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


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 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:

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 a million small 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

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 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 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 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 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 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.