Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Nursery Purchase

So, I know it is probably too early, but I just could not help myself. I made my first nursery purchase over Thanksgiving break. I was working in Pizazz on Black Friday, surrounded by cute gifts and glitter, and I was overcome by the holiday shopping atmosphere. So I gave in and bought this:

As soon as I saw it, I knew we needed to put it in our nursery. As you can see, it is green, a lovely, gender-neutral color and a key shade in my mental design plans. But more importantly, is the Scripture that is written on it. Ecclesiastes 3:11, which reads, "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

This is a piece of Scripture I have been hanging on to over the last few months, mainly because this one sentence contains two promises. First, it tells us that God will make all things beautiful. That is such a glorious promise from our Lord. How gracious of Him to provide us with this assurance, something we can cling to when things are not so beautiful. For example, when I look at my life right now, I don't always feel like it is beautiful. We are waiting, and I am not a very graceful waiter. My waiting is kind of ugly sometimes. There are tears, doubts, angry moments. And in those moments, I am so grateful to God for His promise to make all things beautiful. That means that I will not always be in this ugly waiting phase. God will turn this into something beautiful.

The second promise in this verse is a little different. The verse begins by telling us that God will make all things beautiful, and it ends by telling us that that will happen in His time. Hmmm. That is not always what we want to hear, right? If you are like me, then there are times (a lot of them) when you might be tempted to think that doing things in your time would be much better. Sadly, that is not the case. God's timing is always, always, always better than ours. Even when it really doesn't feel like it. I'll be honest; there are a lot of days when I think that waiting to bring our child home is a terrible idea. I think it would be much better if we just marched our little selves right on over to Ethiopia and handled our business. BUT, I know in my heart that that is not the best thing. How do I know that? Because I know God is sovereign. That is a very churchy word. But what I mean by it is that God knows everything that is going to happen for all eternity. More than that, He has ordained these future events to happen. He has the long view. I don't. I can only see today. And really, I can't even see all of today. But God can. And that means that He has chosen, created, formed a child specifically for us. He has picked us to be that baby's parents. He knows when we need to come together as a family. And all of those things will happen in a way and in a time that will be for our good and for God's glory.

So, for those reasons, I can trust that God will fulfill His promise to make all things beautiful. I know He will do it. I don't know how or when, but I do know that it will happen. He has promised me that. And He has promised you that. Are you sitting in the middle of a difficult time in your life? A time that doesn't feel so beautiful? God will make it beautiful. It might not be in the way or the time that you want, but what He does will be what is best for you.

God allows us to go through some not-so-beautiful times. And it can be easy to think that He is just being mean or that He doesn't care or even that He doesn't love us anymore. Those things are not true. The longer this adoption takes, the longer I wait to be a mom, the longer my heart physically hurts with this longing, the more I depend on God, the more I come to know Him and His beautiful character. And that, I am convinced, is a big part of His plan in all of this. Absolutely, it hurts right now. And I would love for it to be over, but I am starting to see why God is allowing it. He is drawing me closer to Him. He is getting me to a place where I can no longer rely on myself or anyone else to help me. There is not a human being on the face of this earth who can solve this problem for me. Only God can. And I think that realization is what He wants from me. So while He is working to make our family beautiful in His time, He is also making my relationship with Him more beautiful at this time. I know God so much more now than I did even 6 months ago. That is something I would not have had if everything happened on my timetable. God's timetable is multifaceted and multipurpose. He is doing so much more than we can see. All the time. Let's praise Him for that, for His faithfulness and commitment to us, even when we do not offer the same to Him in return.

So in light of all of this, I want to encourage you (and myself) to pray more. Seek God more. Study the Word more. All of these things will strengthen your relationship with Him, your faith in Him and your belief that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. He will make all things beautiful.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecclesiastes 3:11


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Waiting List Number: December 2012

Well, I had written a different post to share with you today, but I will have to share it with you tomorrow, because about half way through the day I got my favorite email to get. Our December wait list number came early! Yay! So without further ado, here it is:

We are now number 71! The very best part is that TEN little ones were matched with their families this month! Thank you so much for praying for us and with us. We are so overwhelmed by God's grace and goodness in our lives, and we cannot wait to see what He has in store.

Each day is bringing us closer to you, little darling!

"I will consider all your works and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples." Psalm 77:12-14


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Circle Maker--Part 3: Pray On Through (Chapter 4 up to The First Circle)

Back to The Circle Maker.  Today we are not going to cover an entire chapter. mostly because I think what Batterson has to say about prayer in this first part of chapter four is so key that I worry I will have to write the longest blog post in the history of mankind in order to get it all out if I try to do the whole thing. So we are going to start at the beginning and go right up to the start of "The First Circle."

The title of this chapter is "Praying Through." And as I read chapter four, I realized that this is something I need help with. When it comes to prayer, my spiritual endurance is somewhat lacking. I can pray, but I struggle to maintain my prayers for a super extended period of time. If I am totally honest, prayer can be exhausting. I feel like I am just crying out to God over and over and over again. And when I (in all of my wisdom) decide that I have been praying long enough and clearly God just isn't going to do it, then I quit. I give up. I move on.

"Most of us don't get what we want because we quit circling. We give up to easily. We give up too soon. We quit praying right before the miracle happens." 

Have you ever done that? Just been too spiritually weary to continue? I am ashamed to say that I have. I have given up. Thankfully, our God is good, and He has does some incredible things in spite of me. But I shudder a bit to think about what I have missed out on as a result on my lack of commitment to prayer and belief. We are never promised that a life dedicated to following the Lord would be easy; we are, in fact, promised the opposite: that it will be difficult. But a life dedicated to the Lord is one full of purpose and blessing.

So we need to work on building up our spiritual muscle. How do we do that? We have to stay committed to prayer. There are times and situations where a cursory mentioning of a prayer request isn't enough. Batterson puts it well.

"There are (also) situations where you need grab hold of the horns of the altar and refuse to let go until God answers. Like Honi, you refuse to move from the circle until God moves. You intercede until God intervenes."

When we want to see God move in our lives in a powerful way, we need to pray like we mean it. We have to be committed to pray through, not just for, God's presence, provision and power in our lives. We need to be consistent in our prayers. Mentioning something once to God is not dedicated prayer. I am learning this. We have to come before the throne over and over and over again, refusing to let fear and doubt creep in. And we have to do that while fully believing and knowing that God is completely capable of doing the thing we ask.  We must pray from our faith and trust that the Lord will move.

"When was the last time you found yourself flat on your face before the Almighty? When was the last time you cut off your circulation kneeling before the Lord? When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter in prayer?" 

Yikes. When I read those sentences, my heart plummeted to my pinky toe. Why? Because my answers are not good. So what does that mean? Well, I have to examine my dedication to what I believe God has called me for. Think about what you do when you really want something, when it consumes you. If you are like me, then you think about it all the time, try to figure out ways to get it and get it faster. You center your days around it.

My mind goes right to Luke 11. Jesus is teaching His disciples about how to pray, and He tells them a brief parable. Here is the passage:

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:5-13

What sticks out to me in this story is that Jesus tells us that the man received bread from his friend, not because of their great friendship, but rather, because of the man's "shameless audacity" (other translations read "boldness") in asking for it at that time. Jesus then proceeds to tell us that we can ask. More than that, He seems to want us to ask. Those who ask receive. That is what needs to happen with our prayer lives. We have to make changes. We need to be bold in our prayers, not because we are being irreverent to God, but because we know that our all-powerful God can do the very thing we ask. In Psalm 138:3, David writes, "When I called on you, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me." The same way I would ask my earthly father for something, knowing that if it is the very best for me he will do it, in that very same way, we can boldly approach the throne of heaven.

"If you want God to do something new in your life, you can't do the same old thing. It will involve more sacrifice, but if you are willing to go there, you will realize that you didn't sacrifice anything at all. It will involve more risk, but if you are willing to go there, you will realize you didn't risk anything at all." 

So if I really want to see God move, I have to change the way I pray, the way I think about praying and the way I approach praying. I shared before that my "Jericho" is a May 2013 referral. That is the thing I want most in the world right now, and I feel like God has put it on my heart for a reason. That should impact the way I pray. You will have to bear with me as I try to explain, because I am figuring this out as I go, but I believe that sustained, intense, faith-filled prayer can move mountains. God performs miracles. I have seen Him do it. But we have to believe. So I am committing to intense, circle maker-like prayer for a May 2013 referral. And I know God can do it. What's more, I know that it is not difficult for him to do it. My miracle is a walk in the park for him.

But what if He doesn't do it?

Good question.

I am sure it has happened to you. You pray for something with all you have. And God doesn't do it. You are disappointed. Well, what then?

"We should praise God for disappointment because it drives us to our knees." 

True words. When God doesn't answer our prayers in the way we thought He would, the way we wanted Him to it can be easy to feel like He has failed us in some way. But really, God has something bigger in the works. And when we feel the disappointment of a prayer that did not get answered the way we thought it would, our first inclination should be to get right back down on our knees as ask the Lord to open our eyes to His will for our lives. I am fully aware that the Lord might not bring us a May 2013 referral. And if He doesn't, I know I will be disappointed, but I will have to realize that He has something greater in the works. And I think that is why the Lord is leading me to a deeper prayer life now. The more I pray, the better I will know the Lord. The better I know the Lord, the more my heart will be aligned with His and the better I will know Him and be able to discern His will for my life. And that is really the ultimate goal, knowing God more.

"Sometimes faith seems like a denial of reality, but that's because we're holding on to a reality that is more real than the reality we can perceive with our five senses." 

So here are our questions for today:

1. Are you praying for or through the desires God has laid on your heart?

2. What are some things you can do to change the way you pray so that you are praying with "shameless audacity" like the man in Jesus' parable?

3. What are some of the things we have to be cautious of when praying boldly?

4. What is the goal of your prayer life?

5. What might God be trying to teach you through your prayer life?

Feel free to respond to these questions or ask questions of your own in the comments section below. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thankful, Thankful!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday this past week. We were down in Florida visiting my family, and it was absolutely fantastic. Not only did we get to see my immediate family, we also got to spend time with all of the grandparents and Aunt Sallie and Uncle Roger. I am so very thankful to the Lord for blessing me with such a beautiful family. They are incredible people. And here they are!

 Brooke, Josh and Umpa on Turkey Day
 Daddy-O painting the door stoppers for Black Friday at Pizazz
 Dad, Christina, Mom and Uncle Roger
 Mom and Gran. So pretty! 
 And our annual visit from the pilgrms
 Every year, the Adams Family (some of our oldest friends), dresses up like pilgrims to bring us a Derby Pie. I am not quite sure how this tradition got started, but I am glad it did! I can only imagine the looks they must get as they drive from their house to ours. Christina thinks we should all dress up as Santa and Mrs. Claus and the elves for Christmas of 2013 and pay them a visit. 
 Brooke and Gran 
 Three generations
 The girls! 
 The food!
Gearing up for Black Friday at Pizazz. 
 The 6 A.M. Crew
Only Mom has the strength to keep going!
Pizazz looks adorable for Christmas! 
 Watching football on Saturday night

 My little tister!!
 Beginning with this photo, the following series was our attempt to get a "family shot" of Brooke, Josh and their two dogs, Bevy and Beezy. As you can see, it went swimmingly. 

 My bird! 
 With the Mom
 Adam, Brookie, Josh and Umpa
 Brenda and Mom
 Uncle Roger and Brookie share a birthday this coming week, so we celebrated early. 
 Aunt Sallie and Uncle Rog
With my Gran!! 

We had such a great time, and I already miss my family so much. God has blessed me beyond compare with the people I get to call my family. We are hoping that this was our last Thanksgiving without our little bebecito in our arms! And on that note, the end of November is just around the corner, which means another waiting list number is on the horizon. Yikes! 


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Circle Maker--Part 2: Jericho March (Chapter 3)

Continuing on with our reading of The Circle Maker, we are now in chapter three, and Israel is about to lay siege to Jericho. But probably definitely not the way we might think. Batterson, the author, gives us glimpse into precisely what Israel was facing when trying to sack the great city. Remember, at this point, Israel has been wandering in the desert for forty years, and as they approach their final destination, The Promised Land, the place they had been dreaming of for decades, they come face to face, or should I say face to wall with Jericho. The wall surrounding Jericho was fifty feet tall. Impossible to surmount. I can readily imagine how Israel must have felt. I mean, here they are after years of waiting on God to do something He promised, and there is yet another barrier. A big one. A visible one. One they know they absolutely cannot overcome. Sounds familiar to me. Does it to you? I bet they felt discouraged. But God was just setting the stage.

In case you are not familiar with the story, instead of ordering Israel to ram through the gates or even instead of blighting the city with His own mighty hand, God orders Israel to march around the city in silence for seven day. Ummmm. What? God, that doesn't exactly seem to be the best plan. Yeah. I can relate to how the people of Israel must have been feeling. The questions that must have been running through their minds. "God, why don't you just do this?" "Why are you asking us to do it this way?" "Wouldn't it be better if...?" Oh, how I hear my own feeble heart reflected in those questions!

But there was more to God's plan. (Isn't there always?) He told Israel that after seven days of circling the city, the walls would fall and the city would be theirs. God asked Israel to do something that looked totally insane, I mean literally crazy. Why? So that He alone would receive the glory when His plan came to fruition. After seven days of marching, Israel was to give a holy shout, and at that point, the walls would fall. A plan like that could only be God's, and I am convinced that He does things like that (in a way that makes zero sense to mankind) so that He will be glorified through the outcome. I mean, come one, no military general is taking credit for a victory that involved no fighting. That can only be God.

So Batterson poses the following question: What is your Jericho? 

This is critical question.

"Drawing prayer circles starts with identifying your Jericho. You've got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for and the dreams God wants you to pursue.Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and He wills. That's the goal." 

What is the desire God has placed in your heart for this life?

"Most of us don't get what we want simply because we don't know what we want. We've never circled any of God's promises... Instead of drawing circles, we draw blanks." 

Batterson's point is that we need to be specific when we pray. What are the things we feel God has laid on our hearts for our lives? For me, it is our adoption. I know that this beautiful piece of our life has come from the Lord. Adopting is not a natural process. Adopting can't ever be an accident. And adopting is not easy. So I know that the Lord is the One who has put this desire in my heart, and in Adam's heart, as well. So what do I do with that? Well, I pray about it. Because I know that this is part of God's plan for my life, I circle it, soak it, drench it in a whole lot of prayer. And as time has passed, the Lord has emboldened me. He has grown my faith, my trust, my reliance on Him. As a result, my prayers have become increasingly more specific. We are praying for a May referral and a baby in our home by Christmas of 2013. I know that might seem like a loooooong way off, but in the adoption world, this would be an absolute miracle. God will have to move in a powerful way in order of this to happen. But you know what? He can. It is easy for Him. This thing that seems so impossible to me, for Him is easier than snapping His holy fingers. So I am praying that He does it. Will He? I don't know. But I know He can. So I am praying, praying hard.

"The Israelites didn't conquer Jericho because of a brilliant military strategy or brute force. They learned how to let the Lord fight their battles for them. Drawing prayer circles is far more powerful than any battering ram. It doesn't just knock down doors; it fells fifty-foot walls."

This is the approach we must take. It can be so very difficult to do. Especially if you are like me and you think you have all the right answers and all the best plans. To sit back and let God do His thing can feel impossible. BUT, it is always, without exception, the best approach. When we let Him fight for us, let Him conquer our Jericho, He gets the glory and we reap the blessing.

If you know Jesus, you will be called to do some crazy, way-out-there things. The kinds of things that make the rest of the world look at you like you have absolutely lost your mind. These things might seem impossible. The way God asks you to do them might seem nonsensical. I know God has asked some things of me that I feel totally unequipped to do. Things that would make me arch one eyebrow (if I could) and tell Him that He picked the wrong person. I have actually told Him that a few times. But you know what? When I really think about it, and I mean truly think about who I am in Christ and what my purpose on this earth should be as a result of that, I realize and recognize that this is the way I want my life to be. I want the only explanation for my life to be, "Well, God planned it, and she listened. He called and she went." That way, when the impossible happens, when that May referral gets here ;), I can point right back to God, and say, "He did it. He called me, and then He carried me. All I did was pray and show up."

"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28


**All italicized segments have been taken from Mark Batteron's The Circle Maker.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Weekend in the Wild

Such a marvelous weekend! We had the opportunity escape into the wild with some our dearest friends, Bob and LC. We piled ourselves, our pups and our gear into the car and went camping at one of Alabama's state parks. It was beautiful weather and the perfect weekend for a camping getaway. We enjoyed hiking, beautiful views, great company and good food. More pictures to follow (hopefully).

 The Campsite 
 First Hiking Adventure
 Beautiful Views! 
 My Two Faves! 

 Baylor and LC (attempt 1)
 Attempt 2
Daisy was not a fan of being tied up. 
 The Family
 Waiting for Sunset 
 Bob and Adam peering down. Can you spot them? 
Loooove being outdoors! 
 Perfect spot to enjoy God's handiwork. 
 And back to the campsite for a rather large fire! 

We had such a great time this weekend, and we are so incredibly grateful to God for blessing us with friends like Bob and LC. They are some of the best folks we know! It is always a blessing to experience God's glorious creation firsthand, especially with people (and puppies) you love! 

Well, we are officially in the second half of the month now, so a new wait list number is getting closer and closer. Please continue to pray with us that we would reach #68 on the list as of December 1! 

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voices go out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun." Psalm 19:1-4

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