Monday, December 24, 2012


Merry Christmas dear friends! May you each experience the PEACE ON EARTH right there in your homes that the angels proclaimed at the birth of our savior!
It's Marriage Monday again here at HOPE AT HOME and this time we are hearing from our good friend and fellow adoptive parent, Kate of  One Flesh Marriage. It's always the season to give attention to our marriages! 
If you have ever lived with another person, which I am assuming all of you have at one time or another, then you know how hard it is to mesh different personalities together. God has blessed in each of us a uniqueness that is all our own. Marriage is one of the places where encountering each other’s personalities, habits, quirks and beautiful differences is most challenging. It can also be the most rewarding. 
Marriage Oneness
The journey of marriage is a journey toward oneness -being completely known by your spouse with all the joys and blemishes. Getting to a place where oneness is nurtured and in forward motion is difficult with two totally different people. No matter how alike you and your hubby are, you are still very different. How do we move forward on this journey to oneness when we have unique and different personalities? Keep in mind that oneness is a journey, not a destination. You will be seeking intimacy and oneness all of your married life; you are not there once you say your vows. Believe me, I was that young, naive bride who thought we had reached the destination once we said “I do.” How wrong I was. Fortunately, God has been gracious with both of us and we are moving forward!
Embrace and Celebrate Your Spouse’s Personality
Just like you, your spouse was made by our most amazing God. We can celebrate our spouse’s personality or we can allow it to bother us. Many times opposites attract, so there will be things about the two of you that seem so different. At first we may think these things are great, then after years of living together they start to grate on our nerves. I used to dwell on all the little things that my hubby did or didn’t do and based them on his personality. I have come to realize how much that hurt him. Lifting them up and praising him for who he is-- that's how God desires me to be. 
Does that mean that when they make a huge pile of clothes on the floor, we just embrace it, smile and move on? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Embracing and lifting up their personality does not mean that we never share how we feel. Those piles are a good opportunity to serve and help your spouse out with organization. Then sometimes it is good to talk about the piles of clothes, if they truly bother you. Talk about how you can work together to a solution that works for both of you. 
Build Intimacy in All Areas
When we take time to build intimacy in all areas of our marriage, we find that there is a softening in our hearts and we are better able to extend grace to our spouse. Four critical areas of intimacy we focus on are: Spiritual intimacy, Physical intimacy, Emotional intimacy and Intellectual intimacy. Do the two of you spend time together in these four ways? 
Every day, you should have the opportunity to build up these areas with your spouse. The main thing that keeps us from focusing on at least one of these things daily is selfishness. We all work hard and at the end of the day many times just want “me” time. I would encourage you to be sure some of that "me" time is “us” time. 
Be Honest About Your Own Pitfalls
It is easy for us to point a finger and bring to light the short- comings of our spouse. Yet one of the best things you can do is to be open and honest about your own pitfalls. Share them with your spouse. They most likely already know them, but knowing that you see them and are trying to work on them, speaks volumes to your spouse and builds intimacy. Keep in mind this is not in a self- deprecating way, but a spirit of understanding the things God wants to refine in you. 
Seek to be the Spouse God Asks And Let Your Personality Shine Through
The question remains, what is our personality and what is something that needs to be refined in us? I believe that seeking God’s word for you as a wife or a husband is the first step. Look up wife or husband in your Bible. Ask God to reveal to you, what he desires for you and the wife or husband. After that settles in, seek God on your personality and how that fits. There may be things he desires to work out of you, and there will be things he wants to bring to the surface to compliment your spouse. How does this flesh out, you may be asking yourself. Here is an example:
If you as the wife are gifted in numbers, you may naturally have taken on the responsibility of paying the bills and handling the budget for the family. There is nothing wrong with that by any means. Yet the husband is designed by God to have a need to provide for his family and to see that provision. Your personality, designed by God is great with numbers. How can you seek God on making both work together? 
Working through these things builds intimacy through seeking God and good communication. Is it going to be easy? Not necessarily; sadly we usually struggle with giving up control in different areas of our lives. Yet, God is faithful and when we are obedient to his word and what he asks of us in our marriage, his word says there will be blessings.
Moving Forward? 
Do you feel that you are moving forward on your one flesh journey or are you stuck in the muck of your own self-focus?  Are personality issues a stumbling block? If you have worked through some of these things and are on the other side looking back, what would you share to help those who are in the valley?

Monday, December 17, 2012


From Susan Hillis:
Do you remember our friend James from our HOPE AT HOME 2012 Conference? We commissioned him to write and perform a Spoken Word, entitled Naked Hope. Well, if you didn't make it to  the conference (or you want to listen again), click HERE to listen and read some provoking words of HOPE. 
So, that is all to say that James shared a testimony last Sunday at church, telling a story of a recent dream he had.  In the dream, there was a man who had seen much better days, walking through a store kind of like WalMart. As he walked, this man in the dream realized how much he needed, and wanted, and so wished he had what it took to get it.  I imagine the man walking past the strawberries, thinking, "oh, the taste of strawberries is a distant memory; it would be so nice to have some,"  or "those warm gloves would be so nice to have as the weather is quickly turning colder."  Unbeknowst to the down-and-out-fella-in-need, there was a stranger in the store following him at a modest distance, putting in his cart each item the needy fella had looked at with longing.  When the needy man walked up to the check out counter with his one meager purchase, the kind stranger behind him pulled up and unloaded his cart full of the things the man wished he could have bought. He paid for everything, then gave it to him as a gift -- a gift much too large to manage alone.  So the generous stranger helped the needy fella get all the purchases to his car. Others in the store who had observed the event were in awe, completely distracted from their own shopping by this man's extravagant kindness.  

Distracting Kindness

The dream was an allegory of the kindness of God in providing for our friend James, after many months of many struggles with work, transportation, income, and college.  James shared that little by little, each need has been provided for.  By the kind of kindness that is distracting....distracting kindness.

May we, each of us, have eyes to see such distracting kindnesses of God in our own lives, and may we have hearts like that stranger in the dream, to pass it on. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us-- all the days of our lives!  (Ps 23).  Surely distracting kindness shall follow us.

Lord, we love your distracting kindness. We feel so happy when someone on facebook 'likes' something we write or a picture we post.  Lord, thank you that you spend our days 'liking' us!  May we pass along Your distracting kindness in an absolutely effusive way over these days, to absolutely everyone who walks through the door!  Thank you Lord for YOUR DISTRACTING KINDNESS to me!

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Recently I have found myself thinking quite a bit more about the pasts of our children who have come into our family through adoption. Ironically, the facts of our children's pasts, along with the resulting issues, both positive and negative, seem to be more present in our present, not less, as the years have gone by.  It would seem to me that the opposite would be true-- that the longer our children are home, the more distant the impact and influence of their past. And in some ways this has been true. But in some ways those key questions of identity that are the stuff of adolescence and young adulthood have taken us back to a season not unlike those early days after our adoptions, where we are especially aware of the impact of the our children's past experiences in their lives, in their thinking, in their actions, and in their beliefs. 

It seems to me that the past is not a non-issue, that one of our roles as parents is to help our children navigate the often complicated emotions and other residue from the things they experienced, and equally as influential, the things they did not experience before they came into our families. And having understanding of how our children are experiencing these realities, helping them to understand why they might think, feel or act in certain ways, has been so helpful to Stephen and me. I am thankful for the freedom we have to embrace each child's story, their whole story, as we help them come to their own decisions about who they are and how they will process their often harsh and painful origins. I use the word freedom because apart from the freedom that we have in Christ, who is the great redeemer of all things broken and stolen, I think I would have tried to ignore and cover over and deny all the hardships of our children's pasts, simply out of my desire to protect them and to help them move forward.

Over the years it has been tempting to "wish away" the past, hoping that the goodness of the present would override it somehow. Tempting or not, that simply does not work. For it is a gift we give our children to share with them in their story, even the most difficult parts. For most of us the instinct is always to protect our children from pain by avoiding it or covering it over, but what if protection in this case looks more like embracing and accepting? At some point many of our children will need to know even the most difficult parts of their story, and we parents want to be the ones to tell them and to walk with them through the process of grieving and the swirling emotions as they struggle to process their story. 

Let me show you a picture of a tree that Stephen and I saw last week when we were away. (we went to Santa Fe-- just the two of us! It was so refreshing to have that time together!)
You can't see very well from this distance; this tree doesn't look particularly interesting, until you look closer. Now take a look at the close up of the trunk:

This was a large tree that had been cut down to a stump years ago. I am sure that there were no expectations of this tree once it had been cut down. But how cool is this?! Out of that dead stump came a whole new tree-- a really great tree. I see that God, in His great wisdom and goodness, is doing a similar work in our children. He is not allowing us to ignore the past, but rather is using what seems like a dead stump to call forth new life-- He is continuing the story without wasting one thing! Only God does such amazing things! For it is true my friends, He is busy working ALL THINGS together for the good of our precious children. (Romans 8:28)

We are watching and co-laboring with Father God as He is doing a "new thing" (Isaiah 43:19) in our children's lives through adoption. This is a privilege beyond measure. We parents get front row seats in this interactive drama where new things spring forth; where a past marked by rejection, pain, sin, abandonment, relinquishment, neglect, fear, and lack does not determine a future, but is miraculously transformed and re-purposed for LIFE.  

I have always liked the analogy of driving a car that Susan Hillis shared with me years ago, as she and I have spent many hours talking and praying about how to parent our children into their future, according to their Identity and Destiny, rather than in response to their past. 

Stephen and I have had to teach 7 teenagers how to drive, and I am not kidding when I say that this is one of the worst parts of parenting for me-- nothing like giving a moody teen a lethal weapon! One of the things we teach them is the importance of the rear view mirror. Until you teach someone to drive, you probably don't realize how many times you take a quick glance back to what is behind you as you navigate forward. But that right there my friends is the key-- you only glance back! Yes, you do it often and it is a key to successfully moving forward, but if we were to focus our eyes backward, rather than forward, we would never make it to our destination. 

So, as we parent our children our eyes are always focused on the future, on our child's Identity and Destiny. We Parent Forward. However, we recognize that their past is not something to be ignored, and is as a matter of fact, a key component in the call of God on their lives and on their unique identity. So we glance back as needed. And something I would add on that we have been learning recently is that occasionally a child may need to pull the car over so to speak, get out and spend some time exploring what lies behind. And when that happens dear parent, you get right out with him or her, link one arm with your son or daughter and the other arm with the Holy Spirit, and walk right alongside. And the best thing we can do for our child on this excursion is to keep our focus always on the Lord and His forward-moving, life-giving, past-redeeming plans and promises. 

Father, would you help us to simultaneously embrace our child's whole story while keeping our eyes firmly focused forward into their Identity and Destiny in You. Thank you for your redemption of all that has been stolen or lost in our child's past. Cause them to be that beautiful tree, a planting of the Lord! Amen.

(Susan Tebos and Carissa Woodwyk's book, Before You Were Mine; Discovering Your Adopted Child's Life Story, is very helpful in helping adoptive parents embrace their child's whole story. Great practical ideas and wonderful focus on the Lord.)

Monday, December 3, 2012


From Susan Hillis:

At our house we are beginning all the Hillis Christmas traditions, and I thought I would pass along a few in case there may be some of them you too would enjoy!  Let me start with a story.....

My new acquaintance asked in a rather flitty way, "So, how do you do Christmas at YOUR house with 12 people?  Is it just chaos on Christmas morning?"  I answer, "No, it's really NOT chaos.  We actually really enjoy the Christmas season at our house." She goes on to her next question, "Do you just have mountains of presents to open?"  And I answer, "No, we don't have mountains of presents;  each of us gives a few.  We actually put everybody's name into a basket twice, and then go around and draw names in early December.  Each of us makes two gifts for the two folks in the family whose names we draw.  Because we make our gifts, our time over the holidays is typically spent at home with each other, working together on our gifts instead of out at malls shopping.  A few of the more creative ones help the ones who struggle to come up with ideas.  Over the years we have had folks make toe rings, quilts, albums, creative board games, write and illustrate books, sweatshirts, jewelry, home made candy, paintings, sculpture, book shelves, ceramics.   And of course there is Ksusha - she picked Brian's name 3 years in a row and painted him the same piggy bank each year - just made it different colors.  I guess she thought accountants would like to safeguard their funds!

From the time Cristi was just a toddler, I began to look for ideas that would help the Christmas season be lived out, practically, as a time to celebrate Jesus' birth, rather than as a time marked by dread of the materialistic flavor that is so ubiquitous in America.  And I would say this--  the best habits we have adopted replace numbers with faces.  Rather than the numbers on a price tag or the number of gifts to buy, we try to focus on faces...that is, on loving God, loving people and loving each other.  Here are some habits we repeat, year after year, in those categories.

Loving God

- Jesse Tree - Making a simple felt Jesse tree (you can google it) involves purchasing felt for the wall hanging and 25 decorated felt ornaments, that each symbolize an important story in the gospel message, from Genesis to Revelation.  Everyone in the family can help make the tree and ornaments, which comes with scripture passages and short devotionals that can be read every night of advent.  The Jesse tree has become a family heirloom, as year after year, we reread the passages and take turns hanging the ornaments.  Of course there are discussions which can become heated arguments, about who gets to put up the beautiful white feathery dove that symbolizes the peace of the Holy Spirit.  And we get a chance to talk about how it is just these kind of fights that make us need the peace this dove symbolizes!

- Advent Wreath - We often have an advent wreath that we light each Sunday, with the 4 candles, symbolizing hope, love, joy, and peace, and the fifth one lit on 
Christmas day symbolizing Christ's birth.

- Christmas Books - Every year we buy a new Childrens' Book; some of our favorites are Alabaster's Song, The Crippled Lamb, The Candy Cane, Christmas in a Shoe Box, Little House on the Prairie Christmas, A Child's Christmas at St. Nicolas Circle. What are some that you have enjoyed? Would you share them in the comments so we can all benefit.

- Acting out the Luke 2 Christmas story from the Message - Kids love doing this on Christmas Day - in our house the most cherished role for some reason has always been...not Mary, not Joseph, not the angel, but...the donkey who gets to crawl in on all 4's, carting Mary on his or her back!  Towels with ties do great for the shepherds; bathrobes become the garb of Mary and Joseph, with a baby doll for baby Jesus.  And a few safety pins easily transform a white sheet into an angel's costume.  And Burger King crowns picked up earlier in the week do great for crowns for the 3 kings.

Loving People

- Visitors- We love the book, Christmas at St. Nicholas Circle, which reminds us all that the best part of Christmas is loving the least of these, who cannot necessarily reciprocate.  For a number of years now we tend to spread the word that the Hillis Home is open for visitors during the 2 to 3 weeks that school is out - and we tend to count the numbers of folks who come, with a little figure scribbled on the calender for each day we are out of school.  Many years we have smiled to see more than 100 visits during these few weeks!  We talk a lot about loving every one who comes through our door as a way to love the Lord - and read and discuss Matthew 25 about the sheep being those who loved well.

- The Gold Box - For many years, we have a large gift box wrapped in beautiful gold paper with a slit on the top.  We are to do small acts of unseen kindness and then write it on a note and put it in the box.  Anything from that Colossians 3 list of, 'clothe yourselves with kindness, humility, compassion, forgiveness, and patience' fits here.  We talk about how wonderful it is to do something that only Jesus sees.  It is His gift.  No one ever opens this box - we just keep it, adding to it year after year.

- Serving - Often at the end of the day on Christmas, we go downtown to help clean up from the Hosea Williams Feed the Homeless Feast that serves 10,000 folks every Christmas Day in Atlanta.  It is a joy, always, to feel that we did something practical to serve always gives a chance to talk about this being a gift for Jesus that He loves!

Loving Each Other

- Gifts - So I started out sharing how we make gifts for each other.   On Christmas morning after we open stockings, have breakfast, read Luke 2 and thank God for His gift, Brian asks who wants to be the first to give the gifts they made.  And one by one we get to enjoy seeing the special treats that have typically have time as a bigger ingredient than money.  As the kids grow older and have jobs, some of them prefer to purchase gifts now, and some still make them. 

- Time - But mostly what we do is simply spent time together - whether its games outside, from soccer to baseball to Frisbee, or inside, like board games and puzzles.  The outings to Stone Mountain and Mount Arabia and ice skating also build fun memories!

- Music - We typically sing a carol or two every night, and on several occasions we have acted out the 12 days of Christmas, with each of donning a costume to match our day....obviously none of the boys wanted 'nine ladies dancing.'  But they all loved '6 geese a laying' as they pretended to run around laying eggs!  An old CD that may still be available somewhere has the song that our kids to this day remember best of all, and the words provide a fitting way to end this post:


SO, I wish you each and every one a Merry Christmas!  If you have some beloved traditions to share feel free to post them here in a comment!

Blessings on you and yours!
Much Love,

Friday, November 30, 2012


I remember times when I would literally lay the weight of my body over my son's raging little form-- praying that he would know that he was safe, desiring that my embrace would keep him from hurting me or himself, hoping that maybe the strong physical presence of his loving mother would somehow communicate to him that no anger need ever overcome him, that peace would replace fear. In times like this one it becomes clear that there is an orphan legacy--things handed down to a child from a past marred by relinquishment, fear and lack. But in those long moments of struggle with my son, and all through the years when the legacy of fear would burst to the surface despite the weight of our love, I have known that when God's peace rules, that orphan legacy is nullified. It must make way for life-giving peace.

For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

This covenant of peace is my child's legacy now. Indeed, it is mine and yours as followers of Jesus. And my, how we parents need this peace! God promises that His Peace is ours, part of our inheritance as His beloved sons and daughters. As parents we are only able to impart to our children the things that are ours. When I do not have peace, I do not have it to give my child. So I pursue peace because I see that I need it and that my child needs it. And how thankful I am that this peace is mine by inheritance, not based on my performance and not according to what I deserve! 

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one body you were also called [to live].
Colossians 3:15

Peace: the Umpire of the Heart
In the moment I described above, and in countless other times, I have had great need of a peace that could not be found in my current situation. The Rule of Peace is so often what my child needs, and what I need as a mother who can so easily fear for her child's future. I love the Amplified's definition of "rule." The Peace of Christ acts as an umpire in my heart. It gets to decide what is a fair or foul thought and what is allowed in "the game." Fear, anxiety, deadness of spirit-- none of these is ruled a "fair ball." Also, note that it is the Peace of Christ that rules, not some mere absence of conflict or anxiety. If we are waiting for a time in our families where there is no trouble, no strife, no difficulties to face, then we are in trouble!  No, this is a peace that belongs to you and to me, to each of our children, regardless of season and regardless of past hurt. This Peace is our inheritance as a child of God.

Philippians 4:7 describes Peace as a military guard:
And God's peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Peace:  A Guard over your Heart
Can you just see that? Your heart and mind being protected day and night by the military presence of a trained guard. This guard of PEACE allowing entry to some thoughts, hopes and dreams but raising His weapon against other thoughts, fears and deceptions, forbidding access. Ever present, greater in power than any circumstance, full of hope.

So Lord Jesus, you yourself are our Peace. (Ephesians 2:14) THE PRINCE OF PEACE! You stand guard, you occupy my heart and mind with military troops, and you call the shots as to what is allowed in my inner life, in my heart, in my mind. May it be so Jesus. May your Peace Rule over each one of us and each one of our children, despite of and in the midst of difficult times. Your peace is greater than an orphan legacy, with it's accompanying fears, anger, hopelessness.... Beautiful Powerful Peace--- RULE TODAY IN OUR CHILDREN AND IN EACH ONE OF US this wonderful Christmas Season! 

Reposted from October, 2011.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


From Susan Hillis:
I have come to believe that tenor of a feast is definitely a much higher priority than its taste.  By tenor, I mean the loving, joyful, and peaceful atmosphere of the gathering and by taste I mean the succulent flavors of the dishes being prepared.  Either without the other leaves the partakers with a sense of disappointment.  I pray for each of you dear readers that this Thanksgiving you may enjoy both tenor and taste!

Taste without Tenor
I remember how nervous and afraid I felt.  It was my boyfriend Brian's first time visiting my family all those many years ago, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for Thanksgiving.  The tastes of the meal were absolutely superb -- creamy, steamy mashed potatoes, warm juicy turkey carved to perfection, the traditional cranberry-almond jello salad, the scrumptious made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese.  But the tenor was so tense it could be cut with a knife.  You see, my mom and dad had struggled for years in their marriage, and this particular day they were in the middle of a huge fight.  My siblings and I were so tense we had no idea what to say.  My mama was so tense that she got up and spent the entire meal in the kitchen which adjoined our dining room, washing the mountain of pots and throwing the clean ones onto the cabinet.  Crash. Thunk.  Those were the sounds.  No conversation.  None of us knew what to say.  I do know what I thought, "Oh my goodness, Brian Hillis is never gonna want to date me again after this!  I am sure he will think that if he sticks with me, we will end up with a family like THIS!"  The tastes were perfect, but the tenor of the atmosphere was destructive and hurtful.  Anger prevailed, not love.  It is what the verse in Proverbs 17:1 talks about when it says, 
Better a dry crust eaten in peace than a house filled with feasting--and conflict.   
(By the way, for the early years of our marriage I did throw pots pretty often when I was fuming, but never on Thanksgiving!)

Tenor without Taste
Another memorable Thanksgiving was our first one spent  on the mission field, in Colombia.  I answered the knock on the door to see our friend Lucho standing there holding a huge dead turkey by the neck he had just wrung, feathers still all fluffed out, saying, "Aqui te traigo el pavo para el dia de accion de gracias!" (here I am bringing you your turkey for the Day of Giving Thanks).  
You see, I had sadly told our friends that I was going to feel lonely on Thanksgiving, my first away from home.  As they tried to figure out how to give me a Thanksgiving experience in Colombia, they determined we would have a feast together at our home that day and that they would provide the traditional ingredients for the customary dishes.  Since turkey could not be purchased in the grocery store, they decided to buy a live one and kill it, then bring me the gift!  The plucking of the turkey and its preparation took hours, and in the end it left a rather wild gamey aftertaste that felt like a disappointment.  But the peace and joy and laughter around our table shared by a number of fellow believers who had come to be our family in Christ there, remain a treasured fond memory in my heart.

Tenor with Taste
So now what we are after is BOTH-- tenor and taste!  Just as we spend time preparing for the taste part (picking the menu, going to the grocery store, and preparing each of the dishes), there are some preparations we can make for the tenor part.  With younger kids, they love having some type of Thanksgiving activity to make their memory.  Maybe taping white butcher block paper on the table as the table cloth and letting them decorate it with finger paint or watercolors while the food is on the stove.  Or maybe its letting each of them trace their hands on a piece of white poster board, then cut it out and paint the fingers as the turkey-feathers and their thumbs as the turkey head and using this as placards to mark their place on the table.  Or for older kids maybe its playing a family game of kickball or basketball outside after the meal.  And as the teens and young adults come along, it may be board games or sports. But definitely it is play and fun that makes the tenor part for kids.  After the meal we have a tradition of passing out two popcorn kernels (in memory of the corn grown by the early settlers) to each person, and then each of us plops his or her kernel in the "Thankfulness Cup" that is passed around, saying two things they are thanking God for, from the previous year.

Along with the play and thankfulness parts, for all ages, comes the real heart of the tenor - it is the building up part.  And that is REALLY what is on my heart for you and yours this Thanksgiving.  I want to set my mind and heart to ask the Lord to open my eyes to the wonders of His nature inside of each of those who will be at my home this holiday, and to speak to them about THAT...about who they are in Him!  This past week the importance of building each other up has just jumped off the pages of the Scriptures as I have watched the light of day replace the darkness of night.  What we really want to do for every person who shares Thanksgiving with us is to LOVE them well.  And it is becoming so much more clear that loving people well means we speak out to them words that build them up.  Here are some of the highlights from the Scriptures about that:
  • "LOVE builds up!"  I Cor 8:1 you want to love well on Thanksgiving???  Then build up those who you spend it with!!!  Even if they are not doing the same with you!
  • "Pursue LOVE....SPEAK to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation....SPEAK to build up the church....strive to EXCEL in building up the church.....let ALL things be done for building up."  I Cor 14.  Note that chasing after love means we speak with exceptional quality -- we EXCEL -- and with universal quantity - ALL things can be done with building up....even the games and crafts and playing parts. 
  • "So then let us pursue peace and what makes for mutual upbuilding." (Rom 14:19)
Thanksgiving Every Day
And so I end, dear one, with an exciting reminder!  We can eat a Thanksgiving Feast every day, the kind of feast where the Lord builds you up and says to you the same kinds of things you say to your kids...the "I am so proud of you" kind of things.  No kidding - by just remembering who we are and whose we are.  We are our Heavenly Father's dearly beloved children and He prepares a daily feast ("give us this day our daily bread!") at the King's table, according to our need, every day, as long as we live - read the last verse of Jeremiah to prove it:

"Every day of [your life], dine regularly at the King's table,  And for [your] allowance, a regular allowance is given [you] by the King, according to [your] daily needs, until the day of [your] death, as long as [you] live."  NOW, IT DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT!  YOUR THANKSGIVING FEAST, FRIEND! 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012


I want to share what I think will be an encouraging word for all of us who are in the thick middle of raising children. The thing about being in the thick of it all is that it can be hard to see the big picture. You've got the day-to-day realities of raising children right in front of your face, so close you go cross-eyed sometimes! It is hard to focus on the big picture when your eyes are completely focused on the moment at hand, isn't it? If this is sounding familiar, you may want to check out a previous post on the importance of being transfixed by the answer rather than by the problem, "Parenting in Grace: Identity." 

So today I am wanting to pull us all back to take a quick look at the bird's eye view, allowing us to see the proverbial forest for a moment, and not just the few trees right in front of our eyes.

Doomed to Success
There have been times over the years of parenting that Stephen and I have been, I confess, overwhelmed by the needs and issues of our children. Raising and loving children who have had to deal with hardships and pain beyond anything either of us have even come close to dealing with has meant that as a family we have faced some pretty difficult times. In one of those times where I was choosing to be transfixed by the problem rather than the answer-- that is, rehearsing in my mind all the issues we were facing with multiple children and practically inviting fear to come make a home in my mind and emotions-- I remember thinking something like, "well, this looks pretty bad and if God doesn't come through, then we are in serious trouble!" 
And almost simultaneously, I heard in my spirit this phrase, loud and clear:

It was like the Holy Spirit was saying, "in the world's eyes this list of issues would lead us to think that a child is doomed to failure, but I am telling you this day that because of My love, which is powerful, your children are, in fact, doomed to success." 
It was such a jarring moment, a jarring phrase, and I knew it was the Lord. 

And it is true, my fellow parents. All of our children who have been brought into the love of believing families, are doomed in that upside down way that is the Good News. A dear sister in the Lord shared on our Hope at Home facebook wall recently (if you haven't stopped by, be sure to check us out and "like" us!) how the Lord encouraged her to remember that He did not bring her children home and to this point in the journey to leave her now without help and power. How many of you have heard that same word from the Lord? I know I have-- many times. He hasn't taken us this far to leave us on our own.

We Win!
I am reminded that God has promised us to work everything-- do you hear that?!-- EVERY THING-- together for good for those who love Him who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) That would be you and me, dear believer. That is His promise to us.

And on top of that, God assures us that these precious children whom He has called into our homes and into His kingdom are predestined to be conformed to be like Jesus-- talk about doomed to success!

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:29)

And, as if that is not enough, take this in:

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome. (Jeremiah 29:11)

And, He doesn't stop there! Would you say that the adoption of your son or daughter into your family was a Good Work begun by the Lord? So, how about this promise for giving the birds-eye-view:

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. (Philippians 1:6)

I like what I heard in the sermon at our church from Rob Rufus this past Sunday-- 
We are Victims of Victory! 
Heads we win; Tails...... WE WIN!

Do you love that as much as I do?! How filled with thanks and praise I am for our God, who would never set us up to fail, and who promises us that He will complete this amazing and beautiful good work that is the adoption of our children. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012


If you are like us, you are passionate about training your children to hear from their Father God. Scripture is full of the ways God speaks to His children. This post is 5th in our H@HKids! series. They are written for your older children to be able to read on their own and for you to read and discuss, maybe one section at a time, together as a family. You may want to go back and copy off the others (just click on the numbers below) in the series on Hearing God as a resource for your family devotionals:
One,  Two, Three, Four

To find out more about Colleen Coombs and her wonderful ministry to children, check out No More Crumbs Ministry.

From Colleen Coombs:

Have you ever heard a song in your mind when you were thinking about God? God loves to sing over us and give us songs! We see several people in the bible that God spoke to through songs. God told Moses to write down the song he gave him and to teach it to the Israelites! 

Deuteronomy 31:19-22
Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them....So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.
Another person God spoke to through songs was Job. He talks about how God gives songs in the night!
Job 35:10-11
But no one says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than he teaches the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?’
The best known person who God gave songs to was David! He gave him lots of songs. The book of Psalms is full of songs God gave to David. In fact Psalms means Songs!
Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

Psalm 40:3
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

  Psalm 42:8
By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

 Psalm 65:8 
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.
In the book of Zephaniah, he tells us that God sings and rejoices over us! How cool is that?
  Zephaniah 3:17 
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.

In the New Testament, Paul talks about making music in our heart to the Lord and how we are to speak and teach each other through songs from the Spirit!

Eph. 5:18b-20
Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I love that God uses songs to encourage us and also that He gives ‘new songs’ that we can praise and worship Him with. What a beautiful language songs is! What are two of your favorite songs to sing to God? Have you ever sung a new song to Him?

God loves colors!! It is something we see every time we look at God’s creation. Just think of all the amazing colors of birds, flowers, trees, and animals! God loves to show us things with colors. 

What do you think of when you see the color yellow? Perhaps light or the sun comes to mind. What about the color purple? We often think of royalty when we see this color. What do you think of when you see the color black? Sometimes is reminds us of sin or death.

Colors can have meaning to us - they remind us of certain things. God also likes to use color to show us things – it is another of His languages.

Rainbows may be one of the best examples of this language. When God painted a rainbow in the sky  he did this as a promise to Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. We can still see rainbows today to remind us of this promise. (Genesis 9:12-17)
In both the Old and New Testament we read about rainbows seen in visions of heaven. Both Ezekiel and John saw rainbows in their visions of heaven. So we know God loves to speak through colors.
Ezekiel 1:28
The glow around him looked like a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day. That's what the glory of the Lord looked like. When I saw it, I fell with my face toward the ground. Then I heard the voice of someone speaking.

Revelation 4:3
The One who sat there shone like jewels. Around the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.
The meaning for each color is not always the same. Colors can mean something different to each person.  We have favorite colors and God knows this already, so He may show us this color to let us know He loves us and knows our favorite things.
Let’s look at some colors and what they mean in scripture. Look up the verses for each of these colors and talk about what God was saying through each. 

Blood, Redemption. Love
Joshua 2:17-19; Isa. 1:18
GREEN Plants, Growth Gen. 1:11-13, 30, 2:8-9; Ps. 23:2; Prov. 11:28
Ex. 27:16; Esth. 8:15; Matt. 21:5-11; Isa. 14:14; Ezek. 28:2, 6, 9
WHITE Washing, Purity
Ps. 51:7; Isa. 1:18; Daniel 7:9; Matt. 28:1-3, I Cor. 6:11, Eph. 5:25-27
Judgment, Sin, World
Amos 5:20; Job 3: 3-6; 2 Pet. 2:17; Jude 1:13; Job 28:3; John1:5

Because God is a God of order, we see numbers all through the Bible! Each one can mean something different. When we see the same number over and over again in the Bible, we can begin to understand the meaning of that number! 

Numbers are important to God! He gave Noah exact measurements to build the ark. And even told him the exact number of animals to put on the ark! What if Noah didn’t have these instructions and built the ark too small to house all the animals? What if he brought only one of each animal? So it was VERY important that Noah listen to the numbers God was giving him!
  Genesis 6:14, 19
  So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind) of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.

Numbers, like colors, can mean different things to different people. For instance, God might show someone the number 12 and it might have a specific meaning to that person, such as a special date in their life or it may have a biblical meaning or could be related to a verse in the bible. Often, God gives numbers related to a scripture verse! 

Here are some common number definitions found in scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one."
Ephesians 4:5 "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

THREE - THE NUMBER OF DIVINE PERFECTION. The Trinity consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
FOUR - THE NUMBER OF CREATION - North, South, East, West; 4 Seasons.

SEVEN - THE NUMBER OF SPIRITUAL PERFECTION. Seven days in a week. There are 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 parables in Matthew, and 7 promises to the churches. There are 7 "eternals" in Hebrews which are: (1:6); (1:9); (6:2); (9:12); (9:14); (9:15); (13:20).

TWELVE - THE NUMBER OF GOVERNMENTAL PERFECTION. There were 12 tribes of Israel; 12 Apostles, 12 foundations in the heavenly Jerusalem; 12 gates; 12 pearls; 12 angels. The measurements of New Jerusalem are 12,000 furlongs or stadia, while the wall will be 144 (12 x 12) cubits (Rev. 21:16-17).

Did you know that both the Tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem were built to God’s exact size, based on the measurements He gave his people? (Exodus 26 & I Kings 6) So we can know by these things that God cares a lot about numbers!

I think it is so amazing that God uses numbers to speak to us!!

Take some time to wait on God and see if He speaks to you in one of these languages – songs, colors or numbers. Write down the things you hear through these languages and thank God for being so creative!