{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.

The Sweetest Sound I Know


Little girls giggles and high pitched squeals. These were the sounds our days were made of …

Oh how I wanted her voice to be the soundtrack of my life, but it wasn’t happening. Why isn’t she talking? Is this normal? I have two teenagers and can’t remember what is normal. Is it because she’s our third child? Why isn’t our bribery and insistance working??

“Oh don’t worry, she’ll talk.” “Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5.” “Just wait ’til she won’t stop talking! Then you’ll be thankful for these days.”

Their words were  meant to be encouraging. And sometimes they helped to stretch our patience as we waited for our little girl to say simple yet precious words like “Daddy” and “bye-bye”.

In October 2009, we adopted Aster from Ethiopia. In August 2011, as she was heading toward her 3-year-old birthday, Aster was diagnosed with a severe speech disorder called Apraxia.

In the midst my deep sorrow over my fathers’s death, the joy of my book release and the heart-shattering shock about my little girl, all I wanted to hear was the soothing sound of my daughter’s precious little voice.

But Aster could barely say five words, and those were very hard to understand. It was determined that she could understand almost everything, but Aster’s mental planning paths weren’t connecting between her brain and her mouth, and no one knew why.

We’ve scheduled countless assessments, a brain MRI, hearing tests and more. And now after 10 months of speech therapy two times each week, we are celebrating an amazing milestone. Look how far God has brought our sweet and beautiful girl!

Although Aster still has days where she hardly says a thing, when she is chatty, she can say at least 50 words now! And her whole alphabet. She is super excited about her newest accomplishment – she can count up to 10!

We are so proud of how hard our girl is working that smart mind of hers, creating paths in her brain  and building weak muscles in her mouth. And we’re over the top thankful for each little step of progress she makes. If you’d like to see just how far she’s come, the first time she EVER talked on camera was March 4, 2012. Here is that video:

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– 1 Corinthians 2:9

My Girl

In August 2011, our daughter Aster was diagnosed with a severe speech disorder, and was recently confirmed as  having Apraxia**. At the age of two and a half she could only say fifteen words. At the age of three she could barely say five, and those five were very hard to understand.

We didn’t know what the future held; we just knew we’d been praying and waiting for two years to hear her precious voice. And now it was diminishing. I was in shock. And honestly my heart broke a little more each day for the first several weeks.

I knew God was in control and that He could completely heal her. But my mommy-heart hopes and dreams for hearing my little girl’s voice were shattered. And my world turned upside down for a while.

When we shared our story on Facebook and at some speaking events, many of you spoke hope, grace and truth over our hearts. You comforted us with your prayers and claimed God’s promises over our little girl.

Aster has been going to speech therapy two times each week for six months. Her progress has been very slow. In January we discovered her two year molars never formed enamel so a little over a week ago she had surgery, and little silver crowns were put on them.

What happened next was almost miraculous! The crowns must have relieved severe pain we didn’t know about because she couldn’t tell us. And she never indicated it either. (Her pain threshold is incredible!) Her progress in the past ten days has been amazing. Then last weekend, when they came to get me from the airport after a speaking event, Aster started babbling a ton.

So, I got out my iPhone, turned it to where she could see herself when it was filming and we witness a break-through on camera!! Here’s a sweet little peak into God’s faithfulness! {Note, she had never done this before!}

I can’t help but celebrate the “good things HE planned long ago” for a little girl who needed a family to help her find her voice – and for a family who needed a little girl to help them experience the depth of God’s love!

Thank you Lord for the gift of our precious little Ethiopian princess!

Highlights, Winners & Another GoBible Give-away!

I don’t know about your house, but it’s pre-summer craziness around here! It’s a challenge being a mom in May isn’t it? With year-end school activities, weddings, graduations, proms, exams, a toddler who wants to be outside playing with the hose all day and oh yea, I have a job and a book release coming. Whew, I’m glad it’s a long weekend!

Although you’re probably all off somewhere having fun, I decided to stop in just to say hello, share some of the highlights of my crazy week, announce last week’s winnersand tell you about a fun give-away too!

Thursday I had sweet downtime and playtime in our backyard with Aster. Here are two of my favorite memories. (If you’d like to hear the sound of her contagious giggles, I posted a 30s video from our playtime on my FB page.)


I also got to spend several hours this week with some of my P31 staff/friends working on our Encouragement for Today devotions. I’m currently serving as our Sr. Editor. and I meet with my editorial review team every other month. This week we reviewed a batch of 23 submissions. First I spread them out in sets of two across the floor. Then I split them up and give them out to those that are paired together. This time it was Lysa with Leah, and Sam with Holly, and then me reviewing several on my own.We also have 4 other women, Glynnis, Lisa, Tracie and Wendy, who do verse verification, blog loading, writer coaching and HTML converting. Plus all the authors who write them and then connect with readers on their blog during the days their devos run. It’s amazing what a big team it takes to prepare these to send to almost a half-million people each weekday. But what an honor, and we love doing it.


On Tuesday, I finished the writing/editing/layout of my “7-day Doubt Diet” ( click here to find out more.) . It’s now in review at my wonderful publishing house, Revell. Once approved, it will go to design and then to their e-book department.

These devotions include some of my favorite parts of A Confident Heart, and I cannot wait to share them with you! So, have you signed up yet? Last night when I looked, almost 1000 people had!! I would love to know if you are one of them.

Also, I really hope you’ll invite a friend, neighbor, co-worker or someone in your family to join you. There’s nothing like having each others prayers and encouragement when it comes to losing the weight of self-doubt! To make it easy, here’s a little invite you can send them or post on your FB page:

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Do you want to join me in losing the weight of discouragement and self-doubt? Renee Swope, Proverbs 31 Ministriesauthor and radio co-host is offering a FREE “7-day Doubt Diet”. Just click here to enter your information in her sidebar, and you’ll receive a week’s worth of devotions from her upcoming book, A Confident Heart.

Let me know if you want to join me and we can encourage one another the week they come out. To find out more details click here.

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If you sign(ed) up for the “7 Day Doubt Diet” and invited a friend (or two), click on the word “comments” below to let me know! You will be entered to win one of three more GoBible®Travelers I’ve been given to give away!

I’ll be back to announce the winners
on Thursday before leaving for next Tuesday when I get back from Canada. {I decided to extend the date since Karen Ehman linked over this week and we have more people entering on my Weds post.} Until then, I’ll be busy preparing and living/loving the crazy life of a mom in May. Happy Memorial Day Weekend friends!

Big Smiles, Big News & a little Linky Love

Just popping in to say “hello” and share this sweet blessing from our family’s everyday life. Aster-berry’s squinchy smile and crazy-beautiful hair is one of our morning delights. I hope her sweetness bring joys to your heart today.

Big news on the home front is that I’ve got my manuscript for “A Confident Heart” in my hands for a final review and it’s due back today. This is it! I need to mark any typos or missing words. It’s now or never. So exciting but boy I hope I don’t miss anything.

Big news on the bloggy/facebook front is that I’ve got an amazing give-away and a girlfriend guest post with Sheri Rose Shepherd, best-selling author of “His Princess:Love Letters from my King” tomorrow that you don’t want to miss. Be sure to set a reminder and come back Wednesday, March 2nd.

And here’s a little linky love:

Me on Facebook  Life is wonderfully “full” for me these days with a toddler and two teens as well as my speaking/book/radio and leadership role atP31 ministry. For a season, I can’t spend as much time on my blog as I want to although I will blog once each week at least. But God has be calling me and carving out time for me to share daily verses and encouragement on my Facebook page. I post what He’s teaching me about overcoming self-doubt and discouragement with the power of His promises along with silly everyday life stuff, too. I’d love to stay more connected with you there. Just click here if you wanna be “friends.”

Andrew (13), Aster (2) & Joshua (almost 16)

LeAnn Rice at She Cooks is giving away a $500 scholarship to Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks Conference. To find out more click here.

Lysa TerKeurstNY Times best-selling author of Made to Crave is re-airing her webcast on demand all day today and giving away a free conference call to one winner and her friends as part of “Tell a Friend Tuesday.” To find out more click here.

Happy Birthday Princess!

Today is also my sweet baby girl’s birthday and even though I’m sick, I just have to share some of her sweetness with you! We started our morning with a Princess Spa Bath (she loves a bubble bath). You’d never know she also has a bad cold. That girl is so full of joy, she made us all smile in between our coughing and sneezing.

Today is a playschool day (which worked out great for her sick momma). I’ve been saving this outfit for a day with somewhere special to go. Before we left, our whole family delighted in her cuteness for breakfast! And then she went to Ms. Becky’s house where they are having a little party for her during lunch. Since I’m too sick to join the fun, I left my camera there so I”ll be sure to post her party pictures later.

*****If you are here from Karen’s blog****
Welcome! Be sure to scroll down to my next post for an update on my Christmas Blog Party.

What do you see?

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you notice something beautiful about the woman who glances back at you? Or is it hard to see past what you focus on as flaws?

I’ve been challenged by these thoughts lately. When I look in the mirror, my eyes tend to immediately notice what I don’t like… wrinkles, dark circles under my eyes, that bump on my chin, freckles, cellulite.

The other day I watched Aster looking at herself in the mirror. I couldn’t help but notice how much she delights in what she sees.

She smiles at the girl who looks back at her. And she even blows herself kisses.

I have a feeling she tells herself how pretty she looks in baby babble. I can’t understand it, but her smile says it all .


I remember feeling pretty when I was a little girl. Memories of dressing up flood my mind as I look at Aster. Pretending I was a princess about to become a bride, I can almost smell the azaleas I’d gather to make my wedding bouquet. I’d walk down the aisle of my dad’s long driveway lined with magnolia trees. And of course, my imaginary prince charming was waiting for me on the porch. I’m not sure he used words in my fairy tale, but I knew that he thought I was beautiful. His smile said it all.

Is it possible to return to that place? To be like the little girl who believed she was a beautiful princess?

If we allow God’s thoughts to replace ours, I think it is. For in the truest part of our being, that is who we really are!

The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for He is your lord. You are His masterpiece. How precious are His thoughts about You. They cannot be numbered! You can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when you wake up, He is still with you, thinking about you and delighting in you every minute of the day!Psalm 45:11 (NIV), Ephesians 2:10a, Psalm 139:17-18 (NLT)

Lord, please erase words that have been spoken and lies that have been believed that have kept us from seeing ourselves as beautiful. Remind us today that we are Your inheritance. A crown of splendor, a royal diadem, true beauty in the hand of our God.

I pray you would remove our fault-finding tendencies and anything that has scribbled something ugly over the beauty You created in us. Replace self-condemnation with Your thoughts towards us. Show us the very things You hand-made in each of us to be beautiful – the color of our eyes, the tone of our skin, the shape of our lips, the gentleness of our smile, the length of our necks and other traits that are uniquely ours.

Father, I want to see what you see. Will You stand here with me, revealing true beauty that’s woven into the woman who looks back each day when I look in the mirror.