Thursday, June 7, 2012

Abundant Christian Living

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:3-4

As someone who loves to take credit for everything I do (or don't do for that matter), I stand in amazement when someone reaches out in full anonymity and blesses me. An action like that tells me that the giver wants glory to go to God alone and not to man. It is selfless giving and sacrificial giving. It inspires me to do the same and let the reward be God's fullness in me instead of man's praise of me. As Gordon MacDonald writes in his book Secrets of the Generous Life, "The spiritual maturity of generous givers makes them immune to the need to be praised by others. It causes them to anticipate God's approval and to long for that above all else." Wow. I am an instinctively selfish person.
Adoption has been an amazing forum to see God's prompting of others to bless us in totally wonderful and unexpected ways. For example,  several months ago someone put an envelope into Ben's school backpack containing $300 cash. No name. No message other than it was for our adoption. I still have no idea who it was, but my heart was filled that day and remains filled by that action. We have gotten several surprise checks in the mail from people who have families of their own, debts of their own, and yet they offer up funds to us in obedience to God. That is very humbling.
A really fun surprise came a few weeks ago when I was told that there was something in the church office for my family. I swung by the office and found a Kleenex box waiting for us. The top was covered over with a tab sticking out that said "Pull Here". I leaned down to give the kids the opportunity to pull and this is what happened......
They pulled and pulled and pulled---$10.00 bills taped together in one continuous strand of blessing.
It seemed like the end would never come and the kids were squealing with delight (I was watching with jaw dropped).
Three hundred dollars in cash. Wow. What an amazing testimony to myself and my children that God provides. It was an act which allowed my kids to tangibly see our prayers being answered. That lesson goes way beyond dollars. To whomever did that for us---thank you.  Thank you. To the person who wrote me a letter on Mother's Day along with a $200 gift card to Wal-Mart--thank you. I shopped for almost everything we need for Will during our travels--medicines, clothing, shoes, pajamas, bottles, diapers, sippy name it. He has it all now thanks to that thoughtful act of generosity.
Abundant Christian living doesn't exclusively mean financially. Countless people have babysat my children so that I could take advantage of opportunities to make a little extra money. One individual keeps my children and then sends me home with freshly baked banana bread! (I'm never going to stop being her friend). I mean, COME ON!!! Parents have allowed me to tutor their precious children. A Birmingham business owner has allowed me to work for her during the week and on Saturdays. People that I hardly know have handed me money in the halls of Westminster because they heard we are adopting and they have a heart for orphans. God is at work in the lives of his people and he's using you all to fund the homecoming of this little boy--His child.
 Here comes my plea for you and for me. Be generous. Be so wrecklessly generous that it makes absolutely no sense. Give when you can't afford to. Obey when you're told to. Test the Lord and as Malachi 3:10 says:
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
One of the most special gifts we have received thus far was from a young lady who drove a check to my house and while she was handing it over to me, she confessed that she had been praying the entire way to my house that God would give her the strength and grace to hand it over and to let it go. That's true faith, Friends. Giving when you want to keep. Trusting God's promises when your circumstances say you need the money more than anyone.
You won't believe the feeling you experience when you give of the resources the Lord has blessed you with. The joy that giving brings is contagious. The recipient will find themselves as we are--forever changed and able to see God's money as a tool to accomplish great things for His kingdom. Money will have new meaning as you seek to have it work for you instead of you working for it. And when the Holy Spirit moves in you--listen and act accordingly. Don't miss out on the opportunity to see the Lord's power breaking through your circumstances. He'll amaze you. The money you thought you couldn't give comes back. The repairs you anticipate end up somehow costing less. The monthly bills experience an inexplicable dip and it's because the Lord is honoring you for honoring Him as His faithful steward.
Hear me now: look around you at the great needs our world has. If you have a friend experiencing job loss--send them a giftcard for groceries. Someone is sick? Keep a meal in your freezer and take it to them. Give a couple struggling for happiness in their marriage a night out with free babysitting. Be creative! Use the specific talents and skills the Lord has given you to serve others. We have a responsibility to do that.  Leave an anonymous gift for that special grocery store cashier who always bags your groceries and chats happily. Support a mission trip. Give to a special project in your church. Pay part of someone else's private school tuition. The possibilities are endless.  Ask the Lord to put people in your path who need you. He'll do it!
We are trusting God to provide the remaining funds needed for travel. We are praying that during this time when we are drinking deeply from the well of blessings that God would be working so that we, in time, will be the giver of abundant gifts. We look ever upward to God as the ultimate example of giving until it hurts---when he gave up his son to the bitter cross for me. I pray we will be worth the investment.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Give me an L-O-C!!!!!

When I was waiting quietly for the Lord, His heart was turned to me, and He gave ear to my cry." Psalms 40:1

I've been having very vivid dreams about our China trip for several days now. I can see the orphanage and the faces of the workers. I'm standing with my arms outstretched waiting for Will to be placed within them. I can see his tiny face and feel his hair against my cheek. It feels so real. My dreams grow my yearning for him--for fantasy to yield to reality. I just want our time to come. Monday was a really difficult day for me. I was impatient and low. I prayed to my Father to hasten this process and to bring word from China. The next day He did.
The call came from our agency that our Letter of Confirmation was in! This is a milestone because now we just wait for travel approval. Yes, we have more paperwork to do. Yes, we have more money to raise. But the clock is ticking until we board the plane and head to retrieve our son. I can't express the gratitude I feel to God for bringing us through yet another phase of this process. His power is so evident in our lives as he navigates the steps associated with uniting Will with us. It is all Him. And His work is not yet done.
Last night we joyfully filled out immigration papers for Will and an application for Will's visa to be issued. We'll have it all in the mail by Friday and then we wait again. We hope to receive approval to travel in two to three months. TWO TO THREE MONTHS! That's not long and that time will be filled with preparations, packing, more paperwork, gathering travel documents, making arrangements for the children etc...There will be work for my hands to do. And I'll be praying. Praying for protection over our travels and for our children left here. I'll be praying for Will as he waits for us--that supernaturally, he'd know we are coming for him and when he sees us, that his heart would find peace and not fear. There are so many teeny tiny details to pray over, but I'm going to continue to voice them all. Because my God is a God of details and He shows me He loves me by smoothing out the wrinkles of life. Pray with me!
 Will turned two on May 16th and we celebrated by having a special evening in his honor. We prayed for him and for China. Thought you might like to see some photos!
We baked a cake. Chocolate with cream cheese frosting. Ben thought it would be best to bake the cake while wearing just underwear????? We enjoyed sampling the cake too! We made home-made cards and read about the province that Will lives in (Guangxi). His province is one of the poorest and most undeveloped provinces in all of China. We prayed for all the fatherless sleeping there that night.
This is the last year that Will's birthday will go uncelebrated. May 16, 2013 will be the first birthday of his new life. Praise God!