NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Category: Christian

A big announcement…

I alluded to some exciting changes coming our way a couple weeks ago, but now, I will let the cat out of the bag.  I’m pregnant!  Our rainbow baby is expected to join us sometime in late February or early March next year.

Pregnancy after miscarriage - allowing time to heal both body and soul. How God turned my mourning into dancing - NatureAmy.com

Our fun pregnancy announcement

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I experienced a miscarriage last February.  I wrote a post about the experience and another about taking time to heal from it – and one thing that I have learned in this all is that miscarriage and loss needs to be talked about more.

It is such a painful thing for a woman (and really a couple or family) to go through, it really should not be done alone.  Yet, so many people feel that they cannot talk about it.   And although I posted about it here, I am guilty of not talking about it much in person.  It is painful to bring up, but it is also reassuring to know that we are not alone in our pain.  There are many, many women who understand.  The more I mentioned the experience to friends, the more friends I learned had been through it themselves.  It was a kind of sisterhood, of sorts…

Time to heal

After my miscarriage, the doctor told me to wait a couple months before trying for another baby.  I smiled and nodded, but I did not really understand his reasoning.  He wanted to make sure I was completely healed, but mostly he was concerned that I had time to heal emotionally.  He said that depression after miscarriage could lead to postpartum depression after a new birth if there was not proper time to mourn the loss.  Only after living in a fog of depression for several months and finally feeling it lift completely this summer did I realize the wisdom of his suggestion.

My body was also not the same after my miscarriage.  My hormones were off for several months and my cycles were strange.  I gained weight and was not able to lose it no matter how hard I tried (which I believe was due to my hormone imbalance).  Finally, in June, the fog started to lift and I finally felt more like myself.  My cycles, which I chart, also normalized again and we conceived our rainbow baby.

Mourning into dancing

When I calculated the baby’s due date, I was pleased to discover that it was just days away from the day that our last little one was taken home into the arms of Jesus.  It was like God was taking a day that was heartbreaking and replacing it with a time of joy.  I really do see it as a gift from our Heavenly Father and I am so thankful.  Our God is so good, my friends – so good!

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 ESV

Again, thank you for your faithful prayers and support during this time of healing for our family.  It really does mean so much to me.

Oh! And, I can’t wait to give you all an update on my first trimester with a Trim Healthy Mama pregnancy.  I really have noticed some really amazing differences I am excited to share with you!

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Healing from Miscarriage: Allowing myself time to heal, rest, and recover

At the end of February this year, I had my first miscarriage (you can read more about it here).  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through and something I hoped I never would have to experience.

But, although it was physically, mentally, and spiritually hard, it brought me to a place where I could feel my Jesus’ presence.  I knew He was right there with me (as He always is).  I made the very conscious choice to praise Him through this storm.  My anthem was the Bethel Worship playlist of “Good Good Father” on YouTube (linked here) and I played it over and over in my grief.

But even though I could feel the presence of God and I knew He held me safe, it did not change the fact that I was still in the midst of the storm…

I am naturally very self reliant, self-motivated, controlled, self-sufficient – you get the picture – but my grief left me feeling raw, broken, and like I had little control.  My emotions, usually buried and in check, easily sprang to the surface and I found myself retreating into the safety of my home.

It was almost as if I was in a fog.  I went through my normal routine.  We home schooled, went to our extracurricular classes, went to church, and shopped for groceries, but I stopped doing anything that I did not have to do.  I didn’t even realize it until several months later that I was operating in a fog for about three or four months.

I didn’t realize, until it started to lift, that I was experiencing depression.  Looking back at the spring months, I realized how much I had retreated.  I realized how little I had done with friends in that time.  I generally am quite social and fill our calendar with play dates, Bible studies, and activities because I enjoy them, but for several months I retreated from most everything.

And honestly, when I realized what I had done, I was not disappointed.  I knew I needed that time “off” to rest and recover and heal.  Instinctively, I did what I needed for that period of healing in my life.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”           Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Many people have told me that when they experienced miscarriage, the path to healing for them involved giving and investing in others.  They spent more time focusing on others, more time away from home.  And I can see why that would be important, especially if you don’t have children at home, but with three little kids at home and homeschooling, I think I was already giving enough of myself.  The path to healing for me involved allowing myself to rest, to pull back, and to heal in the quiet and safety of my home.

I spent more time in the Word, more time in prayer and reflection, more time writing.  I also found great comfort in Becky Thompson’s book Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart.  Becky writes about her miscarriage and healing in the book and how she used praise as a weapon against grief.  It is just one chapter in the book, but it played a big part in my healing.  If you don’t follow Becky at Scissortail Silk on Facebook, you really should – I guarantee you will be blessed.

I finally feel as if the fog has completely lifted.  It’s been over five months since my miscarriage and it took about four and a half to finally feel completely like myself again.  It has been a process.  And for a “do-it-yourself” kind of girl like me, it has also been a humbling experience.  I would never choose to go through the pain of miscarriage again, but I know I am a stronger woman because of it and I can relate to those who have, or will, also go through one. And for that, I am thankful.

If you are going through something like this, or have in the past, I would love to hear from you and pray with you.  Leave a comment below, or send me a private message on Facebook.

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Celebrating One Year of Freedom from Sugar Addiction

June 10th has never been a significant date in my life.  I love June – it’s my birthday and anniversary month, it’s the start of summer and swimming, but June 10th was always just another day, until 2015.  Last year, June 10th, I made a promise to myself and before God to no longer be controlled by my sugar addiction and it was life changing.  A few days later, I wrote this to my small private Bible study Facebook group while we were going through Beth Moore’s “Believing God” series.

Confession time – I’ve been meaning to post this for a few days, but also dreading doing it, because writing it down makes it real!
So while reading day 4 a couple days ago, I was very convicted by Beth’s personal story of living in a cycle of defeat. At first I thought, “thank goodness I don’t have that in my past” when God brought to mind a very real struggle of mine that I do not want to give up. So, being very honest here, my struggle is my sugar addiction. I have gone on and off cycles of being sugar free for weeks or months at a time for the last 3 years, but I always try to convince myself that I can have “just a little bit”, that I don’t have to give it up completely, etc. But if I have learned anything over these cycles of defeat, it is that I can’t just have a little bit. Whenever I cave for a little bit, it becomes a binge session that lasts for days, if not weeks. I need freedom from this, and have felt that urging to let it go completely for some time now, (pretending I can’t hear you, God) but the thought of what others will think has held me back. Having to explain why I can’t eat something (without a real reason like an allergy) at an event or party invites unwanted attention and ridicule for my choices. But like an alcoholic, I need to rid myself of all large sources of sugar in my life for good and it scares me.
Thankfully, I have been mostly sugar free for the last year on the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle that I do and I have a lot of great stevia sweetened dessert recipes, so I know I won’t suffer. However, the idea of having to push away the special dessert at a dinner party freaks me out, but I know that it will send me in a tailspin – it always does!
So, I have asked God to help me in the journey, to give me freedom from this addiction and I’ve started re-reading Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, because there are some great verses to add to my memorization list. I want to crave God more than I crave sugar, and as it says in Day 5, “I’m thrilled to know we can binge on God without guilt!” (p. 27 of Believing God Workbook) I am believing that God will help me through this journey out of this addiction and I can experience his freedom from sugar.
Thank you, my friends, for praying for me in this and for being here.
Love you all,
Amy

I was so scared to write that post because writing it down and showing it to my friends meant that I was accountable and if I failed miserably like I always had before, they would know.  Keeping it hidden was so tempting – I was scared to tell anyone that I had given up sugar, but I knew I had to.  And it was not as bad as I thought it would be.  Saying “no” to a piece of cake has not been a problem in the past year.  I have not been ridiculed for my decision.  It was much worse in my head than it actually has been in reality.

Celebrating my birthday this last week - the first time I haven't had a large sugar-filled cake to binge on in a long time! My homemade THM sugar-free cupcakes were perfect!

Celebrating my birthday this last week – the first time I haven’t had a large sugar-filled cake to binge on! My homemade THM sugar-free cupcakes were perfect!

I’ve written about finding freedom from sugar-addiction before (you can read my tips here), but honestly, it was not something I ever thought was possible.  I love sugar, but I have always believed in the mantra “All things in moderation” – in fact, I still do, but not when it comes to addiction, even food addiction.  After years of giving up sugar for periods of time, I would allow myself “just a little” for a special occasion or treat, and I would not be able to stop.  At home, dessert was not safe from me.  I would slowly nibble away at the leftover cake or pie until it was gone.  I had felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit gently encouraging me to give up sugar for good, to treat it like a true addiction and cut it out, but I did not want to hear it.  Finally, I could not ignore it any more. I was sick and tired of living in a cycle of defeat – I wanted freedom!

I often listen to the Dave Ramsey Show on the radio as I am making dinner – we are in Step 2 of his financial baby steps currently and it helps keep me accountable – and he said something the other day that I had to stop and write down.  “You have to have an ‘I’ve had it’ moment to break an addiction,” Dave Ramsey said.  I knew that to be true in my case.  I wanted to give up sugar for years, but not enough. I had to be sick and tired of being controlled by my sugar cravings – so much so that I was willing to make a huge sacrifice to make it happen.  I was not at that place until June 10th, 2015.

But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.               2 Corinthians 12:9

This verse has been posted on my refrigerator door throughout this entire journey and it will stay there as I make it past the one year mark and continue to live in freedom from this addiction.  Because throughout the last year, I have learned to rely more heavily on my Savior.  I have learned that God has not cursed me with this weakness, but He has given me an opportunity to grow in my faith daily.  I have had to lean heavily into Him during this journey, especially during the trying times of holiday parties and grief over my miscarriage and my grandfather dying.  And I have learned that God is faithful.  He asked me to give up sugar,  He equipped me to do it, and He did not (and will not) leave my side throughout this journey.

So, what about you?  Is there something you are struggling with that you know God is asking you to give up? Have you reached your “I’ve had it” moment?

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Running the Race

I want to introduce you to my dear friend, Christine.  Christine is a mom of four very energetic young boys and she has a heart of a Warrior Princess.  She is currently writing a book, a curriculum actually, on this topic.  She is a wonderful friend, mother, and teacher.  She is also a talented writer and speaker.  I’m honored to share her work with you!                    ~ Amy

I ran a marathon before I was married. I’ve never really cared for running, but caring for my body has been a priority for a while now.  Without access to a gym, training for a marathon was a great way to employ discipline to stay fit.   And the peer pressure of the friend I was doing it with was a great help too.
The marathon was in San Francisco, California. The course took us through all kinds of terrain; flat roads by the bay and wharf, hills by the Golden Gate Bridge and through Golden Gate Park.  Along the way I was presented with a few obstacles.  I broke out in hives on mile one so by mile 3 I was running with Benadryl in my system.  About mile 13 my foot started throbbing and swelling.

christine fam

Christine and her family

Just as the race course goes through different terrain and we are met with all kinds of circumstances- our spiritual life looks similar. As we approach the different seasons of life, it’s crucial to realize that this race we are in is a marathon.  This is no 5K.  This race is our lifetime and will impact eternity.  Friends, there will be a time to sprint and a time to walk.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12:1-3

Perseverance has been defined as a steady persistence in a course of action, steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success, a continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition.  So I would say following the instruction in Hebrews 12 means moving forward.  As long as we don’t let a circumstance take us out, if we take the time to deal with them so that we can continue in the course marked out for us, we are persevering. Let us consider Jesus, the way our God cared for Himself and others as He ran His human race.  His actions were never rushed, His ways were steady as He moved toward His finish line.

I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid a few years ago.  The season of discovering my illness and recovery was slow going, learning how to really rest was crucial to my recovery.

It was in this season I came to a much greater understanding of God’s grace.  My inability to run well forced me to lean into Him.  His grace carried me, and I had to be okay with not being strong enough. I saw this image of trying to run my race with my four young boys.  Like hauling them along with me- constantly verbally pushing them and physically dragging them along this dusty trail.  They were getting filthy and scuffed up.  I was getting nowhere and my exhaustion was not only going to destroy everything in my world but also kill me. This picture slowed me down.  And when I did the scene changed.   In this new picture I was not in workout gear sweaty and straining, but in more elegant attire.  Walking leisurely along this dirt road, holding a mug of coffee and smiling while conversing with the four children around me.  They’d discover things along the path, eager to show me and tell me all about it.  I was able to laugh and enjoy every bit of them. Although this picture is different than the one that comes to mind reading Hebrew 12:1-3 I think it can be applied.
I knew that Jesus had come to give me a full life- wanting me to thrive- not just survive, so I changed my battle plan.  It was time to look at the season I was in and consider the terrain.  It takes discipline to slow down.  Sometimes it takes more discipline to slow down then to “keep up”.  Sometimes the things that ensnare us on our journey are sins of pride as we seek perfection and holiness with our own effort and perhaps even competition with our fellow runners.

christine boys

Christine’s four boys

Run your race sister.  Focus on the ground before you, feel inspired and encouraged by the other runners, but remember they won’t be able to beat you in your race, because God did not make your life or my life a competition.  Others are running their own race and we can celebrate the successes they have, the ones they post on social media, just as we would want them to celebrate with us.

Warrior, strive to press on, enjoy and embrace the terrain God has brought you to. This requires us to beat our body into submission.  Practically speaking this will mean striving to keep up in spin class or telling our body to be quiet, and climb in bed mid-day to read a novel.   Maybe it’s doing the dishes, and maybe it’s snuggling with a child.  God has called us to run the race as if to win.  You will need to pace yourself.  Depending on the terrain you’re on, acting in the spirit of discipline will be to reach out and say “yes” to the leader in church who’s asking you to serve.  Other times it will mean beating that people- pleasing desire down and saying the word “no.”

As we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith we will be able to run with perseverance the race marked of us.  Our goal is progress- not perfection.  Perfection is being with Jesus at the end.  For the joy of being with Him in eternity- of finishing the race with a smile and an embrace from our proud Lord.

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God Cares About Mom Friends: and other seemingly trivial requests

When January comes around each year, like so much of the world, I like to reflect on the past year and come up with some goals for the new one. Some years I come up with a whole list of resolutions and some years I decide on a word that I want to focus on for the year (for example, this year my word is discipline).  However, one year, when I was a young first time mom, I only had one New Year’s wish – only one cry of my heart – I really wanted a friend.

I had lots of friends, don’t get me wrong, but as a new mom I felt what, I believe, is common for so many new moms – I felt lonely.  My life was suddenly so different and I had very few friends who were in the same place that I was – a mom who mostly stayed at home (I did work a couple days a week), nursing an infant, in need of a friend.   Becoming a mom changes things in so many ways that you do not expect – I felt lonely and isolated.  It kind of snuck up on me.  That New Year’s I realized what I needed – what I wanted more than any lofty goal – was a mom friend.  So I asked God to bring me a friend that wasn’t miles away or too busy with work or school or kids activities.

It was one of those prayer requests that you think really doesn’t matter, right? It wasn’t a request for healing from cancer; it wasn’t something catastrophic; it almost seemed trivial, mundane, ordinary.  Would God really care that this young mom was lonely and just wanted a friend?

But, friend, I know my Jesus. I know how much He loves me – how much He loves you.  And just like my husband would never want me to be lonely, my Jesus wants it even less. Sometimes, God is just waiting for us to ask…

I have asked God for many things in my life and although I have received many “yes” answers, the more frequent response seems to be “no” or “not yet, my child”. But I was reminded of the words of my Jesus – words that mean so much more to me now that I am a parent.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7: 9-11

All I had to do was ask. So that New Years night, sitting exhausted on my bedroom floor after feeding the baby (again), I prayed for a friend.  Then, I fell asleep, exhausted, and forgot all about it…

Sometimes prayers take a long time to be answered and sometimes I think God is standing there, holding a gift out, just waiting for us to take it.

I don’t remember how many days later it was, but less than a week, I somewhat begrudgingly attended a baby shower for a neighbor.  Usually I like showers, but I was not looking forward to this one at all.  In fact, I told my husband I was going to make a polite appearance and duck out as soon as possible.  So, I took the baby – always a good excuse to leave early – and reluctantly walked down the block to the shower, gift in hand.

I am a strange combination of personalities – an extroverted introvert.  I can certainly be confident and bubbly and make acquaintances easily, but I secretly hate small talk and long for deep conversation with someone I really connect with.  Going to the baby shower, without really knowing anyone was uncomfortable and required a lot more energy that this sleep deprived young mom wanted to give.  But I went and God met me there with the gift that I had asked Him for.

You know when you meet someone and within minutes you know there is a connection?  That was the case with my friend Jen. I had met her before – we were also neighbors, but we had only introduced ourselves at the mailbox and pointed out our houses.  At the party, both not really knowing anyone, and both not being comfortable in that situation, we connected.  We talked the entire party, and as we walked home together after the party (I didn’t leave early after all), we made arrangements to meet for coffee and shopping a few days later. And, without even realizing it until several months later, God answered my prayer – my silly, trivial, won’t stop the world’s problems prayer – because He loved me.

God loves to give good gifts to His children, no matter how trivial they may seem. - NatureAmy.com

My friend, Jen, and I on a recent coffee date (well, we both had tea)

So, my friend, what is your heart longing for today? What seemingly trivial request do you have for our Father? Because, you know, He loves you more than anyone in the world – He thinks about you all the time – He delights in giving you good gifts.  All you have to do is ask…

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Hope Unfolding: How God met me in the midst of my miscarriage

Warning: This is a story of hope, but also of loss.  If you have recently experienced loss, my prayer for you is that my story brings encouragement and light to you. These are hard days, but our Jesus never leaves us in the midst of the pain. I am sharing my story in the hope that it will touch your life at this time.                                            ~Amy

Have you ever had something happen at just the right time that you know it had to have been God? A God-incidence, if you will? Maybe it was a song coming on the radio that you needed to hear?  Maybe it was a random encounter with a person that felt like a divine appointment? Or maybe it was an encouraging word or a book or blog post at just the right moment? It is times like these that feel like divine encounters.  Like God is reaching out to hand us a special gift or lift us out of a pit when we need Him most.  This happened to me recently.  I am completely blown away by how our Savior loves us each individually knowing exactly what we need before we even know that we need it.  Let me tell you my story…

I was very excited to get an advanced copy of one of my favorite blogger’s new book in the mail.  Becky Thompson of Scissortail Silk has a heart for encouraging mothers and God has used her to do just that for millions of women around the world in the last couple years through her blog, www.beckythompson.com. As a blogger, I was able to get an advanced copy of her new book, Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart, to review before it comes out on March 15th (read on to win a free copy for yourself!)  I was excited about this unexpected perk of being a blogger (I am still quite new to this) and was very happy to read the book since Becky is a wonderful writer. But, I had no idea of the divine appointment God had just placed in my hands as I pulled the book out of the mailbox.  I had no idea that I was about to experience one of the most tragic (yet very common) events that parents go through and that God had given me this book for that moment.  

A review of Hope Unfolding and a story of peace in the midst of loss... NatureAmy.com

The reality of trying to stage blog photos at my house – Oh well, isn’t she cute?

When I got the book in the mail a couple weeks ago, I had just come back from my first midwife appointment for my fourth pregnancy.  We were very excited about having a fourth kid and I was about 8-9 weeks pregnant.  However, the first appointment was disconcerting, not exciting, as I thought it would be.  The early ultrasound showed a little baby that was measuring about 3 weeks behind schedule, although there was a nice heartbeat.  The midwife was unconcerned, she thought I must have my dates off – I was concerned, I did think my dates were pretty accurate, but I thought she must have mismeasured.  I was to come back in two weeks to see how the baby had grown and remeasure…  

I tried not to worry too much and life went on… Meanwhile, this book arrived in the mail and I started to read it.  It is an easy read, beautifully written, emotional in parts, funny in others, and very transparent about life as a mother today.  Becky’s stories bring hope to all parts of motherhood, and as I read it, I thought of so many mothers that would get so much from this book as well.  It really is a book that any mother would love – I could not recommend it enough. (And I am so excited to be giving away a free copy – I know that God has someone in mind who really needs to receive it!)  I really enjoyed reading it, and I got a lot out of it, but I still had no idea the real reason God had placed this books in my hand until Saturday morning.Lock-Screen-2

Thursday night, I had started to spot a little, just a tiny bit of bleeding.  I was definitely concerned, but I had spotted in my first pregnancy (it is very common, especially in the first trimester) and it had been nothing.  Friday was my second son’s birthday and we had a family trip to the zoo planned.  He was ecstatic, to say the least, and he had been looking forward to this day for months.  I was so worried that I would miscarry on Friday and ruin his birthday.  I am so thankful that we had a beautiful family day together celebrating my second born.  I spotted a little more throughout the day, but still nothing much.  Saturday morning, though, I knew without a doubt that God was calling this baby home. 

I have a special chair in the corner of my bedroom (I am sitting in it now) that was a gift from God. Yes, I actually asked God for a chair, and it showed up with a “FREE” sign on it along the road later that same day – exactly the type of chair I had pictured in my mind.  The chair has become my prayer corner, my own personal “War Room”, and I was sitting in it, crying, and talking to God on Saturday morning.  I decided to finish reading Hope Unfolding – I was only pages from the end and the book was a welcome distraction.  I picked it up and I read these words, written by another mother, another mother who, like so many others, had gone through what I was experiencing right then.  

“Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to imagine Jesus there in the room with you right now. Yes, right where you are sitting. I want you to invite Jesus to come and be present with you. It can be as simple as a whispered, ‘Jesus.’… He comes to bring peace and healing and wholeness. That’s what He wants to do for your achy mommy heart right now.” (Hope Unfolding, p. 194)

And although Becky Thompson had no idea that she had written those words just for me, God did.  He made sure that I had a copy of that book in my hands, before it had even reached store shelves, because He loves me…  And just like that, Jesus was right there beside me, in my room, by my chair.  He always is with us, but it isn’t often that I feel His presence so clearly.  And in that moment, as He spoke love over me through the words of a book, I lifted up our precious little fourth baby and placed him or her into His loving nail scarred hands.  And I cried (and I’m crying now as I write this) knowing that this little one was being held now by my Jesus and that I would one day meet this precious soul in Heaven.  

And do you know what happened next?  This was a gift that I was not expecting, but I am oh so happy about – I was flooded with an unexplainable peace.  Over the next few hours my body finished miscarrying my little one, but I was not scared.  I was not in much pain, and it was a quiet and peaceful process at home.  I felt God’s presence with me and was filled with God’s peace.  My three children did not know what was going on, we had not told them about the pregnancy yet, but they knew I was not feeling well.  Their sweet presence, as well as my husband’s, throughout the afternoon was such a gift.  My 21 month old daughter, who is usually too busy to snuggle, wanted to be snuggled and loved on all afternoon and into the evening, which brought me such comfort, as well.  The process was strangely peaceful and full of hope, love, and grace.IG-Square_Print3

I had no idea when I asked for an advanced copy of Hope Unfolding to review in an email weeks before that God would use it as an opportunity to usher in His presence and shower me with love on that hard Saturday.  But God knew I needed it.  For that is who our Heavenly Father is – He is Love and He is Good. He is continually speaking love over us. He is always near to us. But, so often I am too busy to hear Him or notice His presence. Is it the same for you, my friend?  Have you taken a moment today to listen to your Father’s loving voice?  To feel His presence near you? Because He wants to speak love over you today, whatever you are going through right now… He wants to bring you peace in the midst of the storm that is raging around you because He loves you! All we need to do is ask.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11


Enter to win your free copy of Hope Unfolding

THE GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Finally, you have a chance to win Becky Thompson’s new book Hope Unfolding for yourself! To watch a preview video about the book and read the first couple chapters for free, click here. It will be released on March 15th and I hope to have a copy in the winner’s hands as soon as is Amazon-possible!  This giveaway will be taking place on both Facebook and Instagram (@amylovesnature).  Please click over to either one of those outlets for a chance to win!  If you do not have either of these social media accounts, you can send me an email at amylovesnature [at] gmail [dot] com and I will put you on the list!  You may enter on any or all of these places for a chance to win!  While you are there, please make sure to like, follow, or subscribe to those accounts!  This giveaway will be closing at 6 pm Pacific Time, Friday, March 11, 2016.  You may enter up to once per day on each of these outlets to increase your chances!

This contest is open to all US Residents for a good old fashioned paperback copy of the book. (I am sorry, I can’t ship internationally at this time.)  I will send you a message on Facebook or Instagram or by email if you won and will send you your copy as soon as you send me your address!

If you are a mom, or if you know a mom, this book is for you.  It would be an amazing gift for someone (think baby shower?) and will likely be passed around to all your mommy friends – I already have a wait-list for my copy – LOL! The book will be shipped to you via Amazon as soon as it is available on March 15th.  I am praying for just the right mama to receive it – I know it will make a big impact in your life, just as it has for me.  Blessings to you!  Now, let’s get this giveaway started!

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To buy a copy of Becky’s book (or pre-order her next one) simply click on my Amazon Affiliate Link:

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The Family Corner: Adopting on a Budget

I am so excited to share this post from my sister, Ella.  Ella and her husband are amazing parents and they have such a heart for kids.  They have chosen to expand their family through adoption and have so much to share on the topic.  I am sure this is just the first of many posts from Ella on this subject.  I hope that you are blessed by it and take the time to share this information with others that are called to adopt.                                 ~Amy

All my life I have wanted to adopt. I can remember sitting as a teenager in a home for orphaned children in Mexico and yearning to take each parentless child home with me. In college I worked with disadvantaged youth in the poorer parts of Fresno and my heart broke over my inability to really help some of the children have the safe homes they needed to thrive. Belizean orphans filled my heart and my prayers during my two years as a teacher in Punta Gorda. I worked with an organization in Romania to take children orphaned by a communistic regime to camp for a week and then place them in group homes to teach them how families lived and thrived.

And then I married a man who also was brought to tears by the plight of the orphan. We were called to this unique and special ministry.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

But, like many people, we had no money to adopt internationally or privately. We looked into a few organizations and were staggered by the amount of money they charged for a home study alone, not counting the cost of travel and legal fees. Was this call to be something that could only happen much later in our lives? Would we have to fundraise to get our children?

It was in our research that we discovered Foster to Adopt. We could adopt from our own state, for virtually free! What? This had never been discussed in our churches. These orphans all around us were in hiding. They were silently wishing for families that could care for them and protect them properly. And I was blind to them. How had I not known about this? Why had this not been discussed in my church?

So we began the process of becoming certified to fost/adopt. The process was not complicated: a few all day (but free with lunch provided) classes; a very invasive but relatively painless home study; and finger print clearance from everybody and their neighbor (our only out of pocket expense).

Meeting the boys for the first time!

Meeting my sons for the first time, ages 6 and 6 months.

We learned that there are over 100,000 children in the US foster system that are up for adoption. Many of these are over the age of five and unlikely to ever find forever homes. A smaller percentage are younger, and ever so needy. We learned that most, if not all, of these children, regardless of age, are “children from hard places.” Environments in and out of the womb were not ideal for these children and they have special needs because of that.

But we also learned that the state will pay a stipend to families who foster children to help cover the costs of another mouth in the home and will continue the stipend after the child is adopted up until the age of 18. Many states offer free in-state college tuition to children adopted out of the foster system. And all medical and psychological costs are covered by the state.

And we learned that there are over 300,000 churches in the United States. There are roughly 60 million worshipers at these churches.

And why do we still have an orphan problem?

In the light of this, the question is raised: Should we all, as Christ followers, try to adopt? Is this the only way to answer the call to care for the orphan?

The answer, of course is no. God has not called us all to adopt, and it does need to be a calling. The adoption road is not an easy one. There are costs to be paid in tears and sweat and sleepless nights.

But,

If you are called to adopt, do not let finances stop you.

If you are called to adopt, find a foster to adopt program to see what your options are.

If you are called to adopt, let God work through you to bless a child’s life and change it for good. Be a voice of stability and God’s forgiveness in a child’s life. Get paid, by our government, to teach a child about Christ’s saving work on the cross.

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The boys legally become part of the family!

And if you are not called to adopt,

Find someone near you who is and love on them.

Find a family in your church or community that has adopted or is in the process, and lend them your support. They need it.

Love on an adoptee. They need all the love they can get.

On vacation last summer - they all hold a special place in my heart

On vacation last summer – they all hold a special place in my heart

And never let anyone tell you that they could never afford to adopt without pointing them toward the need in their own backyard. Most of us may never have the money to adopt internationally, but locally we can make a huge difference. Church, let’s get down to the business of caring for the orphan. Let us leave our hand prints on their lives.

 

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Why Christians should be the best environmentalists

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” Psalm 24:1-2 NIV

I recently spoke to a group of Christian college students about why they should care for God’s creation. The students were interested and engaged and there were several thought provoking questions. One student in particular made me really stop and think…

This young woman was very concerned about the poor. Like many Christian college students, she had spent time in third world countries on mission trips and had seen the suffering first hand, as I have.

“Caring for creation is a good thing,” she said, “but it’s not the most important.” She went on to say how the poor cannot stop to think about how their actions may be affecting the environment – they are simply trying to survive.  Caring for the poor is certainly a higher priority than the environment… A Christian Call to Environmental Action

Ben Lowe, the Senior Director of Outreach with the Evangelical Environmental Network, had a similar take on protecting the environment as a teen. When asked if he would pursue an environmental degree, he stated, “I’m a Christian – I have to do something that matters more than that.” (Watch his speech  “The Gospel Call to Creation Care” here. You won’t be disappointed.)

So, how can I be a Christian and focus so much on the state of our world – on caring for God’s creation? Does that mean that I care less for people and for their salvation?

Absolutely not! Let’s take a look at scripture to see why I believe this.

In the book of Genesis, the very first instruction that God gave to man was to care for creation. In Genesis 1 God created man for the purpose of ruling over the other creation.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 NIV

Some people have argued that this “ruling” over creation gives people the right to abuse the earth and treat it in whatever way we want – giving us license to use the earth’s resources selfishly and without concern for others. This is not so. The command to rule was given to a sinless world and carried none of the negative connotations that the word now holds. When God made humans rulers of creation, He did not mean we were to act like tyrants or abusive slave owners. No, we are to rule righteously in a way that serves and protects and cherishes creation – just as Christ rules in our lives. We were given the highest position in creation and are the image bearers of God – as such, we have the greatest consequence for ignoring God’s command.

But Jesus said that the greatest commands are to love God and others. How does recycling, picking up trash, and using less energy accomplish those things? Isn’t that focusing on the material world and not the spiritual?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matt. 22: 37-39 NIV

We cannot love God with all our being – all that we are – without also loving that which He created – everything from the silent flower to the unborn baby. In the same way, since we all live on this interconnected planet, I cannot truly love my neighbor – all of humanity – without doing what God first commanded man to do – care for His creation.

You see, our neighbors, and especially our poorest neighbors, are affected by our actions. The poorest people on the planet, whether in the slums of India or the streets of San Francisco, are the ones most affected by the degradation of our planet. Half a million people die from polluted drinking water per year, according to the World Health Organization – still more die from air pollution, starvation, and disease. Climate change is causing drought, famines, and flooding. People who once fed their families from the land are unable to do it anymore.

Caring for the poor by caring for the earth

To address my student’s concerns, yes, the poor family struggling to provide cannot focus on whether their actions are causing pollution. They must, and should, focus on the immediate need of feeding their family. But, we can focus on those things for them. If we make an effort to live more simply, to use less energy, to not over consume the earth’s resources – if we make an effort to recycle and compost and pollute less – if we are supporting ministries and organizations that work to make things better, we are doing things to help the poor. We are glorifying God with our actions.

When it comes down to it, Christians should be on the forefront of the environmental movement. Because of our love for our Creator, we have more reason to care for creation than anyone. By doing so, we are not only a witness to God’s love for creation, but also to our love for Him and for our fellow man.

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