Archive | May 2013

Let Go and Let God

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my daughter Julie and her husband David are in the process of adopting a baby.  They already have five children—three by birth and two more by adoption.  With such a large family already, some might wonder why they would want to go through all the expense and effort to adopt again.  Their only answer would be that this is the calling they believe the Lord has given them.  I would add that He has well-equipped them for this calling with all the love, patience, wisdom, acceptance and strength that they will need to raise these children for Him.

They are in the very early stages of this new adoption.  This week they have been writing a profile letter to introduce themselves to prospective birth mothers and pulling together a collage of photos to include with the letter.  Julie was concerned at first that with all the mandatory things they were supposed to include in this one page letter, that they would not be able to convey the essence of who they are and what family life is like in their home.  Somehow they managed to do it, though, and they wrote a beautiful letter.   I cannot imagine anyone reading it and not being moved by the tender, compassionate hearts of this wonderful couple.

The way I understand it, the agency goes to a birth mother with two profile packages in hand.  After looking them over, the mother may choose one of them, or she may ask to look at two more.   It is a small agency and they do not work with more than fifteen sets of adoptive parents at a time.  They have told Julie and David that, since they do not have a preference as to gender or ethnicity, and do not have a problem accepting a baby with “issues,” it probably will not be long before they are matched with a birth mother.  We are praying that the Lord will open or close doors according to His will and that they will receive exactly the baby He intends for them.

Of course, as humans, we hope as a birth mother reads their profile letter that she will choose them.  But what if the first girl to whom they hand that letter is not the right girl?  What if it is the seventh or eighth girl—a year from now?  The temptation is to jump up and down like little kids waving our hands wildly in the air and shouting “Pick me!  Pick me!”  At least that is the temptation for me, as their mother.  Julie and David are wiser than that.  They’ve already taken hands off the control of which sex, what ethnicity and even whether or not they will accept a baby with handicaps, giving God control over such things.

It is a difficult thing for some people to let go and let God take control.  They wonder, “What if God’s will is not my will?”  They are afraid to pray, “Not my will, but thine, Lord.”  What if He messes up my plans?  Why do I have to wait so long?  Why doesn’t He answer?  This is where trust comes in—trusting God that He is trustworthy!  This is where faith comes in—having faith that He is faithful.  Believing that God wants the best for us.

Here are a few thoughts on the will of God and why we need to let go and give Him control:

According to Ephesians 5:17, we are wise when we choose God’s will above our own. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  Following the will of God means we let Him lead and guide.

He plans to prosper us.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We cannot begin to imagine how much better and higher His will for us is than our own.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.   For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

God’s will teaches us.  The apostle Paul learned about God’s grace and power when he gave in to God’s will.  He said in II Corinthians 12:8-9, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Giving God control brings peace to our lives.  “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

When we let go and let God, we see His love for us.  I Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.”  His will is love.

He is God.  Who are we to think we know better what is right for us than our Creator and our Lord?  Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”   Be still, let go and let God have control!

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Old Friends, New Fellowship

A voice from the past greets me over the telephone.  An e-mail from a long-lost friend pops up in my inbox.  A “friend request” reaches across Facebook from someone I haven’t seen in decades.  What a surprise—a happy, happy surprise!

This has happened to me several times in the last few months.  Three, even four, decades have passed since I last saw these friends.  That is a lot of catching up to do!  It is great to hear about children, grandchildren, where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing, and how the Lord has worked in their lives over the years.  It is sweet to share memories of the good ol’ days and to recall mutual friends.  Like flowers that suddenly appear in the spring, these friends brighten my life by their sudden and surprise appearance.

Recently we have had the joy of not only reconnecting through e-mail and telephone calls, but also through face-to-face visits with an old friend who played an important role in our lives at one time.  Mark was the one who introduced Bob and me over 43 years.  He played a part in Bob accepting the Lord back then, and later on he stood up at our wedding.  He had been a close friend to me throughout our teenage years and an important part of my inner circle of friends.  We lost track of him a year or two after our wedding.  When we suddenly heard from him a few months ago—through this blog, actually!—it was very exciting.

Mark and I share a love for writing and books and even certain authors, so the e-mails flowed back and forth as we discussed these things.  When he discovered that I have been writing books prolifically over the last twelve or thirteen years, he offered to help me e-publish them.  As a computer programmer he had the skills to actually write a program specifically to convert my books into Kindle format, and was knowledgeable in other areas about e-publishing, as well.  Mark very generously shared his skills and a huge amount of his time in helping me, and hopefully in the next few months we will see as many as nineteen of my books offered on Amazon.com!

Mark lives in Colorado, but a few weeks ago he made a trip back to our area to see family members who still live here.  We were able to have him and his sweet sister Jean over for dinner one evening.  What a precious time of fellowship it was!  Mark remembered from what he’d read on the blog that Robbie loves music, and bless his heart, he brought his guitar with him on the plane just so that he could play for Robbie!  Robbie had never met Mark before, but welcomed him as a long-lost brother, and with stars in his eyes and a grin from ear-to-ear could not get enough of his new friend!  Forty+ years had changed us all physically, but as I watched him play his guitar for Robbie, he was somehow magically transformed before my eyes into that young guy who used to play his guitar for a bunch of teenagers gathered around him.  It made me smile—almost as widely as Robbie!

For Bob and me, it was a blessing to reconnect with this kind, generous man who loves the Lord and loves to talk about Him.  It was a blessing to see the joy he brought into our Robbie’s life.  And it was a blessing to welcome him back to our home two more times as he taught me more about e-publishing.  Mark Twain once said, Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”  Our friend Mark has certainly encouraged me.  He has a greater confidence in what will happen with my books than I do!

Mark will be returning to Colorado this week, but in the near future he will actually be moving back to our area to help in the care of his elderly mother.  We are looking forward to continuing this special friendship and thanking God for bringing him back into our lives.  There are blessings on both sides as we renew and develop this friendship that began more than forty years ago.  Mark has become a mentor to me.  He has offered his skills in other areas to Bob.  I think he would say that we, in turn, have something to give back to him that would bless his heart.  I certainly hope so, for we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

What are the characteristics of true Christian friendship?  John 15:13 is probably the foremost verse of Scripture that we recall when we think of friendship.  It says, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  Of course, this is speaking of the sacrificial death of Jesus, but it applies to us, as well.  Naturally, we are not called upon to give up our lives for others every day, but the principle of loving sacrificially is here.  In this context He was humbly and selflessly washing the disciples’ feet just a short time before he would walk that horrible path to Golgotha.  Philippians 2:3-8 tells us that we ought to have that same mindset as Christ:  “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.  Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  Sacrificial love is a characteristic of a true Christian friend.  Friendship should not be based on what I can gain from it, but on what I have to offer to show the love of Christ.

Another great verse of Scripture that speaks to the nature of true friendship is Proverbs 17:17.  It says, A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  In the good times, and especially in the bad times—a friend is there.  When my friend offends me or if he falls, a true friend will accept and forgive the other unconditionally.  None of us is perfect, none of us is blameless.  Unconditional acceptance ought to be a trait of true Christian friendship.  A good friend forgives and asks forgiveness in that spirit, and loves and accepts through difficult times.

True Christian friendship is also based on complete trust.  Proverbs 18:24 tells us, A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” It is wonderful to have many friends, but there are a select few over our lives in whom we know we have a true, loyal friend that we can trust as closely as if he or she were a brother or sister to us.  A friend like that is a rare gift and we are truly blessed by God when a friend like that comes into our lives.  We must strive to be that loyal, trustworthy friend, as well.

Another mark of true Christian friendship is the way we build up one another.  The mutual edification we provide spiritually, emotionally and physically strengthens and encourages our friend.  We share burdens; we offer a helping hand, a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to lean on.  We are honest with one another, and sometimes that means saying difficult things with truth and grace and love—even when it hurts.  Proverbs 17 has several things to say about the counsel and advice of a true friend.  “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful…Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel…Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”  (Proverbs 27:6, 9, 17)  We sharpen, strengthen and support one another with honest, godly counsel and edification.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)  We need one another.  God has provided a precious treasure in giving us Christian friends and fellowship.  And then He carried it a step further in making those dear friends our sisters and brothers!  Our life’s journey is made easier and far more enjoyable when we have a true Christian friend walking by our side.  I am thankful for each of mine!  And even better, we know we have all of eternity to cherish those friendships, as well!

Daughters-to-Mothers-to-Mothers-to-Be

I love to honor my mother on Mother’s Day—and every day!  I truly thank and praise God for making her my mother.  She has been a blessing and a beautiful gift from God to me and all my family.  She has been the inspiration for the desire in me to grow into a woman of faith like her.  My mother has influenced me in my thinking, my personality and my relationships with others. She has been a teacher and mentor in so many areas of my life, both practical and spiritual.  Most of all, my mother has led by godly example and walked the walk of what a woman of God and a godly mother should be.

Some of my favorite blogs on Sundays with Cindy have been the ones I’ve written about my mother.  In the archives you will find “Lessons I Learned from My Mother” (May 2009), “Nothin’ Says Lovin’” (May 2010) and “M.O.M.” (2010)  My mom claims that I am writing about some other woman because she does not remember being such a paragon of virtue, but that is how I see her and will always remember her.  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.   Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.  (Proverbs 31:28-31)

This year I want to focus on two other women who I feel exemplify godly motherhood.  They began life as my daughters, Laura and Julie.  From their earliest years they grew up loving Jesus and they both accepted Him as their Savior at very young ages.  When God brought their severely handicapped little brother into their lives through adoption, they began the journey that would lead them into motherhood.  They adored Robbie and became little mothers to him, cheerfully and lovingly helping, entertaining and caring for him.  Those years of nurturing their little brother prepared them well for becoming mothers themselves someday.

I was not surprised then to see the tenderness and compassion that became a part of the fabric of their lives.  When their own babies came into their lives I saw the gentle touch of their hands as they stroked those tiny faces.  I saw the love as they patiently taught and disciplined and molded the young lives of my grandchildren.  I saw how they strived to be examples of godliness to their children.  Laura and Julie were meant to be mothers.  Theirs was a holy calling—they were made to be mothers to the glory of God.

What I did not envision is the scope of the calling to which God had called them!  Laura is now expecting her seventh baby.  As the Lord has increased their family, they have welcomed each new baby as a precious gift from God.  Laura has gladly taken on the challenge of pregnancy, delivering, and nursing as she carries on with caring for and home schooling the rest of the children.  It becomes increasingly more difficult physically with each new baby, but that does not stem the joy and anticipation she has for this blessing from the Lord.

Julie was not able to have more babies after their third, but that did not quench the burning desire in her heart to mother more children.  She and her husband began a very long and difficult journey to adopt, and finally last year brought home two more children, teenagers from the Ukraine, welcoming them into their family with open arms and open hearts.  Now the mother of five, Julie announced this week that she, too, is expecting a new baby through adoption, possibly by the end of this year!  Their new adoption agency seems very encouraging that it may happen quickly.  They are open, as well, if the Lord should bring more children through adoption in the future.  Motherhood is the calling that God has placed within Julie’s heart and it is her joy.

I would have never dreamed my two daughters would become the mothers of thirteen (or more?) beautiful children!  Now, however, I see how perfectly suited they are—equipped by God for the labor of love to which He has called them.   I Timothy 1:9 has always been one of my favorite verses of Scripture.  It says, Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”  The glory goes to God for making them the beautiful mothers they are.  He has given them the gifts of wisdom, strength, patience, faith, love and compassion.

I see a lot of my mother in Laura.  Julie tends to take after me.  I know as their children grow and raise children of their own, the spiritual legacy they have inherited will continue through the generations.  Proverbs 31 is so true of my mother and it is true of my daughters, as well.  “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.  She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.  Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.  Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.  Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.   Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”  (Proverbs 31:10, 25-31)

Praise God for this precious calling of motherhood and for the gifts He gives us to be the best we can be to His glory!  Happy Mother’s Day!

The Three Bears

Once upon a time there were three bears—Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Little Bear.  Now, Little Bear needed a new chair, so Mama Bear went online and began searching for a recliner that would meet all of her Little Bear’s needs.  At last she found one that seemed just right.  According to the website it had the same dimensions as his old chair and it looked very comfy cozy.  Mama Bear traveled through the forest to the furniture store to see if they had one like it in stock.  Of course they did not, but no problem—they would order it for her.  Hurray!

Eight long weeks went by and finally the big day arrived!  Little Bear’s new chair was delivered but alas!—it was too small!  The chair that was supposed to be oversized so Little Bear could move around in it and change positions was much smaller than they expected after all of Mama’s research.  Little Bear was scrunched in one place and could not move.  His face puckered up and he looked so unhappy!  It would not do at all!  Little Bear’s comfort was the most important thing so Mama Bear called the store and said, “This chair is too small!”  They were very nice and told Mama and Papa to bring Little Bear into the store.  They had some new chairs in stock and maybe they would find one that was just right.

Papa, Mama and Little Bear traveled through the forest to the store and lo and behold—there was a nice big recliner that seemed to be just right for Little Bear!  Papa Bear put his boy into the chair and Little Bear’s face lit up!  He liked it!  “We’ll take it!” Papa and Mama cried.  Whew!

The new chair was delivered the very next day.  It was oversized, alright!  It looked even bigger in their house than the old chair had.  It was a throne!  A big throne for their little crown prince!  Nice!  There was only one problem.  It was so big that Mama could not put Little Bear in the chair at all!  It was too big!  Little Bear’s comfort was the most important thing, but if Mama couldn’t get him into the chair when Papa was gone, then what was the use?

Oh, no!   What should they do?  They could not call the store back and say, “This chair is too big!”  The people at the store would say, “Who do you think you are—Goldilocks?”  No, they would have to figure something out.  Mama and Papa put their heads together and came up with a plan.  Papa Bear went out to the garage and began to hammer and saw.  Soon he came back in carrying a sturdy wooden box.

He had built a three inch step.  It was long and wide enough that Mama and Little Bear could safely stand on it at the same time.  He had covered it with carpet for their comfort and attached a handle so Mama could move it easily.  All she had to do then was sit Little Bear up on his bed, swivel his feet over to the step, and stand him up.  Voilá!  Mama Bear could easily place him then on his big throne!  Hurray!  It was just right!

*****

That little three inch step up made all the difference.  It was a boost not only in height, but to my spirits.  I was ready to cry when the second chair came and I realized that it was fine for Robbie but not for me.  I felt old and weak—at least as far as caring for Robbie.   I think that is a fear for most parents of adult disabled children—that someday they will not be able to physically handle the challenges of caring for their child.  Bob can lift and carry Robbie as if he were a rag doll.  I can barely move him.  The step Bob built made it easier than it had been for several years.

We all need a boost from time to time.  Sometimes we need to be the one boosting others.  Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”  Some, like Robbie—and me—are weak physically.  Others may have spiritual or emotional needs.  They need someone to step up and lend a hand to hold or a shoulder to lean upon through this journey.  Galatians 6:2 encourages us to share one another’s burdens along the way.  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Even when the need is not great, it is a blessing to know others walk alongside, ready to give support and encouragement should the need arise.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.   For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”  The step Bob built was not much, but it was just enough to meet the need should it arise.  As loving brothers and sisters we must be ready to step up to encourage, inspire, help and lead by godly example.

Of course, our Lord is the great encourager, lifter and sustainer.  He is always with us to give us a step up; to carry our burdens; to uphold us through our times of discouragement or trouble.  The Bible says, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22)  Psalm 145:14 goes on to say, “The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.”  One of my favorite Scriptures is Isaiah 41:10.  It says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

We can give a step up to others by just being there for them.  And God Himself lifts us up and upholds us in His hands.  In Little Bear’s words—it is just right!