Friday, August 21, 2009

can I tell you a secret?

"But the Lord your God refused to listen (to Balaam.)
He turned the intended curse into a blessing
because the Lord your God loves you."

"You are a good person." (Stop reading. Focus. Go ahead, soak it in.)

"You are the best." (Yes. YOU.)

"I love you." (Please don't reject it. Receive it. Allow the words to seep into every area of your heart and fill you with joy and peace. YOU are loved.)

I've shared many times over how incredibly blessed my life has been through my Chinese daughter.

The trials I have persevered through with Sara have brought an added sweetness to the bond we share.

Over the past several months, my Sweet Girl has found a new way to shower her love upon me.

Countless times throughout the day (every day), she will walk up to me and ask, "Can I tell you a secret?"

I'll bend down, she'll reach up on tippy-toes and gently move my hair away from my ear. With the sweetest little voice I have ever heard, she'll whisper, "You are my best Mommy."

A little while later, we repeat the same routine. This time I hear, "You are a good Mom."

And then, finally, the words that seal our cherished relationship "I love you."

My spirit echos the words of the Psalmist, "The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3 (NIV)

If you're like me, your mind has been distracted since you first started reading. It's trying to debate the undeniable truth that you are good and that God loves you. That the people in your life love you.

When I hear the words, too often, I push them away as quickly as possible, in whatever way possible. I start to panic and hold up my safety shield—an endless list of all of the sins I've committed over the years.

I feel the need to refute the words spoken over me. "No. I'm unworthy. See my sins? See my guilt? I'm not good. I'm not the best. I don't deserve those words."

"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 (NIV)

True, I am unworthy. I have committed numerous sins. I have been found guilty. And, truly, I don't deserve God's love—or even Sara's. And yet, they still love me.

That's the amazing thing about the gift God gave me through His only Son, Jesus. A gift that I could never earn or deserve. A gift that turns my sin from scarlet red to pure white. A gift that promises me eternal life.

Isn't He amazing?!?

Whenever I hear one of Sara's precious secrets, I feel God's love pouring into my heart and bringing a new level of healing and restoration.

You see, Sara knows—just like I do—that it's hard to trust and love after you've been rejected and abandoned. There isn't anything in this universe that can take away the deep wound that results.

The only thing that can heal our wounds is God's love. The only thing we can do is let it in.

And so, my Friend, can we both try again? I'll repeat the words I spoke over you at the beginning and you surrender your list of reasons why you are unworthy.

Together, we'll allow God's love and mercy to wash over us and fill us with a peace that truly passes all understanding.

"YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON."

"YOU ARE THE BEST."

"I LOVE YOU!"

I know most secrets aren't supposed to be shared. I asked my Sweet Sara, however, and she told me that I could share her priceless secret with YOU.

We are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! In Him, through Him and because of Him.

To God be the glory,
Amy Jo & Sara KangXia

Thursday, August 20, 2009

unlovely


"He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us."
Psalm 103:9—12

It's the end of a very long day and I am feeling incredibly unlovely. Not just on the outside, but on the inside.

It was one of those days where I had far too much to get done and woke up feeling overwhelmed. My first mistake was when I got distracted after only a few minutes into my quiet time. That's never good.

Oh, Friend. It was not a pretty day. I got lots of planning for our new school year completed. I'd like to say that made it a great day. The problem, however, is that somehow frustration, impatience, unkindness and over-reaction also added themselves to my list of completed work. Sigh.

I accomplished so much today, I wish I could feel good about all of the hard work I put in. But I can't. Instead, I have a horrible feeling in my stomach reminding me of all of the opportunities I missed.

If I had just been able to stop long enough to seek God's wisdom and direction, His grace would have empowered me to be loving, patient, kind, responsive, joyful and get lots of work done.

Of course I apologized to each of the people I offended—God, my patient husband, Chelsea, Liam, and Sara. Oh, and the boy next door. Ouch. And they each forgave me.

My flesh wants to assure you that my offenses really weren't that bad. I actually held back from saying and doing some of the things I wanted to. Restraint is good, right?

The reality, however, is what my heart is saying to me—what God's Spirit is gently and lovingly convicting me about. I messed up. I allowed my flesh to drive today and that resulted in far too many hit and runs. Another sigh.

If God allows my family another day together, I will be blessed to receive His new mercies again in the morning. Without a doubt, my beautiful family will have already forgotten all of my mistakes of today. Rather than holding my offenses over my head, they will instead offer me their amazing unconditional love.

It's a fact they have proven to me over and over again. It's an priceless gift I have been the humbled recipient of for twenty years now. On a daily basis they practice God's gift of mercy and grace. Their love heals my heart at such a deep level, that at times it actually leaves me speechless. (Yes, that is possible. At times.)

I am a very blessed woman because of the gracious family my Father has given me. Which, on days like today, is why I feel so very crummy about the way I acted. My spirit is convicted by their love. They inspire me to keep starting over whenever I have a day like today.

Thankfully, God allows me to learn from my mistakes and catch them sooner, rather than later—most of the time.

"Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit." Psalm 32:2 (NIV)

Friend, how I hope your day was nothing like mine. If it was, however, I pray that you too are able to share in God's amazing grace. He loves YOU. Unconditionally.

Tonight I am repenting and receiving God's forgiveness—having learned another lesson the hard way. Tomorrow? Well, that's a new day!

My plan is to not allow myself to become distracted from spending some serious time focused in prayer, study and worship. I'll write up my to-do list and then I will surrender it to my Creator and allow Him to drive my day.

My flesh? Well, that is going to have to take the backseat—most likely strapped down in a car seat with a 5-point harness!

I'm thankful tonight that God is able to take my unlovely self and forgive, restore, and transform me and allow me to continue LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

He is SO good,


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

captivated


"The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
and their words to all the world.
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
and follows its course to the other end."
Psalm 19:1—6 (NLT)


Our plan was to play on the beach for a few hours, enjoy delicious pizza at our favorite restaurant and then head home. As we walked back to our car, the view of the sun setting gloriously over the ocean stopped us in our tracks.


We were drawn in by the incredible beauty before us. We couldn't help but make our way back down to the beach and watch as the sun slowly make its way towards the horizon.


We weren't the only ones drawn in. One by one, people came out of the stores, restaurants, hotel rooms and houses. Captivated by such a remarkable display of God's creativity and power.


We sat on the sand in quiet awe as a golden glow bathed everything, and everyone, in its path.


A sense of peace and calm settled over the beach as the King of Glory stole away our breath.

I wondered how many of the spectators sitting on the beach knew of God's great love for them.

I admit that at times I struggle to truly believe that the God of this universe loves me. At that moment, however, those doubts had absolutely no control over me. All of my senses were alive to God's greatness and His unbelievably, unconditional love for me and all of creation.

I was reminded of one of my favorite songs by Shawn McDonald, "Captivated.

Below is a video of Shawn performing the song live at a radio station.
Sidebar: Just this evening, God blessed me with yet another gorgeous sunset. This time, however, I was behind the wheel driving home. Wouldn't you know that my husband happened to have this CD in his player? Ahhh...down went all four windows and open went the moon roof. I probably frightened a few cows as I drove through the beautiful farm country singing along LOUD with Shawn McD! :-)




I am so thankful that my family was able to share in such a remarkable experience. To not only bear witness to such a magnificent display of God's glory through creation; but also, to be able to experience God's amazing love for them in such a tangible way.

Oh, Friend, how I wish you were there with us.
If it's been awhile since God's creation has left you breathless, I pray that in the very near future, He will reveal His divine power and majesty in a way that leaves you standing in awe of His immense love for you.

Ah, reveling in more beauty. I am definitely LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! My deepest desire is that you are as well!

With great JOY,

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

pondering His goodness

"Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.
Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours,
O Lord, and this is your kingdom.
We adore you as the one who is over all things."
1 Chronicles 29:11

Today is a new day. The problems of yesterday still await resolution. Our new son still awaits us in Addis Ababa. We're praying that the paperwork issues will be easily resolved. However, after watching several of my adoption friends experience similar roadblocks, I know the wait could be quite long.

Although we desperately want to bring our son home, the situation is completely out of our hands. Once again, we find that we're left with a choice.

We can either stress and worry—or—we can press into the Lord and place our hope in His goodness.

We can choose to trust and enjoy the gift of life God has blessed us with. Or, we can choose to worry and allow our hope to die.

My flesh so easily swings to the side of wallowing in doubt and worry. And yet, thankfully, I'm reminded of God's promises to me.

"Those who place their hope in You, will never be turned away. And those who place their trust in You, will never be put to shame. I am waiting here for You, to hear you speak my name. Beloved. Speak my name. Beloved. Won't you speak my name?" ("Beloved," Enter the Worship Circle)

As I push aside the wretched emotions my flesh seems to thrive upon, my spirit once again takes over. Songs of worship begin to bubble up as I bow before my Creator and praise Him for His faithfulness and grace. He is so good.

God is always working on our behalf, my Friend. Although our circumstances may tell us differently, we have to choose to go against our natural bent and trust Him.

When we choose to stand upon God's promises, our flesh has no other choice but to be submit to His Word.

He is a faithful God. He is a good God. He loves us—unconditionally and for all of eternity. His love never fails.

Keep trusting in His Word. Keep worshiping Him in song and deed. Keep choosing the narrow path. It is there that we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Choosing to believe God today,

Monday, August 17, 2009

worship

"You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens,
even the highest heavens, and all their starry host,
the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.
You give life to everything,
and the multitudes of heaven worship you."
Nehemiah 9:6 (NIV)

Last week a friend encouraged me with a worship song that helped put my circumstances into perspective. (Thanks, Amy!)

God loves me. He is sovereign. His grace is breathtakingly good.

When life becomes overwhelming or something unexpected happens, my first response is to try to carry the burden upon my own shoulders.

My job, however, is not to stress, strive or worry. My job is to worship the God who created me. The One who holds the universe and all that is contained within it.

"Ezra praised the LORD, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, 'Amen! Amen!' Then they bowed down and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground." Nehemiah 8:6 (NIV)

I'm so thankful for my supportive friends who responded to my sadness and encouraged me with God's Word and their prayer. It brought me back to that sweet place of surrender.

I pulled out some worship music that I hadn't listened to in awhile, grabbed a box tissue and lost myself in His glorious presence. He is so good.

There was such simplicity in the songs I found myself singing.

"You poured out all Your blood, You died upon the cross. You are my Saviour who loves me."

What more do I need? What more can I do? He's done it all.

It's amazing how primal worship becomes when we lay our worries and cares at His feet and allow ourselves to revel in His beauty, goodness and love. It truly puts everything into perspective.

The more I worship my Creator, I find that my world and problems become smaller and He becomes magnificently larger.

I find my center again in Jesus. My heart finds its way back to what is most important. Serving Him, worshiping Him, and giving Him all the glory.

When I finally turned off the music and wiped away my tears, my problems were still there. My new perspective didn't make them disappear. Rather, I was able to see them for what they truly are. Opportunities to trust God and allow His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

My heart is at peace for I know the One who loves me and cares for me is leading the way through the storms. He will make a path where none seems to be. He will light my way and keep me safe. He loves me.

He loves you. I think when we are truly able to grasp even just a tiny bit of how great His love for us is, the fear and worry dissipate. All that's left is God and His goodness.

My prayer, Friend, is that you truly know the power of His love for you. May you find the courage to lay your burdens at His feet and lose yourself in worship.

I promise you, life will seem so much more beautiful (and peaceful) when you do.

LIVING A BLESSED LIFE starts in a prostrate position, with hearts upturned to Him and reveling in His goodness.

(UPDATE: Our agency received our son's official referral today. Unfortunately, it's now a year old, is on the previous orphanage's letterhead and apparently needs to be updated. My sweet friend, Melinda, received the same news today. Please keep praying that God will make a way where there seems to be none. A huge and humble THANK YOU on behalf of our families.)

With joy and hope,

Photograph courtesy of Geoffrey D. Ivey