Friday, April 24, 2009

friday fun :-)

A little bit of lighthearted fun on for Friday. :-) Sorry the video cuts off Sara a bit...the good news is that I didn't crash while filming. Tee hee. After Sara watched herself singing she said, "I sing SO pretty." (Liam's back there too, just quietly reading his new library books.)

video

P.S. More to come about our 963 Coffee giveaway. :-)

Praying your day is especially sweet. Keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

no words, really

After I finished writing my post below, I went over to Tom Davis' blog and was immediately brought to tears.

You can read my post, written as a mom who is richly blessed in America. I have the resources and luxury of taking my daughter away for the weekend in order to prepare her for the future.

And then, you can read the flip-side of our lives and what other children are experiencing on the other side of the world. They are victims of sin. They are left alone to deal with the wrong that was done to them. They are left wounded, broken, hungry and infected with a deadly disease. The circumstances they are in is wrong. So very, very, very wrong.

This is where my passion comes from, Friends, when I write on my blog. When I talk about social justice and ask you to take a look at the tragedy that is going on in our world today. When I share about the amazing things people are doing on behalf of Jesus. THIS is what it's all about. When I invite you to join in the work that is being done. It's not easy. Far from it. But it is needed. Desperately needed. And, when we respond to the need and do whatever we can the results are oh-so-beautiful.

My own family has experienced incredible hardships. Bad things have happened. But, we weren't left alone. God surrounded us with new friends to love and support us. We may have looked pretty and clean on the outside, but on the inside, we were very much the same as these precious women and children in Ethiopia are. Hurting and in need. The details and circumstances may be very different, but inside we are all humans...and we need each other.

We are all God's children. Some of His children, however, are currently in desperate need. They are in need of love, safety, food, shelter, medical attention, and care. They deserve to be held, comforted, fed, washed, clothed and CELEBRATED.

My heart is anguished by the injustice that has been done to them, but my spirit is full of joy because of the work that Tom and his team are doing RIGHT NOW. I know the stories are hard to read. The ramifications of sin is ugly. It's horribly difficult to look at. Wouldn't it be much more comfortable instead to hop over to P*ttery B*arn's website and do a little shopping? I know it! I fight the urge not to look away and distract myself with something that is far more appealing to the eye. Something that numbs the pain that starts to spread in my heart.

We can turn our eyes away from the suffering and choose instead to blame God. But you know, the sad reality is that it's not God's fault that our world is such a crazy place of disparity. We can try to put it all on Him and rant about how "He needs to do something."

However, the reality is that God is watching over us, silently weeping, wondering why we aren't doing something. He's broken-hearted because we are able to justify closing our eyes while blaming Him.

Please don't hear my words as words of condemnation. I've done it myself, just yesterday. I closed an email, unable to read more, because the details were too ugly, to difficult to hear. Please hear my heart for what it is, broken yet full of hope. Knowing that we can do something about our current situation.

We are strong enough to look evil in the eye and overcome it with good.

God doesn't expect us to do it all. We can't. But He is waiting for us to give the little amount we do have and trust that He will do something extraordinary with it.

We do have a choice here. It will cost us. It will be hard. It will be worth it. (After you've read Tom's current post, scroll down a way and read about Mary. Oh yes, it is most definitely worth it! There is healing. There is redemption. Like I said, it is oh-so-beautiful. Just ask my own family.)

Humbled by the fact that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE and yet excited that I am able to use that life to bless others.

Blessings & grace,


passport2purity

This weekend I'm taking my preteen on a special getaway. I've booked a chic condo in a nearby city and have planned some activities that my daughter enjoys (shopping for new clothes!) I'm really looking forward to having some dedicated 1:1 time with her to celebrate who she is, who God created her to be and share with her the amazing gifts He has in store for her.

In other words, we'll be having "the talk." :-)

When I was younger, most of the kids I knew were handed a book and told to ask their parents if they had any questions. Talk about uncomfortable! One of my close friends, however, shared with me that her mom actually took her to the beach for a celebratory weekend, which included "the talk." The idea stuck with me because it seemed like such a personal way to learn about something so important.

Several of my friends have done Passport2Purity with their kids and shared with me how beneficial they felt it was not only to their preteen, but also to their relationship with them.

Family Life's website describes the programs this way:

"Get away with your preteen or teenager for a one-on-one adventure of a lifetime! Passport2Purity® will guide you and your son or daughter through biblical principles for life's most difficult challenges; including dating and those other difficult topics to discuss. Let Dennis and Barbara Rainey lead you through an encouraging do-it-yourself retreat full of discovery, communication and fun."

Our weekend will begin on Friday evening. We'll have dinner at one of my daughter's favorite restaurants and I'll present her with her "passport." Inside, Geoff and I will have written personal notes to her. After dinner, we'll drive to our condo, settle in and start our first session. I'm preparing some object lessons that will really help her to understand the incredible gift God has given us and why it is important to protect and cherish that gift until we are married.

On Saturday, we'll have more sessions to complete, but we'll also spend a good portion of the day shopping. (She already has her list ready!) On Sunday morning, we'll pack up and head to the beach for hopefully a day in the sun (or more shopping!) and then wrap up our weekend with a special dinner.

I can't wait. I'm really looking forward to being able to teach my oldest how important purity is from a Biblical standpoint. Growing up, unfortunately, I didn't understand most of what I will be teaching her. I was taught that s*x was bad and should be saved for marriage. Of course, the world gave me conflicting views on all of that.

I truly didn't understand that it was a gift my Creator had given me. Nor did I understand that waiting until the time He had intended it for (marriage) was to my benefit. Outside of marriage it is a sin, yes. But I think it's crucial that we are able to internalize not only why it's harmful to us outside of marriage; but also, why it's such a blessing within the marriage relationship.

I know that a large percentage of the population believes that "Well, they're going to do it any way. So, I'll let the school teach them about it and then I'll make sure they have the proper protection to keep them safe." I guess that's one option. Unfortunately, while in the best of situations it may protect the body, it doesn't protect the heart. Nor does it protect the spirit.

Although Geoff and I aren't able to choose the paths our children take, it doesn't mean that we should hand them the keys to the car without first teaching them how to drive and the rules of the road. I think parents often feel that because we can't control our children's ultimate choices our only option is to throw in the towel. "Temptation is temptation and eventually they'll give into it?" Right?

Wrong. We can't control our children or make their choices for them. But we can do everything in our power to instill within them the extraordinary value they have as God's children--and the blessings and responsibilities that come with that. Even if we, ourselves, were left to figure things out on our own when we were their age.

I want to give my children the very best I can give them. I want to share with them the very best that God has for them. I love being able to invest myself, my time, my resources and my attention into them. The more I pour out on their behalf, the more blessed I am in return. Of course that's never my motivation, but over time, God has helped me really experience that "in giving, we receive."

I am eternally grateful that God has allowed me the privilege (and responsibility) of being a parent. I may not get it perfect and I may make a lot of mistakes (daily), but I truly want to do the very best I can. For my children and for my God.

What a joy it is to dig into Scripture with my children and help them to understand that because God is love, He has our very best interest at hand. By instructing us to wait, He's not trying to deprive us of pleasure, He's trying to protect us from a lifetime of pain, confusion, devastation, disease, addictions, and much, much worse.

Can you tell how passionate I am about this subject?!? And to think, I used to worry about when this day would come. Now, I can't wait. :-)

Investing myself fully into my children, and their futures, is most definitely a part of LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Off to go attend to some birds (and bees)...


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

crazy love wrap-up

This morning I finished reading the final chapter in Crazy Love. (Wow!) Tomorrow I'm going to flip to the beginning of the book and read it all over again. I've never done that before with a book (well, aside from the Bible.) I'm so glad that I trusted the recommendation of my three new friends.

I have been challenged, encouraged, and inspired by all that Francis has shared through his book. And yet, he fully acknowledges that he can't tell the rest of us how to live our lives, because he's having hard enough time discerning what he should do with his. :-)

So, my thanks go out to Pastor Chan for taking the time to write such a life changing book and my praises go out to the God who inspired such an incredible book. To God be the glory.

If you haven't grabbed a copy yet and are in a place in your life where you feel stagnant, this book is for you. If you have a good understanding of your faith, but haven't yet figured out how to live it out on a day-to-day basis, this book is for you. If you are able to be challenged without being offended, this book is for you. If you see others pouring out their lives for Christ, but aren't sure if you could do the same, this book is for you. If you don't have a lot of free time or are a slow reader, Chan has an audio-book for you. ;-)

I actually just ordered a copy of the book on CD for my husband. He doesn't have a lot of spare time for reading, but does have a 1/2 hour commute to work every day. I'm SO excited to hear what Geoff thinks of the book, cause I can already tell, God has big things He's waiting for us to jump up and get a'workin' on! :-)

So, before I go round two with Crazy Love, I thought I would share a little bit of what stood out for me in the tenth chapter. I think that we are all going to take away different things, which is the beauty of God's very nature.

"Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you." (Oswald Chambers) I have been so guilty of this over my life and as soon as I read those words found myself repenting for all of the times I've done this very thing. Sigh.

Chan followed up that quote with one of his own, "Be careful not to turn others' lives into a mold for you own." We are all created uniquely and God has plans for each of us. None more important than another's. He created me to be uniquely "Amy" and I'm learning more and more every day exactly what that looks like. When I try to be someone I wasn't created to be, those giftings and strengths get completely derailed, and basically, I stink. :-(

God needs ALL of us to do our own specific "work," to do it well, and to do it together. We are supposed to be one body. I've been saddened lately seeing a large portion of the body of Christ with hacksaws in hand going after each other. We can be so destructive when we allow fear, doubt or jealousy get hold of us. Again, another area for me to personally repent.

I pray that God will bring about the forgiveness and healing that needs to happen in order for us to be able to work together to do His Kingdom work. So much time and energy get wasted when we are so busy pointing out the flaws in someone else's work and forget that THE God of the universe is watching them. He is capable of correcting them and guiding them. We need to put our eyes back on our own work and keep our focus there. Such a good reminder for me.

Chan also wrote, "True faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God's fidelity to His promises." This is a huge area where God has been teaching me lately. Especially in regard to our adoption and beginning to step out and be a voice for widows and orphans world-wide, especially in Ethiopia. He continues with, "We must learn to listen and obey God, especially in a society where it's easy and expected to do what is comfortable." Even among Christians.

I'm saddened to think of all of the times I have discouraged others from doing something they felt God calling them to do. When I try to talk them out of something they feel passionate about, or even just don't actively support their decision, I am in effect doubting God's power. It's not about their ability to hear God correctly. It's about God's ability to work through them for His will and His glory.

(Oh, Father. I'm so sorry for all of the times I have gotten in your way because of my own personal doubt. Please continue to increase my faith in You and my understanding in who You are. Please help me to believe the best about others and to cheer them on as they actively pursue You and Your purpose for their lives.)

Francis also challenged me to make it my own personal goal to "live as though each person I come in contact with is Christ." I'm working on that. It takes time and persistence, but the results that happen when I do this are amazing. All of the petty problems quickly melt away and my vision is immediately cleared. Not only do I see others through a lens of love, but I also see myself through a lens of love. God is SO good.

Praying your day has been full of purpose, passion and joy. May we all fully embrace LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

In Christ's love and grace,

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

celebrations

Today's my birthday! :-) The highlight of our day was having our social worker and his assistant visit our house today for our final home study visit! One step closer to bringing our precious son home!!! Yay!

For the last couple of years, we've been blessed to be able to celebrate my birthday over a long weekend at our favorite condo at the beach. This year, however, our "extra funds" are being used to pay for the various adoption fees...and I couldn't be any happier!

That said, the beach is still my favorite place to be with my family. So, instead of spending a long weekend there, we spent one glorious, fun-filled day. I'm so blessed!

There was sandcastle building with my youngest daughter, a walk along the shore with my oldest daughter searching for sea shells, and some kite flying and adventure finding with my son. My incredible husband blessed me by capturing the entire day in beautiful photos.

We ended our trip by enjoying a ginormous pizza at our favorite little pizza place. Mmmm good!






Celebrating life, love and family are most definitely a part of LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Sending blessings your way,

Monday, April 20, 2009

scared: a novel on the edge of the world

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you've discovered that I'm all about books and movies that serve a purpose.

My top favorite movies include: Fireproof, A Walk to Beautiful, Seven Pounds, We are Together, and Beyond Belief.

My top favorite books include: Crazy Love, From Ashes to Africa, Fields of the Fatherless and Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds.

The last two books were written by Tom Davis, whom my husband and I are hoping to meet when he visits Oregon next month. Tom is currently in Ethiopia (where my new son is currently living!) Tom has invested his heart and live into the "fields of the fatherless." You can find links to all of his books and ministries directly from his blog. The work Tom is doing is changing lives. God is using his ministry and books powerfully.

By highlighting Jesus' red letters for me, Tom has inspired my family to invest ourselves and resources further into the Kingdom work. As I shared recently, my family has begun our own advocacy on behalf of orphans and widows.

One of the many things we'll be doing is selling 963 Coffee (& cocoa!) The funds we raise will benefit Ethiopian widows and help them to keep their precious families intact. I'll be giving away free samples in the very near future, so please keep checking back in with me to get more details. :-)

Tom has branched out into writing fiction with his new book Scared: a Novel on the Edge of the World. (BTW - his publisher is including a warning on the cover!) The sad reality is that his book is closer to fact than fiction. It is based upon the devastating reality of our world today. Take a look at this powerful book trailer he put together:


Scared - A Novel on the Edge of the World from Children's HopeChest on Vimeo.

I've already pre-ordered my own copy and am sure I will read it cover to cover in less than a day! :-) I LOVE a good read, and since I'm so proud of Tom for the way he's living out his life, I know his new book will be even better than the past three.

I know that the needs of the world can feel overwhelming. I pray that instead of feeling overwhelmed, however, you feel inspired to invest yourself into one of more of the countless opportunities that are available. Or, better yet, start your own. I promise, you won't regret your decision. Remember that we can never out-give God and He will always meet our needs when we trust Him.

LIVING A BLESSED LIFE and continuing to give thanks for those God brings into my life (including all of you I've met online!)

Sweet, sweet blessings,