Saturday, February 27, 2010

Final February News

Because March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day, Reece's Rainbow has decided to promote National Down Syndrome Awareness throughout the month of March and is asking everyone to join in. If you do not have a family member with Down Syndrome, you cannot begin to fathom how valuable communication about Down Syndrome in public forums really is. Raising awareness means Hope and Charlie will not be thought of as "freaks", but as individuals who happened to be born with an extra #21 chromosome making their lives a bit more challenging. Hopefully the positive press will serve to lead additional families, who might once have been intimidated to consider the adoption of a special needs child, to step up and save the life of an orphan with Down Syndrome.

If you would like to be involved and want more information, RR has provided the following link: http://www.reecesrainbow.org/21310.html

To make the project particularly meaningful, you could choose an orphan from the RR site for everyone in your family, your circle of friends, your Bible study group, or your office to honor on March 21st with a $21.00 gift. I believe there are around 300 orphans on the site to choose from, and any one of them would certainly benefit from your generous gifts. If you haven't viewed the site lately, there have been some recent "cutie pie" additions.

In addition, if you have committed to give to the "$100.00 for 200 in 2010 Project", please remember tomorrow is the last day to give to our February babies: Vivienne and Laura from orphanage #16. To make your donation, simple go to http://www.reecesrainbow.org/ , click the "Donate as a Gift" button, use paypal to make your gift and mention the girls' names in the note section. It is quick and easy.

Finally, during the month of March, I will not be choosing an orphan for our group to sponsor. Instead, I would like for all who have committed to this project to take the time to view each face and name on the RR site, and then choose who you would like to honor on World Down Syndrome Day, March 21st. Make a copy of the child's face, and pray for him/her each day. Then, on the 21st, give as much as you can.....God will be pleased as you cheerfully sacrifice your money in order to spread hope for "one of the least of these".

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Lesson Learned From Black Mold and a Bathroom Re-do

Today as I swept the dust from the floors and wiped the furniture clean, I laughed as I realized there is a lesson to be learned from "Black Mold and a Bathroom Re-do".

Black mold is nasty stuff. I have spent some time over the last couple of days educating myself on the subject after finding out mold had started to creep into our bathroom. One of my sources of information came from Greg White; he is one of the gifted men who is currently working on our bathroom. Greg and his family lived in New Orleans when Katrina hit, and during the months following Hurricane Katrina, Greg was involved in helping clean up homes that were devastated by wind and water....some homes sat for many days in several feet of water. During that terrifying time, Greg learned more than he ever wanted to know about mold.

Did you know our mold began from a tiny little opening between our shower and tile floors? Our shower, not properly installed, was leaking water (not a lot) each time it was used. Water has a funny way of locating an opening, so it found the crack. That is when the trouble started brewing....MOLD. Since air was able to reach the water through the opening in the tile, mold found a perfect environment to set up camp and grow. Outwardly, there was no sign of mold....no smell. If we had not found it and had it removed, the mold would have penetrated our sub-flooring and drywall.....spreading from room to room and even underneath, in the very foundation, of our house.

Isn't that a perfect example of sin? Like black mold, sin is nasty stuff and hides itself underneath very normal, happy looking faces. Sin lurks around seeking a tiny little opening. A weak spot. As soon as space opens up to it, even if just a little bit, sin quickly creeps in and makes itself at home. Over time, it begins to grow, and infest our lives, still hidden. Before we know it, our whole body is covered in the stuff, including our very foundation. It chokes us, invades us, and would desire to kill us.

Like with our bathroom, a demolition crew is called to come in with its team members to fix the problem: First, after the sin is recognized, "Repentance" enters with his sledgehammer to break everything apart; he painstakingly removes all of the coverings to expose the sin completely. Next crew member is "The Savior" with His cross-shaped broom to sweep up the mess; He throws the garbage into a pit, disposing of it, never to be remembered again. "The Spirit" then comes with a special miracle-working balm that mends the cracked and broken places, making what was once ugly seem almost new again. Last, after everything is cleaned up and looking fresh, "The Word" is brought in to rebuild that which was once hopeless and disgusting.

Note: our shower was installed improperly. If our shower had been installed the correct way, I have to wonder if mold would have set in. It is unlikely, because there would not have been a water leak. In the same way, we must make sure we have hidden God's Word in our hearts so our Salvation will be installed properly to prevent any potential "leaks". Resolving not to waiver when it comes to our faith, we must seal our souls with God's Word, following it and believing it with our whole hearts.

Note: there was a small opening between our shower and the tile floors. If the small opening had not been in our floor, water couldn't have entered; therefore, mold would not have grown. Likewise, as believers, we must continually search our lives for even the smallest cracks in our Spiritual walk. If we seal our lives with Truth, just like our new tile will be sealed with a substance called "epoxy grout", then we will be safe when the stormwater comes and attempts to flood our lives with temptation, grief, guilt, and shame.

To close, the believer's walk is all about His unchanging, all-encompassing, life-giving, Word. He has given us the tools and instruction manual to have a healthy soul, a strong foundation, and an ever-lasting life. But there is one more thing I want to mention that is a huge exclamation point to what I have shared in this post.

I mentioned Greg White above, I also want to mention Robert Crouch, Caleb Crouch, James Bradford, and Matt the tile expert. All of these men are helping us with our renovation; they are standing along side us and working hard to get us fixed up again. Each of them are believers who have strong ethical values and consider their work as doing work for the Lord. In making all of the comparisons on a Spiritual level, I would like to propose that when God says we are not to forsake the "assembling of ourselves", He does not necessarily mean a "church assembly", but surrounding ourselves with believers who are capable to walk along side us, give a hand when needed, support us, guide us, teach us, etc. Without the men who are working on our bathroom right now, Chappy and I would be left in a mess.....neither of us are capable of dealing with the project on our own. In the same way, when believers get into "Spiritual" trouble, we should not be too prideful to call the friends God has placed in our lives to help us in our time of need.

Chappy and I were fingerprinted today!!! We should have approval to travel to the Ukraine within 4-6 weeks. Please join us in prayer for a quick response.....

"But anyone who hears My teaching and doesn't obey it is foolish, like a person who builds his house on the sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat up against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. " Matthew 7:26-27

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bathroom Re-Do

Several months ago, we noticed our shower seemed to have a leak we couldn't find; after taking a shower, a little puddle of water would form around the outside edge of the shower. We were already planning to have another small full bathroom built upstairs for the girls to share, so we had a close friend help us with a plan for that and asked him go ahead and take a look at our master bath at the same time. He suggested we rip out the shower and bathtub....check to see what was underneath, and then consider building a bigger shower while at it. Really, he noted, that would be the only way we would know if we had a potential water issue. We agreed, and the demolition of our master bath began yesterday. I am SOOOO thankful we made this decision, because underneath our shower and bathtub, black mold was beginning to grow and spread. It was still on the surface of the sub-flooring (had not yet penetrated), so we caught it in time.

According to my kids, I am an organic (ish) modern-day "hippy" .....while Chappy just "lovingly" calls me a hypochondriac (ha! ha!)......for example, I don't color my hair, don't wear much make-up, eat organic food, buy clothes and products NOT made in China (sometimes shopping at the local Goodwill), do not use plastic, aluminum, or microwaves unless I have to (well, I never use a microwave), refuse to use chemicals in the house (hence all of the creepy crawlys that live with us),etc. So, for me to see mold, in my house nonetheless, (totally) freaked me out!

To remedy the situation , we have moved out of the house for a few days until the mold is gone....we can be found at a local hotel. Not convenient, but at least I have more of a peace of mind. Chappy reminded me the hotel might be infested with all kinds of unseen mold, but I am content enough since I cannot see any of it!

On a more positive note, I took some "before" pictures and will plan to post both the "before" and "after" photos once the bathroom projects are complete. I am most excited about the girls' bath that is simultaneously being built upstairs. They have never had their own bath and can hardly wait to NOT have to share a bath with their big (teenage) brother. I can't say that I blame them. Their one request: a sparkly chandelier hanging from the ceiling. While our bathroom will be filled with different shades of browns (and a claw-foot tub I have been dreaming of), the girls' bath will be "retro" shabby chic with different shades of teal green glass tiles mixed with milky white subway tiles.....their walls will sport all kinds of funky patterns..... and to top off, a black and white checkerboard floor.....their vanity will be distressed white (antique looking) with black granite counter. Should be cute and fun.

By the way, we had professional air quality tests performed 3 years ago and again last year (possibly Chappy is correct about the hypochondria?)........both times the results were negative and stated our air quality was great (no mold, no Radon) This whole experience has proven to me the need to be extremely diligent when it comes to our homes. If you have a leak, get it checked out before the problem gets out of hand. According to our GC, our problem would have been HUGE had we waited even a few months. Apparently, mold grows and spreads very rapidly, invading floors, spreading up walls and potentially causing health risks to all who are exposed to it on a regular basis. To think it can hide under bathtubs, showers, tile floors, etc. is a bit disconcerting.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pride And Prejudice

I just finished the book.....then I watched the movie last night. For all who do not already know, the movie significantly pales in comparison to the book; it was such a disappointment. So, for all fans of the movie who haven't read the book.....READ THE BOOK!! Lizzy and Jane made me long for the companionship of a sister, the savvy Mr. Wickham gave me urgency to rise up and want to defend only to eventually give me cause for detesting him completely, Mr. Collins offered moments of great laughter as he reminded me of one or two of my own family members, and Mr. Darcy swept me away. The fact that Mr. Darcy realized he was eaten up with tremendous pride just when Lizzy became convicted about her prejudices against him left me with a buzz of happiness that lasted two or three hours at least. (I have already opened "Sense and Sensibility".....and even plan to complete all of Jane Austen's books within the next several weeks.)

I did not gain a love for books until I was 22. My reading obsession actually began with Frank Peretti's book: "This Present Darkness" (Best Christian Novel of all time); until that point in time, I read out of obedience to a school curriculum. This may sound surprising to some, but for the last almost 20 years, I have read ONLY Christian/Spiritual authors---fiction and non-fiction (usually taking turn-about with the two). Out of a loyal sense of obligation to my faith that I didn't fully realize was there, it recently occurred to me, I have never given myself permission to take time to enjoy classic novels, other than when I would read "Where the Red Fern Grows", "Moby Dick", "Anne of Green Gables", etc. aloud to the children during Homeschooling. This year, however, I have released the "Classic Monster" that has been chained inside of me for so long. I will read the classics and relish getting lost in the romance, intrigue, mystery and thrills they provide. Since I typically complete a book every two weeks, I am already counting the stories I will discover, the places I will visit, and the characters I will meet.

The question probably on your minds: With 5 children, two of which are special needs children, where do I find the time for reading? Considering I have a housekeeper, live-in nanny, and cook.....you can probably figure out I have plenty of time to lounge around on the sofa with a blanket and my books. NOT!!! Ha! Ha! Don't worry, like most of you, I am the housekeeper, nanny, and cook.

I have mentioned this before, hopefully a few readers can relate, there appears to be something inside of me that is yearning to quit rushing around. Instead, I find I desire to enjoy the simple pleasures life affords: taking time to dig through interesting recipes, cooking different types of meals for my family, not allowing myself to get too anxious over a pile of laundry our dog continually gets lost in and putting "house cleaning" on a schedule (taking two rooms a day instead of the whole house in one day), planting a garden in the spring, playing board games with the kids, writing songs with Lydia, cheering wildly for Caleb while he plays sports, teaching Natalie to crochet and sew, being goofy on the floor with Hope and Charlie, getting dressed up to go on "once-a-week dates" with my hubby, and making more time to read. When I rush around on a schedule filled with meeting people at one place and then another, I find time flies. I don't want time to fly.

A few good friends, a garden to tend, good food to share, precious time enjoying my family.....and a few good books: really, does it get any better than this??? In a time where we have been unknowingly conditioned to believe busy is better, where we remain distracted with all types of electronic devices, and where the current influence of media results in 50% of all marriages ending in divorce and leads 80% of current college graduates to seriously question the viability of the existence of God (most leaving their faith), we all need a good reminder to stop and enjoy the simple things God meant for us to enjoy.

A slower pace is such a treasured trait to work toward....I know, because I had to work for it. I would be too ashamed to list the things I used to juggle and be involved in. My parents often cautioned that I needed to slow down or life would pass me by, but thinking I knew more than them, I refused to listen.....on September 14, 2005, Hopey came along and brought an abrupt stop to everything in my life. With her diagnoses of Down Syndrome and a serious heart defect, I gained eyes that saw life from a brand new perspective. Thank you Hopey, thank you to my parents (who have proven to be wiser than I originally thought), and most of all, thank you God for giving me everything You knew I needed!

(For anyone who might have a brief moment of worry that I am giving up Christian books for the year, be reminded, I have not given up God's Word! Nightly, as a family, we come together for our family meeting, Bible Study, and prayer..another one of those treasured times! Note, this one hour a night spent together in our Great Room as a family has drawn us closer together than anything else we have ever done.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Two Pictures, One Heart, One Boy



Love these photos.....they tell two very different stories about one special young man. Caleb.
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The first photo:
Caleb's heart. He is fifteen years old, and has such a tender heart. Each evening, he gets on the floor to wrestle with Hope and Charlie. Hope climbs all over him like he is a set of monkey bars, and Charlie will crawl all around the floor in an all-out effort to "get Caleb" with his little pudgy fingers and bright red hair; both laughing so hard they can hardly stand it. In addition, Caleb is the first to retrieve them from the car whenever we go somewhere, carefully covering them in blankets to protect them from the cold or rain. Both Hope and Charlie arch their backs when the car stops in hopes it will be "his or her turn" this time. Caleb is diligent to keep track of whose turn it is, because he always wants to be fair. In public, Caleb is not embarrassed to talk baby talk with his young siblings, to wipe a runny nose, or act goofy to get a laugh from one who might be fussy. Such softness.
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The second photo:
Caleb's heart. Caleb is a fierce competitor. He LOVES sports and games of all kinds. When he goes out onto a court, a field, or a course, he gives 100%. He screams in praise when a fellow team mate does well, and lends a hand to the opponent who falls. He is a strategizer who is constantly thinking two or three steps ahead of the game. In January, our family made a spur-of-the-moment decision to pull Caleb from homeschooling to allow him the chance to play sports in the public school system. How tough is it to enter a school in the middle of the year when relationships have already been formed, a basketball team has already been playing together, and especially when you haven't been part of a public system since Kindergarten? But Caleb met the challenge. Within a week, he earned his spot as a starter on the basketball team, he is making all A's and B's, and he has made many new friends.
Last night was Caleb's last game of the season. The game ended when the opposing team scored a goal in the last 2 seconds of the game to put them ahead by 1 point. It was a great game! Caleb congratulated the other team, but his heart was up in his throat as he somehow managed to hold back tears of disappointment. My competitor.
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Two pictures that show two sides of the same boy. Who would guess the boy who dreams of coaching his Down Syndrome siblings in the special olympics some day is the same boy who is also dreaming of playing Division 1 sports? Who would guess the boy who blows bubbles to thrill his young siblings is the same boy who commits to hours of training in order to become the best athelete he can be? Who would guess the boy who cradles his brother and sister while they sleep is the same boy who stuffed the ball into the face of a guy who is 2 inches taller than him at last night's game? It makes me laugh.
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While many parents complain about the "teenage years", I happily confess to loving this time. I am enjoying watching Caleb figure out who he is and who he wants to become. So, to Caleb, thanks for making me so very proud. I love you like something crazy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Katie Davis


The pictures are posted on our fridge....they are of three little girls we sponsor and pray for; the girls live in Uganda, Africa.
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Katie Davis is a 20 year old missionary who gave up a very comfortable life to move to Uganda and serve the homeless, the starving, and the disease/AIDS ravaged children. At this moment, 14 little girls who were once homeless, call her "mom". In addition, she is school teacher, mentor, and friend to hundreds of others. Her ministry is http://www.amazima.org/, and we found the three precious girls who smile at us every time we reach into our fridge to get some food through Katie and her ministry.
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I don't know of another young lady who has inspired my children more than missionary, Katie Davis. If you don't know her, I would like to invite you to check out her blog: http://www.kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/ and be totally and completely inspired. You will want to read all of her posts, but I'd like to recommend some of my recent favorites......read them in this order if you can find about 30 minutes of time: November 20, 2009; December 15, 2009; January 22, 2010; and February 11, 2010.


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Lydia and Natalie check Katie's blog daily for updates and pray for her (and her children) regularly. I posted a video (see above) of Lydia singing a song she wrote for Katie called: "A Search For Life That Is Real". I decided to post Lydia's song in an effort to honor the impact this young woman of God is making in the lives of so many of the youth in America. Because of Katie, my girls know it is possible to serve the Lord in orphan care.....even if they are serving all alone, with no one alongside them save the King of Kings!!!
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Oh, don't you know the Father loves Katie? Can't you see Him sitting by her bed each morning waiting on her to wake and start her day of ministry? While she feeds breakfast to her fourteen little ones, can you picture Him rejoicing in the love Katie has shown them and the smiles on their faces? After scooting the kiddies off to school, can you imagine Jesus anticipating walking along by Katie's side as she visits the "least of these", bringing them His joy, His hugs, and His love? And while they walk through the villages together, can you feel the tenderness in His tears as He views the suffering, the starving, and the lost? I can picture it! She left her family to serve God's family, and isn't that what scripture calls us to do:


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"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters----yes, even his own life----he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26


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The Father wants us to love Him so much that every single other thing in our lives pales dreadfully in comparison and even appears as hate when held up to it. Black compared to White. Ice compared to Fire. Rough vs. Smooth. Light vs. Darkness. The Living compared to The Dead.


Enjoy Lydia's tribute to Katie above and also take some time to read Katie's blog: http://www.kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Brokenhearted


"When He came to the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, He went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read the Scriptures. The book of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him, and He opened it to the place where it says: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; He has appointed Me to heal the broken-hearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to Him." He closed the book and handed it back to the attendant and sat down, while everyone in the synagogue gazed at Him intently. Then He added: "These Scriptures came true today!" Luke 4:16-21

Out of the five things listed above, one of Jesus' specialties is to heal the brokenhearted. That is me.......that is Chappy.

Hope has always slept in our room. Because of her heart condition, I don't let her sleep too far away from me. Each morning, she awakes from slumber with the messiest head of hair you have ever seen, a great big smile, half-open eyes, and muscles that resist waking, thus causing her to stumble and fall over her own feet. As a matter of sweet routine, Chappy and I pull little Hopey up onto our bed for 15-20 minutes of hugs, kisses, giggles, and tickles. Chappy gently brushes her hair back from her face and says: "Pwetty" over and over and over again. In response, Hope gazes at her daddy with big green eyes, tucking her still-sleepy body up under his protective arm to make sure she soaks in every word. I love watching them. During daddy's morning adoration, Hope occasionally shoots a dimpled grin at me as if to say: "He reeeaaallly loves me!"

Once Hope reaches a certain level of "alert", she goes from soft and cuddly to a four year old tornado of trouble. All day long she manages to break every single rule, giggling with glee, and then makes a run for it! I chase her down for hours on end with as angry of a "no-no, Hope" as I can muster while trying not to laugh as she takes off in a Down Syndrome sprint with an all-out effort to escape trouble. Hilarious.

Three meals a day are spent with Hope attempting to be as independent as every one else at the table. Unfortunately, her low muscle tone and lack of good coordination keep her from being as successful as she would like to think she is. After meals, she is typically covered from head to toe in gooey cheese, sloppy potatoes, mushy carrots, or crumbly crackers.....every crevice of her body has to be investigated and cleaned with care. You wouldn't believe where I have found food on Hope's body if I told you.

Hope's days are filled with fun; I become a mere spectator at times. She dances with abandon to Sesame Street, carries on language-less conversations with her stuffed animals, and pretends to be Charlie's momma with intermittent bouts of wet kisses on his head, not-so-carefully taking his bottle out of his mouth and putting it back in again, and pointing her finger at him while trying her best to say "no-no"......Charlie, meanwhile, becomes so engrossed in laughter I have to make Hope leave him alone so he can breathe. Precious.

Each day ends in much the same way it begins.....Hope nestled in bed between Chappy and me after we have managed to get all the other kiddos down. Yes, Hope is our resident night-owl who keeps her eyes wide open until the bitter end. Between Mom and Dad, she goes from one to the other giving hugs and kisses until her body finally realizes it has had enough for the day; relunctantly, she cuddles up with one of us and begins to purr......the welcome sound of Hope sleep. Not able to help ourselves, Chappy and I typically watch in silence as she sleeps for several minutes before transferring her to her own bed for the night.....admiring her perfect little face with a turned-up nose that asks to be pinched, long eyelashes that could sweep the floor, and soft brown curls that fall beneath her tiny ears. A love affair? Certainly. Somehow the routine never gets old to us.

Hope faces another heart catheterization this year. We have known since we left the hospital in October following her third open-heart surgery. Understandably, the cardiologists want another look at the aggravating aneurysm that remains in her heart, and have informed us she might need a fourth open heart procedure.

I often have flash backs. They come out of no where. In my mind's eye, or possibly from the eyes planted in the rawest part of my soul, I suddenly envision Hope in NICU after surgery. Hurting. Struggling. Looking so terribly fragile. And I cry.

Brokenhearted.

Chappy and I are making a very intentional attempt to live out our faith in front of our kids as we daily walk through the uncertainty that is Hope's future. We encourage one another to appreciate and relish each day we have with our little angel, trying not to major on grim possibilities. As Spiritual leaders of our home, we spend each evening in God's Word discussing Scripture that remind us of God's unfailing and immeasurable love.....of His promises that are ever true.....and of His plan not to harm us, but to give us hope and a future. We want to build our lives on His Truth instead of doubt and fear that come packaged as an enticing gift from the enemy.

It is not easy. It is, in fact, a daily battle. I confess, I have days when I would like to shut the entire world out of my life save my family. There are times when hearing others complain of the mundane makes me want to scream.....when seeing people throw their lives away, or take their lives for granted, gives me occasion to want to slap them silly. There are even moments when the darkness appears to be more comforting than the Light.....when I want to feel sorry for myself and sorry for Hope's condition.....and I want to be really really sad. However, in these times, I constantly remind myself to recall the lessons I learned in my youth.....and I find encouragement in God's Word....He has sent the Comforter to heal the brokenhearted. So, in prayer, daily, I ask for the Comforter to come. I welcome Him to refresh my soul, mend my heart, and help me take each step that has been ordained for my life.

This weekend, Chappy and I escaped for a romantic weekend away. Somehow I managed to become his date instead of his wife......I had butterflies all over again. It was a treasured time. No, it was a gift. Thank you Lord!!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Weekend!!!

I am off to a romantic get-away for the weekend with my perfect husband (well, he is ridiculously perfect for me). He arranged the entire weekend, including childcare for the kiddos. Can hardly wait!!!

Will blog again on Monday.....Chap gets all my attention for the next couple of days!!! I know, shut up already, right???

"Newly weds become oldyweds, and oldyweds are the reason family works!"
---author unknown

"Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years."
---Simone Signoret

"In the opinion of the world, marriage ends all, as it does in a comedy. The truth is precisely the opposite: it begins all."
---Anne Sophie Swetchine

"You can never be happily married to another until you get a divorce from yourself. Successful marriage demands a certain death from self."
---Jerry McCant

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Big Day....

Iran promised to give us a stunner today, and I think they delivered. The celebration on the streets was large enough to be seen from miles above via "Google Earth". The parade in the streets was certainly a spectacle to behold: Three effigies of the Grim Reaper.....one for the United States, one for Britain, and one for Israel.

There were only a few hundred brave enough to stand in protest today in Iran. Those were met with arrests, tear gas, and thousands of heavily armed police. Yes, thousands against their hundreds.

In addition, the announcement was made that Iran will continue to enrich Uranium. In response, President Obama announced the time for negotiations with the White House has passed, and together with the United Nations he will work towards: "developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole." Unfortunately, potential holdouts are China and Russia, which would significantly weaken the impact of the UN resolution.

I could write about many things this evening....Caleb's basketball game, Hope and Charlie's antics, Lydia's new song, or Natalie's recent Accelerated Reading achievement at school. However, this evening, my heart is heavy for the people of Iran. Those people are stuck in a pit with escape becoming more and more out of reach as days go by. My heart is also heavy for Israel. Today, as I was occasionally able to keep up with the celebration, I saw many signs declaring "Death to Israel". Benjamin Netanyahu must be struggling mightily for Israel.....wondering what the solution could possibly be.

In all of the madness, I verbally speak God's Word as a constant reminder that He is in control of ALL things. Not even one tiny atom in the entire universe can move without His decree:

"When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?" (Amos 3:6)

"I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7)

"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other." (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

"What? Shall we receive good from the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10)

Those are tough scripture passages to read, aren't they? But His Word is perfect and true. In all the chaos of life, we must stand on His Word and be reminded, HE IS IN CONTROL. Our Father is never taken by surprise. In a strange sort of way, that brings peace to me, and I hope it does to you as well. Let's join in prayer for Iran, for Israel, and for the leaders of our Nation. Change is definitely coming.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The PERFECT Valentine's Day Gift!!!

Are you looking for a gift that will inspire and get a chuckle or two? I have the perfect idea for you! Our dear friends (the Hook family) are adopting Evangeline (who has Down Syndrome) from an orphanage in Russia through http://www.reecesrainbow.org/ . They were recently told to be prepared and on call for their first court date only 4-6 weeks from today.....in Russia!

This is exciting news; however, the Hooks are still a bit short on the cash they need to make the trip. To remedy the situation, Clark Hook has written a wonderful book about their other adopted son with Down Syndrome, Levi. The book is a fun look at life lessons that come from raising a child with Special Needs.....it is heart-warming, adorable, and full of spiritual inspiration. The book would make an excellent Valentine's Day gift for a teenage son or daughter, a teacher, a husband/wife, a family who has a special needs child, etc. And the VERY BEST part is, when you purchase a book, the proceeds go to help bring Evangeline home!!!

So, look up: http://69.25.104.81/bookstore/detail/1176250 and take a look at the book!

As far as the Super Bowl is concerned, I don't want to talk about it.....ha! ha! Congratulations Saints fans!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

About Our February Babies! (Plural)

There is an incredible family I want to tell you about. They have 7 children, and three of them are special needs kids. Their youngest, little Joshua, is only 3. Joshua was born with Spina Bifida in addition to other issues, and in his short life, he has had 19 surgeries (including 3 brain surgeries). At this moment, Joshua is again in the hospital.

God has called this family to adopt Vivienne and Laura from our Amy Joy's orphange. Both have Down Syndrome, and Vivienne has a heart defect. At this time, the family does not have the $30,000.00 that will be required to make this adoption a reality, but they are certain God is going to provide. They know they have been called to save Vivienne and Laura and have answered "Yes".

Many might sit back and judge this family.....many might think they have enough on their plate and shouldn't take on any more. I wonder what God thinks?

I have been accused on more than one occasion of being a "Works" Christian. I'm not. Without Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf, we would not have a chance for eternal life. His death and resurrection were absolutely necessary and key to our salvation. However, I do not believe words in a prayer have ever saved a single person. Even in a death bed conversion, more than words from a prayer take place for salvation......the person literally changes. That change is part of the salvation. And that change gives birth to action.

The church (in general) periodically reports statistics including conversions, baptisms, new membership, attendance, etc. Unfortunately, churches are too often measured by the numbers that are contained in the reports. I wonder, if in the history of the church, there has ever been temptation for church leaders to make the salvation message "easy" and "welcoming" in an effort to ensure higher stats that would denote a "successful fellowship"? Competition is good in most cases, but it can corrupt.

In my own experience, I was taught to believe it heresy to think any more is required of a believer than simple "faith" and "belief". Let's consider this for a moment:
Scripture says: Demons believe and tremble......demons "believe", but they aren't saved. (James 2:19)
Scripture says: Many will prophesy in His name (obviously believers) and even perform miracles, but the Father will say to them: "Depart from me....I never knew you" (Matthew 7:22-23) ---that passage insinuates people will be shocked on that day to learn they were never really saved.

So, could there be more than just "belief" that is required? Each of the twelve following passages repeat the same theme: "Follow Me":

Matt. 4:19; Mark 1:17; Matt. 19:21; Luke 18:22; Mark 10:21; Mark 8:34; Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23; John 21:22; Luke 9:59; John 1:43; Luke 14:27

In addition, when God rescued the Hebrew people (Israel) from slavery in Egypt (sin), He asked that they "Follow Him"........a recurring request. Following is an action....a verb, defined as "to go after" or "to pursue".

When a person joins anything, there is a requirement that goes along with the commitment. When I married Chappy, certain expectations were put in place for our future----certain actions were required. When I worked for SunTrust Bank, certain actions were expected and required of me. As a mom, certain actions are expected and required of me all day long. "Works".

When salvation is sold, it is often described as something that has no requirement other than a simple prayer and belief. I find it odd that the most important partnership we will ever form in our lives, a commitment to turn from our own ways and accept the One and Only God of the Universe, comes with no requirements/expectations. In fact, if a believer even hints the Bible suggests we are to ACT on our belief through our works, that believer is often chastised and told they are suggesting the blood of Jesus is not sufficient enough. That is an unfair criticism, because the foundation of our salvation is the blood sacrifice of Jesus.....without the foundation, there is no salvation.


The blood has always been necessary. Keep in mind, the blood of the sacrificial lamb was even necessary in the wilderness where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after their deliverance from Egypt, but following God was also required....He was fire by night and a cloud by day.....when He moved, the millions were expected to pack up without question (or delay) and move. Scripture says He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.....so while we are to accept the gift of His blood sacrifice on our behalf, we are still to follow, to be ready to pick up and move to act at His command without delay.



To sum up, a prayer of salvation does not equal a ticket to heaven anymore than a wedding vow equals a ticket to marital bliss. Both require work. "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:20) Scripture teaches we are justified by our faith. My wedding band signifies (justifies) my marriage to Chappy. When men look at me, they don't see a "woman", they see a "woman who belongs to a man". In the same way, we are clothed in our faith which justifies us before God. God doesn't see Melanie when He looks at me.....He sees one who belongs to Jesus. Without faith in God and in the saving work of Jesus, we wouldn't be moved to act; there would be nothing to act on.

I know I will lose some followers on this post. It is funny, but every time I write anything controversial, I lose 4 or 5 people. (In case you're curious, right now there are 169 followers). Please hear me repeat that I am not suggesting I have God figured out; the truth is, I find the more I learn about Him, the more I am overwhelmed by how amazingly enormous and complex He is.....and how incredibly ignorant I am. I do plead quilty, however, in seeking Him with all of my heart. Much of what I write in this blog is to chronicle my search to know Him more. In addition, also know that I realize the danger of becoming a "Works" believer......the danger being we begin to depend on ourselves and what we can do to earn salvation instead of on God. THAT is not what I am promoting. I just think we should look different, and too often, we don't. In my mind, Christians should be living so "out of the box" they stand out to others.....we shouldn't have to tell anyone we are a "Christian", because our actions should be so contrary to the world they see it in our daily lives. That is what I am "selling" and pursuing for myself, not for selfish gain, but out of reckless love for my Savior. Passion. Pursuit.

Why this heavy discussion? Oh my, our February babies have caused this discussion. I want you to be moved to ACT!!! This is a worthy cause for an incredible family. Question: What in the world would cause a mom and dad with seven children (3 of whom are special needs kids) to reach out and choose to adopt two more children who happen to live in a rundown orphanage on the other side of the world and have Down Syndrome when they do not have the $30,000.00 required to do it? You know the answer and so do I. Jesus said: "Come on, Follow Me", and they answered: "This seems crazy, but OK." God asked: "Did you know it excites Me when you care for widows and orphans in distress?", and they answered: "We can do that."

On the family's blog (http://www.kateslwsnk.blogspot.com/), you will find this quote:
"Be the kind of person that, when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says: "Oh, crap, they're up!" Just from the little I have told you about this family, don't you know they stomp on the devil's nerves all day every day?

Our February babies are Vivienne and Laura from orphanage 16!!! In a nutshell, this precious family needs $25,000.00 to complete their adoption. I hope you will join me in giving to these babies and making it a priority to pray for this family during the month. To make your donation, go to http://www.reecesrainbow.org/ and click on "Donate as a Gift" . You may use paypal to make your donation or mail a check----remember to signify your gift is going to Vivienne and Laura from orphanage 16. You may also go to the family's blog (see address above) and click on the blog paypal button to donate.

"Many will say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, drive out demons and perform miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers". Matt 7:22-23

"You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way." Matt 7:13

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lydia and Natalie

"The Girls", Lydia and Natalie, met when they were three. Lydia had been begging (and praying) for a little sister for a few months when we decided to go to Russia and find Natalie Grace. We didn't know "who" we were going to adopt. In fact, we went to Russia without a picture or a name......Natalie wasn't even the first child we were shown. When she walked into the room for our first meeting in a near beaten down old orphanage two hours from Moscow Russia, her hair was shaved and she was wearing overalls. She looked like a boy. I'll never forget, Natalie marched right over to Chappy and placed her tiny hand on his knee and grinned. Chappy was sold in that moment. We took Nat home with us almost a month later, and she and Lydia have been "best sisters" ever since. They have very different personalities, different likes and dislikes, and even different styles. What they both have in common, however, is the ability to giggle at absolutely anything.
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I often wonder what would have happened to Natalie if we had not adopted her. I also wonder what Lydia would be like today if she had missed out on the opportunity to be "big sister". God knew what He was doing when He called us to Russia through Lydia's three year old voice. I'm so glad we listened.
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A few days ago, Lydia asked me to sit down with her and write a song about Natalie. We did, and you can listen to it below. Natalie cries every time Lydia sings it. As you listen to the words that came from an eleven year old heart, be reminded that every adoption is a miracle:


















Here is Lydia's song, written for her sister:


video

The Words:
My sister was left when she was just a little baby
Put away and forgotten, nobody even called her by name
Her head was shaved and she was told she would never be rescued
Every day of her life was always pretty much the same
Natalie, don't give up....You have value, you have worth
Your momma left you, girl, but God still has a plan.
Your sister's coming for you, and she's coming just as fast as she can!
On the other side of the earth there was another baby
A little girl with a space in her heart needing to be filled
When she was three years old she started begging for a little sister
Before you know it, the new fates of the girls had been sealed
Natalie, don't give up....You have value, you have worth
Your momma left you, girl, but God still has a plan
Your sister's coming for you, and she's coming just as fast as she can.
God uses the strangest things.....To save the lives of those He loves
Even little girls can be chosen from up above
Is there a little girl waiting on you to save her from despair?
Because I know you have to care.....
Natalie, don't give up....You have value you have worth
Your momma left you, girl, but God still has a plan
Your sister's coming for you, and she's coming just as fast as she can.