his first words.  She saw his first smile.

I imagine his mother preparing him to move to the palace.  I wonder if the Pharoah’s daughter visited him in his home, or if his mother brought him to the palace for visits?  Maybe not.  I imagine the fear and apprehension as he says goodbye to his family and is brought to the palace to be safe.  He doesn’t really understand.

Then the grief comes.  Did Moses grieve the loss of his family?  Did he resent his new adoptive mother?  Did he feel “kidnapped.”  Was it difficult for the Pharoah, other children and family in the palace to accept him for who he was? 

Moses grew up with plenty of food.  He did not endure forced labor or beatings, but I wonder how much he saw, and I’m sure he knew who his people were.  Surely his adoptive family did not try to hide the truth from him.  He eventually, when he was grown, saw how his people were treated and felt the calling to rescue them. 

But he was angry and, in his anger, he took matters into his own hands and killed an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew.  He wasn’t ready yet, he had a healing journey he must begin in Midian.

I find the interaction with the two Hebrews, just before he flees, interesting.  One is mistreating the other and Moses tries to help them work it out.  The Hebrew who was mistreating the other reacts with, “Who made you a commander and judge over us? Are you planning to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

This looks a lot like trauma to me.  The Hebrews are in survival mode.  Not only are they being abused by the Egyptians, but they are mistreating each other.  It reminds me of observing the orphanage.  It is every child for himself.  They are being abused by the workers, and the turn around and harass and harm each other.  This is how they survive. 

The Hebrews are survivors.  We saw that in Numbers.  God rescued them out of slavery, but they brought their trauma with them.  The trauma told them lies which made it difficult to trust God.  Just as when adoptive parents take their child out of the orphanage, that is where the real work begins. 

While Moses surely struggled with anger over the loss of his family and culture, he was protected from the abuse his family and people endured.  His trauma was possibly different, but he still needed a safe place to heal, which he found in Midian.   He stayed with a Midian priest.  Was this a priest of the Lord?  I’m not sure, but I imagine, he had a great and positive influence on Moses.  Moses married one of the priest’s daughters.  While he knew and felt that he was a foreigner, this was a safe place for him, and we will find out later, he didn’t really want to leave.  Sometimes we need a burning bush to get us moving…

Meanwhile back in Egypt, the king dies, and this change makes the Hebrews bolder and they finally CRY OUT.  And the most profound thing happened, “God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the Israelites and God KNEW.”

I should have had this quote tattooed on my hand so I could see it every day when we were in our darkest days.  He knew, He saw, He set his plan in motion in Moses long before the Israelites even cried out.  And so it is in our family.

Numbers 20-36  (Did God bring the Israelites from disorganized to secure attachment in the desert?)

It has been a while since I wrote about my thoughts on studying Numbers.  Bible study for the second half of Numbers started this past winter after Christmas, and my attendance wasn’t good.  I felt overwhelmed this season, and I may not have time to really dig into each section until this summer. 

However, I got some awesome encouragement from what I did study and attend.  God is good.  It really is all in there, the bible.  He knows what we need, and He put it all in there. 

Here we go…  In the second half of Numbers, we get to see the second generation of Israelites, born in the desert, all grown up.  They know the Lord because their parents taught them.  Moses, Aaron and the priests led them well.  This generation watched their parents struggle to trust God.  Their parents sinned and repented, sinned and repented, sinned and repented, repeat repeat repeat.  Some saw their parents, aunts, uncles, swallowed by the earth or die because of their sin.  This is tragic, but let’s go back to the sinning and repenting. 

THIS is what secure attachment looks like.  A secure relationship can look very messy to a recovering dismissive like myself because for a relationship to look healthy to me, I want it to look perfect.  If we think someone is perfect, do we really know them?  Well, the Israelites have been camping together in the desert for 40+ years.  They know each other pretty well, and I imagine, there aren’t many secrets.  If you struggle with something, your family likely knows it, and this is the beauty of it all.  Their children see their parent’s sin, and they see God bring their parents to repentance and back into relationship with Him.  This happens over and over again, just as in a secure parent-child relationship the parent isn’t afraid of making mistakes or of their child seeing her mistake because there is an apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  The child feels secure in seeing this process.  “I make a mistake, there is forgiveness.”

It is during the second half of Numbers that Moses and Aaron sin and God tells them they will not enter the promised land.  This broke my heart, and I think it broke God’s heart too, which is why Moses got to see the promised land before he died.  (The loving relationship between God and Moses was so close and beautiful.)  In the end, only two men from the first generation of Israelites, who left Egypt, were able to enter the promised land, Joshua and Caleb.  It was so incredibly difficult for their generation to trust the Lord.  They worked at it and struggled with it, and perhaps because of the trauma they endured in Egypt, they struggled more than usual.  

Their children however, learned from them.  They saw the struggle; they watched their parents sin and repent.  These children did not endure the abuse their parents endured.  Their parents, with God’s direction and help, were able to stop the cycle of trauma that could have continued even into the desert.  What generation do you most identify with, the first generation or the second?  Many adoptive parents identify more with the first generation and are raising first generation adoptive children who have perhaps endured far more profound abuse than their adoptive parents.  I hope that if you choose to study Numbers, you would be as encouraged as I am.  I used to think of healing in a very different way before adoption, then when I saw the profound lasting effects of neglect and abuse, I became jaded, seeing healing as only coming with heaven.  Now I see how God works in the generations.  The imperfect, messy work you do as a first generation parent is worth it, and as you grow old, you may see

Numbers 12  (Triangulation, Manipulation and Control) and (Time-in or time-out?)

I wrote this post a long time ago, but forgot to publish it. Well, here it is.

There are a lot of failed marriages on the orphan care path, and this, I believe, is often the reason.  Triangulation, manipulation and control are the skills that helped our kids survive.  Now that our kids are in a safe place, it’s time to replace these strategies with healthy behavior.  Easier said than done. 

I won’t dwell much on what happened.  It’s a short, easy to read chapter.  The Lord speaks plainly.  I think what happens after the Lord speaks is that Aaron probably felt repentance in his heart, and Miriam did not.  I wonder how much of this had to do with her jealousy of Moses’s wife, which is mentioned in the first paragraph. 

Miriam is then struck with leprosy, or that seems to be what is described, and this is a place where I am forced to stop and think about the bible and TBRI and reconcile something.  In trauma-informed care, and specifically in TBRI Interventions, parents are discouraged from ever placing their child in “time-out” away from the family.  We are “reinforcing their belief that they do not belong.”  I agree, that this should probably not be our go-to usual decision.  Maybe we choose to be more careful here in the first year or the first few years as well, I don’t know.  I think parents have to sit and think on their child’s needs. 

However, in this case, Miriam has deliberately broken her relationship with her brother Moses.  Perhaps this triangulation is to get between Moses and his wife?  Or to alienate his wife from the rest of the family?  I don’t know, but if you are an adoptive parent, you probably have seen profound triangulation up close and personal, and you know what it looks like. 

Moses, pleads with the Lord to have mercy.  He is such a good brother.  I’m not sure if I would have been as gracious, but we know that Moses, “was a very humble man, more than anyone on the face of the earth.” (vs 3) 

Someone in my small group made a really good point that Moses was told that Miriam should be left outside the camp for seven days.  This message may not have been relayed to Miriam, and I strongly suspect that she wasn’t informed.  I think the Lord knew that this was how long it would take for Miriam to repent and for her heart to soften. 

I also noticed that the people did not move on until she was restored.  They waited on her.  She was important to the family, just as all our kids are important to our families, and we are making sacrifices often as we wait for repentance as well. 

I found this passage encouraging and helpful, and I plan to take it with me on this parenting journey.

Numbers 15-17 – The Israelites struggle with seeing the difference between discipline and abuse.

When I first read this passage, I zeroed in on Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On, and their situation.  (These are not names from the bible that people give their children!)  Their behavior was shocking, and the consequences were severe. 

I’m not going to rehash it here in my blog, but when you read the passage, you will find it shocking.  Korah and his companions are brazen, and their entire families are swallowed by the earth.  Moses is, as usual, making atonement for the Israelites. 

So… I thought about why on earth Korah and company suddenly started to act like this, then I remembered what happened in Chapter 15.  Remember the Sabbath violation?  In verses 32 through 36 a man is found gathering wood on the Sabbath day.  He was brought to Moses, Aaron, and the entire community.  The Lord told Moses that the man was to be stoned to death outside the camp.  The community was obedient and did what the Lord told them. 

Can you imagine how scary this must have been?  They knew this man, and he died because he was gathering firewood on the Sabbath.  Some of them might have been thinking about all the times they secretly gathered firewood and weren’t caught!  They likely grieved his death; they may have missed him terribly.  I imagine many became very angry and began to question what God was doing.  Instead of discipline, which is for our good, they perhaps saw God’s decision as abuse, or more likely they blamed Aaron, not believing God had made the decision.  Either way, yes, I believe this is a trauma response. 

( SIDENOTE: Sometimes children from “hard places” struggle with any kind of discipline. It could be as simple as being grounded from watching TV for one night, the child might think the parent is just being mean, and struggle to connect the behavior with the consequence. If you are not an adoptive parent, you might be thinking, yeah okay, all my kids have been angry when they received discipline. Yes, I hear you, and you are just going to have to take my word for it. This is different.)

So Korah is triggered. Maybe he knew this man, and he wants to make sense out of his death, for his human reasoning. He decides, well it’s Aaron’s fault, but the bottom line is that he is angry at God. This is a good place to remember that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways. (Isa. 55:6-9) For me, a person who did not endure a trauma like the Israelites, it is hard for me to understand God’s decisions sometimes, but I remember this passage. As an adoptive parent, I think there is more to this situation though. I think the Israelites were struggling with their past abuse and were seeing the stoning through the lens of their abuse. “Thanks Aaron, but we would rather be in charge, step aside.” (my own paraphrase)

In the end, the Lord shows a sign that Aaron and the house of Levi were chosen by having his staff sprout, form buds, blossom, and PRODUCE ALMONDS!  Talk about a sign! 

“The Lord told Moses, ‘Put Aaron’s staff back in front of the testimony to be kept as a sign for the rebels, so that you may put an end to their complaints before me, or else they will die.’”  Numbers 17: 10

How did the Isrealites respond?

“Look, we’re perishing!  We’re lost; we’re all lost!  Anyone who comes near the Lord’s tabernacle will die.  Will we all perish?” Numbers 17: 12

This is a trauma response. 

Are they all going to die?

No. 

Did God give them an INCREDIBLE sign to help them to believe that he is truly all powerful, and he has made his decision? 

Uh, yes, he did. 

Can they repent before God and choose to trust him?

Not today. 

Does this sound familiar? These Isrealites are extremely triggered. Do our kids go through this sometimes? It’s probably a little less dramatic, but still, I think you know what I’m talking about.

God hears everything.  He heard them.  It looks like he chose to move on, and we will look at what comes next, in my next installment.

Numbers 13-14 (more thoughts) (When people judge us for our honest feelings and struggles within adoption.)

(In case you haven’t read, these are the chapters when the Israelites send scouts into Canaan to check it out.  They become afraid because they thought the inhabitants were stronger than them, so they gave a false report.  In response, the Lord told them that they would wonder the dessert until the last of the doubters died, and their children would take Canaan.)

So, I wanted to tell a little story.  When I was sitting in small group, I was sharing about how the Israelites fear and decision to lie and give a false report looks a lot like trauma behavior, and this was the day that I got push back.  I was told that this was absolutely NOT trauma behavior.  The Israelites just couldn’t trust the Lord, that’s all.  The trauma obviously happened a long time ago, and the Israelites certainly got it out of their system by now.  For the love, just stop talking about trauma already!!  (That last part wasn’t said, but I did feel that it was implied.)

How often does this happen to you, and when did you just stop sharing?  I am a glutton for punishment, and just have to share and share and be honest and genuine until I am despised and looked upon with disgust.  I know what they are thinking and sometimes actually saying.  “It’s been a long time, it’s been three whole entire years, I think at this point, it’s your parenting.”  “Did you get your child young?  Babies cannot have trauma yet.  It’s you.”  “I visited an orphanage, and it was a beautiful, magical place.  I’m going to adopt from there, so I won’t have any of the issues you have.”  And so on. 

Why do I keep doing this to myself?  I do it for you.  I know that at some point this person’s best friend is going to adopt.  This new adoptive mom will share her deepest struggles with her bestie who didn’t adopt, and maybe just maybe, her friend will believe her because her friend heard this before, from me!  I think it’s a calling because I can’t seem to make myself stop.  I just keep on with the honesty, and maybe I’m making a difference…?

Now, when a person jumps on me, I do shut up with that person.  So obviously, chapters 13-14 were the chapters when I stopped talking in small group.   If I shared, it certainly had nothing to do with trauma.  These were sadly, not my people. 

That being said, I have been in a bible study group where I was heard, understood and given compassion.  In fact, my biggest cheerleader and encourager, was an adult adoptee in another small group!  When you find people like this, who aren’t even adoptive parents, hold onto them.  I wish I could say I would have been like them, but I know that if I hadn’t walked this life myself, I would not have had their compassion.  These are the best kind of people whom God has gifted as a special blessing to the world.  If any of you happen to read this and know who I am, thank you.  You mean a lot to me.