On the day of his birth

As my sweet Judson turns 5 today, I have a million things running through my mind. The realization that he has spent more days with us than without us, hits, but is quickly followed by the stark reality that I have been his forever Mom for more days than his first Mom who gave literal birth to him.  I look at this boy who has changed and grown and changed some more and I am simply amazed that we get to spend our days watching this boy become more and more of who God made him to be. I see glimpses of that boy….

JUDSON

The year from 4 to 5 has been eventful for sure. We moved from Seattle to Tennessee to California in the first half of his fifth year. Judson is charming, inquisitive and utterly delightful (in most moments).   He loves to be with people and is not afraid to get to know you whether you are open to it or not. Judson is fearless in the way that he has no idea he should practice caution. He simply does what feels right at the moment which leads to some interesting parenting challenges. He is tall, he is friendly, he is a defender of people and an amazing encourager. Judson loves routine and does some of the cutest things like kissing me three times before bed and daily telling me “You are the best Mom.” He is the kind of kid who becomes the kind of man that is known because of how he treats others.

OBSI

Obsi…the name his first Mom gave him.  The name we kept to lay claim to the rich Ethiopian heritage that is his. The name that has been changed as the sign of a new start, but also is significant of the sacrifice that his first Mom made. And though her sacrifice was honorable in light of her circumstances and choices, there are still scars that have been left that we see.

We see Obsi when you ask why your skin is different.

He notices he looks different and while we celebrate him for who he is, Judson is just beginning to understand that one of these is not like the others.  We see the occasional timidity and the words, “What if they don’t want to play with me because I look different?” We see, as his parents, that just by nature of being in our family, he loses anonymity and everyone knows there is a story there. As his Mommy, I see the challenges he will face and I am so thankful to walk it with him. We see Obsi and his dark skin and pray that God will continue to shape him into a warrior.

We see Obsi when you say things like, “God made all the skins and Mommy, you love all the colors.”

On the surface this is cute and precious, but it shows the depth of processing that has been going on in his mind.  I also see the words we speak over him giving him life. God did make all the skins and He loves all the colors.  We want to be a family that isn’t easily offended when people notice Judson and ask questions, because honestly, that is part of the deal of adoption. We pray our family is seen as merely a reflection of the Kingdom, of Heaven….all the colors and all the skins.  We see Obsi and love that at the young age of five, he is tender to the things of the Lord.

We see Obsi when we face our first experience of blatant racism.

We recently felt the sting of judgement because of the color of Judson’s skin, his adoption story and his African birth….not by one family, but by three. People who made assumptions based on these things and chose to react in fear based on it…without one conversation with us or really, even knowing us. We also saw a friend radically and completely defend him. I saw the fight come out in her on his behalf and it was strong and powerful and completely beautiful.  I am not naive that racism is still a huge issue in our world (even in our country), but this gave me a small glimpse to the complete injustice that exists in light of it. I felt how ridiculous it is to make gross assumptions based on one aspect of a person.  I also saw that we can’t shield him forever. We can’t keep it away from him because false thinking and stereotypes are in the most unlikely places, waiting to rear their ugly head. I grieved for my Obsi in that moment when I saw the cruel words that will one day land in his ears, the darting glances, the unease that will take root in others at the mere sight of him. I also felt heartbroken for those who will miss out on being in the space of this amazing kid. I felt the sting of rejection for him and pleaded to the Father to protect him for as long as possible, to help us know how to handle it and to be people of peace.

STEWART

Judson loves his family. He tells us all the time, “We have the best family.” We are not surprised he is wired for family because he was knit together by the Father. In this past year, Judson has prayed numerous times, words that Jason and I have not said to him. He has prayed, “God, You are the best Dad.” and we have seen that Judson felt the love of the Father when his earthly Daddy was waiting to be the hands and feet of that love.  Over this last year, I have watched this StewKid, relax into his family and breathe.  I have been in the front row as he has stopped fighting us so much and trusted we are for him and we are not leaving. I have heard the question, “Mommy, you are coming back to get me, right?” less and less.  The other StewKids love him, laugh with him, argue with him, wrestle and tattle on him. They only see their brother.  He still asks a 14,245 questions a day and will push the SAME boundaries, but he is a fighter, he will get it done and he will make a way. This StewKid will be a force to be reckoned with for sure. We are just praying his is a life submitted to the King.

If I could have a conversation with Judson Obsi Stewart’s first Mom, I would say a lot of these things…

But mostly I would say our boy is just getting started….

Stewarts-1174

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I pray my kids rebel

Rebellion is not something I heartily pray for myself or with my kiddos. Obedience is a huge value in our family, so much so that it is apart of our Stew Family Mission Statement.

Obedience is Better.

We even have catchy phrases we say to our kids like “Obedience brings blessing. Disobedience brings consequences.” Another good one is “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” Or, the phrase I have used 42,387 times “Obedience is right away, all the way and with a good attitude.” You now know that just the fact that I have said it that many times means one or more things has happened…they delayed, they did it partially or they grumbled about it. The reality is grumbling doesn’t mean they haven’t completed the task, it just means I’m after their heart and mind not just their actions.

Obedience to Christ will more times than not mean disobedience to the World.  Having the strength and courage to choose disobedience doesn’t often come naturally, but only through the daily choice to obey. To trust that the gains of this world are not worth comparing to the glorious riches of knowing Christ in His victories, but also in His sufferrings.

So when I heard this AMAZING lyric by Rend Collective, I was immediately in love with this song.

WE WILL NOT BOW TO SIN OR TO SHAME. WE ARE DEFIANT IN YOUR NAME.

I pray and hope I model defiance to my children. When we look at the battle we face daily for our identity, I pray that Parker, Emery, Bradley and Judson will rebel against the standards that the world sets. Instead of adding one more thing to our calendar, I pray we will rebel against putting our kids in every imaginable activity and instead choose intentional time around our table. Instead of making decisions out of fear, I pray we will make them in faith. Instead of living in our home insulated from the world, I pray we love our neighbors and serve them well. Rather than allowing our standards to be set by what is sold in a store or in a magazine, I pray we seek the Spirit to lead and guide us in all matters. Instead of submitting to a life of playing it safe, I pray we pursue the abundant life, making much of Jesus and nothing of ourselves.

Ultimately, I pray we choose defiance for the Glory of Jesus.

 

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Your King is Coming

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
“Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”  John 12:12-19

As I read this passage a few weeks ago, John 12:15, immediately gripped me and I just began writing my thoughts. As we head into the week leading up to Easter, I thought I would share…

FEAR NOT
…how peculiar that the first thing He would tell His people was to not be afraid. The fear we live with is not of God. The fear that dwells in us, is our natural response to the world around us, Our flesh crying out for a King. Our great fear is that we are not heard, not seen, not valued for who HE created us to be. The fear can also be stepping into what He has equipped and ordained us to do. The hesitancy, this emotion, is what makes us stop before we start…so He tells us to put the fear aside, lose our grip on control, and simply TRUST. Put your feet on the path and take one step towards Him…not your purpose, your plan, or your calling but only towards Him and as you are walking….your feet will head straight towards the days He has crafted for you alone.

Daughter of Zion
He calls you daughter. You have all the rights of a daughter, a child, of the King. He Is your Father, your Abba, Your Dad. He calls you daughter. The creator of the world, who spoke the cosmos into existence, who gave us every cell we need to live, who tells the Sun and the Moon where to reside…He calls you daughter.

BEHOLD
Look at Jesus. Take Him in. Breath Him in. Drink His living water. Absorb His presence. Hear His Words over you. He is with you. He is for you. Be HELD by Him.

Your KING is coming
My King is coming. He is not absent, He is not tarrying. He is on His way. Mighty and Gently, He is coming. How I Often want to be rescued from the day to day that at times, seems meaningless. The hours that drag and the questions that linger…am I really living out all God has for me? Does this matter? I ask You, Come Jesus, into my day, make it all about you and not an ounce about me.
He is coming. He has come and is continually coming into our moments, breaking into our space, inviting us to walk more fully into who He created us to be. What joy and freedom comes in knowing that my King has come and is coming.

sitting on a donkey’s colt.
Hmmm….not what we would expect of our mighty King. On a cloud, on an Arabian horse, on a rainbow, on a chariot…but, no, daughter, He came on a simple donkey’s colt. In reality, it doesn’t matter what He comes on because nothing is good enough or reflects the grace and majesty of Jesus. No vessel gives any significance to Jesus, only Jesus makes the vessel more than it was ever intended to be. A simple donkey made to ease the burden of its master, to plow his fields and to do the work that is needed, but not honored. Yet, Jesus, knew the purpose of that colt was to carry a King. He always makes us more than the work we do and gives us a purpose that is meant to carry the King to the lives around us, to make Him shine, to simply lift Him up. I remember this great quote from Max Lucado, “We all have a donkey to give.”  Our greatest talents and gifts are not ours to build our own Kingdom, but only THE KINGDOM.

I love that Jesus lives like everyday is opposite day. He bucked the system, he challenged the rules, He laid a new foundation. He was simply a rebel and I flat out adore that He took the man made, unattainable reality of their everyday life and made it look foolish. His way is not conventional. It will never make total sense, BUT, it will have purpose.

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Comfortable Surrender

Surrender….

I hear that word and immediately see Mel Gibson in Braveheart, yelling, “Freedom!!” because surrender is not an option. I feel the emotions of defeat, loss, pain and humiliation and let’s be transparent, who really wants to experience any of those things on any given day?

Ultimately, it makes me feel weak, so, no thank you, surrender is not an option.
But, then I think, what battle am I fighting? I’m pretty sure I am not standing on a battlefield, in a kilt, with warpaint on my face and a spear in my hand.

Recently, I heard a friend say this and it struck me to my core, “I am afraid to fully surrender to God because I am afraid of what He will ask me to do and I don’t want to be uncomfortable.”

I realize that for me, even worse, is false surrender.  I build and strive to make a life that I say is surrendered and  point to all the things we have sacrificed along the way….career, hometown, friends, activities, time, vacations, money and convince ourselves that this life of surrender is what God asks of us.  I think back to some pivotal decisions and realize we have somehow mistaken fear for wisdom and actively convinced ourselves that the line between surrender and our comfort zone is somehow one in the same.  The tension of surrendering just enough to say, “Look at our surrendered life.” but, then I look within and understand that a great deal of what I have “surrendered” has been more about protecting myself than giving all of my life to Him.   Jesus paid the price of his life on the Cross, so  His brutal death so we can be comfortable in our lives spent for Him seems fair, right?  We will often give Him our activity  yet in the quiet, we know we are living only a fraction of the faith we claim to possess.

The reality is we trust Him with our Eternity, but we do not believe Him for our today.

This life of comfortable surrender builds our kingdom not the KINGDOM, leaves us empty, but full of ourselves and hungry for the approval of man, yet starving for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

And this is where many in the church find themselves…where I have found myself.  Not living apart from God, but living comfortable for Him.  I wonder how many of us have missed out on on our greatest periods of growth, His abundant blessings, or the necessary refining that comes through stepping out in faith?

We are not realizing that LIFE is on the other side of surrender, not for the sake of surrender, but because that is where Jesus abides. Living surrendered means living without all the answers, but dependent on the Only One who does.

Jesus said in Luke 17:33, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”

Wow.

This verse breaks me because preserving my life is my natural response. Giving myself excuses to avoid trying, dreaming, believing and stepping out in faith has led me down the fear path of self preservation. I wonder how much of LIFE I have missed because I didn’t simply believe these words that JESUS spoke.

I want to lose my life in exchange for the LIFE He abundantly surrendered His own for. I want to keep that LIFE. I want to leap into surrender each day knowing that His Kingdom is constantly at work and He is breaking into my moments to remind me to let go, lean in to Him and simply trust.

I have put my big toe gingerly into the water of surrender and I can say that one moment of a life lost for Jesus is beyond a hundred days comfortable for Him.  If facing my fears, believing the Word and trusting Him with my life means looking foolish to this world, then I pray that I am the most foolish woman you will ever meet.

 

 

 

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The prayers of a boy

Every single night, we tuck our kids in, say our prayers and hopefully speak life and identity into their hearts and minds. I will be completely honest in saying that in my 12 years as a parent, bedtime is not always my finest hour.  In my mind, I am ready to check out of Mommy duties, so I can be quick to enforce a bedtime.

One of our first stressors in bringing Judson into our family was helping him transition to bedtime. He had some very intense responses early on that left us completely at a loss of how to respond. We ultimately worked it out and he is an awesome sleeper. He rises a little earlier than we would like, but he still naps everyday at 4, so I will take it. Parenting…the act of constant compromise between our wants and their needs.

He is also like every other kid and likes to prolong the bedtime ritual. We have created a process that he follows EVERY night. It goes a little something like this.

  1. Judson crawls into bed and we cover him up.
  2. He asks, “What kind of day am I having tomorrow?” This is where I tell him about the next day (which he needs to know) and he asks about 14 questions about it.
  3. Jason or I pray for him.
  4. Judson asks, “Can I pray for you Mommy/Daddy?”

Then the fun really begins. Here is a sample of the prayers of Judson:

“Dear God, He bring us peace and power and mighty. I ate pancakes for dinner. And sausage, but not to much because I don’t want to get sick again. I went to Bridgeway and played and we don’t go to church, we are the church. And God brings us peace and blessing and if you are lost, God finds you. AAAAAAAAmen.” ”Wow Mommy, dat was a long one.”

Then, he hugs us and kisses both cheeks. On our way out, he says, “Your de best Mommy/Daddy in de whole world”. Then, we say, “Your the best 4 year old in the whole world.” He then asks for the opposite parent to come in and pray and the above process is followed. And then, we say I love you and close the door. This may be met by a few questions through the door.

I literally left in tears the other night at the precious prayers of this boy. I mean, seriously….if you are lost, God finds you…how can you not love that!

Early on, I honestly wondered if I would ever cherish bedtime with Judson.  And God has shown me the beauty of routine, ritual, and a process that helps build security into a boy who spent many nights alone, with no one to tuck him in, say prayers over him, find his blanket, kiss his cheeks, rub lotion on his extremely dry knees and elbows, give him a game plan for the next day, and say, “I love you.” God is so faithful.

My heart has been so very tender since then to the Mommy’s and Daddy’s who are longing for those moments. For the ones who are waiting and wondering if their child is being shown love in an orphanage full of children. I keep thinking about the many who are in the midst of those hard days with traumatized kids where the dark doesn’t bring sleep, but rather brings out the fear of what has been their story. I keep returning to those older kids who have told themselves they don’t need anyone but in the dark, the tears come out of longing for a family.  The Lord keeps me awake, lately, praying for the millions of children who will never know the security of a bedtime routine and for the others He is keeping awake because of the longing in their heart to give a child the security of a bedtime routine. I hope the prayer of a little boy reminds you of the Truth….

God is Peace.

God is Power.

God is Mighty.

God is the Blessing.

God will find you.

 

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Being a Yes Family

Our church has started a two year series called Being Jesus. Over the next two years, we will be embarking on a blended gospel study of the life of Jesus. To say I am excited would be an understatement. ( I invite you to follow along here.)

A couple of weeks ago, my parents came for a visit and it was just what we needed. Settling into life here has been easy in so many ways, but it is a transition. Finding the grocery store, learning the rhythms and norms of a new church, meeting people…..this all takes time and energy. So needless to say, we were all excited to see Nana and Poppy (and a few weeks later, LuLu and Uncle Matt) and get a taste of the familiar. The reality of living a long plane ride away hit me harder than I expected when they left. Experiencing the loss of family, in our everyday life, has been the absolute hardest aspect of moving.

I say all this to set the context for what the Lord has been teaching me through this season.

As our pastor was describing the type of people Mary and Joseph were, he made the point that Jesus grew up in a YES family. Their response to all the crazy, out of this world, scenarios that God threw at them was simply, YES.

YES, I am your servant.

YES, I will face looks of shame and scorn.

YES, I will walk through scandal.

YES, I will obey.

YES, we will go.

All these things, they willingly took on, as a result of their response of a simple YES.

Jesus grew up with earthly parents who modeled a YES life to whatever God led them to do. They were radically faithful. As a result, when Jesus was “lost” and they found him in the temple, his response was….”Where did you think I would be?” He responded with YES.

As I have let this stir in my mind and heart, it has sunk into my soul and has gripped me. The reality is that getting to a place of YES is a moment to moment surrender. It is about moving our NO to MAYBE and our MAYBE to a MORE THAN LIKELY to ultimately, a soft, surrendered YES.

There are moments when we are unable to say YES, because we are unable to tell ourselves NO. The habit of denying ourselves, telling ourselves NO, is often the real reason we are unable to say YES to those things that God is leading us to do.

I am in no way comparing our YES to move across the country to the radical YES of Mary and Joseph to raise the Savior of the world.  But, I am learning from their incredible example of YES and I am praying that by modeling a life of YES to Jesus, that Parker, Emery, Bradley and Judson will know no other response to God.

I think we have to practice a YES response to Jesus. I am fairly confident, that this was not the first time Mary and Joseph had said YES to God. Sometimes in my walk, I am quick to say YES to the BIG things I feel led to do by the Lord, like moving to Seattle for a year or to California, but taking time to get to know my neighbor is usually met with a NO, I don’t have time.  Or, getting up just 15 minutes earlier is met with the snooze button because of my lack of self denial.

So how do we become more of a YES people?

How do we become a YES family?

I would love to hear your comments on how you encourage YES in your life in response to JESUS. Let’s learn from each other!

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Moving

There is so much about our journey the past two years that I am still unpacking with the Lord. There are many things that in my own perspective that don’t necessarily make sense. When we began to sense our time at LifePoint was coming to a close and began to seek out our next assignment, Jason and I developed a framework for us to use to assess if the option was a good fit for him, for us and our family.  When you have served at a church like LifePoint, your expectations of what a church should be, are pretty high.  We knew the non negotiables, like theology and doctrine, view of Scripture, being mission minded, locally and globally, and a solid student and children’s ministry.  We also knew that we would operate best in a suburb of a larger city.  We had other criteria, as well, based on the role Jason would fill.

In my mind, I had it all planned out. We would finish school in Seattle, come to Tennessee for about a month and then move to our new home a couple of weeks before school started. Perfect. We began the search with plenty of time for all of that to fall into place.  I can honestly say that during this time, I was very bold and believing in my prayers. I know God is faithful and that He was for us and with us. Living in the unknown became our everyday.

When were we coming home? Not sure.

What about the house in Tennessee that you love? Sell it.

Where are the kids going to school? Good question.

How about vacation in the Fall? Can’t answer that.

When your answer is answered with another question, life can get tricky. Life can get frustrating. But, because God is faithful, He continued to teach us about living for TODAY. Living in the past is pointless and focusing too much on the future can create unnecessary fear.  Jason and I had specific guiding Scriptures that we continually put before our eyes and captured in our minds.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesisans 2:10

We decided to simply walk into the works He had already prepared for us. We actively began guarding our hearts and our minds of the opinions of others, the voices of doubt and the desire to find security in anything but Christ. We had great moments of victory, a lot of waiting and seeing, tension filled days and ultimately a complete face to face with our fears. We asked ourselves some tough questions and decided our freedom would always be found in Him.

In July we began the journey of discerning if Bridgeway Christian Church was the works God had in mind for our future.
We had decided in our mind that we were willing to go anywhere.

Our hearts were another matter.

We visited the church and LOVED the people we met, felt drawn to it, and knew the pastor was a man we could serve willingly alongside.

But, California?

We love our family and our kids have amazing grandparents who are active in their lives. We had just moved them across country and were not sure this was a move we could make…

But GOD…

Is our strength and our peace. He owns our lives and we willingly lay aside our plans and take up His because to do anything else is worthless and pointless. As far as Parker, Emery, Bradley and Judson are concerned, our journey is theirs at this point. This move is apart of the works He planned for them as well. I refuse to make my kids a deterrent to following Jesus. I BELIEVE Jesus is with them, is for them and is going to show up BIG for them in the coming days.

So, Sacramento, California, here come the Stews….may Jesus be honored and lifted High.

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Sac City

On The Move…Again

Our year in Seattle was incredible. As we have transitioned back to Tennessee, we have been asked many times, what is next for the Stews

Over the last two years, God has taken our family through a time of reminding us to whom we belong. This includes the unique calling He placed on both my and Jason’s life almost twenty years ago. We have lived through an enormous amount of transition. God has ultimately used this season to remind us that our life is His to use. He has peeled back some needed layers. We have been pruned for greater fruitfulness. The Father has revealed that our identity is found only in Him and we get the privilege to walk more fully into that identity each day.  We have a Heavenly Father…we are in the family and we are about the family business.

Through this season, we began to clarify the unique workmanship He has shaped in us individually and as a family. We began to hear The Lord asking if were walking in full surrender. Were we willing to simply say “yes, Lord”? We declared that “yes” many years ago, but needed to be reminded of it!

As we put our yes on the table, sought The Lord, gained clarity on the unique strengths and wiring He has placed in us, we had to ask…what, who, and where?

After many months of spending hours a day discerning what is next for the Stews, we knew that our time at LifePoint was coming to a close in a formal sense. The staff and people of LifePoint have forever changed us. Our Lord was so gracious in releasing us over a two year time frame because we love so much about these people and this place. Our minds could not fathom this without a gradual leading to it. I, literally, cannot write enough about how our lives have been impacted, our children have been influenced and loved, because it is countless.  We are forever thankful that God allowed us the privilege of serving LifePoint for 10 years.

SHOW WHAT IS NEXT?

Jason is joining the staff and leadership of Bridgeway Christian Church in Sacramento, California, as the Discipleship Pastor. He will serve alongside the Senior Pastor and Executive Pastor in casting vision and implementing strategy to the church with an emphasis on spiritual formation and leadership development.

Yes, you read that right. CALIFORNIA.

We are as blown away as you that The Lord would take two East Tennessee kids and move us to California, but He has made it very clear that this is where the Stewart 6 is supposed to go.

We knew we were being led to take a step of faith and so that is what we are doing…and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, Smyrna to Seattle to Sacramento. More of the story can be read here.

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Autumn-Path

Our Next Step….

Over the past two years, we have been a unique season of life, season of ministry, and in walking fully in our relationship with the Father. There is such beauty in journeying with The Lord; so I will give you a snapshot of how God has been at work in us and through us.

Almost 10 years ago, we moved to Smyrna with a two-year old and an eight-month old for Jason to serve on staff at LifePoint Church as the Student Pastor and became a part of the single most influential place in our adult lives. We sat under strong leadership from a Senior Pastor. Pat supported, challenged and took some blows for Jason, as he led the student ministry into a rapid season of change. From that time, we saw small groups start with adults investing in students over a three to four year commitment. This model is now the standard in all age graded areas in LifePoint.  During this time, we also saw MaxImpact start as hundreds of high-school’ers served in our church on Sunday mornings.  From this small shift of connecting students to service and to the church as a whole, we have seen countless college-age students being called into ministry both at home and abroad.  What a joy and what a ride!

After stepping out of Student Ministry, Jason had the unique opportunity to serve in several different roles on our staff. From Communications to Worship Programming to being apart of the Senior Leadership Team, he was able to contribute to the overall vision of LifePoint. From First Baptist Smyrna transitioning to LifePoint Church, we have had a great view of watching the church being a local influence to a church impacting the globe. Our family grew from two to three and we enjoyed the blessings of being apart of a church that our kids loved to come.

Being a part of LifePoint continued to shape and stretch our view and understanding of God the Father and His Heart for the Nations. To see a church body be convicted, challenged, encouraged, and led to be sent to the nations has been nothing short of amazing. When we watched families, students, and couples wrestle with God’s plan and how they fit into it, we cheered them on…while praying from the sidelines. As Jason moved into different roles, we saw a time of fascinating yielding to the Spirit of God in those around us and in us.  Walking the halls of LifePoint, we began to see the nations in the faces of countless children and knew His plan for our family was to adopt.  It is hard for me to see how that would have ever happened without being so deeply rooted at this place. But happen it did, which leads me to the last two years.

We had come to a place of comfort that was of our own making. Looking back, I see how I lost the walk of faith and made it more about the run to keep it all together.  We were still walking with The Lord, seeking Him, but we were also guarding that which we had fought so hard to build…a safe, good life.  Even keel. Somehow in doing life for The Lord, we had come to a place of security in our own works, our knowledge, and our history of walking with Him.

And then the carefully built cart of apples came falling apart. The catalyst for a rapid face to face with my own sin, false identity, and guarded comfort came in the form of the most beautiful, traumatized two-year old.  He did not line up with the carefully constructed life of order and normalcy I had created. Nor did he respond to all the parenting skills I had amassed with the other three or the ones I had instructed countless adoptive parents to use.

Thank you Father.

The Lord needed to get our attention and we needed to be brought low. In the way only our precious Savior can, He broke us of every belief or thought we had that was based in our ability and not the unique workmanship He created in us.  During this incredibly hard season, Judson had a seizure, Emery had a 10 day hospital stay, and we were given the beautiful opportunity to move to LifePoint’s Seattle campus for a year. While it may seem foolish and crazy to move in such a stressful time, we saw it as the shift that we needed to allow some margin to hear what God was saying to us.  And in the way only The Lord can, the place that seemed like such a leap, became a place of healing for us all.  He took all that was comfortable to us and gave us the chance to respond by either running to Him or running away.

We chose to be in the fire.
We chose to find and seek our identity in Him alone.
We decided to fully yield and submit all of our lives to His abundant plan.
We asked how to steward well the workmanship He created in us?

As we put our yes on the table, sought The Lord, gained clarity on the unique strengths and wiring He has placed in us, we had to ask…what, who, and where?

After many months of spending hours a day discerning what is next for the Stews, we knew that our time at LifePoint was coming to a close in a formal sense. The people of LifePoint have forever changed us. The staff of LifePoint is our family. Our Lord, was so gracious in releasing us over a two year time frame because we love so much about this place. Our minds could not fathom this without a gradual leading to it.  I, literally, cannot write enough about how our lives have been impacted, our children have been influenced and loved, because it is countless.  We are forever thankful that God allowed us the privilege of serving at LifePoint for almost 10 years.

So what is next?

Jason is going on staff at Bridgeway Christian Church in the Sacramento, California area as Discipleship Pastor. He will serve on the senior leadership team alongside Bridgeway’s Senior Pastor and Executive Pastor in casting vision and implementing strategy to the church with an emphasis on spiritual formation and leadership development.

Yes, you read that right. CALIFORNIA.

We are as blown away as you that The Lord would take two East Tennessee kids and move us to California, but He has made it very clear that this is where the Stewart 6 is supposed to Go.

We knew we were being led to take a step of faith and so that is what we are doing…and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Let the world know:

Our last year

What a journey our family has been on.  We have all changed in so many ways that I feel like I need to introduce us all over again and give a little review of where we are and where we are going!

Parker: Parker is the most changed in the last year. I have watched her shrug off some insecurities, embrace her Jesus and begin to work out her faith in a year of transition. I have watched her walk onto a new Premier level soccer team, assess, struggle, work hard and grow. I have seen her embrace a new school, seek out those who are following Christ, realize how sheltered she has been and begin to share her faith. I have had the joy of taking her away for a weekend and telling her about the beauty of purity and literally watch some major lightbulbs go off! (that was fun. I highly recommend Passport to Purity by Dennis and Barbara Rainey) She turned 11 in December and I am just blown away that she is rounding out her Elementary school years.

Emery Kate: Emery is a marvel. Last May, her appendix ruptured and she spent 10 days in the hospital. She has learned what is means to persevere. She has experienced pain and has faced it with grit and determination. Emery is the toughest Stewart kid. No argument. I have watched her embrace her role as a little mommy, and has loved her brother in the face of hurt, anger, joy and frustration. I watched her walk into so many new circumstances and not look back, but I have also seen her feel emotions that don’t make sense to her and try to sort them into something that makes sense. I had the joy of sharing a weekend with her as well, sharing the amazing plan God has for her life. Emery is 9 and in the fourth grade.

Bradley: Bradley is our all out boy. He is active, loud, extreme and emotional.  I think the full effects of our year, between moving to Washington and becoming a big brother really hit once we moved. I have watched him struggle to reassess his role in our family, love this new brother and find contentment. BUT, he is a six year old boy and in the face of it all, he still has a joy about him that just makes you smile. He still loves all sports, being outside and knowing all sorts of facts about whatever we are doing, like the tallest building in Seattle…which I adore about him. He is all boy, but he still snuggles up next to me and I hope that never ends. Bradley turns 7 next week and is in the first grade.

Judson: I know I said Parker was the most changed, but in actuality, it is this guy. He is a completely different child. He is loud, all out, active, and affectionate. He calls us “my family” and when he prays, he simply tells Jesus about his day. He is attending preschool three days a week for a few hours and is three and a half. He has gone from the 20% in height to the 75% in 13 months. He loves trucks, especially the ones with trailers, his train table and Temple Run!

I wish I could say it has been all sunshine and rainbows, but we have fought for every bit of ground we have gained with him.  This journey has revealed more about my depth of flesh than I care to admit, but GOD, is rich in mercy and in spite of myself, He is restoring the years the locusts ate, for Judson and for me! I am so desperate for Jesus, for His thoughts, His mind, His love.

What an adventure we have lived, especially since August. The sights we have seen, the things we have heard, the questions we have been asked, the conversations we have had, the narrowing we have experienced have been an adventure! And, I am so very thankful!

 

Let the world know: