Monday, September 10, 2012

BIG News...

Have you ever felt God leading you to do something?  When you feel that calling, you can't think of anything else.  It drives your every move.  It keeps you awake at night and leads you to constant prayer throughout the day. 

This was how I felt in the call towards adoption.  In December of 2011, Spencer and I began praying and seeking God to bring a fourth child into our home through adoption.  Soon we began Joy-Full Creations to help raise the $30,000 it would take for an International adoption.  I dreamed of this precious little girl who would one day come into our home.  Friends and family rallyed around us and even helped paint/cut crosses and organize booths for craft fairs.  Our children began to think of names for their little sister and sorted through the toys they would give her.

In July, God led us to move to Oklahoma, so all of our adoption paperwork had to be put on hold.

What happens when God's calling doesn't go quite the way you had invisioned?

A few weeks ago, our adoption plans came to a screetching hault.  We had just moved to Oklahoma and I felt like a crazy person, but something else was going on...

Something was off.
I wasn't feeling like myself.
I was crying all the time and I just wanted to sleep.
I thought it was only the stress of the move,
But there was more going on...

I locked myself in my bathroom and, 3 tests later, swallowed the reality of the results...


The shock and confusion I felt in that moment is beyond words.  HOW could I be SO sure of God's prompting towards adoption but He have a different plan?  HOW was this possible?  HOW can I carry a baby at the age of 34?  HOW can I have a 5th grader and a newborn?  The questions raced through my mind non-stop for hours. 

I talked to my mom for quite sometime and, although very surprised, she was thrilled!  God began to bring peace a little at a time.  When Spencer came home that evening I shared the news with him. I will never forget the look on my sweet husbands face as I shared!  After (what seemed like) an eternity of silence, he turned to me and said, "Well honey, we knew we wanted a 4th child,  God just has a different plan of giving it to us."

The next morning, I woke up as the sun was rising.  God woke me up to this:

It's amazing the peace God can bring to our hearts
with the freshness of each new day.
His peace swept over me like a flood that morning.  I couldn't stop praising Him for this miracle within me.  I couldn't stop whispering, "Your ways are not my ways Lord" over and over again.

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways', declares the Lord.  'As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,'."  Isaiah 55:8&9

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."  Proverbs 16:9

We are so VERY grateful to God for entrusting us with this little miracle. 
I am 10 weeks along and the baby is due April 10th.  At our ultrasound, we were able to see the tiny little kicking movements and hear baby's precious heartbeat...Another display of God's magnitude and greatness!

We DO NOT know what the future holds for adoption, but we KNOW who holds the future!  All of our adoption funds will remain in "Joy's Special Account".  We trust that God still has a plan and He will reveal it to us in His perfect timing.

Maybe our story is just to remind others that nothing is too big for God.  With Him, ALL things are possible.

Maybe He is doing so much more than I can imagine in the here and now.

There is no greater peace than knowing that He holds EVERYTHING in His hands...EVERYTHING!  We can fret and worry and question His ways but really, all we have to do is TRUST. 

We trust that we may only see a piece of the puzzle but He sees the entire picture.  He knows how each and every piece fits together for HIS glory.

We trust that His plan will always prevail for He knows best.  We can plan everything out in our minds, but we may never know what He is protecting us from as He reroutes our paths.

We trust in His ways and not our own. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Christianity & My True Colors

So much has changed since my last post.  Each time I would sit down to try and write again my mind was blank...there was only silence. 

Several months ago, Spencer and I started praying for a church in Broken Arrow, OK.  They had called Spencer and really wanted him to come serve as their Global Student Pastor.

My heart was broken.  I didn't want leave Fort Smith, AR.  I loved our church.  I loved the people.   We had grown to love the teenagers in our ministry as our own.  They were family.  My beloved mentor and best friends were in Fort Smith.  HOW could God ask us to leave?! 

So we prayed.
We cried.
And we prayed some more.

And God answered, "Go". 

In all honesty, this is one of the hardest things about ministry; moving when God says go. But in the last several weeks, I have learned so much by just trusting in HIM alone.  I want to share my heart openly and honestly, and I pray it encourages someone out there today.

I hate goodbyes.  They are awful and the "ugly cry face" that goes along with them is even worse!  We said our goodbyes to everyone we love so much, pulled out of Ft Smith and headed to Broken Arrow, OK....trusting God.  Looking in the back seat at our sweet Hannah, holding her stuffed animals and crying because she didn't want to leave her friends, ripped my heart to pieces. 

I knew God had called us.
I wanted to be strong.
I wanted to encourage Hannah to trust God.
But I was sad too. 
I was angry that we had to move once again - our fourth move to another state.

So many thoughts raced through my mind as we pulled away.  Reality sunk in:
Moving would change everything: 
  • It put a halt to our adoption process. The application process is different in every state. BUT God sees a bigger picture than we can see - And BOY, did He know something we didn't know!!!!  (*More on that in my next blog)
  • Our children have to start in a new school with new teachers and try to make new friends.
  • We have to start over in youth ministry...not knowing a single teenager's name.  New ministry, new staff, new location.
  • We would be living in a rental house until we could find somewhere to live. (SO very thankful the church provided us a place to stay!)
  • Spence and I have to start over in friendships....the awkward "get-to-know-you" conversations...Leaving a place where so many were family to us.  They knew us already.

I truly believe it is in THESE times that the true colors of our Christianity come to the surface.

I am ashamed to say, the colors that came to the surface in my life, were not pretty.  I was angry that we had to move again.  I was sad.  I cried every day for three weeks and could hardly find the motivation to do cook, to clean, to even get out of bed sometimes. 

I wallowed in the pit of self-pity.  My prayers sounded much like this, "God, I know it was your will that we moved here, but I don't like it!  I HATE moving our children and I HATE starting over."

I know that God's word tells me to
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances..."  1 Thessalonians 5:16
But my life had no joy.

I know the fruits of the Spirit are
"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" Galatians 5:22-23
But there seemed to be no fruit in my life.

I know I am suppose to
"Trust in the Lord will all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways acknowledge him, and he will make my paths straight"  Proverbs 3:5-6
But I was leaning on my own understanding.

28 years of being a Christian...I should know these things by now!  But living them out takes my faith to a whole other level. 

God didn't make me feel like a failure in my valley of struggle.  In time, this is where He led me:
  • He led me to simply speak His words of truth - to pray scripture out loud when I don't have the words to pray.
  • He reminded me that I may only see a small puzzle piece of the here and now, but He sees the big picture in its entirety.
  • He reminded me that He has not changed.  The same God who knows the number of hairs on my head, knows what's best for me and my family.
  • He led me to divine appointments: 
    • A lady at the park who spoke into my life without her even knowing it. 
    • A lunch date with a new friend who's story pierced my heart.  Her joy through her valleys inspired me beyond words.
  • He brought peace in ways I never imagined.
If you find yourself in a valley today, don't lose heart.  Stay faithful to Him.  This world will always let you down, but our God is faithful to the end.  Don't beat yourself up when you find it hard to live this Christian life.  Stay faithful to His word, to prayer, and just open your eyes to those He brings into your path.  Sometimes I think we just get so wrapped up in our anger and self-pity, we miss everything He is doing around us.  I know, because I've been there.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Parenting Priorities

On the last day of school, one of our student's (from a preschool class I taught) gave me this frame:

When I first opened it, I thought it must be for someone else.  Then the mom explained, "It's for the little girl you are trying to adopt.  I know she's not here yet, but I hope she will be soon." 

WOW!  The first "baby gift" given to our little "Joy"!  I just kept staring at it, wondering what her precious little face will look like.  It's hard to imagine, our "Gotcha Day"....
The day when we enter the orphanage and are allowed to hold our little girl for the very first time.  The day we hear the sound of her cry, her giggle, her voice.   
The day she meets her sister and brothers for the very first time!
The day we bring her...home.

I pulled this frame out again tonight and a heaviness came over me.
Will I be a good Mom to her? 
Will we be good parents?
Will there be enough of me to go around for all 4 children?
Am I doing the right things with Hannah, Jordan & Solon now?
Will they turn out okay in their teenage years?
Will we teach them everything they need to know?

These are the same questions that hang over every loving parent's heads.
What if..., what if..., what if...??????

As I laid the 'Princess' frame down, I glanced over to my Bible, just across the kitchen table. 
And God spoke to my heart again:

It's not about ME...
It's not about ME doing all the right things...
I cannot control their hearts -
The Heart - "the wellspring of LIFE" Proverbs 4:23

We can read every book on parenting.
We can give our children every toy.
We can give them all the best clothes.
We can protect them in every way possible.
We can lay down all the ground rules & set all the curfews.
We can be their number one fan in every sport & every activity.

But we CANNOT control our children's hearts.  

God has simply given us an opportunity to
be a reflection of Him to our children.
"To walk in the light as He is in the light" 1 John 1:7
He is the One who holds their hearts!

So, the question we must ask ourselves is:
Who are we reflecting to our children?
 Is it God?
Or is it the world?

Occasionally dragging our children to church, and hoping the Sunday School teacher and Children's Pastor will teach them all about the Bible (or good "morals"), just isn't enough! 

Too often, our parenting priorities are out of whack!:
*Work to provide the very BEST.
*Get our children involved in EVERY activity & EVERY sport.
*Entertain, entertain, entertain.
*Give, give, give.
*Then, occasionally, if we have time, we might go to church and maybe even pray before we eat.
So what should be our PRIORITIES in parenting?:
*Loving God & Loving People (Actions DO speak louder than words - & our children DO watch!)
*Praying (in all circumstances)
*DAILY devotion to God, to His Word and to our Family.
Everything else falls AFTER these priorities.  

We will mess up. We will fall. But we get up, and we keep going with God in the lead!

This is all He asks:
"Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength and with ALL your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:27

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two Sides

"Never forget...there are ALWAYS two sides to every story".  Not the easiest bite of humble pie to swallow, but certainly some of the best advice my mom ever gave me!

As we come to the close of yet another school year, I must admit, my ears will be grateful for a short break from the 10-year-old, 4th grade, girl drama!  We have officially entered the awkward and hormonal stage of raising a pre-teen.  Hannah hopped in the car today and said, "Mom, 'Susan' is no longer on my friend list!  And it's all because of a boy - a boy I don't even like.  He and I are just friends!"   

It seems like only yesterday, I was sitting on my rainbow-colored day-bed, listening to New Kids on the Block, and crying to my mom, "Why do girls have to be so mean?!"  Her response, "Leah, what did YOU say?  How did YOU respond to your friend?  What is HER side of the story?"  She never just jumped on my band-waggon nor added fuel to my fires.  She helped me point my accusing finger back towards me, instilling a life habit of  pausing to think...."There are always two sides to every story". 

So today, after listening for quite some time, I turned to Hannah.  "Well sweetie, do you think you responded the right way? Response is everything.  Do you think maybe you were a little grumpy today because you went to bed late last night and you're tired?" She sighed deeply.  It's evening now, and I think she is still chewing on my motherly advice.  OR maybe she has completely moved on, and I am just hoping for some divine moment when the light bulb comes on and she NEVER struggles in relationships again!  Ha Ha:)

I wish I could tell her that it will get easier as she gets older, but the sad truth is, adults can often be as petty as children.   Sometimes our flesh gets the best of us. 

But WHAT IF...Before we decide to accuse or before we lend an ear to gossip...
WHAT IF, we were to consider this:

Would there be less fighting in schools? 
To consider that maybe the mean girl you hate is being abused at home-she's hurting.
Would we LOVE more and GOSSIP less?
To consider that we can know ALL the latest gossip, but don't love - we know nothing!
Would there be less division in churches?
To consider that just because you end a gripe-session with "We really need to pray for them" doesn't make the session permissible. 

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up
according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen. 

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit or God,
with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 

Get rid of all bitterness,
rage and anger,
brawling and slander,
along with every form of malice. 
Be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other,
just as in Christ God forgave you." 
Ephesians 4:29-32

WHAT IF Christ-Followers simply lived this out?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

At the Feet of Jesus

Well my dear readers, "Joy-Full Creations" has kept me quite busy, and I have not been able to write any devotionals for a long time. 

First, I want to invite you to join me in a little praise & reflection time today - to give God the Glory He so greatly deserves!  We have been overwhelmed by the 'God Moments' since we first started this adoption journey.  Without fail, the Lord continues to strengthen our faith!  He is faithful!!!!

This is Solon helping us at Lowe's :)
1.  The blessing of a servant's heart - HUGE Praise:  We are finally able to buy our wood in bulk for my Joy-Full Creation Crosses.  We have been blessed with an amazing friend who is now cutting the crosses for us and saving us money so that more profit can go towards the adoption!  Praising God & VERY thankful for a friend with such a servant's heart!

This is a view of our Joy-Full Creations Factory - Also known as, our living room.

  2. The blessing of our home - When we bought this house, the living room was very small.  AGAIN, the Lord provided (in miraculous ways that we will never be able to repay) for a wall to be torn down.   This remodel opened up space in our home for youth, youth workers, our growing family,
AND the Joy-Full Creations Factory:)

3.  The blessing of unexpected generosity -  At a women's retreat a few weeks ago, a sweet lady gently took my hand and placed a $100 check in it.  Her words, "I am praying for you and just want to help you bring that little child home. " WOW - Speechless! 

The other evening I went to deliver a recent order.  She handed me her payment, and right before I started to leave, she and her husband handed me a very generous donation.  God did it again - He continues to make our steps towards adoption "firm".

"If the Lord delights in a man's way,
He makes his steps firm;
Though he stumble, he will not fall,
For the Lord upholds him with his hand."
Psalm 37:23-24 

I share these praises to give God glory and also to remind you: 
When He calls you to something - He is faithful to the end!
Now, for a little Devotional time.....

When I paint, our dog Maggie often lays across my feet.  In my painting time I do a lot of praying and thinking.  As Maggie laid across my feet the other night,  I started to think about all the stories in Scripture that refer to people at the feet of Jesus:

Matthew 9:20 - The bleeding woman grabs the edge of Jesus' cloak for healing. 
Luke 8:35 - the healed demon-possessed man was found "sitting at Jesus' feet"
Luke 8:41 - Jarius fell at Jesus feet and pleaded for his daughter.
John 12:3 - Mary of Bethany anoints the feet of Jesus with perfume. 

What a humble place to be - at the feet of Jesus. 
It seems that I only find myself in this posture in desperate times...those times when I am just begging God for something - healing, help, guidance a plea for my children.  In these first three stories of scripture, healing is exactly what the people found.  But something strikes me about Mary's story. 

She didn't WANT anything from Jesus. 
She wasn't begging for healing, help or guidance.
She wasn't worried about what anyone would think of her.
She wasn't worried about how she looked - Mary's hair was covered with a mud-like substance, consisting of the dirt from Jesus' feet mixed with the fragrant perfume.
Mary's posture was a beautiful act of worship!

Many people had already begun to turn from Jesus at the time this story took place.  It took place only days before his crucifixion.  But Mary was faithful to the end. 
Not for selfish gain or recognition.
But because she loved her Savior.

We all have needs/desires and yes, God wants us to come to him - to ask ANYTHING in His name. But He also wants us to just BE STILL.

In this fast-paced world we are all busy, but if we only talk to Him when we want something,
then maybe we are just TOO busy. 


MAKE TIME to just


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Clay in His Hands? 

The other day, a friend of mine came to pick up a frame she had ordered from Joy-Full Creations (one of our fund raisers).  After she left, Solon (our youngest) looked up at me and said, with a huge grin,
"Okay Mom, NOW can we adopt a little sister"?

On another occasion, we had some teenagers from our ministry over to our house, and Solon was playing tag with one of the girls.  His instructions to her:
"You run, and I will chase you...and when I tag you, I adopt you!  Okay?"

He melts our hearts and he cannot WAIT to meet his little sister. 

If only adoption were as simple as Solon imagines it to be!
There are over 130 MILLION orphans in this world!  But sadly, the average cost for an international adoption is 20 to 30 thousand dollars.  And that, alone, keeps so many from pursuing adoption.  I have said, from the very beginning, that I knew this would be a HUGE mountain to climb. 

There are days we get impatient.
There are days we doubt our ability.
There are days we feel overwhelmed with the length of the process.
There are days our minds race with questions.
There are days we worry about finances...

I cannot lie... I often regret some of our financial decisions - which stem from getting tangled in the web of the "American Dream" -
Nice clothes, nice house, nice 'stuff'', nice car....And then I read in Luke chapter 12 -

"Sell your possessions and give to the poor. 
Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out,
a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted,
where no thief comes near
and no moth destroys.
For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also."
Verses 33-34

Its not that I think God doesn't WANT to bless us, in many different ways (including nice "stuff").  He has just brought, to my attention, that my "treasure" has often been my "stuff" and THAT is not where my heart is to be! 

God is molding us through this process.  He is shaping us.  He is the potter and we are the clay.  Often, the shape HE chooses, takes us out of our comfort zones and increases our faith.

HE is making a way for us to give HIS precious child a
A roof over her head.
A bed to snuggle into at night. 
A family that loves her.
A feeling of safety and security. 
And most of all, a family that will help nurture the path to her Creator...
For her to understand that she is the daughter of a King - King Jesus!

Has God been calling you to something that could potentially take you out of your comfort zone?
Are you clay in His hands?
Will you let Him stretch you?
Will you let Him mold you today?
Don't 'dry up' and become immovable. 
LET Him shape you. 
Trust Him, even when it's hard. 

As we are moved, under the gentle guidance of His hands...
HIS glory will be revealed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Top News: Petrino's Sins & My Sins

We've lived in Arkansas for five years now, and as a Texas girl, I have always had a great admiration for the devotion of Hog Fans.  I'm proud to admit, all three of our children now know how to call the hogs!  But Arkansas fans, everywhere, are saddened by the poor choices of Coach Bobby Petrino, which ultimately led to the firing of a (once great) leader. 

It's everywhere:  Facebook, Twitter, and the News - ALL covering the
Top Story"Coach Bobby Petrino-FIRED". 

Yes, Petrino lied and tried to cover his tracks.
Yes, he made VERY poor choices.
Yes, he broke contract, and there are consequences for that.

But I can't help imagining what it must be like to be in his shoes, and all morning long, I have been thinking of a man from scripture with a very similar story. 

A man who lied and tried to cover his tracks.
A man who committed adultery & even murdered.
A man named David.  A great and mighty leader.

He defeated the giant, Goliath, and gave Israel a great victory. (1 Samuel 17:1-58)
He was later anointed as King of Judah, according to the Lord's instructions, 
(2 Samuel 2:1-4) And then King of all Israel.
His Kingdom expanded & he was a MIGHTY Leader.
In time, he committed adultery with Bathsheba.
He then had Bathsheba's husband murdered to cover up their sin.


Still used David.

David repented: 
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."
Psalm 51:1-2

Petrino's sins made top news because he was the leader of the Great Arkansas Razorbacks.
David, is written about in scripture, because he was a mighty leader.
And Bobby Petrino is held accountable for his own actions just like David was.

The truth is, we can point our finger at a fallen leader,

Fathers - leading their families.
Mothers - leading their children.
Presidents - leading a company.
Workers - leading everyone around them.
Teachers - leading students.
Students - leading their classmates.
I can't think of ANYONE who doesn't have eyes looking up to them (whether they know it or not).

We ALL need to point the finger at ourselves
and really take time to reflect on our own leadership.

If our sins were exposed, what would the Top News read?
"Father Addicted to Pornography"
"Mother's Secret Texts & Facebook Messages Exposed"
"President of Company Neglects Family To Pursue Wealth"
"Local Worker Cheating on Spouse"
"Teacher Gossips About Co-Workers"
"Student Having Premarital Sex"

May God convict us ALL of our sins.
May we not just ignore this conviction and justify our sins, but
May WE cry out to God:

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot our my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin...

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me...Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Psalm 51