Friday, December 28, 2012

A Messy Goodbye

 Ours was not the “rip the Band-Aid off quick so it doesn’t hurt” type. Ours was the American woman standing just outside airport security balling her eyes out. Ours was the Colombian boy standing just inside airport security balling his eyes out, needing to be consoled. The your makeup’s running and you don’t care borderline “ugly cry” kind. The “I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again” type. 

Ours was the keep catching each other’s eye to the last possible second kind. The try to smile through your tears type. The one last kiss kind. The type where you can’t leave the airport a second too early because you might miss your last chance to see them in real life kind. And you don’t know if you’ll ever see them in real life again…

Today I took our sweet little boy to the airport to fly back to Colombia. And ours was the messy goodbye...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

When Christmas is Broken

The evening of Christmas Eve found me lying in bed with my husband, crying about how I couldn’t find Him. Somehow I had had lost the Christ child among presents left unwrapped, to-do lists unchecked, and a house that was far from presentable. Coming home from a party that night I realized I had left my purse across town with my mother-in-law’s Christmas gift in it. There was a bilingual recordable book waiting to be recorded and in less than an hour it would be Christmas day…

On Christmas morning I woke up late and thus we were late to the family Christmas celebration. I forgot the pictures for a special presentation we were making. And though I really wanted to be in the Christmas spirit I still couldn’t find Him…

Christmas this year and last has left me staring at the stark sinfulness of my heart. When I don’t get what I want, I am unhappy. When I do get what I want, I am unhappy. The God-shaped-hole cannot be filled with a perfect sparkly package or even everything on my Christmas list. Following Christmas several years ago a pastor preached that the emptiness we feel the days after Christmas (and sometimes like me, the day of) is its own gift. It is God reminding us that only He can truly fill our every longing.

As my husband reminded me, I oftentimes sacrifice the eternal investments for the temporary things and that is where I loose Christ. But worse yet I oftentimes hope to be the healer, the repairer of all the broken things. But as much as I want to I cannot truly redeem anything and I can never fix what is broken. But He can.
So at about 1:30 on Christmas we hit the “reset” button and ended up at McDonalds. We were "those" people. But somewhere over happy meals and “nuggets” that I’m sure can’t be made of chicken, I begin to find Him again. In embracing the perfectly imperfect I started to find the Christ child…

And in case you’re wondering, you can find Him too. Though he may be found in the Pinterest-perfect-project He’s more often found in The Gift of the Magi. And while he may be found in the chaos of wrapping under the perfectly decorated tree, I’m certain it’s easier to find Him in the shadow of the Charlie Brown tree. While I often find Him in the warmth of home with Christmas cookies in hand, He can also be found in the company of those in the alleyway with no warmth to spare.

And sometimes, when you least expect it, He will find you. In the brokenness of Christmas, on the patio at McDonalds’.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's A Wonderful Life

This year I got to partake in one of my favorite Christmas traditions of watching It's a Wonderful Life (on DVD commercial free) early. Usually I have a girls viewing party including popcorn, pajamas, and a holiday beverage bar. But with us hosting a Colombian child this month I wasn't sure if it was possible. Somehow amazingly I talked my husband into watching it with me the Sunday after Thanksgiving (I'm still not sure how I managed this).

 Although it's not directly related to advent this is certainly one of the ways I slow down, consider my life, and prepare for the wonder of Christmas. If you haven't seen this wonderful movie from start to finish you certainly must. It's appropriate for all ages and I assure you it will only add more meaning to your celebrations. In the spirit of that fabulous movie The Resurgence shared a great post on the qualities of a good wife as seen in Mary Bailey.

So what are your favorite traditions? How do you draw near to the Christ child this time of year?

(Portions of this post were originally published December 21, 2011.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

And The Winner Is...

Emily won the DaySpring (in)Spired deals giveaway with the following comment:
"Being redeemed... I am free to misstep, but compelled to bring Him honor and glory. It means I am more than I once was, covered, re-purposed."

Congratulations, Emily! DaySpring will be sending your gifts in the mail.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Redemption and A Giveaway

(Update: the contest in this post closed and the winner was announced here.)

Photo Credit

This is our first Christmas with a child in our home. So now the two plus one canine have become three plus one “big-brother-canine.” This year we are hosting a child from Colombia in hopes of finding him a forever family. And since last Fall God keeps widening our hearts and our home with the thoughts of adoption…

All throughout this journey the word “redemption” has been whispered to my heart. How God wants to redeem the lives of orphans around the world. To take back the story of those who have been abused, abandoned, and neglected. And I can’t help looking to that corner of my living room where this verse rests…

Photo Credit
And I am reminded that He promised to redeem all of His children. Leaving none fatherless and without a home. All brought into His family. Adopted.

 And that changes how I view the cross, my own life, and freedom. Just as God wants the little children to come unto him, to redeem their lives, he wants to do the same for you this Christmas season, and every day. 

The products featured in this post are part of (in)Spired Deals. One lucky reader will win both the Praise Be to the Lord Pillow and The Advent Tabletop Devotional.  Enter to win by answering one of the following questions in the comments below:

What does being “Redeemed” mean to you?
How can you live out the meaning behind the Redeemed Collection– especially around the Christmas Season?

Thanks to DaySpring for providing me with these free products. All opinions are mine.

Monday, December 10, 2012

From the Archives: He is Inescapable

 I used to be one of those people who hated any talk of Christmas before December 1st. I didn’t like seeing the decorations in stores before the Florida heat had dissipated or hearing Christmas carols before my Thanksgiving turkey. But several years ago I read the quote below and God started me on an journey of embracing Christmas all year long.
“In the month of December, he strikes both the secular and sacred spheres of life with sledgehammer force. Suddenly, Jesus is everywhere, his presence inescapable. We may accept him or reject him, affirm him, or deny him, but we cannot ignore him. Of course he is proclaimed in speech, song, and symbol in all Christian churches. But he rides every red-nosed reindeer, lurks behind every Barbie doll, and resonates in the most desacralized “Season’s Greetings.” Remotely or proximately, he is toasted in every cup of Christmas cheer. Each sprig of holly is a hint of his holiness. Every cluster of mistletoe is a sign he is here.” -Brennan Manning, Above All
That quote by Manning is by far one of my favorite Christmas quotes. It reminds me of the triumphal entry in Luke 19 where Jesus admonishes the Pharisees that if Christ followers won’t praise him then even the very rocks would cry out to their King. 

Let us remember that we need the Christ child all year long, maybe even more so than at Christmas. We need him in the spring to remind us of the suffering of the cross and the brutality of humanity. We need him in our darkest hour to remind us that God is not a stranger to human pain. We need the child even in the bounty of the fall to remind us that the God of the universe humbled himself and came down to earth with nothing.

In our comings and goings, wrapping and unwrapping, baking and eating, let us remember Jesus. Let us truly live like this season is about his birthday. May we remember that every Christmas light, every wild shopper, and every poinsettia exists for his glory alone.
(This post was originally published on December 12, 2011.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Redeemed Collection

Just dropping in to say I'll be giving the Praise Be to the Lord Pillow and Advent Tabletop Calendar away next week to one special reader. It might be you so be sure to check back next week.

Hope you have a refreshing weekend!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

From the Archives: Preparing for the Savior's Birth

One of my favorite ways to reflect on Christ during Advent is to read Nancy Guthrie’s Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus. My husband and I started reading it together in 2009 and it’s by far my favorite part of celebrating the Christmas season.

The book is a collection of writings from the likes of Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and Joni Eareckson Tada, just to name a few. The daily readings aren't for the faint of heart. They're lengthy, meaty, and require some time and consideration to absorb all the riches they have to offer. One of our favorite things to do is to grab the book after dinner, snuggle up on the couch, and quiet our hearts with the Christ child. Because of it's intellectual wording this book would not be appropriate for small children but it would be suitable for family devotions with teenagers. It would also be appropriate for a small group or missional community as long as everyone has their own copy, again due to the loftiness of the wording.

How do you prepare your heart for Christmas during Advent? I would love to know what resources you use.

(This post was originally published on December 7, 2011.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Not To Say To An Adoptive Family

In the spirit of National Adoption Month I'm sharing some posts centered on adoption. 

Margaret, an internet missionary with Global Media Outreach, adopted a sweet little boy from Russia in the Spring. She shared a great post on what not to say to an adoptive family based on her own experiences. I highly recommend jumping over there and checking it out.

Focus on the Family provide the following recomendations on what to say:

Accurate Language Less Accurate Language
Birthparent Real parent, natural parent
My child Adopted child; own child
Choosing an adoption plan Giving away, giving up your child
Finding a family to parent your child Putting your child up for adoption
Deciding to parent the child Keeping your baby
Person / Individual who was adopted Adoptee
To parent To keep
Child in need of a family Adoptable child; available child
Parent Adoptive parent
International or inter-country adoption Foreign adoption
Child who has special needs Handicapped child, hard to place
Child from another country Foreign child
Was adopted Is adopted
Birth relative Blood relative

If God hasn't called you to directly serve orphans be sure that you are doing all you can to support those who are called to this ministry.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Does God Want to Use You in Orphan Care?

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I wonder does it make you want to live everyday of your life differently? Should all our days be a radical holiday? In the spirit of National Adoption Month would you stop what you're doing right now and pray? Simply ask God how he might have you make a difference in the life of an orphan. That's it it's simple. One person can make a difference.

Orphan Sunday 2009 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

We’re Hosting a Colombian Child!!!

 (November is National Adoption Month. Along that vein some of my posts the remainder of this  month will focus on adoption.)

I am so excited! Can you tell? Between 31 Days of MissionalLiving and Allume I’ve been sitting on this post for so long and can’t wait to share my joy with you. Jason and I will be hosting a Colombian boy between the age of 10 and 14 during the month of December. We are so excited we can hardly stand it.

We have partnered with an adoption agency, Embraced byGrace, to serve as an advocate to help our Colombian boy find his forever home. There will be twenty-one children in Central Florida and Colorado in the month of December that are adoptable. Here are some quick statistics for you about the world’s adoptable children: 

  • There are 163 million +  orphans worldwide
  • Of those 60,000 + are in Colombia
  • Of those 9,000 + are adoptable internationally

Colombians are a people that are passionate dreamers. Most of them are hopeful for a peaceful world.

If you’re interested in the learning more about the need for forever families for Colombian children please contact me or Embraced by Grace directly. If you’re local to Central Florida and would like to attend an event we’re hosting to hear more about Colombian adoption please contact me as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Blues? (A Guest Post)

The election is over. Whew! It was a long stretch.

Now we can move on and get our focus back on a few other things — some things that are more important than a presidential race. I know, I know — it’s important, we have a Christian responsibility to be vote and be involved in the political process. I believe that so much that our family stood in line for nearly 4 hours just to vote yesterday. Somehow, though, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we Christians were as passionate for the Kingdom of God as we are for our politicians.
We’ve all heard a lot of overstatements by fellow believers…and may have even stated a few of our own:
  • “This is the end of things if this election goes bad.”
  • “God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gommorah if he is elected.”
  • “This will be God’s judgement on America if he is our president.”
So–in this post-election morning when we awake to our President’s re-election victory–let’s be reminded of a few very important truths:
  1. God has been deeply involved in this election. Isaiah 40:21-22 states, “Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God— the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!”
  2. God knows what He needs to accomplish and how to get it done. Romans 11:33-34 reminds us, “How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?”
  3. Consistently and sincerely pray for our President and other leaders. God calls us ”therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty,” 1 Timothy 2:1-2.
  4. Our true hope and ultimate focus must be Jesus. Remember John 16:33? “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
All is well. God is on the throne. We have work to do. Peace, brothers and sisters…

Ivan Veldhuizen was a pastor for 25 years and currently directs international church planting for Converge Worldwide. He writes Escipleship and lives in Orlando with his beautiful wife, Susan, and mission driven son, Shane. You can follow Ivan at @Plveldhuizen.