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Fight to the finish…

-I love that…”fight to the finish”…that is how the Message version of the Bible titles the second paragraph of Ephesians 6. One thing that used to really freak me out before I was a believer and in my first days as a believer was reading anything about the devil or spiritual warfare. Didn’t get it…the unscene just seemed whacko. As I grew in my faith, it seemed the more I grew–the more passionate I became about the Lord and following Him no matter what the cost. Without fail, the minute I’d step out there–discouragement would come, something would happen to make me think the task was impossible and I might as well give up…and you know—lay low. If you haven’t noticed–if you lay low as a Christian (or as a non-Christian too) things seem to be a little more smooth some times. Maybe we were just weren’t made to rock the boat of life and be radical…right? OR maybe we were–and when we aren’t…things are smooth because we aren’t a threat…we aren’t on the front lines so we don’t feel as much of the battle. Hiding in where things are comfortable is…welll comfortable…but for me–it’s no way to live. I want to fight to the finish–live each day passionately…taking advantage of every opportunity…follow Him to the front lines where lives are at stake and with that choice will also come adversity. As much as I believe in God…as much as I believe in heaven…I also believe there is satan (sorry, he doesn’t get a capital letter of respect from me) who wants to steal your joy, kill your calling and discourage you. BUT take heart…because if you are a believer in the Almighty God–HE has already overcome the world.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. ”

Notice the word is WHEN not IF.

In EVERY thing I have followed the Lord in—I have faced trials. Not just “oops that stinks” but I can see the pretty rainbow at the end so it’s okay trials…but PAINFUL—HARD trials…with no light at the end of the tunnel…but I’m going to trust You Lord because I know you are good times instead. Over and over—it has been steps of faith…trusting in Him and I can say my God has ALWAYS been faithful. ALWAYS. If you are reading this and I sound whacky–bear with me. If you aren’t a believer and you are thinking, “Well, my life is good–why would I want to follow Him and have trials?” WELL, let me tell you this. Because. Because He is worth it. Because only He can fill that void in heart that you thought only a friend, husband, parent or child could fill…only He heals hurt completely…He is enough…and it isn’t until you let down walls and ask Him to show Himself to you…and begin to seek Him…and find Him…that you see that following Him is worth it because His ways are so much better than yours…and He really is real…and life with Him is so much better than without Him. And He is the reason we live the way we live…and do the crazy things we do. He is worth it!
This past weekend, we were invited to go down to South Georgia to share about our adoption and meet with a group of families who prayed for us during our adoption. The moms are all in a dear family friend of ours’ Bible study. What do you know that I got horse on Friday and my voice was completely gone all weekend. ALL WEEKEND. SO…while I went to share…instead I did a lot of listening, shaking my head, drinking water and smiling:). AND I was also sleepless because our little man is going through a rough spot so there are lots of hours of reassurance and love throughout the night. I didn’t feel quite like myself with circles under my eyes and no voice…AND it was Orphan Sunday weekend…so instead of sharing at church–I went to the nursery to play with babies. It wasn’t how I would have planned it…but I think there was more going on there.

On Saturday morning, I had some sweet time praying before going to the house to hang and share. Something incredible happened as I was praying. For just a moment, as I prayed outloud my voice completely sounded normal. I thought, “I’m back! NOW…off to share!!” But then…as I got ready to go–I started coughing and the raspyness returned. I felt the Lord was showing me His power–He could bring it right back if it was His will–and He had overcome any trial ALREADY FOR ME but I needed to just trust Him. SO…I sat. I listened. I chased my kids. I changed diapers. And I did my best to share in 5 short minutes how the Lord had shown me Himself through our adoption.

We came home tired—you know…rested BUT tired all the same…and Monday brought some hard things…the unexpected–and we had to take a few steps back as a family and regroup a bit. I was disheartened…but I was also feeling like over and over I continue to step out in faith…and all at once—I really felt like I was in a battle. BUT do you think God already knew what would come on Monday? Absolutely. Do you think He loved us so much to prepare us and pour into us over the weekend. Of course. The hours alone with Him…such sweetness…and my heart had been strengthened…rested…and ready–well, as ready as a heart can be for a trial. I came across Ephesians 6:10-20…and I like two difference versions so I have to share them both:

NIV: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

The Message: And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all

I have seen my share of trials in my short lived 15 years of following Jesus with passion. And I will say–I see God’s heart for the orphan and satan’s feelings about orphans too as I’ve never endured more hard things than during this journey and after. The week before I traveled was one of the most frustrating and discouraging weeks of my life. I still see satan trying to attack as we get settled and begin to take on new things for the sake of encourageing others and fighting to the finish on behalf of those the Lord deeply loves…orphans and widows being some of His most talked about prizes in scripture. While I have never seen so much adversity–GET THIS…I have also never seen so much of HIS GRACE and LOVE and POWER. My God has already won. I STAND with Him. Light at the end of the tunnel? It’s better than that…I’m standing WITH the Light of the World Himself!!!

I love how Smith Wigglesworth describes this in his book Greatest Works
“Every trial is a blessing. There have been times when I have been hard-pressed through circumstances, and it seemed as if a dozen steamrollers were going over me, but I have found that the hardest things are just lifting places into the grace of God. We have such a lovely Jesus. He always proves Himself to be such a mighty Deliverer. He never fails to plan the best things for us.”

Indeed…dispite having no voice this weekend–He lifted us up into a place of grace…to just do life this weekend with these precious familes…to hang together…to laugh together…to listen…here are a few pictures from our sweet weekend…thank you girls for encouraging me—for shining your lights in my heart…and for showing me His love. God knew I needed to less pouring out and have more pouring in…because He knows all things!!! I was so inspired and encouraged by you all!!! I love how you all are committed to one another as sisters in Christ. How you love and support one another. Thank you for sharing your weekend with me…and your families. Can’t wait to see you all again!!! And maybe next time I will actually be able to talk!!! Most of all–thank you for loving us and for praying for us through our adoption journey, through our travel and through our adjustment. YOU ALL ARE SUCH FACES OF GOD’S GRACE!!!

And speaking of God’s grace…I see it in this baby boy’s face of mine!!! I have to tell you a sweet story about sitting in church on Sunday before I had to scoot out to the nursery because ITY was too loud. The worship leader asked during worship, “Do you see Jesus? Where? Where do you see Him today…” There was a pause and then she began saying WHERE she saw Him today…and it was especially sweet because it was Orphan Sunday…and she caught me off guard as she declared…”I see Jesus right there…in the arms of that mother…holding a baby from Africa…” WOW. Now if that isn’t God shining His grace on you I don’t know what is!!!!!!

Our ITY definitely shines His grace. They just can’t stand not to love on him…and can you blame them…I mean he is just the sweetest! And how cute is this…this sweety just couldn’t help but feed him his Cheerios?!

AFTER Isaac told the kids all about himself and his favorite things…it was time to hit the dock with daddy!THEN he got to see a little catfish action. My friend Angie and her daughter tag-teamed reeling in this bad boy…Wanna picture with the fish…she isn’t so sure about it!!!
Now…the fish had it pretty good. He got to go back to the lake. The creatures I really felt sorry for…were the crickets. NOT because they were going on the hook. BUT because a little boy’s name that starts with “F” thought they were the COOLEST…poor things…He was a little obsessed with them I’m afraid…Taking the top off? NOT a wise choice if you ask me;).That a boy…put the top back on!!!BUT THEN…he just can’t STAND IT! I think this went on and on just like this for probably an hour;)….NOW…I wanna know WHAT boy has luck charming the ladies with critters? Seriously…who does that work for?Well, looks like it worked for Frank!!! SO funny!!! I agree baby girl…that bald headed baby is just irresistable!!!

I guess Laney had to see for herself what all the hype was about!

THEN we had to have a sweet little reunion with adoption mommas…NOW with their babies!!!! Remember this picture back in June??? Brittany Cannon and I were DREAMING our our babies! I was about to travel in just 2 weeks and Brittany and her hubby were working on their home study…AND THIS WEEKEND…we got AN AFTER!!!!! See what 5 months can do?! Brittany and her hubby were in the process of adopting from Ethiopia when they got a little surprise phone call…and NOW they have a beautiful baby boy!!!! SUCH grace!!! What a reason to celebrate!!! AND it doesn’t stop there…because guess what???? The story just grows a bit bigger as we pull sweet Jill into the adoption momma-in-waiting…and we’ll have to do “an after” picture when Jill has her sweet baby home too!!!!!!!Jill and her husband have a BEAUTIFUL story–and they are adopting domestically! This will be baby #1 for their sweet family–but oh my…meet this girl and you just know she was CREATED to be a mom!!! I have a feeling she’ll be a mini-van mom with a crew in years to come!!! She just radiates His JOY and His grace!!!

THEN…it was time to do what all folks in South Georgia do after you finish throwing the catfish back!!!! Skeet shootin’ of course!!!! WATCH out folks…it’s the ‘Girls of Dougherty County’!AND they even convinced YOURS TRULY to give it a go…AND they stand there in disbelief…’cause Momma Young nailed that sucker with her first shot! And that’s the way I roll people. I’ll never shoot Bambi…but I’ve never missed a skeet;).

Such a sweet weekend!!! And thankful to know more sisters-in-Christ who are running strong. Galations 6:9 encourages us to not grow weary in doing good–for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. THANK YOU to those of you who purchased a chance to win in the Cook’s raffle!!! Let’s help them meet their goal and help them bring their baby girl home!!! And if you win that trip to Hawaii…by all means–take me with you!!! Hope you all have a good week. I want to encourage you all in your hard stuff…that you are not alone. Others are fighting the finish with you. Our God is enough. Remember that the hardest things are just lifting places into the grace of God. Hard things are opportunities to gain more glory for the Lord as He manifests His power.

Elle J - November 10, 2010 - 12:08 am

Beautiful. The writing, the photos, Frank’s kiss, the babies, the momma’s … all of it is just beautiful!! Praising God for YOU!

Makenzie - November 10, 2010 - 7:20 am

So true! My life used to be so safe and comfy… but I felt like something was missing. When I stepped out and started trusting my Lord, my life became healed and exciting to live. My world is so chaotic right now but all I feel is HIS peace!

april - November 10, 2010 - 7:30 am

Great words Andrea, those scriptures have helped me through time and again when I have faced various trials. I agree with what you wrote and i just loved the pics like always!

Alicia - November 10, 2010 - 11:25 am

I was just talking to someone last night about what a spiritual battle adoption and orphan care seem to be. I have never experienced the like. You worded both sides so well – both the messy work of satan and the overwhelming love and grace and victory that comes from the Lord. Thanks for going there and talking about the unseen. Praying for you in the midst of thei fight.

Becca Harley - November 10, 2010 - 12:27 pm

lifting you all up today. THanks for the reminder and encouragement – needed that!

Jill Gorman - November 10, 2010 - 9:26 pm

WHAT an encouragement it was to spend time with you and your family last weekend! Even though your voice only lasted for five minutes 🙂 your lives have ministered to us a great deal!

Renea - November 10, 2010 - 10:07 pm

You are always such an encouragement just when I need it. 🙂 So happy to see your family so full! ♥ 17 months of praying & waiting. I needed Galatians today. Thank you!