Thursday, September 4, 2014

Say WHAT?!

Just a little double take happened for me today.  I happened upon this photo

shortly after our bible lesson this morning.  I was teaching on where power comes from and our bible verse was from Zechariah 4:6. "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty." 

Lucia felt confident and wanted to recite it herself.  Seeing her brought chills to me- watching her, listening to her voice speak such truth.  There was power radiating so I went ahead and videotaped her and put on Facebook.  I told her that I knew that she would bless someone by hearing her share the verse and so she said I could put it on.

Then I saw this photo.

She came home in May of last year.  Just a tiny one at 16.

No schooling.   Every breath painful and labored.

We didn't know what tomorrow looked like....and now it's been about 420 tomorrows later!!  Just astounds me! 

And this is what my girl is doing this afternoon

She has gone from 48 pounds to 80 pounds and I can no longer carry her as I once did so easily.  She wore size 7/8 and now wears 14/16!  She has stretched out considerably since having her spinal fusion in January and while she isn't eager for another surgery, we are all anxious for her hip surgery in November that will eventually lead her to sitting up without pain.

I wish so much that I could come here more often to update all of you on her progress because there is just SO much to smile and give thanks for.  Thank you again to so many who have invested prayers into her life. She is taking the gifts God has given to her and is sharing them with those who meet her.

Hope is a beautiful thing.  And when it meets opportunity, it's pretty amazing to watch unfold.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Are We Moved in Prayer to Action?

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.  Psalm 126:6

   Ever since 2004 when the suffering of orphans became real to Randy and I, we have carried a burden on our hearts to see every single orphan be nurtured in family.  Naturally, this burden then extended to those families who were yearning to the depths of their souls with this same longing.

  How do I describe the cry in the belly?  It's the answer to prayer when we asked God to keep alive inside of us the pain of the orphan who knows no hope.  It's the constant reminder of who we were before we knew the saving grace of God.  It's a holy ache that we pray everyone in the body of Christ knows and grasps; that compassion be awakened to a full measure of movement of prayer and action to touch the very least.  It's the deep love of Jesus who lives inside of us, prompting to become a vessel of His healing on earth as it is heaven.

     Lately, the waves of cries feel weightier than ever as families walk this journey feeling the rejection of the world as Christ did when they said YES to the orphan.  We are not without hope, and these families are not either- but they do need a support system as the spiritual battle that rages against them is fierce to keep the lie of defeat screaming in their ears.

    Friends, I am asking you to join Grace Haven.  I am asking you to begin praying as Randy and I do to carry the voice of the voiceless within your heart and let it out to be heard readily with song to heaven and to not fall victim to the hopelessness of LACK and impossibilities that the world provides.

   How do we enter in? First, we present ourselves emptied and ready to be filled with the love of God through humble spirits who know all power is through Christ Jesus.  Then, we ask to be used to bring what is poured through our vessels to be handed on to the weak who need Him.  And we ask to SEE through the lens of compassion who holds not judgment but seeks righteous redemption through forgiveness and grace.  Glory be to God!

We are calling on our brothers and sisters to lift up the families who come to us, crying the belly ache not for themselves but as carriers of the Lord's heart for a precious jewel held captive.  Near or far, doesn't matter.   Let's just love and carry their ache.  Ask them how you can help.  Rally your life group at church to set up a 24 hour prayer vigil for their family and child.  Prayer moves hearts.  There is no movement like the move of God.

I want to highlight a few families who are in need of your prayers and if you feel moved to give, than give freely and cheerfully and FAITHFULLY with blessed words of life.

The McDonald Family blog
Immediate $1500 NEED

The Kunkle Family 
Dale and Buffey leave JUNE 20th for Ukraine.  Please keep them in your prayers as they travel for their first time to a country who is in distress to say the least.  Prayers for protection, wisdom, revelation and divine appointments.  Please pray that their families here at home would be prepared and bathed in God's grace and peace while they are away.

They are in need of $5,000 still with a short time left before travel.  They have $375 more to go towards their $500 matching grant at Grace Haven that goes through Thursday.

Right now, Project TLC is offering a t-shirt fundraising effort for both the Kunkle's and the McDonald's.  Just go visit Project TLC T-shirt Fundraiser Details

The Menges Family is in the middle of making fresh strawberry jam to raise funds.  This family just touches my heart!  They have sowed and prayed and we currently have a $500 matching grant that ends at the end of Thursday at midnight.  So far - $0 dollars have been given.  Will you please help share their story and link and ask for prayers for the floodgates to open?

The Simmon's Family
 They currently have $300 more to go on their $500 matching grant at Grace Haven.

The Johnson Family
has a $500 matching grant at Grace Haven through Thursday and has had $0 donated since the announcement.  Please pray for no paperwork hindrances and for His provisions to be poured out generously.  Grace abound!

All Grace Haven Families
have prayer need as they travel and await the birth of their child.  Please pray for hearts to be prepared to bond and against the spirit of rejection.  Pray for Holy Spirit guidance to minister to their children.

Praise God that He uses us, weak ones, to be renewed and to become moving, living vessels with all GLORY to the ONE who does it all.

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.     1 Timothy 1:12-17

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Swing Time in Seasons

Changes are happening.  The Lord is shutting doors and opening new ones.  Learning to embrace new things and letting go of old can feel shaky in the beginning but as we have found before, it is always for our good.  No matter what, we will still declare the goodness of God!  So, let me share some GOODNESS!

First a quick update on Jubilee (and Holden too).  These two struggled for so long.  I mentioned it in an earlier blog post titled Jubilee's Breakthrough but as only God can do, he not only brought them closer but used the heartbreaking news that our family was not welcome at their school any longer to rise up in Holden a beautiful response.  God is stirring in him a compassion towards the weak as he processed injustice.  We see his heart expanding.  While no one ever wants to hurt, we are getting to witness new growth and a new season in our children because of it.  And the most exciting news of all is that our family has been warmly embraced at a new school where all of our children are welcome. That means, we get to go to one location!  (That's feels like a small miracle!) 

Many have been asking me about Cephas or "Mr. Awesome Sauce" since his double amputation last month.  His legs were healing nicely the first two weeks and we went back for a check up giving us the go ahead to allow him to begin moving about to see how he would find his way.  Soon we noticed that one of his legs was rubbing and re-opening the incision.  We've had to deal with a small infection and lots of drainage again in the one leg and so we have gotten acquainted with the Wound Care Clinic in our town through Mercy.  They have been SO good to us.  Must put a little shout out to Dr. Friesen.  He has such sweet bedside manners and his love for his patients so very obvious.
Surrounded by his AWESOME friends!

We have also been given a bit of discouraging news about Cephas' legs.  His thigh bones are pretty severely curved from malnutrition over many years and with his hips being dislocated and no glut muscles, it's very very difficult for him to pull his legs together- they want to fall out to the side.  When he is in his wheelchair we put a strap around his legs to keep them together and from rubbing on his wheels.  Because the wounds haven't healed entirely (close though!), he hasn't had as much opportunity to try and pull up but the couple times I have seen him he is quite challenged with the spreading of his hips to the side.  Please pray with us for him to be strong in his upper body and that he would not lose his freedom in mobility.  We know that his lower limbs really needed to go.  They were in the way and it was a matter of time before his knees snapped the way he was putting weight on them.  They continued to bend.

So while no one is sorry about the amputation, Cephas also hasn't really had the opportunity just yet to discover what new things await him on the horizon. We continue working on stretching and strengthening and in usual Cephas fashion, he finds a way to see the positive.  His loaner wheelchair has provided him some entertainment.  He really enjoys wheeling himself and so I am prayerful that his joy remains full and that he is patient as he works each day as they come.

Lovely Lucia!  She has new things to share too.  After that long four month wait to get out of her body brace, she had a chance to try that swing at the park she had been watching everyone else use.  It was hardly cozy but it was doable.  She continues to have increasing pain in her hip as she spends more time sitting upright in her chair and we will soon be discussing this with an orthopedic surgeon (or two).  Even so, she squealed at the opportunity to get in this swing!  So here she is!  She handled about ten minutes which we think is pretty fabulous.

Lucia's First Swing

Life is full, so very full.  Pain is part of that fullness.  It's through our pain, we have learned to appreciate more, recognized it's use to take us to new places, causes us to press in to Jesus and not rely on ourselves.  I'm counting it all good, because my Father in heaven is ALL GOOD!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.   Isaiah 43:19

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Lucia, Tall and Strong

    Oh the long, long road.  Sometimes I can start to think things are hard, like I can't catch a break.  And then it doesn't take me long to shake that thought loose.  I've got some kiddo's who know the slow and steady trek all too well.  I think Lucia and Cephas have touched so many lives because they have illustrated a  crazy kind of joy under trial.  They truly are filled with a light that could only come from a supernatural Preserver and Protector.

   So this photo you see?  This is the straightest Lucia has EVER sat.  She looks HUGE to me and it seems in appearance she has matured as well.  I think it's the way she holds her head so high, and the hair that has grown (no more shaved heads!) and now even gathers just a bit at her shoulder. 

    She sit up higher in this new borrowed chair (until her own arrives) that is allowing her to see up and over our counter tops so her new favorite thing to do is watch us cook.  She is seeing the world from a new vantage point. 

    Today we went for a walk around the block and then she "helped" me pull weeds.  I noticed a new ease over her.  She asked me loads of questions.  How did you meet Dad?  When did you move to this house?  How did God show you Grace?  And as I shared the story of my life, I could tell she was expanding her processing too.  "So mom, God had to show you how to be a parent to Grace. And you had to not be scared to come back for me and Cephas."  Yes, I told her.  "God had to show me that He would take care of me every time, if I would listen to Him. Sometimes that is hard for us to do." 

   Then she said, "I don't feel scared anymore.  I have a home.  I have a family.  And God has helped me.  It took a long time."  About then a robin landed on the ground nearby and I pointed it out to her.  That bird sat for an exceptionally long time and I was reminded of Matthew 6:26 and shared it with her.  "Lucia, God says that if he can take care of all of the birds, how much more will he care for us?"  She gazed for a long time at the bird.  I swear that bird knew not to move, that she was enjoying him.  "God is good.  All the time.  Never leaves us.  He touches our hearts," she said quietly.

    I was behind her pushing her along and tears welled in my eyes.  People will never know her suffering.  Never know the kind of time and torment she has endured.  She will always express life to those who see her and yet the kind of lessons she has learned - none academic - have prepared her for so much more in this world than those who were raised "having it all."  Thoughts came flooding of those who feel sorry for her or look on her thinking she doesn't know anything....and my oh my,  she knows so much more than we can imagine.

    She is gifted in relationship.  She sees hearts.  She wants to understand them.  Doesn't get impressed by a thing, only moved by the love she sees.  So quiet she often is,  and sometimes silly, she has a precious personality.  She was a gift to me.  God chose her to quiet my own heart.  No mountain I wouldn't climb for her.  How God can take those things we are certain we couldn't do, and then mold us to be so in love with them, that we think how did we ever live without them, blows my mind! 

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Living as Light Under Trial

     I have a few desires with our blog.  I love that I can record our life happenings as a remembrance and to share with our friends and family.  But I also want to be honest with those who are walking similar journeys, so they can be encouraged and to know it's not about perfection, but lots of grace.  I want those who are about to step into adoption, to look at us, and to be encouraged that God's grace is more than enough. 

     At the same time, I want to honor my children and their stories.  There are pieces of their stories they want me to share and pieces they don't.  And there are aspects of our journey I don't share in order to protect and other aspects I feel prompted to share for understanding, education and ministering to hearts. 

    A couple of posts back I wrote about Jubilee's Breakthrough.  I waited to share some of the challenges she had walked through because I didn't want it held against her.  Our pasts become our testimonies of what God has done in our lives.  And so, because Jubilee has had such incredible breakthrough, I wanted to share it as encouragement for those who had been in the trenches doing hard work for many months without seeing success.  While we are in the middle of many BIG blessings and expansion in our home and hearts, we can, at the very same time be reaching down into a pit trying to pull another one up.  Highs and lows come together many times for our family.

    I was excited to share Jubilee's new found freedom and the joy that comes with it - until that blog post was used against her.  Can i just say - if we ever hold someone's past against them and decide they should not be given a chance then we have shot ourselves in the foot.  What chance should we be afforded? 

    Randy and I pray about the experiences we place our children in.  We think we are a bit on the conservative side and cocoon with our children, being careful with what they participate in until we feel a prompting by the Holy Spirit and see the fruit that has come from our cocooning period.  Only then do we consider placing them with others.  We take into consideration who they will be with, even the room they will be in, the duration of time of the activity and the subject. 

    We have a little girl who has overcome a mountain, is beginning to feel as though she belongs.  Joy is filling her heart.  Peace rests with her.  New steps are being taken.  But fear came to meet us a couple days ago.  When we signed her up to join Rainan in two, one hour classes (I am able to be there for), we were told the school was unable to care for her needs- because of the blog post I had shared. 

     Fear prevented any openness to meeting her, to giving her a trial period, to trusting the wisdom of Randy and mine in allowing her the opportunity to grow in experiences that bring her joy!  Fear read my blog and instead of seeing where she is now, decided where she was is still present.  I have to be honest, I have wondered if I harmed her by sharing.  We certainly didn't imagine anything but for the body of Christ to celebrate with us, and to partner with us in encouraging her successes.

    God has been so good to minister to Randy and I to remember that this ministry goes far beyond what we do with our children but our battle extends to stand in faith and truth against the fear that still permeates within the body of Christ, unable to see the abounding good works that God is doing.  For a moment, we trembled in the sting for our daughter.  For a moment.  But through forgiveness, God reminded us that this is still Grace Haven.  In the safety of Jesus, no matter the injustice or unfairness of man, God reigns and will make overflowing joy abound for our daughter!!  Her fate is not determined by man and so OUR joy overflows too! 

    Certainly we pray for healing to happen and Jesus to break His light into the areas of fear but whether or not that happens this time and incident for Jubilee or not, we believe He is using this opportunity to grow us.  Jubilee has witnessed our hurt for her, she knows without a doubt that when we told her she couldn't join Rainan, that it wasn't us rejecting her.  She laid her head on my shoulder then looked at me and said, "So they don't like me?"  I told her, "Sweet girl, they don't know you!  If they knew you, they would absolutely like you! You just keep praying and doing your very best and God will show you amazing things."

    As I was meditating in the word, the Lord brought me to Isaiah 49:8-9.
I love it as I noticed that the background of the verse is probably the year of Jubilee!

This is what the Lord says:

In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you;  I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, 'Come out,' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!'

    Our freedom wasn't stolen!  Jubilee is being set up for greater things.  God will make a way so that the living testimony of His grace in her life will be made known.  We will not be shaken!  We will not stop sharing the amazing work God has done.  Glory be to God!

Please join us in prayer for families and for God's people that no offense of man can become a snare to the transforming work of the Cross.  Jesus said, "It is finished."  His love is made complete in us!  (1John 4:12)



Sunday, April 20, 2014

First Easter Fun

We are getting ready for Cephas to have surgery in the morning so I wanted to take the time to put up some sweet photos from yesterday.  It was a beautiful day in Arkansas.  Not too hot and not too cold.  Perfect breeze.  As Cephas said, it was the perfect day.

We don't do baskets, but we love the whole egg hunt experience and everyone participated.

Cephas was SPEEDY!

Lucia said this was a special day she would never forget.  

Grace was a FIERCE competitor!

Liam raised the bar for the egg hider requiring some tree climbing!

Rainan acted as encourager and helped Lucia and Jubilee score a few finds.

Cephas retelling just how amazing the whole hunt went and his score of nine eggs!

Holden caught off guard while explaining the most current airline industry news with Grandma.  This was his first year not participating in the find part of the hunt.  He has grown up so fast!

Rainan's face made me laugh!  

    Just quick thought to share....something I noticed and want to remember to take note of.  We were at the store and I had Rainan and Liam with me to pick up some fun festive things for Easter.  It's difficult to spend money on trivial things at Easter but we do want the kids to have fun memories.  Once upon a time we did big baskets with treats and candies but we have moved away towards activities and to choosing one candy treat per child. 

    At the store,  I found myself observing Rainan and Liam looking at each of the chocolate bunnies and candy options and discussing what each child at home might like.  They picked out their own too.  Something was missing that I used to remember vividly.  They took pleasure in thinking of what their sibling would enjoy.  They contemplated what they would like to choose for themselves without begging me for everything.  I hadn't even had "the talk" with them.  

   Right there in the store, I felt myself getting teary eyed.  We made our purchases and their hearts were filled.  They didn't feel slighted!  I know this might not seem like a big deal but for me it was huge.  We have turned a corner from feeling entitled, to feeling thankful.  They know that Jesus rose from the dead.  If you ask them about Easter, they can tell you what that means!  

    No condemnation on baskets and candies and bunny's.  We love fun stuff too.  But we have wanted to be mindful that we cannot press into faith while also indulging.  The other day reminded me that we can have both deep love, appreciate what we are given and feel satisfied.  

    They won't remember a specific candy on Easter, but they will remember feeling the "perfect day." the morning....Cephas has his legs amputated at the knees.  We head to sleep now, knowing 24 hours from now will be a new journey started.  Thank you to those who have continued to keep him in your prayers.  He's such a little love.  I cannot imagine life without this guy.  So very blessed!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jubilee's Breakthrough

Last fall on our walk

I haven't shared a lot of Jubilee stories since she has been home the last two and a half years.  To be quite honest, she has had lots of challenges and I didn't want the kinds of things I would be reporting to be simply negative.  We weren't seeing lots of breakthroughs.  There were many long, long days.

But today, I am sharing.  I'm sharing because today has been combined with several days the last month or two of big breakthroughs and todays was pinnacle for her.  We celebrate it with her as it does bring relief to our hearts too but nothing like seeing her experience THIS success.  

For those who don't know, Jubi (pronounced JU-Bee) has spina bifida and hydrocephaly (with a shunt).  We knew she had much difficulty maneuvering her body and seemed very stiff and rigid in her upper body but it wasn't until Cephas joined our family that we could see such a marked difference in their abilities to use their upper bodies.

Our sweet girl (she really is!) can sound a bit more like a truck driver when she is frustrated and it seemed anything asked of her that was beyond her comfort zone (that means, effort was required) would turn into screaming fits, name calling and even throwing her head onto the tile floor.  I knew she was able to do so much more, but the inner strength and motivation to do it was needing to be found first.  That's not something that can easily be bribed or talked into with this one.

I knew I had to have her heart, but I also knew that she was smart enough to stay weak and unwilling.   So these couple of years have involved lots of tears.  LOTS of tears.  Lots of prayers.  Lots of do overs.  (That last one times 100).

"Jubilee, I want you to know what you CAN do.  I want you to see what I SEE!  And the only way that will happen is if I let YOU do it."  Those were often taken as fighting words and as rejecting words.  Those words had to be wrapped in all kinds of other words but they had to be expressed and they needed to be enforced with love.  

Before Christmas one day, she was particularly angry and had used bad words.  She wanted to put herself to bed but she was in her walker.  I told her if she wanted that she could do it herself.  By golly, having never done it before she figured a way to get herself into her room and turned around and up into her bed getting her braces off.  And- she did it quickly!  This was the beginning to a whole new way of how I began to approach most everything with her.

When she was given a paper to do her handwriting, she would write backwards.  I learned to take her finished paper and without reacting, just say, "Oops, time to redo."  She thought certainly I would become exhausted at wasted paper.  But she didn't realize I was aware that being able to write backwards took a lot of smarts.   After the tenth sheet, her paper was turned into me, every letter forward facing.  I let her pick out her sticker and hang it up.  I let it be something SHE was proud of and not about getting my approval.  I wanted her to know I was pleased but I really want her to see her possibilities when she doesn't give up. 

Bit by bit- task after task, screams became less intense, not as long and soon the efforts she was putting into her tantrums she began to put into working her body.  Her challenges are greater than Cephas.  He has great fluidity in his upper body.  She is much stiffer and it takes her twice the effort to do what he does.  She has one leg that doesn't bend and is hyper extended which often gets in the way too.  She's got reason to be frustrated.

Then- come February she decided to shock us.  She knew Cephas was doing his own catheter and I found her in our bathroom doing her own!  HUGE triumph!  Monumental.... I knew then that this sassy pants was more capable than any of us imagined.  And her patience had been growing....along with her self confidence and trust.

But the final HOORAY came today.  She has had a love/hate relationship with doors.  Her last hurdle was to figure out how to go in and out the door.  She had been watching Cephas do it effortlessly for months.  She was still caving into her scream fits and this morning she let it out...for the last time at that door.  She pulled and prodded and grit her teeth.  She winced and glared and reset her focus some more.  I LET HER GO FOR IT.  She was regulated.  She knew what she was after.  I was watching her move into productive determination. And this is what she learned to do today:

Jubilee's Success

My children are each unique with their own trials and they test us.  They cause us to have to press in to love,  patience and endurance.  But then there are these days, beautiful breakthrough days, that we get to celebrate with them if we will stay on the journey and see them through.  It's tough to be both the soft place while being the one who presses them out of their comfort zone.  But that is what God does with us too.  He doesn't want us to get so cozy that we don't grow, and move into all He has for us.  He doesn't want us to be satisfied with lukewarm faith.  He sees in us all the things we don't see in ourselves, and when we pray, He is faithful to press us into growing up into Him where we are most safe.  It feels vulnerable to grow.  Success is found in our mistakes too.

I think Jubi is beginning to have these glimpses of truth building up in her, and as her mommy, I am so encouraged.  Thank you God for walking these days steadfast with me as her mommy.  They are good, meant for good and goodness will be the fruit from the trials.