Archive for September, 2008

Marie’s Adoption Story

September 21, 2008

My daughter-in-law Marie has written the story of my youngest granddaughter’s adoption.  She tells it better than I ever could, and so I’ll just post it as she wrote it.

I guess most everyone has a dream or two in their lifetime about which they feel really passionate.  In our 20s and 30s we had a dream of a big family, and wanted to include adoption in our plans.  However after 3 children, any further attempts at enlarging our family were going nowhere.  After 5 years of trying to adopt a child, including numerous applications, two home studies and a couple of disappointments, my husband was convinced this just wasn’t God’s plan for us. 

 

I talked to a very good Christian friend about whether there is a time to accept a “no” answer from God and move on.  She asked me if I had ever placed my dream on the altar and told God “I want what you want more than what I want.”  It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do at that point in my life, but I did it.  At the same time I asked God to help me not to change my mind or look back, just look ahead to whatever it was that He wanted. 

 

A couple of days later my husband and I were having a leisurely Saturday morning coffee break when our 8 year old daughter came in saying “You two have each other and my brothers have each other, but where is the sister I always wanted?”  After she went out to find a friend, my husband said “Maybe we should try again to adopt.  Maybe it will be different this time.”  I was shocked, because such a short while ago he had seemed to believe this wasn’t meant to be.  Two days after that, an article appeared in our newspaper telling about foreign adoption.  We attended the meeting, and began a third home study.  Months later, when it was completed, we got the unbelievable news that this adoption agency’s foreign contact had been blacklisted by our government for unethical practices.  Our agency’s supply of children had suddenly come to an end.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I really thought God had wanted us to try again to adopt—what about our daughter’s request, my husband’s sudden change of opinion, the newspaper article, the hope held out by the agency.  “Lord, what are you doing?” I asked.  Several weeks later we got another phone call from our adoption agency.  A brand new adoption agency had contacted them.  It seems the new agency had located a number of adoptable children, and didn’t yet have approved homes for them.  Our agency had approved homes and no babies.  And so it was, they got together and we got our beautiful nine-month old daughter.

 

Again, there was another surprise.  We’d saved $1500 for the adoption—the amount we needed to adopt from the first source.  However, this adoption would cost $5500!  We didn’t have it, but my husband thought we could possibly get a $4000 personal loan from our credit union since we had paid off our car.  We also had hoped to save about $1500 for the family to go home and see our parents, but that would have to wait.  I prayed about the situation for days…”please Lord, let them approve the loan.”  One day the doorbell rang and the mailman had a registered letter for me.  I opened it and three U.S. savings bonds fell out.  With it was a letter from my uncle.  He told of finding a box of my grandfather’s things.  Grandpa had bought the savings bonds when I was born to help me pay for college.  I was long past that now, and my uncle was very apologetic over how I hadn’t had that money when I was paying tuition.  I took the savings bonds to the bank and their value was—you guessed it—$5500—the total cost of the adoption.  That meant we had the original $1500 left to go home and see our parents.

 

Later as I was holding my sweet girl, thanking God for all his amazing blessings, I felt an urge to go look at the calendar.  I had marked that day I laid my dream on the altar.  It was the day my little girl was born!

Making a Difference While Having an Adventure

September 7, 2008

It just must be the British in me:  I am already planning next years holidays!  Next year, I want my travels to make a difference.  I would like to go somewhere new to me, and somewhat different, and at the same time I want to volunteer with projects that really matter.  I am doing the research now.  Of course, I love to dream of exotic places overseas, but this old nonni is too old to get travel medical insurance with anything but a large tour company or a cruise line.  This is due to age and pre-existing health conditions.  (Do your exotic travel while you’re young, I’ve learned)  Of course, the young don’t usually have a budget that includes exotic travel.  Well, in my day we saved for years for the one exotic trip–nevermind, whether you’re too financially strapped to travel far, or too old, there are also opportunities in the good ol’ U.S. and Canada as well.  (And I’m sure thats also true in your own country, if you live outside the U.S.!)

For the exotic-minded and intrepid travelers among us, I found the following websites for “volunteer vacations”.

www.i-to-i.com

www.gapadventures.com

www.globalvolunteers.org

www.crossculturalsolutions.org

For those looking for a wider variety of opportunities, including those at home try:

www.charityguide.org

www.volunteersolutions.org

If you’re looking for a Christian opportunity, either at home or abroad, try

www.christianvolunteering.org

Many of these projects come with reasonable living quarters.

You can also try Habitat for Humanity.  They have projects in your own state or province, as well as projects in nearly every country of the world.  Some projects have very reasonable living quarters on site, making it more affordable. 

I’m thinking of driving in a “circle”, spending a week at each of a number of Christian non-profit organizations.  My personal favorites are those that provide relief, development and health programs for the world’s forgotten poor.  I have found that those who provide reasonable living quarters for me (usually dormitory style) charge little enough that I should be able to travel for several weeks on my travel budget.  I have found that many of the Christian charities are “clustered”, with maybe 4 to 24 all within an hour’s drive.  Don’t know the reason for that, but it is true.

Finally, if the above links don’t work for you, just try putting “volunteer vacations” in your web browser and see what you come up with.  That is a sort of adventure in itself, without ever leaving your computer desk!

Good luck and Godspeed!

Nonni

Crossing the Jordan

September 5, 2008

I’m sure every person who ever went to Sunday School as a child remembers the story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.  Moses held up his rod and the waters separated for the people to cross.  A lesser known story happened 40 years later.  Moses had died and Joshua was leader of the people.  They were to cross the Jordan river and take possession of the land God was giving them.  They were to follow their priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant and go on across the river.  Joshua promised them when they got out into the water, it would hold back for them, and they could cross.  The Jordan river was at flood stage, and we can imagine it was traveling very swiftly, and I’m sure not a few of the priests and people wondered how far they should go.  Should they stop when it got deep, and would they feel stupid just standing there?  Should they just keep going anyway and what if they got swept away?  But the priests waded out into the water, and as soon as they did, the water held back, and the people could cross.

We may find ourselves in a similar situation when God calls us to do something.  God will make his will known.  He may call us through desires, dreams, scriptures, statements of Godly people and any number of ways, but we are sure He is calling us to do this thing.  However, there are also some obstacles and we are afraid.  We begin to ask ourselves how far we should go, how much risk should we take, will we stop and look stupid.  We need to get going.  Where God calls, He will provide.  When we get moving, the details and confirmations will follow.  If we always have our “ducks in a row” before we move out, we will never learn to trust His Providence, and He wants His children to trust Him.  If we are always concerned for God’s glory and not our own reputations, God will never let us be embarrassed.

Abiding with Jesus

September 4, 2008

I came across this bible verse the other day, and it really struck me.

“I don’t want your sacrifices, I want your love.  I don’t want your offerings, I want you to know me.”  Hosea 6:6.

It really hit me that this is written for people who have our cultural values.  We value what we do so much, we almost make an idol out of our service for the Lord.  It is so peculiarly American.  Its as though we know intellectually that we are saved by God’s grace, through the blood of Jesus, but we still don’t want to get to heaven empty handed.  We want to carry with us all the things we did for Him.  I’m not saying He doesn’t love and appreciate our service for him or the acts of love we offer others, but I wonder if we don’t overvalue them.  This verse really makes me wonder.

When my mother was widowed, my brother made a point of visiting her every Saturday morning, and would do little chores she needed done.  In fact, he asked her to keep a list for him.  One day she told me, rather wistfully, “sometimes I wish he’d forget the list and just sit and talk to me for an hour.”  I wonder if God doesn’t feel the same way.  While He appreciates our service for Him, He most of all wants us to know Him.  We can do that through spending time with Him in prayer, reading His messages to us, and responding to what He is telling us.  That is what Christians have called “two way prayer” or “conversational prayer”.  I like to go into His presence and imagine him next to me (He is there, after all).  Then I apologize to Him if I need to.  I thank Him for all He’s done for me.  I tell Him about my current situation and ask His help for me and all the people I’m worried about.  Then I ask Him what He wants to tell me.  I read some passages of scripture and ask Him about them.  Then I journal the thoughts I am having after being quiet with Him awhile.  I guess thats applying the scriptures personally.  Thats the way I do it, but I’m sure there are as many ways to spend time with Him as there are people.  However, in this scripture it seems He values our time with Him very much.

How to Quit “Singing the Blues”

September 4, 2008

I realize much has been written about depression by people far more educated about it than I am.  I also realize there is much that is chemical and can be treated by antidepressants.  However, I also believe there is an old garden-variety depression we always just called “the blues”.  Its also called “the blahs” and the baby boomers (my sons generation) used to call it “being in a funk”.  Whatever you call it, there are some things in common:  You don’t experience any positive emotion.  You don’t even experience any negative emotion–not sadness, and definitely not anger.  You don’t even have the energy to be angry.  You just have a kind of low grade, flat mood.  What you do feel is a kind of disappointment, either regarding people in your life, your current situation in life, or both.  You may notice your thoughts tend to be negative, and you have kind of “pulled in” to yourself.

Its kind of hard to pull yourself out of this, but I have learned in my long life to do several things–

1) Take better physical care of yourself, including healthy eating.

2)  Get good sleep, even if you have to take a benadryl or an actifed for a couple of nights to break the cycle of waking up in the wee hours and lying awake ruminating about things.

3)  Take long walks in a pleasant place.

4)  Enjoy some beautiful things.

5)  Talk with the most nurturing people in your life.  Don’t be afraid to share that you are struggling.

6) Read something inspiring every day.

7) If it helps, do some journaling.  Let it all hang out, knowing it will end up in the shredder where it can never be used against you.

8) Make a list of things to thank God for, and thank Him every day.

9) Tell God all about your struggle, and ask His help

10) Make yourself reach out and do one nice thing for somebody else every day.  It will certainly get your creative juices flowing, and get you turned around from “pulling in”.

11.  Make a list of 10 things you have really wanted to do (things you WANT to do, not things you SHOULD do, the latter doesn’t help right now). 

12.  Make a plan to begin to do some of the things on the list.

This reminds me of the Greatest Commandment:  Love (appreciate) the Lord Your God with all your mind, with all your soul, with all your heart and all your strength, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.  What a mental health program! It incorporates thankfulness, self-care, prayer and reaching out.  This will eventually begin to bring more joy and love into your life, and the “blues” will fade.

I’m so glad I wrote all this down–in case I forget, I may need to remember my own advice one of these days!

Nonni

Is There a Limit to my Faith?

September 2, 2008

Someone asked if there was any limit to my faith.  Is there ever a time when I would say “no” to something God asked me to do?

God doesn’t contradict himself. Therefore, if God asks me to do something which contradicts His revealed will (the bible), it can’t be God I’m hearing. When Abraham was asked to sacrifice His Son, the Ten Commandments had not yet been given, and “Thou Shalt Not Kill” hadn’t yet been uttered. There’s also evidence Abraham knew God could raise the dead, (Hebrews 11:17-19) and that God could provide another offering. Abraham knew God had already said “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned (Gen 21:12) He fully understood this was a test of his trust in God, and not the command to do something evil. He believed if he tried to kill Isaac, God wouldn’t let Him die, for God had already made promises about Isaac’s future.

So, to answer your question, if I think God is asking me to do something against His revealed will, then I must be hearing another voice.

On the other hand, God may indeed ask me to do something that doesn’t make practical sense. Look at all the missionaries bringing hope, help and healing to places with truly awful living conditions, and they have to beg for financial support to even get there, and they live without income or savings sometimes for years and years, sometimes getting malaria or some other dread disease. And they don’t doubt God asked them to go there, and helps them survive and serve. However, God has revealed often in His word how he desires to see sacrificial love for others in his followers.

Those Who Haven’t Heard

September 2, 2008

Christians have always believed that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  That has always raised the troublesome question “What about those who haven’t heard of Jesus”.   I have no trouble with the doctrine that says “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Rom 6:23.  Yes, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus merited life for all of us.  Only God himself in the form of a sinless man could atone for the sins of men.  But how do we “get in on” this blessing?  The bible says its through faith, but again, what of those who haven’t heard?

One day, while reading the gospel of Luke, I came across the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)  “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get’.  But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home JUSTIFIED (my capitols) before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

This story showed me: its asking forgiveness for our sins that gives us forgiveness.  Its humility before God, realizing our sinfulness and asking for His grace  which gets that grace.  The tax collector in the story had never heard of Jesus, and Jesus had not yet died for the sins of mankind, yet he was justified before God when he confessed his sin and asked for mercy.  The Pharisee, on the other hand, who had every opportunity to know about God, didn’t, in his pride, recognize his own sin, therefore didn’t repent and ask forgiveness.  Jesus himself said the tax collector was justified before God.

As R.C. Sproul has written, its the failure to repent, the failure to acknowledge God the Father and one’s debt to Him, the failure to acknowledge one’s sinfulness and one’s need of God’s mercy which condemns.  The Pharisee in Jesus parable wouldn’t have recognized his need for Jesus because of his prideful frame of mind.

This is both good news and bad news.  The good news is one can respond to God’s grace even in a country where the name of Jesus can’t be spoken.  The bad news is there is a little of the Pharisees pride in all of us, and that is truly the dangerous thing.