The Spirit of Adoption

This past weekend, we had another baby born at The Sparrow’s Nest. There are never adequate words to describe being part of a tiny human entering this world, but in my feeble attempt, I can say there was strength, joy, beauty, suffering, and heartache.

Wait. Pause. Heartache? Yes, you read that correctly. Heartache. See, this baby’s momma chose the route of parenting where she created an adoption plan. We didn’t know exactly how this would play out. What emotions would we feel? How would we help care for the grieving mother? How are we happy for the adoptive parents when we know we are entering into a trying time for our Sparrow momma?

I experienced emotions I never expected. Watching my “boss lady” coach our Sparrow momma through labor and delivery was absolutely beautiful. She had a soothing voice and calming touch while encouraging our momma to push on. She was speaking words of truth, as I imagine God speaking words of Truth to us as He also encourages us to push on. People she loves who also love her made the long journey to the hospital and surrounded our Sparrow momma. She delivered a precious baby girl. I watched our Sparrow momma hold and nurse her baby, knowing she would soon be passing her baby on to a new family. I watched the adoptive family instantly fall in love with their new baby, a baby whose life was formed for them from conception.

As I was crying about the pain of being on this side of the adoption to a dear friend of mine, the side of watching a mother hand over her baby, she pointed something out: even Jesus experienced adoption. He was the sacrifice. God place His one and only Son on this earth to experience every emotion we could possibly feel, yet remain focused on His Father. Jesus was fully human and God.

As my dear friend also pointed out to me, the trinity and adoption correlate.

The Father made an adoption plan for His children. He sent His one and only Son to walk the earth so we can be adopted into His family.

Jesus experienced being adopted as he was baptized and the Spirit descended upon Him.

The Spirit, in us, shows us in increasing ways that we are chosen, purposed.

Rejoice! Oh, how beautiful! God chose us to be adopted into His family! It isn’t without pain, but the joy of being part of God’s family surpasses the amount of suffering!

I also want to share with you some words from my boss lady in response to texts about feeling inadequate: You are chosen. You are Imago Dei, the image of God.

We are created in God’s image, a God who chose us to be adopted into His family! My soul rejoices for this Truth!

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8:15

At the Cross

Last night, I pictured myself on the cross, and I fell even more in love with our Savior. Have you ever done this before, pictured yourself on the cross? It’s rightfully our spot, but Christ bore the weight of our sin for us. He hung on a tree and was crucified even though He was blameless.

Picture this with me for a moment.

You’re walking, but you’re barely picking up your feet. You feel heavy, heavier than you’ve ever felt before. You’re dragging a cross, your cross, the one you’re about to hang on. It’s weighing you down. You pause, take a breath. A whip cracks on you, making the pain you feel even worse. How can you carry on? You must, though you are marching to your death. You look down at your naked, bloodied body. Is it really you? Look left, look right. People yelling at you, cursing you, mocking you. Their words blur together, but you hear some of the lies. Unlovable. Damaged. Dispensable. Look ahead, there’s the hill on which you will die. It’s so close, yet so far. The sky is grey, the air somber. Must you keep going? The whips keep cracking, but then something changes. You hear the whips, but you don’t feel them. The words stop penetrating your soul. Look left again. There’s a man, dragging along beside you. His flesh is torn, he wears a crown of thorns. You feel light, then you realize you are no longer dragging your cross, but he is carrying yours, too. You recognize him, you know he’s blameless. Why is he here? He looks at you, and says, “I will carry you, all you need to do is ask.” 

Do you run the opposite way? Do you continue on to your death alongside him? What do you choose? 

You look around, the people are now inviting you, luring you with riches of the flesh.

You look at the man, considering carrying your cross alongside him, the cross that is rightfully yours. You hear the crowd turn against you as you look at the man. 

He offers more, a drink of water. “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

You look back at the people, tempted by them. But, you choose. You drink the water he’s offering. You take your cross from the man. The suffering begins again, but this time you feel unexplainable joy. You carry on to the hill, this man beside you. It’s your joy and honor to walk this path with him. To die with him. To give him the glory in your death, a death from hanging on the cross beside the man whom you love, the man who loves you. The nails, yes, they hurt. The thought of living in death hurts even worse. You know the riches for you are not of this earth, but in the kingdom of heaven.

This picture stuck with me all night. How could Christ possibly love me so much that he would walk this earth, suffer, and die on a cross, offering himself as the sacrifice for my sin? I deserve that death for my sin, yet all he asks of me is me. I have nothing to offer him except myself, my life, my service. I come to the cross with my arms stretched, hands open, because that’s all I have to offer: myself.

What about you?

At the Cross as performed by Johnny Cash

Alas and did my saviour bleed and did my sov’reign die
Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I

At the cross at the cross where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day

Was it for crimes that I have done he groaned upon the tree
Amazing pity grace unknown and love beyond degree

At the cross at the cross where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day

But drops of grief cannot repay the debt of love I owe
Here lord I give myself away it’s all that I can do

At the cross at the cross where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day

At the cross at the cross where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart rolled away
It was there by faith I received my sight
And now I am happy all the day

My journey to “yes” … and “yes” again

It was a drizzly afternoon in mid-August and one of those days where things simply weren’t going as planned. I was conflicted about what I would do if I were invited to Connect Week for AIM. I wanted to go wherever God led me, but I also knew it would be devastating to my family.

“Father, lead me to a place where I am in full obedience to you.”

I went on a run in the drizzle, and no one was out considering the light rain. I was listening to a playlist I created that I use to remind myself of God’s love for me, and I started bawling. I was able to find a place to sit, and it was in that solitude where I broke and cried out to God. I repented of the part of me that struggles to serve Him, begging Him to make my heart to fully desire to follow Him wherever He leads me. Also during that prayer, I told Him that if He opens the door to go to Africa with AIM, then that is where I will go, no matter the sacrifice.

That was my “yes.” That was my full commitment to serving God with all of me.

There was freedom in reaching a point of being willing to sacrifice all, but I was still struggling. Would I even get invited to Connect Week? If I was invited, would I be able to actually carry through with saying, “yes?” What about this other potential Africa opportunity my friend had brought to my attention?

As you know, I was invited to Connect Week, and I said, “Yes,” to going.

But wait. What about this other opportunity I couldn’t shake out of my mind?

I continued pursuing preparing for Connect Week though books I was reading, booking my flights, and communicating with people on staff, but I was struggling. Why wasn’t I motivated to start fundraising? My heart wasn’t at peace with my decision, which was new.

“God, isn’t this where you are leading me? Why am I not motivated to keep pursuing AIM? Father, if this isn’t where you are leading me, please make another opportunity known to me, and let me know that I am supposed to pursue that instead of AIM, if that is Your desire.”

I watched a video from the organization my friend connected me with called Under the Same Tree. I broke down crying because the video was exactly my heart.

“Father, is this it? Is this where you are leading me?”

I met with the director of the organization and fell even more in love. Her organization seemed like my heart on a silver platter. It was exactly what I envisioned when working in Africa was first laid on my heart back in December. This was it. My heart was at peace.

“Thank you, Father, for fully knowing my heart. Thank you for revealing my sinful heart and leading me to repentance. Thank you for your grace and hearing the desires of my heart, as a Father would hear of his daughter.”

It was honestly kind of scary with carrying through to say “no” to AIM. I loved the people I had been communicating with and felt like I was letting them down, but I also knew without a doubt that God was leading me to Under the Same Tree (UTST). In it, though, I learned of the freedom of choice. God presented me with a choice of AIM or UTST, and for that I am thankful.

“Father, thank you for leading me through the journey of saying ‘yes’ to you, a journey that brought me to a place where I was willing to sacrifice all. Thank you for the freedom you brought in allowing me to say ‘no’ to AIM, and once again say ‘yes’ to following you towards UTST. Thank you for being a God who hears the cries of my heart and loves me enough to provide me with an opportunity that makes my heart sing.

“Thank you for being a God who sees me, a God who knows me, a God who hears me, a God who speaks to me, and a God who loves me.”

Awe.

14141640_10154510786168055_587422127551494217_nI had the blessing of being in the delivery room for a birth last week, and I have yet to find the words to describe it. Beautiful? Amazing? Stunning? All adjectives seem to fall short of the beauty that is birth, but I keep finding myself ending at the word “awe.”

I was in awe immediately after the birth.

I was in awe when the baby girl took her first breath.

I was in awe when she swallowed her first sip of milk.

I am in awe of watching her grow.

Today I am still in awe of this miracle of life.

Who is this God who so perfectly knitted together this little girl, His own precious daughter?

I stand amazed at the fact that this little life grew inside her mother’s womb for 40 weeks and just like that she is here in this world, still reliant on her mother to nourish her, protect her, and love her.

I stand amazed that she instantly knew how to breathe and eat.

I stand amazed that a pregnancy is 40 weeks long. Forty is a number that appears in the Bible numerous times and seems to represent a time of testing and trial. (Side note: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2014/10/03/what-does-the-number-forty-40-mean-or-represent-in-the-bible/)

I personally have never experienced pregnancy, labor and delivery, but from my time spent working in a maternity home and having now seen labor and delivery, I can see how pregnancy is definitely a time of testing and trial. Patience is tested. A woman’s physical body is being tested. Emotions are tested. Pregnancy paints a picture of testing and trial, and the end brings deliverance. Isn’t that how it is with God? We go through so many trials that bring us to our knees, leaning closer in to our Father, and He delivers us.

I am in complete awe of our Creator, who designed each of us in His own image.

It’s true that watching a new life come into this world changes you. I am honored that baby girl’s momma invited me in to this time of raw emotion and vulnerability. I am blessed to have had this experience. And like I said, I still do not have words worthy enough to describe birth, but goodness did I ever fall more in love with our Creator, our Lord and Savior.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

My Life is Not My Own

Hi all!

This post is going to be raw, so I’m going to dive on in.

I might be going to Africa for two years. Yep, you read that correctly: two years. Even typing it seems incredibly scary to me and makes it so real.

But here’s the thing: I don’t know for sure if I’ll be going. I’ve been invited to Africa Inland Mission’s (AIM) Connect Week in November, which is where I will officially find out if I’ll be journeying to Africa or not.

Oh wait, you need some background information, don’t you?! Okay, let me back up…

Back in December, it hit me that I am at a point in my life where I can fairly easily get up and go anywhere. I pictured multiple short-term missions, but God was starting to lay it on my heart that I could be gone longer.

Umm, no thank you, God. I’ll pursue short-term missions, lasting about three months, but definitely not longer.

Who did I think I was to tell God no? Hadn’t I already learned many times over that God always gets His way?

Fast forward to February. I found out about AIM and this Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) program that lasts for two years and includes building relationships, learning a new language, and… wait for it… HOMEWORK! Yes, I am so crazy that I actually miss being in school! I wanted to apply for TIMO right then, but I knew I needed to be still.

At the end of March, I journeyed to Ecuador with my church and fell in love with the international mission field.

Upon arriving home, I applied for TIMO. Even applying was a process and brought me into even deeper reliance on God. Every conversation I had about AIM was pointing me towards TIMO, but I didn’t want to apply and possibly be gone for two years… Nevertheless, I applied.

And was asked to fill out another application.

Then was asked to interview.

And now I have been invited to Connect Week in Atlanta.

To be blatantly honest and put my heart out there, in my humanness I was hoping to not be invited to Connect Week. It would be easier to not have to tell people about Africa and instead continue living my fairly comfortable life. I pictured myself being excited about being invited because that meant I had a good interview. But, I wasn’t. I saw the invitation email and broke down crying. My anxiety rose. It was like a part of my life was ripped away. Being invited means I’m that much closer to going to Africa for two years, and therefore sacrificing all of my life. Quite honestly, it sucks.

But wait, maybe that’s the point.

Maybe God is asking me to sacrifice every earthly thing that brings me comfort and happiness. He could very well be asking me to miss my sister’s graduation, two years of my grandparents’ lives, the comfort of living at home, my community, amongst so many other things that hurt my heart to leave.

The entire process has been a constant reminder of this simple truth: my life is not my own.

I struggle with believing that He is a good, good Father. Why is He calling me away? Why is He using me? Why have I been blessed with a heart for missions and spreading the Gospel message? Can’t He send someone else?

Yes, His mission will be completed even if I say no, but why would I when the God of the universe is calling me?

When you’re called, you go.

So, I’m at least going to Connect Week. When I received the email, there wasn’t a question of going or not; I broke down crying just the week before and said, “Yes, God. If You lead me, I will go. If I am invited to Connect Week, I will go. Make the desires of my heart match your own.” It’s also my understanding that I would not be leaving for at least a year, but I’ll know more in November.

This post barely scratches the surface of the struggles and pains of this process, of God leading me more into Him, and being taught that He is literally all I need, even finding joy in my pain. Maybe I’ll write more posts about different parts of the process leading up to now. But, I would like to ask this of you: if you are interested in learning more about this journey to Africa, please, ask me any questions. I’ll try to be an open book. Feel free to Facebook, email (erica.grogg@hotmail.com), text, or call me. I would love to include you in this journey.

In closing, I would like to ask a couple of things. (No, this is not where I reach out asking for financial support… Although, that post will be coming in the near future.) Right now, I’m asking for you to join me in prayer. Please pray for my family’s hearts in this. I can only imagine what it is like to see your daughter/granddaughter/niece travel to a foreign land for so long. Please pray for my heart as I prepare to take another step forward in God’s global mission, and that the desires of my heart would line up with His plans for me. Pray against spiritual warfare, as I know the enemy will not make this easy, and that in the midst of spiritual warfare I would cling even more tightly to God. And please, I beg you, pray for the people already out on the mission field, those preparing to leave, and those starting to recognize their calling.

And just like that, it was time to come out of hiding.

Much love,

Erica

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  Psalm 46:10

My Beloved Child

Sometimes words are laid on my heart that I feel I need to write down and share. This is my heart, portraying a vision I received from God two weeks ago during worship through music at my church. These specific words you are about to read have been forming on my heart for a few days, and I finally listened and wrote them down. I struggle with seeing how God could possibly love me as His daughter, but this picture He painted for me reminds me of His love for all of His children. I pray these words touch you as you read them, and that you, too, run into His arms.

 

The Father is sitting on His throne in His throne room and the Daughter is timidly walking in and pauses.

Daughter: Father, may I approach you?

Father: Yes, my child. Come.

Daughter: Are you sure, Father? I don’t want to bother you. You seem so busy.

Father: Yes, please come to me.

Daughter: Okay, Father. (Daughter slowly walks a little farther into the throne room and stops.) Umm, I have some things I want to talk to you about, if you don’t mind.

Father: What is it? I am here for you.

Daughter: Well, umm, it’s just that… I have a problem. You see, I’ve been hurt in so many ways…

Father: Oh, my darling, don’t you see? Those hurts and pains bring you closer to me. When was the last time we spoke, my child? You start to draw away, but I am always here.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Psalm 85:10-11

Daughter: But Father, how can you keep accepting me? How can I trust you, with all this pain I have felt before?

Father: Darling, I am always here. Though you turn away, I will be here to welcome you back. You can trust me, this I promise you.

May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name or our God set up our banners!

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 20:4-5, 7

Daughter: But Father, what about when I feel like I don’t belong to you?

Father: My dear child, you do. You do belong to me.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
John 10:27-30

Daughter: (Kneeling down where she is standing in the middle of the throne room) Okay Father, I hear you. But there’s something else… What about when I am questioning your love for me?

Father: Oh darling, my beloved. I have a love for you deeper than you can fathom. It’s deeper than the oceans, larger than the seas. Beloved child, I sent my Son to walk the earth, being tested and tried, yet blameless bear the burden of the cross, that He would die and rise again, conquering all sin, once and for all. Daughter, you are my beloved.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20

Daughter: (Slowly standing up) Abba, Father. Why? Why do you love me so, that you would send your Son to save me?

Father: My child, it is because even when sometimes you don’t see it, you need me. You need my Son, your Savior. You need my Spirit to fill you. Please, my beloved child, come to me.

The Father opens His arms wide and slightly leans forward.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away,
for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.
Song of Solomon 2:10-13

And the daughter runs into her Father’s arms.

 

All of the above verses are from the English Standard Version Bible.

 

The Journey

IMG_0181A year ago today I fell madly in love with God, my Savior and Redeemer. He literally plucked me out of the lifestyle I was living and turned me 180 degrees to follow Him. It’s been a beautiful walk, but to say the walk has been easy would be an understatement. It’s been more of a hike up and down a mountain. Let me paint a picture for you.

Picture yourself starting in a low valley of flowers, in awe of the majestic mountains surrounding you. Your goal: to reach the peak of one of the mountains. You start your walk at a leisurely pace, feeling wrapped up in the beauty surrounding you, carrying all of your hiking equipment and food. It’s all fine and dandy for a bit, and then you start your ascent upward and the task suddenly seems daunting. This is where you start to meet a little bit of resistance, but you continue onward and somehow still find some joy in the adventure. The pine trees now surrounding you limit your view. You can only see the path in front of you, but not where it’s leading you. You have faith that you will be led to the mountain peak even though you cannot see it. There are a few ups and downs, some twists and turns, a creek to leap over here and there. After a couple of hours, you finally reach the tree line, but you look up and can’t believe how far you still have to go. You rely on skills you have previously learned to keep you pushing on. After a few more hours of winding your way through rocky terrain, you’re exhausted. The end is in sight, but you just don’t see how you can make it the last bit of the way up the mountain. You look back at where you started, where you have been, and stand in awe. How was it that tiny little you started so low in the valley, but have made it so high? How did you survive the forest? The rock? You look back towards the peak. So close yet so far. Nevertheless, close to giving up, you trek on. Your body and mind are tired, but somehow you carry through. Finally, you’re at the top. Oh, how beautiful! You can see peaks for miles upon miles. It seems like the perfect resting place, filled with the grandeur of the view, but it’s time to move on. Starting the descent seems simple enough, and overall it is since you are filled to the brim with unexplainable joy from the journey. You make it down the mountain with a new outlook on the glory of it all. Then, you repeat it the next day.

Here’s where God comes in: He was there every bit of the way for the journey. In fact, the journey up and down the mountain was in service to Him, and even better, He carried you through the journey. He was your backpack, shoes, food, motivation and joy. He was and is forever your everything. Nothing can replace Him. No, the trek up and down the mountain wasn’t near as glorious as anticipated, but it was worth it, right? To catch just a glimpse of His creation from the peak was simply breathtaking. The joy from the journey was inexplicable; you’re left without words. You may have been brought to tears and believed you could not continue on, but the trials taught you to lean more into your Heavenly Father, trusting Him for guidance and life.

That’s what my year has been like. Right off the top of my mind I can identify three mountains God has gently carried me up, never letting go even when I turn away. His love is steadfast, merciful, and gracious. I am incredibly thankful for Him never letting go and drawing me back when I turn away. I promise you, He is worth it. Christ is worth the journey and the view. I am incredibly thankful to be worth it to God, that He would send His only Son to overcome death for you and me. For that, I daily give praise.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

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