Friday, January 29, 2010

The Secret Game

Starting today, our family is embarking on a week-long game of sorts. Each person chooses a "game" they will play, but nobody can know what it is. For example, let's say that I wanted my game to be called "Servant of All." I would go about my week trying to be "servant of all" to my whole family, without telling them what I was doing. I would go the extra mile to help each person. I would serve no matter how inconvenient. I would put each person ahead of myself in everything all week. At the end of the week, we will come together for our family fun night (always on Friday), and we will then get to guess what each person's "game" has been all week.

The theme of the game is up to each person. It could be patience, servanthood, unconditional love, etc. Our children had great fun coming up with their ideas. They even created code words so that they could remember their theme but also keep their idea secret from the rest of the family. The only rule is that their game must be played for the benefit of others, not themselves.

I have a really neat theme for my own game (I'll tell you next Friday). I'm finding out that it's harder than it sounds (I had the idea a few days ago and began to try to implement). It requires focus. It also cuts through any "I'll-do-this-for-you-if-you'll-do-this-for-me" because it's done in secret. And, it requires ACTIONS, which are often much harder to come by than words. Today is officially Day #1 of our game, and I've already been in prayer today that I can DO this thing! :)

I'll let you know how the week goes...

If you decide to do this in your family, I'd love to hear what games you played and how your week went!

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Servant's Heart

Does every parent have something they tend to say over and over to their children? Ya know...the phrase that just seems to come up all the time. One of my friends always says, "Do everything in love." I like that one. And in our family, the often-repeated phrase is "Let's have a servant's heart." When there are only 2 cookies left and 3 children who want those cookies, I say, "Who is going to have a servant's heart and give up their cookie to someone else?" When one child isn't feeling well, I will ask the other children, "How can we serve your brother (sister) today to make them feel better?" When I catch a child giving up a treasured item even though they really want to keep it themselves, I melt into praises of, "You have such a beautiful servant's heart!"

Some days are better than others. Sometimes it feels as though I talk to the walls. :) Sometimes I wonder if they are really "getting it." And then there are those moments when I get a glimpse that makes my heart soar...those short but wonderful moments when I can see that they really ARE listening to Mama talking about that servant's heart!

This weekend I lost my voice. Have you ever tried to parent 4 children without being able to talk to them?? :) It was a challenging weekend, needless to say. Early Saturday morning my oldest daughter told me to stay in bed. Soon, she came up the stairs with our tea tray lined with a pretty cloth and topped with hot tea, a plate full of nuts (arranged creatively), a cross bookmark and a sweet note on the napkin saying, "I love Mama!" She set the tea tray on the bed and then closed our bedroom door to leave me alone while she took the little ones to play while Mama had her tea. And as I sat in our cozy bed drinking that hot tea in the peaceful quiet of the morning, I felt ministered to. Something in that simple display of love filled up my soul. And I had to smile. All the times of talking about having a servant's heart...all the times when Mama was the one to serve the tea to a sad child...all the times of ministering to our family with pretty things like sandwiches arranged in a fun pattern on the plate or hidden notes to say "I love you"...all those little daily things that I try hard to remember to do... It all sinks in somehow. And on Saturday morning I was reaping some of the fruit of those moments, and I was BLESSED to see a servant's heart in one of my children (especially without me having to remind them to do it!). :) I'll always remember that cup of tea that made my throat feel soothed and my heart feel even better.

I think sometimes it's easier to serve people we don't know. Sometimes it's easier to put together a box of food for the food pantry than to do something selfless for those in our own home. We DO need to give to the food pantry...DEFINITELY...we are supposed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, open our home to those who need it. But we are also to love those in our own home with a selfless love...a love that lays down our lives (our rights!) for our spouse, our children, our siblings. That's a tall order! Sometimes it's so hard to be selfless (again!) in our marriage or family relationships. But, if we cannot love and serve in our own home, how can we have love to overflow to others who need us? We work on the walls of our own home (rebuild relationships, keep a secure foundation, etc), and then we will have love to overflow into rebuilding the wall of orphan ministry.

It all starts with a servant's heart.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Heart Transplant

I awoke at 3am with that familiar feeling that it was once again time for some pruning in my life. It has been a rough couple of weeks. No, nothing least not from an outside perspective.

See, we're in our focused prayer month. We set aside the first part of the year for seeking God's Will for the next year. It's always a time of great hope of the blessings we know He's going to bring, but it's also a time of pruning for the fruit He wants to bear in our lives. Do you know that pruning HURTS??

We are in specific prayer about something "big" that will expand this orphan ministry, and I was in high hopes that He'd deliver it NOW. But, instead, every time I seek Him, He leads me to confessing my sins and asking for a new tender heart with right desires. Almost every day during my quiet prayer and Bible time, this is the same place He leads me. One day, without trying to, I ran across THREE Scriptures (ones I've rarely seen) that said the same thing: Confess your sins...God will replace your stony heart of sin with a tender heart with right desires. So, I can take a hint. :) I began to pray for this new tender heart.

As the days of focused prayer passed, a horrible "unearthing" of things began. Old memories of hurt..angry feelings of things long past. Pretty soon, my heart was a mess of sewage that I hadn't realized was hidden deep inside under layers and layers. (And I was becoming a very grumpy person to be around!!) Still, the digging went on...imagine it as digging up things from a pit. Soon, up from the pit came a huge heavy weight of RESENTMENT...much too heavy for one woman to lift. I began to pray for God to lift it for me. Days of prayer passed before I noticed that there was something under the resentment...more to dig up! Just behind resentment lay a series of REJECTIONS...both little rejections from elementary school (amazing how those feelings can stick with you!) and big rejections from people in my life who hurt me deeply...the kind of hurt that is raw and exposes nerves and arteries...the kind of hurt that heals very slowly and leaves an ugly scar that never goes away completely.

Here I was trying to devote my month to seeking God, and instead I found myself exhausted and dirty from all the digging! By yesterday I was ready to throw in the towel and quit this focused prayer time (it was much much too difficult this time!). I sat during my Bible time and just stared at the cover of my Bible, not even having the energy to open it. All I could think of was this mess I was sitting in, and all I could seem to grasp from Him was: confess your sins and let Him give you a new tender heart with right desires. But, to be gut-level honest with you, although I hated the slime of that pit, I couldn't seem to get my hands to let go of the rejections.

That brings me to 3am today. I woke up, and I knew it was surgery time. I began to ask God to please please please help me to pry my hands off of all the rejection and resentment. I began to envision Him opening my heart and taking out the delicate heart surgery. And then I said, "NO!" It all came together in one moment... I didn't want my heart opened and this stuff removed. No, I wanted a whole new heart! Ahhh, yes...confess your sins and let Him give you a new tender heart. So, I just asked Him outright for a whole new heart. Right there in my bed at 3am, He began the process of a heart transplant.

BUT WHY???? Remember how we're in focused prayer? Remember how we are seeking His direction for this new year? Remember the "big thing" we are praying and believing Him for? I cannot get into details yet (maybe soon!), but this "big thing" will expand orphan ministry on many levels. It has the potential to reach many orphans. It will play a huge role in rebuilding the wall of orphan ministry. We know He's led us to this...we know it's for HIS, why in the world did I have to go through this major detour to dig up such deeply buried awful slime in my own heart? I'd much rather be about the big business!

Let me share a picture with you. It's not one I've shared with many people. I usually share the hundreds of happy pictures of our daughter. She loves the camera, and she is almost always so joyful that she makes the best subject for photos! :) But one day I grabbed my camera to catch this moment...

This was about a month after being home. This is the face of grief. She is 3 years old and doesn't have the words to vocalize what's in her heart. Instead, she would "go away" into her own little world far far away from us, and silent tears would fall down her cheeks. This was her grieving process...grieving for the familiar orphanage she left, grieving for the many goodbyes she's had to endure in her short life, grieving with the uncertainty of whether or not we will leave her someday. Lots of hurt in that little heart.

My friend who has been instrumental in orphan ministry once gave a speech that I took several notes on, and I've gone back many many times to those notes. And this morning at 3am one of her points came screaming out of my brain as if I had finally put 2 and 2 together! She said that orphans need a home that can foster FORGIVENESS because forgiveness is the key to their healing.

Why have I been struggling for many days over the "unearthing" of so many painful things from my heart? It wasn't a detour. No, it was a direct route. Sometimes God prepares a road for us to walk that leads through strange and seemingly awful places. But in that uprooting of all the painful memories of rejection and resentment, I was being placed in similar shoes that the orphans will be placed in. In a small way, I was feeling their pain and understanding a glimpse of where they are coming from. It's not enough to pray for them to find a forever home, and it's not even enough to GIVE them a forever home. We have to pray for them to have a forever home that will foster forgiveness so that they can heal. We cannot take away their past, any more than we can take away our own pasts. But we can hold them as they grieve, and we can walk beside them as they learn to forgive all the feelings of rejection and not let the rejection turn into resentment. We have to feel their pain and walk their road and lead them ever so gently toward the Master Physician who specializes in heart transplants.

But first we have to undergo our own heart transplants. Mine was this morning. Healing is not always quick after surgery. Please pray for healing and for my strength to return in due time.

And the "big thing" we're praying for? Well, I believe THIS is the big thing. We learn to forgive so that we can lead them to forgive. We excavate all our old rejections and resentment and anger. We learn to LET GO, and we ask God to give us new tender hearts so that we can lead others on that same path. Unless we've been orphans ourselves, we can never fully grasp their pain and sense of rejection, but we can lead them to forgiveness with the compassion that comes from having dug up our own pit of rejections and resentment. We can point them toward our God who specializes in giving NEW hearts.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

He's bringing workers into the fields...

Before I blog on the subject, here's a glimpse back at our Christmas season... It was truly a beautiful time for our family as we were beside our youngest daughter as she experienced the wonder of the season for the first time in our home! SO many neat "firsts." This time last year we had just submitted our paperwork and were waiting, waiting, waiting for word on whether we were chosen as her family. I think of those many nights when I went to bed knowing that my daughter was on another continent where I couldn't tuck her into bed or hold her when she cried (or comfort her when she broke her arm last year!), and I find myself hugging her more tightly and being so appreciative of her presence in our home. Sometimes at night when she is asleep, I look at her and think, "Wow...she used to be on the other side of the globe, and here she is asleep under our roof." It's a miracle. I am beyond thankful that we didn't miss out on this. I'm thankful that, for once, we didn't make a decision based on our comfort or convenience. Words cannot express how truly thankful I am that God led us "over the edge" out of our comfort zone and into a faith journey...and we followed. Talk about finding hidden treasures! This little girl is one of the most incredible treasures on the planet! God is really so good. Why do I ever doubt????

So, here we are in January, and we've headed into our month of focused prayer for direction in this new year. If you've never done a season of fasting and prayer, I highly recommend it. It will change your life! Click here if you have interest in that.

God speaks in amazing ways. Sometimes it's in Scripture that speaks to "Do not be afraid" or "Love your neighbor." And sometimes He has a very specific message for just me. I believe He has messages for all of us, and sometimes we are too busy to hear Him. I know I've probably been busy way too many times and have missed his precious voice in my spirit. I have found that as I've slowed down my pace and have become more still and quiet in my inner being, I hear Him more. One day last year as we were waiting for news on our adoption (the waiting process is just so hard sometimes!), I was walking to the mailbox. It was very quiet outside, and I was having a conversation with Jesus (he's my best friend, and I find myself always conversing with Him). I was asking Him to please hurry along our adoption process...please place this child in our home SOON. And He stopped me...I mean, I literally felt compelled to STOP moving and just stand there. I became very quiet, and I heard His voice in my spirit. All I heard was, "Look," and I began to look. Straight ahead of me was a little branch hanging down from a tree, and there was a drop of water hanging from a point on the branch. It just hung there and never dripped. I was fascinated (we're homeschoolers, so this would have been a great time to gather everyone around for a lesson in gravity :)...but I just stood still and watched). The drop of water grew little by was getting heavier and heavier and still not falling. I kept thinking, "Surely it's time for that drop to cannot hold on much longer because it's getting so heavy." Still it hung on. Then DRIP. Phew! I felt like I had waited forever. And then I knew the lesson He was giving me: wait and watch, and in HIS time our daughter would join our cannot be's in HIS time...and even when we don't see it, He's working and bringing it closer. See, this is the ongoing relationship I have with my Savior. He DOES still speak. He cares about each of us dearly, and He has individual lessons and conversations He wants to have with us. I believe that with all my heart. Sometimes we just miss it in our busy-ness of life.

Anyway, recently He gave me a Scripture that intrigued me. It was Ezekiel 36. Ezekiel isn't a book I typically open to. :) But He gave me a chapter to read. I always know that when He gives me a passage of Scripture, He has a lesson or word for me. He spoke to me in verses 25-27 about Him washing me and taking away my stony heart of sin and giving me a new heart with right desires. Now THAT I need!! And then in verses 33-36 He had this wonderful message: "When I cleanse you from your sins, I will bring people to live in your cities, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The fields that used to lie empty and desolate--a shock to all who passed by--will again be farmed. And when I bring you back, people will say, 'This godforsaken land is now like Eden's garden! The ruined cities now have strong walls, and they are filled with people!' Then the nations all around--all those still left--will know that I, the Lord, rebuilt the ruins and planted lush crops in the wilderness. For I, the Lord, have promised this, and I will do it."

This Scripture is talking about the restoration of Israel. But because God led me very specifically to that Scripture, I knew He had a message for me in there too. I was overwhelmed when I saw the words "the ruins will be rebuilt." I thought He was just confirming our vision to rebuild the wall of orphan ministry. I was thankful for that, but I didn't think anything else of it.

Fast forward to the past several weeks... People began to approach us. Some emailed to say they wanted to know how to help orphans. Others emailed to ask if they could set up a prayer ministry to have a group pray for certain orphans. Some told us they collected money for orphans at their Christmas party. Some have asked us to have dinner with them so that they could talk about adoption. Some have asked to have dinner so that we could talk with them about opportunities for working at orphanages. People at our church have asked how they can get involved. Even people we don't know have approached us and shared their new burden for orphans. People are starting to ask, "What can I do to help?" And I was truly caught off-guard.

To be honest with you, the "fields of the fatherless" have seemed very quiet at times. Sometimes I feel that we can hear our echo echo echo when we speak. There are other workers in those fields, but it hasn't been often that we've come across them. So, when people started coming to us and asking, "How do I help? What can we do? We have a burden for these children"...well, I wasn't fully prepared. I was surprised at so many "workers" in the field all at once.

Yesterday as I was in focused prayer, God brought Ezekiel 36 to me again. And this time my eyes saw what He was saying. The ruins WILL be rebuilt. The fields that used to be desolate will be filled with people. God Himself is busy rebuilding the wall of orphan ministry, and I am to simply be His vessel. do I miss these things so often? He I EXPECT to hear Him?? He answers I EXPECT that He really will rebuild these walls of orphan ministry? He said He will bring I really believe Him? Forgive me for not being as prepared for all the wonderful responses and questions and support many have shown. I believe He's bringing many people into these fields to work...some to adopt, some to work in orphanages, some to give financially, some to pray...many many to work. And now that He has refocused me, I'm back on track with His vision.

Really...if you want to help...if you feel your heart moved but don't know what to do, please contact us. We're now expecting you. :)