Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Different Kind of Christmas

Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, we went and served as a family. Kelly and I talked a few weeks ago about how we wanted to change how we celebrated Christmas. It had been bugging me for quite a while how every year I made a list of material items that I don't really need. While I had already handed a list to family as requested, we could still change how our immediate family celebrated Christmas this year. So we told our older son that we did not want him to buy us anything for Christmas. Instead, with the money he would spend we wanted to support a ministry that feeds the homeless and he could purchase blankets and sleeping bags in our name for them. So his gift to us would be to go buy those items, and then on Christmas Eve we would go serve as a family and feed the homeless in downtown Dallas. To my surprise, he thought it was a pretty cool idea. So we went shopping for blankets and set them aside for Christmas Eve. 

When last night came, I was a little excited, but a little worried about going as a whole family. You see, we have 2 sons; an almost 21 yr old and a 1 yr old. I was really worried that our 1 yr old would be a distraction and get fussy since it would be past his bedtime. I tried to carefully plan out meals so he wouldn't be hungry, but I knew when we got there he would want to get down and run around and that would not be allowed. But I kept feeling pushed by the Holy Spirit for all 4 of us to go.

Now I know you must be asking if I was scared to take a 1 yr old into a shady part of downtown Dallas around people that could be aggressive or on drugs or just a little not there. Honestly, I wasn't. You see, I have learned since becoming a parent that I cannot protect my children from everything, but that my God can. So before we stepped out of the car to go inside I prayed that the Lord would protect our family and everyone else from anything Satan wanted to throw our way. And then I left any fear right there in His hands. Let me tell you, if you have never done this, it is the most freeing thing! 

Isaiah 41:10 says "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."

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Psalm 188:6

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

So afraid or fearful, I was not. I stood in strong belief that if the Holy Spirit was telling me we should go, then He would take care of us. But I was still worried about being a distraction, about the 1 yr old interrupting as they prayed or read scripture or sang.

What I didn't realize was that God had a specific purpose for us being there and it unfolded right before my very eyes.

As the men and women came into the building and sat down, the 1 year old was pretty quiet. New people, a new place and a lot to look at. But when scripture started to be read and songs were sang, he had a lot to say as well. When I finally stopped being worried about him enough to look up, I saw at least half of the crowd of people watching him...with a smile.

I decided we would stand in the open (instead of behind the tables serving), greeting them before they walked through to get food, shaking their hands, telling them Merry Christmas and looking them in the eye to show that we love them and see them as a human being worthy to be loved. As they all filed through the line, I realized that a huge percent of them had a stone cold face as they were greeted by other adults. They would shake hands and some would smile, but a lot just looked tired, battered from the outside cold and world they lived in. They were here for just a meal and that was it.

But as they walked up to my 1 yr old and I wished them a Merry Christmas, they smiled...every single one of them! They tried to get my son to smile. They talked to him and asked me questions about him and tried to play with him. 

Most babies and children shy away from strangers, especially men in hats. But since Lex was born, his daddy has been putting hats on him and wears hats frequently and so that didn't bother Lex. His older brother is also a very dark shade of black so the color of other people's skin doesn't scare him either. He is also very much an extrovert child and doesn't shy away from strangers, but instead looks them in the eye and most of the time smiles at them.

And he did just that last night. He looked at them as if they were any other person and smiled. 
And they smiled back. 

It was in that moment that I realized his purpose for coming. To bring hope, to show love, and to give me the ability to tell them that I love them enough to share and trust my family with them even in their dire circumstances.

A wise friend once told me if you go somewhere as a family unit where most people are scared to go as an individual, you are telling them that you love them enough to trust them with your most precious assets and the doors it opens to share and show the love of Christ are endless! Thanks Anthony for such challenging truth!

Last night that became a reality. As Lex and I walked around, I was able to talk with several of the homeless individuals about their life. It was eye opening, gut wrenching stuff.

I imagine Jesus saw much of this during His ministry on Earth. He didn't spend his ministry in the warmth of his home, constantly surrounded by family. No, he spent it with the people nobody else wanted to be around. The people others were scared of. The people you would never bring your children into the presence of.

It made me think of the verse from Proverbs 22:6 that a lot of parents can quote from heart: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Most parents that I know of use this verse in regards to discipline or obedience. What hit me last night is that we don't use this verse in all aspects of what we are called to do as believers. When we are called to serve in various roles, how often to we leave our children behind out of protection or because they might get in the way/be a distraction?

Boy did the Lord set me straight on this last night. If I want to train my children up in the way they should go, that means they have to see me serving and they have to get their hands dirty as well. Jesus loved all people; the crippled, blind, diseased, deaf, widowed, orphaned, the sinner. I need my children to see this and to see that we are all sinners helping others in need, showing Christ's love to them.

They cannot see this through a blindfold, protected behind the walls of my home. They can only see this by working beside me.

Last night I was blessed to see Jesus actively at work and challenged to be a more biblical parent. Will it be hard? Of course! Worth it? No doubt in my mind!

So today as you celebrate Christ's birth, I pray that you will remember His life, His mission, and His calling for you. Each of us have our own role, our own part to do while we are still breathing. It all started before God even created the Earth. The question is will we obey like Christ did?

I pray that 2014 will be a challenging year for you. That you will count the cost and say yes anyway! Because that little baby died on a cross so that you have the chance to stand in His presence as His child one day! Make 2014 a year like none before - trusting Him with everything you have because He is worth it!

Merry Christmas y'all!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Day Before

One year ago today I received a phone call that a birth mom had picked us. Ten hours later I found out she went into early labor and we needed to book a flight because our son was going to be born soon. The next morning he came into this world and I was holding his hand after lunch!

Let me rewind 1 day prior to all of that excitement.
I was sitting across from my dear friend in her play room telling her what I was praying for. My prayers lately had been extraordinarily deep, almost unending, as if I was constantly talking to the Lord. I felt His presence so close to me and it was such a sweet time that I will never forget. It is hard to explain, but I felt like He was sitting next to me and we just talked. I opened my heart, and His Spirit responded. Almost as if we didn't need words to communicate. I was utterly dependent on Him and I knew my heart was aligned with His!

I had always struggled to understand the will of God. I mean, how do we know if we are following His will or walking in His will? It was such a foreign concept and such an abstract thought. We make decisions all of the time, every single day, and they might or might not be what the Lord wanted us to do. But how do we know?

"I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart." 
Psalm 40:8

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground."
Psalm 143:10

On that day, however, I learned exactly what that meant. You see, as I sat and waited, talked with, and prayed to the Lord, I felt so deeply that He was telling me "yes!" Everything I was praying, He was encouraging me, speaking to me, and helping me understand His goodness and will. 

So I shared with my friend the following:
I have been praying and the Lord has told me He is going to give me a baby before Christmas. It is going to be a boy like I have asked for, and it is going to be sudden. Also, it will not be close to our home so that we will have some extra bonding time just the 3 of us before anyone else meets him.

Yes, those were my prayers, my outcries, my desires.
As crazy as it seems, I had reasons for all of them and I was going to pray BIG prayers because what did I have to lose? I knew God could do it and He already knew my desires, why not ask for them?

"Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

And as I sat there, letting the Spirit do the talking for me, I felt a "yes child, yes." 

Only in that moment did I understand "I desire to do Your will" and "Teach me to do Your will". Only when I was walking that closely with the Lord did I understand how my will and His will can be one in the same.

So I shared what the Lord was telling me. I shared with a handful of people, and all thought I was setting myself up for potential disappointment, but were excited with me the same. Of course, all of these people were praying with and for me. And the Lord knew. I'm sure He was smiling because only He knew what was about to happen.

When I received the phone call that our son was on the way, tears of excitement, joy and praise were streaming down my face. You see, when the Lord answers every single prayer down to the smallest detail, He and only He receives the praise! Only He could grant this, orchestrate this, and pull this off in a manner where all of the glory would be given to Him.

It was through this experience that I realized my God is one who can move mountains. He can grant miracles. He, and only He, can answer prayers. Nothing is outside of His control. He is just sitting there waiting for you to ask. Waiting to sit and talk. Waiting for you to come to Him humbly and say "I delight in You Lord! I desire to do Your will...and only Your will."

It is in those moments where you will see His unmistakeable power, love, and grace.

It is right there where He will gently align your heart with His.

My testimony is forever changed by trusting Him and watching Him move mountains for me.

I am forever blessed by His love.

If you wanted to read more about Lex's adoption story, you can read about it here:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A New Thanksgiving

I woke up this morning at 5:45am and could not go back to sleep. I took that to mean the Lord wanted to spend time with me extra early today. As I read and worked on a study I'm going through, I ended by praying thanksgiving to the Lord for His many blessings. When I paused to just sit, the Holy Spirit whispered to me "What about the hard things? Are you thankful for those?"

Wow, in all my 31 years on this earth, how many times have I thanked the Lord for the times that I did not enjoy, the times I hurt, the times I normally try and forget? I don't know if I truly have.
I sat and reflected. In my life I have buried my best friend and cousin, I have been deeply wounded by an evil act of Satan that made me want to lose my trust in the good that should reside in humanity, I have almost died in two different car accidents, and I have been told that I could never bear children. I have seen friends suffer, I have suffered, and I yet here I am. Still standing, still alive. But when I thank God, I thank Him for the "blessings He has given me." 


Shouldn't blessings also be the fact that He brought me through those things as only He could? That he saved my life? Was infertility a blessing? Was losing a loved one a blessing? 

We live in a broken world, but the Lord is still in control. He was the one that brought me through my grief. He was the one that sent angels to surround me when I should have died wrapped around a tree. He was the one that blessed me with two amazing sons because I couldn't have any in my womb.

Often I forget to thank Him for carrying me through the hard times, but more than that I forget to thank Him for sitting with me during those times. My faith was strengthened enormously then, my walk and heart forever changed. Had I not gone through the pain, I would not have seen the true identity of my Heavenly Father. His face was made known to me in those moments.

So today I sit in a state of thanksgiving for going through the fire, sitting in the den of lions, in the body of a whale and living to tell the testimony of His grace, His strength, His love. Forever I am changed by those experiences...for the better. And I would walk through them all again because He was always beside me and that was and is all I will ever need.

So what are you thankful for today?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

National Adoption Day

Today is a special, but also an especially sad day for me.

It is a day when we celebrate all of the families that were made or expanded through adoption. 

It is also a day where we become more soberly aware of how many children there are without a family. No place to call least not a forever home.

Here are the facts:

Worldwide there are roughly 18 MILLION orphans without any parents.

In the US, there are approximately 420,000 children in foster care and over 100,000 are adoptable and just waiting for a family to say yes.

In Texas, there are about 28,883 children in foster care and over 10,800 are ready to be adopted into a forever home.

To those that have been called to adopt, thank you for saying yes.
To those that have been called to be foster parents, you have a special crown in heaven waiting for you!

To those that have given money to help someone adopt, have babysat a foster or adoptive parent's children for respite care so they could have a night off, have brought meals when a placement happens, have cleaned a parents house because you know they need to spend time with a child more than they do cleaning, have brought supplies and necessities after "usual" hours, have supported the weird parenting techniques sometimes children from hard places need, have prayed for children and parents alike, have helped a teen aging out of foster care with a job or apartment application or helped them fill out college paperwork and helped them shop for the basic necessities...
it is you I want to thank!

You help make burdens lighter.
You get it.
You understand that the command to care for orphans does not mean you have to adopt, but that you have to care for orphans!

We are the body of Christ and your hand is a perfect example of how that is supposed to work.

- - - 
I celebrate this day as a mom of two adopted sons.

My oldest is my comic relief, my son that is wise beyond his years from the heartache he has seen that I cannot even begin to imagine, a rock on the outside and a heart full of gold on the inside. He became part of our family when he was 17 and now 3 years later sometimes it almost seems like he has been here all along. He loves his little brother more than I thought was possible. One day he will be an amazing husband to a lovely young woman and a wonderful spirited father to his children. I love him more than he will ever imagine.

My youngest is a gift from God. He displays more happiness than I ever knew a child could have. He loves life and all people (especially his older brother!). He is loud and crazy and brings such joy to our entire family. I cannot wait to see how his personality develops and the man he grows up to become.

And yet, my heart still aches.
It aches for the children I can't adopt. I wish I had a huge home or island and adopt them all! But I can't. I can't be a mom to 18 million. Only God can parent that many children.

It aches for the children I know are out there that we will one day add to our family in the future when we adopt again. Are they in care yet? What kind of pain are they suffering besides just the loss of parents? Why can't I stop it from happening? Why can't I help the parents out there struggling to keep their family together?

I can't fix the world, but I can try, pray, give, support, and continue to look for ways to help.

If you are not moved to act, maybe these stories will help.

And if you are looking for a place to support, I highly recommend Embrace Ministry. They work with parents, teens aging out of foster care, with churches starting and continuing ministry in orphan care, along with advocacy for them before our local, state and national government.

Also, here are some stories from National Adoption Day resources:

Monday, September 30, 2013

Being a "Boys Mom"

A friend once told me "I think you are going to have a bunch of boys because you would be a perfect boys mom." And I honestly think she is right. I was never a girly girl. If the Lord gave me a girl I don't think I would even know where to begin parenting her.

I find great joy in watching sports, especially football!
I am very competitive.
I get onto my boys for letting out loud and frequent amounts of gas, but giggle on the inside at their silliness.
I love getting messy with food, dirt, and everything in between.
I encourage loudness, especially loud laughter.
Playing hard is the best kind.

I'm a boys mom, and I absolutely love it.


Last night we were at a friend's house and they had another couple over with a boy 2 months older than our youngest son. As I sat and watched them play, my son was chasing the other baby around the kitchen island. When he would catch up (which was often because he is quite fast), he would grab the other boy with both arms, pull him to the ground, then crawl on top laughing.

At first I was laughing too. We all were!
 Seriously, this is my son? The kid that is fast, strong, and smart about what he is doing.
He's going to be athletic! Yippee!

This is the same kid that climbs on things, falls down and laughs. 
He stands up in his bathtub, bends over and tries to reach anything outside of his grasp.
He is determined, strong, and stubborn.
If you tell him no, he wants to do it even more and will fake you out until you turn around, then he will sneakily go back to doing what he wanted to do in the first place.
This kid is smart!

Wait, this is my son. Am I encouraging bad behavior? Is my laughing going to encourage him to become a bully? The mean kid? The trouble kid?

Then I thought about my thoughts for a moment and realized how much of the world and what other people might think of my children and me as a mom I was letting into my head.

Boys need to wrestle. Boys need to play hard. Boys need to be boys!
They need to climb, crawl fast, run, wrestle around with other boys, fall down and laugh about it, get back up and continue playing hard. They need to go, go, go, and then pass out (at age 10 months AND 20 years AND still 31 years). The Lord made boys different for a reason.

And I need to trust the Lord to guide me in my parenting instead of worldly thoughts. I need to train up my children in the way that they should go so when they grow older they will not depart from it. I need to teach them the fruits of the Spirit and how to submit to the Lord in order to mold their heart to match His. Most importantly, I need to teach them how to LOVE the LORD, and LOVE people! And I need to stop worrying about everything else.

So as I watch my sons play, watch them goof off, watch my older son pick up my younger son and throw him in the air and do flips with him, watch him pretend that he is a machine gun and fire off bullets (no, I'm not joking - it's their favorite thing to do together) and watch all three of my boys wrestle around; I need to remember that I am the mom the Lord picked to raise these boys and the ones to come. He and only He can equip me to do this. I need to sit back and enjoy the ride - relishing in all of the small moments, big events, and everything else in between. Because before I know it - they will all be gone, grown up, with families of their own. And all I will have are the sweet memories of these little moments, forever engraved on my heart.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What is your calling?

I woke up with a Casting Crowns song in my head titled "If we are the body". For those that know it, it's probably started playing in your head as well. If you do not know it, here is a video with the lyrics:

Sometimes I wake up hearing songs I know I heard the day before, and other times I know it's the Lord trying to tell me something, to encourage me, or to start my day focusing on Him. While drinking a cup of tea and watching my son play on the ground, I read a blog post from a sweet friend and sister in Christ about their calling to care for and help restore families. You can read about the Blevins' story here.

It brought up emotions in me because I am quite certain they are being told by well meaning people that they are crazy, not doing what is "best", and so forth.

I remember hearing some of the same things. And sadly, I still do. But what strikes me even deeper is when I hear Christians make comments such as:

"You are so amazing! I could never do what you did."

"You have a bigger heart than I do."

"I'm so happy with my life the way it is. Why would I change anything?"

and the worst offender, but said most often:
"God knows I'm not strong enough to handle anything like that."

Really? REALLY???

And to all of them I politely and loving say, 
"You're wrong."
1. I am not so amazing. I'm pretty normal. I just choose to say 'yes' when God asks, but believe me I've said no quite a few times and regret every single one of those times! It's hard to say yes, but oh so rewarding!

2. I think everyone has the same size heart. I had to make a conscience decision to let mine die repeatedly to my own wishes and desires in order to follow what the Lord was calling me to. It's hard. It's not easy. God heals hearts, he makes more room in hearts, and He opens hearts.

3. It is hard to change when everything seems perfect isn't it. I understand. My dear, sweet friend Krystal wrote this quote by Sir Francis Drake one day and it speaks to this better than I ever could:

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

4. I am definitely not strong enough to handle everything God has sent my way. Guess what, He knows that! He knew that before He put it in my life! He designed it to be that way! Why? Because if I was strong enough, I would never need Him! I would live my perfect, happy little life content and self-sufficient, without the need for my heavenly Savior.

So I ask you, no I beg of you to question what is going on in your life?
Are you scared of saying yes to something?
Is fear the only thing stopping you?

"You see that his faith and his actions were working together and his faith was made complete by what he did." James 2:22

"Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" John 12:26-28

We are called to be His hands and feet, to altogether be the body of Christ for a reason. We each have different callings, but all of them work together to further the kingdom. No calling is greater than to lay down your life to follow His plan, no matter what that plan is.

So I encourage you today, ask the Lord to give you courage! If you have no idea what the Lord is calling you to, ask Him to give you a vision, direction, and guidance! 

"Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Psalm 34:10

"I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me." Proverbs 8:17

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34

I love this old saying. It rings so true!

I stood around waiting for someone to do something.
Then I realized that I was someone.

You are a chosen child of God!
You are called to a live a life worthy of greatness!
You, yes you, are strong enough to say yes....with HIS help!

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:16

Friday, June 14, 2013

Adoption Day for #2!!!

Today was a day that we've longed to be here for some time now.

When parents have a biological child, that child is instantly theirs. They take them home and never look back. With an adoption, we are considered the "moral parents", but have no legal rights. We have to report back to our agency on a monthly basis with updates, send doctor reports to them, and have to wait 6 months until we can go to court and become the official legal parents with all of the rights that biological parents have.

I have a HUGE sigh of relief now.

Not that I minded all of the other, but I'm ready to be mom without having anyone looking over my shoulder, asking questions, etc. 

And it FINALLY happened!

We are now a family of


 The ceremony was so sweet and the judge was extra nice! It was all so familiar since we were just here 2 and a half years ago with Kiir, in the same courthouse. There is just something so special about going to a courthouse with TONS of family with you and pledging to love unconditionally a child you did not birth.

Lex thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and talked to the judge the entire time while banging on her bench. It was hilarious! She was so sweet and gave him a sock monkey as a gift. It was instantly christened with Lex's slobber. 

I hope you enjoy these pictures of our special day.

And don't worry, as we left I was already wondering how long it will be before we are back at that courthouse finalizing another adoption.

1 year?

2 years?

And how many kids? 

Only God knows. :)

Thank you to everyone that has prayed for us throughout this journey! We love you all very much and want to share this special day especially with you!

And now for the pictures you've been waiting for...

Our First Family Vacation!

Those that know us will probably go "what?!"
But we honestly have never gone on a vacation as a family since we have adopted Kiir and now that he's 20, we thought it was about time!

So we asked him if he could go anywhere in the US, where would he want to go.

Ummm, we don't have enough money for that. Try again.
"Ummmm, New York?"
"Okay, we can pull off NYC."

So we started planning for a trip in July when it's super hot in TX. 

But then Kiir found out that his favorite soccer (oh wait, excuse me, "futbol") team, Chelsea, was playing over Memorial Day weekend. When he told us, we blew it off, telling him we had to work and it wouldn't be possible. Secretly, though, we were researching, booking a hotel, flight, and buying some good seats for the game to surprise him with.

We waited until 1 week before we were scheduled to leave and told him by tagging him in a FB post. Oh how I wish we would have recorded his reaction because it was priceless! He was super ecstatic to say the least. He didn't really care about doing anything else in NYC as long as he got to go to the game.

I had never been to NYC, so I of course wanted to do it all. Boy did my feet regret that decision! My ankles are still a little swollen days after getting back! It was so much fun though and we all enjoyed it so much (except that Kiir regrets going to a broadway show and all three of us regret going to the Empire State Building due to the wait time and crowded deck to look out.)

By the time it was time to go home, we were all ready to get back. Me especially since Lex stayed with the grandparents and it was the first time he wasn't with us!

My favorite quote from Kiir on the trip was "I thought I would like it, but I could never live here. I'm ready to get home!"

As an adoptive parent, my heart melted at that comment and Kelly and I shared a little smile while reading each others thoughts across the subway. It was a wonderful trip, full of bonding, walking, laughing, more walking, site seeing, more walking, eating fun food, more walking, and just enjoying each others company. :)

These are just a few of my favorite pictures from our trip.
Yes, we took just a few and this is just a small percentage of what we took!

Fun statues we found in the subway entrances. 
We literally took about 15 minutes just looking at them all!

 The view from our hotel room

The view from the plane as we left. Perfect view for a great ending!