Saturday, July 4, 2009

happy 4th!

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
Galatians 5:1

I am thankful for so many things. While I have only visited three other countries (so far), I am very aware of how greatly our nation is blessed.

To be able to choose to serve my God and worship Him however I please is truly a priceless gift. I cannot imagine not having this freedom.

And yet, still, I would choose Him. Fully and completely.

Most importantly, however, I am thankful that my King has set me free, and that, in Him, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Blessed by freedom,

Friday, July 3, 2009

first response

"Where is another God like you,
who pardons the guilt of the remnant,
overlooking the sins of his special people?
You will not stay angry with your people forever,
because you delight in showing unfailing love."
Micah 7:18

Yesterday I was reading about bitterness and how critical it is for us to forgive those who offend us. Right in the middle of a sentence, I overhead one of my children make a rude comment to their sibling. Complete with a hurtful tone.

Honestly, this is a challenge that I face daily with this particular child. I have tried everything to help them stop being so hurtful and find a better way to treat their family members.

I've found that when I am able to stay neutral, I am best able to speak the truth in love and be support to them.

Unfortunately, my biggest struggle is staying neutral. I feel so frustrated and sad when I hear the hurtful words that come spewing out of said child's mouth.

It breaks my heart. I start to judge my child. And in that moment, I open the door for sin to enter my own heart.

At first, I'm able to bite my tongue and not get involved. I know that all of my children need to learn how to work out their own battles.

The biggest mistake I make is to get involved and choose sides. Defending the "victim" is never good. It just multiplies the drama. And who says that the victim is really innocent?

And so, I've thought I was being successful when I was able to control my tongue. (Note, I said "I" was able to control my tongue. How could I have been so naive? I know that on my own I can do nothing. That the only real victories come through Christ and His power and love working in and through me.)

So anyhow, I control my tongue and think I've won the battle. The real problem, however, comes somewhere between comment #3 and #5. :-(

I suddenly find that the control I once had on my tongue is spewing out with my own rude comments. (And, oh yes, the hurtful tone is even worse that my child's was.) Sigh.

Yeah, my flesh takes over and every desire I had to remain loving and kind is nowhere to be found.

Until yesterday. The Lord spoke to my spirit to forgive her. And in that moment, He graciously handed me yet another of those precious keys. It all made sense.

I was just reading about how harmful bitterness is. That it's critical to our well-being to forgive those who offend us.

I began to understand that the key to forgiveness is to make it my first response.

Before judgement kicks in. Before bitterness has a chance to take root. Before my flesh is able to have it's ugly way.

Forgive.

It makes sense, doesn't it? If we choose to forgive the very moment someone says or does something that offends us, we are able to remain in love. God's love.

The very place where all things good happen. Joy. Peace. Honor. Patience. Hope. Kindness.

Although my child's comments aren't directed at me, I have allowed myself to be offended by them.

The result is that I became judgemental and frustrated. I allowed bitterness in, and our relationship was affected. Not in a good way.

The solution to my problem is to allow forgiveness to be my first response. When I do so, I slam the door to sin and the result is sheer bliss. :-)

No kidding. I've tried it. Yesterday, I said to myself, "I forgive them." Talk about freedom!

This morning, I woke up and found my spirit no longer in a neutral place towards my child. Instead, I found myself looking for ways to bless and love on my child.

I had no idea how how much bitterness had eaten away at our relationship. I feel sad for lost time, but look forward to making up for it today and tomorrow. :-)

It's just another way we can choose between blessings and curses. God's ways leave me astounded.

I am so thankful that He is not only patient with me but that His love for me is unfailing.

His love for you, my Friend, is unfailing. And He delights in teaching us new ways to live, each and every day.

I am so very, very thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Saying "no" to bitterness,

Thursday, July 2, 2009

be the change

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’" Matthew 25:40

Beautiful, isn't it? Wearing shoes isn't just a luxury that some of us around the world are blessed to enjoy. While food, water and shelter are most definitely necessities for life, I recently learned that shoes are also extremely important.

Have you ever heard of Podoconiosis (Podo)? "It's a debilitating disease that causes extreme swelling, repeated ulcers, and deformity in the feet and legs. Podo is 100% preventable with shoes!"

Have you seen this commercial on TV yet? Granted, it's an AT&T advertisement, but it makes me tear up just the same. This is a company that should definitely feel good about what they are doing. I'm happy to spread the word. :-)



Here's another great video:



Here's what Tom's websites says:

What we do
Since our beginning in May 2006, TOMS has given over 140,000* pairs of shoes to children in need through the purchases of caring customers. Because of your support, TOMS plans to give over 300,000 pairs of shoes to children in need around the world in 2009.
*As of April 2009


How we give
TOMS Shoes gives through trusted organizations and Shoe Drop Tours.

Caring charitable organizations help TOMS distribute shoes to the children they support through their existing programs. Along with legally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profits and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), TOMS gives shoes year-round. We are able to reach more children through these trusted and established methods.

TOMS Shoes partners with Friends of TOMS, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates and coordinates avenues for further involvement in the TOMS One for One movement. This includes Shoe Drop Tour volunteer opportunities. Learn more at http://www.friendsoftoms.org/!

I read an interview with Blake in a magazine recently. In it, he shared that in addition to putting shoes on the feet of those who would otherwise go without, he desires to encourage others to be a positive change in our world. He shares his dreams and his stories (especially with college students) in order to inspire others to follow in his shoes. Awesome, eh?

I'm off to pray about ways that I can be the change. Today I am especially thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Inspired,

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

expecting a response

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you."
Matthew 7:7

This morning, my youngest daughter knocked on the door separating us and asked me for her reward.

For the summer, I have set up a simple chore & reward system. Once my kids have completed the chores on their cards, they bring them to me. I then exchange them for their reward cards. My kids can then use the cards to buy rewards (a.k.a. media time) from me.

So far, it's working really well. Using the cards has saved me from nagging them to get their chores done or trying to track how many minutes of computer time they've used.

With the exception of one small wrinkle—Sara keeps losing hers. :-)

I carefully explained to her what she needed to do (through the closed door—privacy is a good thing!) After I finished talking, I asked her if she understood. No response.

About 15 minutes later, Sara came back to me asking me the same question. I asked her if she had done what I asked. She said innocently, "No Mama, I didn't know I was supposed to do that."

The sad news is that she had run out of time to earn her reward. We needed to leave for her doctor appointment. She wasn't at all happy with that news. She was even more unhappy once she learned that she was due for more shots. :-(

Our conversation reminded me of a lesson God taught me last when. When I failed to listen to Him.

I was looking for the hardware to our hammock. My husband has organized our garage so well, that at times, it's difficult for me to find what I am looking for.

I was quickly reminded of having the same problem last year. I prayed and God led me to the exact box the items were in.

And so, I prayed again.

And then I immediately began opening box after box, looking in every single nook and cranny. Only to end up frustrated.

Then came the quiet whisper. I felt the Lord speak to my heart that I had prayed, but I didn't actually wait for Him to respond. Ah ha! The key to prayer!

And so, I tried again. This time I waited.

Wouldn't you know that I immediately knew where to look and found the hardware? Funny thing is that I had actually looked in the red toolbox at least four times already!!! ;-)

Lesson learned! (I think...)

"Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you." Mark 11:24

"Moses answered them, "Wait until I find out what the LORD commands concerning you." Numbers 9:8

"In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Psalm 5:3

I decided to give Sara another chance to earn her rewards and she was quite happy. I'm so thankful that God gives me so many, MANY second chances as well!

Learning and LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

I will pray and then WAIT!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Psalm 148 (New Living Translation)

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord from the heavens!
Praise him from the skies!
2 Praise him, all his angels!
Praise him, all the armies of heaven!
3 Praise him, sun and moon!
Praise him, all you twinkling stars!
4 Praise him, skies above!
Praise him, vapors high above the clouds!
5 Let every created thing give praise to the Lord,
for he issued his command, and they came into being.
6 He set them in place forever and ever.
His decree will never be revoked.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you creatures of the ocean depths,
8 fire and hail, snow and clouds,
wind and weather that obey him,
9 mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all livestock,
small scurrying animals and birds,
11 kings of the earth and all people,
rulers and judges of the earth,
12 young men and young women,
old men and children.

13 Let them all praise the name of the Lord.
For his name is very great;
his glory towers over the earth and heaven!
14 He has made his people strong,
honoring his faithful ones—
the people of Israel who are close to him.


Praise the Lord!

Let all creation praise Him, for we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Rejoicing in His beauty,

Monday, June 29, 2009

say "Yes!"

Waiting for the dentist
Big sis and brother waiting also
Cute girl, too cute for words
She did a great job!
Our dentist told her that he loved her afterwards. :-)
Sweet!

Every day is Donut Day - bigger than Chels' face!
Soft foods for her new tooth! (Hey, our dentist said it was mandatory!)

Delish!

Last week Sara had her first in-country, cleft-related repair. To date, we've made countless trips to our local children's hospital, but this is the first official "work" she's had done. She did SO great!

It turns out that one of her front teeth didn't receive enamel when she was growing in her Birth Momma's tummy. Just another part of her birth defect. Our dentist just put a filling on it. Not very comfortable for Sara, but she did awesome! We're so proud of her.

I share these little details because I know that many people feel intimidated by special needs. We used to.

If you are considering adoption, requesting a healthy child may feel like a big enough challenge. I know it did for us when we first started the process several years ago.

Along the way, however, the Lord started speaking to our heart. We knew the process would be stretching, but we also trusted God to provide everything we needed. And He has!

Granted, not all special needs are as "easy" as ours have been. Our challenge has actually been helping Sara's heart and brain heal.

Some of my friends have adopted cleft-affected children and walked through the surgeries with their children once they were home. It hasn't been easy.

One of my friends takes her daughter to speech therapy twice a week. But she's making it work for her family. In fact, she recently brought home a cleft-affected son and is starting the process all over. Beautiful, eh? :-)

There are over 147 million orphans world-wide. I repeat this statistic over and over. It's so important that we don't forget. When we search the Scriptures, widows and orphans are clearly near to our Father's heart. Therefore, I want them to stay close to my heart.

Whether we are called to adopt or not, we can make the difference in life of a child (or more!) It's more than worth it to invest our our time, our love and our resources into the life of another.

When we do something for another human being, we are blessed beyond measure. It changes our lives. It changes our hearts. And hopefully, it encourages others to search their hearts and decide how and where they can invest themselves.

I know that some people look at the decision we have made as a family and think we are crazy. We are! We are crazy in love with the God of this Universe and are humbled and blessed to be able to say "YES!" to these incredible adventures He is calling us on.

If you feel God's whisper in your heart calling you to do something radical for Him, I urge you to say "YES!" to Him!

I know it's scary. I know the road may not be easy. But I also know that it will be worth everything you put into it. You will be blessed beyond belief. God will use the adventure to grow you even more into the amazing person He created you to be. You CAN do it, my Friend!

Keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With joy,
Amy