Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 In Review

What was new to you in 2013?
Homeschooling!!  We started after Spring Break last year and have continued this year as well.  Adopting through CPS- I have learned so much about the character of my God and how to work with people who believe so very differently than us.

 What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Obviously ALL of my children living in one house.  And...More SPACE!!!  Hopefully all our children will be living in one house soon, but I have no idea where everything will go!  We live pretty simply, so I don't know how much more we can "down size" stuff.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Teaching my children; teaching Hannah to read, both how to do chores, tie shoes, find information and definition of words, how to live-really live life God's way.

 What was your biggest failure? 
Not saying "yes" to my kids more.  We all could use more yes-es in our lives.

What was the best thing you read?
The Voice Bible; I love this translation!!  Also; "Follow Me" "Not a Fan" and "Gods at War."  (Please read those books!  Ruin your life!!)  I also read "Family Driven Faith" by Voddie Baucham. And of course; many, many wonderful blogs about adopting, homeschooling, etc.  

What did you lose and gain?
I am experimenting with being a vegetarian, starting back in September, I believe.  I have lost 13 lbs and love how I feel.  I still struggle with eating "junk food" and not knowing whether the key is moderation or just not keeping it in the house.  I hope to "gain" some understanding about this in the next year!  ;)  I have "lost" a few friends…just distance and we all change; so some friendships aren't what they used to be. I have also maintained friendships from over the years, living more centralized now makes that easier to see each other more often….like my Ginger Berry!  Or Sarah Stapleton.  Or Jenni.  Or Annie. (or family in general…LOVE that!!!)  But I have also gained some wonderful amazing close friends:  Cassie Rappolee has been a God-send to me.  She has taught me so much and is such an encouragement for me to be who God created me to be and to grow.  I could not have had such a wonderful year without her (and her family!)  
I have lost some relationships with extended family members this year, but I have also gained new insight into the past and how to forgive.

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Had more adventures.  Said "yes" more.  Gone outside, even when it wasn't perfect or convenient.  Visiting friends and family.  Seeing gifts.  Being the Gift to others.

What do you wish you'd done less of?
Facebook.  Worrying about friends who don't make the same effort to maintain friendships.  Complaining.  

What was on repeat on iTunes this year?
Anything by Rend Collective...  Or King's Kaleidoscope.

 What was your favorite film of this year?
Disney's Frozen!!!  I cried so much and loved it!!!  I can't wait to own it!!

Favorite place you went this year?
New Mexico with my awesome family!!  Mountains and hiking were the best!!  Also, we went to Matagorda beach with our awesome friends, the Nelsons!!  Definitely amazing memories!

 What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 33 years old and my family threw me a Doctor Who party!!!!  It was awesome!  Tardises everywhere…baby Adiposes…veggie pizza…my siblings, cousins, Teta, sister-in-law and parents filled me with laughter for hours, and I felt so loved!!!

Who was the best new person you met?
I didn't actually meet her this year, but I have gotten to know Cassie Rappolee so much better…and I am the better for it!  Dore Nelson has definitely helped shape me this year; teaching me so much and helping me see the gift in our life in Centerville.  And I obviously haven't just met my sisters, but I love how much time we've been able to spend together; Carolyn, Jo and Steph.

What did you have to say good-bye to?
Unforgiveness of certain people who hurt me when I was a child.  The grandmother I will probably never have.  Job possibilities.  Bitterness.  Meeting the world's expectations and standards.

Quote or song lyric that sums up your year:
May I be broken bread, may I be poured out wine
May I incarnate, Your kindness Lord

Spend my life Jesus, anyway You please
Whether on great things, or what seems small

Your will done your way
Your will done your way
Your will done your way

I will not fight You
Take me past the line that my heart draws
I will not fight You
Take me beyond the laziness of my thoughts
I will not fight 
Lead me further than I've gone before
I will not fight You
I'm abandoned to Your call

Do not let there be, any part of me
That’s untouchable, unreachable

Let my delight be, living out Your dreams
Washing dirty feet, and kissing yours

God let Your dreams come true, dream through us
God let Your dreams come true through us

Sunday, December 1, 2013

33 Ways to Really Live (Or "It's My Birthday")

"Calendars can con: there are really only as many days left as you actually really live.
                                                                       In the end, everyone ends up at the length of their lives 
— but only a few live the whole width of a life."  Ann Voskamp
33 Ways to Really Live, No Important Order:

33.  Choose a close family over a clean house as much as possible.
32.  Make friendship a priority, not a convenience.  
31.  Fight for your marriage, because you have an enemy fighting to destroy it.

30.  Never stop learning something new.
29.  Give your children yourself, not stuff.
28.  Allow your living room to have real life happen.  Invite people in, even when you may have to clear a spot on the couch.
27.  Don't let lack of a gourmet meal stop you from inviting friends over for lunch.
26.  Give away as much as you can; your time, your money, your stuff.  You can't keep it anyway.
25.  Memorize God's Word together as a family; you can remind each other of the Truth when lies come.
24.  Learn to forgive.  You'll find freedom in the forgiving, even when you can't forget.
23.  Be willing to say hard things; the world is waiting for someone to say them.  
22.  Be willing to hear hard things; we're all a little blind.
21.  Drive for miles to see friends, their love is worth $30 of gas that you would have spent on fast food at some point anyway.
20.  Die as much as possible, and be amazed at how Jesus lives through you then.

19.  Ask how someone's doing and stop to listen, prepared for the real answer.
18.  Treat everyone, from the pastor to your waiter, like Jesus gave His life for them.
17.  Say "thank you" as many times as you can every day.
16.  Look for burning bushes everywhere.
15.  Make your siblings your best friends, love them fiercely.
14.  Guard the time you spend with your family; let them know they are that important.
13.  Make memories, not obligations, not Pinterest pictures.
12.  Your house should be your home, not an investment for profit.
11.  Really be there, wherever you are, in that moment.  

10.  Always say "I love you" when you part with a loved one.
9.  Kiss your husband anytime you can.
8.  Memorize your children's faces.
7.  Learn what you can from everyone you meet.
6.  Celebrate the "little things."
5.  Run farther than your body thinks it can.
4.  Climb up on the top bunk to snuggle.
3.  Seek justice for those who have no voice or power.
2.  Love, even when it hurts.  Especially when it hurts.
1.  Remember that you are not the main character in your story.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Books That Will Wreck Your Life

In the best way possible, of course!

Besides the Bible (obviously a life-eternal changer there!) here's 5 books that have wrecked my life for Jesus:

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

  • I was a baby Christian when I read this book, and praise God I did because it radically helped me understand real GRACE.  Grace for myself and grace for others, from God.  It showed me the intimacy Jesus craves with me ("come and sup with me" and the cultural context of Jewish mealtimes) and the need for community with other ragamuffins (aka believers).  Why I picked this random book off the shelves of hundreds one day?  I saw the word "Ragamuffin" and thought of Rich Mullins and his amazing and wise provoking thoughts on following Jesus that seemed so counterculture to what American Christianity was doing; even back in the 90's.  
UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons 
  • I was a beat-up-possibly-burnt-out Christian when I read this book.  It is the end result of research done on young Americans about their views of Christianity and the church.  "The opposite of sin is not virtue, but grace" the authors write.  And this truth writes itself into my heart.  It was the first book that finally put into words all the thoughts and questions I had, including the ones I felt guilty for having.  It is not a "bash the church" kind of book, which I was grateful for (my bitter heart didn't need more fuel) but rather some thoughts on how the church could and should be.  If we are to reach those who are living separated from Christ, we have to understand their doubts, fears and objections...many of which are substantial and have foundation.
Radical by David Platt
  • Which Christ-follower hasn't read this book?  But to be fair, if you haven't...stop reading this right now and go read it.  Oh, but be ready to question your entire life.  Like how you spend your money and time.  Be ready to question how much trust you put in the world.  And how in the world are you really living radically different from it?  Because the truth is, most of us aren't.  We wear the same clothes, watch the same shows, have the same houses, our children run from the same activities to the next with the rest of the pack...but we feel better when we show up to church on Sunday.  What would it look like for Christ followers to really sacrifice in their lives?  To actually pick up their cross and follow Jesus?  Would you live in a smaller house?  Adopt kids?  Feed the homeless at your table?  Provide clean water to prevent early preventable death for children in Africa?  It shouldn't seem as radical as it sounds.  
Crazy Love by Francis Chan
  • I can't say it better than the book description does:  "God is love.  Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love.  Have you ever wondered if we're missing it?  It's crazy, if you think about it. The God of the universe—the Creator of nitrogen and pine needles, galaxies and E-minor—loves us with a radical, unconditional, self-sacrificing love. And what is our typical response? We go to church, sing songs, and try not to cuss. Whether you've verbalized it yet or not, we all know something's wrong. Does something deep inside your heart long to break free from the status quo? Are you hungry for an authentic faith that addresses the problems of our world with tangible, even radical, solutions? God is calling you to a passionate love relationship with Himself. Because the answer to religious complacency isn't working harder at a list of do's and don'ts—it's falling in love with God. And once you encounter His love, as Francis describes it, you will never be the same. Because when you're wildly in love with someone, it changes everything."  I love books that don't just point out the problems, but that actually encourage you to do something about it, and remind you of the power you have inside you!  (Romans 8:9-11)  It's encouraging and not a coincidence that I was being convicted about what following Christ really looked like, how radical it was; that I read this book next in my life!  Because if you try to change the world (or yourself) and forget how radically loved you are, you will burn out fast!!
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

  • A friend gifted this to me when my heart was at it's most caustic, callused, closed and critical state.  Voskamp addresses the age old question of "Why does God allow/make bad things happen to good people?" in a way I'd never heard before.  She writes about ingratitude, the ability of the heart to close itself off after being hurt and therefore being closed off from the only One who can heal it.  She writes about chasing the moon, dirty dishes in the sink and looking for burning bushes everywhere.  Because every moment can be holy.  A friend challenged her to keep track of 1000 things she was grateful for one year, in which Ann wrote down how eucharisteo always proceeded the miracle as Jesus walked this earth.  And the miracle I found at the end of the book was an ability to learn to be content in all situations; the miracle of a healing heart- a heart that can call God good and all the gifts He gives as good.   No matter who you are and where you are in life; please read this book and have it on hand as a resource to gift!!

This is in no way a complete list for me, but I wonder; what books would you add?  What books have wrecked your life for Jesus?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

At 6 Months Paper Pregnant

November is Adoption Awareness month, my friends!!  There are many lovely and educational blog posts about adoption all over the place.  But today I'm going to share what I've learned about adoption in the US; what it's been like for me being paper pregnant.  (You can read more about our decision to adopt here.)

1.  You wait.  A. Lot.  (International adoption tends to take much, much longer, so huge props to those pursuing that!)  You attend classes or training (8-10 weeks), then you have your house evaluated to see if it's safe, then you have a few interviews here and there, then you have a forever long interview with a state appointed psychologist.  And in the mean time between all these things; you fill out a mountain of paperwork.  Not exaggerating.  Sometimes they may lose some of your papers, so you fill them out again.  Or for some reason, you are asked to fill out the exact same papers 3 different times.  (And I still have no idea why.)  Oh, and you're waiting the whole time to make sure the mountain of paper work is making it to who it's supposed to go to.  You check your email a million times and your phone almost as much; waiting for them to tell you what to do next.  And THEN, even when you find the children that you potentially want to adopt, there are steps still to be taken- ending with the kids living with you for 6 months before you can actually adopt them.

2.  Unlike being pregnant, there is no good excuse to go buy new outfits.  Or excuse away why you're eating so much.  (although some people buy "stressed" as good enough!  lol)  Or why you're so emotional and moody all the time.

3.  No one can just look at you and know that you're expecting a new child in your home, so you may or may not get a chance to talk about what you're going through.  (The flip side?  No strangers come up and try to touch my stomach.  That would be weird.)

4.  Not many people are going to randomly start bringing you gifts for your future child/children.  Mainly because we have no idea what gender/age our kids are going to be; so I get it.  But I remember people buying cute shoes or special toys for Chaz and Hannah while I was pregnant.  It helped make it more real and celebrated this new life we were expecting as we waited!  (Not to dismiss the awesome bunk beds we now have from Grandma and Grandpa!)

5.   I can't protect them or take care of them right now.  While I was carrying Hannah I was very careful about what I ate and how much I ate because I had gestational diabetes and I didn't want to take medicine like the doctor thought would happen.  I made sure that I was very healthy because I knew that HER health depended upon me.  I did everything I could to make sure she was safe and healthy as she grew.  Unlike my 3 other children…who are walking around in this crazy world somewhere.  At BEST, I can pray that they are in a safe, loving and nurturing foster home.  I pray that even now they have foster parents who tell them they are loved, cherished and important (at least!)  (Praise God for those foster families, seriously!!!)  But I am helpless when it comes to their safety and health (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) at this time in their lives.  So, I pray.  A. Lot.  And I can do that while we wait.

6.  I could be passing my future kids in the cereal aisle and not even know it.  Once I delivered my sweet babies, a nurse slipped a bracelet on their tiny wrists that matched mine to say that they belonged to me.  With adopting, I have no idea how to know which kids belong in our family.  I know that our case worker (with CPS) can take all our paperwork and compare it to children's paperwork and try to find a match, they do their very best….and we're waiting on this to happen.  But did you know you can go to a website and search for kids that are available for adoption?? (this website is not exhaustive, there are many kids who haven't been put up on the site yet.  And many of these kids have been on the site for years because they are "too old" or have special needs)   Please pray that we'll know which kids are ours soon.

7.  I mentioned the interviews, paperwork and state psychologist earlier.  When I was pregnant, no one questioned my mental health nor my ability to parent.  I never had to talk about my past to see how that would affect my parenting.  I remember the first time I was alone with baby Chaz all day, I couldn't believe that all these people just left me alone with a baby…I felt like I had no idea what to do with him.  So scared I was going to drop him, or not know why he was crying.  The hospital just wheeled me out, made sure we buckled him up, and then that was it!  I completely understand WHY in adoption this happens, I'm just saying it's different.  You will have to prove that you are mentally sound, physically and financially able to care for these children when you adopt.  (Though financially, the adoption process through CPS is very, very affordable.)

8.  Statistically, more people have been pregnant than have adopted; therefore, it's harder to find people who can relate.  When someone is pregnant, I can think back to my experience and have compassion, offer advice and just in general relate to them in sympathy.  Thankfully, I DO know people who have adopted and/or foster/adopted.  And I pray that God will use our journey to do the same for others!

9.  You have sadness for the moments you missed.  I have stayed home with Chaz and Hannah their whole lives.  I witnessed their first steps, first words…I know what they're favorite foods are.  I know how to hold them just right in my lap to comfort them.  They each have a special song I still sing to them.  Most likely, with our 3 future kids I will have missed all those "firsts" for all 3 of them.  I will have no idea if they like their sandwiches cut into rectangles or triangles.   I may or may not be able to tell them stories of what their first word was, or what special toy they liked to sleep with when they were babies.  I have no idea what their special song was, or if they had a "special" anything.  Believe me, we will make many, many wonderful and important new memories…but we will have missed much.  And I would have loved and treasured those early memories.

10.  You will continue to need help once they're all home!  Just like in pregnancy, whether it's your first or fifth; it's so helpful and nice to have people bring meals to you so that you don't have to worry about cooking meals.  You're going to be emotionally stretched out enough, paper plates will be a God-sent gift!  You'll need friends to take you out for coffee to give you a break and listening ear.  You'll need babysitters, so you and the spouse can be alone outside the house to remember how much you love and need each other in this crazy journey.  I know this is crazy bold, but I pray that some of you will consider doing some of these things for Daniel and I when the time comes?  You have no idea how much it will help us survive and thrive during that time.  

So, there you go: ten things I've learned about adoption through CPS.  A lot of this can apply to adoption in general though.  If you have any questions, I'd be glad to try and help!  If you have anything to add, please comment below!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Slow Club

Are you one of those people who take the time in November to be thankful?  Maybe on your Facebook status or some other social media, like me; you give thanks on purpose.  You are making a point to have an attitude of thanks-giving.  I am finding God in the small moments, the little wonders.  From dipping buttery toast in a sunny side-up egg to the new bunk beds for our adopted kids…there is much to be thankful for.
But we will never notice these things if we are rushing through life, "like bulls in a china shop" (thanks, Voskamp) we can cause so much damage by hurrying.  Our mornings used to be full of rushing; wake up everyone, rush to eat, rush to get dressed, rush out the door, rush to school, rush through the day, rush to do homework, rush to make supper, maybe slow down at supper, then rush through baths to bed.  I'm exhausted just typing that, and we didn't even have our kids in extra activities!!!

The stars seem so small sometimes; but that is all point of view.  Mark Yaconelli has spoken at Youth Ministry conferences for many years now and is known for his revolutionary way of thinking as a Christian.  This is a video of Mark Yaconelli talking about his son's "Slow Club" and all that he learned.  Take 10 minutes to learn too?  (And maybe join The Slow Club?)

Friday, November 1, 2013

3 Gifts Eaten

For the first day of November…I am thankful for 3 gifts eaten:

-I am thankful for honey crisp apples!!  They are super sweet and have a great crunch (um…I know, duh) and are my favorite apples.  When you're 32 years old and trying to kick a 32 year old habit of eating pastry sweets every other day…an apple is NOT the same thing as a slice of coffee cake….BUT it's darn good!

-I am thankful for slices of coffee cake!  (Irony, I get it.)  A girl can't live on honey crisps alone!  :)

-I am thankful for these southwestern egg rolls (from Annie's Eats)!!!  They are so easy and delicious!  I've made them like 5 times and the whole family loves them.  I'm making them again tonight when my sister and niece and nephew come visit..yay!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Practicing Eucharisteo

“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.” ~Voskamp

And Paul learned to be content; so when I feel so discontent in my heart I need to practice most.

-I am thankful for cinnamon coffee and pumpkin pancakes shared with students on Monday morning.  

-I am thankful that I made the effort to learn to cook, and that when I fail at a recipe…I just try again or try something else.  Cooking for my family is a gift to them AND my ministry that I didn't know I was gaining when I started learning.  

-I am soooo thankful that our interview with the state appointed psychologist is over and done!  It was difficult to remember and describe some of the horrible things I've been through; BUT for every horrible thing I had to talk about I also had to describe how I healed from each situation…and that allowed me to share my testimony and talk about Jesus a LOT.  

-So I guess that means I'm thankful for the opportunity to share about healing and wholeness and how it's only truly found in Jesus!  

What are you learning lately?  What are you thankful for today?