Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Joy, Unspeakable Joy!

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas, as individuals, as families, and as cultures, I’ve been reflecting on how we all celebrate in various ways with different traditions. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is celebrating through music! Now, I’m not a very good singer by myself and I cannot play an instrument. I have more of what one would call a “congregational voice”. During December, I love nothing more than to listen to Christmas songs on the radio, attend Christmas programs in a variety of settings, and sing Christmas carols and songs with groups of people, large or small. I remember going Christmas caroling with the small church family I grew up in and attending a concert in an arena full of people gathered to enjoy a popular Christian artist’s newest Christmas tour. I cherish the old songs and thoroughly enjoy newly written songs about our Savior. Then there are also people who have arranged great combinations of the two.

So far this year I’ve attended a performance by the Samford University Band to hear my son play, a massive production put on at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church and an inspiring collection of songs performed at my own church, Valleydale Church. I also enjoyed singing one single song with folks at the Lifeline’s Foster Parent Christmas Party standing beside a foster dad holding a sleeping baby.. I even attended the University of Alabama’s graduation ceremony in which the university ensemble played Christmas music while we waited that surprisingly included “religious” Christmas songs. Every Christmas season I purchase a new Christmas CD to enjoy and add to the variety of ones I already have.

Christmas songs tell parts or all of the story of our Savior’s birth, remind us of prophecies about His coming, and express all the different emotions that we, as humans, feel as we try to grasp that the God and Creator of the universe would step out of His kingdom and take on the form of man in his most vulnerable state, a baby; that Jesus willingly took on human flesh as this baby, knowing that it meant He would lay down His life in order for the world (you, me, each person who has ever lived or will ever be born) to have the opportunity to be saved from God’s wrath because of our sin; to know that forgiveness, that peace, that hope of eternal life, that JOY!!!...Which leads me to share with you my favorite Christmas song.

It really is a tough choice as I enjoy so many! Every time I hear a different song, I’ll think or say: “Oh, I love that song!” or “This one is the best!” or “This is my favorite one” and on and on. But when it boils down to it, I definitely have to say my very favorite is “Joy to the World.” As you read the words below, I encourage you to do so aloud…..or maybe even sing it aloud right where you are.


“Joy to the World”
Words by Issac Watts; Music by George Fredrick Handel

Joy to the World, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King; Let every heart prepare Him room, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing. Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy. No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flowFar as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove, The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love, And wonders, wonders, of His love.


In God’s Word it says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”
I Peter 1:8

I know that although this is a joy-filled time for many people, it is also the time of year when sadness is multiplied for those who have suffered loss—the death of a loved one, loss of a job, divorce, chronic illness, the death of a dream. This time last year, my Dad passed away after an extended illness. It was a difficult time for my family last Christmas and it continues to be a struggle as my family and I continue to miss Dad. But the pain is buffered by the knowledge that Dad believed in Christ as his Savior. I know Dad is in heaven, praising our Heavenly Father eternally. He has a new and healthy body, with no more pain, suffering or sadness. I know that he has received the fulfillment of his salvation and wouldn’t want to change places with any person on earth. Dad believed and he now sees his Savior’s face. And along with all the other believers who have past from this life, surround God’s throne and continually praise Him with joy that we can only attempt to express with mere words.


Amy with her dad as he told her his salvation experience for the first time in 1999.


I will exalt you, LORD, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave, O LORD.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the LORD, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:1-5



My prayer for you this Christmas season is that in the midst of any sorrow in your life, you will experience true joy that only comes from the King who heard our cries and became a baby to rescue us from our sin and despair, adopting us into His family, giving us eternal life.

Amy Griner
Domestic Social Worker





Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christ "mas" time

During this time of year, we are all surrounded by Christmas. Christmas preparations, Christmas parties, Christmas plans…Christmas, Christmas, Christmas is everywhere! And yes, many of us do love Christmas! We love the sights, we love the smells, we love the excitement on the faces of little children, we love the anticipation of getting together with all of our family members, etc…
As I was thinking about what to write about during this very special time of year, 3 words appeared in my mind. Of course “Christ” came first, then the “mas” stood out on the paper in the word Christmas, and then “time”. Now I know from having 2 years of Spanish in high school (and trust me that was a long time ago) that “mas” means “more” in Spanish.

No, I don’t remember all of the correct uses and what “mas” is supposed to be combined with to be used properly, but I do know that when combined with the word Christ and time, what pops into my mind is spending MORE TIME with CHRIST.

As I reflect on the many different ways that we can spend more time with Christ, I think how blessed we are to be able to freely share our love of Christ at Lifeline. We share HIS love with our adoptive families. We share HIS love with the children we advocate for and pray for each day. We share HIS love with our Lifeline family. We share HIS love with all of you! That is our mission; that is our purpose!

Lifeline exists to provide a hope and a future for children around the world by bringing families together through the mission of adoption. Our purpose is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to witness the faith through counseling, ministering, residential care, adoption, and orphan care.


During this busy Christmas season, you may think to yourself, there is just no way I have any more time to spend doing one more thing. It’s during these busy times, that the Lord does not always come first because there are so many places to be and so many things to do. The challenge to all of us is to make sure the time with spend with God comes first!

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:33

Below are some suggestions on ways to spend MORE TIME with CHRIST:

  • Set aside time early in the morning to be alone with God. Seek the Lord!
    “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on Him while He is near.” ~ Isaiah 55:6
  • If you aren’t an early morning Bible Study kind of person find another regular time in your day to spend quiet time with God. Clear the clutter of the world away. Prepare your heart and mind for HIM.
    “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” ~ 1 Peter 1:13


  • Use the time you exercise! Read the Bible while on an elliptical machine/treadmill, meditating on Scripture, or going through a list of people/situations to pray for.
    “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:14

  • Pray for people as you are driving or waiting somewhere.
    “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.” ~ 1 Timothy 2:1

  • Keep it simple. Don’t have the time you spend with God, just another thing to check off your “to-do” list. The goal is to spend time with God and to grow closer to him without distractions. The important thing to remember is that God longs for you to spend time with Him.
    “Pray without ceasing.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

  • Pray with others – designate a time and a place to meet and give this time up to God.
    “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." ~ Matthew 18:20

We need to all ask ourselves, how are we spending our Christmas time? Are we spending MORE TIME with CHRIST? Are we reflecting on the many blessings that surround us during this very special time of year? Or is our life feeling frantic because there is just not enough time in our day to accomplish all that needs to be done to prepare for Christmas?

During this time it is truly challenging to stop and spend time with God. I venture to say that if we all take a moment out of our day to devote time to God; that frantic feeling will become less and less. The Lord can focus us on what is important during this time of year – and that my friends, is HIM!

HE is what Christmas is all about! HE is where our focus should be! HE is our Savior and King! Without HIM, we would not have Christmas. It is not by chance that Christmas is so very special. It is not by chance that the word CHRIST is in Christmas. During this special time of year, spend “mas” time with Christ and just wait and see the plans that HE has for you unfold. May you all be truly blessed!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Lisa Kelly
International Adoption Specialist

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fight


“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of

the eternal life to which you were called when

you made your good confession in the presence

of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12

Lately this charge to fight has been impressed upon my heart in a variety of ways. I have been challenged to spend my time and resources in a way that makes an investment in the eternal fight. This is a daily battle that I desire to always fight well. For the adoptive parents that I work with, this work takes on an entirely different level of meaning.

When he recently spoke at Lifeline’s annual banquet, Dr. David Platt said something that really resonated with me in regard to our adoptive families. In explaining the similarities in adoption and the gospel, Dr. Platt made a simple statement: “One does not adopt accidentally”. He went on to discuss the tedious and trying journey that all adoptive families walk in pursuit of their children. Immediately I recalled Jeremiah 29:13- “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart”. While written in reference to our relationship with our Redeemer, it is also extremely appropriate in the context of the adoption journey. This is the epitome of a fight. The fight that I see on a daily basis from adoptive moms and dads is an intense fight that amazes me. And I find myself challenged to emulate this same intensity in my own pursuit of my Savior. Just as one does not adopt accidentally, I cannot enjoy an intimate relationship with the lover of my soul without intentional pursuit. He promises that I will seek Him and find Him when I seek Him with all of my heart.

As I daily engage in this fight alongside adoptive moms and dads, I must constantly remind myself that the Father’s love and pursuit of His children far exceeds that of me or even their earthly parents. He is the one who calls us to fight, it is His passion that is placed within us for which to fight, and it is His power within us that enables us to fight. While we desire to fight the good fight to which we have been called, we would be amiss if we failed to remember an additional promise from His Word:

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will

see the deliverance the LORD will bring

you today. The LORD will fight for you; you

need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

He will fight for us! That is amazing! He calls us to fight- to be faithful, determined, and diligent. He wants us to work with all our hearts to toward the calling that He has given us, but it is He who fights in and through us. When we come to the end of ourselves, it is He who continues to battle and be the warrior on our behalf. He fought for us on the cross- He battles for us at the right hand of the Father- and He fights for us in this. As I marvel at the intensity at which a parent fights for his child, and as I desire to pursue the Lord with all of my heart, I realize that this is but a fraction of the love and intensity with which He has and continues to pursue me!

To the adoptive parent, we are battling with you. I pray that you would know this truth: that the Father is the love, care, comfort, and protection that your child needs. As your child waits for you, He is there. I pray that He will be all these things to you in this interim period as well. God’s promises are true. He will put you in the cleft in the rock and cover you with his hand. He will hide you in the shadow of His wings. He will sing over you. The Lord your God is with you. He is the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you. You can take rest in His love. He will sing and be joyful over you.

To anyone else, I urge you to consider how you might be called to join this fight. Is it as a prayer warrior for those in the adoption process? Is it to step up and advocate for the fatherless? Is it to adopt? Whatever it may be, I encourage you to gird yourself with His truth and step out in full faith as you engage in this battle for that which is eternal- live the life worthy to calling to which you have been called.

Mallory Blackmon
International Social Worker

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lifeline – Now Open in Mississippi

Lifeline has officially opened its doors in Mississippi! We are so excited about our new office, located in Meridian, MS, and our ability to better serve Mississippi families. We thank you, Mississippi, for your support of our organization throughout the past 30 years. We are proud to now serve you with the convenience of an office right here in your home state.

We have many great ways to get involved in Mississippi to “defend the cause of the fatherless” (Isaiah1:17):

Pray:

  • Pray for our new office and staff in Mississippi, that we would be obedient, faithful and pleasing to Him.
  • Pray that God would prepare the hearts and minds of His children in Mississippi that they would welcome and support our ministry.
  • Pray for the women throughout Mississippi that are struggling right now with an unplanned pregnancy…that God would lead them to Lifeline where they will be provided with encouragement, love and support, as well as counseling and assistance finding prenatal care.
  • Pray for the 143 million orphans around the world and right here in Mississippi, that have no father or mother to care for, love, and protect them.

Visit:

  • Sign up for an (un)adopted mission trip to “visit orphans… in their distress” (James 1:27). Less than 1/10 of 1% of orphans around the world will ever be adopted. Our (un)adopted ministry was created to love and care for the millions of orphans that will likely never know the love of a mother and father.

Donate:

  • Make a financial donation at http://lifelineadoption.org/invest/donate/ to support our ministry to women in crisis, families seeking to adopt, and orphans around the world.
  • Donations of office furniture, lamps and other items for our new office would be a great way to support the ministry in Mississippi.
  • Donate the precious resource of your time. Volunteer to help us with Mississippi Lifeline events, administrative tasks, or general maintenance for our building.

Defend and Advocate:

  • Host a Lifeline event at your church, organization or home to bring awareness and change to the plight of the orphan.
  • Spread the word among friends, family and co-workers about Lifeline’s ministry in Mississippi.

Adopt:

  • Opening your home and welcoming an orphan into your family is one of the most vivid expressions of Christ’s love and redemption you can show. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).
  • On behalf of the 143 million orphans worldwide, we are asking YOU, Mississippi, to get involved.
  • For more information on how you can help, please contact our Mississippi office at msnyder@lifelineadoption.org or (601) 621-4285.

Mary Frances Snyder
Mississippi State Director

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kentucky Celebration

Imagine for a moment running into an old friend while traveling across the globe . I am sure this reunion would include grinning from ear to ear, big hugs, and laughter. This is what we saw on Saturday at our Lifeline Kentucky Family Reunion and Celebration. We saw children with a friendship that began in an orphanage in Ethiopia playing together again. We heard them laughing. We watched as they crawled into their mommy's and daddy's laps . It was such a wonderful day of fellowship as we celebrated all the sweet children running around and prayed for those who will join our families in the future.

As a Lifeline Staff Member, I loved being able to meet our new families and introduce them to others in the process. As an adoption advocate, I was amazed to see all the families that have been blessed by adoption and all the lives that have been changed. As an adoptive mom who met many of these same children while in Ethiopia picking up our son, I stood in awe of God’s goodness, grace, and love. At our reunion, I was able to see that shy child who would not speak in Ethiopia now running around, laughing like crazy. I was able to see the tiny, underweight baby who I held who is now healthy and thriving. I was able to see several older children who I know sat in an orphanage and wondered, “When will someone come for me?” These same children walked in with their parents as beloved sons and daughters!


It's easy to see from those pictured above why every aspect of our reunion was wonderful! I would definitely say that our first Lifeline Kentucky event was a success and I am looking forward to our next time together. If you are a family that was able to attend, I would love to hear about your favorite part of the day.

Brittney Armstrong
International Adoption Assistant
Lifeline Kentucky

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trust

It is official. . . As of last month, I have been a ‘Southern Belle’ for a full year.
The last couple weeks have been a sweet time of reflection. There is also abundant anticipation for all God has in store.
One thing I can testify to: God most certainly is in the business of giving you your heart’s desires. . . He is the one who puts them there. Within His will, and His ways, and His provision and timing and plan- He knows what is best, and when is best.


Trust Him.




Pre-Alabama, I was in Kansas. I had seen God bring families together through adoption- both internationally and domestically. I also had the opportunity to serve and walk beside young women who were pregnant or currently parenting. I knew adoption was of His heart. I also knew these young women needed role models, support, encouragement, and the love and forgiveness of a Savior.

The fruition of these two hearts desires has been a beautiful collision. I have come to know God in such a serious way. . . and I cannot deny. . . my life is His story to shape.

God knew. He knew what it would take to stretch me beyond myself, and help me see life with His eyes. Just recently He gently reminded me. . . “Remember those years of prayers? And standing upon the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 and Proverbs 19:21 and Isaiah 30:18 and Colossians 3:10? Remember how you were not quite sure where I would lead you? Do you see now how all that helped me get you here? You are loved, dear child. And there is more to come.”


I am sure you have also had times in your life when you were able to look at where you were, and realize where He has brought you. There are things you are hoping for, believing for, hurting for, and desperately praying for today. They may be things He laid on your heart long ago, or it may be something that recently broke the surface.

Realize- God may have already answered that prayer. . . you just do not know it yet. You may be praying today for your child. You may not bring that little one home until next year. Maybe it will be three years. Maybe in three days, your case worker will call with the news of a referral, or a birth mother who would like to meet you, or a child who needs a forever family and a home. Maybe you placed a child for adoption 19 years ago tomorrow, and you hope to hear from them soon.

Whatever it is you are praying for- believing for- and hoping for- know this. He already has it answered. I pray you know His love for you today. Be blessed.


Michelle Staab
Birthmother Counselor

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Esperanza – The Hopes and Dreams of the Orphan

Bogota, Columbia - On a nondescript street in the heart of Bogota stands 6 individual housing units scattered within the neighborhood. To a casual observer, you may believe that these units contain single families or a few multiple families, until you walk inside. Once inside, you find that these units are the homes of some 25 to 30 children who are being protected from the streets; from hunger, abuse, and the plague of being without a family.


Each unit is home to an age-segregated gender of children and within each unit is a small, dimly lit closet which contains all of the clothing, shoes, sheets, and worldly possessions belonging to these clusters of 25. Each child is relegated to a cubbyhole of about 4 cubit feet, and within these cubbies, each child has their own handmade, colored, wooden box.

This was the scene I experienced last week on the final day of our 6 day trip to Columbia. This was the very last orphanage we would visit before flying back home to the states, and we had almost canceled this stop for the sake of time. As I stood in this small closet, I couldn't take my eyes off of these multi-colored boxes. I was intrigued as to their purpose.

Raul, our trusty teammate, asked the director of the orphanage to please explain the meaning of these boxes to our team. She walked back into the closet, removed one of many boxes from a shelf, and clutched it in her hands. She explained in a soft Spanish the significance of these boxes.



"This is the only thing that truly belongs to our children. These boxes are the only thing they will keep. They are intensely personal to each child, and we have a rule that no one but the child who owns this box may ever open them or examine the contents inside until and if that child is adopted. Inside these boxes contain their most important trinkets and inside these boxes contains their hopes and dreams written upon slips of paper."

As I stared at the small box, possibly 8 inches long, 5 inches wide and 3 inches deep, I couldn't help but wonder what the owner of this box had written. What were the hopes and dreams of these little boys that filled the four walls of this home? Did they hope to sail the seas or climb mountains? Did they hope to play sports, to have a career, or to have a family? Did they dream that they could have a car, travel the world, or conquer battles? I was mesmerized by the contents of these precious boxes.

We asked the director, what - in her 12 years - had been some dreams she had discovered placed within the boxes. Were there certain hopes or dreams that seemed to be common or seemed to stand out? Then she told us, the number one dream in all of the boxes, for all the kids, no matter age or gender, was to have a family or to restore their broken families.

"O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." Psalm 10:17-18

May the Lord fulfill the dreams of these orphans to not only have an earthly family, but may these children find the hope of a Father whose adoption is perfect and eternal. May these children know the love of a God who allows our spirit's to cry out Abba, Father. May they come to know the Savior who says in John 14:18, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."



Over 150 small boxes, on a nondescript street in Bogota, Columbia contain the hopes (Esperanza) and dreams of a fraction of those orphans living worldwide, but they poll the hearts of the 143 million orphans better than the Barna group, Gallup, and Rasmussen could do collectively. They show us that children were meant for families.

But it also shows us something about our own orphaned hearts. We were meant for a family. Our true dreams should not be for riches, wealth, prominence, power, or recognition, but for the fellowship with a Father who does not disappoint and for a life built upon displaying His glory to the world around us.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Isaiah 29:11-13

Has the Lord put your family in a place where you could adopt or foster a precious child in need and in so doing meet their biggest dream? Has the Lord burdened you with his command in James 1:27 to care for orphans in distress? If so, partner with Lifeline today. Visit LifelineAdoption.org to donate to the cause, to apply to adopt, to sign up for a trip through our (un)adopted ministry by visiting orphans in need, to apply to be a foster parent for a child in US foster care, to volunteer in one of many ways for the sake of orphans, and ultimately to partner with us as we seek to meet the hopes and dream of the fatherless.

"For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever." Psalm 9:18

Oh beloved, will you allow God to use you to impact the life of a child? Please do not hesitate to give Lifeline a call because we are here...

On behalf of the orphans and fatherless.

Herbie Newell
Executive Director
Lifeline Children's Services
giving children a hope and a future
twitter: @hmnewell