Finished homeschooling the kids,folded a load of laundry and put away the dishes after eating. Just then, Scott arrived to pick up Cole and Maya and headed out to Cole's out of town soccer game. Two of the doctors who are going on the medical missions trip to Maria's Big House of Hope, that were at our house packing up in our basement (we house all the equipment), just left for the day. And my baby is asleep in her crib.....And I just realized that my house is quiet for the first time in ages. So, I thought I'd write and say - thanks God for the quiet moment.
I am still shocked that we figured out how to house 19 of Scott's relatives for the weekend in our home. Even Scott's office had a king blow-up bed and a roll away crib stuffed into it. And everyone was so kind to allow me to believe that they each had comfortable nights sleep.
The highlight of the whole Easter Weekend for me took place when we had a chance to ask Scott's mom about her take on the weekend. This conversation took place just after the last of Scott's sibling's drove away. Scott and I asked his mother, who will be staying with us (with Scott's dad as well) for another week, what the highlight of the weekend was for her. She answered saying, "Of course it was having all of my children here together; this is the first time since they were children that we have all stayed together." And at that moment I felt like I could feel her mother's heart. Right now I can hardly even imagine one of my children growing up and moving away; let alone all of them no longer living together in our home( and she had five); moreover, I can't imagine going that many years before they would ever sleep under one roof together again.
I suppose for parents whose children have grown and gone. heaven takes on yet another great facet of hope. The hope of a lasting reunion with our loved ones. Lord, thanks for the resurrection and the eternal reunion of saints that will follow.
A few photos of our time together:
While visiting Nashville to attend Show Hope's Cinderella event, a few friends and I stumble across one of the neatest stores I have ever experienced. And I mean "experienced" because while I was in there I was so profoundly struck by the various things that I was reading that I actually started to cry. The store was filled with "TRUTH" beautifully written on plaques, planks, and pillows - the entre store was filled with the truths of God's Word.
The store itself was called "Tetellesti", which apparently means, "It is finished."
Upon walking in the store, the keeper of the establishment asked us if we had secured our reservation in heaven. And that if we had, he said we were more than welcome to sign the walls of the store anywhere. And if we hadn't yet, he was happy to share with us how we could. It was such a blessing for me to watch my 8 year old son, Cole, sign his name because of his assurance that he was truly the Lord's.
Anyhow, I wanted to share a few of the great truths I read there in the store,
1. "God offends the mind to reveal the heart" -
(Oh how painfully true that is! My mom always says remember when you find yourself annoyed and hurt it is most often your pride that's been offended.)
2. "Humility is giving up your own opinion for the sake of unity!"
3. "Count your trials as joy"
4. "Lord, fade me away"
5. "Fear not, I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine."
6. "I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
7. "Accountable to the truth"
8. "Speak the truth in love"
9. "Love God - Love people"
10. "The art of losing myself"
11. "Be still and know..."
12. "Legacy of Peace."
As I remember more of them I will add them to the blog.
.....for now here's a few recent family pics:
This is Kerry's friend Anna here! Between taking care of baby Leah and schooling Cole and Maya among all other daily activities, Kerry has been mentioning every now and again how she feels badly that she hasn't been keeping up with blogging. So here I am for her to give an update of recent days, particularly the past week that her and her family have spent with me and some of my family in Sanibel, Florida, while my parents and four of my sisters were in Haiti. Kerry was able to do respite care for Nathan and Jeremiah, who is our foster brother since she and Scott's foster care/adoption paperwork is current. However, R\rather than giving another whole update here, I'll link you to my blog where I shared more about our week which you can read on my blog.
Our Week in Pictures:
Steve and MaryBeth thank the doctors of Geisinger Medical Center for their medical mission trips to Maria's Big House of Hope in China.
Steven Sings at Geisinger Children's Hospital
Emergency Room Doctor, Erica McElroy (above) is the woman responsible for organizing the last two medical mission trips to Maria's as well as the upcoming one.
Cole's fans watch his upward basketball game
and Kristof with SCC
Pediatric Neurosurgeon, Dr. Amir Kershenovich, his wife Hila (with friend Jen Swartzentruber in foreground) chatting with Chapmans about his upcoming surgical trip to Maria's.
Leah's private concert! He's not too bad Mommy!
(This picture below makes me laugh - SCC was goofing around with a child's cowboy hat....but because it's too small to look right but too big to look just like a child's hat, it makes him look super goofy...makes me laugh outloud everytime!
Snow Ball Fight!
"Maya, its really time to go to sleep. Please close your eyes and try to go to sleep."
"O.K. Mama, but do you know what? - God is writing the story of us, isn't He?"
"What do you mean exactly, Sweet-Heart?"
"I mean, God is writing a story about us."
"Yes, I think you are right Maya. So, what kind of a story do you think it is that He's writing?"
"Well, it's all about us and right now it's about how we are trying to go to sleep. And it's a good story, "cause He's a good guy. No, actually God is a great guy isn't He, Mom!"
"Yes, Maya, God is a great God! - Now, it's time for bed - Night Night Honey"
"Mom, please just one more question."
"O.K. Maya, one more."
"So, when the first Mommy bird was a baby in an egg, who was it's Momma. I mean, who was its protector?"
.....You have got to be kidding me, I thought! Did my four year old really just ask me from her own little thoughts the classic, 'which came first the chicken or the egg?"...What a hilarious conversation.
"Maya, that's a good question and as far as I can figure, God made a grown mom and daddy bird first, just like he made Adam and Eve becuase He knew it wouldn't be good for the first animals to be babies without parents to protect them."
"oh, That's so good! Good night momma," Maya said, then off to sleep she went.
Thirty-nine years ago today, Scott was born; and I am so glad that he was because he has been God's greatest example in my life of the Lord's loves for His people - His bride. Scott loves me when I am unlovely. He exhibits patience with me when I don't deserve it. Since the day I met him until now, he has always been kind to me. His patience and kindness has made me desire to be more lovely in character for him. I have become a far better me than I ever would be without you in my life. You inspire me to want to be a better me and to rely on the power of God to mature and change me! I love you Scottie! Happy Birthday Honey!
Here are 39 things that describe you my darling!
Because so many people have asked how our daughter Isabella died, I thought I would take some time on the third anniversary of her passing to explain some of the things that transpired around her death and also share some of the beauty which has come from her ashes.
Sometime on January 5th 2008, the baby in my womb, who was 37 weeks gestation, stopped moving. At the time, we did not know why nor did we yet know the gender of the child because my husband, Scott, and I wanted to be surprised at the delivery. Upon the confirmation from the doctors that the baby had indeed died, we made the decision to be induced on January 6th, which also happened to be Scott's 36th birthday. I labored through much of the 6th and then in the wee hours of the night (which was January 7th) our baby girl came forth from my womb stillborn. And her silence was deafening!!!
Immediately upon her arrival, it was clear to the doctors what had taken her life. She had two knots in her umbilical cord, one which was infarcted, which means pulled tight so that blood/oxygen could no longer flow. We named her Isabella Grace (or Bella Grace) because through her name we claimed the promise found in Isaiah 63 that says the Lord will turn ashes into beauty - He will give us beauty in exchange for our ashes. Bella means beauty and Grace means the empowering presence of God.
As I sit and write these words, I realize that even after three full years the emotions associated with such an experience are too complicated to ever adequately put into words. I don't believe it is even possible to go through something like this and remain sane without the grace of God. And even for those who do not yet know God, it is clear to me that it could only be God's empowering presence and unmerited favor that would sustain a person through such an event nevertheless. Just because we might not recognize God is there doesn't mean He isn't. And in our case, it was clear that God was indeed the other man standing beside us in that firey furnace. "Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me!" Psalm 23
While Scott and I were in the hospital's labor and delivering room, my husband's boss and our dear friend, Steven Curtis Chapman, was just arriving in Scotland to meet up with some other worship leaders in order to produce a worship album.
When Steven heard the tragic news that our baby had died, he asked the other worship leaders with him at the conference in Scotland to gather and pray for our family. According to how the story was later told to me, apparently, Matt Redman, another worship leader on the trip, had a scripture impressed upon his heart by the Lord that night for us. It is found in Hebrews 6:19, which reads, "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain." Then, that very same day, Matt Redman and Steven wrote a song based on that scripture in Hebrews which they titled, "Close to Your Heart." Steven and his eldest son, Caleb, stayed up all that next night recording a rough copy of the song for us so that we could listen to it as soon as possible.
By the time Scott and I left the hospital and returned to our house with empty arms and aching hearts, this song was already there waiting to ministry to our broken souls. Through the many painful nights that would come, its comforting words would minister to me as if the Holy Spirit were singing them within me directly to my heart.
Although the song, "Close to Your Heart," was not studio recorded until this past year, it has been played live and in public only one time, by Matt Redman, at the funeral of Steven Curtis Chapman's own daughter, Maria Sue Chapman, who tragically died on May 21, 2008, just four months after the death of our daughter Isabella Grace.
Even though Matt and Steve may have originally thought of us when they wrote the song, "Close to Your Heart", clearly God thought also of precious Maria and the Chapman family. And for that matter, I am sure God thought of all of His children who mourn when He authored the truths of these verses. From God's perspective, the song was written for you my dear sisters and brothers who also have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. May the Lord continue to use this song written by the Holy Spirit through the hands of His servants, Matt and Steve, as a healing balm to the souls of many who mourn.
I am so pleased to say that, "Close to Your Heart" has finally been recorded for public listening and can be downloaded from itunes.
The Song Lyrics: Close to Your Heart
Though hope is clouded
It has not left us
Though pain runs deep now
You’re deeper still
And You are holding
All things together
Hold us together now
Chorus: We have this hope
An anchor for the soul
We have this truth
A compass for the heart
You’ve gone before us
And You are with us
And You will carry us through
You will carry us close to Your heart
Here is confusion
Where is the meaning?
But we are trusting
Your Father love
And You are holding
All things together
Hold us together now
Chorus 2x: We have this hope
An anchor for the soul
We have this truth
A compass for the heart
You’ve gone before us
And You are with us
And You will carry us through
And You will carry us close to Your heart
Close to Your Heart
Safe in the arms of Jesus
She’s safe in the arms of Jesus
We’re safe in the arms of Jesus
We’re safe in the arms of Jesus
We’re safe in the arms of Jesus
Safe in the arms of Jesus
We’re safe in the arms of Jesus
She’s safe in the arms of Jesus
Chorus: We have this hope
An anchor for the soul
We have this truth
A compass for the heart
You’ve gone before us
And you are with us
And You will carry us through
You will carry us close
You have carried her home
You have carried her home to Your heart.
See below our adventure hostess, Jeanie Haas, pulling Leah on her first sleigh Ride across the frozen lake with her daughter, Mariah ice skating in the background. ..."walking in a winter wonderland."
Some Haas, Hasenbalg, and Young kids ...snowman making and snowball fights
"O.K....here you go Anna!"
"And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35
About two week ago, Cole asked if he could have his Nanna take him shopping so that he could use his own money to buy gifts for his family. I told him that he certainly may and that Nanna would be a great person to help him manage that kind of thing. So, when the day came Cole seemed very excited. But about fifteen minutes before his Nanna arrived to pick him up for shopping, I found him sitting on the living room chair quietly crying. "Cole, honey, why are you crying?, I asked." "Mom, these are happy tears, really." "It's just like you always say, 'The Joy is in the Giving. And I am feeling that joy in my heart right now....I feel more happy to be able to go and get gifts for the people I love than I am to get gifts for myself. It just feels so good that now my eyes are watering."
As Christmas Day approached all that he could talk about was how he couldn't wait to give his gifts. It took every bit of reserve and self-discipline that he could muster not to spoil his own surprises for us.
A couple days before Christmas,the five families in our homeschool gathered at a local nursing home for critically ill and alzheimer's patients and sang Christmas carols. There was this one dear elderly woman in a wheel chair who was talking to Cole. And as I approached the two of them, I heard her say to Cole, "I am crying because your visit has made me so happy. I am not crying because I am sad, only because I am happy", she said. Cole then said to her, "Oh, I understand, I was crying just the other day for the same reason! Sometimes happiness makes your eyes water!"
When Christmas morning finally came he began begging us right of the bat to let him give HIS gifts first. Preparing for Christmas this year made him happier than it ever has before because this time he was going to be doing the giving. He gave me earrings, his daddy a sweater, his sister a gift super hero action figure (so that she could now properly play superheroes with him), and baby Leah he gave a red jumpsuit. And despite how blessed we are were to get these awesome gifts, Cole was the one who was beaming the most. He was exceedingly blessed!
As a family we had an amazing first half of Christmas Day. We cooked breakfast together (Nanna and Pop joined us); then we leasurely opened gifts while taking long pauses in between openings in order to take in and enjoy what was just opened. We had made the decision to only get the kids each three gifts but with all the gifts that were sent or delivered from other relatives there was a great deal for them to open. After all the gifts had been opened we sat together and ate the turkey dinner I had prepared. From all of our points of view, the morning events had been super enjoyable for us all.
Later that afternoon, however, Maya came down with the stomach bug and Leah began teething terribly. So, things kind of took a turn from lax and joyous to hectic and strained. No one got particularly upset with one another, but in the confusion and crying we all went on to kind of "miss" each other whilst trying to survive.
After finally getting the baby settled down and Maya into bed now that she had finally stopped "heaving", I went into the living room to collect myself and found that it was nearly 11pm and Cole was still awake and sitting alone in the dark. When I told him that it was way past his bedtime and that I am so sorry we had neglected him during the confusion, he immediately began to tear up. "Oh, Son, what is it? - are these tears because you have been here alone and we haven't been able to have a good second half of the day?" "Mom, I'm not upset that you were tending to Leah and Dad was tending to Maya. It's just that even though I am so grateful for all the gifts I received, it feels like all of these presents are like weights on me - they are burdens to me." He went on to explain how it has become painful to get more than he gives and how he wished he had given more than he had gotten from others.
WOW! It was so eye opening for me to hear him verbalize such a deep truth. I did my best to comfort him and help him not feel so badly. And the conversation certainly served as a good segue into talks on generosity, thankfulness, service, and most of all how God always out-gives us. But I am still finding myself pondering his words because I know there is more truth in it for me to realize. I just keeping thinking about the fact that the struggle in his little soul which God allowed me to witness has so purely and convincingly revealed to me the truth that the JOY IS INDEED IN THE GIVING! The words of our Lord Jesus are so right - It is more blessed to give than to receive.
See below pictures taken over the holidays before the sickness took over causing us not to get out of our PJs ever since.....
"Live your life in such a way that those who know you but don't know God will come to know God because they know you."
(Loved this saying so much that I hung a wooden placard with these words engraved upon it above our bed.)
"I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of the LORD." Psalm 116:17
Complaining seems to come a lot more easily to the lips of men than do words of thankfulness. I know this is true of me! I suppose that is why the term, "sacrifice of thanksgiving" is used so often in the Word of God. Being thankful doesn't come easy or naturally - probably because being thankful requires realizing our need of others and of God. Someone who is entirely self-sufficient has no need to be thankful. But once we realize that we have nothing that we have not first been given by God, we become humble and aware that our entire sufficiency comes from Him in the first place. We may say it was the work of our own hands that brought about this good thing or that good thing; but let us ask ourselves who gave us the hands to do the work in the first place? Perhaps the good idea was our own idea, but who gave us the mind to think it in the first place?
I suppose its also called a "sacrifice of Thanksgiving" because so often we find ourselves mired in the brokenness of this life - with trouble about us and those whom we love. But there must be something powerful about thanksgiving in the heavenly realms or the Lord would not ask us to come to him with this attitude when we are in need and find ourselves afraid...
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; Phl 4:6
We need you Lord - everyday and in every way!
Happy Thanksgiving from the Hasenbalg home to yours!
"God places the lonely in families" Psalm 68:6
When it comes to relationships, I am a very rich woman indeed! I have been exceedingly blessed with a caring and close-knit birth family, wonderful and lasting friendships from every season of my life, and a loving husband and amazing children.
For many years, I wondered why the Lord had called me into work with foster kids and orphans considering the fact that my life had very little in common with each of theirs. It wasn't until a few years ago when I found myself sitting in a circle around a bonfire, by a river, in the middle of the woods in Pennsylvania, with 14 young adults who had aged out of the US foster care system that a possible answer to this question occurred to me. Perhaps God had endowed me with so many relationships in order that I would share them with those who were in need of such loving relationships.
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. ITi 6:17-18
Back in 2001, when I helped start the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI), as its Executive Director, our organization had very little money. Lots of heart and a big name, but no real financial resources to speak of. We worked with 170 members of the US Congress but our headquarters were in the basement of Scott and my townhouse. Lynnette Cole, Miss USA 2000, was working for me - FOR FREE. Wendy Cosby, our founding program director was working for a salary we hoped we could raise. We were hosting more than a dozen former foster youth from all over the US for their work as interns on Capitol Hill for the summer, but we had no money to host a much needed bonding retreat for them. Talk about smoke and mirrors! So,in order to accomplish what we had set out to do, I decided to spend the one resource which I was personally rich in at the time in order to compensate for our lack of money - relationships from my hometown.
I asked Barb Walzer, my mother's closest friend growing up, and the first contributer to CCAI (because her mother had grown up in an orphanage in the US), if she would open her very large home and host our foster youth interns (FYI) for a retreat. She said, "yes". Well, not only did she host that year, but she has hosted it every year since. My parents, my siblings, my in-laws, my parents' church congregation, my childhood neighbors and various childhood friends have all taken part - not only in the retreat but in the lives ongoing of so many of these youth who have come over the years. Several of the interns have returned many times during the holiday seasons to stay with Barb or my parents, because they knew that the invitation to "return anytime" with sincere. And we have all found that the joy has truly been in the giving of friendship because we in turn have received far more than our hearts could have ever imagined. God used the fact that our charity had so little money in order that we would learn that it is relational wealth that is needed to be shared with orphans and foster children far more than money!
I am very aware that the reasons so many of my relationships are so rich is because of the power of God which formed them and has held them together. Relationships founded and sustained by the truth and love of the Lord have an amazing way of lasting and blessing beyond measure. And I am so grateful that the Lord has shown me that these relationships are for me to share with those who are relationally impoverished.
Scott and I have spent the last three weeks visiting with a number of very dear friends and experiencing true fellowship as described in the Word of God. We went to Nashville as a family to attend the Show Hope Fellowship weekend. We were in Tennessee for nearly two weeks working and spending time with our friends there who are connected to the ministry of Show Hope - what an awesome bunch of people they are!! Upon our return to Pennsylvania, we took a short trip to New York City with a couple of relatively new friends from Danville, the Swartzentrubers, to attend an exciting event hosted by Hugh Jackman, his wife Deborra-Lee Furness and Vera Wang. The event was regarding the Global Orphan Crisis. Because of Scott and my many years of work in the field, we ended up knowing at least a third of those in attendance. And it was really fun to see so many familiar faces because all were people whom we had known as a result of working in the fields of the fatherless - so our connects were ones which God had authored and therefore rich relationships as well. Then, this past weekend we opened our home to host a darling family of six, the Cuozzos, whom we had been in ministry with a number of years ago in DC. It was such a joy for us to spend time with their four darling children and to finally have a chance to get to know their newly adopted daughter Lydia Hope. What a joy it has been to spend time with all these dear friends of ours because of each one's love for the Lord and desire to have relationships with us that are "in the light"!
(Cuozzo and Hasenbalg Clans)
(Cuozzo and Hasenbalg Kids)
(Wendy Cosby, Jimmy Wayne, DeLynn Redman)
As I reflect upon the whirlwind we have experienced over these last three weeks, I realize that there are two things which are common in all of these relationships - 1) that each and everyone of them involves a love for God and 2) personal involvement in caring for orphans.
Perhaps when we are willing to share our hearts and relationships with those who are relationally impoverished our own relationships will in turn become even richer as a result. At least this has been my experience.
Lord, please help me to desire relational wealth above monetary wealth. Help me to tend to my relationships wisely and generously for your glory. Remind me that the hard work it takes to "live in the light" is worth it because of the honest and real relationships that it produces. And finally, give me eyes to see those who are relationally poor and in need of care, time, conversation, love, and a familiy.
Tomorrow, we are heading to Nashville as a family. We'll be there through Show Hope's fellowship weekend and into a bit of next week. These are the times when I am very grateful that we are a homeschool family. Homeschooling makes it possible for us to sometimes travel with Daddy when he has to be out of the state for extended periods of time. No one will be missing school - I have nine days of homeschool materials packed for Cole and Maya. Being a family of five now does however make it a little more difficult to just pick up and go, so these kinds of trips are certainly more rare nowadays. The kids and I are usually hunkered down at home and most often grateful to be.
I am actually so very thankful to the Lord for the reprieve from great trials He has given to us of late. It wasn't so long ago that I wondered if such a season would ever come again. "Sorrow will last for a night and joy will come in the morning", says the scriptures; yet, it seemed that the dark night of our souls would not end. But I can testify now that joy did indeed come in the morning - 1:08 am to be exact, when Leah Joy came forth alive. Oh, how much joy God has brought to our family though her arrival! Everyday now it seems our household is filled with smiles. According to Cole, the babys cute face is his biggest distraction during homeschool. "Mom, I just can't help it, she is too cute!"
But even in this current season, I am not unaware of the great suffering of so many people. In a sense God has freed up my personal prayers to make room in this time to really pray for others who are walking through their own dark nights of the soul. (Nursing gives a woman ample time for solitude and stillness to pray). But also in this season, the Enemy of God continues to try new tactics to steal my joy and make me discontent so that I will miss the blessings of God before me. Last time Scott was away for a week, Maya was sick for 7 days straight (fever, vomiting, the works) as a result fear and self-pity both came knocking on my heart's door. I tried not to burden Scott while he was away, but a few times I didn't succeed quite as much as I would have wished. The night I was up every 20 minutes either rubbing Maya down with wet cloths and giving her tylenol to help the fever break, or nursing the baby who was extraordinarily restless and cranky through the night, ended with me texting Scott to let him know we were "not doing so well."
But truth be told, I am grateful that my husband, Scott, is so diligent about being in the word and sharing God's truth with me each day that he is home usually over our early morning coffee. Because this regular practice of edification is what take me through the other more trying times when he is away. And oh what a joy to have a husband who seeks to 'wash me in the water of the Word of God!' As a single woman I used to pray for this kind of relationship, but to actually be experiencing this as a married woman has been the greatest of blessings imaginable. Oh, Lord, thank you. Father, do answer the prayers of those women who to desire this same thing. I saw how you answered my own mother's prayer this way and brought my father to a place of praying with my mom each morning.
Practically speaking, our days seem to be getting "easier" as it relates to having a new baby and the normal exhaustion that comes with this. Leah seems to be crossing out of that infant stage and into a more comfortable and more aware baby stage. It seems she is quite the little social one just like her two siblings, Cole and Maya. She'll smile at anyone who'll smile at her.
So, if you happen to be reading this - please submit a prayer to the throne for the blessing of the goings-on during Show Hope's fellowship weekend. I hope to post some photos and give some testimony about how God answered our prayers as the week progresses. Stay Tuned.
Have you ever known someone who seemed bigger than life? Well, I have; and one of those "bigger than life" people was my dear friend, Paul Singer. Last night at the congressional coalition on adoption's Angels in Adoption event in DC, Paul was honored posthumously for a life well-lived. And as the award was being presented I thought "yes, this proves his soul was indeed bigger than life." His compassionate work for orphans lives on in everyone he touched... And because of his sincere relationship with God, his own soul is bigger than this life as well- actually as big as eternal life!" praise the Lord!
The photos posted below are of my kids at the event. While we were there my son found out, apparently for the first time, that I used to work outside the home. Then, when he found out I was the organization's founding director, he said with great excitement, "Mom, you were the boss of all this? And I thought you were just the boss of me, Maya and Leah!" He continued by asking, "So, then why'd they get rid of you?" I responded by explaining to him how I had chosen to stay home with him because I had felt God's leading to do so and also because Daddy's job would provide enough to pay our bills. I could see in his face when I told him this that he felt very special indeed.
Anyhow, the event was great. The kids met Danny Devito, Rhea Pearlman, and few other such people whom they'd never heard of before. Fame and worldly status sure are fleeting things... And my kids sure reminded me of this last night.
May we all remember to pour into the things which are eternal so that our souls and our legacies will, too, be bigger than life!"
...faith, hope, and love- these three things remain, but the greatest of these is love. 1cor. 13
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when it is come it is a tree of life."
After our infant daughter, Isabella, went to be with the Lord, Scott and I returned to our rented home with our then 15 month old daughter, Maya, and five year old son, Cole. In those days, it was quite difficult for me to stay my mind on anything other than sorrow, death, and loss. One of the ways I tried to combat this was by having worship music played in our home. I began playing the "Praise Baby" DVDs that my friend, Natalie Gillespie, had given to me as a baby gift when Maya was born. The images and themes of these DVDs are similar to the popular Baby Einstein DVDS, but instead of classical music it is produced with beautiful praise and worship songs being sung in the background. As a result of these DVDs, I would sing worship music throughout the day and even in the night and its messages would act as a healing balm to my bleeding heart.
Now, more than two and a half years later and living in a new house, I found those Praise baby DVDs and decided to put them in the player to listen to once again. As it began to play this evening, I was immediately taken back to that time of pain and loss of our daughter. I turned to Scott and said, "These songs reminds me of losing Isabella." I then walked into the living room and looking down at the bouncy seat on which our three month old, Leah, was lying, I suddenly realized that so much had changed. Instead of an empty cradle before me, I saw before me a healthy beautiful and very much alive baby girl, a picture of God's great blessing and redemption in our lives.
I am acutely aware that there are so many who are currently in seasons of pain and not of redemption. My aunt's mother, Honey Apple (Appalonio), at the age of 95, is this very evening on her way to being with Jesus. Her passing from this world to the next brings great sadness to our family ! She, however, will at last be reunited with her beloved husband of more than 50 years, Rocky Appalonio as well as her husband redeemer, Jesus.
Here's a picture of Honey Apple and her devoted daughter, MaryAnne Richards. This picture was taken at our home just a couple of weeks ago at Maya's 4th birthday. I have never met anyone more loving to children than Honey!
(Just as an interesting side note I want to point out the painting hanging behind Honey and Mary Anne in the picture as it has great meaning for me in this situation.) When I first saw this painting, I had a chance to talk with the artist who painted it, David Armstrong, about what I personally saw in the picture. I told him that it reminded me of the sermon given by Reverend John Dounne entitled, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Before the painter's own untimely death, he signed my print with the words, "For my friend Kerry, don't ask for whom the bells tolls - peace David."
So, why do I point out this painting and its inscription now? Well, because of the meaning of these words. ”For Whom the bell tolls” refers to how folks would send a runner to the church when the church bell would ring in order to find out who had died. But Rev. Dounne's point in the sermon is that we need not first ask WHO has died, but rather that we ought to first recognize that with one man's passing a piece of us all dies with that person (Dounne was teaching about our need of one another, our interdependence and our common mortality!) – He preached that we are not “islands entire of ourselves, but we are a part of the continent – the whole” …he continued saying that…”one man’s death diminishes me!” And in this passing of sweet Honey, we are all being diminished somehow.
But one day Lord, you have promised to unite us all again! And we know so well how you keep all your promises!
Many of you, like those in my Aunt MaryAnne's family, find yourselves ina season of life that is perhaps one of loss rather than of redemption. And if this is you, I pray that you will not let go of your trust and hope in the One who can and will redeem, heal and make things better on your behalf in His way and in His time!
Hold on now by Faith! "Faith is the evidence of things hoped for and the substance of things not yet seen!"
There is a song sung by Mandisa entitled, "He is with You", to which I encourage anyone who's known the valley to listen. I cannot listen to it without crying and being reminded to the depth of my soul that even in the darkest valleys I am not alone! "Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear not for I am with you!" Psalm 23
"This is my body broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Jesus
As I was taking communion this morning, while sitting up in the crying room, I was struck deep in my heart by Christ's words, "..This is My body BROKEN for you, do THIS..". I realized in a whole new way that perhaps "THIS" is far more than just taking communion, even more than just confessing our sins and being as grateful as we can manage for His sacrafice on the cross. Perhaps, "THIS" was to be understood fully by His people only after His work on the cross was completed. Perhaps the "THIS" that He is asking us to do in order to remember His being broken for the people entrusted to Him is for us to be willing to be broken for the people entrusted to us. Hhmmm?
Oh, how I often run from being broken for others! Recently, I was saying that I just don't have the grace to handle any more right now as a reason not to help out a friend asking for help. But today in church I realized that it wasn't so much that I was lacking the grace from God I needed to help out, but rather that I lacked the willingness of heart to be a member of God's broken body for the sake of another. I had failed to "do..in remebrance of Him." The request wasn't comfortable or convenient, but saying the grace isn't there isn't accurate. Grace is something that comes in the moment anyhow- not beforehand. Certainly, sometimes God is calling us to say "No" to do this thing or that thing. And the Bible is clear that "obedience is better than sacriclfice". But, today the Lord reminded me that being willing to be broken and die to "self" for the love of those given to me is to honor Him...to remember Him.
And in those times when I take on a lot for the sake of love and then my circumstances turn out to be very difficult, it doesn't mean His grace is not present. It may mean that if I acted out of obedience then my soul must need this time of refining. I read in a devotional this morning about how suffering has a way of purging selfishness from our souls. "Suffering purges away the rank of self-if you let it do it's work."
The picture below is a picture of me pacing the house with baby Leah that the kids and I sent to Scott last week while he was in Nashville. He asked what we were up to - so we sent him a picture. With Scott away this week, it wasn't easy as Leah had some super fussy days. But being difficult doesn't mean the grace wasn't sufficient. "My grace is sufficient. My strength is made perfect in weakness." What the difficulty I experienced means is that He wants to perfect His strength in me by revealing my weakness and my need of Him. What it also did was show me my need of other members in the body of Christ and to learn gratitude. And I am very grateful for those who have been willing to sacrifice and be broken to help me in my need - and there have been many who have loved me sacrificially.
Lord, help me remember You in the way that You have asked us to... by being broken for others in need.
I just realized that I am in the middle of a genuine quiet moment! And being here feels a bit like a miracle. My mother took Cole and Maya this afternoon to play at her house. Cole promised to finish reading his Pocahontas chapters at Nanna's. As a result, I had a chance to straightened my house in between rocking a fussy Leah. Then, finally, around 4 pm I was able to bounce her into a deep sleep by pacing the neighborhood and then sitting for a good twenty minutes on a bench under our cherry tree. And here I am ALONE in a quiet house. It's funny how I used to dislike being all alone; whereas now I count it quite a privilege - This quiet moment is God's grace to me!
I have HALF written nearly ten blogs in the last few weeks and written at least a dozen more in my mind but I can't seem to find the time to finish even one of them. I am grateful - yes, so very grateful for God's grace in every moment. Our family has had quite the adventures the last few weeks....from sleeping with bed bugs in New York City to visiting the Smithsonian and dining with the Director of the Chinese Center of Adoption Affairs in Washington, DC....but writing more on these subjects just won't be possible...since my quiet moment has come to an end. Cole and Maya are on their way home and Miss Leah has already begun calling my name....."a glee, a goo, uhh, ahh, ahh,cry cry"....Yep, that's her name for me for now. And even the crying is God's great grace to me. And so I praise the Lord!
In celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary Scottie wrote me a poem (the third he has written me since we met - one to propose, one for our 7th anniversary and one for our tenth).
In celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary Scottie wrote me a poem (the third he has written me since we met - one to propose, one for our 7th anniversary and one for our tenth).
In the middle of poem he penned the following words:
In the middle of poem he penned the following words:
The decade together is not marked by our loss
We have treasures in heaven thanks to the Cross
And these words speak so profoundly to me - such amazing truth. Yes, certainly we grieve in this broken world! Things are not as they should be and there is so much pain and loss for all humans (eventually); yet, we as believers grieve with hope and are not identified by loss because of the Cross! The resurrection of Jesus has overcome our losses and so even here in this broken place we can rejoice because of the work done on the cross!
Tomorrow Leah Joy turns one month old! And according to Cole, "She is perfect!"
Leah went to her first restaurant today - a chinese buffet (since its the other two kids favorite type of restaurant and she's restricted to Mommy's milk). At the end of the meal when the waitress handed us the bill and fortune cookies, Cole said, "I think my fortune will be something very true and very good because today has been a very good day already." Scott replied, "Here's hoping its not an unfortunate cookie." (Ha Ha - funny guy).
Anyhow, Cole then opened his cookie and it read, "Those who reap in tears will sow in joy!" And Cole said, "yep, that's right - we sure have!" Yes, we sure have! And we thank you Lord for this BABY JOY!
What a blessing my children are to us from the Lord!
"You know what I want to be when I grow up?", Maya asked.
"What do you want to be Maya?", I responded.
"I want to be a mommy, and I think I need to practice."
"What do you think Mommies do?" I asked her.
Maya said, "They make (that means cook), they clean, they take care of their babies, they take baths and they love soap." ( I had PICA when I was pregnant and so Maya often saw me smelling the soap to satiate my desire to eat the soap - so in her little mind that is what all Mommies must do.)
Soon after that conversation, Maya picked up her baby doll and started pretending to nurse her dolly just like I was nursing Leah. She then walked upstairs and got her mini-cradle and set it right beside baby Leah's and then Maya put her baby doll to sleep in the cradle just as I was putting Leah down. Almost with out fail, since that first conversation a week ago about Maya wanting to be a mommy, she has done just about everything with her baby doll that I am doing with Leah. I will sit for nearly 30 minutes nursing, and Maya will take a seat across from me and pretend to nurse her baby doll for the full 30 minutes. She will set up the monitor when her baby is sleeping and then pretend her baby is crying and finally go to rescue and comfort her. It has been absolutely precious to watch.
And she has been positiely amazing with her baby sister Leah as well. She loves to help me take care of her. She helped bathe her...
She loves to hold her in the front pack.
A little shout out to Leah's loving big brother Cole.
In all seriousness, we really need to mind the scripture in Titus as there is a growing and gross lack in far too many homes of real love between husbands and wives and a running from wifely and motherly duties - all to our own detriment...
"Older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God." Titus 2:4-5
It is so important that we are good examples to other younger women and girls revealing the importance of really loving our husbands and children and being diligent in our homes while allowing our husbands to serve as the heads of our homes so that our children understand godly order. I am astonished at how many women slander and speak ill of their own husbands or who are continually running from their duties at home. And the truth of the matter is that our peace as women lies in fulfilling our duties in our current state of life - so if you are married then love your husband. If you are a mom, then love your children - and in doing so we will be bringing honor instead of shame on the Word of God. I believe that just as I was so taken by Maya's desire to be a good mommy (making and cleaning, nursing and bathing...), I believe the Lord looks on at us as we choose to do those things that we might be tired of doing....loving when we don't feel appreciated, doing when we don't feel "seen". For God sees and in doing these things we are pleasing Him.
In just three short weeks Scott and I have experienced the birth of our new daughter, Leah Joy; attended my 20 year high school class reunion in Danville, PA; attended Scott's 20 year high school class reunion in Saugerties, NY; and celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.
Each of these monumental events has caused me to really take a deep look at what has transpired over the last two decades in my life. Certainly, there have been some trials - but honestly, it seems to me that God has certainly done as He said he would - immeasurably more (and far better) than I could ever have asked or imagined - particularly in giving me the kind of life partner that I have in my husband, Scott.
So, Lord, for the grace to see us through the trials and for the mercy to give us so many undeserved blessings - Thank you! To You we give all the glory and praise for all these wonderful gifts!
We are pleased to announce that Show Hope is partnering with Empowered To Connect <http://www.empoweredtoconnect.org> to present the Empowered To Connect Conference during September 10-11, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. This two day conference will be hosted at Covenant Presbyterian Church <http://www.showhope.org/AdoptionAid/EmpoweredtoConnectConference.aspx#Covenant> by longtime Show Hope board members and friends of the Chapmans, Dan and Terri Coley <http://www.showhope.org/AdoptionAid/EmpoweredtoConnectConference.aspx#Coleys> . This conference features two tracks with sessions and workshops led by Dr. Karyn Purvis <http://www.showhope.org/AdoptionAid/EmpoweredtoConnectConference.aspx#Purvis> and Michael and Amy Monroe <http://www.showhope.org/AdoptionAid/EmpoweredtoConnectConference.aspx#Monroes> .
We are excited to host this conference in order to provide needed information, resources, support and encouragement to families who are considering adopting, fostering or those who have adopted. Show Hope has been blessed to provide financial grants to assist families in the adoption process, but we also desire to provide information and support prior to the adoption as well as to help equip families once their child comes home. This conference will be beneficial to any family who has answered the call to adopt or for families considering adopting as well as professionals and members of orphan care ministries. We encourage everyone to attend both days, if possible.
Day One is specifically designed for those focused on serving and supporting others, including social workers, agency professionals, church staff and ministry leaders, counselors, therapists, adoption and orphan advocates, and others involved in adoption and foster care ministries or services.
Day Two is tailored to the needs of adoptive and foster parents (pre and post adoption and foster care).
Conference sessions will be held from 9am-5pm on both days. Light refreshments will be provided during breaks throughout the event, with "on your own" lunch breaks scheduled from 12-1:30pm. More details can be found on the Show Hope website.
Link to the Show Hope website > <http://www.showhope.org/AdoptionAid/EmpoweredtoConnectConference.aspx>
How You Can Help: Get The Word Out!
Please feel free to pass this information on to: social workers, caseworkers, adoptive or prospective adoptive families, foster families, church adoption/orphan care ministries and other advocates with whom you may be in contact. Use the resources below via E-mail or as handouts in churches, adoption agencies or other places of interest.
Download the Empowered to Connect Conference poster here > <http://www.showhope.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=0gdJzKGFTNA%3d&tabid=178>
Download and read the Created to Connect Study Guide here > <http://empoweredtoconnect.org/created-to-connect-study-guide/>
We hope this conference will be the first of many regional conferences as we continue to expand avenues to support adoptive families, foster families and other advocates. As information becomes available for future dates and locations, we will let you know.
"How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you." IThessalonians 3:9
(Cole took that picture - amazing he caught a one-week-old smiling on film)
I have cried so many tears this week - mostly tears of joy and wonderment - but also tears for those who have recently suffered loss and who are still waiting and hoping!
It is amazing how much healing and understanding has come to us all through the birth of this little one. Both of our other children speak daily about Isabella and heaven as the arrival of Leah has caused them to open up about the loss of their other baby sister. I am grateful they are able to process these things out-loud with Scott and me. Heaven and death are both difficult concepts even for adults, let alone children.
It is amazing how both death and new life remind us that we are merely finite creatures dependent upon an infinite God. God is the gate-keeper of the beginning and the end of all men- The Alpha and the Omega - The Great I Am! And I am overwhelmed that God has seen fit to grant us this blessing of Leah at this time- she is such a healing and joy-giving presence in our home. Thank you Lord! May her life bring You glory and Honor!
It's been over 100 degrees here for nearly a week with no rain. And although I had been really trying to take it easy in preparation for the baby's arrival (lots of prelabor), I just could not stop myself from watering the new rose bed that Scott so kindly dug for me (as a part of his nesting experience). However, within an hour of watering the flowerbed we were headed to the hospital because my water had broken.
This picture below was taken just before heading to the Hospital. My mother and aunt came to watch the kids and mom snapped one last photo of Maya and me before we left.
"I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow." Jeremiah 31:13
Like the Israelites of Old, we chose the names of our children based on my (as the mother's) state in life. And so, we gave her this name because, although Leah in the Bible was a woman acquainted with sorrow and suffering, she was also a woman whose legacy was one of trusting God and the expressing of great gratitude to the Lord for the surprise gift of the birth of her son, Judah. As my grandmother used to remind me "Deprivation has a way of giving rise to a new level of appreciation."
Delivery summary: My water broke around 8:30pm on July 7th. We were admitted into the hospital around 11:15 pm that evening. Leah Joy was born less than two hours later at 1:08 am on July 8th. (Very quick and very painful labor without epidural) Then after almost two days recovery in the hospital we were released and headed home (only a few miles down the road) on July 9th at 5:00 pm. Thank you Lord for such an uncomplicated delivery and the miracle of this addition to our family. We are overjoyed!
Here's our last picture at the hospital before heading home- Day 2!
She was originally dressed in a lovely "going home" outfit; however, just as we were leaving, she wet right through it and so she came home in this little green baby gown, compliments of the hospital. (It seems nursing is going well at least.)
"God has been so good to us!," said Cole. Amen and Amen!
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life!"
To all those people who prayed for us and for this little one - THANK YOU - from the bottom of our hearts and the depth of our souls, we want you to know that we are grateful for your faithfulness in this way! I pray the Lord rewards each of you beyond your imagination for loving us in this most perfect and godly way! And to those who are even now suffering in their own heart aches and loss, my encouragement to you is the same as the Lord gave to me in my own times of pain- Do not lose heart, take your fear and sorrow to Him who cares for you and choose to believe even when you cannot see and your feelings tell you otherwise. He is faithful, He is with you, and He is for you! And He has not forgotten you!
It is amazing to me that so many of us Christians seem to struggle with forgiving others as much as those who have never known the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I believe that a great deal of our lack of joy and power is tied to the fact that we continue to hold on to old hurts. We are crippling ourselves and yet wonder why we can't function well! Instead of looking at ourselves, we begin to blame others...delineating in our minds all the hurts inflicted upon us....further crippling ourselves with more record keeping and unforgiveness.
One of the best pieces of marital advice I ever received was about forgiveness. The teacher said something like this, "Most people will tell you that communication is the most important ingredient in marriage, but I tell you that forgiveness is more essential. In marriage you will sin against one another, both in big and small ways, an infinite number of times; but because we, as humans, only have a finite ability to forgive, it is critical that we call upon an infinite God to empower our frail human hearts to go beyond what is natural and forgive by the will of His supernatural Spirit."
So, why should we forgive when we have been hurt so badly? Because our own forgiveness depends on it! "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." Mark 11:25 Take a few minutes to really look back at the days of your life, are there not hidden actions or attitudes of the heart that you desperately need God to forgive? I believe there are for all of us. According to the Word of God, our own forgiveness from God is dependent on our choosing to forgive the sins which others have done against us. We must realize that we are not “better”! Only by the grace of God go I!
Now, it is critical to remember that forgiving someone does not mean that you are letting them off the hook or saying that what they did was not wrong or that you were not damaged by it. What is means is that you are releasing them and their sin unto God for Him to deal with. And truth be known, God will often wait for us to release those we have bound in our hearts through unforgiveness before he empowers them to change how they are acting. God is often waiting on us to forgive first.
So, just for clarification, the reason I chose to write this today is because of what I read in my daily devotion. And as I read it I thought this is what makes the life of a true Christian different than the life of all others....the ability to forgive beyond our own human ability. We are forgiven in Jesus Christ - we are compelled not to hold grudges and keep records as a result. It is time to STOP! Until we forgive we will not be free, at peace, or able to clearly see the things of God or the people around us!
Here's what my devotional, which comes from Hal Helms personal journalings with God, had to say, "And now, My son, be at peace with yourself and others. Let no grudge or hurt remain lodged in your heart. Remember My words, "Forgive as we forgive," and struggle against the desire to hold on to some injury from the past. A free people is a forgiven people. A free soul is a forgiving soul. Where you hold back the forgiveness you keep yourself in bondage. There is much to learn about this miracle - the grace of forgiveness. And there is much need of it, both in your life and the life of others. Don't wait for them, but heed My word for yourself.
"Love is patient." I Cor. 13:1
My heart is ready for this little girl's arrival. My house, my kids, my husband and my body it seems are also quite ready for her arrival. We've actually gotten ready twice to head to the hospital - yep, one hour with contractions five-six minutes apart.....and then on both occasions the contractions tapered off and Scott and I went to sleep. Apparently, this is what's called Prelabor.
Anyhow,these last few years and specifically this pre-labor business have caused me to consider the verse, "Love is patient" differently than I have in the past, particularly as it pertains to my relationship with God. If I love God, am I not called to be patient with Him and the timing of when He chooses to fulfill His plans for me? I also already love this little girl in my womb, and if it is not yet her time to come forth from the womb, is it not important that true love take over and choose patience? It is my responsibility to confess my fear and impatience to the Lord and to then choose to trust and believe in the waiting. Help me Lord to do this.
The other day someone said, "Oh, I know how hard it can be to wait nine months to hold your baby." But what came to my mind was the fact that I have actually been pregnant almost 100 weeks without coming home with a baby to hold. (with the loss of Isabella in 2008 and then two consecutive miscarriages after Isabella and just before this pregnancy). Now I know how elephants must feel having to be pregnant for almost two years before being able to love on their new young.
Yet, in it all I must admit that I do sense God! I have sensed His presence in every bit of the waiting, pain, hope and joy! He has never ever left me alone in any of this - NEVER! What comforting truth God spoke when He said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20.
So, Lord, Thanks! Thank you even in the waiting! Thank you even in the pain and loss. I do boldly ask you Lord to bring this little girl forth from my womb healthy and whole, in your time. Thank you for the access to your throne of grace through the blood of your son Jesus! And Lord, for those who are even now suffering through the pain of loss, whether it be the loss of a parent, sibling, child or friend, minister to them clearly your comforting presence and the truth of the resurrection.
Seeing as I have been really crampy of late and am not able to do as much this week as I was able to do with Maya last week, she and I have been talking about the many signs that lead up to labor. Anyhow, I stopped in her room where she was playing to rest for a bit and let her know things are still moving along towards her baby sister’s arrival.
I began, “Maya, I just lost my mucus plug…”
I began, “Maya, I just lost my mucus plug…”
To which she quickly responded,
“Oh Momma, quick, let’s bow our heads and fold our hands, and pray - so you can find it!”
Notice the tent poles: they are covered by real trees! The theme was sticks and crystals and colors were brown and pink. It was amazing! The dinner was served like a Brazilian steakhouse. And we danced all night - even me at 36.5 weeks prego....I danced a good bit.
I suppose there is something a little wrong with reading a devotional like one might read a horoscope, but sometimes I find myself doing something akin to just that; and this coming Saturday happens to be one of those dates. My younger brother, Tommy, is getting married this Saturday, June 19th, and in preparation for the big day I thought it would be interesting to see what my "red" devotional had to say for him on his wedding day.
As I began to read, I just couldn't believe my eyes....It began, "You are held in the Hand that holds the world. You are kept by the Power that rules the universe...."
Ever since my older brother, Bobby, became a juvenile diabetic at age 7 and my younger brother, Tommy, was diagnosed with a rare form of juvenile macular degeneration of his eyes ( A.K.A. Stargardt's disease), my mother has earnestly sought the Lord for His promises regarding her two beloved sons. She has testified many times of how God has comforted her from the scriptures in regards to each of their health conditions. God has given her very specific scriptures for each of her children; and depending on which child she is fretting over at the time she will quote God's promises as comfort about that one.
For my little brother Tommy, both regarding his spiritual walk and his genetic eye condition, God gave my mom the promise early on found in 2Timothy 1:12, which reads, "For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day."
Yes, Tommy is "being kept by the Power that rules the universe," just as the devotional excerpt begins.
And considering both Tommy's eye condition and the fact that just about every major circumstance in his life is about to change (getting marrying and moving), the rest of the devotional reading is just as apropos. It goes on by saying, "None can pluck you from My hand.' It is not your feelings that keep you. It is not even your faith - for I know that waxes and wanes quickly under differing circumstances. No, it is My hand that holds you, My child, and protects you when you are least aware of it. When your eyes are open and you are able to see this reality, give thanks and offer praise. When you cannot see or feel the reality, still give thanks and praise. This is an act of faith with which I am pleased. And by the exercise of your faith, it will grown stronger and steadier."
So, tomorrow we all head up to Eagle's Mere for the big day: Tommy and Heather's wedding! BTW, Heather is terrific! Not that I had a vote in Tommy's choice, I give my soon-to-be new sister-in-law two thumbs up!
As for me in the wedding festivities, I am in fact planning to walk down the aisle - Well, Waddle down the aisle at least, at 36 weeks pregnant.
Lord, thank you for this baby in my womb and sustainer her to this day. I ask that you continue to keep her in the palm of your mighty hand. Bless my little brother and his new bride. We praise you and thank you for all your many blessings and mercies – You are most worthy of our praise!
I have thoroughly enjoyed homeschooling this year! Thank you Melanie Hall for encouraging Scott and me to begin this homeschool journey - and thank you Scott for really leading our family in this direction. What a joy it has been to experience so many wonderful moments with my children - ones that I otherwise would have missed.
In our search for intimacy and community, we are often wounded and hurt. Our trust is violated and we erect walls that separate us from others. The desire to connect and belong is still strong but the fear of rejection and betrayal keeps us from moving forward.
Our response to this broken community varies depending on how we deal with our sin and wounds. Some live in the identity of the 'shamed' self, bearing all of the labels and lies that flow out of their sin or wound. If we respond this way, we refuse to put forth the effort to create a false self that is more socially acceptable. This shame drives us into isolation. We don't have broken relationships, we have no real relationships at all. We keep our walls tall and thick and refuse to let others in. Often isolation results in deeper shame and addictive responses to loneliness and bitterness.
Andy Comiskey, in his curriculum entitled "Living Waters" says that "man out of fellowship with God bends toward men." Some people, particularly those who tend to blame other people for their brokenness (others-contempt), turn toward narcissism. Since they cannot trust anyone, they will only trust themselves. If we respond this way, we create an image of ourselves that we can hide behind and through which we can interpret life. Relationships are all for the purpose of benefiting us. We struggle with authority because the rules of others do not always benefit us (It's not fair!). This narcissism is not always driven by self-love, but often by a deep self-hatred that is masked by the false self of narcissism. Relationships usually do not last or do not become deep because the we are so self-focused and self-protective that we cannot genuinely care about others.
Still others, particularly those who tend to blame themselves for their brokenness (self-contempt), turn toward relational idolatry or co-dependency which we described in a previous chapter. "In short, idolatrous relationships are based on the belief that another person can really make one whole." If this is the way we respond to our sin and wounds, we believe that we are weak and that we need another to lean in to, to fix or to take care of (the false self). Our relationships are imbalanced and may even end up abusive. We may believe that, because of our sin and wounds, we don't deserve to be treated well anyway. The unresolved shame can even convince us that we deserve the abusive treatment and we continue in difficult relationships and lose a sense of who we really are. Many times the idolatrous relationship turns strongly to the sexual aspect. Meeting someone else's sexual needs gives a sense of power that the powerless person desperately needs. This can lead to an addictive, never satisfied sexual addiction with no regard for health or self.
Whether we lean toward isolation, narcissism or relational idolatry, the fact is that authentic community, the kind we were created to experience, is not realized. This is why choosing community is a life choice, it moves us back into the direction of intimate relationship with God.
The first step in the direction of genuine community is confession. Not confession to God, which was part of choosing honesty, choosing forgiveness and choosing surrender. This time we are confessing to our brothers and sisters, our fellow strugglers, the members of our potential community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man deeply committed to God and community writes, "A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother or sister knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of another person." Sin demands isolation so while living in unconfessed sin, true community is not experienced. Confession, transparency, accountability, these are the watchwords of true community. Scripture clearly instructs us to "...confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."
I want to encourage all those with an interest in adoption and foster care to tune in tomorrow evening (Monday) at ten pm to watch on Fox the live interview of former foster youth, Jelani Freeman, by Greta Van Susteren. And if you haven't yet read the article which appeared on the cover of the metro section of the Washington Post on Saturday about this remarkable young man, you may want to do so - and can link to it from my last blog entry. Praying for you Jelani!
Tomorrow, my family has the distinct honor of attending the Law School Graduation of a dear friend of ours - a young man who has not only become like a brother to me but who is also one of my personal heroes, Jelani Freeman. If you have a heart to see how God can guide one of His precious fatherless ones into greatness, please take the time to read the article about Jelani Freeman.
I spent the day today waddling around the capital city of the state with the third cleanest water in the US - Minneapolis, Minnesota. Strange to actually be able to drink hotel tap water! I came out with Scott for the sixth annual Christian Alliance for Orphans conference. Actually, my main purpose in coming out to MN is to spend some time with my dear friend Paul Singer who has been having a terrible battle with brain cancer. (please pray for him and his family).
And as God would have it, the time frame worked out well for me to travel out here with Scott and attend some of the conference during these days. SCC will be performing and Mary Beth will be speaking at the evening session tomorrow; also, my former boss, Senator Mary Landrieu is also speaking at the conference and many of the Show Hope staff members and my former colleagues in the adoption community will be in attendance as well. So, for me this week will be a nice reunion with some dear friends in the adoption community. Apparently, there are over 1100 people who will be attendance at this year's orphan and adoption summit. Strange to think back 6 years when there were only 28 of us in attendance for the first summit. God has really multiplied the labors in this work. I'm excited to see what God has planned here this week! Anyhow, this is probably going to be my last "hurrah" away from home as I am currently 30 weeks pregnant and looking to stay close to home for the remaining weeks of my pregnancy.
It's funny being around a bunch of people I haven't seen for a while because to me everyone looks like they have lost a bunch of weight. I suppose that's normal since I am pregnant - I think that I am just so much larger than others that everyone looks a lot smaller to me. Unfortunately, I am not one of those women who stays thin all over except for the baby belly. Nope, I spend the first trimester widening all over first - I suppose just preparing a good base....ha ha. But, honestly, I am just really grateful that the Lord is sustaining this little one's life in my womb.
I am going to be a bridesmaid in my brother Tommy's wedding just a couple weeks before my due date and I am so happy for all the other bridesmaids as I will be kindly making them look even thinner in their dresses than they otherwise do.
I do apologize for not writing of late. I have no real good excuse...well, other than Scott having been
away a great deal, preparing our home for baby, finishing the homeschool year, oh and writer's block.
Planning to get back to it - as the Lord allows anyhow.
Thank you all for your prayers for the baby in my womb. It means more than I can say.
Started reading an old book of Larry Crabb's called Inside Out....really good read!
"And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." Matthew 27:50-53
Moreover, when these resurrected saints of ad 31 went into Jerusalem, they did not restrict their appearance to a comparative few as Jesus did after His spiritual resurrection. Rather, "they appeared to many."
Like Lazarus, and all the others who had been brought up in physical resurrections, these saints lived for a while longer—no one knows for how long—served the purpose for which they were raised, and then died a physical death once again. There is no record of them living eternally after this resurrection.
On a personal note, the Hasenbalgs are doing well and super happy to be together this holiday season. All seems to be going well with the baby girl in my womb (I'm 25 weeks and 2 days pregnant today).
Cole prayed at lunch today telling the Lord that if He (God) chose to take this baby to heaven before she got to live with us we would still trust Him and love Him, but that we would very much like it if He (God) would allow a new baby sister to come into our family and grow up with us. Cole is continually saying things like, "Mommy, it would be great if God gave us another child in our family. Babies really are miracles aren't they mom. Can you believe God is giving us another child?" I really find his perspective so beautiful - God has used all the past loss to really teach our family that life really is a miracle not to be taken for granted!
After lunch we went swimming and then played a round of minigolf with my nephew TR and wow were my kids thrilled, as their older cousin TR, along with their daddy, are two of their great heroes.
For years, I have heard the whispers of God, through the Holy Spirit, to my heart more frequently in the bathroom than in any other place. And I have no doubt that the reason I hear Him there most clearly is not because this is the place He prefers to speak to my heart, but because this is one of the few places I am alone and have my heart quiet enough to hear His "still small voice." Could it be possible that the bathtub is really one of the only places I am still enough, awake enough, quiet enough and alone long enough to open my spiritual ears to hear that loving and comforting voice of my Shepherd? HHMM...well, seems so.
Dear Readers of this blog,
"The Lord is My Shepherd I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul." Psalm 23
This morning we are off for home. Everyone is very excited to see Daddy and hear about his trip to China. We had a wonderful and refreshing time in Sanibel and are so grateful to the Haas family, our dear friends and gracious hosts, for putting up with us so long. May the Lord repay you for your hospitality to us above and beyond measure! Incidentally, Jeanie Haas flies off from Sanibel today as well- heading to Haiti for her second mission trip since the earthquake. While here in Sanibel, everyone in the house has been busy these last couple of weeks packaging up supplies for her trip. The care packages that have been put together for the new moms who will have just given birth in the Haitian hospitals are amazing. (I cannot imagine giving birth under the circumstances that exists there, so I am so glad they are being looked out for by this team!) Seems that everyday supplies have been arriving here at the house in Sanibel to be packaged and taken, including cloth diapers, baby blankets, medical supplies, big boxes full of tents, etc. Please join me in praying for Jeanie and her team's trip this week.
During our family prayer time this evening Cole thanked the Lord for giving us the technology we needed to skype daddy from where we are in Sanibel to where he is in China. It's below freezing and snowing in Louyang, China and a world apart we find the weather finally sunny and warm in Sanibel Florida where we are staying with some dear friends.
I am blogging a bit of a summary I put together from the last ten weeks of the women’s Bible Study I hosted in my home. It is taken from the book “The Calvary Road” by Roy Hession. Again, I highly recommend every Christian man and woman reading this book, at least if they are interested in a clear understanding of how to experience the peace of God in his/her daily life. It is really good for anyone longing to live in true fellowship with God and other people – those who are tired of the masks, the guilt, and the hurts that weigh down their spirits.
I honestly believe that the application of the truths in its pages will bring revival not only to our hearts but also to our homes, churches, and communities.
us first answer the question what is revival and how can we experience it?
So, let us first answer the question what is revival and how can we experience it?
Before revival can be corporate, it must first be personal. It is the experience of any simplest Christian who “walks in the light”. It means a readiness to “break” and confess our sins at the feet of Him who was broken for us, for Blood does not cleanse excuses, but always cleanses sin, confessed as sin; then revival is just the daily experience of a soul full of Jesus and running over.
The necessary attitude of the one who wants to experience revival is a humble willingness for God to begin His work in himself first, rather than the other man. It means a willingness to admit his need and a willingness to humble himself at the Cross.
It is important to note that the rivers of life to the world do not flow out in their fullness through one man, but through the body, the team. Also, our brokenness and openness must be two-way, horizontal as well as vertical, with one another as with God.
To be broken is the beginning of revival. Being broken is both God’s work and ours. He brings His pressure to bear, but we have to make the choice. Brokenness in daily experience is simply the response of humility to the conviction of God.
Our wills must be broken to His will. The Lord Jesus cannot live in us fully and reveal Himself through us until the proud self within us in broken. This simply means that the hard unyielding self, which justifies itself, wants its own way, stands up for its rights, and seeks its own glory, at last bows its head to God’s will, admits its wrong, gives up its own way to Jesus and surrenders its rights and discards its own glory – that the Lord Jesus might have all and be all. In other words it is a dying to self and self-attitudes. It is always self who gets irritable and envious and resentful and critical and worried. It is self who is hard and unyielding in its attitudes to others.
Dying to self is not a thing we do once for all. There may be an initial dying when God first shows these things, but ever after it will be a constant dying, for only so can the Lord Jesus be revealed constantly through us. People imagine that dying to self makes one miserable. But it is just the opposite. It is the refusal to die to self that makes one miserable. The more we know of death with Him, the more we shall know of His life in us, and so the more of real peace and joy.
Everything that comes between us and another, such as impatience, resentment, or envy, comes between us and God. We are perhaps so occupied with the wrong the other man has done us that we do not see that we are sinning against Christ in not being willing to take it with His meekness and lowliness. Seeing so clearly how the other man wants his own way and rights, we are blind to the fact that we want ours just as much; and yet we know there is something missing in our lives. Somehow we are not in vital fellowship with God. We do not lost peace with God over another person’s sin, but only over our own.
The way of the Cross is the way that God’s lowly Bond Servant, Jesus, first trod for us, and should not we, the bond servants of that Bond Servant, tread it still? Does it seem hard and forbidding, this way down? Be assured, it is the only way up. It was the way by which the Lord Jesus reached the Throne, and it is the way by which we too reach the place of spiritual power, authority, and fruitfulness. Those who tread this path are radiant, happy souls, overflowing with the life of their Lord. They have found, “he that humbles himself shall be exalted” to be true for that as for their Lord.
Power of the Blood –
Just as it is the disposition of the Lamb that bestows upon the Blood its power, so it is only as we are willing to be partakers of the same disposition of the Lamb that we shall know its full power in our lives. All the fruits of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control – what are they but the expressions of the lamb-like nature of the Lord Jesus with which the Holy Spirit wants to fill us?
Every sin we ever commit is the result of the hard unbroken self taking up some attitude of pride, and we shall not find peace through the Blood until we are willing to see the source of each sin and reverse the wrong attitude that caused it by a specific repentance, which will always be humbling. This does not mean that we need to try to make ourselves feel the humility of Jesus; for we have only to walk in the light and be willing for God to reveal any sin that may be in our lives, and we shall find ourselves asked by the Lord to perform all sorts of costly acts of repentance and surrender, often over what we term small and trivial matters. But if we are willing to do this in each issue, the Blood of the Lamb will be able to cleanse us from all sin and we shall walk with God in white, with His peace in our hearts. As we go to God for His continual cleansing from sin, and “the tide is being continuously healed at its beginning,” Jesus is continuously filling us with His Spirit. Those who come before God with a “humble and contrite spirit,” are those who “dwell with Him in the high and holy place,” knowing His peace, true fellowship and victory through the Blood of Jesus, and who experience continuous revival
"Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun."
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. Genesis 3:16
Yesterday, I said to our three and a half year old daughter, Maya,
"Honey, I want you to know that I really enjoy spending time with you,
you're very fun to be with."
As soon as Cole woke up this morning, he came to Scott and me saying, "Please mom and Dad stay in bed, I have a surprise for you both."
And then before the great morning was over, Scott gave me a wonderful card with
a hand-made gift certificate inside
good for two days of a home cleaning service!