Saturday, December 31, 2011

Dear Samuel

Dear Samuel,
Hello buddy! It's time to write my annual New Year's Eve letter.

This year instead of going out, we're staying in...and sleeping. You've both been sick for the past four days and it's made for a long last week of 2011.

We hope that you'll take good care of your sis Samuel. You can stay up all night if you like, just please be quiet.

Samuel you can easily get your water bottle out of the fridge if you're thirsty. Just remember to shut the door. If you get hungry, help yourself to a banana on the kitchen table or some chips from the pantry. But don't eat the caramel corn on the counter - I made that for your dad and it has too much sugar for your little body.

Lauren loves Rice Chex so you can bring her a bowl. Don't eat out of the box please. And wipe up the crumbs on the table...or floor...or couch when you're done. Be sure not to run and eat - it's not safe.

Now that you're going in the potty please remember to wash your hands after using the toilet - especially if you're going to eat a snack. And don't forget to shut off the water!

You can ring in the New Year by watching a couple episodes of Dora or Finding Nemo or Frosty the Snowman. Those have been pretty popular with you guys while you've been sick. That should entertain you two for a couple hours.

Then read some books or color or 'do a project.' I am sure you can find plenty of things to do to keep yourselves busy.

Samuel if Lauren gets upset or over-tired, sing Amazing Grace to her. It calms her every time. You could also pray with her. Or ask her to pray. She prayed her first full prayer at bedtime tonight. From Dear Jesus all the way to Amen she did it by herself.

Play your guitar to celebrate the gift of a new year. Lauren requested Built This City on Rock and Roll this morning so that might be a fun one to play. Yeah, I know it's from the 80s but it's one of mom's favorites.

It's snowing outside but you cannot go out without mom and dad. We'll get up once it's light out and then we'll go out to 'play' (aka throw snowballs at dad).

Dad would love a cup of coffee to greet him first thing in the new year so go ahead and pull up a chair to the counter, grap a filter and put in a couple scoops of coffee grounds. You help dad with this daily so I'm positive you can make a hot cup of java (just be careful pouring in the water).

We love you both. We're so proud to be your parents and so thankful to celebrate another year with the two of you. You teach us much, you stretch us to new heights and you continue to show us how much love our hearts can hold.

But we're also really tired, so we'll see you in the morning. After the sun is up please.

Love,
Dad and Mom

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas...every day?

May we not save our worship just for Christmas, but may we fall to our knees every day, of every year, in worship of our King.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas expectations

Expectations. 

Whew. They can be a tough thing to manage.

Especially at Christmas.

We expect others to celebrate the way we do.

We expect others to understand what is important to us...even if it's not important to them.

We expect to continue our traditions even when life changes, people change, relationships change, circumstances change.

I had great expectations of this advent season....to read my daily advent Scripture and take time daily to teach my kids about advent and what it means. That hasn't really panned out like I had hoped.

We made a birthday cake this morning. For Jesus. Cause it's his birthday in three days...and we are having a Jesus Birthday Party tonight. The cake making didn't go as expected. Lots of tears, meltdowns, and flour everywhere.

And I look around my home...dirty, disorganized, with a few cards that haven't yet been mailed and presents that haven't yet been wrapped and food that hasn't yet been made...and I wonder why I expected this year to be any different.

Expectations.

Just like many of you, throughout the past few weeks I have heard and read a number of messages about Joseph and Mary and Jesus.

And the stories about them have made think about the expectations of that first Christmas.

Mary, miraculously growing her King in her very own womb, certainly wouldn't have expected to give birth in a stable. Or place her son on hay. Or be surrounded by anything less than the best. Or be in a town that wasn't even close to her home and her family.

After all, she was delivering...God's Son.

And yet, God doesn't come according to our expectations.

The Christmas story speaks perfectly to that. Jesus - the One who came to redeem us from our sins and restore all of humanity to Him - enters our world in the frail, humble state of a baby. 

And I begin to understand how our expectations and God's plans cannot co-exist.

I am grateful to the depth of my being that God's plans take precedence over my small expectations.

Christmas. I love that the Christmas story takes all expectations of the grandeur and formality with which a King should arrive and replaces them with an unwed teenage girl, a fiancee ready to find a new wife, a baby who was so...normal, a lack of wealth, and an abundance of simplicity.

The Christmas story has a lot to teach me about expectations.

Even when it comes to something like making Jesus' birthday cake.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It is time to worship

"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.'"

This passage teaches us two thing:

First, that Jesus was born.

What do we learn next?

He is worshiped.

Now, in reality, the wise men most likely traveled a very long way so they probably did not show up the night of Jesus' birth as we often see visualized and hear as part of the Christmas story.

But regardless. They heard the Christ child was born and their response was one of...worship.

What do you think they expected to see when they arrived? A teenage mom as a King of the Jews? A tiny infant boy who looked so...normal?

They came.

Why?

To worship.

"But there is more here than a visit to a child who would be king someday. These Magi worshiped him. That was the intent of their coming. And so the narrative also reminds us that this child Jesus was far more than a future king. Only if He is divine could He be worshiped." - bible.org

We visit newborn babies in hospitals. We bring them gifts. But we do not worship them.

The wise men came to worship because they knew this baby boy was part of a much greater plan to restore humanity and repair relationships.

One week from today is Christmas. And I have choice. I can choose to worship gifts. Or people. Or decorating. Or baking. Or shopping. Or partying.

Or I can do what Scripture models for me. The wise men chose to worship and it would be wise for me to choose the same.

What does that look like? Taking time each day to read, ponder, or dwell upon the magnificence that is Christmas. Sing a hymn. Write a love letter. Read Scripture to prepare my heart. Slow down and listen to what God might be wanting to say to me this advent season. Get on my knees and worship the Creator who brought the created to earth. Stop and recognize the m i r a c l e that is the Christmas story.

Friends, He has come. It is time to worship.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Story by Max Lucado


Read this on the Women of Faith blog last week. I love how it helps me visualize the birth of Jesus in a new way and that it reminds me how humbling his choice was to leave Heaven and come to earth as a human.


God did something extraordinary.
Stepping from the throne, he removed his robe of light and wrapped himself in skin: pigmented, human skin. The light of the universe entered a dark, wet womb. He whom angels worship nestled himself in the placenta of a peasant, was birthed into a cold night, and then slept on cow’s hay.
Mary didn’t know whether to give him milk or give him praise, but she gave him both since he was, as near as she could figure, hungry and holy.
Joseph didn’t know whether to call him Junior or Father. But in the end he called him Jesus, since that’s what the angel had said and since he didn’t have the faintest idea what to name a God he could cradle in his arms...

Excerpted from Christmas Stories copyright © Max Lucado. Published in Nashville, Tennessee by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A season of waiting

Advent is the season of waiting.

And we all know I'm familiar with waiting.

What is so beautiful about this season of waiting is that we know what it is we're waiting for: the celebration of the birth of Christ.

I work for a Lutheran company and they have an advent service once a week leading up to Christmas.

It has been very cool to experience these services. I feel a bit out of place since I am not Lutheran and do not understand the 'format' of the service nor do I know the correct responses to some of the prayers. But the focus is on Christmas. And that is so so sweet in the corporate setting.

Today the topic was on...waiting.

I was very interested to hear what the speaker was going to say on this topic and I was not disappointed. I took a page of notes.

One point that spoke powerfully to me was this: when one has surgery (internally) things on the outside don't really look like they're changing. But on the inside much healing is taking place. Things are being transformed and changed.

This is what it can look like when we're waiting. On the outside, there is no apparent change taking place. But on the inside, God is doing a work in me (and in you) and a transformation can take place. 

Two thousand and eleven years ago the world looked the same from the outside. Except for a few people, no one knew the change that was about to take place.

I wait in sweet anticipation of Christmas. The coming of our King. And I wait for God to reveal what His plan and purpose is for our family. And some of you wait for what God has for your family as well.

We can be confident that although it might seem that things aren't changing or moving in the direction that we would like, God is doing a work whether we can see it or not.

And if we allow Him to, he can be transforming us from the inside out. Our waiting does not need to be worthless. It shouldn't be wasted.

Let's wait expectantly...anticipating the great work that God is doing and will do...asking Him to transform us in the process of waiting.

I certainly have not been asking God for that lately. I've been whining rather than waiting. I've been working rather than waiting. And I've been wondering rather than waiting.

This is a lesson that I learn over and over and over again friends.

And this advent season is a good reminder about the purpose of waiting: to prepare our hearts. The speaker today said, "Christmas is so momentous an event that we must prepare our hearts, minds and homes."

Lets prepare shall we? Lets tell God we are waiting for Him. We are expecting Him. We are anticipating His work in our hearts and lives.

And lets sit back and see what He does.

As many of you know, this past year I fell in love with the song: "Waiting Here For You."

What a perfect song it is for this season of waiting. We're waiting here for you Jesus...with our hands lifted high...in praise....and it's you we adore...singing Hallelujah.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Conspiracy and a request

1 - Watch this:




2 - Spend a couple minutes (or more if you're interested) reading this site: Advent Conspiracy

3 - Check out how Living Water International has impacted people around the world. 340 Living Water Wells have provided clean water for 200,000 people. Not only do they provide clean water, they also share with those desperate to hear about living water - a relationship with Jesus Christ.

4 - Americans spend $450 Billion on Christmas gifts every year. The estimated cost to make clean water available to everyone worldwide is $20 billion. Think about washing your clothes, doing your dishes and bathing all in the same water. Then thinking about dipping your glass - or your child's sippy cup - into that same water.That's what families do every day around the world.

5 - I hope that thought encourages you to wrap up one more Christmas gift for your spouse. Or your kids. Or your parents. Or your friends. Wrap up the gift of clean water. Change a life. Change a community. Provide the gift of water...clean water, living water.

Friends, it's rare I make a plea like this, but I'm passionate about helping us keep the Christ in Christmas and combat the focus our society places on consumerism. I love gifts and I love shopping. But I've also committed to being very intentional about what I purchase and how much I spend. Tomorrow has been marked as 'Green Monday' - one of the most popular days to order Christmas gifts online. Americans have already spent almost $20 billion online thus far in the holiday season. Forecasters expect another billion to be spent online tomorrow.

Together lets give a gift that reflects the heart of Christmas. Give online today.

From the depth of my heart, I say thank you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hard things

Written Monday, October 31, 2011:

Sometimes life happens and it requires us to do hard things.

Sometimes those hard things are painful. Sometimes they are awkward. Sometimes they are emotional.

Sometimes doing hard things are just, well, hard. And sometimes they are excruciatingly hard.

Sunday will go down in my book of life as a day that required me to do a hard thing. I sat outside of a hospital, about to go visit a friend, and pleaded with the Lord to go before me into the hospital room. I asked him for wisdom about what to say, for peace to be present in my demeanor and for a strong sense of God’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Without Him, I would fail. With Him, I could offer light in a dark circumstance.

I wanted to visit and offer smiles and hugs and congratulations. I offered all those things. But in addition, I offered prayers and tears and words of comfort and encouragement. I asked Jesus to give me the strength to offer what my friend was striving to find in the midst of a hard diagnosis: the markings of Down Syndrome in her newborn daughter. I tried to provide hope for the future…a reminder that God is faithful and wise and sovereign over all…that His plan is perfect…that His way is best…that He does not make mistakes…that He is already walking the road that she will now journey on.

Having been the recipient of stupid phrases uttered without thought and sentiments spoken to make the giver feel better, I prayed fervently that God would allow my presence to speak louder than my words (a life-long prayer that grows with importance the longer I live). I tried to listen more than talk. I tried to ask questions without being intrusive. I tried to do this hard thing with grace and humility, knowing that the gift of presence is one of the most precious gifts of all.

Because not everyone will give my friend this gift. Some will hear and run away. Some will pretend. Some will ignore. Some will try to make it better. Some will compare their hard thing to her hard thing. We all handle hard things differently. And we don’t always handle them the right way.

If we allow it, life will teach us…others will teach us…God will teach us, how to handle hard things in a manner that brings glory to God and points others to Him. We can also find humor in the hard things and joy in the midst of pain.

The reality is, my hard thing is minimal when I think of her hard thing. My hard thing is supporting her and loving her and being there for her. Her hard thing is that her life is forever changed. Her hard thing may last a lifetime. It will be a beautifully hard thing, but hard indeed.

Sometimes that’s just it…we have to strive to find the beauty in our hard things. We have to choose to unwrap the gift. Choose to see it as a gift. Choose to face the hard thing head on. Asking God to lift us up. Be our strength. And guide each step we take as we journey through the hard things that come our way.
I see my friends doing the hard things and they encourage me: Beating cancer. Missing spouses. Forgiving affairs. Researching diseases. Loving family who is hard to love. Getting up every day and facing their hard thing.

Sometimes we don’t have a choice about whether or not to do the hard things. Life happens and hard things drop into our lives in an instant. A phone call. An email. A letter from a lawyer. The doctor’s diagnosis. Going around the hard thing does not make us strong. Going over it or under it allows us to pretend the hard thing doesn’t really exist. It’s only going through the hard thing that we are refined…molded into the likeness of Christ…transformed from the inside out.

Today I am working to figure out alongside my friend what it means to celebrate and grieve simultaneously. How does one be filled with joy and a sense of fear at the same time? How does one love medical professionals because of the knowledge that they have, yet hate them because of the hard news they deliver?

I don’t know. I haven’t walked this road before. Neither has she. But thank God that we don’t walk it alone. He made the road. He created the diagnosis. He waits for us…as we walk every hard road…and as we do every hard thing that this side of Heaven brings our way.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We'll praise your name forever

O Come All Ye Faithful....it's always been my favorite Christmas song, but a friend introduced me to Chris Tomlin's version this week and I can't stop listening.

Do yourself a favor: turn off the 'Christmas noise' our world offers and immerse yourself in the beauty of this song.


We'll praise your name forever
We'll praise your name forever
We'll praise your name forever
Christ the Lord



Sunday, December 4, 2011

It

A few months ago, I came across this post from a friend of a friend. She writes about cancer and how it has come into her life six different times. Not once was it a personal diagnosis. Six times cancer was the diagnosis for those she loves and cares for. 

It's truly unbelievable to read her story about how 'it' has impacted her life.

I feel like 'it' is everywhere. My friend who had a double mastectomy last year. My friend who lost her husband earlier this year. An aunt and uncle who are both currently battling cancer.

I don't understand 'it.'

I don't like 'it.'

And I am exceedingly grateful for the promise of Revelation 21:4: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Oh what a day that will be.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 days of gratitude and adoption

We've come to the end of November.

Gratitude and adoption.

That's all I wrote about this month.

Gratitude. I’ve learned to ask God to use this season to show me how to have a heart of gratitude. As we continue to run this race, we do so with hearts of gratitude for all God is teaching us in spite of the challenges this journey brings. My gratitude cannot and will not be dependent on time or family or money or relationships or jobs or health. For those things we are abundantly grateful. But at its core, I am grateful simply because the alternative – ingratitude – is not an option. In all honestly, ingratitude is a sin. Scripture calls us to be thankful and give thanks. Always. In every circumstance. Therefore, when I choose ingratitude (and I might not think I am choosing ingratitude, but I am) I am disobedient to the Lord.

I think what I've learned most this month is that choosing gratitude in everything is much much harder than I had anticipated. We end this month with the last job possibility having been taken off the table today. There is nothing else on the job horizon as we look to Christmas and the new year. And yet we're still called to hearts of gratitude. I am to present my requests to God with thanksgiving. It's stretching. It's painful. It's the only way. 

Adoption. I’ve also written about adoption and I have much more to say about this topic. In the weeks and months to come, you’ll hear more from me because I am passionate about adoption (as if you hadn’t noticed) and because I’m madly in love with the little man who has blessed us because of the gift of adoption. You'll also hear more about adoption because I just started reading Adopted for Life by Russell Moore and it’s deep. And awesome. And heartbreaking. And because I just got this email in my inbox today. And now there are more incredible adoption blogs like this that I will be reading and life-changing books that I absolutely must read such as Kisses from Katie. Which will then be followed by reading Before You Were Mine. The book list is long. The days are short. But the passion is great and the stories of God working in this world are too good to miss.

Adoption has changed my life. And it continues to change my life. And God continues to mold my heart and draw me to His heart...and He is ALL ABOUT adoption friends. Because He adopted first. And now He tells us to go care and love and feed and teach in His name. How can I not be about adoption? How can we all not be about adoption? We are adopted. Every single one of us.

Before the month started I’m not sure I was aware how intertwined the two themes of gratitude and adoption are. I am deeply grateful to God for adopting me into His family so I can live as a child of the King. And I am profoundly grateful for the adoption of my son Samuel into our family.

Because we have been adopted by our Creator, we are called to live lives of gratitude. Do you understand that? Do you grasp that concept? As an adopted daughter - His daughter - God has made me a new creation and gratitude is the only appropriate response.

Thank you for journeying with me this month as I learn about gratitude and as I share my heart for adoption.

Day 30: I am grateful for my readers. I started this blog as a way to tell our friends and family about a little baby boy who came into our lives. It has become a place for me to pour out my heart and fill pages with what I am learning and how I am growing. Thank you for reading. Some of you know me in real life. Others of you I have never met and yet you continue to come and read and give me space to enter into your life. Thank you for allowing me that privilege. And thank you for writing to me – with your heartaches, your joys and the stories of your journey. Thank you for reminding me that God can use a sinner saved by grace to minister to others. And thank you God for giving me a story and for the opportunity to share that story with others.

Monday, November 28, 2011

When gratitude is hard

Gratitude.

I’ve been writing about it all month.
It’s one thing to talk about gratitude.

And write about thanksgiving.

And blog about having a grateful heart.

It’s another thing to live it out.

Who isn’t grateful when the sun shines on our lives and the blessings pour down?
But as I shared a few weeks ago:
"Gratitude, not remorse, should come to be the defining sentiment of your life....as God's child and someone who has been the undeserved recipient of His grace, gratitude, whatever your circumstance, is warranted." - Brad Stetson

A couple weeks ago Ryan was pursued by a company he had previously interviewed with. Two recruiters contacted him and he had multiple interviews/calls with them both. Then he had an in-person interview. Then we waited. All week. And the following week all through Thanksgiving.

Then we got the call. “They are not going to pursue you any further."

I was at work when Ryan called me to tell me and I had to hold back the tears.

Gratitude was not my first emotion.

I was angry. And hurt. And frustrated.

I had allowed myself to get on that ridiculous roller coaster ride of emotions and, once again, we were disappointed.
And because my husband is hurt and discouraged, it makes it even harder. And I can’t make it better.

Luci Swindoll says, Wherever you are now is God’s provision, not His punishment. Celebrate this moment and try very hard to do it with conscious gratitude.”

Celebrate this moment? 

That is not what my fleshly body wants to do.

I am weary of this constant battle of ingratitude fighting gratitude. Anger fighting peace. Discouragement fighting hope.

But in the midst of the heaviness of this last rejection, and despite the weight of this last ‘no,’ there is a still, small reminder that my thanks and gratitude cannot be based on the gifts given to me by the giver.

My gratitude – if it is truly gratitude – is dependent solely on the giver for who He is, not what He gives.

It’s easy to forget sometimes that we are running a race. A race that encourages us to get back up after we’ve fallen. Believing in the goodness of the One who has called us. Running with hope and passion and courage and faith.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”--2 Timothy 4:7

This passage challenges us to not only fight the good fight and finish the race, but to keep the faith when the race seems endless and our bodies are weary.

I am so grateful I can look around and see others running their races – with faith and determination and courage.

Ryan’s aunt and uncle who both were diagnosed with cancer in the past 12 months are running a really really hard race. A friend who struggled with serious health issues this past year and continually kept her eyes on Jesus has run a very challenging race. Another friend who desperately loves Jesus, but is married to someone who does not is faithfully running every day.

We all run races. We all get weary. The only difference is running with faith or giving in to the ingratitude that we're desperately fighting every day.
Day 28: God I am thankful that you don't change. That even when our future is unknown and the battle is long, you are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I praise you that your grace is sufficient and your mercies are new every day. Help us to maintain hearts of thankfulness in the midst of this journey.




Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adoption story featured

Our story of adoption is featured on the Minnesota Adoption Option page today!

Check it out: http://minnesotalovesadoption.org/?page_id=108


Day 27: I am grateful that God continues to be glorified every time our adoption story is shared. What a privilege to be part of His amazing story! I am so thankful that His plan and purpose prevailed. It is so much better than I could have ever asked or imagined. God has done GREAT things for us and we are filled with joy!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Amazing Grace...Lauren style

So much to be thankful for....




Day 26: So thankful for God's AMAZING grace. Every single day of my life. And passionately praying that my children will understand and accept this life-changing gift of grace.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank you

The most important prayer in the world
is just two words long: "Thank you." - Meister Eckhart

"Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name."

-- 1 Chronicles 29:13

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What does being grateful look like?

Zig Ziglar says the healthiest of all human emotions is gratitude.

All this talk about gratitude and thanksgiving....but what does it really mean? What does that look like? When December 1 rolls around will my life be any different because of gratitude?

How do I live a life of gratitude?

Here are a few ideas...many you have heard before. Pick one. Change your life.

Start a gratitude journal. Write down one thing every day you are thankful for. Or, like One Thousand Gifts, make it your goal to write 1,000 things you are grateful for.

Write thank you notes. If you are like me, you think them often...but writing them and mailing them forces you to be intentional about living a life of gratitude.

Meditate on gratitude. That is, scripture. Give thanks. To God. In all things. For all things.

Pray. Often. With the mindset of thanksgiving. Daniel got down on his knees three times a day and prayed with thanksgiving. Even though doing so would put him in the den of lions, he prayed three times a day with thankfulness...because he knew the only way to enter into His courts was with thanksgiving.

Make sure when you are 'being grateful' you know WHO it is you are grateful to. Don't just be grateful. Be grateful TO God.

Being grateful means not saying what you want to say sometimes and instead choosing to say something else. Or not saying anything at all.

Being grateful means not just seeing the cup as half full rather than half empty, it means seeing the cup as overflowing (as I posted earlier this month).

We make the choice. Every day. We can choose gratitude. Or we can choose to complain. I often make the wrong choice. But by the grace of God and because ANYTHING is possible for him who believes, I can make a different choice tomorrow.

It's NOT about determining to be more thankful. It's about asking God, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to help me choose gratitude upon wakening every day. It's not about resolving to be a more grateful person. It's about cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude every day...in a million small ways...by asking God to transform and renew my mind to be more like Christ.

That is what gratitude looks like.


Day 23: I am thankful for the men and women of faith whose lives we can look to and learn from. They were imperfect, sinful, human...and yet God chose to use their stories in His book. They teach us much and I am thankful for the lessons I can learn by reading about their lives.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving as a lifestyle?

Want to be 25% more happier?

Give thanks.

Reduce stress?

Give thanks.

Have a more positive attitude and outlook on life?

Give Thanks.

Experience more joy?

Give thanks.

Check out this article and consider making thanksgiving more than just a once-a-year holiday....make it a lifestyle.

Because gratitude has the potential to change. your. life.

At the end of the article they are offering a free One thousand Gifts App for iPhone or iPad users. What a simple, easy way to start your gratitude journal.


Day 22: Grateful for little kids who love our little kids and friends who love their friends. And spur-of-the-moment pizza dinners where we can celebrate this craziness we call life. It makes my heart full and for that we give thanks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

God…in a box?

Last week while Samuel was fighting a high fever, we read book after book after book, snuggled morning, noon and night, and watched plenty of movies (what else do you do when you are 3 years old and your temperature is 104?).

So I plopped the kiddos on our bed a few mornings in a row and between Dora adventures and Lightening McQueen races, I attacked some piles.

And when I say piles, I mean piles. Without an office or craft room or desk for myself, I pile papers and books and random miscellaneous items in our bedroom. Even for someone as unorganized as me, my piles were driving me crazy.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that as I went through piles, I also journeyed through our history as a family. 


Adoption paperwork that I printed out on August 9, 2008 - 8 days before we found out we were pregnant for the second time.

A calendar page from August 2008 with my handwritten notes on August 16 when we found out we were pregnant. And more notes on August 29 when I went to the doctor, had an ultrasound and then gave my parents a card on their anniversary telling them their grandchild was on the way.

A sympathy card expressing heartfelt grief over the loss of our second baby through miscarriage.
Samuel’s bracelet from the hospital. How did that ever fit around his wrist? Was he really that tiny? And how privileged are we to have been able to take him home from the hospital just 48 hours after laying our eyes on him?

A piece of paper with a list of names as we quickly tried to choose a name for our new baby boy!

A fax from October 17, 2008, to Adoption Minnesota with our medical history.


A baby book made for Samuel at one of his showers.


Our baby registry for Samuel.

A pregnancy test that told us we were expecting Lauren.

Lauren’s ultrasound pictures (I had been wondering what I had done with those but at the time the photos were taken I had a 3-month-old and placing them in a safe spot was not at the top of my to-do list). 

A Happy 1st Mother's Day card.


Congratulations on your baby girl cards. Pink booties.

Dedication cards and birthday card
s.

Hair from first hair cuts.

I put all these precious items in a special box and placed it in my closet.

Every item brought about a different emotion in me. Some made me cry. Some made me smile. Some made me want to shout for joy. I couldn’t believe as I worked my way through my piles, the memories that came rushing back to me. And how every memory had an emotion attached to it.

It’s strange to think that my story is made up of the things in that box. Hurt. Sadness. Loss. Celebration. Joy. Miracles.

Often my story is just words. Thoughts and reflections about this journey we’re walking. 

But in that box are real, tangible items that tell our story. Treasure upon treasure that proclaims the faithfulness and goodness of our God. That box speaks of a plan so much better and grander than any plan I could have made.

That box tells of a story that began long before Samuel’s and Lauren’s births. It’s a story that tells us God can use heartache for good. He can turning our mourning into rejoicing. He can bring laughter from our tears.

That box reminds me that adoption was to be part of my story even when I knew nothing about adoption and didn’t know it was what I longed for and dreamt of.

That box is a sweet, sweet reminder of how our great, loving God makes everything beautiful in its time.

Day 21: I am thankful that my children stand at the door and wait for me with great anticipation every single time I come home work. They greet me with extreme joy, laughter, smiles and screaming...to let me know I am dearly loved.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

National Adoption Day

Today is National Adoption Day.

I feel like I should have something profound to say. But I don't. You all know we love our little man like crazy. On National Adoption Day, on Mondays, and Thursdays, and Saturdays, on holidays, or pretty much any day that ends in 'day.' We are blessed that God saw fit to grow our family through adoption and our hearts know no difference between our children.

Day 19: I am grateful for February 5. The day we went to court and 'officially' became a family...our Gotcha Day. We will celebrate every year becoming a forever family on that day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Adoption blogs

Top 25 adoption blogs written by parents. I have no idea who voted for these blogs or the quality of the content they present. But if you're interested in adoption stories, check 'em out.


Day 18: I am thankful for my children's grandparents. We have two sets of loving, dedicated grandparents who live close to us. All my life, my grandparents lived three hours away so we only saw them a few times each year. I am so thankful my kids get to see their grandparents on a regular basis and develop a close relationship with them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Defining sentiment of your life

I came across this quote from my journal in 2006 the summer after my first miscarriage:

"Gratitude, not remorse, should come to be the defining sentiment of your life....as God's child and someone who has been the undeserved recipient of His grace, gratitude, whatever your circumstance, is warranted." - Brad Stetson


Day 17: I am thankful for the hardships I have faced in this life....the unexpected, the challenges, the loss, the heartache, the difficult roads...may I always choose gratitude in spite of my circumstances.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gratitude truly is my life preserver

"Over the years, I have sought to make gratitude a way of life. And I have experienced many of the blessings that accompany the 'attitude of gratitude.' However, I've seen that if I am not ceaselessly vigilant about rejecting ingratitude and choosing gratitude, I all-too-easily get sucked into the undertow of life in a fallen world. I start focusing on what I don't have that I want, or what I want that I don't have. My life starts to feel hard, wearisome, and overwhelming.

...I've discovered that gratitude truly is my life preserver. Even in the most turbulent waters, choosing gratitude rescues me from myself and my runaway emotions. It buoys me on the grace of God and keeps me from drowning in what otherwise would be my natural bent toward doubt, negativity, discouragement and anxiety.

Over time, choosing gratitude means choosing joy. But that choice doesn't come without effort and intentionality. It's a choice that requires constantly renewing my mind with the truth of God's Word, setting my heart to savor God and His gifts, and disciplining my tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace--until a grateful spirit becomes my reflexive response to all of life."  ~ Choosing Gratitude:Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss




Day 16: Today I am thankful for health. Sickness is rampant in our house right now and my little man has had a hard two days. Seeing him down and out makes Ryan and I realize how often we take health for granted. Thank you God for every day that we have the gift of health to savor.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bringing Hope and Lily Home

Whoa. To say this video made me emotional...is an understatement. To see God writing a story, uniting a family, bringing hope and restoration to a hurting world through the miracle of adoption. It's too much for this mama's heart to take. Watch it with caution. Your heart might never be the same.




Day 15: Today my heart is filled with gratitude that the God of the Universe knew my name before I was born. He knit me together. He saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be. I am grateful not because of what He gives, but simply because of WHO HE IS and how His love for me has CHANGED MY LIFE.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I will be grateful



Day 14: I am grateful for the piles of laundry Ryan and I folded and put away last night. It means we have clothes to wear, clean sheets to sleep in and fresh towels to use. I am grateful for the dry skin on my hands today that are a result of washing dishes and cleaning my kitchen yesterday. That means my kitchen is relatively clean, my cupboards are full and we have choices about what to eat each day that lead to many dirty dishes. I am grateful for my feet that hurt today because I am wearing heels. Not only does that mean I have a job to go to, but I am healthy enough to walk the four blocks from the bus stop to work. I am grateful for crabby kids because it makes the happy days that much sweeter. And I am grateful for a God who loves me despite my heart of ingratitude many days. But not today. Today I will be grateful.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thankful for....our birthmom

Day 11: There will never be enough days in this life, light in our days, our words in our vocabulary to express our gratitude for our birth mom. Today is her birthday. Happy happy birthday dear birth mom. Your birth 22 years ago changed our world, and our family, because of the choice you made when you gave birth. I hope your mom is proud of you. When I look at Samuel I am proud of him. And I am overflowing with gratitude for the gift of raising him. You grew him for 9 months and I get to raise him for a lifetime. How do I thank you? In all humility, from the depth of my soul, from one mom to another, I say thank you. Today and every day I am grateful to you, for you and to God for my son.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not one of us is worthy of adoption

"The wonder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this — not one of us is worthy of adoption. In our sinfulness, not one of us has any claim on the Father’s love, much less a right to adoption. But, the infinitely rich mercy of God is shown us in Christ, in whom believers are adopted by the Father. And this adoption, thanks be to God, is eternal and irreversible.

We have been given adoption as a gift and as a sign of the Gospel. The adoption of any child is a portrait of God’s grace. Just as every earthly marriage points in some way to the marriage supper of the Lamb, every adopted child is a pointer to the Gospel. Thus, any failure in adoption is a slander to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Read the entire article here.

And in case you've got extra time on your hands, here's a second fantastic article about adoption and the Gospel.

Day 10: Today I am thankful for a job. A job where I can write. And be creative. And help pay the bills. And still get to be a mom the rest of the week. It's a pretty perfect fit and I thank God for how well it's worked out during our season of unemployment. Oh, and I get to write about Jesus.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

That is gratitude

"The optimist says, the cup is half full. The pessimist says, the cup is half empty. The child of God says; My cup runneth over." - Anonymous

That my friends, is gratitude.


Day 9: I am grateful for unemployment. After 1 1/2 years of walking this road, I am not the same person I was before. I will never be that person again. I wouldn't have chosen this, but I also wouldn't change what I've experienced and learned.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Incredibly powerful adoption video

"The Gospel is not that we have an emotional connection with God and therefore are his sons/daughters. God predestined us before the foundation of the world to be his sons and daughters..."



The Stewarts from Together for Adoption on Vimeo.


Day 8: My heart is overwhelmed with gratefulness that God pursued me. We love because He first loved us. He ADOPTED me. He CHOSE me. He LOVES me.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Will you rock me?

Twice in 24 hours Samuel asked me to rock him.

Once it was 2:30 a.m.

The other time it was 10 minutes after I had put him to bed.

Both times I was weary from long days of parenting. Both times I could not resist. I kissed those cheeks. I hugged that tiny neck. I smelled that sweet boy smell.

And I rocked my little man. Because someday he will be too big too rock. Someday he won't ask. Someday he will be about rock-n-roll, and not rocking with his mama.

Lord help me to always say yes. Grant me supernatural strength to say yes when I am bone tired...because my yes communicates safety and security and love and concern and value.

Remind me God that you created these arms to praise you and to hold my loved ones. Help me to do both well. 


Day 7: I am grateful for the times when I stop doing, running, making, planning, finishing, and focusing. I am grateful for the moments when I stop. Listen. Be still. Rock. Sing. Hold. Love. Treasure.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Today is Orphan Sunday




Day 6: Thank you Jesus that you are not done with me yet. Thank you that you do not leave me as I am. You stretch me. You challenge me. You call me. You convict me. All you ask in return is that I accept your invitation to be in relationship with you. Thank you for inviting me to be part of what you are doing in this world.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


"We often take for granted the very things
that most deserve our gratitude." - Cynthia Ozick


Day 5: I love baking and I am grateful that I learned to bake from my mom. Thank you Jesus for the ability to smell the sweet fragrances of life...today that included honey oat bread and pumpkin bars.


**Probably wouldn't make this bread recipe again. If you have a tasty wheat bread recipe, please email me!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Learning gratitude

Life changing gratitude does not fasten to a life unless nailed through with one very specific nail at a time.” - Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts


In her book Ann talks about how Paul had to learn to be content. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:12

Learning takes practice. And practice. And more practice. Whether that's learning to write, learning to drive, learning to play a sport or learning a foreign language.

We learn patience. We learn kindness. We learn self-control.

We can also learn to be grateful.

So that's what I'm doing this month. Practicing. Learning. Retraining myself. Asking God to help me choose gratitude. Because it's a choice. Every single day of our lives we have a choice.


G   R   A    T   I   T   U   D   E


Day 4: Today I am grateful for the service of others. Tonight two students from a local college (who attend our church) put our kids to bed while Ryan and I went to a movie. They served their church, they served our family, they served their God. And their service brings glory to Him as we give thanks for them tonight.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Is the orphan my neighbor?

Loving the truth presented in this post: Is the orphan my neighbor?

"Right now, there is a crisis of fatherlessness all around the world. Chances are, in your community, the foster care system is bulging with children, moving from home to home to home, with no rootedness or permanence in sight. Right now, as you read this, children are “aging out” of orphanages around the world. Many of them will spiral downward into the hopelessness of drug addiction, prostitution, or suicide. Children in the Third World are languishing in group-homes, because both parents have died from disease or have been slaughtered in war. The curse is afoot, and it leaves orphans in its wake.
Not every Christian is called to adopt or to foster children. And not every family is equipped to serve every possible scenario of special needs that come along with particular children. Orphan care isn’t easy. Families who care for the least of these must count the cost, and be willing to offer up whatever sacrifice is needed to carry through with their commitments to the children who enter into their lives.
But, while not all of us are called to adopt, the Christian Scriptures tell us that all of us are called to care “widows and orphans in their distress” (Jas. 1:27). All of us are to be conformed to the mission of our Father God, a mission that includes justice for the fatherless (Exod. 22:22; Deut. 10:18; Ps. 10:18; Prov. 23:10-11; Isa. 1:17; Jer. 7:6; Zech. 7:10). As we are conformed to the image of Christ, we share with him his welcoming of the oppressed, the abandoned, the marginalized; we recognize his face in the “least of these,” his little brother and sisters (Matt. 25:40)."

Day 3: Gratitude that God calls us to more in this life than living for today. Our mission, our purpose is for something far beyond ourselves and our temporary happiness.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 2 gratitude - adoption

Day 2: I am grateful for the gift of adoption. I am who I am today because I have experienced the joy of adoption. My heart knows no difference in the love I have for my children...because love doesn't come from a womb. It comes from the heart. Thank you Jesus for entrusting us with this precious gift.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November

November is here - hooray!

I am very excited about this month for two reasons:

November is National Adoption Awareness month. I plan to share some adoption stories and stats, and all my favorite adoption-related things..... Adoption has changed our life and the lives of our families, and I consider it a privilege to help raise awareness about the gift of adoption.

I am also declaring November my National Personal Gratitude month - 30 days of gratitude. I'm striving to be intentional about this area of my life. I have a few books I'm reading about gratitude. It's incredible all that I am learning - gratitude can actually have an impact on your health! Lots more to come about that this month.

I hope you will journey with me through this month....share your stories, thoughts or questions about adoption and also share the things you are choosing to be grateful for. If you have a blog, would you consider joining me in 30 days of gratitude?

Day 1: Today I am thankful for a husband who took my daughter on a daddy/daughter breakfast date this morning. He said it was rather pointless because she barely ate anything, doesn't hold a conversation real well and spent the entire breakfast playing with the sugar packets. But he started something that I know he will continue and that I know will impact my daughter greatly in the years to come. And for that I am so grateful.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A T in the road

Not too long ago I apologized to Ryan when I arrived home later than Ryan had asked me to be home so that he could leave for a meeting.

I said, "I'm sorry."

He responded: "No you're not. Otherwise you wouldn't do it anymore."

Ouch.

That hurt.

Not because the words themselves were hurtful, but rather because they were truthful.

And sometimes the truth is hard to swallow.

I tend to be late and my tardiness impacts others. When my husband asks me to be home at a certain time, it is rude and disrespectful of me to not honor what he has asked me to do. My tardiness tells others that their schedule is not as important as my schedule is.

There are times in our lives when we come to a T in the road. We have the opportunity to go to the left or go to the right. One way is the road we've been on. The other road is a new road.

I believe it's the road of repentance and change.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says: "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."

Our culture often focuses on worldly sorrow and worldly grief. It is sorrow that is self focused. It says, "I'm sorry" to make the other person feel better or to make the offender feel better because he/she apologized. But it lacks repentance. It is about guilt and regret. Worldly sorrow is about me.

Godly grief and Godly sorrow lead us to repentance - a change in our hearts, our actions, our words. A change in our decision making and our choices. A change in our priorities. A change that ensures our actions align with our beliefs. Godly sorrow means we want to change our sinful ways. Godly sorrow is God-directed. We are sorry because we sinned against God first and foremost.

Repentance involves turning from our old ways and beginning anew. Marriages. Addictions. Finances. Lifestyle choices.

Repentance isn't about feeling shameful or guilty. It's about choosing to make a change. It's about turning from sin and turning directly into the arms of Jesus. We cannot truly repent without involving God. Any 'sorry' without God is just worldly grief about our actions.

You might be standing at a T in your life right now. Maybe it's the first time. Maybe it's the 50th time.

There is a sign labeled "guilt, shame and regret." And there's another that says, "repentance." Which is really just a fancy word for turning from your old ways and choosing new life.

I'm at a T and I need to do some business with God. My lack of repentance is causing hurt to those I love and has led me on a road I don't want to be on.

I imagine some of you reading this are at a T as well. Like me, you've focused far too long on self.

Let's get on our knees and get right with God.

Let's turn around. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

What we're waiting on....

Read these powerful words of truth yesterday:

How comforting to know we don't have to wait on our circumstances to work for our good. Instead we wait on God, because it's HIM who works for our good. He's trustworthy and faithful. {And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. ~Rom. 8:28}

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An appointed time for blessings

A few weeks ago we heard that some dear friends of ours sold their home after a very long wait. I believe their home was on the market for more than a year. They cleaned. They organized. They took down personal pictures. They staged their home just right. They prayed. They waited. They had showings and showings and more showings.

They got pregnant and had a baby. They waited some more and finally the offer they had been waiting for came in.

We are so happy for them and excited about what is in store for their future.

At the same time, if I am honest, my heart is envious that God answered their prayer.

While my head knows that God does not answer prayers in the order that they are received (unlike most places where we put in our orders), my heart begs of God, "Why did their prayer get answered, but not ours? Why do they have the blessing of moving forward with life, while we are still waiting? Isn't a job offer more important that an offer to buy a home? Why, why, why?"

In April of 2009 I wrote a post about blessings and the fact that I was feeling guilty about being pregnant when we had already received the miracle of Samuel in our lives. I felt doubly blessed and didn't want to 'take away' the blessing of someone else since I would have two babies while others were waiting for just one baby.

At that time, and since then, I have continually been reminded of how God blesses us...and how it doesn't have anything to do with anyone else and it certainly doesn't happen according to our human timelines.

There is an appointed time for each and every blessing.

And as I wrote in my post in 2009, my time is not your time and your time is not my time. My blessing is meant for me and your blessing is meant for you. God answering 'yes' to our friends is completely independent of Him saying 'yes' or 'no' to us.

Eclesiastes 3 says "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven."

There is an appointed time for each and every blessing to be given and for each and every promise to come to fruition.

I KNOW that. I just need to remind myself of that.

Marriage. Health. Finances. Careers. Babies. Education.

Every blessing is independent of another.

Abraham and Sarah are a beautiful example of God's timing and His blessings. 

Genesis 15 says, "[God] took [Abraham] outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

In Genesis 17 God told Abraham he was the father of many nations and God would make him very fruitful. Abraham was 99 years old at the time!

Genesis 18 says, "Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

God's appointed time for Abraham and Sarah brought all glory and honor and praise to God. They were past child-bearing age. And yet God used their lives and their family to perform a miracle and through the birth of their son Isaac, God was glorified.

Had God blessed them with children when they were 22, their story probably would not have been remembered and studied for generations to come. 

God doesn't have to juggle blessings. He doesn't have to choose each day who He gets to bless and who has to wait until another time. His blessings are not dependent on time or finances or age. When we are faithful to pursue Him, seek Him, wait on Him and sit in His presence...He will bless us at His appointed time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

From the Inside Out

After reading my last post, my dear friend sent me a link to this video - From the Inside Out by Hillsong. What a beautiful expression of our desire to honor God from the inside out. The words are a powerful reminder for all of us striving to live our lives to the honor and glory of Him and Him alone.

Everlasting your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending your glory goes beyond all things

And the cry of my heart is to bring you praise
from the inside out Lord my soul cries out


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My praise and my mess

I stepped off the bus this morning and into the cold wind of downtown Minneapolis. As my feet hit the pavement, my mind and heart were directed upward.

Oh hello Lord. Good morning to you. I’m off to work and am just now remembering I haven’t yet greeted you today. Forgive me Lord that the first words on my tongue this morning were not praise or gratefulness to you…for another day to breathe…another day to love and live and work. I lay in the warmth of my bed too long this morning. I hurried to fix my hair, pack food, iron my pants and prepare for my day. I offered quick hugs and kisses to the little people in my home and I rushed on my way. I confess that I was harsh with my husband because of my tardiness this morning. I did not leave my home with kind words of encouragement for the day, but rather with a stressful goodbye at the door.

Why Lord? Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I prepare the night before to allow adequate time for my family and home? Why can’t I get up earlier – to get both my heart and my body prepared for the day? Why can’t I recognize my desperate need for you…first and foremost every day? Why can’t I make the connection between my heart and my words and actions? For out of the overflow of the heart my mouth speaks. God I am so grateful that your love for me is not based on this sinner’s heart because the overflow is ugly these days. It hurts my loved ones. And it grieves you because how I treat your creation reflects how I view you – the Creator.

I remember the day I stood on a beach in northern Minnesota. I gave my faith story and then I was baptized by cool lake water. I declared myself a follower of you. I admitted before many that I was stubborn, independent and self-reliant.

And today I am still all of those things and more. You have such a work to do in me God. I am weak, you are strong. I am selfish, and you give of your mercies graciously, repeatedly. I am a fool that repeats its folly. Yet you hold your arms open and allow me to run into them daily.

It’s all there for me. You offer to carry my burdens for me. Then why do I hold so tightly to them? When will I loosen these fingers that are wrapped so firmly around…what? My responsibilities? My to do list? My commitments? The pieces of my day?
Renew my mind God. Every day. Transform me from the inside out because the brokenness inside is ugly. My pride, bitterness and self-righteousness is what made you turn away and forsake Christ on the cross. My sin, my brokenness was laid bare for all the world to see. Your holiness and perfection cannot co-exist alongside my sin and humanity. And that’s why your Son bridged the gap. It doesn’t just make a difference for eternity. God it makes a difference for today.

Wait who is this man that just stepped in front of me? Is he…homeless? He has an overstuffed cooler. Deodorant and a toothbrush stick out of the pockets of his backpack. His clothes hang from his body. His hair is oily and his clothes greasy. And his smell is…foul. He stops by the garbage. He looks in. He begins to dig.

Oh Lord, help him. Help me. I am consumed with self and it’s sickening. His stench is apparent and his appearance is unappealing. My stench is hidden, but it’s rotten. God the filth in my heart is overflowing onto those around me. Protect their hearts from my ugliness. Create in me a clean heart, but do it gently Lord.

This man. This homeless man. His filth is easily washable. My filth was erased at the cross. I claim that promise for today. Thank you that we are both cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Thank you that you can still shine, still be glorified, still transform and still renew amidst my mess. I can’t clean it up. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. In deep humility I offer you my praise and my mess simultaneously…and you eagerly receive both.