Saturday, October 24, 2015

Baby "H" explained...

I keep getting asked questions about why we are referring to our baby as "Baby H." I think most assume that it's because the name we have picked out starts with an H, but as much as that would make total sense, you know I'm never one for really making too much sense of things;-)

Each pregnancy we've gotten to experience, we've had a nickname for our baby. Lucy appeared to be the size of a single Rice Krispy on her first sonogram photo, so she immediately became dubbed as our little Rice Krispy, or "RK" for short. (In fact, we almost considered naming her Rory Kristine so that we could keep RK as her initials because we had bonded with her that way for the entire pregnancy. A sweet friend even mailed special Rice Krispy treats to us when she was born!) She certainly does have a "snack, crackle, and POP" personality, too, so it definitely fits her well;-) 

I didn't have the privelege of carrying Gabriel in my belly for nine months, so I didn't have a pregnancy nickname for him. I do feel like I still bonded with him though, because about the time his birthmother found out she was expecting him was the time that the Lord began revealing His desire to me for our family to adopt. I spent the next several months daily praying for our future baby and his or her birth mom. I'll never forget the moment I got to lay eyes on him for the first time, this precious boy I had been talking to my Heavenly Father for so very long about. The only nickname he needed from me was being my future child. The night I got to spend in the hospital, after he was born, with him and his birthmother, tops the charts as one of the most amazing moments of my life--sitting in that room with the two people that the Lord had daily placed on my heart for so many months, and there they both were. It was a bonding moment unlike any other in my life, and unlike most mothers will ever get to experience. I cherish the unique way I got to bond with not only my newborn son, but also his birthmother. We just cannot imagine life without Gabriel as our son! He is the sweetest, most snuggly, most precious little boy! 

With Annie, she instantly became Baby Mustard Seed, because she was literally the size of a mustard seed when I found out I was expecting, and because her sister had prayed with SUCH faith that God WOULD give her a baby sister from her mommy's tummy. The rest of us were totally skeptical, but Lucy never lost faith, and while the positive pregancy test surprised Mommy and Daddy, it just affirmed a little girl's faith in a miraculous God. And when the sonogram affirmed another of Lucy's certainties, we knew that God had truly blessed the faith of our little girl in answering her prayer so specifically. No, God doesn't always answer our prayers exactly as we hope Him to, but we can rest assured that He ALWAYS answers our prayers in the perfect way, and we praise Him for allowing Annie to be His perfect will for our family. Annie Beth, our little joy baby, continues to teach us what it means to believe, to trust, and to be blessed by an amazing, miraculous God. 

And then there were four...While Annie's introduction was quite a shock, I do believe that Baby H's takes the cake many times over!  We really didn't expect to be able to conceive again, and we certainly weren't even trying, because life this past year has been pretty crazy. There were many reasons that caused this baby's announcement to throw us all for a loop, but once the dust began to settle, we couldn't help but be anything but thrilled and amazed, realizing that this baby was just one of God's major ways of reminidng us that HE is in complete and perfect control in the midst of all of life's chaos. It may seem that those in "power" are calling the shots, but the One who holds the ultimate authority will never let us down. He has a beautiful plan, and while it doesn't always make sense, it does always brings Him ultimate glory.

So, why Baby H? Well, two days before we learned of Baby H's presence, DH had resigned from our church. We were in the beginning stages of hurt, confusion, and lots of uncertainty. Just a week before the news, we had finally finished paying off our medical expenses from Annie's birth. Having a baby at such a time of uncertainly for our family's future seemed crazy. Plus, weren't we once told we would probably never be able to conceive on our own? Yet here we were, about to have our fourth child! It was easy to get completely overwhelmed by all of the what-ifs, but God gently whispered to us, "Don't you see? I am STILL on my throne and in control over your lives. I am still able to produce miracles. I am still able to bless you even when others may seek to curse you. I AM. Will you trust me?" As overwhelming as it all seemed, we then chose to be overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy and kindness over our family. We chose to trust in His complete control, and we continue to praise Him for what He's doing through the good, the bad, and everything else in between.

This weekend, we've had the blessing to be in Arkansas with DH's parents. We got to meet their new church family and lead worship on Sunday morning, and we gave a concert on Sunday evening. It's been a true blessing to meet their new church family who just continually outpours God's love onto our loved ones. His parents, too, have recently experienced a great deal of hurt, but God is restoring that season, and it's a beautiful thing to see. 

As one fun last event with Nonnie and Opie this weekend, Larry built a big screen with the kids for us to watch a movie on last night. We'd been wanting to see the movie, "Inside Out," and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. I related a lot to the character of Joy, because I notice in my own life how I so often try to keep everything together and just focus on the happy things. But the thing that struck me so deeply in this movie is when Joy realizes that to TRULY experience joy to the fullest effect, you also have to experience sadness.  You see, it's often in the midst of our greatest hurts that our Jesus shows us our greatest Hope, and it's from our deepest wounds that we get to experience His greatest Healing. 

So, as I was praying and thinking about this new life God has given to us, I was overcome with God's message of hope and healing in our lives, and I was so humbled that He's allowed us to grow our family. Are we still working through the hurt and confusion of this last season in our lives? Absolutely. But, we are working through it with the assurance that our God is in control. So when I think of what this baby means to our family, I can't help but be humbled, feel hopeful, and be expectant of the great Healing that God desires to do in our family. Baby H is truly a gift in so many ways, and we praise God for him or her!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Glad Game...

During the Christmas season (and sometimes beyond), our kids have two movies that they probably watch just about every single day if we will let them: "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas," and "Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas." They never tire of the stories, the jokes, the animation--they just love watching them! As a child, I remember having movies that I was exactly the same way about. You would often catch me standing in front of the TV as Dorothy would sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," or you'd see the wonder in my eyes as I watched "Mary Poppins" and thought Jane and Michael Banks seemed so much bigger than I. (I'll never forget watching it for the first time when I was a bit older and thinking, "Did they shrink? They look so LITTLE now!" haha;-) While most of the movies I enjoyed fequently as a child were musicals, (surprise, surprise!;-), there was another classic that you'd find me asking to watch pretty frequently despite the actors not breaking into random song throughout. That movie was "Pollyanna." Perhaps it was that the story was about a little girl who got to wear frilly dresses and live in a huge home that attracted me to it, but I think it had more to do with the main character that was revealed in the movie: Pollyanna herself. This was a girl who had basically come from nothing that had fallen into everything. But it wasn't all those "things" that made Pollyanna so intriguing; it was her attitude. I loved her imagination, her confidence, and, yes, of course her accent, too!;-) But I think perhaps the most endearing thing about Pollyanna was her ability to look beyond what things were and see them for what they could be. Throughout the movie, she references a game that she would play called the "glad game." Basically, she would look at each circustmance thrown her way and find a way that she could be thankful for it. 

James 1:2-4 tells us this: "Consider it PURE joy when you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Do I look at every circumstance that comes my way as a positive opportunity? Is each obastacle truly an opportunity in my eyes? It's so much easier to get beaten down and focus on the negative side of things, because if we are being honest, when trials come into our lives, it feels more like we are LOSING out, rather than gaining anything. When your husband loses his job, when your children get sick, when friends betray your trust, when things keep breaking in the house, when you discover a flat tire...but God tells us to consider all of these things PURE joy.  See, our Heavenly Father accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay there. He desires that we be "complete, lacking NOTHING." When we think of that end result, it sounds really enticing, but the process to get to there isn't always easy. However, it's the perception we choose to have in the midst of the process that makes all of the difference.

In the movie, Pollyanna visits a man who has a bunch of crystals hanging around his house. Pollyanna is enthralled with how the prisms create rainbows against his walls when the light hits them. The man didn't think much of them, but Pollyanna talks him into stringing them up all over the house and they're astonished by the beauty that was created in the room by how the light caught the prisms and created rainbows everywhere. I think, sometimes, I feel like I have a lot of stuff just "hanging" around in my life that dosn't seem to have much use, but if I will allow God to shine His light on it, He's able to create something so beautiful from it! 

How can I choose, today, to be thankful in all circumstances? How can I choose to look beyond the muck and the mire and see the beauty God is working to ufold? Do I truly believe that God's purpose for everything in my life is to allow me to be "complete, not lacking anything"? I so often want to fight that process, but my prayer today is that I would surrender to the way HE desires to work. 

Anyone up for a game today??;-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Who's Got This?

When your child is trying to learn a new skill, you will often tell them, "You've got this!"
 Or, "I believe in you!"
 Or, "I know you can do this!"
 We express confidence in their ability, not because we want to give them false security, but because we want them to know we believe in them. It doesn't change whether or not they can do the task ahead of them, but it changes how we look at that task. 

As a child, I was never very athletic (I wasn't really anything at all that resembled being the SLIGHTEST bit athletic!) I decided to take up running though, and I can still hear the voices of some onlookers who totally made fun of my attempts. Running didn't come easily for me, I wasn't good at it, and they made sure to point that out. I felt defeated. And even though today I can say I've run in and placed in many races, and I've even done triathlons, I can still hear those girls' voices in my head, telling me I'm not good enough. It shakes my confidence. 

My husband has always said he's not very handy, but when push came to shove, he found himself in the midst of ripping up our downstairs carpet and installing beautiful, new wood laminate floors. He had some friends and a very excited wife cheering him along, affirming him and applauding him when it was completed. (Seriously, they look incredible!) But I can often catch him glaring at the floors intently, picking out little flaws he wishes he could go back and change. 

...In ministry, we've had situations where people have questioned our call to ministry. They don't like the way we play or sing or lead, so they say things like, "Maybe this isn't your calling," simply because it doesn't meet up to their personal expectations. 

Whether we place it on ourselves, or it comes from others, criticism and doubt are common occurrences that like to drag us down. 

But you know what the BIBLE says about each of us? The Bible tells us that we are more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:37); the Bible tells us that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philillians 4:13); the Bible tells us that "we WILL overcome" (Revalation 12:11)! The world may tell us that we aren't good enough and will never measure up, but God sees us through the lenses of His son, Jesus Christ, and in Him, we are made into an entirely new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

So, when I start listening to those negative voices, in a sense, I am telling God that HE is not good enough, strong enough, and able enough; I am telling Him I don't trust Him enough; And I'm telling Him I don't have enough confidence in Him. But that's not what the Bible tells me! The Bible says that I am to "approach the throne of grace with CONFIDENCE" (Hebrews 4:16)!

Am I confident that God is able to accomplish anything through me? Am I confident that God will fulfill His purpose for me? Am I confident that God loves me unconditionally? I do believe, but I pray daily for God to help the unbelief that my fleshly side still clings to. Because just like I want my children to believe me when I say they can do something, my Heavenly Father wants me to trust His words of assurance to me, too. And if I will place my gaze upward, I will see that He's got His arms opened wide, encouraging His child along this journey on earth. We just have to take the time to look up to see Him, and take the time to stop and listen for Him. It's not about learning to have confidence in ourselves and think that "I've got this," but it's about realizing that HE truly does.