Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Little Word

     Shortly after Thanksgiving, we kicked-off our fundraising efforts with an amazing company called MudLOVE. A purchase from MudLOVE provides clean drinking water for one week to someone in the Central African Republic. These handmade clay bracelets have been such a blessing to our family and to others. Over the past month, we've ordered over 160 bracelets with words like agape, hope, blessed, faith, inspire, smile, hope, believe, create, and pray. In the last few weeks, we've unpacked 3 little boxes filled with a bunch of little words that have meant something to someone. One little word with a big impact...a daily reminder.

     As I sorted through each shipment, I packaged every bracelet into its own small bag with our Thank You card. Because we order in bulk, I always order more than what I have accounted for or sold. Fortunately, I've been able to order in increments of 5 which means if we have at least 1 person interested in a word...I'll go ahead and order it...and try to sell the remaining 4 bracelets. Inspire. Blessed. Faith. These words have been repeat orders with all 3 of our shipments. Grace. Hope. Strength. We've also had more than a few people request these little words too. Just before I placed our first order, a friend/coworker of mine requested the word "redeemed" on a bracelet. Our first shipment came and I packaged up her "redeemed" bracelet...tucking the other 4 away and making a note that they were available to sell. 

     Over the next few weeks, I kept thinking about these "redeemed" bracelets. I hadn't had anyone show a lot of interest in this particular word. And then I got to thinking about what that word even meant...to me. Did I truly understand the word myself? And then it hit me...like a ton of bricks. One night, as we were having a {fairly typical} "dance party" to our GOD IS GOOD playlist on iTunes, MercyMe's song Greater came on. Our kiddos know the lyrics by heart...and so do I. But this time, as we galloped around the living room, the lyrics spoke to me a little differently.

"Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed
When others say I'll never be enough
And greater is the One living inside of me
Than he who is living in the world"

     Redeemed. He calls us redeemed. He calls our kids redeemed. When others might tell our kiddos they're not enough, He is greater than others...He is greater than any hurtful words or actions that might come their way. What a prayer for our children. In that instant, I knew exactly why I had those 4 remaining "redeemed" bracelets. 

     With New Year's Eve upon us, I've been seeing a lot of posts about people's one little word for 2015. Brave. Thrive. Create. Grow. Be. Grace. The list of words goes on and on. And while I may not have a word (yet) for 2015, Eric and I decided to gift our kids with their own OLW...not only for 2015 but beyond. 

Redeemed. 

     We sat the kiddos down tonight and played this song and danced our usual crazy dance. And then we explained our prayer and hope for them with their own "redeemed" bracelet. The smile on our oldest's face was priceless...so proud...so thankful. Landon was excited and obliged his mommy for a picture...but he's 3...so he asked if he could take it off so he could play basketball. And that was OK! This is their one little word much farther than tonight, much farther than 2015...and I'm so thankful for the future opportunities that we'll have to remind them about our prayer for this little word and its role in their lives.

     And if you'll notice in that picture below, we have our first gift to their brother or sister who we've not yet met. Because our prayer for our next son or daughter is that he/she knows He calls them redeemed too. Not only will he/she be enough for us, but they will be enough for our God.







Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Go Fund Someone Else

     Adoption is expensive. You've probably heard that, been told that, or perhaps you've even experienced that yourself. Bottom line: I know I'm not shocking you with anything you didn't already know. So when it comes to talking about the financial aspect of adoption...you probably aren't surprised when I say that I get a little queasy and weak in the knees just thinking about how we're going to fund this journey. This area was definitely a big fear factor for us as we decided between domestic and international adoption too. But as I began to engage with the adoption community (on social media in particular), I began to learn that fundraising was frequently used to raise money for the adoption process. This (new to me) concept of fundraising was equally as frightening as coming up with the money on our own. But I had seen several adoptive families raise money for their adoptions through a variety fundraisers...t-shirt sales, garage sales, auctions, handmade goods, etc. And as I participated in some of these fundraisers, I began to think about fundraisers our family might be able to do. I even began to formulate some ideas of my own. But as soon as the ideas began to unfold, fear quickly set in and made the present moment a little harder to breathe in... and then it became hard to comprehend just how we could make anything happen. Would anyone support our family's fundraisers? Times are tough. Money is tight. People have struggles of their own. So in these particular moments, I decide that we can't and won't fundraise. And then the vicious cycle begins again and I become fearful again about the financial aspect of growing our family.
   

    Now back to the title of this post...My friend and sister-in-law encouraged me to set up a gofundme site. I had heard of other adoptive families using this...so I decided to give it a try and set up our site. I edited our information about a million times. Did I use the right words? Did I use too many words? Was the goal too lofty? Was it not lofty enough? Was I really putting my trust in the Lord about this aspect of our adoption? I didn't even know anymore! After longer than it was probably supposed to take for me to complete the process, I hit the OK button and our profile page was complete...almost. Gofundme really encourages you to link your profile to Facebook. In fact, even after I hit "NO" when it asked me to connect to Facebook...it popped up another screen that asked me if I was "sure"...talk about peer pressure! But I can be stubborn...so I declined it again. And for the first three days, I received email after email from GoFundMe asking me to connect it to Facebook because that was the best way to receive donations. But I was too fearful. I can't ask people to donate money so we can grow our family. That's absurd!
     My sweet friend (who had encouraged me to set up our gofundme site) asked to shared our link on her Facebook business page...and I was so nervous about what would or wouldn't happen that I almost didn't "like" her status. Not only did I not want it to show up on my feed, I also didn't want to self-promote. See what I'm talking about here? FEAR! Giving up before I had even started...not trusting in Him. But God quickly revealed to us that while we can fund others' adoption journeys, others can and will fund our own personal journey too.
     Fast forward a week or so later...and I sat with our bible study girls at our last get-together before we would break for Christmas. My friend (who has been such an ENCOURAGEMENT in our adoption journey already) handed me a sheet of paper and said it was her "order"... Naturally, this raised questions among the group and forced allowed me to share my desire to use the company, MudLOVE, to start a fundraiser for our adoption. In this life, there are times when we need the push and encouragement of our friends. God has been so gracious in placing people in our life that can be His hands and feet. We began our MudLOVE fundraiser that day...because of that friend. And the response to our MudLOVE fundraiser has been overwhelming. Shortly after that night at bible study, I began to receive text messages from family and friends... with order after order...because they had shared our fundraiser and people wanted to purchase the bracelets we were selling. In a few short weeks, we have already placed and received our third order- totaling nearly 160 bracelets!
     On top of this...we've been humbled by people who have donated through our gofundme website and unexpected checks given to us in person or in the mail. Just in the last few weeks, we've received over $900 dollars to help with our adoption journey. This amount doesn't even include what our MudLOVE bracelets will add to our adoption fund. Wow. Just wow. Our family is going to grow. Eeek! And it's going to grow because of Him! Why can't I remember that?! It is His plan for us to pursue adoption and we are speechless at the favor He has shown to our family through this process already. Merry Christmas Eve to everyone! What an amazing gift we have been given in the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.


   

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Lost

     During one of our church services this summer, our worship leader shared that he had been convicted that week about praying for the lost. As he continued on about his conviction, he asked the congregation to think of someone who might be lost...someone who we could pray for and lift up. Then he asked us to take a moment so that we could pray for that someone. I remember being overwhelmed with the feeling that I should pray for our son or daughter. For all we know, he/she may already be out there. We won't know the exact age of our child...but he/she could be out in the world right now...lost...needing to be found. So I did exactly what our worship leader asked us to do. I prayed. I prayed hard. I prayed for protection. I prayed for health. I prayed for love. I prayed for hope. Hope for our child, hope for us.

     On the first Sunday of Advent, our pastor spoke about the power of hope. He reminded us that hope comes from a place of darkness. Sometimes I think it's easy to associate hope with something good and not something that comes from darkness. Personally, I can say that there have been moments of darkness in our last year or so. But I can also say that out of our darkness, has come light...The Light. Naturally, I have a song that's been playing in my head and heart for the last week or so...


For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who've prayed
For all who wander
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

The world waits for a miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope




     This is the bridge in Lauren Daigle's song Light of the World and it's been the cry of my heart during this holiday season- as I think about our son, or daughter... about anyone who might not know our Savior. 

     Will this next year or so be filled with more moments of darkness and hopelessness- for us and even for others? Of course. John 16:33 says, "In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Did you read that second part? He has overcome the world. God can and will bring us out of those dark places because He is the Light of the World. He meets with those who are waiting. He satisfies those who are hungry. He listens to those who've prayed. He finds those who are wandering. Behold our King who brings hope to places of darkness. We are so thankful for the hope that the Light gives...and we cannot wait to share this Light with our son or daughter.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Perseverance

     Confession: This morning's sermon at church rocked my world...and I can probably say that my world wasn't the only one. *I probably don't even have to mention that I cried...because if you've learned ONE thing from this blog...it's that I cry. A lot.* Anywho, we've done a series called Harvest these past few weeks discussing obedience, generosity, and perseverance. Today our pastor talked about perseverance...more specifically, the enemies of perseverance...and selfishly, I felt like he was talking directly to me. Here were the 3 enemies of perseverance that our pastor shared:

     1. Fear- giving up before we even start, fear will hold you back to a life of nothing
          Right off the bat, enemy #1 shook me to my core. You see, we are in the baby stages of the adoption process. Baby, beginning stages. And the journey is going to be long. We know that. It's going to be emotional. We know that. It's going to be financially exhausting. We know that. And despite knowing all of "that," I've still battled fears for the last few days about how in the WORLD we expect this adoption to happen. Thoughts like "What were we thinking?!" creep in and out of my head. Couple that creeping thought with people's reactions when they hear what the international adoption price tag is these days. My fear grows a little more. You can see the look of shock in their eyes when you tell them $40,000 will grow your family. You go a step further and convince yourself they're wondering the same thing that you've often asked yourself. How in the WORLD are we going to pull this off? And these thoughts make me think about giving up. They make me want to give up before we've even started. But God reminds me these thoughts are Satan trying to inch in on the fears I have. Satan wants to pile these self-induced fears into an all-consuming  and paralyzing "I wanna run the other way" fear. The kind of fear that takes you out of the game before you even start.
          So I proceeded to write that second part of my note...."fear will hold you back to a life of nothing." And back on the roller coaster I go as I begin to tear up just THINKING about not following our hearts and His calling to grow our family through adoption. To let fear win and to be left with nothing. Left with nothing but the void and ache in my heart...well that emptiness makes me want to sprint back in the direction of our son or daughter and not ever look back. Fear is with the flesh. Perseverance is with the Lord.

     2. Failure- I didn't write any notes beside this enemy because I know there will be failures in these next few years. Recently, Eric and I experienced a shared failure in our lives...that quite frankly turned out to be a huge blessing. It didn't make a lot of sense at the time and we were discouraged and a little hopeless, but God allowed this failure to happen for a reason. A good reason. Admittedly,  we're still working through some of those discouraging feelings, but our prayer is that we'll continue to find peace and see Him in all our future failures throughout this journey.

     3. Fatigue- Again...piercing words into my soul. God KNEW the thoughts that have been racing inside my head so this enemy didn't need any notes either. But fatigue is going to be a big one. For example, we'll probably begin our home study in the next couple of months (only because some other things have to be approved before we can begin). And we've heard that the home study is pretty much like a full-time job. So naturally, we've heard that fatigue will be yet another enemy in this process. But remember what the sermon was about? Perseverance! So much hope can be found when we let God lead us and when we submit to His will for our lives.

     Our pastor ended his message on Perseverance with this video... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA8z7f7a2Pk  I'll be honest, I spent the first few seconds watching this video, wondering how he was going to tie this in to the sermon. But as you watch for a minute or so...you see that the dancing becomes contagious and people begin running over to join in! Here was our pastor's point. That lone guy? That's Jesus. {Hammer. Nail. Wow.} You see, dancing to the rhythm of Jesus isn't the "norm" in this world. It's not always something that feels natural to us. But as we begin to dance to His rhythm and not our own...it pulls us in. Sure it may feel funny and fearful when you first start out and you're the only one. But then you stay...and you see that there's freedom in this dance and in this rhythm. And then you're joined by a few others who also begin dancing. And then a few more. And before you know it, there's a movement of followers...all dancing in this same rhythm...with freedom and without fear. Friends, we can't quit living to the rhythms of God. We have to keep to the beat of the Almighty Drummer and persevere. Amen.



   


Monday, November 17, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:11

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11


     Believe it or not, that verse was first recited by our oldest a few years ago. Our child care giver worked with the kiddos on memory verses that corresponded to each letter of the alphabet. Yeah...she was awesome. We knew our kiddos were in great hands while we were at work...and there isn't a greater feeling that that! Anywho...1 Thessalonians was their "B" verse..."Be kind to one another and build each other up." Our oldest loved to recite this verse at the most opportune times. She definitely understood what was at the core of this verse. And truthfully, I always thought she was an excellent example of this verse because she is such an encourager.

     But then...we were blessed with this little man. And he is ALSO known in our family as the encourager of all encouragers. Today's post is dedicated to our (not so) little boy who can be heard saying the following phrases on any give day...

"Good job building, (to his sister)...you're a great builder!"

"I like your coloring, Mommy...you're a good colorer!"

"Daddy can do it...he's good at that..."

"Here...I can help you!"

"You make the best (fill in the blank with a food item that could have come out of a freezer aisle for all he knows), Mommy!"

     Our little boy is sweet. He is caring. Can he also be a pill? You bet. He's a boy. And he's 3. Those are both descriptions next to the word "pill" in the dictionary...along with words like messy and loud. But honestly, a big part of his personality revolves around doing things for others and using his words to encourage others.

     Just last week, we got his preschool report card. There were several social skills listed on it. Each skill was given a rating between 1 and 4. A rating of "1" meant the skill could not be done...while a "4" meant the skill was demonstrated on his own. Do you know what skill our little boy had one of his highest ratings on? Sharing. Were we surprised? Absolutely not. He's an others-oriented person. He doesn't cry when other kids take toys from him. He probably doesn't like it, but he isn't the kid who throws a fit and kicks and screams. He likes to serve other people. He likes to compliment other people. He's sensitive. *I always tell my husband that he'll make his wife very happy one day!* But truthfully, we can learn so much from our little guy. We can learn about kindness and the impact it makes on someone else's day. Nothing warms your heart more than when a 3 year old tells you you've just made the best cereal ever! Nothing. (I should probably let General Mills and Kellogg take the credit but...I don't. I smile and get all the warm fuzzies.) Our son has a great awareness of how to encourage and lift up those around him. 
     
     How many times during your day do you have the opportunity to encourage someone else? I often think about my day and reflect on how I have or haven't "built" someone up. And I definitely work in an environment where I could do a whole lotta encouraging! God uses people like you and me (and our little boy) to be that light in someone else's life. So today, I challenge you to go forth and encourage someone in the name of 1 Thessalonians 5:11.






Friday, November 14, 2014

Let's shout it from the roof tops!

 



     We're JUMPING! I had an amazing call with one of our potential agencies today. It was such a bright spot in the beginning of this very long journey. The past few weeks have been discouraging and disappointing as we've fumbled our way through a very busy season of life. Trying to have a meaningful conversation with an agency before 4:30PM (which is when both agencies close) has seemed near impossible! It was also parent-teacher conference week for me at school...and Eric has had an abnormally busy work schedule with early mornings and extra travel. But now, we can prayerfully consider which agency is the best fit for our family. Another bright spot in this week was being blessed by our dear friend who captured these amazing shots for our family announcement! We have seen Him move in both big ways and small ways these past few weeks and we know He will continue to reveal himself to us throughout this journey. We're ready to cross an ocean to become parents again!





Sunday, November 9, 2014

World Adoption Day


November 9, 2014...The first ever World Adoption Day! Today we're celebrating the desire we have to GROW our family through adoption! We have already been blessed by adoption with a beautiful niece and nephew many years ago. We don't yet know the details of our adoption story, but God certainly does! And we are trusting in His plan. In the meantime, our hearts are growing exponentially for the next piece to our family puzzle. In the words of our kiddos..."and all God's people said...AMEN!" Amen.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

November

     Did you know that November is National Adoption Month? Well, in case you didn't... now you do! Last year, I vividly remember my Instagram feed being consumed by adoption-related posts during the month of November. *This is to be expected when you follow accounts mostly due to their ties with adoption.* But, I remember having the longing in my heart and wondering if there'd ever be a time when I could share my heart for adoption during the month of November.

     Last year wasn't the time...yet. We were still fumbling through our infertility treatments and trying to figure out what His plan might be for our family. He clearly knew, but we didn't. And so...for an entire year...the Lord grew my heart {even more}, and Eric's heart, and our kiddos' hearts...for adoption. Now, here we are in the month of November! And we can begin to share bits and pieces of our story as it unfolds. This is an Instagram Adoption Share hosted by @mixed_beautifully. We probably can't share something for every day because we just aren't very far in the process. BUT I am so thankful for the progress we've made since last year and look forward to sharing bits and pieces of our story.


Day 1: How does adoption impact you? 

     Read my post here that talks about how my heart began to grow for adoption long before Eric and I met each other. I've also begun to focus more on my own adoption as a child of God. On Wednesday nights, I've been attending an adoption class where we've been reading through Russell D. Moore's book called Adopted For Life. It's a great read for anyone. I'm sure I'll be sharing more of this book in weeks to come. 

Day 2: First Step...What was your first step like?

     Scary. As ready as I was to finally begin our adoption journey, that eagerness didn't take away the overwhelming fear that overshadows your every little step. As I've posted before, part of our first step just needed to be a jump! The reality is...we're never going to have enough money and we're never going to be completely "ready" in a process filled with unknowns. If we decide to go with the program we're currently looking into, we won't be bringing home the next piece of our puzzle for another two years...but we feel strongly about bringing home our son or daughter no matter the length of time. I saw this quote by an unknown author that really hit home for what's been on my heart these last couple of weeks...

"I always questioned if I was ready to adopt and then I realized no child was ready to be an orphan."

     Those are some pretty strong words, friends. Equally powerful was this statistic I found via Hope for Orphans. Will you join me in praying for the orphans around the world? Many churches were part of Orphan Sunday today...and it seems like a fitting place to end my post for tonight.




Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gratefulness and Proverbs 24:12

     Yesterday, I received my package from The Adopt Shoppe. The attention to detail that went into this packaging was beyond words. It was a true joy to unwrap after a busy {but fun} week.


     Anyway, The Adopt Shoppe held an Etsy sale earlier this week and I was lucky enough to snag one. If you're not aware of Kate, the creative mind behind The Adopt Shoppe, she makes precious necklaces and sells them on Etsy and sometimes Instagram. These little billboards for your heart sell like hotcakes. {Sidenote: Her Etsy shop is always empty until she holds these little sales.} For example, the sale started at 10PM (for me because we're EST) and by 10:01 everything was sold out. Like hotcakes. See? Here's my necklace I was able to put into my Etsy cart and pay for without it disappearing (which actually happens to people all the time!). 

     The little word pendant reads "grateful" which could definitely be applied in a myriad of ways to my life right now. But, of course, it was the perfect reminder for the very day I became its owner. Yesterday. Our oldest turns 5 next week and we're celebrating her birthday with family (today). Last night we did some last minute prepping and decided on "the cake." I've always made my kids' cakes. Always as in...since their 1st birthdays. I realize that our kiddos are young so I've only got 7 cakes under my belt, but it's been my "thing" to make these cakes. Until last night...when our soon-to-be birthday girl wanted a store-bought cake. Confession: I was a wreck. The request actually made my stomach upset. She picked out a sheet cake with blue frosting and nothing on top because she wanted to put Frozen figurines atop the buttercream frosted Meijer creation. *So not my thing.* But being grateful is putting my selfishness to the side and being grateful that our daughter doesn't expect grandiose things and is simply fulfilled by store-bought cakes. I am grateful. *And I got more sleep the night before a birthday party than ever before.* Gratefulness.

     As I unwrapped my TAS package and pulled out the necklace...there were also little scripture cards that Kate includes in each of her shipments. I read this particular one and tried to catch my breath a bit. It reads "Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we don't know what to do...God {who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls} knows that we know and holds us responsible to act. Proverbs 24:12


     Several months ago, Eric and I were driving to our twelve day ultrasound. This was not a new experience for us...we were embarking on our third round. As we turned off the expressway, and the hospital came into view, I began to cry. I felt so strongly that we were disobeying God's calling for our family. I shared my heart with Eric and we both agreed this would be the last trip we'd make. We prayed for His will and direction once again. A few weeks later, we felt clarity with a negative pregnancy test. Ironically, with this test, there came some hope. Again, we know people have been down much longer and harder roads than three rounds of infertility treatments. But adoption has always been on my heart...even before marriage. Three rounds was long enough. We didn't want to pretend anymore...we wanted to act. Sooooo last week, we spoke with our adoption consultant for the first time. She was WONDERFUL. We hung up the phone and had a little extra hop in our step. We're excited and hopeful and our eyes are opened to what He wants us to do.

Have a great weekend, friends!



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Joshua 1:9

     I figured it'd be a nice (adoption) break to post about our two sweet blessings the Lord has allowed us to be Mommy and Daddy to already. I'll start with our oldest.

     This precious girl will be FIVE in two weeks...how is that possible? Five!? Most days, she is a true delight. Let's be honest...she's human...and a child...so she's allowed to have days when she's not so bright and cheery. *I need to remember that.* But in all seriousness, this sweet girl has grown up so much in the last couple of months. More than anything, the Lord has grown her in the area of bravery. 


     In early August, there was an accident with one of our neighbors. In an instant, Eric and I had to get involved which meant we put our four-year old in charge of her younger brother. From the very first moment that we told her to be in charge, she took the task very seriously. I think she could tell the severity of the situation in both my voice and Eric's. She stood beside her brother at our front door...looking on at all the chaos that was unfolding. Never once did she cry. Never once did she ask what was happening. Never once did she leave her brother's side. 




"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9












     Finally, after a few hours, things began to unwind and the neighborhood began to clear of emergency vehicles. Eric and I walked back inside our house tired and in shock. (My mom had come and taken the kids a little earlier. We called her when we knew it was gong to be a while before things cleared. We didn't want the kids to be alone and she lives close by.)










     As I opened the door, I noticed one of the kids' puzzles laying at the door. I didn't think much of it...our kids love puzzles so I assumed they were passing the time while Eric and I were running around outside. It wasn't until a couple of weeks later that I learned why the puzzle had actually been there. During the weeks following the accident, our little girl asked a lot of questions. A lot of questions.  And Eric and I continued to answer every single one. I think this was the best way that we could help her deal with things that she witnessed that day. Big things for a little girl.










     One day, on our drive home, she asked about the ambulance that pulled up to our house that day. She began to go into detail about everything that she saw the paramedics do. I was speechless at the depth of her memory. She continued to describe the scenario and also went into depth about what an ambulance looked like. Then she said, "Mom, he (her brother) didn't know what it was...he kept asking about it. So I got our puzzle to teach him about it!" Tears started to build up in my eyes. The puzzle I had stepped over that day was a vehicle puzzle. It had a dump truck, a cement mixer, a police car...and an ambulance. "I remembered that our puzzle had an ambulance, Mom...so I got it to show him." How thankful I am...that on a day where things were happening in an instant, our little girl was calm and collected. She stood by her brother's side and walked him through questions of his own. 

"...Be strong and courageous...for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." He was with our daughter that day. He helped her to be strong. He helped her to be courageous. He helped her to be brave. Reflecting on all that happened that day still brings tears to my eyes. And more than anything, it makes me so thankful for how the Lord has grown our big girl. 




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sometimes I forget.

     This post is dedicated to forgetfulness. Do you ever forget things? I love how God speaks such BIG things into small moments (Have I said that before?!)...especially into moments of forgetfulness. And let me tell you, I have been forgetful a lot lately.

     Last Tuesday, I turned on my favorite Christian radio station and fought the cuties in the back seat for some adult air time. *I can only listen to the Brave story on CD so many days in a row. My kids have it memorized. And so do I.* 

     But the fight for air time was worth it because I am a music girl. Music is my jam. Get it? To further define this terrible pun: If I'm in a funk, I'll put a song on repeat to snap me out of it. Eric learned in our first year of marriage that if I disappeared after a hard day, he should check the garage...because there I'd be...sitting in the car...listening and probably crying to my song on repeat. I will also mention that music makes me do the dishes...which is pretty magical and I can be found singing ALLLLL the time in my classroom. See what I mean? I. love. music.

     Anyway, I love to start my day with a song. At this particular moment in the radio show, there was quite a bit of talking. The kiddos were getting a little anxious about all of the "talking" and kept asking for their story. I reminded them I was going to wait and see if one of our songs was going to come on..I needed a song. I've been feeling just a little overwhelmed and emotional with life lately so I shot up a quick arrow prayer. (as my Dad would call it). Lord, I need a song...let me know that You haven't forgotten me. I need a song to start my day. Well...I got a song...but it wasn't necessarily the song I was hoping would play. Maybe I should've been more specific in my prayer request. But then again, what a silly request?! Give me a song?! Who says that?! Sometimes I forget that my faith in Him cannot be measured by these moments. God cannot be defined by His answer to our arrow prayers.

     I went about my day as usual. Tuesdays just happen to be very long days for me. Sometimes I forget to focus on what's important during busy seasons of life...and Tuesdays are no exception. On Tuesdays (only until November) I work with a special after-school program. It starts at 4:30 and ends close to 9PM. I quickly left school that Tuesday and grabbed some fast food to scarf down in the parking lot. As I sat there, moping about not seeing my kids, and wondering what time Eric could pick them up from day care...my song came on. This song. Glorious Unfolding. And in an instant, I became hopeful. You see, lately, I've been forgetful...but in that moment, I remembered. He has not forgotten about me and He knew I needed my song in this moment...not earlier.

     Sometimes I forget that I'm not in control...and last week was just another example of my forgetfulness. The house down the street from us just sold...in one day. ONE...day. Our house has been on the market for two and a half months. That may not seem like a long time (or maybe it does!), but when you've already put an offer on a new house and have had said offer accepted...two and a half months seems like an eternity. Eric and I began to make assumptions on how this house sold so quickly. We battled feelings of frustration and discouragement for a couple of days. Then two days later...God reminded us that HE is in control with an email from our realtor. Our agency was the one that ended up selling the house. Not the listing agency. That's a good thing...we're in the right place with the right agency. Now I remember.

     The list of things I've forgotten lately is long. It's filled with thoughts of inadequacies as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, and as a teacher. It's a list I can get so easily caught up in and use it to define my daily grind with too. But sometimes I forget that the devil is active and seeks out my fleshy weaknesses. Sometimes I forget that these inadequacies are not God's thoughts, but they can be the devil's try at breaking me down when I'm already weak. These times of forgetfulness happen when I'm not focusing on God.

    I don't like being forgetful. It's discouraging and hopeless. It makes my Tuesdays longer than they really are...so yesterday, on a Tuesday...I chose to remember. I remembered that God is in control and I'm not. I remembered that even when I think He's forgotten me, He remembers me...always! I remembered that He has placed so many genuine and caring people in our life. The kind of people who send you an encouraging text and let you know that they're praying for you. The kind of people that lift you up when you need it most. God is never forgetful...and let me tell you...I am so thankful for that, friends.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Galations 6:9

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galations 6:9

     Saturday was one of those days where I felt His presence so, soo strongly. Did I say strongly? It was a day that started with early morning waffles and two sweethearts. Sticky syrup, sentimental prayers, and lots of little giggles. It was a day that started off well. It also became a day where I had the chance to sneak away to the store for some alone time. (Cue the Hallelujah chorus!) Groceries are a necessity every now and then, ya know? And sometimes, store trips are easier without little paws grabbing items off the shelf.

     While at the store, I received some news that was beyond exciting. At the same time, this news hardly kept discouragement at bay. Someone near and dear to my heart was expecting again. This is the second person that I know who is expecting. And I assure you...there is excitement. These are some of my closest friends. And children?! They are an absolute blessing! After all, they are the whole reason I started this blog. But exciting news for other people is still hard to take sometimes. It tends to stir up emotions I'm not proud of...so I pray. I pray for joy instead of bitterness. I pray for blessings upon blessings upon blessings. "Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him." Psalm 127:3

    I pulled into the driveway, quite mopey and holding back tears. I made myself feel like an adult and got the mail. I noticed some "good" mail...you know, the no-bill kind of mail. I quickly flipped through the stack to find a pink package and two cards.

     The pink package...hmmm what did I order?! Eric is going to kill me. Oh wait. This was a pre-ordered item from late summer. Phew. It was a t-shirt I had ordered to help with an adoption fundraiser.

     First card...hmmm I looked at the return address. Yep. From Eric's sister. Birthday invites for our niece and nephew. They have birthdays just after our Sydney. Yikes...I don't have Sydney's invites out yet.

    Next card...hmmm I look at the return address. Dear friends of ours...no birthday parties...maybe a note of encouragement. We are blessed with an amazing support group at our church. It is not unlike our group to send out little "Hey, thinking about you!" notes from time to time.

     I stuck the mail underneath my arm and began to load up the mule my arms with grocery bags. I proceeded to stumble into the house, carefully lifted up my arm at such an angle so as to only drop the mail on the couch and not disrupt the weight and balance game I had going with my grocery bags. I unloaded about 300 bags into the house. I finally plopped down onto the couch for the "good" mail.

     Pink package...my Refuse Small Love t-shirt. So excited to be a billboard for someone's heart and wear the reminder for myself. Do big. Love big. (Love that song by Jamie Grace)

     First card...birthday invites indeed...bowling and Build-a-bear...we can't wait! Our kids will have a blast...who am I kidding? So will their parents!

     Next card...I open the envelope and take out the card. Flowers on the front, but no words. I open the card thinking the words of encouragement will soothe my aching soul. But before I can read words, I see something else. I can only respond with tears. Niagara Falls tears. The kind of tears that make my husband drop what he is doing and come rushing over to see if I'm in pain. The kind of tears where my kiddos are brought to silence (rare) wondering if their mom is going to be OK. Three sets of arms put themselves around me...as I cup my face, gasping for air. They wait...and wait...and wait. I fumble with the card and set it on Eric's lap. He opens it up and puts his head down...completely speechless.

    God had completely overwhelmed us with the contents of this card. With this card, the Lord held us tightly and let us know that there can be children in our future. He reminded us that in HIS time, He will bless us and reward our family. He showed us through the generosity of some of our dearest friends that where there are two or more gathered in His name, He is there also. He has not forgotten about us. The contents of this card were so unfathomable that honestly, there will not be a SINGLE day that goes by where I am not brought to tears by the generosity of our brothers and sisters in Christ. This card was the exact embrace that I (WE) needed on a hard day. The contents within this card have allowed us to jump in, friends. Right now! We are ready to JUMP and I've got quite the cannonball planned. EEK!



   

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

There's always crying in baseball...

     That famous movie line "There's no crying in baseball" definitely doesn't ring true in my life...both metaphorically speaking and literally-speaking. I enjoyed playing sports in high school. In fact, I was a very competitive person, sometimes maybe a little TOO competitive. But being competitive didn't guard me from crying when frustrations came along. Whether it was volleyball, basketball, or softball...there were sometimes tears. And then there's life in general. I mean...I'm just a cryer. Ask my husband. Ask my sisters. Ask my Mom. I'm the type of person who cries in movies...especially kids' ones. I cry at all those special stories on ESPN. I cry when my friends are crying. I'm really quite good at crying. Can that be a spiritual gift?! Sometimes though...I wish I wasn't good at crying. I wish I didn't cry so. darn. easily.

     On Sunday, our pastor ended his sermon with some blank index cards. He asked each of us to write down a prayer or "thing" that we were going through in our lives. He wanted to remind us that we can give these things over to Him. You know...Let go and let God type of stuff. With our written prayers in hand, he invited us up to the front of the church to give these things over to God. One by one, members of our congregation went up with prayers and dropped them into a basket. Admittedly, I really wanted to co-write one with Eric. "I'll have what he's having" type of thing. I feel like a broken record sometimes with my heart's desire. Maybe I could move on to something else. Be something else. So I sat for a long time and watched other people go up and lay their prayers before God. Maybe I won't even write one. Then, I saw Eric writing. Ok, so we're not co-authoring this thing. I'm on my own. I peeked at what he was writing. Bless him. His prayer was about our neighbor who had been badly injured in a fire. And here I was..."thing"less before God because all I can think about is this ONE thing that consumes me. All the time as of late. And quite frankly, it seems selfish. It's all about me and what I want. So no. I'm not going to write it. But then again, I need to write it. I need God's help with this thing. It cannot consume me. I need HIM to consume me and take control of this thing. I can't be in control. So I covered up my index card and chicken-scratched my thing onto the index card. There. Fine. I wrote it. Eric and I got up and walked to the front of the church.

    Cue the crying, friends. I mean cryyyyyiiiinning. I barely made it to the basket before the tears set in. I was so overcome with emotions because like I said this "thing" is consuming my life. It's paralyzing me. Even as I'm writing this post, I might make this MacBook short out on me from a puddle of salty tears. But God isn't letting me move on from this thing. I don't think I'm supposed to move on. Last Wednesday, I sat in church at 7PM and listened to a dear friend share her heart. She was speaking about adoption. She and her husband had hit a few roadblocks and were trying to figure out if they were to have a family or not. She finally prayed to God to take away the overwhelming ache in her heart. She ached so much for a child and she cried out before Him..."Lord, if this isn't Your will...then please take this feeling away. I need to get rid of this feeling in my heart." Let me tell you...that ache she was praying about? It's the real deal. Trust me. I would love to feel full instead of empty. I would love to be content with where I am right now. After all, God has blessed Eric and I in so many ways. We have two beautiful children who give me joy every day. They also bring some other emotions too...but joy nonetheless. How selfish of me to want something more? How selfish of me to not be content with what He has given me? But still...there's this ache in my heart. There's a longing that I can't always describe or get over.
   
     My thing is to adopt and be a Mom again. And I wish I could snap my fingers and make this thing go away sometimes. Because this thing is hard. And it hurts. This thing is paralyzing. It has made me tearful more times than I can count in the last month. But instead of shoving this thing deep inside my heart...I need God to take this thing out. I need God to help me define this thing and name it. I need Him to help me commit to it and embrace it. Right now, I'm just trying to hide it and keep it a "thing." Will there be tears as we wade through the muddiness of this thing? You bet! And you know what...I'll be really good at that part. Remember that jump rope? Well it's that birthday chant again...and our September has come and gone friends...it's time to jump in. Tears here I come...I'm ready.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

God Told Me It Was For You

My dad called during the last week of August...he lives across the country so aside from a visit during the summer and around Christmas, we talk on the phone to keep up with one another. It was a typical conversation...he asked how school was going, how the kids were doing, how the house situation was going (we were trying to move)...the usual "catch up" topics. As our conversation began to near its end, he said "There was something I was going to tell you...but I can't remember what it was..." He assured me that when he thought of it, he would let me know. So we hung up.

Minutes later, my phone rang. It was my Dad again. "I remembered what it was." He proceeded to ask me if I had heard the song by Steven Curtis Champan called Glorious Unfolding. I had heard it on our Christian radio station many times. Then he asked me, "Have you listened to the lyrics?" To be honest, I really hadn't. Our kiddos tend to have favorites on KLOVE and so if one of their songs isn't on, we typically resort to good ole "kids' music" as my kiddos refer to it...CDs kept on hand ranging anywhere from Fisher-Price Sunday School Songs to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to Sofia the First. "Well listen to the first verse and the chorus," my dad said. I agreed to and we hung up. In case you haven't had a chance to "listen" to the lyrics...I've attached a link to the video below.


Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding
(lyrics found at www.songlyrics.com)

I listened...and immediately texted my dad that I had never paid attention to those lyrics before. And as I listened for the "first" time...I couldn't help but cry. It was exactly how I had felt for so long...and how encouraged I had been recently. My dad texted back "...God told me it was for you." I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit works on our behalf through the lives of others. The fact that our heartaches and worries can be laid upon the hearts of others that they may pray or encourage us in some way...wow. For that, I am so grateful.

Here's the best part...I had just read a recent blog post THAT SAME DAY over at www.leahbraly.com called Adoption Fundraising: Where Do We Start? In the post, Leah encouraged prospective adoptive families to start a blog to share their story with others. I have always loved writing so I was on board with this great suggestion. But I didn't know what to name the blog. I tried a couple blog names based on favorite scripture, but apparently many others had that same great idea. HA! After an hour or so...I tabled the idea and hoped for more direction. Enter: My Dad's text...and therefore, our blog name. What an encouragement we have in the lyrics of Steven Curtis Chapman's song. Our story is far from over...and there is so much more of our story yet to unfold.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jumping Rope

"When I call your birthday, please jump in! January, February, March, April..."

Anyone know what I'm talking about? Perhaps this post will date me...but I remember jumping rope with my friends at recess during grade school. Aside from "Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear," we loved doing the birthday chant. As we all called out the months, I'd start getting the rhythm of the jump rope going round and round...waiting for that perfect moment to JUMP IN! Luckily, my birthday is in September so I had eight months to feel comfortable enough before I had to commit to the rhythmic swinging. When September came around, I'd wait for the jump rope to reach its perfect climax so I could jump in and not mess up those waiting for October through December.

Do you ever feel like this with life? Do you ever feel like you need time to get used to the rhythm of something, and then you find yourself just waiting for that perfect moment to jump in?! This has been our experience with life over the past year. There's been a rhythm building in our hearts and we're getting ready to jump. There's fear that the rope will stop swinging, and we'll break the rhythm, but God reminds us in Philippians 4:6 that we shouldn't be anxious about anything. With prayer, we can present our requests to Him and be sure that even if the rope stops, it can continue swinging with His help. God is creating a rhythm, friends. Will you pray that we move to His rhythm and not our own? Here's to jumping...very soon.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Isn't It Time For Another?

I suppose when you have a baby 2 months into your marriage and then have another baby 21 months later...this question isn't totally out in left field. But let me say that life's circumstances have made me extremely sensitive to these five words. "Isn't it time for another?" Not only do I cringe when I hear these words...but I definitely won't say these words to anyone. Not anymore. I've learned to be very humble about this perspective over the last 2 years.

Shortly after our brown-eyed boy (child #2) turned 1, we decided we would start trying to grow our family again. After almost a year of negative pregnancy tests, we decided that maybe something was wrong and we should consult a doctor. We worked with my doctor for a few months before we were referred to a fertility specialist. The fertility specialist seemed optimistic and we tried some things...then we tried some more things. And finally, after crying before the Lord as we drove to the hospital for a 12 day ultrasound...only to find out later that we weren't having "another"...we decided we were done. We were done trying. It wasn't time.

We hadn't tried like this before...in fact, we hadn't really tried much at all with our first two. God has a wonderful way of humbling you in times like these. You see, when you make plans like "I want to be done having kids by the time I'm 30"...God will take those words and turn them into vapors...because they aren't His words...they're our own fleshy words. So here I sit...a FRESH 30 year old (as of yesterday) and what I really long for is another child. It almost makes me laugh. How silly to think that I can make these plans. I do appreciate a good sense of humor- one that humbles you and brings you to your knees in the most honest way.

Two years. In the scheme of waiting and trying, two years can mean so many different things. I have friends that have waited and tried longer. I have friends that didn't have to wait and try as long. Every story is different. But the longing isn't. The hurt isn't. The bitterness and anger aren't different. For two years, I've had to smile and say something stupid to that five-word question. I've fumbled so many times in the last two years. Some fumbles are prettier than others. Some fumbles are just plain ugly...full of hurt and anger...because the truth is...if it were up to us...we'd have another! Maybe even another, another! And to be honest, I have responded with those feelings as of late. I've responded poorly to people's lack of perspective. Funny that even though God extends me grace, I don't always extend it when I should. Talk about conviction. The reality of those words is that it isn't time for another. God is in charge of defining "another" and when he/she will come. Some days, God's answer to that question is easier to understand than others. But we trust and we wait. And pray for peace and understanding every single second in between. So my answer to that five-word question is, "It isn't time for another. Not yet."


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Becoming an Aunt Grew My Heart

My older sister and I are 11 years apart while my youngest sister and I are 18 months apart. Was this purposeful? It depends on who you ask. If you asked my parents, they'd tell you no. They tried to grow their family for 11 years. But I'm guessing if you asked God...He'd say "Yes!" It was HIS purpose. We can see the purpose now, but His purpose isn't always understood as it's unfolding in front of you.

Despite the age range between us, I consider my older sister one of my best friends. Growing up, however, our relationship wasn't the case simply because there was such an age difference. I more than likely played the role of "annoying younger sister" at all sleepovers and hangouts. But as I became older, our relationship grew closer. I remember going off to college my freshman year and calling my oldest sister to talk about the hard adjustment I was having to college life. Luckily, I had followed in her footsteps and was attending Miami University just as she and her now husband had many years before. I had fond memories of Oxford and had vividly remembered visiting her in college for Lil Sibs Weekend. My youngest sister and I loved cramming into her dorm or apartment room to spend the night. I think these memories and visits to the quaint town really grew my desire to become a Miami graduate too. I was so thankful to have my sister to talk with and share my experiences. It allowed our relationship to grow.

Years after my oldest sister and her husband were married...they began the adoption journey to bringing home my nephew and niece. My nephew came home at 4 months old from Guatemala and my niece came home from China at 10 months old. What a blessing it was to be an AUNT for the first time. Now, at ages 12 and 11, I can't imagine our lives without them.

These experiences with my nephew and niece grew my heart for international adoption. At an age when marriage for me didn't seem in the very near future, I still remember thinking that I wanted to adopt some day. I probably didn't comprehend the true hardship, both emotionally or financially, but God sparked a little flame the day I became an aunt.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Our Story: As It's Been Written So Far

My husband, Eric, and I have known each other since I was in sixth grade. He was my best friend's cousin and my best friend and I did everything together.  I'd go with her to family gatherings for holidays and birthdays. Her family was like a second family to me...I knew them all very well.

When I was in eighth grade, I remember my best friend asking me if I wanted Eric's senior pictures. Yes, pictures plural. I took every single one. Can you say crush?! Now if you're thinking that I was in eighth grade and Eric was a senior in high school...you're right. I can assure you a relationship did not start here. In fact, a relationship did not start for quite some time. Fast forward to my senior year in college...when Eric was working in the "real world" and I was finishing my final year as a future elementary teacher. We had reconnected during this time and decided to start dating towards the end of my time at Miami University (OH). By the time we started "officially" dating, we knew it was only a matter of time before we would get engaged and make our relationship "official, official." (That was a lot of "official" usage!)

Eric and I were married on December 27, 2008. I have so many fond memories of that day. We love to tell people the story about how I had a crush on Eric in eighth grade. We also love to share with people (that weren't at our wedding), that we literally experienced every type of weather known to man in the dead of winter. Snow emergences, extreme fog, sixty degree weather, and torrential downpours. All.of.it. Eric and I were excited to start our life as Mr. and Mrs. We were also excited to find out that we would learn the ropes of being a "Mommy" and "Daddy" towards the end of October. Not quite a honeymoon baby...but close!

Starting a family was something that was important and urgent for Eric and I. We did not want to wait to have kids...mostly because my mom and older sister had experienced struggles with infertility. We wanted to start a family right away and God was faithful in giving us a beautiful little girl on October 29, 2009. We celebrated our very first Christmas as husband and wife...and also as Mommy and Daddy.


Parenthood was more than we could have imagined. It was all those wonderful feelings wrapped up in one sweet and precious package. Our little package had rolls upon rolls and cheeks and chins for days...and we were in love. On Thanksgiving day the following year, we were overjoyed to find out that our little turkey (who had just turned one) would become a BIG sister! We would become a family of 4 near the end of July. On July 22, 2011, we welcomed a sweet little boy into our family. We were so thankful that God provided yet another opportunity for us to be parents. 





Eric and I loved being parents. It was such a gift and we were so thankful that God had chosen us to be a Mommy and Daddy to these two precious kiddos. As we began to talk about growing our family, we were so excited to think about the possibility of having three or four kiddos. We would follow His calling for whatever His plan was for our family. And if that meant five kiddos...we would welcome that too!