Saturday, March 7, 2015

Adoption Update

My last post, almost four months ago, was an adoption update that was hard to write.  This one is even harder.  But as I just read over my words from that last update, my heart was encouraged again by the unchanging character of our God who is always faithful, always good, and always right on time.  I needed my own reminder to myself as share where we are currently in this process!

First of all, we want to say thank you.  So many people have walked this journey with us and for that, we couldn’t be more grateful.  You have prayed, encouraged, given sacrificially, rejoiced with us, and mourned with us.  The impact of your faithfulness has been far-reaching in strengthening not just our family, but our faith family, friends and strangers as we’ve shared how God has been at work over the last four years.


This adoption journey has gone nothing like we expected when we began in 2011.  We are so thankful that God spoke clear direction at the beginning because His call has been our lifeline as this process has had major ups and downs.  In all our prayers and seeking through these years, our call to adopt a boy from Africa who is HIV positive has not changed.  We have taken seriously the warning from the life of Abraham.  He also received the promise of a child and chose to manipulate the fulfillment when the timing wasn’t as he hoped.  In all of our unexpected waiting, we have been resolved to not make a “Hagar Decision” that puts our hope in our own plans and resources rather than in God’s.

This resolve has been tested as the adoption climate in Ethiopia has slowed down drastically over the last two years.  We are grateful to be with All God’s Children International {AGCI}, which is an ethical agency, but these ethics are causing them to hit a wall within the current system of corruption in Ethiopia.  Other unethical agencies, mostly European, are paying orphanages for referrals, which is illegal but not being controlled.  Because of this, these agencies are receiving most of the referrals, especially of young and/or healthy children.  Our agency is only receiving a few referrals of older children and children with severe special needs {HIV is not considered severe}.  There have even been some agencies closing their ET programs completely because of this corruption that doesn’t look like it will be changed anytime soon.

AGCI gave families the option of staying in the ET program or switching to a program for another country.  We prayed about this option, but AGCI doesn’t have another program in Africa and we have not sensed God change the original call He gave us. 

Staying on the ET waitlist, however, does not look promising.  I asked our caseworker to shoot me straight about the future.  Her response was “I am confident that we will only be placing older children or children with severe special needs in the program.  Regardless of the program potentially closing, if you do not feel open or prepared to parent an older child then I would not put the funds or effort in to updating your homestudy.”

Our agency has a birth order rule {our adopted child must be at least 9 months younger than our youngest child} so being open to an older child is not an option for us at this point.  This was very hard news to hear, but we are thankful for the honesty that shows us how God has closed this door for now.

I’ll be honest . . . I’ve asked God many times what in the world He is doing!  But again I’m reminded of the promise of a child given to Abraham . . . a promise he didn’t see fulfilled until 25 years later. {I’m sure praying it doesn’t take that long!} We’ve received the promise so we are holding on to the truth that one day Easton will join our family.  We have no idea when or how it will happen, but on that day, when we finally hold him in our arms, I’m confident we will see how God’s plans are far greater than we could ever imagine!

One of the main reasons we have this hope is because of all we have seen God do during this journey.  He has been so faithful and much of His faithfulness has been demonstrated through you!  The provision and encouragement we have received has reminded us over and over again that God is in this.  In Numbers 14:11 God said of the Israelites, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?”  We don’t want to see all that God has done and yet still choose to doubt His plans.  We believe we can trust Him and are striving to do so even as we walk into the unknown.

One of the hardest parts of this door closing is the money that we’ve already put into this process, much of which was given sacrificially from family and friends.  There is the temptation to see these gifts as lost or wasted, but nothing could be further from the truth.  God never wastes a sacrifice given to honor Him, to help His people, or to help an orphan that He cares for so deeply.  This journey has transformed our hearts and has taught us to walk in greater faith as we follow Jesus.  We pray that as you have journeyed with us, your heart has also been transformed and strengthened to walk in faith. The growth that has come from this journey is invaluable!


Now this update may make it seem like we are handling this news with no hint of sadness or frustration.  So not true!  I have cried big tears, prayed with Chad and friends, eaten Girl Scout cookies, and cried some more.  I have felt like we were "in the game" of orphan care and have now been sidelined.  That I'm on the outside of a group that I was once a part of.  I has been lonely and discouraging.  

We've gone through all the feelings, but God has never ceased to be our firm foundation and the anchor to our souls.  So at the end of all that processing and praying, I can write this update with confidence and peace that are as real as those tears were.  We don't know God's plan for bringing Easton into our family, but we know He has one.  And that has to be enough for us right now.

We are continuing to seek God about our adoption journey and would be grateful for your continued prayers as well.  As always, we want to be completely transparent in this process.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask us!  Thank you again for walking with us!


And because a blog post wouldn't be complete without pictures of my blessings . . .


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adoption Update

I wish that I had some really exciting news to share, but that's not the case.  Quite the opposite actually.  My heart is heavy as I type this and I confess to being just plain weary at this point in our adoption journey.
A little background of our journey . . .

We started the adoption process in June 2011, which seems like an eternity ago.  We were officially on the waitlist with AGCI in July 2012 to adopt an infant boy from Ethiopia.  We had been expecting a 1.5 to 2 year wait, but in March of 2012 God spoke clearly to us that we were to adopt a little boy who is HIV positive.  Because not many families are open to this special need, we started to prepare ourselves for our son coming home much sooner.

Never.  Never in a million years.  Never would I have dreamed that it would be almost 2015 and we would still be waiting for our son.

As the wait continued on long past what we expected, God was working in our hearts regarding His Truth about children, our family, His plans and whether He was really Lord of our lives in this area.  These wrestlings led to a dramatic transformation in our hearts and a practical walk of faith in obedience to His Truth.  Which led to us finding out in August 2013 that another Gilbert was on the way!

Because of the longer wait, our agency had changed their policies to allow families to do a concurrent adoption or to have another biological child.  My pregnancy with Brogan didn't stop us from continuing to move forward on the waitlist, but we knew that we wouldn't be able to accept a referral until Brogan is at least a year old.  

He just made 6 months so I've mentally been readying myself for updating all of our paperwork and getting things in order so we would be ready for that referral.

Yesterday we received an email from AGCI that changed all of that. 

The adoption climate in Ethiopia has gone from a relatively quick and smooth process, to kind of longer, to rocky, to much slower, and now to a pace that is barely moving.  Year to date, AGCI has placed 10 children with adoptive families in the Ethiopia program as compared to 35 placements in 2013 and 62 placements in 2012.

There are many reasons for this slow down, many of which I probably don't even know or understand, but a main issue has been corruption.  This is info from AGCI's email . . .

In the last two years, we have been advised that some European agencies and some U.S. based agencies are reportedly operating on a “fee for child” basis meaning that the orphanages receive a direct fee for each child referred to an agency. Consequently, these agencies seem to be receiving the majority of referrals. Obviously, this practice potentially could be fairly lucrative for orphanage directors.  AGCI cannot pay such direct, per child referral fees as per our accrediting body, the Council on Accreditation (known as COA). The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Adoption Convention) specifically prohibits the payment of fees or other consideration to release a child for adoption purposes because this is considered “child buying”. Child buying laws and regulations are vital to prevent the exploitation of children, a premise AGCI takes extremely seriously. AGCI remains firmly committed to ethical adoption practices and we know our families would want nothing less.

They are right.  We want no part in corruption or unethical practices.  But it is beyond frustrating that those who give up their integrity end up with their children home, while so many families like us keep waiting AND there are so many children waiting . . . the ultimate victims who are stuck in the middle of this whole heartbreaking slow down.

AGCI's assessment was summed up like this . . . the challenges to the adoption climate seem insurmountable at this time.

Talk about a kick in the gut.  Tears started rolling as I let these words soak in.  I'm so thankful that Chad was home so I was able to sob on his shoulder and he was able to lovingly remind me of what we know is true.

We were so thankful when we began this journey that God spoke so clearly about three things: a boy, from Africa, who is HIV positive.  I wrote this in my first blog post . . . We know it will be a hard journey and we want to be able to look back and know that we heard God speak and were led by Him alone.  I wish I wasn't so right! 

So what now?  AGCI is giving families the option of staying on the waitlist as long as you are open to special needs and know that it could still be a long wait, change countries by switching to another AGCI program, or terminate your contract if you are led to pursue a different plan.

We begged God to speak in the beginning of this whole journey and we are doing the same now {and would appreciate you joining us in that prayer!}.  We will not make a move until we hear from Him.  We have feelings about what we might should do, but we know our feelings can lead us far from the walk of faith marked out for us.  So we pray and wait.

I've been teaching Hebrews for the last few months and not only have I loved the study, but I see clearly how God has used it to prepare me for this.  The call for the original audience was to have courage to walk in faith instead of fear and to believe in the One True God and all His promises.  This Word couldn't be more timely and relevant to our lives today.  Those in Hebrews 11 were all commended for their faith, their faith in the always Faithful One.  Abraham received a promise of a child {just like we have} but had to wait 25 years to see the fulfillment.  {Oh Lord don't let it be!}  We would never have imagined that this would be the road God has for us but it doesn't mean that something has gone wrong or that God isn't faithful.  It just means that like so many things . . . His plans are different than our plans and we can't even imagine the good that God has in store for us.

Brogan was not a part of "our plan" three years ago.  There are no words for how grateful I am that God led us to obey when He revealed that His plan might look different than we thought.  I can't imagine our life without my sweet Brogan and he will forever be a testimony to us that trusting God is always, always the better way! 

After I got my tears out {you can trust God but still cry like a baby!}, I spent the rest of yesterday a little down, but just praying for faith.  I had to run home from worship to get a pacifier for Brogan and as I got back in the van I pulled out my phone.  I didn't push any buttons, but somehow music started playing.  It was Fernando Ortega's song I Will Praise Him, Still and it was God's voice right to my weary heart. 

The chorus says, "For the Lord, our God, He is strong to save
From the arms of death, from the deepest grave,
And He gave us life in His perfect will,
And by His good grace, I will praise Him, still."

In those moments, as I was reminded of the Gospel, what I claimed was this . . . If I trust God for my salvation, if I have put all my eggs in this basket . . . that He has saved me and secured my ETERNITY with Him . . . then how could I not trust Him with this?  

So there it is.  We can and will trust Him.  We will wait if He says wait, knowing that it is for the best.  We will move if He says move, knowing that He knows the perfect timing for our journey.  We will trust no matter what lies ahead, knowing that He knows our son.

We would so appreciate your prayers as we seek God!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Little Guy . . . Big Change!

I've been meaning to write a post about our little dude since we found out on January 2 that he is, in fact, a dude!   

{My loves waiting for the big reveal during the ultrasound.  We were all hoping for a boy and there were some major screams of excitement when we were right!}

{As per our tradition, we went to Carter's to buy a new outfit for baby brother.  This picture also became our announcement on facebook that another little man was on the way!}

{As is also tradition, we went out to lunch to celebrate God blessing us with another healthy baby boy!}

Like I said, I've been meaning to post about our little guy since January.  Three months is a long time to have something on your to do list, especially for this girl who really likes to check those boxes!  

I planned to write about our little man's name, Drew Rutherford Gilbert, and how we chose it.  But now I realize that my slacking has turned into perfect timing . . . as of this week, he has a new name!

What?!  I know.  Totally unexpected.  We pick a name, start calling them by it as soon as we find out boy or girl, and never look back.  Not this time though!

Brogan Rutherford Gilbert is the new name of our little guy!

Here's the story . . .

On Saturday night, Chad had a dream.  Now Chad NEVER remembers his dreams {unlike me who can tell you several dreams every morning!}.  But this dream was very vivid and woke him up in a panic.  In the dream, Chad was talking to Grayson and then Grayson handed him a phone.  When Chad said "hello" the only word he heard was "Brogan" and then he woke up.  And he didn't just wake up, but woke up feeling like someone had just audibly spoke Brogan to him and he was a little freaked out.  He got up at 4 am and tried to figure out what the name meant.  Maybe he was supposed to be praying for someone? {even though we don't know anyone with that name}

So when he woke me up later, the first thing he asked was if the word Brogan meant anything to me.  Nope.  Not at all.  He told me about the dream, but I just said that was weird and rolled over.  {Obviously I wasn't showing too much concern for his stress!}

Chad googled the name, but he spelled it Brogen.  Even so, the first hit that came up was a baby name website.  So Chad jokingly said that maybe we were supposed to name Drew this name instead.  Nope.  He's already got a name.  {Still dismissing!}

Chad mentioned the dream a few times on Sunday, but I just waved it off.  He asked at one point how I would spell the name and I said "Brogan."

So then imagine the eye rolling that happened when I got a text from Chad on Monday morning with this screen shot from  He had googled it again with the different spelling.  He wouldn't let it go!

My first response was "Badger?  Really?"  
{Another website said it means "strong or sturdy" so we're going to go with that!}

But then I noticed what would cause Chad to excitedly call me a few minutes later.  See the 14 names listed that people who like Brogan also like?  That short list has all the names of our kiddos.  Even Paige, the name we had picked if this little one was a girl.  

Chad called freaking out, "What are the chances of that?!  Out of all the thousands of names, that Ava, Grayson, and Paige would be on that list!"  

At this point, Chad was definitely seeing this as more than just a crazy dream.  And I was at the point of having to actually consider and pray about changing Drew's name.  UGH!  It wasn't that I didn't like Brogan, but I've been calling this kid Drew for months!  I said that I would pray about it, but would really need God to show me in some other way that this was a change He wanted us to make.

That confirmation didn't come through a dream of my own, but by spending two days watching my husband get more and more excited and more and more sure that our little man is Brogan.  Chad is a passionate guy, but not usually about stuff like this.  With baby stuff, he usually just goes with the flow {and by flow, I mean, he goes with whatever I want!}.  But I have never seen Chad like this before!  He was going to have a hard time letting this go and I was going to have a hard time telling him no!

I read a book recently called "For Women Only" {which I highly recommend} that gives insight into how men think and how we can understand and love them better as wives.  A huge focus was on their need for honor and respect, which I thought I understood, but this book took me to a whole different level.

So on Tuesday as we were talking about what a big deal it would be to change his name, Chad sealed the deal for me.  He said two things . . . That he was so honored that God would speak to him in a dream and let him be a part of choosing this new name for our son.  And that he really appreciated the respect I was showing him by not just dismissing the whole idea.  

This had become a matter of honor and respect and I realize more than ever how profound that is for a man.

"Then name your son." I said.  :)

And Chad hasn't stopped being over the moon excited about it since!  It's going to take a little while for us, especially the kids, to stop staying Drew, but we're all excited!  {Grayson says, "What's that name for Drew?  So cute!}

We chose Rutherford as the middle name in honor of Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish pastor from the 1600s.  Right before I got pregnant, when God was speaking to our hearts about being open to His plans for our lives regarding children, Chad and I were both reading The Letters of Samuel Rutherford and they were having a profound impact on our hearts.  His letters were written to his flock while he was in exile and forbidden to preach for two years.  His words are so deep and rich and his counsel to those in his care was filled with bold Truth.  He suffered much, but still encouraged others with words like these . . . "I look not to win away to my home without wounds and blood.  Welcome, welcome cross of Christ, if Christ be with it." 

We pray that Brogan Rutherford will be a bold and faithful man of God like his namesake and we look forward to seeing how Brogan will be the perfect fit for our little man!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Gilberts!

But let's be honest.  This picture does a much better job of capturing our reality . . . Ava being silly and Grayson focused on the task of "fighting bad guys."   This is our {joy-filled} life!

I need to ask you, my dear friends, to count this as my Christmas card {again} this year . . . and to not take us off your mailing list!  We just LOVE getting Christmas cards in the mail and seeing updated pictures of all our friends and family!  I've vowed that next year we will send out something that can actually go on your fridge {and we actually already made provision for it in our 2014 budget . . . I'm serious about making it happen!}.

2013 . . . what a roller coaster!  Major ups, major downs, and even the in between has been quite a ride.

Obviously Chad's mom's health has been the focus of much of this year.  It has been a heavy thing for our hearts to see her in so much pain, to walk through the fears of a transplant, to care for and encourage her in a much longer recovery than we ever expected, and to find ourselves back where we began, waiting for another transplant.

This year has also been the hardest on our family physically.  Chad had a long 6 weeks of recovery after the transplant and then has closed out the year with a case of shingles and the flu.  Bleh!  And in the middle of all that, I had the hardest first trimester I've experienced that included 8 weeks of all day nausea and exhaustion.  Whew!

But as I said, these hard times have also been intermingled with glorious moments and great joy . . .
  •  In August, Chad celebrated 5 years as pastor of Edgewater!  We can't even put into words what a blessing it is to be a part of this faith family, especially considering the grace and love that has been poured out to our family during such a hard year.
  • We began "For Better, For Worse, For the Gospel" as a monthly time to invest in newlywed couples and to consider together how the Gospel speaks to all aspects of our marriages.  We can only hope this time in the Word and in discussion has blessed the other couples as much as it has blessed us!  Our marriage has certainly been strengthened as we've talked through what we've learned through the years {mostly the hard way!}.
  • After a heart transformation in how we are walking in faith regarding our family, we found out in August that Baby #3 is on the way!  We are overjoyed and so grateful for the grace of this new little one in our lives.  {And we are excited to find out next week if Ava and Grayson will be getting the little brother they are both hoping for!}  Our hearts are still aching as we wait for Easton, but we are trusting in God's sovereignty and perfect timing for EACH child He chooses to bless us with!
  •  Ava started Kindergarten this year and is in. her. element.  She loves her school, her teacher, her friends and is learning so much!  We've loved seeing God open doors for new friendships as we seek to make disciples in the areas of life He has us in each day.  Mommy and Grayson have also enjoyed the one-on-one time that we've never had before . . . he's such a wild mix of adventurous boy and compassionate sweetheart!
  • Chad and I celebrated 10 years of marriage in July!  It sounds cliche, but we are more in love now than we could have ever thought possible on our wedding day.  The last 10 years have been quite an adventure of faith . . . but our story has been written by our God who knows how to lavish great gifts on His children.
  We are so blessed!

We are ending 2013 full of joy and with great hope.  

In the last month, I have experienced a revival of joy in my relationship with the kids that has breathed new life into my soul and changed our family.  I've also been learning about living a life of thanksgiving . . . a study that is sure to continue to transform my heart and family!

We are waiting for official word of Mrs. Tina's spot on the liver and kidney transplant list.  It is likely that another surgery could be very soon.  While this news is overwhelming, it is also full of HOPE.  We have great hope for these transplants to go well and for Mrs. Tina to recover and finally get to enjoy the quality of life she lost long ago.  Please continue to pray with us for her health, continued strong faith, and opportunities for proclamation of the Gospel that is sustaining her and our whole family!

We pray you have a worshipful Christmas as you are grace-struck by the Lord, King, and Savior who came as a little baby to save those who could never deserve His love!

 Just for fun . . . here are a few more of our family pics!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy Birthday Grayson!

My sweet Grayson is three years old today!

I am overflowing with gratitude as I thank the Father for giving us this precious boy.  Three years have flown by {although I won't lie . . . we've had some LONG days in there!} and I'm in awe of the little man he has become.

It seems like just yesterday I was snuggling him for the first time!

My boy was teeny tiny and so stinkin adorable!

Six month cuteness right there!

First Birthday

Second Birthday

Third Birthday

I don't have time to write about all the ways that Grayson brings such joy to our family.  Just take a look at that smile . . . how could we be anything but full of joy?! 

I'd like to think he is a mama's boy, but he's got this strong daddy connection too {which I love!}.  If you ask him whose boy he is, he'll quickly tell you he's mommy's AND daddy's boy!  And he better stay that way!

He is hilarious, especially now that he is talking more and his personality is being unleashed in full force!

But at the same time he is quick to show a heart of compassion and tenderness . . . even to his big sister!

This is one of my all time favorite pictures!  We are so blessed!

Another favorite!  Grayson has some great little buddies and has surprised me with how well he has done being a good friend.  So much so that when he looked over and saw Luke upset, he just followed suit . . . solidarity with his bros!

One of the best things this last year has been watching the BOY in him come out strong and with no coaxing needed!  

He's learning to fish with Papa T.  {I love this picture because I think he looks like a little Paw Paw just fishing away!}

He loves to get dirty!

He is fascinated with firemen and policemen, especially since we know real life ones!  And he's finally gotten some boy dress up stuff so he can look the part as he "fights the bad guys!"

Trucks, tractors, trains, and his new fire truck . . . entertainment for hours!

We've also delved into the world of superheroes . . . Spiderman and Batman are his favorites!  He's never seen the cartoons so he's had a hard time grasping what they actually do, but "protecting people and fighting bad guys" has given him enough of an idea to keep him entertained!

Like I said, we are just overwhelmed with God's grace for putting this little guy in our family.  He makes me laugh every day, still snuggles with me, gives the best hugs, and will play hard like wild little boys should!  He is learning so much, way beyond the numbers and ABCs {which let's face it . . . he's a second born so we're a little behind in this area!}, but about God and family and love and friends and serving and selflessness and giving thanks.  We consider it a privilege to be the ones to teach him!

Psalm 138 is my prayer for my sweet Grayson . . .

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things 
your name and your word.

Happy Birthday Buddy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Things That Strengthen Our Marriage

Marriage is no joke.  Having a God-honoring, healthy, and joyful marriage is just plain hard work.  Lots of people nowadays just give up and live with the kind of marriage that is far less than God offers or end the marriage all together.  Both are tragedies.

Chad and I certainly don't have a perfect marriage, but we are intentional about pursuing what I described above . . . a marriage that gives the world a picture of how Christ loves the Church, a marriage that is full of selfless love and infectious joy, and a marriage that is worth all the hard work we put into it.

As I've thought about our marriage this week, I thought I'd share five things that we are intentional about doing in order to strengthen our marriage.  Take it or leave it . . . I'm just praying it will encourage someone to keep at the hard work or will give someone a new idea to breathe new life into their marriage!

1.  High Interaction

We are so blessed.  As a pastor, Chad's days are flexible enough to allow us to interact during the day.  He comes home for lunch most days.  We also text, call, and email during the day.  Now don't start thinking we are freaks that have to speak every two minutes . . . we certainly don't go overboard!  But staying connected even throughout the day has helped us stay connected in general.  A text with a word of encouragement, a voicemail letting him know how I'm praying for him, an email thanking me for something, a few minutes over lunch to catch up and laugh together . . . all of these keep our hearts connected.  I realize that most people don't have the luxury of lunches together, but a few emails and texts can go a long way!

One thing we also recently started is "Couch Time."  8:30 pm on as many nights as possible will find us face to face on our couch.  We found that the nights were getting away from us so quickly . . . dinner, play time, bath time, bed time, getting a few things done . . . before we knew it we were ready to pass out and hadn't even stopped to really connect.  We now aim to have the kids in bed for 7:30, take an hour to read or work on a few things, and then no matter what still needs to be done, we stop from 8:30 to 9 to just talk. I look forward to this time all day!

2.  Same Page

"Intentional" has been my buzzword for the past 6 months.  With life being so busy and full, I was feeling the need to have some way to be extremely intentional about our life.  Then I read this post by my friend Shauna Pilgreen where she shared about their family 'playbook" and knew I had found the answer! 

Chad and I have spent the last two months talking through and writing out our family playbook.  We discussed our values and God's call on our lives.  The problem is that often our values aren't actually reflected in our calendars . . . they can fill up with good things and leave no room for the great things.  Our playbook has become sort of our filter . . . if an opportunity arises, but doesn't fit into our main values during this season of life, then we feel the confidence and freedom to say no.  Boundaries are so beautiful! :)  

Being on the same page with our values, what we want to spend our time doing, and the vision that God has given us during this season has been so refreshing and exciting for us.  We are being far more intentional in the things that matter than we were before!

3.  Guarding Our Mouths/Speaking Life

Again, we certainly aren't perfect in this area, but we do realize the gravity of how what comes out of our mouths effects our marriage and family. {Matt. 12:33-36}

We are learning to be very intentional about what we say . . . 

About each other . . . We do not tear the other down when we are talking with any one else.  Even when being authentic with close friends about our marriage{because it isn't perfect!}, we speak with humility and grace and always towards reconciliation because we realize that we aren't perfect either.

About other people . . . Gossip and negativity about others just brings death into a conversation and a marriage.  If what I say isn't bringing grace to the person listening, then I shouldn't say it {Eph. 4:29}.  Harping on the negative and venting just ends up getting us both worked up and usually worse off than when the conversation began.  We can be honest about hard relationships or frustrations, but it needs to be done with discretion and grace and the response needs to be one that points in the direction of forgiveness rather than condemnation.  {Easier said than done, I know!}  We also don't speak in inappropriate ways about others . . . whether it be comparing each other to someone else or flattery, especially of the opposite sex {the enemy will use that in a heartbeat}.

To each other . . . When I talk to Chad, I literally have the choice to speak words of Life or words of death, love or hate, truth or lies, grace or condemnation.  I have to be intentional about speaking words that build him up, point him to Christ, and counter what the enemy and the world may be saying to him.  This is hard work, but is one of the greatest ways I can love him.

4.  Getaways

I don't know any married couple who would argue with me here!  Having a getaway . . . no work, school, kids, distractions . . . can breathe such life into a frazzled, disconnected, or stressed relationship.  

Our goal is to have a two-night getaway at least once a year.  How wonderful if it could be more, but for most people that just isn't possible.  But most of our getaways are much simpler than a mini-vacation.  We have lunch dates, coffee dates, a walk in the park, a once a month date night.  These aren't usually fancy at all, but even just a few hours of uninterrupted time together does wonders to keep us connected and to deepen our love.  I never thought dates would be a tough sell, but when you have kids and a busy schedule they can easily get left behind.  Don't let it happen! 

5.  Talking About God

Thank you Captain Obvious, right?!  You'd think that for followers of Christ this would be a no-brainer and not something we have to work at, but you'd be wrong.  When you don't have a lot of time each day to actually talk, it is amazing what can fill up that time.

Last year some time, Chad was reading Ephesians 5 and asked me what he could do to love me better.  I gave it some real thought and realized that I wanted us to be more intentional about sharing what God was speaking to us.  I'm a verbal processor so if I'm learning something, I'm probably going to tell Chad about it just as a way to continue working it out in my heart and mind {this is why Chad gets up waaaay before me so that he can have time with Jesus in peace!}.  

Chad isn't this way.  He writes in his journal and he processes and then doesn't feel the need to talk it out.  It's okay that we are different in this, but it left me feeling like I didn't know what he was learning or how he was growing in the Lord.  I heard his sermons, but didn't know beyond that what God was dealing with in his heart.  

I asked Chad to try to be intentional about sharing and he immediately began to love me in this way.  Such a blessing!  We have grown closer simply because we are more intentional about sharing heart things when we have a few minutes to talk.  And incidentally this also helps with the whole guarding your mouth issue because there isn't time to vent or gossip when you're talking about what you read in the Bible that morning!

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So there it is.  We obviously do more than this to pursue a God-honoring marriage, but these are the five that have been on my mind this week!

What are you intentionally doing to strengthen your marriage?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Blessings :)






We. Are. So. Blessed.

And beyond excited about another little one joining our family!

The night we told Ava, it took her an hour to go to sleep because she was so hyped up and kept coming out to tell me that she really wanted me to have a girl!  I have a feeling God will hear some sweet prayers from my Ava girl over the next few months begging for a little sister!  Grayson has been so sweet too and is already putting his little hands on my belly and praying for the baby.
Melt. My. Heart. :)

Some of you may be shocked at this news . . . you aren't alone!  Shock has been the reaction of most people who have heard the news.  After all, aren't we adopting?  Yes, we are still in the process of adopting Easton!  We'll just have another little one join our family before Easton gets home!  Because of the incredibly long wait times, our agency recently changed their policy about pregnancy or concurrent adoptions.  We will continue to move up on the waitlist, but won't be able to receive a referral for Easton until baby #3 is at least one year old.  We were already preparing ourselves for another two years waiting on Easton so this little one doesn't actually change the time table too much.

In June, I wrote an adoption update and confessed my desire to manipulate the whole process.  Thankfully, God revealed my sin and pulled me out of that pit.

This new little one is not a result of my selfish manipulation, but of divine revelation, heart transformation, and God's sovereign grace.

{I know how the evil one likes to divide Jesus' Bride so I'm going to give a little disclaimer before I begin:  I'm going to share what God has done in our hearts over the last few months.  It is our story.  I'm not holding a stone.  There are no accusations.  I am not setting up our family as a new law or a new standard.  There is no condemnation, comparison or judging.  There are biblical principles and truths that I'll share that should be an anchor for all of us, but how that plays out in our lives may look very different.  I'm humbled and honored to share how the Father has spoken specifically to us!}

Divine Revelation

It all started when Chad ended one of his sermons with the question, "Do you want the Father's plans or your plans?"  This question haunted me.  I couldn't even see yet what area of my life God was touching with the Word that day, but it wouldn't let go of me.

At this same time, I was teaching Job and then Ecclesiastes in Sunday School.  As I studied, I saw the thread of God's sovereignty and His goodness exalted all through these two books.  I knew these were realities about God that I believed, but began wondering if I was really walking in them.

I also read an article about a woman who was pregnant with triplets, but chose to have two aborted.  A few of her reasons were that having triplets would have a negative affect on her career and that she would have to start shopping at Costco.  I was appalled at the selfishness that in her mind justified ending the lives of these two gifts from God.

All of this set the stage for God to speak.  Sin by it's nature is deceptive and we can so often be blind to our own sin.  God was ready to open my eyes.

You see, my motto regarding children has been summed up in two phrases . . . "We'll take it one at a time" and "I don't want to drive a bus."  Meaning . . . when I feel like I can't handle another one, we'll stop {which is laughable because the truth is that on my own I'm not enough to handle even one!}.  And our time to stop will definitely be before we have so many kids that they can't fit in our van.  I think large families are beautiful and all the ones I've know are amazing, but it just terrifies me. {Just being real.}

So a few days later we had lunch with some of our best friends.  I shared about the article and how shocked I was at the blatant selfishness that led this woman to abort two of her children.  Keith said, "But don't we often do the same thing?"  The conversation continued, but I was done.  The veil had been lifted.  I got home and wept as the Lord spoke gently, but powerfully to my heart.

"How is your heart any different from that woman whose story grieved you so?  She murders.  You refuse.  Neither of you are open to the blessings I may have for you.  Neither of you are seeking My plans.  You are putting your selfish desires above My desires for you.  You are not really walking in the Truths you say you believe."

God's divine revelation cut to the very heart of how I viewed children and how we were not seeking the Lord's plans regarding our family.

Heart Transformation

This the step I so often miss.  God speaks.  My toes are stepped on.  And then I keep on walking.  But when God speaks, the conversation is not complete without heart transformation.  There were only two options . . . obedience or disobedience . . . and though I knew where it would end, I put up quite a fight.

I wrestled with this for a week.  I'm talking mind consumed, tears flowing, laying it down then taking it back up kind of wrestling.  I wanted a middle ground.  Somewhere between full surrender and disobedience.  Somewhere that left me with a little bit of control so that I could ease the fears that raged.  Chad said that I wanted disobedience that looked like faith.  Yes, I'll take some of that. :)

God even gave me confirmation of what He had spoken in a way that only He could get the credit.  The day after my eyes were opened, Inward had a night of prayer and a time where we were to seek God and then speak a Word to each other.  My dear friend Christi said that she had spoken a word to another friend that day, but somehow felt that it was for me too . . . Be open to something other than your plan.  Okay God, I get it!  But even with that confirmation, I continued to wrestle.

I wanted some assurances before I walked in faith {which makes my walking not actually in faith at all}.  I realized that as I was desiring to trust, I was also asking God to promise not to bring me to a place of desperation, to a place that is terrifying and overwhelming, to a place where I could never be enough.  What loving Father would say yes to a request like that?  That place is exactly where He wants me to be . . . a place of desperation for Him, of moment by moment dependence on Him, of faith in His Sovereignty and Goodness, and of utter reliance on His uninterrupted Grace in my life.

When it finally came down to it, I had to chose to believe and walk in what God says is True.

  • He knows what is best for me.  I don't.
  • He is Sovereign over all things.
  • He works for my good and for His glory.
  • He knows how I still need to be transformed and how that needs to happen. {Children are mighty instruments in the Lord's hands.  They change you in a thousand ways that you need to be changed.  Can I get an amen?}
  • He is worthy of my worship, trust, and obedience.
  • Children are a blessing from the Lord.  
I surrendered.  We surrendered.  {I was praying and processing all this with Chad, but he got to this point before me.}  Finally letting go of our plans was scary, but so freeing.  I would have never said that my precious kids were a burden, but until then I don't know that I had ever truly embraced them as the blessing that they are.  Chad noticed a change in me immediately . . . more joy, more patience, more purpose.

Chad changed immediately too.  As we decided to begin diligently seeking the Lord regarding His plans for our family, I told Chad that I was trusting him to lead us in this walk of faith.  The responsibility drove him to his knees and brought a new level of intimacy in our marriage as we prayed for direction.  We decided that we would let the Lord . . . not culture, not fear, not self . . . determine how we walked in this area.  Chad pointed out that children were the only blessing that we had essentially asked God to limit.  We never ask Him to hold off the blessings of health or provision, but we had done just that with one of the greatest blessings He pours out.

God's Sovereign Grace

We had such joy this past month as we were trusting in God's plan.  I'll be honest . . . I expected to get pregnant right away because that is how it has happened with all three of my pregnancies.  So when I took a test and it was negative, I was shocked.  And disappointed.  I had actually found myself hoping.  {I confessed my disappointment to my friend, Keri, and she pointed out what a testimony that was of God's work in my heart over the last month!}

We prayed and thanked God for His sovereignty and His perfect plans.  We shared this whole journey with our "For Better, For Worse, For the Gospel" group of young married couples and told them that I wasn't pregnant.  And then a few days later we found out that we were wrong!

Oh the grace!  We are so humbled and full of gratitude that God would chose to bless two broken and often blind followers like us with another precious one.

I'm not gonna lie though, I can still be overwhelmed at the thought of what lies ahead.  We don't have a clue what God's plan will look like for us.  But rather than focusing on all the unknowns, we are choosing to hold tight to the One we do know.  He is the Author of our story and it will be a better story than we could ever write for ourselves.  We'll just have to continually make sure that we haven't again taken the pen out of His hands.