Monday, December 31, 2012

Rise, Walk, Carry!

I am reading through the gospels right now and I am in Luke. I love the story of the men who bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus and lower him through the roof. Could you imagine being there and seeing that? I picture Jesus smiling up at the friends when He tells the man "your sins are forgiven you" and then "rise up and walk".

As I was reading this story again I felt like God opened my eyes to see another layer to it. It reminds me yet again how much I love our Jesus. He is such a thoughtful Savior. When He healed someone with a paralyzing illness He is recorded different times saying something about getting up and walking or take up your bed and walk. He never said you are healed now take months of rehab to learn how to walk since you have never used your muscles this way. Think about it. Some of these people were born paralyzed.

Think about a baby learning to walk. They do not get it right the first time. They certainly do not get up and carry a pallet big enough for them to sleep on. What about when someone sustains an injury that requires them to learn to walk again? They still have to strengthen muscles and train their body again to do something they were once capable of doing easily. I believe the fact that Jesus heals some one of their paralyzing disease is the first miracle but the fact that He provides the mental ability and physical strength required to immediately follow through on the first miracle is a miracle as well. I love that Jesus doesn't heal someone and then allow them to stay rolling around in the dirt and dust to figure out the next steps on their own.  They don't even seem to fall and get bruised or scraped when they follow His instructions.  No, He heals, directs and provides the capability immediately to leave the thing that has held them back in life. I think sometimes getting up and moving away from whatever it is that I have begged God to remove from me takes as much faith as believing He could remove it in the first place.  Praise the Lord that in the midst of His answering of prayers and His guidance in my life that I am not left to figure out the next steps on my own.  He provides for those as well.

What a thoughtful Savior.


"Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.  Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.

When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the man who was paralyzed, I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.

Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying GodAnd they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today!'”                                                   Luke 5:17-26

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cleaning House, Cleaning Soul

Tonight I had to stay up cleaning my house.  There has been too much going on over the last few days and when you throw in a sick little one everything seems to pile up quickly.  I do love these moments.  No, not the cleaning, the time when the house is quiet and I purposefully do not put on music or the tv, a time to be alone with my thoughts and weave in and out of conversations with God.  Tonight, it felt like as I was cleaning my house, I was cleaning my soul.  The time alone allowed me to take stock of what has been going on over the last few days. 

Even though I have been getting my time with God in the morning I have had so much going on that it seemed like He was getting drowned out.  It was like my kitchen counters.  It wasn't that anything bad was going on in my kitchen, only good things that were happening.  Breakfasts, lunches and dinners were made and cupcakes were iced for my Bug’s 3rd birthday.  However, just a night or two of letting the wrappers and plates pile up from all the good things and my kitchen was a mess.  If I didn't tell you there was a counter underneath it all, I am not sure you would believe me. 

I wish I could say that it was good things that were causing the pile up in my soul. 

If I was being honest, I would have to admit that among all of the junk there was definitely some worry, some frustration with my husband, some upset over unmet expectations with God and even a little some a good bit of self righteousness sprinkled on top.  It was getting hard to see the foundation with all these other things taking up residence in my soul.  I do not want to allow the small distractions of life to creep in and make a home in me.  I do not want my soul to be dirty and unkempt with the trash of this world lying around on it.  So tonight, as I finally took the time to clean my kitchen and prepare for tomorrow, I spent time enjoying God.  I talked to Him about the things that were weighing on me and I asked Him how I was doing in what He had planned for me (Ephesians 2:10).  I asked what areas needed confessing or tweaking, where was I way off base and where I need to continue steadily on the path or even pick up speed.  In the end I was able to take a deep breath and move past all the junk, literally.  I am looking forward to waking up tomorrow to a fresh kitchen and a fresh soul ready for my next steps.

I highly recommend taking the time to get quiet with God and letting Him sweep away the junk that can pile up when we aren't paying attention.  Praying for you tonight. 

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“The Christian faith is meant to be lived moment by moment. It isn't some broad, general outline--it's a long walk with a real Person. Details count: passing thoughts, small sacrifices, a few encouraging words, little acts of kindness, brief victories over nagging sins.”  - Joni Eareckson Tada             

Monday, December 24, 2012

Lessons from a Fuzzy Blue Crayon


I went grocery shopping with my Bug yesterday.  I had my list and, like usual, we were in a hurry.  I was afraid if I didn't mark off my list as I rushed through the store that I would miss something important for our Christmas meal.  After digging in my bottomless pit purse I found one lonely blue crayon from a pack of crayons that I recently bought the Bug that I could use to mark off my list.  As soon as she saw the crayon her 3 year old little mouth quickly shared “that’s my crayon”.  I told her I knew it was her crayon but that I needed to borrow it for just a few minutes while we hurried through the store.  She didn't have anything to draw on anyway and I would even give her my list in the car and let her color once I was done.  Apparently this did not appease her. She began to pitch a fit about me using her crayon.  Her voice kept raising and the fit continued to grow.  I was shocked.  She is usually very giving and willing to share.  Apparently this blue crayon was an important part of her identity (for those 5 minutes) so being the excellent mother I am I looked at her in frustration and said “who do you think bought the crayon anyway?  I did” and I shoved the crayon back in my purse and finally found a pen I could use.  I was about to be really petty and tell her that really, the crayon belonged to me since I bought it and I gave it to her to use when I felt like God stopped me in my tracks.  I just stood there as this very real example of how I tend to live washed over me. 

If you have been on my blog before you are probably beginning to think that I sound like a broken record.  I am okay with that.  I think that God keeps me in a place in life until I get what He is trying to teach me and the lesson has taken root enough to continue to grow as He moves to the next area to prune.  God is absolutely working on me about stuff/gifts/money/lifestyle.  In my little tiff with the Bug over a crayon in the middle of a grocery store I heard God say “Amy, sometimes this is the way you are with what I have given you.  So often you hold onto something that doesn't even matter in the big picture.  It is all Mine.  I give you things for you to use for My Glory, not so you can be selfish and not share with someone in need.”  Think about it.  My daughter was flipping out over a single blue crayon that had purse fuzz and cracker dust on it.  I have a seemingly endless supply of crayons at home for her (including at least 5 other blue crayons).  Why was this one blue crayon so important when I could provide her with so much more?  I started thinking, how often do I hold onto something that God wanted to use for the good of someone else when He has so many better things for me available? 

Then, the realization got worse. 

Just as I gave up trying to rationalize the blue crayon with my child and I put it away and got out a pen, I pictured God giving up trying to argue with me and repeatedly asking me to return something to Him that is His.  I saw Him stop trying and He found another tool to complete His mission.  It really upset me.  I do not want to miss God.  I do not want Him to have plans to give through me and, in my blindness, I get in the way to the point that He stops trying to use me all together. 

I know that Jesus has been calling me (shamefully for much longer than I have recently been answering) to a deeper, radical walk with Him.  I am still nervous and excited about all that He is doing and I certainly do not know fully what it looks like but I do know this.  It involves my hands opening completely and letting go of everything I have in my life; people, expectations, comforts, things and even myself.  I have joined a group called The Yes Club to help me along the way in this journey.  You can see my post about it here.  When I shared with a loved one about what God has called me to say no to so that I could walk in His will and provide clean drinking water for others I was told I was being ridiculous.  Oh, when did we become so blind?  May I always heed His call to give the things that He has put in my life back into His hands so they can be given to those in greater need.  May I always be willing do what He asks, even if it looks like foolishness to those around me.  May I always be willing to give Him back all that He has given me.  As my Pastor said just a month ago in his teaching “God gives to us, to give through us”.  He also said that "when we give to God, we aren't deciding how much of our money to give to Him, we are deciding how much of His money we give back to Him."  

Let me encourage you to follow through on what God is calling you to.  It could be something as amazing and radical as being obedient in donating your most treasured possession, your wedding ring, to help bring clean water to those in India and Africa that are in need.  If that is your heart, click here to go to With This Ring, an amazing ministry.  Maybe it is God calling you to give up fast food for year or Starbucks coffees for a year.  You can pledge to do whatever He has put on your heart at The Yes Club and step into the life that God has for you and, as a bonus, you get to be a blessing to those that have very little hope for life. 

No matter what, do not miss Him.  Join me if this is the prayer of your heart too, "please God, do not let me miss You".     

Friday, December 14, 2012

Not My Home...



This week it has felt like the darkness is winning.  I am not sure why but I have felt like I am trying to walk through dense fog in deep mud.    You cannot turn on the television without seeing some horrifying murder or shooting.  Then today, TODAY, a man opens fire in a Kindergarten classroom.  I am physically sick and completely heartbroken for those families.  I can barely see through the tears to type this.  Oh Lord, please come back and end this.

What is the thing you are supposed to do?  What is it that God has put on your heart?  Who do you need to forgive or apologize to?  We are not promised tomorrow.  We are not promised tomorrow for ourselves and we are not promised tomorrow with our loved ones.  I am praying that I may be able to minimize all the things that are unimportant so that I can focus on the things that are eternal. 

In the end this is yet another reminder that this place is not my home.  My prayers are with those that have lost their dearest children today.  Oh Jesus please help…

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Put In Courage


Encourage. To put in courage. It is what we are supposed to do for each other. As Christians we are called to encourage one another as seen throughout the New Testament. So, what happens when those that are supposed to be your encouragers become your dis-couragers?

If you read my blog at all you will know that over the last few months I have entered into a new season of life where I can no longer hide from the voice of God when it comes to my stuff or giving to those in need. I believe I hear very clearly what Jesus is asking of me. I have begun to take small steps, baby steps really, towards living a life abandoned to Him. So far it hasn't even been that difficult. There isn't anything that I have given up that greatly affects my well-being or that of my family. I am not having to meet in secret under the threat of death to study God's Word. I am not having to do without food or water in order to provide for those around me that are in need. I am not putting my husband or child in danger with my actions. Yet I am experiencing resistance, discouragement and a little ridicule.

All I did was give up gifts for a year (www.theyesclub.org) so that the money normally spent on these gifts can now be given to fund wells where people are drinking dirty water.  This is not radical.  This is not sacrificial.  Did you know that water related diseases cause 2.2 million deaths a year; every day diarrhea takes the lives of 2,000 children in Africa - more than any other single cause of death. Safe water, a toilet, and clean hands could prevent 90% of these deaths.  This. Is. Not. Okay.

Today I was told that I was being ridiculous and actually had someone special in my life become frustrated with me. I'll be honest, it stung and I let my feelings get hurt, but then this came to mind. "’But He answered and said to them, 'My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.'" (Luke 8:21).  It may be disappointing for some of my earthly relationships but when I choose to follow the will of God and not man then Jesus is literally my family supporting me.

We are promised that when we follow God that we will experience difficulty, even persecution (Matthew 10:22-23).  Now, I would never call what I experienced persecution.  There are Christians around the world today actually experiencing persecution.  But having this little experience gives me a tiny, minuscule taste of difficulty. I am thankful to have yet another reminder to be praying for my brothers and sisters across the world that have their safety, their family, and their lives threatened.  

In the end let me ENcourage you.  Do the thing that God is leading you to do, no matter how silly or against the grain it is.  His plans are for His Glory and our good.  Read the Bible for yourself and do the things Jesus asks us to do.  This will take a lifetime of learning but the first step can begin today.  If you have a discourager in your life, pray for that person.  It could be that your choice of following Christ is shining a light into the dark places in their life.  If God has called you to do something whether it is a baby step like me or a radical move please post it in the comments so I can join in praying for you (you can even write “private” and I won’t post on the site).  Know this, I support you in listening to God and acting with determination.    

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.              John 15:19-21

Friday, December 07, 2012

Free Club Membership Available Now!


God is up to something.  I really think it is something big.  He is hearing the cries of those that are desperate and He is hearing the cries of those that have a heart for Him and a desire to reach out to the needy.  He sees the marginalized, the abused, the hungry and the thirsty.  His eyes are scanning the world to see who will go.  Who will help.  Lord Jesus, I am here.  I will go, I will do, I will do without. 

Through a new found friendship, that has already become a precious gift, I was introduced to The Yes Club (www.theyesclub.org).  The idea of The Yes Club isn't new but it is fresh (does that makes sense?).  The idea of asking yourself to go without something in order to give to others isn't a new concept but asking to do it for a period of time (in this case 1 year) is.  I can do without something I enjoy (let’s not forget this isn't about basic necessities that are the needs of most of the world – it is 1st world wants) for a week or a month but ask me to give it up for a year, really?  Isn't that a bit extreme?  Yes!  As a Christian God calls us to die to ourselves, take up our cross, lose our life and love our neighbor as our self, but somehow in America that translates into Sunday morning church attendance and if you are really dedicated Sunday nights and Wednesday nights too.  It means fitting God in between work, sports practice/Kindermusik and friendships and having all the stuff we want, even while others are dying without food and water.  How do I know that?  It is because that is how I LIVE.  I am not pointing my finger anywhere but back at myself. 

So, as I was reading the Yes Club website I knew pretty clearly what I was supposed to give up.  And let me tell you, I did not want to!  I will share with you only because I want you to understand how very materialistic I am, not to get a pat on the back.  Only God gets the glory for this!  I LOVE gifts.  I really do.  I love being thought about.  Heck, I love getting stuff.  New stuff, pretty stuff to wear, L O V E it.  So, when I heard the whisper in my heart to give up gifts for a whole year I ignored it.  I decided I would “pray” about what God wanted me to give… ever done that?  Pray in hopes that maybe you didn't hear correctly?  It sounds so spiritual doesn't it? “I am going to pray about it.”  Really, THIS TIME, my prayer was just an act of disobedience.  Yeouch!  By this morning I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was supposed to give up gifts.  That means no Christmas (was already doing it), no Valentine’s, no 10 year anniversary, no 33 birthday, no Mother’s day.  No gifts.  Nada.  This will be a sacrifice.  Not in a “daily need” kind of way but in a “break down my selfish heart” kind of way.  Do you know what is amazing?  In the midst of giving this up and committing in my heart (and on the website) God is already overflowing my cup.  Seriously.  I am blessed beyond measure every single day but I am so blinded by wants and stuff that I cannot see it. 

So, will you join me?  Will you commit to giving something up and using that money to provide life saving water for another? 

Head over to The Yes Club and check it out. 

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”                Matthew 22:36-40

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Ready to be Ringless?

"for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."  Matthew 25:35-36

After hearing Francis Chan share about his wife giving her engagement ring away to a ministry that uses the donated rings to help others with life saving water, I knew I had to learn more.  After wading through a number of ring selling sites (apparently selling engagement rings is big business... who knew?) I found it!  Here is the site:  www.withthisring.org/

Ya'll this is amazing.  At this website you can donate your engagement ring and they will auction it off in order to raise money to put wells in places where people do not have any clean drinking water.  This season they are focusing on India (I know! You know how much I love India!).

Read this from their website:

For girls, radical giving is about reclaiming a stolen identity.

Look at your purse. What comes to mind when you look at it? What does it say about you? Would anything change if it had a different label like Coach, Gucci or Prada?
Materialism is bred in our bones. The more things we have and the more expensive they are, the more valuable and important we think we are.
It can be surprising to find out that God doesn't share our affinity for materialism- driven status. Far from it, actually. He wants to set us free from it so we can find our identity in Him. And when we do, we find a freedom and confidence we didn't know was possible.
Radical giving is a means to that end. It is one way that we can refuse to be identified by our possessions. By holding even our most prized possessions loosely, we can learn to lean into who we are in Christ and join him in his mission.
Pretty awesome, right?  Now, before you ask, do I still have a diamond on my finger?  Yes.  I believe that until both my hubs and I are fully on the same page with this it wouldn't be right to give it.  This ring I wear is as much his as it is mine.  He chose it with me in mind, paid for it, and planned a very romantic way to present it.  It is very precious to us both.  However, I am praying that one day soon we can both be on the same page.  I am almost giddy with excitement at the idea of giving this ring for those who are thirsting for physical water and Living Water.  
What if Christian wives started to be known for their "Ringlessness"?  Wouldn't it be amazing if we all banded together and gave those things that are most precious to us for our Savior to use?  Do you think that it would make an impact on our world?  I do not mean the part of the world that would receive the water because it is obvious that it would make an impact there.  Lives would be saved both from the potential of a looming physical death but also from a spiritual death.  I mean, wouldn't it make an impact on the world around us?  On our every day world?  Would it be an opportunity to share with those that are dear to us?  Would it give us a chance to open conversations with those that are far from Him?  
After reading this are you considering it?  I wish we could chat over coffee.  I don't think Jesus has an issue with us having an engagement ring, but I do think Jesus might have a problem with an engagement ring having us.  Maybe they are called "possessions" for a reason.  
So, what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree?  Have you ever considered this? Comment away, I really want to hear what you have to say! 
"And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me"  Matthew 25:40


Saturday, December 01, 2012

Buckled in His Protection

Yesterday, as I was driving my Bug down to her grandparents house I had one of those moments.  The kind where God reaches into the mundane everyday living and gives me a glimpse of something more.  My sweet girl was safely buckled in her car seat in the back.  We have the kind with all the bells and whistles.  She was "reading" a book and singing songs.  What she didn't realize is that I was on a major highway, driving at a high speed with others around me driving just as fast or faster and not doing the best job of it.  She had no idea.  She was carefully and purposefully protected.  I put her in the car seat because I want the best for her in life.  Yes, she would rather have the freedom to move around the car at will and jump on the seats and reach for her drink and not have to stay in one position.  However, she cannot do those things because my protection of her limits her.  It also keeps her from pulling open a door or leaning out a window while I am driving on a highway.  Yes, there are times when she cries because she has to be buckled.  There are times when she fights me over it and there are times when it is even uncomfortable.  But in all of those times, it is still the best for her.

I point all of that out to say this.  I felt like God touched my heart and I understood a little more about how He works.  I looked at my daughter.  Blissfully unaware of the danger to her right and left and behind her and in front of her.  In this moment she was protected by my care, my decision for her and my presence.  My Heavenly Father feels the same way about me. Yes, there are times when He puts me someplace I would rather not be and it may be uncomfortable, but it is for a purpose.  He is bringing me to the next place in my journey.  There are times when the place God puts me actually limits me.  Could it be that it is for my protection and growth?  How many things do I not encounter because of His love and protection of me?

I had to stop and just thank God.  Yes, in this world we will have trouble, but I can truly take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  His love never fails (1 Cor 13:8).  The more I learn about how the rest of this world lives, the more I realize the blessing, protection and responsibility I have in my life.

Let today be the day that you stop and take the time to say Thank You to God.  Even in the midst of the discomfort and difficulty, there is a purpose and it is for His Glory and your good.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

AD Living as an American

Do you ever think about how blessed we are to be on the AD side of the Bible? Still, how come we have the Bible available in multiple formats and always accessible yet we struggle with our faith?  How much faith would it have taken to be a disciple of Jesus before the Holy Spirit? Think about His phrase "you must take up your cross and follow me". We have the benefit of seeing that phrase through the AD lens. We hear the words "take up your cross" and immediately our minds go to Jesus dying on the cross and how He calls us to follow Him by dying to ourselves. But what do you think the disciples thought about that phrase? Jesus hadn't died on the cross yet. Their reference for the cross would be the cruelty of the Roman soldiers and the death of the vilest of criminals. To us the cross is almost romanticized because we know our beloved Savior hung there to save us from an eternity without Him but the disciples wouldn't have that view as Jesus was speaking. I'm a few pages into a book called Radical by David Platt. (Fabulous book!) He says that it would be the same equivalent as hearing someone say to us "take up your electric chair". When I think electric chair my mind goes to two places 1) immense and deadly amounts of pain and 2) the people who die in them. It doesn't make sense to me to pick up my electric chair because I'm not a murderer.  What faith it took for the disciples to take up their cross and for us to take up our electric chair!

The more I study and the more I read and listen to podcasts by men like Francis Chan and David Platt the more I realize how I have bought into the American way of doing Christianity.  The faith requirement is so low as an American Christian.  That somehow "take up my cross" has come to mean "giving your 10% tithe" or "make sure you volunteer in a church ministry at least once a quarter" or "buy a Christmas gift for a child in need". David Platt talks about how Jesus was constantly driving away the masses. He really only had 11 guys that stuck right with Him and a few more that followed and believed. If my Christian walk looks like the rest of the American Christian walks I might be in trouble because those are the people who left when the words of Christ became difficult to hear. Even worse, if my Christian walk looks like the rest of America's normal life (specifically the non-Christian) I need to examine myself quickly.

I'm not writing this post because I have any answers. I have a lot more questions than answers right now but I do believe that we need to read the Bible for ourselves and begin to really live out the things that Christ called us to. Right now I am learning that really loving Christ means actually loving Him more than my daughter. If she is what I live for then I have missed it. If she is my whole world than I am not fulfilling the role Christ gave me and I am doing her a disservice by teaching her things that go against the words of Christ.  Now it is easy for me to say, as I sit in my heated and comfy American house, that I do love Christ more than my daughter.  There really isn't much of a test for me, is there?  Then I listen to stories of men and women across the world that know they are called to share the gospel but that doing so puts their children in harms way.  That there are rape and death threats against their daughters.  Do I love Christ that much?  Do I?  Again, my wonderfully comfortable American life has deceived me.  My wealth, both financial and circumstantial, has blinded me from the real cost and expectation of following Christ.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”    Matthew 19:23-24


I do not want to stand before God at the end of this life and have Him look at me with sadness on His face as He says "Why did you waste what I gave you?  My children were dying of starvation, my daughters were being stolen and abused, those that I love were dying without knowing Me first.  Why did you waste My money and your time?"

Lord, please show us clearly how we are to follow you in the midst of the abundance we live in. I do not want to be one of the rich that you speak about in Matthew 19:23-24.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bypassing "Getmas" this Year...


My tree is up!  Can you believe it?  Before Thanksgiving no less!  I am usually a Christmas purist… I do not believe in bringing out decorations early or putting a tree up before Thanksgiving and please do not ever (ever!) try to take me into a Christmas all year store.  They make me itch and a little nauseous.  But this year I just couldn't help myself, the tree had to come out early.  I feel like I have the Christmas Spirit bursting out of me!  Part of me knows it is because I have an almost 3 year old and everything she sees right now is magical.  The best way to see something is through the eyes of a happy child.  Still, I know that isn't the only reason.  H was almost 2 last year and noticed everything then too but I didn't feel the way I do right now about the Christmas season. 

I think the majority of this change in me comes from my view and approach of Christmas this year.  About a month ago I sent a letter out to my family asking that I not receive any gifts this year.  I didn't do it to be a grinch or to be a saint, I did it because I knew God was clearly telling me to say no to the excess of the American life and to give money to where the real needs are.  Starving children, girls being trafficked, widows and single moms without homes; these are the things worthy of money and time, not the newest gadget or another piece of clothing when I already have so much.  I am not saying there is anything wrong with gifts.  I love gifts.  I love knowing that someone was thinking of me.  I hesitated for a minute before sending the letter because I knew that when you clearly and passionately ask people to not give you anything they will respect your wishes.  I had to double check my motives.  Did I truly believe it and really wanted nothing or was I sending it to appease God and “look good” while still knowing that there might be something for me?  It was nice to get the confirmation that my motives were true and that this year my sights are set on something bigger than me.   (Disclaimer: In the midst of this I also know that what God has called me to isn’t going to be for everyone so I have tried to not impose or preach to others.  Please do not think that is the purpose of this post.  I know what God has called me to and I am responsible to respond but I am not anyone else’s Holy Spirit.  So, we are still doing gifts for our family members and enjoying every moment of it.)  What a joy it is to say that truly, for the first time in my adult life, I feel like I am finally getting the Spirit of Christmas.  Instead of celebrating “Getmas”  I am choosing to celebrate CHRISTmas. 

Over the last year my love for my Savior has grown exponentially.  I have learned so much about Him and I realized that I lived each day acting like He wasn't real.  I couldn't keep doing it in my daily life and I didn't want to do it at Christmas.  I finally understood that I had bought into the idea that the purpose of this season is to celebrate “togetherness” through big dinners, singing songs and getting great family time and that this somehow honored God/baby Jesus.  The whole reason we celebrate Christmas is to recognize that God Himself sent His Son from a perfect place, where He had angels worshiping Him night and day, to a dirty, sad, sin filled world so that He could teach us for a short time and then be killed in a horrific way.  That’s it.  Read that sentence again.  Let it sink in.  I can barely look at a manager scene without my eyes filling with tears as I think about how this precious baby would be beaten, bloodied and killed for me.  I think about Mary.  How strange would it have felt to look at your child and know that He is God?  I think about how often I wonder if I am doing a good job with Hannah as a first time parent… could you imagine the self imposed pressure of raising GOD? 

Let me encourage you, if you have felt your heart tugged towards those who need food, shelter or clothing there is still plenty of time to act on your desire to help.  Call a local shelter or children’s home.  They count on the donations and the time of others to provide for those that are in their care.  I guarantee you that if your heart is beating excitedly at the idea of being able to help someone that God will lead you to the right place.  There is no better gift you can give than to give of yourself for Christmas.  There is no better way to celebrate this season than to follow in the steps of our Savior who laid down His life because of His Love for us.

I pray that as Christmas comes closer that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and overflowing with His Love to give to those that cross your path. 

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

PS: I have been enjoying 2 Christmas CD’s I was able to get with free Amazon creditsJ  I HIGHLY recommend them both.  The First is Jason Gray’s “Christmas Stories”.  Love the song “Rest”… from the point of view of the innkeeper. Click here to check it out on Amazon.

I have also loved Jeremy Camp’s “God with Us”.  I haven’t really listened to much of his music in the past but I am really enjoying this CD. Click here to check it out on Amazon. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I Have On My Angry Eyes

I tend to joke when I'm mad so I guess that is why I made the title of this blog a silly quote from Toy Story. Did you catch it? Oh well.

I have on my angry eyes tonight. I'm just mad and sick and heartbroken all at once. Rarely will I write a rant/soap box blog but I am today. Feel free to skip it and catch the next post. I won't be mad.

I'm just going to get it off of my chest. I hate what Christians look like to people who aren't Christians. I hate it. I have a few friends that aren't Christians and when they share with me the view they and many others have about Christians it usually makes me physically sick. They reference people that abuse their wives and children and somehow these abusers misuse scripture to justify their horrible actions. Or they mention pastors that have lavish, over the top, ridiculous lifestyles and golden toilets. They reference people that attack abortion clinics and they talk about christians who boo a solider (who fought in a war for our country) because he is gay.

These are just a few of the many different references I could share. Now, so their is no confusion, I am going to state clearly that I am against abortion and believe that life is a precious gift that should be given to all. I also believe that God designed relationships to be between a man and a woman and anything outside of that is not a part of His plan. Now, back to my rant.

Why is it that these are the people that represent christians to the world?! How did we let this happen?! We have to take a stand in truth and love.

The only way I can think of to combat these heinous images of Christ followers is to share His words and story and life. Share it publicly with our lives every day.

To the abusers that erroneously justify with scripture I say: the Bible does not teach that abuse is okay, period. In fact, let's look at Jesus as our example in the story about the woman caught in the act of adultery (a crime punishable by death). He said to those that wanted to stone her that who ever was without sin could cast the first stone. Obviously that disqualified all the men who dragged her in front of Him, but do you know who that didn't disqualify? JESUS. He had no sin. He could have stoned her, but He didn't. In fact, after He rescued her from those that wanted to kill her He told her that He didn't condemn her and He said to go and sin no more. (John 8:11) That is just one example of Jesus's love... I could go on and on and on.

As for the booing and attacks and ugly behaviors I reference Jesus's words once again from John 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." I don't think that means that we never disagree with people. We are to speak the truth no matter how unpopular it may be, but we are always to speak it in love. If we don't have love we are just noise (1Cor 13:1) and worthless in our testimony.

As far as hoarding riches goes (I know I have to be careful because I don't have all the facts and I know of some megachurch pastors that give away 90%+ of their income and still have an abundance) so I will stick with what I do know. As Christians we are called to come together and give, so that anyone in our midst with a need is taken care of (Acts 2:45). If we stop and take an honest look at our neighborhood or city or state or country or world we will see a LOT of needs and we, maybe not you personally, but Christians as a whole are failing at this. Pure religion is to take care of the orphans and widows in their time of need (James1:27). Just thinking about the girls sex trafficked on a minute by minute basis makes me want to scream. How, with all the resources available at our American fingertips, is it possible that these things are still happening?

Now, before you think I'm getting all "holier than thou" and pointing fingers everywhere else please know that as I type this I am in tears with my failings in every one of these areas.

The point of this post isn't to say that we have to be perfect. It's not possible and every time we fail there may be someone waiting there to point out our failing and then use it as a damaging reference against our Unfailing God. But that doesn't mean we do not need to fight against the wrong image of our Jesus that is portrayed through people who claim they follow Him but look nothing like Him. Jesus Himself said that we will know who are His followers by their fruit (Matt 7:16-18).

My dear friends, Christ didn't die a horrible death for you and me so that we could stand idly by and let people who do not know Him speak for us and mislead a world of people straight to Hell.

I'm not trying to rally together a group to march somewhere or protest something. I believe that the best use of our time and effort as a Christian doesn't involve arguing about inconsequential things or posting "I <3 Jesus" posts on Facebook. I believe that if the people in this world are ever going to see Jesus in Christians then we need to be living every day and moment for Him. Talking to those that we work with. Helping those around us that we know. Praying for opportunities to be BOLD in our faith with those that do not know Him. Let's really represent Him by serving the poor and needy (James 2:16). I am honored to attend a church whose goal is to be have our name be synonymous with the word generous. Not so we can paint "we won the generous award" on the side of our building but so that anytime someone says "wow, that church is so generous that someone from our church is right there pointing all of that back at Jesus saying 'we are because He is, it is ALL because of Him.'" 

Let me tell you, there is a reason the Bible says that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. We may not be rich by America's standards but by the worlds standards we are among the richest 5%. Matt 6:21 comes to mind but that is another post for another night.

If you hung in through this whole rant I appreciate it. If you have any suggestions as to how we can all battle the poisonous view of Christianity in the world I would love for you to share in the comments. I'll close with this...

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." 
John 3:16-17

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Are you up for the challenge?


Since you may not read past the first few lines of this blog I will start with the challenge and then back it up with the Why below. 

CHALLENGE:  Go through your coat closet and only keep what is necessary.  Donate the abundance to a ministry that can use it.  If you are looking for a ministry and are in the Cartersville, GA area I will list two below.  If you are not in Cartersville then I promise there is someplace nearby that can use you coats!  Call a local church to get started.

West Ridge Church – Cartersville will have a free coat shop on Dec 8th for those in need.  Contact me or West Ridge directly to donate.  http://westridge.com/

Love Covers All Ministry – has a free clothing ministry to all in need.  They have 2 monthly meetings where people can come and collect all types of apparel.  Contact me or LCA directly to donate.  www.SeekingGrace.org/LoveCoversAll

The WHY:  I don’t know if you read the Bible and take it literally but I do.  I believe that if God says to do something that He means it.  I don’t think that His desires have changed just because we are Americans or because we have a disturbing level of abundance. 

“He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’” Luke 3:11

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Acts 2:44-45

First, I know a tunic isn't a coat, it is more like an undershirt for a garment but the idea translates and it is cold outside.  So, I went through my closet and looked at my coats, do you know how many coats I have? NINE.  They are not all heavy winter coats but they definitely provide assistance in blocking out the cold.  Seriously, NINE coats.  If I wore a different one every day it would take more than a week to use them all.  So I have decided that I don’t need nine coats.  I am keeping a heavy coat, a lighter coat that can get dirty (on the farm) and a lightweight jean jacket my hubby loves.  The rest are in wonderful condition and would definitely bless someone who needs a coat to be warm. 

How did I get to a place of coat hoarding?  Well, I am 32 and I have always lived in abundance.  My parents didn't go crazy with “stuff” but I have never known need in my life.  I am also a very messy person.  I think some of it is genetic (no really, it’s almost laughable) but I think the bulk of it comes from the fact that I grew up in a disposable society.  I believe that some of my lack of care of my things is because I knew that it was replaceable and for the most part I am still that way.  I don’t have to take care of it.  I don’t believe that people who have little in life treat their things with such unimportance.  If you only had 1 coat you would dust it off when it got dirty, you would hang it up so you would always know where it is.  If you only had 2 pairs of pants you would wash them and fold them neatly and put in a place where you would know where they were for the next day.  

I look in my closet (my hubby gave me the bigger one with a door so he wouldn't have to see my mess) and I look at clothing that someone else would not only take care of but be extremely thankful for and it is in a pile on my floor.  Lord, You have given me so much and I treat it with disdain.  God, please cut open my heart and remove these dark spots of ungratefulness and lack of care.  I believe that I am to continue to go through my entire closet and give until I have what is necessary for life and manageable for a “messy” like me.  I will know that I have achieved the goal set before me when my closet is neat and tidy and stays that way.  I do not want to raise a child that believes that things are disposable when there are so many hungry and cold children in our country and our world.  I want her to understand that every good gift is from the Lord (James 1:17) and we are responsible to take care of the things He has given to us.  I will leave you with an idea that my pastor shared this past week… it was fabulous.

God doesn't give to us so we can keep for ourselves; He gives TO us to give THROUGH us!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Encourage Someone!

I love this and am planning on doing this tonight... wanna join me?


For this week&#8217;s collective we are asking you to write or draw something on a note that would bring a smile to someone&#8217;s face, and put it up in a public space so others can be encouraged by it.
Our submission today is simple and to the point. Continue sending in your encouraging notes!
bellabee13:
Our submission today is simple and to the point. 

http://herewecollide.com/post/35079153724/for-this-weeks-collective-we-are-asking-you-to

Failure Days...


Some days just feel like failures.  Like, I should have gone back to bed and slept the day away, and woken up to a better tomorrow, kind of failure.  Do you ever feel that way?  Your child, in the midst of just being a child, frustrated you so much that you “lost it".  For me, losing it can look like yelling or having to pull away and get a moment alone before I go insane, leaving a crying little girl on the floor begging for her mommy.  How can those moments, especially if there a lot of those moments in a day, not feel like a failure?  I believe it is all in what we do next.  Days like this, failure days, can be the best teaching tool. 

Let’s think about our lives.  How often do we experience situations that go awry in life?  How often do we sit down, with tears streaming down our faces, acknowledging that we totally missed God in a situation, and feel like we have failed?  How did we learn to deal with these moments, these feelings?  I know that, at times, I am still learning how to deal with these kinds of moments.  I've had to learn, though the school of hard knocks, that stopping and going to God immediately with my disappointment, failure, issue, and talking with Him, asking forgiveness if necessary, and receiving the peace that makes no sense in the middle of this issue, is the only way to handle things. Instead of putting on boxing gloves, I should be hitting my knees in prayer.  Instead of picking up the phone to call a friend, or going to Facebook about my issue, I should be picking up the Bible to seek the advice and comfort I am craving.  I don’t want my daughter to have to learn how to deal with heartache and bad days by going to all the wrong places first.  I want, in the middle of my personal breakdown, to take her alongside me and show her how to go to the foot of the cross.  I want her to hear me asking for forgiveness for a wrong attitude, or words that I said, first from Jesus, and then turn to her and ask her forgiveness, too.  I want her to learn about GRACE now, not when she is a teenager or young adult.  There is no greater tool we can give our children than showing them how to walk through failure and seasons of difficulty.  The Bible promises us that as followers of Christ, in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).  To give our children the expectation that as long as we have Jesus, every aspect of life will be puppy dogs and rainbows, will only set them up for disillusionment later in life.  We live in a fallen world, but Christ is our strength in this dark place.  Instead, let’s teach our children that in our moments of weakness, He is glorified and strong (2 Cor 12:9).  Let’s teach them that instead of following what the world says is important, we seek Him and His righteousness (Matt 6:33).  Let’s show them that the best place for us to be is on our knees, whether in good situations or in bad, so they will know how to deal with the difficulties of their lives (Prov 22:6). 

Do not be hard on yourself if you have an hour, or even a week, that feels like it is a failure.  Only Christ is perfect, and He, knowing the places where you and I would fail, gave us the beautiful people in our lives for a purpose.  So, when you feel like you have lost the Mother of the Year award for good, stop and realize that it is in those moments that we teach the truth of how to live for Christ in all circumstances.  Our children will be better prepared for life watching us walk through the valleys, than if they only saw us praising on the mountaintops.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thoughts Running Wild

There is so much going on in life. Lots of it is great. Some of it is difficult. I find that if I am not careful, my mind will become consumed with these thoughts. The "what will we do" and "how will we do it" types of questions that I honestly do not have answers for right now. So then the worrying or concern creeps in and begins to not only steal my focus on the here and now but also my joy. Today I couldn't stop mulling over this one issue that I have. Yes, it is a big one and worthy of thought, but not worthy enough to consume me. The only thing that should consume my mind is my Lord. The only thing I want as natural as breathing is spiritual things of my God. So, what to do? Today I found something that genuinely helped!! You see, I have had the first chapter of the book of James hanging on my bathroom mirror in hopes that maybe through putting on my makeup that I would have it memorized. Beth Moore put a challenge out in her book on James to memorize the whole book. I was excited about doing that because I love the scripture but I forgot that post-baby brain cells do not like to remember even the most basic things like where I put my keys or what I am making for dinner so how in the world did I think I would be able to memorize a whole book of the Bible?! Well, today in the midst of looking in the mirror and asking myself yet again what I would do about this certain issue I decided to grab the printout of James and get started. I just kept reading the first verse out loud over and over. Then I would put the paper away and say it. I moved on the the second verse and just kept going and going. I realized that in this process my mood changed. My outlook improved and it even spoke to my specific situation (the Word of God is so alive! Don't you think?!). So my encouragement to you is when you are in that place of not being able to stop thinking about something that has no right to consume you pick a favorite chapter in the Bible and start memorizing. Read it out loud. Over and over and over. Don't stop until you have become different sitting under the grace and wisdom of God. The Bible says that God will give wisdom to those that ask and that He gives it liberally and without reproach. Do you know how I know that? It is in James 1:5 and I just memorized it. What a blessing to know that God will meet us where we are and give wisdom to us if we ask in faith, believing that it will happen. I am going to go back to my memorizing now but I wanted to share this with you because it was an immediate help in my time of need. I hope you are having a lovely Thursday.

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

Monday, October 15, 2012

Just One Person...

Since my family has moved I knew I was supposed to do something but haven't.  Don't you hate that feeling?  If you follow my blog at all you know that I am passionate about women who have been sold or abused in sex trafficking.  It is a terrible, disgusting crime that is happening constantly in the world and in our backyards in the US.  When we moved I noticed that 1 of the exits off of the freeway to get to our house has a big truck stop at it.  The kind where there are lots of trucks parked in the back where drivers can sleep and rest before starting their next long journey.  These are also the kinds of places where pimps will take young women and sell them.  They call them "lot lizards" but the more accurate name for them is SLAVES.

Did you know the average age of a girl trafficked in the US is 12.  This girl is probably someone like your sister, your daughter, your friend's daughter.  These aren't hardened criminals choosing this lifestyle.  These are young women who are attacked, taken advantage of, abused and raped up to 14 times a night.

Ever since moving to our new home my heart has gone out to that truck stop.  I wondered if girls were trafficked there at night.  I wondered if anyone has been fighting to help girls in the area stay safe.  I stopped by once and walked around.  I saw that they had a truckers lounge inside but I didn't go inside.  I didn't actually go outside to where the trucks were parked, I was too afraid.

Finally, when my heart couldn't take it anymore I decided I needed to try to do something more than just walk around helplessly.  I kept hearing the evil one say "you are only one person, what can you do?"  I felt powerless and under qualified to help these girls but I knew God wouldn't have burned this into my heart if He didn't have a plan.  Then I remembered that there is a group, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) that help these girls.  They have resources, they have hotline numbers, they know how to help.  I friended them on Facebook so I would get updated details (click HERE to do that too) and then went to their website (http://truckersagainsttrafficking.org/).  I found printable posters and cards you can hand out (click HERE to go there).  Then I printed out posters and cards and this morning I went back to the truck stop.  I asked to speak to the manager and talked with the lady working the front cash register while I waited.  She told me they went through training to spot prostitution there.  That's great!  In the end, the manager was in a meeting and not available.  She did go interrupt and speak to him for a moment and he said they would hand out the documentation that I had printed if I would leave it with them.  I pray that the right people will see the information and battle the trafficking that is happening throughout our land.  Who knows where the men and women truck drivers that stop at this truck stop will stop next and what they will see.

Don't feel like you are just one person and can have no impact.  It may be the move that you make towards boldness for these women, these sisters, that saves a life.  Also, while you are out and about in your own life be aware of your surroundings and report anything that looks suspicious to 1-888-3737-888.

Details about what can be suspicious from TAT website:

Asking the right question will help you determine if the person in front of you is a victim of trafficking who needs your help, such as:
  • What type of work do you do?
  • Are you being paid?
  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • What are your working and living conditions like?
  • Where do you eat and sleep?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom?
  • Are there locks on your doors/windows so you can’t get out?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?
Trafficking
  • Is a process (not usually an event) that evolves into slavery or debt bondage.
  • Has a strong economic motive … take away the probability and you take away the motive.
  • Sex trafficking is mostly about profit, not sex.
  • Labor bondage is completely about economics … make corporations responsible how they do business and how they police their sub-contractors, and it will help a lot.
  • Trafficking is not smuggling. Smuggling involves the element of transportation, wiliness or consent and no implied coercion.  A traffic victim may have started out being smuggled, but it turns into bondage.
  • Trafficking does not imply transportation being involved – trafficking is commercial selling or commercial profiting.
Three major contributors to making people vulnerable to being trafficked
  • Escaping from a very difficult situation (like domestic violence or poverty)
  • Seeking the Big City, bright lights, hopes and dreams for better life.
  • Migrating due to poverty or war or seeking better life.
Traffickers often “coach” victims to answer questions with a cover story. They may have a well-rehearsed story but will be unable to provide details to simple questions that are easy for free people to answer like:
  • Where do you buy food?
  • Where do you buy clothes?
  • Where do you go to school?
If you come across a situation where you believe human trafficking is taking place, do not approach the trafficker, as this can be very dangerous. Call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. Be part of ending the nightmare of human trafficking.

I have included below the documents that I remade from what TAT had online.  (I conserve ink and their posters looked great but had a lot of black background.)  Consider where you could print and distribute these items.



Thursday, October 04, 2012

Did you know I am Adopted?


I am not sure you know this about me but I am adopted.  I have thought that I should write the story from my perspective (throughout the years) before but never sat down to do it.  I know that we all struggle with something in life and maybe my story could help someone else... so here we go.  I also want to note that my story is just that, it’s mine.  There are lots of people that have been touched by adoption and have a wide range of experiences from it.  I will tell you now that my story is one of the great ones... a blessing from start to finish but also honest about the hurts and struggles I went through because of my adoption.  Oh, and this will be longggg, like 6 full printed pages long, so maybe get a cup of tea or a glass of water and settle in=).

The story starts before I was born.  It starts with a teenage girl and her boyfriend.  She got pregnant and was faced with making a decision to abort the baby that was in the way of her life.  Through counseling with a pastor at their church she made the decision to not have an abortion but instead to give the baby up for adoption.  During this time there was another couple that had tried to have a baby but they could not conceive.  Having a child was their dream so they began the long and expensive process of adoption.  Enter me.  My birthmother (we will call her Sue) gave birth to me on March 23, 1980 and named me Samantha.  I was born with pneumonia and my precious birthmother and her family did not want me to be alone in the hospital while I was recovering so they stayed with me for a week.  Could you imagine trying to hold your baby enough to make up for a lifetime in 7 days?  Once I was well enough to be released my birthmother signed the adoption papers and walked out of my life.  

What a fabulous gift she gave me and my adopted family.  She made a courageous decision and gave me life.  I will forever be grateful.  I am especially grateful that she chose my adoptive family.  My parents are amazing people.  They knew from the moment that they saw me that I was meant to be theirs.  God knit our family together supernaturally and chose them for me and me for them before the foundation of the world.  I was theirs and they loved me as wholeheartedly as if I had been born from them physically.  I couldn't imagine life without a love as strong as theirs.  I would have never made it.  They made sure I knew and understood that I was adopted but they also always always always told me that I was loved.  So, although my story is the best I have to say that I bear scars from my adoption.  Probably a lot like any other child that has been through it.  (Readers Note: I will refer to my adoptive parents as mom and dad throughout this story because that is what they are... just so you know who I am talking about=)

Growing up I always knew I was different.  I was adopted into a family with a strong Hispanic heritage.  Although my Aunts and Uncles loved me, I never felt like I fit.  I felt like I stood out in the crowd.  If you haven't been adopted then it is hard to imagine what it feels like to not look like anyone.  Even now, as I look at my beautiful Bug she has very distinct face and body characteristics that easily place her with my husband and me.  She will be able to look at me and my hubs and say "that is where I got my nose, lips, ears, etc".  Not being able to do that can make you feel lost in a sea of people at times.  It was funny because I was tall and my dad was tall.  There are times that people would make a comment about me being “tall like my dad” and sometimes I would feel pride that I was being associated with him and my family and other days it would sting and remind me that I didn't belong.  I also had some cousins that decided that because I was adopted that I wasn't truly a part of the family.  That hurt more than I can explain.  It felt like I walked around with open sores on my body and at the strangest of times and with the most innocent of comments people would walk up and rub salt in them.  I remember having a fight with a friend in the 2nd or 3rd grade.  In an effort to hurt me she wrote a note about how she could see why my birthmother gave me up and that I was thrown away and that I was ugly.  It was amazing the hurt that stuck with me even after I received her parent required apology.  I believe that the wounds of adoption are so deep it feels like you are being cut deep inside your heart with every painful situation.  

If you are wondering what adoption wounds I could be dealing with since my adopted parents weren't hurtful or abusive in any way but instead gave me more love than some natural children receive from their parents, I understand.  Somehow being adopted (in my case) gave me a foundation that said "you were not wanted and someone gave you away".  The fact that my foundation was rejection (not just of 1 part of me but of me as a whole) created a terrible place to build anything else.  Just like any house if the foundation of the house is rotten and termite infested than no matter how excellent the builder’s craftsmanship of the home, the beautiful decorations, and color choices, if there is a faulty foundation and it will fall in.  

Oh, it may be helpful to also know that during Elementary School and Middle School I had a few other issues too.  My allergies would get to be so bad in the spring that I couldn't do outdoor activities with the other kids.  So I could watch them play from the windows of the library and then I would settle in with a pile of books (ps. as terrible as it felt at the time, my insatiable love of books now is something I wouldn't trade for all of the outside play time in the world!)  Also I had teeth that had a giant gap in them and they stuck straight out.  I had 2 rounds of braces and even headgear the first time.  I had glasses and allergies/asthma.  I couldn't run a mile to save my life.  (It really is a miracle I made it through elementary and middle school with any confidence at all.)  I became really good at keeping people laughing so I didn't feel like they were laughing at me.  I tried to be a funny, over the top, person to deflect pain, and I was good at it.  I could put on a show and hide all of the hurt I felt.  In a way it felt like I became two people.  The inside me (wounded) the outside me (large and in charge).  Let me tell you, it is exhausting to constantly try to prove to everyone in your life you are worth liking/loving and then living with constant fear that they are going to leave anyway.  

So, when did my foundation start to fall in?  During the middle school to high school time period of my life.  I could go into lots of ugly details here but the point of the story is not to show you how ugly things got so I will give you the reader’s digest version.  In short, I became a cutter, I hurt and abused my body because that self inflicted pain was more bearable/controllable than pain I felt from the stranger that "gave me up".  I turned to boys and began serial dating.  Not that I dated a lot of people but I always had a boyfriend and their opinion meant the world to me.  Somehow I was trying to find my worth in it.  I even began dabbling in alcohol (side note: don't be the "cool mom" that lets kids drink at your house... it is just plain wrong).  At this point I became an expert at being two-faced.  I could smile and go to church and spout all the right words, but my heart was dying and I literally hated myself.  My precious parents did everything they could think of to help me through (at least what they knew about - sorry if you guys are reading this!)  They took me to counseling which helped some.  It gave me someone to talk to about my thoughts but I never opened up fully because I felt bad for my parents.  Then in a last ditch effort they gave me letters that my birthfamily had written me and given to me the day they signed the papers.  They were supposed to give them to me when I was 16 and 18 but they knew I was desperate for them so they gave them to me early.  It is amazing how much that meant.  Because I had NO details until that point my mind would make up all kinds of different personas for my birthmother.  One day she would be superwoman.  Her job was to save the world and regrettably having me would keep her from doing that so she gave me up but was always close by watching me.  The next day she was a crack addict and had a baby every 9-10 months that she sold for drug money.  The next day she was an exiled queen and she gave me away to keep me safe so that one day I would be brought back and  placed as princess of the kingdom (thanks a lot disney).  And lots of times she died giving birth to me, making me feel guilty all over again.  In all my imaginings I never considered that she could just be a scared, unsure teenage girl that was a baby herself.  I read letters from my birthmother saying she loved me and thought she was doing the best thing by giving me up.  I read letters from her mother saying how much she loved me.  I even read letters from her grandparents telling stories about how they would come to the hospital early and hold me and that I was their first great grandchild.  Getting these letters was like someone filling the cracks and holes in my foundation with foam.  It took up the spaces and did help secure it a little.  However the cracks and issues were too deep for this to be a permanent fix.   

Once I received the letters my curiosity about my birthmother could not be satisfied.  After gaining permission from my parents I made contact with my adoption agency and asked to find out what was in my file.  There was just 1 item in it.  A picture of my birthmother the year she gave me up for adoption.  It was crazy to look at the woman that gave birth to me and what really struck me was that she was my age.  After that I decided that I wanted to know her.  I had always told my parents that I wanted to know her one day and they always said they would help me and they stuck by their word.  I wrote a letter to her and sent it to my adoption agency.  After sending the letter I waited to hear if they received a response from the 1 contact left in my file.  All of my insecurities came FLOODING back to me.  Would she like me, would she even want to know me, will she be embarrassed of me in her current life?  Finally the day arrived, I received a letter back. She wanted to know me!  I cannot tell you how long I sat and cried just holding the response.  That began a letter writing campaign.  I learned that I had 1/2 siblings; 2 brothers and a sister.  I had ALWAYS wanted siblings and now I have them.  I was blown away.  After letters we began emailing, after emails, we talked on the phone and then just a year after I had received my first letter my parents and I flew out to Az and setup a meeting with my birthfamily.  On that day I brought a scrapbook I had made of my life and a precious moments figurine (at the time that was the most thoughtful thing I could think to do, ha!)  My birthmother and her mother and stepmother came to the meeting.  They met my parents first and hugged and spoke for a few minutes.  I was a nervous wreck sitting in a room by myself, 17 years old, second guessing what I was wearing, what I would say, etc.  Then there was a knock on the door.  I opened it and my dad (adopted) stood there and as I began to argue with him about how he was supposed to be in the room he said "Amy, I want to introduce you to your birthmother" and stepped to the side.  Here was this beautiful woman who I had wanted to know all of my life.  She stepped forward and hugged me.  I will never forget that hug because she cradled my head like a baby and it made me think that she was hugging me like she did the last time she saw me.  We talked and cried and talked and cried.  We tried to go to lunch.  I say tried because the poor waiter finally gave up trying to take our order and just waited until we called him over.  The whole lunch took about 4 hours.  Then I realized I was going to get to meet my siblings.  They didn't come to the meeting because they were very young.  In fact, only Older brother (about 6 years younger than me) knew who I was.  Younger brother and sister were 5 and 4 years old and Sue was worried that telling them about me could cause fears for them (like that she would leave them too).  I was so excited to meet them all that I didn't care that 2 of the 3 didn't know me because I would still get to know them.  In fact, it gave Older Brother and me a special bond for those first few years.  I still remember him coming around the car with his arms open and shyly giving me a hug.  It was the best feeling in the entire world.  What was even crazier is that I looked like them!  ALL OF THEM.  Then the strangest of things started to happen, I would do something that mimicked my birthmother and we would all be shocked because I didn't grow up learning from her.  I tell you that the Nature vs Nurture argument became much more interesting to me after meeting my DNA/birth family.  There is SO MUCH programmed into a person.  More than I ever thought was possible.  Yes, I have a lot of characteristics and gestures of my mom (adopted) but I also have a lot of my birthfamily.  It is remarkable.  

From that point our relationship grew.  My loving and giving parents would fly me out to see them 2 times a year.  Giving of their time and money to help me feel and grow the bond that I had with my birthfamily.  My birthfamily came to my highschool graduation and we all went on a cruise to celebrate.  It was an amazing time in my life.  

However, even though I knew I was loved and wanted and not thrown away I didn't realize how badly my foundation still needed to be addressed. 

College came and with it more difficulty.  I stuck to my serial dating and ended up in a few very serious relationships.  I also started drinking more and making bigger and bigger mistakes.  I remember when I was a junior I decided that I would just marry the guy I was dating because at that point in my life I felt so worthless and I knew no one else would want me.  I remember visiting Sue and she got into my face about it.  She told me that she didn't see God anywhere in my life and that I needed go find Him.  See, even though I grew up in church and had heard all about God and Jesus, I had decided that God wasn't doing anything for me and that since I had prayed a prayer when I was 7 asking "God into my heart" I thought I was going to heaven so what did it matter anyway.  I could not have been more wrong and if I had died at that point in my life I would have gone straight to hell.  After telling Sue that I didn't need her advice and being angry with her for the first I went to the airport to get on a plane back to GA.  I walked to my seat and sat down next to an eccentric beautiful black woman named Althea.  She looked right at me and said "before you even think about marrying that man you better get right with God".  I am not kidding.  Those. Were. Her. First. Words. To. Me.  All of a sudden it was as if all of those places deep inside, the cracks, the open wounds broke apart.  Everything that I had built myself upon was damaged and here God loved me so much that, since I wasn’t listening to a family member who was trying to reach me, He put a complete stranger in my path.  I look back now and can see little places along the way that God tried to reach out to me but I was so busy being wounded and the life of the party that I didn't listen.  I spent the rest of that flight literally praying, crying, and praising God.  On that day, when I truly found out who Jesus was and I decided with every fiber of my being that I wanted to belong to Him, did my life and my eternal destination changed. 

Then, with the quiet strength of my Lord, my painful places began to heal.  Some wounds were deeper than others and took years of God cauterizing the spot to stop the bleeding and then applying a healing salve.  It was painful.  I would love to tell you that I stepped off of that plane in 2001 and never struggled with my adoption or feelings of rejection again.  But I cannot.  It isn't true.  What I had received on that plane was the knowledge that I was loved so much that God and not only did He send His Son to die for me, but He also put people in my path to bring me to Him.  The more I learned about His love for me, that He didn't leave me but gave all for me, I began to realize my real worth in Jesus.  

I am here to tell you that without Christ I would still be living life struggling daily with feelings of hurt and rejection.   I would be viewing my whole life, things that people said and did to me, through the lens of a wounded, dying soul.  If you know or have someone in your life that is adopted or if you are adopted it is very important for them to know how much you love and value them but the most important and impactful thing you can do for them is introduce them to their Maker who loves them more than you do and who can rebuild them in a way that lasts.  

Yes, there are still days where I will start to struggle with who I am but I am quick to call those thoughts lies and instead remember what God says about me.

 I am not unwanted/unloved/deserted because "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

I was not a mistake because "you formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13

I am not alone... He is with me (there are so many verses... but a favorite is) "He leads me beside still waters.    He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:2-3

I am adopted into God’s family… my adoption gives me an ability to understand this that many may not have.  I am my parents’ child, period.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26

If you made it to the end of this I believe that means that it connected with you somewhere deep inside.  If you need/want to know more about my Jesus and how His love is fully available to you and that He wants to heal your hurting places please message me.  You can comment and say “keep this private” at the beginning and I will not post it.  Leave me your name, number, email, anything and I will be in touch with you. 

Please know JESUS LOVES YOU.  HE DIED FOR YOU.  If He can reach someone like me, He can reach you.  HE. LOVES. YOU.

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy