Friday, December 28, 2012

A Heart Set Above

Yesterday I saw a picture at the store.  It looked like an eye chart. I took the time to slow down and stare at it and noticed that the letters strung together from top to bottom to read, "Sometimes we stand too close to see what is right in front of us."

Have you ever found yourself so close to a situation, knowing so many details and yet feeling like you just can't figure it out?  How can I have all of these pieces in front of me and try to make them come together into a picture that is sensible?  If only we could have perspective.



Lord help us to see what we are doing.  Help us to see deeper, to love longer, to wait upon you in worship of who you are so that my soaking is in the vat of grace and truth.  Only then am I able to see what is not of you.



Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1



Two weeks ago in prayer the Lord highlighted the verse from Matthew 22:44:  “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” I thought it must be his invitation to rest in Him with all that is so swirly around me.  News that our two in Ukraine were moved.  Then to learn that Maxim had emergency surgery to stop infection that was running through his system from the prolapsed area. Randy's boss at work was fired taking what was once a large department down to two people and Randy taking on the load left behind. Soon to find that paperwork redo's are needed again. With Julia's 16th birthday upon us we have sent in request for extension with our I-600 to USCIS.  With pleas for their cause in Ukraine, we continue to get stalled off.  If I were to hold to the perspective of the world, apathy would be my demise.



God knows I was longing for perspective.  Three more times I would come across this same verse over a matter of days. Again in Mark (12:36) and Acts 2 showed me this:

31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”

And then Jesus in only the way he can do in His perfect timing spoke perfectly. 

 I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
Psalm 23:4-6
 
 
And sweetly he reminded me my battle is this:  That no matter what comes at me, the posture I hold during precious soakings with Him when I lay down the weights around me, must also be the posture of my heart for battle.  My only fight must be to lay hold of what is righteous and pure in who He is so that I do not need to find a response from within myself for cursings that come from the outside. 
My surrender is my fight.  My weak and flawed ways postured and determined to see the Light of Life is the power.  My action is to be aware of where my spirit resides at any given moment in time.
 
Am I in heaven with this thought or has hell seduced me with thoughts of impurified justice? Impurified justice is nothing more than seeking revenge for pain. It is the desire to see someone else pay for their actions.  Or, to make someone else pay for my feelings.  But the truth is my feelings are held by the One who created me.  He can be enough in this time.  He can bring all solace, all love, all grace. 
 
Jesus took on sin, having not sinned.  Shouldn't I expect injustice in the world?  Yes. There was nothing fair about what Jesus experienced on the cross and yet LOVE RULED HIM.
 
We do nothing for God.  We rest in Him, respond to His heart and follow.
 
 
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17
 
 
The pieces of the puzzle come together.  It's clearer now.
 
Love comes to those who surrender to it.  To those who know who their Father is. And when love arrives, resides, is nurtured then grows, the fruits of a grace filled life is the garden of mercy where I am unafraid to move in the midst of the battle.
 
My Jesus, let my reality be the plan you set before me. Let me see the beauty you have for me on this day. In the dark and cold world where death wants to haunt, let me see the bright life you have set at the center of my picture to keep my focus.  Let Love be the refuge I run to for renewed faith that your grace is sufficient and your mercy is forever.  You are GOOD and to goodness I cling.
 

 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Romans 16:20






Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Christmas Letter 2012

  

 We began our year declaring 2012 would be an adoption free year – a time for rest.  It was sensible and great wisdom seemed to be in that plan except that it wasn’t God’s plan.  And if there ever was a lesson we need to learn it is that if God has called us to something much greater than ourselves – then rest will be involved.  Hemmed inside our “yes” to adopt would be hidden and treasured moments of refreshment to remind us time and again that our obedience is blessed in grace.

We said yes to Maxim (15) and Julia (15) living in the same institution our Maxim (11) resided.  Their needs are great and as I write this we wait to hear when we might travel.  Staye tuned for more updates in their regard.

Grace Haven:    It is messy yet it brings cleansing.  It is chaotic yet brings balance.  It is invisible to the eye yet apparent to the heart.  It is raw wounds met with a love covering.  It is constant need met by a constant God.  It is where I want to be.

    We chose the Christmas card photo because it was “us.”  Looking at that photo brought such a smile to my face. It was totally unplanned.  Rainan had just gotten into my makeup bin and put eye shadow on.  Jubilee hadn’t brushed her hair yet.  None of us matched.  My hair is out of place.  It’s perfect.  We’re even holding candy.  I think I’ve discovered “excellence.”  It’s not by image but by heart.  Will we love well?  Will we be who we are at all times regardless of who is watching?  Don’t get me wrong- I would LOVE a nice put together professional family photo opportunity where we all look like perfection and belong in a magazine.  Minus some of my wrinkles and sun spots would be glorious as well but really God just wants our family to be real to whoever is looking in. 

We be sloppy sometimes!

    Perhaps one of our greatest affirmations this year has come through Grace (10).  In the last six months she has made great strides and has encouraged herself in these accomplishments.  She is getting ready on her own in the morning and taking on more chores that make her proud.  She is the only child that asks me when she can clean around the cat litter box next!  She loves it.  I don’t know why and I don’t ask.  She has learned to ride her bike and this fall she began taking dance classes with her sister Rainan.  Her latest accomplishment is sleeping through the night without Mom’s help and she has graduated to the top bunk in the girl’s room.  The girl who screamed in my arms for months, crammed her fingers up her nose and banged her head against the wall, now prances in my room and sings songs of her love for me.  Chaos turned into balance….truth is pressing in.  And for whatever trials lie ahead with her, I hold on to what I have already seen that I might lay hold of what I have not.  Faith strengthened.

    I could write lengthy reports on all of my jewels as they each teach me more about what love is but here is the breakdown.

  Holden (14 this month) is growing cooler by the inch (he reminds me daily) and juggles his obsessions between studying airports, flight schedules, airplane models and admiring his Gemini jets.  He would be TRAUMATIZED if I said that he played with them. J  He loves his classes at Ecclesia Prep (school for homeschoolers) and this is the first year he’s under someone else’s grading (which Mom loves). He  still strums the guitar, shined on the swim team this summer  and although he doesn’t want attention for it, I’ve found him a time or two sitting with some sisters all curled up on him as he winces a bit.  He’s got a set schedule for everything and still loves to run the laundry room. New discovery – the riding lawn mower.  I will never get it back. 

   Liam (11) loves to be teacher.  He actively organizes the younger one’s games and likes to make all announcements on how things will be done.  It’s certain that he will maintain fair sharing, taking turns and report all disruptions to me immediately.   Like his brother, he’s taking some classes at Ecclesia Prep, picked up an art class he is quite fond of and still plays guitar.  He went to camp all by himself for a week this summer for the first time and acquired a few ribbons in some swim meets.  He loves to cheer up the downcast and is reliable to lead up the thankful game every time.  Yesterday as we were riding along in the van he was trying to explain something to me but I wasn’t getting it.  Finally he said, “It’s okay Mom, let’s get on with life. Isn’t  it a nice day?” J  He just has a way of making everything lighter. 

    Maxim (11) is a BLOOMING reader!  He is so diligent about practicing his new words and wants to know what everything means.  He’s our SPONGE.  He’s undergone 3 rounds with botox injections this year and in September he had his hamstrings cut to straighten his legs.  He’s a “star” wherever he goes and I constantly hear stories about his flashing smile and magnifying personality.  If you are ever feeling down, Maxim will make sure you are cheered up.  He sees the best in everyone for the most part.  He took a try at martial arts right before surgery and he hopes to pick it up again in the spring.  He is all about super heroes and LEGO’s and he wants to be a policeman when he grows up.  Maxim is all HOPE.  There are days I can hardly recognize the little boy with hollowed eyes staring back at me in the orphanage.  He is a beautiful illustration of the transformation of love.

    Jubilee (5), also known as “Jubi”, is still emerging here.  She is testing boundaries and trying to figure out her limits.  She has so many qualities like Holden and she often wants to butt heads with him.  Her big news is that she was fitted with her full length braces this spring and began walking with her KidWalk.  She came to us with a very limited choice of preferred foods: chocolate and sausage.  Now she is loves her fruits and vegetables!  She lost the tire around her tummy and likes to show us her tricks on the floor.  This is real progress for the girl who didn’t want to try new things. She is a smarty with identifying her numbers and already recites my phone number to me in case I forget.  I find myself in a similar role with Jubilee that I once had with Grace, to be the pusher, encourager to try and often it’s not so appreciated.  We have our cries together still but she likes to make up with cuddles and for this I am grateful!  Breakthrough is a process.  Love never leaves. 

    Rainan (3) is JOY!  So much so that she is called “Joyful” most of the time in our house.  When she squeals in disapproval over an “injustice” with her siblings, I will call out, “JOYFUL – is that you?!”  She smiles a bit.  She makes the silliest faces, says the sweetest prayers ever and often acts as the glue between the kids.  She’s our little dancer and has started to put on shows for us in the living room.  She is going to a preschool class once a week which she calls “high school.”  Today when I told her we were making spaghetti and meatballs she told me not to put Froot Loops in there because it wouldn’t taste good.  She has such a special and uniquely designed role in blessing all of us and we see her as a gift that aids in healing.

   Randy and I are celebrating 16 years of marriage this year.  We realize we know less now than we did on our wedding day.  J  The power of prayer and mercies from our Father in heaven has made marriage more precious with every passing day.  We truly know that when we are weak, than we are strong.  Our quiet times are often found in the least romantic places but then again we are discovering romance has a lot more to do with our hearts than it does the setting we find ourselves in.  One day we will find a tropical retreat for a moment but in the meantime we wouldn’t dare miss out on this adventure.  And the adventure we love witnessing is that He makes ALL things NEW!  I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:19

    We pray your heart is kissed from heaven as you celebrate the birth of Jesus – Our Savior.  We thank God for you and bless you for the gift you are to us.  We are so grateful for your prayers and for sharing your hearts with ours.  We hope that wherever God has you right now- even if it's a bit sloppy - that you know you are where you are to be and that He will be with you RIGHT THERE!!