Friday, August 3, 2012

Just because...

Sometimes, we just need to embrace the joy of  being a child of God! Oh, there is grace enough for all of us, even when we fail to offer it to each other and although we will never earn it. It is our Father's gift to "the whole human race"! I pray every believer would live in grace and give it to all people, because it has been abundantly given to us.

Loving and Learning to be grace-filled,

Monday, July 30, 2012

Quiet here, but not in real life

Well, I took a look at my blog the other day and realized I haven't posted anything since Memorial Day/Alex's Birthday. Those two months were quiet here in my virtual corner, but quiet is the last word I would use to describe our lives during that time! To be quite frank, the last two months have been filled with some major highs and lows. We are left with more questions about God's will for our family's future than before, with seemingly no answers on the horizon (at least none we can see with our limited vision). 

Now, I am about to get a little personal here. And the experiences I am sharing don't have a nice, conveniently wrapped blog post ending, epiphany moment, yet. So if you like concise, easy platitudes, you might want to search elsewhere. Because, honestly, right now we are 'slap dab' (sorry, my country roots are showing) in the middle of trudging through the muck and mire of this messy time in our lives. And I don't really know how things are going to end or what we are going to learn. But I do know we are clinging to the hope we have in the God who created us and loves us, even when our weak hearts and minds are numbed by the seemingly endless unanswered questions in our lives. When talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago, I summed it up by saying, "Every time we think we see the door to walk through, and began toward it, the door slams in our faces. We are left confused and questioning every decision in every area of our lives. I know God is speaking, even if to tell us 'no' or 'wait'. But right now, because of my sin and my sadness and my frustration, I cannot hear Him."  Notice that I am fully aware that it is my selfish heart, my impatient nature,and my sinful attitudes of entitlement that have left me in my current state.

I own this. (My own doubt and struggle, that is).

Even as I find myself sorrowful over my own sin and doubtful of choices which have previously been so certain for me, I cling to the knowledge that I am a daughter of the King of Kings, and he has graciously made me a joint heir with Christ because He loves me. I am bought with a price. He redeemed me, rescued me, adopted me and will never leave me. So, even as I struggle, I hold onto this.

He owns me. 

I pray some really simple prayers lately when it comes to knowing God's will for my life and the life of our family. God, help me to know how to pray. Help us love you more. Help us to accept your will with joy and peace. Give us wisdom. May we be thankful, not just for things or answers, but for You. Help me to pray for more of you, not more of what I think I need.  “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24  

Yet, even as we struggle, we are reminded to pray, love, and give of ourselves as we see the pain of others. There is so much suffering in this world, and many people are hurting beyond what we can comprehend. The darkness of the shootings in Colorado, the unrest and persecution of the church in Egypt, the killing of South Sudanese Christians by their former government in North Sudan, more than 147 million orphans who go to sleep with questions and loneliness every night, the 30 million adults and children who are enslaved today as we read this, the 1.4 million children who die each year due to lack of clean water and basic sanitation. These statistics can seem impossible and overwhelming. Yet, in Christ, there is hope. I know and believe this to my very core. It is not just a nice sounding phrase. He is the one lasting hope we have in this life. And no matter where we are or the circumstances of our lives, we can share His hope in small and big ways as we seek to find one someone across the street or across the world for whom we can make a difference. Even in your most difficult struggles, God can bring you great joy when you seek to show His love and give to others. Often, you will find you learn and receive more than you could ever begin to give.  I know we have. So, we can be thankful for opened eyes and hearts, even as we struggle through our own circumstances. 

So we wait. We wonder. We hope. We listen. But we never stop loving and learning.

To be continued....

Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, Alex and a Memorial Day thank you

I have seen these really great images on Pinterest and some blogs I read, so I got inspired to do one for Alex today in honor of his birthday. Professional photographer I am not, but he was happy about the results!

For Alex:
Happy Birthday, big boy! Your Daddy and I love you more than you can imagine and are so grateful that God entrusted your precious life to us as your parents. You have always been Mom's superhero and Dad's buddy. We are proud of how you use the abilities and talents with which God has gifted you, but we love you for you and you alone! We pray for you each day and seek wisdom to guide you in spirit and truth as you grow toward being a man. We wish for you no more and no less than a life characterized and defined by the transforming power of Christ. We pray that as you grow you will make the most of every opportunity God has given you to follow hard after Jesus, to love people, and to be a light in this world. Happy 10 years -- we cannot wait to see what our Father has in store for you in your next decade.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

Love you always,
Mom and Dad

Happy Memorial Day to all of you! Thank God for the people throughout history and still today who are fighting for freedom and justice. Thank you to every service man and woman,  and for military families past and present who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.

Loving and Learning,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Cupcake Kids' and God's blessings

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to our Cupcake Kids' Sale for Sixty Feet's work in Uganda. Our sale raised more than $140, and the Cupcake Kids' website is reporting the total amount raised so far to be $47,358.55. Isn't it amazing what God does with our small offerings of time and love? He turns the hearts of children who love Jesus and want to show love to others into almost $50,000 to go directly to feed, clothe, buy Bibles for, and invest in the lives of precious children who are living in terrible circumstances. After the sale, Alex was required by his teacher (me) to write about all that he learned from planning and hosting the cupcake sale, and below is what he wrote (with a little grammar and spelling help from MS Word and Mama). Praise God that we have the opportunity to serve others together!

"Last week our family sold cupcakes to benefit Sixty Feet, a ministry that helps imprisoned children in Uganda. I learned many things from this service project.  Here are a few of the things we did and what I learned from them. When we were planning the amount of ingredients we needed, I learned how to use Microsoft Excel to add numbers.  I learned how to plan a project, because we had to plan many different details in order to have the cupcake sale. I helped my Mom with the baking, so I learned about baking and frosting cupcakes. I learned how to communicate with grownups while talking to people about Sixty Feet during our sale. I learned how to follow instructions better than I was before. I also learned how to make my presentation on the cupcake table look good. In conclusion, this cupcake sale taught me many things.  And through it all I learned that it is important to serve others." -- Alex Tatum

Remember, it is not too late to order some cupcakes from us for a donation to Sixty Feet ( message me at loveandtots3 at gmail) or contribute online via our virtual cupcake stand. Thank you again for all you have contributed so far!

Loving and Learning,

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cupcakes-more small things that can make a big impact

We are super excited to be a small part of The Cupcake Kids' {Inter}National Cupcake Sale to support the work of Sixty Feet in Uganda, Africa! We are hosting our sale on Saturday, May 5, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at our house. We will have several unique cupcake flavors (my kiddos love to watch Cupcake Wars on Food Network, so they have created some great recipes) and lemonade for sale. For those who cannot make it to our actual sale, we have a "virtual" cupcake stand here where you can go and contribute directly to Sixty Feet.
Sixty Feet
If you are not familiar with Sixty Feet, click the picture above to read details and be amazed at the work God is doing through this wonderful ministry. In short, they minister to the imprisoned children of Uganda. That's right, I said imprisoned children, a concept difficult for many of us to imagine. Most of the children in these remand facilities are there because they have no other place to go. The first time I read in detail about the conditions these children were living in (from a blogger who had actually been to one of the facilities), I cried and prayed for weeks, asking God what to do with such painful and heartbreaking information. I can remember waking up in the middle of the night several times, not being able to sleep, and praying for these children. Then, I learned of Sixty Feet while reading Shelley's blog (she is the wife of one of Sixty Feet's founders and the mama/organizer of the Cupcake Kids). This March, after following her blog for over a year, I got to meet Shelley at Created for Care in Atlanta. Sixty Feet was one of the primary sponsors of the retreat, and Shelley was gracious to chat with me for a few moments in the midst of her busy time there. I had already planned on our family doing a Cupcake Kids' sale this year, but was even more excited about it after the conference.

We really hope you will donate online or come and buy some cupcakes and/or lemonade from us this coming Saturday, because we believe wholeheartedly in what Sixty Feet is doing and are certain God is going to continue to use them in big and amazing ways. And honestly, when we see God's hand upon a group of people, we are overjoyed to have the opportunity to be a small part of what He is doing in and through them!

Here are some of the flavors we plan to offer: (subject to change)
 ~Pink Strawberry Princess (strawberry cupcake with strawberry cream cheese icing and glitter sugar topping) inspired by our little princess.
~Peach Cobbler (vanilla cupcake filled with peach pie filling and topped with fresh peach butter cream with graham cracker bits) chosen by my "peach" of a big boy, who loves all things sweet.
~Thailand Tropical (coconut milk cupcake with key lime butter cream icing) inspired by our sunshine from Thailand.
~Maple Bacon (butter cake cupcake coated with a maple glaze and topped with real bacon pieces) for my hubby who thinks everything is better with bacon.
~Birthday Cake (just the best vanilla cupcake and basic vanilla butter cream  icing with those pretty sprinkles on top) for all of the cupcake kids out there who may not like our crazier concoctions.
~A lotta chocolate (devil's food cupcake with chocolate fudge filling and peanut butter chocolate chip icing) because chocolate is my favorite!

We will also have my big kids' own recipe for "homemade" lemonade. They have been perfecting it over the past couple of years, and are excited to be sharing it with people outside of our house! We aren't pricing the cupcakes or lemonade, because we think you can decide what amount you want to give to the work of Sixty Feet.
The Cupcake Kids
We hope to see you this coming Saturday! If you can't make it, remember you can still donate online through our virtual cupcake stand.

Loving, Learning, and at least for this week, Baking,

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A life changed by God's grace - Chuck Colson

This video is a wonderful tribute to Chuck Colson and God's amazing work in and through his life.


A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singingbut the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Psalm 68:5-7

Loving and Learning,

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Grief and a poem

There are people who were once a part of my life, who are gone now. Some, from whom time and distance have separated me,  live on the fringe of my memory as their past selves. When I see or hear of them in the present, those current individuals are strangers to me. I remember them as they were when we were a part of one another's lives. Too many are gone from this life, living here only in the hearts and memories of those they love. They reside in a place of perfect fellowship with God, but today has been on of those days when I miss them very much. How grateful I am for the life God has given me and for the now in which I live. But occasionally, remembrance and sadness well up in my heart and soul, bringing with them the longing for a voice, a smile, a song, some news, from people who are not here, now. From time to time I "dabble" (if you can call it that) in poetry, but do not consider myself a poet. I don't write poetry regularly anymore, having very little talent for it. But I do read it often, and have a great love for it. I came across this poem that I wrote several years ago in response to some difficult times of grief in my life, and although I almost never share my poetry with anyone, I wanted to share it today in the hope that it will mean something to someone who may be grieving.

In Memoriam

It was a cold day when you left us. 
The August sun beat down upon us but could not warm our hearts.
I think the earth should stop, if for a fleeting moment, to mark such a life.
You were a traveler who included us on your journey.

Words fly--memories are molded into myth as small town storytellers speak of you.
Words pour--from me when met with joy.
Not today.
Today, the halted sounds of my speech ring with regret and sorrow.

Yes. It is here, but will not be found today.
On another day, we will find it in the strangest places--
a worn flannel shirt, a yellowed note scrawled upon, the eyes of a stranger we pass, 
the warmth of an old friend we meet by chance.
Not here and now. It hides, but we believe.


You told us not to waste this time, that dreaming is not dead to those who will.
Did you struggle? I think so.

You did not yield, plunging toward and in, for always more...seeking, finding, a quality unspoken in this life.
It showed. It shined. It was here when you were and we saw it in you.
So, we do not want to let you go. 

What is over is what we search for while the workers cover the emptiness with fresh, red dirt
on this day. still. moving.

Loving and Learning,

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Friday

I have a blog post brewing in my mind that is not quite ready to write, and I don't have the time to write it today. But this week has been so filled with evidence of God's faithfulness in our lives that I didn't want to fail to express my gratitude and amazement at all He has done and continues to do. I can truly say that it is hard to be grateful for some circumstances, but it is amazing when God uses those circumstances to show us more of who He is and remind us of His grace, faithfulness, and everlasting love for us (I use "us" to refer to all people, not just my family). Honestly, the shifting sands of this world and the uncertainty and pain of difficult circumstances bring us a greater sense of our need for God, more compassion for others who are suffering, and the deep conviction that this world is not home. I can say with full conviction that our hope is in our God alone, every day, in both trials and joys. This song is wonderful, and Aaron Shust is a favorite of mine. May your Friday and your weekend find you hoping in Christ alone, unshaken by "drought or storm".

Loving and Learning,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We need a break Wednesday!

After an extremely busy weekend and Monday/Tuesday, and an emotionally and spiritually grueling turn of events over the last couple of weeks, I decided today that we just needed a break! So, instead of a weighty post (I realize the majority of my posts have been quite heavy as of late), I thought I would provide you with some details about our day.

Disclaimer :We took a break from school today, because we are going to do school in the summer anyway and are not at all concerned about filling our required attendance days (barring some major catastrophe, by the time August rolls around, we will be several weeks over our required days for this year). 

* We declared this a PJ day, all of us staying in our pajamas until almost 3 p.m. There is something about snuggling on the couch with your kiddos in your pajamas at 11 a.m. that does wonders for the soul.

*Breakfast consisted of Doritos, yogurt, and pineapple juice for the big kiddos, because we could. (I did feed Anderson some Multi-Grain Cheerios to assuage my mom guilt a little)

*A few weeks ago, we sold back some used books on Amazon and got a credit for them. So, last week I used the credit to buy some new school material and special books. They came today, and Aerin instantly wanted to read her new Jesus Storybook Bible to Anderson, while Alex started reading his Jesus Calling for kids. I am so thankful to share these moments with them as they grow and learn from God's word.

*Lunch was at 3 p.m. We made and ate blueberry pancakes together. According to Aerin, "We have lots of fun in this family." (Boy, did I need to hear that since I have felt like the "no fun virus" has been living at our house for the past several months).

*Between breakfast and lunch, I did a tiny bit of housework while the kiddos built an entire village in my living room for their Lego mini figures using boxes, plants, and various items from all over the house.

*Because we brought home a plethora of artwork and some projects from our home school co-op year end program last night, I set up a display in our sun room to show off the big kids' work. Anderson stayed with me through the school day most weeks (he did go to the nursery a few times with some pretty special teachers), so he didn't have any "work" to display. But he is very excited that his picture is in the co-op yearbook. He was still talking about it at dinner tonight!

*After lunch, while I tried to get little man down for a nap, the big kids went outside. I find them not 10 minutes later in swimsuits (it was not warm today, in case you are wondering), having a water fight  washing my car!

*Daddy came home early tonight and we have enjoyed spending time with him and eating dinner together.

*My oldest is waiting for me to build a Lego robot with him, and I have given him special permission to stay up late tonight, because we haven't had any "just us" time in a while. So, I am going to wrap up this very mundane post and go play with my big boy. I may be able to update with news tomorrow that world domination is now on our agenda since we have conquered the feat of constructing the "best Lego robot ever."

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

I am grateful for God's graces given throughout each day, and thankful for our "break" day. Praying that you have time to "break" from your routine and enjoy the moments and people God has given to you today!

If you are interested in checking out either the Bible or devotional book I got for my kiddos, you can find them by clicking on the links below. I bought them after they were highly recommended by numerous friends.


Loving and Learning,

Saturday, April 14, 2012

He is with us

The Psalms have always been my go to book for scripture reading, for many different reasons. I have come to believe that I love them so much not only because they show the range of human emotion and heart in relation to our lives and God's presence, but also because they are actually song lyrics to ancient worship songs (music is pretty much one of my favorite things in the world). Nothing is better for my heart and mind than when I find a song like the one below, a portion of a Psalm set to beautiful music. So, of course I had to share it.

May you rest in Him this weekend, even if the storms rage around you.
He is with us! Hallelujah!

The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:11

Loving and Learning,

Friday, April 13, 2012

Just a minute all I have to blog today. Our family is still in the midst of a very difficult storm right now, and we are surrounded by friends who we love who are dealing with circumstances much more difficult and confusing than ours. Please join us as we pray for them.

We are praying so hard for our friend Rachel, her fiancee, and her family (our pastor's family) and thankful for their honesty, faith, and love during this time. If you will, please pray for Rachel's healing and wisdom for all of them. (You can click here to get updates and know how to specifically pray).

Many people we love (as I am sure is the case with you) seem to be fighting battles in several different areas of their lives, on multiple fronts. (We have felt that way for a couple of years now, too). I never dare to spew out short, "churchy", bumper sticker sayings to those who are suffering. Such words do not make the pain go away or bring peace, but often leave someone with a sense of guilt that they are struggling.

What I know is that we cry out in our weakness to a God who can bring peace and love in the midst of pain and suffering and that we are not home yet. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been told we will have trouble in this world. But that doesn't make it easy and it doesn't make it less painful when we do face them. I know that we can be grateful because the One who has overcome walks with us and with those we love through these battles. He does make beautiful things for His glory out of our sorrow and brokenness, but the road getting there can be longer and harder than we ever dreamed. So, we pray and struggle, we cry and rejoice, we hurt and we fight only through the power of Jesus and the life we have in Him. And we learn to love those who are hurting, we learn to "see" other people and serve them, we learn that we are on this planet together and none of us is immune from the effects of sin and brokenness here.

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

"Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." James 1:2-12

**Disclaimer: There are pastors, writers, philosphers, and theologians from the past and present, who have written entire books, papers, sermon series, essays, and more on what scripture says about suffering, Christ, the cross, and the Church. I am not attempting to even scratch the surface of this topic, but just sharing from my own experience. Secret Church at The Church at Brook Hills this past Good Friday (I did not attend) was entitled "The Cross and Suffering" and the study guides (both with blanks and filled) are available for download here if you want to study this in great detail. The study guide is an excellent and scripture rich resource on this topic. I am planning to begin studying it next week. The video and audio for the session is not available yet, but will be in the coming weeks and I will post a link when it is. 

Loving and Learning,

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On this day

Today has been a tough day for me because of some big decisions and painful circumstances that have just come to light for our family. But it has been such an amazing day of experiencing God's love and grace through several friends that I am blessed to have in my life and their encouragement and prayers. Just a few years ago, I prayed for God to send some "kindred spirits" into my life--women who I could share my life with, minus the masks and pretensions that seem to accompany many friendships. After a season of change and the loss of some friends in my life for various reasons, I asked that He teach me how to be a true, faithful, good, and real friend to the women he brought into my life. And He has answered my prayer with several new and true "sister" friendships that have developed through those years since I prayed.  If I am being honest, I probably had as much to do with the demise and damage to the lost friendships of my past as my friends did. God has been so gracious to change my heart and He continues to give me strength to be more vulnerable and more consistent as a friend (things that are difficult for my protective, distraction-minded self), and it is only by His grace that I am learning to be a good friend. So, I am beyond grateful for these ladies and their friendship, and realize that they are just one more of His good gifts to me.

So, on this day that all creation waited in expectation for the Resurrection of Jesus,
the day that His friends and followers awoke to be reminded that He had been crucified and was with them no more,
the day that the enemy laughed and the religious leaders breathed a sigh of relief thinking they were rid of this rebel,
the day that God already knew would be the last day of grief before the dawning hope of Resurrection Day...
on this day, I have so few words to translate my heart. But I read an old post from the blog one of my favorite writers. It is written as the words being spoken by Mary, Jesus' mother, after she has witnessed him hanging on the cross. The words beautifully express a broken heart surrendering and grateful, which is what I pray that I will be. So, I will leave you with these words, quoted wholly from Ann Voskamp's blog.

"How you were slashed that our lives could be seamless — all holy.
That the veil in the temple rents in two because of You, and there is no longer a divide between the common and the hallowed and the whole earth is full of your glory and You are the continuous, unending, divine thread that weaves through all of the world, holding all together… even when you, Son, are rent apart.
And hanging naked and blood smeared and dirt defiled, You nodded slow and You said yes — You gave us your one-piece robe of seamless holiness and You clothed us, the filthy ones, in all your white righteousness.
That Your blood wasn’t enough.
That Your buying us back wasn’t enough.
That Your being our brother wasn’t enough.
Nothing short of dressing us beautifully and calling us Beloved would be enough.
O Son
I will take up this cloth that You give me and be who You name me.
I will wear a One-Piece life and I will see Your face in the poor and the oppressed and the forsaken. And the moon will shine round and the threads of my moments will shine with Your glory.
And this one-piece life will all be for the One and True God alone…"  --Ann Voskamp,

Loving and Learning,

Friday, April 6, 2012 motivations

You may notice a new, little pink button on my sidebar from Circle of  Moms asking you to click and vote for my blog as one of the "Top 25 Adoption Blogs by Moms".  To be frank, I am not altogether comfortable with marketing myself and I tend to cringe at the thought of reading "How to" helps on how to make your blog grow in numbers of followers, site traffic, revenues, etc. Let me be clear in saying that I don't believe there is anything at all wrong in doing those things--many moms help to provide for their families and benefit wonderful organizations by using their blogs to make money in one form or another. I think the world of blogging and virtual marketing,  just like any enterprise, are tools that in and of themselves can be used for a variety of purposes and reasons, some wonderful and some less so.  But I honestly have felt that from the first post, my blog was supposed to be used for some specific purposes. At the beginning, it was to tell our adoption story and to bring awareness to the plight of orphans around the world. Now, it has expanded, and I believe it is primarily supposed to focus on life with Christ, celebrating and living in God's glory as we journey to show His love and grace in tangible ways to people around us and around the globe.  On my blog, it is my prayer that in every post you find the very heartbeat of my life in Christ, and that you also find one of the following: Encouragement, Story-Telling, Advocacy, Truth, and/or Vulnerability.

I tell my own stories, and I share the stories of people who inspire, touch, encourage, and show me the face of God in some way. And with each post, I am surprised at how God speaks to and changes me through typing these words on a screen. Somehow, I am able to better absorb and be changed by a story or truth when I have "translated" it into words. I don't blog to get attention or comments, although I am encouraged by and grateful for the comments people leave. And I don't blog to gain a large group of people hanging on my every word. (In fact, that very though frightens this desperate child of God living by grace alone). By God's grace, I blog what He is teaching me and what I am experiencing in relationship to Him and who He is and what truths He has revealed through His word, through experiences, through people in my life, through family relationships, and through circumstances. So, when I put that little pink button on the side bar, I just felt the need to clarify my motivations. If you want to vote, go right ahead. If not, no big deal. If my being in the "running" for this list brings a reader who might be encouraged to my blog, that makes me smile. If it only serves to remind me that blogging is about His glory, not mine, then that is even better.

Gratitude and blessings for reading this very introspective post if you have read this far! And since I have spent way to long talking about me on Good Friday, a day that I am broken over what Jesus did for me and for you, I will leave you with His words, spoken just days before he was crucified,  in Matthew 25:31-46.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Loving and Learning,

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Just Because...

...we just finished family worship a few minutes ago as we try to be still, listen, pray, study, and express our gratitude to God during this Holy Week. I thought someone might want to hear this song--it was how we finished up and everyone (except me) went to bed (really, two were sleeping before the song, but three of us made it).  I am showing my heritage here, but I absolutely love the music and lyrics to this hymn, which was originally an Irish folk song.

"By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life." Psalm 42:8

Loving and Learning,

Monday, April 2, 2012

Created for Care March 2012

Thanks to help from several family members, my partner from (Cover)ed,  my husband's support, and some unexpected financial provision from God, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a conference specifically created for those who are adoptive moms, as well as women who are passionate about serving and ministering to orphans, adoptees, foster and adoptive families, and at-risk children both in the United States and around the world. Created for Care is in its second year and is a truly incredible event. I heard about it last year, but there was no way that I could leave Anderson during that season of our lives. This year, when the conference spots filled up so quickly for the January event, I guessed that I would have to wait until 2013 for my chance to attend. But then, the organizers announced they had decided to host a second conference this year (since the first one filled up quickly and there was a large waiting list).  When everything worked out so that I could go, I could not believe it! As I told the three ladies who went with me, I have not been on a ladies overnight trip since my days in college (which is much more than a decade ago). To say it was a gift and blessing in my life to be able to experience Created for Care is a gross understatement.

I am still processing so much of what I learned, heard, and experienced during the event. It was apparent that thought and prayer went into every single component of the conference--from the location to the speakers, from the specific topics covered in breakout sessions to the worship, and from the multiple sponsors and ministries represented to the opportunities to spend time with God and like-minded ladies. There is truly no possible way that I can summarize what God taught me at Created for Care in one blog post, and I am not sure bullet points could do justice to the rich experience I had. But I will share with you two fairly simple, but really BIG truths that God spoke to my heart during those days in the hope that He will encourage and strengthen you!

First truth:
Parenting out of FEAR and GUILT not only suppresses joy, but is counter to everything I am trying to accomplish as a mom. 
Let that one sink in and think of all the times that thoughts along these lines come to your mind or out of your mouth: "Am I messing up my children?" "I am a terrible Mom because I don't have matching birthday party printable labels or teach my kids Latin before they are 5 or _______________ (fill in the blank with the things a friend or family member does that you don't do and feel badly about) "Oh no, I haven't been doing _________________ (fill in the blank with whatever latest parenting method or special activity you have read about in an article, book, or blog, but have never done). Does this mean that I have caused irreparable damage" "Why is my child ___________________ (fill in with one of your child's or children's areas of weakness) and other children I see are not struggling with this? Is this something I have done?"

Any of those sound familiar?  They are in my life, but they are not the right questions to ask, because they come from a place of guilt and fear. Yes, we must ask hard questions of ourselves as moms who love God and want to be the moms He has called us to be. We must evaluate and improve our parenting and ask God for wisdom to be the parents He made us to be. But living with the fear that if we don't have it all together we are failing our children creates a cycle of guilt and frustration.  A cycle that honestly causes us to center more upon ourselves rather than upon the God who created our children, who loves us all, and who promises to provide everything we need to parent these precious treasures He has given us.

I must learn to trust God and allow Him to be my Father, to love on me, to parent me as His child, in order to become a Mom who can love and parent my children in a way that leads them to know, love, and be passionate about following Him.

Second truth:
It is important to separate character building from correction of behavior.
This is another seemingly obvious nugget of wisdom, but one that I really needed to hear and view my parenting through its lens. When I spend the majority of my time correcting bad or unwise behavior after it has taken place, I am wasting opportunities to address specific character traits that may be missing or undeveloped (when often it is the lack of those character components that leads to the behavior that needs correcting). And when I am doling out discipline after the behavior has been corrected, speeches and lectures about character traits are a waste of my effort. At that point in time, my children are not learning about their underlying character, but are focused on the method of discipline and its consequences (i.e., being grounded or being put in time out) for the moment. One of my favorite speakers at the conference (who is a mom to 10 children, both biological and adopted) pointed out how our parenting should become primarily about calling out the treasure in each of our children rather than continually correcting their negative behaviors. This is not something that happens overnight, and obviously there are times that we must correct severe or dangerous behaviors.  However, this "treasure principle" of parenting can become the focus of how we parent. It is born out of consistency to use teachable moments, to find and promote activities and jobs in which your child "fits" and excels, to speak words of encouragement 10 times more than you speak words of criticism, and to at all times, through your words and actions, build a definition for your children of themselves that is founded upon who God says they are in His word. (This last one is very similar to the principle I talked about in this post from a few weeks ago).

I must learn to always define and label my children as their Creator does, living the example of what I teach and speaking truth into their lives based on the truth of God's love and how He defines them as His children. By knowing who they are in Christ and walking in His truth, it is my prayer that they will grow a humble confidence and a deep trust in who God created them to be and the plans He has for their lives.

These two truths only scratch the surface of what God taught me and revealed to me during Created for Care, but they are BIG truths, so I wanted to share! On a lighter note, I think I drank more coffee and ate more dessert over that 2 1/2 day time period than I have at any one time since college (again)! But I think I cried and laughed enough to burn off a few of those desserts (at least I hope so)!

I will end this post with a few random, recent pictures and of course, a song.  

Anderson and his cousin love to play!

The pictures below are from a family field trip we took to study history and do a nature walk!

 These two pics are from the hotel at Created for Care.
Sign near the zip line, "Be Courageous! Have Faith! Go Forward"

View from back of the lodge
My friend Sandi posted this song on her blog almost a year ago. I heard it on a film we screened at the conference one night and have been listening to it daily since then (I am sure my hubs is tired of it). But it is definitely worth a listen (wait until the fast part kicks in before you stop it).

Loving and Learning,

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday, Anderson!

On March 21, 2008, a tiny, preemie baby was born in a hospital in Nakhon Si Tahammarat, Thailand. He lived in that hospital for the first 3 months of his life, defying the odds to survive an extremely early, traumatic delivery. Although we were not there to hold him, and we did not know his face or name, we were in the paper process of adoption from Thailand and praying for God to send us a child in His perfect timing. On February 27, 2009, less than a month before this sweet boy turned 1 year old, I heard the words from Holt's case worker we had been longing to hear telling us that this little boy was going to become our son: "We can make this an official match today--Congratulations!" In August 2010, we held him in our arms for the first time and he came home on September 2, 2010. Last March, we were finally able to throw a birthday party for him to celebrate his life. And November of last year, we finalized his adoption!  Last night, he volunteered to pray before his birthday dinner, and tears of joy spilled from my eyes as I listened to his sweet, quiet voice thank God for his "Mommy and Daddy" for "Jesus" and for "Alex, Aerin, and Rascal" (our dog). 

Every life is beautiful, and I am very grateful for the beauty God has allowed me to see in His plan for Anderson's life, for our family, and for the lives of so many precious ones who are orphans no more. We cannot imagine our lives or our family without the gift of Anderson. And I am grateful that many years ago when we began to pray about adoption, God spoke to my heart and banished my fears and doubt when it seemed that adoption was impossible for our family's circumstances. He guided, protected, comforted, and provided for every step of the journey to bring Anderson home and continues to pour His mercies out upon us as we navigate the waters of caring for, advocating for, and parenting a child with special needs.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." Psalm 40:1-3a

Here are a few photos of Anderson, past to present. He is growing and learning so much, and we cannot wait to see what this new year of life will bring for him and our family. We love being his parents, and seeing how God continues to work in his life.

3 Months old - June 2008

1 Year Old - With 1st Foster Mom

18 Months Old - September 2009

2 Years Old - March 2010

August 2010, 29 months old, with 2nd foster Mom

The day we first met him in Thailand, August 2010
(if you know me, ask me why Alex and Aerin are wet and dressed in adult sized t-shirts)

In his hometown August 2010, with his social worker and the agency representative

A break to read and rest on our trip to the zoo in his hometown, August 2010

Family Dedication day  2010 at our wonderful church, Shelby Crossings
His first time to celebrate Christmas, December 2010
with brother and sister in front of the Christmas tree, 2010

His 3rd birthday cake (he loves cars and wheels), March 2011

Playing with one of his cars at his 3 year birthday party!

Looking at the big tractor with Papa at his work, 2012

Loving his "4" candle from his birthday brownies, March 21, 2012!
4th Birthday cupcakes at Grandmama's house!

Cruisin' into year 5, March 22, 2012

Loving, Learning, and Celebrating God's gifts as we celebrate Anderson's life, 

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

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