Thursday, September 21, 2017

Beautiful Babies

My children are really adorable, the world tells me so. But I won't let them be limited to that.  The world's standard of beauty will not define how I raise my kids.

I refuse to teach them that beauty is the ultimate standard to attain to.  That if you have beauty you are one step ahead of the rest of "them".  That if you have the right look, body, clothes or type of makeup, that you will get further in life.  I have seen the detrimental effects in adults who grew up with that idealization.  It creates many footholds for sin to enter in with relation to jealousy, comparison, pride, lust, covetousness.

Instead, I will encourage them to use their voices, to expand their knowledge and their abilities. I will encourage them to not conform, to be their own person. I will not try to box them into my own definitions or criticisms. I want them to fly one day and they won't if I clip their wings with my words.

So will I complement them? Yes, but rarely on physical aspects.  I will focus my encouraging words to heart issues: the kind thing they did that day, the thoughtful action they showed their sibling, how they asked to pray for someone hurting, how hard they tried at something, that they pulled out their Bible for devotions, that they had great attitudes even though they lost their game, that they are willing to learn, that they apologized, that they changed their behavior.

There are obviously too many to list, but enough to focus on that I don't need to be so shallow as to only show them I think their worth is limited to external features.

If your kids have flown out of the nest already, this still applies to how you compliment them and any grandchildren you may have in your life.  Let your legacy be that you care for their heart.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Marriage Prerequisite

(Insert about 15 more spoons, a couple kid plates, and 7,000 sippy cup pieces and you pretty much have our dishwasher....)

One of the things I wish I had known before I had gotten married was how my husband-to-be loaded the dishwasher.  One of the things I wish I had known before I had kids was how they would load the dishwasher.

I kid you not.

I prided myself in being thee ultimate in loading so as not to leave any dishes remaining on the counter. I put some in, took some out, rearranged, and spent entirely too much time figuring out the best dynamics so the dishes fit well, utilized the space, and still got clean. It's a science.

But when it's not me who does the dishes I'll find cups spaced out, maybe a bowl thrown in here or there, plates not in a row but strewn in haphazardly, or sippy cups laying on their sides. No rhyme or reason to the degree of difficulty and time it should take to property load. I mean, C'MON!

What really stupefies me is when I open the dishwasher and find that we basically just steam cleaned all of the little pegs inside, plus 3 dishes.

I know I should just put those 3 clean spoons away and smile. Because really, I know that when my husband loads the dishwasher, it is a gift of service he is giving to me to lighten my load (pun intended).  When I have taught (and taught and guided) my kids on how to load and unload the dishwasher, I am teaching them a basic  skill and responsibility (just like folding towels--help me!).

My moral of the story, I'll just continue my run of staying out of the kitchen after dinner as I consider the likelihood that Dusty is probably writing his own Marriage Prerequisite post about me and my "issue" with dishwashers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Our Adoption Story

{This post was originally written in May of 2009, before our babies were in our arms that year.}

Okay, warning that this is a bit long.  Enjoy!

It all started since before I can remember; it being, of course, the desire to adopt. Before Dusty and I were married, the love and passion held for adoption had started … in both of us.
Once we were married and settled, the thoughts of growing our family began to take root. Dust wanted to try naturally first and to adopt next but I was adamant about wanting to adopt first. The reason being that I wanted our adopted children to know that they were chosen; it wasn’t an option because we couldn’t have kids naturally. I really didn’t want adoption to be a second choice for the growing of our family or maybe just that I wanted to show that adoption really doesn’t have to be seen as a backup, basically that you don't just have to adopt because you can’t have your children naturally. (That being said, of course I completely understand why parents do adopt in those situations, but this is our story of how we came to adopt and the reasons leading to it. One of the reasons why I actually love adoptions so much is because I feel such pain for parents who want so badly to have kids and can’t naturally… and then realize that all of that love is just as prevalent when they choose to adopt!)

We entered our third year of marriage and I had baby on the brain for about 6 months when we were presented with a business opportunity that would allow me to stay-at-home (or at least work part-time) with kids. As that had always been a holdup for us starting our family in the past, we started talking seriously about expanding our duo. One day Dust said to me, “Why don’t we just try for both (adoption and natural) and hope for 'twins'?!” That sounded like the best idea as I have always wanted twins.

So we started the process for both in the summer of 2008. We got pregnant the month after we sent our first application in to our agency! It was a blessing beyond belief that I did not have a terribly difficult first trimester as I had about a bajillion paper chases to tackle with the adoption.

The process of adoption is a strange one that a person cannot understand unless they have actually been through it. It is much the same as how the hormones affect a pregnant woman. You have your ups and downs, your in-betweens, your days where you feel like weeping, and your days you feel ecstatic. On the days I was low, I was encouraged by a positive pregnancy note. On the days I was feeling low with the pregnancy, I was encouraged with progress of the adoption. It has been a great way to pass the time and also a stress reliever to have each to look forward to. In fact, I find that adoptive parents react much the same as pregnant woman to questions and situations. One of the most common pregnancy complaints it seems I hear is “I hate it when people touch my belly, especially strangers.” Of course it’s all relative to your attitude that day (and lack of hormonal spikes) that get you through the awkward situations. With adoption, there are quite a few ignorant people out there, and to no fault of their own (obviously throwing the benefit of the doubt out there), they ask some pretty inane questions that can either be taken as extremely rude or with the potential to educate people on adoption. The responses and fluctuations in emotions that the adoptive parents retaliate with are much the same as the pregnancy-induced, shall we say, passion.

I read on a fellow adoptive parent’s blog this quote:
“Adoption is totally different than pregnancy because you feel for this baby who is already here, that you cannot hold or comfort. The strain when your child is already there somewhere, is so different. It's a mom thing that is anxiety and trust in a way like you've never experienced. I am so thankful for that time of waiting because I feel like I understood far earlier that God is 'loaning' my kids to me from him and that he is in control, not me.”
I love the fact that we are not bearers and creators of our children, but rather are the people chosen by our Heavenly Father to watch over, to guide, protect, and raise our children in a way that is holy and pleasing to Him! I absolutely love that, especially because, for us, going through both types of situations really does grant us the awareness that both our children are “loaned” to us. We were assigned by God to raise them, whether or not they came directly from our genes.

We found out in February that we were having a girl and couldn’t believe that we would be having a boy and a girl! In March, we were given our referral (this is the point at which we are matched with our child: our very first picture of him, medical history, and any information that the agency has will be sent to you to decide if you “accept” your referral) of our little IZ. He was born in January in Ethiopia and brought into care at our agency’s orphanage when he was about a week old. We took all of about a minute to respond and “accept” our referral!

March 19 was one of the most exciting days I have ever experienced, as well as quite an emotional one. We were informed at our last doctor visit that our prior ultrasound revealed that our Baby Girl’s umbilical cord was not attached properly to the placenta and that we needed to go back in for another ultrasound to see how she was doing. That ultrasound was on March 19, and we found out that she weighed more than average and that it did not look as though the cord would present any problems. What a relief! We went and celebrated with a Costco mocha then headed home, I was exhausted after working myself up emotionally over the potential issue with Baby Girl.  I sat down at the computer to look at any emails that had come in. I saw that we had received an email from someone from our agency, and I got extremely excited and called Dusty over. Okay, I yelled at him to get over here because of the “E-MAIL FROM OUR AGENCY!!!!” Keep in mind, we had been expecting our referral any day, and I had been checking my phone methodically every 5 minutes, or every minute just waiting for that call. So we opened the email together and read about our little boy. We received two pictures of him, one at a week old and one at one month old. And that’s when the tears started flowing! I could not believe I was staring into the precious face of my little child. The feelings that flow through you at such a time are indescribable. I haven’t experienced birthing a child yet, so I don’t know the emotions that are associated with that, but wow, I just was in shock. Dust kept smiling at me because I could NOT stop crying! Even now, as I’m writing this, the tears are just flowing thinking back to that special day when I saw my son for the first time! What a blessing to see pictures of both of your children on the same day, even when you can’t hold either of them.

After I somewhat had gotten a hold of my emotions, somewhat being a very vague description of sniffling, snuffling, sobbing (still), and wiping tears away, Dust proceeded to tell me that our agency had first called him to let him know about our referral that morning. He didn’t want me to know about the phone call because he wanted me to see his picture first and not anticipate the email. I’m not one for surprises, but that was the best surprise ever!

Going through these last couple of months has been trying in that I know who my child is, where he’s at, and that he’s not with me. We were told by a traveling family that he cries when he’s hungry… which makes me cry because I can’t be the one to feed him. I will have missed out on 6 months of his life (Lord-willing that is all, as you really never know timeframes with international adoptions).

Dust and I had started the discussion of names: ones we liked, potentials, ones we didn’t like, etc. Now, as easy of a task as this is for some people, we were really not agreeing on anything—but we had time to figure it out! We knew for sure we would be naming one boy, so I was rattling off names I liked and said the name “Isaiah”. Dust perked up and said, “I really like that name.” I tentatively said, “Is that it? Is that the name of our son?????” And we just smiled and knew. And of course, more tears (it comes to be expected with me in any situation). Isaiah means “Salvation of God” or “Yahweh is salvation” and how true that is! We had actually named a child of God, the child that God was going to loan to us!

The point we are currently at in our adoption is rightly deemed the worst waiting of your life. It is the time when you know who your child is and you just have to wait for the process to happen until you can go and pick your child up and hold him forever! We are in the middle of this stage. We have our Ethiopian court date on June 8 and if we pass, then travel is approximately 6 weeks later to go pick up our son and take him to the visa appointment. June 8 will be a VERY nervewracking day around our house because it is the day that when we pass... Isaiah will officially be our son! And that means I can finally post pictures of him! The Ethiopian government is very nervous about child trafficking and any internet pictures of waiting children and they have actually taken referrals away from families who have posted pictures prematurely (how sad!!).

Governments in foreign countries work differently than in the United States (obviously) and on a schedule that is all their own. The courts in Ethiopia actually shut down during their rainy season (which ends up being about a 6 week period of closures starting around August). There are many reasons why a family may not pass court on their first try, and we ask for prayer that we’ll make it through on the 8th: one of the reasons being as simple as lack of electricity so no cases are even heard; another that a government issued letter (that has to be in the file to pass) has not been submitted timely; or even that a Judge decides just to not show up that day. There are many things that could go wrong, and they’re all out of our hands. Just as in pregnancy I cannot imagine how one could not believe in an Almighty God who created us so intricately, I also cannot imagine the lack of belief in God when you need the trust and peace knowing you are going through an adoption with God guiding you through!

Once we pass court, Isaiah is officially our child! And then we just get to go pick him up… well, I will need to stay home with Baby Girl while Dust picks him up and takes him home!

We are currently (over-anxiously) awaiting the arrival of both of our children. We have been told we’re crazy for inviting the chaos to come, but know that it was all part of God’s plan for our lives and that we’ll be able to handle it all (maybe not graciously at times, but we’ll handle it nonetheless). We have been blessed beyond belief in our adoption and pregnancy and are so grateful that God is choosing to grant us virtual twins to raise (they will end up being about 6 months apart)!

The Lord has led us both in separate ways to adoption and I am so glad He did, I feel we were let in on a secret understanding of just a little bit how God feels about us as His adopted children!

After we have both of our kids home I have my work cut out for me… not only in the raising of our new children, but also in convincing Dust that 3 natural and 3 adopted children may be just a bit too much to think about! :) At least for now… we’ll have to wait and see how big our family will get, you can’t ever put a limit on God, especially if He calls you to it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

My Idol

Honest moments here.  For a long time I had a certain idol in my life.  It was pervasive and constant and always around me.  I liked it's presence, I wanted to be around it, I enjoyed the attention I got back from it. I turned to it first for advice, consolation, strength, and love.

Except that "it" was a person, my husband.

For a long time in my marriage, I was fearful of what I would do if Dusty ever died. I just could NOT imagine my life without him all while I was cutting God out of it and replacing Him slowly with my husband. God honors marriage, He does, but not when it overtakes the place in your heart specifically designed for Him!

This acronym from childhood always plays in my head:
J - Jesus
O - Others
Y - Yourself

I was not submitting to JOY in my life, I had tweaked it to YOJ. I desired earthly pleasantries and joys instead of looking for my joy from Heaven.  I selfishly created Dusty into an idol which did neither of us any good.

Needless to say, since then I have correctly placed my husband (in my life and in my heart) right where he needs to be, number 2. My awareness of my idolatry brings me back to the 10 Commandments--commandments which I will always fall short of but will strive ever so hard to (impossibly) perfect.

"You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below." Exodus 20:3-4b (NIV), emphasis added

Even your husband can become your idol. Be daily aware of how Satan will try to slip things past you until you start eliminating God and raising up your idol above HIM (whatever or whomever that may be).

Do NOT let what was meant to be a Godly union be twisted by Satan by shoving God aside in your life.  Be aware that anything and anyone can fill that slot if you allow it.  It was my fault that happened, and it is well within my control to ensure it doesn't happen ever again.

I have a stronger marriage now than before as I have recognized and applied what God desires for a marriage.  I have learned what unconditional love looks like from God so I can then apply it toward my husband.  I have learned to turn to God first and then my husband after.  I have learned to begin my day with God and then will communicate with my husband.  I have learned to seek God for comfort in what life throws at me, so I can turn to my husband and share how I have been comforted.  I have leaned on God so I don't lean on my husband expecting him to save me.

The sanctification process has taken years to uncover and develop, I was not a quick study.  I am very grateful that God blessed me with grace to get me to the point I am today.  He has truly guided my steps so I see that I should have no other gods before Him.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Grace

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,

who proclaim peace,

who bring good tidings,

who proclaim salvation,

who say to Zion,

"Your God reigns!"
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
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