Sunday, December 18, 2011

got struggle?

"We give great honor to those who endure under suffering.
For instance, you know about Job,
a man of great endurance.
You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end,
for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy."
James 5:11

"Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials
you are going through, as if something strange
were happening to you.
Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you
partners with Christ in his suffering,
so that you will have the wonderful joy
of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world."
1 Peter 4:12-13

"God, for whom and through whom everything was made,
 chose to bring many children into glory.
And it was only right that he should make Jesus,
 through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation."Hebrews 2:10

"And God will use this persecution to show his justice
 and to make you worthy of his Kingdom,
 for which you are suffering."
2 Thessalonians 1:5

"For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting
in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him."
Philippians 1:29, NLT

I've come to discover that life is a journey filled with choices. At the very core, my choices are all about drawing close or pulling away.

Do I draw close to my Creator? Or pull away?

Do I seek to uncover my true self? Or do I try to cover up?

Do I reveal my true heart to others? Or do I run away and hide?

One choice leads to the beautiful fulfillment of God's amazing plans for my life.

To abide in Him and allow Him to reveal His glorious love for me.

To face my woundedness, weaknesses and sin and allow Him to heal, restore and transform me.

To enjoy relationships that allow the giftings and blessings He has implanted within me to grow and blossom.

And, to share God's goodness and grace with those that He has placed in my life.

The other choice leaves me alone.

Wanting.

Hurting.

Hopeless.

Self-medicating.

Suffering for the sake of suffering - not growth.

It's an absolutely miserable place to be.

And quite honestly, it's such a stinkin' waste of time.

A waste of my life.

It most certainly isn't what I was made for.

Some days the choice seems really simple.

But most days? Most days I have to work really hard to stop working so hard.

'Cause you see, abiding in Love is simple.

There is no real effort. It's just a choice. A life altering choice.

Running? Hiding? Avoiding? Those take effort. Great effort. And the results are disastrous.

Today I find myself facing a big, stinky, ugly mess. I feel overwhelmed and defeated.

The latter choice actually feels quite appealing - if I'm honest with myself.

Don't push through the struggle, just settle in and wallow in it.

I look around me and see those whom I love hurting and struggling.

We are in this together. At least we can be - if we choose.

Going through suffering and struggles is exhausting and excruciating.

But as Elisabeth Kubler Ross said, the most beautiful people we know are those who have gone through.

Pushed through.

Refused to give up.

While the wallowing may feel like the easier choice, I know where it ends up. And in truth, that's not where I want to end up.

If I quiet my raging heart for even just a split second, I can hear Love whispering words of life and hope to me.

Reminding me of all He has done in the past. And promising me that He has better things in life in store for me than this.

Today God has laid the same choice before each of us, my Friend.

Which path will you choose?

I have a feeling, that you, my Friend are one of those people. Beautiful beyond words.

You may not see it yet because Master Potter isn't done with either of us yet.

But rest assured, one day His work will be complete. And it will be more than worth the suffering.

Please don't give up.

Please don't give in.

I know how tempting it is to give into wallowing.

I also know how damaging and destructive it is. To us. And those we love.

I encourage you to make the choice today to KEEP LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

In His love and grace,


Friday, December 2, 2011

perspective














"So where does wisdom come from,
and where does understanding live?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
even from the birds of the air.
 The places of destruction and death say,
'We have heard reports about it.'
 Only God understands the way to wisdom,
and he alone knows where it lives,
 because he looks to the farthest parts of the earth
and sees everything under the sky.
 When God gave power to the wind
and measured the water,
 when he made rules for the rain
and set a path for a thunderstorm to follow,
 then he looked at wisdom and decided its worth;
he set wisdom up and tested it.
 Then he said to humans,
'The fear of the Lord is wisdom;
to stay away from evil is understanding.' "
Job 28:20-28 (NCV)

Sometimes we can spend so much time looking that we forget to really see.

 
Our eyes are open, but our perspective is off.

 
Some people may look at these photographs and wonder why I took them. The answer for me is easy. I see beauty in the simple things. The textures and patterns and places where every day life happens.

 
These particular photos I took a year ago, July. Geoff and I hired our favorite babysitter (Brea, WE MISS YOU!!!) and snuck away for dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant in The Pearl.

Afterwards, we walked around Portland and snapped shots of whatever caught our attention. Geoff's the true photographer in the family, but I have fun messing around. (I admit to being a bit ADHD when I'm behind the lens!)

 
As I look at the pictures, I can't help but wonder what God's perspective is on my current life situations.

His Word is full of verses that tell us to look and see.

 
Two particular verses caught my eye tonight:

 
"The Lord looks down from heaven and sees every person."
Psalm 33:3 (NCV)

and

"God looked down from heaven on all people to see if
anyone was wise,  
if anyone was looking to God for help."
Psalm 53:2 (NCV)


I don't know about you, but the idea of the Creator of the Universe looking down on me brings a smile to my face.

The second part of that verse really hits home. Because, quite honestly, I could really use His help with the challenges I have before me.

 
Today and every day.

 
I don't want to miss out on all that God wants to show me and teach me.
Some days, my eyes are wide open and my spirit is sensitive to His gentle leading and love.

Most days, however, I get stuck seeing things through my flesh and I miss out on all that He wants me to see. And hear. And know.

Sometimes, we just have to lift our eyes up and really look around at all that is really going on.

And always, always I think we need to remember that we have a Creator who is readily available to offer us help. All we have to do is ask.

Today I pray that God will give both of us His perspective. To view our challenges, our lives and especially ourselves through His eyes.

And, the courage to ask Him for help when the things He shows us feel too big or too heavy to face on our own.

May you know, my Friend, how truly loved and valuable you are.

Keep pressing into Love and KEEP LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Looking up,

Monday, November 28, 2011

win or lose

Xia-Xia, LangFang, China, June 2006 (brings tears to my eyes)
Sara showing me the look she gives her sister & brother behind my back most days to push their love away. :-(
Sara working on getting her brain strong after acting out on a "fun" family outing.
Jumping jacks help kiddos move out of fight-or-flight mode.
Sara feeling a bit more grounded but still struggling during one of her difficult days.

"And may you have the power to understand,
as all God’s people should,
how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is."
Ephesians 3:18 (NLT)

Welcome to my world. Looking at the above pictures may leave you scratching your head wondering why in the world I'm sharing such sad pictures. As well as what kind of parent I am. No worries! I wonder that myself. Every.Single.Day. (Grin.)

I've had several people ask me to share a bit more detail about the struggles my family has been working through this past year, plus. After much prayer and thought, I still believe that most of what we are going through needs to remain confidential.

However, as with most things, I know we aren't the only ones struggling. My intention in writing on a public blog is to hopefully encourage others by sharing what God is teaching me through this crazy-daisy life I'm livin'.

Life is hard and we're all in this battle of good vs. evil together. A word of warning: I most assuredly do not have all the answers. Nor have I figured out how to live a life fully pleasing to God. That is, of course, my heart's desire.

But I'm human. I struggle. I make mistakes. Sometimes I think I've figured something out, only to realize that I was reading my Bible upside-down!

Some days I'm clear-headed and my focus is where I want it to be - while other days I'm downright confused and overwhelmed. So please take what I share as what it is. One person's experience at this point in time. Please allow God to be your source of wisdom and guidance. He won't let you down or steer you wrong. I'll try not to, but as I said, I'm human. (Smile.)

You and I are fellow-sojourners on this amazing journey called life. Together we can offer each other support - and a whole lot of grace!

So, grab a cup of coffee and step into the "World of Amy" for a moment or two...I have a feeling you'll be more than relieved to step back into your own reality by the time you're done reading! (Chuckle.)

Here goes...

As a mom to two birth children and two adoptive children, God has given me a unique perspective. I have the joy of parenting children who have always known the security of love and acceptance. I also have the anguish of wanting to pour love and acceptance into children who have never known the security of love and acceptance. Holding both experiences in tandem, I'm learning, is beyond excruciating.

I spent my first 8 years of parenting taking for granted that love was something that was freely given and freely received. I couldn't fathom that anyone, especially a child, would consider love to be something to run from. Until I met RAD.

Reactive Attachment Disorder.

I'll spare you all of the gory details and cut to the chase. Children (and adults who have yet to experience healing), suffering from RAD are terrified of love. Their sole purpose in life is to protect themselves from love and do so by working tirelessly to control others and their environment. You see, for them, to give into love or allow others to be in control is equal to dying. Their goal is to survive at any cost.

Their behaviors do not make sense - at least not to untrained heart. You see, in reality, these individuals are AMAZING human beings - full of creativity, intelligence and deep beauty. And, of no fault of their own, experienced devastating loss or trauma before the tender age of three.

There's much more to the diagnosis and disorder than what I'm relaying here. But for the sake of keeping this l-o-n-g post from being even longer, this is 'RAD in a nutshell.' And quite honestly, after living with it and learning about it for 5 years, my brain is still tied up in a painful-pretzel-knot every day trying to figure it out.

Moving on...

My Sweet Sara has verbalized extreme trauma during her first 18 months while she was in China. I recognize that the average person does not (should not? cannot?) remember the first several years of their lives. But, for whatever reason, Sara does. Vividly. Painfully.

Shortly after we brought our baby girl home, we recognized that her special-needs went far beyond her physical heart, lip and palate. She needed special parenting, unique therapy and lots and lots and lots of prayer. And patience. And the one thing she was most afraid of - love.

Bringing Sara into our family has taught us so much. We spent three solid years helping her to heal and grow and settle into our family. The miracle of transformation we saw in Sara, and in ourselves, inspired us to adopt again. Through our own histories and experiences, God birthed within us a desire to help hurting kids heal.

For reasons God alone understands, He led us to another child who also experienced a traumatic start in his life.

The details of Sara and Luke's lives are for them alone to share. Suffice to say, they have experienced deep wounding and trauma. Unimaginable experiences that have scarred them both deeply - resulting in RAD - which affects every cell of their being and every aspect of their lives. Their thought processes, decision making and actions are all affected by what they did - and didn't - experience during the first few years of their lives.

For all of my fellow mamas out there - whether you are parenting children who grew in your womb or in your heart - when your child hurts, you hurt. You want to pull them close and shower them with love.

The only problem is that RAD doesn't allow us to do that. In fact, it's a defense mechanism that seeks to destroy love in any shape or form. "Devastating" doesn't even begin to describe what it's like to want to love someone who not only refuses to let you love them, but works tirelessly to make themselves unlovely.

For Sara, the past couple of years have brought her more pain. The details of her life thus far would break your heart. Watching her struggle, trapped in a world of solitude that she has carefully constructed is beyond painful.

Every day she wakes up with a plan to push us away from her. Every day I wake up with plan to pull her close and help her fragile, bleeding heart heal.

I would do anything, give anything to help heal my little girl's heart.

Out of 417 days, Love has won out on only 6 of those days. One could say, therefore, that my youngest has won 411 of those days. But, sadly, the reality is that when Love loses, we all lose.

My precious child has missed out on 411 days of peace, joy and love. And it breaks my heart.

You might be wondering what a child healing from RAD might say about such a sorrowful situation. Sadly, she's quite pleased with herself. I kid you not. Like I said, it doesn't make sense. Or maybe it does?

RAD makes these amazing children believe that they don't deserve anything good. Otherwise why would they have been abandoned by their birth parents? Why would God have allowed bad things to happen to them?

I don't have the answers to those questions. But I can guarantee you that I've done everything in my power to try to convince both of my wounded children of their value and my unconditional love for them. (Have I mentioned my pretzel-knotted-headache?)

The problem is that RAD doesn't allow reasoning. It wires the brain in a different way.

So far, my batting average (6:411) stinks. But you know what stinks even more? The fact that my precious kiddos aren't the only ones battling RAD.

When it comes to God's unconditional and abundant love for me, I'm afraid that more often than not, I have my own defense mechanisms and refuse to let Love in. I don't know why I do it. In fact, most days, I don't even recognize that I'm doing it. Kinda like my hurting kids.

When I see RAD come between me and my Heavenly Father, it gives me greater compassion and empathy for my two struggling children, and gives me the strength to try yet again tomorrow.

I've said it before - I'm not giving up. I'm not giving in. I refuse to let RAD - and the enemy of our souls - to win.

Because, despite all of the loss, trauma, grief and pain the enemy throws our way, we have a God who is far bigger and far more powerful. As a human, as a mom, there is only so much I can do.

But God.

He is love. He is life. He brings new life to seemingly hopeless situations. He is the light in our darkness.

He has gone before us and is preparing the way to freedom.

Our breakthrough didn't come today and it might not come tomorrow. But I believe that it will come. In God's time. In God's way.

Friend, I don't know what challenges you are facing today. Maybe some of what I've said is resonating in your heart. Maybe your struggles are even more intense than what we're dealing with here.

But I do know that if you are struggling and feeling like every day is a losing battle-  you are not alone.

Our situations may look nothing alike, but I do know that our core desire as humans is to know love, give love and be loved. We all struggle with that in one way or another.

Some days can be so very, very hard. We win some. We lose even more.

But that doesn't change God's never-ending love for us.

He loves us with a fierce devotion. Especially when we do our best to look and act unlovely.

Today, may we both take a chance to stop fighting, allow our defense mechanisms to drop and let Love in.

There is nothing my children can do to earn my love. There is nothing they can do to make me stop loving them. They've tried. Believe me. They have tried. And I still love them. Immensely.

There is nothing you or I can do to earn God's love. There is nothing we can do to stop Him from loving us. I've tried. Believe me. I have tried.

God is love. And "love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8a, NIV)

Win or lose, I'm choosing to keep on loving and to KEEP LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With hope and LOVE,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

thankful







"Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)

There's a saying that I keep seeing around the Internet lately that I've been contemplating.

"What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

It gets your attention doesn't it? It sure got the attention of my flesh. In the form of a flinch. Followed by a sigh. And intense panic. And then condemnation.

I can honestly admit that my initial thoughts, sadly, were entirely selfish. While I love camping for a full week every Summer, there are certain creature comforts that I would never want to live without. Those were the first "things" that came to mind.

A few seconds later, however, I tossed condemnation aside and got real. With myself and more importantly, with God.

And I remembered who He is. As well as who He's not.

While I can sometimes fall for the trap of expecting my children to say "Thank you," if I do something nice for them, I honestly prefer a heartfelt thanks that comes naturally and without obligation. Or conditions. You know - without strings attached.

True giving is like that. Simple. Pure. From the heart. Derived from love. Without expectations.

And so it is with my Heavenly Father. He delights in showering abundant gifts upon me. Regardless of whether I thank Him. Or if I even stop to notice that it was from His loving hand the gifts came from.

That doesn't mean, however, that my thankfulness doesn't warm His heart. It just means that He graciously bestows good blessings upon me because He loves me.

So, with condemnation out of the way, I felt the Holy Spirit bring His sweet and ever-so-gentle conviction. Ah, that's where the real teaching begins. When pride, selfishness and guilt are gone, the eyes (and ears) of our hearts are open.

With my flesh thankfully silenced, I was able to dig a little deeper. And you know what? I actually liked what I saw.

I wish I could say that my initial reaction was pleasing to my God - and to myself - but it wasn't. I'm human. And I'm still learning and growing. But I'm thankful that I have a patient Creator who knows me fully and is ever-so-gracious with me - and my annoying flesh. :-)

Which brings me back to the original question. What am I thankful for today? After all, it's the perfect day to consider such things, isn't it?

As I reflect over the past year, I can obviously thank God for the flowers of blessings. Beautiful, colorful, many of which have popped up in unexpected places. Extravagant love full of mercy and goodness.

But that's not all.

In the very same thought, the very same breath, I utter heartfelt thanks for the painful thorns and thistles I've encountered as well. Especially the ones embedded deep in my heart with wounds still fresh and bleeding.

As crazy as that sounds, I'm especially thankful for pain I've endured.

The tears fall silently down my face as I thank my Father for the thorns.

Without the thorns, the beauty of the flowers grow pale.

Without the sadness, the joy falls flat.

Without loss, that which we still hold loses it's value.

My heart still physically aches on a daily basis because of the burdens I carry of loss, grief, trauma, betrayal and pain. However, it's those very things that tell me my heart is still soft, beating and alive.

I refuse to give up.

I refuse to give in.

One day my hope will be fulfilled.

And there will be a glorious resurrection and unbelievable redemption.

We will experience new life through this season of loss.

Our hearts are being refined. Our joy is being purified.

It's a painful, painful process. But it is going to be worth it all. I have no doubt.

And so, today, I thank my Daddy first and foremost for who He is - awesome, faithful, generous and kind. Good to the core.

And I thank Him for my best friend and husband, Geoff.

I thank Him for my firstborn daughter, Chelsea.

I thank Him for my firstborn son, Liam.

I thank Him for my youngest daughter, born in my heart, half-a-world-away, Sara.

And, I thank Him for my Ethiopian son, Luke, who taught me how to embrace the thorns and thistles.

As my Savior taught me, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 KJV)

As I come full circle in my thinking, I can't help but laugh at my weak flesh. It's forever bound to this temporary place I call home. Thankfully, I'll get to leave it behind, along with all of my other earthly possessions.

What I'm most thankful for today is Love.

And all that He is.

And all that He has given me.

And those things, my Friend, are eternal.

And so, while loss is a part of my life today, I can be wholeheartedly thankful for it, because one day it will all be made right.

And the thorns and thistles will be transformed.

And my wounds will stop bleeding.

And my heart will be made whole.

And so will yours.

I am also thankful today for you, my Precious Friend.

And, because of that, I pass on the gift of a question that brought me bitter tears and a heart refined.

What are you thanking God for today?

Don't be afraid of what your flesh reveals.

Just make sure you don't stop there.

True growth comes in being honest with yourself and your Creator.

Push past the junk and shove aside the trap of condemnation.

The Maker of this universe loves you.

He knows you fully. And He loves you. All of you.

Keep pressing into LOVE and KEEP LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful beyond words,

P.S. I'm also thankful for the Guide Dog pup, Jeremiah, we helped raise this year. a.k.a. "Big Jer" or "Clifford the Big Red Dog!" Oh, how we miss him...

PHOTO CREDITS:
Geoffrey D. Ivey - Flowers & Thorns, David Hill Winery;Liam, Rockaway Beach, OR;Jeremiah, Portland, OR
CLI  - Bro & Dad, Rockaway Beach, OR
Amy J. Ivey - Geoff, Shimanek Bridge; Chelsea, Hannah Bridge; Sara, Larwood Bridge

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

light

 "In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
 "All things were made through him,
and without him was not any thing
made that was made.
In him was life,
and the life was the light of men.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:1-5 (ESV)

A powerful truth for all of us to hold onto. No matter how dark the night, no matter how dark the day, no matter how dark the season, no matter how dark the year - He is the light. He is our light. And darkness will never overcome Him.

Keep pressing into the LORD. He loves you. He is holding you in the palm of His hand.

Whatever burden you are carrying, trust and believe that He is carrying you.

You are not alone. You are loved.

God is good. All the time.

May we both experience His Word and His light in a new way today.

For it is in Him, and through Him, and with Him that we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Still believing,



Friday, November 11, 2011

desperate for words

"Though He slay me, I will hope in Him"
Job 13:15 (ESV)

It's beyond frustrating for a writer to lose their ability to communicate. And yet, that's the state I've found myself in for months now. Unable to express in words how I'm feeling and what's going on with my precious family.

I've talked our situation to death since our world exploded 13 months ago. I wish I could say it's given me clarity or some sort of peace of mind. But it hasn't. I don't have any answers or brilliant ideas on how to move us forward. But we keep trying. Waiting. Hoping.

Supportive friends call, email, and text me checking in. Concerned and worried. Oh, how I love my sweet, sweet friends! (Ya'll are AWESOME.) But I just can't seem to find the words. Despite the fact that my brain has yet to stop trying to make sense of all of this - it just keeps churning over the facts, feelings and thoughts - over, and over and over again. But the words fail to come.

There just aren't words to express the anguish we still feel. They say time heals pain and experience has taught me that they are right. But the deep sense of loss and the continued processing of intense trauma have yet to lessen.

Nor do the problems. And challenges. They just seem to keep coming.

But inspite of all of the trials, I know what's on the other side of this mountain we are up against.

Breakthrough. It will come. I know it because I still hold firmly to the fact that my God is faithful. He is loving. He is compassionate. And He has good things in store for us. (And whenever I forget that, I have faithful friends to remind me and encourage me.)

One day, my family will have yet another incredible testimony to share of God's amazing faithfulness and deliverance. We're just not there - yet.

And so, I keep searching for words - desperately.

I've come up with some unexepected ways to express myself. Who knew that my high school French could bring me comfort?

Je suis triste. Mon coeur saigne. J'ai deuil.

I am sad. My heart aches. I grieve.

Art therapy is my latest addiction. Black construction paper and Craypas work wonders. As does music. (I updated my playlist at the bottom of my blog.)

And playing Legos with Liam. And knitting with Chelsea. And talking Bible with Sara.

I'm trying to teach myself how to play the violin...interestingly, the horrific screeching when I bow is therapeutic. (At least for me...I think the rest of my family may need more therapy after enduring my practice sessions!)

I've found a couple of TV series on Netflix that I've never watched before. It's a great way to unwind after the emotionally draining days  - and get out some good laughs. And tears.

Every week I spend two hours processing and praying about all that's happened with my gifted and compassionate counselor. Sadly, even she has difficult making sense of all of it. But we keep pressing in and pressing on.

We'll get there. I believe it. But we are most definitely worn out and desperate for breakthrough. Desperate to see God's glory shine through all of the ugliness and pain.

Yup.

Nope.

Still can't find the words.

No eloquence with this post, I'm afraid, Friends. I think Job said it much better than I ever could:

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."


Are you struggling to make sense of what God is doing in your life, Sweet Friend? Or maybe what it feels like He isn't doing? You are not alone.

As a precious friend reminded me yesterday - God is always working His will in our lives, even when we don't see it or feel it. Our job is to keep pressing into Him and rest in His love. It's always easier than we make it.


I can't find the words, but I can make a choice. Today I am choosing to trust Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE.

With hope and faith,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

only love remains


"the fire only leaves behind whatever is of worth..."

This song has been a prayer that my family has been singing for months now. As we are finally able to catch our breath and begin to process all that God has brought us through, we are so thankful for the refining process.

Only true crisis has the power to melt away all of the little, insignificant worries and burdens we as humans allow ourselves to carry on a daily basis. So much "excess" has fallen away. Our priorities were completely turned upside down and we never gave it a second thought. Survival mode can be incredibly freeing. Things that used to be so essential no longer hold us captive.

As we reflect back over the past nine months (has it really been that long?!?) we continue to be amazed and astounded by all God has done in and through our lives. The blessings and sweet treasures continue to surprise us as we recognize the deep work of healing, deliverance and redemptive work He has done. (And, He's not done yet!!!)

Don't get me wrong, the process of refinement is painful, especially when you find yourself in the fiery furnace instead of on the mountaintop rejoicing in LORD's goodness. And yet, He always knows what we need exactly when we need it.

We set out on an adventure of obedience that we knew involved risk. We knew there were going to be sacrifices and hardships. But, we trusted God's gentle leading and sought Him every step of the way. We weren't haphazard, nor were we ignorant of the potential dangers. However, the reality is that where we thought we were headed was some place very, very different than where God intended to take us.

He didn't trick us. That's not who He is. He just didn't give us all the details until we needed to know them. One would think after hearing our story that we might feel resentful towards God for the ways things have turned out. I won't lie. There have been (many) times when our faith has been frail and we've questioned what in the world He was thinking - but there has always been that tiny mustard seed of faith that has kept us hanging on. But rather than resenting His will for us, we are humbled and so very, very thankful that He loves us so much to not leave us in the condition we were in before we embarked upon this journey.

God has worked glorious miracles through a situation many would deem irreparable and hopeless. He is SO amazing!!!

We know that only true riches come through suffering. Growth only happens through the hard times. Our lives are only transformed by going through the pain. Resurrection only comes through death. We can't go around the problems and running away will only bring more trials. When we go through the fire, we are not alone, we are delivered and we are set free from our bondage.

All of God's principles have proven true over, and over, and over again throughout my life. My life is a true testament to the goodness of my God and His steadfast love and forgiveness.

We have endured extremely painful pruning in our lives. We have experienced grave loss. We've had to let go of relationships we thought were going to look a certain way and are sadly, quite, quite different than we had hoped. We've had to allow other people to step in and play the roles we firmly believed belonged only to us. We've had to trust ourselves to systems and processes that we had absolutely no control over. In fact, we have lost absolute control over every single aspect of our lives - except for one. Trusting God and following His lead.

It's an interesting prospect when you find yourself led to the edge of a cliff and your back is to a wall. Nowhere to turn, nowhere to run. Voices around you questioning your decisions and your sanity. It's been impossible to please man in our situation. Our choices have gone against what many on the outside believe to be the best for our family. And, yet God...

Day after day, He brought us to the edge of a cliff and we chose to jump off into His will. He caught us and brought us to the edge of yet another cliff.

I laugh as I write this as I'm sure many will think that I'm being overly dramatic. Oh, how I wish that were true! One of my close friends has said, "Amy there are so many facets to what you are going through, it's overwhelming!" Indeed. I continue to shake my head at how complicated all of this has been.

I recently heard that some people were concerned that I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I laugh now, because that's exactly where I was several months ago. Completely and totally at the end of my rope. (I have to ask, who wouldn't be near complete and utter despair when dealing with this type of trauma and horror? The human heart can only bear so much grief.) The pain was too intense, the burdens too heavy, the losses too great. I wasn't able to sleep at night - the nightmares I was facing during the day became even more terrifying at night.

Every single day brought more bad news, more struggles to face, unimaginable decisions to make. Geoff and I spent countless days barely hanging on as we clung to each other in sheer desperation. Each one of my children were falling apart and their needs were so intense. Forget about the daily things that needed to be done like preparing meals, grocery shopping, washing dishes and doing laundry. Quite simply, I didn't have what they needed to heal. I didn't have what I need to survive. I was beyond broken, devastated and empty. The grief I was carrying quite honestly should have and could have killed me - and it should have destroyed my marriage and family along the way. But God.

He gave me the strength to cry out for help and answered it with His gentle and faithful love. He surrounded us with trusted friends and faith-filled counselors to help us through those unbearable days when we didn't think we could continue on. His love brought us through and held us together when the reality of our situation should have destroyed us all.

That said, we are still in the process of accepting our new reality, uncovering heinous memories, making difficult decisions, setting painful boundaries, pouring ourselves into the healing and restoration of our children and letting go of dreams we once held so dearly. But, rather than living on the brink of a nervous breakdown, I have hope. I have peace. And, I have unexpected joy. God is SO good!

The only reason we are able to look back and be thankful for all of the blessings we have experienced through something so intense, dark and ugly is because God is real and He is so good. The fact that we are able to count our blessings today is testament to who God is. We give all the glory to our God and King, for without them, all of this would have been impossible. On our own, we were definitely headed towards breakdowns and far, far worse.

When I am able to find the time to write about our experience, I am purposefully vague about what we are working through. The details are not something that should be shared in such a broad forum - at least not at this time. Rest assured, though, God is writing incredibly beautiful stories upon each of our fragile hearts and giving us new strength. Some of those stories already reveal His redemptive plan; while others are still, sadly, looking hopeless and full of despair.

But God...

He's not done yet.

And, I can't wait to see what He is going to do. And it is for that reason that I joyfully jump off this next cliff and trust myself to His trustworthy hands - and His glorious will. Not my will, but His. Yes, there will definitely be more suffering and pain. But, I know that it will be worth every single tear and sigh.

My family continues to be incredibly thankful for the faithful love, support and prayer our friends around the country continue to pour into us. We are also blessed to have an incredible team of professionals to help us navigate our way through this wearisome journey. We are so thankful to each and every one of you. Words will never enough to express our gratitude, but to each of you, I would like to say this:

My Sweet Friends, your love has taught us so much. You've sat with us in our grief when there simply were no words to speak. You found creative ways to make our daily lives more bearable with cards, gifts and meals. (I never knew how nurturing a schmorgasborg of leftovers could be, Ruth! Your love and creativity runs deep!) You helped us to laugh when our tears ran out. You've walked alongside us and held up our arms when we felt too weak to go on. You've listened to us talk about unbearable details when we needed to get outside of our heads. You check in on us regularly and keep us from isolating ourselves. You respond faithfully to each and every prayer request we've sent your way. You've stood by us through the long-haul, allowing us to likewise support you in your trials as well. Friendship is such a magnificent gift!

You've taught us that love is a verb and is best fulfilled through actions rather than sentiments. We are already using all that you've taught us, Friends, and are finding ways to bless others who are hurting and in need of support. The blessings you have poured so generously into us are now being shared with others. What a JOY it is to spread love and kindness! 

Quite simply put, you are treasures far more precious than rubies and we love you all!!! May God bless each of you abundantly for the endless sacrifices of time, resources and love you continue to generously bestow upon my family.

We continue to find ourselves walking in places we never expected to be and it is then that Geoff and I are reminded of our prayer that God would break our heart for those things that break His. Although we had no idea what we were asking Him for at the time, He is answering in ways we never could have imagined. As heart shattering as this season has been, we find ourselves praising God for not only answering our gloriously naive prayer, but for giving us the perseverance and faith we need to continue walking this painful, tiresome road. We no longer try to foresee where He is leading us, for He only gives us what we need each day. Rather, we've learned to trust that His plans for us are always good, that He will never leave us alone and that the journey will always bring us closer to Him.

The pain has been excruciating and I never would have chosen to walk this path. However, I never will regret my choice to be obedient to the calling God has placed on my life. I  know that we have all suffered greatly, but I can't wait to see how He will continue to heal and strengthen my family and redeem our pain.

While I continue to protect my family's privacy by carefully choosing the words I write, it is also my hope that writing vaguely will allow you, my Friend, to be able to find yourself somewhere in the midst of God's refining love as well.

The best encouragement I can give you is that no matter how overwhelming, hopeless or painful your current situation is, my Friend, that you will put your trust in God and allow Him to lead you through the fires and into His arms of redemption. He can turn your ashes into beauty, your mourning into dancing and your tears into joy.

He has given us a Savior who has walked this road before us and an assurance that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

The God of this universe loves you, my Friend. He knows your struggles and your pain. I can only imagine the burdens you carry and the scars that need healing. I am so very sorry for the losses you have experienced and the wounding your heart has endured. My prayer for you today is that you, too, will choose to leap off the cliff you find yourself on today and into His arms of love.

Trust Him.

He loves you.

He will bring you through the fire "until only love remains."

Keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With love and grace,

Sunday, May 1, 2011

gratitude

"When the righteous cry for help,
the LORD hears and delivers
them out of all of their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all."
Psalm 34:1719 (ESV)

Today my heart is overflowing with gratitude. God's grace, mercy and faithfulness have brought my family through unbelievable pain, devastating loss and deep, deep anguish.

In September of last year, our world fell apart. We realized that our reality wasn't what we thought it was. As we began to unravel the situation, the enormity of our true reality began to grow in size and intensity. We have been through incredibly trying times before, but nothing of this magnitude.

Not a day has passed where we haven't been forced to deal with more bad news, extremely difficult truths or unbearable decisions. The waves keep coming and crashing down upon us, but our Faithful King has walked with us through every single painful moment.

We've had friends who have come alongside us to bear our pain with us, cry with us, pray with us and support us in humbling ways. We are eternally thankful for their love and acts of kindness and generosity.

We've also had friends who, for their own personal reasons, have been unable to walk this painful path with us. And that's alright. We honestly would have chosen to skip this detour had we known how excruciating it was going to be! (Smile.) Admittedly, it hurts when those close to us suddenly disappear, but we do understand and there is grace in that.

And yet, God keeps providing all that we need and in unexpected ways. Eight months into this and the oppression finally feels as though it's starting to lift. We are seeing peeks of sunshine through the clouds and are so hopeful that the days and months ahead will bring deeper healing, new growth and awesome redemption. We trust that whatever else the Lord allows us to walk through, He will continue to walk with us.

This pain that He has allowed us to endure has been truly refining. I am so very proud of my family. They've had to deal with extremely difficult matters, and, even on our worst days, they have continued to trust God and His love for us. The blessings and gifts that have come through our trials are abundant and we are full of gratitude.

That said, this isn't what we planned. Our dreams have been shattered. Our hopes crushed. In all our lives, we never, ever would have expected to find ourselves in this horrific situation. And yet, what the Enemy meant for our harm, God has used for our good and His glory.

I stand in awe of all that God has brought us through. Clearly, His plans are far different than ours. I have to believe they will be better than anything we ever expected. He is good and He loves us.

He knew where we needed to rely more fully on Him and we can't help but cling tightly to our Rock. He has stripped us to the core and changed our priorities in ways we never imagined.

We asked Him to break our hearts for those things that break His and, WOW He is answering that prayer in bold ways. Geoff and I are walking in places we never dreamed of walking.

We are coming face to face with so many of His broken and hurting children. Families working their way through overwhelming trials and struggles. It's humbling. We are dealing with matters we honestly never thought we would be facing. But, in spite of how painful and difficult this is, we are thankful.

God is answering our prayers again, in ways we didn't expect, but amazing things are happening. Our faith has been tested, in countless ways, and proven strong and true. Our God is magnificent and we praise Him for who He is!

The journey ahead is still long. I wish we could say that life was starting to settle down and that the hardest part is behind us. Oh, if only that were true! We're in for a l-o-n-g haul, and if I learned anything from this past year, it's that I can't assume to know what lies ahead. The one thing I am sure of, though, is that God will be with us every step of the way. It's not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. Because He's good. And He loves us.

He loves you, too, my Friend. Wherever life finds you today, trust that you are loved. When the road seems hard, He loves you. When the blessings are few and far between, He loves you. When it feels like you can't bear another day, He loves you. When you feel abandoned and alone, He is with you.

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that my God loves me, He loves you and whatever this journey brings, we can face it, together, with God's love pressing us on.

May you trust His love in a deeper way today and may you keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With gratitude and grace,