Archive: October, 2010

Tough Decision, Easy Answer by Kelli Zaniel

“God is calling me to adopt a child,” my husband proclaims. After practically choking on a bite of cheeseburger meatloaf, I compose myself. “Ahem.” I clear my throat. My stomach begins to churn. Did a case of the crazies kidnap my husband?

“Adopt?” I ask. “Are you insane?” my voice crackles. “We have three small children of our own and I can barely handle them!”

Eye contact is lost and the conversation disconnects. With a simple nod, a broken smile, and a heavy sigh he leaves the room. We never speak of this again until one year later.

One afternoon while sitting at my computer, God shakes things up a bit. The Creator of the Universe neutralizes my fear and grips my heart. My mind floods with an overwhelming urgency to adopt.

I make a deal with my husband and with Jesus. I will commit to praying about adoption for one week, just to make sure I heard God right.

I read my Bible. I think. I pray. I listen. I repeat.

He speaks.

In the midst of an ordinary, un-showered, stay-at-home-mom day, God reveals himself and His plan. He embraces me through the power of His Word. Every message, for one week straight, references orphans in some way.

Even though I’m unsure of my steps, I place one foot in front of the other following His lead.

God answers my prayer in different ways—all of which plant seeds into the fertile soil of my heart. There, the message of adoption takes root and is firmly planted. God-size dreams are realized.

I am called. I am accountable. I am rolling up my sleeves. I’m ready to crawl through the trenches of adoption. Only, God puts a new spin on things. He anchors deep within my heart the desire to adopt a special needs child—a child not even an adoptive parent would want…“the least of these.”

These God-inspired moments are not about reflection but response–an immediate response to “pure and genuine religion.”

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you,” (James 1:27, NLT).

God presses gently but firmly against my heart. Don’t just listen to my Word, but do what it says (see James 1:22).

My wishy-washy attitude becomes decisive. I choose a cross instead of convenience; uncertainty instead of certainty; unfamiliar instead of familiar; faith instead of fear.

Following Jesus isn’t picking and choosing which commandments make us more comfortable. Following Jesus comes with a cost; but not following Jesus comes with an even bigger cost.

My family’s adoption adventure is just beginning. We have yet to be matched with a child, but I know God has someone special in mind. Pursuing the will of God is worth more than any dream I could imagine for my family.

This is a hard decision in my strength but an easy one in His.

For more encouragement visit: www.faithbarista.com
Thank you Bonnie for allowing me to jam with y’all today
!
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Seeing God in the Little Things By Kelli Zaniel

Darkness is quiet nothingness existing in a pitch-black space. It covers things we know are there but can’t see. It makes us anxious and vulnerable… especially, when you’re five years old.

Two nights ago, I kissed my daughter’s velvety cheek, tucked her underneath a patchwork quilt, and turned off the overhead light. Before the door touched the frame, high pitched squeals echoed throughout the house.

The lights flickered on. I saw drops of fear welling up in the corners of her baby blue eyes. “I’m scared!” “I miss daddy,” she gasped. Trickles of emotion flooded her face.

I called my husband and lightly pressed the phone to her ear.

She heard the reassuring vocals of her daddy. She clung to each word for dear life. To her, his voice was the oxygen in a room without air.

She patted her tiny hand over her heart as if to say, “I love you” without words. Her sobbing subsided.

Calmness cupped her little girl face as her eyelids began to flutter. She drifted off to sleep.
Even though she didn’t physically see or touch her daddy, his familiar words provided the peace, security, and assurance she needed.
I crack a smile as I am reminded of my relationship with my heavenly daddy. I can’t visibly see Him; I can’t physically touch Him; but His voice and His words soothe my soul and my nerves.


“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

My Heavenly Father breathes light into any dark place.

He is the nightlight that makes a room feel safe.

He is the soft voice that soothes a restless heart.
He is the tender touch on the small of our backs that make us feel secure.

We are never alone in the dark when we have Jesus.

That night as I snuggled underneath my covers, I clasped my hands and thanked God for allowing me to notice Him in the little things. The little things are usually where the biggest faith lessons come from.

As you rush through your busy day, remember nothing mends, soothes, or comforts like the sweet sound of a Savior pressed against your ear and your heart.

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Bedtime Prayers, by Heidi Avery

I adore bedtime with my children. It’s the precious last 10-15 minutes of the day where I fluff their pillows and prepare their beds. I close the blinds and change the lighting from overhead to subtle low-lit butterflies for one, flowers for another and moon-in-my room for him. I turn on gentle, relaxing music to help lull them off to dreamland. Once snuggled in I lovingly settle in next to them to read a favorite story. And, before I go, I spend the most serious minute of my day praying over their soft, sleepy heads. It’s always the same, varying some, but basically sounds a bit like this…

Father, thank you for my darling child, she is a precious gift that you have given to me and I love her. Help her to close her eyes and drift off into a restful night’s sleep with the sweetest of dreams. Move deep into her heart Lord, cause her to love you desperately and to seek after you unceasingly. She is yours; I give her over to you again. Protect her and keep her from harm and use her in a mighty way to bring glory to you. Amen.

My children can get to sleep just fine without the night lights, the music and the story… they prefer them of course, but they do well without them. However, the one thing that they absolutely need is that prayer. Whether it’s the comfort of my words or a peace from God himself they are soon at ease and happily off to sleep.

Now, there are many other times I pray for them and with them, but this time that I pray over them is so important to me because it sums up all that I really care about. I don’t want a single day to go by without…

–Thanking God for entrusting me and blessing my days with my children.

–Asking Him to invade their hearts with an irresistible love and desire to follow Him.

–Placing them back in His hands where they belong; giving them up again because each day I steal them back.

–Seeking protection over them; praying that their lives will be a mighty testimony to Him.

I don’t know what their future holds. Will He call them into His kingdom? I don’t know His plans, but I will heed the great wisdom of Philippians 4:6 and not be anxious about it. I will continue to petition Him over their salvation, requesting that He cover them with His grace. Outside of glorifying Him through my own life nothing else matters to me.

Take A Load Off By Kelli Zaniel

Unrealistic expectations stack on our backs like a ton of bricks. They constantly weigh us down. Sometimes, we wobble but catch ourselves. Other times, we stumble and fall.

It’s like a never ending piggy back ride, only the passenger is two tons of mission impossible.

Not able to withstand the heavy load we force ourselves to carry, we begin to slouch over. Friends and family try straightening our backs with words of encouragement but it doesn’t always work.
As we crouch, our view is limited. We can’t see in front of us. We only see the ground below. We don’t see where we’re going, only where we’ve been.

Unattainable expectations are like annoying drips from a broken faucet.

Drip, drip, drip…

We try ignoring the sounds, hoping it will go away. However, some days we can’t seem to turn off the echoes of failure clanking deep within our hearts.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30, NLT).

We lay impossible expectations on ourselves.

God whispers, “I never placed those heavy burdens there, “for my burden is light.” When things are hard, God doesn’t make them that way, we do.

Let’s all stand tall today. Straighten our backs and focus on what lies ahead. Let’s allow the weight of unrealistic expectations slide off our backs and into the arms of our Savior.

Let the God of the Universe lift your super-sized load today. You’ll be free to accomplish more than you can possibly imagine!

Cosmo Girl to God’s Girl By Kelli Zaniel

Clusters of people push and pile onto the plane. The isle is clogged with travelers, carry-ons and flight attendants. I look down and discover bright orange fingerprints tattooed across my pastey white skin. Squished in between two cheeto happy kids, I reach for the wet ones. Before I wipe away the cheesy, globby mess, the plane lifts and shoots into the air.

Once we reach cruising altitude, I notice all the Cosmo readin’ women flipping pages in synchronized motion. The bold printed articles read,

“How Not to Be a Nag,”

“Trade Your Maternity Jeans for Skinny Ones,” and

“Why Your Man Left You.”

Did I mention I’m peaking in between the seats to read this?

Who decided to squeeze our waist-high mom jean wearing selves into this unrealistic societal mold? If they think after an exciting day of potty training, wiping noses (and other places) and carpooling, we will suddenly transform into an air-brushed supermodel meets Iron Chef…they have another thing coming.

We Are Hard On Ourselves

No wonder women are so hard on themselves. A misguided society plants outrageously mixed up ideas into our hearts. Seeds of “I don’t measure up” and “I want my hips to look like hers,” take root and grow like weeds. Seedlings of doubt burst open and shoot forth until reality is shoved right out of the flower pot.

We need to stand and say, “I’m not buying this lie anymore,” and throw our Cosmo Girl in the trash.

When I obsess over what others think of me, I need to remember John 3:16…

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (ASB).

This verse doesn’t say, For God so loved the world… only if you have a proportionally perfect body, gorgeous hair, well-behaved kids and a smokin’ hot husband. He says, “I love you even if you are a complete wreck.”

God doesn’t put conditions on His love for us. Sometimes, however, I think I put conditions on my love for Him. Don’t you?

God Is Love

God doesn’t love us because we’re loveable or because we make Him feel good. God loves us just the way He made us— bad hair days, stretch marks and early signs of aging and all. He loves us this way because He is love. He is the definition of love.

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love, (1 John 4:8, ASB).

In the midst of a chaotic four hour plane ride, God reminds me of an important lesson. Be more God-conscious rather than self-conscious. I need to be more concerned with how I measure up to God’s standards rather than worldly ones.

As the plane touches down and the wheels roll to a stop, I decide to be happy with my own skin, in my own skin. Why?…Because God made that skin.

When I wade in waters of insecurity, I will remember that underneath this failing body, I am Jesus’ girl– His extra-special grace girl. I am created in the image of an Almighty God…what is more beautiful than that?

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Fear God, by Heidi Avery

The cool of Fall is in the air. It’s time to retire our flip-flops or expire them as often is the case; which also means new Fall footwear for at least 3 pairs of growing feet in our family. So, on this particular Sunday afternoon we head straight for a popular shoe store in town.

After many selections and fittings the kids make their choices. Hannah with her glittered up, multi-colored slip-on tennis shoes, Robbie with his light-up green LuminaTors (pictured above) and Isabelle with her dark pink fuzzy boots.
While my husband pays I peruse the socks until… I hear my say-what’s-on-your-mind-son ask Mr. Shoe-man behind the counter a question… “Sir, excuse me… do you believe in God?” Suddenly, I’m not interested in socks anymore, but I wait. Seconds drag by… at least 10 of the longest seconds I’ve ever experienced before I hear the man respond… “um, yeah I do, but… you need to be very careful asking questions like that.” Mr. Shoe-man is visibly uncomfortable and my darling boy is just smiling ear-to-ear… unaffected by the entire exchange.

I want to be mad. Really. But, this is the way it is… even God loving people are scared. Mr. Shoe-man likely has some work policy about discussing “religion” on the job and didn’t realize that those policies do not extend to fearless little God lovers like my sweet 6 year old son!

Isn’t it wonderful how children just move about the country doing and saying whatever they think of. They do not get embarrassed. They are not afraid of rejection. They are not worried about what other people think of them. And, they are bold. I wish I could capture that courage combo in bottle!

The problem is we enjoy present comforts and we don’t particularly enjoy feeling judged or cast off. It hurts and our flesh takes us into auto-protect mode. Regardless of our feelings and our fears God calls us to be audacious… to risk it all for Him. Kingdom work is not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. There is much earthy risk involved, but our blessings are eternal.

Jesus says something that puts all this trepidation to shame….

“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear. Luke 12:4-5

Now, that’s something to be afraid of. Don’t you agree?
Father, do a great work in me. Replace my worldly fear with godly fear. I want to scream from the roof tops “Here I am, I will go for you, send me!” Whatever it costs me. I trust you Lord and I want what you’ve promised me more than I want to feel secure in this place that is not my home. Jesus, I love you… make me courageous like a child for you. Oh, and… ditto for Mr. Shoe-man too.


By His Wounds, by Heidi Avery

I have a deadly disease. It consumes my body. Every single pump of my heart ushers contaminated, toxic blood through my veins infecting everything within its reach. It disturbs my brain; the way I perceive things and sometimes controls the way I respond to them. It sets my emotions off like wildfire, rapidly spreading from one thought to another and from one fear to another. They bombard me. This cancer seeps into every ounce of my flesh stealing my ability to focus on anything but myself.

I was born with this sickness. It’s genetic actually. My parents have it; their parents have it and all the way down the line. In fact, I notice that many are suffering just like me with this grim condition. You’ll find no mention of this illness in any medical books. Doctors cannot diagnose it and therefore can not offer me a cure. I live with it for years without knowing what is wrong with me. I try to convince myself that I am really okay. But, I’m not. I am dying. Rotting away from the inside.

This misery has cost me dearly. Relationships destroyed. Love sacrificed. Time wasted. I have a long list of mistakes and regrets that are a result of this poison that eats away at me. Countless, feeble attempts to restore myself have only led to temporary, fleeting relief. I count my failures and they define me.

I confess, it beats me up. I accept that this is who I am. Depraved. Helpless. Lost. It certainly seems hopeless for me. But, then I met Him… a physician, one never seen and never heard before. He sought me out and found me in the darkness. He claimed to know me and somehow I believed Him. He took one look at me and gave my disease a name…

SIN

He offered an antidote; a supernatural remedy for my symptoms with an eventual heavenly cure. The impossible. He requested all of my deepest sorrow and all of my internal pain. I did not hesitate to give it and in that moment I forgot about me. He became my center and I entered into the sweetness of His peace.

Who is this healer of my fatal misfortune?

Jesus. The Savior of my soul.

He chose me. A nobody. He pursued me. A lost cause. He lifted me from the miry pit and covered me with grace. He forgave me. He comforted me and purified my heart. He fed me with His Holy word. He transformed me. He gave me His Spirit; it guides me. He covers my weakness. He makes me strong. He inspires me to fight and gives me a divine purpose. He shed His blood. He died for me. Because He loves me. He saved me. And, despite this deadly disease that even today courses unrelenting through my blood; I experience healing.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

This post was written in response to Bridget Chumbley’s One Word at a Time Blog Carnival. This weeks topic is healing… check it out!

A Room Full of People, By Kelli Zaniel

Once Upon a Time, in a place not so far away, there was a room full of broken people. This particular room was over-crowded and a bit stuffy. People piled in and squeezed together. Strangers sat shoulder to shoulder wondering if they would survive another day. They wished the storyline of their lives had been different.

They were marked by homelessness, drug addiction and heartbreak. They traveled different roads but their destination was the same.

They had dirt under their nails; holes in their clothes; and grocery bags full of dreams that never came true.

Once Upon a Time, and a couple of years later, there is a room full of the same people. The room is still crowded and definitely stuffy. Happy people pile in and squeeze together– only this time, family and friends are seated too.

They sit with shoulders rolled back and heads held high. Their lives no longer defined by suffocating shame and cursing condemnation. They no longer care where they’ve been because they know where they’re going.

They stand in the shadow of the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice calls them. By the wounds of a selfless Savior they are healed, redeemed, and pardoned. They breathe in the braveness of mercy and exhale the freeness of grace.

This new heart is unfamiliar. It’s not what they’re use to. Like wearing a new pair of shoes, it’s awkward and uncomfortable at first; but after one foot steps forward and then another, it gets easier.

With trickling tears and a set free heart, each newly adopted child of God stands behind the podium. They tell similar stories of sinner turned saint. Testimonies of how the Creator of the Universe paused for them. How He reached down his hand of light into their pit of personal darkness.

Their burdened souls finally find liberty as their sin is unevenly swapped for the righteousness of Jesus.

I’m in the audience. I watch. I listen. I cry. Tears stain my cheek. I hold back an uncontrollable sobbing session as I am overwhelmed by the mightiness of our God.

I look down at my shoes. It doesn’t matter what kind of shoes I wear, what kind of clothes I have on, or what kind of make-up I use; I am just like them underneath. A broken person thinking hope is lost but realizing hope is born out of suffering.

We may camouflage old wounds with fancy clothes, a fake smile, or a seat in the first pew, but we all need the healing power of Jesus in exactly the same way.

We can remember the past without letting it define us. God is the only One who defines us…He defines us as His.

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33, NLT).

Thanks to Bridget Chumbley for allowing me to link with her website today on the topic of healing. www.bridgetchumbley.com

How to Reverse A Bad Hair Day By Kelli Zaniel

It’s finished! Two hours and ten minutes later, the salon chair twists around. I, with my newly permed locks, jump to the floor. Curl-n-lock shampoo in hand, my mom and I leave behind our day of beauty.

The next day at school, a smarty pants boy in my 7th grade class shouts, “Your hair looks like a rat’s nest!” First of all, I didn’t realize that rats had nests. Secondly, I was two feet taller than him and way too intimidating to get in my face (or so I thought).

I’ll admit that my highly anticipated beautiful, curly locks looked more like a frizzy, unworkable mess. However, my challenged head of hair was none of his business.

One long, lonely bus ride home and too many tears later, I run into the security of my mom’s arms. She wipes my tears, kisses my cheek, and tries running her fingers through my tangled “rat’s nest.” She grabs a comb and makes me beautiful.

“For you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!” (Ps. 61:3-4, NLT).

Now as an adult, when a mean world hurts my feelings, I run to Jesus. He identifies with me. He understands what it’s like to be mocked and ridiculed. I clutch his hand and breathe Him in as if He’s the last breath I’ll ever take.

I snuggle in my Father’s arms. He listens. He wipes away my tears. I stay there until my tender heart mends. He makes me beautiful on the inside, where it really counts!

When your hurt, can you think of a better pair of arms to run to?

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