Friday, July 31, 2009

impatience

"The end of a matter is better than its beginning,
and patience is better than pride."
Ecclesiastes 7:8


This morning, as I continued my study in Deuteronomy, I was contemplating the fact that it took the Israelites forty years to make an eleven day trip. It's rather astonishing, isn't it?

And yet, when I'm honest with myself, it actually makes sense. I find so many correlations between the Israelites' struggles and my own. There are three areas in my life where I feel like I can never make progress. I desperately try; and yet feel like I'm walking up a downward escalator.

(Yes, I've actually tried it once when Liam forgot to step on the escalator with me. He was too afraid to come down on his own...it's not easy!)

As I spend time reading about the Israelites' time in the wilderness, I begin to understand why God took them the l-o-n-g way to the promised land.

"So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:3̶̶̶̶̶,̶4 NIV)

These two verses get me every time. And then there's the verse above from Ecclesiastes. Could it be that I am impatient with God (and my children) because I'm...prideful?

Ouch. Yes.That's exactly what it means.

Thankfully when the Holy Spirit convicts me, He also generously bathes me in God's love and sweet grace!

The Israelites were impatient. They were prideful. They were ungrateful. They struggled.

They forgot the miraculous things God had done before. They complained.

They forgot how wonderfully the Lord had provided for them before. They sinned.

Yes, God disciplined them. And, many times they missed out on His blessings. And yet, He was patient. He remained faithful. He continued to love them.

He brought them safely through the wilderness and into the promised land. (We'll talk about Moses another day...)

As I look at my own long way through the wilderness, I realize that my time here is not being wasted. There are great blessings here. I am being refinded. I am learning. I am growing. I am being stretched.

God is calling me to remain faithful to Him, regardless of where I'm at in my journey.

As I listen to my own children complain, fight, whine, argue, bicker, grumble...yes, I'm being repetive on purpose. There's a whole-lotta-that going on here...when I deal with their 'wilderness flesh' day in and day out, I appreciate (on a much smaller scale) what the Lord must have gone through with the Israelites.

And, I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm putting Him through quite a lot myself!

When I'm finally able to lay down my pride, I am better able to recognize that God knows best. In all things. His plans are good. His love is true. He is faithful. Regardless.

In place of my pride, I ask God to give me His strength, widsom, joy and patience. Towards myself and towards my children.

Oh, there is so much to learn in this journey. And you know what? Struggles and all, I am thrilled to be making my painfully long journey through the wilderness. Because, when I finally get to the top of my mountain and look down into the land my God has promised me, I know it will have been worth it all.

God is victorious and He will be glorified!

My Friend, wherever you are in your journey, I pray that God continues to reveal His incredible love for you. Even if you are feeling weak and greatly discouraged, take heart, and don't give up! Keeping pressing through, even if you can only take one tiny step at a time. He will bring you to the next place. And I promise (better yet, God promises) it will be good!

And regardless of where you are, it will be good, because He will be there.

Wilderness or promised land, we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

One step closer...



Thursday, July 30, 2009

cherishing life

"Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said,
“Are you asking yourselves what I meant?
I said in a little while you won’t see me,
but a little while after that you will see me again.
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn
over what is going to happen to me...
You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy."
John 16:19-20 (NLT)

I've had a challenging day (week) with one of my children. This child has experienced amazing healing and growth over the last year. For whatever reason, those old behaviors have returned. I'm sharing my concerns with my husband, praying to God for wisdom and doing my very best to respond to my child with love and patience. I'll admit, it's not easy.

And then, tonight, I followed a link to this sweet family's blog and gained a new perspective. Isn't that what persevering through struggles is all about? Finding someone else who is dealing with a much more serious situation than we are, and turning our hearts towards their pain instead of our problems?
Lifting them up in prayer, while also acknowledging the blessings we have, even in our current times of struggle.

This beautiful family is expecting a new child while also grieving the devastating loss of their beautiful daughter, Cora. I can't imagine.

I have experienced extreme grief with my children through the things they have suffered through. It has been traumatic and hard (to say the least), but, I still have them to love and hold.
The McClellan's story leaves me humbled. This life is short and should be cherished. I don't want to waste a single moment.

I know that even in death and loss, God is still good and new life is certain. I fully believe that Cora is happy, healthy and whole in Heaven. And, one day, her family will be united again. What a sweet day that will be!

Today, while I struggle with patience and seek God's wisdom, I'm thankful that God is always working. He knows the outcome of every situation. And, He uses every situation for our good and His glory.

Friend, I know life is hard. Some days much more than others.

If you're having a good day, I'm rejoicing with you. If you're struggling, I'm right there with you. More importantly, God is with you. And He loves you VERY much.

Keep pressing into His love and grace, for it is there that we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With grace and love,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

a sweet invitation

"Call to Me and I will answer you
and show you great and mighty things,
fenced in and hidden, which you do not know
(do not distinguish and recognize,
have knowledge of and understand)."
Jeremiah 33:3 (Amplified)

What a gloriously sweet invitation. I can't resist. Can you?

Seeking His face and LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With grace & JOY in Him,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Warner Bros. movie - Orphan

Warner Bros. new horror movie Orphan proclaims that it must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own. Let me tell you about how an orphan changed my life.

The first photo above is a picture of a little girl who was born with a cleft-lip, cleft-palate and two holes in her heart. Within a day or so of her birth, she was brought to a cultural center in Tianjin, China, and left to be found.

She spent her first three months in a local orphanage. There she was given the name Wei Kang Xia and referred to as Xia-Xia.

She was then moved to a children's village in LangFang. She received care and surgeries for her special-needs through her Philip Hayden Foundation sponsorship.

When she was fifteen months old, our family received the second photo. Her cleft-lip had been repaired while in China. Her palate was repaired shortly before she came home (see third photo.) The two holes in her heart healed on their own.

For all intents and purposes our special-needs child arrived home completely healthy. She will require some reconstructive surgery when her teeth and bone structure are more matured.

After being abandoned by her birth family, experiencing several moves (and losses) and undergoing two serious surgeries in less than 18 months, Xia-Xia was most definitely traumatized. Her heart and her brain were wounded.

I have no idea whose care she was in for her first 18 months or how well they treated her. She has memories that are far from pleasant and evoke much fear in this little girl.

Those are the plain and simple details of this child's life, devoid of as much emotion as possible.

Those may be the kind of details that movies are made of. At least horror movies. But you see, this story will not provoke fear, but rather faith. It's a story of love and redemption at it's very best.

The first photo you see is common for a girl with Xia-Xia's history. She was well-cared for, I am told, but orphanage life is not home. There are far too many children and not enough workers to meet a child's every given need, or respond to their cries, as would a birth mother.

In a perfect world, we would have no orphans. In a perfect world no child would be hurt. In a perfect world parents would always be loving, kind and gentle.

Sadly, our world is not perfect (yet.)

The rest of the photos are Xia-Xia 2.5 years later, at the age of 4. Her new name is Sara KangXia. She is an intelligent, loving, kind, energetic, humorous and well-adjusted little girl. She fits beautifully into our family. She loves her family and we all adore and love her.

Xia-Xia came home to us anxious, fearful and full of rage. She had experienced too many losses and too much grief to allow her to trust us.

She was diagnosed as having a significant attachment disorder (meaning her brain was wounded due to the trauma she experienced), post-traumatic stress disorder and a sensory-processing disorder (even going to the grocery store was far too overwhelming for her.) She would not allow us to hold her close. She would laugh when she fell down and got hurt.

Without intervention, Sara was bound to lead a life of pain and destruction.

We chose, instead, to intervene and respond in the same we have for her older brother and sister (our birth children.)

As soon as we recognized that Xia-Xia was struggling, we pulled together a team of specialists and support people. We spent the next 18 months helping her brain and heart to heal. We met her right where she was at, and, thanks be to God, He has worked a miracle of transformation into Sweet Sara.

The question remains, was loving Sara "harder" than my other two children? Most definitely. I won't lie. Her siblings and I bonded during my pregnancy. They readily accepted my love and comfort.

Sara didn't know who in the world I was. She didn't know if I was just another care-provider-in-passing. She had already bonded with her nannies and they were nowhere to be found. Her response to the entire situation was perfectly normal, albeit very difficult.

When you add any member to your family, it takes time, effort and shared experiences for bonding and true love to develop. Just as it does in any relationship. When that individual is wounded, it also takes counseling, therapy and the power of God.

We did love our new daughter the moment we made the decision to adopt. We loved her through the tiring paperwork and the waiting that followed. We loved her when we first saw her photo. We loved her the first moment we held her (and she screamed, grin.)

That love, however, has grown and deepened over the years.

Is my love for her any less? Definitely not. I love all of my children equally, regardless of how they joined our family. However, I also love each one of them uniquely. They each have their own personalities, they are different ages and we each have shared different experiences together.

My love for Sara has been tested and refined, and it only keeps growing more rich and full. We have painstakingly built her trust with us. And still, today, we need to reassure Sara that we will never leave nor abandon her.

Sara has been forever grafted into our family. She is our daughter through and through. We have and will continue to do everything in our power to help her heal, grow and mature into the precious girl God created her to be. None of her life history is her fault. She's a strong girl and has made great strides. We are so very proud of her.

Sara has challenged each person in our family to grow and be stretched. She has taught us things we greatly needed to learn, but never would have experienced without her.

The greatest joys follow the most challenging trials. We are stronger because of our daughter. And, we love her through and through. Just ask her.

I recognize that not all children receive the help they need and deserve. I can't speak to each and every unique situation in the world. I know that there are very deeply wounded children in need of healing and support.
Sadly, many of them never receive the help they deserve.

Sadly, as adults, we miss opportunities and shy away from them for fear that they will be too difficult or scary. I understand that.

Truthfully, had I known how difficult our transition would be in adding a traumatized child into our family, I would have run away in fear. I also would have missed one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Thankfully, God knew better. He knew that we could handle more than we ever thought we could. He knew that with His help, we would rise to the occasion and make it to the other side and that we would all be better for it.

I understand that many people will see Orphan as simply entertainment. The reality is, however, that we have over 147 million orphans worldwide in need of food, clothing, a home and a family.

It is very scary to choose to adopt a child that is not your own. This movie has the potential of causing incredible parents to run away in fear, leaving yet another child alone and in need.

A possible consequence of this is that children who grow up without a family's love, will not suddenly morph into a well-adjusted adult.

I encourage others to think of what the world would be like if 147 million children grew up into poorly-adjusted adults. Now that, my Friend, would be truly horrifying.

Claiming an orphan as your own and investing your heart, energy and life into them is one of the most incredible things one can ever experience.

God never expects us to walk the hard days on our own. He uses them to grow us into the individuals He created us to be. When we choose to take a chance on a child in need, we will be blessed beyond belief. Sometimes even more than the child we adopted, if you can believe it.

I urge you, my Friend, to not allow movies such as Orphan to fill you with fear and doubt. Yes, there is evil in this world. Thankfully, we have a God who is BIGGER! Love always wins.

If you made it all the way through this l-o-n-g post, I commend you! :-) Something so important cannot be addressed with a few words. (And yet, pictures do speak a thousand words, don't they? Isn't she beautiful?)

No, Sara's not perfect. But neither am I. Like Sara, I require love, patience and a whole lot of grace! Parenting this sweet little girl has helped me to have more compassion on myself and others.

We're still learning. We're still growing. But God is with us, each and every step of the way. And it's been an exciting ride!

If you're visiting my blog today, I have many more sweet photos of all three of my children and have written in depth about all that God is teaching me through them. I also have a video I posted about her journey to us. God is SO good!

This is why I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

To God be the glory,

Monday, July 27, 2009

i missed it...again.

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully,
even as I am fully known."
1 Corinthians 13:12

I love watching my kids get creative in life. They have discovered that by looking through their air mattresses, they are able to see all sorts of cool things in the water below.

Not clearly, but better than if they were using just their eyes.

Over the past few days, I've been challenged by hindsight. God has helped me to look back at specific situations where I allowed fear and anxiety to cloud my vision.

Sure, the situations may have been stressful, but if I had chosen to focus on Him, rather than my raging emotions, I would have received the peace and blessings He had for me.

Instead, I missed out and I ended up hurting someone I deeply love.

You see, the other day I was brought face-to-face with an area that God has brought tremendous growth, healing and deliverance in. I wish I had seen it coming because then, perhaps, I would have responded better. (Or perhaps I should say, "because then I would not have reacted to it.")

It caught me off guard. I wasn't feeling grounded in the Lord and who He created me to be. Panic and self-doubt arose and I allowed fear to ensnare me.

I had a choice. A split second choice to either press into the Lord and seek His love for me or turn to someone else to rescue me.

I've been alive long enough to know that true love comes from the Lord. Whenever I try to find love and acceptance elsewhere, I end up getting hurt.

God can and does provide His love through the people in my life, but only when I first seek Him.

I didn't do that. I went the old route of sin, and yes, that old path still leads to bitterness, pain and rejection. Ouch. Should have remembered that sooner.

And yet, God is good. He still loves me. He knew how I was going to react that day. And, He has allowed me the gift of hindsight in order to redeem a heartbreaking situation.

I trust that as I continue to lay my wounded heart open to Him, He will bring deeper healing. Without a doubt, I know that He will give me a similar choice again in the future.

I pray that I will be courageous enough to allow His healing to go as deep as He desires. I want to be completely healed and free in this area. I don't want to keep missing out on His goodness.

Next time, I want to receive His peace and His healing touch without experiencing more pain and rejection.

It would be easy for me to beat myself over the head or be angry at the human who was unable to fill my great need for love that day. That's exactly what the enemy of my soul wants me to do.

Instead, however, I am choosing to believe in the One who made me, who loves me, who gave Himself for me. I am choosing to trust that every day I am moving further from my old self and closer to the "Amy" that He created me to be.

It's not easy, but thankfully I am not walking on this path alone.

God is good; all the time.

I pray that if mistakes and missed opportunities are weighing on your heart today, my Friend, that God will bring healing to you. I pray that He will teach you through the experience and use it to strengthen you and draw you ever closer to Him. He loves you and cares so much for you!

Mistakes? Yes. Missed opportunities? Yes. But still, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Resting in His grace,

NKJV Chronological Study Bible

The New King James Version Chronological Study Bible was sent to me awhile back by Thomas Nelson. I signed up as a "book review blogger" and was thrilled to see such an incredible reference Bible available for review.

When I first took it out of the box, I was enamoured by the beautiful colors and pictures they used in printing the Bible.

The layout of the Bible, obviously, was done in a very unique way. Chronologically. As someone who loves to dig in deeper into the Word, this is the one thing that excited me most about this Bible. In my own personal library, I have over ten different Bibles to choose from. None, however, are written chronologically.

There are nine different sections of the study Bible, or "epochs" as they have labeled them. Each epoch is marked by separate colors, so if you are thumbing through the Bible, you will be able to easily locate the epoch you are interested in reading. You can also see the different time periods marked on each page.

That said, this layout can be viewed as either a positive or negative. On one hand, the "new" order of the Bible may give readers a fresh experience as they spend time in the Word. This is especially appealing for those who prefer for the Bible to be as exact as possible.

On the other hand, if you are someone who likes to pick up a Bible and quickly skim through to locate a particular book (like I am), this feature will leave you incredibly frustrated. The reference information is actually printed along the inside seam which I found unhelpful.

That said, however, I was pleased when I finally located the index of Scripture passages located at the very back of the book. Perhaps in future reprints, the Scripture references could be printed in a more visible place and the index moved to the front of the Bible.

One of the things I like best about about the Chronological Study Bible is that every page is rich with supplemental information that makes the studying the Bible even more interesting. There are lots photos, maps, and time-lines. I especially found the "Daily Life Notes" that explain the culture at the time the Scriptures were written.

Overall, this is a beautiful Bible that is rich in detail and bonus features. While it may not be useful in quickly looking up specific passages, it will definitely provide endless study opportunities for the reader.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for challenging me to get out of my comfort zone and experience God's Word in a new and unique way.

LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!