Monday, December 29, 2008

The Conclusion of Swindoll's Esther

Pg 186 "Her strength is revealed as much in her restraints as in her responses, and her dignity as much in her humility as in her integrity." Like the Proverbs 31 woman, Esther gives us a high standard to strive towards as women.

She's not in the first chapter nor the last yet her influence continues to this day. After I'm gone, who will I have influenced while living that will continue on.

Her story should give us all hope, triumphant hope in God.

Pg 188 "Vashti is no longer queen; Esther is queen. And she is a queen who has won her husband's overwhelming respect and loyalty."

Pg 189 3 Principles found
1. "When God wins, the people He uses are often unexpected." Humility is "an attitude of the heart." Phil 2:3-4
2. "When God wins, the qualities He upholds are usually unpretentious."
3. "When God wins, the message He honors is a universal message."

It kind of makes me sad that this is the end of the story. It doesn't go on to tell us if she had children and other ways she was effective. It's like the story has been cut short, but God told the part of her story that needed to be told and retold. Her story serves as a reminder to the Jews of how a Jewess living in exile rose to become queen and allowed an unseen God to move her and the people in her life in order to make a way for His people. This story is like when I read Emilie Richards books or Sue Grafton's books -- I feel like I've gotten to the know the characters personally and will miss them once I close the book. I know that I will glean even more in Beth Moore's Bible study which will start on 1/18, so I won't mourn for long.

Dear Father,

I truly want to be a vessel you can use. I pray that I have the humility, dignity and strength of Esther. Mold me and make me into the godly woman you would have me become. Lord, I want to teach these ladies and do things in this class that they will remember long past the last class. I want to encourage these women where they are, and I know I can only successfully do that through you. Please use me. I pray for each woman who will make it her goal to be there every week. I pray that this Bible study will be food for her soul. Lord, I also pray that we will be allowed to have the Sunday morning kick-off and that we can use this time to edify you and entice the women to come and participate. Please speak through me and my mom. Give us wisdom and discernment. Lord, thank you for answering prayers and being in control even when we can't see you, feel you or hear you. Thank you.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

More notes on Swindoll's Esther

Pg 147 "This is life, as relevant today as when it was first recorded. This is written to people who face intimidating, stubborn souls. Perhaps they live with them, are married to them, or have grown children like that. This is written to people whose lives have been scarred by documents and lawsuits, bad reports, or rumors. This is written to people whose lives are lived within the thick, stone walls of depression and doom...There is home!" Ps 30:5

Pg 148 "God is in the business of breaking down walls. The wall may be your own stubborn will." Ouch! Can he walk on my toes or what?

Pg. 150 " 'And many among the peoples of the land became Jews...' The gladness of their hearts, the joy on their faces, the delight in their dancing, the overall unrestrained fun among them attracted others to their Lord."

Chapter 10 talks about self-control -- The Jews had been given permission to protect themselves and then take the things belonging to those who they slayed. The Jews refrained. How easy is it to get carried away at getting back at someone, to enjoy it, to see them suffer like you suffered? Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. When we fail to exercise self-control, we are allowing Satan to control us.

The way I have started looking at this is like this. When someone tries to attack me or make something my problem or my business when it is not, it's like one of those yellow stickies I use at work. I imagine them writing whatever it is on the paper and then sticking it on me. Do you know how easy it is to knock those off? It requires very little effort. I just have to do it. So I flick them off one by one and they fall to the floor. IF SOMETHING ISN'T YOUR BABY TO ROCK, THEN BY ALL MEANS DON'T ROCK IT! Just because someone tries to make a situation or problem yours doesn't mean you have to take possession of it. If you feel you need to do something with it, put it in God's lap and leave it. Walk away. It's when we take possession and hold onto things longer than we should that anger and retaliation and vengeance is birthed. The Jews planned to defend themselves, utilized self-control, and left the rest to God.

Then there is celebrating. The enemy is defeated. God's favor has been seen again on the Jews. His timing was perfect as usual. People were converted to Judaism due to the rejoicing of the Jews. People are still looking for excitement and joy and enthusiasm. People are drawn to those people. Have you ever been around someone who has been miraculously healed, someone who had one foot in the grave just for God to kick it out? I know of a man like that. As a matter of fact, in the middle of one night while he lay in the hospital I was awakened with this impression that there were angels all around him. No faces. No solid form to touch but rather to be seen. My chest was so heavy and tears flowed like streams. He had been placed on my heart at 3 AM in the morning. I got up and prayed. I was disturbed by what else had been laid on my heart....he was not going to make it and I knew he still had 2 kids in the house to raise. So I prayed. I prayed how the Spirit led because I really didn't know the man. I wrote him a letter about what had been put on my heart, but I refused to write down that he wouldn't make it. Early the next morning on the way to work, I took the letter and dropped it off in his room without signing it. I wasn't suppose to. It wasn't for several more months when I was led to tell him I wrote the letter. We both wept. He said he had kept that letter by his bedside ever since. He brought it to church for me to sign, and I did as he requested. I told him I didn't sign it originally because it wasn't about me, it was about the message, and he completely got it. His doctors had said he won't make it (a death sentence) just like the Jews, but God had other plans. He is now a walking, dynamic miracle of God and when he worships and rejoices you see the purity in it and people are drawn to him. It gives him such opportunities to tell about what God has done for him. It opens doors that would never have been opened. This is what celebrating God's victories in our lives will do.

My mom fought Stage 3 breast cancer in 2007. Every time she had a chemo treatment, Lori and I would plan for something to happen or someone to surprise her. We wanted to offset the dread and fear with something to look forward to. We didn't get permission from the chemo lab, we just did it. The last treatment though was different, I asked if we could have a quartet come sing. They said it would be great. Well, it turned out to be about 12 people instead with a CD player, scripted verses, and word sheets. We sang praise and worship songs while she got her last treatment. Nurses joined in. Family members and patients joined in. People had their cell phones on holding it in our direction letting their loved ones hear. The machine started beeping as we sung about the works of His hand. It was an awesome time of praise and worship. They are still talking about it to this day in the chemo lab. In January 2008 after she had completed her chemo and radiation treatment, we held a victory party. We were claiming she was healed even though she hadn't gotten a bone scan or PET scan to confirm it. My sister and I planned the party. We had cakes, punch, door prizes, testimonies, singing, and a table showing the journey. We gave the glory to God Almighty and testified as to what He had done in each of our lives individually during 2007. It was amazing the people who showed up that cold day.

People are drawn to those who are joyful and and rejoicing. And anyone who has been given a death sentence or a scare like that rejoices like no one else can. In the old testament people would build altars when God had done something that way those who came behind would hear the story of how God provided and how He was faithful. Celebrating is a way to build an altar. We need to tell our children, talk to our children and tell them how God has been faithful in our lives. What stronger testimony is there?

Christmas Exhaustion

I love Christmas. I truly do. I am so thankful to celebrate Christmas in liberty not only in the US but in Christ. But even in keeping everything in perspective, after the candlelight service, opening presents at Honey and Poppar's house, the three gifts at our home, Santa Clause this morning, brunch with Patrick's family, we all came promptly home to take a nap. I rarely nap but my body forced me to. I couldn't have done one more thing, and we still have one more Christmas celebration to go...25 people at my house tomorrow afternoon for turkey, ham and the fixings with my mom's side of the family. We do white elephants for the adults and considering the warpedness of this group it is a scary prospect...I'm planning on donating a bowling ball. Then there is the free-for-all with the little kids and their presents. There will be more mass chaos, laughter, one long-distance call from Hawaii to a cousin and wife who couldn't make it in, wrapping paper balls thrown up into the fan, and all sorts of goofiness. Patrick will miss it this year. He is leaving early in the morning for a fishing trip on the border with three of his buddies with my blessing.

The best present for me this year was watching my son and daughter's faces at the Christmas Eve service when not only Santa was present but ELVIS in a little drama about the true meaning of Christmas. They were so attentive. Their sweet little faces hearing about the nativity. My second favorite was to see Pearce laying down in the spoils of Honey's house trying to make "snow" angels from all the tissue and wrapping paper that had been discarded on the floor, and then it would have to be how excited Erin was for everyone when they opened a present, especially her cousins. You would have thought the gift was hers. Then there is the picture in my head of Pearce and Patrick racing cars on the race track just to see them go flying off when going to quickly around the curves or not fast enough around the loops. We practice the three gift principle in our home. If Jesus received three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we can receive three gifts too. The kids get three nice presents from Santa with stocking stuffers and three gifts from me and Patrick. Now, their Honey, on the other hand, tends to go overboard, but that is a grandparent's prerogative.

Now, there is silence. Patrick and Pearce are outside. Patrick is getting ready for his trip. He's so excited, he can barely stand it, and the Lord only knows what Pearce is into, but he's in his father's domain now. We surprised Patrick this year with gift cards to Ranchland and he got some really nice boots. Erin is in her room playing with her American Girl doll bed and other accessories but is ready to play on the computer to enroll her new Webkinz.

Before supper, we will get our baby Jesus out and put Him into our nativities around the house, since this is the day He was born...helps to refocus our thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas. Little reminders are good for all of us.

Thank you, Holy Father for such a Holy Night all those years ago. Knowing the pain and humiliation You would suffer you still submitted yourself to human limitations all because You love me even back then. Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Principles for living with difficult situations found in Esther

More notes from Charles Swindoll's book "Esther"

Okay, so here Haman is and it is really getting at his goad that Mordecai refuses to bow to him because Jews did not bow to any person. Bitterness turned into hatred, and hatred festered into uncontrollable rage. It wasn't good enough to kill Mordecai, Haman wanted all the Jews killed. But in the meantime, Haman personally had a gallow built BESIDE his house! According to the book the gallow was 75 feet tall or 7 1/2 stories (pg 106). Persia didn't hang them. They impaled them. "A stake was thrust into the body, and then the body was hung on a pole." What an excruciating death.

On page 107 there is a list of four principles for dealing with difficult situations:
1. When preparing for an unprecedented event, wait on the Lord before getting involved
2. When dealing with an unpredictable person, count on the Lord to open doors and hearts
3. When working through an unpleasant situation, trust the Lord for enduring patience
4. When standing against an unprincipled enemy, ask the Lord for invincible courage

The edict had been issued that all the Jews were to be killed and the date given was almost a year away. For those who like to worry and for those who don't tend to worry, this is plenty of time to develop an ulcer. Waiting for the Lord can be quite difficult. I'm not a good sitter. I don't wait well. As my friend Lee calls it "God's waiting room" -- not my favorite place, but acting without the Lord's direction can be detrimental. For the dealing with the unpredictable person, we are to rely on God as well. I have found the principle in Matthew 5:44 to hold true. When you pray for your enemy or the one who is giving you grief, God changes things. He not only changes the person for whom you are praying but also the one who is doing the praying. In Proverbs 21:1 says the kings heart is in God's hand and He directs it where He wills. If God can do that with a king, He can most certainly do that for anyone He desires. God provides what we need when we need it whether it be wisdom, timing or courage. He is faithful.

On page 113, he sites 4 principles for all of life:
1. When all seems lost, it isn't.
2. When no one seems to notice, they do. (King overlooking rewarding Mordecai. King eventually does reward. God notices. God cared and brought it to the king's attention the night the gallows were being built. Mordecai never tried to get back at Haman. To me, this also shows that God has a sense of humor and irony. There are people who get bogged down in "I've been wronged," "I deserve better than what I go." When we take the focus and attention off ourselves and trust God to take care of it, life is so much better. God sees it. Let Him be the judge as to whether or not you've been wronged and then let Him do the sentencing. As my Mammaw says, "It all comes out in the wash."
3. When everything seems great, it's not. (Esther 6:10). After being promoted throughout the city, Mordecai returned to the king's gate -- back to his old job WITHOUT COMPLAINT. There aren't many people in today's world who would be able to that.
4. When nothing seems just, it is.

When God seems distant or unseen, remember the song, "When you can't trace His hand, trust His heart."

I thought not hearing from God or feeling God move for a period of 3 months was the worst feeling, but what about the period between Malachi to Matthew -- 400 YEARS -- God was silent. Does that mean He isn't moving? Absolutely not.

"In the mystery of God's timing, subtle things occur that the sensitive heart picks up. That's the role wisdom plays in life. Reading life's subtleties is what Christian maturity is all about. And rather than thrashing around, thinking, 'I will not make it through this. I will never hear God's voice,' we determine, in wisdom, to watch for the slightest turning of events." Pg 129
There is a book out title "When God Winks at You" by Squire ______(I can't remember his last name). His book is about when God allows us to see or catch a glimpse of his working. That is my next book to read.

Are you sensitive and patient enough to wait on God's timing? Esther was asked three times before she answered the king. There is a time to be quiet and a time to speak up (Eccl. 3:1-7). When it is time to speak up, word selection is crucial. Esther utilized such self-restraint, diplomacy and yet she effectively used her words for the most effective blow not only to Haman but to the king. She used the words "I and my people."

One of my favorite people in Esther is Harbonah in Esther 7:9-10 -- Harbonah is the one who tells the king that Haman has just completed that gallows meant for Mordecai. You can hang Haman on his own gallow. Can you imagine being at the dining table that night with Harbonah? "And then I told the king..."

Silence does not mean absence.

Pg 135 Concepts about silence:
1. Silence is neither accidental nor fatal. Don't panic. Listen.
2. "The workings of God are not related to our clocks, they are related to our crisis." Pray.
3. "The surprise in store are not merely ironic or coincidental, they are sovereingly designed."

Impending doom had still been ordered and since the king's orders could not be revoked another provision had to be made. He gives his ring to Esther as well as Haman's household which she gives to Mordecai.

Stay tuned...
More to come.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Esther and Calgon

I've been sitting in my OBs office, and like most women in there, I had a book to read. I was reading Charles Swindoll's book on Esther. In his book I'm up to the point where Esther has been taken from Mordecai because of her beauty and is now being prepared for her introduction to the king. You know, a year's worth of spa treatment doesn't sound too bad, especially on particularly difficult days or days that just wear you out. Some days, let's face it, there just isn't enough Calgon in the world. Last week, Pearce came in the house with mud on his jeans...nothing new, but when I asked him what he had been up to, he said he had been making snowballs out of dirt. THAT'S when I noticed his peculiarly dark tongue. "Pearce, have you been eating chocolate?" I asked wondering where in the world his stash might be hidden. "No ma'am." That's when I realized the little darlin' had guessed it -- dirt! Like I said, some days Calgon just doesn't cover all the territory. But if all this primping was for me to be paraded in front of a judge to determine whether or not I was to be queen, I'm afraid I wouldn't be as gracious as Esther.

At any rate, Esther had been taken from what she had known and put into a rather large group of women who could have anything they wanted. Can you imagine the back-biting, the gossipping, etc.? Yet, Esther was able to keep her head and she found favor. Dr. Dobson points out six characteristics of strength and dignity in Esther.
1. Grace-filled charm and elegance -- So desperately missing from the education of our young ladies today.
2. An unusual restraint and control -- The Lord knows I can use all the help I can in this area. However, in the area of keeping secrets or confidences I do well in due to the nature of my job.
3. A continually teachable spirit -- "Someone has said, 'Education is going from an unconscious to conscious awareness of one's ignorance." Pg 47
4. An unselfish modesty and authenticity
5. A kind winsomeness, regardles of her surroundings -- " A person who is winsome draws you to him or to her." pg 50
6. A humble respect for authority

Shortly after her innauguration, Haman starts hatching a plan, an evil plan. He didn't just want to kill Mordecai...this wasn't enough. Have you ever been around someone who was bent on vengence? It's not just enough to get back at the person who has done you harm or wrong, it explodes to include the whole family. Giving full vent to anger and hatred blows things totally out of proportion. That is what Haman did. He didn't just want to kill Mordecai, he wanted to "destroy" the whole race. Sometimes it's not even about vengence. Sometimes it's about holding on to hurt longer than we should. Sometimes it's about not letting go and moving on.

Then to top it off, Haman gives the Jews a good long time to think about their fate. An edict is sent out just to let them know what they have to look forward to. How many of us have dealt with a death sentence? My mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in April of 2007. I can honestly tell you there were times when we didn't know our own names for all the stress and information we were given to process. And yet, there are those who are worse off than Stage 3. Some have been told they have 12 to 18 months to live at most. In this scenario, the people were given the life sentence, but God chose to intervene. Just because a death sentence has been given doesn't mean that God can't work in it and through it and overcome it...afterall, He has already conquered death. There is hope in Christ Jesus. Thankfully, my mom received a clean bill of health in April of 2008. I love her oncologist Dr. Hargon who is a Christian. He said he does not give time lines as to when a person may or may not die because he is not God.

Haman was promoted even though Mordecai was the one who thwarted the assassination plan on the king. Where is the justice in that? Life isn't fair, and it doesn't pay to get mad when it isn't because it doesn't change things. I have come to learn that if I do my best, God is faithful to do His best and will take care of it. It all comes out in the wash, as someone once said. Plus, God's timing is perfect.

I'm skipping forward but I'm making notes of things I want to remember to use.

Then I look at Esther, the Bible said she stood before the king. After three days of fasting and praying she stood before the king. She wasn't bowed (she was a Jew who didn't bow to men). She didn't show weakness or fear. She was prepared for whatever was to happen...her life was on the line for what she believed in. In March of this year, I went to Rome, Italy, and I stood in the Colleseum where numerous Christians died for their faith, and it was so overwhelming to me. I wonder how many people who call themselves Christians today would be willing to take a stand for their faith and be willing to die for it and actually go through with it. I wonder. I pray that I would have the strength and determination of Esther.

There's also the famous phrase that Mordecai says in his speech sent to Queen Esther..."for such a time as this." Rev. Swindoll focuses on Esther's character. Mordecai had raised Esther to obey, to be respectful, to have dignity, to have grace, and to know where her value came from. For a man, he done good raising a girl. Esther took those things she learned into her adulthood. She also obtained great courage along the way.

Rev. Swindoll pointed out something I found quite interesting. During the three days of fasting, what was Esther doing? Yes, she was fasting and praying, but she also wasn't idle. In Esther 5:4, it said she had prepared a feast during this time. I don't know about you, but sitting in God's waiting room isn't my most favorite place to be. When my mom was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, there wasn't one single, solitairy thing I could do to help, to fix, to remedy, or to heal her. In essence, He put me on the sidelines...I hate sitting. Being ADHD, I'm not a good sitter, but Rev. Swindoll points out somethings for those who have been or for those who are in God's Waiting Room --
1. Just because nothing appears to be happening, doesn't mean God isn't at work. He also says,
"the adversary wants you to think: 'waiting's a waste'." Pg 98
2. He uses verses Isaiah 41:10,13 and Psalm 32:6-7 and Psalm 32:8 -- He points out that when we wait, we listen.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Esther in Exile

While I'm reading Charles Swindoll's book, Esther was in exile. I don't why I didn't see that before other than maybe God didn't want me to see it until now. Exile. Banished. There were Jews who had returned home, but Mordecai and Esther remained exiled. It doesn't say why they didn't return specifically. I guess the why isn't what's important. Have you ever felt in exile? Like God has put you on some island and has said He'll get back to you. Shoot, maybe he hasn't even said that. He just put your tiny hiney on an island away from comfort, from peace, from the things you know...maybe it's a new job, a new location, a situation at work or school that has made you the odd man/woman out. I am one of those weird ones that finds change invigorating. My husband detests and loathes any change whatsoever. But there's a difference between a voluntary change and being forced into an uncomfortable position. Esther was in exile. God could have returned her to her people and her home land. He could have saved her parents. He could have done a lot of things, and if I were Esther, I'd have to wonder where in the world He was in the midst of all the pain and changes forced on me. But He chose to leave her in exile. Why? His plans are not our plans. His ways are higher than our ways. He was preparing a way to save His people once again. Regardless, exile isn't a place I'd like to vacation or spend time in. If you are in exile or feel like you are in exile, be on guard. God's always at work, and it could be He's getting ready to use you. Are you ready?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Esther -- Beth Moore's "It's Tough to be a Woman"

I have to admit I have never done a Beth Moore Bible study. I work full time, and these Bible studies have been during the day or at night when my kids are at home. I have always felt my first place of ministry needs to be my family. I did a book/Bible study this past fall over the Internet and blogging, and thoroughly enjoyed it and the women I was able to meet. But I was asked to facilitate Beth Moore's Esther Bible study for the spring. My mom will be doing the morning session and I will be doing the evening. I prayed about it, and then I asked Patrick what he thought about it. When he said he thought I should do it, I agreed to facilitate. This will be like nothing I have ever done before. I'm exhilarated by the new adventure and the possibilities. I'm excited about teaching...I love to teach. At work when there is an opportunity to train, teach or mentor I do it. Some of the classes I teach are challenging, but it's not because of the material or subject matter because I can teach it with enthusiasm because I love what I do for a living, but it's the audience. Those challenging students are typically packing heat, sitting with their arms crossed, sipping coffee occasionally, and just daring me to prove that I can teach them anything they don't already know. Yes, it's a room of law enforcement ranging from the parish, city, district and federal levels and typically men. I spend the first 15 minutes telling war stories and gaining status UNLESS there are some guys in there who know me and are willing to give me an "in" to the other guys.

I'm excited about facilitating the book of Esther for several reasons. First, it's one of two books in the Bible where a central character is a woman. Second, God is never named -- the unseen God. I have had a time in my life when it felt like God could not be found. I thought I was going deaf for trying to listen to Him, but was hearing what I thought was nothing...just the crickets. That is a mighty tough spot to be in, if you've never been there. I went through depression because I thought, "How can God expect me to call Him my Father when He's not even talking to me?" I just wanted to be in His will...plain and simple. Problem was -- I was. Had God moved? Had God changed? Had I finally ticked Him off or pestered Him to the point of getting the silent treatment from Him? No, no, and no. Just because we can't see Him moving in our lives, just because we can't feel His presence, just because He isn't whispering to our spirit DOES NOT mean He isn't there.

Esther didn't hear God. He didn't come down and speak to her about saving His chosen people. Esther didn't see God. She was living in a pagan land and had assimilated to that way of life to the point some, probably most, didn't even know she was a Jew. (Have you ever assimilated to a way of life to the point that no one knew you were a Christian?) And yet, God led her, used her, and moved her into the position she needed to be in to serve His purpose. Like Beth Moore says God can't fulfill your destiny without you, but He can fulfill His and Christ's destiny with or without you.

The third reason is Esther herself is an intriguing character with great depth, intelligence and courage. I think she was an observer of those around her. She followed sound counsel and was obedient, and when the time came, her past and the character traits that came as a result of it and her observations, put her in a position to go head-to-head with one of the top dogs of her day. And Haman NEVER SAW IT COMING! Love it! Absolutely love it.

So, as I study, I'm going to be blogging my notes, my thoughts, and who knows what else.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chaos to Attention

And so it begins. Friday was the day it hit. Have you ever felt like you are running and doing as fast as you can but can't keep up and you are constantly getting further behind? And yet, if you stop or quit, you'll just get run plum over with life leaving its tread marks on your backside. Then to top of the day I couldn't go to sleep until midnight. I am not a late night person. I am what is considered a morning person. I wake my children with singing and tickling and get them moving by the threat of more singing. I got some of my monthly grocery shopping done and picked up the last few presents. By the time I picked up the kids, my brain was short-wiring and nerves frayed. The day had not started well, and now I wasn't much more joyful when they had seen me earlier in the day. These are not my favorite kind of days.

God has a way of reminding me of what is important in life by reminding me about the lives He has put into mine. Erin, her dad and I had a discussion about what she had said that morning. She intended to hurt her daddy because she was angry, but the words stung past that and needed to be addresses. She had told her daddy she wanted to go live with her "real" parents. She said she meant to say her birth parents, but regardless, the punch had been delivered. I know it has to be confusing and she's working it out. Erin and I cuddled in her bed, and I talked to her a little more about it. I know every child at some point in time has said or thought, "I wish I had different parents," but adopted kids think they have that option. I explained to her that her birth parents had struggled with the decision they made. They sacrificed and it was the most difficult decision they ever had to make. I reminded her of how we knew that God had chosen her to be our daughter, and I asked her if she knew better than her heavenly Father, her birth parents, and her real parents as to what was best for her. She began sobbing. Her little heart was breaking, and I hated it. All these people loved her so much and she had chosen to act so ungrateful. I held her while she sobbed and I cried tears from an aching heart. She wants to see her birth parents, and I would truly like for her to be able to I just don't know that they are ready to meet Erin. Her birth mom still deals with depression and guilt over it even though she has said on numerous times that we are the best parents for Erin. There are many blessings attached to having an open adoption. Many people fear them, but they fear what they do not know or understand. That night Patrick slept with Erin just to give her that little extra attention.

Since I couldn't sleep after that knot-building conversation, I watched TV til midnight...not my most productive. At midnight, I went to check on everyone, and as I covered Pearce, he stirred. Oh, how sweet he is at night! "I love you, Mommy," he said as I covered him. I moved to turn the light off in the kids bathroom, my heart still aching from the evenings conversation and the longing for her babyhood when I heard more rustling in Pearce's bed. I returned and he was a little more aware. "You want to come sleep with me?" I asked. "Yes, ma'am." He stood up in his bed. I grabbed a stuff animal not knowing which one it was. I thanked God he was still small enough for me to carry, and as he snugged up to my neck he draped his arm around my shoulder. I carried him to my bed. We held hands as I cried myself quietly to sleep.

I wonder how God does it. He never sleeps. He hears every prayer of every person on the face of the Earth -- past, present and future, and yet He can maintain a personal relationship with each person. He's never hurried, harried, frustrated, ruffled, stressed, surprised, or outdone by the things I might say or do. He's ever patient, loving, consistant, gracious and merciful. I just wonder how He does it. The wonder of this Christmas season -- He chose me to love on; He chose me to redeem; He chose me to forgive; He chose me to be called His daughter. He chose me. Hallelujah, He chose to adopt me as His own. He chose me.