April 5, 2011

Conflict....who really wins?

I've had the honor of doing a 40 days of prayer guide through my church.  It never ceases to amaze me at God's timing!  Every day I open this little booklet, its exactly what I needed to hear that specific day! 

After being down in the Florida Keys for a few months, I've had some time to reflect on my life the last ten years.  I have definitely made some choices that have affected my  life in trememdous ways.  One of those choices, is how I handle conflict.  To be quite honest, I'm not really good at it.  Actually, I can get pretty defensive when I am being attacked and one of my BIGGEST pet peeves is to be accused of something I have not done.  Not to be prideful, but I do usually tell on myself before being busted (just ask my mom). 

So, I've thought a lot about the conflict in my life and relationships lost because of that conflict.  Its been hard lessons to learn but ones that I feel make me who I am today.  It gives me great teaching material for my girls during homeschool.  Not sure if that is what God was doing in some of those conflict situations but He has taught me to teach my girls about dealing with it. 

I opened my 40 days of prayer last week, only to find the title "Living in Conflict" at the top of the page.  "Of course," I said out loud to God.  What better topic of discussion than the one thing I struggle with the most.  Then, today I open it to "Resisting Opposition," and the first line reads "We pray 'Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...' but often we experience conflict that stems from people's opposition to God.  It occurs in several arenas.  Many Christians have found conflict in places that they considered to be the most secure: at church, home, even family or friendships..places they believe to be outside the battle zone.  Not so!"    I sat there for a minute soaking up that statement.  It then occured to me that maybe I had viewed conflict wrong all along.  I viewed it as an attack on me, personally, rather than an attack in the unseen world.  "It is the unseen world where our real enemy lies.  He will try to damage wherever he can."  So, that's it!  I was giving way too much credit to those around me that were attacking me and my family.  We recently had a situation that I will not go into detail.  But, we were attacked by people we claimed to be friends and brothers/sisters in Christ.  We weren't sure where the attacks were coming from and we were quite frankly completely blindsided.  We (Craig and I) became very defensive and to be quite honest, a spirit of bitterness welled up inside of me.  I felt like when we left our home of 10+ years, things were left unsettled and a lot of questions unanswered.  It brought me back to another time in my life, where I lost a very dear friend of mine to a series of arguments, arrogant attitudes and deadly defensiveness.  The hurt began to grow again inside of me and the best thing I thought could happen was to escape my life in the one place I felt such opposition. 

For whatever reason, God did choose to move us away from Texas and away from close friends and also those that were no longer friends.  It grieved me to leave the home I had known for so long and the friends that I held so dear to my heart.  It also saddened me of the things that were left undone and the reconciliation that had yet to take place.  But, at times, I wonder if in God's perfect timing, He did remove us so that I could see and learn from what we had been through as a family. 

While reading my devotion, I came to realize that as long as we harbor bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment in our hearts, we allow the enemy to come in and steal, kill and destroy.  When we choose to allow the opposition of others to dictate our lives and then, in turn, become defensive and hateful - guess who wins?  Yep, the enemy.  We are falling into his perfect trap of deception and its a downward spiral from that point.  Its scary to say the least!

You know, my brother, Michael is a great example of a duck.  When he is attacked as an individual, he really lets things roll off his back.  We recently had a great discussion about this very thing.  We were part of a situation that involved the two of us.  I made a couple of comments and then later had to apologize.  His response, "I was over it a long time ago."  And, rest assured, he was!  I wish I could be more like my brother. 

So, what have I learned this week:

The greatest arena of spiritual warfare occurs in our heads.
A stronghold is an attitude or mindset impregnated with despair that accepts as unchangeable anything that is contrary to the will of God.
Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Forgive your enemies - it messes with their heads (that's just a funny church sign I saw before I left Texas)
Am I a tool in the hands of the enemy?  By accusing falsely, by spreading gossip, by bringing damage to others' lives?

My prayer is that God would change my mindset.  I pray that I won't view conflict as a personal attack on me but rather its a battle that rages around me in the spiritual realm.  When someone opposes me or persecutes me, how will I handle the conflict? 

As I type this, the radio program is on "forgiveness."  Hmmm, how fitting :-)


March 4, 2011

Where has the time gone.....

I never thought I would be one of those adoptive blogging parents that would slack off from keeping everyone updated once we returned home.  But, here I am eating my words!

We arrived home on November 3 as a family of 6!  Its still hard to believe all that took place from the day we first hosted Stephanie and Lizzie in December 2009.  With no desire to adopt and no money, we never thought we'd walk down that road!  Plus, all the comments about disturbing the birth order really had me freaked out. Even though I had two precious friends (Stephanee and Camille) that had gone before me, I just knew that older child adoption was NOT for me!  But, here we come down the escalator in the Austin airport with four girls in tow and in that mix - a teenager!

I will be completely honest and will not sugar-coat anything.  The first couple of months were VERY tough.  Lots of tears, lots of confusion, lots of stress, lots of fighting, lots of doubts, but LOTS OF PRAYING!  That is the only thing that got us through those months.  My poor friends probably thought I had fallen off the deep end.  There were days when I questioned what we had done bringing these girls to America.  What had I done to my existing family?  Had I ruined the lives of Molly and Madeline forever?  What had we done to our marriage?  But, I kept being encouraged by my sweet friends, Stephanee, Camille, Hollie, Colleen, Lynne, Cindy and many more that have gone before me with teenagers.  I received great advice from Cindy one evening over dinner.  She said "Don't assume the worse in her.  Don't assume she is doing anything bad.  Let her live a little.  Trust God with her life."  I chewed on those words for days.  And, that is exactly what I have done - put my trust in OUR Heavenly Father - not trusting in my ability to parent a teenager. 

We have continued to homeschool and that has been another challenge.  Its like teaching three 1st graders to read.  Right when I was at the end of my rope, my precious Molly (diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder and not able to read) picks up "Cat and the Hat" and starts reading - ON HER OWN!  God knew I was at a breaking point and for whatever reason, He chose to extent His grace and mercy to me that day and perform a miracle!  Molly loves to read and I catch her reading to her two older sisters quite often!  School is going well and with the help of the owner of My Father's World and his wonderful advice, we are on the road to a great school year!  The best is hearing my girls tell Bible Stories to one another and being able to answer questions from the Shorter Catechism!  I stand in awe at the work the Lord is doing in their lives!

Well, the big news of the year so far is - WE ARE NOW FLORIDIANS!  It has been a big desire of ours to  move to Florida.  We were here in the summer of 2009 and God shut the doors of that business opportunity.  We have prayed for years that God would give us the desire of our hearts and move us there and we had to fully trust in His timing.  When we returned from Ukraine, a series of events occurred that allowed Craig to sell his business to our dear friends.  It was an amazing opportunity for the two of them and we are grateful that God provided that relationship.  After selling his firm, he made a call to a friend in South Florida to notify him of the sale of his business.  The friend says, "Funny that you should call today.  I came in on Saturday to get your resume.  I need to move back up north to take care of my daughter and her son.  You are the only one for my job."  And, less than a month later, on January 10th, we loaded a Penske and moved to Key Largo, Florida! 

Key Largo is wonderful!  We have met some amazing homeschool families and attend the same church we did in 2009.  We weren't sure where we would go to church and visited several before sensing that God was leading us back to Redlands Community.  We love it!  Its a Presbyterian church and is so focused on community and missions as well as disciplining the flock.  Its a GREAT balance and we feel so at home there.  We have already met some amazing friends at RCC and look forward to how God will use us to serve Him there in that congregation and in our community.

I've attached some photos of our life in the Keys.  We are so blessed to be here and there are days when we wake up pinching ourselves that God gave us the desire of our hearts!  He is simply amazing!

We look forward to our journey here and welcome all of you to come visit us!  We have our first set of visitors next week as Craig's parents will be coming for his birthday!  My  mom is coming the first part of April for Madeline's birthday and to watch me run in the 7 Mile Bridge Run in Marathon, Florida. 

Things to pray for:
My mom desperately wants to be close to us.  Please pray that her house sells and that she can find a job in South Florida.  Pray that God would comfort her during her time away from us.  Its been hard on her emotionally and physically to be away from her grandbabies!

Craig's work at Community Bank.  This is a praise! Craig is so busy meeting with clients.  Craig is so gifted when it comes to Financial Planning and he is finally getting to really use this talents!

Homeschool for us.  We are still working on getting into a set curriculum for the girls.  Pray that we will find what works for all of us.  Pray for patience and endurance for me!  Praise that we have met a huge community of homeschool families in the Keys - who knew!

Blessings to all of you!!!!!

The Hills from Florida :-)