Not Just Another Drive by McMission {Restoration Atlanta}

This is a guest post by my sister, April Carlock, who has supported us through our adoptions and run hard with us through ministry in Zambia Africa with Wiphan Care Ministries. She posted a bit of her experience on Facebook with RATL–and I asked her to please share more here. She’s been my best friend since I entered the world–and her perspective and heart inspire me daily…meet my big sister, April, and her heart–


Do you ever have one of those moments where you think- “this is it.”?

“This is why we’re here.”

It only happens every once in a while and only lasts a second but it’s big and it floors you.

If I blogged- this would be a post and the title would be really snazzy and clever but I don’t blog and I’m also not all that clever. (SO Warning! This post is long and I wouldn’t bother reading it unless you have been actively looking for a way to serve the homeless and the poor in your community in a tangible way…and I don’t mean cleaning out the closet and dropping your unwanted items somewhere… that’s an awesome thing to do but I mean if you do that and you also think THERE’S GOT TO BE MORE! I WANT TO DO MORE!. Well, I think I’ve found a really cool way and if you’re interested… read this….;))

Last week I had a “major dilemma”.

Or so I thought, anyway.

It was the daddy/daughter dance at my daughters’ school this past Friday night. But this momma had dropped the ball (so totally uncharacteristically of me;)) and had already made other plans. A sweet friend had organized a weekend with Restoration ATL to spend the weekend at The City of Refuge (a homeless shelter for women & children). I hated for my daughters to miss the special night with their dad and their friends at the dance, but my husband said we should spend the weekend in the shelter instead (wise man;))…. And my girls understood…

Rather than pretty dresses, candy and a dance floor… they embraced the unknown. I was humbled and taken aback because I had expected less. (How often I don’t give these little people credit for having the ability to make BIG choices!?). And now, as I settle in (after the fact, after our downtown adventure) in my warm cozy house… I’m humbled that I ever gave their missing a dance a second thought. Instead of dancing with their dad, they saw something I pray is permanently etched into their hearts and minds, and I also pray is something we do over and over again as a family.

Instead, they watched their dad play with little ones without a home, most of whom are without a dad to throw them over their shoulders… They played tag and sang karaoke with new friends–friends whose lives seem very different but who are at the end of the day just kids, the same. To say the moms and kids we met & worshipped with, played & prayed with stole our hearts would be an understatement.

As we drove away my kids asked “when are we going back?”. We weren’t in the car 5 minutes. It was one of those moments where you think- “Dear God, I know I sure mess stuff up ALL the time. But this day. This day was GOOD. Thank YOU for giving it to us!” And it was a GOOD day. It was.

But GOOD doesn’t always mean easy, or happy, or just.

Sometimes GOOD means wrecked.

Wrecked.

And Changed.

GOOD is when you catch a glimpse of what matters to Him.

A glimpse of what He wants you to spend your life on. Nothing compares to how GOOD that is.

Years ago when our family joined a few other families and Wiphan Care Ministries, we had no idea what we were “getting into”. Many even questioned us. Why Zambia? Why not here? (The answer to that question isn’t simple, nor is it short so I’d love to write about that one day;)).

But what drew me to this ministry (RATL) is that their vision is the same as Wiphan’s. Serving by being with, not doing for.

In Zambia, the unemployment rate is 50% in urban areas, and soars to 80% in rural communities.

They don’t need us to build anything for them.

They are capable.

As a ministry we may have to gather the resources and the supplies, but they can build it.

They WANT to build it.

We were each meant to feel the satisfaction of a hard day’s work. Each of us wants nothing more than to take care of our children. It’s true in Zambia, and it’s true for the homeless women I met at The City of Refuge.

Tonight my heart is full and heavy.

Full that God gave my family the opportunity to discover some truths about humanity and homelessness that we can take with us and “do better now that we know”. Heavy because our little “adventure” is their reality and it’s broken and scary.

I met brave women who know hard things, things I will likely never know.

But while we think we’re so different, the truth is our hearts have the same desires to be seen and loved.

And we’re all broken.

But amidst all the broken pieces- kids are kids and there was laughter and fun…

And moms are moms and we all just want a good and safe world for our kids… and we ALL NEED JESUS.

And the cool thing is- ANYONE can go and visit the women and children at The City of Refuge. You’re invited! From spending the weekend with other families to hosting an ice cream social on a Friday night; there are many ways to serve and visit.

And, of course, you’re always invited to visit our friends at Wiphan in Zambia (join Andrea and I June 5th;)).

To learn more about Restoration Atlanta. http://restorationatl.org

To learn more about Wiphan. www.wiphan.org

Where is God? {When things get hard}

First I have to say how important it is for us as moms shepherding our children to be in God’s Word daily. Y’all. I know it’s hard. I’m in a place where it could feel impossible homeschooling 5 kids ages 9 and under. I’m NOT an early riser. And with 5 with different needs–someone always, always, ALWAYS needs me. Instead of carving out time to be with God AWAY from them–I take them with me. If you are a mom struggling to find time to have a quiet time–maybe see this as a season…to have a not so “quiet” quiet time–and to take them to the cross with you…to go there every day TOGETHER. Psalm 84:3, “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!”

Each morning the children and I sit down together and we read out of the NIRV Adventure Bible together. (We have lots of Bible study favorites…this is one of them as well as Betty Lukens felt stories through the Bible. Old school. Good stuff.)

When we read the Adventure Bible, we read the “Live It” application section and the scriptures that go along with it. We are currently in Exodus–in the drama of Moses leading his people out of Egypt. And today–the Lord spoke to me through this morning time with my little ones…and I just had to share a perspective I’ve never seen in this story…as the Israelites asked I’m sure to themselves, “Where is God when we need Him most?”

So to set the scene…

The Egyptians have been ruling over the Israelites–treating them as slaves…making them build bricks from straw and ruling brutally demanding almost the impossible. The Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush–and told Moses to go to Pharaoh and to tell him to let His people go. Moses confesses his fear before the Lord of speaking to Pharaoh–and instead of getting upset with Moses lack of trust or faith or courage–the Lord provides a sidekick for Moses through Moses’s brother Aaron. They go to Pharaoh over and over and over–and over and over and over Pharaoh says NO. Plagues are sent to Egypt–and finally after the Passover (where things got bloody awful)–Pharoah FINALLY let the people go.

BUT.

Not for long.

Pharaoh changed his mind. And loads up 600 of his best chariots and their riders and heads out in high pursuit after the Israelites.

So here the Israelites are. They’ve endured hardship and a heavier hand because of Moses following the Lord already in the past. They finally trust the Lord again and leave Egypt with Moses. They are camping out by the Red Sea when they look up–and Oh MY WORD…they see Pharaoh and a ARMY coming after them. And they panic.

WHERE ARE YOU GOD? You brought us through so much. You helped us survive living through hardship in Egypt. And now what? You bring us to the desert to DIE?? Why???!!! Where. Are. You???

Exodus 14 is where it all goes down.

(Starting in verse 11 they lose it…) “They said to Moses, “Why did you bring us to the desert to die? Weren’t their any graves in Egypt? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? We told you in Egypt, “Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians.” It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die here in the desert!”

Have you ever felt like that?

You followed the Lord in a big way. You took a risk. And now. On the other side. Oh my glory. It’s not what you expected. It’s harder than you imagined. You felt like the Lord was asking you to trust Him–to follow Him–to do this or that…and now…it’s all falling apart. WHERE ARE YOU GOD?

There are a couple of things that the Israelites COULD. NOT. SEE.

For one. They had never seen the Promised Land. They had NO IDEA what the end of this journey looked like. They had no idea all the blessings the Lord had in store for them. They had no idea how perfect God’s plan was. They had no idea the glory the Lord was about to receive through this really hard season. And they had no idea how the Lord–their God–was RIGHT. THERE. WITH. THEM.

And their fearless leader spoke words–words that YOU and I need to hear.

(verse 13 and 14…) “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm. You will see how the Lord will save you today. Do you see those Egyptians?? You will never see them again. The Lord will fight for you. Just be still.”

Did you hear that??

Do you see those Egyptians in your life?? Whatever that is right now?? Trust the Lord–and you will never see them again. The LORD will fight for you. JUST BE STILL.

And this…

THIS…

THIS is what you really need to read coming up RIGHT HERE. Get this in verse 19…

The angel of God had been traveling in front of Israel’s army…

Are you kidding me???

THE ANGEL OF GOD?? The angel of God had been traveling in front of them?? Yes. And then…

(verse 19) “…Now he moved…”

And that’s where some of us find ourselves today.

Where is the God that brought me here?? Where are you God?? I felt you wanted me to follow…I did…and now I don’t see you…YOU MOVED. But you promised to never leave me. But I don’t feel you–or see you–and something changed…but I’m supposed to keep moving…I’m supposed to keep walking forward??? I don’t understand!

Ever feel like that.

And the answer. Is often…YES.

Because get this. The angel of God who was going BEFORE them–did move. AND they were STILL supposed to keep going in the same direction they originally felt the Lord tell them to walk in. Just because they didn’t feel Him or see Him in every moment–they were to follow the direction the Lord originally told them to go in until He said turn or stop or something else…even when it was hard or seemed like He left them–HE WAS REALLY THERE. So where was He??

(starting in verse 19…) “The angel of God had been traveling in front of Israel’s army. Now he moved back and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved away from in front of them. Now it stood behind them. It came between the armies of Egypt and Israel. All through the night the cloud brought darkness to one side and light to the other.”

And the angel of the Lord going behind them was their PROTECTION. He never left them. He was still right there. He had already paved the way–and although it felt for a moment things might have changed–nothing had changed other than He was doing even MORE to protect them.

The story gets better and better how the Lord fights for His children. And in the end–the Egyptians ARE defeated…the Israelites are the only survivors and even more glory was brought to the Lord through what felt hard for a season. The Lord never left them–instead the angel of the Lord had moved to bring more protection to them and to do a great big work in their lives and in the lives of their families.

Today the Lord reminded us through this kids Adventure Bible…sitting there on the floor with my children…that our God is faithful. When we do not feel Him–He is still fighting for us…and often His not being in front of us–just might mean He is behind us instead. Just because we don’t see Him walking in front of us–doesn’t mean we need to stop, get discouraged or be complacent. But rather–we need to remember what we know He has spoken to our hearts and keep putting one foot in front of the other–trusting Him to protect us and pave the way regardless if we FEEL Him in every part of the journey.

He keeps His promises. He will never leave or forsake you. And if it’s been awhile since you have heard from Him…just keep going to His Word–reading and trusting Him to fight for you. And just be still.

Praying for those of you who needed this encouragement today:)

xoxo.

Andrea

What do you want to be when you grow up?

And so I asked again. “What do you want to be when you grow up…”

Parker (9): “I wanna be a professional anything. Doesn’t matter what sport.”

Isaac (4): “I wanna be a tea-cha. Did you know Maddie at preschool can aw-red-dy read? And I wanna play the vi-wo-wen too.”

Frank (5): “I guess I’ll just say my 2nd choice cause I know the first might never happen. A cowboy.”

(of course I asked what the first choice was…”

Frank: “I wanna play drums in a show. At least once. Then just be a cowboy.”

Laney (8): “BE? I’ll tell ya where I want to WORK. I wanna work at Menchies cause I wanna BE happy!”

Gotta love being a kid!! Oh how I love mine!!

They have also convinced me that we need to make a story book from Sparky the gerbil whom Parker got for Christmas. Here’s some of our recent Sparky captures for your enjoyment;)

When I leave the room {Natalie Grant}

Well done Natalie Grant. Oh my glory. I don’t often post videos–but I on iTunes downloading songs for my daughter…and I some how ran across this new recording by Natalie Grant. I just have to share. Natalie truly knocks it out of the park heart and soul with this one with every word and emotion showing a mother’s heart for her children. My only head’s up–you need a box of tissues to get through this one. If you avoid closing your eyes thinking about your children you will do a much better job not losing it;)

Just beautiful. So many times we will have to “leave the room” and trust them into His care…over and over and over again. And on our knees…we will be for them. The ending–so beautiful too. The fear I struggle with when I think about what would happen if I even left this world early is–would they be okay?? I would be–as I would be in His presence. But as moms we just have to trust that He would be enough for them–and He would watch over and care for them…when we leave the room. He is enough. Oh my…without further adieu you must listen to this…

Or you can go and watch it directly on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-cpPBNEACE

So thankful and blessed to get to be a mom to my loves.

So thankful for this most beautiful gift of mommy hood. Worth it.

xoxo.

andrea:)

The Journey of the Magi {printable 2 week devotional! FREE!}

Instead of reposting daily here the devotionals (which were posted 2 years on my blog), I put these in a FREE downloadable PDF for you to print off and enjoy with your children! This is a sweet tradition we do year after year following Christmas. There are 11 devotionals about the magi–to start your year off in a sweet way after celebrating Jesus’s birth.

As we put away some of our decorations–we leave our nativity out. We move our wise men on the other side of our home. Each day–we move them closer to Jesus–and we have a devotional about them together. At the end of each devotional, we write down a way that each of us saw Jesus that day–in something or someone and we place it in our treasure box. There is nothing sweeter than starting our year off by looking for Jesus together–just like the wise men. This has become a sweet tradition we always do after Christmas–and it’s the perfect way to lead into and start a new year!

YOU CAN PRINT OFF THE FREE PDF “THE JOURNEY OF THE MAGI” DEVOTIONAL HERE

If you don’t want to print this off–you should also be able to open it in your browser and read along each day with your children!

May you have a blessed journey together looking for Jesus and drawing closer to Him! Wishing you an amazing year ahead!

xoxo!

Andrea

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