Sunday, September 26, 2010

147 million reason to look in the mirror!

Are you a little confused as to why you'd open my blog to find Michael Jackson serenading you?  No, I haven't lost my mind but am thinking even though we all thought he lost his, he may have gotten at least one thing right in his life.  Have you listened to the lyrics of his song "Man in the Mirror"?  I was driving down the road the other day when it came on the radio and found myself jamming away to Michael ... crazy enough.   But as I listened,  I realized how great the lyrics were.

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
No message could have been any clearer ..
If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make THE change!"

 ... "there are kids on the streets without enough to eat.  Who am I, to be blind, pretending not to see their need"?

Well, Michael, your lyrics were dead on!  We've got a 147 million reasons alone to look at ourselves in the mirror!  I can't tell you how many times people tell me how they don't get involved in one thing or another because they don't think they alone can make an impact.  We've spoken on numerous occasions about the orphan crisis and often, people look at you totally overwhelmed ... where do you even begin to start to effect 147 million orphans is often what we hear.  Well, sing it, Michael, it begins with YOU!

YOU and you alone can make a difference.  Whatever you do for one is making a difference in the 147 million.  We made a difference in Maliah's life, we'll surely make a difference in Levi's.  I'm pretty sure that Zama, the little girl we sponsor through Children's Hope Chest is thankful for her sponsorship and the difference it makes by providing funds for schooling, food and her carepoint in Bevini.  I know that the 3 kids who arrived here from Haiti last night in the arms of their new family were sure thankful for the difference that that one family made!  I know that Keemberlie in an orphanage in Haiti who is awaiting approval to come home to her family is sure thankful that her future family thought that she was worth the change they will make to bring her home.  I know that Ruth and Isaiah in St. Vincent met their future family last week.  They too await that final arrival home.  I wonder if my sweet friends ever said that they couldn't do enough or I don't know where to begin.  In fact, I know they prayed hard and are sacrificing much to make this happen.  BUT, when they look back at those kids, they'll know the change they made in their hearts and the change in their priorities sure made a difference!  Yep, one at a time these families are impacting the crisis.

What about you?  Are you wondering how you can make a difference?  Maybe you aren't the one to adopt ... but don't let the enemy feed you anymore lies ... whatever you do for the least of these MATTERS and is necessary!

So, where do you begin?  Well, let me tell you about a conference where many are coming together to make that difference.  Doug and I are super excited about the "Together for Adoption" conference in Austin next weekend.  We will be hosting the America World exhibit.  Their will be many agencies, many ministries and the pillars of the orphan and adoption community there to speak.  Go check out that site of the line up of speakers, exhibitors and ministry partners.  WOW!  I wonder if the founders of each of those ministries ever thought that they weren't big enough to impact change.  Probably so ... but look at their amazing work!

If you were here in 2008 and attended the Gala we hosted, then you heard Tom Davis.  He blew away our crowd and in one night, the Lord used his words to bring 4 children into forever families, one man accepted Christ and $40,000 was raised towards the Orphans Ticket Home.     When the Lord told me in the shower to do a Gala, I never dreamt what he'd do.  I was just a Mom with a passion and some awesome friends who were willing to jump in!  Anyways, Tom will be there hosting break out sessions and talking about human/child trafficking.  If you want to know more about his ministry go read up on Children's Hope Chest.

The weekend will be full of break out sessions to help your church start orphan ministries, adoption grant programs, foster/domestic/international and orphan care.  Karen Purvis who is the author of "The Connected Child" will be having a pre-conference workshop all day Thursday.  I personally CANNOT wait for this one.  I have so much to glean from her.

Anyways, I say all this to say, that indeed, take a look in the mirror and know that YOU alone can make a difference.  Maybe the Lord is calling you to go to the "ends of the earth".  If so, go check out Visiting Orphans and GO be Jesus to his fatherless.   Maybe he's calling you to adopt or to be a foster parent (WOW, I have learned what a need that is!).  Maybe he's calling you to help someone else adopt through partnering with them financially and through prayer.  Maybe your called to sponsor a child.  Go check out Children's Hope Chest.  That's where we met Zama.  I love this ministry!

Whatever it is he's calling you to do ... DO IT!  Don't let the enemy feed you one more lie that says that you aren't big enough to tackle the crisis.  You are!  Listen to those lyrics again ...
"If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change ... the man in the mirror!"

Sing on Michael ... that is indeed a legacy we'd all love to leave behind!
You've got 147 million reasons you should stop and take that look!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A puzzling progress

I thought I'd take a minute to update you on the progress of our fundraising puzzle.  If you are wondering what that means, please go here and let me explain.
Today, I wanted to highlight our growth.  The first night I put our link up for shirts, we sold 14.  I was blown away.

September 12 - 14 T-shirts, 14 puzzle pieces, 14 blessings!

On September 18, our T-shirt order hit 23 shirts.  Woo hoo, 23!

September 18 - 23 total pieces

Then, a few days ago, I was really blown away!  It was a Sunday.  A hard Sunday.  I had had an emotional day and shed some serious tears.  Overwhelmed in a flood of emotions, I cried through worship at church and cried to Doug when we got home.  It was just one of those days!
That night I was organizing all our paperwork to go off to our social worker when that famous "DINK" sound signaling I had "mail" came through.  Glancing up, I saw a "notification" from Pay Pal.  We had just put a "Chip In" on our blog because several had made mention that they'd rather just donate than buy T-shirts or coffee.  After a few days, we decided we would.  I will confess, that was hard to do!  
I looked at my notification e-mail and then I looked again ... and then again ... and then again ... and then again.  Then, I fell into a heap as I burst into tears .... $1,000!!!  You heard me .. that's 100 puzzle pieces.  That's also a huge step towards those home study fees.  That is a enormous blessing!  Those precious friends know who they are ... you have blessed us more than you will ever know!  Check out this puzzle ... Your name is on a LOT of those pieces!  
September 20 - 123 pieces total!

Every piece is a blessing!  Every piece is our community!  Look at that community!  I LOVE this community!  Levi will be loved by THIS community!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Next step!

Well, it is official.  Our paperwork to begin our home study is all in the hands of our social worker.  This may sound trivial and if your not a part of the home study process, you may not know the gravity of how much paperwork that means has been completed.  WHEW!  TRUST ME ... this causes room for celebration and it frees up a gazillion hours in my weeks!  Do I hear an amen?

30 items were gathered and completed; home study questionnaires (I could submit it for publishing and print it as an autobiography), criminal background checks, residential histories, medical exams on every member of our family, marriage licenses, birth certificates, previous home studies, floor plan sketches, employment verification letter, financial records, life insurance policies, fire inspections, health inspections, 1040 tax statements and more.

So, what is the next step?  The actual home study!  Once this is completed, it will be sent with a form called an I-600 to the United States Center of Immigration Services.  It is there that they will process our family, we will do FBI background/fingerprinting and then we will await the infamous letter ... the I-171.  This letter gives us clearance to bring an orphan home.  This letter is our government saying "YES" to LEVI!

Once this is received, our paperwork will be sent to our agency and then off to the long awaited country of Ethiopia.  From there, it's all God .. and all Africa.  We wait, anxiously patiently to find out who Levi is.  Then we wait again for court appointments and our first time to travel, then again for an embassy appointment to travel for the second time.  It is THEN, that we bring Levi HOME!
Oh boy, exhausted already and we've just begun.

So, there is room for celebration today.  Even if its' a small room .. a bathroom, a laundry room - it's room!  So celebrate with us and pray for this next step to be a timely and efficient one.
Come on Home Study ...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I want your STUFF!

Calling all friends!  There is nothing like cleaning out your closets and purging your home of junk old treasures!  Even better is knowing that in doing so your helping bring home an orphan!
That's right, we have scheduled a Garage Sale date of Saturday, October 30th.  Some gracious and amazing friends are tutoring us through the how to's of having a spectacular sale and another precious couple has generously offered their home in the Alamo Heights area to make it happen!  THANK YOU!

NOW, we need your goods.  Start cleaning out those closets, drawers and cabinets.  We will soon have a storage shed for you to take it to so you don't even have to hold on to it!  I'll let you know as soon as that is solidified.  I am learning that we can't do it all ... but if everyone does a little it goes a long way.  The same is true for fundraising.  T-shirts, coffee, garage sales, Gold parties ... whatever it takes to bring my Levi home, we'll try!

I've never been so excited about a garage sale!  How about you?
Let me know if you have goodies.  I will make arrangements with you to meet you or pick it up once we have the storage area.  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A little Romance ...

Have you ever read "Captivating" by Staci Eldridge?  If you haven't, DO!  Better yet, go put yourself in the Ransom Heart Ministries lottery and pray you get invited to her conference.  It will change your life and it will change your perspective of who Jesus is and who he wants to be in your life.

I'll confess, there were a few chapters in her book that I wrestled with.  I met with a few ladies each week to discuss the book and go through some pretty tough questions and I remember really wrestling with Chapter 7 "Romanced".   During this chapter, Staci brings up a few concepts that I couldn't wrap my mind around when reading it ... namely "God my Lover".  She talks about how in Matt. 9:15, Matt 25:1-10 and John 3:29, Jesus calls himself our Bridegroom.  She then talks about how the word "Bridegroom" means "Fiance. Lover.  Well, needless to say, I almost stopped reading the chapter and had lots of confusion and many questions about her point.
THEN ... I attended her conference where the Lord, who knows my heart, had several things to show me about himself .. namely ... how he "Romances" us.
Indeed, the one concept I struggled with and was in turmoil over was the one concept that spoke loudest to me at the retreat.

Well, all I can say is, you should have seen the rainbow he gave me in the midst of an absolutely perfectly sunny day during my quiet time.  YEP ... he romanced me and sealed the whole deal!

You want to see ... O.K., I'll share!
Go here and read how it happened and the details!  BUT, I won't make you wait ... look what he did!

SO, I set that stage to give you just a little story picture of how simply he can do that ... Romance us!

Last night I met up with a group of fellow adoptive Mom's here in San Antonio.  It had been a LOONG day to say the least.  From school, we had done homework, gone to ballet, straight home, made dinner, parent orientation at school and then to La Madeline to meet the ladies.  By the time I sunk into my seat I was exhausted .. and starving (and already 20 minutes late into the conversations)!

I sat there a moment thinking "I'm not going to eat" (in my mind struggling with spending any extra) but my stomach was screaming at me .. and my friend, Jen who was sitting next to me listening.  So sorry Jen!

I got up and got in line.  I asked the girl for a large bowl of fruit and then waited in line behind a man who commented "fruit .. that's simple enough".  I grinned, little did he know ... I am NOT on a food diet .. but, well, I didn't want to go over 5$ so it worked.

A few seconds later I hear him say to the girl at the register "... and a bow of fruit and drink ".  Then he turned to me and said "would you care anything else"?
A little confused I looked at him and said "excuse me?"
"Anything else, would you like anything else tonight"?
Realizing what was happening I said "oh, you can't pay for my dinner!"
"Sure I can", well actually "I'm expensing it and Time Warner has got you covered tonight .. you a Time Warner Customer?"
Grinning I said "Yes, in fact I am and just today I was on the phone with you guys fixing my internet"
"Oh, please tell me you were satisfied"
"Oh, indeed, I was well taken care of"
"Great, then enjoy your fruit and have a great night" ....

Walking over to get my tea I giggled.  I have NEVER had that happen to me!  NEVER!  A little uncomfortable BUT very blessed!

I sat down and leaned over to my precious friend who, no coincidence was in my Captivating study and on the retreat with me.  I tell her what just transpired and gigging she said

"Jesus just romanced you" ... "You were romanced" (I add that she knows I struggled with this concept)

I laughed!  Indeed, our Lord loves to romance us.  I know it seems silly .. I mean, 5$, what's 5$?  It wasn't the amount ... it was the gesture.  He knows our hearts, our fears, our doubts, our questions.  In the midst of every day, he shows up, even sometimes as a stranger at La Madeline and expenses our meal in the name of "Time Warner" Jesus!

Look for him!  He's there!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Saturday, September 11, 2010

And then he answered ...

In my post, "Arm yourself", I spoke of the spiritual warfare that has grappled my mind lately.  The "HOW" questions, the doubts, the fears of how in the world would we and could we financially finish this journey.

I suppose that I shouldn't even be surprised to be typing this since we know the Lord knows our thoughts, our fears, our worries AND ... that he's the one in control.  Why are we even surprised!  BUT,  I couldn't let today go by without giving Glory to where Glory should be given!  Yesterday, the Lord showed up and romanced us a little.  HE showed us that he indeed he has this in his hands.

Let me give you a peak into my Friday night ...

For the past two years our family has gone to "Family Camp" at Laity Lodge Family Camp.  It's an awesome time of renewal and adventure that is shared with all of Doug's family.  We just finished our second annual reunion there and came home learning that spaces were already filling up for next years spot.  We were told that if we hoped to go again, we'd have to put a deposit down NOW for next September.
UGH!  In the laundry list of things we need to spend money on (new brakes, new tires and well .. an adoption), the deposit for this camp was one that we decided we just couldn't do right now.  SO,
Someone we loved e-mailed a few days back and asked if we'd registered for camp.   I shared an e-mail back that said if the Lord wanted our spot there next year, the timing of when/if we could afford that deposit would be HIS. I told them that right now, we'd just have to wait.  I then shared that obedience at times was hard.  It's then that you often realize that you have to sacrifice things you want and love to follow in his steps.  This was one of those times.

A few hours later .... these words arrived in an e-mail reply

"The hardest part of obedience--joyfully sacrificing things you love when God
calls, is probably also the biggest witness to those looking on."

The next e-mail in my inbox was none other than a "Registration confirmation for 2011 Laity Lodge Family Camp!


Later that evening, the Lord again showed up at our house.  It went a little something like this 

The phone rings.

On the other end is the voice of a friend asking if they can stop by.  They have some paperwork they are helping us complete for our Dossier and they'd love to bring it by.  
I happily oblige at an impromptu visit.  Sounds fun!  They arrive and we chat and we enjoy some good conversation.  Though we haven't known this couple intimately, Doug and I both find ourselves easily connected to them.  In our conversation we laugh some as we realize that we think quite a bit alike.  It's a fun evening and things are about to wrap up when the husband says "We'd also like to propose something to you".
He goes on to share that he would like to help us arrange a MASSIVE garage sale.   He has helped a group raise funds for Guatemala missions for five years.  YES ... 22 garage sales.  He is an old pro for sure and he's offering his wisdom, his time, his hands FOR US!  They went on to share all the details of the how's/ the to do's/ the when's etc.  Doug and I just sat there dumbfounded.  Was the Lord serious?  He just totally showed up in the face of the two most loving people who generously said "Let me be HIS hands, and help you bring home your son".  I am humbled!  


So I am awed needless to say at the generosity and willingness of this precious family to help us organize this!  We indeed WILL be having a MASSIVE garage sale soon.  We are currently in search of a home closer into the city of San Antonio as we live North and my professional garage sale counselor says that a home closer in draws the "Buyers".  I am certain the Lord will show us right where he wants this shin dig.  If your reading this, that home fits your description and you feel a tug that it's you ... give us a shout out!  I can't wait to find out who the Lord has in store!  AND, if you live in the San Antonio/New Braunfels/Spring Branch area, we'd love your junk treasure.  Start gathering and collecting and I"ll let you know soon where you can bring it!  

Lastly, today I got in the car and KLOVE was on.  The DJ began to share the encouraging word of the day.  As I listened, I couldn't believe my ears.  
See for yourself ...

"I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers".  Isaiah 65:24


What a word of confirmation this morning to what he did the night before.  Simply put, the Lord used willing hearts in the form of sweet friends to show us he's got this covered!  While we were still worrying and discussing "our needs", the Lord was busy answering our prayers!  

Friday, September 10, 2010

Arm yourself!

Stepping out into an adoption is like stepping into a war zone.  I recently read an awesome blog post of a fellow adoptive Mom who described the spiritual warfare that began in her home as soon as they said "YES".  I mean crazy things like their ceiling falling through, their home being infested with rare German roaches and more.  She went on to say "Of course there is warfare, the enemy has wanted posters with our child's face all over hell".   Wow, I had never thought of it in such a way!
I have been really pondering on those words and the reality and gravity of the situation since!

This adoption is a complete step of faith and a total following of his will for us too ... Obedience!  While we LOVE children, are passionate about orphans and adoption, we felt pretty complete in our comfy lives.  Hmmm mmmm, I'm thinking the enemy loved seeing a little complacency and comfort.  Right where he works in the midst of our apathy!
We were content following the Lord's leading in Doug's wild business adventures, passionate about our role as Associates for our agency, America World, praying fervently about a larger orphan ministry and enjoying life.  We didn't "Feel" complacent.  And then, what seemed like overnight the Lord said "GO" and to be honest, though I know he knows all the details ... his timing seems really crazy and well UNCOMFORTABLE!

Yep, the enemy has captured thoughts of mine and well, let's just say, the warfare has begun!

Doug and I have been on a road of "Self Employment" for a few years now.  To add, he also is over operations of a new and awesome coffee company, Ground to Cup Coffee.  While the company is amazing and I am certain the Lord has some mighty things in store with this company ... it's also a baby and that means that more finances are being put into it than are being re-cooped out.  And yes, that also means, Doug's work doesn't necessarily reflect what we are being paid.  UGH!

This sucks is all fine and dandy until your hit with a curve ball ... "GO" he said!

I find myself on some days and especially nights saying "Lord, when you said "GO", did you realize that that also entailed $35,000??  "Lord, can you see that my head is reeling in fear and doubts".  "Lord, I mean, really, this doesn't seem to make any sense ... did you mean NOW?
He does.

Spiritual warfare has begun.

Finances seem to be the worry right now ... which isn't uncommon for any adopting family.  But then the enemy throws in things like last night.  I walked outside to find my car with a big ol' flat tire.  Great.  All I see are dollar signs and well, how much fun is buying new tires anyway?  Wham!

As I laid in bed last night I confessed to Doug my fears.  I told him of the pending expenses to get our home study started and our Dossier sent off.  No small amount for sure.  He confess back worry.  Wham!  My husband, the spiritual giant worried?  You know that enemy is working overtime!  Wham, Wham!

The lights went off and I laid there.  Tears.  Questions.  Doubts.  Wham!  Wham!  Wham!

Stumbling through the dark, I came downstairs because I couldn't sleep.  I jumped on facebook to see who else might be up.  Maybe a distraction would empty those thoughts so I could sleep.  I put a status update that said something about my head swimming in doubts and fears and then as quickly as I sat down at the computer, I got up and went to bed.

I awoke this morning to a few friends who left me comments to that status.  Encouragement.  Prayers.

And then there was a scripture ...

Psalm 5:1-3 (NIV) Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

As I read the words of the scripture that a dear friend posted my eyes filled with tears.  

My Lord knew, he knew, what the enemy was up to.  He knew even before I had a thought of fear and doubt that they would come.  He was there, my armor ready to reject the assaults long before I knew I'd need him.
You see, as we put our kids to bed each night we always read a Psalm and 2 Proverbs.  Last night, we were on Psalm FIVE!  Indeed, the Lord gave me THAT scripture before I even went to bed.  
The Lord was placing his promise and his truth in my heart even before it was needed.  Waking up to that same scripture is no small coincidence.  In fact, it's one large confirmation!  

Ephesians 6:14 -18
"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  WIth this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."  

The Lord knows that there will be spiritual warfare.  There are wanted posters all over hell with Levi's picture even as we speak.  Nothing we do for the Kingdom comes without expense to the darkness.  In fact, every piece of paper we complete, every day we draw closer to Levi is a day that the enemy quivers  that he may loose one more soul!

I'm Prepared for Battle! 
(and once again, my sweet friend sent me these words to encourage).  THANK YOU!
Nehemiah 4:14 (NIV)
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Picture perfect!

I love to take pictures! I'm no pro ... but I LOVE to take them!  Two years ago at Christmas my husband blessed me with a Nikon D80 camera.  YEP, you better believe that when I say "Cheese" my kids know to smile and are pretty used to Momma behind a lens.  Don't mess with my camera.  I sit on the line of loving it as much as I do them.  Just joking!   On most family outings, baseball games, dance recitals, birthday parties, play days outside ... o.k. so every day, you can find me with my camera in hand trying to capture that "perfect" shot.  You do remember though that I said, I am NO PRO!  Seldom do I get that perfect shot!  Darn!

So, the question is then, with we me always behind the lens, then why in the world do I have very few photos to choose from to create our Dossier "photo page" that will be sent to Ethiopia?

If you haven't walked the road of adoption then you may not know that there are a gazillion (and no, I am not exaggerating) items that must be completed and will be sent to the country you are adopting from.  One of those items are photo pages.  They have a specific guideline to follow .. formal photos, family life photos, outside the home photos, inside the home photos .. you get the picture.
Anyways, sadly, as I was trying to peruse my photos to begin this "job" I realized that for the most part, I have no "Family photos".  I have many of the kids, lots of Doug and the kids, a few of me and one or two of the kids, and well, almost zilcho recent ones of our family all "looking posed, facing the camera, pleasant and smiling" as required.  So, it makes me wonder, what would they do if I sent them what I do have.

2 Formal Photos:  "All family members should be facing the camera and smiling" Hmmmm????

Hmmm, would that count as a smile, Maliah?

Well, some of us are smiling...

Miserable Canyon.  Doug's eyes closed.

Oh, I bet they meant one like this!
4 "Family Life Photos" - reflect activities we do together as a family intended to reflect a candid, comfortable viewpoint of the family"

UFC fighting challenges with Daddy
Ropes swings ...
Cliff jumping or water stunts

And, do you think when they said they wanted a picture of every member of the family they meant ones like this?


And did they want EVERY member of the family ... I mean, we have a few that have made themselves at home here recently.  

Meet our friend, Mr. Frog.  He sits at our back door EVERY night.  On a few occasions, he's decided he'd come in for a visit.
Well, I guess I have some work to do.  It seems getting the photos together might be more work that I had imagined ... and I didn't even show you the ones of the "home" we have to have.  
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