Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkins and Gourds Galore!

If you haven't been to the Dallas Arboretum yet, now is the time to go!

This time of year they have pumpkins and gourds everywhere and it is so fun to see all of the different kinds! They especially have fun things for kids to do during the week. I used to go with my class as a teacher and now as a mom I think I enjoy it even more!

Here are a few of my favorites 
from today's adventure...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

And so the waiting begins...AGAIN!

"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; 
Your love, O Lord endures forever."
Psalm 138:8

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, 
and in His word I put my hope. 
My soul waits for the Lord."
Psalm 130:5

Our family is definitely more than blood.
Our family is made possible through death and resurrection.
He gives us life so that we may give others life.

Today, this morning in fact, we will have our home study.

This is our third home study to be exact.
The third time someone has come into our home to interview us, create a binder wide biography that says everything case workers would need to know about us and our extended family, in order to find children for us. The third time we have had to pay $40 each to get fingerprinted by the FBI to make sure we didn't become criminals last year or anything. But don't worry, they don't require you to pee in a cup for other tests. I mean, that would be intrusive! Ha!

This is our life.

The majority of the population have kids without a third party (or fourth, fifth, even sometimes a tenth party) involved. You know, they pee on a stick, wait 9 months, and BAM, kid arrives. The nurses hand the kid to the parents and they leave the hospital to go home. Nobody checks in on them and their home prior to the baby nor after the baby.

No questions are asked of the parents such as.... 

Where will the child sleep? 
How have you child proofed the home?
How do you feel your parent's parenting style has influenced yours?
How do you plan on handling (enter example here) situation?
Have you locked up nerf guns separate from locking up the nerf bullets?
How do you plan on having the bio family involved in their life?
What is your support system like and do you have FBI background check approved babysitters ready?
Have you installed the 5lb (which is really 8lbs) fire extinguisher on your kitchen wall (for all of heaven and earth to see the ugly thing) and had it inspected by the fire marshal to make sure it is up to code?
Can I see your "survival kit" enough to feed, water, and clothe your entire family for three days? (Because of course, we would obviously stay in our house w/out power and water instead of driving to a hotel or family member's house???)
Did you lock up the vitamins separate from locking up the baby rash cream?
And are all cleaning supplies locked away as well?
Do you have a locked bag in your fridge on the off chance the kids come with refrigerated meds?
Where is the binder to log all of the medicine the child takes?
Do you feel capable to handle and meet the needs of your children?

This is about to be our life, yet again.
All in the name of parenting more children.

This morning I reflected over Psalm 113. These verses have meant many things to me at different times in my life. Right now, they are a reminder that my children whom I have not yet met have a story that has not come to fruition. But one day, very soon....

"He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; He seats them with princes, with the princes of their people."

They will be our princes.
They will be our people.
They will be ours.

And as it continues to say in the next verse...

"He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord. Hallelujah!"

His promises are always true.
Even if they don't look the same for all people.

God knows our steps before we even take them. Everything put before us in life is meant to draw us closer to Him. So while we don't have a family that looks like the majority of the world, we do have a family that allows us to share the story of Christ anytime someone asks a curious question about how we don't look alike. We get to show His love for us with people in the grocery store, in our neighborhood, on mission trips around the world, to our family, and even to others at church.

Far greater are His plans for my life than mine!
That has become very evident to me with each passing year.

So as we proceed through this interrogation in a little while (just kidding.....maybe not kidding) so that we can grow our family by more children, I am reminded that this is just another step down the path He has already walked before me. I am just instructed to follow.

And so the waiting begins!
Home Study today.
Paperwork processing for a few weeks.
And then the search begins to find a sibling group in foster care for us to adopt!

Ummm, yes...I said sibling group.
That means more than one.
We could go from a family of four to a family of SIX
(or heaven help us SEVEN)

Our family is about to grow in size, adventure, dynamics, and more!

It sure is one crazy, wild life we are walking down.
But I wouldn't have it any other way. :)

For those I might have just scared or if you are questioning walking down this path let me tell you that it is not too bad. I promise it won't kill you. We survived enough to try it again, and now yet again for a third time. When that child says (or screams from the other room) "mama!!!!!" - it makes it all worth it.

Because family is more than paperwork, interrogations, waiting, all of the struggles (before, during and after), and family is definitely more than blood.

Family is a choice.
A choice to love.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pieces of my Heart

Have you ever visited somewhere and when you come back you can't stop thinking about it? And I don't mean when you take a vacation with your spouse to a quiet beach and long to be back there after returning to the chaos of everyday life. 

I'm talking about a longing to visit a place that touched your heart so much you want to go back. To see the people you met again. To see God's creation. To be away from all of the chaos a first world life holds so you can soak in God's presence. To hold hands and live life with people that do not know about the saving power grace holds.

That kind of love sticks with me as I left pieces of my heart back in Asia.

We knew God was calling us to go on this trip as a family. To bring both of our boys along side us. To share our family with them.

What we didn't know what the impact it would make.

We were told by others that on previous trips, they were greeted with scowls. With hard hearts. With disgust.

They hated us. And there are some reasons they rightfully can. And others that aren't built on truth. But regardless, we are the enemy. Isn't that always what Satan does? He builds walls through hate, anger, distrust, lies, and more lies.

But what he does not have power over is love.
Christ died as the ultimate love sacrifice.
We show our love for God by our love for others.

And there is no greater love than that of a child!

Look at these pictures.
These are the pictures of love.

What children can do through a smile is knock down walls in an instant that have been built up by the deceiver for years.



When we arrived, a dear friend of ours told me that people would physically take our youngest son out of my arms, but they wouldn't steal him. (How comforting!) They would just be drawn to him and desire to hold him.

And boy was he right.
Young and old alike wanted to hold him.
They wanted to make him smile, laugh, and giggle.

And because of the extrovert that he is, he gladly went.
Without hesitation he hugged them.
Kissed their cheek.
Loved on them.

And in turn, we had the privilege of witnessing the beauty of raw humanity through love.
They hugged him back.
They kissed him.
They loved on him.

We were no longer separated as them and us,
we were one in love.

When we visited a local village to see a historical fisherman's house, we passed by a neighborhood. As we walked by, people gathered just to watch us. I was able to take a quick photo. I love how they were peaking over the fence and I wished so much that we could go join them. That the walls were not separating us any longer. 

Maybe one day...

One of our guides especially fell in love with him.
She doted on him and would mimic his phrases, especially "mama! mama! mama!" And he loved on her as well. He even taught her how to do the "secret" handshake his big brother does with him. I love the last picture of them in the middle of that, giving each other a fist pump.

My favorite moment, however, was walking through the open market.
Pictures are not allowed here so I can only give my description to you.

There are rows and rows of merchants selling anything and everything. Our family of four was close together towards the end of our time walking through it. We had been inside the building and just walked outside to head back to the front. All of a sudden, one of the college students with us told me to stop and look up.

The rows were at least 8 deep and as long as you could see wide. A crowd had started to gather. Mouths were gaping wide at us and smiles were emerging. They all started waving and smiling. 

Lex waved back and with that action laughter and glee erupted.

That day changed me.
In an instant I saw the power of a child's smile.
I wished we could shake hands, and love on each and every one of them.
I wish I could speak with them and learn more about them.
But we had to keep moving.

That day, part of my heart stayed behind in that market.
And hopefully one day I will visit again.

Of course, who couldn't resist getting a hello from this cutie?

I am so glad we took our boys with us.
Was it hard?
Ummmmm, YES
for oh so many reasons!
But it was worth every penny raised, tears shed, restlessness, fear, uncomfortableness, and more because had we not taken them, we would never had experienced what God did that week.
And that made it worth all of it!

On a side note - 
Lex learned how to say hello in Korean when they were saying hello to him. As soon as we stepped in the market, he said hello back to a merchant. As she shrilled with glee, she handed him a piece of candy. Then 3 more did the same. He started saying hello to everyone we stepped in front of and all of them gave him something! It was like we were trick or treating in the market. I couldn't stop laughing! We had a bag full of treats by the time we left and he had learned that saying this word would get him stuff. They eat a lot of tomatoes for dessert so he had a few of them in the bag. Unfortunately, he HATES tomatoes. So when he would take a bite of one (before I could get it in the bag so we could wash it) he would spit it back out. Luckily they didn't take offense and just laughed about it.

And in case you were wondering, here is a picture of our team while we were there. Isn't the background majestic? It is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in my lifetime.

I'll save my next post to focus on how they reacted to Kiir.
It is definitely its own post in the making!

To be continued in the very near future...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Deep Beauty

It's so hard to put our trip into words.

The things we saw
The people we met
The country in general...

I'm still sorting through the 4,639 pictures I took on this trip.
And that doesn't count the 50+ that were deleted before we could leave customs.

Some of those were my favorites.
Sorry I can't share them with you.

But I'll leave you with this picture of the sun setting across the ocean.
The sun and ocean that God made.
The ocean that travels throughout the entire world,
linking us to them
and the sun that we all share.

Words and pictures will come soon, I promise.

For now, hopefully you can see the beauty I saw last week.

A beauty that runs eternally deep.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Beautiful Day for a Trip Around the Globe

Isn't it beautiful?

God's creation always is.

In just a few days we will step foot on this soil.
We will get to see this beauty first hand.
We will get to meet the people that live here...
The people that God created.
And we will get to love them.

Please pray for us.
Pray for our team members by name:

Anthony B
Anthony I

Pray for...

Team Unity
That we would be an encouragement
And for us to knock down walls the enemy has built up
Pray for the couples going that their marriage would honor God.
Pray for Kelly and I as we parent our children in front of them under a microscope.
Pray for our family left behind that they would feel peace while we are away.
Pray against any harm that is intended for us, such as nightmares or travel glitches.
Pray that we would show grace - in every single situation.
Pray that we would rest in Him and trust Him for ALL things.
Pray that they would notice a difference in how we live and how we love.
Pray that the Spirit would work through us and we would be willing to let Him move!

Please pray Ephesians 4:1-6 over us...

"Live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

and Isaiah 43:1-5

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you."

and Psalm 4:6

"Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O Lord."

We love you.
See you in 10 days...

Monday, September 29, 2014

21 and 21

For this entire month, I have had a 21 year old and a 21 month old.

I joked about it all month, but then it hit me...
This is fun and all, but I hope I don't have a 21 year old and 21 month old at the same time again! If that happened, we would have another teenager and a newborn baby at the same time. And y'all, that's not for the faint of heart! 

Babies go to bed early.
Teenagers stay up late.
Babies wake up in the middle of the night.
And the sun rises way too early!

But seriously, I wouldn't change a thing about any of it!

Having a 21 year old means you get to joke around and they actually get your humor (most of the time). They roll their eyes when you try and act cool or be funny. They try eating most things because it's adventurous. They can dress themselves! They still depend on you for things (because you make more money than they do) and so you get a great excuse to hang out with them - BUT they don't need you every single second of every single day.

Having a 21 month old means I hear "mama - holds yous" while getting hit on the legs or my pants pulled down because attention is needed ASAP all of the time. A 21 month old will try a lot of food I put in front of him, but spits a lot out as well. (We're working on this). But they also want your attention and demand you give it to them because you are their world! They want to do everything with you by their side because they love you so stinking much! Hugs, snuggles, kisses, reading, more snuggles, singing, playing and more. It's a fun age of soaking up everything and repeating everything they hear. They are sponges, adventure seekers, and little mini-me's.

But both of these put under 1 roof and it makes for an interesting life. 

When I was 21, my goal was to be married for a few years and have 3 kids by 32 and be in the process of adopting another couple.

Funny thing is, no matter how off track my life is from "my" plan, God's actually given me quite a bit from what I asked to begin with! And in all honesty, we could have 4 kids in the very near future (or heaven help us - 5!!!)

I promise I'm not crazy.
Well, at least I don't think I've gone crazy yet.
We'll see what the next few months holds for me.

So I'm savoring being the mom of a 21 year old and a 21 month old.
Because it's what GOD planned for my life.
And it's just a little great.

He gave me the story of salvation wrapped up in my life story.

I was broken, needed a Savior, and He stepped in and radically changed my heart.

You see, I get to explain this story all of the time to perfectly good strangers.

When I take my older son out to eat and the waitress brings him the check because they think we're on a date. Yes, this has happened more times then I'd like to count. But then I get to graciously take the bill and explain that he's my son. (I tend to give a moment of hang time just to see their reaction - hope that's not too mean!) And then I have the opportunity to explain that we adopted this amazing man when he was a teenager because God told us to. And we are eternally blessed by him becoming a Carson!

Sometimes they walk off, a little stunned, and sometimes they ask questions. Other times I get a "you're crazy" look. It's okay, I understand.

I really love when we're all four together and they can't figure out who is who in the family. Just cracks me up watching people analyze us.

And now we're about to take our crazy looking family across the world to get stared at more and questioned more. 

It's why we're going. 
It's what we're counting on! 

They will be so bewildered by us they will ask our story.
And then we get to share!

Because of God's grace we get to share!

So please pray for opportunities.
Pray for patience as a parent.
Pray for protection over my family.
Pray that we will listen to the Holy Spirit guiding us when to talk and when to be silent.
And pray that we will knock down doors through the story God has given us for the gospel to be spread!