Monday, December 13, 2010

blessed be Your name

"Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing Your pour out
I'll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in
Lord, still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose say
Lord, blessed be Your name"
Matt Redman


We're still here. We're still alive. We're still praising God.

We thought we had hit rock bottom three months ago - but the bottom has dropped out twice now. Just when we thought the situation couldn't get any bigger, any more serious or any more heartbreaking.

But God is still God and I will forever sing His praises.

Our family is in the midst of an intense battle - and we are fighting it on many fronts.

We've walked through the fires of Hell before and God brought us through. He made us stronger through that devastating season and I have no doubt He will do it again. This time, however, the wounds go even deeper and impact even more people. Our hearts have been ripped out, torn in two and stomped on.

But God is bigger than our situation. He is a redeeming God and His mercy endures forever.

The pain is beyond bearable. The storm keeps on raging. The tears keep on flowing.

And yet, we still find joy. We still find peace. We still find laughter.

It's one of the greatest mysteries of God - the ability to hold two opposing emotions in tandem.

We have every reason to forsake God. Our situation has been compared to that of Job - and on some days I tend to agree. Like Job, we refuse to curse Him and die. Quite the opposite - we have never clung to Him more closely.

Even on our darkest days, He has held us up. Especially through the amazing friends He continues to place in our lives. (Thank you is never enough - but you know who you are and all you have done to love, support and pray for us. Our hearts are eternally grateful. Thank you for standing by us in spite of the awful details you've had to listen to. You've cried with us, you've fasted for us, you've selflessly poured yourself and your resources into us. And, you've help us keep our hands raised in prayer and faith when we grew weary. You are amazing, Sweet Friends. So, so AMAZING!!!)

He is so faithful to give us all when need - exactly when we need it.

We have every reason to be angry, bitter and to seek revenge on the one who has so betrayed us and left us so broken. And yet God continues to give us love and mercy and compassion instead. It absolutely blows my mind the grace He continues to pour through us throughout this horrific situation.

The biggest lesson my family has learned this year is that there really is an enemy of our souls - and he will do everything in his power to steal, kill and destroy. And he will use anyone to accomplish his goal. As much as I would rather paint a pretty picture about God's blessings and goodness - I can't deny that He has an enemy. And, because I profess absolute faith in the One who created me - I have an enemy as well.

The good news? He has nothing over my Savior. He's been defeated once and he will be defeated again.

Until then, I'm going to continue to fight the good fight, holding fast to all that my God is teaching me in the valley. For one day, in His timing, we'll be standing on the mountaintop with our hands raised in praise to the One who brought us victory.

Friend, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Whatever season you are in, I pray that you know how very much you are loved and valued. No matter how fierce the battle, how deep the pain or how hopeless our situations may appear - God is in control - and He will never, ever fail or forsake us. His love is trustworthy and He is a good God!

Together, may we both keep pressing into Him, and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

To God be the glory,

Friday, October 15, 2010

blessed by His love through others

Healing Hearts Camp Olympics
Me and my beautiful girls (self-portrait!)

Canyonview Camp (love this verse!)

Me and Xia-Xia (yup, I had cried off my make-up that day!)

Chels, Geoff & Li (yup, my man cried off his, too! ha.)
Candy basket from Chatty Aunt Laura!!!
Four meals from my Chatty Girls who live across the USMy new favorite necklace that arrived on a very hard dayA tissue-box-plastic heart from my Li-Boy :-)

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more
than we ask or imagine,
according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be the glory---"
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

The last time I wrote, I had a hard time expressing the deep grief that was in my heart. I'm still not sure how to share all that's transpired, so I'll save that for another day. This time, however, my heart is full of joy and thanksgiving.

The past can't be undone and our hearts are still very much broken into two. We still find it impossible to believe all that has happened and accept what our new reality is. The tears still come at unexpected times and the blows just seem to keep coming, one after another. Those who have been brave enough to listen to the details shake their heads in unbelief and weep with us.

But God. There is so much in that phrase, isn't there? The enemy has tried to do everything possible to steal, kill and destroy. If you don't believe that he exists, I assure you, he is real indeed and knows exactly where and how to hit us. God's Word is true and the battle is real.

But God. He sent Jesus so that we may "have life and have it to the full."

But God. He's already written the end of the book and He wins. And so do we!

God has bigger plans for us. He knows that with Him we will not only endure these beyond-difficult days, we will be stronger because of them. And, we will be victorious through Him.

Though the future is unknown and we have so many big mountains ahead of us, God is leading us, guiding us and uplifting us.

He's done so in big and little ways throughout these past few weeks.

Prior to our world crashing out from underneath our feet, He led me back to the incredible attachment therapist we used when Sara first joined our family. We LOVE Miss Hannah! She invited us to the life-changing Healing Hearts Camp for RAD families.

The camp was exactly what we needed to learn how to be better and stronger parents. It gave us time to be surrounded and loved by people who understood our pain and challenges. (Their own courage and strength brought me to tears.)

The camp gave us six solid days of focusing on our family, healing our hearts, building stronger relationships, learning better communication skills and enjoying new adventures together (obstacle courses, zip lines and horses - oh my!) We made new friends that I know will be apart of our lives for eternity. In short - camp ROCKED! (Just ask my kiddos! They can't wait to go back, nor can Geoff and I.)

God introduced us to Miss Kate who is filling a critical role for our family - one that we aren't able to for many different reasons. She's an amazing strong and loving woman who has blessed us beyond belief.

He blessed me through my friend "J" who has walked a painfully similar journey as my family. She sent me the beautiful necklace above, sent us a card with a gift certificate to have ice cream and then FLEW OUT to stay with us and love on us for two days!!! She cooked us dinner and filled our freezer with meals. She loved on my kiddos and stayed up until midnight with me talking, praying and crying. Oh, did I mention that we had never met in person before?!? What an incredible blessing she is!

He blessed us with our pastor and good friends who dropped their Saturday night plans to come and pray with our family.

He blessed us with my Chatties (we all adopted special-needs daughters from China in '06 and have been super-tight ever since.) They have fasted, prayed, supported and loved my family on an hourly basis - listening to my sadness, frustration, worries, anger, fear and doubt. They've sent hundreds (OK, thousands) of emails, texts, cards, gifts and candy. They blessed us with a generous gift certificate to a local meal delivery service - SO helpful! They've invited my older kiddos to visit their "aunties" for a bit of sanity and fun. And they've distracted me and made me laugh when the details became too much to bear. I love them beyond words.

He blessed me with a hairstylist who doubles as therapist and then gifted me with a free facial at their spa. So sweet!

He blessed us through our daughters' dance teacher who gave us our monthly statement with our balance due zeroed out.

He continues to provide our overwhelming financial needs to get through this season, as well as the referrals, connections and specialists we need.

And, He's blessed us through our friends around the world who comment on my blog, leave me encouragement on Facebook and offer amazing encouragement, love, support and prayer - you are all SO wonderful!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. God is hearing your prayers and answering them in big and little ways. You are all so very amazing and kind.

Our God has met each and every one of our needs - before we even have a chance to know what they are. We're humbled by the love and generosity our friends have shown us. We are so very, very grateful and pray that God multiplies your precious gifts and acts of kindness. May He shower each of you with His goodness and love! Thank you for standing with us and upholding us in prayer. You are remarkable, my Precious Friends! Truly remarkable.

The battle we are in continues to rage and each day seems to bring more troubles and bigger concerns. But our God is bigger and He will bring us through. I may not understand what He is doing, and clearly His plans are far different than ours - but I do trust Him, for His ways are good.

We are expecting BIG miracles and continued healing for all six members of our family - and we will tell of His goodness and give Him all the glory on the other side of this storm. He's a good God and I am so humbled by His extravagant love for my sweet family!

Wherever you are and whatever trials you may be facing in your life, I pray that you know that you aren't alone. God sees you, God knows you and God loves you with a fierce devotion. Together may we praise Him in the valleys and on the mountaintops.

With all that I am, I encourage you, Friend, to keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With a deeply wounded but very full heart,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

when dreams come crashing

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed."
2 Corinthians 4:8 (NIV)

My family is in the midst of an excruciatingly painful and difficult season. Our live had been turned upside down and the path we thought we were on turned out to be something very different. I struggle to find the words to express how much I am grieving and how much my heart aches.

Sometimes life just isn't what it appears to be. Sometimes God's plans don't align with our plans. Sometimes the people we love hurt us in BIG ways. Sometimes the people we love get hurt. Sometimes our dreams come crashing down and we want to throw in the towel and give up.

But God...

Is still sovereign.

Still loves us.

Grieves with us.

Understands our questions, our confusion and our human pain.

There isn't anything that He allows us to walk through that He didn't ask His Precious Son to walk through before us.

Suffering. Pain. Rejection. Abandonment. Betrayal.

He knows them personally. While He could have stopped Judas, he could have stopped the whips, he could have stopped the nails - He chose to sacrifice His one and only Son that we might have life eternal. Because He loves us.

One of my greatest joys in life is to express my heart in writing - but the stories that have been written on my heart this past year are too painful to express - at least not yet.

For now, I will simply share that my family is facing one of the most difficult storms one could ever imagine. Our hearts are bruised and bleeding and we have a long - new - road ahead of us.

This isn't at all where we expected to be. But God is not surprised. And He is trustworthy. And He is still in control.

I ask, humbly, that you would please cover our family in prayer - for wisdom, for guidance, for for strength and for healing.

And, I thank you, Sweet Friends, for your love, support and grace.

May God give you all that you need to fully embrace the present season you are in. Life is hard - but thank the Lord, He never intended for us to walk through it alone.

Together may we both keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

In His love and grace,

Monday, February 8, 2010

He is trustworthy

"The LORD's promises are pure;
like silver refined in a furnace,
purified seven times over."
Psalm 12:6 (NLT)


It's a full week of packing boxes and packing suitcases. The Lord has continued to keep us praising Him, as well as giving us lots of opportunities to test our faith. Needless to say, we have not had a dull moment in a long time!

This week, I'm especially thankful that God is trustworthy, and, as Psalm 12:6 says, His promises are pure.

The photo above is a tangible reminder that I can trust God in all of the details of my life. In 2005, He invited our family to embark on one of the greatest adventures in our lives - adopting a little girl from China. The journey seemed long, and including a blood test that suggested I had Leukemia. (A few months and many more tests resulted in the "all clear" news.)

But, despite the bumps in the road, His promises proved true. In 2006, He brought us all the way to China and back with Sweet Sara. Since then, life has brought many, many more challenges our way, but God has provided all that we needed to persevere - and so much more.

In 2008, God put adoption again on our hearts. This time, however, He led us to a little boy in Ethiopia. I can't explain it, but it just made sense to our family. And so, we said YES!

This adoption journey has been even more crazy than the last. It's also been doubly blessed with new friends and strengthened faith. In a very short time, He will bring us all the way to Ethiopia and back. Only God knows what kind of healing our new son will need, but we trust Him to be faithful, because His love never fails.

As humans, we try our best to be trustworthy, but, the fact remains that as humans, we all fail each other. God, however, can be trusted. Always.

We may not understand His reasons and we may not always like His answers. But, He always, always, always has the very best plans for our lives. Each and every one of us.

As we press further into Him, may we have eyes to see His goodness and hearts to receive Him more fully. May we know His love and trust His promises more and more each day - for it is in Him, through Him and for Him that we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Sweetest blessings & JOY,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

brotherly love

"Finally, all of you should be of one mind.
Sympathize with each other.
Love each other as brothers and sisters.
Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude."
1 Peter 3:8 (NLT)

When you first meet Liam, his excessive energy and enthusiasm for light sabres and weaponry may cause you to assume that he's a boy full of mischief. And honestly, sometimes I get so distracted by his constant need to move and talk that I forget to look a little deeper myself.

That is, until he totally derails me with his tender heart and loving spirit. This morning, my young Liam, humbled me to tears through his sensitivity towards his little sister.

Sara's day started off with three time-outs within the first half-hour of her waking. After I had dealt with her misbehavior, I sat down to enjoy my morning coffee. A few minutes later, I heard Liam ask Sara why she looked so sad. She sat down on the stairs and started to cry. Silently.

You don't even have to know Sara personally to feel the arrow pierce your heart, do you? Watching a four-year-old cry without sound is sad enough to break any one's heart.

Liam immediately jumped to action and ran up the stairs to his little sister. He put his arms around her neck, gave her a very gentle hug and began speaking to her in soothing tones. He immediately knew that Sara was upset about our upcoming trip out of the country.

I joined them on the steps and held Sara in my arms. We talked for a bit, but before long, she was back in the loving arms of her big brother. While Sara typically prefers to be with her Mama when she's upset, this morning she needed someone who understood how sad she felt. Someone who had, just a few days before, struggled with the very same emotions. Her big brother knew exactly the kind of love and support she needed.

I quietly retreated to the next room and listened in awe as my own tears began to silently fall. What I heard blessed me beyond belief. Liam asking Sara if he could pray with her. And he did.

"Dear Jesus, I know that Sara's heart is hurting right now. Please comfort her. Help her to know your peace and your love..."

By the time he finished his precious prayer, the Lord was already responding to his words. As well as prayers that I hadn't even begun to voice myself. The scene I witnessed ministered deep within my own heart. This new season we are entering into is one full of blessings, and yet even positive changes bring their own amount of stress and strain. As I watched Liam loving on his little sister, I felt God lift off some of the burdens I hadn't even realized I was carrying.

He also gave me some precious insight into being a godly mother. Sure, I could give you a long list of all the way Liam challenges me on a daily basis. I could choose to see only his weaknesses and point out all of his faults. Sadly, on some days I do.

Today, however, God gave me eyes to see Liam's biggest strength - his heart of compassion and love for others.

Liam has a heart of gold. He's fiercely devoted to protecting both of his sisters and physically feels their pain when they are hurt or sad. He spent the last several days sleeping in Mesfin's bed to "fill it up with love" before his new brother comes home.

Liam makes friends with babies, kids and adults alike. And, unlike most boys his age, he really enjoys talking to people and making a heart connection. Especially when he sees someone who is struggling or in need of a friend.

Today, I am one proud Mama. Not because I feel like I had anything to do with the special boy my son is - because some days my own example is less than stellar. Nor is it because I think he's better than any other child - because I fully believe that in God's eyes we are all created equal.

I'm proud to be able to call this red-haired-dark-brown-eyed-man-child my son, because in him I see the light of His Creator shining brightly. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the goodness I see flow out of him and sense that God has given me a small window into His own amazing character. I feel proud to be loved by a God that is so good and so very personal as to allow me to experience just a small taste of His awesomeness in such a tangible, real-life way. And, I'm humbled.

Friend, if today is bringing you nothing but stress and struggles, I pray that God would send someone your way who would allow you to taste and see that the Lord is good. I know sometimes it's easier to get focused on all that's wrong and fail to see some of the simple ways God is trying to communicate with us.

My prayer today is that God would open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to His amazing love for each one of us. For it is in Him, through Him and for Him that we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for His love through others,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

gettin' ready for ET!

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
his faithful love endures forever."
Psalm 136:1 (NIV)

I've spent the past few days doing something that has brought me great joy with each of my children - taking off the tags of their new clothes, washing them and folding them. It really helps make their impending arrival feel real.

It's definitely been a different process buying clothes for a boy who I've only seen in photos and videos. They tell me he's small, but some photos make him look like a typical 8-year-old.

In December, I picked out a bunch of clothes all in size small. And then I saw photos of him that made him look much older. So, I took those back in January and picked out new clothes in size medium. And then I received his actual measurements. Guess what?!? He's a size small! So, this month, I went back and picked out a whole new set of clothes. Whew! My favorite stores are seeing quite a lot of me.

Am I complaining? NOT AT ALL. It is an absolute joy to be able to pick out new clothes for my son who has been through so much these past years. I would just rather have him here at home where I can take him shopping in person. (OK, honestly, I want him home for some many more important reasons, but you get my point!) Soon enough, though! God's timing is perfect.

At home, I'm helping to prepare the hearts of my three children here as they start to realize that we'll be apart for awhile. As excited as they are to enjoy an extended sleepover with their good friends, they're starting to feel a bit anxious. Thankfully, they all know how deeply God loves each of them. This morning we spent some time remembering all of the ways He has been faithful towards our family. We prayed about each of their concerns. And, we recited our favorite memory verse:

"Don't worry about anything,
instead pray about everything.
Tell God what you need,
and thank him for all he has done for you."
Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

Sometimes faith comes easy, other times we have to dig deep. Wherever you are today in your journey, I pray that God would give you all the reminders of His faithfulness you need today. I trust that He will continue to pour out His love and graciousness upon you, Friend.

Let's keep pressing into Him and continue LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Enthusiastic for the journey ahead,

blessings through others

"He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress,
and for his children it will be a refuge."
Proverbs 14:26

I'm so very thankful for my husband today. We have quite a lot going on in our lives. Through it all, Geoff has remained prayerful, stopping a few minutes before he heads out the door for work to pray with me. He thanks God for all of the provisions He has blessed us with. He asks God to help us be good stewards of those blessings. He prays that God will help us to see Him and hear Him in all situations. He asks God to draw us closer to Him. And, He lays our needs and burdens before the Lord.

Geoff's faithfulness to God has given us sure footing during this crazy adventure we're on. Even when bad news has come our way, he trusts in God's goodness. Even when I start to fret about Mesfin's well-being, Geoff reminds me that God is keeping our son secure. Whenever I feel anxious about the unknown future, my husband reminds me of all God has done so far within our family.

God is using Geoff to help me keep my eyes steadfast on Him and I am so very grateful. As he fears the LORD, he in turn, is providing safety and security for our family.

I am reminded again, what God taught me yesterday. God knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. Sometimes God calls me to be an encouragement and faith builder for others-while other times, God allows others to help me see His hand and heart more clearly.

Whatever season you are in, Friend, be assured that God loves you and has good plans for your life. Look for the blessings He brings your way through the people He has placed in your life.

Today, I am especially thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I pray you are as well.

With JOY,

Monday, February 1, 2010

He knows our limits

"When the king sent the people out of Egypt,
God did not lead them on the road
through the Philistine country,
though that was the shortest way.
God said, 'If they have to fight,
they might change their minds and go back to Egypt.'
So God led them through the desert
toward the Red Seas. The Israelites were
dressed for fighting when they left the land of Egypt."
Exodus 13:17-18 (CEV)

I'm a month into my Grace for the Moment Daily Bible, and I'm really loving it. I tend to need a dose of Old Testament, Proverbs, Psalms and New Testament, as well as the tear-jerking excerpts from Max Lucado's writings.

This morning I read the above verses from Exodus and received them in a fresh way.

God knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.

Sometimes, God calls us fight. The Israelites were dressed for fight, and up until this point, God had wowed them beyond belief with His amazing display of power and miracles. It seems like their faith in God would have been strong enough to prevent them from returning to Egypt and to their old lives of bondage.

But God knew better. He knew their limits. He knew their weakness. He knew when to push them just a bit farther to allow them to both grow and trust Him more. And, He knew when to back off and allow their faith to catch up. Even if it meant taking the longer route.

The next chapter of Exodus is the mind-blowing story of God parting the Red Sea and destroying every single one of the Israelites enemies. It doesn't get much better than that.

This morning, Geoff and I woke up feeling a bit down. We weren't quite sure why, until we acknowledged that if our timeline had worked out, we would have just finished our first day with our new son. It didn't happen.

God took us the longer route. We're still on track and fully believe that our journey will be successful, but God knew that the best place for us right now is on the shores of our own Red Sea. He knows that in this place, with the sand between our toes, all we can do is trust Him to deliver us. And He will. In His timing and His way. It may not be the way we imagined it to be, but I trust that it will be even better.

God's ways are perfect every time.

This morning, I logged onto my laptop to find not one, but two emails with updated photos of Mesfin. Our sweet boy.

Sadly, it was a permanent front tooth that he lost playing soccer. And, his left eye seems to be infected. But, thankfully his care center has a nurse on staff and will give him the care he needs, until we can take over. Oh, I can't wait.

Until then, my son is under God's watchful eyes and loving care. He knows Mesfin's needs and I fully trust Him, and His timing.

Friend, whether God is calling you to fight or whether He is calling you to rest, I encourage you to trust His leading. He won't steer you wrong. He has good things, very good things, in store for both of us.

God is good, all the time, and in Him, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for His timing,

Friday, January 29, 2010

Valentine's Day gifts!!!

Be My Valentine


There's not much I can add to Tom's powerful video. All I can think about is my son waiting in Ethiopia and his friends who are still awaiting forever families (and shoes...and shirts...and medicine.) If you haven't been inspired yet by Tom's ministry, start by watching this video and then check out his blog. His books are incredible and his heart blesses me to the very depths of my being. The best thing about his ministry is that there are countless, simple ways to get involved in the work he's doing.


Shirts for Shoes from Tom Davis on Vimeo.

I just did a little shopping myself...seeing as we'll be celebrating early here in the US...and then again on the actual day when we are half-a-world away!!! See my HUGE grin?!?

Several friends have asked how I'm doing today as we were supposed to be on our way to Ethiopia right now. I have to admit, I tear up a bit and feel sad, but really have a deep peace about God's timing and His good plan for my family. I'm thankful that Mesfin is in a safe place and being prepared for his transition to American life.

Our lives will all be hugely different in a matter of weeks and I'm really trying to make good use of this extra time. My priority right now is pouring lots of love and attention into my three blessings who are with me. And, I am so excited to be able to have my fourth blessing here to pour love into as well!

Thanks, my Sweet Friends, for being sensitive to our hearts and the painful wait!!! (For those still waiting, we are with you in the wait and will continue to pray you through to the other side!)

Today I am thankful for God's perfect timing in my life and pray that you are able to rest in His peace and faithfulness today as well, my Friend.

In Him, through Him and for Him, we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Simply love.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

every little detail

"The LORD is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in Him."
Nahum 1:6 (NIV)

I won't lie. It's been a really crazy and challenging couple of weeks. But through it all, God has remained faithful.

His timing may not be mine. His ways may not be mine. His priorities may not be mine. But I am His and that's really all that matters.

God knows exactly what I need and when I need it. He has every single detail of my life, and those I care deeply about, already worked out. No amount of stress or striving will make a single difference in His will for my life. But, it will wear me out. It will waste my energy. Most importantly, it takes my eyes off of Him.

As I look back over the past month, I'm left amazed and in awe of His goodness and faithfulness. Again.

Oh, how too soon I forget the incredible work He has already done in my life. I could choose to complain and be devastated when things don't work out the way I hope or expect them too.

OK, I did complain and I was devastated. But I have to believe that God was able to handle that and allow my flesh to wail for a bit before He swooped in and began working out the details.

And He did. Every. Little. Detail.

Isn't He incredible?

Through His love and graciousness, He has used these weeks to help me learn how to surrender my heart just a little bit more. He has shown Himself completely trustworthy.

And honestly, as humans, I think we need to have stinky situations in our lives to allow us to truly see that when all else fails, God will never fail us nor forsake us.

So, today, I thank my Father for answering so many prayers. I am praising Him for:

* The doctor calling my friend's husband with the news that he does not have cancer! The cherry on top? They are now able to continue with the adoption of their fifth child with peace in their hearts.

* Another friend having a successful hysterectomy to prevent the spread of cancer. Her positive attitude has left me truly humbled.

* Blessing us with a fabulous realtor/friend and her incredible team! They have invested their time, attention and prayers in helping our family sell our home and find a new one. Both home inspections went really well and we are extremely pleased to be moving forward towards closing date!

* Assuring us that Mesfin is in good hands at his care center. The director is a godly man who radiates love and joy. He has been kind enough to translate our email of love and reassurance to our sweet boy!

* Removing a few more obstacles in "M3" finally coming home to her family. (Please keep praying for them, Friends, it's been a long and heartbreaking journey for them.)

* Allowing us to love on and minister to 8 energetic K-3rd graders at church on Sunday. Granted, we were wiped after two hours, but it feels so good to have God using us to plant seeds of faith into the hearts of His children.

* Working out all of the details involved in moving our trip to Ethiopia - childcare, plane tickets, guest home, etc. He has provided the extra funds required and moved mountains to get the necessary changes completed. It's been far from easy, but as of today, we're good to go!!!

* Finding us a home that goes above and beyond our wish list while still meeting our budget. It's an amazing story that I promise to tell soon. For now, I invite you to enjoy the view from a winery located about 1/2 mile from our new home. Funny enough, we had no idea that our current home was so close to such incredible beauty. We are really looking forward to lots of exploring and photo-ops.

* Blessing us with so many precious friends who have commiserated with us, supported us, encouraged us and prayed for us. We are so, so grateful for each and every one of you. We are humbled by your love and kindness and pray that God blesses you abundantly!

As I look over my list of thankfulness, I'm reminded of why it's always better to bring my concerns before the Lord and allow Him to work out the details.
Friend, if you are carrying the weight of the world upon your shoulders today, may I gently encourage you to take each and every one of your burdens before the Lord and lay them down?

He's promised to meet each and every one of our needs. And, He's promised to never abandon us. We can trust that His plans for us our good and that He will work out each and every detail of our lives. No matter how big. Or, how small.

Today, I am extremely thankful for God's faithfulness and love. It is in Him, through Him and for Him that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I pray you are as well.

With hope & JOY,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

holding on

"Think of all the wonderful things He has done for you."
1 Samuel 12:24b (NLT)

My eyes are so swollen from crying all day that I can hardly see. My heart is grieving and I'm feeling really, really disappointed.

As I shared yesterday, God has been working overtime on behalf of our family. His blessings and miracles are almost too good to be true. Funny how quickly a phone call can make my human mind forget His goodness and grace.

You see, we were just shy of a week away from finally traveling to Ethiopia to meet Mesfin. And then our agency called with some really bad news.

Although he finally arrived at the care center, he was a day too late. The US Embassy requires that children's passport photos are submitted two full weeks before their appointment. And, because of the holiday, he wasn't able to have his photos taken. Sigh.

I realize that two weeks doesn't seem like a long time, but it is when you promised your son that you would be there soon. And you can't. My momma's heart is breaking in two. He's been through so much and this wait has been excruciating for all of us, but especially him.

We have travel plans that need updating and a whole list of other details to undo and redo. That I can handle. It's the not being where we said we would be that makes me so sad.

And yet, we trust God and His timing and remember all that He has done so far for us.

We know that this unexpected delay is a part of His plans for us. This is happening for a reason and He will see us through. We know that once we are on the other side of this seemingly huge mountain, the fourteen extra days will seem like nothing. But, today it hurts. Today I'm crying and I can't stop.

But, in the midst of that, God is showing His incredible love for me and my family through the beautiful friends He has filled our lives with. I have received so many sweet emails and phone calls. God cares about our sadness and He's using our friends to love and support us through yet another bump.

This journey we are on has been more than we could ever have imagined. While doubts and fears try to steal my peace and joy, God is refusing to allow me to doubt His love for me and His goodness. His love through others keeps me holding onto the truth of His promises.

My heart grieves and the tears flow, but God is good, all the time. He'll get us through this, I know He will. And, He'll get you through whatever struggle or bump you're facing in your own life, my Friend.

His love conquers all. Keep seeking Him and allow His love to wash away your pain and tears.

God's grace is sufficient for today - and because of that - I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! (Tears and all.)

Seeking His face,

Photograph courtesy of Chelsea Lauren

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

counting the days

"Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies."
Psalm 36:5 (NIV)

The last few weeks have been a wild ride, to say the least. Through it all, God has greatly blessed us with His grace and faithfulness.

On New Year's eve we learned that Mesfin had not yet been transferred to the transition home as planned. (Once children in ET pass court, our agency moves them to their care center to begin preparing them for life in the United States.) We spent the next several weeks waiting for the move to happen.

Last Tuesday, our agency called to discuss the problem at hand. First of all, I love our agency. They have been so amazing over this past year and have remained steadfast and professional despite all of the unexpected challenges that international adoptions bring. They had done everything they could to make the move happen, but were being stalled by distance and cultural differences.

While I am still trying to understand the details, the short story is that the orphanage director was refusing to relinquish our son. Talk about feeling helpless. Thankfully, our agency's director made the decision to fly to Addis Ababa over the weekend to resolve the problem.

Depending upon the outcome, Geoff and I agreed that he would fly a couple of weeks early to be with Mesfin until I could join them. Needless to say, being halfway across the world when your child is in need is a really, really awful feeling.

I honestly don't know what I would have done without my faith in God and His goodness.

We prayed and waited. And prayed a lot more. Our incredible friends supported us greatly through prayer and fasting. (Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!!)

In the midst of receiving this devastating phone call, we received an offer on our house. Talk about a crazy week. We were able to come to an agreement with the buyers and then spent the entire weekend shopping with our fabulous realtor.

Our prayers were answered at 2am Saturday night when our telephone rang. It was MESFIN!!! (We had asked our agency if they could please arrange a telephone conversation with him as soon as they were able to confirm his well-being.) I still tear up thinking about that priceless moment that I "met" my new son for the first time.

Through the help of our agency director and a translator we had a short but very sweet conversation.

Mesfin said, "Hello Mommy. Hello Mama. Come get me. (sigh)" He told us he was where he was supposed to be and then added, "I'm cute." (He's really good at repeating words and phrases in English. His accent is way too precious.)

Since our other kids were sleeping, I was able to record our conversation. They have been extremely worried about their brother and were beyond ecstatic to know that he was safe.

Lisa sent the above photo via her cell phone to calm my mother's heart. She says he's really small and is missing one of his permanent front teeth. We're not sure what happened and while I'm thankful that he appears to be doing well. However, my mind won't fully rest until he is safely in our own care. We're almost there...

The next day, God answered one of our other prayers. A new house that went above and beyond our wish list. I have to say, though, as happy as we are to be able to move to a bigger house for our ever-growing family--a house is just a house.

The past few weeks have really cemented the fact that the material things of this world really don't matter. It's serving and loving our amazing God and the beautiful children and friends He has graciously filled our lives with.

Geoff and I were able to fully surrender our plans to the Lord and trust Him with the outcome. He answered in ways we never expected and has continued to work out not only the big, but little details along the way. He is SO good!!!

But, I'll have to save that story for another day. For now, we're thrilled to be packing for our long awaited trip to finally bring our precious son HOME. (And then soon after, we'll pack up our house and move all six of us to a new home.)

God is so faithful. He has brought our family through so many challenging times.

Friend, I trust that whatever you are going through in your own life that God will meet each and every one of your needs as well. Sometimes He calls us to wait for His answer to our prayers, but He will never, ever leave us without His love and grace.

In Him, through Him and for Him, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I pray you are as well.

With JOY,

AmyJo

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

grace for the moment

"Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come
before God's throne where there is grace.
There we can receive mercy and grace
to help us when we need it."

I've shared before that I love all things Max Lucado. His Grace for the Moment Daily Bible is no exception.

Several of my friends have committed to reading the Bible through in 2010. Most of them are following Wendy Pope's journey and blog. While I really enjoy the New Living Translation they are using, I hesitated to order mine because I was hoping for something different.

And then I found Max's Daily Bible. Rather than follow the chronological order of the Bible, this format allows for reading a section of the Old Testament (in order), the Book of Psalms, Proverbs and the New Testament. For example, on January 1st, we read:
  • Genesis 1:1-2:25
  • Psalm 1:1-6
  • Proverbs 1:1-7
  • Matthew 1:1-25
It's still in chronological order and still allows me to read through the entire Bible in one year, it just adds a greater variety.

An added benefit of this version is that each day includes an excerpt from one of Max Lucado's books. Aside from reading directly from God's Word, I have never had an author leave me quite so breathless and craving more.

I also like that this Bible is in paperback format and not too large. (Although I admit that the words are a little smaller than I'd prefer.) Thomas Nelson is also coming out with a "LeatherSoft" version of this in a couple of weeks.

This isn't one of the books that I'm reviewing for Thomas Nelson, although I do give it two thumbs up. I'm so excited to see what God will teach me through His Word this year.

If you're not already doing so, I would love to have you join me in my year of reading. It's not too late. And really, it only takes about 15 minutes a day. It's definitely worth the investment of my time and focus. (For added resources and instruction, I encourage you to check out Wendy Pope's blog.)

God's Word is alive and active. Through it, He has granted me wisdom and new life. Every single moment I spend reading and learning changes me forever.

On a side-note, today is Christmas in Ethiopia! Sadly, we learned that Mesfin has not yet been transferred to the Thomas Center as he should have been back on the 15th. (It's a transition house where they will prepare him for life here in America.)

We sent a care package and Christmas card with a recorded message telling him that we love him. He'll receive our gift when he finally arrives at the center. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers during these final weeks while he is still waiting for us to bring him home.

Please pray for Mesfin's health, safety, well-being and heart. It's been a painfully long wait and we know his hope is starting to wane. Please pray that He will know God's love and peace, and that he trust that we are coming! THANK YOU, Friend!

I pray you are having a GREAT week and that you know how very, very much God loves you. Keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for God's grace,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

the narrow gate

"Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate
and broad is the road
that leads to destruction,
and many enter through it."

Today I found myself drawn to the teachings of Jesus. I love my NLT Slimline Bible because all of His words are in red letters. I read through several parables before I reached the narrow gate. I love the imagery Jesus provides. He didn't give a lot of flowery details, but rather made His point clearly.

Walking through the narrow gate requires us to leave others behind. Either because God calls us to do something on our own, or He's called us to do something that others see as too big of a sacrifice.

Walking through the narrow gate can be lonely. Choosing to move forward alone can feel incredibly intimidating.

Walking through the narrow gate requires faith. It requires courage to enter through a gate when we have no idea what lies waiting for us on the other side.

Walking through the narrow gate requires deliberate action on our part. When we reach the gate, we are faced with choice of either walking through it or walking around it.

Walking through the narrow gate requires that we lay down all of our baggage. It's impossible to enter the narrow gate while still clinging to other people, doubt, fear, worry and all of those other heavy burdens we humans love to hold onto.

In my life, God has placed many, many narrow gates. I wish I could say that I've entered through every single one of them, but I haven't. Far too many times I have allowed my need for companionship, security and control to lure me towards the wide gate.

Destruction comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it's been the loss of friendship I relied to heavily upon. Sometimes it's come in illness or depression. Other times it's come in the loss of a dream. Always, it's been the loss of blessings, peace and joy.

I don't believe that God has been the author of the destruction. That's not who He is. My consequences have come when I've chosen paths that are outside of His will for me. All that He has for me, for us, is good and pure.

When I have dropped my need for control, trusted God to never leave me and allowed myself to rely on His strength and promises--I have been blessed beyond believe. Every single time I have followed His path for my life, He has met me just on the other side of that narrow gate. I'm never alone and I'm never in want. He supplies all that I need, each and every date. And His blessings are out-of-this-world!

Choosing the narrow gate keeps us LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! God loves us and has amazing things in store for each of us. May we have the faith and courage to trust Him and keep on walking...

Thankful for His goodness,

Monday, January 4, 2010

right-side up resolutions

"Love your neighbor as yourself."
Matthew 22:39 (NIV)

Happy New Year, Friends!!! I wound up going M.I.A. unexpectedly. My laptop went out on me--literally. Somehow the screen broke and although my computer still worked, I wasn't able to see anything. Talk about frustrating! And then of course there was a whole 'nother round of colds and sickness over the holidays.

But, the good news is that we are all healthy and Santa (a.k.a. my generous husband) brought me a new laptop--and this one works!

The great news is that we finally received our Embassy date and will soon be traveling to bring our precious son HOME! God is good, all the time! Please continue to pray for our family as we finalize travel plans and prepare ourselves for the adventures ahead. THANK YOU!!!

As I began to think and pray about the year ahead, God gave me a new perspective on setting my New Year's resolutions. As I started to contemplate the things I wanted to start doing and some of the areas I'd like to change within myself, God showed me that my focus was on ME again. Ah, the naval-gazing syndrome.

I think that New Year's resolutions are great, don't get me wrong. We all want to grow and change, right? Setting goals and having direction for the year is critical if I want to accomplish anything. The key, however, is to make sure that I'm not placing all my focus on myself. And, that I'm not expecting to achieve my goals through my own strength.

While I thought about all of this, I was reminded of the words of Jesus, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Over the years I've learned how to love my neighbors. And, in this season I'm in, I'm learning to truly love myself. However, I've been missing the whole crux of Jesus' commandment. It's found in the word "as."

In my life, I've viewed that word like a one-way arrow, when I think it's really a two-way arrow. (Think mathematically for a minute, Friend.) I need to treat my neighbor the way I want to be treated and vice-versa. At least that's the way I learned it.

But, what if, "as" really isn't translated to "like?" Perhaps Jesus actually meant, "Love your neighbor [while] you love yourself" and vice-versa? It seems like a slight difference, but I think it's a difference that can transform lives. It's a difference that moves me out of acting out of obligation, guilt, striving and self-centeredness and moves me to a place of true servanthood.

If I'm putting others first in my actions and am loving them wholeheartedly, I am changed in the process. Yes, I want to get more exercise, eat healthier and spend more time in God's Word. But those are just the basics of what will make me a healthier and more well-grounded person. As (while?) I'm setting my goals this year, I'm choosing to make them "right-side up" resolutions.

"For even the Son of Man did not
come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Mark 10:45 (NIV)

What can I do this year to bless and love my neighbors? What can I do this month? This week? Today? I'm so excited to see what God has in store for me, and for you, this year. I know it's going to be good. Really good.

Today I am choosing to take my gaze off myself and put it on the only One who really truly matters. In Him and through Him, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I'm praying you are as well. May you know His deep and unchanging love for you in a new way this year.

Happy, Happy New Year, Friend!