Friday, September 18, 2009

caught wimping out

"God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people.
So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient.
Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong,
just as Christ has forgiven you. "
Colossians 3:12—13 (CEV)

I entered adulthood with a great need for control. Feeling in control of life allowed me to feel safe. Of course, life isn't really in my control, but the longer we believe a lie, the harder it can be to get out from underneath it.

As I watch my oldest daughter interact with her siblings and seek to control everyone and everything, I've found it impossible to ignore the fact that I've passed on some of my own issues to her.

The roots of control, unfortunately, go deep for both of us.

I've been listening to a powerful seminar on parenting this past week and am learning so much. God has enabled me to see that my default parenting mode is control. (Ouch.)

Of course, it's impossible to control children, but oh, how I've tried. Today, however, I realized that in doing so, I'm actually wimping out—taking the easy way out.

Parenting is a tough job. Probably the most challenging job any of us will ever hold. It is also the most rewarding. To be able to shape another individuals life is incredible.

It's hard to recognize and admit that I'm making some very serious mistakes with my precious kiddos. I deeply desire to give them my very best, but I've made a lot of mistakes.

I still have so much to learn but my hope is to help them to grow into the children God created them to be—and to not get in God's way.

Over the past few days, God has allowed me to really hear the thoughts that have been going on inside my head. "If they would just do what I ask. If they would just listen. If they would just calm down. If they would just get along." Basically, if they would stop being the individuals God created them to be and fit in my safe little box, life would be good.

It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And frustrating, because I truly do love and enjoy my children. My heart towards them is good, but I've got baggage, and, it's getting in the way.

I know it is going to take some time to break free from the need to control, but as with all things, I know God is bigger than my struggles. He has opened my eyes to this issue, at this time, because I'm ready to do the hard work.

Parenting through control, for me, has become the easy way. Unfortunately, while it may give me temporary peace of mind, it's not God's way to parent. He gave me a free will and allows me to make choices every day. Godly choices bring blessings and ungodly choices not only block those blessings, but reap painful consequences. For me and for my loved ones.

God didn't create me to be His puppet. Neither did He give me children for me to treat as puppets simply because it feels easier to control their actions and decisions.

Real parenting is messy and requires a lot of hard work. It requires me to press into the Lord for wisdom, patience, grace and unconditional love. I'm so thankful that He has everything I need to live the blessed life I've struggled so hard to have.

And wouldn't you know, His gifts are free and life giving. Sometimes it can take me awhile to figure these things out, but, thankfully God is patient and His timing is perfect.

Oh, my Friend, whatever area God is working in your life, I want to encourage you to keep doing the hard work. The blessings that you will reap are truly worth all that you are doing! I know life can feel incredibly overwhelming, especially when we feel like we have so many areas in our lives that we need to fix.

How I pray that God's grace will allow you to see yourself and your life through His eyes. And that we can both rest in God's perfect will and timing. There is a season for everything under Heaven.

Today as I surrender my control to my Creator I am ever-so-thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE through Him!

In God's grace and mercy,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

truth and media?

"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless."

Sara's picture says it all and mirrors my own face today.

I'm angry. I'm frustrated. My heart hurts. I am so disappointed in man and media. I'm frustrated with the selfishness that seeks to make a dollar and pride that seeks fame—all at the expense of children in need and families who desire to step up to the plate and be a part of the solution.

This week a story was released to the world that totally rocked the adoption world. It cut deep to the core, for many reasons.

The first was that it instilled fear and doubt in the hearts of pre-adoptive parents who are stepping out in faith in response to God's calling on their hearts.

The result? Well, aside from the obvious distress the story caused, it could quite possibly prevent waiting children from ever having the opportunity to be loved and cared for by a family.

That, of course, is if the "news" story was based upon fact. It wasn't. The station that ran the story did not research their facts. What ran on a well-respected network should have been the cover story for the N*tional Enquir*r. Seriously.

What broke my heart the most, however, is that a woman whom I hold great respect for was targeted in the story. They used portions of a DVD she made on behalf of children in need, at the request of their government, and put together quite a little "story."

This is a woman who has invested her life into caring for widows and orphans. She is an adoptive mother herself and has such a beautiful heart. She's not in it for the glory, the money or the fame. She is living a life of sacrifice because she knows it's only by God's grace that she herself is not a woman dying of AIDS, starving and forced to surrender her children to adoption.

The story was so horrific and left all who watched it sick to their stomachs. I refuse to waste any time discussing the details of the story. I will say, however, that both the woman and adoption agency have responded to the story sharing the truth. Wouldn't you know, the truth is very different than what was reported on the news. Sigh.

One of the things that saddened me the most was the result within the Christian adoption world. I know the story seemed 100% believable, and yet, as Christians, I would hope that we would first seek to understand. And, to remember that the enemy's tactic is to surround his lies with a tiny bit of truth in order to make them believable.

I think it's always important to consider how we would feel if the story had been about us? How would we want others to respond? What impact could a story like this have on our hearts, our families, or ministries?

And more importantly, how would Jesus respond? Because, really, our goal is to model ourselves after Him. I believe that He would first look at our character and heart. If the answer still isn't obvious to us, we can then look to His words in Scripture for advice.

Jesus gave us the Golden Rule. He lived out the Golden Rule. That's a great place to start.

Don't get me wrong. I have been on the side of believing everything I hear. I have judged without knowing and in turn have been found guilty myself. It's an awful place to be. And there are always consequences. We always reap what we sow.

Honestly, if I didn't personally know the person targeted in this news story, I too would have believed the story to be true. Sadly, I probably would have responded the same way.

That sad thing, however, is that this wasn't just a situation of misunderstanding. There will be consequences for judgements made, harsh words spoken and lies told. The most vulnerable of all will be affected. And that truly stinks.

Sadly, the story was apparently broadcast for their benefit. I can't for the life of me figure out how they could possibly benefit from a story such as this.

As I was praying about the situation today, God reminded me of how often I have treated Him the same way. When troubles have come my way and I didn't feel Him responding in the way I wanted Him to, I doubted His character. I made judgements. I believed the worst about Him. And that, my Friend, really stinks.

One of the lessons I've learned through all of this is how important it is to first seek God's wisdom in all things. It's important to stop, pray and then respond. Reacting is never a good thing. For myself, reacting always gets me into a world of trouble.

On the days when I forget to seek God's wisdom and am on the other side of reacting? Well, I'm learning to take responsibility for my mistakes and seek God's forgiveness. And the forgiveness of those I have hurt with my actions or words.

We're all learning. We're all human. Thankfully, God is slow to anger and abounds in love. Oh, how I long to be more like Him!

May you, my Friend, be blessed this week with eyes to see Him and a heart that knows Him. Oh, how He loves you.

Keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful, again, for His grace,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

refinement

"See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction."
Isaiah 48:10 (NIV)

God is amazing at answering my prayers. Lately, I have been so frustrated by my sin that I have been begging God to heal me, change me, transform me and deliver me. I asked Him to leave no stone left unturned and no dark place hidden.

I plead with Him to go deep. I stood before Him and surrendered myself 100% to Him. Seriously.

Some would say that's a crazy woman's prayer because God will indeed answer.

And He has. Oh my.

For the past week, I have been in God's furnace of refinement. It has been so intense. And yet, as uncomfortable as it is, I refuse to tell Him to stop. He's placed a desire in my heart to be holy and to be able to fully enjoy all of the blessings He has bestowed upon me.

My sins? Well, they are just slowing me down, stealing my joy and blocking my blessings.

I'm sick of it! I'm ready to let go of everything that is bogging me down. God has a better life for me, and I want it. He's been patient with me long enough.

And so, I opened the door and asked Him to do whatever is necessary.

The result is that every single moment of my day is under God's great illumination. I feel like I'm both under a microscope and looking at my self through the lens. I see the struggles I have with impatience, control, procrastination and pride.

It feels like God has slowed down time and allowed me to see every detail of my life and flesh with clearer vision. And some of what I see, I honestly don't like.

He's been calling me to die to myself. When I am teaching my kids, talking with my husband or simply thinking thoughts in my head, He is raising the standard of holiness and challenging me to choose a different path. A new path. A more challenging path.

It's so very hard, but so good. I know it. Letting my own desires go, putting others first and pressing deeper into the Lord are all so worth the sacrifice.

God is so faithful. While these days have been long and hard, I have no desire to quite or run away. That hasn't always been the case for me. God is good.

Friend, if God is shining His light in your life and heart, I encourage you to not be afraid to look. I pray that God will give us both the courage and desire to do whatever it takes to enjoy the freedom His Son died to give us.

The gift is free. The gift is good. The Gift loves us with a fierce devotion and allows us to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE

***By the way, my energy tank is running really low. I pray that my thoughts are coming across clearly and making sense! If not, please bear with me while I adjust to this new season I'm in. (Grin.)***

Refined through His grace and love,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

forgiven much

"Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him,
so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table.
When a woman who had lived a sinful life in
that town learned that Jesus was eating at the
Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping,
she began to wet his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself,
"If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him
and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."
Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Tell me, teacher," he said.

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender.
One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
Neither of them had the money to pay him back,
so he canceled the debts of both.
Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon,
"Do you see this woman? I came into your house.
You did not give me any water for my feet,
but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but this woman, from the time I entered,
has not stopped kissing my feet.
You did not put oil on my head,
but she has poured perfume on my feet.
Therefore, I tell you,
her many sins have been forgiven—
for she loved much.
But he who has been
forgiven little loves little."

Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

The other guests began to say among themselves,
"Who is this who even forgives sins?"

Jesus said to the woman,
"Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Luke 7:36-49 (NIV)

Forgiven much and grateful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Sweetest blessings,


Monday, September 14, 2009

beauty from ashes

"...He will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair."
Isaiah 61:3b (NLT)

Why does God allow us to experience pain and suffering? It's a valid question, isn't it? Especially when we are in the throws of grief and trauma.

This weekend God allowed me to see first hand what can result when we allow Him to walk us through the fires of refinement. I saw two brothers worshipping the Lord with total and complete abandon. Their hearts, clearly, were fully committed to Him, and their hearts were full of joy.

I honestly would have been moved by their passion even if I hadn't known their history—I find it truly beautiful to see men who are able to surrender their pride and lift up their hands and hearts unto the Creator of all.

Their pleasure in worshipping God brought a smile to my face—their triumph over evil brought tears of thankfulness to my eyes.

You see, about eight years ago, my own family had been shattered by the actions of a loved and trusted family member. The pain was unbearable. To say that we were devastated is beyond an understatement.

This person's choices infiltrated everything we held sacred and dear to us. For a season, they stole our sense of peace and security. For a season, it seemed as if the enemy was actually going to be able to accomplish his mission within my family—"to steal, kill and destroy."

What followed were the worst months of our lives. In many ways it felt as though we had experienced a death in our immediate family. However, rather than rejoicing in the new life found in Heaven, we found ourselves walking through Hell on Earth.

If it sounds like I'm painting a grim season, picture that, only much worse. My deepest fears had become my reality and our family was forced to deal with some of the most difficult decisions one could ever imagine.

And yet, there was hope. God was still God and He never once abandoned us. He surrounded us with an amazing support system to help us find our footing again. They loved us, cried with us, supported us and grieved with us. God used them to help us find healing and a new normal. It was a long, slow and exhausting process.

As a result of the pain we experienced, I desired to help other families to either avoid the Hell we were walking through, or be delivered from it.

As only God can do, He brought a beautiful family into our lives. In sharing our family's story with them, God began to shine His light in their own lives. They, too, found that their lives had been shattered without even realizing it.

Over the next several years, our paths of healing paralleled each others. While we both had incredible friends supporting us, very few were able to truly understand the devastating loss and pain we had experienced. We understood the dark days and difficult details of our common circumstances.

Our families have come so far over the years. Many, many blessings have been birthed through our suffering. God has been more than faithful to us.

This weekend, I was able to see with my eyes how great my God is. To watch these two amazing men praising God with sheer joy radiating from their faces was a living and breathing testimony of His amazing power, glory and majesty.

There is evil in this world we live in. I've seen it with my own eyes and faced it head on. The good news, however, is that there is a God who is so much bigger. He has already been victorious over our enemy and He will have the final victory in the end.

The suffering we face, endure and walk through is for our good, not our harm. I know it can be very, very difficult to believe at times, but I have experienced it firsthand.

With great faith, I am able to echo Joseph's words:

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 15:19 (NIV)

I also love the saying, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Oh, how true it is.

The above photos were taken at our favorite beach along the Oregon Coast. There's a creek my kids love to play in that leads down into the ocean. On our last trip, we found that someone had taken several pieces of driftwood and created a fort.

The fort was so strong and sturdy that Chelsea was able to hang on it. And Liam? Well, our Little Climber quickly made his way up to the top and found himself a nice perch to hang out on. ;-)

The structure reminded me of what God has done in our family. Beautiful tall trees were uprooted and tossed about in the ocean for some time, only to be left abandoned on a beach. Someone came along and took what may have seemed useless and used it to create something strong and useful.

Isn't new life amazing? I would never have chosen to walk through the fires of Hell, but I am so thankful for the redemptive work my God has done in and through our lives.

Friend, I know that painful seasons stink. Oh, how I know that.

The good news is that God is still God in the good times and bad. He loves you. He desires to bring beauty from ashes; and, to not only restore, but redeem whatever the enemy has tried to steal from you. I pray that today you will feel His goodness, know His power and feel His great love for you.

Keep walking through the fires, for it is through them, not in spite of them, that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I pray that you are, too!

To God be the glory,