Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to my Mama

Happy Birthday, Mama. I know you are in heaven with Jesus, and probably either singing or planting flowers right now. I wish you were here for your grand babies to make you homemade birthday cards and give you lots of kisses, and for me to make you a chocolate cake and tell you how thankful I am that you are my mom! Sixteen years since you left this life to go home, and I still miss you every day. In your memory, I wanted to hear and share this song today. I am sure the play list in heaven is music we cannot even comprehend down here, but this song always makes me think of you! I love you, always. Casey Bug.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Grace in the downpour

I look out the window and see sheets of rain falling, pushed sideways by the wind. Pecan limbs are breaking from trees and the crack of lightning sounds on the horizon. Just another summer afternoon thunderstorm. No great danger, but a great deal of booming thunder and windblown twigs and leaves.

Right now, I am one of those limbs--knocked down, windblown, and drenched from the downpours of my life. People are struggling through hurricanes and tornadoes all around me, and I know this storm is small in comparison. But this has been a long and steady storm. And just as I thought there was a glimpse of sunshine peeking through the clouds, just as those rays of light began to break through the darkness, clouds of circumstance filled with uncertainty and fear rolled in again. I am tired and asking how to see and hear my loving and wonderful God in this torrential downpour.

I cry out in prayer, wondering if this storm is something I have caused, this pain a result of some unwise choice or lack of understanding.

"God, show us what to do. Give us wisdom. Help us to rejoice in what you are teaching us, not just to look forward to the time when the storm passes. We are looking to you and we desperately need you."

He whispers, "You need the rain."

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

This downpour is the working of His grace, His purposes to glorify Himself, to continue this good work He began in me and has promised to complete. The rain is stinging and cold, and its pressure seems unbearable some days as its weight presses down upon me. But I hear His voice and I know that He is in the rain just as He is in the beauty and the warmth of the sun. So I cling to Him and try to learn to dance in this rain, thanking Him for the gifts here and now that I see all around me, because I don't know when the rain is going to stop. It may be a while before we see the breaking of the clouds and the brilliant sun of a clear sky. But I know that He is here now and His grace is for the present, so I cling desperately to the truth of His love and the solid reality of His grace, poured out daily in the rain.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” -- C.S. Lewis

My Gifts 11-20, seen so clearly even in the rain.
11. Red flowers planted in my pots on my back porch - a surprise gift from a friend.

12. Singing this old hymn with my oldest son.

13. My first cup of coffee after a week abstaining from it.

14. Seeing old friends with new babies and growing children.

15. A salad filled with the first grape tomatoes we have harvested from our backyard garden.

16. Kids building secret forts and finding buried treasure as they play outside.

17. Baby sparrows in our birdhouse by the gate.

18. My husband doing whatever he can to bring a smile or laugh on a day where the rain came in waves of bad news.

19. Reading to my children this biography of a man who truly trusted God to provide for everything and saw amazing things happen as he served orphans in Bristol, England.

20. The blue eyes of my daughter lighting up as she learns how to ride her new, bigger bicycle that her Papa gave her.

Loving and Learning,

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thanksgiving...my 5 for today

6. Emails from friends who tell me they are praying because I asked.

7.  Being able to really talk and listen to my husband, even about the really hard things in our lives.

8. Iced Coffee with Italian Sweet Cream creamer.

9. Hearing my little one sing at all times of the day and night, a variety of songs from Sugarland and Chris Tomlin (Sugarland, compliments of his Aunt Crystal. Chris Tomlin, compliments of me). Here is favorite selection #1 and here is favorite selection #2!

10. Philippians 1:9-11

Loving and Learning,

Please Pray

As a family, we are walking through a time of decision right now that is very difficult. We are desperately seeking God's wisdom for some situations that impact every aspect of our lives, and several times we have believed a door was opening in these areas only to see it closed again. Together, we have experienced God's amazing provision, His faithfulness, His mercies that are new every morning, and His grace countless times as we walk together seeking Him and stepping out on faith. We know that He is faithful and we know that all power in Heaven and Earth is His. We also know that His will is perfect, although we do not always understand the specifics of how that looks in our lives.

We want our lives to be poured out for Him, to lay our kingdom down, and to live for His kingdom alone. But when you step out on faith, and open your life to sacrifice, doubt and fear can creep in at every turn, and you begin to question whether these decisions are God's will or your desires. This is especially true when circumstances are difficult and you cannot "see" in human terms how these things will ever come to pass. So, I write this post asking earnestly and in great need of your prayers for our family--for wisdom, courage, strength, and confidence to know and then to do what God has called us to do. We know that He promises us in James if we ask for wisdom, He will give it to us. We also know that when we are walking on the water, out of the boat, we must always keep our eyes on Jesus, and not the "wind and waves" of our circumstances. Thank you for your prayers and may you each hear God's voice speaking as you seek His plan and purpose for this specific time in your lives right now.

Loving, Learning, Seeking, and Praying,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

His Kingdom or Mine?

This is the question I am wrestling with as I sing little one to sleep, tuck in big ones at night, pray, sing at the sink while washing dishes, do laundry, read books, try to encourage my husband, kiss injuries, laugh out loud over silly jokes, plan meals and pour over home school curriculum and summer reading choices for my children. "What am I doing?" I ask myself.

I read here about thanksgiving, being the seekers of beauty and grace because all things are aflame with God. I read in this book how we must give up our lives and surrender them fully for the glory of God and the gospel. I read here about a young woman and her surrender of her former life to embrace starving and diseased children and mothers as she must watch some slip from her grasp into the arms of Jesus while still working tirelessly and rejoicing in those who are healed here on earth. It's all truth. Real faith being lived out, not just spoken. I am encouraged, I am challenged, I am grateful for the wisdom and the openness, but how does all of this fit into the moments of my day to day? "What do you want me to do?" I ask God.

I read with my son the 6th chapter of Matthew and we read it over again. He decides he wants to memorize verse 33. Seek you first. I find myself going back here:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. " Matthew 6:25-33

So what does it look like to seek HIM, to seek His kingdom and righteousness above all other things? I don't know what it means in my life yet, except that I know it must began in loving Him above all things and loving people because His love lives in me. He is the beginning and the end. I have to know Him and love him to love like Him and make Him known. I must lay down my kingdom, and I am trying to know what that means each day as I walk with Him. As He speaks, I will listen. And maybe I will come closer to seeing, to knowing, to telling, and to bending to Him and others. I do not have as many answers now as I thought I once did, but I have the love of the One who is the Word, the Answer. So I will keep seeking His kingdom, and I know that He will keep His promises.

Kingdom of Me 
by Caleb*

I drew a line
Said this is where I'm safe and I feel fine
I drew a line
Satisfied. I lived inside that box for quite awhile
I'm satisfied
Oh I think there's a problem I haven't thought of
Who I am; Who I am
Up in my castle I sit on my throne while the streets hold disaster but no nothing more
Oooo. I'm a fool; I'm a coward
I sail my ship out to sea; Look behind, see the kingdom of me.

Away I ran. This moment placed in time for me to stand.
Away I ran.
Scared to see this monster that has taken over me.
Too scared to see.

Up in my castle I count all my gold while my kingdom is drowning in tears from the poor.
Oooo I'm a I'm a fool I'm cold heart when I look out my crown
I see blood I see fear
I see down, down, down
When will I learn
That it doesn't get much better till you turn
You gotta turn yourself around

Up in my castle I tear down my throne
Cast my crown to the ocean and bury my gold
Oooo. I have finally found that when I look past my pride I see love come to life
For this kingdom to be is much more than the kingdom of me

*For Alex

Loving and Learning,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Casting Crowns "Courageous" video

This is another great song from Casting Crowns, and the video has scenes from the upcoming movie, Courageous.


Loving and Learning,

Monday, June 13, 2011

List of things I wish people knew - Adoption and Special Needs

For some time, I have wanted to do a post highlighting some of the crazy things people say to me in random, public places when they notice that our little boy is obviously not our biological child, and that he deals with physical challenges. I am learning that some of these questions and inquiries are to be expected when your family looks a little different. And I have come to realize that there are so many adoptive moms and moms to biological children with special needs who have been facing probing questions, hurtful comments, and strange looks at the grocery store or the library long before we began our adoption process. So, at one time I was as clueless as I consider many others to be about being an adoptive parent and a parent to a special needs child. The being clueless part does not bother me, but the being down right cruel does.

To be honest, our family has been blessed with an incredible amount of love, support, prayers, and encouragement poured out upon us from our parents, church family, and friends. Very few negative comments have been thrown my way by people I don't know or don't know very well.  But I have read of many harsh things said and hurtful comments made to other adoptive families, and it is hard to comprehend.
So, I am dedicating this list of a few things I think everyone should know about adoption and special needs children to all of the families out there who have been frustrated and hurt by someone who felt it necessary to comment or ask probing questions about your parenting, family, decision to adopt, child's struggles, etc. Many of these are not inspired by my own personal experience, but by the stories shared by friends, on blogs, and in books from moms of adoptive and special needs children.


1. Please do not pity my child and say "bless his heart" because he has some physical or mental challenge. At his young age, he has overcome more obstacles, shown more strength, and found more joy in the smallest milestones reached than most of us will ever experience.

2. Yes, we chose to adopt from another country even though there are children in the United States who need to be adopted. That is not because we hate America or think children here are "less worthy" of a family. It was a specific call on our family at a specific time to adopt from a specific place. We support and pray for many families who have adopted domestically. And even now, we pray and leave our hearts open to more adopted children in the future, regardless of where they were born.We hope that everyone who feels a need to point out to us how many children in our country need to be adopted will seriously consider fostering or adopting themselves.

3. Adoption is expensive, but we are not rich. We would sell everything we have if we needed to do so in order to provide medical care and resources to our biological children. So, why would we think twice about spending money on an adoption which will bless our family with a child? Is the life of a child worth less than half the price of the SUVs that are parked in many church parking lots on Sunday mornings? We did not sacrifice to bring this child home, we were blessed to have him become a part of our family!

4. Children with special needs do not "mess up" a family, they enrich our lives, bring more love and joy into our family that you can imagine, and remind us every day how precious each life is because each life is created by God. My child may annoy you or make you uncomfortable, but I challenge you to look in her eyes and see the beautiful creation of God she is. And if you cannot be kind, please walk away without comment.

5. My biological children are not suffering or being deprived of the necessities of life because we adopted--they may have less stuff, but they are learning that life is not about material things, self-serving attitudes, and following the crowd. It is about God and following Him where He leads. Through this process, not only have they "gotten" a new brother, they have seen God's hand in every detail of this process. They love their brother, and would bring 5 or 6 more kids in to our house today if it was their choice!

6. Before you ask me a question or make a comment about my child, please ask yourself the following:
       (If the child is adopted) Would I ask this question if he or she was a biological child?
    (If the child is of a different race than his family) Would I ask this question is he was the same race as the
        family who adopted him?
    (If the child is special needs) Is it really okay to ask a stranger deeply personal questions about her child
          just because I don't know anything about children with physical/emotional challenges?
    (And in all situations)Why do I want to know?
7. Please know that I welcome the opportunity to talk about my adoption journey and/or my precious child to anyone and everyone who is genuinely concerned. Any questions that are filtered through the list in #6 are welcomed! ;)

If you got through the list, please forgive my snarkiness. I never really say these kinds of things to people in the grocery store, although it might be fun to try it sometime! Instead, I attempt to be gracious and smile, or at worst keep my mouth closed and walk away. Because I am sure at one point or another in my life, my lack of knowledge in certain areas has led me to hurt many people with my own comments or questions (even though at the time I had no idea).

Now, I want to hear from my readers, many of whom inspired the list. What are some of the crazy/random/downright mean things people have said to you about your children or family or adoption and how did you respond (or how do you wish you had responded)? Please comment. I would love to hear your stories.

Loving and Learning,

Saturday, June 11, 2011

For the guys...

Most of my blog posts are definitely directed to women/wives/mothers so I thought I would post this movie trailer for the men. The movie is the latest from the makers of Fireproof, and tells the story of some men who face tragedy and learn how to be courageous fathers together. It comes out in September, so take your wife/husband on date night or take your whole family to see Courageous!

Loving and Learning,

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Getting real...

There are things I share on my blog and things I don't. It's easy to share the good things, the joys, and even the "lite" version of my struggles. It's harder to get real and open up the really hard places in my life for the viewing of any and all who choose to peruse this online space. And for anyone who stops here (there are a few of you), once or frequently, my hope and prayer is that the words I type and the emotions I express through my posts are encouraging to you, and that they never ring false or hollow. So, in the spirit of getting real, here are a few things God is showing me. It's quite a list, but not a prescription. It's just a good reminder of what is important. I am not sharing it with you so that you can create a check off list for each day with these words on them. But it might be a good thing to print out and read often for a little encouragement!  This post began in my head on a Sunday morning before church a couple of weeks ago when reading a blog that ended by asking for comments on what mom's would tell themselves if they could go back 10 days, 10 months, 10 years...

Reminders to Myself:

1. LOVE - Love with your heart open. Love God. Live in God's love and let Him transform you to love people even when it is hard. Walk in real love, not some Hallmark card, sappy love. Love when it's messy, when you have to go out on a limb, when the dirt and yuck and preconceived ideas try to get in the way of loving. Love when someone has disappointed you. And don't think this only applies to people who love you back or whom you like--love those who are your very enemies and pray for them. Love the "least of these". And do all of this loving with action and in truth-not just with words.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." John 3:16-18

2. LISTEN - Listen to God: through the sweetness and sharpness of His word, the Bible; through His Spirit, speaking to your heart in prayer; through the pain and the darkness of trials and disappointments as He teaches you. Listen to your husband when he wants to tell you about his day, listen to your kids when they want to tell you every detail of the latest dream or adventure in their world, listen to beautiful music and spoken words as older and wiser ones play and sing and tell stories that can teach us, listen to the cries of those who are unable to speak and speak up for them, listen to the sorrow of a friend or stranger who needs to speak her heart. But DO NOT listen to the voices that seek to destroy you, devour you and lead you to places of sin, hurt, and frustration.

“Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways.  Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway." Proverbs 8:32-24

3. LET GO - Let go of past hurts. Forgive. Cry or scream to the sky if you need to, but allow God's grace to cover over the pain and then give that grace to those who hurt you, even if they show no remorse or refuse to believe that they have wronged you.  Let go of the idea that perfection is what matters - reach for all that is good and beautiful and right and true, never missing those things because you want to have an immaculate home, perfectly compliant and calm children, beautiful clothes, unbelievable hair, the most gorgeously landscaped yard, and a list of accomplishments three miles long for you and your family. Excellence honors God, but judgemental perfection does not. Let go of your desire to please others. Focus on caring about them more than caring about what they think. (See 1.) Let go of your tendency to be critical of others when they don't do things your way. Let go of your stuff and your dreams and give them to God, asking Him how He wants to use your time and money. You will be amazed at what He does!

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Galatians 2:20

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." Colossians 3:12-14

4. LAUGH - As much as possible! Laugh with your kids when they tell you a joke that makes no sense. Laugh just because. Laugh at mistakes, spills, falls, and dumb things you said! Laugh when your planned day turns into a series of unplanned mishaps. Never laugh at someone else's pain or expense, but laugh with people as you build friendships and find things to laugh about together.

"Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy..." 1 Peter 1:8

 "If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15:10

5. LEARN - from God by walking with Him each day. Learn about the beauty and the sorrow of this world, so you can add to one and be a part of diminishing the other. Learn from those who are not like you by getting to know people outside of your community and comfort zone. Learn from those who are wiser than you. Learn to admit when you are wrong. Learn that honesty is more valuable than anything you might obtain by lying, cheating, or stealing. Learn how to be a real friend. Learn how to work hard and work with others. Learn that sometimes not saying what you want to say is best. Learn how to give more and take less. Learn to LOVE, LISTEN, LET GO, LAUGH, and  LEARN as you seek to live your life poured out for God, a life that will matter at it's end because it was lived for the One who was and is and is to come.

 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Philippians 4:8

And when you have a day in which you were unable to do any or all of these or do any of them well, realize that your salvation does not come from your worthiness or abilities, but from the free gift of God through Jesus Christ. God's delight in you on bad days is the same as on good ones. Ask Him for grace and strength to live in these things the next day!

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

Loving and Learning,

Friday, June 3, 2011


fMy 5 today
1. Dripping wet noses and toes of 2 kiddos who "accidentally" sprayed each other while attempting to water the garden.

2. Vases of blooms from my Daddy's garden (yes, I still call him Daddy :))

3. This song, sung to me and now I sing to my children.

4. A small garden spot filled with the blooms and baby fruit of possibility.

5. The rediscovery of an Emily Dickinson poem I loved many years ago.

Loving and Learning,

About Me

My photo
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.

Our Adoption Video


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