Monday, January 30, 2012

We've Gone to the Dogs

I have no idea what the saying means, "We've gone to the dogs," I just felt it was appropriate.  I'll have to google it. 

Anyway, the week before Christmas we adopted two dogs from the SPCA.  Long story.  We already had 2 outside dogs, 2 donkeys, 30 chickens, cows, and a miniature goat.  The difference is these 2 new dogs are INSIDE dogs. 

While growing up I had a couple indoor pets at various times but they consisted of a parakeet and fish.  Never a dog (though when I was little we did have an outside dog that I barely remember).  I am much more of a farm animal person than an indoor pet person.  I'm not sure why.  However, I have one daughter in particular who llooooovveesss animals and has begged for years for a dog who could sleep with her in her room. 

Let me introduce you to Cashmere:

And Oscar:



They came with their names.  Alana is having a wonderful time playing with Cashmere.  Here they are as "prairie girls":


Since the dogs have lived here, Easton and Alana have both been sleeping on the couch with a dog beside them (so much for sleeping together in their rooms, for now).  When Alan wakes up, they migrate to our room, and usually at some point I find them all like this:


They are in love. 




Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Struggle

There's a struggle going on inside me.  A struggle with excess.  Too much stuff.  Too many choices.  I'm struggling with seeing how much I have and seeing how little others live with. 

Apparently I'm not alone, I'm finding that my heart is being drawn to people who's hearts are breaking in the same way.  Maybe this is how I'm supposed to feel when my eyes are opened.  At least until I figure out why my eyes have been opened at this point in time.  What I'm supposed to do.  Who I'm supposed to give to, talk to, listen to, work with.  What do I give up?  Everything?  Nothing?  Where's the limit? Where's the line drawn between just enough and too much?  Is there a line?  Who do I feed?  Who do I clothe?  Where do I go?  I don't have the answers.  I know the One who does.  I'm waiting on Him for direction. 

Everyone struggles with sin.  Most people have a particular sin that they struggle with more than others.  Satan is really good at figuring that out and tempting us with our sin of choice.  It may be lying, drinking too much, pornography, gambling, lust, homosexuality - there's a long list.  Some may seem worse than others, but it's all sin.  It's all why we need Jesus. 

For the first portion of my life, my sin of choice was coveting.  Not the extreme jealousy you'd see on a Lifetime made-for-TV-movie.  But dissatisfaction with what I had.  And I had it so good!  I loved name-brand clothes.  I'd drop money constantly without thinking.  The mall was my second home.  I wanted a nice house.  Nice stuff.  A nice car.  A boat.  An RV.  A vacation home.  I wanted to travel as much as possible.  I didn't get all of these things, but I still wanted them.  Thoughts like, "If I had ____ , I'd be a lot happier." 

Then Jesus grabbed hold of me about 11 years ago and began to shake me up.  I was hungry for His teaching on contentment, money, and giving.  My life in many ways turned upside down and I was so very grateful. 

There have been backslides since then.  Five steps forward, one step back, ten steps forward, three steps back.  A person can do a lot of growing over 11 years. 

But oh, what a year this has been!  If I thought I was stretched over the last few years, I was only seeing the beginning of the process.  It's like when you are about to blow a huge bubble.  You chew the gum really hard for a minute first.  Your tongue has to get in just the right position.  When the Bubblicious has been chomped on and everything is in place, you can blow all your air in and watch that pink bubble grow.  It feels like I'm the piece of gum waiting for God to fill me up with His plan.  I'm getting chewed up right now in my Spirit, but He's doing it to get me ready.

After spending a lot of years judging others by what they have and don't have, what they do, what they spend, and where they go, among other things, I am already feeling the effects of that same judgement on me. What goes around comes around. I'm just trying to figure out what to do with it.  I read a blog post tonight from another adoptive mom who is passionate about the orphan crisis as I was thinking about this post.  I decided to link you there and ask you to read it because she puts into words exactly what I am feeling.  Here's an excerpt: 

 "And I worry what people think. I'm afraid that someone will see me in the park with my Kindle (an unasked for gift) and judge me for the post I made earlier in the day regarding 'necessity.' And I'm afraid of what people will say when they see me eating at the local Mexican restaurant after I've made a comment about starving children. And I'm afraid of what people think when they see me snap at one of my children right after I tell them I'm adopting another.

And yet, I find myself angry with people for not getting it. For not seeing how good we ALL have it.

And I picture them thinking about me
Yeah, you're one to talk. You have something to give away. I've seen your house.

And they are right. And I'm unhinged. I'm sick of the extravagance. Because I can hold
bead parties (and will) and I can sell goods crafted by women in vocational training (and will) and I can sponsor children and I can give to my church and I can adopt a child (and get all sorts of wild accolades about my selflessness) and I can donate to the local food bank and I can volunteer at the meat cannery and I can boycott stinking Hershey for their child labor practices (and Pepsi for their fetal testing--knife to the heart--fire your PR guy) and it's NOT ENOUGH.

Because there are still children going to bed tonight that won't wake up tomorrow. Malaria is still rampant when all it takes to slow it down is a
$18 mosquito net. Women are still selling themselves to feed their children and ending up with AIDS so they leave them as orphans anyway.

Oh Dear God when will we wake up and see that this life we have in America is so crazy extravagant and DO SOMETHING so that babies don't have to starve and their mothers have no choice but to let them be raised by strangers or watch them die?"
Here's the link so you can read the whole post: http://survivingthechaos.blogspot.com/2011/10/undone.html

I do worry about what people think.  I am human, after all. 

As I get stretched and God begins to fill me up with His plans, I'll let you in on it.  For now, I'm continuing to ask God to break my heart for what breaks His and help me know what He wants me to do about it.  That's not something to ask lightly.  When you ask for your eyes to be opened, be prepared it's going to be a whole lot more than you bargained for. Proverbs 24:12 says,"If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" Once you know, you can never go back. You are responsible to act. I am responsible to act.  We as the visible Church are responsible to act together.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Take My Life prayer

My prayer for today:
  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  2. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  3. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
    Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  4. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  5. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  6. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
    Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.
This is a hymn by Frances R. Havergal and it rings so true.  My life is yours, Father.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Life's Stitches

I am constantly surprised by the way God intertwines the threads of my life.  I learned how to cross stitch a couple years ago.  I am not very good at it because I don't practice enough.  One of the things I enjoy about it is the fact that the back of the picture can look like crap.  A tangled group of knots and pieces of string that appear scattered in a random mess.  Then you flip it over and look at the front.  There's a picture!  An ordered, beautiful, colorful picture that has meaning. 

God does that to my life.  He takes all the knots that I tie myself into, all the random threads of things that I start and don't finish, all the strings that look like they go no where, and He turns them into a beautiful picture.  A picture full of color and meaning.

All that twisting and turning and knotting hurts, though.  When my body and heart are being looped around and I don't know which direction to go, when my soul has to trust that the God who made the universe will take the threads of my life and lead me into the places where the picture is visible on the other side, that's hard. 

Everyone has periods of growing and periods of stagnation in their spiritual lives.  At least, I know I do.  I can look back on my life so far and see the times when I have been growing, changing, and discovering the exciting attributes of God's character.  Then there are times I can see I have just been floating along, knowing that I am a child of God, but not really sensing where to go next. 

The past few weeks have been one of those periods of growing.  A season of looking at the face of my Creator and thinking, "Wow, Lord.  There are no words.  What you are doing in my life is something I can't even speak of, because I know it's going to turn into a beautiful picture."  I know that.  Right now there are a lot of knots.  A lot of threads that need to be pieced together.  Little by little corners of the picture are being sewn. 

I'll try to share them as they come together.  Just know that you have a picture God is weaving just for you, too.  All the hurt, pain, and uncertainty will come together and be a picture for God to display on His wall, exactly the way you do with your children.  You may not get to see the flip side anytime soon, but it will come.  Trust Him. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Sanctity of Human Life

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.  Churches across America joined to take a stand against abortion and tell others to value human life.

The Bible tells us that from the moment we are conceived, we are alive and He knows us. 
"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth" (Psalm 139:13-15)


If you want to get technical, God actually knows us,has all the days of our life determined, knows what we are going to be, and has a plan for our life, before we are even conceived.  
"Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. " (Psalm 16)


If you want to go even deeper, God planned you not just before you were born, but before He even made the world.
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[a] predestined us for adoption to sonship[b] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. " (Ephesians 1:4-6)

Doesn't that blow your mind? 

The world is fallen, we know that.  This earth is currently Satan's stomping ground.  "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour "I Peter 5:8.  The Bible tells us he "walks to and fro over all the earth". 

Is it any wonder, then, that the world tries to tell us that human life doesn't matter?  That babies are lower on the scale of life than animals?  That's part of the lies.  The Bible calls Satan the "Father of Lies."

If the world doesn't see the Bible as God's word, if they believe we as humans descended from apes, is it any wonder that abortion is so prevalent in our society?  If we are here by "accident", then who cares if babies are killed now or die later in life?  It wouldn't matter!  If there's no meaning to life, no purpose to my being, and no place to spend eternity but rotting earth, then it makes sense that my life is worth nothing now or later.  Therefore, what harm does an abortion incur?

What should surprise you is the number of abortions that are undertaken by professing Christians.  In 2010 it was 560,000 for Protestants and 350,000 for Catholics.  13% of all abortions in the United States are performed on born-again Christians.  Now, I know that professing to be a "born-again" Christian doesn't necessarily mean that you are one, but we have no way of knowing for sure, so we are assuming.

I have heard numerous times Christians within the church who are in favor of abortion in certain cases where (1) It will save the life of the mother, (2)If they feel the baby may not have a "good quality of life", or (3) in cases of rape or incest.  The problem with these arguments is that it's not up to us to change Scripture.  We are not God and cannot claim to be Him.  God doesn't change.  He didn't say He loves us when we have a good life or we are in good health.  He just loves us!  Murder is murder.  Circumstances of humans don't change God or his nature.  

How do you know what kind of quality of life someone is going to have for sure?  What kind of standards are you measuring what some one's life is worth against?  Your own?  What society calls "normal"?  How do you know what God's will may be for your child?  You don't!  Every one's life is able to glorify God if that's what God intends.  Not just perfect children.  Everyone.  Have you ever asked any parents of special needs children what their lives would be like without those children?  If they wish their children had never been born?  Every single parent of a special needs child I've talked to has been thankful for the opportunity to have that life entrusted to them.  To be able to have their own life changed and impacted by a special child.  God has the plan for life.  Not us.

We live in a "me" society.  It goes against what Jesus taught.  Jesus said we must lose our life to gain eternal life.  We must be servants first and foremost.  The last shall be first.  We should lay down our life for our friends.  Jesus never taught us to "save ourselves". 

If a mom gives up her life for her baby, isn't that a picture of Jesus' love?  Horrible in our human short-sightedness, yes.  But we can't see the end result.  We don't have the big picture.  We have a finite view of life.  God knows the end. He had the end planned before the beginning even started!

May God continue to bless Crisis Pregnancy Centers. May God press upon our hearts to adopt babies when moms choose life. He sets the lonely in families. Don't be afraid to be vocal about abortion. Once again, it's not up to you to change someone, it's up to you to be a witness.

Crossexamine.com has some great vidoes on abortion, the industry, and the effect on mothers.  Check them out.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Loux Family

Today I am going to link you to another blog that is hard to read.  Hard as in difficult emotionally to comprehend.  It's the Loux family.  You may recognize them.  Derek Loux was a Christian music artist who was killed in a car accident two years ago.  He and his wife adopted multiple children, including many special needs children.  Renee now keeps up the blog and is working on a book.

The first post you will see, the latest one, is shocking.  Some of you will see the pictures and think, "Why did she have to post those?  What will that accomplish?"  But I encourage you to keep reading.  Not just that post.  Read all the way down the page and meet their family.  Including some of those special children.  She is trying to open the eyes of people all over the world to the fact that God sets the lonely in families.  That every child is worth it. 

Get out your Kleenex.  Get out your coffee.  Sit down for a beautiful read that's worth it because children are worth taking the time to see and understand.

http://louxfamilyblog.com/2012/01/

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Who Am I?

I never cease to be amazed at God's love for me.  I absolutely do not deserve it.  If you were in my head and read my thoughts, you'd be, like, "Who is this girl?  Ugh!"  Yes, my tongue is pretty trained to obey my mind.  Self-control in that aspect of my life comes natural to me.  There are other areas of my life where I could learn to practice a little more self-control.  Like eating.  Cheese.  Potatoes. Bread.  CARBS.  Gluttony is a sin that I struggle with.  Let's just put that out there right now.  I know it.  Do you know how many times I ask God to help me change that and then repeatedly fail him before the hour's over?  I take it back.  You don't want to know.

Today was one of those days that is so emotionally draining you just want to crawl in bed with a king-size Snickers bar and a glass or two of Chardonnay and put on mind-numbing television and not answer the phone.  Tell me you don't have those days.  I don't think I'm alone. 

But on those days, do you look for the little ways God is blessing you right where you are?  Do you have something happen and think, "Only God could have orchestrated that"?  You should!  It's days like this when I KNOW that God loves me.  Not because my day was good.  Not because I was feeling happy.  Not because of anything I did or felt.  Feelings lie, remember?  Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it?"

My morning started out good.  Time with my hubby.  Looking for something and finding it quickly. (Not the norm for me.  Sometimes I think I've lost my mind.)  Then it took a turn for the worse with one phone call.  Uncontrollable tears (it runs in my family, I know, but I promise, I had a reason).  Flood of negative emotions.  Who do I trust?  Who do I turn to?  On my knees.  Help me through this, Father, help me to keep doing what I know is right and to forgive.  This is what I was asking today. 

Fast forward a couple hours.  After successfully getting my contacts in my eyes which I've had for only a week and took about 15 minutes this morning because I dropped one and searched for it for 10 minutes only to find it in my hair (long story and a run-on sentence, I realize), I headed out the door to run some errands in town.  My in-laws were watching the children for a while.  I made a stop I had not planned on making at all.  It was a spur-of-the-moment thing.  I had a craving.  For spicy macaroni salad.  Anyway, during that stop I was so uplifted by someone that I was completely caught off guard.  It was a total turn around from two hours before.  God used a stranger to bring affirmation to me that I needed. 

It thrills me when the God who made the universe takes the time to speak directly to me.  To let me know that He hears me.  He cares about my problems, my feelings, and my life.  MY LIFE.  Why?  You know that Casting Crowns song, "Who Am I?"  It's so true!  I love that song because it captures exactly my relationship with my Father.  I am undeserving but God, in His infinite grace, chose to save me. ME.  I should be on my knees every minute of the day thanking Him for His mercy.  Praying without ceasing.

Here is the song in case you haven't heard it before:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjhxOv9YDag
When I hear it in the car I can't help but sing it at the top of my lungs and lift my hands to my Saviour. 

God knows me!  He knows my weaknesses and my failures.  Yet He still chooses to make His presence known to me.  "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." (Matthew 10:29) 

Tonight I received a note of encouragement from someone I deeply respect.  Another blessing just when I needed it.

Take the time to understand that God gives you just what you need when you need it.  Ephesians 4:7 tells us, "But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift."  Who knows what you need and when you need it better than the One who made you? 

Father, I thank you tonight for your blessings.  Thank you for the ways you show yourself to me all day long.  Help me listen to your Spirit when you tell me you are doing something just for me.  Help me to follow you and know what your will is and that I am in it.  Close doors when they need to be closed and open them when they need to be opened.  Thy will be done.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Fundraise?

You may notice that there is now a giant thermometer on the side of this blog with a whopper of a number above it.  No, it's not the current temperature in Florida.  That monstrosity is there to keep track of how much money we raise to help with our adoption expenses. 

Why in the world would we want to show everyone how much this is costing us?  Why show how much we have been given in donations by doing fundraisers?  Why are we allowing the public to see what some people would consider no one's business? 

A year ago, we weren't sure we wanted to share those numbers with anyone.  We struggled with the idea of asking for donations to help fund our adoption.  We thought, "Why should we ask for help?  We never asked for help paying for the births of our 3 biological children."  A sermon preached by our Associate Pastor a year ago completely changed our thinking. 

Alan and I had been discussing the fact that we knew other families participated in fundraising.  We read the blogs.  We saw the numbers and statistics and scrolled through the testimonies.  We just weren't sure it was the right thing to do.  Would God approve?  What was His will for us in this process?  We knew He would provide if He had called us to fill out hundreds of pieces of paper, have our lives dissected, miss time with family to make phone calls, cry in frustration trying to get everything together we needed to present our dossier, fly around the world to a foreign country, and bring home children that needed a family.  He didn't call us to do that in our backyard in Florida.  He called us to do it in AFRICA.  If you want to read that story, you can click here: 
http://partakersofgraceblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-ethiopia.html
 If He called us to all of those things, we knew He would provide the means.  But how?

Last January as we sat in church with our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ and listened to the sermon on Sanctity of Life Sunday, our pastor talked about abortion.  Then he talked about adoption.  They go hand in hand, you see.  If we as believers are against abortion and want mothers who cannot keep their children to choose life over death, we have to be in support of adoption.  If we are in support of adoption, guess what?  That has to play out somewhere.  We can't have millions of believers saying they are for adoption but not have believers to take those babies when the mothers choose life.  It just doesn't work like that.  That's why we have millions of orphans all over the world.  That's why we have thousands of children in the foster care system in the United States alone.  They are there because of all the people who do not "feel" led to adopt.  This world is so broken.  The church is broken.  We are a people much of the time who like to speak about the good deeds that God would like us to do but we don't actually want to get our hands dirty doing them.  We want the homeless to be fed, widows to be visited, people to be loved, children to be cared for, but we don't want to have to interrupt our lives or make our lives uncomfortable to make those things happen.  I am not just trying to make everyone else feel bad here, for much of my life I have been in these categories, too, and in many ways, I still am. It's time for a wake-up call!  Time for action! 

Okay, I went off on a tangent.  Let me go back.  When our pastor spoke about adoption, he focused on it like a ministry.  He said (I know, Scott, this may not be word for word here, I'm paraphrasing :)  that adoption is a ministry that the church was called to undertake just like taking care of widows and feeding the needy.  James 1:27 says, "Religion that our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  The orphan crisis is a mission field.  What better way to show a child the gospel in action than to love them, care for them, feed them, rock them, comfort them, discipline them, and let them see the love of Christ through you every day.  (That's not to say I live up to a Christ-like figure every day.  Ask my kids- they'll tell you about all the times I mess up, yell, and get impatient.  They'll also tell you I ask for forgiveness and I bet they will tell you that their mom loves the Lord.  They KNOW it.)

Our pastor then pointed out that when the kids in our youth group (or even adults) go on a mission trip, they send out letters asking for support in the way of donations and prayer.  People give because they have the means to give and are not able to go on the mission trip themselves.  The kids don't have all the means but have the desire and willingness to go.  God provides a way for the people of the church to participate in the mission by their donations from their hard-earned money, and people who are willing to physically go and do the work.  It takes both.  If some people were not willing to give and other people were not willing to go, the mission wouldn't happen. 

It's the same with adoption! If adoption is a mission of the church, it makes sense that there are some people called to adopt and others called to support that adoption. 

When Scott spoke those words, Alan and I looked at each other, he leaned over and said, "I think we have our answer.  We're fundraising, and we're not going to be ashamed to do it."  After church we spoke with Scott about his message and our desire to adopt, and received his counsel about the fundraising process.

Fast forward almost a year.  We are getting ready to have our first large fundraiser in 3 weeks.  A BBQ dinner and silent auction.  We have had so many supporters for this event.  It's wonderful!  We are excited about the way God is bringing everything together. 

For every few supporters, there is, however, someone who doesn't understand.  Who doesn't "get it".  They see us as asking for money for something that should be only our responsibility.  They don't understand why adoption costs so much.  They make comments like, "Why can't you just get a kid right here from the foster system?", or, "Why are you asking for money when this is your decision and not someone else's?", or the dreaded, "What are you trying to do - buy a baby?" 

I know that we are not the only ones who receive harsh comments and admonitions.  I read about them often from new families in our adoption group through our agency.  They put out messages in frustration and hurt when people let them down through unkind words.  We have been there.  We were blessed to have people that have adopted before us give us a heads-up that we would encounter all kinds of cruelty.  But isn't that fitting?  Think about it.  When you are in God's will, I mean really in His will and doing things the world thinks are crazy and radical because of this "Jesus" person, you are promised that people will think you are nuts.  Jesus himself told us that we as his followers would be persecuted.  Persecution comes in many forms. 

Satan hates adoption.  That's right.  Adoption is such a picture of how God adopted us into His family through Jesus Christ and Satan can't stand that.  So I believe he whispers in people's ears untruths that they in their sinful nature believe may be right.  He did it to Eve.  He's still doing it today.  It's hard to ignore people's comments that you don't know very well.  It's harder to ignore negative comments from your family.  But in my opinion the hardest thing to ignore is when believers hurt other believers.  They don't do it on purpose!  I realize that.  But it's then that I have to pray without ceasing, asking God to help me forgive and not have resentment towards people I love. 

I hope that even if you don't agree with the fundraising efforts of adoptive families, you understand their point of view a little bit better. 

We are trying to serve God.  In whatever form that looks like to us.  We need to rise up as a church body, get off our backsides, and live out the gospel.  Like Stephen Curtis Chapman says, "Live out loud!"  That's another thing Satan has succeeded in - getting us to be lazy and complacent.  Lazy Christians don't make a dent in the world for Christ and Satan loves every minute of it.  He doesn't have to make us have terrible things happen in our lives, he just has to make us content.  I'm not talking about the contentment we are supposed to have in Jesus, I'm talking about the contentment that makes us think we are doing "enough".  Sinful contentment.  It may be the same word but the meaning is totally different.

Father, I pray that people's hearts will be opened all over the world to love orphans.  I pray that as pastors in America preach this coming Sunday on the Sanctity of Life, you would open people's hearts to see that pro-life issues and adoption go hand-in-hand.  Give us a desire as your people to proclaim the Gospel to every one we meet through our actions and words.  Help us to love people the way you love people.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

I must admit, I have read snippets about Martin Luther King, Jr. my entire life.  I learned about him in school.  I saw television programs that gave information about him.  I saw clips on news and internet.  But did I really listen?  Did I really comprehend what he said?  What he stood for?  Did I take those speeches, quotes, and actions to heart?  No. 

Isn't it amazing how things that once didn't seem relevant to your life have a way of becoming extremely important to you when your circumstances change?  When you grow as a person?  When your character develops?  When God totally revamps your life?  When you learn that this life is NOT ABOUT YOU? 

Shame on me for not seeing what was there all along. 
*The sin of our world's prejudice.
*The labeling of people that aren't like us.
*The sick way we have twisted the truth of the Scriptures.
*The way we put people in boxes and groups like they as individuals don't really matter.
You know what?  We all matter.  We were made in the image of God.  How much more special can we get?  I mean, really?

My prayer is that we can find a way to unite under the headship of Jesus Christ.  All Christ-followers are brothers and sisters in the family of the Church.  We are Jesus' bride.  When we go to Heaven, we will work and love and praise God together forever.  Every tribe, every tongue, every nation will be represented.  Trust me, it's in the Bible.  I've read it!  I pray that we will realize that our skin color does not matter.  It is beautiful.  Diversity is beautiful.  God did this on purpose. He made me light tan on purpose.  He made my future children with brown skin on purpose.  He made some of my friends with ivory skin on purpose.  I love ethnically diverse families.  They are such a picture of how we are called as followers of Jesus to be ONE in Him.  Praise God that we can appreciate each other's heritage. 

The quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that is in my heart today is this: "I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls as brothers and sisters."  Yes, Dr. King, your dream is slowly coming true. 

"Our lives begin to end the day when we become silent about things that matter."  -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I pray that we will not be silent about prejudice and racial harmony.  I pray the church will rise up and let the world know that we are all equally made by God to worship and bring glory to Him.

I'll leave you with the link to World Vision's blog today to read:
http://blog.worldvision.org/christian-witness/the-power-of-obedience/

Together we CAN witness change in the world one person and one family and one heart at a time.  Just do what God calls you to do. It is not up to you individually to change someone's heart.  God does that through his Holy Spirit.  Just be obedient.  That's your job.   

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 AWAA Ethiopia Disney Reunion

Every year there is an AWAA Reunion where families that have brought home children from Ethiopia or are in the process now can come together, meet, and have fellowship.  This year they came to Orlando, which is only 45 minutes from our house.  We did not spend the money to stay at Disney, since we are not home with our children yet.  Saturday night we had the opportunity to meet a few of the families at a pizza restaurant for dinner.  It was wonderful to talk to the children and parents who have been through everything we are walking through now. 

The family that coordinated the pizza dinner was the "Crazy Roots" (it's the name of their blog).  Here's a picture of Jayde and Easton with two of their children, Caleb and Bekeh:
Here is the link to their blog if you'd like to read their story: http://crazyrootsethiopia.blogspot.com/

There were two more highlights to the evening.  The first was meeting Eric and Laura Anderson in person.  Almost a year ago, I began reading messages from them in the AWAA group online.  This past year they started a t-shirt company/ministry called Happy Tees.  If you have been around our family at all, you have probably seen us wearing our t-shirts that have a picture on the front with the words underneath that say, "My Happy".  These are shirts made by the Anderson's company.  Every time you purchase a t-shirt, one is given to an orphan.  They have given them out in Africa and just recently added India to the list of places the shirts are handed out at orphanages.  It's so cool!  Here is the website: http://myhappyshirts.com/  Their daughter, Claire, is the baby on the home page.  We followed their journey to bring Claire home this past year and have emailed and been facebook friends.  Finally we met face-to-face and ate dinner at their table.  Jayde had the priveledge of sitting next to Miss Claire.  Here they are:



The reason our family was able to go at all to the pizza place was due to the information given by our final spotlight family of the evening, the Allecas.  One year ago, Anthony and Paige, along with their children Francesca, Marianna, Matteo, Tamirat (Tommy), and Million (Milly) came to our house and spent time with us.  Alan and I had just entered the program and signed up on the Ethiopia Yahoo group.  Paige said she was visiting family in Winter Haven, which is about half an hour from where we live.  So we decided to meet.  Their visit was a joy and an encouragement. We were able to ask questions from a family that brought home children only 6 weeks before.  She told me I was not crazy to be feeling all of the things I was feeling (she let me know that again last night, by the way.  Thanks, Paige!) and Anthony gave Alan advice from a guy's perspective.  We hit it off right away.  I wish we lived closer so we could see each other more.  They live in New York.  Here's the link to their blog so you can read their story: http://ourethiopianblessings.blogspot.com/

This is a picture of the Kicklighter and Alleca kids at the restaurant (it's blurry, I know):


This one is better and it's of our whole families:


This was a picture of the kids from last year's visit:
We had a super time meeting everyone, but it did make us long to bring home our children ASAP.  

Intentional Bonding

The research required by our adoption association is phenominal and at times overwhelming (lots of reading).  While I am an avid reader, Alan is not.  We have found a way around this for the most part.  It may sound silly, but it works for us.  On all long trips to family members houses and sometimes at night, I read out loud to him.  That way I get to read at the same time and we can discuss what we are learning instead of just doing it individually.  Sometimes when there are a lot of boring parts (statistics, etc.) I can filter the information and give him the highlights.  This technique is letting us have some great discussions that would have been missed if we read in our own little compartmentalized brains.

Many of the books we've read have been eye opening about the bonding process.  The good thing is, some of these books in particular that I will share in a future post about adoption resources, have been full of strategies to help in my parenting right now.  I don't have to wait to implement them!  My family is already benefitting from the information.

One of the ideas Alan and I have yet to finalize (we probably have a very long wait ahead of us so there's plenty of time yet) is our attachment plan once we are home.  I'd like to share the blog posts of a fellow AWAA adoptive mom who is actually leaving today to go to Ethiopia and pick up her son.  She shares her family's plan in 3 parts.  I'm posting this so you can get an idea of what we may do in the future.  Thanks, Olivia!

Part one is August 18th.  You can click on Part 2 (January 13) and then she has a link at the beginning of that post to get to Part 1 (hope that makes sense).  Part 3 is January 14.  They are not very long, try to read them in order:
http://lovingtheadventure.blogspot.com/#!/2011/08/being-intentional-about-bonding-are.html

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Pot Band

I forgot to show you what we did New Years Eve.  We were staying in Georgia at my in-law's second home.  Usually we are with our friends in Tennessee and we bring sparklers, noise makers, blowers, and hats.  This year, due to some family circumstances, we were unable to visit them.  I totally forgot all the usual goodies we play with on New Years Eve when we left our house.  So we improvised!  At midnight, we let the kids go outside (it was freezing and Alana was in shorts, I know, but hey, we're Floridians, so I'm just going to claim that we didn't know any better) and bang pots.  Oh yeah, a joyful noise.  The poor neighbors!






The pot band was spectacular.  Oh, ah, by the way, Grandma, we owe you a small frying pan that got dented when your grandson showed how forcefully he could hit a pan so all of Glennville could hear.  I'll replace it before your next trip to Georgia!

Words

I love words.  Big ones, small ones.  I love the way words can make you feel.  Words make you laugh, cry, evoke anger, long for something or someone, make you hungry, smile, frown, purse you lips, and raise your eyebrows.  Words especially make you brain go into overdrive!  Words are fascinating!

Maybe that's why I love to study God's word.  I'm not talking basic Beth Moore, people (no offense against Beth Moore Bible studies, they are great).  Not spiritual milk.   I want the meat!  Studying the Greek and Hebrew meanings, root words, and counting how many times a particular word is used in each capacity gives me goosebumps. 

I AM A NERD.

I said it. That's okay with me.  Took the words right out of your mouth, didn't I?

Our house is filled with words.  You could spend some time walking into each room and reading the signs, but that's how I learn.  I read.  So I surround myself and my family with words.  Truth. 

Or just opinions.  Here's one I'm fond of.  An opinion, that is:


Please excuse the cheap camera glare from the flash.  I never claimed to be a photagrapher!

Some truth from the living room:


From the dining room:







The kitchen:


The bedroom:






Schoolroom.  Oh boy, do we need this in our sarcasm-comes-so-easily family:



Hallway I get to change this one to say whatever I want.  Often I walk by to find one of the children has changed it to say whatever they want, too.  Love it:


Hand written Scripture.  Not just for my kids, mind you, but for me first and foremost:








Ever heard of the dictionary game?  A nerd game, okay?  Try this on a stormy night when your electricity goes out and you have no TV available.  Maybe then it'll fly with your family.  You open the dictionary to a random page and choose a word.  Read the word aloud, but not the definition.  Everyone else guesses what they think the word means.  You may not believe it, but you can bust a gut laughing so hard when everyone gives off-the-wall definitions.  If they actually get it right, they get a piece of candy.  (In our house, candy is the ultimate prize.  They take after me.)  My favorite dictionary to use is the Webster's 1828 Dictionary.  It is nothing like the modern dictionary. 

An example of how un-modern the definitions are is the word "Truth".  Well, it's not that the definitions are wrong.  They are just based on God's Word.  Imagine that!  The word "Truth" in the 1828 dictionary has 13 possible variations or meanings after it.  Here are a few: 
1) Conformity to fact or reality; exact accordance with that which is, or has been, or shall be.  The truth of history constitutes its whole value. We rely on the truth of the scriptural prophecies.  "My mouth shall speak truth".  Prov. 8  "Sanctify them through the truth;  thy word is truth."  John 17.
10) Sincerity.  God is a spirit and they that worship him must "worship in spirit and in truth."  John 4.
11)  The truth of God, is his veracity and faithfulness. 
12) Jesus Christ is called the truth.  John 14.

Those are just some of the variations of "Truth".  

I wonder what Noah Webster would say if he read the dictionary printed in 2012.  Words are powerful.  Use them wisely.  Or don't use them at all.  Build each other up, don't tear down.  Love one another.  Do it with your words!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hard Knock Life

Sometimes I sing to myself.  I admit it.  When no one is around, I turn up the volume in my head and crank out the tunes.  When you are singing to yourself, you don't need backup singers and a band.  Today I had a little Broadway going on in the form of "Annie".   As I was singing the melody, I realized what words were coming out of my mouth.  Here are part of the lyrics:
"It's the hard-knock life for us, It's the hard-knock life for us!  'Steada treated, we get tricked.  Steada' kisses, we get kicked!  It's the hard-knock life.  Got no folks to speak of, so, it's the hard-knock row we hoe.  Cotton blankets, 'steada wool, Empty bellies, 'steada full, It's the hard-knock life.  Don't it feel like the wind is always howlin'?  Don't it seem like there's never any light?  Once a day don't you wanna' throw the towel in?  It's easier than puttin' up a fight.  No one's there when your dreams at night get creepy.  No one cares if you grow or if you shrink.  No one dries when your eyes get red and weepy.  From all the cryin' you would think this place's a sink.  Ohhhh.... Empty belly life... rotton smelly life... full of sorrow life.... no tomorrow life....Santa claus we never see.  Santa claus, what's that?  Who's he?  No one cares for you a smidge, when you're in an orphanage."  (There's more to the song, and I think it was written by Aileen Quinn, according to Google.)  Do you know how many times I've hummed that tune since I was a kid with no regard to what the song says?  Hundreds?  It makes me sad. 

All that to preface what I've been pondering the past few days.  Our adoption, again.  Surprise, surprise!  This week, a fellow adoptive family lost their adopted little boy to cancer.  They arrived home with him in March and right after that they found out he had leukemia.  He passed away this week.  Some of the things that go through your head when you hear about something like that are (1) grief (2) all that time spent for only a few months with their son? (3) all that money spent on the adoption to only hold him for a matter of weeks? (4) why?  Why?  The fact is we won't know why until we join him in Heaven. 

What if that's us?  Would it be worth it?  Is something so raw and painful and hard worth it? 

In Bloodlines, John Piper says, "Oh, how many people today-even Christians- would murmur at Jesus for callously letting Lazarus die and putting him and Mary and Martha and others through the pain and misery of those days.  And if they saw that this was motivated by Jesus's desire to magnify the glory of God, many would call this harsh or unloving.  What this shows is how far above the glory of God most people value pain-free lives.  For most people, love is whatever puts human value and human well-being at the center.  So Jesus's behavior is unintelligible to them."

Of course our painful lives are worth it  Worth it all if they are lived to glorify God.  But it's so hard to see it!

What does that look like in adoption?  It looks like the faces of these precious parents who spent money and time, flew half-way around the world, brought home a little boy, loved on him for months, then had to say goodbye.  The fact that he knew the love of a mommy and daddy for a short time brought glory to God.  The people in their family and community that are watching them deal with this loss are seeing God glorified. 

Who knows what the future holds?  God does.  Who knows what circumstances He will let us go through to bring glory to the only one whom it is due?  God does. 

When I was thinking about homeschooling a few years ago, I read many books on the subject.  I talked to many people.  This may sound silly, but one of the books that had the most affect on my decision was not a homeschooling book at all.  It was a fictional story that my Aunt Dee lent me to read.  I still have it (sorry, Aunt Dee).  I have read parts over and over because they were so profound.  The book is called Seasons Under Heaven, by Beverly LaHaye and Terri Blackstock.  It's about a group of women who live on the same street and what they go through in their lives as they struggle to figure out how their lives are supposed to bring glory to God.  Get the women from the "Desperate Housewives" series out of your head, because these women are not desperate in the way the world sees them.  They are desperate for God. 

One of the moms in the book is a homeschooling mom.  Her son was waiting for a donor heart and was in the hospital.  She shares the fact that she looks at her children like the Parable of the Talents.  Here are some quotes, so you can see what I'm talking about:

"So many people just keep looking to the future," Brenda went on.  "They think, 'Someday my kids'll grow up and I'll be happy.'  And others look back and think, 'If only my kids were home again, I'd be happy.'  And some think,'If I could just do this or be that, I'd be happy.'  But it's funny how they're never very happy.  Even Christians," She said, as if that surprised her. She looked down at Tory.  "But you know what?'  .......
"I've been happy.  God's given me these four children, and I've invested them.  They're my life's work.......We've got these little human beings in our hands, and it's our job to raise them up in the way God wants them, so that when He comes back for them, we can say we invested them wisely.....
"God may take Joseph back today",  Brenda went on, "But if He does, I'll know that I gave Joseph all I had.  I invested him wisely.  If he grows to be an adult I've prepared him to be a godly man.  And if he doesn't I think God will be happy with what I did for him, anyway."

That's what I want.  With any children.  With all of my children.  To invest them wisely.  There are lots of people I know going through difficult time with their children, and they want to be able to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant" someday in regard to their kids.  There are no perfect parents. 

We are not promised 75 years with our children.  I have not lost a child yet.  I hope and pray I never will.  But I don't know the road God has called me to walk in the future.  With the children we have now or the children we will someday bring home. 

One of my favorite parts of the book, Seasons Under Heaven, talked about entrusting your children to God.  Brenda is speaking again.  "Sylvia said something to me that I've tried to remember ever since.  It is that all of the blessings we have come from God.  That means our children, too.  We try to hold them in clenched fists, and think they're ours.  But she reminded me that Joseph belongs to God, not me.  I've been entrusted with him for a while." Her mouth trembled as she got the words out.  "But I have to hold that blessing in an open hand, because God could take him back at any time.  He has every right to.  Joseph's not an object to be bargained with, and God loves him even more than I do."

Isn't that hard to comprehend?  That God could love your child more than you do? 

So whatever road we walk in the future, we will walk with Jesus leading the way, bringing glory to God the Father.  Tonight I am praying for my friends that have lost little ones.  That they will know the God of comfort and peace.  Jesus is our peace.  May He be yours, too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian

My last book review was on Kisses From Katie.  If you still haven't read it, click off of this, click on Amazon, and order it.  It's an in-depth look at how to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  After you learn that concept and realize that Katie is a white girl who doesn't care a lick about the fact that all her 14 adopted daughters have dark skin, read this book by John Piper-  Bloodlines:  Race, Cross, and the Christian.  This book is 267 pages of exactly what God intended race and ethnicity to be in the Christian life, and the screwed up mess we as sinful, fallen, human beings have made of it.  Oh.  Please.  Read.  This.  Bloodlines is not for the person looking for a weekend fun easy read.  No, ma'am.  Bloodlines is for the Christian looking for an answer to "Who did God make me to be in relation to every other people group on this planet?"  I was lucky (not that there is any such thing as "luck" in the Christian life).  I had studied in depth almost all of the scripture passages contained in this book before, so I was able to read it and understand the first time the majority of what John Piper was saying.  I realize that most people have not had the opportunity or have not taken advantage of the opportunity to study, using the Precept Upon Precept method, the passages from the Bible that he discusses.  So don't be surprised if you find yourself reading a couple paragraphs and going back to re-read them again. It's a good thing.  Much of the information will probably by new to you. 

Have you ever wondered what you can do in your hometown to promote race equality?  Have you wondered what God said about race equality at all?  Is it okay to marry interracially?  Be best friends with someone of another race?  Have an interracial church family?  What about affirmative action?  What about the history of slavery of America?  Where does that leave me?  What about global promotion of the gospel?  What does the Bible actually say about any of those topics?  If you can answer yes to any of those questions, then this book is for you! 

John Piper adopted a child of a different race 15 years ago.  He has spoken on this topic.  You can find a sermon here on a multitude of racial issues if you'd like to listen http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/by-topic/racial-harmony

Bloodlines is broken down into 2 major parts.  Part one is Our World:  The Need For The Gospel and it has two sections.  In section one John Piper gives his history and some statistics about the global shifting of different ethnic groups.

He says, "I believe that the gospel- the good news of Christ crucified in our place to remove the wrath of God and provide forgiveness of sins and power for sanctification- is our only hope for the kind of racial diversity and harmony that ultimately matters.  If we abandon the fullness of the gospel to make racial and ethnic diversity quicker or easier, we create a mere shadow of the kingdom, an imitation.  And we lose the one thing that can bring about Christ-exalting diversity and harmony.  Any other kind is an alluring snare.  For what does it profit a man if he gains complete diversity and loses his own soul?"

Regarding the statistics, Piper states that "The point of theses statistics about the urbanization, diversification, and the changing global church is fourfold.  First, I hope they humble those of us who are white and have assumed a kind of dominance for a long time.  This is fading, and, if God would humble us under his wise and mighty hand, we would rejoice with tremendous joy.  Second, I hope this new ethnic reality inclines our hearts to know and love our Christian brothers and sisters who are ethnically different from ourselves and makes us eager and ready to be genuine partners with them in the great challenges of missions before us.  Third, I pray the reality of ever-nearer racial and ethnic diversity will make us go deeper into the grace of the gospel so that our roots are strong, when change seems overwhelming or even threatening.  In that way, I pray we would increasingly bear the fruit of the gospel in the pursuit of Christ-exalting ethnic deversity and harmony.  That's why I worote the book."

He's trying to get us to see that it DOES NOT MATTER in the grand scheme of things what color our skin is.  God made each of us differently and those differences can be celebrated.  "Color and ethnicity will count for nothing in the court of heaven.  One thing will count:  the perfection of Jesus Christ.  The question will be:  are we 'found in him, not having a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith' (Phil. 3:9)?  Which means that the root answer to moral disintegration - white and black- is not government help or self-help, but the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1;16).  And this salvation is the power of 'righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Rom. 14:17). "

The second part of the book is divided into 4 sections on issues with the gospel, application of the gospel, freedom, interracial marraiges, and prejudice being just a few of the topics covered.  It's called God's Word:  The Power Of The Gospel.

Piper makes it clear that the Bible is not right-wing or left-wing.  Only correct.  Period.  He points out the contradictions between what the Bible says and what confessing Christians have done for the last 2000 years.

He says, "By his (Jesus) blood he obtained them for himself, and he 'must bring them also'.  That is what world missions is for.  Christ gathers his sheep through his ambassadors.  If the purchase of a people - a bride, a church, a kingdom, and priesthood - "from every tribe' is intentional, designed, and purposeful, and not a coincidence, not by human chance, then the implications for racial and ethnic diversity and harmony among Christ's people are huge. "  "God intends to have a people not just from three or four ethnic groups, but from all ethnic groups.  All shades, all shapes, all cultures.  This is underlined by the four words 'people,' 'tribe,' 'language,' and 'nation' (Greek ethnos).  This covers the whole range of ethnic diversity in the world.  God intentionally pursues a people that is extraordinarily diverse."

This book is challenging on a myriad of levels.  History, what you may have been taught by your family, what notions you have in your mind about the stereotypes of race, what the Bible says about ethnic diversity, among so many others.  I pray you will read this book.  Don't be afraid to have your beliefs challenged!  If every Christian read this book, the world would be changed.  Because it's filled with Scripture.  And if every Christian knew and understood Scripture, the world would be changed.  Instead of sitting in the pew on Sunday and receiving two or three verses of Scripture during the sermon, get out of your comfort zone and read it for yourself!  Discover God's character.  It will change your life.  I don't need to promise you that. God already has.