Archive | November 2013

Here is the Secret

Here is the Secret blog pic 1I have always believed that if there is only one secret to living a full, rewarding and joyful life it is found in the decision to just be thankful.  All day … every day.

This one singular heart attitude, that of choosing to live in a place of gratitude, holds more sway over the quality of your life than does your income bracket, your street address or even the pain of your past. 

Determining to be a person of sincere praise and appreciativeness will frame your life in a beautiful and miraculous way. 

Gratitude will erase days of pain and create days of blessing.

Thanksgiving will enlarge the small places of your life into rooms of grand bounty and sweet strength.

Praise will turn the gray and blah of humdrum responsibilities into sparkling opportunities of service in the Kingdom of God.

It is in choosing to be thankful … sincerely and joyfully thankful … that ordinary days turn into holidays.

Days that are identified by wretchedness and wreathed in ugly become events of heavenly inspiration and sweet remembrance when we use the paintbrush of gratitude to change their color.

This is your life … you will never have another.  This life is your only chance at joy … your only opportunity for destiny … your only occasion for capturing a delightful heart. 

You must discover the power of thanksgiving if you long for your life to make a difference.

If you are thankful for even the small things in life, you have discovered an eternal treasure.

the west at southIf you can look at a sunset and bask in its presence … you have tapped into treasure.

If you can giggle back at a baby with a silly grin on your face … you have tapped into treasure.playing with mom

If you can make snow angels with the little girls in your life … you have tapped into treasure.

If you can catch fireflies with a freckle-faced boy … you have tapped into treasure.

If the glory discovered in vibrant rainbows … in the majestic roar of the ocean’s waves … and in the morning song of the bird cause you to well up with praise … you have learned how to value the truly important commodities in life.

Conversely, if you choose to focus on your deficits rather than on your gifts, you will always be miserable.  If all you do is whine and complain and worry … you are the only one whom it wounds and ultimately subtracts from.

Did you know that it doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are?  Once you begin to lock into this miraculous lifestyle of thanksgiving, although your circumstances may never change … you will change!  You change from being in bondage to disappointments and pain to living a life of the joy found only within the gates of His powerful presence!

The moment that you become grateful, it changes the atmospheric conditions of your life.  Thanksgiving will take you out of your human pain and place you in the very courts of His presence!  What a miraculous possibility!!

“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.

Serve the Lord with gladness;

Come before Him with joyful singing.

Know that the Lord Himself is God;

It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

 Enter His gates with thanksgiving

And His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His lovingkindness is everlasting

And His faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100

 

I would love it if you would respond to this blog by telling us what you are grateful for today!

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Just These Three Things

babyChildren … there is nothing like the heart of a little person to rearrange your priorities, refine your theology and restore your hope.

“Through the praises of children and infants

 You have established a strong hold

 against Your enemies.”

Psalm 8:2 – NIV

I love to listen to children talk about God.  I love to hear their praises … to watch their heartfelt enthusiasm … and to know that they understand the love of the Father.

Children know.  They know God in a particular way that most adults do not begin to grasp.  They know that God is love and that He is powerful.

They know that God is a giant-killer … a life-giver … and a mountain-mover.

Children know.

Children are the very best prayer warriors that I know.  They pray in unabashed faith and enthusiastically expect a response from heaven!  If you have lingering doubts about life … ask a child to pray for you!  There is nothing quite like it!

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said,

‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever then humbles himself as this child,

he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.” –

Matthew 18:3-5

 Is it because they are so fresh from heaven?  Is that why children have an insight into the heart and character of God that is sometimes missing in older, more mature and “wiser” adults?

Do babies remember what heaven smells like?  Do toddlers recall the joy around the throne of God?  Are pre-schoolers able to catch a whiff of the love of the Father while living on earth?

If nothing else, children know that God loves children.  They know.

The innocence of a child is a strong magnet to the presence of God.  Little ones are most at home in the joy of His presence.  Is it any wonder that there was a special place in the heart of Jesus for children?

One day children were brought to Jesus

 in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. 

The disciples shooed them off.

 But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone,

 don’t prevent them from coming to me. 

God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”

 – Matthew 19:13 & 14 – The Message

olivia mcleodolivia mcleod 2olivia mcleod 3olivia mcleod & marmeeOlivia is my adorable, precocious, administrative, creative and anointed little bundle of granddaughterly joy!  She was the first grandchild born into this clan and will ever hold a place of sweet delight in my Marmee’s heart.

Olivia loves to design doll clothes, write books, go to ballet lessons, take care of her little brothers and has an insatiable desire to know more about God.  Although only 5 years old, Olivia is filled with a wisdom that I long for at times!

A few weeks ago it was Kids’ Day at Faith Family Church in Victoria, TX.  All of the school age children were allowed to stay in the big service and Pastor Jim Graff had a message that he had prepared especially for them. 

These are the notes, in Olivia’s own handwriting that she wrote that day:

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

Olivia got it right, didn’t she?  That is all the theology that she needs in her tender and formative years.  Maybe it is all the theology that you and I need as well.

little girl

God is with you!  What a promise!  You serve a God Who will never leave you regardless of how you act, what you’ve done or where you are going.  He is more than a social sidekick or a nagging shadow.  He is not an obnoxious tag-along or the constant reminder of yesterday’s mistakes.  God’s presence and love are inescapable companions as you travel life this side of heaven.  He has promised never to leave you or forsake you.  When everyone else has deserted you … you have a friend that is closer than a brother.  Ah-h-h-h … you are not alone!  Thanks for the sweet reminder, Olivia.

la main de la mère

You are special!  What a great memo from Olivia’s 5 year old heart!  There is no one like you … you are one of a kind.  You have a destiny that has never been shared by another human being in all of history.  God has uniquely fashioned you for such a time as this.  Comparing yourself with others is a total and complete waste of energy because there is no one like you … and there is no one like them!  So get busy being you!  Be the you that God made you to be … today!  Olivia … there will never be another Olivia Mae McLeod!  You are you … and that is enough … that is more than enough!

You are God’s child.  That’s right … you belong.  You belong to Your Dad.  You are His wanted and dearly loved child.  You are part of the greatest family ever created … the family of the most-high God!  There is never any possible reason to wonder who you are … you are God’s child!  What an honor!  When others reject you or forget you … you are God’s child!  When your family ignores you and your friends avoid you … you are God’s child!  His embrace is big enough and powerful enough to calm your fears and to lead the way. 

Olivia … I hope that you always remember these 3 important sentences.

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

  I hope that when you are 12 and are struggling with self-esteem that you remember.

I hope that when you are 18 and face an unknown future that you remember.

I hope that when you are raising a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes that you remember.

I hope that when another little girl … at another moment in history … calls you “Marmee” … that you remember …

God is with you.

You are special.

You are God’s child.

Testimony of An Unanswered Prayer

In Spite OfIt’s November!  The 11th month of the year is 4 glorious weeks of  exhilarating football games, homemade pumpkin pie and jumping raucously in the leaves.  It is the month of geese flying southward, pulling out Gramma’s  well-loved recipes and going on that annual family hayride.

However, the most important aspect of this month that marks the beginning of the holiday season is the time that is set aside for sincere gratitude and thankfulness.  November reminds us of the strength of counting our benefits and not whining about our deficits.  There is no other month that carries such a strong regard for the giving of heartfelt thanks and the joyful taking stock of one’s blessings.

But what if this November, you are more aware of what you don’t have rather than what you do have?  What if Thanksgiving 2013 is a painful reminder of the prayers that have not yet been answered and the “Blessing List” that lies dormant and bare?

My friend, Monica, is one of my heroines in life.  She is a sister of the heart, a partner in ministry and a dream-builder extraordinaire.  Monica has prayed for nearly 7 years for another baby … and yet her arms and her nursery are longingly empty.  Her message and her heart challenge me to pray again … to believe again … and to give thanks “in spite of” and not only “because of.”

This is Monica’s story and Monica’s blog.  Maybe you will find yourself between the lines of this heartfelt journey.

Testimony of an Unanswered Prayer

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I thought about writing this many times over the past 7 years.  I’ve written and re-written it in my mind too many times to count.  I’ve always waited because I thought…once the deepest desire of my heart has been fulfilled…that’s when I can share the testimony.  That is when I can encourage someone else to hang in there…the promise is coming.  But here’s what I’ve learned through this journey…the testimony doesn’t necessarily come in one big bang at the end of the road.  Sometimes, it’s during the lowest of lows…during the deepest pain and despair…and even during the relentless questions of the heart…that the true testimony is birthed.

This journey began for me about 8 years ago, on a cold winter morning in February.  Paul and I had been married for just over 8 months.  We had decided early on that we would wait until we’d been married for one year before we started a family.  But after eight months of wedded bliss…I didn’t want to wait any longer!  I was ready for babies!!  That morning in February…as I was blow-drying my hair…the Lord spoke to my heart.  I heard the name “Faith”….and then “Faith Marie”.  It was so clear to me that I think I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing my Jesus whisper that name to the deepest part of my soul.

A few weeks later, I heard Him whisper the name Zachary.  Imagine hearing two names…within a couple of weeks!  My poor husband had no say in the name of our son.  There was no discussion about names…no baby name books being poured through.  I just knew that we were either going to have a “Zachary” or a “Faith”!

About a month later, we found out we were pregnant!!  I’ve wanted a little girl since I can remember.  I have a sister…and she has three daughters…and my mom was one of two girls.  And the Lord had given me the name ‘Faith’!  Never in my wildest imagination could I ever picture myself with a  boy!    So, when I found out we were pregnant with a boy…I was slightly shell shocked.  However, over the next 9 months…I fell completely, head over heels, over the moon in love with my Zachary.  And when he was born, I thought…THIS is what perfection looks like!  (And I still think that today, 7 years later)

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We were beyond blessed with our beautiful little family.  And so, when Zachary was about 10 months old…we decided this would be the perfect time to do it again!  We were pregnant with Zachary exactly one month after we decided to begin trying.  We took it for granted the second time would be so easy.

However, with each month that passed with a negative pregnancy test, I had to fight feelings of fear.  I had to fight off the nasty little “I” word (Infertility) that would creep into my thoughts.  After several months, we began fertility treatments.  And after years and years of herbs, and acupuncture, and holistic treatments, and pills, and needles, and hormones….praying and declaring…seeking God’s wisdom and guidance at every turn…I wasn’t getting pregnant.  One of the biggest blows came after several more tests and procedures and a consult with an IVF doctor.  My test results showed early menopause and no chance of IVF working.  He told us our only hope was to use an egg donor or do traditional adoption.  The news was almost more than I could bare.

BUT – during all of these years…and more negative pregnancy tests than one person should ever have to endure…I knew that Jesus was with me.  I felt Him near me every time I would cry out in despair…each time I questioned whether I had really heard the name Faith…He would reassure me.  “Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

My God would send me scriptures and encouragers and the deepest knowledge that He loved me….and He understood the pain…and my anger would never make Him move away from me or love me less.

Earlier this year, we adopted 2 embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program.  We knew that my body wasn’t producing eggs…but the doctors told us that I could easily carry a baby.  And that has always been my deep desire…to be pregnant again.  To feel the life growing inside me…to feel those magical first kicks…to feel my baby move as soon as she felt her daddy’s hand on my stomach.  I loved those beautiful nine months with Zachary…and I desperately want it again.

The process of embryo adoption was daunting.  It’s treated just like a traditional adoption, so we went through the homestudy and began the process of choosing the family who’s babies we would adopt and grow inside me.  When we received word that a family had chosen us to adopt their embryos, I prayed that the Lord would give us a sign so that we knew that these were the babies He had for us.

I’ll never forget the day I received the pictures of the family.  I’ve never in my life felt more loved by the God who created this universe!  When I opened the first picture, I saw two little boys who could’ve been my son’s twins.  These were the siblings of the embryos that we were about to adopt.  When I put the picture of the one little boy next to a picture of me when I was his age…we could’ve been brother and sister.  The resemblance was uncanny.  I knew that God had answered our prayers.  The God who was so big that He created the Grand Canyon….knew the deepest desire of my heart.

We began the process of getting my body ready to accept these babies.  We flew to Kansas standing and declaring that we would come home pregnant!  Our friends sent us off with letters and cards of encouragement….declarations over these babies, who had been wanted for so many years.  We came home after the procedure…after being told by the doctor that the embryos didn’t look great…still full of hope and declaring all of the promises that God had given us.  I had called this baby by name for 7 years.  My little Faith…my vision of blonde curls and freckles on her nose…the little girl who would grow up to be my best friend.  The moment was finally here…we couldn’t wait to celebrate with all of the friends and family who had stood beside us…prayed with us for so many years.  This little girl who had lived only in my heart…

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Two weeks later, the doctor called from Kansas with words that would literally…truly…smash my heart into a million pieces.  We were not pregnant.  Those two babies that had been placed inside me were now in heaven.

The hours and even days after that phone call are a blur.  I felt like I had lost two babies.  I felt like God had broken my heart.  It hurt to talk to God…it hurt to read my Bible…it hurt to look at all of the scriptures that I had declared over this baby.  Everything just hurt.

But, He never left my side.  Slowly…and ever so gently…I could hear Him whispering to me.  I knew that God still loved me.  I knew that He had a plan for me…a great plan…to prosper me and not to harm me.  I knew that, although my heart was broken, it wasn’t Jesus who had broken it.   I needed to let Him back in…because He was the ONLY one who could truly heal my heart.

I remember asking – WHY?  Why would you send me this beautiful, perfect match – the perfect fit for our family and then take these babies to heaven?  His answer was soft, gentle, and so comforting.  He gave me that match to show me just how deeply and intimately He knows my heart…my deepest desires…the dreams inside me that no one else knows.  He knows.  He sees.

I am still working through the process of letting Him heal my heart.  I am still learning how to live with an unanswered prayer…by thanking Him for the million prayers that He HAS answered.  Jesus has been with me at every valley and every mountain top of this journey.  I am learning that the testimony isn’t really about the destination…it’s about finding God during the journey.  It’s about choosing to declare that He is a good God…He does want the best for me…He loves me…and He never has or never will leave my side.   I will be thankful for every good gift that He has so graciously poured out in my life.  That He continues to pour into my life.  It’s a choice I make everyday…to be thankful…to worship while I’m waiting…to trust Him.

That..…is my testimony.

Habakkuk 2:3 – For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.  Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.

1 Chronicles 16:11 – Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.

Proverbs 16:9 – In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Jeremiah 17:7 – Blessed is the (wo)man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord.

Orzechowski-1128Monica is Mom to Zachary, Wife to Paul. and the Executive Director at Just Joy! Ministries.  Her blog is called “Faith for the Journey”