Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I am happy to report that on Saturday we received our appointment letters from United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) for our fingerprints. This means that we are very close to our approved I-800 which is a requirement of our government to adopt internationally.

Our fingerprint appointments are in the morning on September 3rd. Steven will be travelling on the 2nd, so I would ask you all to pray for his safe and timely return. I CAN NOT miss this appointment.

Thanks and love to you all!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lukewarm for the Lord?

I believe it is pretty commonly thought that after a while of being a Believer it is common, even normal, to sort of cool it. That, after a certain amount of time, it is acceptable to not be quite so passionate; to not hold quite so strictly to the letter of the Word of God; to not believe quite so forcefully or in such black and white terms; to allow old habits to creep back because this habit isn’t really hurting anyone…it’s no big deal; to allow new habits to fall out of habit, into infrequency.

The question I’ve been thinking about is this: have I ever heard someone claim to be “lukewarm for the Lord”? I hear people spoken of often by others as “on fire for the Lord”, but, honestly, never praised for their tepid attitude toward their Creator. Is it really okay to “settle down” and “settle in” to our relationship or is it better to strive to keep the flames of our passion alive?

In my study of Revelation I was presented with an answer to these questions. In chapters 2 & 3, John relays a message from Jesus to 7 different churches in Asia. Two of these churches are addressed on their lack of passion for the Lord.

To the first church, He says,
“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Wow. For most of this passage, this church sounds pretty great. They persevere, they work for the Lord, they do not tolerate evil men and are not taken in by those who are not true Believers…then there’s that troublesome last part…there’s the “but”. The first love Jesus is referring to is their love of God. Jesus says that the first and most important commandment it to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” Isn’t it interesting that all the actions spoken to the credit of the above church are belittled by a want of this ONE thing – passionate love of God.

After pointing this out, He calls on the church members to repent, remember from where they have fallen, and do the deeds they did at first.
My favorite description of “the deeds they did at first” is found in Acts 2:42-47. I will let you look this passage up, but I will share with you some of the descriptions that I find inspiring: “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching”, “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe”, “All…were together and had all things in common”, “…taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”.

To the second church, He is even more forceful and says,
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
Ouch! Apparently, lukewarm attitudes make Jesus want to vomit.
The conclusion of his instruction to them is, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”

BE ZEALOUS AND REPENT! Just in case there is anyone reading this that thinks “repent” is a Christian-ese word, here is the definition: to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one's life for the better. Repentance is not merely regret or a sorrowful feeling of having missed the mark. Repentance is that feeling which calls us to change the behavior for which we are sorry.

So back to the original question: Does God want our passionate devotion all the years of our relationship or is a dwindling, somewhat smoldering fire acceptable? It appears to me that our passion is what He desires, asks for, and requires of us. Is it really to much for all He’s done for us? But how do we maintain passion for, longing of, and devotion to a God we cannot see? Is it even possible to intimately know, the way we know those we love most here on earth, the invisible, unsearchable majesty of the Living God? The answer, in a word is Yes! How? I have found that he has told me more than I can ever comprehend of Him in His Word. There is more truth of His character, attributes, personality, likes, dislikes, favorite things, expected behavior, etc, contained in His Word than I could unpack in a lifetime and I can’t think of a better way to spend it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My weekend

Well, Saturday was my 30th birthday. I had the best weekend so I thought I'd share a few snippets:

Friday night:
Caleb and I were getting ready for him to go to bed. He and I have been taking turns starting/closing our bed time and meal time prayers so that he can get more comfortable with praying words, not just songs. I should also tell you that on Thursday, some of our friends had a child with a stomach virus. Anyway, he wanted to start on Friday night, and this is what he said, "God, would you just please help Gabe and heal his tummy so that it won't hurt anymore and he can play and read books, and stuff, and would you please just keep the iwwness (read illness) away from everybody else, from the two boys (he means Gabe and Sam - yes he did already pray for Gabe...cute, huh) and the two girls (Maddy and Hannah) and the other boy (Isaiah) and Uncle Phiwip (read Phillip), and Miss Jessica, and GeGe and Beka, and the other Beka, I mean Josh, Amen.

The funny here is that Josh really is practically a clone of Dan (Beka) just younger. I told the family and they all got a REALLY big kick out of it.

My Birthday :). I woke up to my baby telling me happy birthday and asking if I was going to have friends and cake and balloons at my birthday. He told me that he wanted me to have a Cars birthday cake and balloons.
He and Steven made me brownies - I prefer them to cake - and then went to the store to get cream cheese icing to go on them (yummm!) and came back with 2 balloons - 1 green for Caleb and 1 purple for me...he knows it's my favorite color. About 2 seconds after he handed me my balloon it burst into 2 pieces. Let's just say Caleb burst into MORE than 2 pieces. It was pitiful. I could tell from his reaction and what he was trying to say - it was hard to understand through the tears and gasping for air - that it was not only a balloon but my present from him that had popped. How sad! We told him over and over that he could get me another one and tried to calm him down. It took a little bit.
After he calmed down, he went to help Steven ice the brownies and asked if after the brownies were done if they could go back and get me another one. Steven said yes and thought that was that. After a minute or so of quiet thinking, Caleb said, "You know, Daddy, I think Mommy can have my balloon," and jumped down off the chair to run to my bathroom and give it to me!

Later that day we went shopping and then I had to be at church for choir - we led worship this week. When I told Caleb that we were headed to the church to drop Mommy off he said, "But, NO Mommy! I love you! I'm your monkey! I want to be where you are!"

WOW! I'm having QUITE a nice birthday, so far, right! Well, just wait...

At the church, the choir sang me Happy Birthday, in parts, no less! That was fun. Then Steven came to pick me up and told me we had a little time to kill because we were early for our reservations, so I got to go get lost in Borders for a little bit. Just gets better and better. From Borders, he took me to the new Bosco's in Cool Springs. We've said for a few weeks that we'd like to go on a date there, so I thought "Perfect!" and told Steven what a great choice he had made.
When we got inside, the waitress lead us to our table that was FILLED WITH MY FRIENDS!!! How much fun! I've never had a surprise party thrown for me before and it was so special! We got to eat and talk and laugh and it was so much fun. The food was delicious and I even got to see a new friend that is only in town for the weekend and spend some time with her, too! Couldn't get better! Then after dinner, it did...I got to go and see Mama Mia! with two of my girls who were there and I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie. It was wonderfully ridiculous and I loved it!

Sunday choir sang again, and it was my first day as a teacher in the 3rd grade theme class room at our church. It was a BLAST!! Then last night at dinner, Caleb says, "Mommy, you are a really good teacher to those kids in that rocket ship room!"

The perfect end to the perfect weekend!

Friday, August 15, 2008

I did this. It was really easy and fun!

Steven had an old cork pin-board that we kept in a closet with things on it because it was too ugly to put out anywhere. So, I decided to turn it into a "ribbon board" so that it would look nice and go with our decor. I got the fabric from JoAnn off the remnant rack and then got buttons and ribbon to match. Inside it is regular old batting. I used a manual staple gun to attach everything to the frame of the cork board. I hope seeing how well it turned out and hearing how easy it was will inspire you to try something fun and new and maybe even crafty in your home.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Prayer, Our heavenly offering

I am studying Revelation this summer with a friend of mine. We started with Daniel and then came to Revelation and it has been mind-blowing to say the least. Erin and I chose these two books because we are both relatively new Christians, we had never read it, and it seemed an appropriate book to look into given the state of things in our world right now. I have been rather shocked at the straight-forward nature of most of the book so far. That is not to say that the entire book is as clear as glass or anything. No, Revelation certainly has its share of “what-the” visions and confusing time references. That said, if you read carefully and follow the timeline by writing it out, it IS possible. Trust me.

Anyway, we are up to chapter 12. Last night, I was going back and making some notes that I had not had time to make from previous chapters when I came across something that really struck me.

In chapter 8 it says:
“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer, and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” Rev. 8:3,4 (emphasis added)

Just in case that didn’t hit you, go back and read it again.

We have just been given, through the writer, John, a glimpse into the heavenly throne room to see that our prayers are IN REALITY an offering to the Lord.

Imagine the days when the Israelites were in the dessert. In the tabernacle was the “golden altar” or the “altar of incense”. It was placed just outside the holy of holies and the smoke of the incense that was burned there was to represent the prayers of the people rising up to heaven. Here we see that when our prayers reach heaven, they are placed on the true golden altar of incense in front of the throne of the Most High.

This is not merely pretty language that we throw around in church. This not Christianese. This is truth. Each and every prayer that we utter, speak, think, moan, sing, dance, whisper, or cry out is placed on the golden altar which is before the throne of God.

In the book I mentioned in my last post, “Crazy Love”, Chan states that we should stop praying blindly. He references Proverbs stating that we “should not rush into God’s presence with words because that is what fools do.” We need to spend time with Him. Get to know Him. Be awed by Him so that our prayers are a pleasing aroma along with the incense on the golden altar before His throne.

The Lord has shown me much concerning worship since I began to study this book. Most of it I am still contemplating in my heart and when I am able to communicate it, I will. But this was a surprise gift last night. I read and studied this chapter last week, and missed this beautiful, profound truth. We can give our time and our talent and our treasure to the kingdom here on earth and glorify God. What a privilege! But when we pray, our offering reaches Him in heaven and is placed on the altar before Him. That is how important prayer, our prayer, is to Him.

Father, blessed are You and Your Son Jesus. You are Holy, Holy, Holy, worthy of all praise, glory and honor. By His blood we have been redeemed out of slavery into service in Your temple, day and night. Soon will be the day when all who have been washed in His blood will no longer hunger, or thirst , nor have the sun beat down on us. Our Shepherd will lead us to springs of the water of life and You will wipe every tear from our eyes. Hosanna!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back seat driving

My sweet baby boy has a habit of "back-seat driving". At the ripe old age of three and a half, he thinks he knows how to get to any given destination that we are driving to, and he knows better than I do. He frequently tells me, "No, Mommy, don't turn this way! It's that way" or "on that road" or any number of other directional corrections you could think of. Sometimes it's cute. Most of the time it is annoying.

Today Caleb and I were driving to a play date at what he calls "the bouncy place", JumpZone. As we were driving down the road, he says to me, "Mommy, which way do we go? That way, or that way?" I said, "Don't worry about it, buddy" and he said, with obvious frustration, "But I don't know the way!" so I said, with a smile on my face, "Well then, it's a good thing I do, huh?"

As I continued toward our destination, the Lord whispered in my ear, "This is how you treat Me." I was reminded of all the times I have had similar conversations with my Lord. How many times have I gotten frustrated with my life and circumstances because things aren't going "the way" I think they should go. How often do I tell Him, "No, Lord, not that way, that way. Not that road, this road." Until I finally say to Him, in frustration, "But I don't know the way!" and He says, patiently, lovingly, "But I do." (I am constantly astonished at His ability to use my child to grow me up. It seems counter-intuitive since I'm the adult and he the child that I should be the one growing up, but here I am consistently being stretched and taught by my Lord through my child.)

This is not "new" information. I have known for sometime now that God is sovereign and in complete control of my life. All I have to do is seek His will and I will never be disappointed at the outcome. So, then, why is it that this is a lesson that I constantly need reminding of? Why can't I remember that I NEVER know the way, but that He ALWAYS does?
I am reading a phenomenal book right now called "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. (I would recommend it to EVERYONE. It will lead unbelievers to the Lord and believers to a deeper relationship with Him, but I digress.) In this book Francis Chan states that we all have a case of spiritual amnesia. That we all continually forget who He is, and what He has done for us. This is not to say that we truly forget God, but that by being passive about our faith, we have forgotten who He TRULY is. I agree with him. I think this lesson that the Lord taught me today demonstrates that very fact. Even as I read this wonderful book and was confronted with my own amnesia - YESTERDAY, today I was surprised by the fact that I regard His navigation of my life so distrustfully.

Lord, I repent of my willful navigation of my life. Guide me today and every day down the road of your choosing to the destination you have selected for me from before the foundation of the world. Amen.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pictures, and Letters, and Forms, Oh My! (aka - Our Dossier)

Some of you out there reading this blog know exactly what I'm about to talk about intimately. You've been through the in depth and (let's just say it) ridiculous volume of paper work, the background checks, and various other forms of insanity. For those of you who haven't here's a glimpse of what is involved in compiling a dossier.

The dossier is the packet of papers that is sent to a foreign country to be you the person...on paper. Since you can't present yourself to the people who will match you up with your future child, they want to know everything about you from where you grew up, to what friends and family think of you to how many bathrooms your house has. So just as I promised when I wrote about our home study, here is what we've been doing for our dossier:

1. Photographs: 3 - 5x7's of our family - 2 poses, please; 4x6 pics of all extended family - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, dogs, hamsters, etc; 1 - 5x7 pic of the outside of our home; 4x6 pics of every room in our house - even the bathrooms!
2. An application for the Intercountry Adoption Board (ICAB) - the governing adoption body in the Philippines - Notarized
3. A Type of Child Acceptable to Family form for ICAB detailing the age, medical conditions, etc of the child we are requesting
4. A personal letter stating that we do intend to adopt and parent this child from the Philippines...probably because all this paperwork, forms filled out and hoops jumped through don't really communicate that message very well, really...
5. An ORIGINAL birth certificate for each applicant - this one was tricky. Neither of us had original copies, so when I went to get them for us, I found that Alabama, Mandy's home state, was no problem what so ever (you could say you're whomever and order their cert as long as you have all the right info...shocking...well, not really). California, however, wanted a sworn affidavit stating that you are who you say you are along with DNA testing and your shoe size...well, really just the affidavit, but their processing times and requirements were crazy. As you all know, however, our God is MUCH bigger than the state of California records department and He showed me a way to submit the paperwork where the processing time was less than a century and He brought the certificate to us in record time. Yay!!
6. One medical statement for each person living in the home - this one was easy because they let us "reuse" the one from our home study.
7. One physician letter for each applicant - this is just in case the thorough medical statement/physical report aren't clear enough.
8. One psychological evaluation per family. This one had me stumped, a little. The instructions to the psychiatrist (yes, it HAD to be an MD) said that we were only to have a single 1-hour interview, then in the next several paragraphs went on to detail the information they wanted included in the letter. The amount and detail of the information requested would easily have taken several weeks to fully discuss, but that is not the point either. They really want a piece of paper stating that we are mentally healthy, balanced and ready to parent an internationally adopted child. How can anyone know this in only one hour? But I digress...we "passed". Actually, I think we kind of bored the guy.
9. One original marriage license/certificate.
10. One police letter per family. This is a letter from the chief of police of our town stating that we have no "record" in our hometown. It is both interesting and baffling to me that we must have fingerprints for BOTH the state of Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation AND then still need a letter to this effect in our hometown. Isn't it scary that they don't share information and all these checks have to be run separately? Well, it bothered me.
11. One Priest, Minister or Rabbi recommendation letter per family. Yep, that's how it's worded in the OFFICIAL instructions.
12. One employer recommendation letter for each applicant. Steven's was easy, but just try to get a 3 year old to write you a letter of recommendation. I'm telling you it was NOT easy!
13. One friend letter of recommendation per family. This was a real relief as we only have one friend. :)
14. Optional letters. Thanks to all who gave us letters for our home study. They were promptly reused.
15. Guardian letter. "Letter should be written by the person or couple (couple preferred) named as guardian(s) of the child/ren in the event of the death or incapacity of the adoptive parents stating that the guardian(s) accept this responsibility. Guardians should not be the parents of the applicants; preferably, they should be the sibling of one of the applicants. Friends can be named if the applicants have no siblings." Wow. I mean, I get this and agree with it, it's just weird to plan for the care of a child we do not yet have in the event that we die. Luckily, this was already covered since we have Caleb and took care of it for him LONG ago.
16. One copy of pages 1-2 of your most recent 1040 US Income Tax returns. Ick.

So that's it. We did it all in about 5 weeks and had it turned in already before our home study was completed. Once the home study was done and turned in, our agency sent it all over to the Philippines on July 9th. So, we are officially waiting to hear about our approval. Keep praying!