Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Have Been Changed ~ Glory to God!

"Whoever welcomes one little child like this
in My name welcomes Me."
Matthew 18:5

This is part 3 of my dear friend Nancy's testimony about how God has changed her life and the lives of her family through a precious little child.

Here's Nancy....

I have been changed. 

It started on October 5, 2011, and it is still happening. The day I learned of this boy, my “heart surgery” began. Heart surgery is term to describe the complete upheaval of my selfishness. I started to see the value of THIS life on earth in a different way. I started to question how seriously I believed the words of the Bible. Did I believe these words enough to truly exchange what others would think for something I knew Jesus would think highly of?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless in this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

I began to develop a keen awareness that I no longer wanted my minutes on earth to be wasted on things that will evaporate. God had showed me in the photo of an abandoned boy what is truly valuable to Him. The things that force us to crucify our flesh and move others into position AHEAD of ourselves and our selfishness are the things that carry WEIGHT for eternity. The things that move our hearts and the hearts of others toward the feet of Jesus are the things that carry TRUE value. Wow. 

I have been changed.

Were it not for the heart change, how would I ever be willing or able to give up my desires for rest and free time? I wouldn't. Were it not for heart change, how would I rejoice in the sacrifice of “me” for a desperately weak boy? Impossible without the heart change and the eternal vision that can only come from having my eyes opened by the Savior.

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:20, 21

It has been difficult to squeeze the last 17 months of our journey with Bryon into three parts. I have felt led to conclude this series by giving the glory to God by telling some of the countless miracles He has done on behalf of Bryon and our family. 

Every day of this journey with Bryon in our home has been a reminder to me that our God is intimately concerned with every aspect of our lives. My favorite part of this realization is the fact that, just as the Bible says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” (Psalm 9:9) This is true. He leans in closely when we call His name. When we are too weak to cry out, He is still there, leaning in. He is leaning in to Bryon. He always has been. I have clearly seen this is the ways God Himself has stepped in and made things happen in favor of Bryon's survival and future.

I have seen first-hand that, although there a many great doctors at CHOP, God Himself is the Great Physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. A friend had to remind me of that during one of our scary times there. Through many terrifying times where I feared the death of this boy, The Great Physician was there holding him. Holding me.

Since day one of this journey, I became aware that this little boy was in the palm of God's hand. I have had to remind myself often, though, and consciously place him back there many times. From the very beginning, it became clear to us that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was also the God of an abandoned little boy from Haiti. This boy's Heavenly Father has His tender and mighty hand on a curly, little head, and has been carrying him to safe places all along. Amazing.

We found Bryon because of Facebook and because God showed him to me. Say what you will about social media, but through it, we became aware of a boy in need of medical care and a family. Initially, what should have been a return trip to Haiti for a desperately fragile boy having received none of the care he had been brought to our country to receive and would surely end in his death, became the BEGINNING of a new life – for our whole family.

Our first of many six-month visa extensions was granted in late November 2011. It cost just about an arm and a leg, but it was granted. It never should have happened, but it did. God did that. Miracle.

We had been relocated through my husband's former company to Philadelphia, just over a year earlier, in the summer of 2010 – home of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a world-renowned hospital. God knew this boy would be coming to Philadelphia, even before he was born, and had positioned us where we needed to be in His perfect timing. Miracle. Tender, loving care from God.

These words hang over his crib to today. “Before I made you I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5) So true.

As we began the adoption process, we became aware that it would be nearly impossible to complete. It was going to require blind faith through a series of circumstances which seemed insurmountable. Children with special needs are not readily adoptable from Haiti. And this child with special needs was far beyond your typical child with a club foot or cleft palate. Disabled by cerebral palsy, blind, tube fed, in need of breathing assistance – you name it. That is how special he is. Add to the special needs obstacle, a birth mom that needed to be located, or a death certificate produced. Either task seemingly impossible. A birth certificate was going to be required for this boy's file to even make it into Haitian social services. How would we find it? We needed a miracle and that is what we got. Again. Miracle.

Birth mom was FOUND due to the tireless efforts of Giving Hope Rescue Mission throughout the island of Haiti. This young girl even went to get a new birth certificate issued for our adoption. Seriously?? Miracle. Again. That was it. We were in. Our file was in. It was in the safe zone (two words Haitian adoptive parents long to hear) Ridiculous miracle. Two words I have become accustomed to saying over and over lately. Clearly, God was up to something and had plans for this curly-headed boy.

And now we wait for another miracle. We need our dispensation signed by the Haitian President. It states that we have three biological children, which is currently more than the legally-allowed number of ZERO.

In the meantime, just a few weeks ago, after a few scares via email and much prayer, God granted favor once again to Bryon. During a phone call with the medical mission which manages Bryon's visa, and its extensions, and to whom I report weekly with medical updates, there was another miracle. After a lengthy conversation with the new staff member managing our file, I described the ins and outs of the past 17 months. She was speechless. She honestly had no idea what we have all been through and had not been aware of how fragile Bryon is. I told her how God had made a way through our insurance to cover the over $300,000 worth of hospital procedures in the last 17 months. Aside from a large deductible for which we are responsible each year, his surgeries and admissions are 100% covered. She was blown away and even exclaimed, “God has a plan for this little boy.” She then told me of her plan to file for ONE YEAR extensions, as opposed to the 6 month extensions we had been using thus far. This would hopefully cover us and prevent a return to Haiti for Bryon prior to receiving our adoption decree. Mir-a-cle.

The phone call had started out with a little “bite” to it. I immediately picked up on her tone when I answered and she introduced herself. I did my best to quickly disarm the woman and make sure my voice was “smiling” right away. God honored it. Just a few minutes into our 45 minute discussion, she was figuring out ways to HELP us. Amazing, considering the past several weeks seemed to have been an exercise in hindering us. I had asked many to pray for several days prior. Miracle. That morning, without knowing she was even going to call me, I had prayed, “Lord, this is too heavy for my shoulders. All these ins and outs with Haitian and American governments, on top of daily caring for him. Too much for my shoulders. Your shoulders are way bigger than mine. I am placing this burden there and trusting you to continue working on Bryon's behalf. You have never failed.” Faithful God. Faithful and true. He had done it. Again. Miracle. And a quick one at that!!

We have a way to go in the waiting. We have a lifetime of medical challenges and therapies ahead. But amazingly, when my eyes are fixed on eternity, rather than life on earth, it is that much sweeter when I snuggle him to my neck. So many times I feel like I am kissing the cheeks of Jesus Himself. Especially when I lean over him in his crib knowing he can not see me, but he can HEAR me and SMELL me. I lean in and say, “Mama loves you.” He sighs and says, “ahhhhhh...”

We serve a God who cares about every little piece of it all. He is at work on behalf of Bryon and His timing is always perfect. Through it, I am learning how faith works. Faith means I step forward because I know I SHOULD, not because I know what is ahead of me. Faith means I trust the One whose promises I know. It means I don't question what I am asked to do, because I can rest in knowing He knows the best methods for giving me His best. This life is dress rehearsal for eternity. We easily fill it up with things that have no eternal value or weight. Things that will pass away. I want to make sure I am in full costume and ready for my cue when the curtain opens.

“And now, O Lord GodYou are God,  
and Your words are true
and You have promised this goodness to Your servant."
2 Samuel 7:28

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Winners of "A Confident Heart" and "What Happens When Young Women Say Yes to God"!

"...imitate those who through faith 
and patience inherit the promises."
Hebrews 6:12

You have been patient! I am overdue for announcing winners to the book give-aways for "What Happens When Young Women Say Yes To God" and "A Confident Heart". Thank you for your grace. I had a brief trip to Charlotte in an airplane, a road trip to Boston with my family as our daughter danced in the Irish Dancing Worlds Competition, a week of spring break activities, preparation for Easter, a big Easter dinner celebration and then a re-entry week this week. So I am finally announcing the winners!

I pray these books will be a blessing to the winners right at this moment and that their arrival will be perfect timing!

Winners of What Happens When Young Women Say Yes To God are:

Ronda Cowen
Sandi MacKenzie
Debbie Carpenter

Winners of A Confident Heart are:

Kimberly Santo
Jen - Rich Faith Rising
Cathy Hicks
Kelli Segraves
MaryLynn Phillips

Congratulations!!! Be sure to email me your full name and mailing address to histablefortwo@live.com! I will send the books to you asap!

Happy reading! I hope you are blessed by these topical Bible studies!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Am Using An Idea By Beth Moore

"You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
Deuteronomy 6:5-9

The Table ~ Our Family Altar

I am taking a great idea from Beth Moore and putting my own twist on it. (Taking an idea from Beth Moore...that's big of me, isn't it? I am sure Beth appreciates it.)

In her book "Feathers From My Nest", Beth reflects on motherhood and shares many memories and spiritual applications from raising her children. It is an easy and meaningful read, and it is a book I will enjoy reading again and again. Beth takes you from laughter to tears as you turn the pages of her honest, funny and humble memoir.

Though Beth is far ahead of me in mothering, I can relate to much of what Beth shares as a Christian mom...the highs and the lows of parenting...and our utter dependence on our God who loves perfectly. I gleaned many parenting treasures from her experience, her commitment to God's Word and her prayerful parenting. I am grateful for what I learned through reading Feathers From My Nest

In Chapter Six "The Index Cards", Beth shares how the Lord put on her heart an idea for her family and a "family altar". Beth used index cards, which were great. I am not much of an index card person unless I am helping my kids study for a test. So I am using a journal instead - Our Family Scripture Journal (seen on the table above). 

Our kids have their own personal devotion time each morning now. And I usually go to bed before the rest of my family most nights now, so our family devotion time at night has waned. But my heart ached for us to still connect together in God's Word...literally on the same page...so I loved this idea of Beth's and have made it our own, with Jim's enthusiastic approval and participation. 

Here's Beth....

"The older children get, the bigger their world grows. The bigger their world grows, the more there is for their minds to grab. Let me explain how the scripture cards happened. By the time my children reached middle school, life grew far more complicated. Many other peers and adults had the opportunity to program information into our children's minds. We can't raise our children in a vacuum. Sooner or later, they have to discover life in the big world. I believe our primary task is to train them to constantly discover the God of life in the big world by slowly, carefully and progressively broadening the boundaries.

The increasing ages of my children brought many surprises! Suddenly we had tons more homework and tons more activities. Although our family prayed together many times, I had a difficult time managing a daily 'family altar time'. 

I felt strongly that something 'daily' needed to happen. But how? Our days all began and ended at different times. God heard my cry for help and started to unfold the plan. Everyone of us could seek God first thing in the morning, even if our firsts were at different times. 

I awakened first. I had my own personal time with God before the family arose so I could be prepared for the day. I asked God every single morning to supply me with a Scripture for the day for our family. One that each of us could in some way comprehend. He never failed to be faithful since there are few things He wants to do more than equip His people with His Word.

I wrote Scripture on an index card then placed it on our hearth with an open and currently dated prayer journal where they could record any requests. We would each sign our name to the index card as having [read the Scripture].Did they absorb any of it? You bet they did...some of it stuck! That I know!" ~ Beth Moore

So we have begun our Family Altar and the Family Scripture Journal. Each morning I ask the Lord for a specific Scripture that would minister to each of us individually and together as a family. I write the scripture in the journal and place the journal on the table in the living room. As each family awakens and has their own devotion time, they then come downstairs and take a few minutes at the Family Altar. They read the Scripture and sign their name. I try to take time at some point during the day to talk to the kids about the Scripture and how it applies to them specifically in their life right now and how it can encourage and challenge our family. 

Some days one or two forget to go the Family Altar, so they have to be reminded. And truth be told, a few times one of our children has had to remind me that I forgot to write the Scripture for the day in the Family Scripture Journal! (I love accountability and am thankful for reminders!!) But most days, we all remember.

Does some of it stick? I sure pray it does! As Beth said, "...there are few things He wants to do more than equip His people with His Word." I need His Word daily. My family needs His Word daily. I am praying and trusting His faithfulness to accomplish all He desires in and through us through His Word.

How do you and your family get the Word together? Do share! We would love to hear your ideas!

"So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth;
it shall not return to Me void,
but it shall accomplish what I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
Isaiah 55:11 

~ Winners of Confident Heart and When Young Women Say Yes to God give-aways will be announced tomorrow! Thank you for your patience! ~