A number of you so kindly have asked if there is any news on our adoption. Oh, how I dream of the day when I can shout to the world, "WE GOT THE CALL!!!" or the day we post an update titled... "Our Family is Home.... One precious life bigger".... but at the moment we are still waiting... and waiting... and waiting.
I recently started particpating in monthly 'call-ins' with our agency. Those who have finished the adoption process in Nicaragua can 'call in' and talk with those who are either just beginning or encourage those of us who are somewhere in the middle. It has been educational to hear the stories of those who have brought their children home from Nicaragua as they shared their experience in country and their unique circumstances once arriving back in the U.S. It has also been helpful to encourage those who are still gathering their dossier and answer their questions. As for me, simply hearing those questions reminds me of how far we have come and that our process IS moving forward.
One of the mothers who had brought home a little girl a little over a year ago asked how those of us who were in the 'waiting phase' were doing. In all honesty, just like many challenging things
in life, there are good days and bad days. I rejoice in God's grace in those good days when I'm either distracted from the waiting or I am filled with the sense of hope... And then there are days
when I cling to God's promises as the idea of actually getting that call from our agency seems like a fantasy. Waiting on God's perfect timing is hard. And adding to that is the very
real tangible fear that at any time international laws can change making things harder or longer, and there is always a possiblity doors could close like guatamala did years ago.
So a couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Wendy Willard, a woman whose family started an organization called Fit Nicaragua (Families In Transition) because those who adopt from Nicaragua must spend anywhere between 3 and 6 months in country during a 'fostering' phase of the process before bringing your child home. This can be extremely scary for anyone who hasn't traveled internationally... particularly if only one parent is available to travel. We are so blessed that we can travel as a family during that time, but many mother's make that treck alone with their other children. Fit Nicaragua is a unique organization that assists those in the process with simple things like finding out where to get clean water, where to wash clothes, how to navigate the city, where to take your child to the doctor, etc.
It was super to meet with Wendy and visit with her for a few hours. Although I enjoyed hearing about her ministry as well as some of the updates in Nicaragua, we learned that the Mi Familia's director changed and therefore there has been a little lull over the past few months. She shared a number of things and if I'm being honest, I felt a little discouraged that it could be another 6 months or longer before we get a referral for a child. As many of you know, we have been praying since January 1 of this year that our family would be 1 child larger by December 31st. After visiting with Wendy, I felt that it would be a miracle if that happened.
But isn't that the kind of business God is into? I mean, God does miracles all the time. And I have personally seen Him do things I would never have anticipated and I have experienced His grace in miraculous ways over the years. As I went to bed that night, I just kept thinking God is bigger... God is bigger.
The next morning I awoke to have my quiet time and the first thing I happen to read was Psalm 127. The first two verses say this:
"Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep."
These verses are obviously talking about God's sovereignty. God is in control and no matter what I may do to try and speed the process up, it will do no good unless it's God's desire to speed the
process. God is the one who builds. God is the one who watches over us. It is pointless to worry. I just need to trust Him, his love for me, and His perfect will for our lives.
But this wasn't what caught me off guard as I was reading. The first part of the very next verse says, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord..." Wow! I know I have read this verse before but oh, how perfect it was for me to read it that morning. Relating these verses together struck my heart in a deep way. I felt like it was as if God was speaking directly too me. He is sovereign and the building of our family will be His work, not mine.
God is bigger than me and what I think is best.
God is bigger than what I heard visiting with Wendy. God is bigger than the Nicaraguan governement and God is bigger than Mi Familia. It would be easy to get caught up in what could happen or what I hear through random rumors, but the reality is that God is in control and God knows what's best.
WIth that being said, I felt steadfast. I felt unwavered. I felt that if God wants our family to be complete by December 31st, it will happen. And if He doesn't, well, He has something better that what I imagine for our family.
So as I stand firmly on God's promises that He is sovereign and that He is good and that He loves me and my family, including that little girl in Nicaragua whom I don't even know yet, I will faithfully pray that God will bring her home this year... but at the same time, I will pray, Lord, not my will but Yours!
I debated whether or not to share this. It may or may not ruffle feathers, but in light of this blog, and a previous blog I wrote about judging others in their weaknesses, I felt inclined to share my heart which is pretty heavy at the moment.
John has been gone a little over 3 weeks… And I can honestly say, after doing this for almost 9 summers, 6 of them as a mother, it has been the easiest summer so far. It has been the first summer that I have not broken down in tears half way through week 2 and it has been the first summer that I didn’t feel like I wasn't going to make it without hiding myself in a closet, locking the door and never coming out because i can’t handle the chaos, the discipline, the responsibility by myself.
I’m not sure if it’s because it IS getting easier or if I’m just getting the hang of what life without daddy looks like for this extended period of time or if having my mom & dad around, despite the fact they work full schedules and continue with their own activities, has really took a good amount of burden off. Probably it was a little bit of it all. And I’m thankful.
But don’t get me wrong, it is still challenging. Even though I’ve had help from my parents, I’m not in my own home. Kids aren’t in their own beds. We don’t have our ‘normal’ routine and we don’t have our neighborhood friends to help entertain the kids. Things are out of sync, it’s still exhausting and daddy still doesn’t come home in the evenings to help relieve some of the responsibility I carry all day long.
And lets not forget I do simply miss my best friend. We can’t talk on the phone often so I can’t share about my day- the good and the bad. I can’t hear about his. Internet is bad so we don’t have the best connection when we do get to talk. I miss sleeping next to him at night and I’ve already had to simmer two children crying because they wonder “When is daddy coming home?”… ‘Daddy will be home in two weeks’ really means nothing to a three year old and seems like a lifetime to a 5 year old this far into his absence. So, although this has been a good summer... it’s still challenging and I still have my moments.
The reason I share all this is that I recently posted something on Facebook stating I had a few days left until I would have survived another AIA summer tour (I know, maybe I should avoid social media, but honestly, most of the time those on Facebook(particularly my good friends) have been an outlet and have been supportive through various seasons of life, and it truly has been a great way for me to communicate with my close momma friends all over the world who have given up their phones and social lives for a few years upon entering the new season of life called motherhood). Today I have 3 days left and I’m wicked excited to see the man of my dreams after missing him for a little over 3 weeks (The kids still have two more weeks before they get to see him). I’m so excited to be reunited with him for a week.
Needless to say I was criticized by a married military wife without children yet for sharing publicly my ‘complaining’ because well, military families have it worse (to summarize the dialogue that took place). After carefully and lovingly sharing that I understood what military families go through with an absent spouse is harder, but it doesn't diminish how challenging this is for me, I was rebuked by her husband!
I get it. It isn’t easy for me to do it for a month and sometimes even for a week, let alone for a year or more. And I know there is so much more that goes into what military families choose to do in serving our country- their husbands go to war zones to save physical lives while my husband goes to other countries to save spiritual souls. My husband has a much greater chance of coming home… the risk for military wives is higher. Having to do this for a month by myself actually makes me appreciate and value military families even more. Parenting is hard with the help of a spouse… it’s even harder doing it without the help of the person who started the family with you.
But the thing is that this gal’s comments crushed my spirit. And then after responding the best way I could, her husband chimed in and said I was making ignorant statements.
I miss John terribly when our family is separated. He’s my best friend. He’s my children’s daddy. And even when he’s gone for a weekend, life just isn’t as exciting and fun. So amidst me striving to honor God with my actions in a situation that is not ideal or easy for me, someone basically told me I shouldn’t share my feelings or I shouldn’t complain because someone else has it harder.
For the first time in 2 weeks, I cried uncontrollably and the absence of my husband hit me hard. I wanted to talk with him and share with him and process with him the conversation I had just had, but he was gone with no way of reaching him. I couldn’t pick up a phone and call him and just let him listen to me cry… which made it harder.
I get it military wives, especially all of you with children… I get it. I really do. This is hard for me… I can’t even imagine what you all do and how you handle it when your loved one leaves for long periods of time with a truly unknown future…. My heart aches for the wives who husbands go to work one day and never come home whether they are killed in a car wreck or like some friends of ours in Mexico who was gun downed at his job… it’s heart breaking… and maybe I shouldn’t complain… I try not too… but it doesn’t diminish my reality.
It doesn’t diminish my struggle and what’s challenging to me. Maybe I’m a weak woman because I find a month by myself hard… but it’s my weakness and it’s what I’m processing through and I need to be loved through that… not criticized. I serve my Lord by choosing to get a glimpse of single parenting for a month (and sometimes 2 months) every summer…. I deserve to be encouraged too, don’t I?
This is not one of my normal blogs… I just needed to share that we need to stop judging others based on the little information we know of them. We have no idea what it feels like to walk in anyone’s shoes. And there is always someone who has it harder. I’m not perfect at this… I know. I’m a work in progress (Phil 1:6). But this week, in my struggle, I experienced what it was like to be judged on my weakness… and it hurts. I felt like it stole my joy and excitement for a few days about reuniting with the man I love and chose to have a family with.
With that being said, to my friends who are in the military… I know many of you read this… You truly are my heroes. Words cannot express enough how thankful I am you are willing to take on the challenges that you do for our country… for me.
And for those of you who have loved me when I have cried because a month is long for me, knowing you have had it harder and for those that have encouraged me in my weakness knowing you had walked the journey longer, thank you for being gracious to me. You really have been a source of strength!
So John recently read a book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, that was on Walt Mueller's, the president of CPYU (Center for Parents/Youth Understanding), top reading list. He was so encouraged and challenged by it that he recommend I at the very least read the last couple of chapters. The author, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, is a tenured English professor at Syracuse University. DUring her professional years, she was a feminist in every sense of the word, not only an advocate for the gay and lesbian movement, but a lesbian herself, and not a big fan of this religion called Christianity. She was highly educated, successful in every worldly sense of the word and committed.... until the Lord gripped her heart. 'Until, in her late 30s, she encountered something that turned her world upside down- the idea that Christianity, a religion that she had regarded as problematic and sometimes downright damaging, might be right about who God was, an idea that flew in the face of the people and causes that she most loved.'
She is now married to a man who has pursued pastorship, she has four adopted children, she is a foster care parent, and she homeschools while doing minsitry at church, in her neighborhood and amongst those the Lord places in her path. John thought her section on homeschooling and adoption would be very impactful if I read it... so I started with the last two chapters of the book.
Let me just tell you, this is a book about a women's journey in her relationship with the Lord and a testimony to what God can do and does in the lives of people, but out of all the homeschooling and adoption books I have read in the last 3 years, this is now by far my favorite. She is an excellent writer- not a surprise being that she was a tenured English professor, and she puts the Gospel into words so uniquely in the context of normal day busy life, that it has allowed God to stir in my heart a whole host of emotions and has encouraged and challenged me not only where I am at right now in my journey of adoption, homeschooling, parenting and minsitry, but where I want to be... and How much I really want the Lord's plan for my life... no matter how challenging the task may be.
With that being said, I wanted to share a few of the quotes that I feel really made me think... maybe they will make you think too! Would love to hear any thoughts, comments or responses you have as you read below... better yet, read the book, and then let me know what you think? I have decided after reading the final 2 chapters, this book is worth the time and I have started from the beginning.
"A family that never opens its heart never feels
heartbroken. A family that never welcomes in others never misses them when they leave. A family that never embraces life's risks, never really live."
"When God brings children out of neglect, abuse,
dysfunction, gangs, drugs, and hate, and places them in a covenant home, he has just moved a mouton in the hearts and families of men. When God gives a childless couple a child of any age using
the means of his powerful will, he has just moved a mouton in the hearts and families of men. When mountains move, the earth shakes. When you stand as close as we have to real life
miracles, you will get roughed up. Mountains are big and we are small. A moving mountain can crush us. Splinters fall from the cross. They travel a long distance and they pierce the skin - maybe
even the heart. And wrapped in this risk and danger is God's embrace and promise to work all things (even evil ones) to the good of those who love him."
'Because we are Christ's we know that children are not
grafted into a family to resolve our fertility problems or to boost our egos or to complete our family pictures or because we match color or race or nation- status. We know, because we are
Christ's, that adoption is a miracle. In a spiritual sense, it is a miracle at the center of the Christian life. We who are adopted by God are those given a new heart, a
"Anything worth doing will take time and cost you
something...We have decided that we are not inconvenience by the inconvenience... our plans are not sacred."
"But adoption is a complex paradoxical event that combines
loss, brokenness, and rejection with gain, connection and embrace. No child asks to be adopted. No child asks for incompetent or rejecting birth parents. No child asks to be constantly told how
'lucky' he is to be adopted. Wanted or not, adoption always starts with loss. Adoption always combines ambiguous loss with unrequested gain. An adopted child faces this paradox - this ambiguous grief- at
each developmental stage. His or her family must choose to either welcome the complexity or make the child go it alone. We choose to walk alongside our children, even as we don't always
understand how deep or how raw the complexity rests. This journey is frightful."
"Adoption is not just a Christian metaphor or the process by which we become parents: adoption into Christianity is the process by which we claim our heritage."
"Learning to be refreshed in the context of intense labor is important spiritual work."
"God truly gave us what we needed. When Christ was at the center, we learned to draft' off of the word the way cyclist draft off of another cyclist during a long race."
"When Christ is at the center of our marriage, we have been able to maintain a Christ household that ministers to others."
"Desiring children can be a noble pursuit, if it's not God's will then it is simply a more sanctified form of covetousness."
Birth parents that gravitate toward private adoption generally relinguish their own parental rights. Birth parents that choose private adoption usually know their limits and receive the counsel and support that they need to come to this painful and sacrificial decision. Chidlren in the fost care system have birth parents who do not know their limits. They try to parent beyond their means. Some are criminally neglectful and abusive; others are mentally ill or themselves victims of prisons of poverty, abuse, neglect, drugs, and dysfunction. The parental rights of birth parents whose children end up in foster care are usually terminated by a judge, a process that requires documentation over time of abuse or neglect. This lengthy and invasive process can eat up whole childhoods. It costs a lot of money to adopt a child through a private agency and it is 'free' to adopt a child from the public welfare system. At the same time, the moral and fiscal cost of retaining a person in the fost care system for a lifetime is enormous. The question isn't if any of us pays for the cost of orphanhood but when and with what kind of hope left over at the end."
"It is times like this that I am grateful that I am a reformed Christian. I know that I don't choose. God chooses. He rules and he overrules. We walk in faith and (at times) terror, but we walk nonetheless."
"We reminded ourselves that we are not called to covet other people's children."
"Betrayal and risk are at the heart of the gospel life."
Oh... I could go on and on... there are so many more great, thought provoking quotes. I highly recommend this book!
... Figuratively speaking!
We officially got word yesterday that Mi Familia, the governing adoption folks, accepted our dossier and has approved us to adopt. I can't even begin to explain the excitement and emotion that accompanied the news.
It was Novemeber of 2011 while we were still living in Mexico when we began this journey. We worked extremely hard for almost 6 month to turn in all the necessary paperwork and being that we were gathering paperwork from the United States while living in a foreign country, the challenges were that much more difficult, but we pushed through, continued to take steps of faith and left the results to our heavenly Father!
Exactly one year later, Novemeber of 2012, after moving back from our time in Mexico, we were anxiously waiting for Nicaragua to approve our dossier and we heard crushing news. Due to a number of our unique living circumstances and a situation that occured in Nicaragua a few years prior, we were asked to resubmit a new dossier with all our information coming from Ohio. At the time, we were still in the process of 'moving' so we couldn't even begin a new homestudy for 4 months! You can imagine our heartache.
Needless to say after months of emotionally recovering from the lost time, we started the journey again, completed a new homestudy, submitted a new dossier and started the waiting process again... with a much heavier heart knowing we had gotten this far before and then lost it all.
One year later, in late November of 2013... we were still waiting to hear. Would they accept our documents this time around?
Finally in January this year, we got word Mi Familia would be reviewing our dossier. We thought we would have heard something by mid Febuary since the counsel was meeting at the end of January/early February, but even as March turned the corner, we hadn't heard anything.
Finally, yesterday, March 14th, my heart sored as I opened up an email addressed from our agency coordinator- We had been approved! She enclosed a document that stated we had been approved by Mi Familia to adopt a girl 0-3 years of age!! As I shared the news via phone with family and friends, I held back tears of joys! It is like trying and trying and trying to get pregnant with high expecations and hopes.... and then one day, finally, the stick turns blue!
The unqiue thing about the stick turning blue in this case is that we don't know exactly where we are in the pregnancy... are we in the first trimester? Or are we in the third? Or maybe I'll be pregnant like an elephant for a year. We will wait in hopeful expecation for that call - "We have a child for your family!"... It could come next week. It could come next month. It could come next year.
We have learned to celebrate all steps in this journey... even the little ones. And after the two years we have had, this was a huge step to celebrate! We are still praying and trusting the Lord that we will get that call this year and before the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 2014, we will have brought home a precious baby girl who needs a home!
Thanks you for celebrating with us. Thank you for your faithful prayers! Thank you for your continued support. We still need your prayers as we seek to wait patiently, trusting Him for His prefect timing for the perfect daughter for our family.
Three years ago yesterday, we checked my rather large self into a hospital in Puebla, Mexico knowing that by the end of the day our family would be plus one. I was anxious to meet our little girl and nervous as all get-up about having a scheduled C-section in a foreign hospital. If ya'll remember the blog I wrote about the experience, the epidural and surgery part of the ordeal was not too shabby, but little did I know because of hospital policy and the fact that my C-section was scheduled so close to the end of the working day, I would experience the heart of ache of not being able to hold my healthy baby girl until the next morning! So, this is why I am writing today and not yesterday.
Although I briefly saw our little Lucia as soon as they took her from my belly, it wasn't until 9 am the following day that I finally got to hold that precious bundle of love in my arms... and oh I am so thankful for her life.
We celebrated the gift of her life on Saturday with some of her favorite friends. Princess Lucia wanted to celebrate with the theme that seems to fit this unusual time of year- Frozen! She had a blast and we are so thankful for those that celebrated her three years with us. Even though she was showered with presents that day, I truly know that she really isa gift given to us.
She reminds me so much of myself when I was little... She is a little fireball with a whole lot of personality. Her expressions are beyond hilarious and her ability to say the funniest things without even trying lights up our house with laughter. She adores her big brothers and constantly asks them, "Jt, you love me?... Hudson, you love me?" She loves little stuffed animals, she loves to dance and she loves to sing. She can wear 7 dresses a day and is sly enough to convince her brothers to play dress up with her. But she can hold her own with a play sword and a plastic toy gun when it comes to helping her brothers attack the 'bad guys'. I love her to pieces.
Lord, I pray You would draw her to Yourself early in her little life and that she would find her joy, comfort and identity in knowing Your son Jesus as You unfold all that You have planned in her future. I pray You would surround her in wonderful friends who challenge her, encourage her and spur her on towards love and good deeds... toward You. I pray she would grow to be a vessel for Your works. I pray You would prepare her mind, her hands, her feet, her body to be a means of spreading the good news that You offer through the cross! Thank you Jesus for giving us the privelage of raising this sweet little girl. (oh- and Lord, she longs for a baby sister... we ask that you would bring home her little sister soon!)
In Jesus' name, Amen!
Here are some pictures of the party!
So someone shared this article, Why I'm Not the Room Mom, with me the other day. As I read through it, something didn't sit well with me so I read it again...
"I don't stencil names onto fancy pieces of cardboard. I don't hot glue the perfect candy heart message onto cardstock. I don't bake heart-shaped cookies from scratch. I don't help my boy cut and glitter his own valentines out of red and pink construction paper. We buy a box of valentines and stick them in the envelopes. Last year, we left the envelopes blank because we ran out of time to print the other kids' names on them.
It's not that I'm a slacker mom, exactly. It's just that the Lord reminds me often about what does and does not really matter as I mother. Essentially, anything I can find on Pinterest falls into the "doesn't matter much" category. Anything that requires the work of my heart and the selfless service of my hands tends to hang out in the "matters a great deal" side of the ledger."
And there it is... I'm that mom. I use stamps, stencils and paint, and I LOVE the hot glue gun. I like to make homemade cards and I love to make and decorate my kids' birthday cakes. And
I enjoy pinterest.
What struck me most was her last two sentences... "Essentially, anything I can find on Pinterest falls into the 'doesn't matter much' category. Anything that requires the work of my heart and selfless service of my hands tends to hang out in the 'matters a great deal' side of the ledger."
Maybe I am reading too much into what she is saying but I feel like she is making a contrast between 'anything on pinterest' and things 'done from the heart or out of selfless service' as if you can't make things on pinterest from the heart. Really? Well, maybe I am overthinking it, but then she states "The primary goal of our marriages, our homes, our families should not be to impress the watching world. The goal should be to honor God." She goes on to quote Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Assumption: If I'm doing something on pinterest, I must be trying to impress the world?
Okay, so maybe I'm totally interpreting this wrong... Maybe it's the way she worded it or maybe I'm just being overly sensitive. I'm guessing the main point of her article was to encourage mom's to remember their purpose- to honor God.... particularly for those momma's out there trying to do it all. Amen to that! I totally agree"God is more honored by a woman who makes wise choices with her time than by a momma stretched so thin she has no time to seek Him."
But here is the thing. I find pleasure in collecting a zillion memories of my kids on 4x6 cards and glueing them to scrapbooks. My kids LOVE to go through them over and over and over again... reminiscing about the things we have done... the things that God has done in their lives. It brings my heart joy when my kids want to take scrapbook after scrapbook off the shelves so they can ask, "Is this me when I took my first bath?" or "Is this that time when grandma and I went swimming as a baby?" or "Look mommy, this is when we were on the airplane to Mexico!" I think God is honored by that.
It warms my heart when I see the expressions on my kids face when they finally get to see the cake I've been working on just for them... the laughter and the giggles as they come down the stairs and see the colorful balloons and the unique streamers all over the place because today is their special day. They feel loved, valued and unqiue because we celebrate their birthday big... because God made them special and I want them to not just know it, but feel it! I think God is honored by that.
And we invite lots of kids to their parties and give them fun things to take home in their goodie-bags... Things that I made because that's our love language... it's one of the the many ways we can express our love for our friends, share that we appreciate them and that we hope they had fun! I think God is honored by that.
I enjoy making personal handmade cards to give to friends and strangers because while crafting & designing those cards, I get the opportunity to think about and pray for that person I'm designing for. And although it's a simple piece of paper with glitter, ink and glue, a folded piece of paper that will more than likely end up in someone's trash, I did actually give them something from my heart.
And here is the fabulous thing about creating and crafting... It was creative people that designed the vehicles we drive. It is crafty people that painted the artwork we hang on our walls. It is talented people who bring sweet music to our ears and innovative people who invented the kitchen tools we cook with. And lets not forget we serve a pretty creative God. He's so creative he designed billions and billions of people all with their own giftedness and passions and uniqueness in how their affections for Jesus are stirred.
The real issue isn't creativity or crafting though. It's not pinterest or facebook or any other social media. It's not even about being a good momma. It's the age old problem of 'keeping up with Jones.' In the past, envy was stirred up in our hearts when we saw our neighbor two doors down pull into the driveway with a brand new mustang or when you're invited to check out your friend's latest Apple gadget. Although that still exists, we now have the added temptation of seeing a whole lot more 'neighbor's' buying not just stuff but doing more things. And that feeling 'I should do that too' or 'I want to do that' is in tow right behind the temptation.
To me, it's saturated with the age old problem of comparing ourselves to others instead of thanking Jesus for who He made us and the gifts He has given us. Instead of wanting to be like all these other people, why can't we just be content, satisfied and joyful that God made us unique for a purpose and a reason? We are all gifted in some area! We should celebrate that... and then celebrate the passions and uniquenesses of our friends!
See, I am not a sewer. I can do papercrafts like it's my job but I can't sew anything... I can't even hem a pair of pants without help. I look on pinterest and see all these cute dresses and think, "It would be awesome if I could sew those cute dresses for my little girl." But it's not my thing. It shouldn't make me feel like I'm less of a mom. I know my weaknesses and my strengths. And I'm okay with that and I know I'm a work in progress. We all are.
I think I was so struck by this article because it is probably the third piece I have read that seems to have a hidden message in regards to women struggling with comparing themselves to those on pinterest or facebook... But I'm someone who is on the other side of the coin, I see them as a gift and a blessing and a resource to inspire. I actually have prayed since my kids were little not only that they would grow in steadfast love for the Lord and that they would be a window to Jesus for a dying world, but I actually specifically pray that they would learn to be creative! And one way of encouraging that is to be creative myself.
Crafting is not for everyone... just like fishing or dancing or playing volleyball... but lets remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink, whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
So for those of you who felt the Lord leading you to buy valentine cards, Yay!! God was honored in your obedience! But if you are like me, and make a bunch of homemade cards regularly with lots of glitter and bling bling all for God's glory, He is just as honored. Lets celebrate each other's gifts and passions and stop trying to keep up with the Jones'!
When John and I first got married, one of the many blessings I quickly discovered about being married to him was the fact that his mom is into paper crafts like me! You really don't understand the grace John shows me in regards to my scrapbooking and stamping obsession because he was raised by a crafty lady! Needless to say, it is definitely one of the areas where my mother-in-law and I have bonded!
Years ago, she and her sisters began helping the store Marco's Paper during a stamping convention held in Texas. Once I was officially a member of the McLaughlin family, I jumped on board and started helping out my mother-in-law and her sisters with set up, take down and even started demoing products. The convention is held twice a year and for most of my 8 years of marriage we happen to be visiting my in-laws during at least one of the two yearly conventions. With that being said, I have helped at the convention while carrying each child in my womb.
This past weekend was the first weekend my kids were able to help out a little on this side of the womb! Greg is the brains behind the set up, take down and selling madness and he regularly posts a blog as he travels around the country selling Marco's Paper products at various expos. The other day he wrote a blog including pictures about Lucia's first appearance at the convention when she was only 4 months old, the littlest helper ever... to a 2 1/2 year old now able to carrying boxes and put things on the shelf. Needless to say, because I hope that my kids have a special respect for creativity as they grow up, I thought Greg's blog was totally worth sharing... Plus this stamping convention and Marco's Paper hold a special place in my heart!
If nothing else, you can check out the cute pics of the kids helping set up for the weekend convention: http://marcopaper.blogspot.com/2014/01/escaping-iceberg.html
So you've heard the phrase.... He's a 'bull in a china shop'. Well, that pretty much sums up my littlest man, Hudson. And today he's a little less 'little'. Today we had a little family celebration in honor of Hudson's five years of life. Oh, where has the time gone?
It is fitting that we had the opportunity to celebrate his life in the very state that he was born. We drove by the first house we brought him home too and we reminisced about the day he entered the world on this side of the womb.
For the past five years he has been making life a lot brighter. He is adventurous. He is fearless. He has the best giggle in the world and we find ourselves laughing often as we sit back and watch him play. He has a HUGE imagination and he loves to pretend. He is crazy active, a seemingly natural athlete with an uncanny ability to zone out the world and just go full throttle (hence the bull in the china shop). He truly is the kid 'in a world of his own.'
In my previous post I shared that John and I are praying for big things this year - 8 specific things to be exact. In numbers 11:23 the Lord commanded the people to prepare for the next day when He would give them meat for an entire month. Infact, they would have so much meat they would get sick of it. In what was probably a rather doubtful tone of voice, Moses reminded the Lord, as if He needed to be reminded, that they were talking about 600,000 men here... and their families... for an entire month. What was the Lord's response?
Numbers 11:23 "And the Lord said to Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not."
Is the Lord's arm too short? Nope. His arm isn't too short to provide 600,000 men, women and children with meat for a month and his arm is not too short to to accomplish those seemingly impossible thing we lay at His feet.
We got it!! We just received the USCIS approval in the mail yesterday!! Jump for joy because this was a total answer to prayer... It only took TWO WEEKS! I was expecting it take at least a month, but it only took TWO WEEKS!!! Wow!
You can imagine how excited I was when I opened the mail to find a letter addressed from the Office of Homeland Security... I thought for sure we had forgotten something, forgot to sign something, or they needed to double check some information, so when I scrambled to open the letter and read "Approval", I immediately started jumping around like a jack rabbit!
My wheels started spinning- We just finished getting everything notarized... we'll send out those documents tomorrow... get them back in 3-4 days... get them them in the mail to MLJ and we'll be well on our way to waiting for another approval from Nicaragua! This is fabulous news! I emailed my agency coodinator and share the excitement! IT's HERE!!! IT's HERE!!!
And then everything came to a screeching halt with a call from our agency coordinator.
As I have shared before, international laws can change at a drop of a hat. There is a sense of urgency needed when one adopts from a foreign country because the longer the process takes, the more risk you have of things changing.
Our coodinator had shared that the laws were revised and she adviced that we wait until May 14th to send our documents to the state of Ohio for their apostille letters. She explained why and it actually doesn't even change our time frame. The new change of law actually shortens the process by two weeks, except now we have to wait two weeks to send them in... so we'll wait, send our documents to the state of Ohio and be right where we would be had been if the law had not changed.
Okay. Okay. Mind shift from complete and total elation to, "Okay, this is a change. Not a big one, but a change...we'll wait again... we're okay."
And then it dawned on us that we have two documents that are already apostilled from a different state. So... what does that mean? Now we are going to be delayed more weeks because of our other documents that are already apostilled??
I know this sounds confusing and complicated. It is.
So in a matter of minutes I went from cloud nine.... brought back to earth and reality for a few seconds to being totally bummed. The things we had been praying for (a quick USCIS turn around) turned out to be insignificant in the process... or least from my perspective.
So I began to worry. Fortunately, this all occured while the kids were napping (Isn't God so gracious like that??!). I had the opportunity to take my bible out and remind myself of His place in this process.
This is HIS adoption. He's in control and although my emotions feel like I'm riding a wicked rollercoaster, He's still in the pilot seat. I ran across this verse in Isaiah 64:4 "From of old, no one has heard or percieved by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for Him." This is what I wrote in my journal...
"My flesh wants so bad to feel crushed and to crawl into the cave of frustration, fear and doubt. Satan wants me to feel the weight of the unknown. But I'll fight that battle with a sword- 'the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God' (Ephesians 6:17). As I read verses like the one in Isaiah 64, this is what I want to cling too. This is the mountain I want to stand on. I have no fear of the unknown because of what I do know- God works for me. He works all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and Oh how I love my Savior! Deep down inside I know that I can't breath without Him. I know I cannot function without Him."
John Piper wrote in one of his books, "God loves to show his tireless power and wisdom and goodness by working for those who trust Him... He works for those who wait for him and trust him. This is what we must believe- really believe - in order to rejoice always (Phil 4:4) and give thanks in everything (Eph 5:20) and have peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) and be anxious for nothing (Phil 4:6) and hate our lives in this world (John 12:25) and love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39)."
I am positive nothing can thwort the plans of God. And He has a plan. And it's a good one. However the story ends in regards to this adoption process, God is in control and because I trust Him and because I am waiting on His perfect timing, He is working for my good and His glory. And THAT is what I know keeps me from entering the cave of doubt and fear.
One of my favorite things to do is make educational games out of stuff. I won't lie... probably half the time I'm more interested in the creative 'making' part than the actual 'playing the game' part, but I'm okay with that. If you remember some of my blogs and/or crafts we did and made while living in Mexico, I just enjoy 'making' things. Sometimes my ideas are fabulous, if I do say so myself, but then again just as many of them crash and burn. (As a side note, when I say my ideas, what I actually mean is that I stole someone else's idea and maybe tweeked it a bit, gave it a new twist or just painted it a different color... so take my ideas with a grain of salt.)
Anyway, this was my latest project. It's kind of a spin off of scrabble and other spelling games for kids. The idea behind it was 1. I wanted to do a game that helped with spelling words 2. My kids like throwing dice... literally and, 3. I wanted to make something that gave me the excuse to use my stamps since I totally miss scrapbooking (I'm extremely behind in my photos. If you are a scrapper you can understand this... the idea of getting started seems daunting because I'm so behind). Anyway, since I'm a Close To My Heart consultant, I had a My Creations Collage Cube sitting on my shelf for a while so I thought, "What a perfect way to use it."
When I first became a Christian in college, I couldn't seem to get enough of God's word. I could spend two or sometimes three hours buried in God's love letter to me. Starbucks had become my sanctuary where I would breath in the smell of yummy fresh coffee grinds, sip on a white chocolate mocha and dig through scripture, meeting the Lord with every turned page. I was fascinated with how I saw my own personal life woven between the fabric of every word and it transformed me. I recognized the value, the importance and even the privilage of being able to easily read the bible.
Shortly after John and I married I remember meeting an older mom of three from our church. I don't exactly remember the context in which our converstion took place... Perhaps she was struggling with something or maybe we were simply talking about church, but I remember asking her the question, "Do you read your bible everyday?"
She responded by saying, "No...."
Again, I'm not exactly sure what else she said, but while that single word was bouncing around in my head, I do remember thinking two specific things: First- "She doesn't seem to think that's a big deal." and second- "WHAT??? How does she not read her bible everyday? Maybe she's just not that strong of a Christian."
So, fast forward 6 or 7 years and that self-righteous judgemental gal is married with three kids of her own and guess what.... Yup. I don't read my bible everyday anymore. I might even say (sheepishly, that is) I don't read it every other day. Don't get me wrong... I try. I even have my weeks where I can check off 'Read Bible' from my list of to-do's seven times in a row, but those weeks started to dwindle after baby #1 arrived. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember having two thoughts as I cried my eyes out two months after our first child was born.... 1. I miss my husband... and 2. I miss God.
It has been a process of figuring out what my walk with the Lord looks like with each new stage of motherhood thus far (amongst many other changes in my life), but as I reflect on the feelings I had when that mom from church told me she didn't read her bible everyday (seriously reminds me of the old cliche 'the best parents are those who have never been parents') I was so judgemental. I had no idea what was going on in her heart and maybe she was like I am now... battling to find the time, the energy and sometimes even the desire to spend time in God's word.
The other night I was reading through Bible Study Magazine and found a really great article about R.C. Sproul called From Smoke To Fire: Igniting A Bible Study Movement. Sproul founded Ligonier Valley Study Center in 1971, a ministry with the goal of helping people "understand what they believe, why they believe it, how to live it, and how to share it." This particular quote from the article struck a chord in my heart:
"Sproul started his minstry with the acknowledgment that 'a lot of people have to work at Bible study to try and get motivated.' He recommends becoming involved in a Bible study group or class, which helps develop the disicpline needed to get into the Word regularly. He compares Bible study to learning a muscial instrument: 'I've known a few people who have taught themselves how to play the piano, and they've done a very good job of it. But most people who try to teach themselves have a fool for a student. If you want to learn how to play the piano, get yourself a good piano teacher and sign up for a course. That's how you progress in it; that's how you learn.'
He says the same is true for growing your spiritual life. 'If you're not motivated to initiate Bible study on your own, get yourself in a Bible class- one where you're given assignments. Self-discipline is a result of first having a discipine under someone else's authority so you learn to establish patterns of your own.'"
I love that because it has been true in my own life. I recongized a while ago that bible studies with other women hold me accountable. I always hate showing up to class without having done the reading for that week because I just simply couldn't participate with the conversations the way I like too. I wasn't encouraged as much by our conversation and I could sift through the thoughts of others as well when I wasn't prepared. So, for me, being in a study keeps me in God's word regularly.
"Our culture argues all the time about what's right and what's wrong." Sproul again points to the Scriptures as a solution: "The Bible tells us what is right and what is wrong; if we believe that it is God's actual Word, then that should define our lives and should make us salt and light and infleuncers of the culture around us... The Bible calls us to have renewed minds. We're called to love the Lord our God with all our minds...You have to work. You have to study. To be led out of the darkness of the world and into the light of the Word of God, we're called to seek after the very mind of Christ."
Needless to say, bible reading is important. To say that it is valuable seems to be a major understatement. We should be in it everyday, but I'm with every other busy person in our world...and I understand. BUT we need to do what it takes to stay in His word so that we are not swayed by the cultural norm. We need to continue to fight the good fight of faith by spending time renewing our minds through His precious Word. If you struggle in this area like me, I would encourage you to join a bible study at your church! Or grab a friend or two and start one.
Anyway, just some random thoughts for those like me who wish they could still spend hours and hours in God's word daily.
My facebook time has twindled... tremendously. For a season (more like my international season) facebook played a big role in my ability to keep up with what was going on in the U.S. and to keep in regular contact with my friends... But then I had a third child... and moved. Three children all 5 and under is a rather time consuming job that I actually forget to check my email let alone surf around on facebook.
BUT I still love that social network... I seem to always run across a pretty awesome article that impacts me. This one I read last night and I couldn't not share it with you all. Many of you who follow our blog have small children and I am aware a good number of you have been out of the younger-year-trenches for quite a while... but this article is so well worth the read regardless of your season. It is funny. It is encouraging. It is touching. And it is just plain true.
It really impacted me because John and I are in that stage... dead tired. All. the. time. It is a stage of life we wouldn't exchange for anything but what the author of this article says hits the bull's eye dead on. And I'm glad he said it outloud for all of to be reminded that how we feel is completely normal... And I LOVE that this is written by a daddy instead of a mommy!
Needless to say, I pray that this brings encouragement to you... If nothing else, you will know that you are NOT a terrible parent!
Happy Birthday to our littest man, Hudson. I can't believe he's already four. Today we celebrated Hudson's birthday Avenger's style. This is one energetic adventurous child that just loves to run, jump, and laugh. He is the silly one of the family (although Lucia is following very closely in his footsteps). Hudson is also the kind of kid who loves pretending I (or Lucia) am the princess and he's saving me (us) from the 'bad guy'. He's a child with a vivid imagination and one who tells amazing stories with hysterical seriousness that brings you to your knees laughing. He's cuddly and tender... most of the time. And although he is completely unable to multitask (i.e. talk to anyone while the TV is on or his ears seem to completely shut down if he is intently playing with a toy), he has such a sweet spirit about him. He is the first to share a toy and he's not concerned at all with material possessions. My hope and prayer is that that his sweet giving spirit, his desire to protect the women in his life from the bad guys and his fun loving, energetic personality, cute smile and contagious giggle will be used one day to bring glory to God's holy name.
Lord, we are thankful that you have blessed us with four wonderful years with Hudson. His life is a gift to us all. As he continues to grow in his character, may he learn to use his gifts, talents, passions, and joys to bring honor to You and may people be drawn to You as they see Your light in his heart. Amen!
Here are a few pictures of our little family birthday party with his 'cousins':
A few weeks ago when we were surprised by Nicaragua's rejection of a number of dossier documents, I struggled to sift through the various emotions that seemed to ravage my heart and mind. As I had been talking with a dear friend and mentor on the phone, one of the things she suggested was to take some time 'off', if you will. She suggested that we could just enjoy our time in Connecticut and spend the next few months praying through God's desire for our family... and then begin again when we settled in Ohio. Definitely a great idea!
But here's the thing...
I'm not good at sitting still....
so I kept moving.
I started looking for an agency that could do our homestudy, making phone calls, making lists... But the whole time, my heart just didn't seem.... ready. I was anxious and fearful. I didn't seem to have the energy or the joy in starting all the paperwork over. And in the back of my mind I kept hearing my friend's voice.... 'take some time and enjoy the now' while the other side of my brain was screaming "BUT WE'RE LOSING TIME!!" How could I just pause for another few months, we've already lost a year?
We actually found an homestudy agency we liked (For those not familiar with the adoption process, this is a separate agency from our adoption agency that does only the homestudy) ... and then realized how much it would cost to go with this particular agency. They would allow us to begin gathering paperwork now but for whatever reason, Agency 'A' was very pricey. Urg. I was still anxious. Still uneasy. But still feeling the pull that we needed to do something.
A week ago I ran across a book on The Gospel Coalition website titled Glorious Ruin by Tulian Tchividjian. Tulian's desire is to address what it is to allow God to meet us in our sufferings as oppossed to trying to see the silver lining or the 'good that will come on the other side'.... Here is just one of the many quotes that encouraged me:
"If you have suffered the loss of a family member to chronic disease, if you suffer debilitating seasons of depression, if you lost your job and livelihood, or if you went through a divorce that came out of the blue, know that God is not punishing you. He is not waiting for you to do something. You don't have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and find a way to conquer the odds, be stronger, or transform yourself into some better version of yourself. The pain you feel (whatever the degree) may be a reminder that things are not as they should be, in which case it is appropriate to mourn the gravity of that brokenness.
While God does indeed use the suffering in our lives, He is interested in much more than improvements in your personality or circumstantial happiness; He is interested in saving you. He is more than your helper. He is your redeemer. We do not have the primary role in this drama after all; we are the actors, not the directors. Sometimes it requires getting on our knees for us to see the truth."
I felt encouraged to just allow God to hold me as I struggled to let go of those lost expectations. The verse Psalm 46:10 came to mind... "Be still and know that I am God."
Something I'm simply not good at.
The day Psalm 46:10 weighed on my heart, we received a call from another homestudy agency that was WAAAAAYY less expensive but said we could not even apply until we were in our home, or at least very close to it. Another road block.
"Be still and know that I am Lord" pounded loudly in my head along with my friend's words.
It seemed obvious. If I wasn't in such a rush, Agency 'B' was a no-brainer.
So, I finally surrendered...
We made the decision to be still for the next few months. We decided we will move forward with the adoption (for which there are LOTS of reasons we feel led to move forward) but we will pause. We will be still. We will wait until we are in our home and we will trust the Lord with the unknown.
As soon as we made this decision, my heart suddently felt a sense of peace. And as crazy as it may seem, the minute we decided that we would tack on another 3 months to our already 12 months of lost time, those 'we are losing time' thoughts disappeared. I finally felt confidence in this being our next step.
If I'm being honest, I actually felt it was odd. For me, the one who felt we needed to rush rush rush and that time was ticking rather fast, I felt peace with just letting the time go and intentionally adding more time to what we have already lost. This peace truly surpassed all my understanding!
We don't know what God is doing, and I hesitate in attempting to explain it away with words such as 'maybe God is doing this... or maybe He's doing that...", but I seem to feel a sense of peace and joy that God is doing what He does best, never letting me go even in my struggles!
I wasn't really ready to face today despite the fact that I spent the weekend reminding myself of God's promises and being reminded of just how much God loves us. I spent the weekend reflecting... Reflecting on who God says He is; reflecting on why we chose to travel down the road of adoption; reflecting on why adoption exists; reflecting on it's purpose and reflecting on the season of life our family is in right now.
I have alot of questions such as did I choose adoption for my own selfish reasons? Does the fact that the adoption 'time frame' I had anticipated changed mean that God will still provide? Does it mean He wants us to close the door on this process? I reflected on whether I was really upset that we would have to wait longer for a child or was I just angry because I put in a great deal of work to get this far only to discover we are no further along in the process than we were a year ago (I like progress and I'm not good at just sitting still)?
Lots of questions as I tried to process the news that we needed to 'start over'. (Some have asked about financial loss and what 'start over' means exactly? What it means is that Nicaragua has accepted some of our dossier, but any piece of paper that has a mexico address, they will not accept because they have been informed we have moved back to the US. We are required now before getting an approval to get a new U.S. homestudy (3-4 months), a updated UCSIC approval with our new address (2-3 months possibly), all documents notarized, apostilled and translated (1 months), and all the extra finances that those things involve.)
So, these are the things I've descovered as I processed:
1. Philippians 3:13 "... one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, " I realize I am looking at the past. I have been focusing on what I have done the
past year and where it 'should' have gotten us in the adoption process. I now need to let that go. I need to come to terms with where we are now.... I must start from here. Perhaps this is a bit
out of context, but Lot's wife looked back after being told not too in Genesis 19 and because she did, she turned into a pillar of salt. I trust that God did what He did for good reasons. He has
a plan... and not just 'a' plan, but a perfect one. In trusting Him, I won't look back, but I will move forward in what He has for me now.
2. I am overwhelmed with the thought of being old... too old to have another baby in 2-3 years. Wierd. You're only as old as you feel right? When I heard the news and realized that if we start over now, it could be another 2-3 years until we have our fourth child, I suddenly felt this overwhelming sense of being old. Could I do that? Could I have another child at the age of 37? Am I too old to start the adoption process now? Do I feel old simply because my life has been up in the air for the past 4-6 years as we have moved often, living months in transistion again and again and again? Is it because I already have three little ones that suck the life out of me? As I wrestle through that, I realize that God provides even energy. I think of Abraham and Sarah and how she laughed at God when He told her she'd have a child at a ripe old age. Now I know women have children much older than I am now-a-days, but for whatever reason, this particular thought struck me harshly when I think about the adoption being delayed another year.
These last two thoughts probably are the most important to me right now...
3. There are sweet little children that need homes and they need homes in which they will hear the Truth of Christ! If I am making this decision based on me (I'm young enough to take another child... I want to have an even number in our family... I'm just not ready to quit), I'm not sure those are the best reasons for my family to care for a child that has lost her parents. Whether I'm 30 or whether I'm 40.. a little girl out there still needs a loving home. Whether it cost 35,000 or 50,000, a little girl still needs a home. A little girl still needs a family to wrestle through life with and to walk through joyful moments and tearfilled moments with. A little girl still needs to be a part of a family that can demontrate in word and in deed, the love of our Savior!
4. God adopted me. And he did everything to do so... to the point that He gave up His very own Son on the cross. As Dan Cruver writes in Reclaiming Adoption, "Redemption was never intended to be God's 'be-all and end-all' work of grace. God redeemed us in his Son so that he might love us and delight in us even as he loves and delights in his eternal Son. As we shall see, adoption is God's act of making room within his triune love for prodigals who are without hope, and providing them with homes in this world and the world to come. This is the story of adoption.... the ultimate purpose of human adoption by Christians, therefore, is not to give orphans parents, as important as that is. It is to place them in a Christian home that they might be positioned to receive the gospel, so that within that family, the world might witness a representation of God taking in and genuinely loving the helpless, the hopeless, and the despised." I am reminded that the purpose of welcoming another precious princess into our family is not about me... it is about God and His work and His love for a little girl somewhere out there in Nicaragua.. and ultimately His love for humanity.
So, just a few thoughts as I sift through my emotions. Thanks for listening!
Five years ago today our world completely changed with the sound of a sweet little cry. The moment we heard that cry... I knew that God had blessed us far beyond anything we could have ever imagined with a little miracle.
JT is a sweet spirited little boy who is still passionate not only about Lightning MacQueen, Optimus Prime and Disney's Waterworld, but he is passionate about learning and passionate about 'doing it myself'. He loves to be read too and he loves to tell stories. He is a boy who loves to be around people, but he also loves playing alone (he's a bit like him momma that way). Sometimes as I sit back and watch him, there are moments when I feel overwhelmed with how quickly his years of life have gone by. There are moments when I see little glimpses of him as a teenager and I'm not afraid to admit how freaked out that makes me :-). I am thrown to my knees in prayer for his safety, his protection, his future, his salvation, etc. He has brought my heart so much joy and I'm so proud to call myself JT's mommy!
Tonight, since daddy was out of town, JT and I went out on our first real date. I told him we could go on a date a few days ago and he had been waiting for this evening with great anticipation. His restaurant of choice was McDonalds so we enjoyed a sweet time of chatting about the United States, about Mexico, about cartoons and about cousins and birthdays while munching on fries and nuggets and sippin' our fountain drinks. He was such a little gentleman, holding the door for me and insisting on paying (with my credit card, of course, that I let him hold in his pocket until we sat down to eat). The Lord knows he gets that southern gentleman attitude from his daddy.... I'm thankful. Then we went to the store and JT was so excited to get the opportunity to slowly walk the aisles (without hearing the usual, "FIVE MINUTES GUYS!") and pick out one gift. When I pulled up into the drive way, he said, "Mommy, I had fun on our date. Thank you" and he gave me a kiss before jumping out of the truck. Gosh, I love that kids to pieces!
We actually celebrated JT's birthday last week since his cousins were in town...and we did so 'lego style.' It was a joy for JT to be able to celebrate turning the big five with them. His excitement was truly contagious. Here are a few pictures from his party:
So one of my many heart's desires is that our children will develop a heart for the nations. That they would be fully aware that their 'little world' is just that- little, in comparison to ALL the beauty that God created beyond their walls of familiarity and beyond the borders of the place they call home (whether that be a town, a state, or a country). I want them to be able to see the beauty even in the 'roughest' of places and in return see hope, see love, see Jesus.
Especially now that we are adopting, I've been reading ALOT of stuff on interracial families, on other countries such as Nicaragua and Africa and China, on racism and other issues that can arise when a family adopts internationally. It has been nothing short of eye-opening and thought-provoking in so many ways.
On a related subject, today on JT's school schedule was a book called People, by Peter Spier. It's one of the many books part of the Sonlight Curriculum P4/P5 packages for the subject of social studies. I loved reading through this book with JT (and Hudson, who wanted to sit in on JT's school today... at least for a little while) that I felt I should highly recommend this book to all those mommies out there who really want, at an early age, to begin teaching their chilren about the uniqueness of people not just in regards to physical characteristics, but in foods, in cloths, in culture, etc. The pictures are beautiful and gave us so much to talk about other than 'the story' (not too mention I love how the first two pages depict two naked individuals standing amidst a beautiful layout of greenary obviously referring to Adam & Eve, the first to people God ever created). If you would like to take a sneak peak at a few pages, you can check it out here: People
So I'm not exactly sure where I found this idea... I actually think I saw something on pinterest that made me think of it... Anyway, the boys really enjoyed this little activity. I'll call it 'Eating by numbers'. I made these placemats with construction paper... then I laminated them.
Obviously as Christian mommies, our desire is that our kids would one day choose to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. For John and I, our desire is not just that they would fall in love with Jesus, but they would have a good understanding of the foundational teachings of our Christian faith... even at a young age. But lets face it, some concepts like the trinity are pretty hard for us adults to even grasp, let alone explain them to a preschooler. Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers is a four-book series of books that introduces preschool and elementary aged children to these foundational teachings.
We actually have featured these on our Kidz Korner page, but I think so highly of these books that I thought I would highlight them in a blog. In each book, a precious character shares their understanding of the topics including the Good News of salvation (The Gospel), God's worldwide plan to call people from every nation to worship Him through Jesus Christ (The Mission), understanding what the Word of God is (The Scripture), and the Christian doctrine of one God who exists as three persons - The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (The Trinity).
We bought these books about 2 years ago and our four year old still asks if we can read them to him.
I am a little behind in posting this since the previous week, John, I and the kids spent five days in a hotel for the Mexico Campus Crusade yearly meetings. So, the previous week we prayed for Vietnam. One thing we have done with the kids too is watch this prayer video together so they not only are praying for the country, but they get to see the people and what the country looks like! Would you join us this week in prayer for Vietnam!
They really enjoyed it!
So I’ve been on this ‘reading kick’ since I left for the United States. Prior to having children, one of my favorite things to do was curl up with a good book and a starbucks coffee... for hours. Now-a-days this is a very rare event that occurs in my life. After getting some really good read time on the plane, I just can't seem to stop making time. Anyway, I just finished my fourth adoption book - if you include the book Kisses From Katie - which I have previously written about. No, this is not another blog about that book, although let me just say that there are A LOT of things I could have written about. I know, you are thankful I don’t have the time.
Anyway, I digress. I picked up another book recommended by our agency titled 'Inside Transracial Adoption'. I love books that make me think, challenge me to reflect on what I view as right or what I believe to be true, and books that encourage me to see things from another’s perspective. I am enjoying this book so I thought I would share a few rambling thoughts... in case you are interested. I’m sure I will be sharing, if time allows, a number of thoughts as I finish this 400 page book!
Okay, so let me begin by saying that despite the fact that I live in Mexico, despite the fact John and I are both very familiar with the Latin culture, and despite the fact we actually just took a class on 'Parenting in Latin America' offered by our agency, after reading just the first few pages of Inside Interracial Adoption, it dawned on me for the FIRST TIME that when this adoption is done and finalized and that sweet little child is officially and legally ours, we will be a transracial family. (Ironically, It also dawned on me for the first time, that I come from a transracial family... my mother is 100% Portuguese and my dad is American).
Now, that might not mean much to the average Joe, but as I continue to read about adopting particularly from a foreign country, it is a bigger deal than one would expect. Not only will our little girl struggle with the emotions of losing her family, but she will have to come face to face with having being raised in a culture that is not ‘her own’.
And we, as her parents, will need to be aware, need to be sensitive, need to love (this word will need to be specifically and intentionally defined), and the list goes on. She will face things that I never had to deal with. She will confront issues that I never had to embrace. She may be looked at differently or she may be treated differently even if she raised by ‘white’ people.
“Before I was adopted, I was separated from two families - my birth mother’s and my birth father’s. I was also separated from my culture and my race. These losses have been huge. People interpret honest talk about them to mean that I wish I weren’t a part of my family. OR that I am not connected. OR maybe even that my mom and dad did something wrong by adopting me. OR that I am not grateful. But you know what, i am not ‘grateful’ that I had to be adopted. I don’t feel ‘wonderfully lucky’ that I was raised in a culture different from the one I was born into. What I do feel is that I love my mom and dad very much. I do feel totally connected to them. I wouldn’t trade my family for any family in the world - and still I know what I have lost.” -Liza Steinberg Triggs
As I read this, I pictured our little girl saying this one day. If I’m being honest, it made my heart ache a bit. It is something I will never be able to relate too having been raised in my own culture and race. As I was sharing this with John, we started talking about the very real truth that none of us really belong here. Like C.S. Lewis once said, “This is not our home. We’re just passing through.”
We were not born for this world.... This is not our culture. This is not our home. Heaven is. Being with Jesus is.
But for our little girl, she will feel this in a very real and tangible way.
The only thing I could compare this too is our financial situation as missionaries. Here is the very real truth... God provides for everyone. If you have a government paying job, God is still providing through that government. But, many times, having a company funded job can make one feel secure in that position... almost as if having that job is where financial protection is.
For us, there is a possibility that we could have a smaller paycheck one month if support happens to be low or if support happens to come in a month or two or three late. Sometimes our ministry account is healthy and sometimes, John and I need to shift into ‘support raising’ mode.
Sometimes we can feel the weight of trusting God with each paycheck that we get. Some months we get a few phone calls from present supporters letting us know that for various reasons, they need to discontinue being a part of our ministry team. And yet other months we may get a few random calls from people saying that want to join our team! It literally is a trust in God’s sovereignty over our finances on a daily basis.
For us, as missionaries, we feel God’s provision in a very tangible way. And like this, our little girl will feel the sense of ‘this is not my home’ is a very real tangible way.
I don’t really have a major point here... I'm thankful that I am an adopted Child myself in God's family and prayerfully because of that, John & I may be able to assist our daughter through the emotions she will encounter on her personal journey of identity.
So my oldest son will start kindergarden this next school year. I say that light heartedly because I have a pretty flexible idea of what school should look like for a 5 year old... but that's for a different post. I have been looking through kindergarden material on the internet just for fun and I came across this nutrition education/physical education website called Fuel Up To Play 60. I thought I'd share it with you guys. I really like the characters (not to mention my boys love dragons) so I thought this might be a pretty good resource on teaching health, nutrition, physical education, etc. Little D's Nutrition has some lesson plans you can print out from k-2. There are nutrional educaton games. Included are also a few other great links you may like to check out.
Upfront I’m letting you know that I stole this letter... pretty much word for word. I think someone posted it on Facebook and I read and said, “Yup, that’s going on a blog. It is worthy enough to share.” Needless to say after having spent the past week helping my friend prepare for her wedding, prepare for a future committed to serving God along side a wonderful Godly man, and the opportunity to reminisce about John and my own special day six years ago, this too is a letter I will pass on to my children about marriage:
“And the truth is that these are only the children I know, in a very small fraction of a very small country. The truth is that there are children like this all over the world, sick, starving, dying, unloved, and uncared for.
The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians.
The truth is that if only 8% of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.
This is the Truth. I have the freedom to believe it. The freedom, the opportunity to do something about it. The truth is that He loves these children just as much as He loves me and now that I know, I am responsible.” - Kisses from Kate, Katie Davis
As I read this, I just wanted to weep. In all honesty, I pretty much wanted to sob through this entire book... not just tears of sadness, but tears of joy knowing God is not finished yet. The McLaughlin family is just one itty bitty tiny Christian family traveling down that road to adoption in hopes of changing a life, in hopes of providing opportunity for an orphan. It brings tears to my eyes to think how blessed we are to be on this journey.
I also read this in Kisses for Kate and although we are not quite where Katie Davis is in the adoption process, I couldn’t help but share this short excerpt from her book.
“Adoption is wonderful and beautiful and the greatest blessing I have ever experienced. Adoption is also difficult and painful. Adoption is a beautiful picture of redemption. It is the Gospel in my living room. And sometimes, it’s just hard.
I’m just returning from a very needed sweet vacation to Indianapolis after celebrating a dear friends entrance into a new season of life - marriage. Loved every minute of it and was blessed with the opportunity to visit with a number of Athlete in Action staff I haven’t seen in probably four years. It was a memorable time.
I’m actually in route to Mexico City as I write. I had planned on getting in a few ‘Z’s’ before landing in my ‘home country’ but I started reading a book called Kisses from Katie.... and I can’t put it down. As I shared in our previous blog, I met with our adoption agency’s country coordinator to go over the final checklist for our dossier and she gave me this book as a gift. She commented, ‘Katie has been an inspiration to me....’.
Little did I know as I opened up to begin the forward message, I too would be captivated by this amazing young lady’s faithfulness to God and her genuine, honest and very real willingness to endure the challenges of a new culture, a new language, a life with less comforts, a life with more dangers, and the life of the unknown to change others one life at a time.
In just the first few pages, I had to hold back tears not only at the beautiful ray of sunshine Katie is expressed through words, but for the reality of the poverty that exists in our world beyond the border of the good ol’ US of A. It’s heart wrenching to read about what is not just a movie for so many others.
So about 6 months ago we began the adoption process. We not only took the step of faith to walk this road, but we took a huge jump of faith to begin this process in Mexico fully aware that attempting to adopt a child while living overseas from a third country was not going to come without set backs. We set a goal date to have the dossier completed and out of our hands by the end of April, early May. There have been nerves, confusion, tears, and frustration.... BUT I am excited to share we have met our goal and today I turned over our entire packet of information to our program director!
It's still a long road ahead with the ever dreaded waiting... but we have done our part and it is ALL in God's hands now (as if it wasn't before, right?). Anyway, just wanted to share our joy in beginning a new phase of the adoption! After the Dossier is sent to Nicaragua (probably by the end of June after being sent to the Nicaragua consulate and translated), the clock starts ticking... an average wait time of 18-24 months. Please continue to pray with us... that we would wait patiently and joyfully in God's perfect timing, for a continued smooth and efficient process as the adoption agency completes the final three documents and has all the paperwork translated, and for the health, safety and care of the sweet baby girl God has for our family.
I have two boys. They are cute. They are cuddly. They love being silly. They love running around, wrestling, making guns out of legos and making airplanes out of plastic bottles. They love to be read too and they love to laugh. One is four years old. One is three. And one day (God willing), they will be 16 years old..... and one day they will discover girls.
They will discover girls are different and ‘girls are pretty’. And if we are being honest here, they will discover the effects these pretty little creatures can have on them... in more than one way.
Now, I wouldn’t consider myself to be an overly protective mother who wants to control my children’s lives, but neither am I willing to be an under-protective mother who wants to allow the ebb and flow of our culture to control my children’s lives particularly in the area of sex. Why, particularly in this area?
Because as a woman working in full time ministry, I have come face to face with the realities of what happens when men (and women) listen to the worlds rendition of ‘follow your heart’ or ‘follow your feelings’ allowing the fleeting pleasures of life to dictate the decisions they make. I have seen the heartbreak that occurs when a man has struggled with the temptation to click on that advertisement for Girls Gone Wild... because “what does it matter that I just look?” I have seen the pain, insecurity and emptiness it causes because ‘it’s okay since I’m just looking and not touching’ . I’ve seen the tears because although he bought her a ring, his eyes still find pleasure in checking out the woman wearing the culturally acceptable low-cut braless tight fitting blouse in the booth next to them. I have seen the tears in the eyes of a man who wants to stop looking at pornography but despite his best efforts, has succumb to his ‘need’ over and over and over again. And I have heard the stories of that slippery slope that has led to divorce.
This is a hot topic for me because I love marriage. I feel like I married a man who desires to not only protect our marriage, but protect my heart as well. And I want my boys to do the same for their future wives, God willing. I want my boys to love their wives enough to control where their mind wanders. I want my boys to value their wives enough to do whatever it takes to guard the vow they make at the alter... even if it means taking a baseball bat to their computer [Fireproof](because nothing on that piece of equipment is more important than their wife). I want my boys to enjoy their wives enough that they are willing to practice this insane idea of being faithful to them even with their eyes. And I don’t ever want my boys to feel the pain of divorce, the pain of knowing how badly they have hurt the one they loved, and the heartache of the inability to be pure before the Lord.
God is good and God redeems and God heals... but it is a painful process I pray that my boys will never experience.
So we begin now teaching our boys what is appropriate in God’s eyes. We begin teaching them now the importance of what they allow their little eyes to see. And we pray. We pray that they would recognize how much God loves them and because He loves them so much, He has given us instruction on how we should conduct ourselves, what we should allow our hearts and minds to dwell on and what we should allow ourselves to be a part of .... for their benefit, safety and joy. As one woman said, "Do I really think that my 7 yr old [for me, a 4 year old and a 3 year old] is being sexually tempted by what he’s seeing? Not really, but he is learning habits now that will make it easier to look away when the temptations are strong."
The other day I was reading through a blog titled Protecting Boys From Pornograpy. After she finished her post, she asked the readers what were some steps they were taking to protect their sons from the dangers of pornography. One of the comments stood out to me because it’s not just about teaching our boys... but it’s teaching our girls to help their brothers (both literally and figuratively).
After reading the Duggars book, we’re also working to teach our daughters to be advocates and help their brothers. We’re teaching them to dress modestly as well as a little trick to call out “nike” when they see a woman immodestly dressed in public. The boys learn to look down at their shoes quickly and avert their eyes. As summer approaches and clothing seems to become optional, it is not just digital media that can numb or ensnare our sons, but it can be the fellow shoppers at the grocery store, or even fellow visitors at the zoo and playgrounds. We must teach them to be vigilant and guard their eye gates in even the most “safe” places.
I thought, “wow, what a great perspective”. The bible says in 1 Corinthians 8:9 “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” My daughter may be ‘model material’ when she grows up.... she may have that liberty to wear that shirt or that short skirt... the liberty to wear that bathing suit... But I pray she would strive to humbly put her brothers first (not just JT and Hudson but her brothers in Christ) and help them fight the battle of purity before the Lord. I pray that my little princess would be an advocate for her brothers and encourage them to see women in the way God created them - precious, valuable, honorable, and tender. I pray that she would battle herself to help them battle to keep pure for their future wives. I pray my daughter would be secure in her identity in Christ that she would want to honor God in her choice to put others above herself.
If you get a chance, I would encourage you to read Protecting Boys Against Pornography including the comments below it.
An E-newsletter is sent out every month or so to all the woman on staff with Athletes in Action as a way of keeping everyone connected. Well, about two weeks or so ago I got an email from one of the communication writers on staff with AIA stating that a friend of mine who is a Direct Ministry team leader for the Leadership Development and Human Resources department wanted her to write a story on the Missionary Mommy page I started a few months ago for the next E-newsletter. I was actually a bit surprised, but encouraged that someone took notice enough of those pages to want to share them. Pretty neat! Anyway, I thought it would be fun share the article with all of you who have been praying for our ministry... as being a full-time mom is my biggest ministry.
"From the outside, space shuttle footprints, balloon rockets and coloring marshmallows may not seem like ministry. But to Natalie McLaughlin, who serves Athletes in Action with husband John in Mexico, those are crucial parts of her current ministry role: mom.
The McLaughlins have two preschool sons and a toddler daughter, and Natalie has chosen to homeschool the boys. While the days of using her athletic training degree to build relationships with athletes and share the gospel may be on the back burner, Natalie is relishing her current role as the person responsible for nurturing a new generation of Christ followers, namely the three in her care.
Partly to keep herself sane and organized, Natalie started researching ideas for crafts, creative learning projects and homeschool lessons to keep her children entertained. From that, she decided to start a side page off the family's ministry website to help other moms like her who might need similar resources. Launched just three months ago, her "Missionary Mommy" site is rich with content: She includes some blog thoughts, some resources on spiritual health for moms, tips on homeschooling and links to favorite sites for homeschool resources, a compilation of creative crafts for kids (along with adorable photos of her young'uns engaged in creating said crafts), recipes and even ideas for creative disciplining.
"I labeled this particular page as 'Missionary Mommy' because the reality is that if you are a mom, you ARE a missionary," Natalie says in her blog. "You are seeking to train, encourage, disciple, love, and build-up your little ones in hopes that as they get older, they will do the same for the glory of God."
Natalie says she has already gotten some great feedback from moms outside the AIA family who have found encouragement and ideas on her site. As someone who loves to research, Natalie says the process of digging around the Internet for resources is actually fun and relaxing to her, while some moms may think it is one more stressful part of stay-at-home mommyhood.
Though traditional schools don't begin until pre-kindergarten, Natalie said she decided to begin homeschooling her sons now in order to be more intentional about their day's schedule and to encourage learning and creativity early. She chooses alphabet letters or a book to focus activities around to give the day structure.
"Finding fun things to do with the kids and seeing how rewarding it is for both of us has been fun," she says. "The kids ask questions and request crafts, so I see the fruit of spending quality time with them every day. There's no better way to be intentional than to get on the floor and play with them and teach them."
Natalie really sees the website as paying forward others who have encouraged her since she had her first child.
"I was encouraged by so many other moms who did the same thing as I did, so I want to hopefully do that for other moms," she says. "It doesn't take much for me to do that."
If you haven't already checked it out, click 'Missionary Mommy' to your left. If you have already and would like to be part of the mailing list (this is a separate mailing than from this blog) to anyone who wants to know when I add something new to it, please email me or click here to send me your email address.
I read a great article last night titled I'm Tired. It was one of the blogs from the Ephesians study I had been going through. I actually fell behind due to a few things that came up over the last few weeks so last night I spent an hour or so catching up on the blog updates. This particular blog talking about Ephesians 5:15-16 brought some real conviction to my heart.... in regards to sleep.
Did you know that "In 1850 Americans crawled into bed at a reasonable hour and slept an average of 9.5 hours a night. By 1910, half the country had electricity, but our recent ancestors were still breathing evenly with their eyes closed, on average, nine hours a night. By 1950 an average night's sleep decreased to 8 hours. And by 2008, Americans, on average, get 6.5 hours of sleep a night" (Kathy Peel - America's Family Manager)?
I was blown away at these statistics about how much less sleep we have gotten over the years. If I was a betting woman, I'd bet that technology has played a major part in this statistic. I was actually pretty convicted by it.
The author shares that as she gets up in the morning to have her coffee and spend some time with the Lord, she can feel the tug of email, facebook, and twitter. I can totally relate. Sometimes I wonder what people did without email... without computers... without TV. For me, I think, they probably spent more time as a family... forced to be creative... forced to talk...more time to just think. With less distraction or little things to do in our down time, we are naturally challenged to be creative in what you do with that time....I often wonder what it would be like to wake up at 5:30 every morning truly refreshed with 8-9 hours of sleep ready to take on the events of the day.
But i’ll be the first to admit, as soon as the kids hit the pillow in the evening, sleeping is the last thing on my mind, ironically even on the days I’m completely exhausted. Actually, once they are in their beds, all of sudden I feel ‘awake’... with endless possibilities ahead of me as the kids sleep for the next 12 hours! Perhaps if I didn’t have so many ‘possibilities’... like spend 2 hours surfing pinterest or communicating on facebook or watching the latest episode of psych (..the list does goes on). Not all the stuff I do in the evening is 'junk food' and actually pretty productive, but just those productive things alone keep me busy without the extra internet surfing or TV watching (you know... crawl into bed and say, "I'll just take a few minutes to see what things have been posted on pinterest".... only to find myself glued to my computer screen for the next hour or two), if you know what I mean.
Now, I’m not trying to say we need to have our electricity cut off and go back to living by the rise and fall of the sun, but I truly enjoyed the refreshing reminder and the challenge to be disciplined even in the area of sleep. That sleep was God given and when we acknowledge our need for sleep and are disciplined in this area, we are not only reflecting our dependance on God, but we are demonstrating what our priorities are... because I know my hudsband doesn’t want a haggard wife in the morning (it’s not pretty) and my kids don’t deserve to deal with an overly tired and run down mom struggling to find the patience I need to love them well while walking in the fruit of the spirit... which for me, is virtually impossible when I did not get a good nights rest (it's hard enough when I do get enough sleep to have tremendous patience).
As a matter of fact, I read this article right before I read 'I'm Tired' called Parenting Is Not An Interruption that a friend posted on facebook (See.... facebook isn’t ALL that bad). If I don’t get enough sleep, my kids ARE an interruption to my needs, my desires and I don’t have the right mental capcity to have right perspective. I need sleep. Period.
Anyway, just a little food for thought.
I found this website the other day called MOB Society (For Moms of Boys, By Moms of Boys). I think it's a fairly new website that two gals started to encourage other moms who are raising boys. As I was surfing the site I found a few things that I'd like to point out for those of you who have crazy little boys (or older ones):
First of all, I couldn't help but laugh when I read their 'About' page:
"Do you ever find yourself wondering:
- If boys REALLY act this way all the time?
- If not, does that mean yours are abnormal…doomed?
- Are boys REALLY all that different from girls? Why?
- Will that stain on your carpet EVER come out?
- Will your hearing be damaged forever, or will it eventually come back?
- Could you ever look into those eyes and not see all the potential in the world?
- Will you melt EVERY time he asks you to marry him?
- Are fist fights ok between brothers?
- What do you do when he demands to see your privates because he has realized you’re different “down there?”
- Will his cheeks be that soft and his eyes that innocent forever?
- Will you always look at him and see the baby you fell in love with?
- Will you give him condoms for protection…or teach him to be a protector?
- How in the world are you supposed to train up this man to love the Lord?
- Will you be able to find what you need to give Him Godly wisdom?
- Will you be able to protect him?
- Are there moms out there who feel the same way you do?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, you’re in the right place!"
Ummm... Yup!...... So, I really am not the only person that wonders these things.
So we have all had those moments as a mom.... usually at the end of the day when the kids are finally fast asleep and silence finally fills the house. It's the time your mind starts to wander and reflect on the day.... and then it hits us like a ton of bricks. Feeling like a complete failure... I yelled too much today. I wasn't patient enough today. I didn't listen well enough today to my kids' needs. Why did I act that way? Am I really that tired? What am I teaching my kids when I respond in such a way?
I actually had a rough week and one evening I decided to listen to week four of the motherhood DVD series I'd been going through with a few other moms... As if I wasn't feeling bad enough, the speaker says, "We are the gospel our kids read..."
Now I felt horrible. I definitely am not portraying a loving, gracious, patient, and kind God. (I remember thinking I'm so thankful that God's mercies are new EVERY morning!)
It can be a lonely feeling.
You see, I'm a yeller. I know there are moms out there that don't ever yell at their kids (but, I am not niave enough to think that they don't have their own flaws). But I hate yelling. I strive hard and pray hard that the Lord would give me the patience, the joy, the focus to not yell. And I have come a LONG way since JT was first born... but I still have a LONG way to go! Actually, I always say if I've gone an entire day without turning the TV on or yelling, it's been a wonderful day.
I notice I do it when I feel overwhelmed. Like when my itty bitty one year old is crying because she wants something (but I can't figure out what it is she wants), while my three year old is throwing a tantrum because my 4 year old took his Bakugan and my four year old continues to repeat, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" over and over again trying to get my attention so that I would watch him re-enact something he did that he thought was funny.... while at the same time I'm in the middle of trying to get dinner ready and trying to figure out why the microwave won't function the way it's suppose too. This is the time I usually loose it. Especially if it's been one of those days in which this type of scenerio has happened a number of times and the coffee, no matter how much I drink, just doesn't seem to be kicking in.
With that being said, I appreciate and value friends that make me feel not so alone. I shared a blog a week or so ago by one of our friends who is our neighbor. She raised four kids who are all 18 or older now. From what I see and hear, she did a pretty good job.
Okay, if I'm being honest I think that I'm pretty decent when it comes to crafty things. It's a passion of mine... it's part of how God wired me. But I would not say I'm gifted in the area of balloon animal making. I would definitely not make the cut for clown tryouts if I had to impress the judges with what I can do creatively with a balloon. But in our house, we love balloons. They are cheap. They are easy to use. And there are about a zillion things you can do with them. Balloons are just one of the many things I keep my craft closet stocked with.
A few months ago, I thought I'd broaden my horizons and find out just how hard it was to make 'something' out of a tube balloons. I mean, those magicians at birthday parties make it look so easy (although they make pulling a coin out of my kid's ear easy but I'm not ready to tackle that one). Needless to say, I googled 'balloon airplanes' to see what the cyber world could offer me in regards to assistance. And as usual, Google (and You Tube) didn't let me down...
Following the instructions on YouTube clips, I have made balloon parrots (we pretended they were Blu from the movie Rio), I've made balloon airplanes and helicopters (I've got two boys that I could do this everyday and they'd be just fine), we've made swords and hats, etc. So when you find the kids bored of the toys they have, just make a balloon one and it can keep them busy for hours! Anyway, just another little idea from the McLaughlin zoo! Here are a few pictures of my monkeys and I've included a few websites that have easy instructions:
I forgot to post our letter T country last week (Tanzania) so I thought I'd post both prayer videos for T and the country we'll be praying for this week - Ukraine. They're short, so why not take a few minutes to bow your head and pray for these two countries!
So over the past few weeks I had been having this conversation with a former co-worker of mine on facebook who is a Christian Scientist. Now, before I continue, I want to preface that email, facebook, twitter, texting are NOT the best place to have a real conversation about important things, particularly things of God. But with that being said, I felt like we were both cordial and seemingly polite as we discussed the topic at hand... which started with my facebook status update in which I shared I was fighting the urge to be jealous that my sweet husband got to spend the week listening to God Word, hanging with friends and going to Six Flags while I was wiping poopy hineys and runny noses (if you remember from my previous blog). I wrote "Oh, Lord, how thankful I am that you love this sinner."
Now if you do not know much about Christian Science, they do not believe that we are sinners. On the contrary, they believe that there is no sin. Needless to say, this started quite the conversation which wasn't the first time I traveled down this type of road... There is so much intertwined in ones belief that it cannot be 'broken down' in just one day... let alone in a conversation on facebook. But the point of this particular blog post is not to attempt to refute the beliefs of Christian Science... or any other religion that does not believe Jesus was God, but to encourage everyone to think about why you believe what you believe. I'm a researcher at heart. Conversation like that rejuvinates me... they challenge me to think critically about what I believe and why I believe it.... not only for my sake, but for the sake of my children.
One of things many other religions do well is 'train' their disciples in answers. Throughout the bible God's mission was to make His name known. Isaiah 48:11 says, "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another." God did and does everything in order to bring glory to His name. God is a missionary God infact God sent his Son not only professing God's glory but choosing to obey in His darkest hours to pay the price for our sins.
We too are called to be missionaries... to our neighbors, to our friends, to our co-workers, to our children. To teach truth and to train in the knowledge of God. In light of all the other religions out there and all the new-age stuff floating around, if we don't have answers, someone else will... even if those answers are not Truth.
My friend had said that he had lots of questions he felt he couldn't find answers too prior to his decision to put his faith in Christian Science. Whether or not he couldn't find answers or just didn't like the ones he got are two different stories, but regardless someone had to answer the questions he had... and it could have been you!
The point being, we need to be able to answer questions - easy and hard ones (2 Corinthians 4:2, Colossians 4:2-6)... because if a friend doesn't ask us, I am confident our kids will one day. And I don't mean the superficial answers... For example, one of the questions my friend had was 'How did Jesus heal?" Well, the very simply answer is "Jesus was God so he could by His power." But there is so much more buried in this question...What if one doesn't believe that Jesus was God? Then how do you answer that? Why, as Christians, do we worship and profess the diety of Christ? Are you familiar what happened at the Counsel of Nicea because there are ALOT of inaccurate and undocumented explanations for how the trinity came to be part of our doctrine. I had heard once that those who are expert in knowing what the real dollar bill looks like is one who is expert in knowing what the false one looks like. This is why I enjoy conversations with those of other religions... as long as it's cordial. (as a disclaimer, it is also wise to know when to throw in the towel... particularly if someone isn't really interested in knowning the truth.)
Have you ever googled 'refuting christianity' to see what you find? I have. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who helps one understand the truth of Jesus Christ, but you never know when God may use you to provide the right answers to someone searching for Truth. One of the things I love about our God is that He is not afraid to be questioned... Many have attempted to prove that the bible was incorrect or sought out in attempt to prove Christianity wrong... only to find themselves completely in love with Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
So, John and I wanted to share a few website that are well documented from historical documents as well as references from the bible. If you see cultural questions in the news that have been surfacing or you are engaging in conversations with someone about the bible, I would encourage you the check out these sights. i have learned that just because a religion says that the bible is part of the key writings, in reality many, if not most, interpret their bible based on the other key writings in their faith. Anyway, if you'd like help (or if your even curious) answering those tough questions... maybe for yourself... or maybe for someone you know... or maybe even for your kids (if they have hit the 'but why?" stage), I hope these websites will be of assistance. Just click on the picture to take you to their site.
I will admit that I am a bit leary of articles like this one... I don't want to become one of those "homeschooling is the best" kind of person. I read a blog of a gal a couple weeks ago (unfortunately, I'm still on the hunt for it because I can't seem to find it again) that did a great job of weighing out the pros and cons of both public school and homeschooling. If I find it, I will be sure to post it.
Anyway, I came across this article titled 15 Reasons To Homeschool. Although my kids are still preschoolers, I completely agree... I'd say these reasons are now my reasons too. Read the comment that the guy 'Homeschool Daddy' makes at the bottom. Even though my kids are young, I would say that I wouldn't have recognized these either until I started with kids!
Anyway, just a little thought to chew on.
I'm kind of a organizational nut. I think this is why when I had kids, I went a little bonkers. Anyone who has kids knows that as much as you try to be organized, little wee ones can put a major dent in your Covey planner. I noticed a while back when I started out on the homeschooling-give-it-a-try journey that if I started my day early with something structured (i.e. craft or planned activity), the boys did better throughout the rest of the day - sort of set the tone for the remainder of the hours left until bed time (yes, sometimes at 7:30am I have found myself already counting down the minutes until the day was over... lets not talk about those days though, okay?).
Last month I found myself simply out of juice. If it wasn't planned already, I probably wasn't going to come up with anything entertaining that morning... and with the craziness of our life, trying to plan something the night before was not going to happen either.
Well, a couple weeks ago I decided I was going to start writing a month calender of meals for each day. I'd spend some time one evening planning the meals for the month, writing the weekly grocery list, etc. This is something I've always wanted to do but just never thought it was for me. I always thought, "What if I don't want to eat what I planned that day? What if I'm craving something else?"
I don't know if it's because I now have THREE little ones walking and/or crawling around or the fact that I have an extra mouth to feed now that our little munchkin is eating big-girl food (and yes, she has her momma's appetite so she's defintiely not going to be a dainty salad eater and is already out eating one of her older brothers), but I decided I would try doing the plan-dinner-meals-for-a-month kind of thing... It's been pretty nice because I really don't have to use my brain at all thinking about what we should eat for dinner each day... and since my brain is usually fried by dinner time, this is a serious positive!
So my thought was, since I had a creative-brain-fart over the last month despite all my pinterest surfing (I actually contribute my brain-farts to my laziness), I could come up with a calender of crafts/activites for each day of the month. See the picture for my February calender. I didn't work so hard (since I'm still doing preschool stuff) to match what our reading schedule (we use Sonlight) was with the craft I picked each day.... but I figured I could find something educational to teach with every craft we did.
All that to say, I love it! I don't have to use my brain... again- except for the 30 minutes it took me to search the internet for ideas and write it all down. I gather the material I need the night before and I'm ready to go 9 am the next morning. Seriously - this has been great!
I also added a physical activity (since this is something we NEED majorly in our house... too much little boy craziness around here) to each day. You'll see the craft in black and the physical activity/game in blue. This is a work in progress for me since I just started this month... but so far, so good! I highly recommend doing this!
This week we are praying for Pakistan... as we talk about the letter 'P'. Sorry for those who were waiting for a 'O' country prayer. We prayed for Oman last week but I couldn't find an Operation World Prayer Cast for the letter 'O'. Anyway, if you'd like to take a few minutes and listen/watch this prayer video for the country of Pakistan:
This was probably one of my favorite crafts that I did with the kids... it kept them busy for hours (even days)! I posted the directions of the 'craft' webpage, but I took some better photos that I wanted to post:
So I have been thinking about adding a 'mommy blog' to our website. I have so many thoughts or perhaps things I just want to share and/or process through. Therefore, since this is technically our 'ministry' blog, although I feel I can share a bit here and there about life as a wife and mom, I felt maybe I should start a seperate blog that is specifically for my mommy friends.
So if you look to the left, you'll see a page titled Missionary Mommy. Check it out... it's a work in progress and I'm still adding stuff to it... but it's something. You can read why I really started this page on the Missionary Mommy page. Under it you'll see specific pages including crafts, homeschooling, discipline ideas, websites I LOVE, and more. If you have ideas or suggestions, I'm totally open to hearing so please share! Also, if you would like to be notified when I add something new to those particular pages, please send me an email letting me know. It will be a seperate mail out list... (or you can just check it sporadically for what new things I've added.)
So for all those really not that interested in what I do as a mom (I'm not offended, I promise!), thanks for hanging in there with me over the past year(s) as I've shared my crazy life as a mom!
So I read this article a couple of weeks ago and had intended on sharing it with other moms of little ones. I think if you are a mom with wee little ones and feel like sometimes being a mother is an uphill climb, this article will put a smile on your face! Well said is what I think! Don't Carpe Diem
So I found this on one of my new favorite websites (Preschoolers and Peace). It is actually her church's dedication charge for parents but I thought it was wonderful to share! If you would like to see that actual blog, you can click here.
Roles of Parents
1. Receive their children from God. Genesis 33:5, 1 Samuel 1:27, Psalm 127:3
2. Their duty to their children is:
a. To love them. Titus 2:4
b. To bring them to Christ. Matthew 19:13, 14
c. To train them up for God. Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4
d. To instruct them in God's Word. Deuteronomy 4:9, 11:9; Isaiah 38:19
e. To tell them of God's judgments. Joel 1:3
f. To tell them of the miraculous works of God. Exodus 10:2, Psalm 78:4
g. To command them to obey God. Deuteronomy 32:46; 1 Chronicles 28:9
h. To bless them. Genesis 48:15; Hebrews 11:20
i. To pity them. Psalm 103:12
j. To provide for them. Job 42:15; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Timothy 5:8
k. To rule them. 1 Timothy 3:4, 12
l. To correct them. Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 23:13, 29:17; Hebrews 12:7
m. Not to provoke them. Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21
n. Not to make any unholy connections for them. Genesis 24:1-4, 28:1-2
3. They should pray for their children:
a. For their spiritual welfare. Genesis 17:18; 1 Chronicles 29:19
b. When in temptation. Job 1:5
c. When in sickness. 2 Samuel 12:16; Mark 5:23; John 4:46, 49
...we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. 2 Corinthians 1:24
by Rachel Jankovic | June 16, 2011
There is a good old saying, perhaps only said by my Grandfather, that distance adds intrigue. It is certainly true — just think back to anything that has ever been distant from you that is now near. Your driver’s license. Marriage. Children. Things that used to seem so fascinating, but as they draw near become less mystical and more, well, real.
This same principle certainly applies to mission fields too. The closer you get to home, the less intriguing the work of sacrifice seems. As someone once said, “Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help Mom with the dishes.” When you are a mother at home with your children, the church is not clamoring for monthly ministry updates. When you talk to other believers, there is not any kind of awe about what you are sacrificing for the gospel. People are not pressing you for needs you might have, how they can pray for you. It does not feel intriguing, or glamorous. Your work is normal, because it is as close to home as you can possibly be. You have actually gone so far as tobecome home.
Home: The Headwaters of Mission
If you are a Christian woman who loves the Lord, the gospel is important to you. It is easy to become discouraged, thinking that the work you are doing does not matter much. If you were really doing something for Christ you would be out there, somewhere else, doing it. Even if you have a great perspective on your role in the kingdom, it is easy to lose sight of it in the mismatched socks, in the morning sickness, in the dirty dishes. It is easy to confuse intrigue with value, and begin viewing yourself as the least valuable part of the Church.
There are a number of ways in which mothers need to study their own roles, and begin to see them, not as boring and inconsequential, but as home, the headwaters of missions.
At the very heart of the gospel is sacrifice, and there is perhaps no occupation in the world so intrinsically sacrificial as motherhood. Motherhood is a wonderful opportunity to live the gospel. Jim Elliot famously said, “He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Motherhood provides you with an opportunity to lay down the things that you cannot keep on behalf of the people that you cannot lose. They are eternal souls, they are your children, they are your mission field.
Faith Makes the Small Offering Great
If you are like me, then you may be thinking “What did I ever give up for them? A desk job? Time at the gym? Extra spending money? My twenty- year- old figure? Some sleep?” Doesn’t seem like much when you put it next to the work of some of the great missionaries, people who gave their lives for the gospel.
Think about the feeding of the five thousand when the disciples went out and rounded up the food that was available. It wasn’t much. Some loaves. Some fish. Think of some woman pulling her fish out and handing it to one of the disciples. That had to have felt like a small offering. But the important thing about those loaves and those fishes was not how big they were when they were given, it was about whose hands they were given into. In the hands of the Lord, that offering was sufficient. It was more than sufficient. There were leftovers. Given in faith, even a small offering becomes great.
Look at your children in faith, and see how many people will be ministered to by your ministering to them. How many people will your children know in their lives? How many grandchildren are represented in the faces around your table now?
Gain What You Cannot Lose in Them
So, if mothers are strategically situated to impact missions so greatly, why do we see so little coming from it? I think the answer to this is quite simple: sin. Discontent, pettiness, selfishness, resentment. Christians often feel like the right thing to do is to be ashamed about what we have. We hear that quote of Jim Elliot’s and think that we ought to sell our homes and move to some place where they need the gospel.
But I’d like to challenge you to look at it differently. Giving up what you cannot keep does not mean giving up your home, or your job so you can go serve somewhere else. It is giving up yourself. Lay yourself down. Sacrifice yourself here, now. Cheerfully wipe the nose for the fiftieth time today. Make dinner again for the people who don’t like the green beans. Laugh when your plans are thwarted by a vomiting child. Lay yourself down for the people here with you, the people who annoy you, the people who get in your way, the people who take up so much of your time that you can’t read anymore. Rejoice in them. Sacrifice for them. Gain that which you cannot lose in them.
It is easy to think you have a heart for orphans on the other side of the world, but if you spend your time at home resenting the imposition your children are on you, you do not. You cannot have a heart for the gospel and a fussiness about your life at the same time. You will never make any difference there if you cannot be at peace here. You cannot have a heart for missions, but not for the people around you. A true love of the gospel overflows and overpowers. It will be in everything you do, however drab, however simple, however repetitive.
God loves the little offerings. Given in faith, that plate of PB&J’s will feed thousands. Given in faith, those presents on Christmas morning will bring delight to more children than you can count. Offered with thankfulness, your work at home is only the beginning. Your laundry pile, selflessly tackled daily, will be used in the hands of God to clothe many. Do not think that your work does not matter. In God’s hands, it will be broken, and broken, and broken again, until all who have need of it have eaten and are satisfied. And even then, there will be leftovers.
(See Original Article)
So if you haven't read this book as a mom- Loving the Little Years, Motherhood in the Trenches", it has been a source of encouragement, a book that has challenged and motivated me. John gave me a few hours away from our home... away from the kids yesterday morning. So I packed up my bible, a book, and my computer and headed to Starbucks for a hot coffee, a sweet snack and some 'me time'. I truly am blessed that I am married to a man who is willing to take on all three of our crazy children alone (I say that because we mommies have to remember that our husbands are not used to the chaos as much as we are so it can tackle them a bit harder in just a few hours!).
Needless to say, I went to open up Loving the Little Years and it happen to be a chapter on 'Me Time'. As I read it, I felt like it spoke ALOT to my heart.... particularly as I think about all 'me time' that is sacrificed as a mommy of little ones that demand so much all day every day.
I wanted to share this chapter with all you other mommies out there that have little ones. Particularly if you are like me... you miss more alone time, miss having the time to work out more, have struggled with figuring out who 'you' is after having children, etc. I would recommend the entire book (it's very short), but here's the one chapter I read today. I hope it is an encouragement for you and I hope if helps to reshape your thinking about what it means to sacrifice as a mom.
"This is something that I am sure every mother has heard about. You just need a little time to yourself. A long bath, some time to do your nails, getting your hair done, or going shopping for the day. We all need a little time off every once in a while. My husband likes to send me out to go look at yarn or have coffee with some friends. And all these things are great, in so much as they leave you refreshed for the work you do.
Taking a little time for yourself is absolutely needed. I remember the first time that having the twins threatened my morning shower. They just needed me, and needed me, and needed me until it was getting pretty late, and I hadn't gotten out of my pajamas. Then suddenly I had an idea. I would just put them in their crib and take a shower. They could cry for a few minutes- they were fed, and clean, and they would be alright. I was not fed, or clean, and I would not be all right. So I popped them in their crib and said, 'I'll be back in a few minutes - have fun!" and off I went. As I recall I took a speed shower and then read my Bible for a few minutes.
All this to say, I am officially on the record in favor of "me time". It is necessary and fabulous. It isn't good for the kids to have a frazzled and unshowered mother, so by all means get that kind of thing done. Find a way. Turn on a cartoon if you must - it isn't the end of the world.
But there is a sense in which we must really guard ourselves. Motherhood is a demanding job. It is so demanding and intrusive, in fact, that it takes over your body. It uses your body, oftentimes rather roughly. This can start to bother us. You may have some weight to lose, and you might start to resent that. You might have permanently damaged something during a pregnancy. You may have big scars, stretch marks, and loose skin that bothers you. You might not have time to exercise the way you used to. All of these things can be seen as an offense against us - against our bodies.
There are really two separate points I would like to make here. First of all, our bodies are tools, not treasures. You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dinted body. Motherhood uses your body in the way that God designed it to be used. Those are the right kind of damaged.
There are of course ways to hurt your body that are outisde of God's design for it and disobedient. But motherhood is what your stomach was made for - and any wear and tear that it shows is simply the sign of a well-used tool. We are not to treat our bodies like museum pieces. They were not given to us to preserve, they were given to us to use. So use it cheerfully, and maintain it cheerfully. When you are working hard to lose the baby weight (as you may need to), think of it as tool maintenance. You want to fix your body up in order to be able to use it somemore. It might be used for more children, or it might be used to take care of the children you have. We should not be trying to fix it up to put it back on the shelf out of harm's way or to try and make ourselves look like nothing ever happened. Your body is a tool. Use it.
ALso, your body is a tool - maintain it. Having sacrificed your body for your children is no exucse for schlepping around in sweatpants for the rest of their childhood. When you were eighteen, you might have been skinny without trying. In your thirties, after having had a pile of kids, the chances are good that you will need to try. And in case you care, this word is not coming from one of those miracle mothers who comes out of the hospital more svelte than she went in! My children, bless them, have left their mark!
Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Chrsitian women can have in our world today is the testimony of joyfully giving your body to another. While so many women choose to not have children or abort the children that they were given, the testimony of women who know the cost and joyfully pay it is profound. So make sure that you aren't buying into the world's propaganda. WHile there are a great many rewards, the sacrifice is very real. The reason so many women don't want to do it is because it is very hard and has very real costs. But the answer to these obstacles is not to run away in fear as the world does, but to meet it with joy, and in faith.
My very kind and wise husband once left a note for me on Easter mronign, two weeks after Daphne was born. He wrote, "To my wife, before she even goes near the closet on Easter morning," or something romantic like that. In it, he encouraged me to realize that there was no more fitting way to celebrate Easter (or any part of the Christian life) than in a body that has been undone on behalf of another.
So realize that your body is a testimony to the world of God's design. Carry the extra weight joyfully until you can lose it joyfully. Carry the scars joyfully as you carry the fruit of them. Do not resent the damages that your children left on your body. Just like a guitar mellows and sounds better with age and scratches, so your body can more fully praise God having been used for His purpose. So don't resent it, enjoy it.
Second, the world has a very muddles perception of 'self'. They think and tell us to think that we are all little separate entities who might need to go off somewhere to get to know 'ourselves,' or that a mother needs to get back to her corporate job to be herself again. Marriages break up because people don't know who they are anymore. They need to find themselves.
But the Chrsitian view of self is very different, and you need ot make sure that it is the one you have. We are like characters in a story. Our essential self is not back in the intro, waiting to be rediscovered. Who you are in where you are. When you are married, your essential self is married. As the story grows, so does your character. Your children change you into a different person. If you suddenly panic because it all happened so fast and now you don't recognize yourself, what you need is not time alone. What you need is your people. Look out- look at the people who made you what you are - your husband and your children. Study them. They are you. If you want to know yourself, concentrate on them.
Those women who try to find themselves by stripping away the 'others' will find that they are a very broken little thing. This will lead them to resent the people who they think made them that way. She may say, "I used to be so energetic, but all these people take, take, take from me and now I have no time to just be me!" And the world gathers around and comforts her and says she needs sometime to follow her dreams.
But the Chrsitian woman needs to see, "I used to be so boring! Now my character has some depth, some people to love, some hardships to bear. Now I have some material to work with!" A Christian woman's view is always forward and never back. Your identity is to be found and resting in other people.
Let me try this from another angle. As married Christian women, our identity is in our husbands. We are their helpmeets. Our calling is people-oriented. It follows then that you cannot know what your calling is until you know who your calling is. Until you are married, you are not tied to a specific person. Marriage reorients you entirely. Children do even more. Then it is your calling to help your husband by raising these little people. People, people everywhere and no time for yourself. But remember that this is your calling. It belongs to you. They belong to you.
If you want some quality 'me time', make a date with your husband. Do something speical with your children. These people are you. Your identity is supposed to be intertwined - that is the way God wrote the story, and it is the way He intends us to read it."