Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For the Love of Book Release Day!

  • This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour, which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

About six months ago, I was chosen to be a part of the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's newest book For the Love. If you've read any of my recent-ish blog posts, you'll know that I love her writing, and so being chosen to be a part of this team was so exciting for me!

We got a link to download a pdf of the watermarked draft copy of the book, and I started reading right away. I could not put the book down. Six hours later, I finished, and had that sad feeling you always get at the end of a really good book, like you're saying goodbye to a dear friend. I laughed so hard throughout most of the book, and wept a bit as truth and grace washed over me. The very first chapter, Worst Beam Ever, was so freeing that if you bought the book only for that one chapter, it would be money well-spent. Here's the really good news...there are so many chapters full of nuggets of wisdom and grace and truth; and alongside those chapters there are some that are so hilarious that you'll cry from laughing so hard, and quite possibly embarrass yourself if you happen to be reading the book in the waiting room of a doctor's office.

The launch team participants were given the opportunity to write an endorsement for the book. Here's mine - For the Love is a must-read book for any woman who is overwhelmed, overcommitted, and feels like nothing she does is enough (#everywomaneverywhere). Jen Hatmaker says all the things about all the things in her wonderfully witty way that will have you laughing out loud in the doctor’s waiting room (#awkward), and then nodding along in agreement (#preach), and then shedding tears of relief as you realize her words to be true and suddenly you find your first taste of freedom as grace washes over you. You’ll feel as though Jen is your new best friend and she is speaking truth and love and wisdom into your life, showing you how you can live an abundant life free from overcommitment, guilt, shame, and sin; growing in love and deep relationship with your friends and family members. She will give you renewed hope for the church, especially if you have been hurt by church people in the past. If you are weary and heavy-burdened, her book can help lighten the load as she points you to Jesus, the Giver of rest.

You can find many nuggets of the truth and grace I'm talking about if you search #forthelove Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It's a virtual party going on - come join in the fun!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mamas of Littles...Take Heart!

I ran across my daughter's baby book this morning while trying to empty a cabinet. I paused in my decluttering to look through the book, and the words I had scrawled eight years ago brought back the memories of the countless and seemingly unending hours of nursing, rocking, changing diapers - the hours I swore would never end for me, even though evidence around the world is quite contrary to my thinking at the time.

Mamas of littles, take heart! I just finished a 30-minute Haitian Creole lesson, completely uninterrupted, as my daughter sat in the other room and entertained herself.

The babies, they DO grow up. As one of my sweet friend has reminded me in the past, "The days are long but the years are short." I can hardly believe I am here with an eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son (who will be starting kindergarten in the fall!). Cannot even believe it. They open their own car doors (and I don't worry about them smashing their fingers). They get into the car all by themselves! They buckle themselves into their seats! And it is GLORIOUS. All I have to do now is unlock the car doors for them.

Mamas of littles, take heart! You won't be having to load them into the car and buckle them into their seats forever. They really do become self-sufficient, and sooner than you might think.

I have taught my kids to put their clothing in the laundry room. Ideally, it ends up in the color-coded baskets next to the machines. We don't live in an ideal world, and I find socks in the cracks of the couch frequently, but sometimes I am surprised by the lack of clothing lying in the living room floor.

My littles are not so little any more. I'm constantly amazed at what they can accomplish. I am fascinated by how their little minds work. We have the most interesting conversations these days. They know my expectations of them and generally speaking, aim to meet them (treat others kindly, have a servant's heart and help others both when asked and sometimes even when not).

I know these years will be gone in a flash. My husband and I just celebrated ten years of marriage this past August. It has gone by so quickly. In ten years, my firstborn daughter will be graduating from high school and moving on to the next chapter in her life. I can hardly stand to think of it.

Mamas of littles, take heart! The babies do grow up. You won't be changing diapers, wiping noses and hinies and little hands forever. I know it feels that way. I swore my children would never grow up. Oh how wrong I was!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Where We Are Now

Waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. We are waiting to receive our approval from USCIS to go forth and adopt. I wish I could tell you how long it takes to hear back from them. No one knows. In all honesty, it's been exactly 8 days since they received our response to their Request for Evidence letter. It could be 6-8 weeks before we hear anything. I just don't really know. And I'm ok with not knowing, really. The Lord's timing is absolutely perfect, right on time, all of the time. So I rest in that knowledge and pray Philippians 4:6-8 over us.

I thought I would put a timeline together, mostly because at this point I've kind of lost track of how it has all come together so far.

Februray 29, 2012 - my friend from high school and church youth group way back when posts about Jen Hatmaker's book, 7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. I order the book that day, and devour it.

March 2012 - I feel like the Lord is leading us to grow our family through adoption.

April 2012 - I start researching adoption agencies.

May 2012 - We decide that Haiti is the country from which we will adopt.

June 2012 - We start filling out the pre-application paperwork for Dillon Adopt.

September 2012 - We complete our application paperwork for Dillon.

January 2013 - We apply to adopt from God's Littlest Angels (GLA), a creche in Haiti we discovered through some of Jen Hatmaker's social media and blog posts.

February 2013 - We find out from GLA that they cannot work with us until we have been married 10 years due to the {then} current law in Haiti. They offer to keep our application on file and revisit when the new law passes.

March 2013 - We contact All Blessings International about beginning the application process. We were advised to wait until February 2014 to begin, so that when we get to our 10-year anniversary in August2014, we are ready to roll.

September 2013 - The adoption law in Haiti changes to 5 years of marriage instead of 10. We contact All Blessings International to begin our application process.

November 2013 - We begin our formal application process with All Blessings International (ABI).

December 2013 - Our formal application for ABI's Haiti program is approved.

January 2014 - We contact Dillon again regarding their home study only services. ABI is not licensed in the state of Texas to complete home studies, so we must find another Hague-accredited agency to do our home study.

February 2014 - We complete an application packet for Dillon's home study only services. Our intensive paper chase starts now! We had to do some minor paper chasing for the other applications, but this is where it gets real! We find out the total cost of our home study, and we know the Lord will have to provide, because it is a huge sum of money that must be paid all at once along with all of our documents.

March 2014 - I have a 3-hour coffee date with a long-time friend who wanted to meet up with me to talk about our adoption.

March 31, 2014 - We file our I600a form on the very last day possible. Had we waited until April, we would have been filing an I800a form, because Haiti had become a Hague country.

May 28, 2014 - I email our contact at Dillon to find out the balance due on our account, and am told that there is no balance and we can send in our paperwork any time. We are still waiting on various certificates, passports, etc before we can proceed.

June - August, 2014 - We are chasing paper all over the place. Passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, previous years' 1040 tax returns, other various and sundry documents. Lots and lots of notarized signatures, lots of fees paid!

September 1, 2014 - First email from our social worker!

September 11, 2014 - First interview with our social worker. We met at a Starbucks in Grapevine. She interviewed both of us together about our relationship and marriage, and then separately, about our childhood and current life. I was surprised to be so emotionally exhausted once it was over.

September 13, 2014 - Home interview with our social worker. She did a walk-through of our home, observing safety features such as a 5 lb fire extinguisher in the kitchen, covered electrical outlets, and various other items. She interviewed each one of our kids separately, and then interviewed us together again, this time talking about our parenting philosophies and practices. Again, so very draining - not in a bad way, but it is exhausting to talk for hours about your beliefs and practices.

October 2014 - We find out more about the new policies and procedures in Haiti regarding adoptions. You can read about all of those changes on the All Blessings International Haiti blog. We realize we will not necessarily be adopting from God's Littlest Angels, as the adoption agencies can no longer specify creches from which the families would like to adopt.

October 21, 2014 - Our home study has been sent to Dillon and ABI for review.

November 21, 2014 - Home study report received by ABI and is in review.

I can't find the date when we sent our home study to USCIS,  but it had to have been some time between November 21, and January 16. :p

January 16, 2015 - We received our biometrics (fancy word for fingerprints!) appointments. Our appointments are scheduled for January 26, 2015 at 8 am and 9 am.

January 26, 2015 - We received a three-page Request for Evidence (RFE) letter (printed on pink paper!) from the USCIS. Yay, more paper chasing!

March 2, 2015 - We have obtained all of the necessary paperwork to answer the USCIS RFE, and FedEx the documents. They receive them on March 3, 2015.

Which brings us to today, still waiting.

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Name of Jesus Christ

"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." This thought crossed my mind when my alarm woke me up on Sunday morning at 7:30, which felt like 6:30 thanks to Daylight Savings Time. It was so tempting to shut off the alarm, roll over and drift off to sleep again. But I really love going to church on Sunday mornings and when I miss, my week feels off and empty. I got up, got ready, got the kids ready, and off we headed. We were a little bit late, which never makes me happy because it means we miss out on a little bit of the worship music. That is one of my favorite parts of the service, singing praises to my God, and I don't like to miss out on even one note!

Fortunately, we arrived about halfway through the first song. Then next song started, and it was one of my most favorites ever. My sweet friend Rebecca Sehnert wrote it with our worship pastor, Mike Naber. The first time I heard this song was at the end of December, 2013. That Sunday was my worship team rotation, and I was singing with Rebecca, Jenny, and Mike. Our rehearsal notes said "Special for Rebecca. Mike backups." So Jenny and I didn't really learn it, as we thought it would just be Rebecca and Mike singing. Because we didn't have a rehearsal that week, we found out about 7:45 that Sunday morning that we WERE going to be singing along with them! So we spent some extra time after the service run through and before the service started learning the song. It was a sweet time with my worship team sisters and I'll never forget it.

The song itself is SO powerful. It just makes my heart and soul so very happy. There's so much truth in every single line of the song. My favorite part is the bridge; there is something so amazing about saying or singing the different names of Jesus. This song brings me closer to God than pretty much any other worship song I've heard (and I've heard a LOT, having served on worship teams since 1998!).

Thank you, Rebecca and Mike, for your obedience to what He has called you to do - so many lives are blessed and enriched as a result. Helping people prepare their hearts for worship and engagement with our King is holy ground.

You can hear the song by clicking on the link!

The Name of Jesus Christ

The Name of Jesus Christ
Rebecca Sehnert & Mike Naber
The Name above all names
The Name that gives me strength
The Name I love to say

The Name that conquers fear
The Name that draws me near
The Name I long to hear
Jesus O Jesus

Let every heart cry out
Let every knee humbly bow
Let every hand be lifted high
At the Name of Jesus Christ

The Name that breaks all chains
The Name of truth and grace
The Name I live to praise
Jesus O Jesus

Wonderful Counselor
God with us
Prince of Peace
Everlasting Son of God
Mighty Lord
Our Defender
Our Savior
Jesus Christ
Our eternal hope and strength

©2013 Rebecca Sehnert & Mike Naber LifePoint Church

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How It All Started

I was driving down the tollway, talking to the Lord and letting Him know how thankful I am for our two children, and asking Him not to bless us with any surprise babies. I felt His response, "Do you trust me?" "Well, of course I do, Lord! You know best!" and again, "Do you TRUST me?" "Uh, yes...of course I do!" and once more, "Do you trust Me?" "I really do...what are you getting at?" and what I got next made me wonder - "Hang on then, because it's going to be a wild ride!"

Uh, ok. Wonder what that means! Fast forward a bit to March 2012, and I'm reading Jen Hatmaker's book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess as prompted by my high school and youth group friend. And I feel God laying adoption on my heart to grow our family. I prayed quite a bit about it, and then told my husband what I was feeling was from God. He chuckled and said, "Well I'm definitely not getting that!" and I told him to pray about it. He asked for a week, and we would talk again the next Sunday. Two days later, he agreed that we were being led to grow our family through adoption. We prayed a lot about it and asked the Lord to make it clear where we were supposed to adopt from.

We researched many different countries and their requirements, keeping in mind that we have two biological children who need us around, so some of the country requirements would keep us from choosing that particular country. We finally landed on Haiti - reasonable travel and stay requirements, it was closer to home than most other places, etc. Even though at the time the marriage requirement was 10 years and we had been married almost 8, we felt it was the country we were supposed to adopt from.

So we applied with a couple of different agencies and then started our paper chase. We didn't get very far into the process before we had to wait until we reached that 10-year-anniversary mark. But then in October of 2013, the law in Haiti changed to 5 years and we started back up with our paper chase. It took many months to procure the half-ream of paper (literally) needed to start our home study. Part of the hold-up was just having the money to get started. A precious friend of mine sent me a message and asked if I'd meet up with her for coffee because she wanted to chat with me about our adoption process. I hadn't seen her in a while, but she's one of those friends with whom I can pick back up where we left off - like no time has passed at all - and we sat in a Starbucks coffee shop for a good 3 hours talking about life and our adoption and just catching up on things. And then a couple of weeks later, she called me and said she had talked to her husband, and they wanted to pay for our home study. I had told her during our meeting how much we were needing (it was a LOT of money - we not only had to pay for the study itself, but also pay in advance for the twelve post-placement visits that are required at months 1,2,3,4,5,6,12,18 as well as years 2,3,4,and 5, at $350-550 *each*). When I talked with her, I didn't know she meant pay for the ENTIRE home study. I thought maybe she meant they wanted to help contribute toward it. So when I followed up with our home study agency (which is different from our adoption agency), and asked what the balance due was on our account, they informed me we had no balance. WHAT?! Oh my - the tears flowed once again as I marveled at the greatness of God and of my Christian brother and sister who walked in obedience where the Lord called them, and provided 100% completely for our home study!

I do need to backtrack a little bit - in January 2014, Brad's maternal grandfather passed away. We had set aside a certain amount of money that we needed for our initial adoption agency application. And then we had these unexpected travel expenses, so that money needed to be used. While we were in Chicago for the services, a sweet friend from my high school and youth group days called me and said they wanted to send us a check to help with our adoption expenses. And it was exactly what we needed to replace the funds we'd spent on travel and get our application started.

There have been times I have questioned our calling to adopt. And every time, the Lord sends me a message of affirmation in various ways. Sometimes it's through people sharing a story with me. Recently, I had one friend send me money via Paypal, saying she felt the Lord leading her to contribute to our adoption expenses. I had another friend generously donate not just her commission, but an additional amount toward our expenses for a Jamberry party I had earlier this month. People are walking alongside us in prayer and other support. Two sweet friends helped me write a song, that we are hoping to use in some way to raise additional funds.

My God is my provider - He has called us to this process, there is no doubt in my mind any longer about that. And He will walk us through every moment, giving us exactly what we need in the exact moment that we need it. How wonderful it is to walk in obedience to His will!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

I saw this word art on Pinterest a while back and it struck a nerve at the time. I struggle to remember that there is only one of me, and to quote Martha Graham, "There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. 

The world will not have it."

When I read the pinned quote, my mind jumped immediately to how many ways I consider myself not good enough. But while in the car driving home from the grocery store this morning, I realized that it works the other way as well. To compare what I have to what others do not have, to wrestle constantly with why I was not born into a life of poverty, has the great potential to steal the joy of my many blessings.

I asked the Lord the other morning why I'm so richly blessed. The answer I got back was, "I've blessed you so you can be a blessing." And so I try to start each day asking Him to show me how I can be a blessing to others.

Well, good grief. I hit publish on the last post, and then looked at my list of blog posts. This one has been sitting in draft mode since November 2012. Y'all. That's just sad. So I'm getting out of my own way, stopping the blocking my own expression, and the world will have it. Who knows how I was going to continue on with what I had started to say. But the first three paragraphs feel important, so here you go. :)

Just Call Me Moses

I suppose it's time to breathe some life back into this old blog. The Lord has been calling me to write, and I have been resisting. Which is crazy, because when I felt Him calling us to adoption, I was much more willing to walk in obedience in THAT, than THIS. I can give you a million excuses as to why I don't want to write, can't write, am afraid to write, but it's time to get out of the way and walk in obedience in this seemingly small thing.

I was talking with my sweet friend (who shall remain nameless, I've dubbed her, "Snake") tonight, and told her about this calling and how I am saying no and refusing to obey, even though I know better. I KNOW BETTER! She said she was going to start calling me Moses, and that's the inspiration for the post title. She reiterated something Jennie Allen said this past weekend at the 2015 IF:Gathering - What if God shows us at the end of our lives what we missed out on by NOT walking in obedience to Him and doing the good works He created in advance for us to do? Ugh - I really do hate the thought of that. So here we go!

I love to write. I've had articles published in print magazines (crafting and scrapbooking magazines, 15 years ago, but whatever). I've written countless blogs, both just for myself and my own entertainment (look back through some of the OLD posts on here), and for others - The Hybrid Chick, and many digital scrapbook designers. So seriously, why I've refused to start writing again really makes no sense.

Other evidences that I'm supposed to be writing (even though - here's one excuse - I have no idea what to say, so I'll wax eloquent about nothings) - a podcast by Jami Ivey, a blog post by Jen Hatmaker, my conversation tonight with Snake (y'all don't know just how much this cracks me up - I know it's an inside joke and only one other person will be laughing as hard at it as I am. Bear with me. I'm new at this.), and then when I got in the car to come home, Carrie Gaul was sharing her story on Revive Our Hearts at that very moment about obedience to God with a specific calling. And I KNEW it was a word from Him, because I heard the words "rogue ducks" (as opposed to having your ducks in a row). My husband and I have thrown that "rogue ducks" phrase around pretty much our entire almost-12-year relationship (we met in March of 2003). It's not something I've ever heard anyone else say. I laughed out loud at the sweet way the Father knows me and loves me and lets me know He's communicating with me. And so I said, "Ok, ok, ok! I will go home and write!"

And so here I am. Taking that first step of obedience. Wanting nothing more than to ctrl+a and then hit delete, close the browser window, and walk away. But I'll hit the publish button and put my thoughts out there.

In the coming days (Lord, help me be faithful to this calling to write!), I will write about our adoption process - how we got started, where we are currently, and many of the ways the Lord has affirmed that this is also His calling for us. As my sweet friend said tonight, this adoption story will be part of our next child's story and what a treasure and gift it will be for us to have! And if I DON'T write, well...my memory doesn't seem to be getting any better. How sad to miss out on the memories this precious time of waiting because I refused to walk in obedience over something so simple.