Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We Were Made for More of This, Not That

Jessica, me

My friend Jessica is trying the "7 Experiment," based on Jen Hatmaker's book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  (Click here to see how it goes for Jessica! Click here if you're unfamiliar with 7.)

I cheer to see anyone fighting American status quo, mostly because I'm so treacherously tangled in the alluring web of the American Dream.  The noise of Facebook and email crowd my thoughts until I cannot hear the Still, Small Voice of God... and I cheer to see another sweet friend who unplugged from her blog for a spell .  I lack discipline and gratitude as I consume this Land of Plenty at a rate far exceeding my needs.  We are never satisfied, always crying for more.

More status.
More clothes.
More square footage.
More food.
More choices.
More bang for our buck.
More money.
More friends.
More vacation.
More free time.
More youth.

When I sit still long enough to read God's Word, it's plain:  We were not made to handle all of this MORE.  It is a disease.  Yet, like a toddler left alone with her trick-or-treat bag... we have the resources to consume far more than is good for us.  MORE is at our fingertips, and we partake.

instead of MORE...
we could give.

Instead of more internet clutter in our minds, we could be still enough to be filled by the Spirit, so we can pass love on to others.

Instead of more money spent on our food, our homes, our wardrobes, our vanity...
we could remember God's heart for the poor...
for those who don't have the option of vanity...
who just want to eat.

But the gospel isn't just about subtraction.
It isn't about a monastic, simple, religious lifestyle.
The gospel is replacement.  A new self.
There is a type of MORE that God did create us for.

MORE of Him.
MORE of His glory.
MORE of His fame being spread across the Earth.
MORE of His Presence in our lives.

Sometimes, we feel Him more when we feed our Earthly appetites less.
Sometimes, when we let our bodies grow hungry, we realize it wasn't food we were starving for.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Matthew 5:6

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Ache that Fertilizes Worship

Summer air sticks hot to our skin as we walk.  By 1:30, it's been a long day already, full of school work and cleaning and picnics and playing.  The cashier at the tire center had said it'd be hours before they could change my car's oil.  I hesitated only a moment before clinking my car keys on the counter, grasping two tiny girl hands, and walking home.

Life buzzes along these days as always, one routine moment after another.  Except now, in this world of usual, a very unusual backdrop frames the scenes of each day.  I'm not sure when this unusual beauty crept in, but it gets stronger each day.  I don't know how to describe it except to say it is a new found fascination with God's hand visibly at work in our lives.  

And I know that Ann Voskamp is right.  All is grace.

He gifts us 
and gifts us...
With Spanish Moss hanging from trees.
With bitter seasons of life that somehow turn sweet because our loss of mere things becomes reliance on Him.
With little girls laughing at hide-and-seek.

The beauty and the pain, He presses them all into submission to serve His good purposes, for our good. (Rom. 8:28)

These days, more and more adoptive parents write how hard it is to parent once-orphans.  Children who carry baggage, who behave strangely, whose face bears no resemblance to any family trait.

On one hand, I worry these stories will frighten waiting mothers.  Will less families adopt, fearing it's too hard?

On the other hand, I worry these struggling families don't feel free enough to speak out.  To admit that adoption is hard. To find others who can relate to them, pray for them, uphold them.

I ache for these hurting mamas like I ache for the mamas who have yet to hold their children.  Waiting hurts, as I imagine hard parenting hurts. 

I was a whiner during our adoption wait.  A wimp.  Others endured worse, but I fell to pieces.  I can't tell you how often I'd spend the hour before Brad came home in a crying heap on our couch.

But it is that pain that makes life so sweet today.

I can't watch my girls play together without thanking God in euphoria.
I can't feel Amelia's tiny hands on my cheeks
or soft kisses on my nose
without recognizing the miracle she is.

I don't know what your hard circumstance is today.
I don't know what in life you wait for,
ache for,
wish for,
wish away.
I don't know what plagues you,
shames you,
haunts you,
threatens to steal your health
or joy
or peace.

But I can promise you Romans 8:28.  For those of us who treasure God above all else, I promise you...
God will use your mourning to bring you joy.
Not cheap joy.
Priceless joy in the Eternal One.

I know. It's hard to believe it.  When the only evidence you can see is pain, it takes blind faith to believe Redemption is coming.

He's coming.

He's already in your circumstances.

It's going to be good.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympic Fun + Scroll to End for Links & A Chance to Serve

The girls are at such sweet ages now.  I melt as I catch glimpses of them throughout the day.  I snapped this photo of Amelia on Instagram last night, washing her hands after dinner.  Be still my heart.

We let the girls stay up late (late late late!) to watch Uganda and the United States on the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.  Here's Amelia cheering on Uganda.

And both girls cheering "Go USA!"

And now, some random thoughts and reads for your weekend.

  • Maybe you remember the HIV/AIDS series I wrote years ago. This topic is still dear to my heart, especially in regards to adoption, even though it hasn't directly affected our family.  So I loved the NBC News article about two HIV patients now virus free.  Is this a cure?
  • Twenty two year old (I think!?) missionary and adoptive mother of two Morgan Hayden needs more people to sponsor children in her Honduran village.  I wrote her incredible story here.  It's $10 a month.  Click here for instructions about automatic withdrawal from your credit card.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Flashbacks: "But Am I Called to Adopt?"

First published October 11, 2009:

Many Christians ache thinking of the worldwide orphan crisis.  OVER a THIRD of Americans have considered adoption, but that only 2% follow through.  I realize not every Christian is called to adopt.  Still, statistics like these make me wonder whether many are walking away from radical blessing.

God defends the cause of the fatherless (Psalm 10:14). He loves the children of this world. But the children are in trouble. Millions of orphans fill the globe. Those in Ethiopia alone equal the population of greater New York City.

If these numbers – which represent individual souls loved by God – burden you as a Christian, then let God use you. If your heart has any leaning towards adoption, don’t wait on God to drop a neon blinking sign from heaven that says “PROCEED."

God made many things clear in His Word:

  • He loves a cheerful giver – 
    • so we don’t wring our hands and wondering if we’re "called" to give to the poor.  We simply do it!
  • He loves His Church – 
    • so we don’t say, “I’m not sure if I feel 'called' to worship and learn with other believers.”  We simply do it!
  • He loves orphans – 
    • so we don’t need a blinking sign from heaven to confirm that we're "called" to imitate God's love for them. We simply do it!

You don’t have to have it all figured out before you take your first step of faith towards adoption… if you overwhelm yourself with thoughts of finances and square footage and decisions and paperwork, you may paralyze yourself to the power that comes from just taking a step in Christ and trusting that He will lead you through each step that follows.

I have already been immeasurably blessed through God’s beautiful invention of adoption, and we aren’t even through the paperwork! Let God also bless you!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

22 Lessons Parents Learn Through Adoption

  1. God adopted us as His children.
  2. God's people are a waiting people.  Ultimately, any wait is for God.
  3. We never RESCUE any child.  We parent a child, and God uses that to transform the lives of the entire family.
  4. Americans are diseased by comfort.
  5. Hardship brings blessing, because it causes us to rely on God.
  6. Parenting is not about control. (especially when your child is across an ocean.)  Parenting is about surrender to God.
  7. Our compassion shouldn't be limited to those who are like us.
  8. Compassion for one person or for one nationality usually grows into a passion for the other people or nations.
  9. God uses our tiniest steps of obedience to cause Scripture come alive, and our hearts to become illuminated with His light.
  10. While God loves passing down a lineage, it is not a lineage of genetics.  It is a lineage of faith.  "Blood relatives" are born through the blood of Christ.
  11. God makes beauty from ashes, makes orphans into beloved children, makes waiting women into joyous mothers, makes the murder of His Son into our salvation.
  12. It's a small world after all.
  13. We're more sinful than we thought.
  14. Our adopting of children on earth is a picture of the gospel.
  15. We're not in control, and it's better that way since He is.
  16. We often reject our Father by continuing to live as though we're orphaned from His love, even after He's wrapped His arms around us and called us beloved children.
  17. Once-orphans heal through consistent eye contact with their Father.
  18. It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of us.  Not only would we do anything for our mismatched children, but God is worth us living with regard only for His opinions.
  19. No expense is too great for God to overcome.  I've never heard of anyone who couldn't finish their adoption process because of funds. 
  20. We're all more sinfully ethnocentric and nationalistic than we thought we were.
  21. Adopting a child blesses you and the children in your house more than anyone outside of the adoption world can ever fathom.
  22. Scary steps of faith are less terrifying than a lifetime of apathy and lukewarm Christianity.
Can you add to the list?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...
(you may have to click the image to read it well.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Some Sweet Reads...

I have several posts started. 
I can't think straight. 

when your own words fail, what do you do?  
Let someone else talk!!

Here are some worthwhile reads...

“'Never before have parents been so (mistakenly) convinced that their every move has a ripple effect into their child’s future success,' she writes. Paradoxically, Levine maintains, by working so hard to help our kids we end up holding them back."

"I wanted to engage you on a topic that I know many white mothers who adopted African children (or domestically adopted bi-racial children) wonder. That is, in our insecure moments, we wonder (a) Do I have what it takes to raise an African child (because I really do NOT get what it's like to be in the minority---I don't even think minority) and (b) Do all the African American women out there frown upon us having adopted a black child?"

"You don't forget who your brother is -- when you know Who your Father is. [...] If the grace of my life is mostly where I am born, and I am born again into the family of Christ, then how can my life birth anything other than a grace that gives?"

  • That common response to foster care: "I could never  foster, because it'd be to heartbreaking to give the children back."  My friend Leslie's response?  "It's Not About You".  Even if you're not called to foster, there are several great ideas in this post regarding how to help those who do foster.
"What if instead of giving excuses as to why foster care isn't for our family, I started advocating for the child who doesn't have a family."

Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Have a Quiet Time with God

I'm no expert on the best ways to spend focused time with God.
But I do know what works for me.  
Maybe it will help you if I share.  
Maybe you'll share your quiet time ideas with us in the comment section? 

Focused time with Jesus is the most important thing we do all day.  If we can swap best practice tips on 
sewing, and 
applying makeup, 
then we can also swap tips on what helps us stay in tune with our Savior.

(After reading this post, please notice the disclaimers at the end.*)


How to Have a Quiet Time with God

  • Grab a journal. 
  • Date the page you're on.
  • Now... ask God to reveal Himself to You in this time.
  • Write a prayer.  Writing prayers is especially helpful to me when I'm feeling spiritually dry, disconnected, and unsure where to go. Write a confession of how little you desire God. Or write a praise for the mighty way He's been romancing you lately.  Write honestly.  Recognize your desperate need for Christ.  Acknowledge that He is your hope.  Length, grammar, and spelling don't matter.  
  • Read.  I always have a Bible reading plan in action.  You can pick one here.  Some plans guide you all year, some are for a single week.  Some help you read the entire Bible, some guide you through one book, others through a topic within scripture.
  • Write in your journal as you read.  Transcribe verses that sing to your soul.   Jot short, one line prayers that arise in your heart as you respond to Scripture. Scribble huge questions marks next to ideas that confuse you, or you desire to study in depth later.  Make notes about what you learn.
  • Write a response.  I don't always do this.  Sometimes I run out of time!  Sometimes, I simply pray a response in my head.  But it's a good idea, if the Spirit has stirred something in you, to write it down.  Partially to thank God for His active hand in your life, partially to help you remember all that God impresses upon you.

So that's my method, and for now, I'm sticking to it.
In fact, I've been in a dry spell. Perhaps this post will snap me out of it.

I'm admittedly both a "Journaling Junkie" and a "Blank Book-aholic".  So of COURSE I love this method for quiet times.  I love collecting volumes upon volumes of scribble-full quiet time journals that testify to what a mess I've always been, and the gracious way God has revealed Himself to me anyway over the years.  He redeems so much of what I might have destroyed.

What are your thoughts?
Would this quiet time method work for you?
What helps you grow and stay committed to daily, focused time with God?
Please comment!

*A few disclaimers about "Quiet Times with God":
  1. God is the glue that keeps us attached to God.   (as cited herehereherehere and here.  There are many more verses like these.)  This is not a legalistic approach on how to stay in God's good graces.  This is instead a discussion between believers about how to enjoy God more, confident that He is the One driving our desire to know Him in the first place.
  2. God is with His children constantly, and we should strive to enjoy His presence even during the menial tasks of the day; not only when we have a formal quiet time.  This post is about those times when we stop all else to focus solely on Him.  It is not about the rest of our day, when we can also enjoy His Presence as we work, eat, socialize.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

For All of Us Who are Satisfied This Weekend

"10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, 
praise the Lord your God 
for the good land he has given you. 
11 Be careful that you 
do not forget the Lord your God, 
failing to observe his commands, 
his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 
12 Otherwise, 
when you eat and are satisfied, 
when you build fine houses 
and settle down, 
13 and when your herds and flocks grow large 
and your silver and gold increase 
and all you have is multiplied, 
14 then your heart will become proud 
and you will forget 
the Lord your God, 
who brought you out of Egypt, 
out of the land of slavery. 
15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, 
that thirsty and waterless land, 
with its venomous snakes and scorpions. 
He brought you water out of hard rock. 
16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, 
something your ancestors had never known, 
to humble and test you 
so that in the end it might go well with you. 
17 You may say to yourself, 
“My power and the strength of my hands 
have produced this wealth for me.” 
18 But remember the Lord your God, 
for it is he 
who gives you the ability to produce wealth, 
and so confirms his covenant,which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. "

Deuteronomy 8:10-18

Friday, July 20, 2012

Slavery Stitched Into the Fabric of Our Clothes {Friday Flashback, sort of}

When Caroline was a newborn, we'd dance her infant tears away to songwriter Brett Dennen's "The One Who Loves You Most".   Years later, Dennen's "Ain't No Reason" video had the opposite effect on me.  Tears billowed out of my eyes as I watched it with wide-eyed guilt and conviction.

Adopting from the third world transformed me.  As we waited to travel for Amelia, my own fat and wealthy apathy bowed in shame under the light of my daughter's circumstances.  We were enjoying a huge, brand new house, while our daughter was born into a start of poverty and orphan status across the globe.

I first posted about this video in 2009.  Today, I'm thankful for this reminder... that despite the abundance and blessing in my life, we have brothers and sisters across the globe whom we are actively hurting by our willful ignorance.  Please watch it.  It's so convicting in the best way.

There's only One cure for our dark, selfish hearts... Love. God is Love.

 "There ain't no reason things are this way [...] 
but love will come set me free
I know it will."

Please watch the video!
(Look below to read the poetic and convicting lyrics.)

Ain't No ReasonBrett Dennen
There ain't no reason things are this wayIt's how they've always been and they intend to stayI can't explain why we live this wayWe do it every day
Preachers on the podiums speaking to saintsProphets on the sidewalk begging for changeOld ladies laughing from the fire escapeCursing my name
I got a basket full of lemons and they all taste the sameA window and a pigeon with a broken wingYou could spend your whole life working for somethingJust to have it taken away
People walk around pushing back their debtsWearing paychecks like necklaces and braceletsTalking about nothing, not thinking 'bout deathEvery little heartbeat, every little breath
People walk a tight rope on a razors edgeCarrying their hurt and hatred and weaponsIt could be a bomb, or a bullet or a penOr a thought, or a word, or a sentence
There ain't no reasons things are this wayIt's how they've always been and they intend to stayI don't know why I say the things that I sayBut I say them anyway
But love will come, set me freeLove will come, set me free, I do believeLove will come, set me free, I know it willLove will come, set me free, yes
Prison walls still standing tallSome things never change at allKeep on building prisons, gonna fill them allKeep on building bombs, gonna drop them all
Working your fingers bare to the boneBreaking your back, make you sell your soulLike a lung that's filled with coalSuffocating slow
The wind blows wild and I may moveThe politicians lie and I am not fooledYou don't need a reason or a three piece suitTo argue the truth
They air on my skin in the world under my toesSlavery stitched to the fabric of my clothesChaos and commotion wherever I goLove I try to follow
Love will come, set me freeLove will come, set me free, I do believeLove will come, set me free, I know it willLove will come, set me free, yes
There ain't no reason things are this wayIt's how they've always been and they intend to stayI can't explain why we live this wayWe do it every day

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Spending til We're Broke

This summer has been about exploration. And not just because we're trying out all of Mobile's parks, playgrounds, museums, and restaurants. Our home life, too, is a lab experiment for spousal role shifts, home learning, and never-tried recipes.

Perhaps the greatest adventure of all is finding our place here... Searching for new friends and a new place to belong.  Of course, we're at a great advantage compared to most new residents.  Brad's position at the church means we're remembered for social events.  We're on the radar.  We're invited.  It makes life easier, and I never take it for granted.

The perks of ministry simultaneously comfort and bother me.  Jesus warned His followers they would be persecuted and hated for His sake.  Yet I enjoy the social benefits of Christianity and am not alienated for my faith. It is a response opposite of what Jesus predicted His true followers would receive.  I can't reconcile it. 

Don't worry; I'm not going to become more offensive to seek out persecution.  Offense is a byproduct of true faith lived, and never the goal.

On the contrary, everything we do should be rooted in love, first towards God, and then towards man for the sake of them also knowing God.

And maybe that's my problem... I'm rooted in love, but maybe it's more love of self than love of God and man.

Maybe I so enjoy being a recipient -- a benefactor of the gifts of ministry -- that I've failed to notice a million ways I should be pouring all I receive back out at the feet of Jesus... through service to others.

"Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." Luke 12:48 b

Whatever gifts we're given -- 
whatever gifts you and your family are given -- 
experience in suffering... 
we've been entrusted with God's spiritual investment in us.  And we are warned to invest wisely.  In the spiritual realm, wise investment never involves mitigating risk and padding personal accounts.  Wise spiritual investment always means emptying all we have towards God's kingdom. (our energy, our resources, our time, our talents)  It always looks risky, and makes us appear broke.

But I'm ready to be spent for Christ.

Are you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Like Big Purses & I Cannot Lie

(As usual, my pictures have nothing to do with my text! Oops!)

It's Sunday morning, and we're running late for church.

Because, you know, a day of worship is best started by me hissing at my children to "Get in the car NOW, you can pee when you get there!"

My sweet girls take Mama tantrums well.  They happily sing songs, squatting to play with each blade of grass on the way to the car as I snarl, "We're LAAATE, we're LAAATE!"

Just as I wonder if I need exorcism, we reach the church parking lot nearly on time.  I exhale.  All is right in the world.

     Amelia:  "I no undies, Mommy."

     Me:  "Baby, you have to wear undies. You're a big girl.  You only wear Pull Ups at night."

     Amelia:  "I no undies, Mommy."

     Me:  "We don't have a Pull Up with us, sweet girl.  Just wear your panties."

I turn off the ignition.  The girls are wiggling out of their car seats as Caroline screams...

     Caroline: "No, Mama!  Amelia's really not wearing any undies! No Pull Ups! Nothing!"

I whip toward the back seat and pull up Amelia's lacy blue dress.  It's a horrific sight.  Nothing but precious, narrow, bare butt cheeks.  I suddenly need an exorcist again. I am mad at myself for not keeping an extra Pull Up in the car, and for forgetting to finish dressing Amelia. I'm mad at Amelia for waiting until now to tell me her bare bottom state.  We'll really be late now.  I shove the key back into the ignition, ready to race home for panties, when Caroline again shouts from the back seat.

     Caroline:  "It's okay! A long time ago I put some of Amelia's panties in your purse."

I am stunned.  My four year old foresaw this moment?  Caroline climbs confidently into the passenger seat to rifle through my mammoth purse.  Her arm is in up to her shoulder.  A few moments later, her fist springs out of the purse, then up into the air in victory.

     Caroline:  "See? Panties!"

A pair of tiny white panties is clutched in her fist.  I put them on Amelia.  We walk through the church parking lot, all holding hands.  I am in a confused daze.  Mama Caroline is beaming with pride.  Amelia's narrow, properly clothed rump wiggles as she runs towards the children's hall.

I can only laugh and wonder...
What else is inside of my purse?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wanting God's Presence

via gardening design site: Grounded Design
I've missed the Holy Spirit lately.

The "stuff" of life is going so well.  Many of the things we prayed for are now reality.  Brad is preaching  more and growing in areas he's passionate about.  I'm home with our girls, and daydreaming about where to plant my feet into ministry here.  

Life is good.

Yet, I've missed the Holy Spirit lately.

Contentment can be a breeding ground for apathy.  The very thing that should send us dancing to the foot of the cross in joy -- answered prayers -- often leaves us instead with a false sense of control and independence.

I want to remember how desperately dependent I am on my Savior.
I want to learn to enjoy His gifts without making idols of them.
I want to cling to Him violently -- without needing some tragedy to propel me there.

I just want to want Him because He is so good.
His Presence is so sweet.
I don't want to forget the unrivaled joy I've felt there, and only there, by Him.

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God [...] Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!  Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion [...] They go from strength to strength [...] For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness."  Psalm 84:1-2, 4-5, 7a, 10

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Flashbacks: Loving the Nations

A blog post from February 16, 2010.  Great advice from my brother.  We should all love the nations of the world more.  God does.

My brother gave me the best advice last week regarding all that is happening (or not happening -- who knows!) with adoption in Uganda.  He is a missionary in Japan... only his first love was Indonesia. For years, he thought he would be a missionary to Indonesia. He wanted to go to Indonesia. Yet God sent him with his wife and baby boy to Shizuoka City, Japan.

David said that it was humbling to let everyone know that he'd been wrong in his assumptions about where God was leading his family.  But ultimately, he said, he wasn't sorry to have fallen in love with a country he may never live in.  He said he learned this crucial fact:  we may fall in love with a group... with a nation. That's okay. God originally had His own special nation, too, in Israel.  But God's ultimate love is for the nations. For the world.

By nature, we are all so self-centered. We love ourselves, and those like us.  Sometimes, God awakens our cold hearts to the love of those different from us by using one.  One person, one group, one nation, one ethnicity.  For me, that one was Uganda.  For my brother, one began in Indonesia.

But the point of God growing our hearts is not that we stop at loving that one. If our hearts are really becoming like His, then we will have a heart for the nations.  And above all else, we'll have a heart for whatever pleases God.

So with that in mind, I gain a little more peace about whatever may happen with Uganda.  Yes, I greatly favor things working out in Uganda. (And our agency feels confident that it will.) But I pray that my heart is opening to a love for all people. I pray that my heart is becoming open to children of all ages, all ethnicities, and all medical needs with regards to our adoption.  With regards to life... wow. How do you learn to serve the world in a way that they see beautiful, sweet Jesus? God help us. I know He will.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sweet Relationships

On July 1, my college roommate of three years died.  Despite not talking to her in ages, I was rattled deeply and spent the entire night awake, alternating tears and utter shock.

I'd been awaiting July 1, the mid-year mark, because this is the first year I've been truly excited about my New Years Resolutions. I'd planned to post an update here on how my resolutions were going... and perhaps encourage all of us to refocus our energies towards a meaningful last half of 2012.

So when my college roommate died -- someone whose life played a vital role in mine for three brief yet formative years -- I stood stunned in my bedroom at 2 a.m. and gawked at the list of resolutions literally hanging on my wall.  Suddenly, those goals aimed at relationship seemed infinitely more important than they had the day before.

This week has been a sweet time for relationship... for connecting with friends and family I miss during day to day life.

Toni, who lives in Bend, Oregan, but came to Alabama this week.
She taught me that friends know each other inside and out, support and encourage each other no matter what, and stay close even when we're both terrible at picking up the phone. :)  She knows I love her.

My sweet Montgomery friends.  
I spent one whirlwind moment in Montgomery to speak at a women's event.

Laura is pregnant with her second baby and looks even more beautiful in person.  I think of how tired I got when pregnant with Caroline and feel honored that she'd come to hear me speak on what could have been a lazy summer night.

KC in the pink shirt grew up in Mobile, and she rallied everyone she knows on Facebook to help us find an adoption community in Mobile -- and it's working!  She and her husband are some of our dearest friends and have girls who look enough like ours that people confuse our families for each other all of the time. :)  

Lacy in the purple is in process to adopt her first child from Uganda.  She's been an incredible source of encouragement to me, first during Amelia's adoption process, most recently during our move, and I still think of her with tears each time I pop in my Gungor CD... She sent me this beautiful album all about God's redemption while my dad was so sick last summer.  

My mama, who taught me that I am loved.  She also taught me to love Scripture, although she doesn't know it.  Well... I suppose she knows how she encouraged me to seek God and value His inerrant Word.  What she doesn't know is that her passionate love of literature, and her teachings on how to discern deeper meanings in texts, are what cause me to so appreciate the Bible's beauty.  It is apparently eternally valuable to have an AP English teacher for your mother.

Plus, she'd give me the world if she could.

Jessica, who teaches me everyday how sweet friendship can be.  There's not enough I can say about sweet Jess.  She's thoughtful, she reaches out to me constantly -- and I'm a turtle kind of friend... you know, head in my own shell.  She pulls me out and checks on me all the time.  She teaches me what outward-focused friendship looks like, which warms my heart and will hopefully help transform me.  Jessica, our friend Amanda, and I have a pretty unique friendship -- one of those rare kinds that should last.

My dad, who teaches me that Christ is my greatest treasure.  My dad, who teaches me that you can suffer and have peace simultaneously, if you believe when Scripture says that the outcome of suffering is greater than the pain of the process.  If I were to start talking about my dad after the year he's had and the ways his faithful response to the gates of hell has shaped my Christian walk, I'd be at this keyboard for months.  Like my mom, there's no way to list what my dad taught me.

And these are just the people I saw and got pictures with.
I only have so many words I can write each day.
To those of you I didn't mention, know that the only reason is because I didn't have a picture of you taken in the last week on my iPhone.  :)

Treasure the meaningful relationships in life.  Life itself is fragile.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who ache as you wait:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gargoyles Are Cute, Come to Think of It {Obsessing Over Circumstances}

Caroline 2009 
(This is my guest post that will be at The Uncontainable Truth today!)

It was 2009.  After graduating at the top of my accounting classes, I landed a job with a respected local firm and was successfully navigating my way through the CPA exam.  We'd bought our first house, had one child, and were in process to adopt another.

The economic downturn was not on our radar... until nine employees were fired from my firm.  That afternoon, after laying Caroline down for a nap, I also lay down on the brand-new carpet of our freshly financed home and prayed.  I was scared.  Houses and adoptions require money.  I needed to stay employed.

But something in my spirit said, "Get up."  My eyes were shut too tightly, focused too internally, on myself and possible financial trials, (which never came to fruition).  I needed to open my eyes wide, and gaze towards the God in control.

Worship is always the antidote for fear, because God is always greater than our troubles.

I look back on that trial-that-never-was with a laugh.  What was I so scared of?  Didn't I know God was bigger than that?

And today, will I know God is bigger than this? When I'm stressed by the noise of two bored girls on a road trip, will I magnify the annoyances by focusing on them, or will I open my eyes to the God who made tiny clapping hands and strong lungs and high pitched vocal chords, and believe that "children are a blessing from the Lord"?

Do we live like God is ALWAYS bigger than our circumstances, whether good or bad?
Do we keep our eyes focused outward on Him, rather than inward on ourselves?

Recently, I read Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton.  I wanted to stand up and applaud.  Parts were funny, parts were poetic, parts demanded all of my intellect, and all of it pointed towards Truth.

(Today, Orthodoxy is free to Kindle here!)

Chesterton made me realize the sickness in shutting your eyes and looking inward, rather than gazing at our Creator with intent, wild wonder.  He made this point by contrasting Buddhist statues and beliefs to Christian Gothic statues and theology.

Thanks to Chesterton, I will never look at the ugly gargoyles of medieval Christianity with disdain again.  Yes, they are deformed.  Aren't we all deformed by sin?  Yes, they are gaunt.  Aren't we all starving for the Bread of Life?  Yes, they appear wide-eyed and crazed.  But read what Chesterton has to say of this:

"The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards [...] This is the meaning of the almost insane happiness in the eyes of the mediaval saint in the picture [...] The Christian saint is happy because he has verily been cut off from the world; he is separate from things and is staring at them in astonishment."
"The Buddhist is looking with peculiar intentness inwards [...] The pantheist cannot wonder, for he cannot praise God or praise anything as really distinct from himself.
"By insisting on the immanence of God we get introspection, self isolation, quietism, social indifference -- Tibet.  By insisting specially on the transcendence of God we get wonder, curiosity, moral and political adventure, righteous indignation -- Christendom.  Insisting that God is inside man, man is always inside himself.  By insisting that God transcends man, man has always transcended himself."

Above all, let's keep our eyes open.
Let's stay alert to Christ, rather than alert to our frustrations, our heartaches, our headaches.

Who knew I'd ever strive to be like a gargoyle?