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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a sweet little family of four. There was a Daddy and a stay-at-home-Mommy and a little girl and a baby boy. Life was happy and sweet and their plates were full.

The Daddy and Mommy always stayed very busy. The Daddy was climbing the career ladder at work and the Mommy stayed busy with the children and their many activities.

The little family had big dreams. They dreamed of building a big, beautiful home on the lot of their tiny 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house. They dreamed of taking their two childen on exotic, international trips every summer. They dreamed of country club memberships and educating their children at the very best private schools in Atlanta. The Mommy dreamed of upholstered furniture and custom window treatments for each room of their home. The Daddy dreamed of a lake house and early retirement and expanding his stock portfolio.

And then one night in the midst of all this dreaming the Lord gripped our hearts – both mine and Dan’s at the same time (what a blessing!). He gripped our hearts, gripped our faces in His beautiful hands and said to us… “My children, do you really think I went to the cross for THIS? For your abundance? For your comfort? For you to live in outrageous luxury in comparison to the rest of the world?

Do you think the point of your life is to make things as easy and comfortable and as fun as possible?

If so, you are missing it. You’re missing your calling and you will miss the blessings I have for you. Because this life you are dreaming of is not the Christian life – it’s just man’s invention and it’s called The American Dream.”

Dan and I were Christians then. We knew the Lord. I rose early every morning and sat on my porch to pray and read my Bible. We were active in our church and attended small group Bible studies. I even led my neighborhood Bible study. Dan and I both have read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation. And yet I knew, even then, that something was not quite right. I had this constant feeling of tension that perhaps there was something I just wasn’t getting… I even confided the feeling to Dan one night. “Honey,” I said. “I feel like there is something I just don’t understand about living the Christian life. Somehow I think we’re off base.”

Dan felt it too, but we didn’t know what to do about these weird feelings, so we pressed on. We lived our lives like every other respectable Christian family we knew. Sure, we had a lot of stuff – but we were good people and God had obviously blessed us, right? We attended church regularly, we tithed 10% of our gross income, sometimes we even gave more. We volunteered in the community, we occasionally ventured downtown to feed the homeless, we hosted Backyard Bible Clubs at our home. And yet deep down, we knew there was more to the Christian life.

Well, 4 ½ years later from that picture taken on the beach, our family picture looks different.

We’re still in that tiny 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Buckhead but other things have changed. Our goal is no longer how fun, how easy, how comfortable can we make our lives – but now we ask, what is God’s plan for our lives? How can we live each day for His glory, not ours?

These days our dreams are different too. We dream that one day each of the 163 million orphans in the world will have a family. We dream of restoration and redemption for each broken, hurting child in Uganda. We even dream, just a little bit, of selling everything we own -- you know, all those things that used to be so important to us, and moving to Africa one day. (At this point, we're not dreaming about that one too seriously, so don't mark my words).

If nothing else, what Dan and I have learned over the last year is this:  if you're clinging too tightly to your things, to your plans, to your comfort and convenience, to your idea of what your family should look like -- God cannot move in your life.

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2, NLT


The Fruitful Family said...

OOOOHHHHHHH! I'm so excited you posted the BEAUTIFUL pictures of your two new children!! I've been waiting for them!!!

And girl, you are so right. There is more to this life. It's not about us. It's about Him and what brings Him glory!

A heartfelt thanks to you and Dan for living in obedience. And being crazy! We love you!

Taryn said...

LOVE this post....it is so easy to want everything this world has to offer...so easy to get caught up in the America dream, but it is so much more rewarding when you start to let go of those things and try to see the world the way Jesus does :)

ShellyO said...

And THANK YOU to Griffin Gibson, www.griffingibson.com for the beautiful pictures. Griffin, we love you!

Melissa said...

yes, I will have to get her number! Those are amazing!!!! The best I have seen yet!!! just beautiful!!!

sara said...

You "new" family photo just brings tears to my eyes!! CanNOT wait to see you this weekend!

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

This is such a beautiful post, and one that I can relate to so very much. I am so thankful that God is working on our hearts in this very fashion. I lived so much of life, just missing it.

I met you at a Created to Care volunteer session back in the fall, and have checked in to your blog occassionally. Such a beautiful family! Love what God is doing in your lives.

I've added myself as a follower!

Chasity said...

One word: YES!

Love it all Shelly!

laurakirkland said...

O - M - G... for REAL!
I knew you back then (first pic).. I admit, I was even just a tad bit jealous of your 3 story home in Charlton Forge and that you and Dan had such a secure income and that M. had the cutest little clothes that at the time I could not afford to buy. ha ha.. what low aspirations we all have had in the past!... As I read down the post, I was just reading along and the "new" picture crept up and before I could even prepare myself at first glance that pic hit me like a TON OF BRICKS! Shot through the heart, girl, I LOVE IT!!! Tears came flooding out with no build up time or no warning. You are so in the right place. And now, I might just be finding myself just a tad bit envious of you, AGAIN!!! You are encouragement to my soul!!!

Alison said...

Oh, I love hearing your story, and seeing these beautiful pictures!!! Love how ya'll are living your lives ALL IN for Christ!!

Shannon Evans said...

gorgeous pics- LOVE hannah in the cowboy boots!!

Rebekah said...

A friend shared this blog with me, and your story has truly touched my heart. My husband and I sometimes feel the same way about living the Christian life, but something is just missing. Thank you for listening to His voice and being a wonderful picture of what God can do!! God bless your sweet family!!

Carrie Baker said...

Shelly, those pictures are beautiful! Thank you for sharing your journey and being so OPEN on here- it's such a blessing for me (and for many others, I'm sure). I love your blog!

Clint Sibbitt said...

Preach it!! You guys are an amazing testimony of what happens when God ruins YOUR life and you begin living it for Christ. It's not an easy life but man is it rich in experiences and satisfaction that would never have come from the things you thought would bring satisfaction. You'd think more Christians would get that but sadly so many don't.

Melissa said...

Best fairy tale I have heard! I am loving these new pictures....Joseph's huge grin melts my heart!

Brian & Amy said...

oh! i'm in tears. so beautiful my friend. I cannot wait to meet up someday and just share our hearts and our families and our futures.


Wild Olive said...

Love, love, love it! So true. Agree with everything you said. Yadda, yadda, yadda. :)
Also, GORGEOUS pictures! And I'm wondering how you took those outside with no coats on?.? Your family is beautiful. Love the way M is kissing on J in your family picture. So sweet.
LOVE you, yo -

Christy said...

ooooooooh these pics are GORGEOUS! Love the thoughts you shared.

Marci said...

Thank you thank you thank you! We've just started telling people we are adopting 2 small boys from UG and we have 3 under age 6 currently. HOnestly I am tired of telling people because most of the time I get a blank stare... like I am NUTs or unwell or something worse. I am tired or playing it safe! We know these boys are our sons! Thanks for getting it! YOur family looks perfect to me!

Shaun Horsman Yurcaba said...

Simply beautiful! Hannah and Joseph have the most beautiful and precious smiles that absolutely light up the world and everything that's in it! It's so wonderful to hear how you and Dan are following the Lord and living/sharing/loving out-loud the life Christ has desired for you...infinitely more abundant than any "comfy convenient" life otherwise chosen to have here on earth. What a blessing it is and will always be for your family....and the real treasures will be in heaven! So precious and wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

Danielle said...

WOW!! Love it! Was reading it to my hubby saying 'look, look, there's another family as crazy as ours!' Your story is so similar to our ours! We're just packing up to move to Uganda in 10 days - our story is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmuETVPwf8 Would love to get in touch so if you're in Uganda again we could meet up!

Anonymous said...

I am new to your blog, but I, like many of the others that have commented can relate to this post! My husband and I have 4 children 5 and under and have recently felt the "nudge" from God to examine our comfortable life and make some changes! We are very interested in adoption- possibly from Uganda (we've visited your sixtyfeet.org website). I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction as to where to start? Did Hannah and Joseph come from the "M" orphanage on the videos from sixtyfeet? If you could email me at jori_ryan@att.net (when you have time- I know you are SO busy), I would really appreciate it! Thanks so much for being an encouragement to me and my family. It is good to be crazy!!! Jori Magg
p.s. I found your blog through a friend, Mary Dupre (Watson) Caldwell. Her sister Brooks Lines is a friend of yours (I think)

hannah singer said...

praise his name!!
i am visiting from sixtyfeet-thrilled i've found you!

The Hills said...

I really needed to hear this today. While we are in the middle of adopting siblings from Ethiopia, I am also clinging tightly to my dream of having a beach house. But, I cannot serve both God and man...so I need to let go of that dream and trust that God's dream for me is better than my own.