Where Have I Been?

A Daddy Lion looks on tenderly at his cub
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One of my images of Father God, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, honestly, for a long time, the adoption process and keeping my home clean enough to please our agency was so stressful, I didn’t have enough creative energy left for any writing at all. Now I’ve improved on that front, only to take a class at church that required as much energy as college and took up a lot of free time and frankly after my chores and my course work I just wanted to play games, read, or Facebook on my Kindle. That got boring, so I got a job.

That story begins last September, when my friend Niccole asked me to host a Lilla Rose party for her, as an adoption fundraiser for me–in addition to my hostess rewards, she threw in her own

commission from that party–that floored me. Not many people like her in business these days. If you’re wondering “what’s Lilla Rose?” So was I.

The company sells unique hair accessories that work better than store-bought, last longer than store-bought, have a 1-year product warranty , and they’re gentler on hair and work for nearly any hair type. Including mine, and that says something.

I was born with a thick set of curls that my family had no idea how to care for on a girl and they were too proud to ask for help. At age twelve, my hair was frizzy and so brushed out, we’d thought my baby curls had gone away rather than having matured into long, wavy hair very stressed from neglect and so unmanageable, I was daily asking my mom to comb out my rat’s nests.  After she reached her frustration limit there, I ended up in a salon, getting an impulsive, bad hair cut fixed. I wanted my pretty curls back, which led to a perm and advice from the beautician that I needed to use conditioner and hair picks (or wide tooth combs) and never again let any sort of hairbrush anywhere near my head.

So over the next few years, the perm grew out into the long, naturally wavy hair I have today. And I could now manage my hair myself–but it remained unruly and stubborn. My styling was limited to the half-up, a ponytail, and a basic bun at the nape of my neck. I was surprised at first at how much it made the professionals’ day to get to put my hair up for my prom and my wedding. For the most part, I’d all but lived 24/7 in the boring buns and ponytails before the Lilla Rose Fundraiser. My best styling trick was making my hair look shorter with a Scrunci upzing–which you can get for under $10 easily but they’re not big enough to hold my buns and they caused scalp pain the whole time I had them in. They also tangle on themselves and break easily. Lilla Rose costs more but you get better quality and you can exchange any items that do develop defects in the first year.

Jesus saved my life; Lilla Rose reduced my hair problems. I still have migraines but otherwise I can now put up my hair as fancy as I can learn to do it with little pain, when only the boring bun wasn’t painful before. On top of that, these things are unique hair jewelry that jazz up even my standby simple bun, simple pony tail, and the half-up.  There’s also something to suit all tastes, ranging from a metallic Celtic knot, a skull and cross bones, to flowers and bling suitable for the prom queen or even a bride getting married on a tight budget. I was used to buying cheap, so their prices seemed high to me at first, but their prices are low-end from the jewelry standpoint. Their main product, the Flexi, was too unique to sell in stores, so Lilla Rose restored to selling their products online and via network marketing consultants like my friend Niccole and now me.

Yes, I got that excited but gave myself until this late spring to think about it before getting bored enough to go for it. In the end, I figured consultants get a 30% minimum discount and the $125 kit contains $300 worth of their best-selling products.  To keep this independent contractor position, we only have to sell like $29 a year and sales to ourselves count. You only have to actually work it if you want to actually make any money–and if you do work it, you may eventually build a passive revenue stream. If you want to test things out, host an online party for me either on my public Ashira Clips page or in my private  group.

Note this is a one-time announcement that will not repeat, and I do plan to get back on topic here soon. If you’re interested in becoming a consultant or hosting a party, PM Ashira Clips on Facebook. If you’d like to see more, check out the product demo videos on my Facebook page or browse my online catalog at: lillarose.biz/ashira

For the rest of my life update, my last class ended only for me to need to start a Bible Study that reads like an MLM/network marketing approach to Christian evangelism/missions. It’s talk about reproducing and “be fruitful and multiply” may be triggering for infertile women, and I’m concerned it talks too much like the goal is for us to multiply ourselves rather than for Christ to multiply himself through our efforts, but otherwise it looks good. We need more discipleship in the church, and the other evangelism methods known to me are obnoxious and boundaries-violating so I’ll be interested to see if this approach is instead respectful and effective. I’ll let you know when I finish the course and get back from Romania. (The Romania trip story is one I’ll save for another time.)

One thing I will say, in all this whirlwind, I’ve had a few thoughts. 1) Christians are too busy to be asked to spend more than three hours a week with Jesus, which is why so many wait until their only alternative is therapy to take my previous, more intense discipleship class. 2) What is more exciting to us? Hair jewelry that considerably reduce our hair headaches? Or Christ who saved our souls from Hell and supplies all of our spiritual needs according to his riches in glory? What do we show more appreciation for? A friend who gives us an unexpected gift worth in excess of $200? Or God the Father, who ransomed us with the precious blood of his only begotten son, whose worth is beyond measure?

Another of my images of Father God*, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown. (*The Son is the image of the Father See Col. 1:15)

Not to say we shouldn’t be grateful to our friends or happy to have solutions to every day problems. God cares about those, too, and he wants us to be grateful for each other when we do good for one another. I’m simply contemplating our priorities and wondering if we’re taking Christ for granted or if we’re letting the good gifts of this world remind us of the excellency and matchless worth of God’s gifts.

Let us remember the good people and good gifts we’ve received from them with gladness. Let’s also remember Christ’s glory and be spurred on to stir up what we’ve received from Christ and be mindful of Christ with us as we go about our day.

For anyone who walked in off the street because of Lilla Rose and now has no idea what I’m talking about, sorry. Please pretend I’m from a foreign country and speaking broken English from the strange cultural viewpoint of my strange foreign country. If you’re curious to understand it–not necessarily accept it–feel free to ask questions. Otherwise, please feel welcome to take in the data of interest to you, ignore the rest, and go on about your hopefully peaceful day.

 

Why I Chose Faithfulness

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The Church faces a lot of challenges with the changes technology is making to our society. New generations have been taught values that run contrary to scripture.  Many believe this presents a problem they have to fix in their own might and wisdom.

I end up cringing at most of these solutions. Some of these efforts, while well-intentioned, come off as fake and cheesy because a church or ministry is doing something that’s so unnatural, that’s so obviously doesn’t fit who they are, that it feels fake and schmaltzy. Then, we have people who ignore the parts of the scripture that are unpopular in today’s culture and thus compromise the truth. And often, in both cases, the people offering the solutions will be telling Christians what they ought to do but haven’t actually succeeded in reaching these groups themselves.

This week, I read in Acts 9 the story of Saul of Tarsus’ encounter with Christ that led to Saul becoming Paul the Apostle. This raised questions for me. What if the people who hold the solution to the church’s most vexing challenges aren’t in the Church right now? Maybe, the people who God will ultimately use to address the needs that vex so many in church leadership are far from God right at this very moment.

Certainly, Saul, the persecutor of the Church, was far from God.  No one in the Early Church would view Saul as a solution to anything, but rather as just another big problem. There were a probably quite a few who’d lost relatives to his fanatical persecution who would have shed no tears if Saul had died.

Yet God had chosen Saul for a mission many would not have expected: “the Pharisee of Pharisees” who would have eschewed contact with gentiles became the Apostle to the gentiles.  It seems like a horrible idea. Yet God knew what he was doing.

As a man who learned at the feet of Gamaliel, Paul had honed a fine intellect which would be key to reaching much of the Gentile world. His background as a Pharisee gave him a great understanding of scripture and tradition. At the same time, his impeccable Jewish credentials made him the perfect opponent of the Judaizers who threatened to subvert the early Christian Church.

Throughout history, God has done this. He has taken persecutors and skeptics and raised them up to be the leaders and thinkers of the Church. It’s true not only of Paul, but of more modern figures like C.S. Lewis, an atheist who became the greatest modern apologist for the Christian Church, or Chuck Colson, a ruthless take-no-prisoner political operative who has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world through founding Prison Fellowship.

Time and time again, even with churches full of people, God has reached out, drawn people out of the world and to himself and raised them up for the great purposes he’s intended and often are truer to God and his word than many who were raised within the Church’s walls and also more effective at reaching those outside the church. God has provided in this way time and time again throughout history.

The most important thing for Christians to do is to be faithful to what God has called them to do. Any new steps or new approaches will only succeed if they are ordered by the Lord. Let’s remain faithful to who God has called us to be, and let’s rest safe in the knowledge that God hasn’t called us to solve every problem. God has called us to be faithful to do what he’s called us to do.

Mind you, we are all called to show love and kindness. The story of Paul encourages me to look at those who are far from God differently. It’s often said we should not judge people because we don’t know where they’ve been (i.e. what they have suffered that led to this behavior) but Paul’s story shows that we don’t know where people are going. The terrorist, the political extremist, the bigot, the sexually immoral person, and the con man may be one encounter with God away from being transformed as Paul was. They may be the person who helps bring your lost relatives to Christ or who ends up writing words that will save you from losing heart years down the road.

The solution to the problems the church faces is not to be clever and inventive but humble, loving, and obedient. Let’s pray God will raise up those people who will have the wisdom and the ability to address the problems we face at this time as he has done throughout the history of the Church.

[bctt tweet=”Why I Choose Faithfulness: Saul the Persecutor became Paul the Apostle by God’s power, not by cheesy gimmicks or compromising on the truth. By @Idahoguy” username=”@andreajgraham”]

Second Annual Adoption Update

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Thank you to everyone supporting our adoption journey. Your continued prayers and shares are appreciated. I’m going to collect our past updates in this post.

20 months ago
We had our next visit with the home study social worker today, it went well! Praise God, I’ve been praying the Lord would give us grace/undeserved favor with the agency, and God did! The home inspection is Thursday, nervous and excited! Thank you to all of our supporters!

17 months ago
For those of you who pray, please keep Adam and I in your prayers, on any regular list you have, we need prayer cover nigh continually during this season of adoption. The enemy is fighting us hard. God is bigger and he’s got our back; he has, is, and will move on our behalf in awesome ways, but he often moves through his people. I can feel the difference when God’s people are praying. Thank you so much!

12 months ago
Christmas Adoption Update (Discusses the failed home inspections, the battle to get caught up and to master homemaking with ADHD, and spiritual/emotional battles I faced)

We passed our home inspection! Only two more to go! Oh, we need to get a couple smoke detectors mounted if anyone knows anyone who can help.

(Note over the next several months we passed two more home inspections and jumped through more hoops involving
psych-evals and mandated counseling as we had to overcome the agency’s fears to prove I am capable of being a fit parent despite my social background and ADHD.)

5 months ago
After much intense spiritual warfare, God did a miracle and we are looking at an approved home study finally and got to begin making our adoption family book while the paperwork is wrapped up and we transition to the matching with prospective birth moms and the next big payment (the $4000 goal we set) most of our existing funds ended up spent on an emergency paint job the home study required (Murphy’s law nearly kicked our butts–but our God is bigger and stronger!) If I forgot, Adam got a big promotion and a significant pay raise, thank you to the Lord for his donation. Adam deserved it, he’s a tireless hard worker with such a big, giving heart. He gives to charity and to friends in need, donates blood, and even is practicing to run 4 half marathons to raise money for AIDS orphans in India.  (Note he completed all four races last fall.)

3 months ago
Our family books got approved! We get to print them and move forward to matching!

1 month ago
We are still in the matching process. Please pray for us, the other waiting parents, and for the prospective birth moms at the agency, that God will lead us all to good matches and show the prospective birth moms the right families for them to give to their precious babies. Thank you for all of your support.

If you’re either curious, your family is considering making an adoption plan for your child, or you’d like to share it with a friend, you can check out Andrea and Adam’s public family profile. 

Mary and Martha’s trust

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photo credit: Big Grey Mare Tree Planted By The Water via photopin (license)

In John 11 we read the famous text where Mary and Martha face the death of their brother Lazarus. While he is ill and dying, the first thing they’re reported doing is sending for Jesus. In this passage, they trust Jesus completely–they are sure even after their brother’s passing, that if Christ had been there, he would have saved Lazarus from dying. Some may be tempted to fault Christ for not being there, and accuse him of waiting on purpose until he had created an opportunity for an even flashier miracle. However, reading the text, a lot of people in this family’s area were bent on killing Jesus. He had a legit cause to decline to go. From the disciples’ reaction, it still wasn’t safe for him to be there when he did risk going down there for the funeral. How many of us today wait until the funeral to show up when we have far less at risk than our lives?

Now, depending on who is preaching this text, and what point they’re trying to make, often, Martha either has total trust in Jesus or expresses continual doubt. In reality, she has total trust in Jesus and is struggling to believe he’ll do the impossible for her. For real, how many Christians today would have cremated their brother Lazarus by day four? How many of us, knowing Christ is with us always, so much as ask him to raise the dead? Don’t we have faith? So does Martha. It’s not her faith that is limiting her, it’s her expectations. I.E. we have faith that God can. But we still struggle to believe he will.

What Christ offers her–a brother risen again not in a distant future, but right now–it’s everything she hopes and longs for and her grieving heart is instinctively guarded against disappointment. Since reason tells us even today the dead don’t normally get up again after the doctors have given up on reviving them. Does it happen? Yes, but it’s rare.

The remarkable thing here is nowhere does Christ chide them for their battle between faith and fear and doubt. At the height of it, in fact, seeing their need to grieve, he weeps with them. Knowing what he is going to do, he takes time to emphasize with them and feel with them the painful loss they’re already enduring. Just in case we all think he is instead throwing himself a sinful pity party about their “sinful” grief, the Jews’ reaction to his expression makes it clear he is stopping in the middle of his plans to resurrect Lazarus to grieve the death of his friend.

In doing so, he gives a precious gift to all of us, especially anyone exposed to the false teachings that condemn grief. Christ, who knew no sin, who had absolute faith in the Father and knew what he was himself going to do beyond all doubt, took time to process his grief at the loss of his friend to the grave before calling him out of it. He knows your need to process your pain, grieving heart, he has experienced it, too, and he was without sin.

And Martha, despite her hostess concerns about exposing her guests to the stench of a corpse, did believe in what the Lord could do enough to go along with opening the tomb. So, yes, Martha and her sister Mary trusted in and had faith in Christ even in the dark turmoil of their grief, and no less so for their grief or their battles with fear and doubt.

One last note on trust. According to the Bible, who should we trust? Answer: God alone. While we often believe it is wrong to distrust humans, we have good company in it. During his earthly ministry, Jesus didn’t entrust himself to humans. And John means what he says, that was Christ obeying scripture. (See John 2:23-25) I did a keyword search for “trust and man” on Biblegateway, it pulled up seventeen verses, and the general gist of virtually all of them is to command us to NOT trust humans, especially not yourself, the proud, strong men, military leaders, and politicians, and especially not for salvation.

Now, we should still love them, respect them, pray for them, etc. But not trust them. Our trust is to be in God alone. This can be of great comfort, looked at rightly. Can I trust this person? The Bible says no, they are fallen, they will let you down sooner or later. But God never will. He is with you, he loves you, and he will help you. Go forth in what God has called you to do, not because you can count on the people around you to always be there for you, but because God is always there for you.

 

[tweetthis]Mary and Martha’s trust[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]According to the Bible, who should we trust? Answer: God alone[/tweetthis]

 

Hope at a Dead End

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Gentle Reader, please share this with a friend that this could speak to. This is for the brother or sister whose gotten bad news about their career, health, or a family matter.

You feel stuck at a dead end, watching dreams crumble in the midst of the daily grind. Maybe pain and fear binds you, keeps you stuck in less than all you could be. Maybe you’ve pushed ahead in your goals as far as physical limits will allow. Maybe it’s not simply the voice of our own emotions screaming “you’ll never win.” Maybe a human authority is telling you that the odds are against you and they’re not ever getting any better.

There are no guarantees in this life. God doesn’t owe us anything, least of all miracles. “God works all things for our good.” But not all things in life are good. “God is for us, so who can be against us?” Yet we won’t win every battle. At some point, God is going to let us lose a battle with death itself. If we remain in the faith, God does turn even the ultimate loss of death into our ultimate victory, eternal life with Christ. Remembering that can help us face the prospect of painful losses with hope and fight on.

The nature of faith is uncertainty. God is faithful to God’s word. If the Bible says God promised to do it, God will do it. Yet many promises are conditional on us acting by faith. And applying the Bible’s promises to specific situations isn’t always easy. And it can be even more challenging to hear the voice of the Lord clearly. We need a humble awareness our heart’s strong desires can cause us to misunderstand. I pray God changes our hearts from desiring what isn’t God’s will to desiring what is God’s will.

But at your dead end, remember we serve the God who led Israel out of Egypt, straight into a dead end.

[tweetthis]At your dead end, remember we serve the God who led Israel out of Egypt, straight into a dead end.[/tweetthis]

Picture it. The Red Sea before the Children of Israel, and the armies of Egypt behind them. Trapped. Impossible to go forward into freedom. Impossible to escape the master bent on dragging them back into slavery. Yet God commanded Moses: “Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” (Exodus 14:15b-16)

By faith, Moses obeyed the Lord, and the sea parted. By faith, the children of Israel went forward.

God overcame Israel’s dead end.

I can’t guarantee the desire of your heart is in line with God’s. I can’t guarantee your goals and plans are indeed the Lord’s plans. Still, when you come to closed doors that are unlikely to open, knock. Pray. Let God lead you to the best of your knowledge and discernment. And knock on the closed doors you encounter.

God can move mountains. God can give you favor and blessing beyond measure. If it is God’s will, knock, and the door will be opened. If it doesn’t open, it only means that specific door wasn’t right at that specific time. Keep trying other doors until God changes your heart or shows you another path. Or takes you home forever.

Don’t assume an open door is God’s will, either. Not everyone who opens a door when you knock is acting in accord with God’s will.

So let’s act by faith, aware of our natural limits, and aware of what God can do if God pleases to do it. Let’s weep and cry aloud as needed. Let’s praise and lift our hands in worship and sincere thanksgiving as the Spirit moves in us. Let’s pray carefully about the opportunities that do come to make sure they are God’s will.

But I believe the “dead end” in your life isn’t the end. One way or another, in this life or the next, God has so much more for you.

[tweetthis]Hope at a Dead End #overcome “If God is for us, who can be against us?”[/tweetthis]