Saturday, March 29, 2008

"We have a little boy for you...!!!"

On the Thursday before Easter, I was at the park with Mikaela, Toby and a couple of my friends and their kids when I got a call from the Holt office saying we had been matched with a little boy! His name is Kamin and he was born on July 7, 2007 (07-07-07!). (Kamin, by the way, in Thai is pronounced Kah-min, but Toby likes Kah-meen better... but I'll talk more about his name another day.) He is a healthy, ADORABLE little boy living with a foster family in Bangkok. It's been a bit of an emotional whirlwind since that phone call, processing the information, staring at the pictures, re-reading his information for the 10th, 20th times, wishing I knew what he looks like right now, imagining what things will be like when we bring him home...

The most recent pictures we have of him are from 4 months ago. We don't really feel comfortable posting them on the web at this point (since he's not officially/legally ours yet) but I CAN show you the "Kamin Cake" we made the night we heard about being matched! : )

Mikaela and Toby are SO excited. Mikaela took a picture of him to school and told everyone about him and they had lots of fun telling their grandparents... and everyone is excited.

Here are some answers to questions you might have if you're like many other people we have talked to:

1. We don't know what his official name will be after he's adopted. We can do whatever we want and haven't decided yet.
2. The process at this point is this: Kamin was referred to us and we accepted the referral and have signed/sent papers stating our intention to adopt him. Those papers will be sent to Thailand where the match will be approved by the Thai government. That will probably take at least 5 months. Once the match is approved we can make our arrangements to travel a few weeks later.
3. Yes, we are planning on taking Mikaela and Toby with us when we go to Thailand to bring our little boy home. We plan on spending some time with Lowell's sister and her family while we are there.
4. We expect to travel to Thailand to bring him home in October or November (though it could happen faster or slower than that.)
5. Yes, there is a chance that things won't work out. But it's highly unlikely and I really feel like God has said quite clearly "Yes, HE IS THE ONE." So I'm not even worried about that. Check back for my next blog entry to hear more about that...
6. Kamin is currently being cared for by a foster family. The mom is 57, dad is 58 and they are also caring for 2 school-age granddaughters. Kamin is the 11th foster child they have cared for since 1994. I think that is INCREDIBLE. And I think he is in very good hands...
7. And lastly, yes, we do know quite a bit about his birth parents. But until he's old enough to know the story and understand it, we aren't going to be telling anyone else about it. It doesn't seem like it would be fair for others to know more about him than he knows about himself... and then nobody has to worry about ever saying anything that they shouldn't have said. : ) (Aren't you relieved?) : )

There is really so much more I could say... but I'm really tired and need to go to bed... but let me just say that GOD IS GOOD! And we are very, very happy about this little boy on the other side of the world who doesn't even know that we exist yet...

Because he is OURS. : )

Y, Melissa

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Life in General

Well, my dad is the only one who asked me to get him a copy of what I shared at the retreat, but I'm going to post it here (below) anyway... because I just never know who might stumble upon it "accidentally." And since my hubby hasn't uploaded the video he took of Toby at the Monster Jam Monster Truck Rally a couple days ago, I don't have anything else to post. Actually, maybe I do... Here are some random thoughts I've been meaning to share with you. 1. I am allergic to Spring. But I love it anyway because the weather is beautiful, the trees are blooming like crazy (hence the allergies!) and the world seems like it's alive again. If only spending more time outdoors didn't make my nose run and my eyes itch! Well, I'm praising God (honestly, I am) that Zyrtec is now available OTC b/c it works so much better for me when my allergies are bad. And no, they don't pay me to advertise for them because they aren't impressed with the number of people who read my blog. Go figure! 2. No, we haven't heard anything more yet about our adoption. We're still expecting to hear something (even if it's that we've moved up on the waiting list) later this month. And praise God, I'm not pacing or obsessing about it. 3. Life is FULL! While it is Spring Break for Mikaela this week, the rest of life is not on vacation! Lowell and I are planning our church's Easter sunrise service (want to come???) and are attending ALPHA on Tuesday nights on top of me still attending Celebrate Recovery (where I lead worship and learn a lot) on Thursday nights and I'm also starting (in April) a new prayer class for families at church and we have a condo empty that I need to clean or find someone to clean and the MCC Sale (and Party!!) is coming up April 4/5 which means we have a LOT of house/patio/yard cleaning to do between now and then (not to mention planning the party!) All of this means I've been feeling a bit scatterbrained and frazzled b/c it was somehow a lot easier to hyperfocus on planning for the retreat than it is to think about so many different things at once. It also explains why I haven't been thinking about my blog as much lately. I don't have as much free brain time as I did last year! OK... That's the Melissa update for the weekend. I hope you are all well! : )

Believing God loves me with Unfailing, Limitless, All-sufficient, All-Forgiving, Transforming Love

(This is what I shared at our Women's Retreat a couple weeks ago. You'll just have to imagine the hand-gestures and dramatic pauses.) Maybe next weekend or sometime I'll get the song I ended with on here too. Yes... It's very long!!! Don't feel bad if you don't want to read it all. : )
If I were to ask you what you know about God's love, I bet you all could tell me a lot. If you were looking in the book of Psalms, you might quote Ps. 57:10 "for great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness to the skies." Or Psalm 36:7 "How priceless is your unfailing love." Or Psalm 32:10 "the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him." Or maybe Psalm 136 where it repeats 26 times "His love endures forever! But what I really want to ask you right now is do you really believe it? Are you experiencing God's love to be unfailing and enduring and priceless? John 8:31 says "To the Jews who had BELIEVED HIM, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" The truth will set you free—if you know it, and hold onto it and believe it! Just like a key is of no use if you don't use it, truth is of no use if you don't believe it and act on it! Will you join me in praying? Lord, we agree with the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 63 and we say "O God, you are our God! Earnestly we seek you. Our souls thirst for you, our bodies long for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. We have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because Your love is better than life, our lips will glorify You. We will praise You as long as we live, and in Your name we will lift up our hands. Our souls WILL BE SATISFIED as with the richest of foods; with singing lips our mouths will praise You." Reveal your love to us today! We also recognize this is a battle, Lord. And in Jesus powerful name, we say that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish – even right now – arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God – against the knowledge of God's love – and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. We say satan, you have no power or authority in this place to keep anyone here blinded to the truth and command now that everyone here be released to believe, know and experience the love God has for them. In Jesus Name, amen! Life here on earth, walking with God, is a journey (or a series of journeys at least!) And in taking any kind of trip, it's really helpful to have a map! A map, however, isn't very helpful if you don't know where you want to go. And once you know where you want to go, you still need to know where you are to start with. Once you have those two points figured out, you can determine how to get from where you are to where you want to be. The problem for most of us is we aren't very good navigators. We often aren't sure where we're going or where we are and even if we know those 2 things, we often have no clue how to get where we want to be. Do any of you have one of those fancy cars w/a GPS system or onstar? I am so grateful that on this journey we are on, we aren't travelling alone. God is actually the one showing us on the map where He wants to take us and He can tell us exactly where we are AND He will even lead us and walk with us as we head toward where He wants us to go. So where do we want to be? Where does God want us to be? What would it look like if we really believed God loves us as much as He does? Loving someone can be nice… but knowing the one you love loves you back is a totally different thing! Think of someone you had a crush on when you were younger (maybe even a movie star or singer) and how it would have made you feel and behave if you knew that he loved you, too. I worked at McDonald's in high school and would occasionally get flirtatious boys coming through the drive-through. I was actually pretty shy about boys (I hardly dated at all) but once got a note from a guy (who was in college no less!) through the drive through saying I had pretty eyes or a pretty smile or something like that. I don't even remember exactly what it said, but I remember how it made me feel! That same year I did actually for brief period of time have a boyfriend, but I realized not long into the relationship that I wasn't in love with Joe. I was in love with the idea of having a boyfriend. I realize now I was in love with the idea of somebody loving me. Now, think about getting a love note from the King of the Universe, the real Prince Charming who IS coming back on a white horse to get His Bride someday. Imagine that it said He loved you with an eternal, undying love… that You are beautiful and priceless to Him… that He would do anything & has done everything to make you His. That should fill us with an incredible, profound confidence and peace! It should give us strength and patience and kindness and humility and joy knowing we are always protected, filled with hope. It should set us free to love other people! Sisters, WE WERE CREATED FOR LOVE. Knowing and experiencing that very real, powerful, transforming love that God does have for us is where God longs for us to be. And if we're honest with ourselves, it's where we long to be too. (Turn in your Bibles to….) Ephesians 3:16-19 says this: "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." If we look at this passage a little bit at a time, we'll see it all starts with Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith – which we receive as God (out of his glorious riches) strengthens us with power. We cannot come to Christ in our own power. But once we receive Him, we are then rooted and established in LOVE. And the Word says no one can pluck us out of His hand! Once we are established, we are established! But next, we need more of His power to help us really understand and grasp how wide and long and high and deep his love is… and then to KNOW it: to believe and EXPERIENCE it and LIVE it, so that then we can be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God! So where are we now? Let's take a look for just a minute at where we end up when we "know God loves us" but we don't really believe it. We get confused. We worry. We get anxious and afraid and feel guilty and ashamed. We compare ourselves to others and we beat ourselves up for not being good enough or trying hard enough. We end up tired and disappointed and feel like we're a disappointment to everyone else, too. We try to love others, but it's hard! We try to break free from our sin, but can't seem to figure out the right combination on the lock. We get discouraged and not sure that things can or will ever change. Am I the only one who has ever felt this way? Why does this happen? (Holy Spirit, I ask You to show us right now the truth about why it's sometimes so hard for us to receive Your love. And no power of darkness can keep the truth from being known in Jesus' Name!) The problem is SIN. But you need to understand something very, very important. Before we surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, our sin separates us from God. If you have never given your heart to Jesus, you are still separated from Him. But once we have accepted God's gift of forgiveness, offered to us through the blood of Jesus, OUR SIN CANNOT SEPARATE US FROM GOD ANYMORE. And even when our sin separated us from God, HE STILL LOVED US. Romans 5:8 says "But God demonstrated his own love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 8:38 says "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Nothing can separate us from His love. But sin is still a problem because it can keep us from experiencing the love of God. It can keep us from accepting His love. When we have done something wrong or failed even though we've tried so hard to do everything right, we feel guilt and shame and like we aren't worthy of God's love… so we refuse it. Other times we are hurt by others when their sin affects us and we end up wounded and angry and we refuse love because we don't want it. Love hurts too much and we aren't interested, thank you! We end up wearing masks that make it look like we're fine and we're trying really hard OR that we don't really care what God or anybody else thinks anyway, while underneath the mask we're hurting. What's the problem with not experiencing love? WE NEED IT. We need love when we are born and we never outgrow the need to be loved by God and by others. (God created another person for Adam because it wasn't good for Adam to be alone. We were not created to love God and be loved by God alone.) We were created for LOVE – to receive it and to give it. We were created to breathe love in and breathe it back out freely and effortlessly… to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds and to love our neighbors and ourselves. So what do we do? According to the authors of this book (called Truefaced that I truly wish every one of you could read b/c it is amazing) Love is the process of meeting needs. God promises to supply all of our needs and even before Adam and Eve sinned, they needed God to meet their needs. We are all created with needs and as God supplies those needs, we feel loved. We experience love. Some of the needs that God's love supplies for us are: Attention – met through God's servant love (John 13:5-20) Salvation – met through God's sacrificial love (John 3:16) Forgiveness & Acceptance – met through God's unearned love (Romans 5:5-8) Comfort – met through God's committed love (Zephaniah 3:17) Security – met through God's faithful love (Lamentations 3:32-33) Guidance – met through God's loving discipline (Hebrews 12:6) Truth – met through God's instructional love (Psalm 33:4-5) Protection – met through God's jealous love (Exodus 34:14-15, Hosea 11:1-2) Significance – met through God's affirming love (1 Timothy 1:12) Identity – met through God's adoptive love (I John 3:1) The list could go on about the ways God's love meets our needs. (And if we aren't getting these needs met by God, how can we?) The authors make these points. 1. If we can't identify our needs, we cannot know love. I wasn't so sure about this at first… thinking a baby can't identify their needs… did this mean they couldn't know love? That wouldn't make sense. Then I recalled babies DO know what they need and they try very vocally to communicate those needs to us… we just often don't know what they need! But when we figure it out, if we are able to meet the need, they feel love and that's how bonding happens. So similarly, we need to know what we need or we won't know love. 2. If we deny we have needs, we won't experience love. If we say we don't have any needs and don't let God or anyone else meet them, we won't know love. 3. If we withhold our needs, we can't receive the love others have for us. God wants to meet our needs, and often through His children, but if we won't let Him or others love us—if we hide behind the walls we have built to protect our hearts—we won't know love. (Share example of previous night when I needed food (especially b/c I had been sick)… I asked and the need was met. If I had withheld my need, who knows what would have happened.) 4. If we don't know love, our wounds won't heal. I Peter 4:8 says to love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. The Greek word for "covers" means more than concealing or hiding something. The word is related to the Greek word for "steal." Love steals away and removes the effect of sin in our lives! So, how do we move from knowing about God's love but not fully accepting and trusting in it to grasping the vastness of it and experiencing it and being filled to overflowing with it? 1. Let God show us what we need. 2. Realize that having these needs met is experiencing love. 3. Admit that we desire to be loved. 4. Ask God to teach us how to receive love and how to love others – not out of guilt or obligation, but out of love and obedience. As much as I didn't want it to be true, the more I studied about love, the more I discovered that love and obedience cannot be separated. They are intertwined in the Bible (John 15, I John 4) making it clear that if we love God, we will obey Him and we will love others. As I asked God to help me understand it, I believe He showed me it is because loving others completes the process of loving – just like exhaling completes the process of breathing. We will naturally obey God if we trust Him and believe He loves us. And the more we let God love us, the more we will obey and it will be much, much easier to love others. But we have to let God love us first. 1 John 4:19 says "We love because He first loved us!" Finally, how do we take the next step on our journey into God's love? God doesn't want us to "know" He loves us. He wants us to receive and experience and LIVE in His love. He wants us to be rooted and established in love – and from there He will show us what we need. He wants us to have power to grasp how long and high and deep and wide His love is – and know that His love will supply all of our needs. He wants us to KNOW this love that surpasses knowledge – as we admit we desire to be loved and accept the love He has for us. So we can be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God – when we will experience His love transforming us and freely overflowing to everyone around us. In a minute, I'm going to play a song, but first I want to read the words to you. It's called "I Need You to Love Me." Why? Why are you still here with me? Didn't You see what I've done? In my shame I want to run and hide myself But it's here I see the truth I don't deserve You But I need You to love me And I, I won't keep my heart from You this time And I'll stop this pretending that I can Somehow deserve what I already have I need You to love me I, I have wasted so much time Pushing You away from me I just never saw how You could cherish me 'Cause You're a God who has all things And still You want me! But I need You to love me And I, I won't keep my heart from You this time And I'll stop this pretending that I can Somehow deserve what I already have Your love makes me forget what I have been Your love makes me see who I really am I need You to love me I want to give you the opportunity right now to tell God that you need to and want to experience more of His love. Ask Him to heal your wounds of shame and set you free from the bondage of trying to deserve His love. We will never be able to earn or deserve His love. Yet He freely offers it to us anyway! If you have been pushing Him away because you think you aren't good enough yet for His love, He wants you to stop! And even if you already are experiencing lots of God's love, then you know that He always has more. God's love is like an ocean and He is longing to share it with you. He might want to take some of you to snorkel in the coral reefs, or sailing on the open sea, or surfing in Hawaii or scuba diving in the ocean depths. Or He might be waiting to take you to some safe and peaceful and secluded island where you can just REST. I don't know where His love will take you – but I do know you have to be willing to TRUST HIM and get into the boat. I am just like everyone else on the planet. I need God's love to keep healing me in the places of my heart where I'm still hurting. I am really just learning how to accept God's love. So as I play this song, I want to invite you to join me up here where I'm going to be on my knees before my Father telling Him I need His love. And I know what He does when His children ask for what He longs to give them. He answers. So if you want to join me, this is just a time for you and God. Nobody is going to ask you any questions or attack you up here. But after we're done, if you want to pray with or talk to any of us up here, we would love to do that as well.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Retreat Recap

Well, everyone, it's Sunday night and I can't believe only a week has passed since coming home from our women's retreat. I am so grateful for anyone who prayed for us/me—especially if you prayed for me when I got so sick less than 48 hours before our retreat was going to begin. I guess that's where I'll start… Wednesday night (2/27) – I got very, very sick and spent much of the night (while my family was sleeping) ummmm… being sick. One of the first conversations I had that night with God went something like this: "So God, I'll probably be feeling well enough by Friday to still go to the retreat, but I'm not sure I'll have enough strength to stand up there and share/speak/talk by then… Does this all mean You want me to switch with Annette and do my session Saturday morning instead?" "Yes, Melissa." "And this was the only way we would get the message?????" J Thursday (2/28) – by the grace of God and love and mercy of my husband, I got to spend almost the entire day in bed recuperating from the night before. A friend of mine told me later it was illogical how non-discouraged I was that day. I think I knew God was taking care of things and that He was preventing me from obsessing about stuff that didn't matter. I was forced to rely even more fully on Him because there was really no other alternative that even remotely made sense. Friday (2/29) – I made it up to the retreat! (I'm so glad I got a ride from someone… I had no idea at that point how exhausted I was going to be Sunday and it would have been really dangerous for me to have driven home!!! But God knew that!) My dear friend Annette (our pastor's wife) shared that night about how important it is to Believe God (that was our theme) and she shared how in the day or two previous she had to completely rewrite what she was going to say. But what God gave her was definitely what was supposed to be shared that first night and I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have switched if I hadn't been sick. (But God knew that, too, so He didn't take any chances. J) Saturday (3/1) – I led worship and then shared my lesson/talk/message on Believing God loves us (not just "knowing it" but really believing and receiving it! God gave me everything I needed to be able to do it – and it was beautiful to see the women respond, telling God that they needed and wanted to know more of His love. I was so incredibly grateful for what God was doing and felt already like the retreat was just getting better and better as we got comfortable and heard from God more. That evening, another friend of mine from our church named Monica shared about Believing God's promises and again, it was so good! One of the things that BLEW ME AWAY about all three of our messages was how well they tied together. We each prepared on our own and were talking about Believing God – but in 3 very different ways – and God made so many things overlap and tie together between our talks that you could have thought we'd done this same set of sessions many times, or that we had planned it together. But we didn't! It's hard to explain, but it was amazing to me and such clear evidence of God's hand in it all – especially since our very first plan had us talking in a completely different order. Sunday (3/2) – Our last morning included sharing communion together and hearing testimonies from 2 ladies. One is a member of our church and she shared some pretty tough things about what God has saved her from. Immediately after she shared, she felt like it hadn't gone well and she was very discouraged. But at the end of the day, we had time for ladies to share what God had been speaking to them about that weekend, and it was so incredible to hear some of the ladies open up and share things they'd never told anyone in the church before – and I know that it was in a large part released because of the testimonies they had heard earlier that morning. Again, God put in place exactly the right person to share and we were all just amazed at the openness and freedom that some of the women shared with. It was the kind of thing you dream about but almost don't dare hope for. And did I mention, I had more fun leading worship there than I think I have ever had before? Again, God picked out just the right songs and it was amazing! J Looking back , I am convinced that in our weakness (not having much experience (or confidence!) planning retreats or speaking) God's power was made perfect! We trusted Him to lead us and He did so much more than we imagined He would - even though we KNEW He had big plans for us all. On a personal note, I really felt like God was confirming for me the call He has on my life to do this type of thing. And He challenged me asking if I was going to respond like Moses (Oh, no, Lord… I'm not ready yet… there are so many others!) or if I would believe Him and obey whether I understand His reasons and plans or not. Like Moses, I have a deep longing to see people – especially women – walking in freedom! So God wants me to trust Him to provide the opportunities (I have SO much more to learn!!!) and to go where He leads me because it's His choice to use each and every one of us as He chooses. Well, that was a long recap, and there are lots of other things I could tell you about, but that will have to do it for now. If any of you are interested in reading the written version of what I talked about (it's almost completely written out, though you'll miss my dramatic pauses and fist pounding (kidding! I mean hand-gesturing) when you read it) just send me an email or leave a comment and I can send it to you or maybe I will post it somehow (in parts maybe). Thank you again for praying and thank You Jesus for gracing and blessing and amazing us with Your Spirit's presence and power as You moved among us. You are beautiful and your daughters are beautiful and I thank You so much for the honor of having been able to share with them and lead them in worship. You are so good and loving to me, Lord. I love You! Love, Melissa

Sunday, March 02, 2008


I am SO tired and promise that I will give you a better report soon (hopefully by next weekend!) but I wanted to tell any of you who were praying for our retreat this weekend... It was amazing! God absolutely blew us away. It was 7 weeks ago today that we had our first planning meeting for this retreat. That's not very much time!!! But it was very obvious that God had been organizing things and planning and preparing for much longer than that. I'm gonna end for now with a modified (by me) version of Ephesians 3:20-21 because it covers it all... "Now to him who DID immeasurably more than all we askED or imagineD, according to his power that is at work within us, TO HIM BE GLORY in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." I can hardly wait to tell you more... Until then... Y, Melissa