Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rejoicing in the Day



"Oh let those who fear the Lord say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
Psalm 11:


I woke up this morning and threw on Pandora as I got ready. The first song that came up was "Psalm 118" by Shane and Shane. I found my heart being filled with praise for my King as I listened to the words of the Psalms put to music.


I continued to get ready, and as I opened my Bible for my daily quiet time, I found that my reading for the day came from Psalm 118. I could not be more excited to dive into the Scripture and really find what the Lord was teaching me.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His lovingkindness endures forever" (Psalm 118:1). I found myself dwelling on that verse. God is good, even when things around us seem bleak. We can find our strength in the reminder that His very character is love and kindness. Whatever it is that comes our way, we can truly turn it back to praise because we know He is good.

What really convicted me was verse 24. "This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. I don't know about you, but I cannot honestly say I have been choosing to rejoice in the days given to me by the Lord. As any teacher knows, the end of the year can be hard. As the year comes to a close, it is easy to let the countdown consume and the heart to detach. As any wife knows, there are days when you are tired and being a Proverbs 31 wife is the last thing you want to be doing. As any woman waiting to be a mom knows, it is easy to focus on the waiting rather than praising God for giving you this season in your life.

It is so easy to let days go by without allowing your heart to be captivated by the awesome ways in which God is at work. Through this morning's song and Scripture reading, I was really challenged to see the stitching of God throughout my day and rejoice in that. Instead of moving through routine, I was reminded of my need to sing out to Him constantly. To allow little joys and trials to point my focus upwards. Oh Lord, may I truly rejoice in the day you have given. Will you join me in choosing to be glad at whatever may come today?

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cease Striving

"He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
And righteousness from the God of his salvation"
Psalm 24:4-5

I start each morning in my quiet time. This is a practice that has been a part of my routine for years, and I couldn't imagine starting my day any other way. Every youth group, church camp, and small group teaches that this is what a good Christian should do. Lately, I have allowed this time in Scripture to be simply another thing on my to-do list. I read, I pray, and I memorize, but I walk away unmoved and unchanged. As I go about my day, I have realized that my readings from the morning are not written on my heart and I would be hard-pressed to tell you much of what I have read.

That is a problem. A big problem.

God doesn't want my lip service or my striving. He desires my heart and my complete surrender. The Bible should not just be something that we get through but, rather, something that gets through us. When we stop reading the Bible and begin to truly meditate and pray through Scripture, we find a heart that is softened and a life that begins to swerve towards the will of Christ.

Deep down, I know this truth and truly desire to do just that, but I let the busyness take over and be my guide. Right now, I am trying to finish the school year, pack my apartment to get ready for a move, and help my husband get adjusted to his new job. I feel like every time I cross off something on my to-do list, I add 4 more things to the list. 

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How freeing it is to walk away from the list and lay down my striving in order to seek out the Lord's heart. I pray that I can enter into my time with the Lord as a time of rest rather than a task that needs to be done. 

I pray that your time with the Lord can be refreshing rather than ritualistic. Oh Lord, I pray that my heart is drawn to you out of love and not duty. When we allow our hearts to be stirred by Him, we find that there are "pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

Monday, May 12, 2014

Life through Dying

"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."
Matthew 16:25

Avery has officially moved to Houston to begin his internship! I am so excited for him and can't wait to see what God has in store for him through this process. Since he was getting ready for the move, we did live streaming from our old church in Dallas rather than going to church.

The sermon series has been on spending time in the spiritual disciplines in order to grow in intimacy with God. Yesterday was the last sermon in the series and was on dying to self. All the other disciplines are necessary in order to prepare us for the one discipline that truly matters. Truth is, we must make a choice between self or Christ. No one can live for two masters (Matthew 6:24), and we must choose to lay down ourselves daily in order to seek life in Christ.

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While it looks like life on the outside, there is truly no life that can be found outside of Christ. God is the creator and giver of life, and when we live outside of that, we are left to darkness and death. Still, we find ourselves running after things of this world time and time again. We are pleasure-seekers and desire instant gratification. Jumping off a building is thrilling at the beginning, but the crash at the end is inevitable. Oh, but there is life when we let the words of Galatians 2:20 wash over us. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."

As I let the sermon truly soak in, I was deeply challenged to look at myself. What areas of life am I choosing myself over the Lord? What areas of my life do I need to die in so that I can experience life? To die to self is to truly lay down what it is we think we want in the moment in order to focus on the glory of God. Through this process, we can move away from self-centeredness  and become more whole-heartedly devoted to Him. Here, we can experience freedom, as we allow more time and resources to be dedicated to furthering the Kingdom of the Lord.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Warmth of a Mother's Embrace

I planned to do a post on Proverbs 14:30 but as I sat down to write, my heart was pulling me another direction. A sweet friend of mine just traveled to China to get her sweet baby girl. This precious child is completely deaf but fully loved! Check Jamie's blog to read more about her families adventures.

Recently, she has posted video after video of other children needing forever homes. These sweet babies are children of God that need love.

"I know so many families who have adopted and are pursuing adopting children with Down Syndrome, please spread the word on this sweet angel baby!!! In the video, they first try to convince me why no one would want him... I wasn't listening. He needs a mama!"

"The sweet blind baby boy... what a cutie! He was all smiles when I stroked his face and talked to him, I have his name in a separate video, we would like to contact Bethel China about him, they are FABULOUS with caring for low vision/ blind children and finding them families!...."

"Sweet girl, I told them, if all she may need is surgery and therapies, America has wonderful medical facilities to help her mobility issue with her legs... What a baby doll, I don't know how to spell her name, but anyone interested in adopting her can ask a Mandarin-speaking friend to listen to the name they say and write it in Pinyin, and if she is "paper ready", we can find her. It sounds as though she was abandoned very recently, sweet baby, can you imagine how sad she was, to remember losing her mama? Her crib was right next to my Kate's, this past month, and she's wearing the dress that was too small for K, that I had ordered. Pray for a family for her please!"

"I'm BACK SAFELY!!! I cannot express how very very important it was for me to go. The trip to the orphanage... I have to think about it more what I have learned. It leaves me speechless. It makes me love Katie more and more, knowing where she lived 2 1/2 years of her life in a metal crib all day. These precious children... some in the baby room were barely responsive... I took SEVERAL videos of children to advocate for. I thanked them all through tears, for caring for Katie. I want to say, in the past 3 days, Katie has "come alive", she's making tons more eye contact and interacting better and even ran up to give me hugs tonight a few times! The HIGHLIGHT of my orphanage trip, hands down, was THIS VIDEO.... I didn't know it, but her foster brother (her best friend from the past 1 1/2 in the foster home) was taken out of the foster home and is back in the orphanage until he gets a family. I AM NOW ON A MISSION TO FIND A FAMILY FOR HIM! Advocate friends, PLEASE please PLEASE put him on your blogs. Liu Qiu Xin (Choo-Shin), 4 years old,... He has "delayed speech/ low intelligence", according to them, but as you can see, is an absolute delight!!!"

Oh Lord, break our hearts for what breaks Yours!! I pray these precious babies find families that will love and show them Your love! 

If you are broken as much as I am, consider ways to help:
1. Pray, pray, pray!!!!!!!! 
2. SHARE on Facebook, blogs, twitter, Pinterest, etc.
3. Consider adoption. Contact me and I can get you in touch with Jamie. She is a great resource for questions about these children and adoption from China/adoption of special needs
4. Consider donating to a fund to help buy toys for this orphanage and these children. Again, I can get you Jamie's information if you are interested.

May all children know the warmth of a mama's embrace!!

"Father to the fatherless, defender of widows- 
this is God, whose dwelling is holy. 
God places the lonely in families; 
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. 
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."

Psalm 68:5-6

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Let's Talk Autism

"All your sons will be taught of the Lord;
And the well-being of your sons will be great."
Isaiah 54:13

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While April may have come and gone, Autism is here to stay. Most of you likely know about the Light it Up Blue campaign, and you may even have heard that the CDC recently announced the prevalence of Autism has risen to 1 in 68 diagnosed (that is 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls), but do you know the signs and symptoms of Autism? Early intervention is the biggest predictor of success for children with Autism. By raising awareness and educating people to know what to look for, we can step in and help, one child at a time.

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What is Autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome. (source)

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What are the symptoms of Autism?
ASD is characterized by social interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and repetitive behaviors. Keep is mind, every child is different so these may manifest differently from child to child.
-Social Interactions: children with Autism struggle with the give-and-take of social interactions. They have difficulties with eye contact, playing social games, imitating the actions of others, responding to social cues and body language, regulating emotions, and seeing things from another person's perspective.
-Communication Challenges: Children with Autism typically have delayed or absent babble as a toddler. They struggle to learn gestures to communicate wants and needs. They may have difficulty putting words together to form sentences, repeat phrases over and over (scripting), or repeating what they just heard (echolalia). They often struggle to read situational cues of conversations or understand tone of voice. 
-Repetitive Behaviors: This is also commonly called "stimming" to refer to self-stimulation. Common repetitive behaviors include rocking, flapping, jumping, twirling, arranging/rearranging objects, repeating words/phrases, or wiggling fingers/hand in front of face. This can also lead to obsession with certain objects (e.g.-Thomas the train, fans, vacuums) or very in depth knowledge of a certain topic (astronomy, wrestling, train schedules).
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Resources:
Autism Checklist for Toddlers
Early Signs of Autism by Age
Autism Society
Autism Speaks

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Not Shaken


"Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken"

Psalm 55:22

This verse has been heavy on my heart over the past couple of weeks. This is an absolute, a promise that we can hold onto. I love the truth that we will be sustained when we cast our burdens on the Lord.

Easier said than done...

If you are anything like me, I find it really easy to cast my burdens in the morning during my prayer time, but somehow throughout the day, I slowly but surely grab hold of them again. I want to feel in control, but the burdens do nothing but shake me.

In the moments when I truly surrender, when I totally allow God to grab hold of the struggles in life, I experience a freedom that is only explained by a supernatural peace that can only come from above. This verse explains why believers can stand in the midst of chaos and tragedy and still experience peace. We are told by Paul in Philippians that if we come to God in prayer and petition we will be filled with a peace that goes beyond human understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).

We are promised trials and tribulations in this life, but praise God the verse doesn't end there! We can have faith in knowing our God has overcome them all (John 16:33).

As I began to really look to the next part of this verse, something really seemed amiss. First, aren't we shaken? Just because we are believers doesn't mean we don't experience pain and loss and heartache. Being shaken is to be expected...right?

Then I landed on that word righteous. Romans 3:10 tells us that there are none who are righteous, so how can we expect such a thing? The One and Only who is righteous is Jesus Christ. We, through His death and resurrection, can be counted righteous. When we accept Him as our Savior, we are accepting His redemption and are covered in all that He is.

So, our human flesh may be tested and tried, but there is nothing that is too big for Christ. When the storms rush in, He stands firm. We are not shaken because He is not shaken. Whatever trial that surrounds you, whether death of a loved one, infertility, the desire for a spouse, the loss of a job, etc, may your source of peace truly come from the Prince of Peace.

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It is then that you will not be shaken.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Reece's Rainbow Prayer Warrior

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you"
John 14:18

Good morning! I hope each one of you had a fabulous weekend and a joyous celebration of the death and resurrection of our Lord. Avery and I headed to Houston to celebrate April birthdays and Easter with my family! It was wonderful to spend time with the ones I love and truly reflect on what the Easter holiday is all about.

I am very excited to share with you about an organization that I care deeply about and a child that I get to partner with! As most of you know, I am a special education teacher and have a heart for children with special needs, especially those with Down Syndrome. I came across Reece's Rainbow and immediately felt the Lord's hand in this amazing organization.


Avery and I prayed over adoption from Reece's Rainbow but are not in a place where we feel that God is calling us to this right now. James 5:16 tells us "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much", so I was very excited when I stumbled upon the prayer warrior program

The Reece's Rainbow prayer warrior program was created with 3 goals in mind:
  1. To lift the daily needs of each waiting child up in prayer
  2. To lift Reece’s Rainbow up in prayer
  3. To lift the families whom God is preparing for each waiting child up in prayer

I am so excited to introduce you to Brody, my sweet boy that I can begin praying for daily. Brody was born in March of 2012, "Brody is a sweet little boy who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. He also has a heart defect in which he received surgery for his VSD, foramen ovale closure and ligation of ductus arteriosus. His treatment was successful and he is doing well now. Brody is learning well and is he learning how to crawl. He can hold his own bottle and toys and likes to be active. He is not making sounds yet but he always has a ready smile."

Precious child of the King!

Ways you can help? 
-Join me in praying for Brody
-Checking out the Prayer Warrior Program and finding your own child to pray for
-Checking out the Family Warrior Program and praying for a family that is going through the adoption process
-Praying for discernment in your own adoption
-Praying for orphans all over the world that need a loving home

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me"
Matthew 18:5