lover of redemption

one thing i love about being a Christian, about being a part of the body of Christ is that we are never, ever alone. God not only provides us with other believers who surround us (and who we’re able to surround) with love, friendship, support, and prayer…. but, He has also given us the Holy Spirit. It’s a like an inner best friend who is with you always… who prays for you, who guides you, who “fusses” at and convicts you when you are verring from the path you should go.

He’s given us Jesus…… the one who petitions on our behalf, the one who honored His father until death for our sakes, the one who is the perfect example of what love in action truly looks like.

this life can be so painful…. it can leave you feeling lonely and broken and depleted. But, I’m thankful that God is a redeemer. I’m thankful that He can restore and heal.

I’m thankful for the many examples of others he has set before us that remind and encourage us to remain steadfast in our faith and trust in Him. Because, it’s hard. Because it takes a strength that we don’t possess naturally. Because this lilfe is out of our hands.

A few of my favorite redemption stories is the one of Joseph. Ups and downs, lies and betrayals, yet he still trusted God and honored him in each position he found himself in. I can’t imagine how broken and hurt his heart was on so many of the circumstances he put himself in and no matter how frustrated or angry he was, he trusted God. ACTIVELY. He didn’t act out in his frustrations, he didn’t seek vengeance, he didn’t quit doing what was right. God restored his family, redeemed the time he spent isolated and in prison. God had a purpose and plan for his life. He couldn’t have seen how being sold by his brother would be GOOD for him and the Israelites, he couldn’t have seen how being lied on and thrown in prison would be GOOD for him and how he would literally save millions of people from starvation just by being obedient. He had no idea how his faithfulness and obedience would encourage me.

Let’s not talk about Job…… I love how he complained and fussed to God and God basically told him “recognize who you’re talking to…” Job trusted God when his life and health crumbled FOR NO REASON other than to be sifted, other than to be tempted by the Devil for his own sick entertainment…. But, through the emotional turmoil and depression he continued to seek God. He stayed in His face. And, God honored him for it. Restored, redeemed, and healed. For whose sake?

Hosea…. who I know was sick and tired of having to be the “good husband”. Tired of dealing with his wandering spouse who so blatantly disrespected and disregarded him and their marriage. Publicly. I know he was tired of being loving and gracious and kind to her. I know he wanted to quit. But, this story to closely resembles what Christ has done and continues to do for us daily…. how often does God rescue us, how often do we come back to him broken and hurting after disobeying? How many times does he have to forgive and cover us with mercy and grace? and, HOW does He do it every.single.time? And, who does this selfless love benefit?

The patience, quiet spirit, and obedience of Ester and Ruth.
The triumph and fall, the waywardness and steadfastness of David.
The rebellion of Jonah.
The friendship and betrayal of Judas.
All for a purpose. All honor God. All turn our attention to Christ. All make us marvel and the goodness of our God.

The struggles of this life aren’t for nothing. Yes, while they make us stronger in our faith and in our ability to persevere which builds our character and gives us hope (Romans 5:4), our stories, our faithfulness, our obedience is for the Body, as well. We are all connected and we effect each other in every way.

While this life isn’t easy, while we will have to endure setbacks, failures, the consequences of poor choices, and just sometimes the sovereign plan of God that puts us in difficult places – we know that will get through it, we know that it is purposeful, and that it will honor God in some way.

My dad used to always tell me “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” I had no idea what that meant. Mainly because, looking back, I had no idea who good obeying is for you. Even when you’d rather be doing something else much more fun and enjoyable, even when it goes against every fiber in of your (naturally sinful) heart, and you don’t see the purpose. The learned discipline is good for you. I’m glad I see that now. Glad I understand from experience on both sides how when we obey we are truly positioning ourselves for the best possible outcome.

(Sidebar, which truly frustrates me about today’s children… some have no idea how to obey. how to follow rules. how to do what they’re told….. how can they obey and learn to yield to God when they can’t obey their teachers and parents? It’s GOOD for your children to have rules and boundaries… to learn discipline and hard work. They’re going to be someone’s husband and wife and mother and father one day……… NO ONE LIKES adults who have no self control, no concern for others, and can’t do what NEEDS to be done (i.e.. LAZY!). Give your children some chores that MUST be done, don’t let them quit because “they don’t want to anymore”, don’t excuse their behavior, blame others for their wrong doings, or let them get away with not obeying because you want them to be happy. We all want our children to be happy, no ones likes to see their children cry… however, Hebrews 12:11….. discipline benefits children and all of those who will be surrounded by them for the duration of their life…… rant concluded.)

Redemption, restoration, healing, and the overwhelming joy we experience on the other side of difficulty is encouraging. KNOWING what’s promised and what’s coming is worth enduring whatever is put in front of us.

It’s not easy but it sure is worth it.

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meet madison & nolan!

Teether2S

There’re very few things about our adoption journey that I love more than meeting other adoptive mamas. Even though I’ve said it twelve thousand times, I can’t verbalize enough how important and impactful a community of God craving women are during this journey. The instant connection that is made is so encouraging, uplifting, and spiritual.  We know that all of this is about Jesus so we’re all coming from the same place. Every single one of us  desire to serve and share God to little people who we pray will grow up to do remarkable things for the sake of Christ. Although every family’s journey is different, there are God planned similarities that bind us mamas together in an incredible way.  It’s amazing to see how each friendship made serves a spectacular purpose in a very specific way.

Two major things that I believe that are very close to most adoptive mamas hearts are community and relationship. Through community, we build a network of support and real to the bone friendships. It’s also through these relationships that these friendships and connections find their value, families are formed, and often simultaneously kept together. We know that by openly sharing our experiences and convictions enables us to enjoyably share God’s love for us and encourages others to keep moving! These testimonies also remind families that this idea  that God gave you about bringing a stranger child into your home isn’t far fetched, it’s not unreasonable, and yes you too can impact and be impacted by a child in an unimaginable way by just going when God say move.

So all of that paves the way to amazing opportunities such as this one…..
I’m humbled and honored to share two things with you today.

FIRST, I want to introduce you to my friend Madison Vining who I met through  social media! She’s an amazing wife, mama, and Tulsa, Oklahoma based photographer who is here to share her family’s adoption story with you!!! We have the same love for adoption & sharing Jesus!! lol. We thought it would be neat to interview each other and share perspectives, thoughts, and  stories about our experiences!

SECOND, you have an awesome opportunity to impact another family by participating in our GIVEAWAY!!! Each entry positions you to have $100 donated to the Crisis Pregnancy Outreach in your name! The Vining’s youngest and most recent addition, Nolan, was adopted through Crisis Pregnancy Outreach based in Tulsa, so it’s a very special contribution for Madison and I am very sensitive about donating towards others’ adoptions! So, this is a neat little win-win situation for everyone involved!

Without further delay,
please meet 

Madison Vining.
 madison vining

Tell us a little bit about who Madison is…
I have lived Oklahoma all my life and have been with my hubby since the 8th grade (we got married at 19). I have 3 little ones: Cade who is 5, Story who is 2.5, and Nolan who is 4 months. We adopted Nolan the day before Valentine’s Day this year. I am a photographer and am pretty spontaneous and creative in all areas of life. “Laid back and mildly inappropriate” describes my personality ; )

 What caused you to pursue an open & domestic adoption after originally planning to adopt internationally?
We had just dipped our foot into the process of adopting internationally, looking at Columbia (which is funny… because we ended up with a child who looks like he could totally be Columbian! God is great like that.)

One night I was on Facebook and saw an acquaintance post a photo of her newly-adopted daughter. I didn’t know they had been in the process of adopting so I sent her a message congratulating her and asking questions, which she so graciously answered. Her daughter had been adopted through Crisis Pregnancy Outreach here in Tulsa, and she explained to me the opportunity they had been given to minister to their daughter’s birth mom. All I can say that is that I had a heart change during that conversation. We were pursuing adoption as our first choice for growing our family, and so all along our intentions were to help a child, but the concept of the birth mother had honestly never entered my mind. Once I started thinking in a new way and seeing how we could maybe make a bigger impact in not just a baby’s life, but a woman’s life as well, and also have background information for our child when they are ready to receive it, I was totally convinced that this was the type of adoption that we were called to. My husband wholeheartedly agreed, and so off we went!

Has adoption changed your way of thinking about life, your personal relationships, and/or your relationship with God?
To try and explain all the ways in which I have been changed seems impossible!

I guess the main theme is that, layer by layer, things have been stripped away to where it’s obvious that I am called to love relentlessly and tirelessly and without stopping to think about it. I’ve also had to let go of a lot of control, and in that, I have been molded and shaped more through this process than through any other period in my life.

As for my relationship with my husband: adoption has deepened our love infinitely. Seeing him wholeheartedly welcome another man’s child as his own… if only the world were full of more men who are capable of that kind of love. My husband, now even more so than before, is my rock and the most amazing example of Christ’s grace and compassion. 3bedS

 Can you give some hindsight wisdom about your experience with adoption?
One suggestion I have is to surround yourself with people who “get it.” People who truly want to know how you are doing and how they can be there for you. One of the biggest helps through this was for a few of our friends to call and say, “What specifically can we be praying with you about today?” Find those kinds of friends. (If you are reading this and are in need that kind of friend… I am happy to be it! : )

 How did you prepare your bio children for the adoption?
Many of our friends have adopted or are in the process, and they have several adopted friends, so it’s a topic they’ve always been somewhat familiar with. A year ago when we began the application process, we started talking more about it and made sure to use age-appropriate terms that they understood. Our 5 year old understands adoption more than most adults. He loved praying for our baby’s birth mom. And every time we’d hold a friend’s baby he’d say, “Cute baby! Did we adopt him?” : )

We also read a lot of adoption books. Our favorite one is “A Mother for Choco.” Anyone with young kiddos, whether you’re adopting or not: buy this book! It is wonderful.3bed7S

 Do you have any advice on preparing young children for the realities of bringing another child into your home?
What worked for us was talking about it regularly. By the time it actually came, the kids were fully ready and the transition was really seamless. It is never too early to begin prepping them for the change. You never know, you could receive a baby with two hours’ notice like we did! : )

 What practical advice would you give to someone preparing to begin the adoption journey?
Know that it will probably not go the way you expect it to, and know that that’s amazing. I’ve learned that God’s plans for us are always better than the plans we have for ourselves. When you can, be open to things you didn’t necessarily foresee. We were waiting for a newborn and ended up with a 3 month old, and he is totally our son! : ) SPL16S

Did you have any concerns about having an open adoption?
Oddly, no. I know the concept sounds totally terrifying to most people, but once we knew that an open adoption was what we were supposed to pursue, we educated ourselves on every possible scenario (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and we still felt at peace. One thing I wish more people knew was that open adoption is not co-parenting. An adopted child is your legal child, and you set the rules when it comes to their safety and well-being. If someone is not safe or healthy for them to be around, that is ultimately your call to make. But open adoption is such a beautiful thing if you can find common ground. We feel that the more people our kids have in their lives that love them, the better!

 What is your relationship with your birth mother?
Our relationship with Nolan’s birth mother is, of course, still very new. But the love I have for her is unlike the love I have for anyone else in my life. I may not agree with some of her decisions, but I love her heart and I love her love for Nolan. When Nolan does something adorable, my first thought is “I can’t wait to tell A.” She’s the only person who loves him as much as we do, and it’s a very special bond. I am grateful literally every single day that she gave Nolan life and that she was willing to break her own heart to do what was best for him. She is a hero.SPL14S

 Can you speak to fundraising and sharing with your community your dreams/plans of adopting?
Of course! I am pretty open, but choosing how and when and what to say about our adoption journey was a struggle for me. I wrote a blog post announcing that we were in the process of adopting and tried to kind of shed some light on open adoption in general, because a lot of our friends just had no idea about it.

To raise funds, we created a little online shop called Vine & Ever. You can check it out HERE!!! It was a fun way to stay busy, spread the word about adoption, and bring in some funds that would ultimately help to bring Nolan home. Now, our hope is to help other families fund their adoptions.

 What areas did you need to lean on God the most about during your journey?
The waiting. It’s like being pregnant with no due date. Your baby could come in 2 minutes or 2 years, and you have no idea. You also (or at least in our case) don’t know anything about the baby you are waiting on: its gender, its race, its circumstances. For someone who is usually a planner, that was a huge faith stretch for me.

But oh my gosh… was it the most amazing rush when we got that call.

 In what areas were you most challenged in? (marriage, personal concerns/thoughts of perceptions, etc.)
My lack of patience and need for control were by far the things that were most challenged! : ) I can’t say that I am “healed” of my impatience/control-freakness, but I am WAY more apt to let things go and give them to God than I used to be. I have learned that I am not in control, and when I’m not in control is when the best things happen!

V3W

NOW, FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!! 

As I mentioned before, in honor  of  baby Nolan and  Crisis Preganncy Outreach, you have the awesome opportunity to  have $100 donated in your name!
We only ask that you do a few things:
1. Like Madison’s blog page on Facebook
2. Follow Madison on Instagram 
3. Like UnashamedGrowth’s blog page on Facebook
4. Follow me on Instagram
5. COMMENT below!!
Let us know how adoption has impacted your life in any way! We’d love to hear your experiences and  even a fav scripture you have that compels you to love with that “anyway” love of Jesus – regardless of relationship!

Our WINNER will be selected on APRIL 4th!!!!

I hope you enjoyed Madison’s story! She is definitely a wonderful woman who is eager and intentional about serving God in a way that helps funds adoptions in an insanely adorable, practical, and cost effective way! Be sure to head over to Vine & Ever (click. that. link!! :))!! I know you will love everything you come across! You won’t ever regret it!

I’m in love and encouraged with this entire concept of adoption and how it so represents Christ, his love towards us, and the absolute definition of what the action of love really looks like. If you are on the fence or feel your heart strings tugged a bit at the thought of adoption – please pray about the when, how, and where. God is faithful and will definitely answer your prayers! Let me know & I’ll be praying for you too! I’m always willing to chat if you want to talk

{{ Madison also interviewed me! You can find that post on her blog! Just click here! ENJOY!!! }}

…. here’s to community and loving one another!

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… may we be filled

Romans 15:13
“May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you TRUST in him, 
so that you may overflow with hope by the power the Holy Spirit.”

I doubt there’s a coincidence in being filled with joy and peace as we learn to wholly trust our God. I know it’s impossible to remain hopeful for long in the midst of trial after trial, disappointment after disappointment unless you have tethered yourself to something much more steadfast and secure than the people and things of this world… The things we believe are our safe places and cutesy quotes we have penned all over the place. Those quotes become frustrating, people move on, and our safe places provide us with possibly fun and needed breaks and distractions but nothing lasting and fulfilling.

While I was at Created for Care this past weekend, one of my car buddies whom I met at the airport felt led to pray for me specifically about believing. Ironically, that’s exactly what I was praying about when she tapped me on my knee and we started talking.

It’s exactly what another mama and I were talking about laughing at how “smart” we are as adults when God tells us something or leads us some place and we have a ton of questions, our own methods, our own agendas to push through. And, of course, his time table must fit with ours or else we’ll try to find some way to multitask and figure out how we can get what we want of before, during, or after his plan is set in motion. All of this when he tells us to be as children. Children who believe in literally anything you tell them – a chubby man who flies through the sky as he’s led by reindeer (one with a red flashlight for a nose) delivering gifts to EVERY child across this world in a matter of hours or the tooth fairy who flies around exchanging funds for teeth…. or any other mythical creatures we come up with. They believe without a shadow of a doubt… without any other proof besides the money under pillows and gifts under a tree. (I mean, that is enough, right??) Yet, we grow to learn that it’s foolish to believe in a real someone who truly existed and who has shown up for us time, after time, after time, after time. In the lives of our friends and families… in the situations we so desperately cry out to him about.

It’s so difficult for us – ME – to believe that this dude loves me to my core in spite of all of my wretchedness…. that I am his beloved…. that he cares deeply for me…. that his plans are much more amazing than anything I could imagine… that he hears me…. that he can comfort me… that he is ENOUGH.

Jesus told his disciples time and again how he was going to resurrect after three days…. he told them in parables, he told them in plain English…… English in my Bible, some other language in real life. Which is fine. But, he told them many times, in many ways. The man that healed sick people, raised other people from the dead (numerous times), caused the blind to see and the lame to walk…. THAT guy said “yea, I’m dying but I’ll be back. No worries.”

Mark 16 tells us of how Mary (his mama), Mary Magdalene, and Salome went to the tomb but didn’t find Jesus. Instead they found a couple of guys in really nice outfits who told them to spread the word that Jesus had arisen – they were scared, so they didn’t. (Sidebar – they were worrying about things like moving the stone, when the stone was already moved and taken care of. Can we say a little something about how we don’t trust God but worry about what we think may be an issue? Just a note. Moving on.)  Then, he appeared to Mary Magdalene….. She went to the disciples (who were mourning) and they didn’t believe her. Jesus showed himself to two disciples, they went to tell the others and they still. did not. believe. What was it going to take?!

No matter who came, Mary Magdalene or Jesus himself,  to tell of the resurrection from the dead, they wouldn’t believe them until He came and spoke to them himself. A total lack of faith. And, in a very Jesus like manner,  he rebuked them. And, then being the forgiving kinda guy that he is, he moved immediately from discipling/reprimanding/correcting them to letting them know that they were still his – no matter what they didn’t do or didn’t believe. He commissioned them to go spread the word, serve people, and change lives.

I admit, I have a hard time believing. When I have a bad day, although I may pray about it and spend some quiet yet distracted time with God, I still need my Chipotle bowl, possibly some ice cream, a chat with a friend, and…. and…. and…. and…. in order to feel “better”. I hear the whisper of “… but, aren’t I enough?” And, my immediate response in word is “YES! Yes, you are enough” but my response in action is faithless, because then I go buy candy and order a large fry from Chick-fil-a. Not even giving myself SPACE to be FILLED by God. I’m trying to fill this God sized void with a bunch of stuff that is a terrible habit at the least and totally unsatisfactory at best.

I’m crowding his voice out with music and my favorite movies because I feel so badly that only love stories and snacks will make me feel better. A run will help me clear my head, writing, painting, coloring…. all of those calming, peaceful activities will do the trick. But, the thing is – they don’t. I’m still needing and craving and crying and asking and begging to feel better or for my situation to change when I am not even going to the source that gives a drink that will forever quench my thirst. (John 4:8-14)

I’m busy believing in things that will fall away and increase my body fat, things that have proven to fail me…… instead of believing in the one in whom I gave my life and who sustains me daily. The one who has done great things for me and my friends. Things that are tangible. Things that I have witnessed and seen for myself. Just as the disciples saw and witnessed and were on the front row of God doing amazing things.

He gives peace and joy as we trust…. not when we have learned to trust (as in completely finished learning). Not when we have grown to trust at a level 10. But, as we trust. day by day, moment by moment leaning and depending on a God who can do all. As we learn to trust that He is capable of doing far more than we can even drum up in our minds. Isaiah says there’s no limit to his understanding so I believe that he knows its difficult to trust that some pretty major and miraculous things can happen in some pretty hard situations…. I get it. I appreciate it… so He isn’t going to wait for us to “arrive” before He grants us peace and joy as we walk through the valleys and endure the really difficult stuff He has put before us for his glory. (You gotta appreciate that… I mean, its kinda thoughtful. lol)

He will fill our cups if we allow Him room to. He’s not going to fight for space just as we don’t want to beg for attention or constantly ask to be a priority in someone’s life. He’s not going to compete against Chick-fil-a and Rachel McAdams…. He doesn’t have to. He will patiently wait with every spiritual gift, with all of his peace, with all of the comfort, and miraculous plans he has stored away for us until we recognize His greatness. Until we begin to moment by moment, and step by step believe that he is enough. More than enough. He will fill us to overflowing. Not fill to the brim of the glass so nothing will spill out… his goal is to cause us to overflow. He knows that when anything overflows it seeps under doors, saturates carpet, causes wood to expand, its soaks everything around it…. even when the overflow is stopped, it soaks and fills that which attempts to stop the spread.

The overflow causes change and effects everything around it. He knows if joy and hope are overflowing, we are actively being light to a dark world. Others will see that our circumstances aren’t shaking our faith, that bad days aren’t causing us to despair, and the unkind are being met with a grace, forgiveness, and peace that they can’t comprehend……. and, they are won over because of the overflow. They are curious. They begin to wonder “how is it that you are so…… in the midst of ….??” Just as after each and every miracle Christ performed while here on Earth, someone said “Well, who is that?” He didn’t heal because he felt bad for the people; yes he loves us, but he heals and comforts us for his own glory. Everything he did caused more to look towards him, more to become a part of the family of faith, gave more opportunities to see how trustworthy, faithful, compassionate, forgiving, and loving He is. We get to see who he is, his character, in the midst of our trials.

As we believe and as we trust in our God who is everlasting, we not only are we benefiting ourselves, serving our God, and serving others, but we are also bringing glory to his name.

Emptying ourselves so that we are filled in order to spread the gospel and serve others. So that we and others can glorify God.

And, that what this life is all about.

Y’all, will you believe with me? Will you ask to be emptied and filled to overflowing for the Lord’s sake?
He doesn’t ask us to be perfect, he doesn’t expect nor need a bunch of perfect people to work with. Just a bunch of regular folk willing to serve and be filled.

… here’s to making changes to how I “self-soothe” and living a life of faith as I actively in word and in deed trust and believe in our God.

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