Thursday, January 30, 2014

Of loss and hope

Thank you to those who have reached out to me, prayed for me, since my post on Sunday.

I am humbled yet again by the love of Christ, and His followers.



I spoke of hope.

And truly I am learning more about hope as life goes on.  I understand it more than I did 10 years ago.

And even now, this week, I feel I am seeing new dimensions of it that I did not know existed.

I am a realist.

With a small dose of optimism.  And I think that it is that sprinkling of optimism that is keeping me from swinging way over to the pessimistic side of things.

Because I truly want things to work out, HOPE that things will work out.  But I keep my hand on the shift knob, because I just may have to throw things into a lower gear because well, I'm just hoping for things to work out, but kinda doubt they will.

I hope that made sense to someone.  You may need to go back and read it.  I'll wait.

..........

I think I live most of my life, and approach most circumstances, like that.

So what does that say about hope?

I want to hope.  But if I hope, and things don't go as I hope, I'm crushed.

So....do I just go around expecting the worst?  Why get my hopes up to be dashed to the ground?

I don't think so.  God speaks of hope enough times in His word that I believe He wants us to hope.

Pursue hope.  Grab on to it.

I guess we just have to hope in the right things?

I know I can place hope in the promises of God.  Because I know that He will follow through on those (Hallelujah!)

Heaven

Salvation

Grace

Love

But what about things in this life?  Hope for a better job.  Hope for our children.  Hope for a house.  Hope for a vacation.  Hope for a date night.  Big and small.  Hope can come in all forms and sizes.

We can hope.  But we must also trust.

We can hope.  But we must also be content.

We can hope.  But still know that God has got our back.  And it may stink if those hopes don't quite work out how we, ummmm, hoped.

________________________________________________

This week we discovered a severe water leak in our home.  We stepped inside to find most of the house under at least an inch of water.

 Our kitchen before

Our kitchen now


Our living room, bathrooms, and our bedroom.  
Wish I had a 'before' but can't seem to find those pictures...

Maddie holding the culprit.  Cracked pipe.  That is her 'angry face.


We've been working on our house over the past year.  Hoping to live it in it...someday.

To say this was a setback would put it mildly. 

I think that a part of me has actually gone numb and has not totally processed the whole situation yet.

Probably a coping mechanism.

But I go back to hope.  I feel that my hope has been "deferred" and Proverbs states that that can make the "heart sick."  I don't know what the future holds with this. 

But I do know that God is already there.  And He is the One I can hope in.

May we all find, and place, our hope in Him tonight.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lifesong Mission Moment - an invitation to pray

Prayer Team

Weekly in the office, our Lifesong Family comes together to pray for our in-country orphan initiatives, adoptive families, Forgotten Advocates, fellow co-workers and anything other items needing prayer or praise that week. It's a special time to come together to remember and acknowledge THE ONE who deserves all the glory and praise for the work HE allows us to do. To THE ONE who has ultimate control and power over every situation.

We would love to invite you to join us in this time of prayer by subscribing to our monthly Prayer Team email. At the end of each month, you will receive an email outlining the prayers and praises for specific needs from that month. We hope you will pray along with us! Sign up below...

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“Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well…The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
James 5:14-16

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Walking through the valley



I go through the motions.  I wake up and put my feet on the floor.  Go throughout my day with no sign of the valley that I am walking through.

Sometimes the sun breaks through.  Little kisses from Maddie.  Pictures drawn by Hannah.  Small hand of Owen in mine.  A note from a friend.  An appreciative word from Paul.

Like balm, they soothe my soul.  But sadly, so sadly, it does not last.

I've asked myself countless times, "how long do valleys last?"

Because it seems this one is a bit endless.  I can't even remember when it began.

And I have no idea when it will end.

How do you cope with the valleys?  
What do you do when you are in the middle of them?

I have hesitated for so long to type this out.  I don't want to be a downer, and I don't want to alarm anyone.

I'm in a valley.  I know I am.  And I think I have been waiting to be rescued.  To be plucked out of the middle of the valley.  Placed in the sunshine.  The dark behind me.

But, as odd as it may sound, I don't think God wants us to escape the valleys.

Sometimes he asks us to walk through them.  ALL the way through them.  Some may be short.  Some much longer.

But when you are in the midst of the valley, it's hard to see just how long it will last.

I can't look too far out in front of me.  I get disoriented, discontent, discouraged.

Perhaps that is why God tells us that His word is lamp to our feet, and a light to our path.  Lights shine out just far enough so we can see where to take the next step.

I take solace in that circle of light.  I step only where I can see.  And right now, in the middle of the valley, I step out in hope.

Hope that there is an end to valleys, there are mountaintops somewhere.

Hope that I will come out stronger.

Hope that heaven has something, a lot of things, better - waiting for me.

So today, in the midst of my tears that threaten to fall, I walk in the Light of Hope.

Rejoice in our confident hope. 
Be patient in trouble, 
and keep on praying. 
Romans 12:12

Sunday, January 12, 2014

5 years of Serving at Gateway Woods


5 years ago, this is what our family looked like:

Owen 2 years, 3 months
Hannah 9 months


And we were just starting our adventure in being parents/mentors to teenagers and living at Gateway Woods.

5 years ago we said we would do this thing until Owen started Kindergarten.  Well, Owen is in 1st grade, Hannah is in Kindergarten, and Maddie is knocking on that door.  I guess God had different plans (go figure!)  

Cypress House!

We've celebrated birthdays




Added another child to the family


Spent holidays on campus, missing family

Decorating Turkeys at Thanksgiving

Staying up until midnight, ringing in 2012

Making Christmas cards to send to family


Lived 5 very long summers




 Laughed with the funny things kids came up with

Fish funerals

I do NOT miss the golf cart

Cheered on the accomplishments

Paul's second marathon in 2 months

The whole house trained, and ran, a 5K


Cried with the frustrations of failures (ours and theirs!)

 Lost some sleep

Gained new friends







6 baby girls born at Gateway within 8 months


Learned more about ourselves...




And more about God...








And His faithfulness.  Because none of this could have been done if God was not in the middle of it.




And if all else fails, I pray that the 50+ kids whom we have served and loved under the roof of Cypress House know that God loves them and that they have learned that Jesus has already made the path to find Him and true, everlasting Freedom and Hope.

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
John 8:32


*Pictures used with permission
























Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Romans 12:1



And so dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.  Let them be a living and holy sacrifice - the kind he will find acceptable.  This is truly the way to worship Him. Romans 12:1 NLT


I have loved diving into this verse more this month, because, like so much of scripture, it is so much deeper than at first glance.

But God is full of paradoxes.  His Word can be so deep, but yet so simple.

I think this verse is an example of that.

To give it a bit more light, I'm going to back up a couple verses to Romans 11:34-36

Who can know the Lord's thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?
And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?

For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.

THEREFORE, give yourselves to God as a living sacrifice....


In the Old Testament, what did an acceptable sacrifice look like to God?

Pure.

Unblemished.

First fruit or best of the flock.

If I am supposed to be giving myself as a sacrifice to God, especially an acceptable one, uh, pure, unblemished, and best of the flock I am not.

Thankfully, Jesus is willing to take on our sin, and clothe us in His righteousness so that we can appear pure and unblemished before God.


In the Old Testament, what was the point of sacrifice?

It was an active pursuit of a sinner to seek to appease God.

People, I can tell you right now.  You are never going to appease God.  You cannot do enough good to make up for the sin you are covered in. But again, thankfully, Jesus has taken on that one for us, too.

In the KJV Romans 12:1 reads:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Reasonable service.

Looking up in the concordance, this pretty much comes out to:
logical worship

So, my paraphrase of Romans 11:34-12:1
No one can know what God is thinking.  His thoughts and ways are so far beyond us.  Who can pay Him back for anything.  And who knows enough to tell Him what to do?  No one.
Because everything comes from Him.

So, if He knows immeasurably more than you, and all things are from Him, and you are made by Him, then, the most logical thing to do is worship Him, and serve Him.

So, go back to the basics.

Turn to Jesus to cleanse you from your sins (become pure and unblemished)

Give Him your best (first fruits)

In every action, every word you speak, look to please Him

Honor Him

Worship Him.

Your Creator.

This is a perfect verse to start out this year of pursuing God's intentions spelled out in Romans 12. 

The best place to start is at the foot of the cross.  All of our good work is in vain if we do not carry the redemptive work of Jesus inside of our souls.

And Jesus sacrificed it all for you.

So doesn't it make sense, isn't it logical, to give your all back to Him?

Now, what does that look like in your life?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

December Lookback

December is notorious for being the month that I have to empty my camera card due to excessive amounts of pictures.

Between family get togethers and beautiful snow and twinkling Christmas lights, well, it's not too hard to get carried away.

I won't put you through the hundreds of pictures I did take, but will leave you with a few choice picks.
 Putting up the tree at Cypress.  I sat back and let them do the work.  It. was...interesting.

 And then setting up the little tree in our little apartment.  Again, let the children dictate the placement of ornaments.  I'm making baby steps in my fight against perfectionism.




 Most of the sprinkles did not make it on the cookies.

 At one point in time everyone tried on the tutus made by Grandma.  Everyone.

 This child.  Life at a blur.

 Loving being home from school on break.  Snow and tower building!


 The Christmas mustache.  Actually kinda liked it...

 Walking in the woods.  Shhhhh

 Happy Birthday, Jesus!

 We have such wonderful co-workers (and good gift givers, too!)

 Steffen Christmas.  Everything didn't quite go as planned, but we went with the flow and enjoyed ourselves despite some "circumstances."


"Mommy, take a picture of me with my baby! I'm a mommy, too!"

And now January is here and we in to a new year.  This year is already looking full of change and growth and stretching.  But that is where God can really work.  

And show His glory 

And all His awesomeness.

Love it.  Bring it on.