Tuesday, February 23, 2016

blessings overflow

It's written on a sticky note, tucked away in the back of my Bible, this little gem. A quote I've loved for years. Back when I was in college, I had the privilege of hearing Elisabeth Elliot speak, and those words, scribbled on that yellow post-it, have remained in my Bible and stored in my heart ever since.

It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.  

Elisabeth Elliot

I smile when I think back on how simple and carefree my life was back then. It makes me giggle to try to remember what I was "accepting" during that particular season in my life. Surely there must have been something that seemed hard or overwhelming or unusually challenging, something that made me hear those words and hold on to them for so many years. 

Or maybe the Lord just knew that those words needed to be planted in my heart, knowing how the years would unfold, how my story would turn out.

That college girl had no earthly idea. The same person who {briefly} considered majoring in special education but quickly realized she wasn't cut out for that... 

The same one who also considered getting her degree in elementary education, but decided she wasn't patient enough for that either...

That girl, I'm pretty sure, she never could have dreamed up a life for herself that looks even remotely similar to this picture.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind! 

It included the last trimester of a very challenging pregnancy and an especially hard stretch where I was on the verge of being hospitalized. I can't even begin to tell you how overjoyed and relieved we were to welcome into the world our healthy and beautiful Georgi girl. 

Christmas, this year, was wild and wonderful. It was one that I will most certainly always remember. It's not often you get to bring a new baby home on Christmas Day!

All of the kids love Georgi and can't keep their little {and big} hands off of her! It melts my heart to watch them with her. 

Pretty much, my heart just melts every time I look at her. She is such a precious picture of the Lord's mercy and grace. The Lord is using this little girl in such big, redemptive, and powerful ways. 

December and January brought birthdays for Faith Ana (8), Barrett (5), and Haddon (2). Thankfully, I have a houseful of party-lovers {and cake-lovers}!  

We had the opportunity to sneak away to the beach for a few days. I'm so thankful for my mom and her willingness to keep S and Faith Ana so that I could have a bit of respite from caring for them. Who knew a few days at the beach with seven kids including a five week old could be so relaxing, but it certainly was! I came home refreshed and recharged, and for this I am so, so grateful!

True to Your word, You let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction...
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.

Psalms 23, The Message

Another big adjustment we've made this winter has been bringing S and Faith Ana home from the public school they were attending. Within days of writing this post back in October, we began seeing an increase in some of the old orphanage behaviors {especially in Sophi} that we haven't seen in quite a while. And while it was a very difficult decision, one that has certainly impacted our days, it has proved to be the best thing for both of our girls. Their routine at home consists of doing simple and structured activities. Puzzles, picture books, Elmo, Barney, and afternoons on the trampoline are mainstays here at our house, and for the most part, S and Faith Ana are both happy and doing well. We are still trying to figure out just exactly what "school" should look like for each of them, but the longer they've been home (and the more we accept their disabilities), the more we realize that we need to continue focusing on basic life skills. Any academic gains are just icing on the cake.

It's most certainly been a full season. Full of long, lively days and baby-filled nights. Full of more grace and mercy than I could ever possibly begin to express. Full of constant reminders of the Lord's faithfulness, as He carried me through one of the roughest patches I've ever walked through. 

And in the midst of it all, all my wrestlings and wanderings, all these changes and challenges, this truth, these words, have ministered to my heart and encouraged me in so many ways.

It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself. 

As I accept myself (my weaknesses, my shortcomings, my mistakes, the places I downright fail), the Lord gives Himself. He tells me His heart, for me, and He speaks kind and gentle words. He reminds me that I am His child. He pours out His grace and mercy. He gives His forgiveness and offers fresh starts. Lots of lots of fresh starts.

As I accept my children (their struggles, their unique personalities, their early morning wake-up calls), and especially as I learn how to accept S and Faith Ana with all of their unique and often challenging needs (their limitations, their disabilities, their attachment issues, their difficult pasts), as I accept them just as they are (yet not giving up hope for all they can become), the Lord gives Himself. He gives me the patience {His patience} that young twenty-something could never have dreamed of. 

As we accept our callings, the Kingdom Work the Lord has for each of us to do, as we accept this, He gives Himself, far exceeding anything we could ever dream of. 

Not long ago, someone left a comment asking me how we handle the criticism or concern that people sometimes express about our large and growing family. Maybe one day I will share more about our convictions and how the Lord impressed them and continues to impress them on mine and Will's hearts. But the short and simplified message is this, these words yet again.

It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself. 

We believe that children are a gift, given by an all-wise, all-seeing, all-knowing Father. We trust Him as the Gift-Giver, accepting and believing that He knows best what our family should look like. We accept with grateful and thankful (and, yes, sometimes with scared and overwhelmed hearts) these gifts that He sends. The ones from my womb and the ones from the other side of the world. And as we accept this as our calling and our ministry, what we have found (and I'm convinced we will continue to find) is that He gives Himself. He gives His patience and His love. He gives His wisdom and His guidance. He gives His provision and His resources. In small ways, like boxes of diapers and wipes mysteriously showing up at our back gate, He provides. And in big ways, like the car and house we've outgrown, we can trust Him to continue to provide and keep giving us just what we need.

God does not open paths for us before we come to them, or provide help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are at our point of need, God's hand is outstretched...

Streams in the Desert

I tend to over complicate things and over think things. I like to have a game plan, a contingency plan, and an emergency back-up plan. I've been known to go to great (and ridiculous) lengths to feel like I am in control. I like to know in advance just exactly how things are going to turn out. But when I remember this truth {and choose to believe it}, everything is simplified. I might not understand the whys. I might not see the how's (how is this all going to work out? How are we going to afford a bigger vehicle? How are we going to fit everybody in this house that feels like it's shrinking?) 

But I can trust the Who behind it all.

I accept what He's given (and what He might or might not give in the future), and no matter what that is, I can trust Him that He will always give Himself. 

He has given in the past, He is giving just now, and He will give in the days ahead. Regardless of what the days ahead may bring, they will most assuredly bring more of Him with all the help, strength, power, love, patience, and energy that I could ever possibly need. 

And as sure as the sun finally does go down and all these nine little people finally settle in for the night, He faithfully gives. He gives His energy. He gives Himself. He sees me through. One day at a time. One step at a time.

He gives everything we could possibly need and then just keeps on giving. 
Blessings overflow!

This is the blessed life - not anxious to see far down the road nor overly concerned about the next step, not eager to choose the path nor weighted down with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following the Shepherd one step at a time.

Streams in the Desert

Over the past few months I've been studying different translations of the 23rd Psalm, and it relates so well to this truth. I've especially spent a lot of time pondering and praying over one particular little phrase:

You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies...

Psalms 23, Common English Bible

I love this image of Him setting our table. During this season, I've done my fair share of wrestling and questioning His particular taste and style, sometimes wondering what He was thinking when He was choosing my place settings. But what I'm learning more and more is that I really can trust Him to choose best. It might not be the crystal and fine china that I pictured for myself. {This is certainly not the family I envisioned I would have twenty years ago.} It's not what I thought I wanted, but I know now, most assuredly, that what He chooses is good. Breathtakingly beautiful, and so very, very good. 

In the same way, I can trust Him to know just the perfect table and the right combination of chairs that we will need. I used to think I wanted a small(ish) table with decorative chairs {maybe four, and definitely no more than five} I never dreamed I would need such a large table with so many chairs, and chairs that looked quite like these. {One that is sparkly hot pink and with wheels??? }Yet, still, He's the One who sets my table, and He's the One who knows best. I can trust Him. 

I can trust Him in the presence of enemies and Enemy attacks. I can trust Him when I feel overwhelmed and uncertain. I can trust Him in the face of criticism, fear, and doubt. I can trust Him with my future and with theirs. And as learn to trust Him more fully, embracing and accepting what He gives, you know what I'm finding? I'm finding that He always gives Himself, which means we always have a feast.

Here's a few other bits and pieces of things the Lord has been impressing on my heart that I wanted to pass along. 

First, this blog post. All you adoptive mamas (or anybody really who feels like they're in a bit over their head), can I encourage you to take five minutes to read this? It encouraged me, and I think it might do the same for you.

Second, this family. I love how when God calls us to do a hard thing (and we accept that calling), we get a front row seat to watch the miraculous ways that He works. I can't wait to see how God pours out His blessings and provides for this sweet family. 

Third, this little girl. I haven't done a lot of advocating here in quite a while, but this little girl??? Last year at Christmas, each of my four big boys picked out a child from Reece's Rainbow that they wanted to specifically pray for. We cut out their pictures, put them on the Christmas tree, and then eventually stuck them on the refrigerator. All but one have been adopted. 

Meet Mary Ellen.

This was Web's little girl and bless that sweet boy of mine. He still remembers to pray for her. I checked Reece's Rainbow recently, and her bio and picture have been updated. She reminds me so much of both S and Faith Ana. 

I know how overwhelming and daunting it feels to even consider adopting a child with so many physical and mental disabilities, but I can't help but look at this little face and think about her future if she is never chosen. When I'm up in the middle of the night with my littlest girl, I find myself thinking about her. Praying for her. For a family to step up and accept her and accept their calling to be this little one's momma and daddy. 

I wouldn't even begin to tell you that it would be easy. 

In fact, I can only imagine how this little one would rock your world and turn your life upside down, that she would expose every single one of your inadequacies and weaknesses, but this, this, I can guarantee:

It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself. 

God giving Himself. That's an offer hard to turn down!

Fourth and finally, here's a few more translations of the 23rd Psalm that I've loved. (The last one is my favorite!)

The Lord is my shepherd.
    I have everything I need.
He gives me rest in green pastures.
    He leads me to calm water.
He gives me new strength.
For the good of his name,
    he leads me on paths that are right.
Even if I walk
    through a very dark valley,
I will not be afraid
    because you are with me.
Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.
You prepare a meal for me
    in front of my enemies.
You pour oil of blessing on my head.

    You give me more than I can hold.

Surely your goodness and love will be with me
    all my life.
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalms 23, International Children's Bible

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!
He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way. You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; 

blessings overflow!

Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.

Psalms 23, Living Bible

The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
He provides me rest in rich, green fields
    beside streams of refreshing water.
    He soothes my fears;
He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.
Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
    I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.
You spread out a table before me,
    provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, 
anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,

    filling my cup again and again with Your grace.

Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
    in Your house forever.

Psalms 23, The VOICE

That's all for now, faithful friends! Thank you for following along and for praying for our family!



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