The crazy journey of our family living this beautiful life for our awesome God!
"...Whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of GOD." 1 Cor. 10:31

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thankful Thursday

Hope your week is going's my thankful list for the week!

1. Spray and Wash...I don't know why I think I should wear white shirts while I'm pregnant but I do and I inevitably end up with spots ALL OVER the belly of my shirt!'s like having an automatic, built-in crumb catcher when you're pregnant! So, needless to say, I'm thankful to have stain remover for my clothes or I would be going through LOTS of clothes! :)

2.  Fall air...I LOVE the crisp-ness of the air right now.  It's still really warm here...warmer than it should be (especially when your preggo and have to wear those lovely, ever-so-attractive, over the belly pants :) Hmmm..gotta love those.  Side note...I don't think my 15 yr old brother knew what to say when I complained to him about my over-the-belly pants and the hot weather making my belly sweat. :)  I guess that's not something your teenage brother really wants to know. ha!)'s still warm here but you can feel a different air outside...the air of fall...hmm, I just love it.

3.  Changing seasons...I LOVE every season, but I'm always ready for each season by the time it comes so I thoroughly enjoy the change of seasons....spring means warmer weather is on the way and signifies new life, summer means HOT days, long nights and memories made on family vacations, fall means crisp, beautiful days, yummy smells and high school sports, and winter means the holidays, snow, cuddling up by the fire and enjoying the company of loved ones and warm nights inside.  I just love how God made the beauty of each season and that I live in an area that *mostly* gets to enjoy every season!

4.  Fall smells...I just plugged in my new fall smells...roasted marshmellow, crisp apple cider and sweet cinnamon pumpkin...mmm mmm mmm!!  I love walking through my house and smelling the aroma of fall.  I think fall smells are my favorite smells of the year.  Even if I'm not doing a bunch of delicious baking it can still smell like I am! :)

5.  God's faithfulness no matter how many times we fail...I have things I feel like I keep struggling with over and over again and it gets me so frustrated.  But I keep bringing it to God and I can see day by day that He is faithfully bringing me along and working in me.  I'm so glad He doesn't get frustrated with me and give up.

6.  Feeling baby kicks for the first time during a pregnancy :)...I finally felt our little one moving inside of me!  It has taken a while and been a little slower than normal but I'm 21 weeks now and I'm finally feeling little kicks inside of me.  I remember after Grahm was born, having no expectation of ever being pregnant again, one of the things I longed for most was to be able to feel a baby move inside me again.  It's an experience like none other to feel the life God created inside of you, growing and moving.  So it's a true joy to be experiencing that miracle again.

7.  Sharing with others about God's grace and miracles in our lives....I've had the opportunity, quite often recently, to tell others about our whole story with infertility, adoption and miracles and I just love sharing with others about God's goodness.  I love looking down at my belly and telling someone about the miracle God is forming inside me and about the beautiful story He's weaving through this and our adoption.  I just light up whenever I get to share about what He's doing and how awesome He is.

ahh...this post made me happy...I've got so much to be thankful for,  I hope you do as well!

Have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Must Read

Sally Clarkson is one of my favorite woman/motherhood authors.  She has been such an encouragement and challenge to me in my journey and she is filled with wisdom that she willingly imparts to other women.  I read a post by her yesterday that was soo good, so good.  Part of it is taken from her book, Mission of Motherhood, which is an EXCELLENT read and one I would recommend to ANY mom or mom-to-be or woman who wants to be a mom.  I have struggled with feeling content in my role as a mother, especially as a full time stay at home mom.  I have times where I feel like I need to be doing something else in order to be content or fulfilled and times when the overall, multiple and constant sacrifices as a mother just wear me thin and I struggle to find the right perspective.  I had one such day this week and the Lord was so gracious to bring this post along the very next day to encourage and challenge my heart.  It was exactly what I needed to hear and what I think a lot of moms need to hear.  I've heard parenting little ones compared to "motherhood in the trenches" and it can be hard to lose focus and become worn down in the mundane, routine, seemingly unimportant tasks but this post is a reminder that this time is fleeting and I won't look back someday and wish I had spent more time on myself and these sacrifices are worth it and do have a purpose...if I'm doing them with the right motives.  Anyways...I really encourage you to read the's the link to it...

My Primary Responsibility and Joy by Sally Clarkson

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I've Been Reading

I love checking out other people's reading lists and browsing for a new read.  I've shared what I'm reading on here a few times before and I realized it's been a while since I did that and I've read LOTS over the last few months.  So here's a list of what's been hitting my night stand and swimming around in my brain. :)

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp---I read this a few months ago but it is such an awesome book.  The author has a very interesting way with her words and this book will make you think, a lot.  It calls us to stop focusing on the things that don't matter and see all the grace that's been given to us because everything is grace and we should be thanking God for all of that grace.  Basically, it's a call to surrendered, fully abandoned gratitude and a life that lives in the moment that God has given us here and now.  A good read for a good perspective

Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis----Ahhh...I can't say enough about this book and how much it stirred my heart and influenced my thinking.  I just absolutely love this book and the author's personal story of her journey into Africa and into the heart of God.  It's about a young girl who abandons everything we know as normal life here in America and follows God to the depths of poverty in Uganda.  But in that journey she finds so much joy in fulfilling God's command to love others as ourselves and to give our lives showing others His love.  I was crying on just about every other page.  Her words felt like they were echoing the beat of my heart.  This is a must read, so good.  

From Ashes to Africa by Josh and Amy Bottomly----This is the touching story of one family's journey through infertility and into the beauty that God had for them in adoption.  They are candid with their struggles and the whole path that God led them down and it's a very touching, honest, inspiring story of one family's journey as God makes beauty out of ashes.  Even if you aren't in the same situation as us and this family...experiencing infertility and's still a great read.

Radical by David Platt---I actually read this last fall but I haven't included it on a reading list yet so I wanted to make sure I got it here.  If you know me well then you will have already heard me talk about this book and it's author.  I love this book and what the author proposes, challenges and teaches in it.  The author uses Scripture in abundance, throughout the book, so it makes it very hard to argue with what he is saying...he's not pushing his own agenda, he's calling us to really, honestly take a look at the type of Christianity Christ called us to in comparison with the type of Christianity we tend to live here in America.  He challenges us to consider how we have perhaps manipulated the gospel to fit our own lives.  VERY thought-provoking!!  Oh, and PS...if you're looking for some more challenging, heart changing words, try listening to some of his sermons.  I've been listening to several of his sermons lately on my ipod and Luke gives me funny looks as I walk around the house, doing my chores, saying "AMEN!"  I've listened to some excellent sermons lately.  They are all free through Itunes and I found them by googling David Platt Sermons (they are available through the media ministry at his church).  

Adopted for Life by Russell D. Moore---Awesome book on adoption and what the Bible has to say about it.  The author does an excellent job of surveying adoption through the lens of the Bible and shows how adoption should  be a priority for Christian families and churches.  There are a few things that I disagreed with in the book, but overall it was an excellent read.

Seven by Jen Hatmaker---Another book on my list of LOVES. :)  This was my first read by this author so I had no idea what to expect, I just thought I'd give it a try and see what it had to offer and what I could glean and learn.  There are some things that I wouldn't agree with Jen completely on but I do appreciate her heart and the message she is passionate about.  She's got a lot of great stuff to offer and on top of that she is so funny to read.  I found myself laughing out loud multiple times!  She is very blunt, sarcastic and dry in her humor and it helps make her books a breeze to read through.  This book is subtitled "An experimental mutiny  against excess" and it's foundation is to challenge the way we do life here in America with stuff and more stuff and always seeking more.  She spent 7 months going through 7 categories and reducing them down in drastic ways.  It's written as a sort of journal as she goes through this process and shares what she is learning.  I'm chomping at the bit to start my own 7 experiment but I'm trying to get my hubby to read it so he'll do it with me.  If anyone else reads it and wants to join, let me know!  

A Passion for the Fatherless by Daniel J Bennett---An EXCELLENT resource for the biblical foundation of caring for the fatherless.  The author gives an excellent argument for why we as Christians should be concerned about caring for the fatherless, all based on biblical truth.  Then he goes on to show ways that we can develop a ministry to do so.  This book was instrumental as Luke and I developed Mercy's Reach but it's an excellent read for anyone willing and interested in gaining a better picture of what God's word says about caring for the least of these.  

Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis---(Are you sensing a theme here?  Yes, I'm passionate about orphans and what God's word has to say about our responsibility to care for them. :) )  This book doesn't go as deep as Passion for the Fatherless, but it is still a good read about God's heart for the poor, widows and fatherless.  The author encourages readers to become the real, tangible hands and feet of Christ to those in need. 

It's Not Okay With Me by Janine Maxwell---If you want a book that's going to make you feel good and warm and fuzzy inside, this is not the one.  I found myself sobbing as I read some of the stories the author shared in the heart-wrenching account of her journey into the heart of Africa.  She shares about the realities of the struggles people are experiencing there and it broke my heart to think about precious children, lives that God loves, suffering unimaginable cruelty and pain.  I definitely don't agree with the author on everything theologically, but I'm a big believer in being able to glean what I can, no matter whether or not I completely agree with someone.  There is always something to learn.  This is a very honest re-telling of her journey to act on the suffering she saw and bring hope to a seemingly hopeless area.  

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker---After I read Seven, I wanted to learn more about the author and her story and where she comes from.  This book is about the journey God brought her and her husband through as they re-thought the way they were doing life, church, ministry and Christianity.  This was a very thought-provoking read about her desire for God to "raise up in her a passion" and change her life to be the way He wanted it to be.  It's about having a life consumed with God and passionate about serving the last, the least, the forgotten and the forsaken.  I'm still "chewing" through some of what she proposed but there were definitely some good things that I agreed with, as well as some things that I'm not sure I completely agreed with. But it was a good, challenging read.  

The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns---This was an excellent read about what we in the American church just might be missing.  The author challenges the easy, "check the boxes" type of Christianity we tend to live and asks readers to honestly ask themselves, "What does God expect of us, of me?  Have I embraced everything Christ presents in the gospel."  The book goes on to show how it is a biblical command and an essential part of the gospel to help those in need and those less fortunate.  It is an excellent resource for facts about the reality of the situation in our world...the reality of poverty, disease, starvation and more.  The statistics are staggering and can be discouraging but he goes on to offer hope in how we can become involved and show Christ to a world that's hurting.  

Adopt without Debt by Julie Gumm---Obviously, the title says what this book is about.  It's premise is to offer creative ways to cover the cost of adoption.  Let's face it, adoption is stinkin' expensive. But that doesn't mean it should be ruled out just because it seems like we can't afford it.  The author offers so many helpful tips, advice and practical ways to raise money to help fund an adoption and make it matter what your financial situation.  If you are considering adoption but have always used the excuse, "it's just too expensive, there's no way we could ever afford it" (well, first you need to reconsider whether or not you are really willing to step out in obedience, no matter what the cost because the point of adoption is not about what it's going to cost us financially) but, off my soapbox ;), this book will help you realize that adoption can be a financial reality for your family, with just a little creativity and hard work.  

Books in Process......

I've always got 4 or 5 books I'm trying to read through at the same time so that  is probably part of why it takes me so long just to get through 1 book. :)  But I thought I'd share some of what is currently sitting on my night stand....

Helper by Design by Elyse Fitzpatrick ----The Lord has been working in my heart lately to really "step up my game" in my role as a wife and this book has been a helpful resource for that.  After over 7 years of marriage it becomes easy to leave the "honeymoon" stage and start to take your relationship for granted and I just wanted a reminder of what God has called me to and how I can better serve my husband.  So far, this book has been good to do that.

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider---I've only gotten a few pages into this book but I'm excited to see what it's got to say.  It was originally written 28 years ago but has been updated and revised in recent years to reflect today's current situation in the world.  The subtitle is "Moving from Affluence to Generosity" and the book is about the current situation in the world regarding poverty, disease, hunger and more and it goes onto explain the complex causes of poverty as well as practical proposals for change and how Christians should fit into the picture.  Looking forward to more reading in this one.  

The Connected Child by Karen Purvis---If you ask any adoptive parent what one book is that you should read as a perspective adoptive parent, most of them will list this book.  It is a helpful resource for helping you bring hope and healing to your adoptive family.  This is not written from a Christian perspective, but there has recently been a bible study companion written for it (I haven't gotten that yet).  It's written by the director of Child Development at Texas Christian University.  So far I've already gleaned lots of helpful information that I'm sure will come in handy as we face situations in our home with our adopted child/children.  I'm sure it will be one I keep coming back to. 

Feminie Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney ---This was another book I picked up to help challenge me in my roles as mother and wife and so far it has offered some great encouragement, challenges and practical advice on how to improve what I'm doing.  It's a pretty quick read, not too deep, but still has good nuggets of truth to offer.  

Anything by Jennie Allen---This is one of those books I just happened to see on someone else's reading list and it peaked my interest so I thought I'd give it a try.  The premise is to challenge what we are currently chasing in life, a comfortable, safe, happy life and be willing to recklessly and courageously abandon and surrender everything to God and truly pray, "God I will do anything.  Anything"  And be honest about making sure everything is laid out on the table...even if it means, scary, painful and unknown.  It's been a good read so far and I'm enjoying it.  

No novels on my lists for now....maybe someday I will get back to reading novels! :)  I just feel like there's so much other stuff out there that I NEED to read and that will challenge and change my heart and I can never get through that growing list but once I do, I'd love to delve into a good novel again! :) 

Hope that gives you all some new reads to consider!  Happy Reading!!

Oh...and like I said, I love finding new reads from other people, so would you mind commenting here or on the facebook link and letting me know what you're reading?  I love getting reading suggestions from others!  Thanks!!  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Comfortable Ignorance and Sinful Complacency

God has shaken my world up quite a bit over the last few years and made me aware of some commands in His word that we have been overlooking and realities in the world that we've chosen to be ignorant of.  I like how David Platt words it, he calls it a blind spot in American Christianity.  Like slavery back in early America, Christians owned, abused and took advantage of other human was a HUGE blind spot in American Christianity.  I think what God has opened my eyes to has been something of a blind spot and I wonder if in 100, 200 years from now, people will look back at American Christianity and be appalled at the blind spot we chose to overlook......that of the physical and spiritual needs of the world around us.  Will they ask, "How could they live in such affluence, always seeking more and better, while so many around them had no food or water and were dying desperate, hopeless deaths?"  I surely hope that isn't the case.

Perhaps you feel like maybe you really are ignorant and don't know about the needs around the world.  Let me share some of it with you....

--1 billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty, attempting to survive on less than $1 per day.
--700 million people live in slums
--500 million people are on the brink of starvation
--200 million children are abused as child slaves
--6000 people die everyday in Africa from aids
--Millions of people die every year from preventable diseases, like diarrhea
--2 billion people attempt to live on less than $2 per day...that's almost half the world.  And that's less than we would pay for a coffee everyday at Starbucks
--26,000 kids die everyday from starvation and preventable diseases.  That means in 1 day all of the children in my community would be gone.  26,000 little Grahms, gone.

And if you think we aren't on the rich side of things....

--37% of the world attempts to live on less than $875 per year
--If you make $25,000 or more you are in the top 10% of the world
--If you make $50,000 or more you are in the top 1% of the world
(Just a note, the average annual income of Christian households in America is said to be about $42,000...that's the top 2 1/2 % of the world.)

I've heard people say before that it's not appropriate to use these kinds of statistics because they just overwhelm people and they make you feel guilty.  But the truth is the truth.  I don't care how overwhelming it sounds.....the fact is, IT IS OVERWHELMING and we should feel guilty.  Why should we try and avoid those feelings?  We try and ignore them because we prefer to live in our comfortable ignorance.  We aren't inconvenienced by these numbers or these people because they are powerless...they don't have a voice or the ability to tell us they need help and they live, suffer and die in relative obscurity EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  All the while we comfortably ignore them in our affluence.  I know it sounds harsh but I'm taken aback at the complacency we show towards people around the world in need of spiritual and physical help because it's easier and more comfortable for us to go on living the life that is promoted around us.  The life our friends live, the life our families live, the life we see on tv, the life we see in the magazines, in the stores, in all the people around us.  A life that says we need more, the goal in life is to pursue towards a good salary, a nice house, nice cars, a good retirement, vacations and maybe even more if that's possible.  A life that says those kinds of things are necessities.  A lot of times we say we aren't rich or we don't feel rich because we have set rich up as a standard that world around us has set.  And we have become accustomed to "needs" being a nicer car or a big house or a new outfit every once in a while. When in reality, if we have clean water, food, shelter (that doesn't mean a fancy, brand new house), and available transportation (even if it's public), we are VERY RICH.  Because the MAJORITY of the rest of the world lives without this.  The majority of the world is dying because they don't have enough to eat.  We complain that we're starving because we don't have what we want to eat.....they are starving because they have NOTHING to eat.  We complain because we have a headache or the flu bug....they are dying from diarrhea because they don't have medical care at all.  We complain because our house isn't new, nice or big enough....they don't even have shelter over their heads and if they do it's a cardboard box.

We are the rich.....I am the are the rich....Not them or those people or the person down the street. In our country, we spend more on dog food every year than we do on missions.  And we spend at least 26x as much on soft drinks as we do on missions.  The problem is our hearts not listening to and lining up with what God's word says.  And His word says A LOT about this stuff.  There are 2300 verses in the Bible that deal with money and possessions and the poor.  That's more than the verses on faith, prayer, heaven and hell.  So it's obvious that God has something to say about this.  What does He say?  Here's just a few examples:

Matthew 6:19-21 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:15 15 Then He said to them, Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

1 Timothy 6:9-10 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 John 3:17-1817 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

James 2:15-17  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

James 1:27  Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,and to keep oneself unstained [a]by the world.

Psalm 12:5 “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”

Psalm 82:3-4  Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. 

And there are sooo many more.  Here's just a few more if you want to look them up:
Matthew 16:26, Acts 4:34-35, 2 Corinthians 9:7, Deuteronomy 10:18; 15:11, Psalms 9:9; 35:10; 72:4, Proverbs 3:27-28; 14:20-21; 14:31; 22:9; 22:22-23; 22:16; 28:27; 31:8-9, Isaiah 1:17; 25:4, Luke 14:12-14....and lots more.  

I hope you didn't just glaze over all those verses but that you actually read them so you can see that God's heart is to love and care for the less fortunate.  It's written all over scripture.  And it's His desire that we do the same.  We are "little Christs" after all....Christians.

I know this is hard a bit harsh to take in and I'll be the first to say I'm still wrestling with it all.  I'll be honest and say I live in a really nice, new house and I drive a fairly new car and I have more than enough clothes.  I can't say exactly how this is supposed to look in each of our lives...that would be laying out some legalistic list that would allow us to make sure we check the boxes and then we're good to go.  Rather, we each  need to prayerfully consider God's word and what He wants that to mean in our lives.  And the reality is, we are probably all falling very short.  It becomes easy to excuse the way we live and look for ways to make it ok instead of question if we need to make changes.  We take verses that say God allows us to enjoy the fruits of our labor and use those to excuse our complacency and refusal to truly sacrifice.  How it will look specifically in each of our lives will vary but the truth is, if we believe the Gospel and God's word, we cannot be complacent about what He has to say about the less fortunate and our use of our money and resources.  We cannot choose to be comfortably ignorant.

I've got more to share that God has been showing me but I'll leave it there for today.  I just pray you'll take some time to start praying about what God's word says and how it might look in your life...what He might be calling you to do.

Monday, September 17, 2012

5 Loaves and 2 Fish

I remember back when God called us to go to Congo, Africa for a short time, that I felt very inferior and like I had absolutely nothing to offer so why was I going on this trip?  I mean, my husband and I are just lay-people in the that time we didn't hold any big titles or roles other than assistants in the youth group.  We served in a lot of different ways, but mostly behind the scenes kind of stuff.  I wasn't a teacher or a nurse or anything you could naturally see being a help in a 3rd world country.  Luke wasn't a pastor or a teacher and he expressed several times his concern about his lack of ability in being a "fix-it" man which is really valuable in Congo.  We just didn't feel like we had much to offer....there wasn't really anything special about us.  I wrestled with it a lot and struggled with my worries of wanting to make sure I could be of value to the missionaries and the people of Congo.

I remember again having those feelings last fall when I knew God was calling Luke and I to something bigger, something we were supposed to be doing but we weren't quite sure.  It was easy to hear stories of what other people have done and see the natural reason or the natural connections that they had to accomplish what they did.  For example, there was a story of a very wealthy business man who was CEO of his firm who was able to use his funds and experience to help start a ministry that provides clean water in developing countries.  Makes sense to me....he had the power, the money, the experience.  And then the story of the couple who's children had grown up and moved out and they had experience in teaching and the wife was a nurse so it was obvious that they had skills to go to a third world country and help serve and meet the spiritual and physical needs of people there.  Or the story of the single gal who had the right connections because she was in a large metropolis area with lots of ministries and churches that were doing a variety of things around the world to be Christ's hands and feet.  She had just graduated college with a degree in teaching and was able to hook up with the ministries in her area and be plugged into go serve in a country teaching English.  All of these people who seemingly have lots to offer and what do I have to offer?  It doesn't feel like much most of the time.  I'm a young, stay at home mom to a toddler with 2 babies on the way so that keeps me pretty tied to home with a responsibility to raise and nurture my children and my husband has a job that isn't really mobile at all and he owns his own business with himself being the only employee so there isn't really anyone to cover or take over if he weren't there.  My degree is in sign language studies and I'm an interpreter for the deaf...but that's only in American Sign Language....not French or African or Chinese Sign Language (yes...they are very different by the way.)  And I see those things and it leaves me feeling like I have nothing to offer and not a lot of flexibility in what we can offer.  But then I still feel God tugging at my heart, asking for more.  For a long time, and even still sometimes, I would get discouraged by knowing and feeling that God has something more or wants me to do something more but not having a clear picture of what that is and what I might have to offer.

But in that experience....that feeling of having nothing to offer....we have learned a valuable lesson.  It isn't about what I have to offer or bring to the table....because it isn't about who I am.  It's about who God is. It's about offering whole self...on the altar of God and asking Him to do whatever He pleases with my life.  Praying, "God, I'll do anything.  I give you myself, all that I am.  Use me how you see fit."  Because God knows best and He delights in using the unexpected, the seemingly insignificant, the mundane.  There are so many examples in the Bible of people that He used that were not obvious choices but when you see how God used them you can see that the obvious choice was them because it brought God the most glory....take Joseph, a slave who ended up saving his family and his country.  Or Moses, a man with no speaking ability, who actually asked God to choose someone else because he surely couldn't do it, yet he confronted Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of bondage.  Or Mark; he was a coward who deserted Paul on his missionary journey but God restored him and used him to write one of the gospels.  Or Rahab, a prostitute, who God used to help His people to victory in the battle of Jericho.  And remember when Jesus told the disciples to feed the 5,000?  They felt like they had nothing to offer.  And in reality, it looked like they really didn't have anything to offer.  They had 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish that a young boy willingly gave.  But when it was placed into Christ's hands, he fed thousands upon thousands of people and made a miracle out of seemingly nothing.

Listen, if you feel like you've got nothing to offer and there isn't a whole lot God can do with your life....or if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of trying to do anything of significance for God....or if you are discouraged by mistakes you've made that must make you "un-usable"....or if you feel like so many others around you have so much more to offer.....Then take heart, it doesn't matter who you are or what you think you have or don't have to offer.  What matters is who you are in Christ and that you offer your life to Him...all of your matter how seemingly insignificant.  It matters that the God of the universe is pleased to use your life exactly how He sees fit if you will just offer Him your five loaves and 2 fish.  You see, God is in the business of bringing Himself glory and having us enjoy Him fully.  And when He uses us, who seem to have nothing much to offer, His ability, His power and His grace will be magnified.  And through that we will have nowhere to point but to Him and we will revel in His power and majesty because we will know that it was only through His grace and His working through us that anything was and is accomplished.  When we are willing to lift up in sacrifice our 5 loaves and 2 fish, that is when we are able to see the miracle He will do in and through us.

Happy Monday....hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed to Talk to Strangers

So I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled Thankful Thursdays to give you a good laugh for the day.  I pretty much beyond humiliated myself yesterday and at least I can make some good out of it and put a smile on other people's faces and make them laugh. :)

Disclaimer before I start the story:  I always try and smile when I'm passing people...whether in the store, on the street, at church...wherever.  I always consciously think about smiling when I pass them 'cause smiles are infectious and maybe I can brighten their day a bit.  If nothing else, at least I won't look like a crabby bear.  (Seriously, look at people's faces when you pass them....some people look really angry and like the world is about to collapse on them.  I try and avoid this look.)

So I was by myself, running a quick errand into Lowes to get some paint samples.  It was really bright outside and I was squinting, so the whole smile thing probably wasn't working very well.  I passed an older man and he blurts out, "Smile!  It's not that bad."  Apparently I wasn't smiling enough for him, but I know I didn't look angry.  Maybe I should have been laughing to myself or something.  Anyways, TOTALLY caught me off guard.  And apparently he caused my brain to freeze and be unable to come up with any sort of intelligent reply.  So in my shocked, caught off guard state I reply, "Well, I'm tired, I have to pee and I'm pregnant."  And before I know it I realize I just told a complete stranger I had to pee. What?!!  What in the world?!!  Where did that come from.  Ok, to my defense....I wasn't actually tired, I felt great.  Why in the world would I sound like I needed to complain and tell him I was tired?  I guess I felt like I now needed an excuse for why I wasn't smiling big enough.  Second, I actually did have to pee really badly.  I was nearing the ready to explode stage....and you know when you're pregnant that stage doesn't last very long.  A bathroom needs to be found soon.  Third, yes, I'm pregnant, but that doesn't make me cranky!!  Apparently I decided that I needed to take on the cranky, tired preggo lady stereotype in that moment and use that as my excuse for not smiling enough.  Ugh...shoot me now.

Well, I hold my belly to make it obvious and he bends over and puts his face like right in my belly and then says, "well, yes you are!"  I smile and say, "No, it's really not that bad, it's a good day.  I'm happy!"  Then he decides to announce, out of nowhere, "It's a girl."  I was not aware at this point that I was talking to a fortune teller/prophet.  I smile, (all the while thinking to myself, this is one of the most humiliating stranger conversations I've gotten myself into.  What was I thinking? "I have to pee"  Seriously, Callie, seriously!), and reply, "Oh really, that would be fun 'cause we already have a boy at home so a girl would be neat."  He then goes on with his very professional diagnosis, in a very matter of fact tone, as if he knows exactly what he's talking about and isn't telling a lie, "Yep, you're carrying low.  It's definitely a girl."  I laugh, politely thank him and then say, "well, I'm going to pick out paint samples!"  At the same time rubbing my palms together all enthusiastically because apparently now I feel like I need to make up for the "seemingly grumpy, non-smiling Callie" that he encountered and now I need to come across as "chipper, happy with life Callie."  Ugh, I'm a nerd.  Again, kicking myself in the leg.

I walked off as fast as I could and actually prayed, "Lord, please don't make him be someone I'm going to have to witness to, 'cause I pretty much just ruined that.  And please please please make him be gone by the time I get out of this store."

Seriously, what was my brain thinking?!  Ok, obviously it wasn't thinking...I just told a stranger I had to pee. Who does that?  And who freezes so badly that the only thing they can come up with is "I have to pee."???  Who tells a strange old man they have to pee??!  Why couldn't I have just said something easy like, "oh, it's just so bright out here, I'm squinting."  Or why couldn't I just have done a polite courtesy laugh and smiled back at him???  No, instead I tell him I'm tired, which is a lie, and that I have to pee and I'm pregnant so we get to have a fun little conversation for the next 5 minutes.  Oh dear....why doesn't someone save me from embarrassing myself so much?

So, today for my thankful thursday I've got one thing.....

1.  I'm thankful for the ability to laugh at myself.  I would be in a world of hurt if I couldn't laugh at and poke fun at myself.  And I'm completely ok with others finding humor at my expense....hey, I'm laughing at my own idiocy so why shouldn't everyone else? :)

Hope you're having an awesome Thursday!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How do your Manners Measure Up?

I used to be pretty optimistic about how kind and considerate people are.  I just always expected that people would do the kind thing, the considerate thing, the simple gesture of love.  And really, coming from rural, small town USA it usually is pretty common to find people who are a lot more patient, kind and considerate than you might find in the big city.  I haven't necessarily lost my confidence in people's tendency to be kind and tender-hearted but I have run into a lot more "uglies" lately than I'm used to encountering.  Perhaps it's naive to expect that others will naturally be kind....put others first....i.e. not cut in front of you in line when you have a toddler crying in your arms and you are clearly pregnant and wiped.....let you out in traffic when there is a huge line and it will be ages before you can get out....kindly say, "go ahead" when you are both headed in the same direction for the same thing instead of rushing to beat you there....hold the door open for you....see that you could use some help lifting a heavy object and offer a hand....and for crying out loud, simply smile at you in passing, whether or not you know each other.  (It's possible that some of these have happened to me over the last couple of weeks or that I observed them happening to other people ;) ).

Ok, so I'm not seriously offended or maddened about any of the situations that I saw happen.  I mention most of them in sarcasm.  But I am saddened by the lack of consideration and kindness people show to each other.  We often wonder why we don't see good, polite manners in kids much anymore but it's not surprising when adults, the people who are supposed to be the examples, don't act with much kindness or polite manners either.  And it's not just "those" know what I mean.....everyone else expect for you or me.  Christians are often guilty of the same bad manners and lack of love.

I have a few theories about why people are so much less kind and considerate, not that it matters what my theories are but perhaps it will help us to think about our motives and if we've gotten caught in the trap of ugly manners, if you may.

First, we're too busy.  Ok, so I'm not going to solve that problem right here in this post (although it's not actually that less.).  But we become so busy that we run right over everyone else in our attempt to "hurry up and go" and "hurry up and do."  We're always rushing from one place to another trying to get as many things accomplished as possible with as little "wasted" time as possible.  But in our hurry we forget that the people around us are human beings with real value.  Whether it's our family members who are getting run over or the stranger at the store (or on the road, know what I mean you "road-ragey" people :) ), we can't bear to "waste" a second to think about someone else or take time to extend that gesture of kindness.  So we rush on and leave a pile of crushed people in the path behind us.  I know the "busies" and "hurries" have gotten me before....when I'm in traffic and the person in front of me has the gall to go a couple mph under the speed limit, it's possible I have gotten very close to the backside of their car so that they know they are slowing me down.  Because how dare they have the gall to take 2 minutes out of my busy schedule.  (Because really honestly, they're probably only costing me a minute or two!)  And don't tell me you've never done something like that before! ;)

Second, we're too focused on ourselves.  We've become consumed with our own lives, our own schedules, our own "priorities," our own stuff, our own to-do lists, our own interests.....our own selves...that we have no room in our hearts and minds to think about others.  We're overly focused on how we can make things work out best for ourselves or how we can get the best scenario for ourselves and we lose the ability to think about others and put them first.  When our minds are filled with "me" there isn't any room for anyone else so there becomes no concern for the interest of others.  Our minds are so full of ourselves that we don't see the opportunity to help someone else the door, lend a helping hand to a mom with her arms full, help an elderly person load their car, let someone else go in line in front of us, send a note of encouragement to a person who needs a pick-me-up.  We close our eyes to the souls around us and have a one track mind of self.

Lastly, plain and simple, we're just not practicing love.  In case you hadn't noticed, we aren't naturally loving, kind people....thanks to that lovely thing called our sin nature (if you don't believe me just spend some time in the nursery or daycare.  You will be fully convinced in the sin nature after that experience!).  It takes practice.  I can't go to bed one night deciding that I'm going to be more kind the next day and then wake up the next day and expect to magically be the kindest person on earth without actually putting some effort into it.  It takes work and intentionality (spell check doesn't like that I made up that word but I like it and it makes sense to me so it's staying).  We have to look for opportunities to be kind and show consideration to others (and trust me, if we're praying for those opportunities and actually looking for them...they're there) and then act on those opportunities.  The more we act, the more it becomes second nature.  But if we aren't practicing love then we become rusty and fall back into our habit of taking care of "yours truly," ourselves.

Seeing so much inconsiderate and unloving behavior challenged me to make an extra effort to spread a little love and kindness.  Because if there really is that much selfishness and unkindness out there, then it will be all the more obvious when I show love and people will be able to see the character of Christ in me....which is what I'm supposed to be doing anyways....showing others Christ by the way I live and the way I treat them.
So maybe you could try spreading a little extra love this week as well.  It just may make a difference in someone else's life that day.

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Adoption Update

It's been a while since I've talked about our adoption fundraising and I actually had stopped for a while when things were up in the air after we found out we were pregnant.  But, then we found out that awesomely wonderful news that we can continue with our adoption and so I can continue with the fundraising for our forever family.

First, I wanted to thank you so much for anything you've already given and for the support and prayers you've given for our adoption.  It means so much to us and is such a blessing to have others involved in bringing our family together.

Now that we are expecting our huge bio baby surprise we definitely need to keep plugging along with the fundraising.  We are a lot further behind now on our goal amount for our forever family so we just wanted to remind you of some of the things I am offering for your purchase as a way for us to earn funds for our forever family.  Thanks for taking the time to have a look!

If you don't remember, I'm still making the custom art boards to sell.  I can make pretty much any design, color scheme, wording, size, etc.  You just let me know what you want. Click here to see the page with all the detailed info on those and some examples of the work I've done so far.

And I've made a new board based on the beautiful example of adoption in God's Word found in Ephesians 1:4-6.  Here's a look....

Sorry the wording is a little hard to see on here but the verse says, "For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons and daughters through Jesus Christ in accordance with His pleasure and will to the praise of His glorious grace which He has freely given us in the One He loves." 

And also, I am selling the beautiful jewelry from Back To Africa as well.  Click here to see the post with all the info on this fundraiser and here are some pictures below of the jewelry as well.....

There are quick links on the sidebar of my blog for both fundraisers.  You can easy order through those or you can send me an e-mail or a message and let me know if you're interested.  

Thanks so much!!  Hope you all have a great weekend!  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thankful Thursday

"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." Colossians 3:17 

Here's my list this week....

1.  The County Fair....I L.O.V.E the county fair!  And we got to enjoy it this last weekend..yay!  I look forward to it all summer long and can't wait once it finally gets here.  I love the food, the animals, the rodeo.....I even love the smell.  My husband thinks I'm weird and it may have something to do with my pregnancy but I was even daydreaming about the fair smell! ;)  It's like a yummy mix of animals and fair food and I love it.  Good times.

2.  Fair Food...yeah, this one had to be a separate post. :)  How could you not be thankful for fair food?  Except for the fact that it's absolutely brutal on your waistline! But it only happens once a year so you gotta live it up while it's here!  And it's yummy food we can't get anywhere else...from mini doughnuts to elephant ears to delicious chicken gyros and elk burgers to the best corn dogs on earth to cotton candy...hmmm yes, the cotton candy.  I won't lie and tell you I didn't buy 3 large bags of it. :)  Good stuff.

3.  Having fun with my siblings...I love that so far my siblings don't mind spending time with me too much.  And in fact, we actually have fun most of the time. :)  (This is a big deal since they are teenagers and you know that there are a lot of things that are very "un-cool" so I'm glad I'm not too "un-cool" most of the time :) )  They joined us to the fair one afternoon and we had such a fun time seeing the animals with Grahm and stuffing our bellies til we were sick.  You should have seen us...we were all squished onto one bench with all of our "goods" in hand that included 5 bags of cotton candy, 2 caramel apples, 3 sodas and 2 huge orders of monkey bread.  It looked pretty funny as we sat there and stuffed our mouths with the goodies.  But it was fun and made for some good memories. :)

4.  The opportunity to ask God for strength and grace everyday....I'm so thankful I have a God who hears my prayers and is ready and willing to answer them according to His will.  I have been so worn out this pregnancy and at the end of my rope pretty much daily but I remember every single day how thankful I am that I can turn to my Heavenly Father and ask Him for the strength I need to do what He wants me to and for the grace I need to be the wife and mother He calls me to be.

5.  The willingness of other moms to be real, honest and come alongside....this really can apply to any role we are in, whether it's motherhood or not, but I've been particularly encouraged by a couple special mom friends this week.  Sometimes in life it can feel like everyone else has it together and we are the only ones struggling but when someone else comes alongside us and is honest about the fact that they are struggling too and they don't have it all together all the time and they can have compassion and give encouragement, it does wonders for my heart.  So so thankful for that gift God gives me from time to time.

6.  Watching my sister play volleyball...their season has started up again and I love watching the high school girls play.  One of my favorite things to do...short of playing myself! :)  But I love going to the games every week and watching how much my sister has grown and improved and how much she is enjoying the game.  She is a senior this year and I think I might bawl my eyes out when she plays her last game this year and then graduates!

7.  The ability to learn and grow in the Lord...I'm so thankful that He is patient and loving to teach me and show me new things every week.  I love it when He opens my eyes to a new truth or gets my mind going on something I hadn't thought about before or shows me truth in way I didn't think about before.  I'm thankful He's a patient teacher who wants to see me grow in Him.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Living Inside our Bubble (When Everyone Else's Looks Better)

Have you ever felt like you were always on the outside of everyone else's bubbles of life?  You know when it seems like you just don't fit in or you just don't have what everyone else has or you are missing out on something that everyone else has and you feel like you're always on the outside looking in?  I remember this distinct feeling when we were struggling through our infertility and it seemed like literally EVERYONE else was having babies.  We were slowly slipping outside the "bubble" and it felt like we were outsiders and different than everyone else.  I remember so badly wanting to be "in" the bubble and there was nothing I could do about it.  

Or have you ever felt like you were always looking in on other people's "bubbles" and life looked so much better inside their bubbles?  For example, your family is struggling to make ends meet and you see other families who are buying new things left and right, have a beautiful house, go on vacation, have the latest styles in clothing, etc etc etc.  Or that couple's kids are out of the "little years" and they aren't living in the trenches of toddlerhood, naps, diapers, exhaustion and everything else that comes with wee looks so much easier and free to have older kids.  Or that person has a job they love.  They enjoy going everyday and they don't even dread Mondays!  Meanwhile you hate your job, dread going in, never get paid enough or the right kind of hours and you wish you could be anywhere else doing anything else.  

The thing is, I think we've all experienced the "outside the bubble" feeling.  We've all gone through times when it seems like we're missing out on something that everyone else gets to experience..i.e. motherhood/fatherhood, marriage, amazing and fulfilling job, having awesome parents or parents at all for that matter, having money, having friends, having success and popularity, having freedom and "single-hood."  I have a sneaking suspicion I'm not the only who has ever felt like I was the only one on the "outside" or that someone else's bubble looked so much better.  We naturally look "horizontally" in life instead of "vertically."  In other words, we have a natural tendency to compare with others instead of keeping our eyes focused on Jesus.  And the truth is, sometimes we are one of the few on the outside of a bubble, it happens.

But I wanted to encourage you with truth today....God has you in your own specific bubble for a reason.  He has all of us in our own bubbles for a reason.  He is divinely in control and sovereignly orchestrating the details of each of our lives exactly the way He wants to and the beauty about that is that His word says it is for our best (Romans 8:28, Philippians 1:6).  We will find the most joy and the most contentment when we live at peace with where God has us in life and stop comparing ourselves with others.  Our circumstances may be hard and it may seem like everyone else has got it together and enjoying a much easier, carefree life but we mustn't forget that God is in control of the life we are living and He is working out His plan in our lives.  Contentment and Joy do not come from focusing on what everyone else has.  And they certainly don't come from focusing on what we do not have and what is "wrong" with our life.
(Besides, you wanna know something I learned that profoundly changed the way I view my life no matter what I'm going through?  When I complain about what I have or grumble about what others have and how my life is miserable and "if only this and that.." I am actually blaspheming God and saying He doesn't know what He's doing and He's got my life wrong.  Because ultimately, my entire life...all of the details, circumstances, twists and all filtered first through His hands.  Nothing comes into my life that is out of His control.  So to complain about my lot in life is to tell God He doesn't know what He's doing and in fact He's doing a really crummy job at what He's doing.  Ugh...sounds pretty bad when we put it that way, huh?)

And another thing to often seems like everyone else has got it better off but none of us know all of the intimate details of another's life.  They may seem like they've got it all together and they're living the best life but inside they're hurting or they've got a personal trial that no one else knows about.  No one is perfect and we all have our trials and struggles.  My dear husband always likes to remind me of this...the grass may seem greener on the other side but we aren't close enough to see the weeds and bugs inside of it.

So be content with the bubble God has you in and be encouraged in knowing that He has a purpose for where you're at.  So instead of pining for someone else's bubble or the next great thing, seek to know how God would use you and have you glorify Him right where you're at.  

Enjoy your "bubble" today! :) Happy Tuesday!

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