Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I have been selected for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by Transformed by the Journey and by greenlightlady. Thank you so much for this!  Head on over and check out their blogs.  Both are unique, inspirational, and give all glory to the Lord.

I appreciate the encouragement between fellow bloggers.  It has amazed me that so many people blog and write out their worlds for others to see and feel.  I’m amazed even more though that the Lord continues to bless my journey; not just my writing journey, but this journey of life.  Per the “rules” of being nominated for a blogging award, I have to disclose a few more things about myself.

Here they are:

1)  I get told I look very young for my age all of the time.  This used to bother me, but now that I am 40, it does not bother me anymore!

2)  I really hope to travel back to England one of these days. I went when I was 12 years old, and would love to experience it again.

3)  I once had a dream that I died and went to Heaven.  Jesus put His hand on my shoulder and said “Caroline, you are going to be okay.  I will take care of you.”  The next morning, I woke up with tears rolling down my cheeks and I could feel the imprint of His hand on my shoulder.

4)  While in college, I used to drive around between classes and look for lost pet signs.  I would then scour the neighborhoods searching for the animals.  I actually reunited a very old dog who had gotten lost with her owner!

5)  I am blessed to have a mom and dad who have been married for over 40 years…to each other.

6)  I am a sinner.

7)  I am saved.

I’m passing this award on to the following blogs that I find inspiring for a variety of reasons.  Some inspire me to be more steadfast in my faith while others inspire me to be creative and to dream big.  They are definitely worth reading!

SheLovesIsaiah

Infertility Awakening

At Home with God

A Humble Vessel

the 1 saved by grace

Simply Juliana

Dr. Jeff Krupinski’s Blog

Bucket List Publications

Love Letters 2 Christ

With All Joy

foster full

Chopstix for Six

Heartland Road

HappyTrails365

Susan Beckman’s Blog

Blessings to everyone and Happy Blogging!

valley of death, Mercy of Life

The picture above is me during my last week or so in the hospital following my hysterectomy in 1983. I had escaped out of the valley of death. That smile across my face gives no indication of what had just happened but speaks volumes to the God-given resilience of children.

This is the only time I have come close to death. I was in the dying process before the doctors and surgeons decided to perform exploratory surgery as an effort to find out what was happening to me. I learned of this detail about two to three years ago. I knew I was extremely ill but no one ever told me that I was literally dying.

Following this disclosure by the doctor who performed my surgery, I sat there quietly with tears rolling down my face. I was so close to death as a child and never knew it. I grieved at that moment for my parents, family, medical staff, and for myself. Yet, the tears that streamed down my face were not just of sadness, but also of joy over the revealing of His wisdom that flowed through the doctors’ hands and of His mercy that kept me alive.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23

I was in a Christian youth singing group called “The Sweet Spirits” for the first few years following my hysterectomy. The musical director specifically picked my solo to be a rendition of Psalm 23. My mom and other familiar adults got tearful when I sang this song. How apropos this song was. I had truly just walked through the valley of the shadow of death just a year or so prior.

From time to time, this Psalm flows through my thoughts and I find myself reciting it for days. It is rather morbid to think about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. However, as a Christian, it is comforting to know that the valley of death precedes the glory of His Kingdom.

I have been thinking lately though that we are in some way always in the shadow of death. One wrong turn, one missed step, one random act, one diagnosis…the list goes on. I want to start living as though I am in the shadow of death, but I don’t want that to be my focus. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do not want to take moments for granted. More importantly, I hope to live for His Kingdom and for the promise of eternal life in Christ.

There are many things that have died within me along this journey to Heaven. Old habits, lack of trust, thin faith, and disbelief…all of these have passed away so that I can truly have life in Him. The awesome thing about living a life of faith is that when things get difficult, or when the shadow of death seems to be getting closer, one can always look to the Lord and see His mercies through it all.

Lord, help me to see Your mercy not only when I am in the valley of death, but also when my cup runs over, when I am in front of my enemies, when the pastures are green and the water is still, and when my eyes are eternally fixed on You.

One Lovely Blog Award

I got a message earlier this week from Arlene at Armoured Up that she nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award!  Please head over to her blog and check it out.  You will not be disappointed.  Arlene’s blog covers a variety of topics about everyday life.  Through all of it she glorifies God in a thought-provoking and encouraging way.  Thank you Arlene for this nomination!

There is no award money or golden statue.  I don’t get to make a speech in front of others.  There is not an acknowledgement on any news outlets.  Instead, these blogging “awards” are a way for fellow bloggers to give each other a pat on the back and to highlight works that are inspiring, creative, and encouraging.

For this nomination, I have to let you know seven things about myself.  I have found this to be a little difficult even though I can write about infertility and other rather personal matters.  So here I go…..

1)  I have several unfinished stories for children and adults saved on my computer.  I visit the characters about once every five months or so.  I am most definitely a neglectful mother to these fictional beings!

2)  I absolutely believe that I had an encounter with an angel following the death of  close relative in 1996. This occurred before I was fully engaged in my faith life.  I plan to write about this experience soon.

3)  Sometimes I sneak candy into my house and hide it from my children.  I eat after it they go to bed or when they are not looking.  I have only been caught with a mouthful of chocolate a couple of times by my five-year-old, but I know he is on to me.

4)  I just got a cell phone three years ago, and set up my Facebook page last year….seriously.

5)  I find it incredible that the words I write on my laptop here in the Ozarks are being read by people in Singapore, Australia, Germany, United Kingdom, and various other countries.

6)  I really like ketchup on my spaghetti and mustard on my roast and potatoes. I know that is a random thought, sorry.

7)  I hope my focus on wanting to write for His glory never becomes bigger than my desire to live for His glory.

Here are fifteen blogs I have selected for this award.  I enjoy reading these blogs because each of them give me “food for thought” and I find them to be unique, creative, honest, and engaging.  Go over and check them out.

overflow

Rod Arters Blog

Ebs and Flows

a tale of puddin, tigger, & the blessing

butmostlymommy

Blurbs of Grace

SunshineLittleOne

Unashamed Growth

Settled In Heaven

master of life in earth, sky, and sea

Integrity Dad

I am. Because of You.

Being Someone’s Mum

Why Don’t You Adopt

the muse is working

Thanks again to Arlene for this nomination.  I appreciate everyone for reading my blog.  God Bless!

daughter of mine, Child of His

daughter of mine, Child of His

Life as a girl can be difficult sometimes. The mirror reflects what you see but not what the world expects you to be. My hope for you is that you will only see how your Heavenly Father views you. Your blue eyes were made just for you. He designed you from the tips of your toes to the ends of your hair. That ever-so-slight dimple in your chin was carefully placed exactly where He wanted it to be.

daughter of mine, Child of His. You are beautiful.

There may be times in your life when you may not recognize who He created you to be. You may not always hear Him calling for you, or answering your prayers. Sometimes, you may feel as though you are trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you are not. Your Heavenly Father will always be calling for His child. He will always listen intently and mercifully to your pleadings.  He is carrying both you and the world in His hands.

I want you to get dirty, jump in puddles, grow flowers, dance until your feet hurt, sing at the top of your lungs, have childhood crushes, laugh yourself silly, and dress in a way that shows your creativity and personality. I want you to say no and mean it. I hope you never believe that you are not good enough for anything less than happy, loving relationships.

daughter of mine, Child of His.  You are good.

I hope your friendships have depth, your love has width, and your aspirations have height. I pray your faith will be a well of peace and solitude. Be who you are, not who others wish you would be. Find what makes you happy and run with it. Let your passions become your joy. May you wander the world, but never forget where home is.

The Lord gifted me with you and all the things that make up who you are. You are delightfully stubborn, sensitively sweet, and tomboyish tough all at the same time. I want you to never be afraid of showing your colors to the world.

daughter of mine, Child of His. You are colorful.

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

I just found out that I got the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!  A fellow blogger, Charity, nominated me for this award.  Her blog Blurbs of Grace is one that I routinely read and get inspired by.  The name is perfect.  The posts may be short and sweet but are mighty in their reflection of the Lord’s wisdom and love in our lives.  Her other blog What Matters Most is about her life as a mother of five children and her call to minister to people in daily life and through her writing.  Her testimony is just awesome.  Thank you Charity for this nomination and for glorifying His works!

Now, as part of this nomination, I have to reveal 7 things about myself and then nominate 7 other bloggers who I find inspiring.

A little bit about me:

1.  Sometimes, I get overwhelmed (in a good way) by the fact that I am blogging about my medical history and infertility.  It used to be that I barely spoke of it.  God has blessed me so much with His revelation of love in my life and His purpose.

2.  I am delightfully reminded of His presence in what may seem as the most insignificant of events.  I hear a song, word, or take part in a conversation and then I get inspired to write a post about it. The Lord pricks my ears and speaks to my heart the topics He wants me to write about.

3.  I just starting writing my thoughts about infertility a few years ago.  I felt the Lord telling me to write “my story” down.  Before I knew it, I had written a complete manuscript of my life story and testimony.  I am still not sure what He wants me to do with it, but am prayerful about His will for it.

4.  Despite what I might see on a daily basis while working in child welfare, I still believe that there is goodness in people, that people want to learn, that people want to change, and that we need each other.  I know the Lord wants us to love each other, to lead each other, and to forgive each other. 

5.  I am not an expert in infertility, but by His grace in my life, I have been able to glean many lessons that I hope will encourage others.

6.  Road cycling is another one of my past-times.  It is during long rides that I am able to pray with intention for the Lord’s wisdom.  I have found that many lessons have been learned on my bike.  (I am sure there will be a blog post soon about this!)

7.  Following my very first blog post Hello Word! I was up until around 3:00 in the morning fretting over what I had just done.  I felt so exposed and vulnerable.  I had been feeling for a while that the Lord wanted me to write more, but had not prepared myself for the anxiety following my pushing of the Publish button.  The feedback and encouragement from other bloggers and persons who read it helped so much to ease my anxiety.  The Lord continues to lead me on in this journey and I am incredibly humbled by it.  Thank you to everyone who has visited my site and for your feedback.

I have found these 7 blogs to be wonderful, inspiring, creative, thought-provoking, honest, and glorifying to God.  These nominations are just a handful of the many blogs I find comforting, entertaining, and simply awesome. 

Keep in mind that this award is for fellow women bloggers.  There are many fantastic blogs written by brothers in Christ on their own journeys that I find equally encouraging!

…and…here they are:

1.  The Faithful Adoptee

2.  My Journal of Praise

3.  Transformed By The Journey

4.  Faithful Nibbles  

5.   DK Ray – Jesus, Mochas, and Writing

6.  Jeweled Gems

7.  Life’s Little Slices

Charity passed along this prayer that was passed to her following her nomination.  I just felt compelled to keep it going – “Praying God’s continued blessings in your lives; His peace, His power, His strength and protection and that all of your needs be met…spiritual, physical, relational and financial.”

Thank you again Charity for the nomination and to all of you who read my blog. 

I’ll end this post with a verse that has brought me great comfort during the desolation of infertility and, even better, for the unfathomable hope we have in Him.

“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

Blessings to all!

Well With My Soul

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”  

These lyrics are part of a classic Christian hymn by Horatio G. Spafford (1873). Mr. Spafford wrote this following a series of tragic events in his life that included losing his entire investments in the Great Chicago fire, and the sudden deaths of his four young daughters in an accident at sea.  His despair put into words has brought comfort to generations of Christians.  Out of one man’s tragedy, a song was written that continues to this day to bless people and bless the Lord.

This song has been on my mind for a several weeks.  We typically sing contemporary songs at church; however last Sunday, the worship minister closed the service out with It Is Well with My Soul.  I stood there and smiled at the Lord’s perfect timing in everything.

Years ago when singing this song, I did not always believe, find solace, or live out the words coming out of my mouth.  I was “well” with my job, education, husband, parents, friendships, etc; but I was not “well” with infertility.  The sorrow I felt was deep as if it came from the inside of my bones out to the rest of my body; the kind of sorrow that literally aches.  There is a line in the song Absence of Fear by singer/songwriter Jewel that goes “This vessel is haunted, it creaks and moans.”  That is how I felt.  I was living in a haunted vessel.  My body creaked from the hardship that it had endured, and it moaned for what could have been.

Since my foster parenting experience and the adoption of my children, I have been completely overwhelmed with the sense of peace with all that has happened.  It is difficult sometimes to put into words as there are not enough to describe how nothing else can replace the peace-maker that He is.  His peace does surpass all understanding.

It is an experience that begins with the full acknowledgement of who He is in our lives and what we choose to believe about Him.  Is He a father?  Is He a maker?  Does He offer His love freely to us or do we have to earn it?  Does He truly plan our lives with purpose far beyond our imaginations or understanding? I once questioned these things and wondered how a father, maker, love-giver, and planner could, or better yet would allow pain and loss in His children’s lives.  My earthly human instinct is to protect my children and prevent pain in their lives, so the vision of God allowing tragedy to happen has been a struggle for me to wrap my head  and my heart around.

However, full acknowledgement of who I am in Him has led to further understanding of the dark times.  The revelation of God in my life and how He has planned it has only brought me closer to Him.  I look at my situation now and see His Hand working in all of it.  Total acceptance of my infertility has been possible because of Him, not me.

I wonder sometimes if peace amongst each other could be a possibility if everyone were able to truly say “it is well”.  It is usually not the violent act, illness, or ruined relationship that lingers on in our hearts and minds.  It is the bitterness and resentment caused by these things that stain us.  It is our expression of whatever is ailing us that can cause great strife.

I am so thankful to be able to live life without resentment about infertility.  I am so thankful to know that I am His.  The song It Is Well with My Soul has a deeper meaning for me now.  My singing it is an act of saying to the Lord “whatever Your will is, I accept it and trust you”. 

My writing and speaking about infertility is a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness.  Whenever I am able to share just a bit of my testimony, it affirms me that the Lord can take tragic situations and turn them into ones that will bless others.  Thank you Lord for carrying me along the path where I can not only sing, but shout, it is truly well with my soul.

Where is your treasure?

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

A friend recently told me that when she and her husband started telling people they are taking foster parent classes, they were met with responses that were both surprising and disheartening.  People have said things like “why don’t you just have your own baby?”, or “why would you do that?”  Unfortunately, the majority of these statements have come from fellow believers in Christ.

It seems this appears to be quite common even in the Christian community, or at least perhaps in our area of the country.  Thankfully, my husband and I did not deal with this as much because people knew we were infertile and that we wanted the opportunity to be parents and hopefully adopt.  But, my friend and her husband have biological children, and could have more if they chose to.  They have felt called for a while now by the Lord to minister to little ones through foster care.

After our conversation, my heart was a little unsettled.  The Lord kept saying to me “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”-Luke 12:34.  After pondering on this, the thought entered my mind that while we are truly blessed in America, where is our heart?  In my opinion, it seems that it is in worldly things.  We treasure our actors and celebrities. We lift them up on pedestals and award them.  Yet, do they reflect our hearts?

We fight so hard with each other over our political opinions and opponents.  Our different views in policies and our abilities to express them are an integral part of our freedoms, but do they really reflect where our hearts should be?  We strive for big cars, bigger houses, and small waistlines, but still, are these the things that we treasure?

It would be a lie to say that I don’t enjoy going to movies, voting, or admiring nice cars or homes.  It would also be not truthful if I never worried about what the scale said.  But, I hope these things never reflect where my treasures really are.

It breaks my heart that in this country of opportunity where fellow Christians can walk freely without persecution, we overlook what is truly important.  The Lord has called us to minister to ALL people.  This includes the politicians we don’t agree with.  This includes the actors or actresses that we may find “weird”.  This especially includes children who have fallen into the foster care system.

I have worked in child welfare for eleven years now and have seen so many horrible and vile acts against children.  I have witnessed foster families get their hearts broken time and time again.  I have watched birth parents lose their battles with addictions, and ultimately lose their children.  Sadly, I have seen social workers become hardened to their hopes that they can change the world.

I still believe that one person can make a huge difference in the lives of children.  I choose to believe that people can change, but they need willing participants to walk along them in their battles.  Sometimes, it seems that we want children to grow up in safe homes, or want adults to change, but fail to recognize our responsibilities in these things.

We might say “I believe in Christ and love Him mightily”; yet, we turn our backs on the things that take us out of our comfortable “God bubble”.  Christ surely was taken out of His comfort zone.  He could have decided not to follow His Father’s calling.  He could have walked away, but He chose not to.

If we want the staggering statistics of abuse and neglect of children to end, we too must not walk away.  Foster care and being involved in child welfare issues will certainly take us out of our comfort zones.  It will definitely break our hearts at times.  However, our involvement in children’s lives and doing what God has called us to do is a reflection of where our treasure should be.

I saw a poster one time that said this “You have never looked into the eyes of anyone who does not matter to God”.  I have decided to recite this to myself daily as a reminder of the incredible responsibility and calling as a Christian to love people, especially those that can be overlooked by society.  My hope is that my treasure and my heart will always be focused on the One who is worth treasuring, and on the children He desperately loves.