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Blessings and Trials

In our lives, we are blessed with many things. We have our family, friends, jobs, homes, the beauty around us, and many other things. We enjoy these physical blessings and are thankful for them. Greatest of all are the spiritual blessings we have through Jesus Christ. We have the forgiveness of sin (1 John 1:9, Eph. 1:7), a Father who loves us (John 3:16), and a heavenly home that awaits the faithful (John 14:1-4). Despite these many blessings for which we are so very thankful and praise God, we also understand there are trials we must endure.

Our Son, Christian
As I think about trying times, I think about the loss of loved ones. Almost two years ago I wrote about us losing our middle son, Christian, at the age of 22 to cancer. How blessed we are to have had him in our lives and that he was a faithful Christian through his physical struggles. Recently, we lost two other members of our family. How blessed we were to have them in our lives and that they, too, remained faithful. We retain and can reflect upon our many memories of them.

My Sister-in-Law, Sonia
My sister-in-law, Sonia Rainwater, was born on August 20, 1967. For 24 years, she was married to Tom Rainwater, a faithful gospel preacher who labored in Chittenango, NY. On March 23, 2018, after an eight-year battle with cancer, she left this earth for her reward.

Sonia was a faithful Christian who stated that her greatest joy was teaching the Word of God to others. She raised two outstanding sons and stood by Tom, encouraging him as he proclaimed the gospel in an area with few faithful Christians.

During her battle with cancer, she rarely complained. She was always more concerned about others. Even in her declining health, she didn't dwell on her difficulties but continued to reach out and encourage others. She was filled with joy because she understood this life was only the beginning, and she longed for her reward of eternal rest (Rev. 21:4; Matt. 25:34-36). A woman of faith. A woman of encouragement. A woman working to lead others to Christ. Sonia left an example for us all to follow.

My Father, Marshall
My father, Marshall Shadburne, was born on February 13, 1928. Just over 55 years ago, he married my mother, the former Eva Faye Begley. This past February, we celebrated his 90th birthday and my parents' 55th wedding anniversary. His health was excellent up to the end. Sadly, on March 29th, dad was involved in an automobile accident and sustained major injuries. He never regained consciousness from the accident, and on March 30th, we removed him from life support.

As I consider my father, I see so much I appreciate in him. He set such an example for his wife, children, and grandchildren. I could talk about his work ethic, serving in the army, how he loved people, his love of animals, how he enjoyed cars, how he played his big band music loud and other memories. Space will not permit this, so I want to mention just a few items that personally stand out.

When my parents were dating, mom helped dad learn the truth. He was converted from the Baptist faith to the true faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Shortly after that, he started teaching his family the truth. While his brothers remained in the Baptist denomination, his parents obeyed the gospel and were baptized.

Soon after his conversion, dad starting leading singing during worship services. For those of you who knew my dad, you probably remember him leading the singing. Leading singing was his passion. It is something he took very seriously. I remember how he would coordinate the songs with the preaching, and would practice the night before leading to make sure he did his best. Even after having led congregational singing for 50 years, he would still get nervous because of the seriousness of public worship. I remember hearing how people were surprised to hear such a powerful voice come out of such a small man. I remember how he led. You better keep up with him because he was not going to slow down for you. Dad got frustrated with song leaders and others who took this act of worship for granted. He understood that singing was for expressing joy, dedication to God, and faith in God. He recognized that singing is for worshipping God, and also encouraging and teaching others (Eph. 5:19-20; Col. 3:16-17).

So many came up to us at his funeral stating his example encouraged them to start leading singing as well. Some talked about how their children pretended they were my dad or mimicked him during services. He worked with my sons, and also others, trying to help them improve their song leading skills. Psalms 89:1 applies to my dad: "I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations."

Dad didn't let things get him down. He experienced difficulties in his life—the loss of a grandchild, losing his job with a young family, vehicles breaking down, physical issues, trying to figure out how he was going to pay our bills to name a few. Through all of this, I saw a man who displayed a strong faith and trust in God. Last year, he had an accident that caused loss of sight in one eye. Losing his eyesight didn't really concern him. Rather, being able to see the words while leading singing without making a mistake is really what worried him. Dad came up with a saying, "89, half-blind, but doing fine." Dad was a man that had his priorities set. He sought first to serve God (Matt. 6:33). He didn't live for things here below; he lived for God (Matt. 6:19-21). I love and miss my dad, but I will always remember the example he lived for his family and others to follow.

The last two years have had their challenges for our family with the deaths mentioned above, but there is also joy. We understand our loved ones have gone home (Ps. 116:15; John 14:1-4; 2 Tim. 2:11-13). Therefore, we do not sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). When sorrows and difficulties come our way, we have the choice how we will react. We can think only of the negatives, or we can focus on the positives. We can spend our time feeling sorry for ourselves, or thank God for the blessings that difficult times bring. We can shut down, or redirect our lives to something more.

Our Daughter, Amanda
Sandwiched between the difficulties in our lives was a beacon of joy—Amanda Fayth. This was our redirection of energy. My wife and I had talked about adopting for over ten years. After much prayer and discussion, we decided the timing was right and determined to proceed. This is something we wanted and needed to do. James 1:27 spoke to us loudly when we understood what the original word translated "visit" actually means when referring to orphans and that this action applies to the individual Christian.

After going through weeks of training for adoption through the state of Kentucky, we reached out to Dana Carrozza and Sacred Selections. This organization is composed of faithful Christians who are driven to serve. Dana and the board of directors of Sacred Selections work hard to put children who do not have families in the hands of faithful Christians who want to raise these children with love and in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

Amanda was born on the street in downtown Phoenix on April 9, 2017, to parents who were unable to meet her needs. On April 11th we got a phone call from Dana saying there was a child that needed a family. All we knew was that the child was a female. Without hesitation, my wife said we wanted her. She then called me with tears of joy. On April 12th, she was on a plane to Arizona. On April 13th I flew to Arizona, we went to the hospital as soon as I landed and Amanda was released to our care. So small and so beautiful. On November 8, 2017, the adoption of Amanda into our family was finalized. Unlike many adoptions, ours went very smoothly. Amanda needed us. Our family needed her. We know God's providence was at work. We felt the love from so many.

After raising three boys, with the youngest being 19 years older than Amanda, we have been reminded of many things, such as it are hard for people in their 50's to function on 3 hours of sleep, girls are different from boys, diapers are expensive, schedules do not apply when you have an infant, and unconditional love is a strong feeling, to name only a few.

This experience reminded us of a significant spiritual truth. Just as we adopted Amanda into our family, as faithful Christians, we have been adopted into God's family (Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:4-5). What a blessing that, through the grace, love, and mercy of God and our obedience to Him, we may become His adopted children and joint heirs with Christ. What more could we desire?

Blessings and challenges occur in all of our lives. We are blessed to have examples of faithful Christians like Sonia and my dad that show us how to live. Examples that will endure and motivate us all to live faithful lives to God. We also have the opportunity to share these examples of faithfulness with those in need. Sacred Selections has placed over 210 children into Christian homes since they started 11 years ago. What a blessing! Yet, last year alone they were contacted 500 times to find homes for children. There is a need for godly families to open their homes and lives to these children. I hope and pray perhaps someone reading this article will have the desire to help these children or financially support the Sacred Selections organization. Let us all dedicated our lives to faithful service to God.

— via Truth Magazine, May 2018, pp. 14-16