Saturday, August 15, 2009

true beauty

Psalm 145

1 I will exalt you, my God and King,
and praise your name forever and ever.
2 I will praise you every day;
yes, I will praise you forever.
3 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
No one can measure his greatness.
4 Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
let them proclaim your power.
5 I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
and your wonderful miracles.
6 Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim your greatness.
7 Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
they will sing with joy about your righteousness.

8 The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 The Lord is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation.
10 All of your works will thank you, Lord,
and your faithful followers will praise you.
11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
they will give examples of your power.
12 They will tell about your mighty deeds
and about the majesty and glory of your reign.
13 For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
You rule throughout all generations.

The Lord always keeps his promises;
he is gracious in all he does.
14 The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
15 The eyes of all look to you in hope;
you give them their food as they need it.
16 When you open your hand,
you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,
but he destroys the wicked.

21 I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
forever and ever.

This is a video of the beautiful children of Philip Hayden Foundation, where Sara spent most of her time while in China. For me, these children define true beauty.


With joy,

Friday, August 14, 2009

we could have missed this.

"I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done."
Psalm 52:9a (NLT)

"To think we could have missed this." This phrase has been spoken over and over again by Geoff and myself. We've also heard our close friends speak the very same words. We were all faced with the same choice several years back.

Should we:

(a) Continue to enjoy the 'simple and comfortable' lives we were living?
- or -
(b) Embark on what felt like the most terrifying journey we would ever know?

Choosing to start the adoption process felt like jumping off a cliff. (Something I've never done personally, but my brave man did when we honeymooned in Jamaica 14 years ago!)

It was a complete and absolute leap of faith. I won't lie and say that we weren't completely scared out of our minds. So many questions and concerns filled our minds. Many people in our lives thought we were crazy to even consider adopting a child from another country, especially one with "special needs."

Yet, in the midst of our own fears and worries, we could feel God leading us, protecting us and preparing us. Many times, we felt Him carrying us.

I'll be honest in saying that the past several years have really taken it out of us. We've been stretched beyond our wildest dreams. This journey is far more challenging than we could have imagined. We have lost a lot.

Amazingly, however, what we have lost pales in comparison to the amazing blessings and goodness that God has showered upon us.

Some of the biggest losses have been our own personal weaknesses and impurities. God has used the challenging times to refine our characters and remove those things that have separated us from Him.

I. Could. Have. Missed. This.

The truth is that every reason that screamed at me to choose path "A" was rooted in selfishness. What about me? My time? My security? My welfare? My space? My money? My sleep? My comfort? My sanity? What about ME?!?

The arguments against adoption seem well-founded. Really, they do. To the flesh.

And yet, deep down within me I heard the quiet voice of my Creator whispering to me. Quietly, gently, patiently, His Spirit called to me. "Follow me. Trust me. Come to me."

Looking back, I can tell you that my flesh has been gloriously crucified. Yes, it still tries to raise it's ugly head and can be seen in my moments (sometimes DAYS) of impatience, irritation and self-pity. However, when self-centeredness begins to take center stage, I am quick to remember just how far the Lord has brought my family.

I don't have to look very far to see His answer to our fears and doubts. She's a beautiful black-haired little girl that loves to spend her time with me. She has a precious smile and a contagious giggle.

She has taught me about faith, love, trust, healing and forgiveness. She has filled my life and home with amazing joy and blessings.

When my flesh screams, "What about me? My time? My money, My space, My sleep?!?"

I can boldly answer to my flesh, "When you decrease, He increases."

I remind myself that He has made my days more meaningful, more rich and more full than ever before. He has replaced my desire to live for myself, with a desire to live solely for Him. He has given me His passion for a lost, hurting and broken world.

He has broken my heart for the things that break His heart. He have given me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and trust Him in this path that He has called me to take.

When I see photos of children suffering around the world, without food, without homes and without family, the words "What about me?" still come to mind. This time, however, they are no longer filled with fear and selfishness. Now they are filled with hope and excitement and followed with the words, "What can God use me to do?!?"

On my own, I may not be able to feed, clothe and shelter all 147 million orphans. However, I can pray for them. I can share their stories with others. I can use my money to support a friend's mission trip. I can support fair trade and buy products with a cause. I can give money to support another family's adoption fees.

I can invite you on a most amazing journey with the guarantee that you will never be the same.

The options and opportunities are endless. In fact, I would wager to guess that the ways we can bless an orphan number far more than 147 million.

Please don't miss out on this incredible opportunity, my Friend. Bringing a child into your home and family may not be what God is calling you to do. However, He is calling all of us to invite them into our hearts and invest ourselves in their care and well-being.

What can we do today to make a difference?

I know that many of you are already on this journey with me. I'm so thankful for the blessing that you bring my life. I'm so thankful for the difference you have made in the life of a child in need. I also know that the blessings you have received are far greater than any sacrifices you have made.

I pray that God uses your family as a living, breathing example of His goodness and glory. There truly is a miracle that happens through adoption. One that I pray everyone on this planet can experience in one way or another.

I'm so very glad I didn't miss this. Sara is one of the biggest reasons I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful to be on another amazing journey,

Thursday, August 13, 2009

eternal focus

"Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23:6 (NLT)

Ah, my two sweet girls. I had to grab my camera when I saw them snuggled up on the couch together yesterday. Hard to believe that just 20 minutes earlier they were screaming at the top of their lungs trying to convince me that the other one was lying. It's amazing what a little time can do.

Today, my heart is a wreck. I heard from a friend that the court dates in Ethiopia are now being scheduled for October. This means that those families who do pass their first court day won't travel until the end of November. Being that we are still awaiting our son's official referral, traveling before Christmas may not be an option.

We have been through the adoption process before and know that it's full of unknowns and unexpected delays. We trust that God's timing is perfect. However, our hearts are aching (crying) for our son who has been waiting for his family for over 18 months already now. We just can't imagine all that he has been through.

Our hearts are aching for the other children around the world waiting for their forever families to bring them home. We pray that God would continue to provide for them and protect them during the wait.

We are also praying for all of the children who have yet to be found by their forever families. We pray that God would give them hope and that He would bless them with strong friendships to would nourish their spirits. Rather than feeling abandoned and alone, we pray that they would know God's great love for them.

As tears fall on behalf of all children in need, I try to remember that time on this planet is truly irrelevant. God's timing is perfect and though we cannot see much of what He is doing, He is working on our behalf and for our good. I long to have an eternal focus and trust that all of this will work out.

Will you please join me in praying for the 147 million orphans worldwide today, my Friend? I do believe that prayer can move mountains and God does work miracles. Thank you. :-)

Trusting Him that children everywhere will know the joy of LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Yearning for my Father's house,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

appreciating new growth

"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,
while every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
John 15:2 (NIV)

When you look at this photo, do you see death or new life? Too often I focus on the areas within myself that are broken and forget to recognize the areas of growth the Lord has brought me.

I found myself thinking about the prodigal son again this morning. The Lord showed me that there is even more to what I once thought was a simple, straight-forward story. (There always is.)

When I focus on all that's "broken" in my life I end up feeling defeated. Rather than seek the Lord in relationship, I turn to Him in frustration.

The inheritance I demand is far more than a financial settlement. I demand perfection. And like Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, "I want it, and I want it NOW!"

I become tired of battling the same sins, weaknesses and problems day in and day out. I want the Lord to change me and I don't want to wait any longer.

Ouch. Just reading that last sentence makes my ears (and heart) ache. It's certainly not pretty, is it?

I began to pray about my negative attitude and lack of gratefulness for all that the Lord has done for me so far. He showed me five areas that I can focus on.

First of all, I can stop navel gazing, as one of my favorite counselors calls it. :-) When I'm so focused on myself, I'm missing out on all of the blessings and goodness around me.

Second, I can stop focusing on seemingly "broken" areas and acknowledge the new life God has brought me.

Third, I can be thankful for the work that God has done in my life. Oh, He has done so much! I'm sad how quickly I forget the miracles He has worked on my behalf.

Fourth, I can trust in His timing and know that He is working in and through me, regardless of whether I see it or not.

Finally, I can continue to seek more of Him. It is only through my relationship with Him that I find the grace, strength and power I need to live each day victoriously.

It's through His grace that He sees me, not the mess I feel like, but the redeemed child He so greatly adores.

It's in my weakness that His strength is glorified.

And, it's through His power that all things are being made new.

Isn't He amazing?!?

Friend, I pray that you are able to see the areas in your life that God has brought growth and victory. I pray that God will give you the grace to trust in His timing and care.

May we may both rest in the safe hands of the Gardener. And may we trust that He will prune away the unnecessary branches allowing for new life and blossoms to grow.

Keep pursuing Him and enjoy LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Off to spend time with my merciful Gardener,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

seek Him

"So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off,
his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."
Luke 15:20 (NIV)

Of all the stories Jesus told, the Prodigal Son is one of my most favorite. It reminds me of God's unconditional love and leaves me quietly humbled every time I read it.

I have wandered away from God's plan for my life more times than I care to remember. He not only forgives me, but welcomes me back with great joy and celebration. Every. Single. Time.

Recently, however, I listened to a message that revealed a deeper truth within Jesus' story. The teacher pointed out that at the beginning of the story, the younger son went to the father and said 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' (v.12)

After having spent time with the pigs, the son returned home and this time his words were, "Father, make me your servant."

Too often, I turn to God in prayer asking Him to give me what I think I need. Depending upon the situation, God may grant my request. Unfortunately, what I think I need, may not be His best for me.

One of my life verses is Psalm 37:4. "Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of His heart."

After listening to the teaching, I was challenged to change my prayers from "Father give me," to "Father make me."

Instead of seeking God's hand for provision, He desires that we seek His hand in relationship.

When seek Him, all of our needs will be met. There's no need for us to fret or offer up quick reminders to our Creator to take care of us.

God has all of our basic needs covered and He graciously showers us with more. Each and every day.

His blessings are better than anything we could ever imagine. His love truly is better than life.

It is only when we are able to trust God with our list of needs and burdens that our hand is free to warmly embrace His hand.

His love is good. His love is safe. His love is trustworthy. And He loves YOU, my Friend.

Walking through this life, hand in hand with the Creator of the universe? It's not only possible, it's an invitation available to each and every one of us. And, it's the foundation of LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Dropping my list at His feet and reaching up for His hand,

Sunday, August 9, 2009

love revealed

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law."
Galations 5:22,23

Last week I desperately needed to seek out the beautiful in life. Too many stinky situations were wearing away at my joy and I needed to know that life was still good.

As only God can do, He began to reveal Himself to me in both big and small ways. Everywhere I looked, His love for me (and my family) was revealed.

In my life I have experienced "love" that left a bad taste in my mouth and left me feeling unsettled. The person I interacted with said something to me or did something for me that was supposed to be loving, but it fell flat.

And, unfortunately, I've said things and done things where love was supposed to be my motivation, but my flesh got in the way.

Instead of planting seeds of life, I've planted weeds that steal peace and joy.

It doesn't feel good to be on either side of the equation. When selfishness is the motivator, both of us lose.

In contrast, I have been blessed to be on the receiving end of pure love—both in words spoken and deeds done. It leaves me breathless and my spirit immediately begins to worship Love Himself.

There is a giving of pure love and a receiving of pure love. There is never a taking.

On Wednesday, I watched pure love in action when my next door neighbor, Billy, sat on our lawn with his son and my children and played with all four of them. Sure, he was tired after a long day at work, but he unselfishly gave his full attention and listening ear.

Later on that evening, Billy and his wife, Becky, took all of our kids and their two dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. Love is patient.

I watched pure love in action last Sunday when my honorary father danced a jig on behalf of my youngest daughter, Sara, on the front porch of our church. She ran into his arms with such delight and squealed a jubilant, "Grandpa!" Love is kind.

On Thursday evening, my husband gave me the gift of a sanity night. He cooked dinner for our children and did the dishes afterwards. He read them stories, played with them and put them to bed. I returned home late that night with a new chair for a little office I've been putting together.

Although he was tired and finally enjoying some much needed downtime for himself, my sweet husband agreed to help me put together my new chair. He then went on to read some of my recent writing and give me supportive feedback. Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

When people we love make bad choices, our immediate reaction may not be love. A friend of mine recently shared with me that her dad had flown half-way across the world on a business trip. Upon landing at his destination, he received an emergency phone call from his family.

He bought a new ticket for the next available flight and made the long journey back to the United States. His adult children were in need and he responded. Immediately. Rather than be concerned about the financial burden or his own discomfort, he put his family first. Love is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered.

Last weekend, our good friends, Chris and Ruth, gave us the privilege of caring for their two children. All five of our kiddos have developed quite a bond over the years and are always begging to spend time together. We were blessed to enjoy their company while gifting their parents with much needed time alone.

In turn, Chris and Ruth took care of our three kids this past weekend. Their love for our kids is expressed through fun games, cooking s'mores in their backyard, trips to the park and tents in their living room. We never have to worry about our children's safety or well-being. And, we know that our kids adore them as their second family. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love."
(1 Corinthians 13:4—13, includes verses above)

It can be so easy to focus on life's problems and pains. Especially when they seem to come one after another. When we do so, however, we miss out on the goodness that God is continually showering upon us.

I pray, Friend, that we may both have the courage to seek out God's beauty, goodness and love. It's there waiting, always ready to be revealed to those of us who take the time to seek it.

God is love. He loves me and He loves you. Love never ends.

Without love "I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal." With love I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Revelling in His glorious love,