I Can Do ALL Things

woman sitting on swing

I love this photo. This woman looks content and happy. She looks relaxed and strong. Her  photograph is a gentle reminder of how I should feel, at all times, on this inside because of the strength I have in Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:13 says ” I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me”.  ALL THINGS.

The great things about Jesus is this: He gives inner strength and a confident peace. It is in HIs sufficiency that I am self-sufficient. Without Him there is no “self” sufficiency. This was a freedom bomb dropped my lap this morning as I prayed over my life: you can let go of your “self” sufficiency and relax because it isn’t “you” who empowers and strengthens, it is Jesus. Let that soak in. I had to allow it to wash over me like a cool ocean wave on a hot summer day. Pure freedom. I can relax because Jesus has my strength. I can be content because Jesus brings peace. I can make it through anything because Jesus empowers me. I don’t need to do anything other than to release my idea of my own self-sufficiency, recognize my weakness and sin and accept the salvation of God’s sweet, free and undeserved grace in Jesus Christ. When I do that, I find Jesus residing in my heart with HIS strength that is made perfect in my weakness.

When life gives me trials, when raising my children becomes difficult, when my marriage is struggling, when my finances are less than desirable, when I feel overwhelmed, I can be like the woman in this photo: happy, relaxed, strong and confident in my Jesus. Confident in His strength. Confident in knowing I will make it through because He make me who I am. He is my strength, my peace, and my power and He constantly lives within me.

The beauty of this is not lost on me today as we meet this week to discuss our possible adoptive placement. We have an opportunity to place with a sweet boy with a beautiful smile and a heart that is severely wounded. His needs will be plenty. His healing will take time. We will need patience and guidance. There will be struggles as we help him navigate through a permanent transition into our home, yet, this morning all those struggles do not seem insurmountable. In Christ we can provide his every need. In Christ he will overcome and his wounds will heal. In Christ every need will be met.

Our adventure is about to begin, and as I enter the gate of our new journey, I feel confident in Jesus. That is ALL I need.

Living in the Spirit | Forbearance

shutterstock_1105683920

The fruits of the Spirit have always gained my attention. I know that if I can have those fruits in my life that I will be living in the Spirit and therefore living my best life.  Easier said than done. The devil knows the exact moment that you ask for those fruits and does his best to derail any effort you are making to allow the Spirit to fill you with a certain fruit.  The past few days I have been focused on forbearance. This particular fruit has evaded me daily and I truly wanted to understand and allow the Spirit to fill me with it and the devil has put my teenager front and center to derail me each day.

As I write this I have just finished another confrontation with her. She walked into my room to tell me good morning and saw me studying my Bible. She excused herself and five minutes later I can hear her voice right outside my bedroom door that leads to the patio. I assume she is talking to her sister or someone on the phone because she is being terribly loud. This is the second day that she has been very loud as I am trying to study the Word of God making it difficult to concentrate. Yesterday I failed. I had no forbearance whatsoever. I tried, I promise I did, but I wasn’t living in the Spirit. I entered the room on my own strengths, or shall I say weakness, and initially politely asked her to stop. She kept going. I tried to be nice. She kept going. BAM. I yelled at her. Not so forbearing.

This morning, as I studied, I realized what I had done wrong yesterday. I had tried on my own without inviting the Spirit to overcome my weakness. This morning, as the frustration welled up inside the deepest depths of my soul at the teenager outside my door, I stopped before I walked through the door. I learned this morning that forbearance is patience. It is mercy. It is a gentle and tolerant way of handling aggravating situations, including rude teenagers.  Proverbs 25:15 had been brought to my attention ” By forbearance is a ruler persuaded and a soft tongue breaks the bone”. Before I opened that door I prayed:

Lord God in Heaven, cause my tongue to be soft. Cover my anger and frustration with your mercy and patience. Don’t let me speak, let your Holy Spirit speak for me.

Then I opened the door. There sat my teen with a book and my dog. There was no one outside with her. She deemed it necessary to take a book right outside my door and read it out loud to the dog. Not just out loud…but LOUD!  Never in my life have I been more thankful for the Holy Spirit than I was at that moment. My weakness would have reacted in a very negative way. I would have yelled, because if I am being honest, that was the most annoying and aggravating thing I have experienced this week so far. I would have ranted and gave an hour long lecture on the respect of space and my time with the Lord. I would have made it a point to make a point, but not the Spirit.

I stood in the doorway and asked gently, “what are you doing? who are you talking to?” She responded that she was reading the book out loud to the dog as if there was no problem with that at all. My response, or rather the Spirits, was ” You know I am in my room studying my Bible. You are being loud and causing me to not be able to concentrate or even pray. That is not acceptable. I am going to need you to come inside and read quietly, to yourself, on the couch.” That was it. It was simple. It was gentle. It was merciful and above all, it was spiritual. It was ALL the Spirit.

Bones do not break easily and neither do teens. They are in a struggle with their parents for control. Yelling and lecturing have not served our situation well but a soft tongue can handle even the most difficult teen.

As I sat to finish my study and pray I realized the lesson I had just received from the Lord:

In order to have the fruit of forbearance I must ask  and allow the Spirit to soften my speech and increase my patience always remembering that the outcome of this is that I will automatically call on Him before approaching any situation with my teen, or anything else for that matter, and mercy and patience will be the response. Today I was shown just how easy that can be if I stop, pray and then move forward!!

Praying For Answers | Meditating His Word

34814387_1629351750517739_4580441329644863488_n

I have been overly stressed about our adoption lately. It might be because we are at the end of the process and are about to open. Maybe it is my impatience getting to me at the end of a long process. I’ve been through this process twice in 2 years: once in MS and now here in AR. It is taxing and so very difficult. Especially when you get where I am now. We have inquired about several kiddos. We are open to whomever God puts in our home but in my chaos I have struggled in my prayer and began depending on myself and came close to sidelining ( at least I hope it isn’t) a placement that we have been praying on for 7 months now. Such a lesson in staying close to Jesus, especially in times of great transition like we are going through. This morning I panicked and thought “How will we choose? what if we are chosen for more than one child?” I prayed. I spent quiet time with the Lord and this afternoon He answered.

He gave me a gentle reminder that the best thing I can do is follow the example of Jesus when He made decisions. Before selecting his 12 disciples Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray and all night He continued in prayer with God.” ( Luke 6:12 )  I may not be selecting disciples but I am making a lifelong decision that will change the life of a child and my entire family. It is important that who we choose is in line with God’s will for our family. I want the child that enters our home to be chosen by God so I want to be led in this decision. Jesus knew that He had to step away from the chaos and find a quiet place where He could hear God, where He could come to Him in prayer and petition His guidance.

woman with blonde hair at the top of the mountain raising her hands

I need to do the same.

I cannot make right choices in the middle of loud chaos that keeps circling me like a tornado waiting to tear everything apart in just a few seconds so this evening I will retreat. I don’t have a mountain to go to but I do have a nice quiet bedroom that is separate from the rest of the house. Just as Jesus did, I will retreat and I will pray. I will pray all night. I will pray until I hear God tell me to take a break. I will pray. I will listen. I want more than anything for this to be God’s choice because His choices are always good. I know when the choice was His that there will be strength, redemption and love in all that comes in our future together.

No matter what decision you are facing, learn a lesson from Jesus and retreat to hear God guide your way. His way is never wrong. It may be tough, but it is what He has called you to do. It will have good moments and challenging moments, but all moments will be blessed with His presence.

And in it all…..God is so very good.

 

Darkness is the Absence of Light | Be Light

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 9.49.04 AM

Today I came across this amazing quote and it resonated deeply within me that THIS is where lives change. When light is introduced in the darkness, when love is introduced over fear, lives change.  Mine did the day I let the light of Jesus Christ into my life.  My darkness slowly faded because the light overcame it. My past forgiven and dissipating in importance. My heart that had stopped growing in the darkness had been broken in a million pieces,  but suddenly it began to  heal and grow love. Once the light is introduced, love comes naturally. This is how my life changed, and this is how the lives of adopted children change.

Children in foster care come from a lot of darkness. It manifests itself in different ways but most always in behavior. Their hearts are broken. Some are shattered. The life they deserved to have was taken from them. They didn’t ask to be where they are, but here they stand: broken, hurt and in the dark. They are scared. They are angry. The teens have been here a while and they don’t see a way out. Their hearts have hardened and in this darkness they know nothing other than survival.

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland

 

But light overcomes the darkness because darkness is simply the absence of light. Adoptive parents are beacons of light in a dark world. Teens need that beacon just as much as I needed Jesus Christ at 30 years old. Yes, they have been in the dark longer. Yes, their hearts are much harder than younger children but I have not ever met a heart that the light of Jesus Christ couldn’t soften.

Many fear adopting teens, especially teen boys, but the truth is fear is a liar. Fear is darkness trying to keep darkness around a little bit longer. Fear seeks to continue hardening a heart and if fear can win in your life, there is one more teen that will continue to live in darkness. When that happens, fear wins.  Don’t let fear win. Be the light.

selfie family generation father

 

If you choose to the a beacon of light for a teen in foster care you have chosen to love. You have chosen the Gospel. You have chosen Jesus. Yes, there will be difficult times. That teen is struggling to see your light. They are afraid this won’t last. They are acting out of fear and survival. Continue to be the light. Continue to be love. You have overcome your fears, now they need to overcome theirs. Pray them through it. Let God show you where you are needed in that teens life. Continue to be the light.

Light will overcome darkness and love will overcome fear. Their fear. Your fear. Then, before you even realize it, Jesus will have healed a broken heart and you will see it begin to grow in His light. How beautiful it is to see that growth. Like a lotus flower blooming after making its way through the muck, through the dark and straight into the light!!!

But first: you must open the door and let that teen in!!!

I am looking forward to our adoption of a teen boy. I cannot wait to see the growth season. It will be mucky for a little bit, but I know the growth season will come. That will be a glorious day!!!!!

Waiting in the Wilderness |Shavasana

shutterstock_678258778

 

Adoption is a chaotic rollercoaster of emotions. It doesn’t matter if you are adopting privately or from foster care: emotions run wild.  You can be the most level headed, self-controlled woman and the adoption process will turn you inside out. Even when you have been through it before, each adoption is different and your emotions will get out of control periodically. Today is one of those out of control days for me.

This is not my first rodeo. We have adopted twice before, once from foster care and one a familial adoption. We have been through the opening process in three different states now, so nothing should get to me but it does. I am tired of waiting. I am ready to move forward. I am tired for the children who are waiting. My heart breaks that children needs homes so badly and there just are not enough people willing. Yes. Today it is all getting to me. Every. Single. Small. Thing.

It’s days like today that I am glad I have Jesus and Yoga.  There is only one place I can go in times like this where my nerves are calmed, my mind is put at ease and peace fills my soul: flat on my back at the feet of Jesus. I’ll be honest, sometimes its flat on my face in a puddle of tears but today is not that kind of day. Today is just a day in need of solace. A day to let go of what is and will be and instead just be in the presence of the Lord.

Today, in the middle of the wilderness, I am choosing to lay down, close my eyes, breathe deeply and allow the presence of the Holy Spirit to comfort my worn out soul.

In the middle of storms Jesus was able to lay down and rest. He was able to sleep!!!  Matthew 8:24-27 tells us “Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”  So why am I losing sleep?  Why am I getting anxious and antsy?  Fidgeting and unable to focus. The ONE who calmed those seas is the ONE who has orchestrated my entire life, including this adoption. Everything is OK. Everything is working in His timing. Who am I, the one of little faith, to question His timing?

So it is obviously time for me to strengthen the faith at the feet of Jesus. Today. my yoga practice will be a simple one. It will exist of Shavasana. Thats it. No need for anything else. Just me and Jesus in a place of quiet and stillness. It is a reminder of what will soon be. Shavasana is usually practiced at the end of my yoga sessions but today is will be my WHOLE practice as I lie flat on my back with my heels spread as wide as the yoga mat and my arms a few inches away from my body, palms facing upwards.

Palms facing upward. Ready to receive His presence. Ready to receive His comfort. Ready to receive His guidance because the end of the wait will be coming soon and I will need to be prepared for the new beginning.  So today I choose to be still and listen. Just be still and listen.

He is God. His will be done. His presence my guiding light.

3 Hours = 1 Less

shutterstock_288279857.jpg

This morning I have been sitting here reflecting on yesterday where I attended an amazing event that seeks to pair children seeking their forever home and waiting families. It was amazing to see all the wonderful kiddos enjoying themselves, the many volunteers with hearts overflowing with love for them and above all the connections being made between families and waiting kiddos.

It was 3 short hours but 3 hours can change a life. It can create family. It can give a child a sense of belonging, of peace and joy. It can provide a future for a child. It can keep siblings together. It can give hope. I saw this for myself in so many children’s faces, but the teens, that is where the hope seems to get lost, even in the middle of an event that was created to give them a chance at family and an opportunity to connect. My heart ached heavily for them. One young man had a t-shirt that simply said “I’m looking for my forever family, is it you?” Not yet a teen, but no longer a small child, he had made a way to try and connect with someone who will love him unconditionally.

I had prayed several days prior and meditated on God’s word and direction for me at this event. We have been in the process of preparing to adopt from foster care for the second time and for the past 8 months we have been focused on younger children and special needs children. Three days prior to the event God changed my heart in MAJOR ways. Not only did teens become our focus, but teen boys!  Like most, I was afraid of adopting a teen, especially a teen boy. We have heard all the stories of how difficult teens can be and we lived through a particularly tough adoption of a tween boy many years ago. To say I was afraid may have been an understatement but then God said  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6.  In an instant my heart softened and the fear was gone. I was able to embrace where my husband and I are being led because I know wherever I go HE GOES and He is asking us to give a teen boy a loving home.

shutterstock_311775587.jpg

So I prayed. I prayed over the the 3 days prior. I asked the Lord to place teens in my path that I could speak to and show them His light. I ended up driving two teen boys to the event. At the event I spoke to several more and my heart broke when their tough exteriors said things like ” I’ve been in foster care for 8 years and I’m cool with it.” or “My sister got adopted fast but I’ve been waiting 6 years” or ” I’ve been in foster care 10 years but I don’t even care. It’s no big deal.”  These boys need and want love and so many people just pass them by. In my heart of hearts I wish I could change that for them, but all I can do is pray and advocate for them the best I can.

If you have a heart for adoption, please consider teen boys. Yes they are tough on the outside. Yes they come with issues, but so do the younger kiddos. Yes they might seem a little scary, but if God calls you to it He will not leave you to try to thrive on your own. He will stand with you. He will close gaps. He will soften hearts. He will overcome traumas and shame and guilt. He WILL redeem the life of teen boy through you.

But He can’t if you never step up to the door and open it for these sweet boys.

I feel blessed today. The time I spent with these boys is something I will never forget. It was beautiful. We had great conversation. They shared a little about themselves, but not much, except one young man. He opened up on a deeper level. He spent the entire event talking with me. He shared about himself and he took a chance on family. I know that was the hardest thing he has ever done. I know that he was unsure and scared of rejection. He shared the many rejections he has had in his young life. He put fear aside and decided it was worth a try, once again.  He chose to open a door and we are choosing to walk through it. We are going to give this young man a chance at family if his adoption worker feels we are a fit for him. I’m not even scared because I know this young man was put in my life by the One who created us both and He has this in His mighty hands.

Project Zero in Arkansas has a goal : 1 + 1 = 0   One child + one  family = zero children waiting.  Be willing to take a chance on these sweet boys. Be willing and open to love them and welcome them. We are hoping that we will be one of the families that gets to say “One Less”. One less waiting teen. One less waiting boy. One less child waiting for a forever home.

Psalm 68:5 says, “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows, is God in his holy habitation.” God never turns away from children living as orphans and neither should we. Children and teens need not be living in an orphanage to be an an orphan. Every waiting child in foster care is an orphan.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” God says to actively pursue meeting the needs of children and teens living as orphans. Their needs are many: a family to love them, food to eat, clothing to wear, medical and psychological care. You can step into an active role in their lives in many different ways even if you are not called to adopt them.

Deuteronomy 14:29 says, “And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.”  If you are not called to adopt, then give. Give to meet their needs. Give your time. Give financially. Give.

Ask yourself today if you are one of those families. Pray and ask the Lord to show you where you fit into this goal and then reach out to them and let God take the lead. Contemplate His word and know that whether you are called to adopt or not, you are still called to do something for these wonderful children.

Making Tough Life Decisions

shutterstock_305422241

God is in every detail of our lives. Every. Detail. He is even in the decisions that we make both big and small. Right now, my husband and I are facing a life changing decision. One that will literally change the dynamic of our lives. There are many pros and cons to the decision. We have been over them all in our heads. I have discussed my concerns and fears with my husband. I have waivered on my decision to says yes or no and he has graciously listened to me as I do. This was not in my life plan and if I am being honest, it scares me quite a bit. Fear has been infiltrating my soul for several months now and today it came full circle and landed me flat on my face at the feet of Jesus begging Him to show me the right decision.  This is what He gave me:

 

  1. The decision is for my husband and I to make. I cannot rely on what others think. Over the past few days I have been studying for a yin yoga training with a great organization called YogaFaith and in the readings I came across something that resonated deeply with our upcoming decision. Simply put she stated that we cannot put weight into the thoughts or judgement of others. She was speaking of following your calling in Christ, which is what my husband and I feel this is. So first of all, our decision must be made together with no emphasis on anything other than what God tells us to do.
  2. God sets the course of my journey, not me. I have been thinking all along that I have a choice. While I do have free-will, God has set my journey before me long before I came to this crossroad. Whether or not I stay straight on the path or take a hard left or right is up to me, but when I choose to move forward and stay within His design for my life I am trusting that His course is the best course. Just as the Israelites faced a swift change of course in Exodus, we are about to find that our lives are taking a change of course that is God led and therefore will only bring about His glory.
  3. Fear is a byproduct of pride. I have never thought of fear being a byproduct of pride but it makes sense now. When I fear I am assuming the role of conductor. I actually think I have control of my life, that I have things under control and that those many nights of sleepless planning are going to make a difference and the outcome will be exactly what I have determined it to be. That is pride. That is not understanding that God is the one in control and in ALL circumstances I am to come to Him(Phil 4:6) rather than to lose one more night of sleep to plan for tomorrow (Matt 6:34).
  4. When I am in the hard places, the places I am called, I am to be at peace. The choice we are making will bring a lot of hard work. It will be tiring. There will be times that sleep is lost and hearts will hurt. It is not an easy path. Care of another with severe disability takes its toll on all involved, yet God is a God of blessing and favor. He is a God that provides. He provides strength, courage and agape love. He will fight for us in every detail of care and need. All I am called to do is love (1 Cor 13:13) and be at peace ( Ex 14:14)
  5. Any decision made based upon God’s divine guidance will prosper. Doubt is not of the Lord and neither is fear. I believe God when He says He only has plans to prosper (Jer 29:11) us. Knowing this makes our choice an easy one, even if the future looks daunting, the truth is God has “plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” There is nothing I can take on in God’s name that will not prosper and be fulfilling.
  6. Silence truly is golden. Don’t get me wrong. I am not thinking this choice will be easy. I am not under a deceitful impression that once we make this decision that everything will be rosy and sweet. That there will be no bumps in the road or mountains to climb. I have learned that when those bumps come, when the tornadoes and hurricanes pounce on our home, that we are to be silent and let God be God. He will fight for us in these times. When there is a surgery needed, He will make the way and it will be successful. When there is a medical need, He will bring the right doctors and while we wait in the aggravating circumstances…we need to be silent and not complain.
  7. A little mustard seed is a mountain mover. Above all, a little faith goes a long way. (Matt 17:20). When God says move, mountains move. When healing is needed, God heals. (Psalm 147:3, Jer 17:14, Jer 30:17, Luke 5:17, Mark 5:34) It does not matter what doctors say. It does matter what therapists say. The great physician is the one who determines the future of each on of us and when He says rise up and walk….we walk. (John 5:8).

In making our decision it must be based on God’s promises and His word. God says not to fear. ( Isaiah 41:10)  God says not to worry. (Phil 4:6-7) God says to trust Him. (Prov 3:5)  God says not to complain. (Ex 14:14) God says faith can move mountains. (Matt 17:20) God says to be at peace with circumstances. (2 Thess 3:16) God says He has already gone before me and prepared the way. (Deut 31:8)  God says I can heal her. (Luke 8:48) God says don’t be prideful. (Prov 16:18) ] God says go into this with a joyful heart.(Prov 17:22)

God is always right.

So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:9

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

It looks as if we have our answer!