Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Mexico Adventure

We've decided to go on a family mission trip this summer to Mexico. All four of us. We're really excited. There is a large group of families from our church and several other churches here that go every year for a week to a Mexican border town and do ministry at an orphanage there. Within the group, there is a medical team, a construction team, and two VBS teams. We're not sure exactly what our role will be within those teams, but it is likely that I will be helping to conduct a VBS for children out in the nearby villages and Joel will be doing that as well or helping with construction. Tonight we are attending a meeting about it, the first one with all of the committed team members, so we're sure to learn more. This has been a dream of mine and Joel's to go on a mission trip together and to be able to take our kids with us, and I'm thankful for how God has led us to be a part of this team at this time. Now, it's just a matter of watching God provide for all that is necessary for us to make the trip, and I look forward to seeing how He works in these next few months to get us ready for the trip, which will take place from late June to early July. There will be a lot for us to watch for! A lot of stretching and faith-building opportunities are already underway. I want so much to respond in trust and expectancy rather than in anxiousness, fear, and faithlessness.

I'm especially excited to be able to spend time with children who live in this orphanage. For a while now, I feel that God has been drawing my attention to the plight of those who do not have parents to care for them. Very recently, He's been teaching me, through various avenues, to see and have more of His heart for orphans. And while I would say yes today to the prospect of adopting a child into our family if God asked, I recognize that He's not asking me that today. I hope He does one day, I really do. But for now, for many reasons, I have to assume that isn't the direction we're headed. But there is definitely a tug on my heart for the orphans in the world, both near and far. And it's been a struggle of mine to understand why that desire is burning and growing in me and it seems like, at least at this point, adoption is not meant to be for us. It's definitely an issue that I struggle with regularly. But now that we've decided to go on this Mexico trip, I'm getting glimpses of some of the "why"s and understanding more and more that there are a lot of ways that I can be a part of living out God's heart for the orphaned. Though it often includes adoption, it goes so much further beyond that. I'm seeing that mirroring God's heart for the orphaned is something we're ALL called to, regardless of the varied, individual ways we are asked to flesh that out.

James tells us, "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 by the world." Caring for the needs of those two groups of people is something that, in a way, authenticates our faith in Christ. I want that to be true of me - that it's obvious that I follow Christ because of my compassion for those in need. I wouldn't say my faith has been marked by that at all. I'd say I've mostly lived a self-centered existence. God has been challenging me to live differently and to get passionate about helping people in need. And I know this opportunity in Mexico will be just that: an opportunity to face and fight through my selfishness, in order to live out God's love for the children we encounter. And for me to embrace the change God wants to do in my heart and accept more of what He desires to create in me. And to have His heart for orphans.

It's a beautiful love. The same Love responsible for my own redemption and adoption into God's family. I want to know and reflect more of it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Nesting" Baby Shower

Recently, some friends and I helped throw a sip-n-see for a friend who just had her first child, a sweet baby boy. We went with a modern bird/nesting theme, and though it was extremely simple, I thought it turned out just darlin. Thought I'd share some photos for you all who enjoy party inspiration:

Kate made these cupcakes...beautiful. (Instructions/helpful hints on those can be found on her blog.)

And below are some pictures of shower guests. I realize the shower isn't about me, but still I can't look at these shower pics and not think about how blessed I am to have such amazing ladies in my life. I can't believe the community of authentic, generous, loving friends I've found myself in here in our town and especially in our church. I have to say it. Because I just can't get over it.

Beautiful mom and baby of honor:
Jennifer loving on the baby:
Kristin and Robyn:
Maureen, me, and Kate:

And for pictures from another friends's shower (Adriane) that I helped host but was unable to attend, see this post from Kate.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Week

Last week was strange. Thank you to all those who prayed for little Brady. He's doing much better. We're so thankful he finally started to get well! He was really sick (temp was 104.5 when he went to the doctor last Saturday morning before being sent to the ER) and in such terrible pain for so many days. He's home now, playing and crawling around like usual, with nurses coming out daily to help with the care of his incision from having to have surgery last Monday to remove infection. The sweet guy went through so much. I can't imagine what it would feel like to be a parent of that child. What they went through watching their child in so much pain, not being able to do anything to bring him comfort, and then handing him over to doctors for him to undergo an operation, was awful. I have no firsthand experience of anything like that. This was the "closest" I've come to it. The most I've personally seen a child suffer. And I admit, it rattled me. I was struggling with it, talking to God about it but mainly in protest. It's impossible in the moment to grasp why something like that is happening and even more difficult to accept that you don't know. While I was not experiencing it as a parent and wouldn't dare want to sound like I'm comparing it, I could see clearly that the whole process involved surrender and that surrender doesn't come without struggle. You watch a baby not able to even sleep because of pain, for days straight, and you struggle. That's just the nature of our life as humans. But what really convicted me is that while I was wrestling through some of this, in praying for Brady, I was struck with the thought that God allows this to happen A LOT. Children suffer. Innocent babies live with very harsh circumstances. There are millions of them all over the world. Their pain doesn't let up. Babies who don't get to experience the blessing of good medical care. And it's so easy to get all fired up about it when it's my nephew and my family going through it, because, of course, I love them so much. But how worked up do I get about all of the other suffering in the world? Not enough. Not enough to really look like a follower of Christ. Honestly, not even once a month for me. I rarely even look at the needs of the suffering, poor, sick children in the world, let alone get so passionately compassionate for them that I talk to God about it like I talked to God on behalf of Brady last week. Except for some specific times God has confronted me with the suffering of the world in a way that left me no choice but to take action, I don't wrestle through it in prayer, I don't carry that burden. Most often, I ignore it. And I'm really being convicted about that. There's been a new thing stirring in me. I don't know what. Something. Something that makes me want to do something.

Last week was such a blur. I didn't do many of my regular activities. I was pretty checked out. So today starts a new week, and it's back to all of the normal stuff. It's weird how those abnormal weeks just hit you by surprise. I want to be better prepared for those when they come. I feel behind. And I wish I could stay ahead of the course more often so that surprise weeks like last week don't throw me so far off. But I'm getting back on track this week. And there's lots to do! Oh, and I have lots to say, so there will be more new posts coming soon!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Two Places at Once

This weekend, Joel and I were blessed to be able to attend Family Life's Weekend to Remember conference again, and I am overwhelmingly grateful. I'm in love with my husband. I have more to say about that and how energizing this conference and weekend getaway was for us. But that post will have to wait. There's a lot going on right now. I was refreshed in so many ways this weekend, and, in some ways, that is still the case. But I also feel completely drained. We cut our trip short a little bit due to a difficult family situation. My nephew Brady has been hospitalized since yesterday morning with a staph infection on his lower abdomen, and he is very sick. This has been hard. He's in a lot of pain. It's heavy. And scary. And difficult. What I'm going through is nothing in comparison to what Brady's mom and dad are experiencing right now as they wait for him to get better, not able to comfort their baby at all. But still, I am exhausted physically and need a fresh supply of energy in order to be helpful with taking care of Nathan and Maggie tonight and tomorrow. I also really need to spend time preparing for my Bible study class this week, and I'm really unsure when that will happen. Frankly, it's not where my head is at all. It's occupied with praying, thinking about Brady, and doing all the things that need to get done in order to meet everyone's needs. I know that when I find that time for study, it will be good. It will be just what I need. I'm yearning for it. But I just don't know how everything is going to fall into place the next few days. And I'm really sick with sadness over what Brady is having to endure right now. I'd love some prayers.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Our Bible study on Hosea is going great. (By the way, our other class registrant was able to join the class after all, and God's mix of ladies in there is just beautiful.) Yesterday's discussion was on brokenness, specifically the pictures given to us in chapter two of Hosea to illustrate how God will often lead us into a wilderness experience of some kind to get us to realize our need for Him. It can be pretty painful. The things God describes sound pretty harsh (strip her, make her thirsty, build a wall against her, punish her, etc.), and it's easy to first think, "I don't want to be Gomer!" But we've all been Gomer. And as you continue reading the rest of that chapter, you quickly see that God's "breaking" of us is always and entirely done in the context of His perfect LOVE for us. Yes, we have issues. And those lead to bigger and bigger problems. Namely, distance from Him and an inability to fellowship with Him in an intimate way. Ultimately, it's destructive. But He loves us too much to leave us at the mercy of our own efforts and plans in escaping those problems. He has solutions! He has answers! He has the gospel! We just don't always see that until we're in that place of brokenness where it hits us that we've done all we can do and our ways are just not working out for us. We realize what we're doing wrong. And we grieve that. But we also see who He is, and we see that who He is will always be enough. If brokenness has its way fully in our lives, we will get to the place where we agree with God and we go with His way over our own. And it will be GOOD.

The most beautiful part, however, is that He doesn't stop with stopping us. He offers us something more. Something grand. Himself. Verse 14 of Hosea chapter two tells us that He leads us into brokenness so that He can speak tenderly to us. Tenderly. He's full of sweet encouragement for us. (By the way, this past summer, someone shared with me that there's not one example in all of Scripture of God speaking harshly at all to a woman. Anytime He corrected a woman's sin, it was done gently and tenderly. Interesting. I'd never heard that. While I haven't studied that or thought through it exhaustively, I have to say I can't think of one instance in Scripture where that's not true. Amazing.) He has life He wants to give. New life, better life. The things He withholds from us in the midst of brokenness are returned to us as the new, improved gifts of God. An exchange takes place. The idols removed and a love-relationship restored to what it has always been intended to be: an astounding commitment of love that God makes to us. Hosea 2:19 says, "I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy." What beautiful committed love. How often I've held other human beings to that standard all the while missing how the Lord has met that perfectly. He IS the standard of love. Restoration is possible. Restoration happens. But I have a part to play. When I'm broken, I need to be listening to Him. I need to listen for His loving direction and His words of encouragement. He has things to say. Am I listening? And then verse 15 reminds of the second part of really listening to Him: am I responding to what He's telling me? Do my actions and my responses tell Him that I really want to hear from Him? Or do I merely go through the motions of hearing Him and then do whatever it is I want?

The most interesting part of this study time on brokenness has been how it challenges me right now. I so want to initiate the brokenness on my own. Often. Regularly. I want to grow to the place where I am continually purging myself of ME. Emptying out everything in me that is not Him and then letting Him fill me with Him. I want to start out my days in brokenness. I want to keep the brokenness there so that He doesn't have to take me there. Obviously, it's always Him working anyway. But what I mean is that I want to know Him so intimately that I recognize sooner when there is a need for me to be broken for some reason and I let go of my rope a whole lot earlier. And I want that to be a habit.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Our Miracle Baby


My child doesn't always act like this. He's unique, but he was in an unusual performing mood for this particular video. Hyper. His mother's laughing pushed him a little further too. I happen to love the line "I stand alone on the Word of God" the first time he sings the B-I-B-L-E song. I bet you couldn't sing that line just like he does! He nails it the second time around though.


Parker has finally really started crawling. It's such a dainty crawl though. Very girly. She's not yet very fast, thankfully. On Monday night, she saw some little pieces to a game that Joel, Jonah and I were playing and she got motivated by them to start moving! She wanted the game pieces so badly. So we finished up our game while keeping her little paws off of everything as best we could, and then we were sitting around watching her go. Jonah wasn't paying any attention to her, and I excitedly said, "Look at your sister! She's crawling now!" He took a quick look at her, seemingly disinterested, turned back to what he was doing and, with no expression whatsoever, said, "Yeah...she's a miracle baby."

What?! Where in the world did he get that??

Monday, February 2, 2009

Albertsons Has Been So Good to Me

Look at all the stuff I got for $50 on Friday at Albertsons:

My total bill was $50.74, and my savings on that grocery bill was $44.36. I cut it almost in half!

Some of the bargain highlights of this particular shopping excursion:

  • 5 cases (12-pk) of Dr Pepper for $11.88
  • 3 pounds ground beef for $6.07 (3 meals worth for us)
  • pork tenderloin for $5.99 (meat for another meal)
  • 8 oz bag John Soules fajita chicken (also 2 meals for us)
  • Gain detergent for $3.99 (on sale for $4.99, used a $.50 off coupon, Albertsons doubles it to $1 off)
  • Nature Valley granola bars and Fiber 1 bars for $1.50 per box. (also using 2 $.50 off coupons that were each doubled)
  • For $2.53, I got 2 boxes of Cap'n Crunch cereal, 2 cartons of Quaker oats, and Quaker breakfast oatmeal squares.
Yep, you heard me right on that last one! Want to know how?? There have been a number of Quaker items on sale with this promotion - 5 for 8.88 or 5 for 9.88. If you bought five of these items, they gave you an automatic $3 discount. (These were listed on the back side of the outer ad page for my local store - the ad that runs through tomorrow.) I chose four from the first category and one for the second category (you can always mix and match with these kinds of sales at Albertsons), which meant that I got those five Quaker products I listed for $6.08. This won't make sense if you're not looking at the same ad, but maybe it will be helpful to people in my area. I then used a coupon for $1 off 2 Quaker oats and then I used 2 $.50 off coupons on the cereals, which were automatically doubled by my good friend Albertsons. That brought my total down to $3.08. However, I used another $.55 off coupon for the oatmeal breakfast squares. Ta-da! Bringing my grand total on those five items to $2.53. I used a couple other coupons for sale items...Hunts tomatoes, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray, and took advantage of some great sale prices on a few other items. But WOW, that was one of the best savings I've had yet on groceries! Couldn't wait to share!