Saturday, June 27, 2009

live and become

I rented this movie from NetFlix and put off watching it because I knew it was going to be intense. Last night I popped it into the DVD player to watch the first few minutes. I wanted to see if the movie was worth watching.

Two hours and twenty minutes later, I was a puddle of tears on the couch. :-) Yes, it was worth watching. And I'll be watching again tonight with Geoff.

I was first pulled in by the actor who played the main character. His big curly hair and the shape of his face reminded me of our Ethiopian son waiting for us have a world away.

(I so wish I could share his photos, but we have to wait. He's REALLY handsome and has a beautiful smile. And as I said before, he seriously looks like a darker version of Liam. Only God!)

Anyhow, the movie was very well done. I was touched by it on so many different levels.

Here's what wrote about it:

"‘LIVE AND BECOME’ is a gripping and engaging tale of deception and survival that entwines the issues of politics, religious right, love and identity around the fate of one young boy. In 1984, displaced by civil war and famine, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians walked the long road to refugee camps in Sudan. Hidden among them were the Falashas, Ethiopian Jews and direct descendants of King Solomon.

Israel airlifted the Falashas to a new life in Israel. In the mayhem, a starving Christian mother entrusts her 9-year old son with a bereaved Falasha mother. When the 'mother' of the newly named Schlomo dies, he is adopted by kind, liberal people. Wracked by his loss and the gravity of his secret, Schlomo struggles against his good fortune, unable to come to terms with a new country, a new culture and its own prejudices."

Gripping, indeed. The one scene that stood out the most was when the Ethiopian boys were receiving their first shower. 'Solomon,' a victim of the drought, looked up at the water flowing from the ceiling. When he followed its train down to the floor and down the drain, he became extremely distraught. Can you imagine?

Geoff and I have talked at length about what "M" will think of America. When I stand at the check-out aisle in the grocery store and look at all the extra (non-necessary) stuff that surrounds me, I cringe. It makes me uncomfortable. Especially when I look in my own cart. What will he think?

We are working to simplify our lives even more. Not just for our new son's sake, but for our own. Our current house is much smaller than the last. And yet, we still have great excess. The Lord challenged me today to get rid of even more. I don't need it. I don't use it.

I simply acquire stacks of books, papers and stuff, until I need to spend a whole afternoon sorting through it. It doesn't help me. It stresses me out. (Am I the only one that struggles with this?)

When I woke up this morning, I couldn't help but think more about the movie and how it challenged me. I'm looking forward to watching it again tonight to see what else I can learn.

(Warning: This movie will make you feel uncomfortable. It addresses some tough topics. You will be required to read subtitles, but if you're like me, listening to Amharic, French and Hebrew is a rare treat! There are a few uses of profanity and a scene that fortunately doesn't go farther than it should to make its point. It's not a film for children, although the drought in Africa and Operation Moses are realities we should all be aware of.)

Yes, this movie struck a chord with me. I'm so glad that I took the time to watch it. I love being made to feel uncomfortable. I love to be challenged and shaken out of my comfortable, safe world. If you do too, I encourage you to spend 140 minutes and be blessed! :-)

On a side note, I read in my Bible commentary today that "blessed" can be defined as "spiritually 'happy' from God's perspective." When I say that I am living a blessed life, that's exactly what I mean.

I hope that you, my Friend, are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Rejoicing in my discomfort,

Friday, June 26, 2009

well done!

What exactly is this, you may ask? It's Sara's "silly creature," of course. :-) Creative, eh? My girl makes me smile and say, "Well done!"

Today I've had several opportunities to observe how other people are actively choosing to make the world a better place. I'm both inspired and humbled by the choices they are making.

I imagine that God is saying, "'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Matthew 25:21)

Aser and Kimberly are moving their family to Ethiopia. On their blog you can find a video in which they share about the awesome adventure God has called them on. I know the road may not be easy for them at times, but they have courageously said "yes" to God and for that I say, "Well done!"

My beautiful friend, Tara, believed God for a healthy son after experiencing devastating losses and pain. This morning she gave birth to a healthy baby boy! (Congrats Uriel & Tara! Proud parents of 3 beautiful boys.) God is SO good. I'm inspired by Tara's beautiful faith and the strength of their marriage. Well done!

This morning we spent over an hour at our credit union finalizing our adoption documents. (Can you say, "Dossier done?!?" Yahoo!!!) I talked with our notary, Patrick, about his plans to go to law school and work in the government. He wants to help people and change lives. (See random fact #1 about me on my previous post to understand why I think this is so great.) In order to save money for his schooling, he sold his prized sports car and now rides the MAX instead. Well done, Patrick!

Speaking of adoptions, I am thankful for all of our supportive friends who wrote not one, but two, letters of reference for us. The time and effort they invested into the future of our new son, "M," is helping to make the world a better place. We are deeply grateful and say, "Well done!"

My oldest, Chelsea, received her home school test results back today and scored very high. She has a heart for the Lord and is teaching her youngest sibling how to read and dance. For that, I say, "Well done!"

I have so many more incredible stories to share, but alas, my writing time has come to an end. I have a feeling that you, my Friend, are making decisions in your own life that are making the world a better place. I can't wait to see the flowers that God will grow in your future. Well done!!!

Today my heart is inspired by all those in my life who are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE and helping others to do the same.

Thank YOU for blessing me!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

seek His face

"Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always."
1 Chronicles 16:10,11

I was listening to another teaching message that encouraged me to seek the Lord's face instead of looking to His hand.

I was reminded of Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourselves in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."

It's in seeking a relationship with God that we find ourselves blessed. When our hearts are in line with His, we want those things that He wants for us.

The speaker then suggested that when needs arise in our lives, rather than ask for what we think we need, instead tell Jesus, "I need You."

In Him we find all that we need and more than we can imagine. It's a simple, but incredibly powerful prayer.

As I contemplated this new idea, the Lord revealed yet another piece of the puzzle. He challenged me to do the same thing with the people in my life.

Instead of looking to the hands of others (in essence, what they can give me), I should look to their face. Seek to have a deeper relationship with them. It's yet another place I can choose life and die to my flesh.

So often in life, our relationships are built upon our needs. What can this person give me? Love? Appreciation? Power? Security? Companionship? Or perhaps, material things?

Granted relationships, healthy relationships, are based upon mutual respect, love, giving and receiving. It's when they are built upon taking that they are no longer healthy.

And yet, doesn't our flesh always seem to have a bent towards our needs, our wants and taking them from whoever will meet our needs? It's a struggle, isn't it? Our flesh rears its ugly head even in places we don't realize it.

There's a phrase that many of us parents say to our children without even thinking about it. "Give me a hug." Even if we add a "please" on the end, did you know it's still taking? I was challenged by a counselor years ago to change the phrase to, "Can I give you a hug, please?" I admit, my spirit felt an 'ouch' when she shared this idea with me.

It may sound ridiculous, and I know that most of us have the best of intentions when we say the former phrase. But, when we take time to think about what we are saying and change up the words, a shift happens in our hearts. At least it did for me.

I still catch myself at times asking for a hug and it's then when I need to check my motives. Am I feeling low on love? Is that a need that I should go to others to fill, or should I go to the Lord first? Easy answer, huh? :-) Not quite so easy to do.

However, when we seek our child's face, our spouse's face, our friend's face, our pastor's face, an orphan's face, it is there that we find true and pure love. We are spurred on to give of ourselves first, rather than seek to fulfill our own needs or agendas.

It's a mindset change. It doesn't happen all at once but the results can be life changing. New, incredible things will begin to happen. (I promise!)

When we seek another's face and really see and honor them, our flesh dies. We experience that glorious connection. We find ourselves desiring to bless them. In turn, the blessings of God are showered down upon us. It's a beautiful thing.

(Of course we don't give in order to get. Whenever that's been my motive, I've lost out on God's goodness. Never fun!!!)

Consider the words that Jesus spoke in the Beatitudes. When we give to others mercy, we are shown mercy. Whatever we sow, we will reap. Amazing, isn't it? The incredible thing is that God's promises never fail.

As crazy as they may seem, they prove true every single time. In a world that so often lets us down, isn't it great to know that we can find stability, truth and faithfulness in the Lord?

If we ask God to begin to work in our hearts and change our thinking, He will. His Spirit will begin to nudge us in new ways and teach us. Even when we choose death (our flesh) over life (our spirit.)

The other day, I found myself looking to another person to make me feel better. I felt the Lord immediately stop me. He nudged me to seek their face and look into their eyes.

In less than a second, I felt His gentle conviction and my true motives were revealed. He was teaching me in the moment and calling me to take another path. A new path.

All change takes time. Again, God is oh-so-patient with us. He desires to bless and grow us. When it is His Spirit speaking to us, it is gentle and kind. We feel motivated to change because of His love and goodness.

When we feel shame and condemnation, that is not from the Lord.

Seek His face and you will find that He is love. He is grace. Please don't forget that, my Friend! He loves YOU!!!

When I seek God's face, I am overwhelmed by His beauty and goodness. It is in His presence that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Choosing today to seek His face,

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

the choice

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!" Deuteronomy 30:19 (NLT)

Yesterday I listened to a teaching message on CD about moods and was really blessed by all that I learned.

The speaker matter-of-factly stated that we can choose to live on the other side of our feelings. Can you imagine? Could it be true? Do we actually have a choice where our feelings and moods are concerned?!?

It may sound crazy, but honestly, I have never heard of such a thing. I immediately got excited by the sheer possibility and began to pray about what I was learning. I wanted to understand how to make this a reality in my own life.

I think God was anxious for me to finally learn this key lesson as well, because He immediately answered. :-)

The first thing that came to my mind was Deuteronomy 30:19. I felt God speak to my spirit that I was to actively choose life in everything I do. He gave me another one of those light bulb moments where everything became crystal clear.

All of my day is built around choices and I am free to choose life or death, blessings or curses.

I can choose to go to bed on time, or I can stay up late watching TV and surfing the Internet.

I can choose to speak words of love, or words that bring shame.

I can choose to spend time reading God's Word, or catch up on my email.

I can choose to look at my children when they speak to me, or focus on what I am doing.

I can choose to smile at my neighbor, or pretend like I don't see them.

I can choose to go the extra mile for someone I love, or I can take the easy way out.

I can choose to eat my fruits and veggies, or eat a manufactured, artificial snack.

I can choose to be obedient, or I can be rebellious.

I can choose to be patient and wait upon the Lord, or I can strive in my own flesh.

I can choose to rejoice, or I can to complain.

I can choose to build up, or I can tear down.

I can choose to forgive, or I can allow bitterness to take root.

I can choose faith, or I can choose doubt.

I can choose joy, or I can allow my emotions to direct my day.

Choices. All day. Every day. Big and small. Choices. Lots and lots of choices.

The interesting thing that God showed me was that in choosing life, most of the time, we have to die to ourselves. To not give into our flesh.

To truly live, we must die.

And that, my Friend, can be a very, very hard thing to do.

The good news is that His Spirit resides within us and guides our choices. We choose whether to listen or not. But either way, the result will be a blessing or a curse.

When I choose to give into my flesh, I may experience an immediate consequence or it may not happen for some time. The reality is, however, is that I always (always!) reap what I sow. It's one of God's foundational truths.

God's ways are always a mystery. But the good news is that He delights in revealing His truths to us when we seek Him.

I was so excited to understand this new truth better, that I dug into the Scriptures early this morning to learn more.

Philippians 2:5—8 gives a deeper understanding of what choosing life really looks like:

"In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant. And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross."

I already know that actively choosing life instead of giving into my human bent will take time to learn. However, I've experienced enough consequences in my life to know that the sacrifices I will need to make are most definitely worth receiving God's best for me.

With so many, many choices each day, I will get lots of practice. The key is to have grace for myself and rest in the fact that my God is ever-so patient with me.

"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." Psalm 103:13—14

Christ is truly a perfect example of dying in order to live. In Him we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Making the choice,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

seeing clearly

On Saturday, I had my eyes dilated at my yearly eye exam. The doctor told me that my vision would be a bit blurry for the next several hours.

He then went on to hand me an assortment of papers and pointed out different things he wanted me to read. All I could see was a blurry mess of black and white. It was so frustrating.

I immediately thanked God for my gift of vision. Both in the natural and spiritual world. Granted, my vision is still being healed.

Some things I see with 20/20 vision, others are still quite blurry. It's a process, that's for sure.

When I look to God and His Word for answers, that is when the lies and doubt disappear and my world becomes crystal clear.

Life can be so crazy. With so many things vying for our attention, it's hard to know where to look. Especially when we are in the midst of a storm. Isn't it amazing that when we look directly into the eyes of Jesus, all we can see is Him and His goodness. The rest of the world and our problems become blurry and His love becomes crystal clear.

I'm praying that regardless of what's going on in your life today, my Friend, that you are able to look into His eyes and see how very, very much He loves you. Just as you are.

Seeing through the eyes of Jesus enables us to keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With hope,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

five minutes?

Please take five minutes to watch a brief clip of Tom Davis' interview. If you haven't read his amazing books yet, this will give you a taste of what you are missing.

Tom is an amazing communicator who is passionate about children in need. Can't you just see and hear the love of Jesus pouring out of him?

I love his honesty about his Russian daughter's adoption and transition. No, it is not easy.

Case in point. Here is a photo of my Chinese daughter when she was feeling a bit surly this afternoon. To put it mildly. Adorable and smiling one minute; screaming loudly the next. She's human, like me. And sometimes she's more forgiving and patient with my humaness. Go figure! :-) But I'm learning. A lot!
But it is worth all of the sacrifices, stress, struggle and effort. I wouldn't trade this adventure for anything.
Children are not meant to be thrown away. I can't even begin to imagine my sweet girl growing up on the street. It brings tears to my eyes to even consider that possibility.
I can't wait to watch the rest of Tom's interview. (And find time to read more of Scared. If you don't have a copy yet, click on the link. Looks like Tom is offering it as a free e-book!!!)

I pray your Father's Day was especially sweet today. Ours was. :-)
Yes, those are daisies in my man's hat. He makes me smile.

I am so blessed to have Geoff as the father of my children. Humbled, too.

God has blessed Geoff with an incredible gift of photography.
I love sharing his photos (& his heart.)
Gorgeous, aren't they?

Celebrating the ones we love is a big part of LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

May you know that you are loved. Deeply.

Thankful to be on this journey,