Saturday, July 28, 2012

No Greater Joy

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  3 John 1:4

I remember reading this verse after I saw someone in my church parking with the vanity plate that read, "3 Jn 1:4".  And I thought to myself...I hope I can say that with confidence someday.  I have been hesitant to "brag" about my children's faith  or spiritual life simply because I have learned through my own experience with my family that just because a child is being raised in a Christian home does not guarantee a life of walking in the truth.

But...I am amazed by two of my children right now.  And today...I have no greater joy...because I know that today, at least two of my children are CHOOSING to follow the Lord with boldness and conviction.

Eleanor and Harry just came back from a week long mission trip to Birmingham, AL.  They both were on small teams that ministered to poor, urban families through fixing up their homes.  They painted everything that could be painted on the outside of the house, picked up trash, laid mulch, cauked, scrapping paint for single women. 

After serving all day long, in 100 degree Alabama heat, they enjoyed worship that Harry reported was like being at a Hillsong concert every night.  They had church time where they completely gerw closer to their youth group and the Lord.  Both Eleanor and Harry come home thoroughly changed by this experience. 

Eleanor and Harry have decided that faith is not a Sunday morning thing.  There is no "box" they can check on Sunday at 11:00 that says, "OK..I did my thing at church and now that's done for the week."  They both have come to understand that Jesus asks for ALL of us...all our time, all our dreams, all our hopes, all our fears.  They GET it better than some adults I know who SAY they are Christians.  And that brings me great joy!

I have a son who signed up for more information about mission trips around the world...without even asking us or talking to us!  Some of you may gasp at that...but for Joe and I...we LOVE that!  Yes, Lord...use our son and take him around the world to see what breaks your heart and to learn more about YOU!

I have a daughter who is ready to take on her public high school and be the light that shines.  She is not afraid of the public school - she is standing firm in her faith even among a group of people who  believe there is no need for God.

And this is what amazes me...and humbles me...because all I have ever wanted was for my children to be PASSIONATE about our God who humbled himself on a cross and DIED for them.  I mean, if you REALLY think about what God did for us, isn't it natural for your LIFE to be completely transformed out of GRATITUDE for Jesus?  And that transformed life is a life of ACTION....DOING the things that Jesus commanded.  But that also means KNOWING what Jesus said! 

Eleanor and Harry are starting down this path...and I have no greater joy right now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Power of Words

I learned in January how to speak into George's life.  I learned how powerful my words are for this little boy who calls me Momma.

I began making an effort to start talking about the future with  George and telling him how he is going to be a great man.  I also then encourage him to start being a good boy now..that it will be very hard to suddenly be "good" when he gets older.  We then tell him, that none of us are ever "good enough" and it's now about being good - but it is all about knowing who he is in Christ!

George needs to know that in Christ he is free!
That in Christ, he is forgiven!
That in Christ, he is an adopted son of the King!
That in Christ, he is loved!
That in Christ, he is forgiven!
And that in Christ, he is GREAT!

Last night, as our family gathered in the living room, I sighed at George and said, 'You've had a tough day, haven't you?"  He nodded silently.

In one day, he had been disrespectful, disobedient, mean, teasing, selfish and bossy.  And every time I corrected him on these issues, he was getting more and more angry.  I can now literally see the anger boiling inside of him - almost shooting arrows out his eyes at me.

But, I continued to reach out to him.  I told him I was disappointed in the way he acted today, but now it was time for devotionals, and I really wanted him to sit next to me...because I love him.

He sat down.  Lincoln pouted about not sitting next to me, and I stayed next to George.  I saw George's head raise a little. 

Joe started reading the devotional.  He read, "Doing right is easier once you've committed to God's ways...doing the right thing is easier if you've already made your mind up before temptation hits.  You need to decide NOW what you will do when temptation hits.  Commit NOW to obeying God's word and following His commands, and trust Him every day for the strength to avoid temptation or, if you can't avoid it, to resist it when it comes."

Joe continued to read and when the devotional was over he asked, "Do you ever face temptation?"

We bravely went around the room and shared how we are most tempted each day:  Joe - to stay in the Word on the road;Traci - -to take the easy way, instead of the "right" way;  Eleanor - to say unkind words with her tongue; Harry - to be lazy; Isabel - to be prideful; George - to be self-centered; Lincoln - to lack self control; and Anna...well....Anna said she was "tempted to color." :)

Then Joe asked, "Have you committed your life to following God's ways?"

At this point, I looked over at George and he was clearly shaken...and tears started rolling down his cheeks. 

I reach out to him and wrapped my arms around him as he said, "I always chose the wrong thing.  I always chose to do what I want and to think of myself.  I don't want to be a bad man when I grow up, and I think I will be if I keep choosing the bad things now."

I asked him if he "hears" God talk to him.  He looked at me confused, because he has always lamented that he doesn't HEAR God.  I asked, "When you were opening that bag of chips that I specifically told you not to open....did you hear anything in your heart?"  He nodded.  "George, that was God!  What did He say?"

George answered quietly, "He said I probably shouldn't do that..."

"Buddy!  That was God!  He DOES talk to you...but your job is to listen to Him.  We all have to PRACTICE listening and then DOING what He says.  God is with you when you are tempted..and He is guiding you.  Practice listening to His voice."

Oh, buddy.  We love you so much!  We shared with him how we ALL chose the "bad" things each day...we ALL are tempted to go our own way.  You are not alone buddy!  And God sees you as perfect...without sin...because of what Jesus did for you!  Do you remember what Jesus did?

"He took all my sin."

Yes!  And George...YOU ARE a GOOD boy!  No...you are a GREAT boy!  We all came around George and prayed for him.  I looked around the room and all the older ones were touched by this genuine display of remorse.  I think we all needed to see this tonight.

Then, fast forward to tonight.  We had just finished eating dinner and I went onto the back porch to read.  I came in to grab a glass of water when I found this cut-out circle of cardboard, with neat handwriting in black Sharpie..
..

Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself

Saw this on FB....had to share!
I advocate for orphans and for adoption. No surprise there! I do so because every child is, first and foremost, a child of the King, whom I love; and second, because I have a voice that can be used for those who can't speak for themselves, even as I would pray someone would do for my own children if they needed an advocate.

So for those who ask questions: why do you try to help the 1) disabl...ed child,2) the sick child, 3) the foreign child, 4) the older child, 5) the child from a broken system or institution

or make comments: 6) I could never love an adopted child like I love my own, 7) I am nervous about what an unknown child may be like, 8) I’m glad he/she is not my son/daughter; 9) Adoption is not an option I consider

Here are my replies:
1) Because Jesus first loved me.
2) Because Jesus first loved me
3) Because Jesus first loved me
4) Because Jesus first loved me
5) Do you see a pattern here? BECAUSE JESUS FIRST LOVED ME!
6) Check the condition of your heart! And consider this: Do you love your spouse? They aren’t biologically related.
7) None of us are perfect, no not one. We are all broken, but redeemable! Truth is, biological children are not perfect AND they are unknown to us. But all of the children are known to God!
8) I’m glad, too, because God has a plan, one in which He always knew who would belong to whom. My boys are mine, they were not intended to be yours.
9) If you are one of God’s dearly loved children, adoption is your reality because you were adopted into His family.

Enough said! I will talk with ANYONE about adoption or caring for orphans if that ANYONE is open to hear truth.

Please don’t feel sorry for me for being “only an adoptive Mom” or judge me for advocating for children you are uncomfortable about. I live in the joy of God's plan for my life, loving my husband and children with all my heart!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Theme is Emerging

Twice this week.  And it's only Wednesday. 

Twice this week I have listened...and listened....and listened as single moms told me their story.  And my heart broke as they paused, not able to talk anymore, and simply cried.

I told a mom today, "I have a family who would love to meet you, talk with you, have you over for dinner.  They might be able to take your kids for a few days so you can just have a little time to breath."

She sobbed....and then finally asked, "There are really people out there like that?"

I am convinced more than ever that GOD SEES.  He sees the single mom who is weary and desperate.  And then, he sends in His children to love them.

This mom was married...until they got pregnant with their second child, and their teenage son was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The tumor was removed through surgery, but it left their son an infant.  At this point, husband leaves.  Can't take it. 

Stops working so he won't have to pay child support.

Mom nurses her teenage son back to health, and then works daily to rehabilitate him.  Teaching her teenage son how to dress himself, how to brush his teeth...even how to say, "I love you, Mom."  All while pregnant.

She works a full time job.  So when she applied for child-care subsidies, they state replied, "You make $83 a month over our limit.  If only you didn't work a full time job, then we could help you."

The hits just keep on coming.

And then, someone begs her to call me.  I don't know who it was..but it surely was God.

Tonight, right now, she is talking to her new Family Friend.  A loving, Christ-following family who want to pour out love and grace onto this woman. 

Unfortunately, this is the theme that happening over and over and over again across my city..your city...every city in the US.  Modern day widows, left by their husbands, often with no parents to teach them, guide them, love them.

And here is where the Church steps in...or should step in. 

I long for the answer.  How do we minister to these women and children?  How do we help them move from despair to hope?

My heart is overwhelmed.  That is a song I love right now.  But, the song writer is singing of how his heart is so overwhelmed by the love of Christ.  Knowing all that Jesus did for us..in His life and in His death...our response should be one of being overwhelmed by His grace and love.  But at times since moving to SC, my heart is overwhelmed with heartache.  I cry over these women because I just hear how lonely and desperate they are.  There have been more than one occasions in which I burst into tears driving home from talking to these broken moms.

I want to help them all. I want to love them all.  I want to find families to love them all. 

The fields are white.....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Creek Stompin'

I grew up goin' creek sompin' at my great aunt's house every summer.  I have always loved hitting the great outdoors with my kiddos.  Saturday, we discovered this amazing spot on the Reedy River that is minutes from our home, yet feels like we are in the middle of the forrest.  We had a blast...and so did Gunnar!



I have never knows a GSD who loves water more than Gunnar!  He had a great time...and cooled off quite a bit!



We all ended up very wet.  We lost one flip-flop permanently and we saved one flilp-flop.  Next time...we wear bathing suits and totally commit to getting in. 
 
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Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Gratitude

#35   A pool all to ourselves - two families and a few extra kids along converged at our pool during the dinner hour.  No one else was there - so wonderful.

#36   My neighbor who feeds Gunnar "treats" multiple times a day, who gets a giddyap in his step when he sees Gunnar coming, and always looks after her when we take long beach days.

#37   Sitting in comfy chairs at TJMax talking for over an hour with a great new friend about de-worming children in Africa.

#38   Ginger ale mixed with strawberry lemonade....yummy!

It has been an interesting week.  God clearly slammed shut some doors (which caused some pain)...and then offered a blessing on the other side. 

In one day, I received 4 invitations for 9 speaking opportunities in NC, GA and SC for Safe Families, disrupted adoption, and adoption.  Totally humbled and amazed!

Then, SFFC - Greenville received $10,000 to get started!  Praise God!

Every time I try to get off this path...God gently, but clearly puts me right back on it. 

And...I continue to practice my gratitude!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grateful

I finally am reading the book that so many read a year ago.  A new friend handed me the book this week and asked if I had read it.  I had to admit that I hadn't.  Not for any reason in particular.  I always figured I would get around to it at some point. 

Now I have.

As I sat down on a very hot July afternoon in South Carolina, I began reading the beautiful words of Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts.  I couldn't have felt farther away from her - as she writes about her kids building snow forts and watching snow flakes gather on her window sill.  I was sweating and pretty miserable just sitting there.

But, Voskamps words sang a song with a haunting melody to me.  Despite what my body was feeling, my soul was intoxicated by her poetic sentences.  And then, the meaning of the prose hit me. 

It takes practice to be thankful.  And in being thankful, we worship the Lord.  When we are thankful, we realize and focus on the many gifts that God gives us each day.  Gifts that we normally pass over without a second thought...and definitely without a thankful heart for the gift.

I have seen hundreds of bloggers share some of their one thousand gifts.  I was slightly interested in their lists, learning a bit more about each person as they shared what they were noticing around them as gifts from God.  And as I read through chapter after chapter, I wondered if I could do this...actually list 1000 things I am grateful for...to list the 1000 ways that God has blessed me with little gifts.

And I started a list in my head.

I don't know if I will share all one thousand gifts, but I do want to do this.  I want to persevere!  I can just now tell you that by 238, I will probably "forget" to notice...but I long to preserve in something in my life!  And this is a worthy place to begin.

1.  Bluebird eggs in my neighbor's nesting box...I never knew their eggs were so blue
2.  My no-longer-an- orphan daughter dancing across my kitchen floor to Chris Tomlin singing "Amazing God"
3.  The smell of a charcoal grill...no gas here.
4.  A daughter who delights in cooking in the kitchen with me.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Where the Heart Takes Me...

Restless...yet content...

Knowing there is more....yet fulfilled with what I have before me...

These are the tensions that run in my heart day after day.

Is it because this is not my home?  Is it because the peace and wholeness I long for just isn't possible in this world?  I am not talking about myself or my family - but throughout the world...I long for restored relationships, harmony, peace...

Eleanor and I were at the grocery store, looking at all the options for cheese flavored snacks.  Really?  And I think of how much time is spent developing cheese flavored snacks that are "better" or "healthier" or "fancier" than the other cheese flavored snacks.  As we looked for the "perfect" snack, she said, "Mom..thank you."

"For what?  Picking out a cheese flavored snack is pretty great work, right?"

"No, Mom!"  Insert teenage rolling eyes...I get less funny as she gets older.  "Thanks for raising me the way you are.  You are opening my heart to the broken."

Heart swells a bit...and then I wonder, is it a good thing to be showing my 15 year old daughter all the brokenness in life?  Or would it have been better to stay in our home school bubble that was so safe and so clean and so put-together?  We LOVED that life!  I LOVED the home made pumpkin waffles and the staying in PJs all day working on novel units of Little House on the Prairie.  Loved it. 

But, she had no idea there was such a hurting world right outside her door.  I used to say that I would never apologize for sheltering my children.  I let the grow up in safe, homey environments where they were free to explore their desires and interests.  And that was good.

But God clearly moved us into a new phase of our lives.  And that includes showing ALL our children how broken this world is. 

And I know that my life in ministry is a major contributor to that.  I talk about the phone calls I get - I have to de-stress after talking to these women who are in huge amounts of stress.  I need to talk things through to ask, "Did I tell them the right thing?"  So, they all are exposed to women making horrible decisions and women who are being abused and kids who are unloved and unwanted.  And..they hearts break...and maybe...they will all someday say they are grateful for the way we are raising them?

For now...my heart is LONGING for something MORE.  I have this desire to MORE engaged in the adoption/orphan care world.  I love Safe Families - don't get me wrong.  But...I have to keep pushing the feelings about orphan care and adoption down so I can do the work of SF.  I LONG to advocate, teach, encourage, love, go....for the fatherless of the world. 

How do I reconcile what God has given me to do here with my heart's desire?  Is this desire from the Lord?  I am begging God to show me His plan in this....