Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Testing . . . 1,2,3

I've been trying for months to figure out how to make my "Follow by Email" button actually work.  It has seriously been the most frustrating thing!

I'm wondering if I fixed it, but have to do a little test post to find out!

Here's to hoping all of my followers have an email soon!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Created For Care

I had the amazing opportunity to go to a Created For Care Retreat this weekend.  It was glorious!  The retreat was created by an adoptive mom for adoptive moms . . . a time of encouragement, community, laughter, tears, worship, and peace . . . all with a focus on the One who has called us on this journey.

400 moms, all with a heart for adoption, at a beautiful lake-side lodge outside of Atlanta.  Could it get any better than that?

It can actually . . . none of us had to be mom while we were there (we love our kiddos, but a few days away can be like a cold cup of water in the blazing hot desert).  No one pulling at your shirt or hollering your name.  A chance to have an uninterrupted time of prayer and worship.  Adult conversations without phrases like "We don't wipe boogers on our shirt" or "No you can't have 10 marshmallows" coming out of your mouth every few minutes.  :)

There were lots of moms from our agency at the retreat.  We have a facebook group so we're basically best friends online even though we've never met!  It was so good to hang out with these ladies in real life!

Before I share how powerfully God used this retreat in my life, let me tell you that Satan wanted to ruin it from the beginning.  The spiritual attack was intense and unfortunately not aimed directly at me.

I left Thursday night and returned Sunday night, which meant Chad had to gear up for three full days alone with the kids.  We have incredible children, but even still it is hard for Chad (or me for that matter) to be with them for that long with no reinforcements.

To start things off, Chad's car wasn't working last week.  Our kids are great on the go, but since I was driving to Atlanta, Chad wasn't going to have the option of getting out and about to do fun things.  But my sweet hubby didn't let that get him down . . . they took lots of walks and spent as much time running wild outside as possible!

About 30 minutes after I left, Chad called to tell me that Ava had a 102 fever.  Dirty Satan.  The very first time I left Ava with Chad for the weekend at 18 months, she got a horrible stomach virus and I had to come back early.  So the sickness strikes again.  This time was a high fever and a really bad cough.  So bad, in fact, that Ava had a major problem sleeping . . . up for several hours each night because she couldn't get back to sleep.  This resulted in one tired Daddy and a pitiful little girl.

I don't know about you, but lack of sleep makes me just plain foul.  I can't tell you how much I prayed over the weekend for Ava to be healed and for Chad to have supernatural patience as he had no chance of rest.

As if that wasn't enough, Chad developed an abscess in his mouth on Saturday that he said hurt so bad that he could hardly think.  Not to mention that there were some things going on that had both of us a little anxious in our hearts and minds. 

No sleep mixed with a sick daughter topped off with incredible pain and some worry on the side would usually result in a Daddy that begs me to come home and has zero patience with his kids.  Satan really packed it on.  I'm not saying that this was like Job by any stretch, but we really saw how an attack was coming from all sides.

But praise the Lord that God gave us eyes to see the attack, gave me words of Truth to encourage Chad on the phone and as I prayed, and anointed Chad to have compassion and patience not of his own strength.

Looking back, it is no wonder that the Evil One was working to hard to distract, discourage, and destroy my time at the retreat.

God met me there.  He spoke words of Life into my heart, convicted me of sin, confirmed our call, and restored my heart.

I got up early each morning and sat on a bench as the sun came up over gorgeous Lake Lanier.  I poured out my heart to my Father . . . all my fears, my anxiety, my questions . . . and He gently, but powerfully, answered with Psalm 93.

The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; 
the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.

The floods have lifted up, O Lord, 
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring. 
Mightier than the thunders of many waters, 
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!

The floods of worry and fear may rise, but my God is mightier.  His throne has always been established and nothing will remove Him from that sovereign seat.

I literally felt the anxiety leave as He whispered over and over to me . . . You can trust Me . . . You can trust Me . . . You can trust Me.  

I can trust Him with this intense adoption journey.  I can trust Him to work out every detail in His perfect timing.  I can trust Him to provide each penny we will need to bring Easton home.  I can trust Him to protect us from the evil one.  I can trust Him to strength us by His Spirit and through the Word.

I can trust Him.  A simple, but profound truth that I need to believe.  Jesus, help my unbelief!

God also pointed out an area of my life that was not glorifying Him.  That hurts.  But it is His kindness that leads to repentance and this time was no different.  With love, God opened my eyes to my transgression in a way that didn't lead to further rebellion, but confession and a desire to be transformed.

I want to be happy.  Doesn't seem like such a big sin.  But I've been replacing a life of joy with the pursuit of happiness.  

This most often plays out in my time with the kids (no wonder . . . that's about all but about 2% of my life!).  Chad can come home for lunch and I'm already frustrated after just 4 hours of mommyhood that day.  I can get so bent out of shape about big and little things that I can end up having a "tough day" every day.  Do I expect perfection from my kids?  I would never say that.  But I let all the imperfections (disobedience, childishness, drama) steal my happiness.  

God revealed my deep lack of gratitude for the tremendous blessings that He has given me.  I have an amazing husband who desires to lead us in glorifying God and two absolute treasures in my beautiful, smart, and funny children.  

Yet I have refused to live a life of joy and gratitude to the Giver of these gifts. 

I definitely can acknowledge that some moments in parenthood can be harder than others, but in everything I have reason to give thanks.  

As I said, this revelation brought some major confession and a resolve to abide in joy and gratitude.  And I must say that these past few days have been drastically different . . . a different wife and mom who is grounding herself in thankfulness no matter what happens!

I went to the retreat a little overwhelmed as I thought about what lies ahead in our adoption journey.  I wanted God to assure me that I could do it.  (A ridiculous notion.  You can laugh and shake your head if you want.  I don't know what I was thinking either.)  

Shocker . . . God did not tell me that I could do it.  He politely confirmed the exact opposite.  I have zero hope of walking this road well by just mustering up as much strength as I have and giving it all I've got.  

He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 12:9 . . .

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The Father to the fatherless has put a call on our lives to display His heart by adopting our sweet Easton.  He continues to confirm and flesh out this call for us in amazing ways.   

But we will fail if we don't walk in the Spirit and rely on His power.  

I heard from some adoptive moms that humbled my heart more than I thought possible.  Moms that have not just adopted, but adopted five or seven kids.  Moms that have adopted kids with severe attachment issues, or medical needs, or older kids who have already been through such trauma that has inflicted major wounds on their hearts.  

These moms weren't shy about the heartache that comes with adoption, but they all gave testimony to God's incredible work in their lives.  They proclaimed that His grace is indeed sufficient.  They never put themselves on a pedestal for us to see what they had accomplished . . . God got all the glory!

So . . . I can't do it.  I'm not capable.  I don't have what it takes.  But He does.  And He promises to be powerful when I am weak, to fill me when I am empty, to give wisdom when I ask, and to never leave me or forsake me.  What more do I need?!

The weekend was so refreshing to my heart.  I feel like God breathed new life and joy into me.  To Him be the glory.  

I'll leave you with a song that we sang during worship that was so powerful and truly the cry of my heart!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Show Us Christ

Hopefully you've already been blessed to hear this song, but if not, please take a few minutes to listen and worship.

Being married to a pastor, I see the journey each week . . . Chad reads, studies, prays, writes, prays more, all in preparation to expose the Truth through the Word.  It is intense and weighty, speaking the Word of God before those needing an encounter with the living God, not just a jazzy four point sermon.

This song captures the cry of Chad's heart each week (and hopefully the cry of all of our hearts), that Christ would be highly exalted and our faith family would be transformed.

Be blessed!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Back to the Kitchen

We don't eat out much.  No budget for that.  But when we get a gift card . . . you better believe I enjoy every bite of the food that I didn't have to cook!

I really like eating new and yummy places.  Chad and I loved to have long dinners out together before kiddos came on the scene.  Even then, we haven't been one of those families that never leaves the house just because we have toddlers.

I think that all just ended tonight.

We got a gift card to PF Changs (fancy Chinese food in case you didn't know) and decided to cash it in for dinner tonight . . . with the two littles in tow.

No big deal, right?  We have great kids!  That's what we thought too.  Um, we were wrong.

We did pretty well for the first 5 minutes . . . Ava was coloring on the kids menu and I quickly unloaded my bag of goodies for Grayson.  Keep his mouth and belly full and we should be good to go!

He literally blazed through the grapes, yogurt, goldfish, and orange before we even had time to order.  Meanwhile, Ava is bored with coloring and thinks that playing the drums (table) with chopsticks is a much better idea.  Which then seems like a great idea to Grayson.

Chad and I are busy trying to savor every bite of our Lettuce Wraps and just block out the chaos ensuing at our table.  They are just being kids.  At least they aren't screaming or something.

Spoke too soon.  For those of you who know my sweet Grayson, you know that he is an exceptionally happy little guy (unless he has an ear infection and then he is incredibly foul which has been my life for the last 2 months!).  So tonight was no different.  Grayson was, in fact, so happy that he wanted the whole restaurant to know.  :)

He started yelling at the top of his lungs . . . over and over again.  This isn't crying.  He didn't want to be held.  Nothing was wrong.  He just wanted to holler.  And then giggle.  And then scream some more, just to see if he could get any louder (he couldn't).

So you can imagine our reaction . . . Shushing him, which is just laughable because he just giggles even more since he is getting attention.  Then the "Grayson, be quiet.  Stop.  Seriously."  Still hollering.  Then we move to the next logical solution . . . if his mouth is full, he can't scream.  So we are shoving any remaining food into his mouth as fast as we can.  This works for a moment, but since he barely takes the time to chew his food, he is right back at it after a few quick swallows.

It didn't help that at this point waitresses are coming over to talk about how cute he is and laughing about what he is trying to tell us.  More attention just fans the flames.

We're getting looks from the people around us.  You know, the ones that say "he's so cute but for the love of all that is holy could you please shut him up so I can eat my noodles in peace."  Really?  Like we aren't trying?  Cut me some slack . . . I haven't even taken a bite of my noodles!

One group of ladies even moved to a different table (not that I blame them).  I actually didn't notice until after they were gone.  I'm choosing to believe that they needed to have a really serious conversation and moved very discretely in order to not make us feel bad.  That, or maybe I didn't notice because I was too busy trying to keep Grayson from spilling the soy sauce with his ninja chopstick and picking up pieces of food that he had flung at least two feet in every direction.

Once our real food got there, he did a little better, but the screaming and giggling never really stopped for long.  And again, we aren't talking a little yell . . . our boy has some lungs.  

And that is just Grayson.

Ava was great through the whole meal and even helped us distract Grayson a bit.

But she was barefoot.

Before you judge . . . I'm not one of those moms.  We run around barefoot in our house or outside, but NEVER in public places.  Gross.

But today I just so happened to get in the attic to find some warm weather clothes for Ava.  Spring has definitely arrived in NOLA which means summer should be here next week.  I pulled down some clothes and shoes from last year that will still fit (I kid you not, she is 3.5 yrs old and still wears 18 mo. shorts . . . skinny minny!).   Ava found a pair of flip flops and insisted on wearing them out tonight.  All was great for the first 3 minutes and then she wails that they hurt her feet and she can't walk.  Drama anyone?!  So I carried Ava into PF Changs and just put the sandals in my diaper bag.  No big deal.

But at some point during this whole chaotic episode, I realize that we look like "those" parents.  The ones who let their kids walk all over the place barefoot, who can't stop their ridiculously cute little boy from screaming and interrupting a nice dining experience, whose table looks like a war zone at the end of a meal.

Yep.  We are those parents.

And all we could do was laugh.  Pay our bill.  Carry our kids out . . . still hollering and barefoot.  And enjoy one last moment of what was probably our last nice dinner out for a long time (as a whole family . . . still gotta have a date every now and then!).

So it's back to the kitchen for me.  Slaving over a hot stove and loving every minute with my barefoot, hollering, wild and joy-of-my-heart kids!

Ava wrote "Hi Dad" in her journal . . . all by herself!  She is getting so big!

 And Grayson has discovered just how much he loves to feed himself.  Mommy doesn't love the mess, but his cuteness makes up for it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Word

I haven't posted in quite a while.  Not because God hasn't been doing some work in my life, but because He has.

I simply haven't had the words to share.  I still don't.

Not that I ever doubted, but I'm convinced more than ever in the transforming power of the Word of God.  The God of the universe, our Creator, the One who gave Abraham a son, who parted the Red Sea, who fulfilled the promise of land to His people, who sent His Son into our filthy sinful world to be our Rescuer, who raised Jesus from the dead so that death would have no grip on us . . . This is the One who is speaking as I read the Word.  Speaking to me.

It seems so crazy as I type it.  Why would He speak to little ole me?  How could I be worthy of hearing from God Almighty?  And that's just it.  I'm not worthy.  It's all by His grace.  Amazing grace that He would speak so clearly through His Word, speaking Truth into my life, desiring that I glorify Him in all I do.  I'm humbled that any little or big thing I could do to point to His glory would even matter, but it does.  Otherwise He wouldn't waste time with me, but as it is, He is present and powerful and gracious through His Word.

So that is why I've been quiet the past month.  He's been talking.

I still can't even take it all in or process all that He is teaching and challenging me through the Word.  But I want to share because maybe He's speaking to you too.  Or maybe you aren't listening and you should be.  :)

For the past month I've been reading in Luke, John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John and then He has taken me to some other random places in Scripture too.  I just want to share some of the verses that God has been using to refine me.  I don't have a lot of commentary (yet) but the Word will definitely speak for itself.

And I know there are some of you who will look at this long list of verses and think, "Yeah, yeah . . . lots of verses . . . good stuff I'm sure" but not take the time to actually read the Word.  Don't do that!  You'd actually be missing the point.  The power is not in anything I have to say (which isn't much), but is in the Word.  Read it!

32  “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33  Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Luke 12:32-33

I wrote about God speaking in a profound way through Luke 12 in this post.  Still wrestling with that one, but I'm half way through the purge of our house!

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.  1 John 2:4-6

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.  1 John 2:28

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  1 John 4:9-10

Put that with . . .

29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:29-32 

Jesus, God Incarnate, did incarnational ministry.  Could that be what my/our ministry should look like?  Hmmm . . .

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly[a] with your God.   Micah 6:8 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 

The only way God can be just in forgiving our sins is because the debt was paid by Jesus.  Simple, but this has overwhelmed my heart with gratitude.

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  John 12:24-26

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
     to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
     and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
     and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
     the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
    you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
     the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10  if you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually
    and satisfy your desire in scorched places
    and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
    like a spring of water,
    whose waters do not fail.     Isaiah 58:6-11

There is more, but these get at the core of what has been gripping my heart and messing with my nice little life. :)

I've also been reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  God and Jen . . . ganging up on me . . . seems a little unfair!  Seriously though, this book has been great at helping me process what God is speaking through His Word, fleshing out what obedience looks like, driving the nails in deeper. 

I just read a section this afternoon that sums up what I've been wrestling with.  It's long, but worth it.

This is the feast of the redeemed; Jesus made it possible for the wretched to dine with the Most High, neither offending His holiness nor compromising His justice.  The currency of salvation includes blessings, redemption, fulfillment, peace, healing, sustenance, forgiveness, and hope.  This is indeed the feast, and to celebrate it is utterly Christian.  But the feast has a partner in the rhythm of the gospel: the fast.

If we ignored the current framework of the church and instead opened the Bible for a definition, we find Christ followers adopting the fast simultaneously with the feast.  We don't see the New Testament church hoarding the feast for themselves, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, classes, training, conferences, information, more feasting for us.  

At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts.  We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming.  The feast is supposed to sustain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity . . .

Not so with the early church who stunned their Roman neighbors and leaders with their generosity, curbing their own appetites for the mission of Jesus.  They constantly practiced self-denial to alleviate human misery . . . 

What would the early church think if they walked into some of our buildings today, looked through our church websites,  talked to an average attender? . . . I think the early church would cover their heads with ashes and grieve over the dilution of Jesus' beautiful church vision.  We've taken His Plan A for mercy to an injured lost planet and neutered it to clever sermon series and Stitch-and-Chat in the Fellowship Hall, serving the saved.  If the modern church held to its biblical definition, we would become the answer to all that ails society.  We wouldn't have to baby-talk and cajole and coax people into our sanctuaries through witty mailers and strategic ads; they'd be running to us.  The local church would be the heartbeat of the city; undeniable by our staunchest critics.

When the fast, the death, the sacrifice of the gospel is omitted from the Christian life, then it isn't Christian at all.  Not only that, it's boring . . . The church the Bible described is exciting and adventurous and wrought with sacrifice.  It cost believers everything, and they still came.

I'm simply not living a life as a biblical follower of Christ.  I'm not satisfied.  Not because Jesus isn't satisfying, but because I'm not looking solely at Him to satisfy.   I've missed it.  Missed the portrait we see in the Word of a follower.  

He is worth giving up everything for.  Selling everything I have to buy the treasure hidden in the field.  Giving up what has become the normal and safe way of discipleship and instead diving into the adventure of following Jesus . . . hated, misunderstood, no where to lay His head, compassionate, loving, life-giving.  He is worth it.  Whatever it looks like.  He is worth it. 

Do I really believe that?  Do you?