Friday, June 29, 2012


11 . . . The number of pounds I want to am going to lose.

Now just so you know, this isn't a post where I'm secretly wanting a bunch of comments about how great I look and how I'm not fat.  Really.  I know I'm not fat and I don't have a super low self esteem because of my weight.

I have a God who created me wonderfully and how He sees me matters most.  I have two kiddos that will hopefully think I'm the most beautiful woman in the world for at least a few more years!  I have a husband who not only thinks I'm beautiful, but tells me so.

This is what I found one morning as I went to step on the scale.  What a great man God has given to me!

So I'm not depressed about my weight or needing a flood of compliments.   But I do realize that I weigh more than I need to and more than I would like.  I want to be healthier.  I want to jump back in to some good habits that I've let slide.

And it is also a bigger issue that just the pounds.  It is an issue of the heart.

According to Galatians, self control is a fruit of the Spirit.  Well let's just say that this particular fruit is not growing in abundance in this life!  Seriously though, I've realized that I am in general not practicing self control and not just in the area of food.  But there is something about gaining control over your stomach that breeds self control in other areas as well.

I gave up sweets for Lent this year (my first time to practice Lent).  And I did it!  40 days without so much as a taste of a dessert.  I did it to honor my Savior.  But the self control that I practiced in this area for 40 days definitely had a difference in other areas too.  I was more aware of the words I spoke . . . major area where self control is needed.  I was more patient with the kids . . . controlling anger and frustration came a little easier.  I had more self control in how I spent my time . . . saying no to an hour on Hulu and choosing to spend extra time in the Word.  I totally saw the impact that saying "no" to my sweet tooth had in other major areas of my life.

I also realize how unhealthy living could be a stumbling block as I share the Gospel.  I'm not saying we have to be perfect to share the love of Christ, but calling people to surrender to Jesus as Lord when I'm clearly not letting Him be Lord of my stomach is just plain hypocritical.  And if I'm serious about my mission to make disciples of all nations, then I don't want there to be anything in my life, including my food habits and weight, that could give people a reason to doubt the Truth I share.

Over the top?  I don't think so.  If more followers of Christ looked at the way we eat and exercise as a heart issue and an area of holiness, then we wouldn't be tipping the scales and leading the studies on obesity.  Just sayin'.  (I do know that there are people who struggle to lose weight and it isn't because they aren't desiring to honor God . . . not trying to be insensitive.  But I think the majority, like me, fall into the category of not showing the fruit of self control that the Spirit has given us.)

So anyway . . . I want to lose 11 pounds.

Why 11, you ask?  Well, my original goal in January of this year was to lose 20 lbs.  I made changes this Spring and by May had lost 11.  And in the last two months I've gained 2 back . . . not too bad considering I've had two vacations.  So I've got 11 to go!

I have had a much harder time getting off the baby weight after Grayson than I did with Ava.  When Ava was 9 months old, three friends and I did our own version of The Biggest Loser.  Evidently the shame of having to share my weigh in number every two weeks was just the motivation I needed.  :)  That, and the fact that there was a prize.  $75 to the winner.  I've definitely got a competitive nature so that kept me focused for 4 months.  I lost 11 pounds and won!  (If anyone has a prize to offer me for this round I won't turn it down!!)  The best part was that I didn't just go back to my pre-Ava weight.  I made it to my pre-Katrina weight!!  (Doesn't everyone mark their weight goals according to traumatic events?!)

So this 11 lbs I'm looking to lose would again take me back to that glorious pre-Katrina number!

Speaking of Katrina, I will not be doing this by some crazy diet.  I tried that.  The week before Katrina in fact.  It was seven days of fruit, vegetables, and this gross miraculous soup.  I went to Taco Bell for dinner on Day 1.  Such a wimp!  And that horrid soup was still in the fridge in my beautiful brand new soup pot when Katrina hit.  My pot, lost forever in a sea of mold, all because of that crazy diet.  Grrrrrr.

I also tried the HCG diet last year.  My mom lost 30 lbs.  Surely I can do this one, right?  I made it 6 days.

So I've learned my lesson.  No more diets.  I will lose this weight and get healthier by . . .

Eating better.
Eating less.
Exercising more.

Ground-breaking I know.  But it really is just that simple.  If I do those three things, I will reach my goal.  I'll have more energy.  I'll fit into my stack of clothes-I-can't-wear-but-I-refuse-to-get-rid-of that have been sitting in my closet.  I'll be practicing self control.  I'll be honoring my Savior who gave His life for mine.

In January, I made these vases into my way of celebrating pounds lost.  I would let Ava move one of the colored paper balls from the "To Lose" into the "Lost" every time the scale dropped.  Actually Ava just asked me this morning why she hadn't gotten to move the paper balls in a long time.  Hmmmm . . . mommy needs to get to work!!

So since I'm putting this out there, I'd love your encouragement and your help!

Accountability is so good for me so I'll update pounds lost every once in a while . . . I'm not about shame, but in this situation it is definitely some motivation to put the chips down and pick up carrot!

I would also love any recipes that are healthy and yummy.  Especially for vegetables.  I can't handle eating the same things over and over each week so I need a variety of ways for us to eat some good stuff!

If you were nodding your head as you read, do it with me!  We can hold each other accountable privately (only pounds lost will be shared on the blog, no actual weight numbers . . . just no reason for that!), keep each other going during tough parts, and trade healthy recipes or tips!

And if you see me reaching for a cookie . . . feel free to pop my hand!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Adoption Update

We rejoiced a couple of weeks ago when we made fools of ourselves in FedEx and sent our dossier off to AGCI!  I was so excited to be done with paperwork!  But that excitement only last a few days. :(

Our caseworker called to let me know that we had to re-do one of our documents.  Bleh.  Most families evidently have to re-do things and usually more than just one, so our situation wasn't bad at all. 

The depressing part is that our caseworker also let me know that we couldn't actually get on the waitlist until our re-do was submitted.  I'd actually be told differently by another caseworker so I was ready and expecting our number . . . our place in line on the waitlist that we will hopefully watch drop each month as we get closer to our boy.  I really wanted our number.  It is a big step in the process and one I was definitely ready for.  So I tried to be encouraged even as discouragement quickly rose because of this delay.

Our re-do is really simple.  Our local criminal checks are supposed to be notarized, which the nice lady at the office assured me they would be.  She lied.  They signed and put a seal on them so I saw that and just stuck them in my folder (what should have taken 20 minutes turned out to be a 2 hour process with both kids so by that time I was just ready to get home!).  I should have caught the mistake and realized they weren't actually notarized, but I missed it.

So I called the police station and was informed that they never notarize these papers because they don't have a notary.  Great.  They didn't just forget, they never could have done it right in the first place! 

That turn of events leaves us with having to ask our sweet friend Larry to take time out of his busy lawyer life and meet us at the police station.  We were so hoping to get it done last week (as soon as it is in my caseworker's hands we get that number!), but no luck.  The office is only open MWF, but the only day Larry could meet us was Thursday.  And now Chad is in Guatemala for a week (dang mission trip) so we are delayed yet another week.  (Please know I'm being sarcastic . . . I'm so thankful He is serving little ones and sharing the Gospel!)

So next week we'll hopefully get it done and I'll finally have that number.  (If you are already starting to have a conversation with me in your head about how I'm focusing too much on the number and not enough on God's perfect plan, don't worry because Someone has already had that talk and I'll get to that in a bit!)

In the midst of all this, we received our FDL (Favorable Determination Letter) from Immigration (USCIS).  This letter is super important and summarizes what the US approves for our adoption.  I was so excited to have gotten it so soon and ready to send it to AGCI.

Only one problem . . . under Special Needs they wrote "NO."  HIV is most definitely considered a special need so this would have to be changed.  Bleh again.

I called USCIS to let them know of the mistake.  The lady was very helpful and just asked that I fax her my homestudy so she could verify the info and get it fixed.  Easy peasy right?  Wrong.

She called yesterday to let me know that our homestudy was wrong and therefore she couldn't change our FDL until our homestudy was changed.  What???  Our social worker, case worker, and another person from AGCI all double checked our homestudy before it was finalized . . . there is no way it could it be wrong.

But it is.  Our social worker, Ashley, had our homestudy finished when we felt God speak to us about adopting a positive child.  She went back in and added the info about HIV, but forgot to change one little sentence.  That sentence just so happens to be the most important one as it is the recommendation for our adoption parameters and the one that USCIS bases their approval on. 

It won't be that big of a deal to change . . . just take out "healthy male child" and change it to "HIV positive male child."  Once we send the new copy in, they will send us a new FDL.  Done.

But another delay just kind of had me a little down yesterday.  I talked about it with Chad, shed a couple of tears, and prayed as I drove with the kiddos to Arkansas. 

Because I was still a little bummed, I did what any girl would do . . . called my best friend!  Lisa can encourage my heart more than anyone other than Chad and she didn't fail!

I poured out the story of all these delays and issues and then God spoke right to my heart through her words.  She reminded me of what I already know . . . that God is Sovereign, that God knows Easton, that God's timing is always perfect, and that I might not understand, but still need to trust. 

And Lisa pointed out something amazing as I shared about the homestudy mistake.  Three people who have the job of making sure there are no mistakes all missed the mistake in the most important sentence in the 20 page document. 

Could it be that God blinded their eyes in order to set things in the right time for His perfect plan?! 

Maybe because of these delays, when we finally get our number, it will be #124 instead of the #122 we would have gotten last week if all was in order.  And if so, then it is because God wants us to be #124 because He knows that at just the right time he will bring our family to the precious son He has prepared for our hearts.  Do I trust this sovereignty?  Or do I just want a number, any number, as soon as possible?  Ouch.

So I hung up with my bff and praised the One who is in control . . . of us, of Easton, and of every detail that will bring us together!

We'll hopefully have that number soon (I'm still excited to watch it drop . . . so shoot me!), but that doesn't matter as much as the confidence I can have in the plan of the "Father to the fatherless" who "sets the lonely in families."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Raffle Results

And the winner is . . .

Lisa Ray!

Thanks so much to everyone who donated!  Even though you won't have that extra large tote on your shoulder, I hope you still feel blessed for being a part of bringing our little man home.  One less orphan and one more Gilbert is definitely something to get excited about!!

Now just in case any of you are thinking it is fishy that my best friend won . . . it isn't fishy, it's random!  She just couldn't resist donating because of the extra large tote and got lucky! 

I use the random sequence generator at to pick the winner and I had a witness.  But just in case you aren't convinced, here is the copy of the sequence with one of Lisa'a numbers as #1.

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:
Timestamp: 2012-06-12 13:49:41 UTC

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Adoption Raffle to Celebrate our Dossier

Our dossier (fancy for "huge stack of important papers that have taken us six months to get ready") is DONE!  We put it in the mail to our agency yesterday and are so unbelievably excited to be one step closer to our son!

And what better way to celebrate this HUGE milestone than with a raffle?!

We have some amazing prizes donated by some seriously generous friends . . . you'll definitely be wanting a chance to win!

Our first prize is a gorgeous tote that was made and donated by my friend Jeannette Barnes!  We met Jeannette during our first year of marriage at Doulos in Branson almost 9 years ago!  She is an amazing seamstress . . . you can check out her many other creations at her Too Cute Designs by Jeannette Etsy shop.

The TOTE bag is an EXTRA LARGE size tote bag ...when measuring the base dimensions are: 16 inches wide and 8 inches deep and 16 inches tall ...when laying flat and measuring the side to side seams it is 23 inches wide.... with a shoulder strap drop of 12 inches. Features 8 roomy pockets around the interior and a magnetic snap at the top.

This beauty retails for $60!!  Wonder who will be walking around with this on their shoulder next week?!

The next prize was donated by my friend Jenn Cole.  Jenn left NOLA a few years ago (sniff, sniff), but still wanted to help us raise money for our adoption even from a few states away!  Jenn is a consultant with Thirty One and has graciously donated one of their Making Memories Thermals!  (This thermal is not only amazing, but is only normally available to someone who hosts a Thirty One party . . . this might be your only chance to get your hands on this thermal!)

I'm not going to lie, I would LOVE to have this prize!  But it is valued at $129 so that will only be happening for the lucky winner of this raffle! :) 

Our next prize was donated by one of Chad's friends from college, Stephanie (Dowden) Moon.  Stephanie makes a wide range of incredible goodies for her business Moonpie Designs.  I have some pictures of a few of her creations, but she also has more pictures of options on her blog.

The winner will get a custom made order and will have a $30 gift certificate toward that purchase! 

Like I said, these are just a few of the things available!  Here are the prices so you can get an idea of how far the $30 will go!  (You know I'm dying for some of those blocks and that Africa wallet . . . so jealous right now!)

Burpies - $20
Bibs- $15
Barefoot Sandals - $10
Mini-Wallet - $15
Wood Blocks - $4 per block
Hand Towels - $10
Paci Clip - $5
Fabric Flower pins/hair clips - $5
Ruffle Butt onesies - $20
Personalized shirts (for pictures/birthdays) - $20

And last, but certainly not least, we will be including one of our adoption t-shirts in the raffle too!  And don't worry, if the winner already has a t-shirt, they can give it away as a prize . . . you'll bless someone else and be spreading the word about God's heart for orphans!

So let's just recap . . .

A too cute tote, a thermal cooler (with wheels!), $30 toward a custom creation, and one of our fabulous adoption t-shirts! 

So here is how the raffle will work . . .

A $5 donation will receive 1 entry for the raffle.
A $10 donation will receive 3 entries for the raffle.
A $20 donation will receive 7 entries for the raffle.
If you give more than $20, I'll let you know about the number of entries!

Steps to enter the raffle . . .

1. Use the Donate (PayPal) button on the right side of the blog to make your donation or you can pay me directly.
2. Let me know about your donation through facebook, email or by commenting on this post.
3. I will send you an entry number(s).
4. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner.

After you donate, if you share the link to this blog post on your blog or on facebook, I'll give you an extra entry! Just let me know that you shared the link!

I'll announce the winner on Tuesday, June 12 so you only have a few days to donate and spread the word!

Remember that all the donations will help us bring Easton home from Ethiopia!  Thanks!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dossier is in the MAIL!

Our USCIS fingerprints are finally done! 

We got a babysitter this time (thanks Melissa!) since we got angry stares and an old man actually swatted Grayson with a piece of paper the last time we tried to get them done!  Wise choice because the room was crowded and not likely to have been amused by our wild loud energetic two cuties. :)

I'm also so thankful that I took off the bandaid on my thumb right before I walked up to the window.  They ask to look at your hands (weird) and I wasn't sure what they were looking for, but just wanted to be safe.  Another wise choice.  I just have a small paper cut, but a lady behind me was sent home because she had an open cut on her finger.  I would have fallen to pieces if I'd been sent home again!

We got our fingerprints and headed straight to FedEx to get our dossier in the mail to AGCI.  Putting all these documents that you've spent 6 months preparing into one envelope kind of freaked me out.

What if it gets lost?  Can that happen?  I would lose my mind.  It better not happen.  How can we make that not happen?

So I then definitely freaked out the employee helping me by over emphasizing how important this package was and how I needed to make sure it got there safely.

She also probably wasn't amused when she asked me the value of the package and I said "priceless." 

Or when I asked her to take our picture.

Thankfully she obliged and didn't call us crazy.  At least out loud.  :)

I'm so excited to hit this milestone!  Honestly I expected to have our dossier done in March so this is a long time coming.  But I know God's timing is perfect and all that matters is that AGCI will have our dossier soon!

Once they approve our dossier, we should get our number on the official waitlist.  This number will be updated each month as families at the beginning of the list get referrals for their children.  Pray that referrals would start pouring in for these amazing families who have been waiting for so long!

A few people have told me that I might get depressed after sending in the dossier because then there is nothing to do but wait.  Right now that seems crazy to me!  I'm so glad to be done with paperwork and honestly have no trouble filling my time with a million other things.

But I also know that "The Wait" is so emotionally hard, especially for a "Martha" like me who likes a list to check off.  So don't be surprised when you see me crying and depressed in a week or two. :)

Until then, I'm rejoicing!  It has been a full year since we first realized that God was calling us to start the adoption process.  A long year as far as the adoption stuff, but a year of intense spiritual growth for our family. 

I praise the God who "sets the lonely in families" and give thanks because today we are one step closer to Easton becoming a part of our family!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Truth about HIV: Life with HIV

After having their fears about transmission addressed, the most common questions people ask have been about what every day life will be like when Easton gets home.

What does life look like when one of your children has HIV? 
What will his medical care be like?
How will this affect your family life?
How will this affect Ava and Grayson?

Needless to say, I'm writing this post without any actual experience of life with HIV or of parenting a child with HIV.  So really I should probably just say that I have do idea what our life will be like!

But I won't.  Because in the last few months we have encountered several families who are open about having a child with HIV and have given us some insight into the ins and outs of daily life. 

One of the first blog posts I read as we prayed about adopting a child with HIV was from Given Much Mom, a blog written by a mom who has adopted a daughter from Ethiopia who is HIV positive.  The post was titled "HIV: Our Non-Issue." (Can you see why it caught my attention?!).  Here is an excerpt from her post . . .

"As we waited for our HIV+ daughter to come home from Ethiopia, I read other adoptive mom's blogs and sometimes wondered why they didn't TALK MORE about their child's health condition.

Now I know.

Because it is such a miniscule part of their lives that they probably PLUM FORGOT!  Weeks go by (yes, weeks) when it never crosses our minds that our daughter is HIV+ . . . except when she pops her daily pills."

I can't tell you how encouraging this post was and still is!  HIV will not define Easton or our family.   It will affect our lives, sure, but it will not rule every minute of every day!

Things We Can Expect

1.  Doctor Visits and Lab Work

Easton will have to see a Pediatric Infectious Disease doctor as soon as we bring him home so that he can begin HIV treatments.  This means a lot of blood work, which will be traumatic for him and for us.  Definitely not looking forward to this part!

Easton will have to see his ID doctor at least every three months to check the level of virus in his blood, to make sure that the medication is working correctly, etc.  Hopefully there won't be any infections or issues that cause us to be at the doctor office in addition, but that is always a possibility.

We feel extremely blessed for a variety of reasons that God has planted us in New Orleans, but most recently because of Children's Hospital.  We've already been in contact with one of the Infectious Disease doctors who will be responsible for Easton's care.  On top of that, I've talked to a case manager with FACES, their support program for families with a positive child.  I have such a peace and confidence that Easton will have excellent medical care and that we won't walk alone as we try to navigate the medical and insurance side of HIV.

2.  Medication

Until a cure for HIV is discovered (pray with us!), Easton will have to take daily medication.  The HIV drugs are known as antiretrovirals.  People with HIV are given a combination of three or more medicines to reduce the amount of virus in their blood.  This therapy is known as HAART. 

We have no way of knowing what medications Easton will be on until he gets home.  But we can prepare ourselves for strict adherence to his medication schedule, which will most likely be medication given in the morning and at night.  I'm already taking notes on several different methods that families use to remind themselves about medication time and to keep the medications and dosage amounts straight!

A new friend who has two little ones with HIV said that they are intentional about making their medication routine a time of thanksgiving . . .giving praise to God for these medications that save their lives.  This helps instill in their children a heart of gratitude instead of despising the daily medication (and it's side effects), which will be so important as the children get older and must choose for themselves to adhere to their medication plan.  This is definitely something we will focus on!

3.  Heartache

Sad, but true.  We can expect heartache to come . . . to Easton and our whole family . . . because of HIV.  The traumatic lab work and doctor appointments, the yucky side effects of the life saving medications . . . it will be so hard to watch Easton in pain and discomfort.  The stigma that is sure to come (and already has) because of fear and incorrect information . . . our whole family will surely experience the hurtful comments, the withdrawal of friends, the frustration and pain caused by those with a lack of facts or compassion. 

Some have actually questioned our decision based on this issue.  Why would you want to do something that you know will bring heartache and suffering to your family?  Is this really fair to Ava and Grayson?

I addressed this issue as I filled out the Show Hope adoption grant application and answered the question, "What do you believe to be the most important thing you can impart to your children?"

"Our greatest desire for our children is for them to know Jesus as Savior and to follow Him as Lord.  There is the temptation to desire for them to be safe or free from hurts and pains, but we are choosing to put the pursuit of holiness before any of these other things.  We know that adopting, especially a child with HIV, will create heartache for our family and will be hard for all of our children at different points in this journey, but we also believe that God will use this to refine our hearts and to make His glory known among the nations.  That is our ultimate desire.  John 9:1-3 has been a key passage for us.  We pray that through our family and this adoption, "the works of God might be displayed . . ."  We pray that our adoption will give our children a compassion for others, a biblical worldview, a realization of what God is doing in other nations, and hearts that seek to obey Jesus no matter the cost."

We love our children enough to walk in obedience to Jesus, even when that road includes suffering.

The Unknowns

There are a lot of unknowns on this journey and as we consider what life will be like having a child with HIV . . .

Will Easton come to us sickly or with no symptoms of HIV?
Will he respond quickly to medication or will we struggle to find the right combination of medicines to treat the virus?
How will people respond when Easton is home?
How will his health be as he grows . . . will we barely remember he has HIV or will we be reminded by frequent infections and hospital stays?
How will Easton and all of us deal emotionally with doctor visits, medication, and stigma?
Will he get a date to prom?
Will he get married and have children?
Will he live a long life?

And the list could go on.  We don't know all that we will walk through.

But we know Who does.  And instead of focusing on what we DON'T know, we are choosing to focus on what we DO know . . .

The Known

- We serve the Creator, the Sovereign Lord, the One who always has been and always will be IN CONTROL! (Gen. 1:1, Col. 1:15-16, Psalm 93, Rev. 4)

- God has a plan for us, a plan that is for our good and for His glory! (Jer 29:11, Rom. 8:28, Ps. 67:1-2)

- We have a mission and purpose in life . . . to make disciples of all nations by sharing the glorious Gospel  . . . we have been saved by faith in Jesus Christ!  We are equipped by the Holy Spirit for this work and promised that we are NEVER alone! (Matt. 28:18-20, Rom. 3:21-26)

- We live in a sinful world of which suffering is a part.  But God redeems and uses suffering to refine our hearts, to make us more like Jesus, and to spread His glory among the nations.  (Gen. 3, 1 Peter 1:3-7, Acts 8:1-8, Phil. 1:12-14)