Dream Dreams, and THRIVE!

Setbacks fuel new dreams.  This was said by American swimmer Dara Torres.  What is your dream?  Have you given up?  Is there a new dream?  Is our life exciting, or are we bored?

My kids often say in the summer time that they are “bored.”  Well, my sons and daughter, boredom is an emotion, and I’m more and more convinced that we have choices about our emotions.  We can wallow in our poor selves and claim “boredom,” or we can take captive those thoughts and choose to THRIVE.  If we think we are bored, then we are.  If we choose not to be bored, then we are NOT BORED!  This Christian life is so exciting.  There are endless opportunities to explore God’s creation, encourage a friend or stranger, serve someone in the community, or make a phone call.  Remember phone calls?  Not a text…a personal phone call. Even if the person doesn’t answer it.

The next step to a closer relationship with God may be to claim our lives for Christ and really live the excitement.  He calls us to follow in his footsteps as ambassadors of the Gospel.  There are so many hurting that can be cheered by the hope we have in Christ.  The word of God speaks for itself, so no need to worry about what to say.  Memorize 5 hopeful scriptures.  These are your truths.  Spread these wherever you go and you will NEVER be bored.

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Where Has My Little Girl Gone?

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The older I get the faster the years seem to zoom by!! When my daughter turned 10, I kept telling my friends that I couldn’t come to grips that I had been a parent for a whole decade……I still felt like I was a newbie to the world of parenting!! I just got used to being a mom of toddlers. Now I am a mom to a pre-teen and all the glamor that that entails…changing body chemistry,  new interests, sarcasm and her acute ability to see my flaws and short comings.

Can time be reversed? I tried putting the incorrect number candle on birthday cakes and giving lectures regarding aging backwards…..both ideas were not received well 🙂

So I am trying a different approach. After mourning and grieving the loss of my little girl, I am now embracing(sometimes) the joys and challenges of becoming a mom to a budding young woman.

She loves to serve others; she likes to try new recipes; she has a new sense of self and emerging personality. She is also trying this new staring thing when I ask her a question…..not sure what that is except my husband says she gets it from me…..what is he talking about?!! I love my big girl. It is not always easy, but I am witnessing who she is becoming. I am excited for the purpose and possibility of her life and seeing it all unfold. There will be triumphs, heartache, joy and disappointment. I pray for her faith to grow strong, and that God will show me how to be a blessing to her.

What I am still having a hard time with is that from now on, every 2 years another child of mine will enter into this phase…..yikes!

So as I have resolved to enjoy, embrace, and equip myself for this next step, my husband, on the other hand, has chosen to stay in denial!! What can I say….girls will always stay  little when it comes their daddies 🙂

Does anyone have resources, advice they would like to share??

 

 

A Father’s Legacy

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Today, on this Father’s Day, I have our nation’s fatherless epidemic on my mind. There are three groups of parents I want to encourage today. First of all, to the fathers who have learned how to be dads, who have an active, loving role in the bringing up of your children, I want to say, “Thank you. I salute you.” You may or may not have had a good male role model in your own life, but you have chosen to walk in part of your destiny – fatherhood. If you had not chosen fatherhood, you would never feel complete when trying to find out who you truly are. You are leaving a legacy of love and security to your children and future generations. This day is about you, and I want to let you know how much I respect you.

To the men out there, whether fathers or not, who have mentored and loved children who are not their own, God bless you! You have felt the calling of God to be his loving hands to the fatherless who are so very valuable and special to the Lord. You know what it means to multiply the kingdom of God when you leave your own four walls to go and pour yourself out and live the gospel in front of precious children who so desperately need to see what good fathers are like. You are leaving an incredible legacy that generations otherwise would not have. Happy Father’s Day!

To the mama who had to wipe tears off of her child’s face tonight or whose heart tore just about in half when her little one acted out in anger, because this day reminds him that he has no daddy, I was praying for you and your child today. I prayed that God would give your and your children peace. I prayed that you both would feel God’s arms around you. God sees your child. The Bible says he will help and defend him, that he is a father to the fatherless. Dear Mama, I leave you with a few verses I pray you find comfort in. “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11. God will lead you and give you wisdom as you parent your children. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3. Your love and prayers, plus everything that our good, good Father has for your family, will leave a miraculous legacy for your children. It will be a legacy of hope, security, love and change – a legacy much different than the one past generations have tried to leave behind.

 

Rainbow

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Wow!  What a rainbow this morning!  Right over Culver Road, as if I could head to Cobbs Hill and find a pot of gold there underneath it.  It was stunning… And then another one next to it.  Its arch reaching over Midtown Athletic Club and the eastside of the city.  Two rainbows in the early drizzle of the morning, with the sun rising in the east.  The perfect set-up and reminder of promises.  Promises kept.  God always keeps his promises.  He is the one who follows through when there’s unrepented sin.  He is the one who comforts us after a loss.  He is the one who pursues our loved ones, not yet knowing their need for Jesus, with great fervor.

So I rejoice and pray! I am SO thankful for God’s promises, and I pray for my adopted son, nearly 18, that his heart might soften.  I pray that he would see his need for a loving Savior and just Father.  I pray for his dreams and goals.  I pray that he would experience joy knowing that this life is good, but I also pray that he will experience trials and see his need for perfect love.  These may seems like selfish prayers, but I hope that they are not.  These may seem like judgmental prayers, but I hope that they are not.  I want to pray as the Bible teaches: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12 ESV. I pray God’s promises manifest in his life and the lives of all our children.  May God continue to pursue my loved ones with reckless abandonment and bring them ALL into the kingdom of Christ!

Great Expectations: Teens

Ever wondered what goes on in their mind?  These strange creatures that live in our homes, eating everything in sight, and rolling their eyes when we make suggestions.  They are TEENS.  We have launched into the teenage world with this amazing young senior who is living under our roof, preparing for college, playing baseball, and working.  Seriously, overnight we went from our eldest being 13 to our eldest being 17. Should we be afraid?  No. This adventure in parenting has taken a new, exciting turn.

We are now in the Trust; Obey; Hope; Pray; Contend; Sacrifice; Persevere; and Love phase.  Not that we weren’t there before, but we now have less influence.  It’s true, the time of choosing their play dates, clothes, hairdos, music, and meals is over.  I remember when we went to the park to meet up with multiple families because I loved their MOMS, and my kids played with whomever.  It’s harder to get to know families of kids in school, especially college.

So we do not lose heart, and we do not faint.  We set expectations.  For those with teens who have grown up in their home they know the expectations, and they are worth repeating.  We expect purity.  Keep your mind pure by thinking on things that are holy and lovely.  Keep your body pure by practicing self-control and wisdom, not following the culture. Trust God to lead you in your endeavors as you seek Him.  Keep your body healthy by eating whole foods and exercising.  Set your mind and hands to work hard and serve others with a spirit of excellence.  Follow the Ten Commandments.  These things we have set as expectations from the beginning, and we gradually bring them into situations now, even with a new resident.  Our expectations haven’t changed, just our audience.  So we pray over each discussion as God leads our children into His presence.  May His love show through these expectations and in every discussion!

Crow Is Nasty

Yesterday I ate crow. Not the way most people do. No one but me knew it, but I ate it just the same. I watched a funny Facebook conversation turn sour when someone ignored another person who said they didn’t want to debate, then proceeded to correct the person who tried to call them out on it. I made a comment that I deeply believe. “Honor should come before your need to be right.” The problem is, though I believe it, I don’t often live it in my home.

Why do we insist people listen to us when we think we are right? Why can’t we just let it go when, though we might be right, the situation isn’t the right setting to spout off our beliefs or opinions? I had to contemplate that yesterday. Here’s what I came up with. Maybe it just applies to me, but I think you’ll be able to relate.

I want to be right when I’m emotionally involved. I might be emotionally involved because I have a deep relationship with the person and want them to see my side of things.  I also want to be right when something touches my emotions. In my house, it’s usually that someone has set off a bad emotion in me, I blow up, correct the other person, then play the blame game, because I want to be justified in my actions and words. Though I completely lost it and handled it the wrong way, I feel a little justified because I also corrected the other person where they were wrong.

What makes me react this way? It’s usually unmet expectations, because I have a control issue. (Time for me to learn from Ginger’s post.) Perhaps it’s because my to-do list is not going to be completed because of the needs of one or more of the other people in my household. Or maybe my children’s behavior doesn’t live up to my ideals. I mean, they’re my kids. I expect them to think and act just like me, right? Actually, I expect more from them than I do from myself. I often expect perfection, as if they are robots made to do my bidding, rather than complex and extremely valuable individuals.

My kids see the real me, the me I don’t hide from others. They see me when I’m tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, angry, etc. Then they hear me nag, correct, yell, and make excuses for my words and actions. So after posting, “honor should come before your need to be right,” I have a few questions for myself. When did it become ok to not practice this with my own family? If I can’t lead by example, how can I train my kids to honor people more than they love opinions and beliefs?

I honestly haven’t figured out a solution. The only answer I’ve come up with is this prayer. I’d like to pray it daily for awhile and see if some changes are made around here. If you’d like to join me, here’s King and Country’s song Proof of Your Love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgqYYk-0wDs

 

What is God Saying About your Children for 2016?

Before the new year began, I was praying for my children by calling things that are not as though they are and calling things that are as though they are not. One of my children has been telling little lies. It’s sometimes hard to tell if this child is doing it on purpose or not, because it is often masked with confusion, confusion about the situation and about what others are speaking to said child. I was praying this way: “Thank you God that (insert name) is a truth teller. Thank you that he/she knows how to speak clearly and to understand what is spoken without confusion.”

Another child made a habit of talking back. Apparently, this mama is always wrong…until I’m right. “Thank you, Lord, that _____ is respectful. Thank you that when he/she gets frustrated he/she will still be at peace. Thank you that he/she accepts correction and has a teachable spirit.”

Here’s a mama mess up story with my oldest. Our toddler left a toy out that we all kept tripping over, but no one would move it. My oldest tripped on it, then about 10 minutes later, my husband did. I sharply said to my son, “Could you puhleeze go put that toy away?! Everyone is tripping on it!” After he quietly obeyed, I said, “I’m sorry I spoke so harshly. You didn’t do anything wrong.” He said, “I’m used to it.” Ouch. Yes, I speak with an accusing tone a lot.

The next day, I was reading in Luke 1 where Zechariah is visited by Gabriel who tells him very specific things about the son he and Elizabeth will have. When John was born, Zechariah’s mouth opened when he agreed with the word of the Lord by saying the boy’s name was John. Zechariah then prophesied, by the Holy Spirit, to his family and friends about what kind of person John would be and the call he had on his life.

Since reading from Luke, I’ve been thinking about seeking God for a word for my children, something I can pray over them for this new year. My friend Traci, at http://www.tracimichelle.com, challenged her readers to think about what one word God was speaking to them for 2016.

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When my son called me out, I realized the word God is speaking for our children for 2016 is “loved.” He (and I) want them to feel so loved, loved by Him, loved by us. I can’t snap my fingers and suddenly fix my bad habit of responding or correcting my kids with a harsh tone. I need God’s Spirit to change me so they can feel my love for them and His love for them through me. The beauty of that is, I have a whole year to yield to what the Holy Spirit wants to do through me to make the changes needed in my relationship with my kids.

Sit down with a journal, music, and your Bible. Ask God what word or phrases He wants to you to pray into existence for your family. Then ask Him to help you get out of the way, so He can bring those words to pass.

 

If Mama ain’t Happy, ain’t Nobody Happy

Usually someone has an attitude
Usually someone has an attitude

Isn’t that how the saying goes? We were in a hurry to get out the door, and I was stressed. We’re always in a hurry because I don’t do well with time management. I got up late because I’m trying to catch up on lost sleep from the past 4 months after our baby was born. The rest of the morning had me running around gathering things for the diaper bag, changing diapers, and making sure everyone was fed and dressed. Chaos and loudness were happening all around me. My volcano finally erupted. After I threw up with words all over my kids, I tried to calm down and just give in to the fact that we weren’t going to be early and maybe not even on time. I took a few deep breaths and resolved to talk quietly even if the lava was still bubbling inside of me.

Then it happened. Recently it so often does. One of my children mirrored my attitude and gave it back to me. I couldn’t correct him because I know I had created the frustration. Immediately I knew I had just witnessed my house falling down all around me. Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” When I thought to myself, “I just tore my house down,” I was filled with dread but also hope at the same time.

I knew I had made the wrong decision moments before, but I felt that God had pointed it out to me so I could correct it by responding a different way in the next few minutes. As I said, the lava was still bubbling. I remember talking very quietly and slowly as I fought my toddler’s kicking legs while trying to diaper him. As the baby cried and another child voiced their frustration, I raised my voice to say, “I’m trying really hard right now to not lose my temper. I’m choosing to take deep breaths, but believe me, I want to scream and yell, and if you continue to add to this bad attitude that’s in our house right now, I will.” Hey, at least I was being honest and showing my kids how to fight their feelings and thoughts, right?

Now let’s get back to the feeling of hope. God had shown me what just happened but that my house didn’t have to remain in shambles. After the “ouch” that came with correction, my next thought was, “His mercies are new every morning.” As long as my kids are living in my home, I have the opportunity to practice reacting with peace and calmness to the chaos they or myself bring to our home. Just because I tore my house down in that moment doesn’t mean I can’t choose to rebuild, even if I have to start over a million times. In Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued, she coined a phrase that has been a lifesaver to me; “Imperfect Progress.” If I’m making steps in the right direction in between each step backward, I’m still moving forward; I’m still working at building my house.

Can I encourage you to not give up? No matter how many times you’ve lost it with words, thoughts, or attitudes, He offers a gentle reminder to make the decision to change course and start building again. Then when you have joy in your heart and see joy in your home you can smile, because you know that, “if Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy.”

 

 

The Gift

As December is almost here, Christmas shopping is well under way, my inbox and mailbox are overflowing with deals and coupons, my bins of decorations are begging to be unpacked, and my children are chatting about all the things we love to do in this season. We bake, make abstract gingerbread houses, decorate, buy gifts…..these are all good and wonderful things, but every year my husband and I try to remind and show our children that we celebrate Christmas because of the hope and promise Jesus brought to the world when He became fully human.

In the past we have done advent calendars that incorporated some special family time and ways to serve others. This year we have chosen to go through Ann Voskamp’s devotion for families, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, A Family Celebration of Christmas.    You can find it here:

The devotional consists of a daily reading for every day in December leading up to Christmas. There are also introspective questions and suggestions for family activities.  It contains printable ornaments that are hung on a Jesse Tree branch. The readings trace the amazing miracle of Jesus’ earthly lineage and the loving  way that God the Father gave us this gift of His only Son. He gave this broken world a perfect and redeeming gift of love. We do not deserve, nor can we do anything to earn, this gift.  In spite of all our brutal mistakes Jesus still came to save and deliver.

I am so excited about learning alongside my whole family, and I am praying that it will become a tangible way my children will come to see and acknowledge how much God loves us in the magnitude of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection.

I hope your family will be encouraged to find some simple ways to remember and celebrate Jesus. Do not think you need anything fancy or complicated; strive for connection. You can simply read passages from the Bible, spend time with each other, and serve the people around you. Don’t miss getting to unwrap the most precious gift anyone could ever receive and accept.

My niece’s adoption story

Today, our guest blog post comes from my sister, Andrea. She shares the beautiful adoption story of my precious niece. You can follow Andrea’s blog at http://www.hopethroughadoption.wordpress.com.  ~Angela

Welcome to National Adoption Month! This may be the last day of the month, but better late than never, as they say. In honor of this great month, I invite you to read my favorite adoption story to date.

There is a story of a little girl that began long before she was ever born. Nine years before she came into the world, her forever mama was sitting in the car listening to the radio when an interview with Mary Beth Chapman came on about the adoption of her daughter, Shaohannah Hope. This mother was so interested, hanging on every word Mary Beth said; from their daughter Emily’s desires for the family to adopt, to Steven and Mary Beth’s hesitations, all the way through the end when Mary Beth said how she loves Shaohannah as much as her biological children. The little girl’s mama never forgot the words she heard on the radio that day. Around that same time, the mother and father attended Steven Curtis Chapman’s Live Out Loud tour concert. That night changed their lives forever. Their hearts were so touched by the Chapman family, their journey, their being the hands and feet of Christ, receiving a little girl into their home as their own. With tears in their eyes, they decided then and there that God was calling them to adopt someday, as well. They immediately started gathering adoption information, but being 20 and 22 years old, only married a year, the husband in school getting his doctorate, it just wasn’t the right time.

 

Well, five months went by after the concert, and that mother found out she was pregnant. They gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and spent the next three years content with her alone. Long story short, after a few years of secondary infertility, God used several people and circumstances to tell them “the time is now.” It was truly amazing. People who didn’t even know them personally prayed that God would direct them to adopt. Parents would approach them to share that their children had began praying the couple would adopt. The forever parents of that little girl had a real heart for children in their own country, so they contacted New Hope Family Services, an adoption agency in their state, beginning the process.
After two years of saving money, yet still not having enough to adopt, the husband and wife went through a time of discouragement. Feelings of despair were setting in. They hit this rut of not wanting to think about it anymore. After a period of a several months like that, God began restoring some things in them. Through other people, and through His Spirit, He began putting little encouragements in their path to steer them back to the adoption process He called them to.

Many times, in the adoption process, people would tell the couple what a noble thing they were doing, giving a baby a home that wouldn’t have one otherwise. The husband and wife had such a hard time with that thought because, going through an agency, there were plenty of people to “compete” against them who were in line for a baby. In foster care, however, it would feel much more like they would be caring for the orphans.

The wife had a very difficult time considering foster care, worrying that their baby would be taken away after a time of caring for it. One day, in prayer, she cried out, “God, You wouldn’t give us a baby just to take it away, would You?” Immediately a line from C.S. Lewis’s book The Silver Chair entered her mind. “Aslan never told Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do.” At that moment, that future forever mama surrendered her will to the will of God. The couple completed paperwork with the state, and proceeded to call their adoption agency to inform them that they would be going a different route. On the phone with their caseworker at the agency, the words she spoke shocked them. “We really need you. See, there are only three families like you willing to do an interracial adoption, and if you drop out, we won’t have enough.” Hold on a minute, they were NEEDED with the adoption agency? They had thought only going through foster care would they be needed or doing something meaningful. But the caseworker had just informed them that there was a real need for families willing to adopt interracially. That caused them to pause and reconsider what the Lord was doing. From that moment on, monetary gifts towards their adoption started pouring in, and the couple decided to proceed as originally planned with the adoption agency.

It took that family a long time over all to save enough money, but finally, as soon as their payments were up to date with the agency, they were chosen within a week by birthparents to raise a baby girl who had already been born. She was one quarter Native American, which technically made it an interracial adoption that many families were not willing to do. Though the birthparents courageously chose to give her up, that baby was a real rescue situation. There was no way she could stay with them, and she needed a home as desperately as any child in foster care did. At two months old, Baby Girl was placed in her forever mama’s arms for the first time. Mama knew they belonged together from the moment she laid eyes on her. This child had grown in her heart for so many years that the bond was instant. They were a family formed by God’s perfect direction and great design.

This is the adoption story of our daughter. The day after her first birthday, we celebrated our adoption finalization at the court house in our home town, and the legal changing of our daughter’s name. The name we chose for her is Evangeline Hope. It was only fitting. The first nudging of our hearts was because of Shaohannah Hope. Then, our adoption agency was New Hope. And the story of our lives and our adoption is Hope. How could we not incorporate the name? My husband loves the wording of our legal papers regarding her name. “It is ordered that this child will forever be known as Evangeline Hope.” She is given a new name, just as God will give us one day when our adoption is “finalized” and we are in Heaven.

“This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.”