Archive for November, 2015

Frightening week for Donna – love your prayers

Sunday, November 29th, 2015
This is so typical of Donna's personality!  Right after having her head shaved and trying a new wig.

This is so typical of Donna’s personality! Right after having her head shaved and trying a new wig.

Many of you have heard me mention my scheduling coordinator, Donna. We’ve worked together for about 4 years now, and she is just a blessing and has become a good friend. Donna told me when I hired her that she has had cancer several times, and it’s really only a matter of time before it comes back. Donna was given 4 months to live about 11 years ago, so that in itself is a miracle of God.

Last year they found a new breast cancer and again, Donna was diagnosed at stage four. This was devastating news, but her faith is amazing. She had surgery before Christmas and then went through chemo and radiation last winter and spring. She was doing well through the summer and fall, but this past week she was visiting a friend in Atlanta and was having absolutely excruciating headaches. Then she started having trouble walking. She flew home with a friend (she told me they almost didn’t let her on the plane because she couldn’t walk in a straight line down the gangway and they thought she was drunk) and immediately went to the ER. She texted me that night that they had found a fairly large tumor in her brain.

That was Tuesday night. I went to see her Wednesday and they were running lots of tests. Clearly, they were trying to figure out how far it had spread to see if surgery was worth the risk. I was leaving town for Thanksgiving, and we had a wonderful time of prayer together. Praise God, they found the cancer was no where else, so they went ahead with surgery. They had to wait for some medication to get out of her system, so her family all brought Thanksgiving dinner down to the hospital and celebrated with her, and then she went in for surgery Friday morning. She did amazingly well, and they felt confident they’d gotten all of that tumor which was just amazing news! She will undergo radiation after Christmas again.

Please keep her and her family in your prayers. While everything went well, as Donna says, it’s getting harder and once it’s in the brain, it’s not a good outlook. She is absolutely my hero, though – God has carried her through and she has such peace! She wanted me to tell people that just because we believe in Christ, it doesn’t mean things will go the way we want them or that we won’t suffer. It does mean, though, that Jesus will be with us and give us peace and hope and joy in the midst of it. Amen, sister! And she is the embodiment of that.

I’ll keep you all updated, but please pray for my Donna – she is precious to me!

How Do We Know God’s Will?

Friday, November 20th, 2015

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

How can we know if we’re in God’s will? This is an important question, one of the most important for our day to day living. If we really want to serve God, how do we know what His will is and then do it?

For me, this is a really timely topic. As most of you know, we are in the middle of the adoption of a medically fragile nine-year-old boy from China. He looks amazing. But I also know many, many adoptive parents, and I know the strikes against this being lots of fun. He doesn’t speak English. He might hate our country. He is an older child and we don’t know how he’s been treated all these years. He may not attach to us. He may die. Just like Peter getting out of the boat, sometimes when I take my eyes off Jesus, these waves seem terrifying and I start sinking.

How do I know that God wants us to do this? What if I’m just making this up in my head? What if I just think this boy’s picture is cute or want to feel like a hero and have no idea what I’m getting into? These are real questions. And what if he’s just wonderful and we fall madly in love with him and his surgery isn’t possible or goes badly and then we lose him?

I have three great kids who are healthy and growing up into kind and loving adults. I am married to a wonderful guy and we’re happy. We live in a nice suburban house in one of the richest countries in the world. I would be lying if I told you I hadn’t had the thought, “Why are we messing with this?” Well, because we felt called to it. And because we knew we couldn’t leave this boy where he was. And how does that work? And how do we know if we’re right?

Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed the pattern of this world. That means we need to get the world’s version of wisdom out of our heads and be transformed to hear God’s wisdom. The world’s wisdom would tell me I was foolish to mess with the good life I have. That I might harm my other children if this goes badly. That it’s not my problem and there’s no reason for me to step in there. But God’s wisdom is different. God values all people, and He sure doesn’t love me any more than he loves this little boy. Psalm 68:6 says that God sets the lonely in families. If God has given me everything I have, how can I be selfish and tell Him I’m not willing to put it back into His hands? And what if He means all this as a blessing? Why would I say no to that?

Roman’s 12:2 also tells us that we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How do we let God change our minds? By spending time with Him. Through prayer and listening for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. And, so importantly, by knowing His Word. That is how He talks to us. And God’s Word is transformative – it will change you. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

And then, Roman’s 12:2 gives us the incredible promise that if we do those things, we will be able to know God’s will. That is stunning!

So here are a few things I use to check myself, things I’ve used as a yardstick over the years. I’d love to hear yours too.

1. Repetition. God seems to use this a lot in my life, and in many other believers that I know. God placed a desire on my heart for adoption for many years before we acted on it. But last year I started to hear it from all directions, including from my husband who hadn’t been at all on the same page with me before. That’s when Nathan and I started listening closely for the Lord and doing that together. We prayed about it a lot and felt God confirming it in our spirits. We kept getting Bible verses or running into people who would talk about their adoption. The sermon every week at church seemed to be echoing our thoughts. It came from all sides at once.

2. Does it line up with Scripture? To me, this is the most important one, because when we go on a “feeling,” it’s really easy to talk ourselves into whatever we want. One thing we know for sure is that God will not contradict His own Word. I had a woman tell me once that God was leading her to leave her husband. I asked why, had he been unfaithful or what was leading her to this conclusion? She told me, no, it was nothing like that, but she’d been bored for years. I can say with certainty that God was not leading her there. He will never, never contradict His Word. (And that’s another post, but that would be when I would be praying for God to revive my marriage!) In the example of our adoption, we just kept getting more and more Scripture about orphans and we know that caring for them is absolutely in the heart of God. It lines up.

3. Is it confirmed by prayer? When you pray about this decision, does the Holy Spirit confirm it in your heart? Do you have a peace about it (Phil 4:6-7)? Even in a terrifying decision, we can still have peace. It’s also important to remember that when we seek the Lord and ask him for wisdom, He promises He will give it (James 1:5). Are you following the wisdom He’s giving you in prayer?

4. And lastly, do other believers agree with you? Again, you need wisdom here because I don’t mean that everyone will always agree with you, but do some key believers that you trust agree that this could be God’s will for you? If you’re sharing your plan with solid believers who know you well, and none of them can see it, perhaps you should take it back to the Lord.

Finally, we need to remember that being in God’s will doesn’t always mean things will turn out beautifully immediately. Sometimes we think if we’re in God’s will everything will go well (and by that, we mean painlessly and preferably also to our advantage) and if things go wrong, then we must have missed it and are not actually in His will. But that’s just not true. We can be right in the middle of God’s will and it can still look bad for us. Look at Joseph when he was falsely accused by Potiphar and thrown into prison, or Daniel when he remained faithful to God and got thrown into the lion’s den. But in both of those examples, and countless others, we also see how God brought something much greater out of their pain, and that He had a bigger plan for them. When we’re seeking to follow God’s will for our lives through His Word and prayer and the Holy Spirit, and we do it to the best of our ability, we can be confident that He is always able to carry it out, and do it for our good. (Phil. 1:6, Rom. 8:28)

God’s not trying to trick us. He wants us to know His will and to do it in the world. Are we willing to seek Him, and then step out in faith to do whatever it is He’s giving us to do?

OH events, and our dossier is in China!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Teaching at St. Lukes

Teaching at St. Lukes

Apparently we forgot the camera at Alliance!  But here's the view out my window that weekend.

Apparently we forgot the camera at Alliance! But here’s the view out my window that weekend.

And his name is Noah

And his name is Noah

Another couple of busy weeks! Our kids have had a ton of stuff going on, a piano competition and their debut performance in the youth worship band at church (yes, all three at once! Rinnah singing, Rachel on bass, and Toby on keys) among other things. It’s been so fun to watch them! And I’ve had two more women’s conferences plus a concert and worship services, our dossier is finally in China (more on that below), and our kitchen is complete! Halleluia! Can’t even tell you how fun it is to have a stove again. 🙂

I was back at St. Luke two weekends ago to do a conference on Esther on Friday night and Saturday. I love working with this church – the ladies are all so sweet, and they do an incredible job. Every detail is planned and their hearts are simply to glorify God! We had a great time there, and also got so many kids sponsored for Compassion – it just blew me away! They had about 5 times the normal number of sponsors for their event, and it says so much about their church!

The following weekend I was up in Alliance, Oh, closer to Cleveland, and did a concert on Friday night, a women’s conference, this time on Peter, on Saturday, and then their worship service on Sunday. Sometimes it’s hard to have that kind of weekend – you know some people will be at all three things so you don’t want to overlap too much, but you also know a lot of people will just be at one, so you don’t want to leave too much out! Friday was a great night, lots of visitors to the church, Saturday was a sweet time thinking about how God transforms us to be usable by Him, and then Sunday I spoke on Daniel and about whether Romans 8:28 is really true – can God really use all things for good? It was a good sermon for me personally, and I felt like God gave it to me specifically for that weekend. I’ve been struggling with some fear as we get closer to this adoption, and these were great reminders for me personally.

This weekend we decided on our little guy’s American name. We’re going to name him Noah. I love the imagery, that God was the one who saved Noah and kept him against all odds, and I am praying that one day our Noah will know God as well and be as faithful to Him as Noah was. Since our Noah just turned 9, we were really struggling with what to do with the name thing. He’s already going to lose so much – his country, his culture, his language – and we hate to take his name too. But we have many Chinese friends here, and they all expressed to me that he would probably want an American name as well, at least legally, as it makes things easier. So we’re going to keep his Chinese name as his middle name, and then just ask him what he wants to be called day to day. And if he changes his mind at some point, we’ll roll with it too.

Our dossier was officially logged into China yesterday, so that is a huge step forward. Now we wait several more weeks as it’s all translated, and then there are several more steps as well such as our official approval, travel approvals, visas, etc. We know now that we won’t make Christmas, and they were saying perhaps February, but that is Chinese New Year, and a lot of the government offices shut down which would make it impossible for us to complete the adoption. So it looks like March it is. Please be praying for us! I am getting really anxious to get him, but I am also struggling with fear about his health, and if the doctors will say it’s too late for his surgery, and how the surgery will go, etc. God does not call us to fear, and he really does give me the peace that passes all understanding every time I give the situation to Him, but I will not turn down your prayers that I would be able to rest there. And I definitely covet your prayers for Noah and for his health! Thank you so much – it is such a blessing to me to know that people are praying!