Monday, February 27, 2012

The Blame Game

Blame (verb)
1: to find fault with
2a: to hold responsible, b: to place responsibility for

Whenever something goes my way in life, I want to get the credit for it. I like being "right". Whenever something goes against my way in life, I want to blame someone or something else for it. I don't like being "wrong" or "wronged" by someone/something else. Simple as that. Humanistic. Selfish. Sad. Unfortunately, true...and if you doubt that, just ask my ever-loving, faithful, eye-rolling husband...he'll tell you how hard it is to live with me sometimes. : )

Over the past few years I've been learning, however, that life is not all about me, so these thoughts have been challenged many times. Sometimes they are small battles where I have to admit that Micah was indeed right about something I deemed he was wrong about and sometimes they are large battles where I have to admit that God was indeed right about something I deemed He was wrong about. With each challenge I find myself in a painful place where I have to lay down my humanistic and selfish tenancies and pick up, instead, the heart of Christ. With each challenge, I feel I am learning something in the core of my soul that is making me stronger for the next blow in life (because, let's face it, this is life in a fallen world and it's not going to be roses all the time). It's not easy and not without sacrifice, but the Truth I am gaining is oh so worth it in the end.

It's really quite simple to assume your definition of what is "right" for you is the Truth and is indeed what is right for you. It is altogether harder to admit you only think you know what is the right thing for you and then allow God to show you if you were correct or not. This is hard enough to sift through when you are in a situation you question, but believe is right for you, but this is challenged to the core when something happens in your life that you deem, by your standards, hands-down WRONG to you. For myself, this is inevitably where "The Blame Game" comes out with both fists swinging.
  • (junior high) I want to live my life as a Christian who likes going to church not because I'm "supposed" to but because it gives me some sort of unexplainable inward joy that makes me know I'm loved, but my friends and support system don't necessarily help enforce that decision = I was wronged.
  • (college) My boyfriend was killed and now I'm left alone instead of with the amazing future I thought God was giving me = I was wronged.
  • (post-college) My boss doesn't give my ideas or opinions of what I see hurting the ministry the time of day so when I finally said enough was enough, I got asked to leave my position = I was wronged.
  • (just married) My marriage isn't what I expected it to be. It's much harder that I thought to live with someone who doesn't think the way I think. Wasn't it supposed to be wedded bliss all the time? = I was wronged.
  • (2006) My niece was diagnosed with cancer at age 2 1/2 years old = I (my family/she) was wronged.
  • (2008) My son was born with an undetected heart defect that almost took him away from us = I (my family/he) was wronged.
  • (2008) Micah sliced his finger on a knife and needed stitches and then my gall bladder went crazy and I had immediate surgery to remove it all within weeks and months after going though our crisis of Toby's heart surgery = I (my family) was wronged.
  • (2010) My niece or nephew who had been tried for and tried for and tried for for years is finally conceived and then lost through a miscarriage several weeks later = I (my family) was wronged.
  • (current) I want to get my daughter home from Haiti now, but I can't for 1-2 years = I was wronged.
  • (current) My niece was just re-diagnosed with cancer again at age 8 = I (my family) was wronged...again.
I'm almost positive you each have your own mental list like this...sad and ugly lists that are full of "pity me" and "woes me" and "*#@! just hit the fan" moments. It took no work at all for me to think briefly back over my life and pull out some of the most deeply painful events or situations. It's always easier to find the crap of life than the good, right? All of those situations in my life are things I deem "wrong" and have blamed someone or something else for. As the definition said...I had to find someone or something "to hold responsible" for the wrongs happening in my life or to me. I'd love for you to come up with your own mental list for a moment. Really. Just pause and take a few moments to peruse your mind for those sure-as-day moments in life where you have felt wronged. Jot them down on a paper. When you are done, come back and we'll continue on. Go on...I need some company here in my misery! ; )


Now, here is where things turn really ugly (like those situations weren't ugly enough!)...I had a choice in each of the situations above as far as who I chose to subject that blame upon. Unfortunately, most of the time, that blame got pointed at God in the end. I might have briefly blamed myself or another person or a disease, but ultimately in the end, the blame got placed on God. I mean, come on, if He is supposed to be this good and all-powerful God, why would He allow all this tragedy and pain in my life, right? He deserves the ultimate blame, right? I'll re-list those same situations mentioned above and tell you exactly what my imperfect mind and raging emotions of grief did in the midst of my pain, confusion, and sadness:
  • (no excited supporters of me going to church) God, if You really wanted me to stick out this "faith thing" You showed me at church camp, You would have sent me friends who would also like to go to church in my hometown, but You haven't so I'm lost now. The Blame at God: It's Your fault I'm not being the Christian I want to be.
  • (Andy's death) God, why did You take him from me? I thought this was something so good for my life--that You would be so happy for me to have finally found a godly man to be in a relationship with. What did I do wrong? What did Andy and I do wrong that You couldn't allow us to be together? Weren't we focused on Your will for our life? The Blame at God: It's Your fault I'm a mess and un-trusting of You since You didn't allow Andy and I to remain together for our "happily ever after".
  • (My job) God, why won't you let them see my point (which, of course, would have brought much healing and goodness)? Why are my opinions not worth listening to? The Blame at God: It's Your fault this camp is going to go under since You didn't allow my opinions to be heard.
  • (Early marriage challenges) God, why would you put me with a man who is so different from me? Now we fight all the time and rarely find anything of similar interest. The Blame at God: It's Your fault we fight so much.
  • (Maddie getting cancer) God, why would you allow a little, innocent child to get cancer when she has done nothing to deserve it. The Blame at God: It's Your fault I'm questioning whether You really can protect us from harm nor even care to.
  • (Toby's heart defect) God, here we go again...just when I think I have something good in life, I can't really enjoy it because You may just decide to take it away again. Am I still not doing something right with You that You feel You have to keep teaching me this lesson? The Blame at God: It's Your fault I am always striving to do more works for You instead of resting in Your grace.
  • (continued health issues) God, seriously? Can't we just get a break around here??? The Blame at God: It's Your fault we aren't that strong in our devotions right now since You have allowed us to all go through so many health trials this year and we are just physically so exhausted we just can't read the Bible--it's just too much.
  • (miscarriage of my niece/nephew) God, what on earth are You doing? They've paid their dues. They've done everything they can...they just want a to be parents and love on a child of their own. They would be amazing parents. They were so thrilled--we were all so thrilled--You had finally answered their prayer of experiencing parenthood and now this? Why did You allow their hopes to be crushed once again and a human life to be snuffed at the same time? The Blame at God: It's Your fault I am so angry at You and again question if you really are the good God the Bible says You are.
  • (Adoption wait) God, You can do the miraculous and get Nora in my arms immediately if You want to, so why are You not doing that? We have most of the money so there is nothing really holding us back on our end of the adoption. Why is having her in an orphanage in Haiti for her most formative years better than in my home? Don't You think she should be in my arms? The Blame at God: It's Your fault I question if the miraculous God of the Bible is still the same God of today.
  • (Maddie's cancer returning) God, again??? Why would You ever have her go through all of this and more this time? Why are You robbing her of her childhood and life and fun times with friends at school and gatherings with her cousins? Wasn't one round of cancer enough? Why would You allow her to suffer through the effects of chemo and steroids and surgeries and cancer all over again. Why are You depriving even our kids from a normal life with their closest cousin? The Blame at God: It's Your fault I question if I should really pray to You for anything or trust You at all to have any power or control over what happens in this world since You have once again allowed sickness to be bigger than You.

Well, this just keeps getting prettier, doesn't it! Eeek, scary! : ( Again, maybe I'm being selfish here, but go back to your own list and don't leave me hanging in this scary place alone! I ask you to take a moment and look over your own list of "wrongs done to you". Will you allow yourself to be gut-wrenchingly honest with yourself? What or who have you been placing the blame on in each situation? What are the things you are blaming on God? How are you playing "The Blame Game"?


Well, now that we are all feeling oh so wonderful together, let's move on so we don't stay in this heap of crap for long. This is truly the key moment here, friends. Satan wants nothing more than for us to stay in this very moment. For us to not completely turn our back on God and for us to not completely believe the Truth of who God is so that his demolishing fun is halted. He would rather us stay right where we think we still believe in God and really want to believe in God, but yet don't have complete trust and faith in Him either because of these other thoughts and feelings going though our minds and hearts. This is where Satan has the best time--he can spread such lies and deception and do soooo much damage to our thoughts all in the name of "Is God really who He said He was/is????" When Satan has us listening to Truth but dismissing it as Truth because of the doubts and deceptions he has planted in our heads, he has us just where he wants us. Do you know why? Because when we talk to others about our problems in this frame of mind, we then also spread that doubt to everyone else. Yep, we do. Sickening isn't it. Instead of spreading God's goodness and love to others, we spread doubt and fear that God may not be who He says He is. Our questioning makes them question. Our blame makes them blame. Some will be strong enough to resist it, but I fear many are weak just like us and fall trap to Satan's schemes just as we have. Just as we were playing the "blame game", Satan is playing a game with us when we are in this place. He is using us, friends, unrightfully, to continue the spread of his deception...and we are unknowingly letting him.

How does that make you feel? I don't know about you, but when I see this moment for what it really is, it fires up a feeling of a warrior in me. I am being used and that is WRONG! Hmm....does that sound familiar? Something inside me KNOWS I'm a child of the Most High God and a believer of Him. Something inside me KNOWS that I am not called to be a spreader of lies and doubt--that I am loved and called to love others and share the Truth with them. Something that wants to fight back against a devil that is making me believe things that, even though I don't understand them completely, I know are not the ultimate Truth. That "something" inside of me is none other than the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that God sent immediately to inhabit my soul when I said yes to Him. Once the Holy Spirit took up home inside of me--inside of you--It will NEVER leave us. No matter how much we doubt, question, fear, make mistakes, or mistrust God, His Holy Spirit will remain in us. It is that still, small voice that raises up out of the muck of all those doubts, fears, pain, and anger in a hope that we can still overcome these feelings. It's that still, small voice that says, "No, Angie, don't believe it--it's not True and you know it. You are so weak right now, but come on, you KNOW it's not True. Be patient and wait on the Lord to show you the Truth." Satan can not touch that part of us. Did you know that? Let me repeat it again--Satan CAN NOT touch that part of us. He can get into our thoughts, but he can't get into our spirit--that is claimed, protected, and forever "purchased" by Jesus. Satan has no power to touch that Holy Spirit part of us because he was already defeated by It. That, my friends, is the TRUTH. Praise God and thanks be to Him for this gift!!! It is in moments of life like these that the gift of the Holy Spirit in our souls is amazingly critical and beautiful.

So what do we do with it? What do we do now that we know there is something within us that still believes, and is fighting to overcome all these other very valid and real emotions and questions and doubts when things in life go wrong? Something that not only wants to fight against all that crap we are going through, but has actually already taken a victory over that crap and simply wants to be given Its proper recognition? Well...we make a choice. (I can almost see your eye rolls right now.) It's true though...we make a choice. I know you want a full-blown, completely laid out plan of attack from me, but I can't give that to you. That is something you will have to do some searching on your own (with the Father) to find out what will work best for you. What is best for me may not be best for you. The only thing I can tell you is you will have to make a choice. I had to make a choice. Will you still decide to remain where Satan can play and you will undoubtedly stay exactly where you are...feeling confused and stuck and hopeless? Will you decide to ignore the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit in you and spread the lies of Satan to others who are in their own places of pain? Will you decide to let the evil of the world get the best of you? Or, will you decide to simply tell God you are making a choice this day to believe Him for who He says He is. That you choose to believe the Holy Spirit is within you and can be trusted. That you choose to push past this playground of Satan and into the safety of God's promises for you. It's your choice. It's your time. It's your life. It's really up to you. You can place your blame on a God who really is good and loves you and cares for you, or you can place your blame on Satan who really is evil and hates you and wants nothing else but to see your body, spirit, soul, and Kingdom effect on this world die. It's your choice to make.

If you decide to chose Christ, like I have once again in these last few weeks, you will be amazed at what Truths He will remind you of when you re-open your heart and soul to Him and Him only. This is where I will take you next...what Truths He has so lovingly and excitedly reminded me of in my current situations of life. I do hope you will continue on this journey with me. I love you all so much and you are each dear to me and to the Lord. He is not the One to blame, friends. He just simply isn't and that is the Truth.

Romans 5: 1-11 (The Message)

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

3-5There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way. If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we're at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life! Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose. We sing and shout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Do You Want To Get Well?--Part 2

So, do you? Do you want to get well? I'm hoping I've left you enough time from the end of the last post to sufficiently wrestle with that you want to get well?

Folks, there is something to this sole question that actually contains one of the main, if not THE main key to this whole dilemma. Do you want to get well? Let's break that question down a bit, shall we??? At one point in life I was taught to study Scripture one word at a time. Seriously. One word at a time. It is a life-changing way to look through the Bible because it takes the focus off of the big picture and draws you into something so intimate, simple and lovely. It takes off the pressure to read a whole chapter at a time or a whole book at a time and allows you to study just one verse or even just one phrase of a verse much more closely. When I choose to study Scripture like this, God opens up His Word to me in such vivid and amazing ways I wonder why I ever read it in larger chunks (although that is really good too). I truly believe if I read Scripture this way there is not one bit of the Bible I can't relate to in some way--God gets right to my soul this way. So, anyway, can we do that together here briefly with this question taken right from Scripture? Read that question over and over with me with your emphasis on one word above all the others each time. Like this:

DO you want to get well?

Do YOU want to get well?

Do you WANT to get well?

Do you want to GET well?

Do you want to get WELL?

You see, by placing specific emphasis on each of those words, it causes our mind to think in different ways about the same sentence. I could spend an entire day (if I had it) diving into this little 6 word question and finding an incredible amount of "meat" God had for me. Here's an abbreviated version...

DO: Well, do I? There are many times in life I'd LIKE to get well or I think I should get well or I hope that somebody makes me well and even times when I honestly don't really want to get well. The first step to getting better is admitting or recognizing I have a problem, right? So admitting I was in a place in my life (and specifically for me these past few weeks, a place in my spiritual life) that I knew I was not healthy was step number one. Step number two, however, required more action from me. I not only had to admit I was not healthy, but that I actually don't like being sick and I wanted to get better. So what about you? DO you want to get well?

YOU: I found myself facing this question head on--Do you want to get well or do you want others to do something for you to make you well? Our society is doing a wonderful job of making us feel like we are kings and queens who need to be put above all others and have life served to us on a silver platter. I bet there was something in my original post that even had you coming back for more because you thought, hoped, or expected me to just hand you some sort of profound answer to solve your problems. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but in order to find the healing I just found, YOU are actually going to have to do some work for yourself. Like I said in my first post--we can go searching for answers and encouragement and sympathy from our friends all we want but at some point we have to recognize that they really don't have solutions for us that are lasting. Only Jesus has that for us and He required me to search for what I wanted in order to get well. So what about you? So, do YOU want to do the work to get well or are you satisfied with living life sick?

WANT: It's funny to me that this society I mentioned above seems to appeal to the WANT in all of us (which we easily succumb to), but when the Bible asks us to do the same thing we throw our hands up in the air exclaiming we just couldn't do anything for ourselves because that would be so prideful! For Heaven's sake, aren't we supposed to be humble? : ) Yet here is Jesus speaking to this man's very core desire. It's as if Jesus was saying, "Do you WANT to get well, cripple man of 38 years? What do you really, really, really WANT because I think I have it for you and believe me, it's better than anything the world will offer you!" Our society is screaming at us phrases such as...Get what you want. Satisfy your desires. Be selfish. BUT when it comes to something of our faith we, for some reason, think we have to be counter-cultural. We couldn't possibly try to get something we actually WANT--even when what we WANT is the healthiest, most pure, and lovely thing God has for us...the abundant, free life He has promised us. I discovered over the past few weeks that what I WANT is what Jesus has for me--health--and I will selfishly do what I have to to get it. What about you? Do you want to get well?

GET: When I'm reading Scripture this way there always tends to be words my mind automatically skip over. From my experience, those are sometimes the very words that end up having the most meaning for me. So is the case with the word "get" here. Do you want to get well? If I am going to get my groceries, I have to go to the store and purchase them. If I am going to get an award, I would have had to have done something to deserve it. If I am going to get a good grade on a test, I would have to study hard and know the information. Point being--if I want to GET well, it requires action from me because it means it's not something I currently have, therefore, will have to get it from someone or something else. It means I'm going to have to go searching for it and then somehow purchase it or earn it or something in order to call it mine.

Because this health I was searching for was a spiritual health, I had a huge and blessed gift when I decided to finally pursue "getting" it. Do you know what it was? It was grace. Grace that said, "Really, Angie, the spiritual health you desire--the spiritual health you want--is pretty darn pricey. If you really want to get well you will have to pay for it with your life. (Wow.) But, I have GOOD news for you! Because you love Jesus Christ and have already chosen to follow Him, you can have this health for free. Yes, it still cost someone--you don't really GET anything for free in this world, but don't worry, Jesus paid the price for you. Why would He do that you wonder? Well, because first of all, He loves you, and second of all, because this spiritual health you are seeking, desiring, and wanting is exactly what He's always wanted you to have. He's so incredibly thrilled you are finally partaking of it since it's been there for you all along. What a glorious day this is!" So, what about you? Are you ready to go GET the health that He has for you?

WELL: When I feel physically sick I can certainly tell. I get fevers, a sore throat, aches, pains, or chills and I just want to lay around and sleep. I know I am's not normal, it's not good. When I am physically well I can tell that too. I can do the things I'm supposed to do--like take care of our kids, run to the grocery, go to church, take a walk, eat food, etc. I am active and typically a happy person. When it came to my spiritual health of late, I noticed the same things happening on a different level. I didn't want to read the Bible, I didn't want to sing the worship songs at church, and I didn't want to journal out my prayers. I quite literally wanted to sit on the couch and watch movies, tv, and "veg". My prayers became short and choppy thoughts instead of longer dwellings. They were frustrating and angry and very discouraging because I couldn't figure things out. I was agitated and hurting. If I was spiritually healthy I wouldn't have looked like that. I would be just like I am when I'm physically healthy--able to do what I'm supposed to do. Spiritually speaking, those things would include worshiping God, praying for others, loving the esteemed woman God has made me to be, praising Him for His Goodness, and ministering and/or serving others in order to build His Kingdom. I knew I was not healthy--I was sick.

Did I want to get back to that spiritual and life-giving health or was I okay with just watching tv every night? Well, to be honest, I was okay with the tv thing for a few days, but then it started to eat me alive. I just know this life is meant for more and it was driving me nuts that I didn't have the same passion and drive for living it as I knew I had had before deep down inside of me. Did I want to get WELL? Heck yes I did. What about you? Do you want to get well? Not just the kind of health that will tide you over till the next sickness, but the kind of health that will sustain you in the midst of any kind of sickness that could be thrown at you?

So, friends, that is just the beginning. The beginning question that MUST be asked before diving into what God allowed me to discover with Him and in Him these last few weeks--the beginning question that MUST be asked before diving into what God wants you to discover too. It has to be asked because if you can not answer that question with an honest, heart-felt, sincere YES!!!! then I doubt you will really get the full benefits of the health God is offering you. I would HIGHLY encourage you to not proceed further and stay right in your misery until you are are ready to say YES to Jesus' offer. The benefits of His "get well plan" will far surpass any other offers you will undoubtedly get along the journey, but it's not worth hearing or seeing His offer in front of you but not be able or willing to gobble it right up. Like I said, I stayed watching tv for a couple days too, ya know. Please understand I'm not trying to encourage everyone to stay pathetic in order to more greatly enjoy spiritual health in the end, but what I am saying is if you are going to get the blessings of the Lord's health on your life, they are only truly enjoyed when you have fully submitted yourself to the process of letting Him heal you instead of going into it half-heartedly.

If you are like me, when you are ready to talk to the Big Guy about getting well, it will be worth everything you will sacrifice to get it. And once you get it, you will look back at what you were clinging to and simply roll your eyes in disbelief you ever allowed yourself to stay there as long as you did. Just saying...

Stay tuned for more of my specific journey over the past few weeks. Undoubtedly your journey will be different than mine (unless you, too, have an 8 year old niece who just got re-diagnosed with cancer and an adoption of a little girl from Haiti that seems to be taking longer than you think it should, and perhaps a kindergartner who you are struggling to know what to do with as you try to balance letting her be a kid while also wanting her to do well in school), but I hope and truly think there are things I've learned that will cross the boundaries of specific situations and apply to whatever you are facing in life. I would love to share a bit of my discoveries with you in hopes this very thing would happen. Till next time...I'd love to hear your own thoughts about this very first and all important question we just devoured together. Feel free to submit a comment or get in touch with me on facebook, email, phone, or if you live close enough I'd love to talk face-to-face --if you remember how to communicate that way??? : )

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Do You Want To Get Well?

Have you ever gone through a period of time in life where you feel like God is silent? Have you ever found yourself frantic for answers in the midst of that silence? For me, this typically happens when I start to question, doubt, or feel like I must have fallen asleep when God turned over the next page because clearly now I am not on the same page as Him. Am I alone there or can I get about a million others raising their hands with me saying they've been there too?

It's not a pleasant feeling...feeling like you are gasping for air, grabbing at your friends for encouragement, comfort, or sympathy, wanting to look to God and in His Word for answers to your incredibly hard questions (because you know that's what you are supposed to do) but not having enough gumption or willingness or even energy to crack the Book open. Feeling like your anxiety, worry, and stress levels are about to blow your roof off. Those moments in life when you feel like you are quite literally stuck with two feet on the ground in a big ole' mess of thick mud and as much as you know you need to get out of that funk and get your soul back to the peace it is missing, you. just. can't. move.

It's not that you don't know the Truth that can set you free from that mud trap--you definitely know the Truth in your head, but because all your emotions are getting jumbled up in the mix of those thoughts, you can't seem to move past your doubts, anger, sadness, and dare I even say it--lies you are choosing to believe or act out of despite your knowledge of the Truth. All of this leaves you suffocating, lonely, desperate, clinging, and with a sense of hopelessness that for some reason you just can't seem to get yourself up by your own bootstraps and get on with life. Does any of this sound familiar? Have any of you been there before--for short periods of time, for long stretches of time? Well, I have. I have several times in life, but I have even been here this past month briefly...but the good news--no--the GOOD news, is that I'm not there now and I'm about to tell you why.

What I'm about to tell you will not prove that I finally have the answers I had been searching for. It will not tell you I now have the secret solution to never getting in that mud hole again. It will not make you see I was somehow transformed into a glowing face of perfection as God met me. It will not be the solution for you...or maybe it will will not say that it IS the solution for you. What it will do is show you I am a work in progress just like you. It will show you that our God who loves us can handle big doubts and questions and anger and sadness and love us enough to not leave us there. It will show you that even though friends are wonderful tools for God to use, it is undoubtedly GOD who does the work in your heart, head, and life. It will show you that with each time we pass through this thick, dark, claustrophobic place in our life, God wants to birth something new and refreshing and life-giving in us and hopefully through us. Just as a baby has to live in a period of darkness and tightness and "nothingness" while it is developing and growing and getting life-giving nutrients, so too, we sometimes have to go through those places while God develops something precious in us. Just as that baby who has been alone in the dark is welcomed into this world with loving arms, so too, we will emerge from that dark and lonely place into the arms of a God who loves us more than anyone or anything ever could. My story over these past few weeks WILL tell you that, if you are ready to hear it.

So, are you ready? Are you chomping at the bit? Are you dying to know what happened? Are you really wanting to find your own feet free from that mud? Are you really wanting the questions in your head silenced? Are you really ready for the God of the Bible to speak to your lonely self at the most hurting and stuck place in your life?

In John 5:5-6 it reads, "One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Have you had these questions, doubts, fears, lies, struggles, stress, anxiety, whatever for long enough that Jesus is asking you the question, "Do you want to get well?"

If so, I hope you will keep with me here for a few days while I share my story. Until my next post, I simply ask you to really think inwardly and answer that question Jesus is asking of you, "Do you WANT to get well?"

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Let the Process Begin

We are so happy to finally post this! We just got an email from our orphanage director last night that let us know we are FINALLY entered into IBESR (Haitian Social Services) which is the first big step on the Haitian end of this process. YEAHHHHHH!!!! Our 1-2 year wait has officially now begun!

Please continue to pray for our paperwork to miraculously continue on through all the next steps in a timely fashion and we would be able to bring Nora home closer to the year end of that wait time than the 2 year end. We believe God wants her in our arms, so we are praying for that to be so as quickly as He can make it happen.

THANK YOU to all who have been praying for us so far in this process--we are blessed and excited to be moving forward once again!

Friday, February 17, 2012

All About Me...

In elementary school we had an assignment to write a booklet entitled "All About Me". I was recently given this old booklet by my parents (yep, they kept it along with a lot of other old treasures) to read again. It was fun to read back through it. I realized I've never really posted anything extensive about me on this blog. I post a lot of what I think or feel about life or what all is going on currently in my life, but I haven't really told you much about my background. With that, I decided I would change it up a bit today and give you an updated version of an "All About Me" post. Hopefully, if you were curious about my background at all, you will learn a bit more about the Angie Thieszen behind these writings by the end of this. Perhaps you will also find some good tips or ideas that can be helpful for your own life...or maybe you will fall asleep...who knows. At any rate, I will share a bit of me with you...and I apologize for the quality of photos--they are just pictures of old pictures.

The Background of Me
  • I was born and raised in the same 2 bedroom house my parents thought would be their "starter home". They still live there. I am from Defiance, Ohio. The running joke is that I was born in Defiance, lived most of my life in Defiance, and even got married in Defiance. At least I can now say my children were not born in Defiance too...that has to help, right???

(yes, Lily looks a lot like her Mama when she was little)

  • I have one older sister, Amy, who is one of my best friends. I love her. We got along well growing up and we fought well growing up. Our main fights I remember began when we finally made it to the same school together--she as a junior and I as a freshman...I learned quickly it was not cool to come downstairs in the morning wearing the same shirt as she was wearing. I also learned quickly it wasn't cool to date one of her friends...ouch. The following year was quite the opposite--she as a senior and I as a sophomore--we would even be known to give each other a hug in the hallway if we saw each other. We are similar to each other in some ways and altogether different in other ways. We enjoy the same passions of loving our kids, loving our God, scrapbooking, and being organized! : ) Again, I love her.
  • My parents are great supporters of me in life. I don't remember many activities I was involved in growing up where I didn't have at least one of them in attendance cheering me on. I was highly involved in high school so that was not an easy task...volleyball, musicals, church choir, youth group, national honor society, boosters, etc. They were always there. Just like my sister and my relationship, my parents and I are also very similar in some areas and different in others. I tend to carry on their perfectionism quite well, my mom's artistic talents, and my dad's shooting talents...yep, as in shooting a gun...for a brief time in life some people called me "Angie Oakley" : ) I am blessed they are in my life and forever grateful for all they have taught me and still teach me today. I love them too.
  • I grew up attending a United Methodist church...the church with the tallest steeple in Defiance. I enjoyed church more socially growing up than anything else. My spiritual backbone, if you will, was formed more in my attendance of church camp in the summer. I still to this day have friendships with some of those camper friends from 6th grade and up. You literally spend one week of time with a few people who become friends for life--it's so cool! That spiritual backbone was still pretty weak throughout high school as I struggled with living out my faith through the week at school while also still endlessly trying to fit in with the "popular" people and not be made fun of. I can say I enjoyed my years at good ole' DHS, but I also can stamp those years as some really hard ones to truly be "me". It wasn't until college that my feet got firmly planted and I found my roots in my spiritual soil.
  • I attended Bluffton College (now Bluffton University) in Bluffton, Ohio. It's a Mennonite college, which as a senior in high school, meant they were Amish who used electricity. Ha! Oh, how my eyes were opened in my college years. (For those of you still wondering--that isn't true...they are not Amish who have electricity.) I fell in love with everything about college. My friendships, my profs, my religious life activities, *most* of my classes, my B.A.S.I.C. group, my freedom to be the real me. It was a priceless four years of my life I wouldn't trade for the world. I began as an Art Education major, but by the end of my "observation" quarter of a high school art class my freshmen year, I knew I wasn't meant to dress up and go into the same classroom every day to teach art. A new major was being developed that fit me oh so much better--Youth Ministry/Recreation. So, I switched over and majored in that, intending to go into camping ministry, and minored in Art. College, however, was not so much about the classes for me as much as the life and relationships formed there. It was some of my hardest years and best years. I learned what it was like to have girlfriends who really cared about me instead of what name-brand whatever I was wearing. My boyfriend (whom I intended to marry) was tragically killed in a work accident the first day of classes my sophomore year. My faith was incredibly challenged--largely due to the event I just mentioned, but also for many other reasons. My heart was severely broken in the loss of Andy, but yet healed by an amazing God who loved me ever so tenderly and solidly as I threw anger and questions and anything I ever wanted to in His face. He is a BIG God who can handle our piddly little selves. I truly fell in love with God at Bluffton. My mission in life became solid--"to be real" with others and let others know we are not going through this life alone.
  • After graduation from college, I found myself working at a small camp in Michigan (Five Pines Ministries) where I raised half of my measly salary. I lived alone in a small apartment in Niles and I LOVED living on my own. It's another one of those times in my life I wouldn't trade for the world. Of course I would have LOVED to have been married at that point because pretty much ALL of my friends were getting married, but I also thoroughly loved my independence and the challenge to live alone for a while. I learned A LOT in that year and a half between my career, my personal life, and my relationships in each of those areas. Looking back, I can definitely say I was a very selfish person, but no one knows that or understands that when you are single and simply living life for yourself.
  • From Five Pines I took a mini "break" from ministry due to burn out and worked in the shoe department at JC Penneys in Mishawaka. It was there I found my passion for ministry rekindled by my incredibly weird, forward, sinful, and yet also fun and lovely co-workers. I hate feet and God stuck me in the shoe department, go figure. It was what I needed. (Um, no photo here thankfully because, again, I don't like feet.)
  • Then onward to my next camping ministry job at Camp Friedenswald where I got more than I thought I would. I got a job I absolutely loved and I got a man I absolutely loved. My job was using my giftings and passions in a way that brought life to my soul and my man brought me the encouragement and friendship I was missing out on being single. I met Micah on my first day there, we began dating a month later, got engaged 4 months later, and married a year and 4 days after we met. Living, working, eating, ministering, and having fun on the same camp grounds made getting to know one another almost easy so our whirlwind romance was actually quite grounded and wonderful.
  • The brief version of what is after that goes like this: Micah got redirected by the Lord to his true calling of nursing & my job was changing at camp with more responsibilities and less pay and a competition for the job against my best friend so we packed up and moved to Goshen. I worked as an assistant manager at the local Christian bookstore while Micah finished up his second degree. We had a our first baby 2 weeks after he graduated, our second baby 21 months after that, and our third baby 21 1/2 months after that. All the in-between times were either spent recovering from birth, breast-feeding, or dealing with the next pregnancy. That's all I can remember really--everything else was a blur. J/K, but kinda not really.
  • That leaves us at today--I'm at home taking care of those kids and our home life. Micah is still the man of my life and although marriage isn't always roses and we've had to make our way through some thorn bushes, we have become closer, more in love, and more of a helpmate to each other because of our commitment to this marriage. I truly love Micah and respect him for the man God has made him to be...he's the strength of God in my life. As much as we love our three beautiful children and felt complete when Quinn graced our lives, God has told us He isn't done with our family quite yet and we are in the current swings of adopting our fourth child--a baby girl named Nora who is currently being cared for in Haiti. I have yet to know all the reasons Nora will bless our lives, but let me be the first to tell you she has already begun doing just that and she's not even home yet! I'm blessed for the life God has given me.

Other Random Things About Me

  • My favorite pastimes: journaling (and now blogging), digital scrapbooking (I use Mixbook and would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone interested), connecting with others from my past and present on facebook, taking a walk in my subdivision or in the woods--altogether different from one another, but both enjoyable, water aerobics when I can
  • My favorite TV shows: My hubby and I share quality time each week watching Castle. We love it and we love spending time together watching it. I also enjoy The Biggest Loser, Parenthood, and the Antique Road Show. : ) We don't have cable and that's a good thing.
  • My favorite foods: ice cream, pizza, cucumbers, mac-n-cheese, strawberries, nectarines, pasta...I don't stuff myself full of these just because they are my favorites--I'd be miserably large. Ha!
  • My favorite baby items (for those still yet to be a Mommy, here are some of my favorites): Medela double electric breast pump (don't even think about a single hand-held one--had it for Lily and it was the worst year of my life as far as breastfeeding), zip-up baby sleeper bags (wonderful when you have to wake up throughout a night to change them and NOT have to snap all those stupid snaps in the dark when you are about ready to pass out from sleep deprivation), paci's where the handle falls flat with the front of the paci so they can't grab it and pull it out on their own all night long, lanolin for Mommy, Bumbo chair, Ministar or similar brand slipper shoes, Garanimals Shampoo Rinse Cup from Walmart, and many others I'm sure I'm forgetting right now...that could be a blog post in and of itself.
  • My pet peeves and other things I don't really like: raindrops on the car windshield, windshield wipers that leave streaks, feet and toes, cupboards and drawers being left open (ehem, Micah), being late (which I am all the time with 3 kids and I h.a.t.e. it), disorganization, slimy or sticky textured stuff, cold weather and being cold in general, fakeness, bare feet (yep, I'm a sock girl for sure), magazines and books (I really struggle with reading, which will also be funny seeings how my next bullet point is a big ole list of my favorite books...hmmm...)
  • My favorite books: Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love (by Raymond R. Mitsch & Lynn Brookside), A Grace Disguised; How the Soul Grows Through Loss (by Gerald L. Sittser), The Search for Significance (by Robert McGee), The Shack (by William Paul Young), So Long Insecurity; You've Been a Bad Friend to Us (by Beth Moore), The Sexually Confident Wife (*insert blush* by Shannon Ethridge), Experiencing God (by Henry T. Blackaby & Claude V. King), Love & Respect (by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs), God Calling (a daily devotional edited by A.J. Russell), Jesus (by Bruce Marchiano), The Journey of Desire (John Eldredge), Lies Women Believe (Nancy Leigh DeMoss), Sheet Music (by Kevin Leman)
  • My favorite singers/bands/kinds of music: Broadway/Musicals, Latin/Zumba, Blues/Soul, Christian Worship and Rock, Instrumental, Hip Hop (yep, I love it all pretty much). Travis Cottrell, Norah Jones, Steven Curtis Chapman, Hillsong United, Hillsong, Aaron Shust, Chris Tomlin, Jason Gray, JJ Heller, Selah, Fee
  • Things I'm good at artistically even though I don't always have time to do them: watercolor painting, Etch-A-Sketching, painting murals, digital scrapbooking, card making
  • My favorite vacation spots: (this is a tough one because my parents got us to every state but 3 by the time we graduated high school) Monhican Island, Maine (hands down winner); Boothbay Harbor, Maine; Glacier Mountain National Park; Sea of Galilee; Grand Canyon; The Redwoods
  • Some Hard Things in Life So Far: our son, Toby's emergency heart surgery, Andy Lehman's death, Maddie's cancer, Relationships that lack openness and communication, Adoption process and wait
  • Some Amazing Things in Life So Far: Jerusalem trip, Women's Walk With Christ weekend experience, 3 natural childbirths, watching live musicals (such as Phantom, Miss Saigon, Secret Garden, Les Mis, Jekyl & Hyde, and Wicked), chopping your hair off so short you can literally be done with it in less than 1 minute, being married to Micah Thieszen and all that comes with that--hubba, hubba, wink, wink.
  • Favorite Things of My Normal Days: hearing Toby get this little high-pitched voice while he plays with his toys having them talk to each other, Quinn's random willingness to cuddle in my arms, Lily's desire for more and more "girl time" alone with me, wearing sweatpants, jammin' to music as I clean the house, hearing the garage door open (which to all us stay-at-home moms, signals the homecoming of reinforcement), collapsing on the couch with Micah when the kids are in bed, a good and long hot shower without being interrupted by anyone, getting a new email or picture of Nora on the computer
  • Some of the things I still want to do in life (a portion of my bucket list):
-Trip to Italy with my hubby
-Be a part of an archeological dig
-Get a professional whole day spa experience
-Write a book (I have no idea what that should be about, but my hubby says I'm going to someday and I'm open to suggestions...)
-Go to a ball with my husband with a big beautiful dress and feel like a princess (perhaps at the end of my spa day)
-Have a huge get together of all my friends from all areas and times of my life like all the church camp experiences over the years (Creative Arts Camp, Night Camp, Camp Hebron, Five Pines, Friedenswald) , HOBY, school friends from growing up, college, extended family, Chrysalis, WWWC, and Goshen friends and just reflect on the goodness of my life. I'd prefer that be while I'm living instead of at my funeral when I will miss out of the fun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Beautiful, Bald and Bold

We Skyped with Maddie on Sunday and we knew from our conversation with her she was starting to lose her hair (although she looked super cute in her long pigtails and bandana while we were on with her). Then we got the message from Dan on their caring page last night explaining she was certainly now bald. I've been crying off and on the last several days at the thought of seeing my beautiful young niece getting weaker and losing her hair. It's something I don't like to face...don't want to face...can never really be prepared to face. It's hard enough for me to see anyone suffering the effects of the fight of cancer, but when it becomes your 8 year old niece in her second battle of this disease, there is an even greater sense of anger and sadness for what this disease, and the treatment for it, takes from a person.


Today, I emailed Amy & Dan and asked if they could send me a picture of Maddie. I wasn't sure why I felt so desperate to see her bald, but I did. Maybe because I just love her so much and wanted to finally face this reality. Somehow, for some reason, I knew I needed to see a picture of her. Once the picture came in, I figured out why God so desperately needed me to see it. This photo has changed my heart and attitude completely.

Instead of seeing a little child who is sick and becoming weaker, I saw before me a beautiful, bald, and bold young woman who is a fighter. Instead of seeing my precious Maddie, who I remember laying eyes on for the first time all wrapped in her blanket like a burrito in the middle of her crib at a few weeks old, seeming sad and defeated, I saw a Maddie with the look of "Cancer, you can't touch me. I am better than you." Instead of seeing what I dreaded, I saw what I aspire to be...a fighter for life...and not just life, but abundant life straight from the God of creation. Instead of seeing sadness, frustration, and anger, I saw joy amidst the pain, determination, and an "onward with life" look in Maddie's eyes.

Maddie is beautiful. Hair or no hair--cancer or no cancer. She is simply beautiful. Inside and out. Period.

Maddie is bald. That is the new reality to her life and even though we may see it first as a symbol of something she has lost unfairly in this life because of cancer, it is also a symbol of what she can beat in this life--the victory over this battle of cancer is hers for the taking...I truly believe that.

Maddie is bold. She has not once shied away from telling others, telling her parents, or telling her doctors that Jesus is behind the doctors and nurses healing her body from cancer. If she is willing to be that bold then why shouldn't we be with her?

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." - I Peter 5:10-11

Thank You, God, for Maddie. Thank You for the picture I received today to lift my spirits and give me a refreshed sense of fight in this life. Thank You for Your love and care for Maddie and for Your desire to see her strong, firm, and steadfast. Thank You for Your healing power upon her.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday-the start of the week, the start of the process?

Monday. Today is the start of another week. I know Sunday is the actual start of a week, but for some reason I have always associated Sunday with the end of a week and Monday as the start to another. Maybe I need to rethink wouldn't make Mondays seem so doom and gloom--it would instead make them the second day of the week and one more day closer to the weekend...hmmm...that actually really sounds nice. Anyway, no matter how you look at it, it is Monday and it is the start of many people's "work" week I guess. With the start of a new week, I find myself sitting here wondering if today will also be the start of something bigger for our family...the start of the Haitian end of this adoption process.

We received an email from our orphanage director late last week explaining she had talked with her Haitian lawyer and our paperwork as well as Nora's paperwork were ready to go to IBESR. He told her he planned to take them to IBESR (Haitian Social Services) on Monday....that's TODAY!!! I'm not holding my breath that this will actually happen today because a "Haitian Monday" could very well be today or some other day this week or perhaps whenever he can get to IBESR. I can only hope and pray that it will actually be today. I would LOVE for it to be today! What a wonderful Valentine's Day gift that would be--a true act of love.

So you may be asking what all this means? Why would it mean so much to get the paperwork to IBESR today? Well, it would mean our 1-2 year wait timeline will f.i.n.a.l.l.y. begin. We are just over 7 months into our own timeline now, but have yet to start the 1-2 year time frame we were given as far as how long it takes to adopt a child from Haiti. Yep, 222 days ago Micah and I agreed this adoption was something God was indeed calling us to and we began the very next morning by contacting the orphanage and beginning the paperwork. 222 days. Ooftah. Let me show you that in a more visual way...

These are the paper chain links we have been forming in Lily and Nora's room. At the very beginning of this process we knew this wait would be very, very hard for our kids to understand. They are all under the age of 6 and they typically want things instantly. We don't even tell them what the weekend plans are until it's Friday if we don't want to be asked about it every minute of every day until it actually is the weekend. However, with this process, we knew we wanted them to be a vital part of everything--including the decision for us to adopt in the first place so that meant we needed to tell them right away about our plans. With their blessing we began this process and it didn't take long before we began hearing the daily question from Lily, "Is Nora coming home today?" Ahhh...we knew then we had to do something to help pass the time for her so we started looping these chains. One chain link for every day we are waiting for Nora to come home. Some links have super special meanings like this one...

Yes, this chain will most likely encompass the top rim of their room many times over by the time the last link is placed on, but what a beautiful mess of chain links it will be. It has certainly helped. It gives Lily, especially, a way to track this process and be involved. Typically she adds a link or reminds us to add a link to it each night before going to's a nice way to end the day. We pray for Nora's safety, pray that God would move this adoption along quickly, and then add a link to the chain. Here is what's left before we start our second time round the room--maybe we'll get to our second trip before those links overlap. Who knows...

My prayer is we can tag today's link with another special message--"Feb. 13-Entered IBESR". Will you pray the same prayer with us? We appreciate your love and support of us and Nora in this process...especially today, on day 222...a purple, flowered chain link that needs a message written on it with love! Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Be The Match

This weekend I decided to try to save a life. Yes, I have a specific life in my mind (our niece, Maddie), but the chances of me saving her life are very slim. However, despite my odds being low for Maddie, I still decided to go for it because ultimately maybe there is another "Maddie" out there I would be matched with. Save a life you may ask??? Yes, I signed up to be a bone marrow donor and that act could very well save another life.

Being put on the bone marrow donor registry was not a decision I quickly came to, however, so I wanted to honestly share my hesitant process in case others out there are struggling and questioning whether they should do this or not.

One would think my decision would be a no-brainer since I know my blood type already matches Maddie's and she needs to have a bone marrow transplant in the next several months, but as much as I wish that was the way it went down in my brain, it didn't. If you know our family well at all, you will already know that I don't do "medical things" well...Micah is clearly the nurse of our family! Occasionally my stomach still churns just taking Micah something at work and he's been a nurse for over 6 years. I've gotten better over the years with things like my kidney infection, 3 natural childbirths, Toby's heart surgery, my gall bladder removed, and Toby's treadmill accident to deal with, but nonetheless I become a big physical mess when I have to deal with bodily fluids or anything medical. So, that was a big hesitation of mine from the get-go. I've never donated blood and get queasy just thinking about it. If you are like me, the idea of donating bone marrow does something violently wrong inside your body.

Because of my physical hesitation, I then justified it by saying, "Well, I'll just wait to see if Sydney is a match first since she'd be the best match possible." That, along with other phrases such as, "Birth relatives have a very low chance of being a match." or "Once you go through childbirth, your body changes so much you are rarely a match for someone. The best match will probably be a mid-aged, fit, male." kept me thinking I probably would never be a match for anyone anyway so what's the big deal? Then my brain would go here to justify my lack of commitment..."How on earth would I make this work with my own kids. Who would take care of them while I was getting this procedure done? I just don't know if this is the best thing to be dealing with right now. We have so much on our plate already with 3 kids and an adoption to be working through." Blah, blah, blah. Basically, my brain and uncomfortable body was searching for any and every phrase I could hear that would justify me to NOT sign up. It's really not anything I WANT to do so being excused by someone would have been great.

However, all the while those thoughts were going through my head, they were also being surrounded by feelings of guilt. Guilt that I was being so selfish. Seriously? Was I really allowing my hesitancy with medical junk to keep me from saving another person's life? Was I allowing my fears to overtake my actions? Flat out answer...yep, I was. The reality of being a bone marrow donor is that if I am a match to someone out there, I will go through a procedure that will probably get my body all worked up for a little while (because that's just me), go through a simple surgery, and have about a 1-3 week lower back pain afterwards...and then I'll be absolutely fine and back to normal. But, then again, would I? I'm now banking on the fact that my "normal" would be so drastically different knowing that I just helped save someone's life. I think, in the end, my sacrifice would far be outweighed by the humbled honor that God gave me the chance to give another precious child of His the chance to run, laugh with friends, eat an ice cream sundae, get married, serve on a mission trip, or just be a daughter or son to a parent who shouldn't have to say goodbye to their child just yet. All that for a potential week or so of discomfort....geeze...

When you have a situation hit home as close as a niece who now needs SOMEONE, ANYONE to donate bone marrow in order to survive, it makes the desperation of the situation very real. For those of you who haven't heard, Sydney (Maddie's 2 year old sister) is not a match. Maddie's own immediate family can not save her...but someone can. Maybe, on a crazy whim, I would be the one who can...or maybe it is you. And maybe I won't be a match for Maddie--maybe you won't be a match for Maddie--but maybe you and I will both be a match for two other people who will be able to grace this Earth for some priceless moments more. If I know my niece at all, I think she would be so excited and happy to know that because of her needing a bone marrow transplant, many people would sign up to be on the donor list and end up saving many other fellow fighters for life.

So, if you are ready to sign up and help save a life, the next step is so incredibly simple. Go to the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry website called "Be the Match": Once on the page, you can do one of two things--1) See if there is a blood center near you to walk in and give your sample (just a cheek swab--no blood work needed) or 2) if there is not a center near you, then you can have them send you the kit in the mail to do the cheek swab and then send it back to them right away. There is no cost to you (although you can make a contribution because it does actually take $100 per kit to process). You will be put on the donor list once they process your kit. It's seriously that simple.

This is the very list Maddie's transplant team is scouring every week hoping to eventually come up with an exact match for her. This is the very list that 10,000 others just like Maddie are waiting on a match from. Did you know on their website they claim that only half of those people needing life actually get it from a donor? That is a percentage we can greatly increase, folks.

I ask of you today, as the aunt of one who needs it and as a person who probably hesitated just like you have been doing, will you join me in my decision to try to save a life today? No, it's not ideal for any of us who might be called to donate, but what a tremendous blessing to actually be asked to do it. It will change their life and it will change yours. Life truly is is a girl who needs it...

"Light in a messenger's eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones."
-Proverbs 15:30

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Giving Heart

I am continually amazed at my daughter, Lily. She is hands-down one of the biggest givers I know. No, she doesn't have millions of dollars to donate or the ability to work for some big mission organization (she's 5 1/2 years old for heavens sake), but whatever that girl does have...she gives.

I've seen her draw smiley faces on tiny pieces of paper and give them out to a grieving family she doesn't know at a viewing in order to try to give them a smile while they were sad. I've seen her take her birthday money and put it in the offering at church. I've seen her give her toys to other little girls. I've seen countless numbers of colored pictures and cards walk out the door of our house for the librarian. I've seen snacks shared with her brothers. I've seen her wrap up 4 of her stuffed animals for Micah and I to open at Christmas so we would have stuffed animal friends to sleep with (since she noticed we don't have any). I've seen her collect a ton of toys to give to the bus heading to Haiti so the kids didn't have to play with toys made out of trash. I've even seen her offer her beloved "Lammie" blanket she has had since birth to us to take to Nora as a comfort blanket while she can't be with us. The list could go on and on and on. Lily is no doubt--a giver.

I was blessed to watch the latest example of her giving spirit yesterday. Lily has been growing her hair out for Locks of Love for a long time now. It has gotten very long, but we kept it growing thinking she would want to wait until the weather warmed up before cutting it off. Two days ago, however, she came to me and asked if we could measure her ponytail again to see if it was long enough to cut (it had to be at least 10 inches long). I said we could and we measured...yep, long enough. She proceeded to say, "Okay, good, Mom, let's cut it right now! I'm ready and I want to cut it right now." Well, this was at 8:15 p.m. and I was certainly not going to be the one to hack off 10-12 inches of hair so I told her we would have to wait until we could make an appointment at the hairdresser's. She got a very sad look on her face and said, "No, Mom, I want to do it now." I inquired further why she needed it done that moment and she explained..."Maddie's going to be losing her hair this week and I want to cut mine right now so I can put it in a wig for her to have hair. It would be perfect, Mom, cause my hair is the exact color as Maddie's and she's going to need hair!"

Wow. I was smiling and crying all at the same time. I was proud and humbled and blessed. My 5 1/2 year old daughter has a heart as big as the ocean and when she knows what she wants to do, there isn't a whole lot stopping her. Well, we didn't cut it right then, but I made the appointment for her yesterday and we did indeed make that giving heart full as she cut off those long locks for love. No one would have been able to wipe the smile off of her face and I'm pretty sure I haven't seen it off of her yet. She was so excited to donate it and have a whole new look for herself at the same time. She is truly beautiful inside and out. Maddie won't actually get Lily's hair for a wig and Lily knows that now, but she was still excited to give it for another little girl who needs it. The point is not who got her hair, but that she was so freely willing to give it. Such a beautiful thing to witness...

Today is a new day and with that, her big, giving heart continues on as normal. This morning she came out to me in the kitchen with her new hair cut, huge smile, and a penny in her hand. "Mom?" she asked. "Yep, honey?" I replied. She continued, "Mom, I was wondering if you could use this money to help bring Nora home." Again, with a smile and tears, I answered, "Yep, Lily, I sure can. Thank you for being willing to give your money to help bring Nora home. That's so sweet of you." Seriously...cut your hair off one day, give a penny the next day...what will tomorrow bring?

One more hair donation, folks, that's how it works for a little bald-headed beauty to become Rapunzel. One more penny to the pot, folks, that's how it works to get Nora home. (and let me just say that's not the first penny Lily has put towards her sister's homecoming either). Every day is a chance to give to someone else and I'm so grateful my daughter "get's it". She gets the concept that nothing is really truly ours anyway--it's on loan to us from the Lord and when He says "give it to someone" she answers that calling with a big ole' grin on her face. It's truly priceless.

Lily, my dear, you inspire me, you bless me, and you bless the Father with your willing and giving spirit. With you, He will be able to touch the lives of many. Thank you for being...well...exactly who God has made you to be. I love you.