into the unknown

Our minister at MPCC used an illustration yesterday that really struck a chord in me.  Mark shared some facts about the African impala. 

The impala has the amazing ability to jump great heights and distances (up to 10 feet high and 30 feet distance from a standing position).  With this ability of vertical and horizontal jumping, the impala survives and thrives in the carnivore-infested savannas of Africa.  But, if you were to see an African impala in a zoo, it would be confined by a simple three-foot tall fence.  You see, the impala will not jump unless it can see where it is going to land. 

I am often like the African impala, feet firmly planted on the ground, not seeing the need to jump into the unknown.  But, when I met the girls in April of 2009, I knew it was time.  We began the adoption process after I arrived home from Ethiopia.  We jumped, hopeful of where we would land but not really knowing.  There were no promises that we could be matched with the girls.  We did our best guess as to their ages and reqested along those lines.  On July 9th of 2009, we recieved the referral for Fikirte and Konjit.  I felt like we landed from a jump that day.  So, we did it again, and again, and most days I feel like we are still mid-air.  The process has been full of the unknown.  When will the paperwork be complete?  How long can a background check take for a cop and a teacher?  When will our homestudy be approved?  How are we going to pay for this?  Will we have to travel twice?  Will I stay in Ethiopia for a time?  

Well, our paperwork was completed with an approved background check, and our home study has been approved.  We will complete our USCIS fingerprints tomorrow.  The payment is still up in the air, as is travel, but we continue to move forward in faith.  We will not let the fear of an unknown landing dissuade us. 

Hebrews 11:1  “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

When was the last time you jumped into the unknown?  I’d love to hear about it!

a rock on which to stand

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God….”                  

Psalm 40:1-4

Our family is in the process of adopting two girls from Ethiopia, Fikirte (fa KEER ta) and Konjit (kone JEET).  I met them last year while working with Visiting Orphans at Kid’s Care Orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and I fell in love with them.  Now our whole family is in love with them, and we are eagerly awaiting the time they will join us here.  During this process, I have often felt as if I am in the muck and the mire, weighted down by the paperwork, the red tape, the wait.  I have cried out, wanting the process to conclude and our girls to be home.

But, this is not my first time in the slimy pit.  I can equivocate multiple occurences in my life to that place.  The instance that first comes to mind, is the night I learned that my mom had collapsed and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.  I remember hanging up the phone and taking two steps forward.  Directly in front of me was my Bible.  I clutched it to my chest and fell to my knees.  I’m not really sure that I verbally said anything, but I know that my heart was crying out.

The mud and the mire on that day was the mourning of my heart at the thought of losing my mom.  But what I felt as I kneeled before my God was His voice slowly pulling me to my feet and allowing me to stand.  I was reminded that my mom was a follower of Christ, that this story could not have a bad ending.

The new song He gave me to sing was that through it all, His name would be praised.  The possibilities were that she was going to heal and continue to do Kingdom work in His name or she was going to pass from this earthly life, receive her eternal reward and through that, His name would be praised.

My mom experienced a cardiac arrest that day, over 12 years ago.  She spent a week in the Cardiac ICU and is now the proud owner of a pacemaker.  Her story has God’s fingerprints all over it, and there are multiple miracles that happened leading up to that day, on that day, and in the days following that I love to share.  But, I’ll save that for another time.  

I know that not every person who cries out to God receives the answer they had hoped for, but I am not sure I was looking for an answer that day.  Perhaps I was simply looking for a rock on which to stand.

why be normal?

A friend, by the name of Tracy, did a really kind thing for our family this week when he shared our story with his readers.  He, his wife, and his boys  have been family friends for a long time.  Tracy is currently maintaining two sites, one of which chronicles how he’s lost 110 pounds and has kept it off, with the hopes of encouraging other to do the same.

I know how I feel about divorce; being a child of it has left an indelible mark on me.  But, I really enjoyed hearing Tracy’s male perspective on the subject.  Check out the post, and if you have the time to follow his further reading links, I highly suggest them.  The couple Tracy refers to is making marriage pro-active versus the re-active manner in which we sometimes go about it.  

My husband, Ryan, and I are working on being more pro-active.  It is a lot of work, some days more than others (just ask him), but I refuse to be normal when it comes to my marriage.  Normal in our world tells us that 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce and that subsequent marriages have even less of a chance.  Normal in our world tells us that the chance of divorce is not diminished by being a ‘Christian.’ 

I was recently made aware of something that smashes the above normal statistics.  In a sermon entitled Love & Marriage, my minister shared that only 1 in 1150 couples who pray and read their Bibles together will divorce.  Now that is more like it!  

So, the challenge: take the time to read and pray together, because when it comes down to it, we don’t have the time not to.

sign of spring

My mom recently visited, and she always brings a little something for our family when she comes.  I have long believed her love language to be gifts.  She puts a lot of thought into the things that she gives to others, things that are specially suited for the person they are given to.   

This gift, although small and inexpensive, brought an instant smile to my face.  She gave us what I consider to be the first sign of spring!

spring is on its way

Granted, the sign didn’t stay in our house for long, but I find it much more reliable than Punxsutawney Phil!

financial stewardship testimony

My husband, Ryan, and I were asked to share our Financial Stewardship Testimony with our home congregation of MPCC yesterday. We are beginning our second Capital Stewardship Campaign in April for our Family Life Center. Between now and then, people in different stages of life from our congregation will be sharing their stories. Ryan wrote the testimony; I acted as editor, and we presented the testimony together. I wanted to post it here for those of you who might not know the financial part of our family story.  There is much more we could share, had we been given the time.  Maybe Ryan will break down and teach a workshop with me sometime.

(In case you would like to know who shared what – Ryan’s parts are in conventional text and mine are in italics. Now you can hear our voices in your head…)

In the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe portrays a General named Maximus who motivated his troops before a battle by exclaiming, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”

We were asked to give our testimony on financial stewardship. I am Ryan Mott, this is my wife Deanne, and we have been members here for over 12 years. By no means are we experts on the subject of financial stewardship, but we are willing to share out story. It begins in 1996 with our marriage. Every month, God was getting our left-overs. Often we would look at the checkbook balance on Sunday morning and give a portion of the remaining balance, if there was one. God had blessed my life. He had given me a beautiful wife, a woman who first took me to church, which led me to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Then He blessed me with two healthy children and a job that allowed me to provide for my family. There was no reason to not give more to God.

In 2005 Ryan and I facilitated the program Financial Peace University with our small group. We were finally working a plan to get out of debt and moving towards a debt free future. One of the key parts of this program is a zero-based budget. Every penny of your paycheck is earmarked before you receive it and is spent the way you marked it. This changed our financial situation drastically, in a good way. For the first time in our almost 10 year marriage, we were tithing. We were not only tithing our 10%, we were also sponsoring a child through World Vision and paying towards the original Capital Stewardship Campaign for MPCC’s Family Life Center. In three years we paid off approximately $38,000 and were debt free except for our mortgage.

At this time Deanne shared a heaviness that was on her heart, a call to add to our family through adoption. Adoption is not a cheap process, but I wanted us to do this on our own. We had gotten ourselves out of debt; we could certainly put aside enough money to adopt. Why not take a portion of the tithe every month and put it towards our adoption? This started a trend of tweaking the budget to suit our plans. We paid approximately $4000 towards the adoption…and lost it all. I began to doubt that this was a path we were truly supposed to take. But, once Deanne arrived home from her trip to Ethiopia, God made it clear to both of us that we were called to look after the orphans. We went back to giving our first fruits to God, and handed the concern of the adoption fees to Him. We returned to the zero-based budget and our tithing of 10%. God began showing us again what He could do with our finances. Matthew 19:26 reminds me of this, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Since our rededication to financial stewardship we have already been able to pay adoption fees doubling the amount we had lost in our first adoption attempt.

Our intention is to give above our tithe to the building fund, and we are planning to do this as a family. The kids will be giving a portion of their chore compensation for their own pledge. By no means is this going to be an easy task. God loves a cheerful giver, and this is one of my struggles, to look at the budgeted amount for charitable gifts each month and not think of how I could use it for my own plan or for pleasure. But will a new shotgun, rifle or fishing rod bring glory to God? Our building is bringing glory to God each week. Show up on any Big Wednesday. Over half of the children there do not attend our services on Sunday. Mt. Pulaski Christian Church is bringing the message  of Jesus Christ to those in our community who may not be getting that opportunity elsewhere.

God sacrificed His Son. We will never have to endure such a sacrifice, but we can sacrifice financially. We can all give to the point it hurts. A sacrifice in the checking account, such as forgoing the new furniture or the latest electronic miracle may not be our plan, but we have found it isn’t our money to plan with. The parable of the rich man in Matthew reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus expects, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”