Encouragement 11-22-04


November 22, 2004
Encouragement for Today

Mary Southerland - Director of Development, Speaker, Author

Key verse:

The LORD spoke his word to me, saying: "Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.  Jeremiah 1:4-5  (New Century Version)


It had been a wonderful day!  We were all tired after hiking Grandfather Mountain and stopping on the way home to picnic beside a pristine North Carolina creek.  Bedtime preparation was proceeding amazingly well.  All that mountain air and country cooking was a natural sedative for our two pleasantly exhausted children. I looked forward to joining my husband, Dan, in the front porch swing to cuddle, gaze at the stars and dream of what might be.
Danna, our three-year-old daughter, was out like a light!  One down and one to go!  Jered, our six-year-old son scrambled into bed, ready to recap the hiking adventure and make a plan for tomorrow. We snuggled under the fluffy down comforter, talking and laughing about how much fun the day had been, then settled into a cozy, comfortable silence. 

His question ripped through the still, silent night and my heart, exposing every fear and insecurity carefully buried there.  "Why didn't she want me?" Jered softly asked.  I knew immediately what he meant.  After years of trying to have children naturally, Dan and I discovered that God had a wonderfully different plan for us.  We adopted both Jered and Danna as infants and marveled daily at the precious gift of our two children.  I knew this question was inevitable but was still caught off guard by Jered's probing words.  My uncertain heart cried out to my Father.  I needed an answer - for Jered - and for me.  Instantly, it came.  Bruno!

When Jered was four years old, we were given a chocolate colored Labrador puppy that quickly outgrew our small yard, our not-so-understanding neighbors and our apprehensive children.  We named this gentle giant Bruno! With each passing day, Bruno became an increasingly frustrated dog!  Our postage stamp sized back yard offered little freedom or room for him to romp.  Our elderly neighbors did not appreciate his early morning barking alarm and our kids soon refused to venture into the back yard because Bruno, who loved them and wanted to play, delighted in pinning them to the ground with his massive paws!  It soon became clear to all of us that we were not the right family for Bruno. 

After an intensive search, we discovered "Adopt a Pet", a remarkable organization that finds homes for animals whose owners, for one reason or another, cannot keep them.  We were promised that Bruno would be placed in just the right home where he would be loved, well cared for and have plenty of room to run and play.  We talked and explained, struggling our way to the difficult decision that it was time to put Bruno up for adoption!  Still, on the day they came to pick up Bruno, we all cried! We knew it was the best plan for Bruno - for us - and for a very excited family that wanted a Labrador. But it still hurt!  Sometimes, doing the right thing - the best thing - the highest thing - is the most painful thing!

As I looked into the beautiful, blue eyes of the little boy I loved more than life itself, I prayed for just the right words. "Jered, do you remember Bruno?" At the memory of the dog, Jered smiled and sadly whispered, "I still miss him." I nodded in agreement and replied, "I know, son! I know you loved Bruno and are sad that we had to give him away.  But do you remember why we gave Bruno away?" Jered thought for a moment and carefully answered, "Because we loved him so much and we knew we couldn't take care of him right ... and because he wasn't very happy ... and because we wanted the best home in the whole wide world for him."

I paused for a moment, basking in the simple and faithful wisdom of my Father, spoken through the heart of my only son.  Now I was ready to answer his unsettling question. "She did want you, honey. And she did love you ... so much, in fact, that she was willing to give you away, just like we gave Bruno away. Just as we wanted what was best for Bruno, your birth mother wanted what was best for you!"  I fully recognize that it was an extremely simple illustration for a profoundly complex life circumstance - but it was enough!  We talked for a few more minutes and then prayed together for every family member, right down to the distant cousins.

I lay there in the darkness, holding this chosen baby in my arms, listening to him breathe as he drifted into a peaceful, trust-filled sleep.  My heart filled with wonder and awe at the faultless plan and complete provision of God in our lives.  With tears of gratitude spilling down my face I thanked God for two courageous young birth mothers, for the plan of adoption that brought our children to us and for God's perfect work through an unusual servant named Bruno!  With a contented smile on his face, Jered sighed, turned over and whispered the precious words, "I love you, Mom."

We are all desperate to be loved and to love. We innately search for significance and are created with the powerful need to belong. We pursue worth in worthless places. We demand validation from invalid sources. In the darkness of that mountain cabin, I caught a new perspective of God's stubborn love and the absolute sacrifice He made by giving up His son, Jesus Christ. It is only through a personal relationship with Him that we experience authentic love; a love that displaces thoughts of rejection and banishes feelings of abandonment. It is in this priceless gift we comprehend the amazing truth that even if we were never wanted or planned by human heart and mind, we were planned and wanted in the heart and mind of God! And that, dear friend, is enough!

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
John 3:16

My prayer for today

Thank you for loving me, God.  I don't understand that kind of love; a love that sent Jesus Christ to the cross so that I can live.  But today, I celebrate your love.  Help me to remember that I am chosen and that because of your love, I will never be alone or abandoned.  Amen.

Application steps

In your bible, find seven verses that talk about the love of God.

Write each verse on a 3x5 card.

Memorize one verse a day for the next seven days.

Share the verse with someone you love.

Reflection points:

Who or what make you feel abandoned and unloved.

Journal your thoughts and feelings about your significance.

Read Psalm 139 and compare those verses to your journal entry.

Determine one step that you can take in order to see yourself through the eyes of God.

Power verses:

You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother's body.  I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well.   Psalm 139:13-14  (New Century)

For we are God's masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10 (New Living Translation)

God is love. This is how God showed his love to us: He sent his one and only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. I John 4:8-9  (New Century)

Whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye.  Zechariah 2:8 (New International)

Additional resources:

Coming Out of the Dark book by Mary Southerland

You Are Special three tape set by Mary Southerland

Dreams of a Woman  book by Sharon Jaynes

Originally published Monday, 22 November 2004.