Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Ten Read Posts of 2012 at Refresh My Soul

This was such a fun look back at 2012. Though incredibly hard, God has been there all along. We have seen him us the weak in strong ways, been humbled, and in awe of His mighty grace and mercy.

Here are the top ten:

1- Hope for Christians Struggling with Depression
This vulnerable post has really surprised me. It is by far the top post this year. It saddens my heart that many out there are struggling with this issue. But there is hope in Christ.

2- Family Discipleship Plan Review From Precept Ministries
This post is humbling because many visiting the Precept Ministries website are viewing this review. I love Precept so much! Any of their resources will be wonderful for you to have and will grow you in HIM.

3- 30 Day Sibling Challenge - Day One
I sent many of these resources out but have not heard a thing about how it worked out. I am blessed beyond measure that so many people read this and I hope it helped with peace in their homes. This series is what I entered into the writing contest I entered for a publishing contract. If it does not win I will list it on Amazon for kindle with the others.

4- Our New Family Dynamic - Quickly Entering the World of Boys
This has changed our life! Enough said.

5- Reasons to See Magic Mike
This one is surprising to see so many hits! Probably the title grab! As you know I would not approve this film, just wrote it from the negative perspective.

6-The House Fire of 2012
Another life changing and challenging event.

7- Psalm 119 - Week One
Again another Bible study that got many reads! I love that this ministry can help others grow in the word. I will be doing more of these next year Lord willing and I will be posting the last of Psalm 119 very soon.

8- In a Month Your Life Can Drastically Change - Meeting Little Man
I love this time when we met him! Butterflies is what I remember. Oh this precious boy!

9- Adoption - Not Completely
If you ever have been a custodian of a child or a foster parent you will understand this.

10- Fear of Transitions - Learning to be Content in All Things
I typed this on 1/3/12 only a few days before I would find out that this little man would need a home! Gives me goose bumps now! God knew what He was doing and what strength I would need to be there for little man. Oh what joy to see the great things He has done! All glory to HIM!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Audio Book Review: Les Miserables

I received a copy of this product from Tyndale publishers at no charge for the purpose of an honest review.

This particular radio drama is magnificent. It was very well done and grabbed the attention continually of my entire family. This is a rare thing indeed! I have only seen this production done once on the stage and it was a long while ago so I did not remember the entire story or appreciate it as I did this time around.

It is important to note that this product is only a dramatic production and includes none of the choral song performances from the original production.

In order for this product to receive the attention of my family that consists of a three year old boy, Two Attention Deficit people (my nine year old girl and my husband), and eleven year old daughter and myself it had to be engaging and interesting. It fulfilled that requirement well! My children were saddened when we had to stop the story. They kept asking for us to play it again. They absolutely loved this.

It was probably the best product that I have had to review this year that would benefit the entire family. The acting and sound effects were very professional and realistic. All around this is an excellent product. I highly recommend it for the family.

Les Mis is an incredible story about God's grace and redemption. It covers topics like love and forgiveness, bitterness and hatred. The storyline is beautiful and a great one that can stem great Biblical conversations.

You can get a copy at Amazon here. It is well worth it. For $15.00 you get 3 hours of great audio drama. We were able to listen as we drove to Gatlinburg, TN. It made it a very enjoyable drive.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What the Eyes Have Seen - Adoption Journey

Oh little man what have your eyes seen? What have you been exposed to? One thing about adopting a child who has seen some life before living with you is that you will always wonder what they were exposed to prior. And what they remember from all of it. It will happen at random times stemming from different responses he gives to certain life experiences with us.

Earlier in the year when we had the house fire and were exposed to so many sirens from the fire trucks I was surprised it did not even phase him only later to find out that he had previously been exposed repeated times to fire trucks due to fires in and around his living situations.

Today we had an episode with our van. It had to be towed due to this. All seemed ok with him until the tow truck started taking our van. He flipped out over it. He was so concerned our van was never coming back. I had to explain that it was broken and they were helping us so we could get it fixed. Then we would get it back all fixed up after Christmas.

He has repeated that statement  over and over to me all night. Mom, the van is getting fixed and we will get it back after Christmas. Many times he randomly will intentionally run up to me and repeat it. It makes me wonder why this has stressed him so.

The hard part is I may never know. I can never know all he has been exposed to in the past but I trust it was all used to shape him into who God has him to be. All of life's experiences shape us and make us who we will become. It is times like today that I just have to trust that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Beautiful Art of Mothering - Beauty through Brokenness

Mothering is really an art form. It is full of complexities and different colors. It can be something that paints a beautiful picture or one of doom. The influence that God gives parents is incredibly terrifying.

Children come as a blank canvas mostly. Yet God knows the plans He has for them. He knows the number of their days. He knows every detail about each one. He thinks of children as precious and He allows us to birth them sometimes and other times He allows our family to be built in ways like adoption.

Mothering either way comes with brokenness. There is a new challenge of laying your life down for the lives of our children. This will break you of selfishness. Yet it is a choice if you refuse to lay your life down the brokenness is felt by your child. Fruit is grown good or bad based on what we decide.

When you birth your child your body is broken. It really does put a huge work on your body. That is why it is called labor. Your body will never be the same as it was before. Yet that brokenness is healed and formed differently now. There is a strange beauty to this type of brokenness. For the reward is wonderful. A sweet baby full of opportunity and life a new.

When you adopt a child there is a form of brokenness. For some reason the very parents God allowed to birth the child have died or forfeited to properly care. It is difficult to swallow what kind of things happen in this type of brokenness. However, God still has a plan to bring restoration and healing. What was once broken can be restored. God works in these situations as the Savior and Rescuer He is. Beauty can come from the ashes. Where there was selfishness selflessness can now bring forth fruit.

Jesus came into the world. He had to die to His self and put on flesh, even flesh as an infant to rescue us and be like us. He chose this way of life and it is only by Him and in Him we can follow after by picking up our crosses and dying to self. He came through the birth canal of Mary. God man with flesh on. I bet His first cries were beautiful to the ears. The Christ child was here. Beauty from brokenness.

As Joseph watched this even and saw this child first hand, I bet that cry was beauty to his ears. This child he would adopt as a son of his own flesh. From brokenness came wholeness. What a beautiful picture! What a beautiful night!

What a privilege there is in mothering, though it is not easy it is good. It is an art form that takes time to master. Lots of practice, lots of love, and lots of grace and out of it a beautiful picture is displayed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Isaiah chapters 7-12, Hard Truths and Hope

The next section of chapters we will study in Isaiah are seven through twelve. These prophesies are sometimes hard to discern but they are still part of God's inspired word so we should be faithful to studying them.

Prophecy sometimes speaks of an immediate future, a near future or a distant future event taking place. Often phrases like, in that day or the day of the Lord are used to indicate things happening in the distant future.

Chapter Seven
Chapter seven speaks of the sad distrust that king Ahaz displays. He is threatened by his brothers of the Northern kingdom of Israel and their ally Syria. God's children should have never been at war like this but sadly it happened. God uses Isaiah to speak to Ahaz to let him know there was no reason to be afraid. As he approaches Ahaz he comes with his son whose name means a remnant will return. Ahaz is assessing the water supply making sure he was ready for the coming threat of war. God has a message for Ahaz that tells him plainly their plan of attack will not succeed. God tells Ahaz that if his faith does not remain firm, then he would not remain secure (Isaiah 7:9b).

Yet Ahaz failed to believe. God told him to ask for a sign but Ahaz refused. His heart was not believing or trusting God. God then speaks of the coming exile of Israel. In fact with in 65 years the Northern kingdom indeed would be shattered.

The name Ephraim is used to refer to the Northern kingdom (which consisted of the 10 tribes that split at the time of Jeroboam) because they became the leading tribe of the group.

Now all Scripture points us to Christ and here in this chapter is an interesting look at the coming of Christ child. It is given after Ahaz refuses a sign from God. God provides this sign anyway. Now in the context and fulfillment in this time frame there will be a child born to Isaiah who was named Immanuel. However, the later fulfillment is the Christ child Immanuel who would save us and reign forever (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:21).

Chapter Eight
Because Ahaz has rejected God, He will use Assyria as an instrument to take Israel and Syria into captivity and Judah will feel it too. They suffered much destruction.

Isaiah is told to name his next son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz which means quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil; and added to this name is Immanuel. God will be with His people still through this judgement.

There is much politically going on here. Also, the point that I see is that the Lord is in control of the rising an falling of nations. His hand can control it all. He saves those that are His and punishes those who refuse to repent. It is amazing to see all of this happening. God will accomplish His plans. Period. He is sovereign so we need not be afraid ever.

I look at the state of my nation of America and well, morally it is on a rapid decline. It is so sad to watch, yet I can trust God and His greater plan. It makes perfect sense that a nation that turns it back on God will be disciplined. The reason for that discipline is to drive us closer to HIM. There will remain a remnant from all the nations that belong to Him. He saves those who are His and fulfills all of His promises to them.

The people of Isaiah's time were trusting in mediums and wizards and speaking to the dead. All these things in darkness instead of seeking the Light of God. He is the only one who can truly save. Sometimes we need to be redirected to that.

One thing that really stood out to me in this chapter was this verse 18, "Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion."

I love that God used Isaiah whose name means The Lord is Salvation, and His sons whose names mean a remnant will remain and quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil, the Lord is with us. These would be reminders the people would remember anytime they were out and about. Though God's anger and hand is on them it would not be forever. He is true to His covenant promises and a coming Savior would save them and "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" as God promised Abraham through the coming Christ.

Chapter 9
verses 1-7 tell of the coming Savior in Jesus. This prophecy fulfills the Davidic covenant as well. It is a very beautiful passage. It contrasts the darkness they were in to the great coming light. The people may have thought, how will this be accomplished so the verse ends with "The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." 

God is jealous for those of us that belong to Him. He will stop at nothing to win our hearts to Himself. He sent His Son to die on our behalf on the cross taking all of our sin away so we could be forever in His presence. That is some amazing love! Christ willingly came because of love, He came and humbled Himself to a dependent infant and walked in skin like us to end in our salvation that was promised from the beginning. None of this was a mistake or back up plan. In the beginning this was planned out. God knew we would need a great Savior and Jesus would be that for us.

verses 8-21 are speaking of the anger of the Lord. Arrogance is never excused before the Lord. 

Chapter 10
This can be a hard chapter because it deals with the sovereignty of God. Either God is in complete control of all things or He is not. He cannot be a little bit in control here or there. The way He rules is hard to understand but we must always remember that He is good. He gave plenty of warning to the Israelite s before this as well.

Verses 5-11 speak about God sending the nation of Assyria to be a rod to Jerusalem. Remember Jonah? Assyria was where he was sent then to speak repentance to a wicked nation. Assyria was wicked still at this time period of Isaiah and God was going to use them to "discipline as a rod" His children Israel. Now ponder this.

verses 12-14 state that Assyria who God will use to discipline His children will then in turn be punished for its pride. God is not evil nor does he tempt us to evil however He allows things to accomplish His greater purposes. Now ponder this.

verses 15-19 states Israel gets itself back again with God and the enemy is destroyed.

verses 20-23 states that the remnant will return and never again rely on another other than the Lord. (This will be a great day!)

verses 24-27 states that Israel need not be afraid of anyone again but instead remember what the Lord has done in the past for them.

and finally God wins, He conquers the arrogant.

Chapter 11 and 12
These chapters focus on hope after this coming storm. God gives them a glimpse of the final days when the earth is restored. In this coming day all will know Christ is King. All the remnant will gather to plunder their enemies. It is a beautiful picture of praise and hope.

Specifically verses 1-5 describe the coming Christ! I love how many times we see a glimpse of Christ through this book.

Psalm 119- Week 20

I cannot believe we have almost made it through this long yet beautiful Psalm. I am thankful to you sticking through it with me. I have loved God's word even more as we have studied this together.

ר Resh

153 Look on my suffering and deliver me,
    for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me;
    preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
    for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great;
    preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me,
    but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing,
    for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts;
    preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true;
    all your righteous laws are eternal.

Honestly I look around and see so much suffering all around us. The Psalmist here is seeking out God's attention. Of course God is always near. He never leaves or forsakes us  but there are times it seems He does not see us.  However, we have not forgotten His law. His word, it tells us clearly that we can expect trouble in this world. God is acquainted with all of our sorrows and grief. He understands more deeply than anyone else can. He is our Savior and will bring us home soon.

It would seem right to plead with God to defend our cause and redeem us, for only He can. We must believe that His persevering power is what holds us tight. Our number of days are already written in His book and He will bring them to completion.

Salvation does not belong to the wicked, those who do not see a need for God. What a sad position to hold on to especially in the midst of trial or suffering.

The Psalmist remembers God's unending passion. He will remain holding us tight. Though we have a real enemy here and now and those who do his bidding turning away from the law of God, God will hold us tight. We must hold tight to His promises.

It is hard not to look down on those who disregard the word of God for we know the greatness it holds. The Psalmist reminds God how much he loves his precepts. The Psalmist is confident that God will preserve his life according to His love for him. He then ends this section affirming his declaration that God's words are true and eternal. God is never changing, either is His word. It is enough for us to cling tight too. Are you holding on?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Looking for Someone to Blame After the Horrific Elementary School Shootings

Immediately after sin entered the world we see Adam then Eve blame others instead of taking responsibility for their sins against God. Blame is part of our sin nature as human beings. We want to know why. We want justice. Then we operate in fear. We become self-righteous and forget to see our own sin.

This is not okay. There are simply some things we will never understand or know the answers.

One thing I can tell you is that because the shooter was white, that does not make all white people evil.

Because he had has been labeled as aspergers that does not mean those with autism are like him.

Because he had access to multiple fire arms does not make fire arms wrong or bad.

Because he walked into a public school does not mean that kids must not go to school.

I have seen many statements floating around out there in cyberspace. The fact is that since the fall this world is full of trouble and evil. There is not a thing you can do to avoid it. Pulling your kids out of the public school system is not a guarantee of safety. Banning all firearms is not a guarantee of safety. Keeping away from those who have mental illnesses is not going to keep you safe. The fact is we cannot be a society that operates on fear.

I get it America wants someone to blame. But do not let fear rule you. We must pull together and move forward. We must weep with those who weep. We must pray for comfort. We must use the knowledge gained the best we can to try to keep our families safe but random evil lurks and attacks when we least expect it. I hate that and it is one of the things that helps me remember that this earth is not our home. We have a better place waiting for us that evil will not exist in. Are you in Christ? If so Heaven is your true home, this stop over is just temporary and all the pain experienced here will end. The ultimate joy will be experienced then and I believe and trust those precious babies are there now in the complete rest and joy of God.

While their families remain grieved and broken we mourn alongside and pray for comfort. This has been a great tragedy for our country as a whole. Lord, heal us all. Help us to remember the families and continue to help them through our prayers. Help us to remember we have a Savior who is acquainted with our grief. Don't waste your time on the blame game instead run into the arms of our Savior who weeps alongside, who knows what this grief feels like, who is not afraid of our questions, who holds us tight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Help Us "Bring Dakota Home"

As you know, those of you following our journey with Dakota, we are now in the adoption phase. An adoption, even privately done like ours can cost a lot of money. We wondered if you would considering partnering with us on this portion of our journey.

We are trying to think of creative ways to raise the funds for this. Right now this is what I have in mind. I will keep updating this with ideas as they come. To read all the posts about this journey just search adoption on this blog and they will all show up for you.

1-First please just would you consider praying for us on this journey daily. God needs to move some mountains. We are confident that God will bring the work to completion in His way and time. I would be forever grateful if you partner in prayer with us. Please let me know too so we can be encouraged along this path.

2- My two books are available for purchase through Amazon via the kindle store. I get 70% of the proceeds if you purchase them! That would be a way to help where you get a good resource for yourself and help us in the process. Abundant Grace is a great study geared for adults. It points you toward Jesus as you study his earthly family line, the family line he was adopted into. It has always been my favorite and stirs my heart toward Christ. Girl Power God's Way is a study for teen and up age girls that helps them grow in biblical womanhood.

If you have a prime membership you can borrow the title for free but I still get something for that.

You can get a free kindle reader app for your PC or phone or tablet to read these. If kindle is not your way you can purchase these via Sunday Scholar or Currclick where you get a PDF file that you can print or read off of your computer. I also get a good portion of these purchases.

You could give these as gifts to people. They are reasonably priced and help grow you in the Lord. A win win.

3-You could book a speaking event through us and take up a love offering. We would love to share our story and encourage others in adoption and in the Lord. We love meeting new people and encouraging them in the Lord.

Would you pray about partnering with us to meet our goal? We would love it and be so appreciative! We are all called to help the orphans, maybe helping us in this way is a way for you to help.

I should clarify what I mean by "bringing him home." We have had full guardianship of him since January of this year. Bringing him home means giving him a forever family so he does not have to live in limbo anymore. Bringing him home is giving him the security of a permanent and solid unmovable home. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Isaiah Chapter 6 - An Amazing Redeemer, A Tough Calling

I love the sixth chapter of Isaiah. It is one of my favorites scenes in the Bible yet it is conflicted. It has a bittersweet tone to it. You must read it all. It is incredible really!

In the year King Uzziah dies...
The state of Israel was at an all time economic high. They were thriving in many ways. They were very prosperous in this time period. As with many nations when in a great and extended time of prosperity they tend to take their focus off of God and onto themselves. Unfortunately this had happened to Israel.

Do you see any parallels with this wisdom regarding your country and leadership?
If yes take heart because as we continue to study we will see that God is in control of all things. He has a plan and purpose and He will see it through. He is continually at work bringing those that will belong to Him to repentance.

Isaiah then gets an amazing and rare glimpse into the very throne room of God. We get a description of his robe and some creatures who continually worship before Him. What was Isaiah's response to this amazing sight?!

Isaiah is undone! As we should be if we get even a glimpse at God in all His amazing glory. Isaiah realizes he is unclean, he should not be in the presence! Upon Isaiah's confession one of the creatures gets a live coal from the altar. With this he touched Isaiah's lips making Him clean by forgiving his sin.

Immediately after this confession and cleansing Isaiah can hear the voice of the Lord. The Lord is asking whom shall he send? and Isaiah is happy to volunteer. God then tells him to essentially prophesy to a people who will not hear him. They will not listen to what he is saying!

Now this could be very discouraging yet it exposes our motivation for service unto the Lord. If I know that I am to speak to a people who will not respond I may be tempted not to follow the call because I want to see fruit. However, the true motivation should be to accept a call God gives because we love Him and want to follow through in obedience to Him. It should not matter how man responds to us.

That is a good word for us to remember. Often we will go out spreading the seed of the gospel but it will fall on deaf ears. Yet we must be obedient in the task. God moves in people directing their response. And if they respond as verse 10 says they will repent and be healed.

Isaiah asks a great question, "How long, sovereign master?"

The Lord responds by giving Isaiah insight into the coming exile. So basically it will last Isaiah's entire life and ministry.

Now we can be encouraged by this, it does not depend on us how people respond to the word of God we just must be obedient in spreading it around.

The Lord has a plan and we must trust it even when we do not completely understand.

The Lord has everything under His control and will fulfill His promises.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bible Study Review: Chase by Jenny Allen

I received a copy of this complete Bible study at no charge for the purpose of an honest review.

It was an amazing pleasure to review this title. I have really liked this author since I read her book titled, Anything. That book greatly challenged and encouraged me so I was greatly excited for the opportunity to review this set.

The Bible study Chase retails for $39.99. It includes 1 Study workbook, 1 Leader guide, a box of discussion cards, and the teaching dvd. Comparatively it was very reasonably priced for an entire Bible study kit. I have done many of these over the years in women's ministry and they are much more expensively priced. This one is definately worth the cost.

Jennie Allen, the author, takes you through 7 weeks of Bible study centering on scriptures from the life of David. The seven weeks cover the topics of identity, courage, obedience, belief, repentance, surrender, and being chased down by God. Overall the focus is how God reaches down to us to rescue us.

In a Bible study group each participant would need a study guide. Each week they have a Bible passage and some questions to answer. Each week includes a few "projects" that can be completed to practically live out what is being taught. Essentially this leaves it open for the student to do as little or as much work they have time for meeting the need of many different participants with different time allowance and commitment levels.

When groups meet together each Dvd lesson is around ten minutes or less so they  can be easily viewed while allowing enough time for community discussion. The included discussion cards will help facilitators lead these discussions while keeping them connected to the lessons learned. Again, compared to other studies I really like this format of a short video so more community time can happen between the women. It is very well balanced.

The material is Christ centered and focused. This was a very good study that did challenge me and grow me. It was a great joy to review. To get a copy at a great price right now from Amazon go here.

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