Saturday, May 23, 2015

Though You Feel Inadequate, Small or Weak, Do You Trust Me?

"Today I am going to teach you to swim." Daddy says as he kneels down to meet his daughter's eyes.

"Oh daddy!?! But I am afraid I will drown and die for ever and ever if I even try to swim!" His daughter exclaimed as she threw herself into his arms.

"Can you trust me? Can you trust that I will catch you and hold your head above the waves so that you shall not drown and die forever and ever?" The corners of daddy's lips were curling into a smile before he repeated the last of his daughter's dramatic fate.

Daughter spoke softly before her lips grazed his cheek, "Yes daddy. I trust you." After some time had passed and they drove on and on daughter realized she did not recognize the surroundings passing by her window, "Daddy? I thought we would be going to the pool at the community center? Aren't you going to teach me to swim today?"

"Yes, but we aren't going to the pool. We are going to where the rocky ledge meets the ocean." Daddy pronounced without hesitation.

Daughter's imagination exploded as she painstakingly tried to remember this place her father spoke of, "I don't think I have been there before, daddy." Before daddy could answer they had arrived at the aforesaid rocky ledge and daughter's imaginations and fears revealed to be true. Daddy slowly navigated down the rocks and into the angry waters. He beckoned for daughter to come to the cliff's ledge and jump.

Daughter looked down at her daddy's small, distant body below with his arms outstretched toward her but then her gaze was deterred as she caught glimpse of the jagged rocks one upon the other down, down, down where they were met with crashing, thundering waves violently thrashing about. Her daddy was in the midst of it all still calmly beckoning her to come. The daughter's eyes grew wide and her body stiff as fear gripped her every member and her lip began to quiver. "Daddy, I can't." She cried as loud as she could.

"Do you trust me?" Daddy yelled over the ferocious beating of the waves. Daughter trusted her daddy with every ounce of her being. She loved him dearly and would follow him to the ends of the earth. So why this hesitation now? Why the lack of faith in her faithful daddy?Why the lack of trust in her never-promise-breaking father? Daughter quickly swallowed her emotions, informed her fears, closed her eyes and let her body leap off the rocks solid ledge and felt the wind and cool water splashing against her face as she fell down, down, down to the hurling waves below.

Her father beamed proudly as he held his daughter's feather-light body above the water and coached her on breathing, kicking, staying afloat and all things swimming.

Suddenly a gigantic wave ambushed them hiding them both under it's flood of water. Daughter gasped for air struggling for all her might. She finally felt her daddy's hands around her waist, "Daddy!!! I can't! This is too much for me and I thought you were gone."

"Do you trust me? Daughter, even if you don't see me for a time, I am here. I will not leave you."

The light glazed over the clouds in a palate of red, yellow and orange. Before their long drive home daddy and daughter enjoyed the quiet, sparkling sunset. "Daddy, why didn't we just go to the pool where it is safe and fun and where I wouldn't be afraid?"

"Oh Daughter, this was all just a picture to point you to God. One day God, your heavenly Father, may call you to scary and turbulent waters and I want you to obey and trust Him with the same faith that you trust me, your earthly father. I want you to know that when you feel overwhelmed and struggling and when the waves seem to take you under and you can't see Him, He will still be there upholding you with His strong arm. When people see one who is weak and small swimming in these impossible waters they will see and glorify your powerful Father in heaven who is your help! Do not be afraid, dear daughter, for your God will never leave you or forsake you. Swim strong for Him in this life in the same way you swam for me today."

This analogy or parable came to me as I sat in the bathroom late at night this past week, crying out to God to show me what I am to do. I was letting Him know how scared, weak and little I felt. How inadequate and ill-equipped I felt about doing what I felt He was asking me to do. He answered me quickly. I had to jump up and grab a pen and paper as a story poured out and filled a blank page. God was asking me to jump.

Just jump. Think later. Ask later.

But now, just swallow my fear, extend trust, obey His still, small voice and jump. Jump I did.

"Okay God, I trust you to catch me."

An amazing peace came over me and this past weekend. Grace was utterly poured out over me and pumped through my veins! Tough days will come for sure but, for now, for this day, My grace is sufficient for you.

God confirmed so many of the teachings in my heart through our pastor's sermon this past Sunday.

Watch if you want to be encouraged and challenged.

Here is a snippet:
"Serving God is about to become joyful for one woman and painful for another..."I am a bondslave of the Lord," she says, "I am owned by Him, I have no life outside of Him." That's what it means to be a bondslave. Mary is acknowledging that that is her position before God and if this is what God has for me than that is what I will do. His will be done in my... life. She does not question, she does not say, "I'll do it as long as it does not mess up my wedding plans." She doesn't say any of those things.

You have to ask yourself, "Would I still serve God if He did that to my life all of a sudden? If there was some unexpected event that came into my life, would I still be a bondslave of God? Would I still be willing to say, Thy will be done? Or would I hold on to my agenda and say, "No God, I have to think about this one, God. As long as it fits in with my plans, yes, but if it doesn't I am most likely not willing to go along." I fear too many of us would have that perspective. As long as it is what I want. As long as all the circumstances are right. And all the questions are answered then I'll do what you want.

A bondslave does not think like that." -Pastor Rod Bunton

Luke 9:23 "And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."

And the sermon keeps going and gets better! Set aside an hour and watch it :)

Then just following that amazing sermon our church held a beautiful adoption shower to honor Brittney, who is soon to join our family!

Last Sunday our church, Grace Church, lavished their love and grace on our family through throwing a beautiful shower honoring our upcoming adoption of Brittney! She is already so loved by our church family that we cannot wait for her to join our family! I hope to share more pictures of the adoption shower later in a full blog post. Here is a little snippet of what I shared at the shower while telling more about Brittney and speaking about how God is working in our life through this adoption:

"God has taught us a lot since that initial call in January where I shook with shock, "Lord, You wouldn't call us to parent a special needs child, would you?" I pleaded my case, "Lord, I don't fee worthy of the ones You already placed in our care, how can I rise up to care for one even more needy?" My lips kept our commitment as I uttered, "Yes, we will take her." but my heart raced, my thoughts presented excuse after excuse and my eyes opened the floodgates of worry. I am normal, made of flesh, weak and seeking the path of least resistance. But God had great grace and favor on me and, ever so gently, is teaching me, again, what His great and boundless love looks like.

Love sees past our abilities or disabilities, but sees in us intrinsic value because we are made in the image of our Creator. Love sees past our blemished history, but sees our future hope as adopted heirs to a Father of an extraordinary inheritance. Love see not the challenges too difficult to overcome, but sees a great Savior that has overcome all difficulties and that has lovingly bestowed His perfect strength and grace upon us.

God has turned that initial great fear into greater expectation. I stand here excited to tell you that this little girl is my future daughter. Despite her history of neglect God is writing her story of hope. Despite her languishing as an orphan in fostercare, God has not left her but has brought her a family. And despite her label as "unadoptable" she is wanted and dearly loved. Although, I would never wish another child to ever live through a story like Brittney's I do wish every child in her same plight had someone to rise up and say, "They are wanted and loved by God so we will love them and adopt them as our own!"

Posted by ShannonSoli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How to Make the Most of a Week at Big Sandy

It has become a yearly event around here. Each year our kids count down the months, days and hours until the next Family Conference in Big Sandy, TX. We all adore relaxing at the campground, reuniting with old friends, making new friends, participating in the fun activities for the kids and the learning from the awesome speakers during the conference. We cannot say enough good things about it, our kids love it, we love it and we plan on going back every year, Lord willing! Click here for Family Conference website


Since I got SO many emails and FB messages this year asking me a ton of questions about the specifics of camping at this conference I will try to post more details on what to expect and some practical advice and tips.  


1. If at any way possible you can camp then do so!
The campground is so enjoyable and it is how you will meet the most people! Everyone we meet says that Big Sandy is SO much better than Nashville or Sacramento's conferences because of the campsite surrounding the conference center. Buy, rent or borrow a camper if you can or just tent camp. We know several families that tent camp every year and they are just plain awesome! There are also small (shed sized) cabins available or dorm rooms (hotel sized) available too. For more info on pricing or housing info click here.



2. Dress modest but don't freak out about a dress-code.
There is not a strict dress-code and you will not be judged if you are a female wearing pants. You are camping so dress comfy but bring some nicer outfits for the 3 conference days. With that said, most women wear modest, dress-casual skirts and dresses, yet some wear floral print lace-necked dresses and some wear pants and t-shirts. Men wear pants or shorts to the knee and polos or t-shirts, some men main be in a dress shirt and slacks for conference days. There is a dress-code for some of the children's programs but those are clearly stated in the conference guide.


3. Pre-cooking and freezing is the way to go!
Although, daily meals are available for purchase at the conference center via their meal plan options. I always prepare and pre-cook all food so that while camping I am truly on vacation. I try to make crockpot meals for every dinner so that I am not inside the camper tied up with cooking but can be free to relax, play and fellowship with our kiddos and others on the campground. Just combine your ingredients in a bag, freeze it, then put it either defrosted or frozen in the crockpot the morning you need it.

Tip 1: Put smaller mason jars of condiments you need, like mayo so you aren't taking up fridge space with that wholesale gallon jug of mayo from Costco. Also, freeze your crockpot ingredients flat so you can stack them.
Tip 2: Write instructions on freezer bags and have a meal plan list to follow day to day.

Tip 3: Pre-make sandwiches, like a thousand PB&Js, and put them back in bread sleeve and freeze them. Let them defrost in fridge the night before that way they will be ready for lunch time. Also, we made carrot coconut flour muffins ahead of time and froze them so we had healthy muffins for a quick breakfast item on the go!

Tip 4: Bring LOTS of Smores ingredients as there will be a lot of campfire fun!


 4. Prepare to have a TON of fun!!!
The conference itself is typically three very full days (Wed-Fri from 7am-10pm) with registration starting at 11am the Tuesday before and the first two speakers on Tuesday night from 6-9pm.  The past three years we arrived at the campsite on Saturday morning after a 12-14 hour all-nighter drive. We can then relax, fish, canoe, bike, play, and fellowship all day Sat, Sun and Mon before the conference craze starts, then we usually leave anytime on Satuday following the conference. Next year we may arrive even earlier because the campground itself is just so much fun.

Tip 1: If at all possible bring the kid's bikes. The kids typically spend the entire week on their bike! The campground is huge with many exciting adventures and bikes (or golf carts) help get where you wanna go faster. Walkie-Talkies to stay in touch with kiddos are a good idea most days we only see our big kids at meal time ;)

Tip 2: Don't try to see all the speakers, pick your favorites or ask someone who the speakers that are worth not missing are. All the speakers are great and you can go see them all but you will wear yourself out (we know, we did the first year!). We usually skip the 2pm-4pm sessions somedays just to catch a nap!

Tip 3: Prepare to make lots of friends! Print out business card sized family pictures to hand out to new friends. We also printed our email and phone number on ours this year and the kids handed out all 60 to their friends. They write their address on the back so their friend can write them as penpals the entire year until the next family conference!

Our Family Testimony Video
Once our week of fun had come to a close we left earliy on Saturday so we could make it back to our church by Sunday morning. Our church had asked us to give our family testimony as well as sharing more about our new daughter, Brittany. Here is the video of Brian sharing at our church on Sunday, April 26th, 2015:

Also, after three years of prayer we finally took the plunge and applied as members so we can begin Wisdom Books as our homeschool curriculum. We received our box of member goodies at the conference and have already begun this week with Wisdom Book 1. We LOVE it so far! It truly is a curriculum with a firm biblical foundation and yet such a deep and rich study of God's creation and order, through language arts, math, history, geography, science, law and medicine! We are excited to see what each new Wisdom Book will bring!

Here are posts from our past two years:
Big Sandy Family Conference 2013
Big Sandy Family Conference 2014

Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone