So many good truths were shared and I fear the below won't even do it justice. But I thought I'd share, to process the "big things" further, and in hopes that you might find an encouraging along the way.
It's a matter of the mind.
I'm a long-time Christian conference attendee. I've been going to conferences since I was in Jr. High and most of them end with a high, high, HIGH emotional high – the last night's talk a capstone to make you sob and recommit something – or your entire life – to Jesus. And this is not always a bad thing, but I've come to realize because it's so focused on the emotions of the heart, it's often short-lived. I've always walked away from a conference "on fire for Jesus" (or something like that), but fairly quickly hit a valley when I'm no longer sleeping next to my best friends in a hotel.
At TGCW, there was never a "moment" or a major sob-fest where I could barely breathe. Instead, I came away with my head throbbing over all the new truths I encountered and ways I wanted to change and develop my thinking. Jen Wilkin talked about how the Christian life begins with the mind, and the importance of Biblical literacy in shaping our thoughts: "Right thinking starts with right desires, which creates right actions." She charged us to "prepare our minds for action" – to battle for holiness and against passions. And the only place I'm going to get right thinking is from reading and engaging in God's word.
Often I feel incredibly overwhelmed by all that I don't know. And at TCGW, it was pretty easy to feel small and inferior when there were Christian heavy-hitters at every turn. As a mom to young children, I often feel like I don't have time to apply myself to God's word the way D.A. Carson or John Piper does, so how will I ever grow in my knowledge of God? But God's not asking me to be Piper or Carson or Wilkin. He knows exactly where I'm at and the season I'm in. God doesn't listen to Jen Wilkin's prayers more than he listens to mine. All he asks is for me to spend time with him, learning about who I am because of who he is. He grants wisdom – "right thinking" to those who ask for it. And so in this season of life, I'm learning not to live emotional high to emotional high, but instead to rest in the steady, plodding, faithful faith I've known since I was a child. To consistently study God's word in the time I have. To find something to study, and learn it. To pick one thing and apply it. To believe in the transforming power of God's word in my mind to transform my desires, to transform my actions.
Sometimes, the right answer is to choose suffering.
I plan to write about this more, but the as the adoption process progresses, I confess that I've continued to go back and forth on whether this is the right decision for our family. I know, I KNOW, deep down that God is calling us to it, but certain things have come up since we started the process that have made me question if the timing is right, and Satan continues to bring lies to mind about choosing something that will make our life "harder than it needs to be."
While much of the conference focused on suffering, Don Carson said something that really stuck with me. "Sometimes choosing the right thing – the hard way – is sometimes choosing suffering." He went on to say that believers should have a place in their life where their life costs something. "You should choose something, not because you want it, but because you should – because you want to be identified further with Christ." I have no rose-colored glasses when it comes to adoption. I know enough friends that have adopted or been adopted themselves to know that my adopted children will bring with them deep, deep wounds of suffering. But I also know enough about God to know that he can redeem all things. That he makes all things new and that his grace will be sufficient for me and my entire family, no matter what we face. It was the perfect truth I needed to shut out the lies of the devil and walk fearlessly along the path to our children. I know adoption is what God has asked of our family – he made it undeniably clear last Christmas – and now instead of wanting to withdraw every time a bump in the road comes up, I will lean into it, knowing I am identifying more and more with my Savior, every time I face hardship and I can rejoice, knowing I am counted worthy of suffering for his name.
"It's family business."
There was a powerful panel one morning on the persecuted church and K.A. Ellis said something that struck a chord with me. "Advocating for the persecuted church is not advocacy, it's family business." Growing up in a family business, this hit home. I started working for my dad as soon as his business started when I was in grade school. Sweeping and moping floors, painting trim and walls, filing paperwork that I didn't even understand how to read. It was an expectation that everyone always pull together and get things done. We always had each other's backs, protected each other and provided for each other - no matter the cost. In a family business, everyone rises together, and everyone falls together. This thinking challenged me to see my Christian brothers and sisters in a new light - we rise and fall together, we support each other, we depend on each other. Even outside of the persecuted church, in my local church, how often do I really have this thinking? One day, my blood family will fade away and I will worship before the King only with an eternal family. If I took the attitude I have for my nuclear family and applied it to the rest of the church, I think I'd be a whole lot more invested. I'd serve more. I'd give more. I'd pray more.
A fearless life because of hope.
Ten minutes of watching the news today and I can't help but be filled with sadness, anger and a whole lot of fear. And it's becoming increasingly clear that as a Christian, I am walking the uncommon, unpopular path – one that often feels lonely, scary and disliked. But a major takeaway from the conference was that I don't have to live as a fearful woman, one that is scared of the coming elections, the shifting cultural values, or the future society my children will grow up in. I live differently from the rest of the world, with an extraordinary courage, a rare fearlessness, that can only be explained by hope of something beyond this world, hope of something more than what I see around me today.
Mary Wilson reminded me that my story is not depended on what happens on the news, in the world. I may be a United States citizen on paper, but ultimately, eternally, my citizenship is in Heaven. My story is the Kingdom story, a redeemed daughter of the King's story! John Piper charged me to live in an odd, peculiar, unpopular way, because I have hope in a reward beyond this life. As a mom, I almost feel like if I'm not worried for my kids and their future, I'm not a good mom. But as a woman of God - I can laugh at the future! I have nothing to fear for me or my kids, because I know ultimately God is in charge. He will provide, protect and care for me, my husband and my babies! No matter what happens to me, no matter what suffering, pain and adversity waits, I don't have to fear! One day I will be with Christ and enjoy him forever – my glory won't happen in this life because I don't need it now – I will be exalted for eternity with Christ!
I feel like much of my motherhood has been fighting the snares of the devil telling me that I'm not good enough, I'm not doing it right, I'm not thinking ahead enough or training my children well. I've always known that I "shouldn't" fear or worry about these things, but throughout the weekend, the reasoning was solidified for me. It gives me so much freedom to mother with confidence in the gospel hope of the future coming of Christ. To know that I will not receive any reward now – and that's okay! My future reward is so much better, so much sweeter and more wonderful – IT IS WORTH THE WAIT. Oh, how I wish I help each of you mothers out there feel what I feel now! It's empowering to know that life doesn't depend on me. I can live like the great women of the Bible, having faith because of what God has done in the past, and hope for what I know he will do in the future.
And that was trying to keep it concise! There is so much more I could share, but I know this is getting long, and my coffee's getting cold. I've heard TGC is planning on putting all the talks online for free, so if you weren't at the conference, I highly encourage you to take time to listen to some of the sessions while you go about regular life. This was my first year at the conference, but it definitely won't be my last. Anyone else go? I'd love to hear about what you took away!