I have come to this space many times over the last year. So many things on my heart to share. Yet nothing to say. The words have just not come as easily as they have in the many years that I have shared my heart and my family here. Over the past year, I had a deep sense of God beckoning me to come away from the noise and the loudness of social media—a season of quieting my heart and leaning in to hear Him speak much-needed truth to my heart.
Because many times it is in the quieting and the laying down of things that distract us that we are able to hear His still, small voice calling us deeper, calling us higher and reminding us of promises and truths that got buried under the busyness of life.
This past year has felt different to me. Stepping away from social media for a good portion of the last year gave me time to pause. Time to reflect and prayerfully consider what God would have me do with this tiny space on the World Wide Web because I have wrestled with its purpose for a while now. Life changes. Circumstances change. We change. It’s so easy to get pulled in and distracted while focusing on all the things that really don’t matter. It’s easy to scroll for too many hours and get caught up in petty arguments and emotional, heated debates that end up solving nothing at all. In the words of wise King Solomon…”Meaningless! All of it meaningless.”
In the midst of pausing and reflecting, God has been so very faithful to the Salems. Every year seems to pass quicker than the one before. We’ve weathered some of our lowest valleys this past year and come out on the other side with hearts full of overwhelming gratitude. We’ve stood on mountaintops and sang His praises. We’ve counted our infinite blessings too many times to count. We’ve grown in our faith and learned once again that there is always, always a cost to following Jesus—and it is worth it! We’ve been stretched and challenged, but we’ve never taken our eyes off the One who holds our every breath in His hands. Our children have thrived, and we often find ourselves teary at just how faithful the Father has been to each one of them. And if ever my faith feels weak, I only need to look back and see how far each one of my children have come to know that He is always near.
In so many ways it feels like the older I get and the more of Jesus I seek, the less I hold onto in this life. This past year God has gently taken me on a journey of learning that I will never understand the ways of this world, and I don’t have to. I will never understand the hearts of people who seek to bring others down—gossip, slander, mocking, and judging unfairly—and I don’t have to. Because fixing our eyes on heaven and the things of eternity should always matter so much more than concerning ourselves with an opinionated world gone crazy. Many don’t understand my family or others like it. They don’t understand why we would choose to adopt children who will live with us forever. They question whether we would want our children who have special needs living with us in their adult years. Yes! And they cannot fathom how we can actually find joy indescribable in the middle of raising children who struggle so much more than others. To some, we should be this unhappy, joyless couple who left our zeal for life at the doorstep of the first orphanage we adopted from.
The world may never get us and I’m okay with that too. Because as I have paused and pressed in to the heart of God a little deeper this year, I have been reminded of a truth that God spoke to us so many years ago as He began to call us to live this unconventional, very misunderstood life…
…A surrendered life brings more joy, life, peace, contentment and purpose than a life held firmly onto.
It’s in the daily quest to abide, to lay our lives down and to give God all that we are or hope to become that we find an indescribable peace that makes zero sense to those who look on. This is amazing grace.
In 2009 God took us down a path of teaching us what it means to give Him our all. Two little girls who had Down syndrome were waiting for a family in Eastern Europe. And in all of our fear, failures, shortcomings, lack of knowledge, and absolute humanness, He said go. The unfolding of His plans and purposes in that season were so significant and life-changing that we both got tattoos of a crown of thorns on our wrists—our constant reminder to press in to the surrendered life that God had called us to live. The yielded lives that we longed to walk out faithfully.
And so often I look at the crown forever etched on my wrist and it makes me tearful. What if we had missed out? What if even one of these most precious blessings who we are honored to call our own were not in our home? What if we got it all wrong and missed out on every part of this journey—the good, the hard, the challenging, and the glorious? What if we listened to the opinions of man instead of the heart of God and His purposes for my family on this earth? I was sitting at our kitchen counter with one of our young adults recently. We chatted about all the things on our hearts when my precious child looked at Hailee and said, “Most of these children would not be alive today had they not been adopted. I get that, Mom. I understand why you and Dad chose this life.” My young people are growing and maturing and seeing the incredible richness and joy that comes when we follow the Lord with reckless abandon.
I get so much wrong in my life. I make mistakes and fail daily. I am a sinner saved by grace. I take my eyes off of heaven and I hurt over things I should let go. I worry endlessly about things I cannot change. My faith waivers and discouragement sets in. But I look around my home where one child is creating a masterpiece with her markers and a coloring book, another child is sitting in her wheelchair endlessly giggling for no apparent reason, another child sits on my lap as I type because she just longs to be near and another child happily plays on her beloved music toys.
And in the moment, for the millionth time, I whisper a prayer of gratitude to my Father in heaven…
“Thank you, Lord. Thank you that I got this right.”
I don’t know what the future will hold for my family or for me personally. And I have no idea what God will do with this tiny blimp on the Internet that I started twelve years ago when we were bringing Haven home from China. I only know that as I look toward the future, it is with a sense of hope and anticipation.
It is with a yielded heart that I journey onward–to continue to pour out my whole life for the One who is worthy of all my praise in this life I live.
And as Anthony and I have prayed throughout the twenty-three years of our marriage…
“No matter what, no matter where, no matter how…have your way, Lord Jesus!”
You can have it all, Lord.