Masterpiece

During the wee hours of the morning, I had one of those ‘wake up and figure out the world’ moments. Well, close to an hour of those moments. I pondered and I prayed. I studied a bit and as I did I came across this passage.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

A masterpiece is a great work. A masterpiece is a person’s greatest work. A masterpiece of God has to be the greatest of the greatest, after all, He is God. We are GOD’S masterpiece?! Us? Me and you? That’s hard to for me to grasp.

I often don’t feel like I would imagine a masterpiece would feel. I often don’t act like I am sure a masterpiece would act. I often don’t look like I am convinced a masterpiece would look. I often don’t sound like I expect a masterpiece would sound. But, there it is in black and white, in the Scriptures I hold so dear. We (that includes you and me) are God’s masterpiece. Amazing.

Other translations use workmanship or handiwork. However expressed, the truth is clear. He created us. He created us in Christ and He did so with a purpose in mind.

Discovering what that purpose is results in the journey of a lifetime and great adventures that change the world around us. We should be compelled by our love for Jesus Christ to help the hurting, right wrongs, rescue the perishing, bind up the wounded, encourage the discouraged, help the helpless, speak up for those who can not speak up for themselves.

These are good things, good works. But, they are not our good works. They are His good works. We are His workmanship and we do the good works that He planned long ago for us to do.

When we do what we were created to do, the result is contentment. When we do our own works, even good works, the result is dis-contentment. When we rely only on our own strength, we grow weary. When we rely only on our own understanding, we grow confused.

Today as we face a new week where we will stand at many #crossroads and make many choices of how we spend our time and energy, #ponderthis –

You were created (GOD’S workmanship) to do the good works that He planned long ago. Find that purpose, choose that path and make a difference. #masterpiece

Someone’s at the Door

About that time…

Have you been there before? Are you there now? When about that time, things start changing suddenly and you react rather than act? Who I really want to tell you about is Rhoda. She is found later in this same passage. But, before you can fully appreciate what she did and why she did it, I think we should be more familiar with what was happening all around her. Here are the first five verses of Acts 12.

“About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration. ) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” Acts 12:1-5

Murderous treachery! Misuse of political power! Injustice! Persecution! Terror!

This evil ruler has just had the apostle James killed with a sword and that has been met with so much ‘approval’ he decides to give them an encore performance. Let me just point out this good example here that popular public opinion does not necessarily mean something is good or right or just. As is often the case when we face hard times and terrible crisis’, they began to pray. They prayed earnestly. They prayed without ceasing. They weren’t just going though the motions. They needed a miracle, a divine intervention and they were asking for it.

The next verses that follow are an amazing account of how Peter is released from prison. It was so amazing that it says in verse 9 that Peter himself didn’t realize it was really happening and it was happening to him! By verse 11 he had come to his senses and headed for a safe place, to the very place where faithful friends had been praying and praying earnestly well into the night.

“When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer.” Acts 12:12

It is in verse 13 that we meet Rhoda, a servant girl or as some translations say, a damsel.

“He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. ” Acts 12:13

How she reacted is what I really want to focus on.

“When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” Acts 12:14

She was apparently familiar with Peter, familiar enough that she recognized his voice. Had she sat under his teaching or stood nearby while he spoke to the Church? Surely she knew what was being prayed about there in that very house even now, during the dark of night. Perhaps she too had added her prayers. I think we can safely assume she was keenly aware of the present danger that believers were facing, especially the Christian leaders.

So, what does she do when she realizes the answer to the earnestly prayed prayers was standing on the other side of the gate door? Well, she gets excited! She was overjoyed! And then, she left him standing there, in the dark, outside the door of the safe place he was seeking refuge in.

Oh, sure, we can easily chide Rhoda! Silly girl, we might say, what are you doing running off and leaving the answered prayer knocking at your door. But, most of us will be cautious to criticize because many of us have been just as curious in our reaction to answered prayer. Some of us have been down right suspicious. Could this really be? Even though we have prayed earnestly, even though the answer is knocking at our door, we hesitate or stop to evaluate or rush to share the good news without doing the obvious, answering the call, opening the door to what God is doing.

Poor Rhoda! I’m telling you, I can relate. If you know me at all you know, that I can get excited! I’ve been known to get the cart before the horses and in the moment of exuberance forget a few important details. This is why Siri is my BFF. There are many moments that I will ‘come to myself’ like Peter and realize I need some direction! When she gets to the group who is praying earnestly, to share the good news, they think she has lost her mind. There may have been a few that felt that way about me at times as well. I can remember when we announced that we had heard the voice calling out our heart’s door and were adopting a sibling group of three when we had already adopted four, a few of those…”Have you lost your mind?” comments. But, I knew what I heard.

“You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” Acts 12:15

They all begin to discuss how Rhoda has come to this wrong conclusion and how they know it can’t be Peter! After all, Peter is in prison and that’s the very reason for this all night prayer vigil. Let’s go ahead and resist the temptation to criticize them and call them something like, “Dimwits!”. After all, haven’t we been in just a place? A place where what we have asked God for is staring us in the face and we just can’t accept it. Lord knows I have. And let’s give Rhoda some credit here. She insisted. She persisted. Go Rhoda Go!

I’m sure they felt like this was an unnecessary interruption. Some of the most astounding interruptions in my life have led me to the EXACT place I needed to be. Here’s a prime example. About 13 years ago, Henry and I found ourselves in a big mess. Oh, what a mess it was. As a result of this terrible mess, we moved to Alexander City. I remember at one point thinking, we would never recover from what appeared to be one disastrous decision after another. I was so angry at myself. I felt responsible. I felt I should have known better. There we were, away from any family, Henry commuting well over an hour each way, every day. Frankly, I saw no sense in it at the time.

But, here’s the thing, not only did we make life long friends there during our five years of what seemed like the dark of the night, we adopted our four youngest children from that county. A county where we had never lived before nor ever intended to live at all. I know now, that what looked like an interruption, not at all the place we wanted to be, was an intentional push in the right direction towards completing our family.

Now, let’s not forget Peter. He’s been imprisoned unfairly, released miraculously and now can’t get in the door. What does he do? He keeps on knocking of course and so must we!

“Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. ” Acts 12:16

I’m not sure which part of our story squeezed your heart. Was it the fear of betrayal? Or are you at the earnestly praying place? Has your miracle come knocking? Are you excited? Hesitant? Trying to make sense of it all? Just coming to yourself?

Wherever you find yourself at this moment, don’t leave that door unopened when you recognize the voice you know you can trust. Fling that gate wide and let in what you’ve been waiting for and be amazed!

Love Delayed

So many posts and poems and sentiments will be shared today on the subject of love. After all, it is Valentine’s Day. As I considered what I would add to the ocean of words on love today, I hesitated. Should I write about my Henry, the love of my life? Should I write about my children who have stirred such love in my heart I can hardly contain it? Should I write about the great love that was poured into my life by my mother and grandmother? Should I write about the high cost of love as a foster and adoptive parent? Should I write about the greatest love ever offered when God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus?

As I contemplated these worthy subjects I discovered my heart leaning another direction. Love is a journey that is unique for each of us. Love is a great adventure that takes us places we long to see. Love is the ride of a life time. But, sometimes, love is delayed. When this is the case, our hearts can ache with longing for what we begin to fear will never be ours to experience.

Delayed is not what we want to hear. Whether it is as trivial as traffic on the interstate or as life-changing as a failed adoption, we want to move forward and get on with our life, our plans, our hopes and dreams. We don’t want to feel stuck as if we are going no where and making no progress. Love delayed can lead to something worse than a broken heart. Love delayed can lead to a heart that has been torn to pieces.

I have faced some terrible delays in my life. Chances are, so have you.

During the many years of being delayed along the journey to motherhood I often felt as if I were on a roller coaster ride that was full of twists and turns and loops. Just about the time I’d catch my breath and get my bearings, off we would go again in a direction that left me gasping for breath and praying for a merciful arrival at our destination. We had only been married a few years when we attempted our first adoption. We had a baby shower, we borrowed money for attorney fees, we could feel the speed lessening and was totally ecstatic to unbuckle and step off this train of emotional turmoil. Just as we prepared to do so, every thing changed and we were derailed as the adoption failed. Infertility treatments, graphs, tests, procedures and medications all promised relief but, instead they delivered grief.

It was a monumental day when the ‘conductor’ of our train ride opened my eyes to parenting children I might not ever be able to call my own as far as others were concerned. I had to tug on Henry’s sleeve a long time before he would agree. He wanted something more than having a child, he wanted to protect me from pain. Then, God brought this tiny little human being into our lives that would convince us that love was worth the risk of fostering. I won’t name her here to respect her privacy, although many reading this will know. We now had the courage we needed to face the journey ahead. We nicknamed her Grace because we knew it was God’s grace that had brought her into our lives and God’s grace that would lead us through wherever this journey would lead. Little did we know how heavily we would rely on that grace when she left us and took pieces of our torn hearts with her. It wasn’t our choice, it wasn’t hers, but, we did have another choice. There was a sure way we would never have to hurt in this particular manner again. We could quit. We could cash in our ticket purchased by hope and settle down into a life that didn’t include parenting children.

I can’t say that we wouldn’t have done just that but, then there was this other tiny little human being. He soothed the tattered edges of my heart and kept me functioning when I wanted to just cease to do so. It would be two years later before we were able to adopt him as our first forever child. Those two years were terrifying. We knew from our experience with Grace that we were facing possible enormous loss and pain by loving when there were no guarantees. This time, love was not delayed, love stayed and our hearts rejoiced.

Our journey included forty-five precious foster-children and seven adoptions. Some were brief encounters but many lasted for years and still continue today. We have been blessed to see the children of some of these children that are tucked safely in my heart even though they are miles away and grown with families of their own. Although we were separated for a time from our little Grace and others that we love, our paths have crossed again and the bonds of love prevailed. This is one of the reasons I know without a doubt, in the end, love wins.

Are you facing love delayed? Are you tired of the long ride of ups,and downs? Do you long for that special someone to share your life with? Do you ache with desire to start a family of your own? Do you dream of the day when you will have your forever child? Do you find your hope wavering? Do you know what it is to face the delay of death and separation?

Take heart dear friends and be encouraged. The day is coming and it might be sooner than you think that you will be able to say what I can now shout from the rooftops!

“Love was delayed but then, my day came and Love Stayed!”

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!
Psalm 31:24

  

Even the Hairs

I think it’s only right I have curly hair and I’ll tell you why. You might even go as far as to say my hair has taught me a few life lessons. I hope this list makes you grin and think thoughts you wouldn’t have otherwise.

1 – Avoid comparison. My hair is never going to be just like anyone else’s. I am only going to be left frustrated and disappointed if I insist it must measure up to a magazine style or my friend’s.

2 – Avoid burn out. My hair can be made straight. I can even make it purple. But, the more I make it do contrary to its natural state, the more chance of burn out. Every once in a while, I need to let it rest!

3 – Avoid denial. My hair is never going to be long, silky tresses as thick and straight as a horses tail. When I come to grips with the facts of what is, I can stop fretting about what isn’t.

4 – Avoid the frizzies. Curls are one thing. Frizzy frazzled hair (and people) are another. Soothe yourself (and your hair) as needed with intentional pampering.

5 – Avoid dead ends. Honestly, they will lead you no where. You’ll feel trapped and tangled up. Go ahead and do some trimming (or pruning). Cut away the splits, the damaged and allow room for fresh growth.

6 – Avoid emotional decisions. These almost always lead to regret. Before you do what may take a long while to undo, think it over.

7 – Avoid weigh downs. Hey, too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing. That gel can be over-done and you my friend can be over-whelmed if you are constantly adding just one more thing.

8 – Avoid assumptions. The thing about curly hair is you just never know from one day to the next which way the curl will twist and turn.

9 – Avoid stiffness. Loosen up. Learn to be flexible and go with the flow. Enjoy the moment. It’s okay to have a curl out of place. Pretend you meant for it to do that in the first place.

10 – Avoid narrow-mindedness. Get a hand mirror and look at things from a new angle. Doesn’t hurt to have a good friend’s perspective either. They may see things you can’t. Trust them.

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”
(Matthew 10:30)

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