Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My time is [NOT] my own

I spent the better part of today toting my baby to a doctor appointment then heading off to the social security office to request a new card for my newly adopted son, Cannon. And as everyone will tell you, waiting hours on end at a government run office is pure bliss. Heaven on Earth, really.

OK, so I lied. I have never met a single soul that enjoys crowded waiting rooms at the DMV, "comfortable" plastic chairs at the Social Security office, or rubbing shoulders with sweaty strangers at Jury Duty. Seriously, I grow impatient sitting in my living room trying to even CALL a government office! Thoughts of better ways to spend my day fill my mind, make me impatient, and (if I'm honest with myself) probably even a bit unpleasant!

Well, this got me to thinking of a book I recently read, The Screwtape Letters, by the insightful C.S. Lewis. In the book a Senior Demon by the name of Screwtape writes letters to his nephew (who is a junior tempter) with lessons on how to draw a man's heart away from God. He teaches his nephew the subtle art of temptation in the hopes of winning that soul from the "enemy" (God, in the case of the demons).

I bring up this book not to say that he workers at these offices are demon-like and provoking me to sin...but because there was one particular temptation technique from Screwtape which has been imprinted on my mind since I first read the book. One that I have to remind myself of frequently when I feel "my time" is being robbed from me and I become anxious...without further adieu, here is the excerpt:

"...He [humans] regards his time as his own and feels it is being stolen. You [Screwtape is addressing his nephew here, the junior tempter] must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption 'my time is my own'. Let him have the feeling that as he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours..."

I am so often blind and forget God's truth:

"Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years'"
Genesis 1:14

Genesis 1:14 reminds me that GOD CREATED TIME. Time imposes no constraints over Him, for He is eternal. And if He is the literal keeper of time, why should I live each day as if I own the 24 hours set before me? What right have I to be upset when I feel "my time" is being wasted?

Another quote from the Demon Screwtape to his nephew:

"The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels. He is also, in theory, committed to a total service of the enemy; and if the enemy appeared to him in bodily form and demanded that total service for even one day, he would not refuse. He would greatly be relieved if that one day involved nothing harder than listening to the conversation of a foolish woman [or wait in line at the social security office, DMV, etc...] ; and he would be relieved almost to the pitch of disappointment if for one half-hour in that day the enemy said 'now you may go and amuse yourself'. Now if he thinks about his assumption for a moment, even he is bound to realize that he is actually in this situation every single day."

Every. Single. Day.

Each second of each day belongs to the Lord. I need to commit the use of my time to Him. Whether I am preparing dinner for my family or sitting at the DMV. My time is His.

I am (lastly) reminded of Mordecai's advice to Queen Esther:

"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14

Esther of course was in a position of much higher authority and power than most of us...or was she? We have orders from the Eternal King, orders to make disciples of all nations and spread the Good News with others.

 So perhaps my small talk with the man next to me at the Social Security office wasn't such a waste of time after all. Maybe my encouraging words of adoption to the mom in the doctor's office wasn't just "filler" during my waiting room stay. I hope the words and kindness I shared in these moments would somehow be pleasing to my King. And I pray that I am constantly reminded that my time is not my own, because perhaps I am here (or there, or anywhere for that matter) for "such a time as this"...

 Highly recommended reading (along with the Bible of course!)

Friday, August 9, 2013

So I started a Mommy group :)

God has laid this desire on my heart for some time now, but I have been putting it off thinking that the Lord would find someone better qualified for the job. I didn't feel like the right candidate to do this type of task. I don't know a ton of people and I have been sooo lazy lately (I sat for a minute trying to find a nicer word than "lazy", but let's just call it like it is...You all are friends, you understand). Well, turns out God was not trying to find someone more "qualified" because He has all the qualities necessary to accomplish the task- He just needed me to submit. So here I am, at His feet praying I don't make a fool of myself...but then again, it's not about me is it?

I'd love to sit and write all about my goals and vision for this group...but I I think I will just copy and paste the e-mail I just sent out to our friends whom have joined thus far (mind you- I am not copying and pasting out of laziness, this is purely a strategy of efficiency as I am in the rare and coveted "golden hour" of when both boys are napping and I can actually shower!) So here it is:

Hi Friends!

First and foremost- Thank you for joining this group! I know all of your schedules are different (Some of you work full time, many of you have munchkins who are in school already, and most of us live in different cities!). I understand this will greatly affect the events you are able to attend-no worries! This group is not meant to add stress to your life (I don't want to add "one more thing to do" to your busy schedule!), but I think it is important for moms to gather together and encourage one another in good works:

"24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I am blessed to be a stay at home mom, but sometimes I "stay at home" a little too much! By the time Matt gets home I am exhausted and shove the responsibility of the kids on him. I was doing this way more often than I would like to admit. One thing I noticed though was when I got out of the house and enjoyed the company of other moms, my days went exceedingly better! That being said, it's usually a struggle to get anywhere on time and squeeze in my shower before noon (but when I do it is well worth it!) I am encouraged and refreshed hearing your stories and advice. I am comforted to hear your harrowing tales of potty training messes, or sweet encouragement of dealing with temper tantrums. You all "spur me on toward love and good deeds :)

I hope this group will allow us to make those get togethers easier to plan. I hope it will allow us to get to know more mommies in our same positions. And mostly, I hope it will continue to transform us into the image of Christ as we allow Him to work through us as wives, mommies, and friends.

 In closing I ask that you please pray (for our own fellowship with our Father, for one another, and for glorifying Him through this outreach.)

[end italics :)]

I am excited for what God has planned here and look forward to updating the blog more often :)
Thanks for reading friends!

(I know, that is quite an abrupt ending to this post, but the "golden hour" is waning and I need to take advantage of it before it's gone!)

Link to group: http://www.meetup.com/Munchkins_and_moms/

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ephesians 3:20

I previously wrote how Ephesians 3:20 spoke to my heart at a women's retreat two years ago. That was just a few months before my precious son Cannon was being brought into this world. Just a few months away from God giving me the desires of my heart. We had been praying for a child for several years and our miracle came through many tears, but in God's perfect timing and glory! Little did I know God still wanted to go above and beyond even that miracle...

I haven't posted here for so long and now it's time for the update: God gave us a second son! Our second miracle did not come from my body, he is once again coming from the foster adoption system in California. He was a HUGE SURPRISE to us! We were getting ready for a big move to North Dakota (where Matt had been living and working for the past 9 months away from us) when I got a phone call. I was just out poppin' some tags (I am a thrifting addict) when I got a call from our social worker asking if we would be willing to take a 3 day old infant, the biological, 100% blood brother of our son Cannon, I nearly dropped the phone! I called Matt and we both jumped at the offer to have another baby! We arranged for him to come home and made sure it would be OK for us to move out of state with him (as the move was set to happen in just a few weeks). Everything was OK'd and our son Hunter came home.

Just a couple days after Hunter was home I received devastating news--the  social workers had made a mistake and our new son Hunter would not be able to move out of state with us. They informed me they would be coming to remove him from our home the next day. I couldn't believe it. I sobbed uncontrollably. Matt was still in North Dakota and did his best to stay strong for us, but we were both heartbroken. That night as I slept with Hunter on my chest, Matt called and told me we weren't going to give him up. He chose to quit his job in ND and move back home to keep our family together. In May Matt came home for good, we are so blessed to have our family whole again!

God is so good and I am so thankful He is the one who knows all our ways. He knows how to draw us closer to Him, and the gifts He has planned for us go exceedingly, abundantly, above all I can imagine. HE IS GOOD!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Building my faith

I attend a wonderful home fellowship at my friend Dan and Athena's house. I am so blessed by it because each time we meet the Lord is gracious to reveal something more of Himself to me there. Tonight we did a little bit of a review ( :-) )and I was able to gather some thoughts that have been meandering in my mind since yesterday. As I shared on Facebook, I was just told that Cannon and I would not be able to move to North Dakota with Matt until the adoption is finalized (sad days...). After having a pout fest I gathered myself and heard a message from the Lord. The message actually came from several different sources and it seems easiest to lay them out that way.

Source #1: My Pastor who encouraged me to cling to Romans 8:28
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
Such a wonderful verse that I have always known but am now being challenged to truly believe. (The Lord knows our hearts so much better than we do! I thought I did believe this until the Lord revealed my heart in this situation. I BELIEVE that this situation is not just bad luck. It is part of the Lord's plan as he continues to mold me int the image of His Son).

Source #2: Abraham. We are studying him in BSF right now and his faith never ceases to amaze me. When the Lord told him to leave his home in Haran he did so without question. I studied this passage in preparation for leaving as well...but as I am now being made to stay  and I want to stay with the same faith in which I was preparing to leave with. I will patiently wait on the Lord's timing to go.

Source #3: My thoughts given from the Lord (shared with my home fellowship group). If the Lord requires me to be in California a little bit longer, then I will obey Him. I wish my husband and I could be together, but I will submit to my God's will. If he wants to perform a miracle, I will accept it with open arms, for I know He is capable of it. But I do not expect that he will perform one on account of my faith and prayers for it. Expecting a miracle in return for my prayers is not faith, it is an exchange. My faith takes me back to Romans 8:28 and fully BELIEVING it. I know this situation will "work together for good...according to His purpose".

Source #4: More reflection on His word. The Lord kept reminding me of these verses I had (partially) committed to memory (time to fully commit these to memory!).

Romans 5:1-5
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

As well as this one:

Zechariah 13:9
"I will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say 'This is my people'; And each one will say, 'The Lord is my God'"

Lord, allow my faith to be built up in these times. Help me to know you better because of it. When I became a Christian I was bought with the precious price of your Son's blood. I am yours Lord. I don't ask for a miracle so that I may be comfortable, I ask that you would miraculously comfort me where I am. I invite you to put my faith through the fire Lord--remove the dross from the silver until you are well pleased. I love you Lord.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Magnificent Obsession

I have been distant from this blog for far too long. I know I only have 3 followers (thank you Marilyn, Summer, and Elise ;-) But the purpose of my blog is not to make money or make a name for myself or have a million hits a day...it is simply to glorify God. That's it. Writing it helps me to recognize the many great works He has done in my life, and maybe my testimony will be an encouragement to others.
Today my blog post is really a confession. Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I am a bit obsessive. My obsession is cleaning and organizing. However, if you have ever been to my house you will clearly see I am far from perfect in these areas. If I was anywhere near where I wanted to be, my closet would be organized by color and season, my linen closet would look like a shelf in Macy's, there would not be a spot on the upholstery or a dust bunny on the floor, and my ceiling fans would be clean enough to pass a white glove test. NONE of this is true about my home and each day I endlessly endeavor to draw a little bit closer to that goal...but even the rare times when all the things above have been accomplished I find more to obsess over: Cleaning baseboards, wiping walls, degreasing cabinets in the kitchen...and will I ever get to moving the stove to cleaning the filth that must lurk there?!?!
I truly believed that this was a healthy obsession. Having a clean home is a good thing! I drew comfort from knowing that there was a place for everything and everything was in its place. Seriously, when my house is a mess I can not function. It is crippling because it is the ONLY thing I think about (these sentences are in present tense because I still struggle with this obsession...Lord help me).
I have finally come to the point where I realize I will never have a perfectly cleaned and organized house. Ya, that is actually a revelation for me. But a bigger (and much more important) revelation was when the Lord revealed that cleaning was actually becoming an idol to me. I honestly would put off my Bible study, prayer time, or even leaving the house until I finished my housework. The devil is so very good at twisting what seem to be good things into becoming idols in our lives (especially because these things don't seem to be outright sins). But I have Help wiser and stronger than the Father of Lies: I have my Father in Heaven. My Father is working on me each day to help me leave behind my idols that I have placed above Him. It is a struggle I still face daily. I know I am a "Martha" and the Lord is calling me to be more like "Mary."

Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I think each of us struggles with our own idols. If we didn't, we would be Jesus - perfectly glorifying our Father in Heaven. Cleaning is just one of mine. Now that I have a son, I see how motherhood can even become an idol in my life. So with this post I am challenging you (three) readers to recognize the obsessions in your life and ask the Lord to replace them with a Magnificent Obsession- Him.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

For this child we have prayed

Hi friends and family! This is going to be a lengthy post, but I just want to review my journey of infertility and adoption for anyone not familiar with it. I Hope it serves as an encouragement to anyone waiting on the Lord's timing.

All of you know how Matt and I have struggled with infertility for many years. As a teenager I was diagnosed with PCOS and always knew getting pregnant would be difficult. In my mind, "difficult" meant trying for a few more years and it would eventually happen. Well, we are at 8 years of trying now and at around year 6 or 7 I finally came to the realization that this might not ever happen for us...That's where my journey really began.

When Matt and I realized we had used up all the infertility treatments that our insurance allowed we had to have a discussion. What now?? I cried. I didn't know what now. I am a little bit of a control freak and there I was with NO CONTROL over my own body. I felt like a failure. As a woman and as a wife. At first I thought it might be a punishment. Barrenness is a curse in the Bible, what was I being punished for?? Then I thought maybe I don't have enough faith. After all, with the faith of a mustard seed the Lord can move mountains-So I served and participated in as many church activities as possible. I was also reading my Bible and learning from other barren women. Sarah had to wait and I wasn't all that interested in waiting any more... Hannah prayed earnestly and I had done that already...What else did God want from me???  I finally realized that God wasn't interested in an exchange and this was not a punishment. He chose this path so that He can receive glory through it, and I was definitely not glorifying Him in the journey thus far.

At this point I really tried to listen to what God was trying to teach me in all of this. I still had difficult moments. We discussed adoption and although I knew I could love an adopted child as my own, I struggled. I had to go through a mourning process. You see, when God created man he created him in His own image. God had placed that desire in me as well. I wanted to have children in my image. But my God is such a gentle father. He knew I needed to go through this period of mourning. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance"
Then God gave me this song by John Waller:
This song still brings tears to my eyes. It was a gentle reminder from Him that he was going to reveal His plan to me. But I still had some waiting to do.
One morning after praying that the Lord would give me a promise I could hang on to I opened my Bible to my daily reading. I was reading from Galatians 4 that morning when I came across this verse:
Galatians 4:4
"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His son, born of a women, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons."
I was amazed. I had been waiting to hear from the Lord for so long. Was this finally it? Was God telling me he planned for us to adopt? After all, we are His adopted children. I was in disbelief and prayed "Lord, if this is your will please confirm it in my heart today." and I kept reading.
Even just typing this now brings me to tears. I cannot believe anyone could deny there is a God when I know he spoke so clearly to me that morning. I continued reading and when I got to verse 27 I cried harder than any tear I had ever shed through the entire infertility process.
Galatians 4:27
"Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband."
This came from Isaiah 54. I turned there and read the whole chapter. I could not stop from crying. Verse after verse spoke directly to me.
Isaiah 54:7-8
"For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid my face from you for a moment, But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you."
v. 10
"For the mountains shall be depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed."
I had my confirmation. I woke up Matt crying and explained how God had spoken to me. I have had peace about adoption since that day.

Monday Cannon's social worker came and we discussed the timeline for adoption. He asked the history of how we got Cannon and I explained the process and how 4 months after having our home study approved we received Cannon. He was in awe and said people wait YEARS before receiving this kind of placement. A healthy infant without siblings going for adoption. Not only that but infants usually go to stay at home moms and I was working full time when we received the call. I know it was no coincidence but the hand of my Father in Heaven who ordained this baby to be with us.

Our baby is such a precious gift. Whenever someone asks about him I now have the blessed opportunity to share God's glory with them and how He also loves us as adopted sons.

On November 8th we have a hearing for Cannon's birth mom. Please pray that God will be in the midst of the courtroom and we can move forward with adoption smoothly. Also pray for her, that she might be healed and come to know the Lord. Thank you all for your never ending support on this journey!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

We love because He first loved us

 John 15:12-13
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."

Christ is so good to me. He knew my need for a savior before I even asked. Before I was even born. From the foundations of the universe, Christ was prepared to come die on the cross to save me from my sins. He didn't wait to ask me "Clarissa, how can I save you from this wretched state of sin your in?" I wouldn't know what to say to that. As a matter of fact, my prideful heart would probably respond "Don't you worry. I know I'm a sinner, but I can probably solve this on my own." Thank the Lord he didn't wait for my answer. Christ came and died for me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8), before I even knew I needed Him. I know no greater love than that.

With my husband being away I do my best to "keep it all together." I know I have it relatively easy: I get to stay at home with my son and not work. But I still struggle. I definitely grow weary of doing it all on my own. Today I was blessed by two very small acts of kindness. Really, they were true examples of the love of Christ. The first person to do this was a man named Dante. I was just leaving a meeting at church when I passed Dante. He saw me walking to my car carrying my son, his car seat, the diaper bag, and my purse. Ask any mom and they'll tell you this is no small task. But I have gotten used to it and was on my way out when he stopped me. Without even a blink, he took the car seat and baby and walked them over to my car. He didn't wait for me to ask (I honestly have gotten so used to doing it I wouldn't have even thought to ask for help), but he knew. I don't know if Dante reads this blog or not, but I want him to know I literally cried tonight thinking of what a blessing it is to have someone see a need and just fill it. No questions asked. Dante, you might deny it but the love of Christ poured out of you then as you blessed me with that small act of kindness today. Thank you for reminding me of how good my God is. 

Now for the next person. See the picture above? That's my beautiful sister-in-law Ericka. Tonight the Lord knew what a rough night I was having. Tears were welling up in my eyes from shear exhaustion. My baby was vomiting food everywhere (the sofa, my clothes, the floor), he was in CONSTANT need of attention, diaper changes were never ending, I just needed a time out. But I was alone. Ericka texted and asked what I was doing. Trying to be strong, I didn't mention my difficult evening. I just told her I was home. She then asked if she could come over to help out. Background info on Ericka: Her husband is a pastor and he has been gone all day working. She hasn't had a break either. It was near her infant sons bedtime as well. Yet she laid down the the comforts of her life to drive to my house to help me. Thank you sister, for showing the love of Christ to me tonight. You were ready to help without me even asking.

Today Christ gave me a whole new understanding of John 15:12-13. I always thought I would be willing to give my life up for my friends. If I ever found myself in a situation where a gunman was like "I'm gonna take a life today, who's it gonna be?" I pictured myself raising my hand saying "Take me" while my friends got to live. Heroic, right? Not so much. I know the likeliness of that happening are slim to none. Not so heroic if you never expect to really do it. Today Christ showed me I can DAILY lay down my life (the comforts of my home, my predictable routines, money, time, energy...) for my friends. And true love would do it as Christ did, without even being asked. So I have to ask for forgiveness friends. I know I have not been living up to this standard. But the Lord has put it on my heart to write this blog post so now I have some accountability :) I promise I will take this verse to heart and be a true friend to you all. I want my actions (like the actions of Dante and Ericka) to bless you and ultimately remind you of how great Christ's love for you is.

1 John 3:16-18
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."