The Refiner’s Fire – Great Story! A Glimpse of Heaven

I wanted to share this story that I came across at                                    http://lds.about.com/library/week/aa100702a.htm.                                                            It is a great story with a great message and reminds us that as our refiner – Heavenly Father is always watching over us! Enjoy! JoAnna Oblander

The following story is a great example of how the Lord teaches and molds us through life’s trials.

There was a group of women in a Bible study on the book of Malachi. As they were studying chapter three, they came across verse three which says: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Malachi 3:3) This verse puzzled the women and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.

One of the women offered to find out about the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study. That week this woman called up a silver smith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest in silver beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched the silver smith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot–then she thought again about the verse, that he sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.

She asked the silver smith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silver smith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy–when I see my image in it.”
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you.

Author unknown

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God Has Confidence in You…You Need to Too! A Glimpse of Heaven

I’m not that special. I’m not like her (him). I wasn’t in the right line when they handed out that talent…the list goes on and I know I’m not the only one who has heard these types of remarks. Maybe it’s you that has been saying them…to your friends, your family, and worst of all…to yourself.

Life is full of oops and falling short but that doesn’t mean that we don’t measure up or that we shouldn’t believe in ourselves.

Do we want our children (grandchildren) to believe in their selves the same way we believe in ourselves? Do we want them to use the same “measuring stick” that we use? Whose measuring stick are we using anyway?

When I think of all the things that I learned from my visit to heaven – I think the most important thing I learned may have been how different we are “measured” in heaven compared to earth. In heaven there is such a nurturing and honoring of individuality – and I’m not just talking personality here. Each individual is truly PRIZED for their unique strengths and qualities – would you expect anything different from Heavenly Father or a place in which His perfect love presides?

Yet, here on earth, we so easily buy into the falsehood that we should be like someone else or the most perfect person we know – which, of course, is a major falsehood all of its own.

We should listen to our hearts – our hearts know so well who and what we truly are and who we are meant to be. That doesn’t mean that being our self is always easy or without its challenges… but then isn’t that what we came to earth for? We are absolutely meant to grow and to be challenged and to make mistakes and repent and to keep trying and to do our best to become the best that we are capable of becoming. We are to believe in ourselves and work at developing the talents that we have been blessed with. If I am meant to develop my talent of holding a baby…that in no way diminishes another’s duty to develop their talent of sharing their amazing smile. You don’t think those are talents? I guarantee you they are!!! It is those talents that the “world” overlooks that are generally the most important of all!

Now granted…I don’t remember professional athletes or super models in heaven…but I can assure you that the most prized talents were not athleticism or physical beauty. The most prized talents were the ability to love and spiritual strength. Interestingly enough – those talents are talents which both here and there (in heaven) have to be sought after and developed – they do not just happen.

I can also assure you that Heavenly Father believes in Himself and He believes in us – not in our already present perfection but in our ability to get there. If we are meant to become like Heavenly Father (perfect) and He loves and believes in His self – wouldn’t it stand to reason that we should love and believe in our self? Can you even imagine a perfect, loving Heavenly Father sending you to earth so that He could enjoy the sadistic pleasure of watching you fail? (Pleeease tell me you can’t imagine that.) I can tell you that no one has more confidence in our individual ability to succeed. Heavenly Father has done all that He can do to set us up for success, the rest is up to us (but He still there to help). It may seem trite but developing our relationship with Heavenly Father through personal prayer, scripture study, obedience to the commandments and living the Golden Rule is huge to our ultimate success – and we will be successful if we have faith in God, live right and have faith in ourselves.

I’m not talking about the kind of success that says we will own a yacht, or travel the world, or be world famous. I am talking about the kind of success that truly matters – the kind of success that guarantees that the world will have been a better place for our having been here – the eternal kind of success.

So if you are struggling to believe in yourself…get down on your knees tonight and ask God if you have reason to believe in yourself – to believe in your potential and in your ability to live a life of purpose. Ask if you matter to Him. If you stay on your knees long enough to actually give Heavenly Father the opportunity to answer – I believe the answer will bring tears of joy to your eyes. Heavenly Father believes in your potential – when you come to believe in and accept that same potential – you will have your own Glimpse of Heaven! So…even if no one else is around to give you a hug – give yourself a hug and know that you are special and that you have potential you have never even dreamed of!

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My Grandmother’s Example – A Glimpse of Heaven

I learned the importance of example through my grandmother.  My grandmother didn’t just tell me what she believed – she lived it. Her guidance came backed with the stamp of her example.

I never remember having any conversations about the do’s and don’ts of life with my grandma.  No deep discussions…our interactions were more filled with working together (if you call making cookies and eating strawberries out of her garden work) and play time.

My sweet grandma was shaped like an inverted hour glass with not a lot of distance between her shoes and her head. She made her own butter from the fresh milk grandpa supplied from his cows, canned the proceeds from her large garden, baked her own bread, and my grandpa drove her everywhere because she didn’t drive.

I was only 5 or 6 years old when grandma’s dad passed away. Though I wasn’t very old, I understood the devastation my great grandfather’s death left for my grandma as her mother lost her will to live and the roles of mother and child were reversed.

Watching my grandmother deal with her mother after the loss of my great grandfather created some concerns for me. For years, I worried how my grandma would cope if she ever lost my grandpa. My grandpa and grandpa were true sweethearts and it was easy to imagine my grandma coping with losing my grandpa just the way her own mom had.

I always wondered why my grandma made sure that she attended the funeral of every family and community member in her small community. My grandma was not a stranger to death. She lost 3 children before they reached the age of 2. It took me several years to realize her attendance at so many funerals was not a result of pre-occupation with death but a desire, on her part, to be of comfort to those she knew and loved.

After we lost grandpa – grandma showed me what she was really made of. One of the first things she did was take driving lessons and, from what I understand, grandma’s biggest driving challenge was seeing over the dashboard – no problem with the other essential driving skills! In those months after grandpa died, grandma pulled herself up by her bootstraps and she forged ahead. She had always taught me about eternal families and the way she moved ahead with her life let me know that although she greatly missed her sweetheart – she knew that their parting was temporary and that she needed to step up and take care of business in his absence.

It was less than a year after my grandpa died that grandma had her first stroke. Once again, she showed the mettle she was made of. Instead of giving up, she was fully cooperative with her rehabilitation therapy. Her doctors predicted a full recovery.

The last time I saw my grandma I had one of those rare moments where the exchange we had did not need words but only holding hands. As I looked into her eyes, I knew that she was telling me good-bye. The way that she squeezed my hand, looked into my eyes and smiled at me communicated to my spirit that she knew her time had come and that I needed to know that she would be okay. Grandma had a massive stroke within a few days of my last visit.

I never recognized the example my grandma set for me until she was gone.  In fact, some of the most memorable examples she set for were in the last few months of her life.

At her funeral, it was noted that her last and final church calling (job) had been working with the infants and toddlers in her ward nursery. She served as nursery leader in her ward until she had her stroke. She never complained or said she was too old – she simply embraced and loved the little children that she worked with.

My grandma did not have a lot of material wealth. I still chuckle when I think about the colored tricot underwear my brother and boy cousins received one year for Christmas (well before colored underwear for boys was considered fashionable)! As the grandmother of 30+ grandchildren and 6 living children – my grandmother spent endless hours making gifts for her family. She worked hard to make her gift-giving budget stretch – she worked even harder to show her love through her hand-made gifts.

My grandma was not a perfect woman but she knew that how she lived mattered. She had mortal flaws like anyone but she consistently made an effort to be the kind of person she believed God wanted her to be. Her example taught me that when life hands me difficulties – it’s okay not to have a perfect understanding of how to handle those trials as long as I am trying to do my best and I am utilizing the correct source of help (God). She provided me with an example of can do not give up. She showed me that giving of self is more important than giving of things. She believed in eternal families and when loved ones were lost – she did not question those beliefs she simply confirmed them by her actions. And possibly the greatest example my grandma set for me was in showing me that it is through the small acts, the little courtesies, and the insignificant events that never make news headlines that this world is made a better place and I am made a better person. What a blessing to recognize that by coming to understand what my grandmother has taught me through her example – I have been granted another “Glimpse of Heaven”!

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The Truth About Adoption

Happily Ever After…it has a nice ring to it but it’s not about reality.  Yet, happily ever after is what many adoptive families envision of their futures once they bring their child or children home. The adoptive families I am talking about here are not the domestic adoptive families who are bringing home newborns (though I’m sure they want happily ever after too!). I am talking about the families who through domestic or foreign adoption seek out and bring into their loving homes those children who, in their brief lifetimes, have experienced rejection, abandonment, abuse and/or loss. The children I speak of are often at least the age of 2 when they are adopted. My own children were 4 and 9 when we brought them home.

If anyone wants to adopt with the idea of being celebrated as a hero or being nominated for sainthood – I strongly recommend they immediately go to the nearest pet shelter and adopt a dog or cat and abandon the idea of adopting a child altogether. A dog will think you are the best thing to happen since the invention of steak. A cat may think you are nice to snuggle with but I can almost guarantee that it will be a different story with a child.

I think in this instance, it may be wise to fess up to the fact that there has been a time in my own life when blissful delirium prevailed in regards to adoption rather than sober understanding. I was the epitome of the new expectant mother who had not yet been tempered by labor pains, sleepless nights and messy diapers.

If you have read my book, you know that my husband and I adopted two children from Russia as a result of my being commanded by God. As the mother of 4 healthy and active biological children I may be a somewhat atypical adoptive mom in that had I not experienced “divine intervention” I am almost certain that I would never have pursued adoption. However, once my orders from God were in place, I became just like the giddy effervescent new can’t-wait-to-be-a-mom mom.

My (then uneducated) rational told me that any orphaned child that came from a disadvantaged background where poverty, neglect, abandonment and abuse were once experienced would welcome the opportunity to seek refuge in a loving safe home.  I looked forward to welcoming my new children into our home and providing them with an environment they could thrive in. Given their experiences, I honestly believed that my adoptive children would be able to appreciate the blessings of a loving family in a country of great opportunity in a way that my biological children would be incapable of.

Fast forward through 6 1/2 years of searching for my children, the adoption paperwork, the trip to Russia, our return home and our first year of playing charades with our children (charades is necessary when you speak different languages) and then you get to the reality. Though our adopted children gasped as they got their first glimpse of a Walmart store, their enthusiasm for embracing their new family was less gratifying. They resented parental direction, seemed unable to grasp moral lessons, and essentially seemed to care for little else than the food they ate and being warm. Over time, we came to understand that their deliberate attempts to keep their new family at a distance stemmed from the emotional disorder called Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). The reality is that most of the adopted children who come from eastern European countries (including Russia) and Haiti have RAD. (I am not familiar with the RAD statistics for other countries) Children with RAD are resentful of parents (mothers in particular) and feel they are fully capable of self-parenting. They commonly lie, steal, manipulate, triangulate, make false allegations and warmly embrace self-defeating behaviors in order to feel that at all times and in all situations they are in control.

The abnormal behaviors associated with RAD generally result when infants and toddlers are not given the care and protection they need during those first critical months of life when children generally first learn to trust and to attach to their caregivers (usually moms). As a result, brain development is impaired and they learn to primarily use a fight or flight response to everything they deal with in life. As healthy parents, we care that they learn to love and trust and develop. As children with RAD, they care that they survive, that no one can hurt them again, and that no one has power over them. Conscience has little to no effect on these children and so the lengths that they are willing to go to in order to keep their hearts isolated and protected are truly heart breaking. They will deliberately try to prove that they are unlovable and unstoppable.

When I first learned about RAD, I was so sure that my love and the love of my family could help my adopted children overcome any and all of their problems. However, I truly should have known better. In my book, A Glimpse of Heaven, I refer to my experience of being taken back to heaven and seeing the preparations being made to prepare each of us for life on earth. During that experience, I witnessed that some of God’s spirit children rejected Him. I can tell you that there is not a more loving being than our Heavenly Father and there is not a more loving atmosphere than heaven and yet love did not overcome God’s rejection there and it is not enough to cure children of RAD here. Children with RAD have to want to overcome their emotional issues. Then and only then can love be a powerful tool to help them.

I felt that I needed to write about the truth of adoption because of several conversations that I have had with family and others who have adopted children with RAD. The overwhelming consensus from those conversations is that adoption is good and necessary and yet too many individuals are stepping into the experience with their eyes closed tight and equipped with little to no real life understanding of what they are accepting to be a part of.

I happen to live within a about a mile of two other families besides my own who have adopted children with RAD (All of us ignorant of RAD at the time we adopted and the ramifications of what that meant). In each family, biological children were also a part of the family.

Not coincidentally, each family has:

•    Experienced significant behavioral problems with their adopted children
•    Gone to great lengths to help their adopted children (counseling, etc).
•    Have had their adopted children make false allegations.
•    Experienced rejection and have been ostracized by extended family and friends who have believed the false allegations made by adopted children.
•    Been accused by friends and family of being abusive, mean and inept parents.
•    Been victims of theft, lies, and triangulation
•    Been victims of heartbreak as they have experienced the rejection and abuse from the very children they have loved and have endeavored to help.

In one of those families, 8 adoptive children were welcomed into their home. In the other family, 4 children were welcomed into their home. In each of those cases, a significant financial burden was incurred. I personally know no one who would take on that kind of financial and parenting burden (even under the best of circumstances) for any other reason than a generous loving heart and a desire to help a child. Yet, too many too often have been willing to condemn them and judge them.

In hindsight, each of our families wish that we would have known and understood the significant emotional issues that our adopted children came equipped with. I, for one, would have still adopted my children but my handling of them in those crucial first years would have been dramatically different. I cannot know if the outcomes would have been different but I certainly feel that I would have been more prepared.

After all that my family and I have been through as a result of our adoption, I am still a believer in adoption and I believe that all children deserve a loving, safe home. I know that the reality is that too many children know hunger, cold, abandonment, abuse and an environment too void of nurturing. However, I also know that those who bring those children into their homes who have started life in less than stellar circumstances need to do so with an understanding of the skills they will need and task they are undertaking. And…they need to know that while love will be critical and essential…it will not be enough to remove the barricades from the hearts of their children.

Parenting of any child is a demanding and difficult endeavor. Under the best of circumstances, parenting is not and never has been for the faint of heart. However, as a parent of 4 biological children and 2 adopted children, I can verify that although the love and concern for each child will be the same and each child comes with their own unique challenges no matter how they become part of a family – the courage and mettle required to parent a child with RAD requires the best heart and soul a person can offer.

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