Joy Is More Than Her Middle Name

Today I am thrilled to be able to share such an encouraging word from my friend Sarah, whom I "met" through adoption.  I know you will be blessed by her words today as she shares about finding true joy as we abide in Christ.  AND, she has an amazing Bible Study releasing on November 30 (which you will read more about at the end of this post).  Join me in welcoming Sarah today to the blog!


In March of 2015 our little Liana Joy Manhua arrived home from China. I’ll never forget the moment of stepping off of the plane into the chilly air at the top of the mountain at Yeager airport. The barren trees from the surrounding hills were home. After two weeks away, I was finally going to be able to hold my other children again. Together. Our Family Day. Our Belong Day. Her first day with her new family. This face says it all. She wasn’t quite sure about all of us. And we weren’t really sure about her either. 

Liana Joy Manhua. Joy wasn’t something I just chose randomly. I believe God gave us her name.

I wanted to give her a meaningful first name. Lian means flower in Chinese. Liana, adding the ‘a’, was the Hebrew word for My God has answered. God answering prayer summed up our adoption experience. Manhua was her Chinese name. It was a part of her, and we wanted that to stay a part of her. 

I choose Joy for her middle name because it was short. That’s it. I liked it, and it was a short second middle name. God just laughed, I’m sure. Joy would become more than her middle name.

Joy became something we fought for, in the middle of the tears - both hers and mine. Joy became a distant dream as my own dreams died. Joy was birthed again as God showed me HIS dream for our family. And how much more beautiful, amazing, and fulfilling His plans were, compared to mine. 

Joy was something I tried to fight for, choose, and just wait to show up. But it didn’t. Joy didn’t show up until I began to abide. In John 15:11 Jesus says: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. What things? What did Jesus say so we can have joy - full joy? 

If we read John 15:1-10, Jesus is telling the disciples the secret of abiding. The secret of abiding is we stay connected to the Father, and Jesus, so we can bear fruit. How do we abide? I love this quote by Andrew Murray in his book Abiding in Christ:

It is only into the thirst of an empty soul that the streams of living waters flow. Ever thirsting is the secret of never thirsting.

Abiding isn’t about doing, it is about thirsting. Do you thirst for Christ in your life? One way is to ask if you are reading God’s word everyday? Not because you should, but because you get to. When the hard season of adoption hit us, I backed away from Scripture. I felt too hypocritical to read. I knew joy was far from my heart and mind, so I stopped reading God’s word. I didn’t want to do it as a check-list item.

I realized joy would never find me if I waited to “feel right” before seeking Christ. Abiding would only come in the pages of scripture. Joy would only show up if I showed up first. So, slowly I learned the beauty of showing up one day at a time. If you are struggling to find joy, find God first. Don’t worry about where you were yesterday or what tomorrow will bring. Start today. 

If you want help in knowing where to start, my new book is for you. The Glorious Ordinary is a nine-week Bible study designed to lead you into deeper study of God’s Word. No matter if you’ve studied scripture you entire life, or are just starting out, this study is for you. I’ve provided the passages to read, questions to answer, and scripture to memorize. It releases November 30!

Sign up here to get started abiding TODAY. You will be the first to know when my book releases as well! I’ve developed some great printables to help you in your Bible reading journey. You will receive them all of for free, right in your inbox. Click here to sign up. 

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Sarah lives her life with an amazing husband and four little ones (one adopted from China). Her inner-planner girl would like to say she’s super efficient and has the house, homeschool, and husband all neatly organized. But she doesn’t. Sarah’s house is run with fuel from coffee and Jesus. She is learning how to find the thrill of walking one day at a time in the messiness of mundane. She invites you to study God’s Word in your ordinary days. 

If you are having a hard time starting a Bible study habit, check out Sarah’s 5 Steps for Starting a Bible Study Habit - Today! Found at sarahefrazer.com/audio-course

Connect with Sarah here: Website / / Facebook / / Instagram / / Pinterest / / Twitter

10 Practical (and Creative) Ways to Support Someone with Cancer

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, it took us completely off guard.  No shocker there.  No one can ever anticipate cancer.  My immediate reaction was to be an emotional hot mess, and scream “it’s not fair.”  But then I quickly realized that is not what my mom needed – an angry, bitter, and resentful daughter.  She needed a cheerleader.  She needed someone to lift her up when she couldn’t lift herself.  So that’s the mission I set out on along with my dad and our immediate family and friends.  She needed us and she needed God.  And she needed us to support and encourage her in practical ways.

As I searched the holy grail of Pinterest and “the Google”, I was shocked to find little to zero ways to support people battling cancer.  Sure there were a few ideas that I took off with and made my own, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find more.  I mean, there were the “pray, support, encourage” ways that all good Southern Baptists know already.  However, I needed and wanted more because as great (and necessary) as prayers are, sometimes we need the tangibles too – the reminders around the house when we can’t go anywhere else, things that make us smile when all we want to do is give up, and so on.  That’s when I vowed to change that once my mom was over her battle.  If I needed those ideas then surely others were desperately searching too. 

So I’ve narrowed it down to 10 practical ways that you can support someone you know with cancer.  Maybe you can’t or aren’t able to do all of these.  And that’s ok.  But I pray these will give you some guidance when you want to help and you just don’t know what to do.  And, you can know – by me sharing first hand – that each and every one is greatly appreciated by the person fighting for their life.

  1. Focus on the Positives

As if being diagnosed with cancer isn’t bad enough, the chemotherapy drugs used make cancer patients extremely sick.  Instead of focusing on what chemo would do to my mom’s body and her physical (and emotional) well-being, my dad and I were determined to make it positive. Because without these drugs, my mom would not have a fighting chance.  My advice is to be sympathetic but positive and encourage them that they will get through this and these drugs will save their life. 

I also gave both my mom and my dad a journal for them to try to write down 1,000 gifts throughout this journey.  Not only do cancer patients need to be reminded of all the blessings despite cancer, so do their caregivers. 

2.  Chemo Countdown Posters

One thing that my mom loved was being able to take her poster I made her and cross out each treatment as she finished them.  This kept her focused on the end result, as well as reminded her all that she has fought thus far.  They don’t have to be Pinterest worthy, and they don’t require a ton of money.  They just require a little imagination, some poster board, markers, and bright colors.  Get the kids involved and let them help.  And then at the end, make a “Last Chemo Day” poster to help them celebrate that phase of the battle being over.  Because it is the hardest one.

3.  Numbered Chemo Gifts

I think in some ways my mom was a little sad when chemo was over because she got a small gift at each treatment.  For every chemo treatment, I made her a numbered bag that coincided with what treatment number it was.  Inside would be something encouraging, fun, or something handmade by our son.  Gifts don’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful.  And it keeps a positive outlook on the treatments they are enduring. 

 4.  Radiation Chain

These are so easy to make, and they are just like any other countdown chain you would make to lead up to something great.  For my mom’s, I just bought different patterns of pink (for breast cancer) scrapbook paper and cut them into small strips and stapled together.  The number of chain links will correspond to the number of radiation treatments they have.  Another great addition to this would be to add a Bible verse or word of encouragement on the back of each link for them to read every day. 

5.  Get Children Involved

We did not hide what my mom was going through from our son, which is always a personal decision.  But by getting him involved, he was able to make sweet things for his nana.  We know we can’t hide all the pain in this world forever from him, but we can get him involved in being part of the encouragement and healing.  Kids love to help…so let them!  It’s such a great teaching tool also.

6.  Organize a Card Schedule

Think outside the box on this one and ask people that you may know as well as those your loved ones know to participate.  About halfway through chemo, my mom got really sick and depressed.  This is normal because the reality sets in, they are sick, and they are sick and tired of being sick.  So I simply but a request out there on my social media platforms and was overwhelmed with the response.  Some people I knew, some I didn’t, and some I do now.  They flooded my mom’s mailbox with sweet words of encouragement.  I cannot tell you how many hundreds of cards and comments she got, or how much that did for her soul.  Simple words go a long way.

7.  Be an Advocate

Sharing your loved ones stories (as long as they are in agreement) is a great way to spread hope and encouragement to others.  We never know what battles people are facing.  For others to be able to witness my mom’s strength and faith throughout her battle is something we will never know the full impact of.  God will not let any struggle go without glory coming out of it, if we let him use us.  And be their words when they don’t have the strength to share them.  Maybe they are too tired to share, or feel like they are being self-centered by sharing too much.  So share for them.  Advocate for those who need it.

8.  Organize a Meal Schedule

This is something us southerners pride ourselves on.  We can whip up some meals or have them delivered.  We love to eat and we believe in the healing power of food!  But spread it out.  Remember that the caregiver is exhausted too and doing more than their share of the duties around the house along with caring for their loved one.  Meals are a great way to help them out too.  We tend to bombard people with all kinds of casseroles and crock pot meals immediately, and forget that they still have months of need ahead of them.  Spread the love out over a long period of time.  Most cancer patients take up to a full year to endure treatments and overcome those side effects.

9.  Have Their Homes Cleaned

This is a fantastic way to help.  But do it when they are gone to treatments and not at home.  Having too many people around agitates cancer patients, and they are usually resting 24 hours a day. 

10.  Don’t Forget the Primary Caregiver

We tend to focus on the person who is sick and inadvertently forget about the primary caregiver.  This is almost always a spouse, child, or parent.  Seek ways to encourage and support them.  Don’t leave them out.  They are fighting physically and emotionally as they watch their loved one fight, and as they take on the stress of looking after them.  Offer to sit with their loved one while they go and do something small for themselves, even if it’s just talk to clear their head.  Bring them meals, help with daily house or yard work, send them cards, pray for them, and just be there to listen when they need someone to cast their burdens on.  They don’t always need advice, they just need ears to listen.

I could probably name a multitude of other ways to support someone you know with cancer.  These are the catalysts that really got my mom through her battle and I pray that our struggle will now help others. 

If you or someone you know is battling cancer, I would love to talk to you.  We also have a prayer wall on our site.  Our mission here at Our Not So Engineered Life is to let others know they are not alone, no matter what struggle they have.  We would love to pray for you, and our faithful prayer warriors would love to as well.

The Instant Your World Changes

Like an earth shattering event that causes rivers to change course or flow backwards for a time, our lives can be drastically altered in a single instant. The words that follow “I’m sorry, but…” pack a punch.

I’m sorry, but…

You’re infertile. It’s cancer.  You can no longer work here. You’ve lost the baby. Your pregnancy test was negative. Your disease is progressing, in spite of the treatments. There’s been an accident.

The instant those words are spoken, two worlds collide. Our biggest fears meet our reality. Life, as we know it, from that point on is different; not just for us, but for our loved ones, friends and family alike. The tectonic plates shift and it takes some time to realize the magnitude of the change that just took place.

If your world has just changed course with little to no warning, you need to be reminded of something important. God is still in control and He is still good. He doesn’t allow the world to be shaken underneath you without a greater purpose or plan at work. And he doesn’t leave you isolated. You are not alone in your struggle.

You see right after tragedy strikes, whether on an individual level or a global one, people respond. It’s how God designed us and it’s where we see His love in action in an incredibly powerful way. But if you’ve recently had a loved one suffer a devastating blow, you know how helpless it can leave you feeling. We want to fix things. We want to take all their pain away and protect them. But that’s not what God asks us to do. Certainly there are urgent logistics that need handling and there are needs to be met and don’t need to be minimized. Us Southern ladies will be the first ones to start up a meal delivery schedule for you because we know that various forms of chicken casserole will heal diseases and broken hearts that modern medicine can’t touch. And if you have something really serious, soup… we will bring you soup. That is our love language and we speak it well! The foods and childcare and grass cutting are absolutely needed, so if you’re doing that, please keep doing those wonderful things. But if you have a loved one hurting, the biggest thing you can do is to simply come alongside them and reassure them that they are not alone. Hold their hand, literally if you’re lucky enough to be close enough. Call them, cry with them, laugh with them. Let them talk and don’t try to fix it. Let them get angry, and sad, and hopeful and don’t interfere with their grief process. And pray, oh my goodness, pray.

In the last two weeks, I’ve had friends call with every single one of those events. Miscarriages, layoffs, cancer, failed IVF cycles, serious accidents. It’s been a heavy couple of weeks, but one that has reminded me that these things in life happen to each of us at some point. When they occur and our life shifts course we’re not targeted, it’s not a string of bad luck, it’s not a punishment. God doesn’t work that way. We simply live in a fallen world where death and destruction are a part of it and walk side-by-side with life and resurrection. They don’t undermine who God is or threaten His authority over all of life. If anything, they remind us greatly how much we need Him and how much we need to be thankful for all the good things. They usher in opportunities for His power and love, provision and healing to flow directly from heaven into our daily lives. Though it may not seem like we’re doing much, praying for a hurting loved one and letting them know we’re praying for them, may just in fact be the biggest thing we can do to comfort someone who has just had their world rocked. It’s at the core of a beautiful, powerful force waiting to be unleashed.

 

It’s the same force that took a devastating earthquake and turned it into a gorgeous snow-capped mountain. It’s the same force that used an explosive volcano to create a luscious, tropical island paradise. It’s the same force that will take your tragedy and turn it into a beautiful story to tell others of God’s glory. It’s the same force that brings us together, setting aside the petty differences, and reminds us how crucial it is for us to simply love one another. The force of God Himself is ready to flood into our tragic circumstances and broken hearts and cover us with comfort and healing, purpose and peace. 

So, my friends… if you’ve just been given bad news and are trying to figure out how to recover or fight for your life or family or marriage, please, please know, you are not alone. There’s an entire community of people praying for you right now. Jenny and I are praying for you. Feel whatever you need to feel to get through each step of this journey, but never question that God loves you and sees you and will provide for you to get through this. He will not forsake you.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
— Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

If you are wondering what you can do for someone in your life who is hurting, don’t over-complicate it. Just be there for them. Call, send cards, text, send all the chicken casseroles, and for God’s sake, pray! Pray they will experience God’s presence and healing every single day. Pray they will be overcome with His peace, even in the midst of the painful circumstance. Pray God will be glorified through this experience.

After the dust settles and the fight is over, the transformation will be clear and beautiful if we have let God into it. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,a whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
— James 1:2-4 (NIV)

This is a subject that is near to both Jenny and myself. Like many of you, we’ve walked both sides of these earth shaking events and are passionate about letting others know how much they are not alone now. In the coming weeks, you’ll hear much more from us about practical ways we can strengthen each other as we go through hardships. So stay tuned… 

 

Just Go? But God!

We were laughing and chatting, enjoying an incredibly rare ladies day, when she filled me in on the latest in her adoption process. They were in the last stages of completing their home study and had already completed mounds of paperwork and interviews that probed into every aspect of their lives. They had gladly handed over the long list of friends and family they could call on for support during the initial transition time of bringing home a baby from overseas. All in all, things were going incredibly smoothly. Seeing the long list of nearby support had reminded them how blessed they were with reliable friendships and people who genuinely love their family. Of course, every adoption process has it's hiccups and they had been wisely warned by the counselor assigned to them that there would be something to crop up and slow things down along the way, but just to keep the end in focus and be flexible with the process. Then they got the news they weren't expecting...

Her husband received the news that he might be transferred and her family may have to move. While it would be a couple months before they found out where, they instantly knew everything had just been shifted to a new course in their adoption process. If they moved, the home study would have to be redone. The support system they had gladly handed over with confidence and a smile would be irrelevant and would have to be built again from scratch. If he was sent oversees, their family could be separated for a time and at a minimum, their adoption would be put on hold while she faced a period of time being the wife at home raising young children with a displaced husband.  

As she told me all of this and we talked through all the options, you could hear the anxiety in her voice. You could hear the nervousness that comes when knowing a big change is coming but you don't know where it's going to leave you. But time and time again, she repeated, "I know God is in this. He lead us into this and He's going to see us through to the end. We have to trust Him and His timing for both my current family and for when we get to bring our new baby home." We gladly prayed with her for weeks while they awaited the orders and what it would mean for their family and their adoption. But the question remained theirs to answer... Will we still trust Him when everything we've come to lean on is stripped away? Is He still good when we have to move away from all our friends and family and incur significant delays and additional expenses on an adoption we felt certain He was leading us to? Can we trust His timing is more perfect than our dreams and plans?

I could relate to her on so many levels. Not long ago, my family was faced with a similar test of faith. We have built a wonderful life here in Dothan. We have so many good friends here, several who have become like family. We have established careers here, brought a child home to our Dothan home and found a church that we could not love more. I was looking forward to raising our daughter here, in the heart of a city big enough for variety but still with the small town feel. It's safe here. 

But something had been stirring for a while. My husband had been growing increasingly more unhappy and stressed at work. The long hours and stress were taking a toll on his Type 1 diabetes and we were watching his blood sugar levels continue to rise, despite tightening up on diets. We finally reached the breaking point where we had to decide if we were going to stay here where we were comfortable, with an incredible support group, but with his health being put at risk and him missing out on so much home life; or were we going to recognize God at work, using his health as a measurable indicator for us to pay attention to that life was way out of balance and He was not our priority? But that meant taking a big risk to start looking for other opportunities elsewhere? It was the easiest and yet most difficult decision we had been faced with in quite some time. We would, of course, put our family and my husband's health first, but this had been our first real home together... 12 years of putting down roots. Giving that up that meant finding all new friends and a new church to be part of. That may not sound like that big of a change for you, but keep in mind, I'm a stay at home/work from home/mom now. My friends are my whole life these days! The thought of moving away from them made me sick. And it made me remember that "I know God is in this. He lead us here and He'll lead us to where we need to be next. He will provide for our needs, including friends, no matter where He sends us. He will provide if we trust Him." But the question still remained... Do I trust God when it's uncomfortable and scary? Am I willing to follow Him into the next unknown?

We sat at the kitchen table late in the night many nights talking about how God brought us here and provided so much and how He would do that again if He lead us somewhere else. We prayed for direction and guidance and peace. We prayed for a break in stress that would save Rob from a significant decline in health. We prayed we would know the right place to raise our daughter. I struggled through tears as I asked my girlfriends to pray with us through this decision. I struggled with knowing God was my only foundation and the comfortable friendships were the blessings that come with following Him, but they were not my foundation. Job applications were submitted with prayer and trusting that God would making things obvious for us. Hiring processes were significantly delayed for a number of reasons, and during that time, an opportunity presented itself at home. Rob was able to switch jobs within the plant to one that is a much better fit for his health and our family. We took a cut in pay, but didn't have to move. We were reminded that we have to be willing to move if we are going to completely trust God in everything. He alone is our foundation and He will always provide. 

Jenny was born and raised in the Dothan/Wiregrass area. Her parents lived here, along with her Grandmother. She knows just about anyone you can think of and is definitely the hometown girl. We were just getting into the grove of the regular play dates with our little blessings and were having so much fun with our friendship growing as they sparked their own little friendships. She was actively involved in her church family here. Her parents lived close by and were a regular part of their weeks. Then her husband got an opportunity to take a different job, but it would require them moving a couple hundred miles away. But with college being the only time in her life she wasn't living in this area, that opportunity came with a lot of questions, emotions, and a willingness to give everything over to trust God would lead them to a place He had planned for their family. Similarly to my situation, they were faced with God nudging them to move to put Him first, to put a priority on their family, and to trust Him without the safety net of the comfortable, already established life.

Just a couple short months later, the moving truck pulled away with their entire life packed up in boxes to move them to Augusta where they now reside. Her parents left the home they had always had to follow them. They fully trusted God in their move and though they were not without tears, they were peaceful and excited about what lied ahead for them in God's plan. Since the move, they have been blessed many times over by seeing God's provision, by putting them in the city where her mom would later be paired up with a doctor and clinic perfectly suited to helping her fight a nasty battle with cancer. Jenny, Asia and Ethan have flourished in their new home, have found new amazing friendships, and have found a new church that loves adoption as much as they do. 

God asked them to move and they did. It wasn't easy leaving so much that was familiar, but they knew it was the right thing to do and God has provided in amazing ways for them.

That's the big question... Are you willing to be unconditionally obedient? Will you follow God when He says go? Or do you only follow Him when you get to keep the things that make you comfortable? 

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him;
— Genesis 12:1-4a (NIV)

What if seventy-five year old Abram (Abraham) had put limitations on his obedience to God? Thank God He was fully faithful and fully obedient. The great nation that God promised would come from him included Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Because he went, as the Lord told him, without limitations, we are all blessed today and have the opportunity to accept God's grace and salvation. 

Our choices have consequences. Choosing to follow God into whatever our wilderness may be -- unknowns in an adoption process, uprooting your family to move for another job, facing a pay cut or transfer to another city -- will always yield blessings, not only to our own families, but to all those we will encounter. He is good and faithful and will always provide for our needs when we put serving Him first in our lives.

What is God trying to get your attention with? What in your comfortable life are you at risk of giving more importance to than you give to God? Are you willing to be obedient, no matter what the cost? If so, He will always provide.

 

Learning to Live Again

Sometimes things occur that completely altar the course of our lives. A large majority of those things are good – meeting your future spouse, becoming a parent, or even a job promotion. And then there’s the things that happen that we can never be prepared for – the loss of a spouse, child, or loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of a home. My family has certainly experienced both the ebb and flow of life’s waves. We have been blessed and humbled in both the calm waves and the tidal waves. Most recently, we’ve experienced the physical, emotional, and spiritual groans as a result of my mom’s almost year anniversary diagnosis of breast cancer. It came crashing down on us and satan attempted to use it as a device to weaken our faith. But instead, as God would have it, our faith has prospered and His glory has shone like the sun for all that have witnessed my mom’s journey this past year.

You see we all will come to a crossroad, that hard thing in our life, where we must choose which path to take. We can take the path that is easy, only later to find out it is covered with thorns and brambles. Or we can take the path that tests our endurance and is our victory to joy, hope, and peace.
— Jenny

I'm beyond grateful and humbled to share over on the Persimmon Prints blog today, as we explore what it means to LIVE all this month.  Join me as I share what that has meant for our family this year, as we honor my mom and many other women fighting breast cancer during the month of October.  (Read full article here)

I love you mama!

IS SATAN WINNING THIS ELECTION?

And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.
— 1 Samuel 8:18 (ESV)

This is not another post about who you should vote for this election cycle or even my opinions on either one of the major party candidates.  Heaven knows we have enough of those. 

I think we can all agree that America has chosen their candidates and now maybe we are getting what we asked for.  Maybe not all of us, but certainly the majority.  These are, after all, the candidates that we as a democracy as a whole voted to put into office yet all I see in post after post on social media is ranting, bickering, and division.  Sure there are many positive posts and educated discussions being held and I think that is perfectly acceptable.  I’m not talking about those discussions or even humorous posts because we certainly need something funny to lighten the overall black cloud of doom lingering over Facebook.  What I am talking about though, is that maybe neither Donald or Hillary have won over any of our thoughts, words, opinions, or even votes.  But maybe Satan has.  Could it be that he has us exactly where he wants us?

As Christians we are called to be the light of this world – to be set apart – and to share Jesus.  If we are truly concerned about the fate of this nation then we need to be spending a whole lot more time on our knees in prayer to our King of Kings and less time on Facebook pointing fingers at one another’s choices for President of the United States of America.  We are so focused on earthly political leaders that we have played well into Satan's schemes by allowing him to distract us from our eternal king.  Satan loves division, especially among God’s people.  And we have allowed it for years.

I’m not so bothered by those who don’t claim to be Christians this election cycle.  I can’t hold them to the same standard as I hold my fellow believers.  It’s not that I don’t value them or their opinions because I very much do.  I love people equally.  This isn’t about their value or worth because we are all worthy in His eyes.  This is about our accountability as Christians – to speak truth, be peacemakers, and to let our actions match our words.  So yes, I’m bothered by those who claim Christ yet sling political mud along with everyone else.  It solves nothing and it leads no one to Christ.  If anything, it confirms to non-believers that Christians are hypocritical. 

Satan is winning this election because we are allowing him to.  He is using our words and emotions to fuel his never ending desire to divide God’s people.  If we are going to be angry and upset over politics, then let’s turn that anger against the master of lies and let’s be one body of Christ united and determined not to let Satan win no matter who is elected in November. Let’s join together in fervent prayer that God will heal this nation no matter who holds the highest office of our nation.  Because no matter who that person is, He still reigns over them and His kingdom is so much more worthy of our attention and focus.

Becky Thompson eloquently put into words where we as Christians should stand – with the Lamb and not with the donkey or elephant.

At the end of the day, here is what I know for certain about this election.

*God has known the outcome of this election since the foundation of the world.

*He is still the King of Kings (even the ones we elect).

*God can change the hearts of Kings according to Scripture (and Queens by comparison).

*God will remain on His throne forever.

*Prayer is the most powerful weapon given to me to change anything.

Let’s turn our hearts to the Truth that can anchor us in peace through this uncertain time.

Lord, we pray that You would move in the hearts of Your people. Give us clarity. Give us wisdom. And flood our hearts with Peace. We pray that You would move in our Nation again. In the name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.
— Becky Thompson, author of Hope Unfolding

Divine Appointments: What I'm Learning About Being a White Christian

I walked into the room not really knowing anyone, yet dying inside just to have an adult conversation with someone.  We had moved 250 miles away from the town we had called home for 10 years.  Our son was just 2 ½ years old and well, enough said.  It was the toddler years and between that and the move I needed a “momlationship,” as my friend Melanie Dale calls it.  I needed to feel human again.  This mommy needed to connect in a bad way but I had no one to connect to.  So I did what any good Southern Baptist girl does – I found a women’s bible study group that provided child care.  I mean it had to be a win-win because they offered Jesus, coffee, and child care, right?!?

The first Tuesday morning of our study I left not really knowing anyone, nor could I even recall a name, but smiles and polite surface talk was exchanged.  It was enough and at least it offered human contact outside our new home.  I continued to attend each Tuesday and the Lord sent me a friend – a real, live one and not just one on the interwebs (or my make believe friends as my husband used to call it).  Olivia and I just seemed to hit it off and her sweet, authentic spirit just spoke to my soul. She became a dear friend to me. 

Life went on and we both stopped attending on Tuesday mornings for various reasons.  And shocker – I made lots of friends after settling into our new home town.   Olivia and I both became busy, the buzzword us Americans love to throw around.  She and I stayed in touch over the last couple of years thanks to Facebook but it just wasn’t the same. 

This past weekend I was asked to speak at a fundraising event for breast cancer – by Olivia.  You see, she and I didn’t know what would occur after those Tuesday morning bible studies.  But God did.  He knew that our worlds would collide again when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.  He knew I would become a huge cheerleader for my mom and advocate for other warrior women just like her.  It was a divine appointment two years ago that He connected me and Olivia.

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It wasn’t until I sat in the pew at First Shiloh Baptist Church this past Saturday that I realized what God had done in our lives.  I began to tear up and hold back the weeping as I saw the glory of God right before me.  I was overcome with emotion as I stood there with my head bowed.  He had taken two women who were unlikely to meet any other way and crafted a way for our pain to be used to share Jesus with others.  And the timing could not have been more perfect in my eyes on the cusp of all the racial tensions that have been resurfacing across the country.  I was the only white person in the whole congregation.  But you know what, when I looked out at the faces as I spoke, I didn’t see how we were different.  I saw how we were the same.  I saw their smiles, heard their amens, and shared in their worship.  I saw us all as Jesus sees us – HIS. 

I prayed for God to allow them to see Him through me that day and for me to be able to connect with them in a way I was unsure I could. Our worship styles are different, and quite frankly I was convicted as I stood there realizing that maybe I need to be as on fire for God as they were.  Why am I not shouting in His presence?  Why am I not calling on the Holy Spirit?  Am I afraid, or am I lukewarm?  I’m pondering many things now.  So, instead of me delivering a message to them, they ministered to me.

God created that divine appointment not because he allowed breast cancer to infiltrate both our families.  He is not a God that “allows” destruction.  But He is a God that can use what sin in this world has caused and turn it into something beautiful.  He didn’t create the friendship between Olivia and I just because I needed that at the time.  He created it because He had something to teach me about my own relationship with others and with Him.  And possibly by sharing that, others will learn as well.  He had a message to share.

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Instead of seeing how others are different from me, could it be that I should ask how I am different from them?  We as Christians even build barriers around ourselves when it comes to other cultures because we are afraid.  We are afraid of how they worship or being uncomfortable.  But maybe that’s what God wants – for us to be uncomfortable.  I believe there are still many race issues in this country.  Do I understand it?  No, nor will I pretend to.  I see people as human beings, not in terms of race.  But sadly, not everyone does.  I do believe that Christians could do so much to help bridge that gap though.  And one way I would encourage that is to get out of our comfort zones and attend services with one another.  Christ intended us to worship as one – because we are all His people – so why don’t we?  Why haven’t I?  Because we are scared and because it is different.  But I think the only way we can make progress in this country is if we begin that in the church.  It takes baby steps and I took mine this weekend. 

I can’t stop thinking about what God is teaching me right now, or wondering where He is leading me.  I do know that it won’t be my last time attending First Shiloh Baptist Church. 

5 Reasons I Quit Blogging our Adoption Journey

I began blogging about our infertility and adoption journey when our son was just two years old.  The wounds from an empty physical womb were still gaping open, and the emotions were too overwhelming.  I didn’t know how to process it all.  The five year battle seemed to last forever, leaving stretch marks from numerous failed pregnancy tests.  And then something miraculous happened – our adoption journey. 

Infertility and adoption are like one giant rollercoaster. Infertility leaves you on a cycle of uphill climbs and stomach dropping falls. And adoption is the finale where you were left both aching from the pain you just encountered and the thrill of God’s ending to it all.
— Jenny

And so, when E was just two years old I began sharing our experiences in hopes of connecting to and encouraging others.  I shared our journey all the way up through E’s birth.  It is chopped full of tiny little nuggets that God sprinkled along the way that only He could do.  Details that left us in awe.  The world needed to read it and hear His message of hope. 

Our son grew older and something in my heart changed.  The reality hit me that one day he would no longer be a toddler, but he would be a growing child with big emotions and the ability to read.  He would see the words I mustered up, and be able to read them along with any comments from the great world wide web.  You see, as hard as we try, we really can’t control who gets a hold of our words or what they do with them.   I realized very quickly that I don’t want to share every detail of our lives with the whole world, and I especially don’t want to advertise our son’s emotions or relationships in detail.  Now if you are blogging and sharing about your own journey as your child(ren) grow, please do not mistake this post as “shaming” you for it.  This is just my own personal decision and me sharing the reasons behind it.  Nothing more, nothing less.

5 Reasons I Quit Blogging our Adoption Story

  1. It is our son’s story to tell.  My husband and I talked extensively about this and agree that as our son gets older, then it is up to him to share about his adoption.  We have open and honest communication with him.  We tell him what he is capable of comprehending at each stage of life.  Currently, at five years old, he knows that my tummy is broken and he grew in the tummy of his birth mom.  We don’t use words like “adoption” just yet simply because he is sensitive and we don’t want him to comprehend it in a negative way.  Adoption is beautiful and wonderful.  And as we share more and more, it is up to him to keep that to himself or to share with others.  It is not for us to announce, and we don’t believe in labels.

  2. We love, honor and respect our son’s birth mom.  And as such, there are details that she may or may not be comfortable with us sharing.  We have an open relationship with her, but she also has her own life aside from being a birth mom.  Just as we don’t want to be labeled as “adoptive parents,” or our son to be labeled as “adopted,” we don’t want her to forever to be known as “E’s birth mom.”  She has a name.  We will always share pictures of our visits because we love her and the relationship we all have, but it is not for me to share about her feelings or experiences.  Those are hers and hers alone to share.  As much as I love her, I will never know what it is like to be in her shoes.   And I respect whatever level of information she wants others to know.

  3. We can’t trust the “interwebs.”  As much as we want to trust the controls we have in place surrounding our social media outlets, and as awesome as we believe our friends and family are, there is always at least one person sitting there waiting to criticize or publicize our words and/or life.  The more we put out there, the more vulnerable we are.  And the more we share, the more likely we are to have our words land in the hands of strangers whose intentions are far less than admirable.  I really think and pray about how much information I divulge to the public eye.

  4. Words should come from us, the parents, first.  This somewhat goes along with the first and previous reasons listed.  We do not want our son to hear things about his life from others before he hears it from us or his birth mom first.  We never want him to be blindsided.  It shouldn’t come from something written for the rest of the world to see before he knows about it (even when we think they are too young to read).  Our kids deserve to know the truth, but that truth should come from those closest to them first.  Open communication is essential in any relationship, and that is no different for us.

  5. Details are for one on one conversations. Important conversations, we believe, are meant to be held at eye level where context and emotions are clear.  We never want our son to mistake any words typed out for untruth.  Whether we are talking about his day at school, or his life as it relates to adoption, we reserve those talks for one on one conversation where they are clearly communicated and received in the love in which they are meant.

While I may no longer sit at the keyboard and type hundreds of words as it pertains to our particular story, I will always be an advocate and go to bat for the adoption community.  I fully support others, their choices, and the miracles that adoption brings into each of our lives. 

Being a Friend When Infertility Strikes

A friend loves at all times... but what if your friend (or family member) is going through something that you cannot understand?  Until I was faced with infertility myself I had no idea just how common it is. It's such a personal struggle for so many women and couples that it often stays hidden just below a very thin surface of brave smiles.  In fact more than 1 in 8 women and couples will be affected by infertility. So the odds are good that you know someone dealing with this extremely difficult issue. 

If you have a friend dealing with infertility, she is likely feeling very isolated and very alone. While you may not have walked the road they are facing, it's likely that you have experienced some sense of hurt or deep fear over something personal in your life and can relate more than you think you can. I confided in a friend who had reached out to me, but fearfully, I gave her an out by saying something along the lines of "but you don't want to hear about that."  Her quick reply of "I may not have dealt with this issue, but I've been through hurt before. At the end of the day it really doesn't matter what causes the hurt and fear, it feels the same, so please let me help you through yours." made all the difference. I knew I wasn't alone. Keep reading for some tips on how to be a good friend when infertility strikes.

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