Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just because I am thankful, I love him, and I really like this song!

Lately, I have become more and more aware that all of the changes in our lives and God's work in our family have made mine and Jeff's marriage so much stronger and richer and better than it has ever been. Don't get me wrong, we still get irritated with one another and yes, we even argue sometimes.  We don't agree on everything, and I am sure some days he gets tired of listening to me, the talker! But as we have followed God to places we never thought we would go, our love for Him has grown deeper and He has given us love for one another that is focused on giving rather than receiving.  I have seen God grow Jeff in some amazing ways over the past few years, and I am thankful for a husband and father who loves Jesus Christ first. There were years of our marriage that things were far from good--we always loved each other, but it wasn't the kind of love that we have now.  It was a "give me" and "I need" love rather than "what do you need" and "what can I give you" love. We both made some big mistakes and hurt one another deeply. I am so thankful that God restored us, and gave us what we never had before. He opened my eyes to my wrong attitudes and selfish heart, and I am so grateful that He was working in Jeff's heart at the same time!

So, just because I love my husband and appreciate with all my heart the father and husband he is. And because I see God's heart for the orphan in him when he says "Yes" over and over to adopting again and tons of kids (yes, we are praying and considering adopting again soon)! And because of a million other reasons that I could share but won't bore you to death by sharing, I wanted to publicly praise God for what He has done in our lives. We are not perfect people, so our marriage is not perfect. But I am excited every day to share life's journey with the man who God gave me as my husband! The lyrics to the song below are a great expression of how I feel about sharing life with him, and how many of you probably feel about your spouses. 
Even if you have heard it, it's worth listening to again!

"'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man, so there's nothing left to fear. So, I'll walk with you in the shadowlands 'til the shadows disappear. He promised not to leave us and His promises are true. So, in the face of all this chaos, baby I can dance with you. So, let's go dancing in the minefields..."

Loving and Learning,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Celebrating you...

On your first birthday, we gathered with Gran and Papa and Grandmama and Grandaddy, Daddy bought you a '1' candle, we sang happy birthday, and Alex and Aerin blew out your candle for you. We then watched a short film on Thailand, and prayed hard because you were literally across the globe and we could not hold you or tell you how much you are loved! We hoped and prayed that you would be home by your 2nd birthday, but we knew that you were being held by your Father in Heaven even before we could hold you, tell you how much we loved you, and watch you make a mess with your birthday cake! Here's an excerpt from my blog post on that day:

"Happy Birthday, Anderson. One day, I will sit down and tell you the story of how we celebrated and loved you before you even knew us, and I will tell you that God has done the same since before your life began."

1 year old - Thailand

March 21, 2009 - brother and sister blowing out your candle
Now, you are 3 years old and it is hard to believe how much has changed since the day we first held you in our arms and the day we brought you home. We celebrate your life today, we celebrate God's work in and through your life. And we thank God for all He has done to change our family by allowing us to adopt you. You are funny, sweet, strong, and a true miracle. So, on your 3rd birthday, we celebrate again and this time, you get to blow out the candles and make a mess with the cake! Every time I look at you, God reminds me that His way is perfect, even when it seems radical or impossible, even when I try to do things my way. Happy Birthday, sweet boy! We are so thankful that you are home and so excited to see what God has in store for you in your 4th year!
3 years old - March 21, 2011 - Powdered Donut Birthday Breakfast

"I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:9-10

Loving and Learning,

Friday, March 18, 2011

Psalm 18

Yesterday morning I read Psalm 18. It's a Psalm of praise, thanksgiving, and victory written by David after God has delivered him from Saul and saved his life.  It seemed a perfect way to start my day. And yesterday was a really good day for our family, just an ordinary day filled with small blessings for which we are all thankful--time with friends, laughter, a dollar movie, and time all together because Daddy took a day off of work. When we got home last night, I took a few minutes to scan through the blogs that I normally read/follow. And two of them were asking for prayer for a terrible situation--a precious child with downs syndrome, living in an orphanage in an Eastern European country, who was wanted by a family. They had held him, loved him, and did everything they could to become his adoptive family--but the judge said "No". How can this be? How can that precious gift of God be left in an institution when he has a family waiting to love him and teach him and care for him the rest of his life? How can this family endure this decision, losing their son? I prayed and I cried out to God for them...I don't know this family, I have never seen this child. I pray for a miracle in this situation. I know that God loves that little boy and his hopeful and hurting adoptive family, but I do not know the answers to these hard questions.

One child matters, every child matters, because each life matters. And the reality is that there are more than 140 million children who lie in institution beds, who sleep on the streets and scrounge for food in dumpsters, who live in landfills and try to survive from digging through piles of waste and refuse, who are sold as slaves into hard labor or prostitution, who have never had their boo-boos kissed, who go to bed hungry, who have never been told that God loves them and has a plan for their lives. And no matter how heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, life-changing it is to SEE and KNOW that these are kids, NOT NUMBERS, we NEED to see it and we need to DO SOMETHING about it! Because as children of God, who have been saved by Jesus, we desperately NEED to get past ourselves, our lukewarm lifestyles, and our desire to live out a dream that is not God's for us. Those are the things that keep us from the hard places, but also keep us from experiencing JOY and LOVE and CONTENTMENT that come only from HIM!

A couple of weeks ago, someone who met Anderson for the first time commented to Jeff and me, "That is an amazing thing you did for that child...you changed his life." My response was that he was an amazing gift, and through his adoption God changed our lives and family. I cringe to imagine what our lives would be like if we had said "No" to God's call on our family to adopt, if Anderson was still in Thailand and we were still living as we were back in 2006.  And with all my heart, despite my fears and sinfulness, I want to say "Yes" to what He calls us to do next, because I do not want to give up what He has for us in order to hold onto what I think is dear! Even when we look completely CRAZY to everyone else, if we are following hard after His call on our lives that's where we need to be.

So, what does all of this have to do with Psalm 18? Well, I really want to be able to read Psalm 18 and to proclaim its truth even on days when I don't feel like a victorious warrior, even on days when circumstances and life are just painful. I want to cling to God and know Him and glimpse just a little of who He is and how much He loves me even when everything goes wrong and life falls apart and my heart is broken over the pain in this world. Because Psalm 18 is about God giving an earthly victory to David more than two thousand years ago, and it was from David's lineage that Jesus Christ was born.  Now, through Jesus, God offers all people the opportunity to be victorious warriors, and this time it is an eternal victory over sin and death, our enemy and our destiny without Christ. So the truth of Psalm 18 rings loud and clear when we realize that God has a love for us that protects,sustains and gives ultimate victory even when we lose our day to day battles and life slams us to the ground on our faces. Thank you Lord, for reminding me that you alone sustain, and your way is perfect.
 Psalm 18:30-36
"As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way."

Loving and Learning,

Monday, March 14, 2011

Everyday Life and What to Do?

I can honestly say that getting swallowed up in the every day busyness and insanity of life these days is very easy for me. I began working part-time at the age of 14, worked full-time every summer through high school and those first years of college, and until May 2010, worked outside our home the entire time Jeff and I have been married with the exception of a few months. I enjoy working hard, but for several years after the kids came along, I wanted to be at home. Now that I am, to say that I am so thankful to be with my three kiddos every day is an understatement, but to say that it comes naturally for me to be a homemaker is just flat untrue!

Teaching my two big kids and spending time with all three of them is the easy part for me. It really is the constant house work that never seems to be done which often completely overwhelms me. I like to have a project, finish it as quickly as possible, check it off my list, and move on. Having perpetual housework is something I do not enjoy. Intellectually, I know the housework has always been there, even when I was working outside my home. But now it is always in front of me, mocking me in my face and reminding me of all I did not get done today, and the perfectionist in me wants it to be done right and just DONE! I have gone from meetings and technical support issues, filing and paperwork, conference calls and training classes to laundry, cooking, laundry, shopping, managing doctors' appointments, laundry, doing dishes, clipping coupons, laundry, trying to reorganize closets and files, keeping the dog in our fenced in back yard during the day (a challenge all its own), and did I mention, laundry?  Saturday, I was looking forward to getting so much done...guess what got done? I worked all day and the house looked as if a hurricane hit it by the time we went to bed. We had a fun day, the kids got to enjoy this beautiful weather, and even Anderson rode in the wagon outside. But all I could think about was that I had done dishes twice already and I had another sink full after supper! Arrrgh!

In the middle of all of this, God speaks to my heart and reminds me that perfection is not my goal and that dishes in the sink aren't my big problem. My problem is that I get so wrapped up in the unimportant things of every day life and forget that my time is not my own. If I am His, my time is His. Yes, I need to take care of my home and work hard every day, but I don't need to miss those moments with my children and husband, those moments a friend needs me to be an encouragement, those times that I can deliberately and intentionally let the dishes sit in the sink for a while and spend my time going to be the hands and feet of Jesus--whether it be to my own family, to my neighbor across the road, or to another country. And I can pray for and get involved with people who are doing those things everywhere. God's plan for lost and hurting people is me and is you (if we claim to be His followers). And I certainly don't want to miss an opportunity to share His gospel, His love, His heart with someone who needs Him because I am worried my bank account isn't full enough, my house isn't clean enough, and I am not skinny enough :)! Because it's not about me, anyway. So, if you can get swallowed up in your every day, whatever that looks like...housework or long hours at the office, pressure to have the perfect figure or pressure to be the best athelete, making ends meet or buying that boat...stop and ask God to open your eyes. Anything that consumes you, even those things that appear to be "blessings", keep you from clearly seeing and knowing God and following Him wherever he leads.  And even the best "treasures" on earth are fleeting, but the treasures given us by God when we faithfully follow Him are eternal!

I am still learning how every day life is supposed to look for me, how I am supposed to spend my time giving and living and loving so that my life is about Him and not me, about others and not me, about the Gospel and not my agenda.  But I can say with my whole heart, I am thankful that through His word and some awesome, Jesus loving people in my life, God has opened my eyes to the truth of the hurting and the lost, the orphan and the poor. And even though my former "comfortable" life has been completely turned upside-down, I wouldn't trade these opened eyes for the "normal", "nice" life I had before. Many people wonder what they can do to be the hands and feet of Jesus if they haven't felt God's call to move across the world and do mission work.  I have a list of some ministries that are doing on the ground, hands and feet work with integrity and great love in many countries around the world. Some of them I have connections with personally, others I just know someone who knows someone. If you are asking "What can I do?", click here and take the time to look at a few of these organizations, pray for them, and ask God how you can invest in the life of a child or a family or an orphan or a church by partnering with one or more of these wonderful ministries!

Every day life is so different when our eyes are not on ourselves, but on the God who loves us and directs our steps to share His love for all people!

Loving and Learning,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Home 6 months!

As of March 2, our little boy has been home with us for 6 whole months!! Jeff and I were talking about how we cannot imagine our family without him and it seems as if he has been with us for much longer. He and Alex and Aerin are 3 peas in a pod, and "the big kids" as he calls them, really love to play with "Garfield." Even though Jeff and I have begun calling him Anderson most of the time, Alex and Aerin still call him by his Thai nickname, "Garfield", and I love it!! We will be celebrating his 3rd birthday this month (21st), and 7 months since his "Gotcha Day"(20th) in Thailand. March has and is going to be filled with celebration and praise for what God has done in his precious life and in our family. So, I thought I would share some highlights and memories of the past six months and six days since we brought him home! {Because, I am appalled at how little I have blogged about his progress and our family in general and would like to record the memories before I forget them ;)}

September/October 2010
*Anderson discovered popcorn and it became his favorite snack!
*Our sweet friends from church gave us a "Welcome Home" party/shower for Anderson and we had a wonderful time. A game of "Never, Have I Ever" and a "cake wreck" made it especially fun!
So glad Joy didn't make the bakery fix it!
*Doctor's visits, doctor's visits, doctor's visits...details to following the November/December section.

September-Anderson sitting in the Bumbo seat Aunt Pam gave him.
 *Anderson is learning new words "open and close" as he opens and shuts every cabinet and armoire door in the house...over and over and over again. Hours of entertainment!
*He loves to wear my sunglasses and call himself a "cool cat"

*We take him to church for the first time, and he really enjoys the music
*In order to sleep, he must babble for an hour before going to sleep, lying next to Mom on the couch or in the bed.  He will not sleep at night in his portable crib, but will take naps in it.

with Daddy at the Swedish Fest Parade
*Alex and Aerin have a hard time focusing on their school work because they want to play with Anderson all of the time, as he does puzzles and plays with his cars and blocks while we do school.
*He loves to ride the New Holland mini tractor that my Dad gave to Alex and it is great to see him sitting up on it.
October on the "twactuh"
November/December 2010
*He watches the Iron Bowl with us and learns to say "War Eagle" from Papa (Daddy and Alex do not like this, as they are huge Alabama fans, but we all laugh about it)
*When we pray, he says "talk to Jesus, mommy, daddy, amen!" So precious. He also loves to hear mommy sing praise songs.

Playing with his buddin..buddins, his favorite toys!
*We take him to the neurologist and confirm that he has diplegic Cerebral Palsy (affecting lower limbs, bilaterally, with some involvement in his upper extremities). We plan to get him fitted for leg braces to help him learn to walk.
Not the best quality, but this is a familiar site at our house!

*He sees a pediatric opthamologist and we find out he is extremely nearsighted.
*Early Intervention is regularly coming to our house to help with Occupational Therapy, and in December he is evaluated for Physical Therapy. 

With my beautiful grandmother on her 90th birthday!
*Our first Christmas as a family of 5 is special, and Anderson learns to say "pretty tree" and "look, don't touch..." when looking at the ornaments. He also learns to say "Jesus loves me". I think he had as much fun watching Alex and Aerin play with their toys on Christmas morning as he did playing with his!
Christmas morning in front of the tree-an annual tradition!
January/February 2011
*We are in full swing with Physical Therapy, and doing regular stretches to help his mobility.
*He loves to laugh at Alex and Aerin, and they each have their own special way of making him cackle!
*At the end of February he is fitted for his leg braces at Biotech in Birmingham.
*We finally get his glasses!!
Seeing his favorite book, Gossie and Gertie, with his new eyes!
*He has always loved cars (they are his favorite toys), but now he begins to get interested in Thomas the tank engine (just like Alex was at his age). He wants to wreck the track when Alex tries to build one for him and yells "CHOO CHOO TAIN"
Sweet brothers!

March 1st - We get his braces (aka Superman Legs) and he is getting accustomed to wearing them.



To Anderson: We love you, our son and brother. God has given us all a gift by choosing us to be your family. You are funny, spunky, and full of determination, and we cannot wait to see what He has in store for your life. You bring us so much laughter and fun every day and we cannot imagine life in our family without you! Alex is a proud big brother, Aerin is a loving big sister, and Mom and Dad cannot believe how blessed we are when we see the three of you together. You have already fought so many really tough battles in your short life, and God has given you the gift of pure stubbornness so that you never allow the obstacles in your way to keep you from moving forward.  You are our son, and a son of your Father in Heaven. We pray that you will always know how much we love you, and that you will always abide in God's love. Love, Mommy and Daddy

If you have read this far, thanks for letting me use my blog as a memory book! I thank God, my Father, for giving me more of an understanding of my spiritual adoption as His daughter because we have walked the road of adopting our youngest son. And I pray that HE continues to use the life of our son and our whole family to bring Him glory as we learn what it means to love Him and others above ourselves, our stuff, or anything else that would keep us from knowing Jesus and seeing Jesus and following Jesus wherever He leads!

Loving and Learning,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Had to share this one!

This is an amazing song and video by Third Day. The kids and I have been jamming to this song in the car for the last couple of weeks, and it is one of our new favorites. Today, when I saw the video, I knew I just had to share it...incredible message about our spiritual adoption as sons and daughters of God, and beautiful picture of adoption. ENJOY!

Loving and Learning,

About Me

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I love Jesus Christ, am a seeker of beauty, and am a grateful child of God who would be lost and hopeless were it not for His grace. I am learning to walk in love, see interruptions as divine appointments, and value people and relationships above agendas and results. I pray my life is grace-filled, and brings joy and encouragement to everyone I know and meet. We are a family of 6, built by God through love, birth, and adoption, living in the beauty and the struggle that accompanies parenting kids from hard places. Got questions? Email me at loveandtots3@gmail.com.

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