Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Early Work

Too many times I have found myself "behind" all day long. Those days are hard for me because I WANT to be able to say yes to those cute dimpled hands that want me to color alongside them, but instead I have to make breakfast/lunch/dinner, do the laundry, check math problems, make bread, give baths, juggle 25 different things while smiling (okay, maybe I'm not smiling for all 25 things!!). :) Soon it's bedtime, and I wonder why in the world I never got a chance to color in that coloring book (or read that fun book or take that walk).

Ahhhh...and then there are the days I love! The days when time has a beautiful pace. There's time for the walk to pick up colorful leaves. There's time to make those scones that we've been wanting to make for a long time. There's time to sit with the younger ones and color a whole page without rushing. It's in those moments when they seem to open up and share secrets. They seem to swell up with love for me, and a spontaneous "I love you" with a hug is placed a round my neck. It's THOSE moments that I stick in my pocket and want to keep forever and ever in my memory.

For me, the key to finding that unrushed pace has been in getting an early start. It's choosing to get out of that warm bed and get downstairs. It's the quiet time alone with my Heavenly Father, seeking wisdom for the day (and please help me be a good Mama today!). And it's the "early work" that has made a huge difference for me.

If I know the things I have to do for the day, I can easily see what needs to be done before they wake up so that I can focus on more important things during the day. For example, if I blog when my children are awake, everything starts to come undone in the house (Mama loses focus on the things at home and gets sucked into cyber world!). I've also found that starting my bread dough takes much longer if I wait to do it when everyone is awake for the day. I find myself trying to teach 2 math lessons, direct the preschoolers to activities and get my bread started. So, right now before my children are downstairs, I'm blogging while my Kitchen Aid is kneading my bread dough (I blog, go add more flour, blog, turn up the speed on the Kitchen Aid, blog, go add more flour). Soon I will set the dough to rise, and when little angels are downstairs for the day, anyone who wants to can help me form rolls with the dough, as I've found this to be a fun and easy activity to do with them.

Today has a good rhythm...a steady calm rhythm...without Mama rushing to juggle too many things at once. Laundry has just finished washing and needs to go in the dryer. Little ones can help fold, and big ones can help put it away. These are things that we can do together...AND they are things that fit nicely into a steady rhythm in our house (laundry is put away every afternoon when they get their rooms ready for night time).

Breakfast is scones,bananas and hot tea (ready to go on the table). Lunch will be fresh rolls with apple butter and fruit (dough is rising). Dinner will be chicken salad sandwiches (chicken is almost thawed and will soon be marinaded and then baked...later I will shred the chicken with one or two helpers).

There's peace in knowing what lies ahead of us today. There's a steady rhythm that allows for the flexibility of reading that extra chapter in our quiet time book when they plead with me for "just one more chapter, Mama!" There's a rhythm that fits in the must-do's and allows time for the oh-I-wish-we-could's.

And it all begins with me pulling back the warm sheets when it's still dark outside and then submitting to the "early work" that otherwise would throw off the calm routine.

I'm actually on track this morning. I'd better put the blog to bed before it all comes unravelled. :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Still and Quiet

Recently something happened that was not at all fair, and my insides screamed for justice! I took matters into my own hands (see my recent post about my idol of control...and pray for me!). Yep, I did it again...I tried to fix things (people!), and I ended up with a bigger mess than when I started.

So, when I awoke at 2am the next morning, I began to pray. I REALLY wanted God to show me what to do when I face circumstances like that. And again I found Him to be faithful. He led me straight to Psalm 131. It's short...only 3 verses...but its impact was immense. "Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don't concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me. But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord---now and always."

Have you ever been reading God's Word, and the Holy Spirit just stirs something?? Well, this hit me... I am to be STILL and QUIET, even when something unfair or upsetting happens. And that is not a natural still and quiet. It is supernatural and only comes from my soul resting fully completely in my Lord. If I truly trust in Him as I say I do, then I will trust Him to make the wrong things right. If I truly put my trust in Him, then my soul will wait confidently, being still and quiet instead of taking matters into my own hands.

And that little piece of wisdom unlocked a whole other area that I had been seeking Him in...

We are praying about some very specific ways of helping more of His children (more details to come!). And He spoke very clearly to me, saying that these children need an atmosphere of healing. Our own daughter who has only been out of the orphanage for 3 months needs a daily atmosphere that fosters the healing she needs. I remember one day a few weeks ago I was rushing about the house getting things done (the never-ending list that we Mamas have), and I was just busy busy busy rushing to and fro, from room to room. Our daughter came up to me and clung to my leg. I scooped her up, kissed her and then continued my pace to get the next thing done. But my Heavenly Father stopped me in my tracks, and as clear as day in my spirit, I heard, "She cannot heal like this." It literally STOPPED me right where I was (right in front of the dryer with the door open and a pile of laundry waiting to be folded)!

There's nothing wrong with getting things done. We NEED to keep an orderly house. But the busy rushing and nervous energy does not facilitate a calm atmosphere where little hearts can thrive.

So, when God brought me to those verses about being still and quiet before Him, I knew He was teaching me HOW to create an atmosphere in my home. Sometimes we get busy just to be busy, when in reality we need to just still and quiet ourselves before Him and do just those things He's setting before us. His careful pruning shears come out again, and I submit to them. Lord, help me truly believe that YOU are working in everything, and let me confidently wait on You with a quiet and still spirit.

(And how do I get my to-do list done without rushing about?? Well, that is an ongoing challenge. I'll share more someday soon.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Face of Love

Last night during dinner I met the tangible love of Jesus.

She was sitting next to me in her high chair, and she reached out her little arms towards me. I leaned in for a hug. But before I could leave her embrace, she stopped me a few inches from her face. She put her hands on my cheeks very softly and just smiled at me, looking deep deep into my eyes...way past my eyes and into my soul. I can honestly say that it was one of the times in my life when I felt most loved for just being plain ol' me. She smiled and did a throat noise that meant, "My whole being loves you." As long as I live, that moment will be etched in my memory. In that space in time I experienced one of the purest forms of love that one human can have for another. And I choked on the lump in my throat as it hit me: "Lord, You sent this child to teach me how to love."

Our journey to our youngest child was a long bumpy road that led all the way to an orphanage in Taiwan. She has Down Syndrome, which meant that the odds were not in her favor in her home country. We knew God was calling us to step forward to adopt her as our daughter. We knew He was calling us to love her.

But what we didn't know was how little we really knew about love. It took us by surprise that this child we set out to love was the very one who is teaching us how to truly love. The kind of love that she naturally gives to us...the way she intuitively pats our backs when we are sad, the way she tries to smile even when she isn't feeling well, the way she stops a hundred times a day to just come hug us...and the way she took my face in her hands last night and taught me some fundamentals of love. It's the simplicity of not only making eye contact but looking past the eyes and into the inner person...and accepting with joy what you find inside that person (no matter what mess you may see in them). It's making someone else feel like they are the most important and cherished person on the planet.

I had to ask myself the question: How many times have I loved my children that way? My husband? My friends? My parents? The needy person I'm supposedly "helping"? How many people have felt as deeply cherished as I felt last night with those precious messy hands on my face? I'd venture to guess zero.

I want to be more like my daughter. Some may say she has a syndrome that makes her different. And I say YES, thank the good Lord that she is beautifully different! If only the whole world could experience that kind of love!

Seasonal Breakfast

Today our table was set with a fun breakfast that thrilled the troops, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Baked oatmeal (which our children call "oatmeal squares") topped with EGGNOG! Oh, yes, they were happy this morning!

Word of God Speak

I awoke at 4:15 this morning with a familiar prodding in my spirit. I felt as if the Lord was whispering into my soul and wanting me to arise for a quiet meeting alone with Him. The bed was warm, and I could think of half a dozen reasons why I needed to stay in bed (I came up with some good ones too!). But that quiet calling was irresistible, so down the stairs I went...down to my favorite place. I love the early mornings when it's dark outside and the world hasn't yet awaken. It's just me and my Lord and a brand new day stretching out before me (with no mistakes in it yet!).

Yesterday He had led me to Isaiah 58, a place He has led me many many times over the past year. In that chapter is such a key to serving my family and serving orphans. I believe He really wants this to sink in because He brings me to it often. The chapter is about true and false worship. I was struck by the part about fasting. When I fast, I find it to be one of the most difficult and yet rewarding things in my spiritual life. I can actually get pretty proud of myself for fasting. But in this chapter we read what true fasting is. It is not about going through the motions. The kind of fasting God wants is for me to free those who are wrongly imprisoned (I can be a voice for orphans, especially ones who are wrongly destined for mental institutions), to stop oppressing my workers (my family!), to feed the hungry, to welcome poor wanderers into my home, to give clothes to those who need them, to not hide from relatives who need my help. This fasting is much more than eating only lettuce for 3 weeks! This fasting cuts to my heart's motives and definitely cuts into my life of convenience. No room for pride fact, it makes one wrestle a bit in their skin, so to speak.

But look further in that chapter and you'll see some sweet rewards for that type of fasting: my light will shine out from the darkness...the Lord will guide me continually...He will water my life when I'm dry and will keep me healthy too. And then my spirit caught something new and radiant in those verses...something that spoke very specifically to our family... The last part of verse 13 says that we will be known as the people who rebuild the walls and cities. Do you see it? No, this verse was not specifically speaking about rebuilding the walls of orphan ministry, but when God breathes something into my spirit, I grab onto it. Sometimes His words can speak straight to a circumstance or a person, and this spoke to me because it is how He is molding me right now. We cannot rebuild the walls of orphan ministry alone. It must be HIM doing it through us. And my part is to humbly serve and to have a true fast before my Father.

Anyway, that was yesterday's leading. This morning found me on my knees yet irresistible need to be on my knees. I knew He awoke me early for something specific, and I was eager to hear Him.

I made a journey through Proverbs, reading several verses. Over and over again, the same message sunk into my spirit... Let my words be sweet...let my words be helpful...let my words be full of life, not death.... Ahhhh, my tongue! Yes, it needles a bridle. As I shared yesterday, when my little ones descend the stairs for a new day, things can often get very busy (as any family with several children can tell you!). And many times I slip off the altar (this living sacrifice tends to do that!!) and soon find my tongue flapping! I think I'd be better off with my lips sewn together, but because that's not a good option, I need to submit my lips and tongue into God's service. See...He's very patient with me and my messes. And He's faithful. I told you that I asked Him to guide me, and here He was at 4-ish this morning with a private lesson in keeping my tongue dripping like honey.

Word of God, speak. And even when the day gets busy, please let Your Words be heard in my spirit. And let MY words be pleasing to You.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Casting Down Idols

Last night I lay in bed wrestling in my spirit. I lack human words to adequately express it, but in simple terms I just needed God to help me. I didn't want Him to allow me to fall asleep until He had "fixed me." I'm a broken mess. No, nothing major going on. Just a reality check on how I'm doing as a parent, as a wife, as a vessel of His...and the fact is that I fail more often than I care to admit. I know we all fail, and I don't expect perfection. But this was different... It's as if I KNOW that I'm to be a humble servant leader in my home, and I do really really well in the quiet alone hours of the morning. If you could peek into our home, you'd see me many mornings trying to find ways to love my family...making a homemade breakfast, lighting candles, putting soft music on, writing little notes to each person, praying for them. I'm great when I'm alone, but once the troops descend the stairs, many times I begin to fail. I don't extend grace...I bark out orders to please-flush-the-toilet and please-don't-irritate-your sister and stop-talking-rudely-to-your-brother (and at the end of my barking, I find myself using the exact rude talk that I had just corrected!). See what I mean...I'm a MESS! Back on my knees to confess it...then back up on my feet to chase little people and try desperately to keep them on track...then more confessing. You see my endless trap here, don't you?

So, last night I had come to the end of this mess. I'm weary of trying and failing. So, I began speaking to my Lord (we have an ongoing conversation...He is my best and closest friend, and He is the only One I don't drive off with my messy-ness). "Lord, PLEASE help me here! You know my heart. You know I want to be a good and faithful servant, but I cannot seem to move beyond this stuck place. I don't want to go to sleep tonight until you deliver me from it. I need you to fix it NOW." (I have some patience issues, but really this has gone on long enough!) But there was no magic fix last night, and I ended up drifting to sleep.

I awoke this morning wondering why He had allowed me to go to sleep in such a mess of human-ness. I climbed down the stairs and grabbed my Bible and fell on my knees. This was desperation..."Please, God, please guide me."

And He did. He's always faithful. He led me straight to Isaiah 57 and 58. I began to read it and almost quit because chapter 57 was about idol worship, and that doesn't apply to me. I don't worship idols...I love my Lord deeply...I'm not materialistic...I'm not "bad"...and I don't even watch American Idol! :) The subject of idols simply did not apply to me. But in my spirit I knew that YES INDEED this applied to me. It was like looking into a mirror and seeing something that turned my stomach sick. I knew all at once that yes I have worshipped an idol. It's not an in-your-face obvious idol. It's a quiet behind-the-scenes idol.

My idol is CONTROL. I don't see myself as a truly controlling ladder climbing for me, thank you! But if I'm gut-level honest, I'd tell you that I need to have a sense of control over things. I want my children to walk on God's paths and yearn for Him with their whole hearts, so I devise a list of ways to accomplish this. I try to control this.Sometimes I want my husband to see things a certain way, and I try to control this. I want my family to stay healthy, and I try to control this. On and on the list goes. No wonder I am so weary of failing! I am walking in shoes that only God should walk in.

In Isaiah 57, God reminded me: "Now I will expose your so-called deeds that you consider so righteous. None of them will benefit or save you. Let's see if your idols can do anything for you when you cry to them for help. They are so helpless that a breath of wind can knock them down! But whoever trusts in me will possess the land and inherit my holy mountain."

On my knees I fell! What an awful feeling to know that what I thought was a good thing (control) is really an idol! God corrected me with a firm yet gentle touch in my spirit. The path He has us walking (serving our family and serving orphans) can ONLY be walked with HIM in full control. Yes, I play a huge role in loving my husband and caring for my family, but He never ever meant for me to be the one in the control tower. Amazing how His correction brings such peace and a deep burden lifted from my shoulders!

My place is in His footsteps. "The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, the Holy One, says this: 'I live in that high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts'." (Isaiah 57:15)

Today, Lord, remind me over and over again to cast down the idol of control and rely fully on YOU. Keep me humble and contrite so that I feel the presence and comfort of You inhabiting my life fully. And as I follow You, please guide my little ones to follow You too. It is YOU who controls them, not me.

Well, I've written too much this morning, and my crew is heading downstairs. (Pray that I will stay on my knees in my spirit today!). Perhaps soon I will share what God showed me in the next chapter He led me to...Isaiah 58. In that chapter is a huge KEY to serving our families and serving orphans.

Until we blog again, have a blessed week!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


This morning, November 8th, is Orphan Sunday. Today is set aside to pray for orphans and to pray for the role you and your family will have in caring for God's children. James 1:27 tells us that caring for orphans is one of God's definitions of "true and lasting religion." And yet how often have we heard about this? Please get the word out.

YES, please share this information with your church. Please share it with your small groups. Share it with your family and friends.

Please visit our website to learn how ordinary people like you and me can step forward to care for the children that God asked His bride to care for. There are 143 million orphans in the world, but if only 7% of Christians step forward to care for one orphan, we'd essentially have no more orphans.

Pray for orphans today. Make a goal to pray for them every day. One example of how to do that: Reece's Rainbow is a beautiful ministry that finds forever families for children with Down Syndrome all over the world, and they have an incredible opportunity for YOU to help pray one of these "angels" home. You will receive a photo of a child, and every day you will get to enter into that child's life through the powerful work of prayer. I especially love this ministry because we "met" the sweet lady who helped pray our daughter home, and we were beyond grateful that our daughter had a prayer warrior long before we ever learned about her. Because Mama and Daddy are the ones who most often pray for children, most orphans do not have anyone praying for them. Please consider praying an angel into their forever home.

We are specifically praying for Ruslana, a precious angel with Down Syndrome. We are friends with her soon-to-be forever family. Please pray for Ruslana today and every day until she is home with her loving family. There have been enormous bumps in the road to her adoption, and the work is not finished yet. Your prayers are needed to bring this sweet girl home.

Show Hope is also airing a free live broadcast from Nashville this afternoon. Steven Curtis Chapman will be singing songs from his new album, and wonderful speakers will be highlighting Orphan Sunday. Please click on that link for more information.

Even after Orphan Sunday has passed, we will still be hard at work trying to get the word out. Remember the 7% of Christians who are needed to care for orphans?? Well, we want to FIND THEM! :) So, please pass our web address out to your churches, friends, families, small groups, any Christians you know. Together we can rebuild this wall of orphan ministry, with God working incredible miracles through us (His bride). GET THE WORD OUT!

Thank you and God bless you for your role in caring for His children.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Welcome to our blog!

We're very excited for "lift off " day! This morning our new website Let's Rebuild the Wall is being introduced to the world, and this is the accompanying blog.

A nutshell version of how and why this all came about...

Shortly after we lost our son Elijah in 2007 (he was stillborn), God spoke very clearly to us and called us into orphan ministry. He led us through many lessons in humility and showed us that if we are to serve orphans, it will only be by following Him step-by-step because in HIM ALONE do the orphans find mercy. So we began to follow Him on that road. Orphan ministry is a very beautiful yet hard road, but we have found our Heavenly Father very very close in the "fields of the fatherless." His voice is in our ear, and we are learning to walk this road one step at a faith.

Three months ago, we found ourselves at an orphanage in Taiwan meeting our new daughter that God added to our family through the miracle of adoption. Months before, we learned of this beautiful angel who happened to have an extra 21st chromosome (Down Syndrome), and we fell in love with her from one single photo. Words cannot describe the moment, but I will say that as we held our daughter for the first time, we began to understand the love God has for us as He adopted us into His forever family...with all our little quirks, imperfections and deep needs. Amazing love...amazing grace!

Shortly after coming home from Taiwan, God began to call us a bit deeper. I knew He was leading me into full-time orphan ministry; but when I began to focus on that, I would lose balance and find myself not "looking well to the ways of my household." And I knew God had called me to be a full-time involved Mama to my children. So, full-time orphan ministry and fully-invested motherhood seemed to be conflicting. How could I have the energy and focus to do both full-time??? One morning I found myself on my knees asking God to PLEASE SHOW ME how I could be faithful to his call into orphan ministry while also being faithful to serve and love my own family.

And that is when He birthed in my spirit the vision for our new website. He showed me that while I am focusing on serving and loving my family, we can overflow that love into orphan ministry right from our own living room. Over a year ago, He had led me to study the book of Nehemiah as a "blueprint" for rebuilding the wall of orphan ministry (and yes, the wall is indeed crumbled and in desperate need of repair!). And as I thought about Nehemiah, I remembered that he led the people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem one piece at a time. Often, people simply worked on the part of the wall right in front of their own home. I finally understood! God was leading me to work on our part of the wall of orphan ministry while still focusing on the home and family He has given us. And the vision of many individuals and families working on their own part of the wall became clear.

And that was the beginning seed for our website Let's Rebuild the Wall! We pray that God will lead many people to pick up their bricks and begin rebuilding this wall of orphan ministry. This is HIS work, and we pray that we stay humble to follow step-by-step.

Oh, and who are we? Well, we are NOT professional web designers! :) We literally had to PRAY for God to show us how to do it and what to write. And we are NOT anywhere close to "having it all together" as Christians or as a family or as individuals. We are a very imperfect family who struggles sometimes to obey in even the simplest things (like loving our neighbor or family members as ourselves!). But our hearts are sincere, and we desire to follow our Heavenly Father into these fields of the fatherless, trusting Him fully. And so, here is our first big step of faith...the launching of our new website and our blog. May God be glorified, and may the wall of orphan ministry be rebuilt one brick at a time!

Please visit our website and please spread the word! There are MANY different "bricks" in orphan ministry (some families may adopt, while other families may make care packages for children in foster care...some people may feel led to travel to other countries to care for orphans, while other people financially support an orphan in a children's village). MANY opportunities! Please visit our site at for more information.