Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Ava!

It seems unreal to me that my baby girl is 3 years old today! I think back over the last three years and realize how much joy and love Ava has brought into our lives. Our little miracle baby is now a smart and sassy little girl!

I love that even before she was born, Ava was bringing glory to God! When I was 38 weeks pregnant, Ava was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta . . . a heart disorder that would require surgery the week after she was born. Literally people all over the world were praying that she would be healed. Her crazy birth (evacuating Gustav at 40 weeks, 23 hours of labor then a C-section) is a story in itself! The greatest part, though, was when they checked her heart after birth and found that it was PERFECT! God completely healed her heart and received all the glory for it!

I love this picture, even though my family probably won't appreciate me putting it on here! :) It captures the emotions we were all feeling as we waited for Ava to be born. Chad got to walk her from the OR to the nursery, which gave our family a chance to get their first glimpse of my precious girl!

Family of 3! We were clueless, but already had such hearts of gratitude for the gift God had given us. We had a moment at the hospital (there was more drama after she was born that was very stressful) where we cried out to God and surrendered Ava into His hands . . . the best place for her!

Is this not the most adorable picture? I know I'm biased, but she was an absolutely beautiful baby girl!

The cuteness continues!

Ava has been tiny from the very beginning, but don't let that fool you . . . she has a BIG personality!

One thing that has been so funny to watch as Ava has grown up is how she wants to be just like Mommy! She talks like me, uses the same mannerisms and is a little feisty like me too!

She likes to exercise (and stretch) like me . . .

wear makeup like me . . .

I don't stroll around with no clothes on, but she almost always has a purse on her arm and loves to take care of her babies!

She also loves to cook . . . helping me make dinner or taking orders and cooking something up in her own kitchen!

Ava wants to be like me, but she's always been a Daddy's girl at heart. She LOVES spending time with Daddy and it is amazing to watch Chad love and teach her!

One of Ava's favorite things to do with Daddy is to go "exploring" which usually entails picking up random stuff and poking ant hills! When we were in Arkansas earlier this summer, Chad took Ava on a Daddy-Daughter date and they went exploring for a whole morning!

Ava is an incredible big sister! She has loved Grayson from the moment he arrived . . . sometimes a little too much love comes out in some big squeezes, but he's survived so far!

Grayson is enamored with Ava and now that he is scooting/crawling, he follows her all around the house. He'll definitely be learning a lot from her, both good and bad. :)

Ava has such a sweet heart and fun personality . . .

For such a little girl, she is very aware of the feelings of others and has a compassionate heart. Judson was sad the other day as his mommy drove away and I captured Ava comforting him and telling him it would be okay. So sweet!

Who Dat?! Ava is a SAINTS fan! In fact, for the longest time every time she saw a football or a game on TV she would say "Go Saints!"

My girl is little, but she plays hard! At Leigh Ann's wedding last summer, Ava had so much fun that she literally fell asleep standing up!

Ava loves to swim! She stayed with my parents when Chad and I went to East Asia last year for two weeks. We were worried about how she would do, but clearly she was having a blast and wasn't afraid of anything! She has a little more fear this year, but still loves to be in the water.

I have a fashionista on my hands! Ava loves to dress up in all manner of crazy outfits, but is never without her princess high heels!

Evidently we have a little entrepreneur as well. Ava had her first lemonade stand at our yard sale to raise money for our adoption. She tried to charge on lady $600 for a cup!

My girl is really into painting and crafts, which has been a lot of fun! I love seeing her creativity come out!
Ava has such a beautiful heart, which is hard to capture in a picture. Through our family worship times and just everyday life, she is learning about Jesus and memorizing Scripture . . . we pray that God continues to shape her heart.

Edgewater has prayerwalking in our neighborhood once a month and Ava is always in her stroller and ready to go! She is already a little prayer warrior! In fact, God used Ava's prayers to confirm that we are supposed to adopt from Africa. She had our family praying for Africa every night during family worship for months!

I can't believe that we've now had 3 birthdays with my girl . . .

Her first taste of chocolate on her 1st birthday!

Bob and Larry (Veggietales) party for her 2nd birthday!

Ice cream party with lots of friends for her 3rd birthday!

What a beautiful little girl God has entrusted to us! Happy Birthday Ava!

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Word will not come back void!

Last week when I was driving home from Arkansas with the kiddos, we stopped at a gas station off the interstate so I could feed Grayson. It was one of those run down ones with disgusting bathrooms and bars on the windows. Needless to say I fed Grayson in the car . . . not my first choice, but it was dinner time and this was all that we could find. While I was cleaning baby food off almost every surface of my car, I noticed a man standing around and looking in the trash can after people threw stuff away. As we drove off, I rolled down the window and asked if he was hungry. I told him all I had was the box of nutrigrain bars we had brought with us for the trip, but he was welcome to have them.

I did not expect what came next. I had barely gotten the window rolled up when Ava screamed, "Those are MY nutrigrain bars. I NEED them!"

Thus began a 30 minute conversation (I'm not exaggerating) about what had just taken place. I started by explaining that the man was hungry and I knew that because he was even looking in the trash for food. She said that he should just go to his pantry and get food. I explained that if he was willing to look in the trash, that probably meant that he didn't have any food in his pantry.

Once I convince her that he was, in fact, hungry, I began to share what the Bible teaches about the situation. I told her that it was plain and simple . . . if we see someone who is hungry, we should give them something to eat. She kept arguing about him not being hungry or that we really didn't need to give him our food. She was having a hard time with why it had to be HER nutrigrain bars that were given.

I tried to explain how God has provided for our needs and that she has never experienced hunger like that man. At this point, I think she was becoming okay with the fact that we gave him food, but now she wanted that food replaced. She started making a plan to get her a new box of nutrigrain bars to go in her pantry. Since she is 2, we've had multiple opportunities to talk about being selfish lately. :) I reminded her that we don't want to think only of ourselves, but think of others and their needs because that honors God.

This may sound like a nice, neat conversation, but it was anything but. We went round and round and at one point she even declared that God didn't love the man. I was in tears by the end of it and ended up just telling Ava that we couldn't talk about it anymore. I can't tell you how my heart hurt to hear such selfishness come out of her heart and mind.

I spent the next hour praying. I was reminded of the passage in Psalm 51 where David acknowledges that he was surely sinful from birth. It was so overwhelming to see sin, to see the evidence that even in such a little one resides a heart that is fully flesh, fully evil. I prayed desperately for God to change her heart. That one day He would give her a new heart and break the hold that Satan has on her.

I was discouraged, but not so much by Ava, just at the reality of our fallen world. I was, however, disappointed that even after our long conversation I didn't feel like Ava got it. I knew I had shared the Word and Truth, but it didn't seem like it really sunk in.

Fast forward to last night . . . Our friend Jeremy dropped by for a minute. Ava was cooking in her kitchen and brought him some eggs she had made. After Jeremy left, she told Chad, "Mr. Jeremy was hungry and when someone is hungry, Jesus says we give them something to eat so I gave him eggs."

Chad and I looked at each other and had a moment of rejoicing! The Truth I shared over a week ago has taken root in her heart. The Word does not come back void, but accomplished God's purposes!

I know there will be many days to come where I'll need to come back to this moment as a reminder to persevere, to keep sharing Truth, to discipline, to teach, to disciple my kids because God IS at work and His Spirit is powerful enough to change even the smallest and darkest of hearts. I love my girl so much and can't wait for the day that she is not only my daughter, but also my sister in Christ!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our Provider

Jehovah-Jireh. The Lord will Provide.

We've clung to this aspect of God's character since we got married, but especially since we started the adoption process. We simply don't have $30,000 so we have no other choice (not that we'd want one!) than to trust in God to provide for what He is calling us to do.

And He has. We've been so overwhelmed at the generosity of family and friends toward our adoption. People have given not just generously, but sacrificially and we are so humbled by the support.

We've had two fundraisers this summer and they have been incredible! Friends donated TONS of stuff for our yard sale and we made $1700! Completely blew my mind! We've also sold 103 adoption t shirts so far! Our favorite part in all of this is the awareness that each of these fundraisers has brought/will bring to the overwhelming need of orphans all over the world.

Personally, we've cut our expenses in order to put as much toward our adoption as possible. As we've talked, I've tried to think of how I could contribute to the fund since the going pay rate for a stay at home mom is a big fat zero! I could get a part time job on nights and weekends, which doesn't at all sound appealing, BUT I would be willing to do it if God led us that way. Thankfully, He didn't!

We realized that most plausible way I could help would be to watch another child. We decided not to pursue it, but that we would be willing if God opened that door. So I was not totally surprised last week when I got an email that flung the door wide open!

Our friends, Jason and Terah Sampler, have a little boy, Judson, that is about a year younger than Ava. Terah got notice last week that his daycare is closing at the end of the month. She asked if I would pray about keeping him this semester. So . . . I have a job!

I'll be watching this cutie about 25 hours a week. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about throwing another kid in the mix, but I better get ready because it will be our reality in a year or two! Chad worries that I might lose my mind with two toddlers that don't know how to share. While I have that same sentiment, I'm choosing to embrace this as an opportunity to teach them how to share and interact with other kids in a God honoring way. But I wouldn't turn down any prayers you want to send out for me!!

We're praising God for another way of providing for the adoption of our son. It is nothing compared to the sacrifice that God endured to adopt us, but I am thankful to "sacrifice" in a small way to bring our son home. I also love that God is using us to love and serve the Samplers by taking care of their little man!

Monday, August 1, 2011

One reason I love being Mrs. Gilbert

I love my husband. No shocker there, right?! I could write a huge list of reasons why (I actually did that for our first Valentine's Day!), but I won't. I just want to write about one thing that has had me thanking the Lord for this man the last few weeks.

Chad is without a doubt the spiritual leader in our relationship and in our home, but he's my Pastor too. Not many people get to have one man fulfill all of the spiritual leadership roles in their life. I do.

I know I'm a little (okay a lot) biased, but I think Chad is an amazing Pastor. He truly serves and cares for the flock, he prays faithfully for the church, and he leads us in making disciples of all nations. But the part that I have appreciated the most lately is his biblical teaching. Make no mistake, it is God speaking through Chad, but I love that Chad is used as a vessel for the Word to transform our lives, my life.

We've been going through a study of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible . . . not an easy task! Right now we are in Leviticus and I'm not gonna lie . . . as I've been reading I've been wondering how in the world Chad was going to preach some of this stuff. I've always been the person to read Leviticus so that I can say I read it all, but most likely not understanding a bit of it. :)

This leads me to why I've felt such gratefulness. Through Chad's preaching, God has shown me the riches in Old Testament passages that I thought had nothing to do with Jesus or me. I have seen the bigger picture of Scripture and have been taught how ALL things point to Jesus Christ.

Last week's teaching seriously blew my mind (you can listen to it here). Leviticus 11-15 is all about the regulations and cleansing from foods, infectious skin diseases, mildew, childbirth . . . not exactly the most exciting thing to study! How in the world does this point to Jesus or apply to us today? Glad you asked because I didn't know either!

By taking us to passages in the New Testament, Chad demonstrated how all these weird regulations point to Christ in a huge way. The whole issue was clean vs. unclean. For the Jew, you NEVER wanted to be unclean. These rules and cleansing rituals we read about in Leviticus would have still be adhered to in the time of Jesus.

In Mark 7, Jesus declares that there is no clean and unclean food, but it is what comes out of the heart that makes a man unclean. This would have been a huge deal for the Jews whose lives revolved around these food regulations. In Acts 10, the divide between clean and unclean people is torn down. Again, mind blowing to a Jew. Who has the authority to remove these distinctions that God established? Only God. Therefore, Jesus is God! God the Father was pleased to make these distinctions so that when Jesus removed them people would see He is God!

In Mark 1, Jesus encounters a man with a skin disease, touches him, and he is healed. Again in Mark 5, Jesus is touched by a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years and she is healed. Later Jesus touches a dead little girl and she is brought back to life. Absolutely radical! By the Levitical system, Jesus would have made himself unclean in all these circumstances. But instead of them making Him unclean, Jesus makes each of them clean! Who has the power to cleanse but God?!

These laws in Leviticus that seem so detailed and crazy were given so that when Jesus came and exercised the authority and power of God, the people would rightly bow down and worship Jesus for who He is . . . God!

See what I'm talking about?! That is good stuff! Leviticus DOES point to Jesus and is VERY applicable to my life! This message of God the Son coming to earth and touching the sick, dead and unclean was exactly what I needed to be challenged with. I'm involved in a ministry to women in the adult entertainment industry . . . definitely ladies that get labeled "unclean." I was confronted with how I am demonstrating the compassion of Jesus Christ. Am I willing to "touch" them, to go beyond man-made barriers and show them the same compassion and healing that I myself have received from Jesus? I was also challenged to have compassion on the customers instead of my anger and judgment that I've been feeling lately. I pray God will continue to refine me through the Word so that I can be a vessel of restoration for these people I encounter.

Praising God today for His Living Word that speaks so powerfully in my life and for the blessing of being taught by my best friend!