Tuesday, May 28, 2013

147 Million...Minus One: OUR HUGE NEWS

Today I have news.
And it's big.
In fact, I'd even go so far as to say it's HUGE.

If you do recall, my word for 2013 is ACTION, as in TAKE SOME.
And when I chose that word and wrote this post, this was the action I had in mind.

After over two years of thinking and praying and researching
and taking two trips to Africa
and thinking and praying and researching some more.....

Well, if you've been around here for a while, you know that two years I got bitten by the African bug....hard.
God REALLY changed my heart and gave me a SERIOUS place for Africa that stretches down deep into my soul. I think about Africa, I dream about Africa, and I see Africa EVERYWHERE.
But mostly, I long for the baby whose growing (or has already grown) in someone else's belly deep in the heart of Africa.

 She is OUR DAUGHTER, and we believe God knew from the very start that she would be OUR CHILD; He knew that we would answer HIS call to adopt,
 and He created this child to be a member of our little family.

It's a lot to process, I know, especially considering that I never dreamed that I'd want three children. But, God has planted a seed in my heart and revealed that this is HIS plan for our family in ways that we simply cannot deny. And now, my arms literally ache to hold my daughter...the one I haven't met yet; the one whose face I've yet to see.

Right now, there are approximately 147 MILLION orphans in the world.
 That's 147 million kiddos with no mommy,
no daddy,
 no bedtime stories,
 no Santa,
 no birthday parties,
no one there to comfort them when they cry,
and no FAMILIES.

But pretty soon, it will be 147 MILLION MINUS ONE.

Jesus loves adoption...and so do we.
In fact, us gentiles are adopted into the family of faith as sons and daughters of God.
We don't love that a child has suffered a great loss;
we do love that because Jesus first loved us, we can love another.

We are just one family trying to honor the King by being obedient to Him.

I'll be back soon with more details. 

But for today, let the prayers begin.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Makes Her Mama Proud

Oh, my heart is so full. 

This past Sunday Libby had her first piano recital. 

It's been so fun to see her truly enjoy learning something.
 She practices every day, on her own accord I might add. 
And while 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' is about all I've got, 
my mother has played since she was a little girl and truly loves it. 
And I love watching the two of them share a love for music. 

And apparently I'm not the only one. 
Here's the video of one of Libby's two songs from the recital. 
If you listen closely, at the end you'll hear Hollyn say, 
"Now is Libby gonna come sit with us?"

The girl is proud of her sissy. 
And so am I. 

And now that the recital is over, I'm headed out of town tomorrow morning bright and early to share Noonday with some of my college friends. 
Two parties in three days that are located several hours apart. 
There will be lots of time to think, lots of time to play the music way too loudly, and lots of Starbucks. 

And while I'll miss my girls, I'm hoping this time will do my heart worlds of good and that I'll come back well-rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle to adventure commonly known as summer.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Enter Hope {a guest post}

***Today I'm featuring a guest post by my friend Lindsy. 
Thank you for taking the time to read her words today.*** 

My husband William and got I married about seven years ago. When we got engaged neither of us wanted to have kids. (This will be comical later on. Just wait for it.) We learned in pre-marital counseling having kids is biblical. Hmmm... So we decided to adopt. Getting pregnant kinda freaked me out (still does for the record) and there were "too many" kids out there already.  Seriously - that was our thinking.

Our son was born in 2008 (surprise!) and shortly after we began the process of international adoption. We were told "the process" would take about twelve months. About six months in we found out we were pregnant again. (Surprise!) And yes, we know how that happens.

Enter nine month adoption break.

When our daughter was four weeks old we started the adoption process again. If you aren't familiar with international adoption, every single one of the bazillion forms you submit has an expiration date. Take a break? Re-do bazillion forms.

We updated all bazillion forms and the day before we planned to mail them, William was diagnosed with stage three melanoma.

Enter surgeries and cancer treatment and another nine month adoption break.

In March 2011 William was given a clean bill of health. We let out a long sigh of relief... Ahhhh.

Remember what I said earlier about the bazillion forms? Yeah, they expired again.

We updated everything again and mailed it off. Two and a half years into our adoption journey our bazillion forms finally landed in Ethiopia!

A few months later, Ethiopia deemed us unfit to parent. You can read about that here.

Enter heartbreak.

I wandered around the house in my pajamas all weekend. Thankfully, William remained steadfast and we pressed on. This time pursuing adoption from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Less than a month later we were matched with an adorable five-ish year old little boy. We planned to name him Malachi but never got that chance. He went home to live with his uncle and there is now one less orphan in the world. For that, we are thankful.

We went back on the list to wait for another little boy. (Circa February 2012.)

While we waited, God brought two little boys from five blocks away to live us. One of them is named Malachi. God is funny like that isn't He? Malachi and his brother came to us through an amazing program designed to keep kids out of the foster care system - Safe Families for Children. (Please check it out. It is wonderful!)

We learned early on in our placement with the boys that they might not be leaving anytime soon. In fact, it became apparent they would likely be going into foster care. Since we were not certified foster parents, that would have meant them being pulled from our house and moved into a state certified foster home.

Becoming foster parents was not on our radar. It's not something we ever considered. But God knew that. He re-wrote our adoption story to include the American orphan. I thought orphans in the US were far better off than orphans in places like Africa and India. I WAS WRONG. God knew we needed to see it for ourselves; in our own living room. So we became foster parents.

And that's when God went to work on our hearts.

He showed us how the effects of neglect, abuse and trauma in the United States are NO different than the effects of neglect, abuse and trauma in Africa or Haiti. He opened our eyes to the 500,000 orphans in our own country who will go to bed tonight as wards of the state. He taught us that while yes, children in third world countries are more likely to be on the streets in the only shirt they own begging for food and living in a carboard box beacuase their parents are dead or dying, the effect parentlessness has on them is no greater than the effect of parentlessness on orphans right "here".

Their needs are the same. The same as children in Africa. Children in Russia, India and Haiti. The need for lovers of Jesus to fight for the American orphan is the same.

There are currently over 100,000 children in the US foster care system who are legally available for adoption. Did you know that? One year ago I did not.

Feel the weight of these numbers. 100,00 children waiting for parents. 500,000 children in the US foster care system.

Stop. Feel it. Because they are not just numbers. They are children.

Children in your state. In your town. In your neighborhood. The need is REAL.

And the command is CLEAR.

Remember what Jesus said about children? “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Scripture is FULL of passages about orphans and the poor. I think we can agree anytime scripture talks about the poor, orphans are included.

You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.
If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry,
Exodus 22:22 - 23
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Psalm 10:17 - 18
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Psalm 68:5 - 6
“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field,
you shall not go back to get it.
It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow,
that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
Deuteronomy 24:19
learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow's cause.
Isaiah 1:17
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me
Matthew 18:5
And the King will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:40
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
John 14:18
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:8 - 9
These are God's holy words to us, His hands and feet, when it comes to caring for the orphaned, the widowed, the poor and the destitute. To paraphrase our pastor's Orphan Sunday message, at some point, the gospel has to compel us to practically DO SOMETHING.
There are a lot of myths regarding foster care and adopting from the foster system. Unfortunately, the only stories that receive media attention are ones where a birth parent shows up years later and demands his/her kid back. Or stories of kids who linger in the states care for years and years.

While these things do happen, they are not the norm. More importantly, the system may be broken, but God is sovereign.

The state's job is to protect children but the state cannot and does not nurture children and point them to the only One who can heal him. His Bride must do that. If not us, then who?

If you'd like to learn more about foster care or adoption in your state visit Focus on the Family. 

Lindsy and her husband William live in Kentucky with their four preschoolers and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a toddler from Africa. She blogs about orphan care and Jesus at word from the wallaces.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Opinion on Opinions

What do people commonly say about you? 
What's the one thing you've heard over and over? 
Maybe it's a compliment; perhaps it's not. 

One of the things I commonly hear is that I am confident. 

This used to make me laugh. 
A few years ago, I was anything but confident. 
But I realize that the closer I draw to Christ,
 the more comfortable I become with the way He made me and the gifts He gave me. 

I spent some time recently thinking about this compliment.
Am I really confident? 
And if so, why? 

After teaching high school girls for several years, it's easy for me to see that confidence is one thing almost every girl struggles with at some point. I even named Hollyn with confidence in mind, hoping that she can somehow avoid the heartache that doubting yourself often brings. 

I don't think I'm perfect or better or worthy. 
In fact, I KNOW I'm none of the above. 
But I do have a little trick that helps me keep things in perspective. 

The truth is, everyone you meet is going to have some sort of opinion of you. 
Some will think good things. 
Some will think bad things. 
But everyone will think something. 

The question then becomes how are you going to let the opinions of others affect you? 
Will you let them define you? 
Will you let them upset you? 
Will you let how others see you determine how you see yourself? 

I've been there. 
I spent many days as that girl, the one who gets torn down and built up based on the opinions of others. 

And then I realized that unless I value someone's opinion, his or her opinion simply doesn't matter. 
If I don't think highly of someone, if he or she doesn't live their life in a way I agree with or as a person I would like to be compared to, then I don't take his or her opinion to heart. 
If I don't value your opinion, then why should I be defined by it? 

So let them say what they will; 
unless you are someone whose opinion I value, then I'm not that worried about your opinion. 

I don't in any way mean for that to sound ugly. 
I'm not being judgmental or snobbish;
I'm just saying that I'm selective about who I am aiming to please. 

In the same sense, if you ARE someone whom I respect, your opinion means the world to me. 
These are the opinions I value; these are the thoughts that matter. 

I can't please everyone. 
No one can. 
So I choose to live in a way that pleases the ones whose opinions I value rather than the ones I don't. 

When I was student teaching in college, one of my professors said that if every student you teach loves you, you are doing something wrong. Not every student will want to work; not everyone will like to be challenged. Therefore, if they all like you, you are making a mistake somewhere along the way. 

I couldn't agree more. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Have I Really Become THAT Mom?

I saw this today while wasting time on Pinterest. 
(Don't judge; you do it too.)

And it kinda scared me. 

I mean, what I am I REALLY saying to my kids? 

What are they learning from me? 

Sometimes I feel like I spend so much time doing daily tasks (I mean, MUST they really eat every single day? And when is someone finally going to invent clothes that repel dirt and boogies and germs? Come on, already. You're killing me here with all this laundry.) that I miss out on ENJOYING time with my family. 

What if they ONLY remember the worst version of me? 
You know, the mom who is frazzled and half crazy after three weeks of trying to teach the multiplication tables to my second grader and who is tired of scraping Play-Doh out of the carpet?
 I will seriously cry. 

There's no way they'll want to be best friends later in life with THAT mom. 
They won't want to hang out at our house in high school 
and will NEVER come home to visit when they go away to college. 
Great, I've totally dropped the ball on this whole motherhood thing, 
and my kids aren't even in middle school yet. 

THAT mom says things like this: 

-Eat your broccoli. 
-Don't talk back; I just need you to say yes ma'm.
-If you did indeed brush your teeth, then we need to review what that actually looks like, because I'm looking at some pretty dirty teeth here, kiddo. 
-Backyardigans? Again? Well, at least it's not Caillou.
-4x7=28. Yes, I'm sure. And yes, you will need to know this because one day your phone battery will be dead, and you won't be able to use your calculator. 

I don't want to be THAT mom. 

That mom is not fun. 

That mom needs lots of Jesus. 

So let's just pretend for a second that my house cleaned itself, we had a live-in maid who also happens to be a gourmet chef, and I magically was gifted with the ability to eat whatever I want and never gain an ounce, thus giving me a whole lot more times on my hands to be the mom I WANT to be, the one is put together and poised and has more patience in her pinky toe than I usually feel like I have in my whole body. 
That mom bakes cookies and lets her kids finger paint every day after school.
She never raises her voice and is actually good at teaching her kids how to appropriately incorporate their obscure vocabulary words into sentences.
And while part of me kinda hates her, the other part of me kinda wants to be her. 

So, for the sake of me not feeling like a t-total failure as a mom today, let's pretend I'm THAT mom for a second. 

Here are things I'd want my kids to hear me say: 

-I am proud of you. 
-You are awesome just the way God made you. 
-It's okay to fail at something. 
-Please pick good friends and learn early to ignore the mean girls; there will always be mean girls to ignore. Pray for them, but don't let them ruin your day. 
-Every girl has something she can't stand about herself. The sooner you embrace this something and learn to make the most of it, the happier you'll be. 
-No matter what you do, I will always, always, always love the heck out of you. 
-You need Jesus. When things are good, bad, or indifferent, you need Jesus. Don't wait for things to get bad to turn to Him or you'll miss out on so very much. 
-Yes. Yes. Yes. 
-Eat your broccoli....and your cookies. 

While I realize that I'll never fully be THAT mom, I would like to find more of balance in my life. 
Cool and collected mom is in me somewhere...she's just hiding under the pile of laundry that's been sitting on the couch for three...ummm make that four days. 

I want to be more conscious of the words that come out of my mouth. 
I want my kids to remember me as the mom who says more than just, "No," and, "Not right now."

And I do in fact need more Jesus....every. single. day. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mother's Day: What I Want This Year

This Mother's Day I want to be informed. 

I want to know more about other mothers in this world. 
I want to know how I can best instill in my girls a desire to serve God and others. 
I want to teach them what it means to give selflessly. 
I want to know how I can best make a difference in the lives of others. 
I want to better understand what it means to be in need. 
I want to know how my marriage can be the best version of what it is. 
I want to learn how to best display grace for my kiddos. 

I want to be a better mother in every possible way. 

Here are some places I have started and hope to soon start in terms of getting and doing better: 

The older I get, the more I realize that motherhood is the most important job I will ever do. 
And that's something worth taking seriously. 

What is one way YOU hope to grow as a mother this year? 
Are there any resources you'd recommend? 

Happy early Mother's Day to all of the mothers out there who are giving their all each and every day to raise up givers and doers and servers. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Trouble with Blogging

There are so many things to love about blogging. 
There are also things that cause me to make faces like this and say things like SERIOUSLY!?! and YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING!

Like I've said before, I blog for three reasons:

-to document life for my kiddos
-to advocate for things I'm passionate about
-to form relationships and connect with others

Here's where the trouble comes into play. 

Obviously when we write blog posts, we put our best foot forward. 
We only take pictures of the clean parts of our house.
We choose not to use the unflattering pictures (this post is obviously not an example of this).
We leave out the details about yelling at our kiddos, have laundry stacked up for days, and needing to vacuum...desperately. 

We make our homes, our kiddos, and our marriages seem as appealing as possible. 

Not only is this an unrealistic picture of our lives, but it's downright dangerous. 

I hate to think of some mom out there struggling to take a shower today and crying over her cold coffee, thinking to herself, "Why I can't be as organized as so and so?" 
Or, "If only my house/clothes/kids were as cute as hers".

Danger. Danger. Danger. 

There is also the risk of utter disappointment. 

Take, for example, this scenario: 

Girl reads blog. 
Girl comes to love blogger. 
Girl relates to her, understands her, and feels she is speaking her language. 
Girl comes to view said blogger as a friend of sorts. 
Girl doesn't know everything about blogger's life and beliefs, but fills in the unknowns as she chooses, assuming that because they have the same views on this and this and this, that they must have the same views on other important things as well. 
Then one day, said blogger Girl so admires lays it all out there: she believes in God but not really. She acknowledges He exists but doesn't chose to live her life according to His word or moral standards. 
Girls watches as the bubble she's been living in blows up in her face. 

This happened to me recently. 
I am that Girl...the one who filled in the blanks about one of her favorite blogger's life and was recently utterly disappointed. 

It's not that I don't believe in freedom of religion. 
It's not that I don't believe that people who aren't Christians can't be awesome friends, moms, wives, and people. 

What bothers me about this blogger and her recent admissions that her kids should define themselves based on what they do and how they act and how she sees them rather than based on how God made them and His guidelines for their life is that this sets the stage for all of these people who so admire her to simply believe her rather than deciding for themselves. 

When we put a blogger or a speaker or an actress or a political figure in a larger than life bubble is that we tend to take the HUMAN out of them, so to speak. 

We tend to think that their values and thoughts and opinions somehow mean more than others. 
We somehow often believe that because these people are successful in some area of life they must know something we don't. 

And then when our bubble we've put them in bursts, we are terribly disappointed. 

I looked up to this blogger. 
I admired her. 
She's a seemingly great mom. 
She's fun. 
And there's no denying her talent. 

But I totally disagree with her stance on this. 

While I want my girls to recognize their own strengths, gifts,and talents, I also want them to recognize who GAVE them those strengths, gifts, and talents. 
I want them to thank God and realize He is a part of every aspect of their lives. 
Without Him, they would not exist; without Him, we all are nothing. 

I'm not saying that simply because I disagree with her that she's no longer a great mom, or lots of fun, or very talented. 

I'm simply saying there's danger in bubbles. 

*For the record, I realize that I failed to mention the name of the blogger who recently burst my bubble. It wasn't on accident. I'm not trying to speak negatively of her blog. It is still just as beautiful and thought provoking and well written as it was before I came to this realization. She just serves as one example of how I believe that we are only to care about what God thinks and says; those who are successful DON'T have all the answers or know some grand life secret we aren't aware of....no matter how adorable their blogs are.*

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Summer Summer Summer

So I know these two little girls.....

...and they are so very ready for summer. 

It's coming; in fact, it will be here before we know it. 

And we're working on our list. 
In case you missed it, I LOVE LISTS. 
Basically, they're my favorite. 
I just find that I am so much more productive with a list...and checking things off isn't bad either. 

Here's what's on our list so far: 

-water balloon fight
-pretend camping trip
-roast marshmallows
-teach Libby the times tables (1-10)
-help Hollyn FINALLY master her colors (we're struggling over here, people)
-read Anne of Green Gables with Libby
-learn a Bible verse a week as a family
-make chocolate chip pancakes (and enjoy every bite)
-go on a picnic
-blow bubbles
-paint in the bathtub
-go swimming
-have a playdate
-make pet rocks
-make noodle necklaces

It's growing every day. 

What's on YOUR summer to-do list? 
Got any awesome ideas? 
I'd love to hear about them....

And come on, summer! 
We're waiting on you.....