Welcoming 2013 with Hope

I love setting goals and being intentional with my days. I do best when I am working towards accomplishing something or overcoming a challenge. The problem is that 2012 turned out to be a whole lot different then what I expected.

Nowhere on my 2012 goals did I have ‘survive cancer’ or ‘move’ (particularly one a week after the other). Needless to say, the other goals I did have written down just didn’t quite get the attention I would have desired. It has been a full two months of survival mode and then recovery mode.

The past couple weeks I felt like we tried to be intentional about staying home, going to bed early, and taking it easy. It has been just what we needed. It also helps that this is the one time during the year when I get time off. I love my job, but the downside is that there is no break between terms, except for Christmas. It has been bliss!

As we have been re-charging, I have had more time for reflection on this past year and what I hope lies ahead. This year really challenged my optimism towards our adoption process. Our social worker says adopting parents have to be optimistic because there are so many obstacles and barriers against international adoption that without optimism (faith) there is no way you would stick with the process. Hhhmmm. Well, as the year comes to a close, I am diligently laying my request before God that 2013 would be our year. That no matter the obstacle or barrier, he would strengthen our faith and see us through this process. Would you pray with us?

I am also reminded of what Paul says in Romans about how our suffering produces perseverance which helps develop our character, giving us hope.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5

 

Whatever the obstacle or fiscal cliff or health issue or relationship drama we are facing, the hope of God does not disappoint. I pray as you head into 2013 that you would be filled with hope. Not a hope based on the economy or a political figure or a bank account or a job or a relationship or an adoption or whatever it is you are hoping for this year, but a hope in the living God who pours out his love into our hearts.

Tonight, we welcome 2013 filled with hope!

*BONUS* If you are looking for some good New Year’s Reflection questions, look no farther,(from simplemom.net). Click here for some great questions to go through by yourself or with your spouse and children.

Fixing My Thoughts

Friday morning I hosted a fun cookie exchange playdate. Our house was filled with the treasure of children, playing and laughing. After everyone left I sat down quick to check my email, courses were finishing that day and I wanted to make sure my students were being cared for. I couldn’t help but notice the news.

Shock. Disbelief. Sadness.

Then it was time to head out the door for school. I was paralyzed for a minute wondering what to do. Should we stay home? How do I drop my daughter off at school after hearing such an account?

I packed up the kids and made the drive, all the while praying and thinking of families that would be getting the news that they would not be able to pick up their children that day. We got to the building and I prayed with my girl as I do everyday and watched her run to her teacher, all smiles, all excitement for another day of school.

I drove home with waves of fear about what if’s and what could be’s and how do we raise children in a world like this. I poured over the news (in print as we do not have a TV) and tried to comprehend all that transpired. That night, and subsequent nights, I couldn’t sleep. I just kept fixating on what happened (hello, media-induced PTSD).

I need sleep. I asked God that he would help me sleep and this verse came to my mind.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Phillipians 4:8 NLT

 

I started to think about things that are true; the love of God, the love of a family.

Things that are pure, MissE’s sweet faith.

Things that are admirable and honorable, like moms shopping for a purpose.

Things that are excellent or worthy of praise, like our youth group students that put on a bake/craft sale on Sunday night that raised over $900 for a well to be built in a third-world country.

Or my beautiful niece, who took her own time and money to sew dresses for girls in Africa. I am so proud of her!

I love the colors she picked!

 

There is undeniable evil in this word, but I believe these words are true…

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 

So while I am here on this earth, for however long or short that might be, I will keep my thoughts fixed on the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Shopping with a Purpose

I took over the Service coordinator role for my MOPS group this year. Moms already serve 24×7, so I was trying to brainstorm a way to incorporate service into our everyday lives.

I got the vision of doing a Shopping with Purpose day and inviting several Fair trade organizations to bring their products to sell. I was concerned that the event could turn into a major downer considering world slavery, child labor, and human trafficking. Check out your slavery footprint here. 

I really wanted to give the topic hope, by focusing on what we can do, instead of focusing on the despair.  I shared this video and challenged each person to purchase just one fair trade item each year. That feels totally doable.

And, according to the video, if all church going people in America purchased just ONE fair trade item each year, it would lift a million families out of poverty for that entire year.

How great is that!?

One purchase is all it takes to give hope.

One of the vendors that came sells Turkish jewelry and then uses the proceeds to help refugees that she gets connected with through churches and missionaries. She quoted Romans 12:1 from the Message.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

I loved that.

We can use our everyday, ordinary lives to love God and love others. How we make our shopping choices is one of the ways we can use our everyday lives to honor God.

Now, obviously I am no expert on this topic, but I realize there is a problem and I want to be part of the solution.

 

Here are some good links for more information:

Shop with Purpose: A list of great places to purchase fair trade products or products that can give hope to others.

Occupy Christmas: (I love that she includes ‘stay out of debt’ and ‘shop etsy’ )

Occupy Christmas Link Up: A list of links to great places to purchase fair trade products.

Shop to Stop Slavery: Started by a MOPS mom.

Ethical Holiday Shopping Guide

Buy Ethically through Trade as One

I also purchased The Better World Shopping Guide. It is concise, not thorough, but provides a general overview of which companies are good (and really not good) to support. Nestle = F Bad, bad, bad; Starbucks = B+, phew.

 Jen Hatmaker chimes in with ‘For Freedom’

 

I was super duper impressed with the response from the moms. I had The Apparent Project Haitian jewelry and Christmas decorations for sale and for that group alone we sold/raised $320. Not bad for a small group of moms.

I am hosting a Christmas ladies night out at our new house on Tuesday, December 18th from 7:00-9:00 pm where these items will also be for sale (ranging in price from $5-$20). If you are interested, I would love to have you stop over. Items come with the name and story of the person that hand-crafted it.

Nothing says, ‘Merry Christmas‘, like a gift that gives back.

A Good Story

I read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller when we flew out for Carmen’s wedding. After getting over MIller’s somewhat annoying bloggish writing style, I really enjoyed the book. He talked a lot about  the aspects of a good story and how the same pieces that apply to a good novel or movie also apply to living a good story.

The main theme was that in every good story there has to be conflict. It is not an option. There has to be some inciting event that the main character must work through or overcome.

“humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story. They have to get fired from their job or forced to sign up for a marathon.  A ring has to be purchased. A home has to be sold. The character has to jump into the story, into the discomfort and the fear, otherwise the story will never happen.”

It was a timely book and as I watched Carmen and Finley approach their wedding day, I couldn’t help but smile at what a great story they were living. They had personally overcome difficulties and God had brought them together at just the right moment for their friendship to turn into marriage.

I was pondering my little family’s story. I was feeling a bit boring. (I know, because obviously pursuing an international adoption is a boring life event). It’s just our adoption is at a standstill and other than that, life felt overly predictable.

While we were visiting with people that wedding week, the comment kept being made that we are such a great family. I couldn’t help but think that our life had become a bit too cookie cutter for my taste. I mean look at us.

We are the poster family for the American Dream. Two kids. One girl. One boy.

Well God sure has a sense of humor because we didn’t have to wait long for our ‘inciting’ event.

We came home from the wedding feeling stressed and overwhelmed with what needed to be done to close on our new house and prepare our townhome for renters. We had just returned from buying our appliances for the new place when James decided to quick run to the clinic to have something checked. Neither of us where really concerned, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. In fact, while he was at the doctor I called my mom and cried about how frustrated I was with the lack of adoption progress. Then he came home and said the doctor mentioned it could be one of three options. He listed them off, but again, neither of us were concerned.

Later that day the doctor called and when James got off the phone he told me the doctor said it was option three. I said, ‘uhm, remind me what option three was?’

Cancer.

One word. So much emotion.

“The more difficult the event, the better the story. The reason the story is better when the ambition is difficult, is because there is more risk and more risk makes the story question more interesting.”

So, enter doctors appointments, blood draws, surgery, scans, follow-up appointments, and more scans/blood draws. Oh, and a move. November was a tad busy.

“I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought…They go looking for an easier story.”

 

“It’s conflict that changes a person. Part of me wonders if stories aren’t being stolen by the easy life”

 

This wasn’t at all what we were expecting for this fall. I felt completely unprepared to handle cancer and I am probably the worse wife ever to have a sick husband. I went into survival mode. I just kept repeating, “It’s going to be fine.” On top of being worried about my husband’s health, I also had a fear about what this would mean for our adoption.

“People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”

Praise be to God! We are now on the other side of this ‘conflict.’. James is recovering. Our adoption goes on (or stalls on) as usual. We are fully moved and settling into our new home. There will continue to be some doctor visits/blood draws/scans, but we are moving on in confidence of full health.

Today is our eight year wedding anniversary.

Eight years ago we stood in front of a church and promised to love one another no matter the circumstances. There has been a lot of normal ups and downs in our marriage, but the past month tested us like none other.

“It’s interesting that in the bible, in the book of Ecclesiastes, the only practical advice given about living a meaningful life is to find a job you like, enjoy your marriage, and obey God. It’s as though God is saying, “Write a good story, take somebody with you, and let me help.”

Today I am ever so thankful to be walking this life alongside my husband. Our story is a good one. It has had conflict. It has had inciting events. It has had love and friendship and humor and most importantly, we have shared a love for God. We believe God will continue to write our family’s story, to be a good story… not just an easy life.

And to my husband -  thanks for taking me with you. My life story is better because you are in it. Thanks for buying the ring, taking the leap, and inviting me on the ride. I love you more today than ever!

 

All quotes from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

 

 

I have no idea what you are doing?

This is what I said to God after a long week of ups and downs.

We were supposed to close on our house last Wednesday but for several ridiculous and unexpected reasons we did not. We had to file for an extension and we still don’t have a closing date (but tentatively planning for sometime in November). I have been largely ambivalent about it all, but the not knowing bothers me the most.

I also have been seriously struggling with envy the past few weeks and it is embarrassing to admit.

I hate the jealousy that grows within me and rears it’s ugly head at the most in-opportune times. It is funny the things I am jealous of, too, because it reflects where we are in life. I used to be envious of  homes, cars, exotic vacations, careers, etc. Now adoption totally consumes my ‘envy’.  This person got a referral, that family is home with their child, their adoption was in record speed, and someone else received a huge grant. I am happy and grateful for all of these things for all of these people. I just struggle because I so deeply desire to grow our family and at the moment our adoption is at a stand still.

During my quiet time on Friday I called out to God, ‘I have no idea what you doing here? What is going on? What is your plan here, because I just don’t see it

He responded to me, “Yes, you most certainly do not have any idea what I am doing? In fact, even if you had some glimmer of idea about what I am doing (both in your life and in the world) you still wouldn’t be able to fathom it.”

Hhhhm.

Right on. I couldn’t fathom God’s plan, even if he let me see it. I wouldn’t be able to comprehend it all even if God laid it out for me, step by step. Instead, like Abraham, we continue by faith.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

Hebrews 11:8

Can you imagine packing up your life and taking off to a new place without even knowing where this new place was or how in the world you would ever get there? This is what Abraham did. His faith led to obedience which led to an eternal reward.

I sure want that kind of faith, but boy it is hard to trust when you don’t have a clue where you are going.

Beth Moore calls it the ‘Obey-now-and-receive-later challenge of faith’.

Most days I feel overwhelmed by that challenge. I am reminded, though, that it is in those moments that I seek God more and the more I seek him the more he reveals himself to me. He might not show me all his plans, but he shows me himself which is so much sweeter.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

 


Mind you this all happened on Friday. Since then there have been many twists and turns and opportunities to ask God again, “What is your plan here?

I’m resting in the fact that I don’t have to know, I just have to trust.

 

Oh, and of course, Ann Voskamp’s first bible study session was released last week. I watched it in tears, remembering and counting all of God’s gifts to me. Take a moment to watch it yourself and be blessed.

Oh, the blog

There has been lots going on and somehow the blog goes on without any updates. Here is a brief peek into of our lives.

1. Adoption. We continue to wait, sitting pretty at number 35. We are prepared to not see any movement until the new year. While this is hard to accept and brings a tear (or many) to my eyes, we are trusting God for his timing.

2. We may or may not be buying a house. This is what happens when you buy a home from the government (they should not be in real estate. Just say’n). Our bid has been accepted and we are now under contract. The inspection is complete and only the water pipes failed. We just might be hiring a plumber on day one. We now just wait (something we are getting good at) to hear when we can close.

The house is in a good shape, just in need of some TLC decorating to take care of things like this

and this

“Mom!? Why I can’t I open these lockers?”

uhm, because they are PAPER glued to the wall.

 

3. School has been going fantastic for MissE. Her Spanish is improving and she has mastered phrases like, “Keep your mouth shut, stand in a line, raise your hand, sit down, etc.” I am guessing those are the phrases most spoken in Kindergarten.

 

4. I spent a weekend away with some wonderful women from our church and neighboring churches. Nothing says fun like a weekend away with the girls.

My aunt and cousin had dinner with the King and Queen of Sweden over the weekend, so in honor of my Swedish ancestry I had to have my picture taken with the giant Dala horse.

5. I’m still only wearing 7 items of clothing all month. This has meant less quantity of laundry, just more frequency. Getting dressed in the morning is a breeze. The one and only major downfall of my wardrobe selection was my choice in footwear. I selected to wear my Los Thomas’s all month. They are cute and comfortable and so not appropriate for colder weather. My toes FREEZE! My best plan B is to simply just wear socks. I am in solidarity with those that do not have shoes. I will be buying all of our sponsor children shoes for Christmas.

 6. Nothing comes between us and family fun nights. It is a tradition I hope will live on for a long time.

 7. I’m following some of my favorite bloggers in Haiti this week. Check them out:

“There is hope here. I can’t explain it, but it’s here, I can feel it, I can even see it. It’s literally everywhere. It’s a mopping dirt kind of hope – frustrating, decisive, complicated, dogged, wearisome, inspiring.”  Jen Hatmaker

There is no poverty so great as a child without a family.” Kristen Howerton

“There are 20,000 people, most of them children, sleeping in tents on a golf course 2 hours off the coast of Florida.”  Jennie Allen

we can love these right-now kids, right from our right-now homesSarah Bessey

5 going on 15

We brought our high school students to Feed My Starving Children this week. We were short a couple spots and so our dear five year old got to tag along. I’m not sure if this was good or not. She had a fantastic time and totally gets caring for the hungry.

However, the next day she asked if she could go to her friend’s house.

Her 15 year old ‘friend’.

I tried to explain that this girl was a babysitter not a ‘friend’, but MissE was not having it. She began to list off all of her teenage ‘friends’. All girls, thankfully.

5, going on 15

 

While we were at FMSC I picked up a sweet new hat to wear as one of my select items of clothing this month. Long story short, I’m doing the 7 clothes challenge with my friend, based on Jen Hatmaker’s book. I spent the majority of Monday morning in my pj’s, afraid to commit to an article of clothing lest I change my mind later in the week. The hat was a go because a) it is getting cold and it will keep my head warm (kinda) and b) it means I don’t have to fix my hair and c) I want to be globally minded (Do you see Honduras there? It’s there for sure and always on my heart).

The bad news is that said five year old totally swiped it from me, leaving me with only six items of clothing to make it through the month. (Minus the wedding weekend which is coming quickly!)

Do you want to buy a fun hat like this? Check out FMSC’s marketplace online and support a great organization.

Is McDs worth the wait?

We met friends at a park today to catch up one last time before they officially move away.

tear. another friend. moved away.

She was talking about God’s timing in their lives and how now looking back they can see how God orchestrated a job change, house sold, move, and pregnancy all in his perfect timing. If any of the events had occurred out of order there would have been less, well, order.

It made me laugh because just yesterday I was contemplating the cliche phrase, ‘worth the wait’.

There are a lot of things ‘worth the wait’ (marriage, children, etc.), but in general the people that are quoting that phrase are usually the ones that have already finished the wait. I would argue it is much easier to claim things are ‘worth the wait’ once you are no longer waiting.

The challenge comes in believing the wait is worth it while you are still waiting.

This is especially difficult considering the culture in which we live. Instant gratification is a top value (think fast food). Have you ever eaten at McDonalds and said, ‘that was worth the wait’? No way! McDonalds is gross. Everyone knows it is not real food, but it is instant and cheap and everywhere.

I buy groceries at our gas station because I don’t want to drive the five minutes to Target and then have to walk to the back of the store to find my items. At the gas station I am in and out under three minutes. I do love Kwik Trip. It is kwik, I mean quick.

All that to say, we are waiting and at moments it feels like there is absolutely no end in sight. Everything within me says to pull over, stop at Kwik Trip. I have to fight the urge almost everyday, not knowing if the wait is truly worth it until we get there. I am hungry and I want to eat and those golden arches are calling my name. Instead, I am passing by McDs and fixing my eyes on something I can’t see.

 

       Do not lose heart.

Though outwardly we are wasting away,

yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

       For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

So we fix our eyes not on what is see, but what is unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

So, I fix my eyes on Jesus and follow hard after him. Trusting that this is the path he wants us on and until he tells us different, to stop drooling over french fries.

Did you follow? Or do you just want to go eat at McD’s? Funny how the mind works.

PS – those verses come from our friend, Paul, the guy who walked away from a nice respected lifestyle to radically follow Christ. He was beaten, imprisoned, and ridiculed. In perspective our wait doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Trusting God’s way

In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.

Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 25: 1, 4-5

I found comfort for our long wait in these verses today. More than anything, I desire to be following God’s way and trusting his truth. My hope is in him all day, everyday.