Monday, March 28, 2011

Crazy Cuteness

In the midst of all the craziness of life, I have neglected to share the insane amount of cuteness happening in our home. These kids bless us beyond belief. Each day I wake up and am overwhelmed with gratitude that the Lord has trusted us with these sweet gifts. Here is an update on three FANTASTIC kids. (I might be biased)

I am brought to tears to think this precious little girl is almost TWO! She causes my jaw to drop daily. She is speaking sentences and I am finding myself challenged already with taming the sassiness. She loves to give kisses and hugs and nearly loses her mind when she sees a baby. She LOVES babies! She carries a doll around with her pretty much everywhere we go and is a great little mama. It makes my heart melt to walk into her room and see her rocking and singing to her babies. She is obsessed with anything Dora. She loves her purple blanket (which we LOST Friday at a doctor's office and are hoping returns) and is sleeping through the night pretty regularly. She loves her daddy and has him pretty much wrapped around her finger. No one prepared me for the fact that sometimes girls are very particular about their wardrobe EVEN before they turn two! Hope loves all things girly and refuses to wear anything but dresses. Her dad started a nightly tradition where she chooses her own PJs and now she thinks she should ALWAYS get to choose. Needless to say we have got to get some more dresses. She loves bows and shoes and jewelry and purses. Her favorite foods are chicken, apples, and m&m's. I cannot help but look at her and praise God for his goodness. She is our constant reminder that we are NEVER promised tomorrow and we soak in every moment.

Luke can't wait to be 8 (which is about how many teeth he has left in his mouth)! He is doing awesome in first grade and is reading levels above where he is expected to be. He is self motivated and LOVES learning. He devours books and loves to draw. He also loves to play Wii. He is excited for Little League to start next month and has been practicing. We are amazed at the progress he has made simply due to growth and maturity! He loves fruits and veggies! His favorite foods are, fresh spinach, grapefruit, and pizza. He is SO much like his mommy. He likes to follow the rules and loves to have all of his things in their place. He is SO helpful with the littler ones and has a wonderful heart. He helps us teach Sunday school and is really determined to please God. It is so amazing to see him growing and developing into a wonderful young man and I pray he continues to follow the Lord.

Ben is almost FIVE! I cannot even believe it! I blinked and he was a big kid! He is one of the most fun kids I have ever met. His personality shines and his heart is so tender. He loves his baby sister and enjoys playing with her and teaching her everything he knows (when he isn't making her scream). ;) He loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates and anything superhero or dinosaurs. His favorite foods right now are oatmeal, stromboli, and cantaloupe. I am amazed each day by how much he is learning. He LOVES to play board games and would choose that above just about anything else. He is our social butterfly. EVERYwhere we go he makes friends. He has no problem walking right up to other kids and introducing himself and joining in. He is such a joy! He makes me laugh EVERY day. You just never know what he is going to say! He helps us remember to enjoy life and laugh at ourselves.

Speaking of laughing...these kids are such a riot! We are SO incredibly blessed!

Bottoms UP! This is one of Hope's favorite positions. Downward dog, tripod, whatever you call it, it is hilarious!
Monkey see...Monkey do! :)

Praising God today for all he has done in this family and all He's yet to do. So thankful for each of those little rumps! Some days I feel like all I do is wipe them, but I sure wouldn't want to do life without them! Thank you Lord for all of your gifts!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Love is a Battlefield

I sit here, tears streaming down my face at the magnitude of what is going on in our lives. We are at war folks. Spiritual warfare is rearing it's head in our lives and it is more obvious than ever.

Many of you have messaged me recently offering encouragement and advice and I can't tell you how I covet your prayers and kind words. Many of you have expressed concern that all of the obstacles we have been battling have been God's way of telling us to stop. Here is the thing. I am certain that that is not true. I have spent this week committed to resting and remaining quiet before the Lord and hearing what He has to say. I have cried a river of tears and pounded my pillow with my fist more times than I can count, just trying to understand just what He is asking of us.

I can say that I feel like I have more clarity than I have had in quite sometime. I have had several of you message with words of encouragement because you too have fought a similar war. I have been reminded that while yes, sometimes our roadblocks are God saying, STOP! It is also true that sometimes Satan is fighting harder than ever to get us to give in and give up. I know that talk of Satan in our culture is often taboo and makes people uncomfortable and there is a reason for that. Satan is real and he is on the prowl trying to foil any plans to carry out the will of the Lord. God said “put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the devil.” He wasn't kidding. He knew what we would come up against and this is what it takes for us to be victorious. This battle is not ours. It is God's. He will win.

If I am being honest, at the beginning of this week I was ready to give up and give in. I was tired of fighting and just had nothing left, but as I have sought refuge in His mighty arms I have found the will to fight again. And fight we will. Everything has been seeming impossible and insurmountable this week. Satan is at work instilling fear and doubt. He has put up a roadblock and whispered in our ear that we are unfit, unworthy, and ill equipped. He has dug into our lives and found the deepest hurts and fears and pulled them to the surface causing us to doubt. My heart has been sick and my spirit tired.

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” Romans 8:1-2

We have sought council of some wise and Godly friends and they have reminded us that this IS in fact a war. The truth is that we have been extended grace that none of us deserve, we all fail, we all have shortcomings and sin, and we have all been made white as snow again. We may come from a broken past and have made mistakes, but that does NOT define who we are or what our future will be. Because of Christ's love for us we are free. Free from the bondage of sin and Satan will try to chain us down again and again and tell us lies, but the God we serve is so much bigger and He whispers the truth, that we are loved, we are free and our identity lies in Him. He loves us in spite of who we are not because of it. He has taken the shackles from our hands and though other men may try to pull us down and re-shackle us, He is bigger. There is NO condemnation. We are free to live Godly lives despite the fact that we all struggle with sin.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Our spiritual battles are of will and of mind. We are not to go into battle without putting on the FULL armor of God. Paul tells us in Ephesians about each of the pieces of His armor that we are to put on BEFORE heading into battle, we are not to go in unequipped. The only way to combat the lies Satan sneaks in is to fill that mind with God's word, this is our sword. I needed this week to immerse myself in His word and fill my weary soul with His goodness and promise. I have been so thirsty for His truth and there is nothing like the quench that it provides. We HAVE been fighting unequipped and I believe God is right now calling us to take time to equip ourselves for this fight.

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14)

His TRUTH is our belt and body armor. God is incapable of lying so we can stand firm on his promises because he WILL make good on them. We can rest assured that if He promises it, it will be. The lies we are hearing are not from God. He has blessed us with his perfect truth to help us stand our ground and not be moved.

“For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared” (Ephesians 6:15).

God intends for those shoes to MOVE we are to move forward in offense and not just sit back and fight defense. We need to be at peace with God and his call for us, trusting that He has GREAT plans for us and that if we are in His will we need not worry. We must have peace to battle in spiritual warfare. That peace comes from the Good News that Jesus died for us and that we are FREE.

“In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil” (Ephesians 6:16).

We can't head into battle without our shield. We are told here that our shield is our faith. Paul is telling us here to stay alert. Jesus won the battle by what he did on the cross, but Satan is not going to lie down and take it quietly. He is going to do everything he can in opposition. He won't win, but he wants to take down as many people as possible. The devil is angry and he is out to use whatever he can to make us stumble. He uses, fear, anxiety, lust, idolatry, doubt and the list could go on forever. The thing is that we need to stand firm in our faith, knowing that God is who He says He is. He keeps His promises and has great plans for our good.

“Put on salvation as your helmet” Ephesians 6:17

Spiritual warfare takes place in the mind so it only makes sense that Paul warns us to put on a helmet. The helmet of salvation. We are to fix our minds on what Jesus has done for us and the truth in the fact that we are made clean and righteous because of what he has done.“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7)
We have to know without a doubt that God has our best interest at heart. We have to know that despite whatever we endure, he will never tempt us beyond what we can endure and he has a great plan for us. During spiritual battle the devil loves to tell us that we are not worthy, not children of God, not forgiven of all of our sins, not deeply loved by God, not called to do great things and live out the Gospel and that is what has been happening with us.

Paul also reminds us in Ephesians that when we are at ware we MUST remember to pray. “And pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (Ephesians 6:18). We are to pray in all things, because it is true that whatever we do WITH God's blessing will succeed. If we feel called to something we must remain in prayer to remain in His will.

I never expected this journey to be one of the biggest fights of our lives, but it is proving to be just that. We are preparing ourselves. We are putting on each and every piece of that armor and praying through each of our days knowing that where He leads us He will help us to succeed. We will press on knowing that he calls us to love others and care for orphans, widows and those in need. We will continue to try to live the Gospel as well as we can. We will fight with everything that we have for those who cannot fight for themselves, because this, in no uncertain terms, is what God IS calling us to do. There are hurting kids out there who need a safe place to be for a time and we long to provide that. We covet your prayers as we continue to seek His will for us and move when He says move.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tired of the Fight

My heart has been in a state of constant unrest lately. I find myself worked up about just about everything and anything. I am overwhelmed and worried. We have come up against so much opposition as we continue on our journey and there seems to be a road block at every turn. I cannot count how many times in the past month or so I have sighed and said "I am just tired of fighting." I have literally grown weary. I sometimes feel like life has deflated me like an empty balloon. I go until I have nothing left to give to anyone, let alone God.

I continually sit down with my Bible looking for guidance. It looks a lot like this: I sit, plop the book open in my lap, I begin to read and then pray to God, then a bird chirps outside the window and suddenly my thoughts are on things such as spring, flowers, Easter, gardens and fresh vegetables, laundry blowing in the warm breeze and before I know it I am doing laundry and my Bible time is a thing of the past and I have gotten nowhere.

I committed to reading through the entire Bible this year and I want to absorb and learn and grow, not just plow through. I find my concentration lacking and I am frustrated with myself. Yesterday I sat down once again with that Book, determined to soak in God's word and find some resolve for the unsettled feelings I have and I pretty much got slapped in the face. Like Jesus commanding the seas to calm, my anxious heart was at rest as I read these words:

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

Here we go again. If you recall, this is a lesson the Lord has tried many times to teach this stubborn girl and I seem to never learn. He tried here, and here, here and even here and here. Seriously folks, this should not be something new for me and yet it is something I continue to struggle with. I fight and fight until there is nothing left, and that isn't what God wants for me. He wants me to be still and find shelter in His arms to rejuvenate and I am neglecting that part. He tells us to come to Him when we are burdened and weary and he will give us rest, and yet I am continually spinning my wheels and trying to find rest and resolve in all the wrong places. Trying to push forward when the Lord is clearly telling me to wait is a struggle I've had forever.

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear, even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!” Psalm 46:1-3

I have excuses for everything, I mean how could I possibly find the time to carve out quiet time with the Lord when I have three young children to care for? God will excuse me for not giving Him the time of day right now, in this stage of life, He knows I am a mom and am caring for these little ones, right? He knows I take pride in my home and taking care of the house and meals, shopping and saving money and teaching the kids at church, going through the foster care process. He knows I am trying to do good things so he can excuse me for not taking the time to sit and be in His presence right?

Not so much. The Bible tells us that the God we serve is a jealous God. He wants all of us. It is true that much of what I do in my day is for others but in turn for Him, but that is a cop out. He has to come first. I need to give Him my best, not my leftovers. How on earth am I going to have what I need to give to those three little blessings or my wonderful husband if I don't let God fill me with those things? If I don't take the time to just bask in his glorious presence each and every day, how am I going to be able to serve the people he calls me to serve? How will I know if my actions are aligning with what He wants for me?

So after the Lord set me straight yesterday in my time with Him I read through the rest of Exodus. I may not have as much time as I would like to spend in solitude with the Lord, but I have some and I am not making the most of it or offering Him ALL I have. Much like Jesus was able to take very little food and multiply it to feed the masses, I have to believe God will do the same with the time I offer him. In comparison to God's greatness, what I have to offer is so inadequate, but that is no excuse I need to offer my best and trust he will multiply it enough to nourish me. I need to isolate a bit and focus on the One who's opinion truly matters, and stop searching for affirmation and approval from everyone else.

Howard is reading a book called, The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee and he claims it is likely the most profound book he will read aside from the Bible. I was flipping through it this morning when I came across this quote:

“One quality which characterizes a spiritual person is the great calm he maintains under every circumstance. Whatever may happen around him or however much he may be provoked, he accepts it all calmly and exhibits an unmovable nature. He is one who is able to regulate his every feeling, because his emotion has been yielded to the cross and his will and spirit are permeated with the power of the Holy Spirit. No extreme provocation has the strength to unsettle him. But if one has not accepted the dealing of the cross upon his emotion, then he will be easily influenced, stimulated, disturbed, and even governed by the external world. He will undergo constant change, for emotion shifts often. The slightest threat from outside or the smallest increase in work shall upset him and render him helpless. Whoever genuinely desires to be perfect must let the cross cut deeper into his emotion.” (P. 429)

I have been anything but calm and serene. I have been running around lately like a chicken with her head cut off, running in circles and not getting anywhere. I am feeling attacked from all sides and I am losing the will to fight. I know I must press on and I want nothing more than to glorify God with all I have. I now know in order to do that, I truly need to take a time out and be still. He is sovereign over all of it. His timing is perfect and my yearning to press on does not negate that fact. His way is higher and I need to submit. So it is my intention to spend this week moving at a slower pace, taking time to breathe and regroup. Spending intentional and focused time with our God and knowing FULL WELL that He is here, He is good and He is MIGHTY TO SAVE. There is no mountain too high for us when he is by our side and though things seem impossible right now, NOTHING is impossible for those who abide in Him. Tonight I will go to bed resting on that truth. He will never let me down. Time to pick up that cross and carry it at a rate that I can sustain. This is a marathon we are running not a sprint. We have to be able to sustain so we don't just fizzle out. I have on the brink of fizzling. I am so thankful we serve a God who is bigger than all of this, who knows our hearts and intentions and extends more grace than we deserve. He loves us in spite of who we are not because of it. That is a love worth fighting for.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Must Read

I stand in awe of a God who truly can bring beauty from pain. You have GOT to check out Patrice's version of the story. Though God's story isn't easily put into words (I surely fell short) she told it beautifully. You cannot help but be blessed by a story ONLY God could have written. If you EVER doubted there was a God, this story proves it UNDENIABLE. I am brought to my knees with gratitude that he weaved my little family into such a magnificent story, through heartache and pain, there is beauty from the ashes. Here is just a blurb from Patrice's blog tonight...seriously you have GOT to go read the whole thing. :)

"Sometimes, when we think that good could NEVER come from things so awful and we think we'll never come through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, God is working and orchestrating something so beautiful, we could never imagine it in a million years. Did God take our babies so Anton would find his family? I don't think so. Did God allow Jonah and Hope to have EB so Anton could come home? I doubt it. But He is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine to bring hope and joy out of dark places."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Preparing our Home

As we finish preparing our home for our inspection for foster care, I have really been thankful for CSN stores. They sell everything from LCD TV Stands to cloth diapers and shipping is free on most items. If you haven't checked them out you should! They are amazing and they are a one stop shop for sure. As a thrifty mom, I also have found their prices to be super competitive!

Like I said, our home inspection is coming up, Tuesday to be exact and we would really appreciate your prayers.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

I cannot tell you how this verse has held true for us today. So much to share...when I get a minute. :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hope for Anton

Somewhere, on the other side of the world a little boy with Epidermolysis Bullosa sits in a hospital, where he has been for over a year. He was born one of a set of twins by a surrogate mother. When the "parents" came to get the children, they abandoned Anton because of his condition and took the healthy sibling. He has been cared for in the hospital the best they can care for him but he will soon be moving to an orphanage. There IS a forever family out there that wants to adopt him and bring him home as soon as possible.

Would you consider helping to bring Anton home? Please visit this blog and see how you can help. I would love if you would join me in praying for Anton and for his forever family as they go through the process in adopting him.

Lets join in as His hands and feet and follow His example!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Breathing Down My Neck

A few months ago, Howard and I were feeling led to plug in to a church within our own community and serve His people there. We had taken some time away from church after having Hope, mainly because the church we attended, though we loved, was about a half an hour drive away and with three kids it was becoming a real struggle. We also felt like though we made GREAT relationships there and felt loved, we were not building community around us that allowed us to "do life" with people on a daily basis because the distance was an obstacle. Our eyes were opened to the needs in our own community and our hearts were broken by the poverty we were seeing, both financial and spiritual. So, we decided to plug in to a local church, actually the church I grew up in. We knew it was not necessarily going to be a church that felt like a complete fit for us, but we felt like God was asking us to step outside our comfort zone. We talked about it and decided to commit to going for one year.

I can tell you that though we would much prefer a more contemporary type of service, changing our minds from the idea that we were going to church to be served to going to church to serve others has really made a difference for us. We are feeling loved and a part of a church family that is right in our back yard. Howard and I still work on doing church for ourselves at home, we worship, read and learn together, and on Sunday mornings we do Children's Church with the kids of our church. It has been an enormous blessing to us, it is so refreshing to watch little children worship God. It has helped remind us that Christ calls us to make ourselves like those little children and not worry about what those around us think.

When we started this endeavor, Howard reminded me that in the past when we really try to live completely for the Lord and deny ourselves, we have been attacked from all sides. Whenever we do the work of trying to further the Kingdom of God we really struggle with the stuff of life. WOW, has he been right.

The past few weeks I have literally been feeling Satan breathing down my neck. Our family has dealt with SO much sickness since November that it blows my mind. Our basement keeps flooding, financial issues arise, marital squabbles and relationship issues surface, and we find ourselves hands raised, asking what on earth He is doing.

I can tell you that especially since we began the foster care process things have become even more difficult, with each class we have taken we have encountered, sickness, babysitter issues, and conflicts of time. As we move forward with paperwork and preparations, money becomes scarce, people question our motives, and doubt sneaks in.

More often than I can count I have wanted to give up. More often than I can count I have wanted to just forget the whole thing and retreat back into safe family life where we aren't taking risks and putting ourselves out there. Each time I feel completely defeated and exhausted I find myself making excuses, God gently (and sometimes not so gently) nudges me back on the straight and narrow reminding me that he is not concerned with my comfort. So often, my human nature wants to take over and play it safe. I find myself counting the cost when Jesus clearly tells us not to. As I see all of these things happening I FEEL Satan breathing down my neck. He is watching.

We as a culture typically shy away from talking openly about the reality of Satan and Hell, but my friends, he is alive and as sneaky as ever. Those doubts that keep sneaking is him...those excuses, him...he is trying hard to get us to quit. He plays on our insecurities and sneaks in when we least expect it. Often times I have wanted to tell Howard that it just shouldn't be so hard and that if we are truly in God's will it should be easier, but I KNOW what he will tell me, that is a lie straight from Satan himself. He sees the trials and obstacles as Satan and he considers it a compliment that Satan is threatened by us. I am learning from Howard as he rejoices in the hardships, knowing full well that it is because we are pushing forward that Satan is paying attention and pushing back.

As we push through each obstacle, the blessing just beyond are unimaginable...we can't help but laugh. Fifty dollars short of being able to file paperwork? Push through...well, what do you know, fifty dollars in the mailbox. I am not even kidding...every step of the way He continues to affirm and provide. It would be easy to give up and let Satan have his way. He is subtle but sneaky. Each day, as I face what must be done, I have to make a choice to choose joy and choose the path of God. Sometimes, it is a minute by minute choice and one I have to return to many times a day. I must command Satan to back off and allow the Lord to take the reigns. The cost is great, to serve the Lord with all we have. We are called to DENY ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him. We can't serve two Gods, and the one true God demands our everything. We need to let go of all of the things culture tells us are important and cling to the Word of God, because it is only there that we will find truth.

Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

Satan is here...he is trying to cause us to stumble, but God is bigger, and we choose Him. Obedience is all or can't pick and choose...we desperately want to obey.