Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Let Advent Begin: Joy to the World Isn't Only For a Season

Before Halloween, Christmas decorations began appearing on the store shelves and the Hallmark Channel began the flow of Christmas movies.

Some sigh with frustration when they see a Christmas ornament before Thanksgiving, while others are ecstatic in anticipation of the long awaited holiday season.

Which person are you?

I'm of the latter persuasion and struggle with how anyone cannot be excited about celebrating the birthday of the King.

The Advent Season has begun. It means waiting in anticipation, hoping for something wonderful to come.

The words of Advent are Hope, Love, Peace and Joy. Each week during Advent one word is reflected on in many denominations leading up to Christmas, reminding us of what God's people were watching and waiting for - The Messiah.

But, for the purpose of this blog, I'm jumping right into JOY.

I absolutely love Christmas and all that comes with it: the brightness in a child's eyes full of imagination and anticipation, trimmed trees, glowing lights, decorations, family time, making memories, shopping, wrapping gifts, movies, nativity scenes, Christmas music, baking and the absolute JOY the season brings.

On that glorious night, some shepherds were watching their flocks in a field when suddenly...

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

(Luke 2:9-19 NASB, emphasis mine).

JOY overcomes fear and anxiety.

How do we define this exhilarating thread woven into the fabric of a Christian's life?

1. Is JOY an emotion?

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger (Luke 2:15-16 NASB).

2. Can JOY and sorrow be present at the same time?

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2 NASB).

3. Is JOY a state of mind?

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth 
(Colossians 3:2 NASB).

4. Can a believer lose their JOY?

David seemed to. With a repentant heart he cries out to God in Psalm 51...

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit (verse 12 NASB).

So I believe the answer to all of the above is "yes" and JOY can be defined as follows:

JOY is a mindset. A mind set on the glorious outcome of an eternal story.

JOY is an ingredient which unleashes the soul to rise up and worship.

JOY takes our breath away while simultaneously filling us the Breath of Life. 

 keeps the Hope, Love, and Peace alive 365 days a year as we anticipate His coming again.

Pure, undeniable, incomprehensible, life-giving JOY!

My Pleasure and Merry Christmas,

(All Scriptures used from Bibleway.com)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A is for Adoption

Just the other day our daughter received an A on an education project which she put a ton of work into. She was thrilled and relieved once her grade posted online, especially since it is one third of her grade for the class. Whew!

An A marks the mindset of staying the course and never giving up. An A means Job well done.

The month of November also has the mark of an A. It's National Adoption Month. 

A is for ADOPTION. 

In honor of all families who haven't given up on their dream of having children, as well as those who've already received an A, I want to say, "Thank you for never giving up and for opening your heart and home to children who have received (or will in the future) an A stamped on their life story."

My forever parents were still childless after being married for nine years. They didn't give up on their dream and chose the loving option of adoption. They wanted to start a family right from the beginning, and though God would give them their desire, He chose to close the womb and open their hearts instead. God had created two baby girls just for them. These girls would need their love, security, a hope for a future, and a family where Jesus Christ was Savior, Lord and King.

I was the first child brought into their lives through private adoption. The moment they walked into the room, I stretched out my chubby arms and wrapped them around my forever daddy's neck (and I never let go). When the lady told them they would leave me with them for about 30 minutes to decide, my daddy said, "No one needs to go anywhere. We're not leaving here without her!"

I was placed in foster care at the age of three months and adopted 57 days later.
March 27, 1963 is my A-Day, or as some say, my "Got'cha day." It's the day my life changed course. I left there to start a new life: a new name, a new birth certificate, and a new family. 

Adoption was always talked about in our family as something very special. I've always known I was adopted and never once has it been something that made me angry or sad. Actually, it made me glad and grateful for the very difficult decision my birthmother made. It's a part of my story I deeply treasure and wouldn't trade for anything.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:15-16 ESV).

God affirms this to Jeremiah when He tells him, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5).

Every Child is a masterpiece, designed with a specific purpose by the Master Creator.
Two years after I was adopted, God brought another baby into our family. Her A-Day" is May 5, 1965. I remember going to Charleston to get her. I was going to be a big sister. When the lady placed her in my tiny arms as I rocked in a small, white wicker rocking chair, I told my mama and daddy, "We've got her. We can go home now." They named her Michelle.

Michelle has her own A-story to tell, but I'm so grateful God chose her to be my sister. We were loved and raised by the best parents anyone could ask for. No parent is perfect, but ours were perfect for us.

Throughout my life, I've met many adoptive parents and adopted children. I even have three cousins who were adopted. Every story is different and I love to hear how the A-day has affected their lives.

Right now, a young couple (the wife is a former student of mine) is waiting for their forever child. It's been a long, tough road of foster parenting, the ups and downs, loving and letting go, but they know God is sovereign, and when the time is right, their forever child will join their family. It's an honor to pray for this precious couple and to be included in their adoption journey. Never give up!

So, before National Adoption Month ends, I want to challenge and honor the adopted children I know personally. Casey, Sarah Caige, Bradley, Courtney, Dawson, Elena, Joni, Judah, Callen (and to any others I've left unnamed, it's not intentional):
 Wear the well, knowing your heavenly Father was looking out for you 
when He selected your amazing parents. Never take them for granted. Honor them all of your life.

 And, with a spirit of humility, never stop telling your A story. 
It brings much honor and glory to Jesus Christ. 

Do you have an Adoption story? Please share in the comment section below. Use your story to encourage someone today.

My Pleasure,