{together} for Good

Have you ever wondered how God could work all things together for good in your life? Maybe you’re in a situation that feels impossible, a marriage that is unraveling, a job environment that is unhealthy and all you can see is HARD.

In my Proverbs 31 Ministries devotion today, I share how I wrestled with this in the midst of very difficult circumstances during and after our daughter’s adoption, and the ways God showed me HOW He was working things for “good” in unexpected ways.

If you hopped over from my devotion, I’m so glad you stopped by! As promised, here are a few photos that tell part of the story of us bringing our beautiful girl home. {And there’s special giveaway at the end of this post.}

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All I could see were the hard parts. Everything we would have to give up: sleep, money, comfort, familiarity, others’ approval. All the hard things we would have to navigate: huge expenses and significant changes.

What if our sons resented us for re-arranging their lives forever? What if our parents and extended family didn’t approve? What if we exhausted our time, emotions and money only to end up with broken hearts and an empty bank account? How could God work all that together for good?

I could not see how. I could only see “hard.” Yet we knew God was calling our family to adopt a severely malnourished baby girl from Ethiopia. And in October 2009 we brought Aster home.

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Was it hard? Yes. Even more than I imagined.

But as I trace God’s hand over the past five years since we brought Aster home, I see Him working countless things {together} for good. Most of all, I see a handwritten love letter sent to our little girl from her Heavenly Father, written on every page of our adoption story.

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I see God working the hard things together for good. Despite our inadequacy, sadness and fear of the unknown when Aster was diagnosed with a speech disorder, global developmental delays, low muscle tone and sensory processing disorder, I now see God working it all for good.

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I see God working the overwhelming things together for good.  A year of sleepless nights brought out servant-hearted compassion in our teenage sons when they saw their dad struggling with depression caused by sleep-deprivation. I’ll never forget the night they decided to take turns sleeping on a mattress in their sister’s room to relieve her anxiety and give us back our desperately needed sleep.

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I see God working even the embarrassing things together for good. Like the day I had a meltdown in my car and a stranger tapped on my window to see if I was okay. And that same afternoon, I ran out of gas on my way to get my youngest son at basketball which mean my oldest son, who had a new cast on his broken foot, had to push our car off the road. I see awesome stories for them to tell their children about me one day.

When my reality doesn’t look or feel like “good” to me, I ask God to help me see how. How he is keeping his promise that “in all things [He] works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Roman 8:28).

What I’ve discovered is this: God is always working things together for good, but not just for our good. Sometimes we are part of His working things together for someone else’s good. 

You see, I believe Jesus heard a mother in Africa praying for her baby. A mother who was living in the middle of “hard” like I’d never imagined. A mother who couldn’t see how she could give her little girl the nurture and nutrition she needed.

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Hagere: Aster’s birth-mother feeding her during our visit.

Aster 5.1.09And when God heard that mama’s prayers, He tapped on the heart of a family in North Carolina who loved Him and were called according to His purpose. I also believe God saw an orphanage in Ethiopia searching for a forever family to provide unconditional love and medical care for a 6-month old, 8 pound baby with pneumonia.

So Jesus went back to that family in North Carolina who had been asking God to reveal Himself to them and through them, knowing this little girl would be an answer to that prayer.

And that’s when God started working the hard, impossible, and overwhelming things {together} for good.

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Is there a relationship or situation in your life where all you see is hard? Have you asked God how He can work some part of it together for good?

I don’t know about you, but some days I need a tangible reminder that He can. A visual that prompts me to pray and helps me remember how He does, like the beautiful bead necklace I’m wearing below made from repurposed bullets found in the rubble of Ethiopian soil.

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Each time I look at it, I remember how God answered a desperate mother’s prayers for her baby and filled my family’s longing to experience more of Him. Only He could know how much we needed the gift of a little girl to light up our world, and to remind us that He indeed can work even the hardest things {together} for good.

FBTB EarringsENTER TO WIN To celebrate how Jesus takes the hard and heart-breaking realities of life and works them together for good, Proverbs 31 Ministries is partnering with Fashion & Compassion to create a beautiful jewelry line from repurposed bullets found in the rubble of Ethiopian soil. “SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS” under this post and you’ll be entered to win. 

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The From Bullets to Blessings Collection is handcrafted from Ethiopian bullets, dug out of rubble, and assembled by vulnerable and rescued women throughout Mexico and Charlotte, NC. CLICK HERE to find out more about the collection and the women who create these pieces. It’s a beautiful picture of God working the hard things together for good in their lives through Fashion & Compassion.

Surprised by Motherhood

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Her small hands peel back the covers to see if my eyes are open. Gently, I feel her fingers against my cheek as she loudly whispers, “Time to wake up mommy!”

I smile {with my eyes closed} and roll over.  It will take more than her sweetness to convince this tired mama to get out of bed. Hours of driving, sitting on wood bleachers, shouting and cheering for her big brother’s basketball games at a tournament the day before… has worn me out!

I tell Aster it’s still dark and that she needs to go back to sleep. Disappointed yet determined, she walks her little self over to the window, feels her way along the curtains to find the plastic wand so she can pull them back and show me it is NOT still dark. 

Not only is it NOT dark, it is time for breakfast and she knows just what we can eat!

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Look Mommy!” She says, as she points her finger to the parking lot. “Wake up and eat popcorn. Seeeeeeeee. There’s a popcorn tree. When you shake it, popcorn falls off!”

Ahhh. Motherhood. It doesn’t come with much sleep, but it does come with popcorn trees! And so many other surprises.

Aster is one of God’s biggest surprises so far in this motherhood journey of mine. Only He could know how much I needed this girl of mine.

God birthed Aster in our hearts and brought her into our family four years ago, just as our boys crested the waves of teenage manhood. Obviously I needed a little more adventure, a lot more carpooling and a huge dose of unconditional love.

And God made sure I got it! All wrapped up in pink bows, giggles, snuggles, sleepless nights, developmental delays, sweet kisses, celebrations,  questions,  fears, happy tears, laughter and memories. So.many.memories.

Today I have a surprise just for you! Im giving away five copies of my new favorite book for the heart of moms, and those who mother in  other capacities: Surprised by Motherhood written by my friend Lisa-Jo Baker. I’m reading it now and  it’s so much more than a book; it’s dessert and friendship for my soul! Today, Lisa-Jo’s publisher has offered to give away 5 copies to five of you!! But first {this}! For days when you wonder if what you do matters, when it feels like the same thing stuck on repeat 365 days a year! Let this be your reminder:  you are braver than you know because you mother!

SurprisedByMotherhood BookcoverWhether you are a mother, have a mother, or have mothered in other capacities and felt inadequate for the job… this is a needed reminder that there is nothing ordinary about being a mother.

Enter to WIN: Simply click “Share Your Thoughts” below and do just that, or share your biggest “surprised by motherhood” moment or memory. We’ll randomly choose five winners and announce them here next week.

When Your Heart Needs Mending

Sometimes our hearts get to hurting and we don’t know where to turn. When our emotions are bleeding it’s easy to forget we have a Healer. It’s easy to run from the pain. My friend Suzie Eller is here today to remind us that we don’t have to run away. Jesus is inviting us to run to Him.  Here’s an excerpt from her new book, The Mended Heart. And… there just might be a way for you to win a copy at the end of this post.

Suzie.MendedHeart “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me. He has put His hand on Me to preach the Good News to poor people. He has sent Me to heal those with a sad heart. He has sent Me to tell those who are being held that they can go free. He has sent Me to make the blind to see and to free those who are held because of trouble.” Luke 4:18 (NLV)

“Why can’t you get it together?” “If you would just try harder.” Have you heard any of these statements? Maybe you’ve even said them to yourself. Perhaps those who stood on a hot hillside in Nazareth were asking themselves the same questions. Many tried hard to follow all the religious laws, but knew they fell short. Would Jesus give them more rules to follow? Imagine their surprise as Jesus spelled out His personal mission statement: I’ve come to open the eyes of the blind. I’ve come to set the prisoner free. I’ve come with good news for the poor in spirit. I’ve come to heal the brokenhearted. The crowd must have been shocked by His words, for they expected a warrior, not a heart surgeon. Jesus Himself was setting the record straight. He came so that we might be made whole … through Him. For those who had been trying harder, striving more, it was a transforming message. They were accustomed to following rules or meeting expectations of man, rather than resting in the power of their almighty God. When I became a believer, I didn’t understand Jesus’ mission statement. I was dealing with untended brokenness and trying everything to fix myself. When I grasped the power of Luke 4:18, this truth changed me: The power of the cross is not found in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. Jesus didn’t mean for us to do this alone. It’s not our strength or power that will transform us. Yes, we make changes. Yes, we open our broken heart to His tender touch. Yes, we allow Him to move us in uncomfortable directions to discover new paths — and leave old ones behind. But we are in a partnership with God … and He’s bigger. I also discovered I didn’t have to earn God’s love. Maybe, like me, you thought God would love you one day, when you had it all together. Jesus’ mission statement proclaims that He loves us today. With our baggage and hurting hearts. When we grasp that kind of love, it changes us. It compels us to return that love, and to trust Jesus from our hearts. This trust helps us listen for His voice. We sense when He is teaching or redirecting us. We weigh temptation in light of our love for our heavenly Father. This relationship helps us discover our “true selves, [our] child-of-God selves” (John 1:12, The Message). Last, Luke 4:18 reminded me that I didn’t have to run away just because I felt broken. A hurting heart can send us running down paths we may regret, searching for something or someone to ease our pain. Jesus’ mission statement invites us to stop running and rest in Him, expectant that our true selves will emerge with His healing touch. The truth of Luke 4:18 is ours today to hold close, for Jesus came to heal our hurting hearts. Dear Jesus, for the longest time I’ve been concentrating on my efforts, but today I expectantly rest in You. Thank You that the power of the cross is not in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The_Mended_heart_2_largeIsn’t it such a relief to know you don’t need to fix yourself, or earn God’s love or run any more. In fact, the more we don’t do these things, the more we live in Him;  the more we build a foundation of rest and trust; the more joy we rediscover in our faith and in our lives. What will you not do today? Click “Share Your Thoughts” below do just that to enter to win one of 5 copies of Suzie’s new book, The Mended Heart.   If you are reading this via email, click here to return to my blog and be part of the giveaway. {Your comment has to be left below this post to enter. Thanks!}

The Gift of Hope

“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…”Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)


Last year, on June 25th, God gave me the most precious gift of hope. He literally gave me a “Hope” – Hope TerKeurst, the oldest daughter of my dear friend Lysa. God placed Hope with her sweet friend Joanna, and the Davidson family, in Addis for a few days before they went into the bush country where they would stay for several weeks on a missions. This was just a little over a week after we found out Aster was going to be ours.

God had placed Hope in the same city in Ethiopia, across the world in Africa, where Aster was in an orphanage. Hope was only there for a few days but she got to see, hold and love on our sweet girl, and then sent us photos. It was truly the most amazing gift!

Today they were together again playing and cuddling while I had a P31 meeting. Hope and Joanna came over to watch Aster, and it just happens to be their anniversary week! My heart filled with the memories of God’s gift of hope.God knew the plans He had for each of us, plans to prosper us with the richness of this precious child’s love, hugs, sloppy kisses, infectious smile, sassy-frass spunk and contagious joy. I cannot imagine life without her! Thank you Hope (and Jo) for being such a beautiful part of her story.

“Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we could ever dare to ask or hope.” Ephesians 3:29 (NLT)

When God Makes a Way

This morning, God made a way for Cindy Huax at “From Seeds to Sunflowers.” to attend She Speaks by winning our scholarship. I am so excited for Cindy!!

But, I’m also sad there could only be one winner after getting to know so many of you through your entries. We had 300 pages of blog comments and our whole team was so moved by your stories! We kept emailing each other talking about how hard it would be to choose only one.

If God has called you to the conference at this time, He will make a way! Jesus called Himself the Way! He specializes in making a way when there isn’t one. So, do not let “not winning” convince you that you’re not supposed to be there. Don’t even entertain the thought- there’s just no way.

Two and a half years ago God led our family to start the process of adopting a daughter from Ethiopia with no resources, no room for another child in our house, no idea of what adoption agency to use, no connections to people in Ethiopia and no clue how to get started. But as we walked in faith, He made a way!! And look at the reward we have now because we didn’t give up when it got hard, really hard!

Jesus has been the way, the Truth and the Life for our family each step we took. I pray today you will press into Him and ask Him to give you just enough light for the step you are on, and you’ll keep walking.

I also want you to know the P31 team has committed to praying specifically for each of you – that God will provide unexpected checks, generous friends, birthday gifts, creative fund-raising ideas, etc. If you are willing to put forth the effort and get creative, you can even create your own scholarship!

Proverbs 31 has already put together an amazing letter you can send to your family, friends, church, small group, etc. As a result, tax-deductible donations are made to Proverbs 31 Ministries and designated as scholarship money for the individual. Each year 20 – 30 women attend She Speaks because they set up their own scholarship. There are people who feel called to financially help someone else answer the call to speak or write.

For a copy of the letter, click here. Should you decide to raise support, you will need to register for the conference to ensure your spot AND send your your mailing address to Samantha@proverbs31.org This is imperative to making sure your funds are allocated to you.

Also, be sure to visit Marybeth Whalen’s blog on Tuesdaywhere she is interviewing someone who found a creative way to get to a conference she couldn’t afford!And be sure to let me know what next step you are taking. I’d love to pray for you!

The Power of Hope

My heart is so full from all that I want to share here today. Will you grab some coffee or hot cocoa and hang out here with me for a little while? But before we get started and it’s too late, I first wanted to make sure you download your FREE COPY OF “Scared”, by Tom Davis, ’cause today is the last day! So far I think they’ve had over 3000 downloads.

One of the things JJ and I love about Tom is that he doesn’t just write about challenging situations, he lives them. As President of Children’s Hopechest (and co-founder of Saints Coffee), he spends a large part of the year on the ground in Africa with thousands of children who have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

He lives and writes from a place of knowing, hurting, searching and finding his passion which was birthed through Holy longing. He and his wife were also orphans, and they have adopted at least one orphan (maybe more, still need to get those details.) In any case, they are the real deal and their ministry moves me! Here is an interview I just watched that gives a peak into their story.

His novel, SCARED, was inspired by a young girl he met in Swaziland. A while back my friends at She Reads had the chance to sit down with Tom and learn a little about the inspiration for SCARED. Here is the interview…

One of the main characters in your novel, a twelve year old AIDS orphan named Adanna, was inspired by a real child. Can you tell us a little about the real Adanna and how she compelled you to write this novel?

The idea of Adanna does stem from a real girl I met in Swaziland who was twelve years old at the time. She was a gorgeous little girl filled with life. Her joy was contagious and she just loved being around our group, hugging on various team members and playing games with us in the field. Both of her parents had died from AIDS and she was taken in by her uncle. Sadly, she became a slave for him and his family. Neighbors complained to the authorities that she was being abused and she was removed from the home. The only issue she struggled with besides being shy when she arrived at the orphanage, was one of incontinence. They thought the poor thing had never been potty trained. They took her to the doctor to find out what was wrong. The truth was almost unbelievable. Her incontinence was a result of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her uncle and other men he had sold her to. I walked around the rest of that day in tears. I couldn’t believe someone would treat a child is such an evil way. Then those kinds of stories became more of the norm for me on the trip. The Adannas in Africa are real kids, with dreams and hopes of a good future. A future that won’t exist unless the body of Christ gets involved in their lives.

Though this novel is hard to read in many places, one of the things I appreciated most about it was that you did not pull your punches. You unflinchingly portrayed suffering and heartbreak while weaving in mercy and hope. How did you find that balance? And did you struggle personally while telling this story?

It was quite difficult. I wanted to write a story that was honest. It is graphic in places but I can assure you that orphans in Africa and around the world experience things much worse than what you read on those pages. That was one of the most difficult realities for me to swallow as I researched and wrote the book. Thinking about the abuse millions of innocent children go through every single day is a frightening truth. There came a point in the story when I couldn’t let one more terrible thing happen to Adanna. Originally, I wanted a scene in the book where Adanna was forced to sell her body in order to feed her younger brother and sister. It happens all the time in Africa. But I couldn’t do it.

While reading SCARED I was struck by the characters – not just how real they were, but how they could be any of the people in my life. Which character do you relate to the most? Why?

Stuart, without a doubt. He is me in many ways. My story is the story of a man searching for meaning in life and finding it the eyes of orphans. I think deep inside each one of us is a desire to help suffering children. It’s how God made us! Our hearts should break with compassion for the Adannas in the world. Even though Stuart has had great success in his life, he struggles to live with significance. Don’t we all to some degree? Of course raising godly children and loving our spouses is our first priority. But how can we invest our lives in ‘least of these’ Jesus talks about in Matthew 25? Their is so much eternal impact that comes from feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. That’s my journey and Stuart’s too!

All fiction carries a message – something the author wants the audience to wrestle with. When readers turn the last page of Scared, what do you want them to take away?

“We need the poor more than the poor need us.” Yes, Jesus wants us to care for the poor and love our neighbors as ourselves. But I need to love the broken and care for the afflicted, not because I’m Biblically bound, but because it’s what I was created to do. It’s what makes me the most alive.

I have a feeling you will be hearing more here about Tom and his family/ministry to orphans. They are living out what JJ and I are very passionate about. We know the power that hope has to change the life of an orphan, and the beauty of adoption to forever alter the life of a family!


After reading and watching Tom’s interview, what is God stirring in your heart? What will you do today to pray for, support or love on the orphans God calls us to love; the fatherless and often forgotten?

We can all pray and then take one step. Maybe order from Saints Coffee, sponspor an orphan or buy Tom’s novel, SCARED, and pass it to a friend to spread awareness. I’m going to get us started by posting my prayer in the comments. Will you join me there?

(Simply click on the word “comments” and type your prayer in the white box. If you don’t have a blog, click anonymous.) I can’t wait to read and listen in my heart to the echoes of our prayers ascending to heaven on behalf of these beautiful and precious children.

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PS. The winner of 1lb of delicious coffee from Saints Coffee, is Amy@LivinginHarmony. I hope the rest of us will visit Saints Coffee and order something. Remember 1/3 of the profits go to support orphans in Africa and Russia!

Pretty in Pink


As I look at my beautiful little girl that is getting so big, I’m overwhelmed with thankfulness that she is ours. Today I was captured by her pretty-in-pink cuteness, her contagious joy and her sweet smile. WOW! The difference we see in her from the day we met her at the orphanage is remarkable.

Watching the devastation in Haiti and knowing thousands of children are without a home, without a mommy or daddy, without food, without anything – is breaking my heart. Tonight we heard on the news that there is a proposal being considered to allow children orphaned in Haiti to come to the US and be cared for while they wait to find their family or be adopted by another.

This touches a raw spot in our hearts, and we can’t stop talking about how thankful we are that Aster is home, safe with us.

There are so many wonderful families who would love to give a home and their hearts to these children who are orphans. I was covered in goose bumps from head to toe as we listened to the story, and the possibility of hope for their future. At one point JJ asked if we should consider adopting one of them. My mom started breathing deeply, so we dropped the subject. For now, we’ll do what we can…send money and pray for these children. We know you join us in that. And again, we thank you so much for all of your beautiful prayers for our little one too!!!

Aster’s 1st Birthday!

On December 1st, we celebrated Aster first birthday and in the midst of all we’ve had going on I never did post about it!

It was such a special celebration. Mom had just been home from the hospital for a few days and was doing so much better. Aster hadn’t even been ours for 2 months and here we were celebrating a year of her precious life.

A year of hardship and sacrifice for her and Hagere, her birth mother. A year of enduring sickness and many transitions from one set of arms to another and then another. A year that culminated here, with us, in her new home with her forever family.

Although I was pondering and treasuring all these things, Aster made sure the mood was light and filled with laughter. The funniest part about the whole night was our “Battle for the Bow!”

I wanted her to wear it and she didn’t want to.

But look how cute she is with it in her hair!

It was the perfect night for a good family photo. I was determined she was going to wear that bow, so I decided I could “talk” her into it with a little lecture from her momma.

Didn’t work. She kept grabbing it.


Finally she decided the only way to end this was to eat the thing so she pulled it out of her hair and put it in her mouth!

I wasn’t giving up that easily. One more try.
I gave her a fruit puff to distract her.

That didn’t last. Look at Derwin in the background (Aster’s Godfather, our pastor and best friend). He thought the whole thing was hilarious!

Oh well, we got a decent family photo although she has no bow and no smile.

Here she is with her favorite present – a Pooh Bear Plane with music and lights from the Grays. That’s one of my best friends, Vicki with her husband and kids, Derwin, Presley and Jeremiah Gray. Doesn’t Aster look like she could be there’s?

She is in some ways. They prayed her/us all the way through our adoption journey. So many people have been part of her story and that is why we want to share her. She’s such a gift. Such a rare treasure of joy and love. And guess what? She let’s me put bows in her hair now.We love you sweet girl! Happy birthday again and again.