Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Word About Open Adoption - Our Story So Far

When I first thought about adopting a child and God put that desire into my heart, because honestly God has to open your heart to this kind of task, I initially wanted absolutely no contact with the birth parents. My husband and I prayed about this and felt led to start the process of adopting from the Philippines. Part of my heart motivation of adopting from overseas was the bonus of no contact with the birth family.

God however had other things in store for us. Our initial plan is not how it happened for our family. My youngest daughter was having some difficulty in life and behavior. It was during this time we discovered she had autism. It put a halt on our plans. We knew as a family we needed to learn how to better function. We just stopped talking about adoption. We entrusted that dream to God. If He wanted it it would happen in His time. It is His plan in building families so we would wait for Him.

Over that dying to our plans and dreams of adoption period we learned a lot of better coping skills useful for our family. Things were better but I was not sure if we were ready to bring another in to change that family dynamic. And at this time I was having a flare with my mystery illness. I was fine with how things were as is.

My girls started asking again about adoption and a baby brother. I kept saying pray. God will show us. Then my health took a remission again. It was now again a possibility. I kept asking God how to proceed for I was ready if it was time. Yet it is hard to pick up a dream again that you purposely let die.

Shortly after my health remission my friend called saying there were some boys that were going into the state system if they could not find some families to take guardianship of them. I said I would pray. This was not adoption but guardianship until the family could get things straightened out. It was different but was it God's path for us? My husband immediately said he would not leave a child out who needed help. He was on board. I was a little hesitant.

You see I was working with the state system and families in these kind of crisis es earlier as a social worker. I have seen what happens. I did not know if my heart could stand doing something like this. It would be hard work. Harder than I have ever done. But as a family we agreed to it. We hoped we could help this family get on their feet. Help them get things on track and get their children back. It also would give us a taste of how it would be to adopt. Could we really consider it after this task was complete?

Now when you do something like this you get to know people really well. You see very clearly the ups and downs, habits, and everything in their life. Much more really than you like to know. But you love anyway in a long suffering way. You learn to exist together as a unit for the welfare of the kids. You make it work. It is a new interesting family unit.

The shift in thought came at about 8 or 9 months into this process. We saw no change. No hope of returning the kids. We started to pray for permanency because all kids need this. They cannot remain in limbo and with a few displacements prior these kids deserved better. That is when the a word came up. It was a hard word. You see adoption is very permanent. It is very difficult. It takes great love.

Adoption for any birth mother is hard. It is seeing yourself rightly and realizing you cannot take care of these kids the way they deserve to be taken care of for various reasons. It is loving them enough to let them go. It is choosing not to abort them but bring them to life outside the womb. It is very difficult. I cannot even pretend I understand the pain. It is brave. It is selfless. It is death.

Not sure how adoption law works in all states but legally in Tennessee after birth parents sign termination of parental rights the adoptive parents do not have to have any contact with the birth family. Even in open adoption we are not obligated to see the birth family again. The term really only keeps the records open which are very vague. They do not explain anything like the whys of it.

Open adoption is a choice to love the birth family and keep them involved in ways you see fit that would benefit them but mostly the child involved. Our little guys birth family love him dearly yet they saw they could not give him stability anytime in the near future. They saw it was only fair for him and his future to move past this stage on to permanency. This was his best chance in life and they want to give him that.

In our case of open adoption it is probably the most open I have seen. We are choosing to stay involved with the birth parents and grandparents and siblings. We feel like we have been adopted by a larger family unit. We have gotten to know them really well over the past 15 months. We actually like each other. It is an amazing work of God. It took time to get to this place. And only time will show how it proceeds. All I know is that in adoption the child becomes yours as if you birthed them yourself. In turn it places the birth parents in an aunt or uncle role. It can be confusing but if you can all live together selflessly for the sake of the children then it can be a good experience. One that needs to be worked through each step of the way keeping the best interest of the children at heart.

The only way one can do this is rightly placing their identity in Christ and nothing else. Otherwise feelings of threat and jealousy will surface. We must depend on HIM every step of the way. All of us. We must remember this together. We must speak the gospel to ourselves moment by moment. We must see ourselves rightly as sinners in need of a Savior who loves us enough to come down to us to save us as we trust in Him.

We have always wanted a big family and in a way this has extended it. We will root for the birth parents to succeed. We will root for the success of the siblings. We will pray faithfully for them. We will love them well. We will be what we need to be in it. Not perfect but perfectly flawed children of God. We lean and depend on Him each step of the way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Bitesize Biographies John Newton by John Crotis

I received this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

I really enjoyed this title. It is written with just the right "bite" for someone to get a quick snap shot yet thorough enough view of the life of John Newton. I was impressed with this book because of the vast information that was included in this smaller sized book.

Included in the front of the book is a timeline of Newton's life including important events. Then after his life is described there are two more chapters that focus on his hymns and his letters. I found this very interesting and a great addition to this biography.

If you are interested in the life of John Newton this is a great book for you!
To get a copy from Amazon go here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Bound Together by Chris Brauns

I received a copy of this title free of charge from Zondervan for the purpose of an honest review.

Bound Together: How we are tied to others in good and bad choices is an insightful book. God made us to live in community not as lone rangers. However in community comes much joy and pain because we are all connected and in that connection peoples choices make a difference in our lives for the good or bad. The author writes this title to explain a term he has coined as the principle of the rope. You can also define this term as solidarity. He goes in great length to explain this principle as it appears in relationships in the Bible then in some other contemporary relationships. He then goes on to cover that connections with others in good or bad may be viewed through the "stronger rope" of Christ.

The first five chapters of the book explain the principle of the rope through examples. The last five deal with application of this principle in our everyday life and relationships. Like I stated above, this is an insightful book. I hope it helps the reader think about the decisions they have made and the impact this has had on others. I hope it opens the eyes of readers at how important your personal choices are. How they make a difference for others because we are all connected. I then hope that the reader can apply the gospel or the stronger rope of Christ to this truth.

This book has impacted me because I have thought of things this way before in reading the Bible or thinking through my personal choices, however I needed to be reaffirmed that no matter what choices I make God works them all out to fulfill His greater plan. An example of this is that I can never mess up my children with my choices because God is greater. I can cause pain but God will use every bit of that to form them into who He has them to be. It is freeing if viewed in light of the gospel. Over all it is an interesting read.

To get a copy of this book from Amazon go here.
Kindle version is only $3.79 at the time of this review! Great price.

To get a copy from Barnes and Noble go here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: Christ in the Chaos by Kimm Crandall


Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood is an excellent read for any mom. I highly recommend this book. Moms do not need any help with heaping guilt or new invented ways to raise your kids perfectly. Often books on motherhood are written like that only giving you more to do. This book is a breathe of fresh air among those. Instead of helping you feel condemned like most moms are apt to feeling, this book reminds you of the gospel and God's amazing love and grace for you mom.

There is a place for instructional type books that may aid in your parenting but this book is an absolute must read before you read anything else. There are others out there who can share their wisdom and experiences with us so we can glean from their wisdom of how to. But there is no certain way to raise all children. God made each one unique so our parenting them will vary. Parenting must be one of those tools God uses to keep us dependent on Him. So instead of searching for what to do, rest in what Christ has already done. This book will help you with this rest.

I am thrilled with this title because I completed it feeling more free as a mom and more thankful for what Christ has done for me because of His love. Don't we need to feel more free as moms? I am telling you you will be better off for reading this one. It is a parenting book that inspires your heart to worship Him in the chaos. In fact here is just one brilliant quote, "The call to motherhood is not about you and your ability to raise your family; it's about a Savior who has called you to serve Him as He fulfills a beautiful redemptive plan. Whether you are working joyfully or struggling to keep your head above water, He is loving you and working all things for His glory."

The book is divided into ten encouraging chapters that will refresh your soul in Christ. It can be read individually or with a group of moms. There are thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter which enhance your reading experience and would be great to use with a small group. The appendix of the book includes many Scriptures to help you in areas you may struggle as a mom like when you blow it or when you feel weak among other things. This is a great part of the book so don't miss it. It will only help you as you lean on Christ in your parenting.

This would be a great mother's day gift. It is very reasonably priced. You can get a copy from Amazon here.
Another great place to purchase this is Cruciform Press here.

When He Won't Lead

I am saddened these days by women who are in marriages where their husbands will not lead. It is occurring all around us. I can only guess the deep rooted reason for this is due to the fall of man in the garden. In the garden the couple was free. Completely free with one another even in their nakedness. Can you imagine being completely free? I mean really take a moment to imagine the garden, perfect freedom, no shame, perfect submission. Then you also had the perfect presence of God with you too! We cannot even begin to know what this was like because we have never been without the experience of sin.

God had a plan and gave an intentional order to things. In marriage even pre fall the husband was meant to lead. Husband and wife reigned together but he was the head. Just as the trinity has a head in the Father, marriage has a head in the husband. This never was to make the woman less. She holds the same value just holds a different role. This is God's way. It is beautiful. It is a blessed and beautiful dance when done right.  It can shine the gospel brightly to a dying world.

Because of sin men have often swayed from dominating women or being passive toward women. Both of these extremes are wrong. We have seen both roles play out through out history. God's plan is beautiful when applied correctly. A godly man will trust in what Christ has done for him and lead by faith in servant leadership like his Christ. He will not do it perfectly for only Christ is perfect but he will do his best as he keeps his eyes fixed on Christ.

Yet when our husband does not lead how are we to respond? These are some things I have learned that I think are helpful. I have pondered them as I rejoice at the leadership role my husband has embraced now when in the beginning of our marriage he did not.

1-Pray! I cannot even begin to tell you how important this is. Do it! Pray for your man faithfully. Pick Scripture to pray over him. God will move. He will move in your heart too as you do this. When you get the urge to nag or complain stop yourself and pray! God will move but sometimes it takes time. I have seen so much more accomplished through cries to the Lord rather than nagging toward my man.

2-Respect him. I know this may seem hard especially if you have become bitter or hardened of heart from doing things yourself most of the time but he needs your respect as a man and as another image bearer of Christ. Don't criticize him. He needs you to be his biggest cheerleader.

3-Live the gospel out before his eyes. 1 Peter 3 tells us that our behavior has a great effect on them. It is through our Christ like behavior they can be won over without a word. This happened in my marriage.

4-Trust God is sovereign. God can work through anyone and He will work through your husband. It can be scary to let go and trust him to lead but God works this way in marriage. Trust God in His good design for biblical marriage. Resist that urge you have to take over. Let him have room to fail and learn. Love him well.

Of course you can only do this if you are in Christ. Let your man be what God created him to be ladies! It will do lots for him and your marriage. Praying for us now that we will give husbands room to lead. That we will respect them and trust God is in control. If you are struggling in this area let me pray for you. Shoot me an email. I think that this time is such an important time to fight for our biblical marriages and shine that biblical example that reflects Christ and the church since marriage as we know it is fully under attack. Let's fight to do it right in Christ!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Pressure is Off Mom - Growing in the Grace of Parenting

I find it interesting that when my biological children were the age of our soon to be adopted son they were expressing great love for God. They knew in some ways that they were sinners who needed a Savior. They delighted in following after Jesus. This was their life. This is what they lived. This is what they were taught.

Our little man has a tiny interest in the things of God. It worries my heart. I am not sure why except that I know if you taste and see the Lord is good there is no where else to go! When you see His beauty there is not greater thing. I desire him to understand this too even in just a little way that a 4 year old can. I want him to desire to do what is right in response to this.

Yet the danger in this is moralism. I could demand him to tow a strict line of rules. I could try to share the joy of Jesus in following these rules. This however is not right. It is backwards. We follow the rules with joy when we know His love for us. When we know how deeply blessed we are because He chose us! Little man cannot see this yet. In fact I fear some of my older children's obedience comes from moralism.

I am so thankful that God is opening my eyes to some things as I get another chance at parenting a young one.

1-It is not up to me for my children to come to know Jesus--God is sovereign.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Of course I need to share the good news. I need to authentically walk it out. I need to show the love of Christ to them. But only God can move in their hearts. Of course he does not know how to respond, he was never taught but this is good. He will be less likely to cling to the rules in order to be good. His heart is more honest. I am fully convinced that parenting keeps us completely dependent on Christ if we truly desire to see fruit in our children's lives. We know we cannot make the fruit grow. We must trust as we watch and wait in faith as we faithfully do the watering and planting.

2-Moralism and right living does not get to the true heart of the matter. This is a dangerous place to live for it is saturated with idolatry. Your identity is in the ability to be "good" rather than "hidden in Christ." Instead we need to know that He was good, the only one good enough to keep all the rules, and by His sacrifice and trading places with us we are saved. Not by perfection but by grace through what He has done on our behalf. Period.

3-Parenting by threat or guilt is not going to work over time. 
You may get some immediate results but they will not last. If we threaten our children and rule by fear they will only become moralist who outwardly behave but inwardly curse us. We are raising hypocrites, pharisees with this type of parenting.

If we use guilt we raise people pleasing kids who only desire to do what makes others like them or find value in them. Identity in what others think of them, which is idolatry, not in Christ alone.

My oldest daughter asked me once, "Mom does Jesus yell at me?" Oh that crushed me. I knew she was seeing Jesus as she saw me in her life. The irritable mom who snaps words and commands in a not so friendly tone. I replied, "NO! Jesus does not yell at us or treat you the way I do. I am so sorry I need Him to move and change me as much! Let's ask Him to help Mommy."

Moms, pray for your children.God will move and work in their hearts as you faithfully live and disciple them. Show them the love of Jesus but when you mess up don't condemn yourself for there is no condemnation for us in HIM. Just get back up and move forward. Only Jesus could do this perfectly. Let your children know that you need the gospel as much as them. It is never too late. Be faithful. Ask God to help you.

So truly the pressure is off, it is not up to me. God has got this under His sovereign control. He is working in the secret places of all of my children's hearts as much as He is in mine. He is moving us from one degree of glory to another as we look to Him and what He has done. There is amazing beauty in His sacrifice for us while we were still sinners. He did this with joy that was set before Him. He saw us redeemed and that kept Him nailed there. That kept Him silent when attacked. What amazing love! May we understand this more fully so we can spread it to our children and all the others He places around us.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fear of Man in Worship

Today the children and I stayed home from church for complicated reasons I will not get into here. However, it allowed us time to have home church together. It was a great time of worship. The thing I noticed however was how free we all were in our worship. It was sweet. Then the thought struck me, why do I not worship as freely at church?

It was then that God gently revealed to my heart that it is for a fear of man. Oh that crushed me! I have come so far in this area yet it still lingers on. Will it ever completely be removed? Probably not in this world.

Yet God gently spoke to my heart the love of Christ that took that sin for me on the cross. Oh His love. When I regard man and his opinion of me more highly than I should God still loves me. He knows this breaks my heart because it broke Him on the cross. As I behold Him He transforms me more and more into His image little by little by the power of His Holy Spirit.

So my word for you today is to behold Him! The point is we do not deserve His grace or love because we are forever running astray even in worship! Yet His love and grace is so immense it trumps our sin. Oh I hope you believe and trust in this promise! It is good to be reminded of.

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Psalm 119 - Week 22

Well I am finally ending this study of Psalm 119. I absolutely love this Psalm! What a great way to end this section as a prayer! Lord may it be true of us.


169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
    give me understanding according to your word!

May we trust you with our entire hearts that we believe you hear and give us understanding. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who now lives in us who believe. Thank you that He teaches and leads us into all truth.

170 Let my plea come before you;
    deliver me according to your word.

God may you delight to hear us, may we trust your promises to be true and walk confidently in them by faith.

171 My lips will pour forth praise,
    for you teach me your statutes.

Oh Lord may we love and delight in your word, may it spurn our hearts to pour forth praise to You alone. 

172 My tongue will sing of your word,
    for all your commandments are right.

Lord may we burst forth in praise because of You and your word. What a privilege and blessing to live in a time such as this where we can read, carry, and own your very words to us!

173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
    for I have chosen your precepts.

Oh Lord do be who you are as Helper in our life. Keep us on the path of following your word. We ask for Your grace in this!

174 I long for your salvation, O Lord,
    and your law is my delight.

Oh the day when He comes back for us finally! What glory, what joy! Let us delight in His promises until that day!

175 Let my soul live and praise you,
    and let your rules help me.

Oh precious Father do allow our hearts to be full of praise for You. Let Your word guide us and help us. Continually be our guide. Thank you for not leaving us to ourselves. Oh let us treasure Your word like a love letter to us.

176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
    for I do not forget your commandments.

Oh Lord, keep us close. Carry us. Do not let us run astray. When we do quickly bring us back to You our one and only true love. Let us remember Your word and promises for You desire the best for us!

Book Review: Crucifying Morality by R.W. Glenn

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher, Shepherd Press, for the purpose of an honest review.

This book was an excellent read. The purpose of the book was exploring gospel centeredness through the teaching of the beatitudes. I wish I knew what I read in this book earlier in my Christian walk. Christian life can be taught as a list of do's and don'ts but that is not the point of the gospel. When looking at a teaching like the beatitudes it is easy to desire to work at being them. They should not be taught this way. The author explains this fully chapter by chapter. Essentially Jesus did all that needed to be done and this is a picture of Christ-likeness. The beatitudes play out in our life as evidence of Christ in our life changing us. Not our effort but trusting His.

I highly recommend this book for all Christians. It is very tempting to want to live in a way that makes us feel worthy of the gospel by living a list of rules but that is not the point of Christianity. Instead of living that way we live and rest in the grace of what Christ has already done on our behalf. Accepting His perfect living as ours when we are in Him. As we realize this, God by His Spirit changes us little by little so we reflect the beatitudes more and more. It takes the pressure off of trying to perform for we can never be good enough. That is the beauty of Christianity. Christ knew this and died for us so we could be good enough hidden in Him. This book was freeing and reenforced those thoughts.

You can get a copy of this title from Amazon here.

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