Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Calling Complete*

Stop the chronological blogging!

I was just asked to write an article for our church in regards to a ministry they offer called "The Call".

The Call ministry was how we found out about Grace so we were happy to write something for it.

Now I don't know if they'll actually use this… and even if they do, I think a total of  ? people read my blog anyway {enter cricket sounds}… so, it's fine.

Let me know what you think!

Almost 3 years ago, God called our family to adopt an orphan. We didn't know how that would look, but we knew God was calling us to it because my husband, Mark, and I always said that if we could have children of our own, we wouldn’t adopt. 

Our son had just turned a year old when the adoption seed started to sprout. We took a good 3 months to pray about this, knowing the seriousness of the decision we were about to make, to confirm that this was what God wanted us to do. 

It was.

We spent the next 2 years prayerfully searching to fulfill that calling. One way we did so was by joining the group at Lakeside called “The Call Ministry”. 

There, we were touched and humbled by people’s journeys. No two stories were alike and we loved how open and informative everyone was about the topic of “Adoption”. Mainly, we liked that we were part of a bigger group of Christ followers who had the same calling. 

We weren’t alone.

Together we explored the options: international, domestic, private, foster care, fost-adopt, and being a safe family through the Safe Families Ministry.

After a roller coaster of events and seemingly failed attempts to adopt a child, God provided and did so in His own timing and a way that would show us that this was clearly all Him and His doing.

Two scriptures really stood out to me in our calling: 
James 1:27 and Matthew 25:40

"Religion that God our Father finds pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." 
- James 1:27

Out of this, I felt God calling me to reach out to love and protect a child - as one of my own - regardless of what the world would think about it. Why? Because it's pure goodness in a broken world and regardless of what "religion" you choose to follow, all would agree that taking in an orphan and raising him or her as your own is good. It is right. It is pure.

I hope everyone knows that Mark and I are not pure
Do not make the mistake of looking at us and giving us the credit for such "pure goodness".
We do not belong on such a pedestal but proudly point to the One who does:

"Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows." 
- James 1:17

God put the seeds of adoption in our hearts. God is at work to redeem brokenness. It's how He rolls. I personally like to stay away from brokenness... (That's how pure selfish I am) but God called us to dive head first into it. 

Matthew 25:40 says, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" This was in response to "...For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked out for me, I was in prison and you visited me..." 
(Matthew 25:35-36)

What I got out of this was God point blank asking me, "Do you love me? Really? Then do something about it... every person that you FEED, QUINCH, WELCOME, CLOTHE, CARE FOR, and VISIT, you do for me.

I truly thought the only way we could do that was by adopting internationally. I remembered thinking that we could do all the above but "visit" a child if we adopted through the foster system or domestically.


We got an email from one of the leaders of The Call asking if we would be open to adopting a little girl due to arrive in a week or so.

The teenage birth mom had contacted Lakeside looking for help as she had made the decision to place her baby in a loving home.

That baby is our Grace Elizabeth.
We got the call. We responded as God had asked us to.

Before Gracie was born, I went to her doctor's appointment and heard her heart beat in utero.

I went with her birth Mom to get a pedicure when she was due any day.

Mark and I took her, her boyfriend, and friend out to dinner to get to know each other.

We met and visited our daughter the day she was born at the hospital.

We visited again at the hospital and got to meet Grace's biological grandma too.

We visited... but we didn't just visit with Gracie. We visited with people who have a connection to her and started to build relationships with people who may (or may not) be important to her.

We agreed to an open adoption.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that God is using us not only to visit but to share.

And this, my friends, is the difference between a short term missions trip and living out your faith over a lifetime.

Relationships... that is what Jesus is all about.

I'm not saying God isn't present in short term missions trips... He is present all the time!... its the difference between listening to a sermon one weekend versus sharing life with a person in love with Christ. One has a longer lasting and deeper effect.

God didn't put His son on this earth the day he went to the cross...
God sent His son as a baby... and gave the world 30 years of personal, tangible, human relationship with us. 

He cared to share.
And He asked so much of me as well.

Not just to feed, quinch, welcome, clothe, care for, and visit like I thought. 

Nope, He later reminded me I was only completing half of what He really asks.

The greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." 
- Mark 12:30-31

Love God? Of course! That's easy... not always, especially when you're asked to "feed, clothe, visit... etc." But really, it's the least I can do for what He has done for me.

But love your neighbor?
To love my neighbor as myself???

To continue to love on another mother who longs for your child because she feels the pain of her loss/your gain?
To stay connected to a group of strangers who love your daughter because it helps them heal and possibly your daughter to heal down the road of her journey?

To love on those neighbors? As I would like to be loved on if it were me?


To love means to love. No matter what the cost of my own heart (not the cost of anyone's safety... I'm referring to dying to self).

On one hand, I "completed a calling" but on the other hand, it was the tip of the iceberg.

So this is where the * comes in...

*Adoption wasn't a "category" that I could check off the bucket list of "Things I want to do for God". It was a calling that God incorporated into the umbrella of the greatest calling.

Which, according to Jesus, matters more.
"...there is no greater commandment".

It started with a calling.

The journey was anything but glamorous or smooth.
But we are blessed because we believed God and stuck with Him until He proved His faithfulness.

We are grateful for The Call ministry at Lakeside.
The love and support we received through them was Christ with us working as His body to fulfill His calling.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

October Funny Bones

October was filled with all things pumpkin, cider, and apples. We did an excellent job visiting pumpkin patches this year, I must say. Some years are better than others… this year (2013) was fantastic!

We bought lots of fresh apple cider from Apple Hill and a few boxes of apples to make my infamous Double Crumble Apple Pie! I even tried making apple chips this year… another success!

What's not to love about October? 

Starting with October 1st… my Hubby's Birthday!
He turned 31 this year :)
His Mama made and sent over his absolute favorite cake pie!
Banana Cream :)

October Lovin'

Pumpkin Patch Fun!

We visited Bishop's Pumpkin Farm for the first time with our very favorite family friends, 
the Jarvis Family <3

3 cuties jumping in soft hay

Love those neighbors!
We (hopefully) started a fun tradition in our new neighborhood!

Included was an invitation to the Fall Festival we hosted for the first time in our backyard!
The festival was a collection of many DIY kid-friendly fun stations… carnival style :)
Lots and lots of Mommies were to blame for the amazing turn out!

Below is a picture of part of the fun!
I'll be sure to take more pics next time ;)

Random cuteness/sightings of our October

Extremely blessed by these 2 women.
Grandma time!

Talk about random… a few random things to remember about October:
1) Grace sleeping through dinner at the Cheesecake factory = AMAZING!
2) Spent over an hour with Gymboree trying to track down a package they sent to the wrong house = RIDICULOUS!
3 & 4) An afternoon at the pumpkin patch with Grace's birth mom = Amazingly Blessed!

Time to carve some pumpkins!
Ethan making the same face as his jack-o-lantern.
He thought the pulp and seeds were "yucky!"

Decorating the porch!
Ethan had it all figured out ;) Line 'em all up!
Makes for a great barricade ;)

Cute pics with Daddy

Ethan breakin' it down for us on the porch :D

Sweetness in a Bumbo

Halloween Day!
This was the most happening our kiddos were that day/night!
I tried SO HARD to keep them awake!

This was in the early afternoon…
Watch the sweet interactions between Grace and Ethan.

Mr. Funny Bones, himself!

…aaaaand this is what we looked like when Mark got home from work.
"Who's ready for trick-or-treating?"

We changed him into his Captain Hook costume thinking he'd be more in the mood once he woke up...

… only, he was in such a deep sleep that he accidentally wet through his costume :(
No problem! 
We had a back-up in the car ;)
Thor it is!

We were supposed to be a theme:
Ethan: Captain Hook
Daddy: Fellow Pirate
Mommy: Tiger Lily
Grace: Tinker Bell

Grace never got out of her "funny bones" jammies as she was still snoozing while we went door to door.

We went back to our old neighborhood to trick-or-treat… we loved seeing all the familiar friendly faces!

So that was our October… quick and sweet!
Kinda makes me miss it on this rainy February day...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Turning the Corner of September

Chug, chug, chugging through 2013… I know, I'm behind. No news here!

Let's do this…

September was fantastic! A real change of seasons for me. It was finally the end of Summer and the Fall schedule was kickin' in… this means much needed regularity to my weeks. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday I take the kids to our church for a woman's bible study and mom's group.  They play in the classroom and I have a slice of "me time".

As a stay at home Mommy, I need and crave that time with other girls who are in the same stage of life and… yup, that healthy time away from my kiddos too!

I am grateful to God that I am able to stay at home with my babies. I didn't always want to (another story for another time), but I am blessed to the depths of my being that God changed my heart to do so. 

It's hard. Sometimes I want to go back to work (of just throw my kids out the window… either one will do on some days…), but I have no regrets {especially since I have yet to chuck a child out the window}. And sadly, I think I would have some regrets if I had gone to work during these early, impressionable years. 

HOWEVER! Dependency is something I have to work on. Dependency of my husband, dependency of my friends, and…. my kid's dependency of me! I need breaks… and I need some "me time" so I can continue to give all of me. Cause yeah, it can be super draining!

But I struggle with who I trust my kids with. And this is where I can breathe easy...

I have been beyond pleased with the Little Steps program at Lakeside Church. One Christ follower especially, Miss Sheri, has been excellent with our sweet and energetic Ethan boy. I have literally thanked God for her for 2 years now. It puts my heart at rest knowing that my kids are encouraged and treated with grace-filled love while I am getting fed what I'm lacking in my day to day. 

This has also been a great source of socialization for my kids while they are still home with me.

They're socialized. I'm socialized. Win-Win.

So! September brought this much needed regularity to my life as I was more than happy to slam the door shut on Summer. 

We took the longest vacation since Mark started his practice - 1.5 weeks! - and drove down to southern California for a whirlwind, kid centered vacation. 

We did it all: Legoland, San Diego Zoo, aquariums, Sea World, beaches, and capped it all off with Disneyland. 

I don't recommend such an action packed week. The San Diego Zoo by itself deserves it's own zip code and we were totally deflated at the end of the day having only scratched the surface!

I could have used a little more beach time to be honest, but I am so grateful for the time away and the focus on family!

Here are some pictures of our September…

Our sweet Gracie Girl turned 3 Months…

I'm not sure if this is mean or not, but I saw a striking similarity to our daughter and her Great-Grandpa Chan… maybe because she's bald and happy?

Her 3 Month Pictures by the one and only, Jen Jarvis Photography!

She discovered her tongue during this shoot...

The many faces of Ethan Mark this September

September Fun… and Creative Solutions

Ugh. Expensive Fail.
I was so mad at myself!
Ethan: "It's okay, Mommy. We'll go back and get you a new one."

"Waygo Wand!"
We spent a week with my parents in the San Diego Area.
We were all blessed with the time together!

Water Fun!


Nixon Presidential Museum.
Reunited with some of our favorite friends from Boston, the Davenports.

San Diego Zoo!

Dinner @ Jake's
Behind the scenes...

Back at the Hotel!
Ethan has some kind of Grandpa to let him jump off his head into the pool!…
Over and over and over again...

Bummin' it!

Sea World!
Shamu Splash!

More Sea World

San Diego's Little Italy…
Ethan was all "pictured out".
Mark worked some magic...

This place was honestly worth the entire trip!
I love food but I loooove my sweets!
Extradorinary Desserts was exceptional!
Best Hazelnut Latte I've ever tasted…

To the inner dessert foodie in me, you're welcome!
PS - If I had 1 week to live, I might consider flying back here just for dessert.

We dropped my parents off at the San Diego Airport and then headed to Disneyland.

Disneyland is actually a place where can relax as a family.
I know this is not the case for (many) others, but it is for us.

Our kid is action packed, all the time! 
And Disneyland is a place where that is acceptable and… even encouraged!
We've found that our family vacations are pretty much limited to the beach or parks for kids.
THIS is our favorite park!

Each year since Ethan was 18 months, we've bought season passes. Up until this trip, Ethan had been free!
Then it's just the price of food, gas, and hotel (unless we use our timeshare points!).
AND Mark and I really love the road trip to talk… about anything!… for hours.

This September, however, we experienced Disney with Ethan's cousins!
Titus turned 5 and we were happy to celebrate with everyone!
Ethan was in Disney Heaven, that's for sure!!

Character Dinner

Young Boys being young boys.

Such fun!

My mom and I were noticing that when Ethan walks, he has a confidence about him.
She calls it "swagger"… minus the arrogance.
He's just a happy, healthy, joyful, light.
I guess that makes you puff your chest out a bit when you walk :)

My Super (cute) Boys

Love making her bows!
She rocked the princess set ;)

So that was September!
We turned the corner with the help of Fall…
and some pixie dust ;)