Woman Behold Your Son: The Astonishing Intimacy of Christ’s Compassion

As a Roman soldier hammered iron into flesh, she felt her own body tear also. Her agony mirrored his, and her emotional anguish pierced so deeply it was also physical. She sunk to the ground as hands reached out to bear her up. Her son, her precious son! Prophetic words uttered so long ago, the ones she hadn’t wanted to understand, reverberated in her mind. 

“And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Luke 2:35)

He hung there naked, bloodied, barely recognizable. But she still saw the newborn she’d nursed through long nights, the toddler who’d taken his first steps, the boy about “his father’s business,” the man who had turned water into wine.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Couldn’t there have been another way?

She knew what he must do, but grief was a torrent threatening to drown her. The brutality her son experienced was too much to comprehend. But…

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25-27)

Though Jesus gasped for breath, and pushed himself up on nail pierced feet to expand his lungs, his compassions failed not.

He took care of her. 

In the midst of excruciating pain, he took care of his mother. Let’s dwell here for a moment, and let its significance not pass us by.

A popular Christmas song poses the question “Mary did you know?” Drama oozes from the lyrics, and the orchestration swells to a climax- “The sleeping child you’re holding is the great, [dramatic pause] I Am!”

Picture some women all dressed in black, complete with white gloves. Their hands move in artistic fervor as they passionately sign the lyrics. And if we want to get real fancy, throw in a black light so those gloves really pop. There you go. You got it, a staple of late 90s churches and Christian school chapels.

And it goes on to list extraordinary things. Did she know he’d walk on water? Did she know he would make the blind see? Rule the nations? Release captives?

Being the natural rule breaker I tend to be, I always wanted to stand up in the middle of the service and shout, “Yes! She knew!” Then I would sit down smugly, arms crossed. But the Holy Spirit reminded me that maybe it wasn’t the right moment for an outburst. 

Of course Mary knew. From the first glimpse we see of her on an ordinary day turned anything but ordinary, she heard astonishing truth. (Luke 1:26-35) I’m sure there were things she didn’t fully understand, but as we find out later “she treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” 

Mary was introspective. She tumbled her thoughts like clothes in a dryer. She had months to think about what the angel had said. Also she would have been familiar with Old Testament prophecies that proclaimed Messiah would make the blind see, the lame walk, set captives free.  (Isaiah 61) Yes, indeed she knew. She knew her son would be the Messiah.

The angel in Luke 1 revealed world altering truth to a woman. And a young, unmarried, likely teenage girl at that. She “found favor” with the Lord. Lest we think this phrase implies something Mary was not—righteous by her own merit, or a further step, perfect—“favor” here literally means “grace.” Mary found grace with God. 

And what earth shattering grace she received. A Son. The promised Son. 

Just what did Mary know? 

Mary knew Jesus would be divine. He would be called “Son of God,” “Son of the Most High.”  This was a title reserved only for the true God, the God of Israel. (Luke 1:32)

Likewise, he would be conceived supernaturally. (Luke 1:35) That she was a virgin underscores this was a birth only God could accomplish. And it also emphasizes Jesus’ divine nature. He would be called Holy. Set apart. Furthermore, she knew he’d be the true King whose reign lasted forever. (Luke 1:32-33)

At his birth she found out even more about the long awaited Son. 

Jesus would be the Savior! (Luke 2:11,17, 30) It was about him whom angels announced, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” and league upon league of heavenly warriors sang, “Glory to God in the highest and earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” The exuberant shepherds who burst into her “recovery room” would have made sure she heard the proclamation. 

A few days later faithful Simeon, being promised he would not see death until he had first seen the Christ, rejoiced, “My eyes have seen your salvation!” (Luke 2:30)

The Savior would also bring light to the Gentiles (Luke 2:32) and glory to Israel. Mary’s son would be Messiah, not just to the Jews, but to all people. It was he who would complete God’s redemptive plan, settled from before time began. Also, he would open the flood gates of God’s mercy to gentiles. And he would receive the glory Israel should have had— He alone could fulfill the law and obey perfectly. He would judge the proud and arrogant. He would save the humble and meek. (Luke 2:31-32)

But from Simeon Mary also gained the first glimpse her path would include sorrow. Jesus would be opposed and her heart would break. Being near Jesus included suffering.

“And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

Perhaps, the words didn’t mean what she thought they might. 

She watched him grow. Surely she marveled as a caravan of Magi brought him extravagant gifts. Perhaps she pondered the significance of such treasures, gold worthy of a king, incense for a priest, myrrh a burial spice. Later, when Herod demanded the deaths of all baby boys, she fled with her family to protect the promised Son.

She watched his perfection play out daily. Never did he hit a sibling in anger. Never did he selfishly take someone’s toy. Never did he use his words to hurt or deceive. How humbling to be an imperfect parent of a perfect child. 

She would have seen his childishness also. Could Jesus have ever knocked over a vase as he ran through the house? Maybe one day he proudly presented himself covered in mud, “Look at me Mommy!” 

And of course she had witnessed the miracles, and heard him teach. 

“Do whatever her tells you,” she instructed the servants at the wedding feast. (John 2:5)

That simple statement encapsulates her relationship with him. She boiled down all the years of pondering to this statement, the last time we hear her voice recorded in Scripture. Do what he tells you. Trust him. Though his hour had not yet come, she had no doubt he would provide. At this point she’d seen him live only as an ordinary man, no miracles yet. But she knew who he was, believed he would help, and turned attention to him. His was the glory.

Now at the cross, his life came hurtling to an end. His hour had indeed come— the reason he came brought to fruition. As she watched him suffer, perhaps all she had pondered rushed like a flood across her mind. I wonder if Mary’s anguish also mirrored God the Father’s as he turned his face away.

What did Jesus do?

Mary had bled to give Jesus life. Now he bled to give Mary life. As Mary experienced the intense suffering of labor to bring joy, so Jesus experienced ultimate suffering that Mary would have ultimate joy. 

And his suffering was not for Mary only. Rather, the promised Son bore the sins of the world and suffered so we would live. He bled so we would not. He looked into the cup of the Father’s wrath and drank all of it, so we would receive the cup of grace.

In his darkest hour he still met the needs of individuals specifically. The thief hanging beside him. His own mother.

By providing for Mary Jesus honored her even then, fulfilling the law even at the point of death. Amid the incomprehensible pain of crucifixion and even greater agony of being separated from the Father, he gave focused attention to her.

“His tender concern for her in the hour of his mortal agony illustrates his true humanity and compassion.” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol 9) He was not some aloof, self-centered god (for had been he never would have gone to the cross in the first place). He was the Savior pouring himself out, intimately concerned, serving humanity but also serving Mary uniquely. 

What an astonishing compassion! Oh friend, his compassion is this deep for you also. He knows you and serves you individually as well.

Some commentators think he used the term “woman” to not pierce her heart further, in essence to create distance, but “there is another conjecture which is equally probable that Christ intended to show that, after having completed  the course of human life, he lays down the condition in which he lived.” (Calvin’s commentary). He laid down the earthly relationship of mother and son, for the slain son would soon become the risen King.

His provision for her was also precise. He laid down the mother/ son relationship, but gave her a new son. Mary a widow in her 40s or 50s would have had little opportunity to meet her own financial needs. Some think Jesus entrusted her to John’s care because his own siblings did not yet believe. Some think it was because he was the closest relative present.

Regardless, because John marveled so greatly at being loved by Jesus, he described himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He would have poured that love back on Mary. In saying “this is your son” rather than “this is your care taker” Jesus provided family. He gave her someone who would not only provide, but cherish her.

He took care of her. 

And he takes care of you.

John’s response to Jesus was simple. “From that hour he took her to his own home.” He obeyed Jesus’ instructions and cared for her as he would his own mother. 

This is is how the church is to care for one another. Our care flows out of his care for us. 

In the middle of this tender moment, something bigger was happening. Jesus reoriented the family. It was the inauguration of the new Christian family, which supersedes even biological relationships. 

Don’t misunderstand here, natural family is still important. He didn’t throw it out! But at the cross he hints at what he intends for the church. When we become believers, the church becomes our greater family because in the church we have a spiritual connection forged by Christ. 

We’re invited to see ourselves in this new family that meets needs and shows the same (if not more) tangible compassion we would give to blood siblings. In this beautiful gospel moment, Jesus’ care for Mary equips our compassion for others. He equips us to love and serve without selfish gain lurking in the corner. 

The End

“After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill Scripture),“I thirst”… When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19: 28-30)

And they pierced his side, just as they had pierced Mary’s soul.

Jesus’ last act before willingly laying down his life was to take care of Mary, something profoundly personal. What astonishing love! After he entrusted her to John, he knew all was finished.

The contrast is staggering. While he satisfied God’s righteous wrath and paid the penalty of sin for a people more in number than the stars, he simultaneously provided for one.

Our Savior is both all powerful and immanent. And we rejoice with millions upon millions in our salvation, but we also rejoice as individuals beloved by God. 

His body was broken. Her soul was broken. But that wasn’t really the end. 

Grief gave way to exceeding joy, for he rose just as he said.


Messy, Complicated, Beautiful

Let me tell you about Mamaw and Papaw. They are Jon, my first husband’s, adoptive parents. That’s a complicated mouthful, illustrating a precious reality. It’s not common that a widow’s first in-laws stay in her life when she remarries, but these beautiful ones are another facet of a story only God can write.

In order to see the full loveliness of the mosaic, I need to back up further though.

Jon met the Neffs through his grandma taking him to church. Dad Neff was the pastor, and Jon quickly became best friends with their son, Ben.

Jon’s mom, Darlene had had type 1 diabetes, and In the 80s it was a much more life threatening disease than it is today. She had been told “If you have children, it will kill you.”

But God had other plans. Jim and Darlene were absolutely thrilled to find out Jon was on the way. From reading her journal, I learned she was hospitalized for months leading to his birth. Not easy, but daily she poured out thanks for the miracle growing inside. Her love of Christ leapt from the pages; her journal is a touching link to a lady I never met.

When Jon was five, Darlene had her first stroke. He quickly learned to dial 911. Eventually her legs were amputated, and she was a home bound invalid for much of Jon’s life.

She died when he was 14.

After his wife’s death, Jon’s dad Jim tried to drown his grief in alcohol. He had adored his wife, and Jon always told me he learned lavish love by watching his dad.

And Jon himself described sitting on the edge of his bed with a loaded gun contemplating something horrific. But the phone rang. When he answered, someone merely said, “Hey Jonathan! I’ll be there in a few minutes to pick you up for church.”

It wasn’t a request, but he always said it saved his life.

Fast forward a few years. Jon started passing out playing basketball and it was discovered he had a long missed, congenital heart defect. After open heart surgery and a heart valve replaced at 18, he was written about in medical journals.

Through all this the Neffs were there, in the background of his story, loving him though he seemed like a “rebellious” influence on their son.

The suffering wasn’t over, however. Jon’s Dad died of cancer after Jon’s first semester of college. He was alone.

Astonishingly though, God was up to something new and marvelous. Before Jim died, he asked the Neffs a big request.

“Will you help him stay out of trouble? Will you make sure he stays in college?”

But in their hearts, they knew God was asking them for more.

“Would you make him your son? Would you bring him into your family?”

And they did.

They packed up a grieving, angry teenager and welcomed him home. My first mother-in-law has said, “Even then I knew it would be more. I knew he wasn’t going to walk out of our lives after college.”

So they adopted a son. And Jon always said he got another mom and dad, two brothers, a sister, a dog, and a cat. Another family to cherish.

His brother Ben jokes that Jon held the world record for longest sleepover.

“I used to go over to Jon’s house, but the one time I asked him over to mine, he ended up staying for 12 years!”

They went through some crazy rough times together. At times he made them angry. At times he broke their hearts. But a miraculous, radiant thing was forming. Another son. Part of the family.

When he took me home to meet them, I learned later he eagerly asked, “So do you like her?”

“What’s not to like? You better not mess this up!”

They played such a huge, indispensable role in the gospel driven man he became. He was loved when he was unlovely.

At my wedding to Jon, he couldn’t help but be choked up about the beauty of adoption. Through example, his second parents taught him the reality of an even greater adoption.

Jesus accomplished the greatest adoption. His death and resurrection brought His own into the family!

As Mom and Dad Neff chose Jon, so God adopts His chosen ones. He makes them part of His family, as sons and heirs. His love is lavish.

After Jon died Mom Neff wrote,

“And my mother’s heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. ‘Wait, God, this wasn’t the plan! This is not what I expected!’ My heart mourned, and God held me close and simply whispered, ‘You let me love him through you, and that was my plan all along!’

“People ask me if I would do this again, knowing the struggles, disappointments, and hurts. My honest human answer is maybe not! (Later in the post she wrote, “In a heartbeat!”) Here’s the interesting part, however. God didn’t just change Jonathan, He changed me. The love of God is unconditional, full of grace and flowing from His heart “even while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5:8). Because that’s His plan, to use His children to love those around us, those who need to know the love of God as more than just a fuzzy idea they once heard somewhere, to love those who need to know the love of God in salvation!”

At first I wondered if I would lose them as I had lost Jon.

“Ami you’re stuck with us. We’re not going anywhere. Jon may not be here with us anymore, but you are still ours. You are still family.”

And they have been. And they are. They welcomed David with open arms, excited for new love in my life. David, the uniquely suited for me man that he is, welcomed them too.

They were at mine and David’s wedding, Dad Neff sharing the joy of walking me down the aisle.

They are another set of grandparents for our children since my own parents are gone. Mom Neff has come after the birth of all three babies. And we see them as often as we can.

As we drove away from their house today, I prayed thanking God for such a sweet week.

From the back Hudson and Charlotte piped up with their additions.

“And thank God for the park by the zoo.”

“And thank God for the big swimming pool.”

“And thank God for Jon, your first husband because we have Mamaw and Papaw. And we wouldn’t have them without Jon.”

Little boy knows how to make both of his parents cry.

It’s a lovely, complicated, messy thing, but God has made it so beautiful.

To see more about how this all unfolded…

The Diving Board, Part 2.

When your Daughter-in-Law Starts to Date: Reflections of a M.I.L.
by Jill Neff

Jump inIt was not what I expected to hear standing in line, balancing my items and waiting my turn to pay. Absorbed with the myriad of games and candy bars, I didn’t pay much attention to the two women in front of me until these words registered in my distracted brain, “Well you know, a daughter-in-law isn’t really family or blood…”


I wanted to drop my items, hurry after her, and try to dispel the ridiculous notion I had just heard from her lips. For several hours, those words bounced around in my head, and I tried to imagine what the whole conversation might have been. And what would make a person say those words out loud?

From the first moment they called me “mom,” my two daughters-in-law have been special parts of our family. Two sons and their wives, supporting, encouraging one another, and forging a bond that swept beyond the biological definition of a family. Two sons and two daughters-in-law planning for a lifetime.

And then there were three.

Losing our son suddenly and without warning was a roller coaster of emotions, pain, grief, and, grace. So much grace. We shared the pain and grief with our daughter-in-law, Ami, and we grieved our loss individually as well. And God began to “heal the brokenhearted” (Psalm 147:3) and bind our wounds with cords of unending grace and love. Because if there was ever someone who understands brokenhearted, it’s God.  He gave HIS son in my place, willingly sending Christ to die on the cross for me.  Talk about brokenhearted.  He is intimately acquainted with shattered hearts, and He knew just what we needed to heal, giving His abundant grace and wrapping us in His love.

Now things are changing. Our sweet Ami has met someone special, someone who is willing to know her and understand the journey she has experienced. It’s a day I’ve prayed for and always believed in my heart would come.

And I feel like I’m standing right beside her on that diving board, sharing her anxiety, fearful of another loss. Feeling fragile. But I also hear the soft whisper from God’s word, encouraging me to think on honest, pure, lovely truth because this sweet, special daughter-in-law is completely in God’s hands, and His plans are perfect.

No fear allowed!

But if I’m honest, standing on that diving board holds another fear for me–the fear of a different form of loss. It’s a silly irrational fear, yes!  Because unlike the woman at the store, I believe that daughters-in-law are part of the family. Not born in by blood, but bonded in with love, each one is like a quilt piece woven into the fabric of our lives by a gracious God.

I don’t want to lose her. 

So here we are, poised at the beginning of a new part of this journey. Sitting across from her, I see it in her eyes. I hear it in her voice. She’s ready, brought to this moment by the grace and marvelous workings of a great God. And I realize I won’t lose her, I’ll do this journey with her.

So jump in Ami! The water’s fine. And I’m right behind you!

You might also like:

Here’s to the Diving Board.

I won’t shut them out.

Adoption and the County Fair. 


I won’t shut them out.

Okay, let me be real with you. I am well. Life and ministry thrive. God has provided a sustainable, flexible career. I get to disciple others, be involved in Kingdom work, and I have deep friendships. My daily needs are met, and my emotions feel stable. I laugh often.

There is much beauty.

But there are moments when still his “absence is like the sky spread over everything,” and missing him is a little more poignant. Certain occasions still create the now familiar heaviness. It’s not debilitating pain of the early days, but rather a slow, dull ache. It’s an undercurrent of longing that shifts the tide and returns my heart to a place of introspection.


Let me set the scene.

“The past tense of three!”

Laughter erupts at the ridiculous clue. Past tense of three? A shouted answer, a round disc passed, voices intense, and an intermittent beeping creates a fever pitch as it hurtles toward the timer’s end. Groans mix with whoops, and the guys leap from their seats. High fives all around, one would think they won the Super Bowl rather than a round of Catch Phrase.

Laughter comes in rolling wave upon wave. It’s a perfect moment frozen in time. But Jon’s not there, and it feels like he should be.

I’m one of the “lucky ones” (though luck is truly a myth) who has always adored her in-laws. I fell in love with Jon’s family immediately. And in death they have still counted me their own. I am so very thankful.

But this time it was hard to be with them. To me his absence was a startling contrast to the laughing family around me. Lies crept in.

They’re done missing him.” 

I guess we’ve exhausted the storehouse of shared memories.”

He’s being replaced.”

Without realizing it, I retreated to the safety of my thoughts.

“Ames, are you okay? It seems like this trip has been especially difficult. Sometimes it seems like you hurt more when you’re with us.”

“I do hurt more.”

And given the opportunity to process aloud, my words came in a flood. “It feels like he should be here. When I look at Ben with Holden, I see what Jon would have been like with a son.”

“I’m so excited for another brother to come into the family. (My youngest sister-in-law is headed toward marrying a fantastic guy) “But sometimes I think–‘a new adopted son to replace the old.‘”

“We’re not done missing him. You know there are lies among those thoughts, right?


“We’re your family. You don’t have to put the walls up.” And then I understood she was right. I had begun to shut them out.

But I need them. And I have a sneaky suspicion that they need me too.

The heaviness lifted. I don’t have deep theological truth to share this time, just simple thoughts. An emotional wall is the opposite of grace.

  • Grace gives permission to handle things differently.
  • Grace remembers the dull aches of others.
  • Grace does not steel itself against hurt.
  • Grace loves and cherishes.
  • Grace does not believe lies.
  • Grace laughs.
  • And grace arrives with open arms.

So as long as they’ll have me, I’ll have them. I’ll keep my heart open. When the missing is more poignant, I won’t shoulder it alone. For grace recalls its family.

“I hold you in my heart.”thank

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace”

Philippians 1:3-7a 

For more about adoption, in laws, and grace check out these posts:

Delight to Gaze upon Him

everythingI love when people feel at home in my home. I really do.

“Grab a blanket if you’re cold.

You know where the coffee mugs are.

Come on in without knocking.

Feel free to go in the fridge.

You’re a welcome guest. Moreover, I want you to know I consider you family.

Such delight it brings when friends know what they are to me- family, beloved!

I hope my home is lovely, and I hope folks feel loved there. But I know of a far more precious dwelling place.

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalm 84:1-2 )

Now, there are some things you must know.

  1. In the Old Testament, God chose to dwell in a tent made by hands, first the Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem. Israel could meet with Him there.
  2. The journey to God’s dwelling place was a long, arduous, and often treacherous pilgrimage.
  3. For many, it may have been merely obligation. (Deuteronomy 16:16)
  4. Common Israelites were permitted to enter only the outer court of the Tabernacle. Even more restrictive was the Holy of Holies, the very seat of God. Solely the high priest, ONE man, ONE time a year could enter it.
  5. The sons of Korah, the authors of this Psalm, rejoice even in their lowly positions as doorkeepers. (Psalm 84:10)

Now, keep all that in mind for a minute.

To be welcome in the house of the Lord, the God who created everything, the God who is majestic and transcendent is in a word, astonishing.

So, the psalmists long for God’s dwelling place, yearning for it with a sense of urgency. They understand that meeting with God offers true delight, true satisfaction, and true fulfillment.

Therefore, to dwell with God is their chief desire.

David reiterates the theme.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27: 4)

Wow. I want God to be my chief desire, the captor of my affections. I want to sing and shout for joy, knowing He far surpasses all my hopes and dreams. I know He is the fulness.

But I’ll be honest, I don’t always want God the most.

Sometimes, other things vie for my attention. The hazards of the journey ensnare me. Sometimes, weeds and thorns threaten to choke out the truth, and other pastures seem greener.

But there are things I must recall.

God no longer dwells in a tent made by hands, but in hearts made of flesh. Through the completed work of Christ, God dwells within His church. He ALWAYS dwells with me.

I get to meet with the living God. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute. In a word, that’s astonishing.

I’m not restricted to the outer court. The veil was torn, the Holy of Holies opened. Rather than ONE man, ONE time of year, I’ve been given constant, total access to God, Himself. Jesus pleads for me. And I can expect grace. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Furthermore, God calls me not a doorkeeper, but FAMILY. (Romans 8:14-15)

How then can I not delight to gaze upon Him, singing and shouting for joy?

How then can I not recall what am to Him?

Beloved. Called. Chosen. Redeemed. Purchased. Family

This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries


Adoption and the County Fair

fair 2My in-laws love the county fair. It’s one of their FAVORITE family traditions. Did I emphasize favorite?

They don’t just go one day, but every day. They love planning out their fair food- kabobs, corn on the cob, elephant ears, turkey legs, cherry limeade, tacos, donuts…

When I came into the family, I readily embraced this tradition. Bring on the fair food!

I remember my first time at the fair with the Neff clan. It was the Sandwich Fair, in Sandwich Illinois. I was a little disappointed there were no free sandwiches. But I digress.

Jon and I had been dating several months and it came time to bring me home to meet the family. I already loved him, but I quickly fell in love with them too.

I loved experiencing their joy over something so simple as the county fair.

Jon’s sister, Megan, was 14 at the time. Of course we had to ride the Zipper. I found out later that as soon as the ride started, Jon and his mom had a conversation…

“So? What do you think? Do you like her?”

“What’s not to like? She’s lovely.”

Then eyeing him with a look that only moms have, “You better not mess this up.”

How those words make me smile.

I think I got to have five county fairs with Jon and the whole family. Then Mom and Dad Neff moved away. And then Jon died. It was not the same. A place that had been fill only with joy, now met me with tears.

But this we year got to go to the fair again! How we laughed, and reminisced. It was just “right” to be there with them again. My mother-in-law even gave me a quarter to feed the animals. Happy. As we relished our fair food and took in the sights, my thoughts turned to adoption.

Adoption? Well there are some more things you need to know…

Jon understood the beauty of two sets of parents. His first mom was a type one diabetic to whom the doctors said, “If you have children, it will kill you.”

Yet she was a believer in Jesus. When she knew she was pregnant, to end a life was not an option.

She spent months of her pregnancy hospitalized. During that time she kept a journal for her unborn son, Jonathan. I have this journal, and it’s a touching link to a lady I never got to meet. Her love of Christ leapt from the page.

The doctors were right. Having a child debilitated her. When Jon was five, his mom had her first stroke. He quickly learned to dial 911.

Eventually, she died after multiple strokes and after having both legs amputated. Jon was 14.

In Jon’s words, he learned how to love by watching his dad lavish affection on a wife who was an invalid for years. Jon said his dad always adored her. I can’t wait to meet that man someday. and thank him! For I was the beneficiary of those lessons in love. Lavish, extravagant love.

I so wish I had gotten to meet Mom and Dad Atkins, to know the parents my husband cherished so dearly. Some day I will!

But, Jon’s dad also died. At 19, he was alone.

Astonishingly though, God was up to something new and marvelous: giving him another family. Before he died, Jim asked his pastor to watch over his son.

“Would you help him stay out of trouble? Will you see him through college?”

So the Neff family prayed. “Can we take on such a role?

By grace they said yes. They packed up a grieving, rebellious teenager and welcomed him home. My mother-in-law has said, “Even then I knew it would be more. I knew he wasn’t going to walk out of our lives after college.”

So they adopted a son. And Jon got another mom and dad, two brothers, a sister, a dog, and a cat. Another family to cherish. His brother Ben jokes that Jon held the world record for longest sleepover.

“I used to go over to Jon’s house, but the one time I asked him over to mine, he ended up staying for 12 years!”

They went through some crazy rough times together. At times he made them angry. At times he broke their hearts. But a miraculous, beautiful thing was forming. Another son. Part of the family.

They played such a huge, indispensable role in the man he became.

At our wedding, Jon couldn’t help but be choked up about the beauty of adoption. Through example, his second parents taught him the reality of an even greater adoption.

Jesus accomplished the greatest adoption. His death and resurrection brought His own into the family!

As Mom and Dad Neff chose Jon, so God adopts His chosen ones. He makes them part of His family, as sons and heirs. His love is lavish.

Ever since that first county fair, I have understood adoption too. I have a beautiful family, but I also have a second family.

“Ami you’re stuck with us. We’re not going anywhere. Jon may not be here with us anymore, but you are still ours. You are still family.”

Praise God for adoption. Praise God for an even greater adoption!

Adoption, one of the most tender facets of the gospel, causes me to marvel at the love of God.

I am a daughter of the King. I’m a child of the Most High. I’m an heir with the Son. My Father has every resource at His disposal. Because I’m in the family, I am never alone. My Father will only ever do good to me.

Who knew the county fair could produce such magnificent thoughts?

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