2014 Recap: what a year it has been!

Last December at this time we were driving home from Virginia and maximizing the car time to goal plan for the coming year. We had hopes, dreams, and items to check-off our ‘to do’ list. We were ready and excited about the coming year!

I’m so thankful we didn’t know then what we were driving back to. We got home and almost immediately faced cancer (again). Suddenly our hopes and goals went out the window and each day felt like the best we could do was just get through it. And get through it we did, all by God’s grace.

Spring rolled around, the snow melted, the hair slowly grew back and we got the good news of ‘all clear’! After having had to postpone all adoption plans we were eager to get back to it and get all the updated approvals we needed. Summer came and it looked like we would be able to bring our boy home in September. We started hoping and dreaming and prepping for another son. Little did we know that by August we would lose our referral and be back to square one. Telling our kids the sad news was miserable. Their tears and ‘why’s’ echoed what we felt in our hearts, too. Why had we gone through so much and come so far to get stopped once again? Only God knows and again, it felt like the best we could do was just get through one day at a time.

Leaves fell and autumn emerged, both kids were in school full-time. My life did not look at all how I had pictured it back when we plotted out 2014 goals. So now what? We decided it would be best for me to get another job and try to embrace the season of life God had given us. Adoption was put on the shelf indefinitely as our agency made it clear that our odds were not good.

Back at the end of 2013 I had written in my journal that I was praying God would be glorified in our new year of 2014. What I meant was that I was hoping our adoption would speed through in record time and amazing ease, all to God’s credit. I certainly did not picture God receiving glory through our struggles! Glory came through victories!

Right? Right?!

Well, God is good and he was glorified in our 2014, struggles and all. He carried us through a really scary time of cancer. He strengthened our marriage as we sat side by side at chemo. He grew the character and faith in our children as they watched sickness and then health restored. He surrounded us with community, both old and new, that supported us, loved us, and prayed us through to clear scans.

God is good when we lost our referral and through tear-stained cheeks he gave us a sense of HIS peace. We had confidence that if God wanted that boy to join our family, then he would have made a way. For whatever reason that way was not made and God was glorified as we learned to trust him more. God was glorified when we broke the news to family and friends and they responded with love and not anger. God was glorified when our kids decided to still earnestly pray for sweet boy, knowing he would now not be their brother, but trusting God would give him a family to love.

God was glorified most this past year when through all our struggles we learned to trust him more, no matter the circumstances. I would like to hope 2015 would be an easier year in comparison. I am all too eager to say goodbye to 2014!! But, I also know that no matter what is in store for us this coming year, we will be okay because God is still God and his love endures forever.

You know what? I bet you had a crazy year, too. Maybe you faced struggles, transitions, health issues, loss, and unmet expectations. Maybe you are headed into a year of difficult circumstances and are wondering how you will make it through. I don’t have any grand words of wisdom, but I can say with confidence that God’s grace is sufficient and his love is enough to get you through each and every one of those days. He is most glorified in our lives not when when everything is picture perfect, but when we truly trust him in all things.

My hopes and dreams for 2015 are different than last year. My prayer is simply that I would trust God more and my hope is to love others with the lavish love God has given. (I can’t wait to love a certain little girl that currently lives half a world away!)

My prayer for you is that no matter how crazy and messy your year was or will be, that you would experience the never-stopping, never-giving-up, always and forever love of Jesus. His love that would come to this messy earth to live among us and offer the greatest sacrifice to give us a HOPE.

One of the best moments of this past year happened on a muddy river bank, serving as a visual reminder that it doesn’t matter the mess we are standing in ~ God is glorified.

MissE made the decision to be baptized, professing her faith in Jesus as her Savior.

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Happy New Year! May you experience God’s love and faithfulness in 2015.

Less of me

The trip was great, but also really hard. I felt like I was doing all the weeks of the 7 study combined into one. We ate the same foods, wore the same dirty clothes, slept on hard bunks, shared a room with another couple, showered in cold water, sweat all day, tried to only drink the ‘clean’ water, had no privacy, and struggled to communicate.

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Day one I fell in the river. My first ‘taste’ of the water in the only pair of jeans I packed.

The first day was a transition into this reality and the next few days we all adjusted and it felt fine. No big deal! I got this!

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The water is fine for the locals (and for those that have lived there long enough for their systems to adjust).

Then I got sick and the stretching conditions were magnified. In particular the day I felt the worst I just lay in bed and wished for home. I felt like such a wimp! (I’m totally blaming it on old age!)

I lay in bed, wishing for the comforts of home. I wanted my own bed, my ‘normal’ food, and my own private, ehm, master bathroom.

I felt like God was saying to me, “You know what, you talk the talk a lot. like a lot, a lot. You sign up for the causes, buy the t-shirts, read the books, and write checks. Enough talking. Now you need to walk the walk.”

Insert crying and gnashing of teeth.

But, God, I will gladly continue to give, donate, and speak up…..just please, PLEASE, give me clean water. PLEASE?!

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Here come the boys with our drinking water.

Day 9 we made our way down from the mountain and were told we would be staying at a swanky condo for our last night in Honduras. We all felt giddy with joy. The condo had AC. The condo had clean water. The condo had hot water. The condo had private bedrooms for each couple. Ah, the condo. We were in love.

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The beach a few blocks away from the condo.

Then plans changed and changed again and we ended up at a much less swanky hotel for the night. Everything was still good, though, because by all appearances they had clean and hot water. Or so we thought.

Enter day 10. We woke up anxious about our day of traveling home, but excited for at least a good shower before we left. Wait a second? There is no water.

NOT A DROP OF WATER

So much for complaining about no hot/clean water, now we had no water. None. Zero.

Talk about wake up call.

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He managed to make it out of Honduras without getting sick (unlike the rest of us), but his luck ran out after eating a bit too much processed food once we hit U.S. soil.

When we finally made it home I cried in the shower. It felt so amazing to have clean, hot water raining down on me. Then I just felt so horrible that I have clean water every..single..day. Much of the rest of the world goes without clean water or they have to travel for miles for water or get it from a dirty creek.

It was such a good experience. Less of me. Less of my privileged life. Less of my personal comfort. Less of my limited worldview. More of Jesus. More of his people. More of his work around the world. More of his perspective. More of his heart for the hurting.

“The goal is not self-actualization, the goal is Christ –realization.” Christine Caine*

I also have to say that I have a sincere respect for missionaries that are willing to leave their comforts of home to serve wherever God calls them. I loved the staff and volunteers at Give Hope 2 Kids. They were so positive! I never heard them complain. We asked them what (besides family) they missed about home and they said things like carpet or certain foods, but every single one of them said they wouldn’t trade living there for anything. Nothing is a sacrifice when sacrificed for God.

* Take a moment to listen to Christine Caine’s podcast titled ‘Die to Self’

 

Honduras here we come!

The days are zooming past. Two weeks ago I had all these deep, reflective thoughts I wanted to share about our trip to Honduras. But, I didn’t write them down and now I’m almost out of time.

Alas, iPhone blogging will have to do.

We are excited about our trip! The packing, planning, and prepping is almost complete. I think of a million tasks that still need to be done as soon as my head hits the pillow. Overall, though, things have come together.

We have almost 100 pairs of crocs to bring, a guitar, a pressure washer, 27 soccer balls, frisbees, bubbles, Spanish children’s bibles, craft supplies, English lesson supplies, gifts, and so much more. I have no idea how it will all fit in our luggage, but James assures me it will.

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My prayer last week was that we would live to return after reading an article about the crime in our arrival country. This week I am letting go of fear and praying the love of Jesus shines through all we do. That is the reason we are going. We love Jesus and want to love people like Jesus does.

I will leave you with the words received in a card from a friend that sums up a lot of what I am feeling and thinking as we prepare to leave.

“You are just a few days away from hoping on a plane and flying down to Honduras. Your emotions are no doubt all over the place – from excitement to the fear of the unknown, the sadness of leaving your previous children behind, to the God- given longing to hold and love on some other of God’s children.

 

I want you to know that I will be praying for you each and everyday you are gone and this is part if my prayer:

‘And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things, at all times, you may abound in every good work’ 2 Cor 9:8

That you will ‘abound in every good work!’

 

Your going and doing is what LOVE DOES *. May your heart be broken for that which breaks our Lord’s heart. But may the hope and joy of our saving Lord not let your heart be troubled, but take heart, he has overcome the world, the poverty, the injustice, the unloved…

 

I’m proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone and loving with a deep, selfless love. I pray The Lord ‘interrupts’ you time and time again with divine appointments and you will come home with many ‘Hallelujah Jesus’ stories to share!”

 

* Our small group has been reading Love Does. I highly recommend it. Our motto for this trip comes from the book…”Just say YES!” and “Why not?” We are saying YES! and praying God uses this time to do his work.

Everything must go, except that darling blonde boy!

 

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Beautiful Birthday Weekend

Another year has come and gone for me. I’m big into goal-setting and planning so milestones like birthdays always cause me to pause and reflect. I think I almost reached my goal of getting 30 children sponsored this year through World Vision. (If you didn’t get a chance to sign up for sponsorship there is still time! Sign up today! You won’t regret it.)

Overall though, I feel like this past year involved a lot of stretching. We had no idea cancer would be part of this year’s story or that a move was around the corner or that our wait time would extend even longer. Still, God knew, and he walked us through each of those things, growing and stretching our faith.  All in all, I am so thankful for another year of life. I feel immensely fortunate for my family, friends, and faith. Life really is just a vapor, gone so fast. I’m trying my best to enjoy these moments I have and to live in a way that honors God.

“Yet you do not knowwhat your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” James 4:14

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.’” Ephesians 5:1

This past weekend was an example of just really trying to count God’s gifts in my life and it started with the best gift of all; a newborn nephew! This cute little boy was born to my brother and his wife. We love them dearly and know they will be great parents.

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Then we headed up north where my first-born planned a birthday party for me, complete with food, decorations, gifts, and games. She knows me well and bought me a Starbucks gift card. I love her!

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We enjoyed all the cabin has to offer including, fishing, sunset cruises, tubing, trampoline time, kayaks, bonfires, bike ride, and lots of card games.

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A good time was had by all, but we came home EXHAUSTED! Then this week was VBS, so we are still trying to catch up on rest. Some of us are better at that then others ;)

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Summer fun

Summer is is flying by and we are loving it. We kicked off the summer with our slip and slide, which soon became the neighborhood hit.

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The following week MissE got to go to a VBS day camp with her BFF.

 

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After that, my bff stopped by for a quick visit. She came because they were meeting with their social working because, you guessed it, they are ADOPTING!! It is so wonderful when my good friends become adopting friends. :)

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Somewhere in there was Father’s day and we celebrated having such cool dads with ice cream. We love our dads!

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Then MissE had soccer camp (she was one of two girls that signed up for the co-ed camp). She loved it and Junior and I loved our mornings at the park.

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Then summer felt like it officially started with a trip to the beach.

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Then there were a couple cabin trips (we hope to make a lot more!!)

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I’d like to just camp out in this chair for the rest of the summer.

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We even got to bring some friends to the cabin!

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This week was volleyball camp. Hello to the era of ridiculous sports t-shirts. Really?

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We got to spend one more beach day with some dear friends before they pack up and move away for a month or two.

 

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Finally, while picking up an item we purchased from craigslist the seller let MissE try out his little violin. He was so impressed with her creative skills he exclaimed, “She can have it! You must get her lessons!” Hhhhmmmm, is creative really the word to use for a child playing a violin? Who wants to give her lessons?!

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That is run-down of our past few weeks. Somewhere in there I also have been teaching three classes and have managed to stay up-to-date on grading. Happy Summer!!

Thankful Maundy Thursday

Easter isn’t my favorite.

I’m not a fan of the chocolate bunnies, the stuffed Easter baskets, and the colored eggs.

More so, I tend to shy away from the Easter story. I don’t like to read about my Savior’s death, even when I know the resurrection is just around the corner. It makes me cringe to think about it all and I can’t handle the gore.

Even still, I got out my bible this morning and forced myself to read it.

I was at the point where Pilate’s wife says she had a dream about the innocent man and then Pilate washes his hands of it all, too (Matt 27:19,24). They knew he was innocent. They knew he shouldn’t have to die.

Still the crowd yells in reply, “Let his blood be on us and on our children” (Matt 27:25).

I had to stop there.

I know he was innocent. I know he shouldn’t have had to die. This is what makes me cringe at the story, but the fact still remains that I NEED the story.

They were asking for his blood.

I am asking for his blood.

By his wounds I am healed and by his blood I am redeemed. In his blood is forgiveness and oh how thankful I am for that forgiveness. It saves my soul, soothes my heart, and gives me hope for the future.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving your life in payment for my ugly sin. You didn’t have to, but you did and the world has never been the same.

 

The best part of the story comes on Sunday, but we live in that celebration everyday. We painted eggs with the kids and then went through the resurrection eggs. Junior yelled out in joy when we came to the last egg and it was empty. He knew the answer, “Because Jesus is ALIVE!

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One Year

Today marks one year for us on the Honduras adoption list. I have a range of emotions and I’m hesitant to write about it because I feel like I don’t have the perspective yet that I need. I’m confident that in a year or two I will look back at this day and have deep, insightful thoughts about purpose and meaning and timing.

But, today is today and my perspective is this moment.

They told us a year ago that the goal was to match families within a year of being put on the list. I was so optimistically hopeful that by today we would be a family of five sitting around the dinner table. At the very least I was hopeful we would know the name, face, and gender of our soon to be 5th family member.

365 days later, we sit at #31, with an empty bed that longs to be filled.

Tomorrow I’ll write about all the ways God has answered our prayers over these past 12 months, but today I am sad. I am sad to still be waiting when my heart has said all along, ‘go!’

We have had to walk through some tough stuff this year, and it wasn’t the tough stuff I pictured. I envisioned attachment issues and sleep problems and cultural differences. Instead we faced cancer and friends moving away and transition at church and leaking pipes.

I have felt adrift these past months, like being tossed here and there by waves. It’s hard to find my footing when the biggest waves come unseen. I want to be on dry land, on the other side of this all, but truth be told I’m not sure where the dry land is and all I see is sea.

We have been memorizing James 1 as a family. Last week’s verse was

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

 

This week’s verse is even more fitting.

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It’s hard to be waiting and longing for that next little person to join our family. It’s difficult to lack a clear time frame. It puts my stomach in knots to know about the global orphan crisis and to sit and wait. It’s sweet to hear the kids pray for their sibling, but heartbreaking to not have that child near. Today I am sad.

Even still, I believe that God hears our prayers and that he wants to give generously. I believe he loves children and desires for them to be in families not stuck in orphanages.  I believe that he will grow our family through adoption (in his timing). I believe that this sea around us is for a purpose and that this season has significance. I believe we will touch dry ground. I don’t know when or why or how just yet, but give me a year or two and I’ll let you know.

Until then, pray for us. Pray that today, we would feel God’s comfort and tomorrow we would feel his hope.

Thanks for following us on this journey and allowing me a sad day.

Book Review: These is My Words

I asked for some book recommendations on facebook recently and ‘These is my Words’ came with rave reviews.

These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.)

 

I devoured it after it came in at the library. The book had action, adventure, romance, and realness. There is something for everyone, so I am guessing you would like it, too. As was the case in ‘The Help’, I had to get past the incorrect grammar, but it was well worth it. Besides you read this blog, so you probably have already adjusted to poor grammar.

I loved the heroine!  She was brave, independent, spunky, opinionated and yet tender-hearted. (You can see how I would relate to such a character.) I didn’t want the book to end and I’m secretly hoping maybe they’ll make it into a tv series or movie (in my mind this would be a better idea than in reality, as such things tend to kill a good story).

The added benefit of reading this book is it will make your life look like cake. I mean, seriously, my life is incredibly easy compared to the time period. I read the book wrapped up in my electric blanket sipping my hot tea in my cozy home. Yet, some things stay the same through all ages…

“Children are a burden to a mother, but not the way a heavy box is to a mule. Our children weigh hard on my heart, and thinking about them growing up honest and healthy, or just living to grow up at all, makes a load in my chest that is bigger than the safe at the bank, and more valuable to me than all the gold inside it.” (pg 303)

 

Oh are my children a wonderful burden. A burden I thank God for every day. In fact, I pray that he would increase that burden, if you know what I mean.

Thankful Thursday: FOOD

Okay, last week was tea, this week is food, but seriously I am thankful for FOOD.

A couple weeks ago I started doing the 7 Experiment: Staging your own mutiny against excess with some friends. This past week (note week, not month like in the original book) was food week. I ate only seven foods.

1. Chicken 2. Eggs
3. spinach
4. apples
5. avacados
6. whole grain bread
7. TEA :)

Seven foods for a week was really a breeze in that it was easy meal prep, food I liked, and healthy. Plus, I had already cut out coffee the week before. All in all, I felt really good after the week was over. However, the biggest challenge was missing ‘snack’ time and my after-the-kids-are-in-bed treat. Right, doesn’t every mom have that?

I also had to count how many food items we had in the house and discovered a full bag of Lindt truffles. Those are my absolute FAVORITE, so it was torture to have to put them back on the shelf without consuming even just one.

I had to go grocery shopping during the week to feed the kids (they weren’t too keen on a week of spinach). While in the grocery store I was overwhelmed by choices, choices, choices. We just have so many options, even buying whole grain bread, there were multiple shelves to pick from. I was also suddenly aware of my impulse ‘oooh, that looks yummy’ purchases. I said no to those impulses, but realized just how frequently I eat based on that feeling of “I want that food item right now because I suddenly desire it and I can have it”.

So, yes, I am thankful for food.

I am Thankful that I live in a country where food is plentiful.

I am thankful that I have the ability to feed my children Every. Single. Day. (this is a luxury many in the world do not have).

I am not thankful that my children take this for granted and throw away good food (in which I resist temptation to dig it out of the trash, because eating only seven foods has indeed left me a wee bit hungry). But, I am encouraged that we can do better at eating what we have, only buying what we need, and always being generous in sharing with others.

I dare you to eat only seven foods for a week and see what new insights you have.

Top Reads of 2012

I think I read less this year than last, but here are my top five picks. I dare you to read them.

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess  7 by Jen Hatmaker - about shedding excess. What American doesn’t need to read this?

Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul  Anything by Jennie Allen – about surrendering to God anything and embracing the beauty that comes with it.

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and RedemptionKisses from Katie by Katie Davis- About the courage to go, alone, to a foreign country and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Just try reading those top three without having your heart challenged. Seriously. Try it.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better StoryA Millions miles in a Thousand Years by Donal Miller – About taking risk in order to live a great story.

Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday LifeCold Tangerines by Shauna Niequest about celebrating everyday life.

These are all non-fiction picks. I did read some fiction including John Grisham and an occasional Nicholas Sparks. With those two you always know exactly what kind of story you are getting. I do have to add that if you are going to see the movie Les Mis, I highly, highly recommend reading the book first. I had to read it somewhere back in my education experience and it is still one of my all time favorite books.

Les Misérables (Signet Classics)Les Miserable by Victor Hugo = Amazing.

 

I can also tell you that I did NOT read the top 3 sellers for 2012. Just an FYI.

What should be on my list for 2013?