Goodbye Ordinary

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us. Isaiah 63:7

Gifts in the Trials May 4, 2013

Filed under: Adoption,Faith,Grief — Lori @ 3:06 pm

IMG_0963I was asked to speak at a Mother/Daughter brunch today.  It was such a blessing for me to be able to spend time looking back and remembering as I prepared my talk.  I wanted to share the talk with you although I apologize that it is a bit long!  I hope that in some way it will encourage you to look beyond the trial and see the blessings that God is showering you with as you walk through it.

Gifts From God
May 4, 2013

My husband, Kevin, and I have learned many lessons through our marriage.  One lesson is that we take advantage of opportunities to share with others what God has done in our lives – that is one reason I am sharing with you today.

Jewell asked that I share my testimony, including some challenges along the way.  She also told me that the theme of this banquet is Gifts from God.

When we think of a gift, we usually think of a beautifully wrapped present given to us on a special holiday or birthday.  We do not know what is inside, but we know that someone who loves us took time and effort to shop for us and make a decision about what gift would both surprise and delight us.  Thought was given to what we might need – or perhaps – just something that would make us happy.  Jesus said this in Matthew 7:9-11about gifts: 

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 

God does give good gifts.  I have been given many gifts from God throughout my life.  Some of those gifts everyone would recognize as a great gift!  However, some of the things I see as gifts would not look that way to someone else. To be perfectly honest, at the time they were given to me I wasn’t sure I saw them as gifts either! 

God gives us what He knows we need and what He gives lasts for eternity. 

God gives different gifts to His children.  We need to be careful not to compare how God works in our lives with how He works in others’ lives.

There is a story that our family loves to retell and laugh about.  On a Christmas when our oldest kids were about 5 and 3, we gave our daughter Kelsey a bike.  She needed a bike because she had outgrown the small one she had.  Grant did not need a bike because his still fit him fine.  He had just watched his older sister receive her new bike and he was so excited as he tore into his large package and then…disappointment.  His gift was not a bike.  It was a kid size basketball hoop.  This was a gift that his Dad and I had spent time and effort picking out because we knew he would enjoy it.  We also knew what he did NOT need – a bike.  However, he kept repeating in this dejected little voice, “But I wanted a bike!” 

He didn’t really want a bike.  He wanted the same gift that his sister received.  Do you see the lesson there?  God gives you the gift that you need.  Don’t look at someone else and question why you didn’t get the same thing. 

God knows you individually.  He knows just what you need and He is never wrong.

I have learned that God has been in control of every event of my life and has had a purpose in all of it. 

How thankful I am that my Lord and Savior has given me gifts that have helped me grow in my knowledge and love for Him as well as prepared me for the next thing that He had for my life.

I was blessed to have been raised in church and at an early age came to an understanding that I was a sinner and that I desperately needed a Savior.  Ephesians 2:4-10 gives a beautiful picture of the gospel:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I am so thankful for God’s call on my life at an early age.  I am still a sinner, but now I am a sinner saved by grace.  I have made a lot of questionable decisions in my life, lived very selfishly at times and even purposefully disobeyed my Lord.  However, through all that His love for me has never wavered.  He has been my Good Shepherd and He has guided, disciplined, provided for, and taught me all along the way.  We don’t become perfect the day God saves us.  We do, however, begin the process of growing in holiness as we strive with His help to put off our old self and put on the new.

God gifted me with an amazing husband.  He is not perfect!  However, he is perfect for me.  We complement each other very well and make a great team.  We have been married for almost 27 years. 

God has gifted me with five children.  My husband and I were thrilled beyond words when our first child, Kelsey, came into our family.  I had fertility issues and so we did not take her birth for granted for one minute!  She was a very precious gift from the Lord. 

We were very thankful again when the Lord blessed us with another child two years later, our son Grant.  Our children gave us a lot of pleasure and although there were ups and downs, we were very happy with our life. 

When Grant was about a year old we decided to try to become pregnant again.  I once again went on fertility medication and month after month went by and no baby.  By the time Grant was five and we had still not conceived, we decided to give up.  What we had done to get pregnant before was not working this time and we did not have the resources to delve into what might be wrong.  I was distraught.  I didn’t understand why God was not giving us another child.  It was a very difficult time for me.  I prayed that God would take away the intense desire I had for more children because it was so painful. 

He did not choose to do that.

When it became apparent that I would have trouble conceiving before my first pregnancy Kevin and I had looked into adoption.  Kevin has an adopted sister and so was familiar with that way of growing a family.  I wanted to be a mom and I didn’t really care how it happened.  When we did conceive twice, the idea of adoption sort of drifted into the background.  We got involved in life – home schooling kept me very busy and then we moved from southern Oregon to the Portland area when Kelsey and Grant were 9 and 7.

Grant struggled with some learning disabilities that took a lot of my time and attention and Kelsey was very involved in gymnastics.  Kevin and I talked about it, but decided we were in a place where we were content with our family and where God had us.

Years went by and we had conquered the learning issues and everyone was doing well.  Kelsey was in high school and Grant was just about to start high school.  I was starting to think that I would have some free time to do some things that I really wanted to do.

Sometimes there are events in our lives that just hit us out of nowhere and stun us into reevaluating everything.  That happened to our family in the summer of 2006.  Our son, Grant, died suddenly in an accident.  He was fourteen years old.

Now most of you would not think that we could ever see the death of our son as a gift.  And, to tell you the truth we don’t see it that way either. 

It isn’t the trial that is the gift; the gift is what God works in our lives as a result. 

We do believe that ALL things that happen are under the control of our heavenly Father and not even a sparrow falls from the sky apart from Him.  The loss of our son shook us to our very core and caused us to question pretty much everything we had ever known or believed about God.  However, God promises in Romans 8:28-29: 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.   

Let me just say that it took awhile before my heart caught up to my head in regards to the truth in those verses.  How in the world was God bringing “good” to me through the death of my son?  But you see God’s idea of good for us is different than we may think of good.  Often, our idea of good is a happy carefree life with no problems.  That isn’t life – that is heaven!  In verse 29 it explains what God sees as good –

that we would be conformed to the image of his Son. 

God uses all kinds of circumstances in our lives to make our lives look more like Christ.  Why would he want to do that?  Well, one reason is that he loves us.  He also wants to prepare us – eventually for eternity spent serving and worshiping Him – but He prepares us for big things he wants us to do for him on earth.  He also wants us to reflect Who Christ is to the world.

In the death of our son, God showered many gifts on us.  They were actually gifts that we already had, but in that difficult circumstance we realized their value and were so very thankful for them. 

Isaiah 45:3  I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

God had guided us to our church several years before Grant died.  It is called Emmanuel Community Church and is a fairly small family of believers that had become both comfortable and challenging to us.  Because our church is small, under 100 people, we really are like a family.  The fellowship of believers and their willingness to minister to us at a very difficult time was priceless to us.

The other gift God had provided was good friends.  Not just friends.  Friends who are family.  Friends who were willing to sit with us, cry with us, and pray with us.   

One of those friends is here with me today – still supporting and encouraging me as she always has.  Without this family and their sacrificial friendship, our journey through the valley of the shadow of death would have been very lonely.  God used them in our lives in a very special way.

I want to encourage all of you if you are friends with someone going through a difficult time not to be afraid to be there for them.  Our friends would often say to us, “We have no idea what to do or say that would be helpful.  But we are here and we love you.”  That meant EVERYTHING to us.

The biggest gift that God gave us through our journey of dealing with our grief was Himself.  Kevin and I have had people ask us when they are struggling with a trial – did God ever show you why He might have allowed Grant’s death?  Our answer is no.  We do not know.  We haven’t seen anything happen that we could point to and say – That’s why! 

What we can say is that we know our Father God more intimately now than we ever have.  We have had glimpses into the character of the Lord and the roots of our faith have grown deeper and stronger. 

That is not the end of my story.  God had more gifts in store for me.  Less than six months after Grant died I approached Kevin about an idea that had been growing in my heart.  Adoption.  I asked if he would seek the Lord in prayer with me and ask His will for us regarding adoption.  Kevin agreed to pray.  Remember my painful longing for more children?  It turns out that that too was a gift from God.  He gave me that desire, but brought about the culmination of it in His time, and His way, not mine. 

After praying for about a month we had decided that adoption was something God wanted for us and we began the journey.  It was our intention to adopt siblings because there would be a pretty big age gap between Kelsey and the children so we didn’t want just one child.  We didn’t have a preference in regards to gender of the children.  We only knew that we wanted older kids, not babies.  We wanted to adopt kids that they have a harder time finding families for.

Since we had no idea what direction God wanted us to take in adoption – domestic or international, if international what country – we prayed that He would just drop something right in front of us.  He did.

A friend of mine who has adopted children and was doing some part time work for an adoption agency in town called me and told me that the agency she worked for was looking for families for some children and asked if we would be interested in considering a sibling group in India.  She knew we were interested in adoption because we had talked to her and her husband and asked questions about their adoption experience. 

There were two sibling groups, two sisters who were five and nine years old and another sibling group of six kids from ages 4 to 12.  That was an easy choice!  Kevin said he didn’t think the kids should outnumber us!

The agency sent us photos of the girls and we said we would pray.  I think I knew the moment I saw their sweet faces that they would be my daughters.  It was a long and complicated process, but in about a year and a half we were traveling to India to meet and bring home our daughters Kalindi and Kira.  These cute and spunky girls – who spoke about five words of English – were ours! 

Our first night with the girls in our hotel room in New Delhi I said to Kevin, “I don’t think we can do this!”  He said, “Yes we can.”  It was overwhelming!

Our Indian daughters have been such a wonderful gift from God.  When we are struggling, when a task is difficult and we don’t see any way that we are equipped or able to do the job, we are really good at staying in touch with our Heavenly Father, aren’t we?  There were difficult times as our family adjusted to bringing our daughters home and yet the Lord has blessed our lives in so many ways through it.

God did such a beautiful work of grace in our lives through the adoption of the girls that it gave us the ability to say yes to another child a couple of years later.  I was on an email list for our adoption agency and this list came with waiting children and their information and some photos.  I saw Levi’s smile and just knew.  Once again I asked my husband to pray with me and seek the Lord’s will in adopting another child.

I mentioned before that God uses the trials (or gifts) in our lives to prepare and equip us for some future assignment.  Well, we certainly saw that God had prepared us for issues we faced with the girls and as it happens, he was using the lessons we learned with the girls to prepare us for an even more difficult gift – our son Levi.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Isn’t that a beautiful progression?  We rejoice in our sufferings not for the pain or the event that is difficult.  But, we rejoice in the outcome – how God will use them in our lives.  In these verses He promises that the suffering will produce endurance – the ability to stand up under pressure.  Our endurance produces character – Christ like character.  That character produces hope – a sure knowledge that God’s promises are true and He will accomplish them.  Hope in the Lord is sure and solid.  Verse 5 says “hope does not put us to shame” or as it says in another version “hope does not disappoint” because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”!  How can we not rejoice in that hope?

Our newest child, Levi, is eight years old.  He spent the first six and a half years of his life in an orphanage.  Levi has learned through that experience that he needs to watch out for himself because someone else may not do it.  It is hard to unlearn that.  Levi has been with our family for two years and we continue to struggle with his adjustment and attachment.

Although there is daily frustration and struggle, we are confident that this is the plan and purpose that God has for our lives.  Our struggles with Levi are a gift.

We look back and see how the Lord has orchestrated lessons – gifts – and opportunities to grow in our faith – gifts – and placing in us a heart that longs for eternity – a big gift!

I want to talk to you about one more thing.  It is much easier to look back and see the good that God has worked in our lives through a trial than to see and appreciate it while we are in the midst of difficulty.  If you are in the middle of a hard time you may feel you are on the verge of losing hope.  You may feel like you have been abandoned by God.  You might be finding it very hard to trust that God is in control and that He loves you.  I have felt all those things.  Sometimes, it is very hard to hold onto the promises in scripture.

Know that God understands.  He can take your grief and pain.  Just keep talking to Him.  Keep reminding yourself of what you know to be true.  Stay in the Word.  I remember so many times when I would say I believe this in my head, but my heart is just not there.  It is okay.  You will not stay there forever. 

A portion of scripture that has become precious to us since our son died is 1 Peter 1:3-9.  I leave you with these truths to rejoice in:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


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Crying out to God October 23, 2012

Filed under: Faith,Grief — Lori @ 11:09 am

Psalm 88

English Standard Version

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

I have observed an interesting phenomenon in my Christian life.  When I have been in really hard places and suffering through a trial, I have spoken my questions, my pain, my fight for trust – and it seems to really disturb some people.  I am an honest and forthright person.  I don’t hide a whole lot about what I am thinking or feeling.  I have tried to learn to measure my words and only share those words at the right times and with the right people, but when our son died, I was in so much pain and felt so alone that I couldn’t keep from sharing my pain.  I find myself in a similar place of despair, although not nearly as deep and dark,  now with the issues with Levi.

What I think disturbs people is that they automatically assume that you are losing your faith in God.  They don’t think you should be speaking about doubt.  But the psalmists didn’t worry about that.  They shared their hearts with God – their doubts, their pain, how they felt alone and without comfort.  Does that seem like they are challenging or questioning God?  In a way, maybe they were.  But, the point is they KNEW they could say those things and they bothered to say them in the first place, because they did have complete faith that God was listening and in control.

Psalm 88 is a psalm that is completely a lament.  There is no praise, there is no resolution (as in most psalms).  He does state in verse 1 that God is his salvation.  There is trust as he speaks even though he does not see a resolution to his problems.

Our church read through the Psalms for worship and on the day we read Psalm 88 I was tempted to skip it.  However, I read some commentaries and came to understand the place that this psalm has in our Christian lives.  In James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Psalms, he writes:

“It is good to have a psalm like this, but it is also good that we have only one.  It reminds us that life is filled with trouble, even to the point of despair, even for mature believers.  Psalm 88 is an inspired writer, after all.  He is identified as Heman the Ezrahite, one of the “Sons of Korah”.

In speaking of Christian literature and why there is so little outstanding Christian literature he concluded, “..that is because we are not enough true to life.  Christians feel that in order to be Christian a composition has to work out right in the end and that there has to be a clear lesson or moral.  Psalm 88 is a reminder that life is not always like that.  There may be a perfectly good moral from God’s point of view; I believe that all life does have a divine purpose.  But that does not necessarily mean that we can see it or that it will ever become clear in our lifetimes.”

I am reading a book entitled, “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp.  They include a chapter that mentions Psalm 88 and its purpose.  They also remind the reader that this psalm is inspired by God.  They ask if it bothers you that there is no resolution in the psalm and wonder if you can think of any good you can get from reading it.  They list five things we can gain from it, but I will include my favorite three:

God understands the full range of human experience, from supreme joy to crushing sorrow.

God’s honesty about these experiences invites me to be honest about the things I face.  Biblical Christianity is never blind or stoic in its reaction to life.

Going to God with my despair, doubt, and fear is an act of faith.  Psalm 88 reminds me to run to God in desperate moments, not away from him.

I have often thought that because Kevin and I have been through such a tremendously dark and painful time in our life that we have a different perspective than many Christians who have not dealt with something that rocks you to your core.  You are able to look back and see that even in the times when you felt the most alone and forsaken – that was not the case.  That was precisely the time that the Lord was carrying you and providing for you the most.  There is a nearness you feel to the Lord through dark and troubling trials that is not experienced in everyday life.  However, we didn’t always recognize it at the time.  Your pain can cloud your perception while you are in it.

So, if you have a believing friend who is speaking their doubts, fears, confusion, sorrow, and helplessness and yet crying out to God – do not worry about them.  You can encourage them and pray for them and remind them, as a special friend did for me, that Jesus is our Great High Priest and understands our pain and is praying for us.  But, be careful not to judge them or assume they have lost faith in God.

Life is not neat and tidy.  Every trial does not have a good resolution.  Sometimes there are lessons we need to learn and ways that the Lord wants to grow us that can only happen through these difficulties.  My prayer is always that I would have eyes to see the Lord’s work on this earth, ears to hear what the Lord wants to teach me and most importantly that He would be glorified through it.

 

Looking to Jesus July 28, 2010

Filed under: Adoption,Faith,Grief — Lori @ 10:34 am

I find myself in an interesting state of mind this week.  Every summer since 2006 the month of July has been hard.  The warm weather, the long days, kids going to camp – all these things remind me of July 31, 2006.  That was the day Grant died.

Funny how there are moments when emotions come flooding into my mind and I find myself exactly where I was that week in 2006.  I can be heading to the grocery store and have a flash of the last time I took Grant shopping with me two days before he died.  Taking Kalindi to camp last week made me physically ill as the week before he died Grant and Kelsey were at AWANA Scholarship camp.  Going to the orthodontist is also very hard for me as I had taken Grant that last morning to get something on his braces repaired.

I remember back to those first few weeks and the raw, painful emotions and tears and although the hurt is very real and still present, there is also awe at how the Lord carried us through that time.  I wouldn’t be alive today if I were relying on my own strength to get me through that.  I am incapable of surviving that kind of tragedy without the Holy Spirit living inside me.

And here we are, four years later, waiting for news on our son in India.  We have considered Levi our son ever since we made the decision to pursue adopting him.  That is how it is with a parents’ heart is it not?  As soon as you are aware you are expecting you begin to love and cherish this new little person that God will be entrusting into your care.

And yet, all those plans and expectations don’t always turn out with the “happy ending” that we assume they will.  There are no guarantees in life.  I find that I fight on a daily basis to remember that this life is a vapor and that I am a pilgrim on a journey passing through.  It is hard sometimes to see yourself as a stranger and alien in this world and yet love and engage with people around you in meaningful ways.  We give of ourselves, we love and we lose.  That is life here. 

Wasn’t that Jesus’ life here too?

He came to this earth – giving up all the advantages of heaven, but not His deity – and lived a human life.  Jesus willingly surrendered Himself to live a human life of temptation (and yet without sin!), emotions, loss, disappointment, joy, pain.  He made relationships with people, shared in their joy and sorrow, saw with human eyes the ravages of sin on this earth, watched his friends deny Him and run away, was ridiculed and physically injured, and finally gave His life on the cross to pay for my sins. 

Aren’t I supposed to model my life after Jesus?

That is easier said than done, isn’t it?  After all, do we really want that kind of life?  A life of servanthood and sacrifice.  A life that thinks of everyone else above their own wants.  A life that realizes that this temporary earthly life is not all there is and is only to prepare us for eternity.

Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I Peter 4:12,13  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Colossians 3:1-4   If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

So, I guess I am just trying to find my way on a path that seems narrow and treacherous.  I am trying to figure out how to live this life for God’s glory, yet with my eye on the finish line, not on the current path.  It is hard.  At least it feels really hard for me right now.  I can honestly say that I didn’t give heaven that much thought before Grant died.  Shame on me!  And, shame on you, if you do not give more thought to what comes after this brief life.  It is easy to get distracted.  Here is some advice from the author of Hebrews:

Hebrews 12:1-2  Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus looked ahead and thought of the prize as He was running the race.  Shouldn’t we do the same?  It takes a daily dying to our selfishness and our desire for temporary pleasure and peace to keep our mind on the goal – the reward.  It is not easy, and in our human flesh it is impossible.  But, as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26:

 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

Out of the Darkness May 28, 2010

Filed under: Adoption,Faith,Grief,Kid Sayings — Lori @ 10:14 am

I found this post that I never completed.  It was from February 18, 2010.  Anywhere I have added something in the old post is in parenthesis:

I have been in a dark mood for the past couple of weeks.  Ever since the phone call I received letting me know that there was a snag in our adoption progress I have been fighting depression.  I really go back and forth in what I say to myself. (Here is the post where I wrote about our news.)

I want God’s will for our family in this adoption so, of course, if this is not God’s will for Levi to be our son then I don’t want it to happen.  However, my heart is already so in love with that little guy and I want to be his mom so bad!

Thus, all my musings on God’s sovereignty (I was referring to several posts I wrote during this time of struggle.  You can see them here  and here ) – which I completely cling to with great hope!

So, let’s talk about something else okay?  🙂

I was laughing to myself yesterday as I did school with the girls.  Kira’s reading lesson threw something new in at her.  Her stories she has read so far have had one sentence per line.  You always know that at the end of that line is the end of the sentence.  Well, yesterday her stories had a sentence and then started another sentence on the same line.  She read through the whole line as though it all belonged together and so I stopped her and explained that she needed to pay attention to the punctuation.  We had a talk about punctuation last week when commas were introduced. 

The second time she read through the line she got to the period and said, “Punctuation”,  paused, and then went on reading the next sentence.  It was so funny!  I had explained that a period, exclamation point or question mark would end a sentence and that she just needed to use her voice to show what it was marking.  Ha!  Every day is something new.

I was talking with a friend last night about depression and the need for medication.  I am NOT saying that no one should ever use medication for depression or other mental health issues, however, I wonder if many times our “depression” is spiritual and not physical in nature.

I think that is where I have been and this morning as I woke up I purposefully started to recite a song, “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul” – it just came into my head.  I prayed thanking God for a new day and for His blessings to me and praised Him for His character.  I can’t say that it was a magic pill, but I think it is a good start to my making a decision to be thankful and to make my focus God and Who He is instead of focusing on my circumstances.

It is interesting that my anxiety about our adoption of Levi and letting myself get upset about it possibly not working out, led me into thinking about Grant and dredging up intense feelings of grief and pain that crop up now and then.  Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Grant and miss him, but I am thankful to say I do not have deep grief on a daily basis. 

I think this was a really good lesson for me.  When I let myself become so focused on earthly things I make myself vulnerable to discouragement, fear, lack of trust, and a lack of faith.  I am  asking God for His grace and strength to help me keep this up.  I also have a responsibility to perform!  I need to make sure that I am feeding myself on the word of God.  If I am not immersing my mind with the truth of scripture I am leaving myself vulnerable to lies that Satan or my own sinful flesh tell me.

~~~*~~~*~~~*~~~

I wrote the above on Feb. 18, 2010.  I do not remember what interrupted me that I didn’t finish it.  I am not in the same place that I was speaking of above.  But, it is a good reminder and warning to me.  I think we are always vulnerable to letting life’s temporary circumstances take over our hearts and minds.  When we do this, we turn away from the ONLY thing in our lives that can keep us stable and secure. 

Psalm 57:1-3, 5, 7 – 11 
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
  for in you my soul takes refuge;
  in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
  till the storms of destruction pass by.
2I cry out to God Most High,
   to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3He will send from heaven and save me;
   he will put to shame him who tramples on me.
                         Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
   Let your glory be over all the earth!

7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
   my heart is steadfast!
   I will sing and make melody!
 8 Awake, my glory!
    
Awake, O harp and lyre!
   I will awake the dawn!
9I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
   I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
   your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
   Let your glory be over all the earth!

 

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty February 15, 2010

Filed under: Books,Faith,Grief,World Events — Lori @ 4:02 pm

I think that learning to trust in God’s sovereign hand in my life and in all of creation is a lesson that I will be learning my entire life.

I have had several hard “valleys” come along in my life in order to learn this lesson.  I have found that God has been merciful in preparing me ahead of these great times of darkness so that I was able to grope my way through them – knowing that the Lord was walking along beside me and with a knowledge of His love for me and his promise to cause all things to work for good in my life.  Just so you understand where I am coming from, God’s “good” he brings into my life is that He is making me into a more perfect reflection of Christ to the world. (Rom. 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.)

It might be the earthquake in Haiti, the collapse of a bridge in Minneapolis, 9/11, or a personal trial that stops us in our tracks.  These tragedies leave people hurt and questioning God’s involvement.  We have two choices, don’t we?  We can believe that God is in complete control of His creation – which includes people and nature – OR – we can believe that God isn’t able to stop bad things from happening, but is hoping that He can make something good come out of them after the fact.

Matthew 10:29-31  are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

With a belief in the first choice we may not always “like” what has happened, nor do we understand “why” it has happened, but we can safely and securely rest in the knowledge that God was in complete control of the circumstance and has ordained that it come to pass – either by His allowing or causing. 

In the second choice, we are left to wonder what may hit us next and will we have any idea of any purpose in these tragedies when they come.  There is no comfort, no security in this choice is there?

Thank goodness we do not make a choice!  Whether we choose to believe it or not God IS in control of all things.  He is almighty and sovereign over all his creation.

Daniel 4:35  He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.  No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?

I was just re-reading an article in Tabletalk magazine by R.C. Sproul, Jr.  He says this about God’s sovereignty:

……….How, though, can we move from simply affirming the sovereignty of God to resting in it?  We will rest in His sovereignty when we remember not just that He is almighty, but that He who is almighty loves us with an everlasting love.  It is because He is with us in the valley of death that we do not fear.  It is because He has prepared a table in the presence of our enemies that we can be assured that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives……………………Psalm 46:8-11  Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth.  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.  Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

I think this is an important step – remembering that we are children of God and that He loves us.  We are not making a choice between believing that God is sovereign OR that He is good and loving.  He is both.

Jerry Bridges says in Trusting God, “The one element that should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God; our suffering has meaning and purpose in God’s eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.”

Psalm 33:10-11  The LORD fails the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.

Romans 11:33-34  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

Isaiah 55:9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Another quote from “Trusting God“,

“As God’s rule is invincible, so it is incomprehensible.  his ways are higher  than our ways.  His judgments are unsearchable and His paths are beyond tracing out.  The sovereignty of God is often questioned because man does not understand what God is doing.  Because He does not act as we think He should, we conclude He cannot act as we think He would.”

This is not an easy doctrine to grasp.  I am, however, so thankful that God taught me this before Grant died because it would have been SO MUCH HARDER to go through that if He had not.  As I said in the beginning, I am still working on this.  Every day.  The Christian walk is a road of faith in a God Who has revealed Himself to us in His word and we seek to learn more about Him every day.  It is a journey.  How thankful I am for the hope and security we have in eternity because of what Christ accomplished on our behalf!

Augustine said, “Nothing, therefore, happens unless the Omnipotent wills it to happen: he either permits it to happen, or he brings it about Himself.”

 

Making Sense of Suffering January 9, 2010

Filed under: Faith,Grief — Lori @ 12:29 pm

I got this in an email from Ligonier Ministries blog.  It deals with a topic that is never far from my thoughts and I found this to be encouraging and full of truth.  Enjoy.

Dr. Derek Thomas, excerpt from “The Invisible Hand: 2004 Seattle Conference:”

You find yourself in trouble, and you go to the book of Job to get answers and help, right? And what do you get when you go to the book of Job? This is what you get: “You must learn to submit to Me.” That’s what God says. “I love you. I love you with all my heart. There is no questioning of My love for you in Jesus Christ. My covenant promises are yea and amen in Jesus Christ. Having begun a good work, I will complete it unto the day of Jesus Christ, but I have never promised you that you will have life without pain. I have never promised you that you will never experience trial or suffering. I have never promised to you that terrible things won’t happen to you or to your children. I’ve never done that.” And you see, my friends, we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” or “Make me a servant, Lord,” or “Sanctify me, Lord.” Do you understand that in order to bring that about this is what it may mean? Be careful what you pray for. Do you want to be holy? Do you want to be one of the holiest people in all the world? Be careful if you pray that prayer, because it may mean that God may send you through the fires of trial to remove the dross so that from out of the crucible may emerge something that’s pure and something that’s lovely, and something that’s attractive.

Some of you are saying as you endeavor to integrate the providence of God into your own lives or tragedies that things will never be the same again, and in a sense they won’t because every moment is unique. There is a sense in which nothing will ever be the same again. We live in a world that changes. But you know, God can do the most astonishing things, things you never dreamt about, things at the moment that you cannot see. At the moment you’re saying, “I don’t understand what God is doing in my life.” And that is true. And if you don’t understand it, I’m not going to understand it either. But you know my friends, it’s not important that you understand it.  What’s important is that He understands it. God’s ways are past finding out. God’s ways are incomprehensible.

There may well be things that God has done in our lives and the intricacies of providence that will take you a million years to try and figure out, and you still won’t understand it. And it’ll be ok because you will say every moment of your existence, it is for the glory of God. It is for the glory of God. And that’s my purpose here; to live for the glory of God no matter what happens. 

God did some wonderful things for Job, and at the end he had ten children. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? They weren’t the same children. He would visit those graves, I’m sure for the rest of his life. You notice some of the names he gives in Job 42:14. They are delightful Hebrew names. They’re full of joy. They’re full of happiness. They’re full of well-being. You know what that’s saying? It’s saying God brought Job through all of this. Yes, God did that. Not by giving to him the knowledge that he was asking for. No, but teaching him how to be a good disciple and teaching him to trust God. That’s the issue, isn’t it, when it comes to the providence of God and our relationship to evil and pain and suffering? Do you trust Him? Do you trust the Lord when he takes away your child? Do you trust the Lord when you discover your spouse has been unfaithful to you? Do you trust the Lord when a dear, dear friend lets you down? Do you trust the Lord when you lose your job? Do you trust the Lord when the word cancer is uttered? That’s the issue. That’s what it means at the end of the day. Will you be My disciple?

 

Thankfulness December 1, 2009

Filed under: Faith,Family,Grief — Lori @ 3:10 pm

I know I am a bit late in posting about thankfulness.  I truly meant to have something written up before Thanksgiving, but we had a houseful and I was BUSY last week!  It was a wonderful time spent with Kevin’s family (parents and siblings + kids – 21 in all!) and we enjoyed it immensely.

The one thing I always lament when I am the one hosting a big holiday event is that with all that needs to be attended to, I don’t feel like I have as much time as I would like to have to visit and just enjoy the occasion.  I tried to make time and I did have pockets here and there and enjoyed catching up with everyone.  Kevin’s parents stayed the night before and after with us and his mom was a huge help with everything in the kitchen.  Sister-in-laws also brought side dishes to contribute.  It was a wonderful meal and good time spent reconnecting with our family.

There are so many things that I am thankful for.  Number one is that God – in His mercy – through the Holy Spirit caused my heart to desire to listen and respond to God’s loving drawing of me to Himself.  I know that is an awkward sentence, but I am realizing more and more over the years how I did not choose God in all my intelligence and wisdom. (note the sarcasm) God chose me.  I was dead in my sins and I could not make that choice.

I am thankful for Christ’s provision for my sins by His death on the cross.  He not only paid the price for my sins that I owed, but He fulfilled the law by living a completely sinless and righteous life on my behalf.  That is amazing!

We have been learning about the old testament temple and how each element was looking forward to Jesus and how He would fulfill the covenant God made with His people.  The veil into the Holy of Holies was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide, and 4 inches thick.  The priest would go into the Holy of Holies only once a year to atone for his own sins and then the sins of the people.  Can you imagine the awe and reverence that would fill that priest’s heart as he entered that holy place?  What fear must have been in his heart as he considered his own sinfulness and realizing that he had to complete each step perfectly to fulfill God’s commands for this sacrifice.  The priest was entering into God’s presence! 

When Jesus completed His payment for our sins, the earth shook and went dark and the temple veil into the Holy of Holies was ripped from top to bottom.  God tore away the boundary between His people and Himself.  We can approach him for forgiveness and communion without the need of a priest.  Jesus is our High Priest!  But, even though I have this great privilege, I need to remember how special it is to be able to do this.  Do I enter into God’s presence with the same care and reverence that the old testament priests had?  I should.

Sorry for that little sidetrack!  That was just so encouraging to me when I stopped to really think about it that I had to share. 🙂

I am so thankful for God’s blessing in my life.  I deserve none.  His provision for our family has been generous and complete.  We may be waiting for some provision for our adoption expenses, but because He has been so faithful to us in the past, we are assured that He will continue to be faithful in the future.

My family.  I am married to a flesh and blood human male and all that comes with that!  🙂  Seriously, he is not perfect, but God made a great choice in bringing Kevin into my life.  We are good complements to each other.  I am also very blessed with my three daughters.  They are unique, special creations of God and I love them for who they are.

One thing that comes to mind that Kira does to bless me is that when she refers to the kids in our family she will recite that I have three daughters and two sons. (She will also say that she has two sisters and two brothers)  She counts both Grant and Levi as my sons and that just warms my heart.  Kira never knew Grant.  She only knows him through our stories, photos, and home videos.  Still, she speaks about him as if she did know him and often says that she misses him.  Isn’t that sweet?  If you have lost someone dear, you know that remembrance of that person is very important to you.  Not just that you remember them, but that others do as well.  It lets you know that someone else besides yourself has a special feeling for that person that is no longer a part of your daily life, but is always a part of your thoughts and emotions.  I count this as a very special blessing from the Lord.

As I look out my window at the fall sunshine I am thankful to God for His perfect creation.  Everything we see is the work of His hands – spoken into being by His powerful word!  The earth stays in the place he put it and turns at the exact speed He tells it to.  Year after year, we can count on the seasons and time.  He provides us with water in a cycle that is amazing!  Thank you Lord for the fall sun I see streaming in my window this afternoon!  Thank you for the sound of the wind in the firs behind my house.  I do not deserve such beauty and yet He has lavished it on me.

I guess most of all I am thankful for the eternally existent God of the universe, the I Am – Who was, and is, and is to come.  Praise His Name.

 

 
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