Showing posts with label Following Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Following Jesus. Show all posts

July 11, 2012

wherever He may lead


I love seeing adoption-related stories in the media.  Recently there have been quite a few.  That’s a good thing.  Anything to create an awareness of the plight of orphans in the world is a blessing, and when any national news media grabs a story, it’s HUGE.

Many stories have been passed on to me to read in the last few weeks.  In particular, one story about a family unfairly detained in an African nation while adopting their four precious children.  My heart has truly ached for them.  Many of us have prayed for this family—trusting that TRUTH would be revealed.  It has been awesome seeing the body of Christ coming together to support them.  That’s the way it should be.

Of course, with public expose and all the advantages of it, comes a different kind emotion.  I know I should not do it, but I can’t help myself.  My blood boils each and every time I scroll to the bottom of articles like these or similar blog posts, and read the comments.  Oh, the comments!  While the internet sure has been used for so much good in the world, it has also given mean, opinionated, judgmental people a platform to sit behind a computer and have their say—most times in not-so-very-kind words, and anonymously, of course.

It’s always the same in this instance.

“America has orphans too.  Why not adopt one of them?”

“Forget Africa’s children!  Adopt an American teen.”

“Why pay all that money to go overseas when there are orphans right here?”

Sadly, they just don’t say it in quite such graceful words though.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times Anthony and I have been asked similar questions. 

“So, you’re adopting from overseas…again?  Why don’t you adopt from right here in America?”

For the most part I do understand why people ask (especially when it comes from a heart that truly wants to understand, instead of someone just judging).  There are thousands of orphans in this country who need to be adopted!  I sat at the Summit orphan conference this year and was so encouraged to hear about the many orphan initiatives which have started in America to DO something about the orphans in foster care.  I listened to many people share their stories.  In my state alone, an amazing initiative among churches was started a few years ago to clear out the foster care system.  They have literally reduced the number of orphans in my state from thousands to a few hundred.  Much is being done.

And that’s great.  But in my opinion, the argument about where to adopt from comes down to more than merely about what is being done, or is not being done—and the fact that there are orphans in America who need to be adopted. 

For me, it’s simple, really.

It all comes down to following the Lord Jesus Christ with reckless abandon and DOING something about what He puts on OUR hearts! 

It comes down to simple obedience!

I have many, many friends who have never set foot in a foreign land to adopt a child.  But they have opened their homes and adopted several children out of foster care.  Other friends have never adopted a child but have fostered many. I also have friends who have only adopted internationally. And then I have friends who have done neither.  But oh my goodness, do they give, pray, support, and come alongside others to enable them to fulfill the call to bring children home! 

Obedience looks so different to each one of us.

Honestly?  Anthony and I have never felt called to adopt domestically.  That does not mean we don’t have a heart for the children here.  Of course we do!  We are burdened for all orphans.  But just as Jesus, when surrounded by a multitude of disabled people at the pool at Bethesda (John 5), signaled out the ONE who was on His heart, so must we.  The Bible tells us that there were "many" disabled people at the pool that day--all so desperately needing to be healed. Jesus never got overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem.  No, He knew in His heart the ONE His Father would have Him rescue. We too absolutely have to be obedient to love the ONE God places in front of us…no matter where in the world they are. 

I do understand that most of the commenters on these posts and articles are not Christian and absolutely do not understand the heart of our Father in these things.  But as I have seen countless times over the years, many Christians make the exact same comments and assumptions.  They cannot fathom how we keep going overseas to bring our children home when, as they say, there are children here.

What happened to a Kingdom mentality?  What happened to all God’s children and people being equally deserving of the basic rights of human beings…one being a family?  Why the dividing line that says those who adopt internationally are doing the wrong thing because people believe that our hearts should first and foremost be here at home?

And why in the world does WHERE we adopt from overshadow the fact that precious children are being rescued?  That's what's important!

The Bible commands us to “go into ALL the world and make disciples of ALL.” Adoption IS setting the captives free.  It’s rescuing children out of captivity (neglect, starvation, abuse) and bringing them into His glorious light.  Adoption is totally about bringing precious souls into the kingdom of God!  It’s salvation, people! For those of us who follow Christ, our God is not defined nor restricted by boundaries and borders. So why should we?

To think that adoption should be confined to just where we live is, quite honestly, ludicrous.  It’s a ridiculous mentality—hardly one that reflects the true heart of our Father in heaven. Just as many people are called to go out into the nations to serve as missionaries, ambassadors, or something else, some are called to stay right here and make a difference in their own communities.  It’s all about hearing the voice of the Lord and going where He sends us.  How awful it would be if every Christian stayed right here and never had a heart for our brothers and sisters across the ocean!

That is just not the Christianity I believe in!  Children are children...no matter where they live.  They ALL need to be rescued.  They ALL need to know the love of parents.  And they ALL need to hear the Good News.  To say that the “right thing to do” is to all be adopting children out of one nation (this one!) is so completely contrary to the Bible.

In my opinion, the most important thing is that we are all following the voice of the Lord and being obedient to do what He is calling us to do—no matter where in the world that takes us!  We’re called the “body of Christ.”  When every member of a body is actively doing what he or she is called to do, it’s a beautiful thing and boy, can it make a profound difference!  If those who had a heart for international adoption actually did it, and the families who were burdened for the orphans in America actually stepped out and brought them home,…Wow!  We would be changing the world big time.

Sadly though, when some members of the “body” sit back, point fingers, criticize, and judge those who ARE doing something to follow God with everything they have, that’s destructive.  It does nothing to advance the glorious kingdom of God on the earth. 

Once again, I am reminded of the words of Jesus.

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.

Jesus repeated the question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”

“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

A third time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”

“Follow me!”  John 21:15-8

YOU follow Him!

YOU feed His sheep!

No matter where they are. 

No matter how challenging the journey will become to get to them.

YOU take care of His precious, precious sheep.

Forget what anyone else says about it!  YOU be obedient!

It’s freeing.  Really.

June 4, 2012

nine

Okay, Harpy.  I'm going to teach you something.

You ready?



Nine!

See?



1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9!

Nine fingers.



Now you try.



Very good, Harpy.

You're doing it!



We love the number NINE!

Nine is a blessing.

And so are you, baby girl.

April 21, 2012

whatever, God!

I sat at my computer way too late last night. A lump the size of a tennis ball lodged firmly in my throat. 

Hundreds!  There were hundreds of them.  All desperate.  All worthy.  All deserving. 

All needing just one thing.

A family to call their own.

Hundreds and hundreds of children waiting all over the world for someone to come and save them from their absolutely miserable existence.

And I wondered.  Again.

Where is the body of Christ?  I stared at the sweet faces looking back at me from my computer screen, fighting back tears, and I remembered the lyrics of a Casting Crowns song.

But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way!

I’m going to be brutally honest with you all today.  I struggle with all this.  That’s not to say that I have always been this way.  There was a time in my life, not so very long ago, when I would have taken the easy road at all costs—a time when living a life of complete surrender to my Father in heaven was so foreign to me.

Last week my precious oldest son turned thirteen.  For me, it was a time of reflection.  I thought back over the last thirteen years and I could not help but reflect on what God has done in my own heart over the years.  I remember the day we welcomed Connor into the world.  Even after reading every parenting book known to man, boy, were we hopelessly unprepared! Nothing could ever have prepared us for parenthood.  We realized very soon after Connor’s birth that no matter what the books said, we needed God’s grace in a huge way if we were going to raise him in the ways of the Lord. 

I thought about that chilly morning in April as I lay on that awful, freezing cold table, struggling with horrendous nausea from the epidural. I remembered when I finally got to meet my son face-to-face.  We didn’t know that we were having a boy.  The doctor held him up for me to see and I quickly scanned his perfect little (well, not really little—he weighed 10 pounds) body.  “Is everything normal?” I asked.  “Does he have ten fingers and ten toes?”  They assured me that Connor was perfect in every way.
 
Whew!  I breathed a sigh of relief. 

And then I breathed an even bigger sigh of relief when his Agpar score came back nearly perfect.  Double whew! 

While I was pregnant people would ask me if we wanted a boy or a girl.  My response would always be the same, “We really don’t mind—just as long as our baby is healthy!”

I laugh about that now.  Yes, it is perfectly normal for every new parent to want a “normal,” healthy baby.  That’s what we all pray for.  But sometimes God’s plans and purposes for our lives are so different to what we imagined.

Last week God took me on a trip down memory lane.  I remembered how paranoid I was when I was pregnant with our firstborn. All the questions.  All the concerns I had at that time. “What if my child were to be born with a birth defect or some other kind of “issue”?  What if he came out of my womb and there was something that we were not prepared for?  What would life look like? How would we deal with things? When I considered all the thousands of things which could possibly go wrong, the first thing that came to mind was, “How in the world will we do that?  How will we manage?” 

“Special needs?”  Well, that was always something that God called other people to handle.  Uh-uh. There was just no way!

And then we got pregnant with our second child. After a routine test we were told that there was a very good chance that Kellan would have Down syndrome.  I remember the day like it was yesterday.  After the initial shock of the announcement settled in, the grace and the mercy of God flowed like a rushing river into our hearts. Anthony and I looked at each other and said, “If that’s what God has for us, He will enable us to parent this precious child!”  We instantly walked in that glorious peace which passes all understanding.

I went in for the amniocentesis and we had to wait a few weeks to get the results back (we were on Africa time!).  While we waited, God continued to work in our hearts.  And work...  And work... 

Little did we know back then that His bigger picture for our lives was beginning to unfold.  Little did we know that a beautiful seed had been planted in our hearts. God was beginning to change us from the inside out! It was in that season of waiting for the test results to come back that we began to use an expression which has come to be our family motto in life--“Whatever, God!”

And that’s pretty much the way we have lived our lives ever since.

“Whatever, God!”

“God will enable us!”

I smile when people comment about how they could just never adopt a child with special needs and how we are so courageous to do that.  While I appreciate the sweet comments very much, I can honestly tell you with all my heart that neither one of those two statements is accurate.

Anthony and I are probably the last people on the planet who would have been God’s first choice to go and rescue children with profound special needs.  Seriously!  You know how there are some people who you look at and think, “Yeah, they can definitely do that job!” 

Well, that’s not us! 

People who have known us for years and years look at us and wonder how we ever got to this point in our lives.  I know some of them look at us and think, “Really?  The Salems?  God must have been desperate!"  (Just kidding...sort of.)

We are definitely not the most wonderful parents around.  Neither of us even had a burning desire to be parents when we met.  I was loving my career in public relations.  Anthony had just retired as a very successful international model and was beginning a new season in his life as a missionary (I know, he couldn’t find more opposite career paths if he tried, huh?).  We got married, had kids quickly, then proceeded to make more parenting blunders along the way that we could ever count.

After two children, we declared that we were DONE!  “Let’s have two kids quickly and get it over and done with,” we said. Then, I had an unexplainable desire to expand our family one more time and Anthony said I was positively crazy.  It took two years for him to change his mind on that one.  Yup!  I think we were last on God’s list of perfect candidates for this job. 

But...

“Whatever, God!’

We were willing. 

Available.

Come.  What.  May.

God doesn’t look for perfection—He looks for a willingness to follow HIM with reckless abandon.

I would be rich if I had a penny for every time someone said, “I’m so glad there are people like you in the world because I could never do what you do!”

Really?  I beg to differ.

You know what I think?  I think a statement like that takes the pressure off them to actually DO something about it.  I think it’s easy to write it off as being someone else's “calling.”  We’re NOT special, or amazing, or wonderful.  Nooooo!  On the contrary, we’re sinners saved by grace.  The most ordinary of ordinary you could possibly find.  If we wrote a book on parenting, you probably wouldn’t want to read it because we really don’t have any great insight into how to parent a child.  Anthony and I are the fly by the seat of our pants and figure things out as we go along kinda people. We definitely do not have it all figured out.

But we are willing.

And that’s all God needs.  Willing hearts.

My heart aches for the hundreds of children who are waiting for someone to come for them.  Why?  Because I believe with all my heart that we, the body of Christ, have already been “called” to do it.

We really have, you know.  It’s right there in the book of James.

But we don’t!  We wait.  We pray.  We ask Him for divine confirmation.  We wait for the Lord to come and sit down next to us and audibly say, “Go!” 

And yet,  I think God looks down from heaven and shakes His head at us. “Have I not already given you the command?”  He must wonder.

“Is my Word not confirmation enough of what I REQUIRE?”

If my neighbor was starving to death, had nothing to eat, had no clothes to wear, and was in a desperate situation, I wouldn’t hesitate to rush over there at lightning speed to do everything in my power to help out.  Nothing would hold me back!  I wouldn’t wait for God to give me a “calling” to do it.  Why then do we wait to be “called” when it comes to the orphan?  What’s that about?  Has He not already given us the REQUIREMENT?  Is that not enough?

I think that sometimes we use that word “calling” just a little too conveniently.  To say “It’s not my calling” sure can be a great way to get out of something we just don’t feel like doing.  But “caring for the orphan” is NOT A CALLING, friends.  It’s a command.  Huge difference.

When I look at people in the Bible, I see ordinary folks just like us.  God never chose people who were born amazing in every way to do the extraordinary things.  No, He chose sinners, weak, frail, inadequate, simple people.  What turned those humble beings into some of the greatest heroes and role models who have ever walked the earth was just one little word.  That’s all it took, really--

“Yes!”

It’s amazing to me how one tiny three-lettered word can turn an ordinary life into something that is so extraordinary, so amazing for HIS glory.

“Yes!”

If you are one of the many, many people who have written to me recently about opening your hearts and your home to a child who has special needs, but are feeling like you are not equipped for the task, please be encouraged today.  Know that God is NOT looking for people who have it all together. Nor is He looking for those who have huge homes, adequate retirement funds, fabulous jobs, or empty nests.  No, God is looking for those who are willing.  He is roaming the earth looking for ordinary folks who are willing to be used by the Almighty Father.  God is looking for people who are willing to step out of their comfortable little boats, face the raging sea, and trust that God will meet them on the other side….for the sake of a child who so desperately needs them.

The more ordinary we are, the more His glory shines through our lives.  The more inadequate we feel, the more opportunity He has to reach down from heaven and show us that with Him ALL things are possible! 

These days I see things differently to what I did when Connor was born.  I am no longer afraid of what the future, or my children’s futures, looks like. I don’t look at a child like our sweet Hasya and wonder, “How will we ever do this?”  No, I look at Hasya as if she were my own child, flesh of my flesh, from my womb. If Kellan had been born with Down syndrome, or anything else, we would have loved him like there was no tomorrow.  By birth, or through the blessing of adoption, God will equip us to parent this child, or any other child.  It’s as simple as that. 

Someone once said that, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”  I agree.

Since we’re already called, I guess that means we CAN parent these precious children who so desperately need us.

Yes, indeed.  “Whatever, God!”

God is looking for those through whom He can do the impossible --- what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves.    A.W. Tozer

April 3, 2012

have your way


Pine trees heavy laden with snow were my constant reminder today.

Every time I glanced out my windows.

I was mindful.



Mindful of the fact that my God does all things well.

Even sending snow in the springtime.

He never makes mistakes.



I looked at the pines and I could so relate.

Their heaviness.

My heart felt as burdened as those needles bending under the weight of heaviness.



Heavy with the weight of accepting the things I cannot change.

And learning to trust.  With all my heart.

Embracing, once again, a season of waiting.  Of believing.  Of pressing in. Of not wavering in my faith.  Not even once.

A season of complete surrender.

Trust.

He who carried the weight of Calvary is able to carry my burden too.

He is able.



Today I looked at the falling snow and I remembered once again.

What a sovereign God I serve.

The ONE who knows that this tree so desperately needed the moisture today.

He knows the burden on my own heart too.

His ways are higher.  His thoughts are too.

His plans and purposes are always fulfilled.



"As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. 
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish, 
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,  
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
   
Isaiah 55:9-11

Have your way, Lord Jesus!

March 27, 2012

this is how we do it

Getting back to answering your questions here.

So many of you asked me about how we budget for a large family.  I know, these days it is one of the hardest things to do. It's tough trying to stretch our money.  Anthony and I have been married for fifteen years.  We have always been a one-income family.  For the first ten years of our married life we were missionary family--trusting the Lord for each and every dollar we needed.

Today I can declare with all my heart that God has been faithful to take care of our family.  He has never, ever, not once, let us down.  We have never gone without and our children have always had food in their stomachs and more than they could ever want or need.

God has been good to our family.

I will definitely share one of these days on how we make our money stretch.  But tonight I thought I would share three principles with you all which are non-negotiable for the Salems.  They are the benchmarks of our budgeting.

Again, this is what we do for OUR family.  I know that every family does things differently.  But this is what is important to US.

1.)  Tithe

By just reading that one little word, I'm guessing that half the people who started reading this post clicked the X at the top of this page when they read tithe. "Not that again," some may think.  I know how it goes.  Not many people want to talk or are willing to talk about tithing.  But for our family, it is a huge part of what we believe. The Bible says it, we believe it! 

Giving ten percent of our first fruits (not scrounging for the morsels we have remaining after everything has been paid) is a biblical mandate that threads through the Old Testament and through the cross of Jesus into our lives.  Not all people, including pastors and church boards, believe as we do about tithing. We've heard a lot of Christians, even friends of ours, say that tithing is an Old Testament principle, that it's better to just give what the Lord has placed on your heart.  We've found it's usually these people who end up giving hardly anything at all to the Lord.

From what we read in the Bible, the tithe went to the Levites, those who did not receive an inheritance of land as the tribes did in the Old Testament.  The Levites cared for the temple.  They were the ones doing the Lord's work directly.

Similarly, we believe that the tithe goes to PEOPLE who do the work of the ministry.  Not to pay bills.  Not to go toward building funds.  Not to buy a church bus.  Not to pay our children's Christian school fees. It goes to those in our "storehouse" who are doing our Lord's work.  Anything above and beyond this is what we call offerings.

I know it's very painful for people to give like this.  But if it's painful, then it's not done with a cheerful heart anyway and probably shouldn't be given.  God looks at the heart as we look at our finances.  What helped us keep a pure heart is to remind ourselves that the tithe is NOT OUR MONEY ANYWAY!

Knowing that it belongs to God, we are able to say, "Here, Lord.  We give it to you with pleasure!"

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it." Malachi 3:10


2.)  Give It Away

When I was a very new Christian, someone told me that you can never outgive God.  I have always remembered that.  It really stuck with me.  Over the years I have discovered for myself that it is indeed truth.  It is impossible to outgive the Almighty Father.  We give…He blesses us back. It’s as easy as that. 

When Anthony and I lived in South Africa, we attended the most amazing church.  The humility, compassion and Godly leadership of the pastor had such a profound impact on our lives.  At that time, the church was going through some severe financial challenges.  One Friday afternoon we sat in a meeting and listened as the pastor shared his heart on what was happening.  One staff member asked him if God had given the leadership any wisdom on what they should do about the money shortage.  His response?  “We will give away MORE of the church's money!  We will sow more seed into various places and we will increase our giving like never before.  Though we have very little right now, we will give everything we have away. This church will give until it has nothing more to give.”

And so they did.  Within weeks the financial situation had changed dramatically.  That was so many years ago and yet Anthony and I still talk about it from time to time.  It strengthened our faith big time when it comes to how we should give—whether we have plenty or precious little.  God wants us to give, give, and give some more.

We can never outgive the Creator of the universe!

We believe that God LOVES for His people to be generous and giving.  Now, I’m not talking about sowing our tithe.  That’s different.  I’m talking about giving IN ADDITION to our tithe.  Our giving is above and beyond what we sow into our local church.  It’s the seed we sow into people who need a helping hand financially, missionaries in faraway lands who so desperately need support, ministries close to our hearts, adoptions, orphans, and any other cause God lays on our hearts. 

Anthony and I are fully convinced that God so desires for His people to be a giving, generous people.  Our money is NOT our own—it has been given to us so that we can not only take care of our families, but so that we can be a blessing to the body of Christ too.  If we are created in the image of a giving, generous, most loving God—then surely we are to emulate that and be like Him.

I love what Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Give and it will come back to you!


3.)    Live Debt Free

Debt is such a trap; one which is so hard to get out of.  From the day we got married we purposed in our hearts to do everything we possibly could to live debt free.  Our motto has always been, “If we can’t pay cash for it, we don’t need it or want it.”

That’s not to say that we have never been in debt.  We have always had one credit card for emergencies. There have been the odd occasions when we have been forced to use the thing.  Like a  few years ago when we went through a really hard time financially.  We had a major issue with a carpet in our home.  It ended up being a health hazard and we had no choice but to remove it.  Unfortunately we just did not have the cash to pay for the replacement carpet.  So we used our credit card to buy the cheapest carpet we could possibly find.  We spent the next few weeks cutting back all over the place and Anthony worked overtime to enable us to pay back our debt in a few short weeks. 

We know that sometimes it's hard, and we are forced to make alternative plans to meet a need.  It's life.  But for the most part we, as a family, do everything we can to remain debt free.  Our only debt is our home.  We drive used cars until they literally end up in the salvage yard, and we pay cash for everything.  Most of our possessions we buy used.  We shop at thrift stores and bargain places for good, used things that we need.  Only if we cannot find something used do we buy it new.  

For our family, we have found that by living within our means, being good stewards of the money God has blessed us with, never buying more than we really need, and staying out of debt--we have been able to always live on one (very average) income.

There you have it. Those three principles are key to every budgeting decision we make as a family.

March 25, 2012

to give my life away

Life has recently been filled with many twists and turns for our family. The last couple of weeks have once shown us once again that true surrender is NOT about us.  It’s about seeking the kingdom of God above all things.  It's about dying to our own desires daily--and following God with everything we have.

Sometimes we get it right.  Sometimes we fail miserably.

I’ve been thinking about something a lot these days.  My heart has been so drawn to people who get it.  I call them “yes” people.  Those who have lived lives so completely surrendered to their Father in heaven.  People who say YES to God…even when they know full well that saying that one little three-letter word will stretch them, challenge them, and possibly put them in a situation which will be the hardest road they have ever had to walk in their lives.

"Yes!" gives God the power to do the extraordinary in our lives.

I have been thinking about incredible people in the Bible whose lives challenge me to become more obedient, more faith-filled, and more surrendered to my Father in heaven.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, is definitely one of my heroes.  That young girl understood what it meant to die to her own dreams and desires.  Mary got it.  I cannot imagine being a teenager and hearing the news that I would give birth to the Savior of the world.  Oh my word! Would I have said?  “Um, thanks, but no thanks"?  Maybe.  How would I have dealt with the burden that Mary carried?  Shunned by her friends and family.  People telling her she was completely out of her mind.

Yet, Mary said yes. 

She gave her life away for the sake of the ONE who called her by name.

Oh, and what about my favorite missionary of all time?  The life of George Mueller challenges my faith big time.  Just an ordinary man with a heart after God’s own heart.  Mr. Mueller understood complete and absolute faith in his Father.  He trusted the Lord for manna for each and every day to feed him and his family and the hundreds of orphans in his care in Bristol, England.  This man of humongous faith knew so deep down in his heart that his God was faithful.  He knew that even though the journey was not easy and some days food and money were scarce…God would provide. 

George Mueller was a champion for the orphans of Bristol.  He never gave up when the going got tough.  He never chose to take the easy road.  Instead, he pressed in and pressed on toward the finish line...trusting in the promise that God does indeed work out all things to the good of those who love Him.

He too gave his life away.

I've been pondering what exactly that means.  How do I give my life away?  How do I live in such a way that my life becomes little about me, and all about HIM?

That, my friends, is what the Father has been challenging me with recently.

My life is not my own.  I was bought with a price.  I am a servant of the risen King--set apart to do His will, not mine. My life is all about being His hands and feet on the earth today.  It's about going where He sends me and doing the things He calls me to do.  The day I chose to become a bondservant (one who follows God to complete disregard of their own will, emotions, desire) of the Lord Jesus Christ, I lost control of my life so that He could gain full control of all that I am.

It’s hard, isn’t it?  It’s hard to surrender to God when He calls us to do the hard things—the things which are uncomfortable and challenging and just downright near impossible to our human minds! Dang!  I struggle with that.

I long, with all my heart, to live a sacrificial life--a life which is so completely and utterly abandoned to my God.  But I have such a long way to go, friends.  Some days I get it right, while on other days, I fail so awfully.  It’s so easy to say yes when God calls me to do the things which are in my comfort zone.  But is that enough?  Is it?  What about the hard things?  What about the times when I know with absolute assurance that I MUST say yes to something…but it’s the last thing in the world that I feel like doing?

I must choose to give my life away.

I’ll be honest.  I don’t fully understand that yet.  Though some days I fall into bed at night feeling like I did nothing but cling to my life as I know it, I so desire to live my life in such a way that each and every day I give everything I am.  And to be all God has created me to be, for the sake of following Christ with reckless abandon.

Whew!

I am such a huge work in progress.

You know what I long for?  I long to have the kind of faith which says yes instantly when I hear Him call my name.  I long for the kind of faith that says "Yes, God" before I have even considered the outcome. Because really, the outcome is not my concern, but His.  I long to be able to spring into action when He whispers in my ears to be His hands and feet in any given situation...knowing that I know that He WILL enable me to fulfill the calling on my life.  And should I fail--He will catch me when I fall.

But I also long, with all my heart, to know and understand what it means to give my life away for the sake of someone else.  I want to do the tough things, think less about my own needs and wants, know what it means to sacrifice my time and my energy (and money) for one of God's beloved children, and to be His servant in a world where people are so desperate, so hurting.

To live sacrificially.

To be a YES person.

To always remember that my life is but a vapor--fleeting.

To live with purpose.

To give...and give some more.

To remind myself every day that IT IS NOT ABOUT ME!

To give my life away without hesitation.

That's what I long for!

Failing, getting it right, stumbling, falling, getting back up again, seeking....I am learning daily.

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."  Gal 2:20

March 10, 2012

my regrets, God's redemption

It honestly feels like yesterday. We had only known each other for nine short months. Ours had been a crazy, whirlwind romance. From the day that he walked into my office in my coastal town in South Africa, told me that he was a missionary, needed an apartment, and drove off in my new car (which I was totally crazy enough to loan him), two hours later to go and find that needed apartment...we simply knew.

I knew that on that very day God had taken me, a messed up young woman who looked for love and affirmation in all the wrong places, and given me the absolute desire of my heart--a man whom I could trust with all my heart. I had been so hurt by broken trust and had reached a point where I wondered if I would ever find someone who I could depend on to love me, and only me.

It was soon after that beautiful day that my tall, dark, handsome stranger walked into my life that I began to have such deep regrets for the choices which I had made—the way I had chosen to live my life. I only wished that I could turn back the hands of time and do things differently. Oh, so, differently!

But, I couldn't.

Yesterday we celebrated fifteen amazing years together. What a journey it has been!

Our wedding day was truly a dream come true. I was finally marrying the man of my dreams--the one I had pleaded with the Lord to bring into my life for years and years. I had finally found the kind of love my heart yearned for--and the kind of love I had almost given up hope of some day finding.



Anthony and I had both done things the wrong way. We had both chosen to live lives where God was most definitely not at the center. We had both walked the painful road of looking for deep fulfilment and meaningful relationships in all the wrong places--and we had paid the price.  We had both chosen to walk the path that leads to broken hearts and tremendous loss. For that reason, when we met, we chose to walk in absolute purity. Many people thought it was quite amusing that we did not even share so much as a kiss before that wonderful day when we stood at the altar and were finally pronounced husband a wife. Some thought we would never be able to hold out until our wedding day. "What's so wrong with just a kiss?" they would say.

But we both knew that this time was different. This time we needed to do things the right way--God's way. This time we would wait.  God doesn't always tell everyone to do it that way, but He did for us.

And so we did.

I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing it was to kiss my husband for the very first time as a married woman. In that very moment heaven came down and God redeemed and restored to us everything which had been stolen--everything which we had so selfishly given away in the first place.



I stood before our friends and family in my pure white wedding dress, washed as white as snow by the ONE who had taken one of my deepest regrets and turned it into something so good, so amazing. By His unfathomable grace I stood next to the man I adored and I felt pure in every sense of the word.



Still, I would be lying if I said that even in the wonder of it all--God's gracious redeeming love in my life and His forgiveness which I certainly did not deserve--I did not feel any sadness as we left our wedding reception and headed on our honeymoon. I was sad that I could not give my husband the one thing which really should have been his all along--all of me.

Hindsight. How I wished I could have turned back those darn hands of time and done things all over again.

God has used my story of making a complete mess of my life and Him turning it into something for His glory many times over the past fifteen years. Anthony and I have had the absolute privilege of being able to share our testimony with countless young people as we have ministered in many places around the world. It has been pure joy, an honor.



The message is always the same. If there was one thing that I could say to every single young person who reads this little blog of mine, it would be this....

PLEASE, WAIT!!!!!!

Precious young women, don't be like me and have deep regrets. I can promise you that it is just not worth it. God intended it for your good when He told you in His Word to save yourself for the man He chooses to be your husband. I have done it the wrong way, and I have done it the right way (God's way!). I can declare in the loudest possible voice that God's way is best! God's way is amazing and beautiful and it is His perfect will for your life, dear young lady who reads this. I would urge every single teenager and young woman to go out and buy a purity ring, put it on your wedding ring finger, and do not take it off until the day it is replaced with an engagement ring! Let it be your constant reminder that you will remain pure until the day you say, "I do."

Don’t date!  It leads to disaster when you move from one person to the next in search of Mr. Perfect.  Temptation comes so easily—like a thief in the night.  Wait!  Prayerfully ask the Lord to bring the one He has chosen to be yours into your life in His perfect time, not yours.  I truly believe that courting is a much better option for any young person who has taken a vow to keep themselves pure for their husband/wife.

Please, don't make the same stupid mistakes I made. Don't choose the path that leads to decisions which you will some day regret (and you absolutely will). Waiting is so worth it! Keep yourself pure for the man God will bring into your life and give him the greatest gift that you can possibly give Him--all of you.

How exceedingly blessed I am to be married to this man the Lord gave me. It has been a wild and adventurous ride, for sure. We have traveled the world and lived in more houses than I can even remember--always following the ONE who leads us on.  Has it always been easy?  Well, is it ever?  But you know...I would not trade the difficult times for anything in the world.  It has been in those seasons where we have been so forced to draw nearer to Christ as our only hope, that we have drawn closer to each other too. 

I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for us in the next fifteen years. One thing's for sure: God knows that our answer will always be YES...no matter where He leads us or what He ask us to do.  Yes and amen!

Anyone looking for a great resource for their children of courting must read this book.  It is one of the best ones we have read on this subject.

March 4, 2012

mindful

We're counting our many blessings. Not because anything amazing or out of the ordinary has happened.

But simply because God has us in a season of being mindful.

Mindful of who HE is.

Mindful of all that He has done in our hearts and in our lives over the last while.



Mindful of His ever-present presence--His still, small voice which leads and guides us to new things.

Mindful of His love that knows no bounds and His mercy that catches us every time we fall. 

Every single time.



Mindful of His provision on a daily basis.  Glorious manna for each new day.

Mindful of how very much we have to be thankful for.

"Bye, see you later!"



"Blowing kisses as I wave to you goodbye."



Mindful of His faithfulness--prayers answered and prayers still waiting to be answered in HIS time, not ours.



Our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness in this season.  There truly is just so very much to be thankful for--even when the answer from heaven is "No."

We're putting on a garment of praise.



And learning more and more what it means to be joyful in all situations.



We're keeping our eyes fixed on heaven.



And never taking them off the ONE whom we adore.  The ONE who has called us by name and promises to go before us in all things.

How mindful we are of His sovereignty in our lives.



Our Everlasting God.

The ONE who sticks closer than a brother.



Mindful.

February 5, 2012

looking back, looking forward

I woke up yesterday morning with my darling seven-year-old son's face literally in my face. He simply could not wait one more minute for me to wake up.

"So, Mom, are you happy about being forty today?" he asked.

"Yes, honey, I am.  Why do you ask?"

"Well, because I really like it that you are old now!"  He said in all his sweet innocence.

Old?  I had to laugh.

And just like that, the fabulous forties began!

I cannot even begin to tell you what a blessed day I had.



Having a big birthday sure does make one ponder life--all that has been, all that is to come.

It's crazy to me how fast the past ten years have gone.  It almost feels like yesterday that I celebrated my thirtieth birthday when we were living in Perth, Australia.  My precious husband always does such an incredible job of making my birthdays so memorable and amazing.  He is totally awesome!  Yesterday, he outdid himself.  From the time I opened my eyes and found my sweet Cade in my bed, to the time I fell into bed last night, Anthony surprised me and went way out of his way to ensure that I knew with every fiber of my being that I was loved and treasured.

I could not help but count my blessings.



My many, many blessings.

And ponder.

And think about how exceedingly thankful I am that God has sustained me for forty years on this earth.

Each year is a gift from the Father.  What I choose to do with my time here on earth is what counts.  I know that to be truth.

As I have reflected on the last ten years of my life, I could not help but feel tearful.  I can honestly say with all my heart that my God has been good to me.  Has it always been easy?  No way!  I could tell you all many of the reasons why it has been difficult and immensely challenging.  I could share my hurts and my losses.  And I could ponder the painful moments and wonder why in the world God allowed them to happen.  But you know what?  I would not change any of those experiences for anything the world! 

If I had to choose the easy road--the one where I would not need to put my complete faith and trust in my Savior--or the road where I am forced to fully rely on the Lord with everything that I have...that's the one I would choose.  A hundred percent.  Because it's been in those valley seasons of my life when I have truly seen His hand at work, His heart which is for me, His faithfulness which reaches to the skies, His grace which knows no bounds, and His mercy which my heart cannot fathom.  Those valley times have grown me, strengthened me and helped me to understand the lengths, the depths, the heights, and the sheer magnitude of His astonishing love for me, a sinner saved by grace.

I have made so many mistakes in my life.  I have fallen on my knees so many times in repentance--trying once again to do things differently a thousand times over.  But one thing, I can stand on the highest mountaintop and proclaim in my loudest voice that...

God has been faithful!

He has never, ever let me down.

Through every trial and every valley He has gently taken my hand and shown me the way.

He is trustworthy.

He is dependable.

He is good.

So, so good!



I am so excited to begin a new chapter in my life. I have a heart of expectation to see what God has in store for my family in the months and years to come. My prayer is that I will always be able to graciously accept to walk the paths that He has already chosen for me.  Chuck Swindoll once said, "Nothing passes through our hands without first passing through the hands of a loving Father."  I love that. 

All things must pass through the hands of our God before it reaches us.  I pray that I never forget that--in the good times, and the not-so-good.  It took me until the latter part of my thirties to finally understand His sovereignty...but I think I get it now.

"For the word of the LORD holds true, and we can trust everything he does. He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth."  Psalm 33:4-5



It is with great anticipation in my heart that I look to the future.  I've given the Father my word...my answer will always be YES!  No matter what.  Each and every time He calls me by name--each time I hear His Word speaking to my heart saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

I pray that I will always have the guts, the courage, the faith, and the trust in my God to say...

“Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Come...What...May.

Bring on the fabulous forties!

February 3, 2012

choosing to bloom

"As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night."  Genesis 8:22



"You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter."  Psalm 74:17



"She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes."  Proverbs 21:31



"Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth."  1 Timothy 6:6



Learning daily to find deep, satisfying, unwavering contentment.



And choosing this day to bloom where He has planted me.

January 28, 2012

I am guilty

Other than the sound of televisions and red lights buzzing above doorways to alert nurses, the hallways were silent. A few stragglers in wheelchairs awkwardly push themselves up and down and up and down, simply to escape the four tiny walls which make up the only home they know. One or two sit on benches--having endless conversations with the air. And another precious one rocks endlessly on a wooden rocking chair to self-soothe. This is their reality.

In the quiet of the night, I heard her. I made my way down the hallway to find where the sound was coming from. I opened her door to find her there—sitting in the corner of her room, hunched over, tears streaming down her delicate, time-worn face. I rushed over to help, not quite knowing what to do…other than love.

“Are you okay,” I asked (choking back tears myself). “I need to get to the bathroom, but I can’t get up. My legs hurt too much and my body won’t move,” she managed to say through her tears.

Ever so slowly, together we made our way to the bathrooms across the hallway—one agonizing step at a time. I held onto her frail 97-year-old body with all the gentleness and tenderness I could muster, guiding her every step of the way. Tears continued to pour down her beautiful face as she begged for mercy.

I ached. I felt completely helpless to take the agonizing, crippling pain away from her.

After what felt like forever, we reached the bathroom and my new friend was finally able to get some much needed relief. As I removed her disposable adult diaper and began to clean her up, tears continued to flow down both of our faces. My heart overflowed with thankfulness that I was able to simply love (when I had no idea how to physically care for her many needs).

Through this precious life, in that very moment, God began to break my heart for something which broke His in two. The eyes of my heart began to open to a desperate reality that I never really gave much thought to. The widow who lies alone in a facility all day, every day. The acutely aware lady with Down syndrome locked away in the Alzheimer’s unit of that same facility. The abandoned!

Gently and with absolute caution to not tear her already paper-thin skin, I continued wiping, cleaning and reassuring my tiny little friend that everything was fine and how much I truly loved helping her—how it was a joy to help her feel clean again.

From behind her sobs and pleas for help, she looked into my eyes. “Please, can you do me a favor?”

“Absolutely! Anything,” I said.

“Please can you pray with me that Jesus would take me home soon? I am ready to meet my Savior face-to-face. I am so tired of the constant pain. I am longing to see my husband again.”

My tears flowed freely as I promised to pray.

I never told her that I was a Christian. Never shared my faith. Sometimes no words are necessary. By our fruit they shall know us, the Bible tells us. (Matthew 7:16)

This week has been such a huge eye-opener for me. My heart has shattered into a million pieces as I have spent my evenings helping out at a long-term care facility. I shared on Facebook earlier in the week that I totally get it now. I really do! I get why the Lord put “widow” and “orphan” together in one passage of Scripture (James 1:27). I get why He commanded us to care for them both.

Both the orphan and the widow (many of them like children themselves) understand something that few of our hearts can fathom…abandonment. They know what it feels like to be left behind.

Sometimes I get so focused on the orphan and doing everything I possibly can to help them that I forget. I forget about the dear souls who live so near to me and who would love nothing more than a visit. I learned this week about the many, many who never, ever get one single visitor. Some have family members who live in other states, others have family who just could not be bothered, and then there are some who have outlived every single family member and will die alone. My sweet friend last night told me that she has outlived her siblings, her husband and his siblings, and even her own children. She has not one single person in the world who can visit her. Can you imagine? I simply cannot fathom living in the same tiny, dreary room for twelve long years and not having a single visitor. I too would be begging the Father to take me home.

I felt convicted, friends. Convicted that I so comfortably live in my four walls and so easily forget about the lost and the desperately lonely. Are we not commanded to visit the widow and the orphan? Some translations say to “care for” and to “look after.” While at the nursing home this week, I counted. I counted the number of visitors who came to visit the residents on the floor I was on. ONE! One person came the entire week.

Oh my!

I am guilty. Some days I feel so desperate when I read about all the heartache in the world and wish that we could take our family back out on the mission field. We miss those days. I wish that we could serve the Lord with all our hearts in some faraway land and make a profound difference—like just being anywhere but here will make me feel like I’m doing it, you know?

This week I needed a healthy dose of perspective, and I sure did get it. Yes, faraway lands need the body of Christ to come and share the Good News with them…but so do those who are locked up in long-term care facilities (or are stuck at home and unable to go out, or just plain hurting) right here on our doorstep. We don’t even need to travel five miles away to make a profound difference in the life of another human being. And let me tell you, they are so, so desperate for someone to come. I saw it with my own two eyes this week.

I get so tired of living in my little bubble. I go to church and get filled right up to overflowing each and every Sunday…and forget to pour it back out for the sake of someone who needs it. I am called (commanded!) to BE the hands and feet of Jesus on the earth. I am called to DO the hard things, love when I don't feel like it, give freely, and live sacrificially.

I am guilty of not fulfilling the greatest command Jesus gave us. I am tired of my petty excuses. Jesus said to love my neighbor…when I feel like it, and when I don’t, when I’m too tired to think about taking on one more burden, when I’m consumed with worry and concern over all the things going wrong in my own life, and when I feel like I’m running on empty and simply cannot give one more little piece of myself..."Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and love your neighbor as yourself.”

I fail. I get so caught up in my here and now existence. I forget that the reality of my concerns and my problems is that they truly are not all that bad...because just down the street is someone else who is in a far worse situation than I am in.

Thank you, my beautiful new friend, for ministering to my heart and for showing me, once again, what truly matters in this life.

I pray that I never forget!

January 8, 2012

he never lets go

Sorry, I know things have been quiet here on my blog over the past few days.  Life has been oh-so-busy. I do apologize if you are one who has written to me and not heard back.  I have been burning the candle at both ends, and blogging has had to take a backseat.

This weekend we got hit with the nastiest stomach flu. Four kids throwing up on the same day and the rest of us enduring aching stomachs. Not my best at all. Give me a headache over vomiting any day!

Last Friday night I finished my first week of a month-long course at night school (an hour away from home).  Oh my!  I haven't been in school since forever.  Some days I wonder if I even have a brain left.  To say that it is stretching me is an understatement.  My days are filled with studying the lessons for the tests I have to pass at the end of each week and then leaving in the afternoon to go to classes.  Then there's still the neverending laundry pile, homeschool, grocery shopping, housekeeping, seven children to love on and a husband to thank fifty thousand times a day for holding down the fort at home.  It's all good and we are so very thankful to the Lord that once I am done I will be able to help contribute to providing for the needs of my family each month. 

Anthony and I are finally beginning to emerge from one of the most stretching, most challenging seasons of our lives--the journey called unemployment.  Oh my goodness!  Nothing could ever have prepared us for the road which God called us to walk over the past 21 months.  As I reflect, I am amazed.  There were certainly months when we wondered how in the world we would ever make it, how we would get by, how we would pay our bills.  But you know what?  We did!  Every single time.  The Lord came through for us in ways we never imagined, using many people in our lives.

Tomorrow we begin a new season--one filled with hope and all the promises of the Living God coming to fruition in our lives.  Tomorrow my dear hubby will begin a job on an as-needed basis--doing something he absolutely loves to do--serving his Father in heaven with all his heart as a hospice chaplain.  He loves it!  Sharing the love of Christ with those who only have days or months left here on this earth is a privilege for Anthony.  He is so, so thankful to the Lord for this amazing opportunity.

As I look back and ponder all that has transpired in our lives over the past two years (and there has been a lot!), there is one thing that I can declare with all my heart because I have lived it, seen it, and experienced it in one of the deepest valleys we have ever been in....MY GOD IS FAITHFUL!

He is an amazing Father--one who sticks closer than a brother when the storms of life blow.  He is a Daddy who holds us a little tighter and brings us a little closer to Him when we are faced with trials that make us wonder how we will ever overcome.

I often hear people remind each other that God will never give us more than we can bear.  And while I do agree with that, I now know that every now and then God gives us more than we think we can handle!  As Christians we are not promised the easy road.  Nope!  We are told time and time again that we are not immune to the trials of this world.  In fact, we are promised many times over in His word that calamity and difficult times will come knocking on our doors.  We have a plaque hanging in our kitchen that reads, "Faith makes things possible, not easy."

But oh, what glorious hope there is for those of us who put our absolute and complete trust in the Lord Jesus!  When we step out of the boat, inspite of the ravaging seas around us, and look into the face of Him who is more than able to get us to the other side...Wow!  The blessings are truly indescribable.  Fear keeps us in the boat--faith makes us jump out of it...come what may.  Sometimes, like Abraham, we have absolutely no idea what the Lord is up to, or where the road will lead...we simply must follow in complete faith and surrender knowing that God is in control, and that He never makes mistakes.

I would not change any part of our journey--not a single thing.  They say that hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I am beginning to understand that more fully now.  Looking back I see His hand upon our lives, I see His astonishing love poured out when we wondered how we could go on, I see the amazing heights and depths He reached to reassure us in our darkest hours that things WOULD be okay!

I don't know why God allows certain things to happen.  I have no idea why He never provided employment for us when we cried out to Him with all our hearts for months and months.  Why did the Israelites have to spend years and years in the desert?  Why have God's beloved people endured hardships that my human heart cannot even fathom over the years? No clue. I only know that every single thing He allows us to go through is ultimately for His glory, not ours.  The glory is always His.  It's through the trials and the hard times, it's once we finally reach the mountaintop that we can declare, "He never let me go!"

Looking back...I see His faithfulness like I never did before He called us to walk..and trust...and depend on Him explicitly.  It's amazing--the miracles which unfold when we are so completely and utterly dependent on God for our everything. 

Has it been easy?  Not a chance!  There have been days when we were literally clinging onto Jesus by our fingernails.  There have been so many lessons learned along the way.  And while we still have a very, very long way to go in learning to depend on God at all times and in all circumstances, we are so much farther down that road than we were two years ago.  We have learned to not sweat the small stuff--it truly doesn't matter.  And we have learned too that the things of this world really do not matter.  We are slowly but surely getting it--seek the kingdom of God FIRST--above all things--and everything else will be added to us.  God is just so good like that.  Even our children have seen and understood the faithfulness of their God in this season.  And, the Lord has taught us to embrace the challenges and the difficult times, for we know that they are for our good. He's a sovereign God and He really can do whatever He desires with our family.

I am humbled and in awe of His great love for us. His love which knows no bounds.  His love which reaches to the heavens.  His faithfulness which reaches to the skies.  (Psalm 36:5)

HE IS A FAITHFUL GOD WHO NEVER LETS GO!

December 29, 2011

astonishing grace

grace:  noun  \ˈgrās\  a manifestation of favor [mercifulness].

Life is finally beginning to feel a little more settled for our family.  Our house is starting to feel like a home (with the help of a bit of paint to brighten things up) and only a handful of unpacked boxes remain.  It feels good.

Christmas was wonderful.  We made a conscious effort to keep things simple.  Our children each received a few small gifts. We spent the day with dear friends.  Jesus was honored--for it is all about Him that we celebrate.



And in the midst of it all--the wrapping paper, the gifts, the birth of our Savior--I marvelled once again at His astonishing grace in my life.  Amazing grace that my heart simply cannot fathom at times.

Grace which is always, always sufficient.



It was one month ago that we drove up the long and winding mountain road that led us all the way back to our old home--the one we left just eighteen months ago. 

I confess that I was totally thrilled to leave this place last year. I remember heading east with joy indescribable and great anticipation in my heart. The feeling of elation only intensified with every mile that took us farther away from the freezing cold winters which, to me, truly felt like they would never end. Everything in me could not wait to get our little girls with Down syndrome to a lower elevation where they could thrive--and my summer-lovin' self to a much warmer climate.  Having lived in the southern hemisphere for most of my life, I found adjusting to a very cold climate for the first three years that we lived here extremely hard.

Oh, the joys of beginning a new chapter in our lives (sans snow!).



But, as you know if you have journeyed with me for a while, many lessons were to be learned along the way.  The biggest one, of course, being learning the hard way what it means to truly die to self and put my complete trust in my God.  I thought I had learned that lesson many times over in the past.  I really did.  I often went through experiences which I thought were the kind where the Lord was teaching me to put my absolute trust in Him. Yup, I totally thought I had arrived and had the whole surrender thing all figured out and wrapped up in a nice little box with a nice big bow on top!

But hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Those little "experiences" really were just trial runs for what was to come. God was building my faith one little "experience" at a time.

Needless to say, we arrived on the east coast in May last year and immediately set out to put our roots down so deep that even a Category 5 hurricane could not uproot them.  No one, and I mean no one, was going to move us from our beloved promised land.



Ah, yes. I have failed so many times in my life. 

And in the last eighteen months I have failed more times than I care to even count.  I used to think that I was a pretty strong woman.  I used to think that there was not much that I could not handle. I used to think that I could face any mountain and weather any storm.

That was until the Lord called us to walk the most challenging season of our married life.  A season that would stretch and challenge every aspect of our lives.  A season that would not make any sense at all to us...but all the sense in the world to Him.  A season when everything would be stripped away and we would be forced to rely completely and utterly on the ONE who called us by name.

A season which would take us full circle.

And bring us back.

To the snow.  And the cold.  And the winters which feel like they will last forever.



Back to the place I vowed and declared in a loud voice that I would NEVER return to.

Yes, this little spot on the map that I could not wait to leave behind, He has brought us back to.



It was with a lump in my throat the size of a tennis ball that we drove back into our driveway one month ago.  I fought back tears as we walked back into the house I was all too happy to leave behind.  I asked the Father many times as we headed west, "Why, God?"

"Why this?" 

"Why here?"

"Why not there?"



Silence.  Every time.

No answer from heaven.



The truth is that I don't have the foggiest idea why.  I don't know why God chooses to do most of the things He does (and has done) with His beloved people over the years.  Three men jumping into a blazing furnace, a tiny man to fight a giant, wilderness experiences for a ton of years, a teenage mom to give birth to the Savior of the world?  Seriously?  It's all crazy--the whole lot of it. 

But ultimately it is ALL for His glory!  Every trial, every crazy experience, every unanswered prayer, every twist and turn along the road.  HIS glory...not ours!  All we have to do is follow.  And then...

His amazing grace follows.



I have been so mindful of His grace in this season of my life.  His awesome, steadfast, truly amazing grace.  His manifestation of favor in my life.  I am so undeserving of it.  I whine, I lose faith, I question, I doubt, I wonder, I take my eyes off the Father.

Yet, He pours grace down like rain upon my life--and it is always enough in any season I endure.

Always plentiful.  Always more than enough to get me to the other side.



"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9



And so, as the apostle Paul did, I will boast in my weaknesses.  Without Jesus, I am completely useless.  I love what The Message version of the Bible says about that same scripture in 2 Corinthians.

"My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become."



I am slowly but surely learning to embrace my weaknesses--to see them as a way for my God's strength to be made perfect in my life.  For it is only through Christ that I can do all things.  When I am weak, He is strong.



I arrived back in this winter wonderland just a few weeks ago with so much dread in my heart.  I knew that I knew that we were making the right decision to return (because really, we simply had no other choice), but oh, how I much I longed to stay right where I was.

Today, as I sit writing this, with the snow thick outside my window and freezing temperatures which are here to stay for a long while, I can only but marvel at my God who truly does work out all things to the good of those who love Him.  My heart is changing.  My perspective is changing. I am seeing things differently to how I did before. I can even begin to think about the months to come and not have that old feeling of sheer dread consuming me.

His amazing grace.



Life truly is just so fleeting, isn't it?  We have only one shot at it.  I stood in the store a few days ago and Billy Graham's latest book caught my eye.  I opened it and read a few pages.  In there he speaks of how he is nearing the end of his life and how quickly it came.  He speaks of heaven and all that awaits him when the Lord finally takes him home.  Reading this man of a great God's thoughts and ponderings on living life to the fullest and just how fleeting our time here on earth is really gave me a healthy dose of perspective.

Does it really matter where I live?

Does the weather even matter one single bit?

Potentially, I can go through my entire life longing for something else--something bigger, better, warmer, more suitable for my needs--and never find it.



Just a vapor.  That's all it is.

Following Jesus with reckless abandon is ALL that really matters in this life.  He and He alone is the only ONE who can give me the grace to endure any circumstance and any situation He allows me to go through.



I have such a long way to go.  But I am learning, slowly but surely, that for those who surrender to Christ, we really do lose our lives when we give Him full reign to do whatever He pleases with us.  And when we say yes...

Grace follows.

No matter what.



My journey continues.  The Lord has been good to us in this place.  Doors of opportunity have flung wide open and we are walking through each one of them.  We're listening carefully to His still, small voice which gently leads and guides us, and we're trusting that He will use our family however He pleases. Our lives are not our own--we belong to Him. We long to be clay in the hands of our Maker.

"I'll just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become."  2 Cor. 12:9

And daily....I'm learning to abide.

~~~~~~~

Head on over to Anthony's blog to read the first part of an awesome interview he did.