Friday, December 30, 2011

When God Allows Pain {or Says "No"} Part 1

Some have asked, "What happens when God says 'no'? 

Others have asked, "Do you put something in your Memorial Box to represent the 'no' as well?

And lastly, "Do we really deserve anything at all?"

Great questions!

I thought I would divide it into a two part series 
over the next few days. 

Here goes:

I can only speak for myself out of my own personal experience and it must always be held under the light of what scripture says about it all.  

So here's my very personal story:  

I have eluded in different blog posts that I had much abuse growing up.  Yes, much.  There was not one thing that was "normal" about my life.  

In fact in junior high school my fear-filled life was causing me to ask multiple times a day if I could use the pay phone.  I would run {literally} down the hall, dashing down a huge flight of stairs two at a time, pop my dime in the pay phone and call my mom to make sure everything was okay.  

Needing to call home many times a day was so concerning to my junior high English teacher that he sent me to the guidance counselor's office to see if he could find out what was going on.  

I sat across the desk from a very kind looking man whom I had never seen before.  Looking back, I sincerely believe he cared and I know for sure that my English teacher cared.  My guidance counselor got right to the point, "What's going on at home?"  Honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I wouldn't have even known where to begin.  Looking down I mumbled, "Nothing."   He questioned me a bit more.  

I was not going to elaborate on anything because I feared that I would be put in foster care.  My 13 year old mind reasoned, if 'this' was going on in my home with people who 'loved' me, what in the world would happen in a foster home?  And besides, did I want my dad to go to jail?  Thus, the answer, "nothing."  

When my emotional healing began at the age of 26, I spent a couple of pain-filled years digging into God's word: learning who I was in Christ, going to an awesome Godly woman for counseling and memorizing scripture upon scripture to have my mind renewed in an effort to understand God's deep and everlasting love for me.  


At the age of four I had asked Jesus to come into my heart and I had loved Him and served Him and spent time whispering to Him through so many sleepless nights growing up but because of the abuse I really didn't understand who I was in Christ and I didn't really understand that God was a loving Father. 

No doubt, many of you know what I'm talking about.   Your life has been equally painful.  You know what I mean.  

Finally, after years of healing, issuing forgiveness {we will talk about that one day} and re-learning the things of God from a loving-Father perspective, one day I could honestly look back on my life and say, "I am thankful for all the horrible things that happened." 

The very things that had tormented me had served to make me who I am today and Almighty God does not waste suffering, pain or trials.  

In fact it says in Romans 5:3, 4:  "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, proven character; proven character, hope and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us."  

Yes, suffering is a good thing.  


If we allow it, it will eventually produce 'hope'.  

But we have to look at it from God's perspective.  He is loving.  We live in a very sinful world.  Bad things happen to good people.  God's word says, "The rain falls on the just and the unjust."  We, as Christians are not exempt from pain.  Anyone who would say otherwise is not telling the truth.  

So do I have something in my Memorial Box to represent the years of abuse?  I do not.  The symbol from the years of abuse are in the Memorial Box of my heart.  Details known only to me.  It's all safe there.  


I speak publicly about the years of abuse, but I do not elaborate on details.  They are mine.  The message I speak is a message of hope for survivors of abuse.   A message of hope even for those who have perpetrated abuse.  There is healing for all at the foot of the cross.   

The pages of my Bible are marked up with the promises of God, promises He has whispered just to me.  They are promises for you as well, but they have been personalized to me as I have spent time on my knees before Him.  He is faithful.  He has brought much beauty out of all the yukky ashes.  I am forever grateful.  

Of course, if you have a Memorial Box of sorts, it is yours.  If you choose to put something in your Memorial Box to represent a "no", that is wonderful.  It's personal.  It's yours.  

For me, personally, I have had many, many, many heartaches, struggles, trials, loss, betrayals and disappointments in my life.  Many, many, many, many times the answer has been 'no'.  

I came to the place, quite a few years ago, where I felt like I finally understood that each 'no' was God's best plan for my life.   

I remember jumping up and down {literally from the stress} outside our beloved little log home as the smoke billowed and the flames leapt from our home and I waited for the fire trucks to arrive.  I was crying out to the Lord aloud and the words that kept coming from my lips were this:  "I want to get this right Lord. I want to honor you in all of it."  In this life-changing situation, I wanted my heart, my life, my words to honor Him above all else. No doubt, it had taken me years to get to that point (and no, I will not get it right every time, but that is my goal.)  

The Bible tells us in Romans 8:28 that "He causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes."   If that's true, then not one thing will come to my life or yours without first passing through His loving fingertips.  


Not.One.Thing.  

Loss?

Yup.

Disappointment?

Yup.

Heartache?

Yup.

Betrayal?

Yup.

Health issues?

Yup.

Delays?

Yup.

Every.Single."No"?

Yup.

Nothing will come to my life without my loving Father approving it.

Has He caused it?  

Not a chance.

But He has allowed it.

That can be a hard pill to swallow, if we don't put each struggle, trial and painful situation through the filter of that scripture in Romans 5.  Struggles produce Perseverance.  Perseverance produces Proven Character and Proven Character produces Hope.  I'd like to believe that I am continuing to become a woman of much hope after all the struggles and trials the Lord has graciously brought me through in my 53 years. 

It's really a matter of resigning our will to His.  

Only His.  

Face it, we are very human beings.  We want our way, we want it now and truth be known - we want our way to be cushy!  

But if we all got our way 'now' we would all be a bunch of whiney, demanding and very, very shallow babies.  

It could even be easy to think we 'deserve' whatever we want because of our relationship with Christ.  

However, that also is not true.

We don't deserve anything.  Nothing.  Nada. 

His word says that our "righteousness is as filthy rags."  As good as we think we are?  Yeah, it's all filthy rags compared to Him. 

So why does God sometimes say "yes" to us?  

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mommy's Big Helper

We're having some sweet friends come for a 
big breakfast this morning.

Dw said he would help me with making all the stuff. 
 {He is not one who spends much time in the kitchen.}

I said we needed 10 eggs put in the bowl.

I then said, 

"Could you put the eggs in the bowl?"

He did.


{I could not stop laughing.}

Ummm yeah.

Not sure how this helper thing is going to work after all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Changes, Changes, and More Changes....

Kind of crazy to be sitting outside without a jacket, hoodie or coat on and it's the 28th of December.   
The kids have been running around barefoot playing.  
I think I'm gonna' love this Phoenix-thing a lot.

I've been trying to sort through boxes.   Actually pretty fun to get rid of most of the winter stuff.  Some people have said, "Well you'll want to hang on to that so when you go to Flagstaff to see the snow, you have it."  

Growing up in Buffalo, New York,  living for 7.5 years in the mountains of Colorado and then driving in a snowstorm while in Denver last week brings a smile to my heart.  

At the moment my thoughts are: if I only ever have a snow globe the rest of my life, I'm actually gonna' be just fine.  Surprisingly Dw and the kids are all feeling the same way - totally the Lord!  


The landscape is gorgeous!  I am loving the saguaro, prickly pear, and jumping cholla everywhere!  Graham had a lot of fun testing the jumping cholla cactus to see if it really does jump and latch on if you get too clsoe.  {It does and yes it is prickly!}  

Dw and I took a walk the other night.  It was just about dusk.  We saw three coyotes coming out of the shrubs on a neighboring street.  They are really kind of cool looking.  


A friend of ours is a tennis pro and offered to give Liberty and I tennis lessons for free.  I have always wanted to learn to play tennis.  Dw actually played on his college team.   He tried once to teach me when we were dating.  We came to the conclusion during that one time, that if we really wanted to stay together we ought not do that again.  So 34 years later I'm learning from someone else.  

Yesterday was Liberty and my first lesson - we had a blast!  We were wearing short sleeves and we both were actually sweating! 

We've met some new friends and last night actually had dinner with a bloggy friend and her family.  They have just moved here from Florida.  Coffee soon with another bloggy friend who lives 'in the neighborhood!'  And the people we have met in our community have been oh-so-sweet.  We are feeling very welcomed already!  And that, is a really wonderful feeling!

In fact, our neighbors across the street rang our doorbell on Christmas Eve and had a card {with their phone numbers in it} and two plates of Christmas cupcakes welcoming
 us to the neighborhood!  
How cool is that?  

 And then lastly, I am so aware that life can be very tricky around the Christmas holidays.  Expectations.  Disappointments.  Health struggles.  Older kids who once were present for the celebrations have moved away.  Marriage changes.  Relationship changes.
Betrayal.  Moves.  Death.  Job loss.  Financial crisis. 

Christmas can be actually some of the most difficult times in someone's life.  Many of you have written and shared your stories.  Your hurts.  Your pain.  As I unpack and sort through boxes, I have been praying for many of you.  That God would comfort you.  That He alone would fill you with peace.  That you would understand that even in the most difficult of circumstances He is ever faithful.  

And I've been working on a blog post, probably two-part, along the lines of "when God says no."  It needs to be tweaked, but I am sure that God will use it to speak to many hearts.  He's like that.  Taking our own struggles and using them to minister to others in their struggles.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dear Jubilee Promise

Dear Jubilee Promise, 

Two years ago, Christmas Eve, Emma  you and I arrived home from Ch*na. {And two days later - December 26th you turned eight years old!}

Waiting was your big ol' daddy, who kept weeping that you/we were finally{!} here.



Two years ago you, sweet girl you looked like this.


Sad.


Alone.


Empty eyes.

Bone thin.


32 pounds and 8 years old.






We had no idea it would take almost two years to bring you home.  We worked soooo hard to get you home as fast as we could, but our home burning down had cost us so much time: re-filing, and re-filing again! ugh



And the while you waited.  

Finally, Emmy and I were able to go.  We couldn't get there fast enough.  You walked into the room at the orphanage and you were beaming.  You kept looking at me and saying, "Mama!  Mama!"

Someone had told you we were coming!

This past year brought some remarkable changes for you!  

Finding out you are severely hearing impaired - whooooa!
No one had known.
No one had even suspected in all your eight years!
How was that even possible? 

Then we found in June that you have a very, very, 
very rare chromosomal uniqueness.

And we couldn't be happier that you are you.  
We wouldn't change one thing about you.
You smile and laugh all day long.
Life is a party for you.
And we get to be at the party every.single.day with you.

Your name {Jubilee} was picked by the Lord and whispered to mommy's heart probably about the time you were being born.

And for eight years mommy waited for the Lord to fulfill His promise.  {Hence, your name: Promise.}
And that Jubilee part?
Fits you girly-girl to a tee.
You are jubilant about life.
And the people you meet?
They all love you.
How could they not?
{If someone ever didn't like you? Clearly it would be their problem!}

***

Jubilee Promise -

You are our girl.

Through and through.

The only regret girly-girl is that we couldn't get you home sooner.

The deep grief in our hearts is that you had to live eight stinkin' 
years without us. 

As I looked into your eyes sweet baby girl these last two years I have wondered what exactly you had to endure and what was locked away in your memory.  

I am so thankful that you have begun to talk about Ch*na with me.  I am thankful that you have begun to share your story.  

Little bits.  

Painful pieces.  

Grievous moments.  

I am so sorry girly-girl.  

You didn't deserve any of it.  
{Nobody does. Not.Ever.}

Oh sweet Jubilee, we are so thankful that you are home. 

Forever protected from yuky stuff.

Forever safe.

Forever loved. 







Thankful girly-girl for the joy and jubilation 
you bring to our family.

Thankful that your unending smile is seen 
around our home all day long.

Thankful for your tender spirit.

Thankful for your helpful heart.

Thankful that you are ours.

Forever.

Happy 10th Birthday Jubilee Promise!

You are our precious treasure and we cannot ever thank the Lord enough for allowing us the privilege of being your family.

We love you to the moon, to Ch*na, to Africa and back!!
Mommy & Daddy and Abigail, Ryan, Finley, Tyler, Sarah, Baby, Autumn, Karl, Emma, Josh, Graham, Savannah, Liberty, Isaiah, Elizabeth, Elijah and Ruby Grace
xo




Friday, December 23, 2011

May We {please} Come By For a Little Visit?

So I've been thinking about you a lot.

Yes, you!


All of you.

Some I've had the privilege of hugging your neck.
{Some have even come to help us move in!}

Some I know through your comments, in fact I know you better from your blogger profile name then your real name!

Some have gone on missions trips with us.

Some have written long letters and shared their story.
Those who have finally{!} delurked, well, so good to 'meet' you!  
I commend you on your bravery.  It really wasn't so bad, was it?

And I have loved meeting each one of you.  

So I was thinkin'...

Here I am in a new place. 
And you're out there.
Somewhere.

So I've decided to invite myself over to your home....
for Christmas!

May we {please} come by for a little visit?

Take a picture of your home, yourself {!}, your favorite Christmas decoration, your front door, your Christmas tree, your family, your treasures, something or all of the above, post it on your blog and then attach your permalink below. 
{Seriously, this moving thing must be getting to me, 
cause I'm all teary-eyed thinking of you guys opening your home to us for a 'visit'...}




Wednesday, December 21, 2011

They're ALL Officially Saunders - Forever

Sunday morning about 6:00am we left our home in Phoenix to head to court to complete Isaiah, Jubilee, Elizabeth, Elijah and even {Yippee Jesus!} Ruby's adoption journey.  

Our dear friend, Kathi, from Chinese Children had worked tirelessly, not only to get our kids home, but to get us into court as soon as possible to complete all 5 kids!  

We took Ruby to see her neurosurgeon this past week to make sure she could make the journey.  He gave us his blessing as long as we stayed near major medical health facilities.

We headed to Albuquerque {where there is a pediatric neurosurgeon}...only trouble was that our van broke down on I-40 in Arizona.  We ended up limping to Albuquerque where we turned our van into the car dealership to be repaired and then rented a van to take to Denver. 

With the driving complications, what should have been a 12.5 hour journey to Denver turned into 18 hours one way.  The kids were great and we opted to all have an attitude of thankfulness.  We actually had lots of fun!

We had the blessed privilege of staying with some of our dearest friends ever - JD and Irma.  They had served well in our church in Durango {and had relocated this past summer to Denver}.  JD and Irma had been beside us each step of the way after we lost our home to the fire.  They are just such tender-hearted compassionate God-honoring people - and all our kids {grown and little} love them to pieces!   We hated to leave them to head back to Phoenix, but have talked them into a visit when the snow in Denver gets tiring {so they should be here about every month - haha}.  

In fact, JD and Irma are the ones who came to have dinner with the kids and I on the anniversary of the fire this past year {since Dw was in Africa with Emma and Graham and team that day}.  They prayed with me and I had that major break through regarding fear that day.  Remember that? We are so thankful for their friendship!




Meet Kathi {in the middle}: the sweetest and most passionate adoption facilitator we've ever known.  An adoptive mom herself - this woman rocks the world!  We love you Kathi and are so thankful for your constant care and petitioning to get all our kids home!   Kathi loved meeting our miracle Ruby Grace.  And that's Judy - another woman who loves the orphan and works hard to place kids in homes.


Judge Sylvester enjoyed our kids and showed them all the behind the scenes stuff - his office, the jail cells for offenders waiting for court, etc.  He was such a nice man and we are so thankful for his part in making us a forever family - officially!










It was also wonderful for Irma and JD to meet 
our newest treasure, Ruby.

JD would love that I'm posting this picture of him - haha.  
Don't tell him, okay?
They loved Ruby.

 Ruby and Daddy crashing after that 18 hour drive to Denver.  Good thing Daddy rested, because we had snow and freezing fog and ice on the way home and again it took us just about 18 hours to get home.   
And remember, just last week-end Dw packed the house and moved everything to Phoenix, with some help from our big kids and a few friends in Durango.   
The hardest working man I've ever met. 
I love you Whitey. 



 Graham played Max's little drum set - 
 the same kind of set Graham began with when he was 3!
Max {aka Batman}
somehow I didn't manage to get a picture of their daughter:
Isabella - I was so bummed.



 Every one is officially a Saunders and 
every one of our family is now a United States citizen.

So thankful.

So very, very thankful
to our Miracle-working, 
Mountain-moving,
 Awe-inspiring, 
Gasp-giving God.  
He is always faithful.
...and yes, it feels so good to be home,
let the Christmas celebrations begin!  

Monday, December 19, 2011

Memorial Box Monday - The Contact Lens


I love the story I am going to share this Memorial Box Monday. Although it goes all the way back to 1975, it serves as a powerful reminder of what God can and will do -
just because He loves us so!!

As I've mentioned briefly before, my dad was very abusive. 
He, in fact, took the word to a whole new level. 
Since I had accepted Christ as a little girl 
all I wanted to do was please the Lord.  
I was an obedient, respectful daughter, 
yet because of his hatred toward me, 
I walked on eggshells. I was scared to pieces of him
 and what he would do to me. 
Everything and anything would set him off
 and it would be horrible.

It was my junior year of high school and 
I had been dating our pastor's son. 
His parents happened to be painting the outside of their home, 
so I went over to help paint. 
His parents eventually went inside and 
he and I continued painting one of the sides of the house.



 It happened to be Spring and it was super windy. 
Really, really windy. I was wearing hard contact lenses 
and my eyes were dry, probably from the wind, 
and all of a sudden, literally, one of my contacts 
was grabbed by the wind and 
blown right out of my eye!


My first thought was, "Oh no....my dad is going to kill me." 
Even though I had my own part-time job and 
paid for all my own expenses 
(including this possible replacement contact), 
it wouldn't matter. I knew what would 
happen if my dad found out. And the thought 
sent me into a panic! I started to cry
 and at the same time I started to pray, 
out loud, and with passion!! 
"Jesus you know where that contact lens is! 
You know what is going to happen 
if my dad finds out! Please, Lord, please show me 
where that contact lens is! Please!" 
I continued to plead with the Lord to 
show me where it was.

From a human perspective, 
one little lone GREEN(!) hard contact lens 
blown by the wind? 
Not any chance of ever seeing it again! 
There was green grass everywhere!! 
Really it looked useless to even try to look. 
My boyfriend didn't know what to do. 
He was a kind-hearted, shy kind of guy 
but he just had that glazed look on his face.
 The situation looked impossible!!

But I started to look - first on my shirt.....
then he helped me look 
through my long, long brunette hair. 
My boyfriend and I both looked at the grass. 
How in the world could we find a teeny, 
tiny contact lens in this wind while 
standing in a yard surrounded by grass? 
We looked at our paint pan, the paint can and the brushes.
We checked my hair again. 
Again, I looked all over my shirt, on my shoulders.
 It was so windy that from a human
 perspective this looked ridiculously impossible. 


But I knew that God could do anything - 

if He could part the River for the Israelites 
to walk through on dry ground, 
if He could give sight to a blind man,
 if He could feed a crowd larger than 5,000 
with 2 small loaves and 5 fish, 
if He could hold the mouths of the hungry
 lions closed while Daniel spent the night 
in their den,
 if He could allow 3 obedient men
 to hang out without even being slightly burned
 in a fiery furnace -
 {the same fiery furnace that had killed the men
 who had merely gotten close enough 
just to throw the three guys in in the first place(!)},
 if He could take one jar of oil and
 fill a bazillion empty jars from that same one jar of oil 
for a widow and her son.....
then it was not too big of a task for my 
God to show me where that fly-away contact lens was!!

So I got down on my knees and started looking 
through the blades of grass. My boyfriend got down
 and started looking too. Of course,
 I knew that there was also the possibility 
that one of us had stepped on it, but I asked the Lord to 
pull it out and make it whole....
just please Lord return my contact back to me.

We continued searching for probably about 45 minutes. 
Slowly, carefully, moving aside each blade of grass, 
inch by inch. Nothing. I was not going to give up.
 {I'm guessing my boyfriend thought I was nuts.}
It really did look impossible.
 The same wind that had whipped it out of my eye, 
was still blowing, so just how far could it have gone?? 

Really, anywhere!!


But I knew that I was serving a Miracle-working,
 Mountain-moving, Awe-inspiring, Gasp-giving God,
and I totally, completely believed that He was 
going to show me exactly where it was.

I was not going to give up until He did!

He could surely point me to exactly where it was.
 And if it had blown 500 feet away,
 He was more than capable of having a ministering angel 
pick that thing up and put it where I could find it!!

We continued looking - I was not going to give up!!
 I pleaded,
 "Show me Lord where exactly it is!"

 Probably over an hour had passed and all of a sudden
 I felt the Lord whisper to me, 
"Stand up!"
 So I stood up. 
Then I waited. 
Again, I felt Him whisper with His still small voice, 
"Walk over there, I will show you when to stop."

My boyfriend was watching me.
I walked, slowly gingerly toward where I felt He had said to go. 
I kept walking, so carefully tenderly taking each step.

 All of a sudden, now probably 12 feet from where we had been painting and looking, I felt Him say, 
"Bend down and part the grass!" 
I bent down, and in one exact movement, 
I literally parted the grass and there probably 
two inches down tucked in the blades of grass 
was my tinted green little hard contact lens!!!!

I am crying as I type. I grabbed that contact lens and 

started screaming and jumping up and down and 
squealing and rejoicing at what God had done!!
 I ran to my boyfriend, 
"LOOK! LOOK!! Do you see what God has done? 
Do you see where it was?? 
DO YOU SEE?
 He told me exactly where to look. 
God showed me where it was!
 Did you see that??"

My loving Heavenly Father understood completely
 what would be in store if I had come home
 without that contact and He had miraculously 
answered my prayer!! 
He had spoken so precisely - 
He had done it in such a dramatic way!! 
He had shown me where it was, many, 
many feet from where it had all started. 
It was an amazing time of faith-building for me.
 It was an amazing time of again, 
learning to recognize and hear His voice.

The other thing that struck me that day was that 
He had not done it instantly
I couldn't help but wonder and think that
 He had wanted to see if I would 
persevere in my trust of Him. 
What if I had looked at the situation and said it was impossible? 
(Which it sure would have looked!)
 What if I had only looked for a little bit and given up? 
The hour that we searched, against all human odds, 
He had been building my faith.

And I do believe He was testing my faith. 
He was wondering if I would give up or 
would I trust Him that He was going to show me. 
Would I give up after a few minutes?
 Would I give up after a half hour? 
Would I give up? 


So now, let me ask......
are there some things that you are about to give up on? 
Are there some things that look impossible? 
Is there a specific situation that you think is just too big?
 If it is too big humanly speaking - then it's perfect!!
 Because our God is waaaay bigger!!! In fact, He is HUGE!!!!

I learned a valuable lesson that day and it is contained in this verse:

And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Is there a time that God has surprised you with a miracle? What story do you have to tell?  Please share your specific Memorial Box Monday story by linking with your permalink below 
{problem with Mcklinkly website and have
 an email in to him...will have one up shortly, I'm sure! 
 Please check back to link yours.}

If you are uncertain what a Memorial Box is, read about it here....