Thursday, March 29, 2012

Created for Care

This past weekend I was blessed to attend the Created for Care retreat in Lake Lanier, GA.  http://createdforcare.org/

It's hard to know where to start to talk about the retreat.  I came back full, relieved, armed, and thankful. 

Full:  I was full of joy and ready to pour out to my family.  Even I was unaware before arriving how much I needed to attend this time of refreshment, learning, and bonding with women in similar situations.

Relieved:  Adopting older children from a foreign country is hard stuff.  It's a grueling process and a long process.  What most people don't realize is that it's a very LONELY process.  After 14 months of paperwork, social worker visits, required reading, watching other families, discussing real-life situations, stalking email for updates, and thinking about what the "new normal" may look like when you have your kids home, you are alone. You just are.  Not on purpose.  Your friends can't help it.  They're clueless.  Know how I know this?  Because I was clueless before we began this process.  You see your friends and feel like you have nothing to contribute to the conversation because your mind is 100,000 miles away.  You know they will get tired of hearing about a process that's old news and seems to drag on and on.  So you just don't say anything.  Distance becomes natural and talking when you've been doing this for so long just doesn't come easy anymore.  I'm not saying it's right.  It just is what is.  A lonely place in life.  A lonely season. 
To show up at Lake Lanier and be smack in the middle of 400 women who have experienced the exact same thing was awesome.  Incredible!  To hear their stories of struggling with older children who didn't speak their language, fought with them, spit on them, yelled at them, etc., and to learn how families deal with it all was such a relief.  I finally felt like I wasn't alone.  In that place with those ladies.  Ladies whose families have been forever altered by their decision to bring more children into their families.  Children with traumatic pasts who need an unimaginable amount of healing.  To worship with those women and pray with them and cry with them was such a gift.

Armed:  All the speakers at C4C were carefully chosen.  There were main sessions every day and smaller, breakout sessions each day as well.  My breakout sessions included the Adoptive Mom's Panel, Empowered to Connect, and Adopting Older Children.  I took a lot of notes and learned strategies to use when our children come home.  I learned I will not be able to parent my two newest children the same way I parent the 3 I have now.  Most importantly, I heard about the truth of what I need to teach them and that truth revolves around their identity in Christ.

Thankful: I'm extremely thankful to Andrea Young for starting C4C.  I'm thankful my husband let me drive 9 hours alone to go away for 3 days while he kept the kids.  I'm thankful for the community I experienced, the women I met, and the information I learned.  I'm thankful God asked us to embark on this journey, however hard it may be. 

I only have a couple pictures from the weekend.  This is one of my roommates, Cimbrey, who came home with her son last year from ET:

These are two of my adjoining roommates, Kristy and Rebecca.  This picture took place as we were getting in our pajamas to go to documentary movie night:

You can click on this link to see the documentary we watched that evening from the mission Light Gives Heat.  It's an hour and a half long, but it's definitely worth watching.  The movie is being shown at film festivals in the U.S. and other countries as well, but you can see it here for free. http://lightgivesheat.org/movingonrelease

Psalm 84:3
  • "Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young--a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God"

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

10 Things I Love About My Husband

My intention was to finish some more posts on marriage last week before I went to the Created for Care retreat over the weekend, but that didn't happen. 

Here's one of the lists I wanted to give, the top....
10 Things I Love About My Husband



(10) He's not afraid to show affection.  He will kiss and hug me anytime, anywhere.  He hugs everyone else, too.  His love language is touch.  Every time our wedding song comes on the radio, he pulls the car over, much to the kids' dismay, and dances with me on the side of the road.

(9)  He tells me I'm beautiful and sees the best in me even when I don't deserve it.  He never complains about the 15 pounds I gained or says negative things about me.  I am soooooo grateful for that. 

(8)  He plays with the kids and spends time with them, including them in his activities.  There's nothing better as a wife than seeing your husband interacting with your children.  It's just so cool.  I love watching a child tag along behind him as he's walking across the yard.

(7)  He understands my dreams and let's me have them. He doesn't tell me they're crazy or stupid. Even if my dreams are not his at first, he shares them.  That's how we came to own land with a garden and our funny farm of animals.  It may not have started out as his dream, but he claimed it with me. 

(6)  He wants to honor our parents and extended families.  Family get-togethers are important to him and he's always willing for us to host at our home.  Even when he knows it means a cranky wife running around to get everything ready, he still always offers our house to be used.

(5)  He keeps learning.  Even though he doesn't like to read, he keeps learning by listening to books on tape and sermons on-line, etc.  He lets me read to him when I have something that I want him to hear so we can discuss it.  That probably sounds ridiculous to others, but I love that he's willing to do it.

(4)  He seeks wise counsel and does not make hasty decisions.  Sometimes this drives me crazy when I'm waiting for an answer.  But I also know that according to the big picture, this is best.

(3)  He loves to help people.  He want to help the needy, do things for people, and he cares about children. The man will pull over to help someone even when we're running late (which is often).  He gives generously to people he knows and people he doesn't know personally.   

(2)  He works hard to provide for our family.  He lets me stay home with the kids.  Let me re-phrase that: he doesn't just let me, he wants me to stay home with the kids. What a dream come true for me.  He really is my knight-in-shining-armor.  The for-real kind. 

(1)  He dreams big.  Oh, does he ever.

I asked the kids what they love most about their daddy. 

Jayde: 
-He makes my friends laugh when he makes them call him, "Mr. Awesome", and stuff like that. 
-He plays with us in the pool and helps us with swimming.
-He rubs my back.
-He understands when I'm afraid of something.
-He helps me with soccer.

Alana:
-He's loving.
-He cares for me.
-He helps me with my troubles.
-He's my snuggle partner.
-He's generous.
-He has a big heart.

Easton:
-He's nice.
-He's kind.
-He helps me when I'm sad.
-He's good at math.


“God created marriage. No government subcommittee envisioned it. No social organization developed it. Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God.” ~ Max Lucado

Thursday, March 22, 2012

15 Years and Counting - Part 2

The continuation of our story........If you missed part one, click here to read it:
http://www.partakersofgraceblog.blogspot.com/2012/03/15-years-and-counting-part-1.html

Flashback again, this time to 1997: 

We were living in the mobile home, remember?  Alan began as the head baseball coach at Plant City High School, where he coached for 4 years. 

In July of 1999, I gave birth to Jayde.  Jayde received her name from a character in my favorite book growing up, Emily Climbs.  Alan and I went to a youth conference one summer and listened to a speaker who's wife was named Jade, and I said, "Yes!  That's the name!  That's what I want to name my first daughter."  Alan agreed, because he really liked the name, too.  Jayde means "Precious (green) stone". 

I quit working to stay home with Jayde.  Let me re-phrase that.  I worked part time instead of full time, doing lots of odd jobs to earn extra money.  Things like substitute teaching, tutoring, watching children in my home, cleaning houses, and working at a boutique in town. 

Alan quit teaching and went to work at a produce company, with the dream of owning his own business someday.  He has always been a visionary. 

In 2001, on 9/11, Alana was born, one hour after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  Talk about a depressing hospital stay!  I still, 10 years later, can't see images from that day on T.V. without crying.  It's emotional, and I think it always will be.  We tell her she is our shining, bright light on a dark day.  Alana was named after Alan.  Her name means, "Little rock". 

I continued working part time and took teaching positions at two pre-schools in town.  Alan went from the produce industry to car sales to get sales experience.  Then he received a sales position in a company in Tampa.  We started a trucking business that failed, but we learned some valuable lessons during that time.  We moved to a house in town in a quiet neighborhood.

In 2004, Easton was born.  Easton was named after Alan's love of baseball, and his name means, "Eastern settlement".  Don't make any snide comments, here, I've heard them all.  At least his middle name is a Biblical family name.

I continued teaching at the pre-school.  Jayde was having problems at school.  We decided to send her to private school and were accepted into a nearby program.  Then Alan said, "Why don't you homeschool her instead?"  That's another testimony in itself.  After much research, God completely changed my heart related to homeschooling, and we took the plunge. 

At the same time we began homeschooling, Alan quit his job to start his own business from home.  Did you read that?  Alan began his business and I began homeschooling at the same time.  Dude.  Talk about adjustment!  We were never home, then, BAM!  We were always all home together.  Grate on each other's nerves much?  Oh yeah!  I was not used to having someone ask where I was going each time I left the house to run to Walmart.  He was not used to trying to work with kids noises in the background. 

But, you know what?  We made it through!  That season was a tough test, but we came through a stronger family unit.  Praise God!

God really blessed Alan's business the first two years, and we were able to move to a house with 17 acres (we wanted animals, a garden, and room for the kids to roam).  We acquired a menagerie of animals over the next couple years to add to our brood of kids. 

Something was missing.  You guessed it!  More kids!  That brings us up to date, and we're getting ready to bring two boys home to be part of our family.  

There are millions of details, ups, downs, rights, and lefts, that I had to leave out, because I just don't have room to expound on them all. 

However, I can say it's been an awesome journey, and God has answered my prayers.  I didn't want to have a glowing career.  I just wanted to be a wife and mom.  God gave me that.  I will be forever grateful.  

Over the next couple days, I'm going to post some more about marriage, but for today, I'll leave with a big.....

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY
to my dear husband, who is a phenomenal blessing to me each and every day!
I love you, honey!



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

15 Years and Counting- Part 1

The next couple days we're going to talk about marriage.  Why?  In honor of the fact that as of Thursday, March 22, 2012, Alan and I will have been married for 15 years.  For high school sweethearts, that's quite a feat.  Check the statistics.

Today I'm going to share a little bit our story with you.  I'm reminiscing.  Bear with me.

Flashback to January 1993: At Plant City High School, in Mr. Pickern's Bible History class, sat a high school Senior who was trying to get an easy A.  Yeah, that would be Alan. Enter a Junior girl second semester who transferred into the class to learn something.  You guessed it, moi.  The first week of class, Alan asked me on a date.  I had to think about it.  I mean, this dude was the quarterback of the football team.  Take a guess at what kind of reputation that earned him.  You've seen enough 80's teen movies to figure it out.  I specifically remember going for a walk that afternoon with my mom around Walden Lake and informing her that Alan had asked me out.  I told her I thought I'd go just to see what he was like, but I didn't really think I would like him.

On our first date we went to dinner and a movie.  I don't have a clue what movie we saw that night.  I do, however, vividly remember how mortified I was at dinner.  TGI Fridays in Lakeland.  Cheese Quesadillas.  Why, oh why, I ordered cheese quesadillas, I still wonder to this day.  What was I thinking?  I was painfully shy.  Cheese dripping down my chin in long strings and sticking in my hair really did nothing to help me get over my shyness.  I believed he'd never ask me out again, but  I remember thinking he was surprisingly easy to talk to and a lot nicer than I thought he would be. 

Monday morning in class, he wrote a note to my friend, Christy, who had introduced us.  This was high school, remember?  Everyone passed notes.  I still have that note in a box in my closet.  In it, he told Christy he had found the girl he was going to marry.  After class, she showed me the note, and I thought, "Who does this guy think he is?"  Secretly I was thrilled he actually had a good time on our date. 

We dated for six months before a major milestone occurred.  I was determined I was not going to let myself love this guy.  I did love him.  I just didn't want to admit it. 

He was not saved.  Strike #1.  BIG strike.  The reason I kept dating him with that strike against him was because from the first week he met me, he asked about going to church with me.  He was not raised in church, but he began attending youth group with me each week and grew close to my youth pastor.  Then he started coming to church and Sunday School.  He gave his heart to the Lord the summer after he graduated high school.  Strike #1 was abolished.  Strike #2 was that he was going to be leaving for college in another state on a football scholarship.  I did not want to be involved in trying to keep up a long distance relationship, and I had been accepted to the University of Florida, where I planned on paying my due diligence on the party scene in a sorority.  I was a planner, and my next four years were set.  That is, until he decided not to go away.  So what did I do?  Decided not to go away.  Strike #2 wiped out. 

We were engaged on Christmas Eve when I was 18 years old and he was 19. 

Alan and I attended our local community college, where he played baseball for two years.  He transferred to Florida Southern College and played baseball for them, too.  After a while, I joined him at FSC.  He earned a degree in Physical Education.  I earned a degree in Elementary Education.  We both graduated from college in 1997, Alan in May and I in December. 

Our marriage took place on March 22, 1997, at First Baptist Church.  We were attending the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Plant City, but we were meeting in the National Guard Armory, not a church building, so we had the wedding at FBCPC.  Look how young we were!  Check out Alan's sideburns.  Cool, dude. 


Both Alan and I began teaching in the public school system.  He liked it.  I loathed it.  We were living in a small, old, 1970-something mobile home. Livin' on love, baby.  It was ugly, but we put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into making it look pretty on the inside.  I have fond memories of that home.  One of my favorite country songs of all time is Doug Stone's "Love Grows Best In Little Houses", and it probably stems from spending the first 5 years of our marriage in that tiny abode. Just for kicks, here's the song and video: http://batlyrics.com/little_houses-lyrics-doug_stone.html

Stay tuned for part two..........

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Aghhhhh!!! Here we go.  I like to take time to process.  Ask my husband.  After reading Brandon and Jen Hatmaker's books last month, I frankly just had to take time to get over myself.  Talk about reading stuff that makes you VERY uncomfortable with your life.  The ease of having all this "stuff".  As Jen puts it- the excess.

Jen targets specific areas in her book, Seven:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  Those areas are clothes, shopping, waste, stress, media, possessions, and food.  Six friends were "the council", consulted on many matters to keep Jen from getting off course. 



In the introduction, Jen begins with a story about housing refugees from a hurricane.  This quote is long, and I don't want to get in trouble with copyright laws, but I didn't feel I could just cut it off without finishing it. One boy walked in to the Hatmaker home and exclaimed, "Dad!  This white dude is RICH!"

Jen writes, "We are.  For years I didn't realize this because so many others had more.  We were surrounded by extreme affluence, which tricks you into thinking you're in the middle of the pack.  I mean, sure, we have twenty-four hundred square feet for only five humans to live in, but our kids have never been on an airplane, so how rich could we be?  We haven't traveled to Italy, my kids are in public schools, and we don't even own a time-share. (Roll eyes here.)

But it gets fuzzy once you spend time with people below your rung.  I started seeing my stuff with fresh eyes, realizing we had everything.  I mean everything.  We've never missed a meal or even skimped on one.  We have a beautiful home in a great neighborhood.  Our kids are in a Texas exemplary school.  We drive two cars under warranty.  We've never gone a day without health insurance.  Our closets are overflowing.  We throw away food we didn't eat, clothes we barely wore, trash that will never disintegrate, stuff that fell out of fashion.


And I was so blinded I didn't even know we were rich.
 
How can I be socially responsible if unaware that I reside in the top percentage of wealth in the word? (You probably do too: make $35,000 a year?  Top 4 percent.  $50,000? Top 1 percent.)  Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer.  We're tangled in unmanageable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more.  What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can't manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount?  Fifty thousand times that amount? 


It says we have too much, and it is ruining us.


It was certainly ruining me.  The day I am unaware of my privileges and unmoved by my greed is the day something has to change.  I couldn't escape the excess or see beyond my comforts though.  I wrung my hands and commiserated with Brandon but couldn't fathom an avenue out.  we'd done some first-tier reductions, freeing up excess to share, but still... the white dude was really rich."

Whew!  That was long.  But, see what I mean about cutting it off?  That's just a little of the introduction, people. Wait until you get to the meat. 

For month one, Jen picked 7 foods to eat.  7 foods.  For a whole month.  Only 7.  Nothing else.  Have you ever done that before?  Me neither.  Our culture revolves around food.  We're the exception, not the rule. Over half the world has about that much variety in their food choices, though.   Beans and rice and fruit.  Fruit and beans and millet.  Take your pick. You get the picture.  The day that moved me the most had actually nothing to do with food.  It had everything to do with taking God's word to heart.  Day 7 had me crying.  Read it to find out why.  The rest of the days had me rolling I was laughing so hard.  This girl is funny, ya'll.  One of the only people you'll meet who can create 30 days of jokes out of eating 7 foods. 

Month two found Jen cutting her wardrobe down to 7 pieces of clothing.  This month got to me because in my teen years and early 20's, I could have been the poster-child for the Shopaholic series.  That is, until Crown Ministries and Dave Ramsey entered my life.  Oh, wait, this isn't just about me.  Let's get back to the book.  It was interesting to notice in chapter two the justification Jen felt she owed people as to why she wore the same things over again or felt she wasn't dressed appropriately.  She politely ruined shopping excursions for the rest of my life.  Thanks, Jen (yes, that was sarcastic).

Possessions were the focus of month three.  Every day for a month the Hatmakers gave away 7 things they owned.  The Council decided, after Jen purged over 200 items from her closet, that Hatmaker clothing could only account for one week's worth of give-aways.  Some of the ideas she came up with in this chapter for sharing and swapping were inspiring.  

The fourth month's fast was media.  The Hatmakers gave up their 7 most prevalent forms of media for 30 days.  Guess what they found?  Each other!  Like, they really, like, like each other.  (Did anyone else growing up in the 80's understand what I just said?)  And they really, like, got stuff done.  We could all use some fasting from technology.

Month five was waste.  No, they didn't waste things for 30 days.  They used 7 prevalent forms of reducing waste in their lives.  Don't worry, Jen didn't get all hippie, do yoga while standing on her head, refuse to eat another animal in her life, or anything like that.  She did manage to point out that God's people should be first on the list of humans trying to "go green".  Why?  Because our first job was taking care of this Earth.  He hasn't told us to stop yet. 

Say goodbye to frivolous spending.  That's what the Hatmakers did during month 6.  They chose 7 places they could spend money for a month.  Think about how many places you spend money in a month.  Could you narrow it down to 7? 

The last month was about stress. It was actually a really thought-provoking chapter (okay, ditto for the whole book).  Jen's family instituted the Sabbath.  The real deal, people.  Complete with rest, 7 pauses and prayer times, and observation of the Sabbath from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday.  During this month's journaling, Brandon and Jen received their referral for adoption.  I have to throw that in there.  For those of you who don't already know, Brandon and Jen brought home two beauties from Ethiopia this past year. 

I'm not sure how to summarize everything in Seven.  It is a life changing book.  But, like anything else, you have to let it change your life.  You have to ask yourself what God is showing you through this author's words.  Does what she's saying line up with Scripture?  I believe it does.  She's trying to get you to think outside the box.  Think outside of the walls of your house.  Think outside the borders of your town, your state, and your country.  I do want to clarify that she's not saying to quit work, don't make any money, and spend all your days volunteering.  If you make good money, it's great.  It just comes with heavy responsibility.  Christians should be the ones using their wealth to share with the needy.  Giving out of our surplus.  Realizing how much we've been blessed, and using that to bless others.

As she says in the conclusion, "Love God most.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  This is everything."  She goes on to say why.  Read it.  I can't do it justice and I feel inadequate trying to review it.  Just read it.  You can click on the book on the right hand side of my blog and order it from Amazon.  See?  I made it easy for you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Gift From Grandmother

Not much has been disclosed about what Alan's been going through in business lately.  It's challenging, to say the least.  We have such a financial testimony reaching back to the beginning of our marriage.  Some day I'll share details about it.  We've made lots of mistakes, learned a lot, taught a lot, and God always comes through.

Our thermometer went up $1000 today.  We received a gift from my Grandmother.  What?  How's that possible?  You may be asking those questions, since my Grandmother passed away recently. 

We had NO idea that my Grandmother had been saving for years in an account designated for her grandchildren.  Her instructions upon her death were for that account to be split among all 15 of us.  Each of us received a check this week (a complete surprise).  After tithing, we have approximately $1000 to add to our adoption fund. 

My Grandmother was such a gift to us, and she was a giver!  She still, even today, continues to give.  That's a legacy.  I'm so thankful for her life and all her gifts.

Bittersweet- by Summer

Summer has insight into bringing older boys home from Ethiopia.  She and her husband, Shane, adopted two boys, ages 6 and 8 at the same time, this past year.  They've been home 5 months now.  The second paragraph is my favorite, in which she describes a tiny bit of what the boys went through to be adopted.  If you read nothing else, read that paragraph!  (Summer is now pregnant with their first daughter, which you can see in her cute belly pic at the end of the post.)
http://growininourhearts.blogspot.com/2012/03/bittersweet.html

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Update and Prayer Requests

Two nights ago my friend, Marcy, delivered care packages to our boys in Ethiopia.  Marcy was there to pick up her son and bring him home to the U.S.  She was kind enough to deliver the packages and take pictures of the boys.  She also took a few 10-second videos of the boys opening their bags on her phone.  Alan and I plan to return the favor by delivering packages for other families when we travel.

When I opened the email containing the pictures and videos, I bawled.  It's a good thing I wasn't going anywhere right away and wasn't wearing any makeup, because it would have been smeared all over my face.  Alan and I had seen pictures of Y**** and P****, but never their movements or expressions. 

Some people have asked me to share more specifics here on the blog.  I can't do that right now.  Legally, I can't show pictures to anyone other than immediate family members (like our parents) or give any details about the boys until they are legally ours (meaning when we pass court in ET).

We're hoping for a June court date.  At that time, the five of us will travel to Ethiopia for a couple weeks.  We'll meet the boys and be able to spend time with them each day.  We'll visit the orphanages and transition home and be able to bring donations.  (More info on donations later.)  We can sight see some, but probably we won't do a lot of that because it would mean time away from volunteering and seeing the boys. 

About 50% of families pass court the first time.  Once we pass court, we still have to wait to be submitted to and pass the U.S. Embassy to be able to bring the boys home.  So best case scenario is that the boys will be home by the end of the summer.  But it could be much longer. 

Would you please consider joining us in prayer?  You can pray specifically for a few things:

1) Pray that our paperwork is all in order before our court date so we pass the first time. There's much to be done still- our homestudy update to finish, papers to be certified, approval letters to be written in ET, etc.

2) Pray for our boys while they wait.  They have endured SO MUCH loss and trauma, things you and I have never and will never have to endure.  They need prayer that their hearts will begin healing and that God will start preparing their hearts and minds to become attached to us as their family when they come home.  They are leaving behind everything and everyone they know and love to come to an extremely strange place.

3) Pray for wisdom in our finances.  We're going through a rough place that we haven't spoken to many people about right now, and we're trying to figure out where God is leading us (especially Alan) in business- different business?  Ministry?  We just don't know.  God has blessed us greatly in the past by letting us pay our house off, and because of that, we will not have to sell our house during this time or anything drastic like that (God-willing).  But when the boys come home there will be lots of medical expenses not covered by insurance (which is now $1200/month for a group plan that we can add the boys to, but it won't cover a large majority of the problems they'll need medical care for when they come home).  We know God will provide, but we'd still like prayer in decision making with our business.  We do own one thing that's not a quick, liquid asset.  If we need to sell it to pay medical bills when they come home, we will, but we want to be sure that's the right thing to do.  Wisdom would be great! 

4) Pray for Jayde, Alana, and Easton, that their hearts would begin to be molded to their new siblings.

There will be many more prayer requests in the future.  Thanks for taking the time to read and pray.  We appreciate you all.

Plant Show and Sale


All 3 of our children are in 4-H.  This was Alana's first year showing plants at the Strawberry Festival.  The plants were purchased at the beginning of the fall, then taken care of until the Festival.  The girls had to water, prune, and fertilize the plants. 

Some of the plants were sold at a silent auction.  Here's Alana looking cute and talking to potential buyers:


Each child picked one group of plants to sell at the live auction.  They had to carry one of the plants around the ring during the bidding.  The next picture is of Alana working the crowd.  She made $305.  We allow each child to have $75 to spend any way they choose (after tithing), and the rest goes into their savings account. 


Jayde was an old pro.  This was her 4th (I think) year showing plants:



Jayde made $430.  She had a few more plants to sell than Alana.


Each student was required to keep a book of records detailing their plants and expenses.  These books will be judged and the 1st-3rd place winners will receive additional money.

The Plant Show and Sale is a great way for kids to learn business skills they can use in the future.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grandmother's Desk


Ever since my Grandmother's funeral, I've wanted to post these pictures.  The above pic is of her desk.  For 40 years, she worked at Williams in Dade City, FL.  Her co-workers loved her, the customers knew her, and her bosses revered her.  She was a legend at Lunch on Limoges. 

The evening of her funeral, the owners of Williams generously invited her family members and friends to drive to the store/restaurant where she spent so much of her time and have a meal together.  We were able to witness the flowers and picture that the employees placed on her desk that week.

Grandmother actually had her stroke while at work.  The employees at Williams left her desk untouched except for 2 vases of flowers and a picture. 




The frame on the left hand side of the desk held a picture of Grandmother and my cousin, Jacob, who shared her birthday.  The couch of bears had the name of all seven of her daughters. Notes were there with her handwriting.
It was very fitting that her great-grandchildren felt comfortable enough to sit and hang out on her chair talking and laughing.  She would have been pleased.

Melissa's blog

Our friends, Mark and Melissa, just arrived in Texas to spend 3 months where everything is bigger and better (or so I hear).  They're in Texas for Mark's job, but, also.....


Mark's going to seminary to become a missionary in some form.  How cool is that?  Alan and I have watched their hearts be even more radically changed over the last couple years and they are following the Holy Spirit's lead.  They genuinely love Jesus. They hope to eventually possibly end up in Singapore but they're open to wherever God puts them.  I'm adding their blog, "Spouseisms", to the list here on my blog and I hope you'll check in occasionally and read about their journey.  http://spouseisms.blogspot.com/

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Easton's first poems

Easton wrote his first two poems last week as we completed a beginning poetry unit.  His first one was about Oscar, our dog:

Oscar is very fat. 
He pees on a mat.

He is a boy.  What can I say?  This is the stuff rolling around in the heads of little boys made of "snakes and snails and puppy dogs tails". 

His second poem was more polite:

I like building snowmen when it's cold,
And bundling up when I'm told.



My boy was quite proud of himself. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Repentance, Baptism, and the Holy Spirit

Watch this Francis Chan video.  All the way to the end.  So great.  That's all I have to say about that.
http://vimeo.com/17131583

Our God Is Greater

When we received our referral Thursday night, I was shocked.  I didn't think we'd get a referral until at least the fall. I cried when our coordinator called to give us the news.  Then I opened the boys file and read about their lives, and my heart was burdened.  I walked around for a couple days in shock, excited, but almost numb, my mind trying to process everything I had read.  

I was worried.  Worried we won't be enough for the boys.  Worried because I know they are going to need so much healing.  Worried that we won't have the money to supply all their medical needs.   You name it, I worried about it.   

Oh, what God has done in the past couple days!  He has absolutely let me know that I was right.  Alan and I are not enough for our boys.  But HE IS.  God is enough.  God will supply their needs.  He'll give us the information we need, He'll give us the counselors and doctors we need.  He'll give us the support we need. 

For months I have prayed that whoever God had picked for our family would be children that Jesus died for, children that will come to our home and hear about Jesus love for them and eventually know that Jesus brought them to us.  I believe God answers prayers made in faith, and after seeing the way God orchestrated the timing of the events that led to our referral, I KNOW that these are the boys that we are supposed to parent.

I did not expect the undeniable rush of love God gave me for these 2 boys over the last couple days.  I already love them.  I love them!  MY boys!  They have already transitioned from faces on my computer screen to places in my heart.  Praise God for that because I can't explain it! 

The computer has become a welcome resource with information on possible doctors for the boys' medical issues and counselors for the future.  As I've fully gone into protective mother-bear mode, God has brought the song Our God Is Greater, by Chris Tomlin, into my head over and over.  If you catch me alone, you'll find me singing it!

Here's the link to the song so you can hear it (this version is nice because the lyrics are on the screen):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlA5IDnpGhc

God is greater, higher, healer, and awesome in power.  God is enough.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Our First Care Package!

Yesterday we were able to send our first care package to our boys!  A friend in our adoption group who is leaving for Ethiopia to pick up her children tomorrow volunteered to deliver them for us (Thanks, Marcy!). 

We had fun shopping Saturday to pick out the first items to send.  We sent shirts, socks, underwear, toothbrushes, toothpaste, bouncy balls, matchbox cars, squishy animals, notebooks, crayons, and a small book I made with pictures of our family so they can start learning our names.  Everything had to fit in a gallon size ziploc bag.  Here they are!  (I had to cover their names.)
I hope they like them!

Fundraiser: The Aftermath

Praise God!  Seeds have been planted. 

"He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." -Luke 10:2

The fundraiser was a success.  But not just according to what you typically associate a fundraiser with accomplishing. 

We are getting comments.  Comments like, "I want to donate to Everyday Blessings.  Will they take ______ ?"  Comments like, "I am sponsoring a child through Compassion/World Vision.  I didn't realize it costs so little." 

You see, we researched before we planned the fundraiser.  From what we read, we realized that you have to make orphans, widows, and the least of these PERSONAL.  At the fundraiser, papers were handed out on World Vision sponsorship, Everyday Blessings, Because Every Mother Matters, The Adam Tulu Project, and the Florida Baptist Children's Home.  Pam Bell from Everyday Blessings spoke.  There was a board with pictures of orphans and things you could do to help.  Making it personal.

All day long you can hear that there's an orphan crisis.  You can know by reading the Bible that you are supposed to support orphans in some way.  But until you meet orphans who's lives have been changed through adoption or sponsorship, you don't get it.  You may hear that you should help widows, but until your friend becomes a widow, you don't fully acknowledge it.  You can watch the news while the media shows the homeless and hungry, but until your neighbor loses his job and is hungry, you don't understand how to act.

Planted seeds, when watered, begin to grow.

It's fantastically fun to watch the aftermath of the fundraiser.  To see orphans, widows, the hungry, and homeless become personal to other people. 

What Alan and I pray as we make this journey so public is that through our transparency others will realize each orphan has a face and a name. Each widow has a heart that's been broken. Every hungry person has a story.

When you come face to face with this reality, you are more apt to act. "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God." - Micah 6:8

When's the last time you sent a card to a widow you know? Sent money to a child sponsorship program or local children's home? Brought your neighbor a meal?

You can choose mercy right now.

You can choose justice right now.

You can choose love right now.

Be a neighbor.

Bring on the aftermath.

Friday, March 2, 2012

REFERRAL DAY!

It's official - yesterday, March 1, 2012 was our referral day!  When our coordinator called to let us know we had a referral, Alan and I were together, so we put her on speaker to listen together. 

My mind is reeling.  This week has been crazy.  The events that led up to our referral were orchestrated by God.  At some point I'll write down an account of this time, but not today.

We can't give many details about our boys until we pass court.  Here's what I can say: (1) The boys are about 5 and 10 years old, (2) Their names are Y**** and P**** (haha, that's a lot of info, right?), (3) They are biological brothers, (4) They have been through a lot and are going to need healing, and (5) Surely God has placed them in our family for a reason.

Though I can't give details now on any part of their lives, and I will never share detailed information about their backgrounds, because it's their story to tell when they get older, I know that God loves them. I pray that God gives them peace and hope until we can bring them home. 

In you the orphan finds mercy.-Hosea 14:3

Never take advantage of any widow or orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure that I will hear their cry.-Exodus 22:22-23

You are the helper of the fatherless. LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.-Psalms 10:14,17-18

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.-James 1:27

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.-Psalms 68:5-6

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.-Isaiah 1:17

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.-Proverbs 31:8-9

And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.-Matthew 18:5

I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!-Matthew 25:40

Praise God that in a few months there will be 2 less orphans in the world.