I love Chick-fil-A. I love their food. I love that we got to enjoy one of the FREE retreats for pastors and their wives that they sponsor. I love that they are closed on Sundays to allow their staff to worship. Love them!
So I will definitely be asking for extra honey mustard for my fries on August 1st! Proud to show them support during the attack that has unfolded in the last week!
Is it just me or have you been watching this scene wide-eyed and with knots in your stomach about where we are headed as a nation?
Obviously the media has a huge agenda in this matter and they are going so far as to use quotes that aren't actually quotes at all. They have taken things out of context to stir up the debate. They have presented as truth and fact, not what Mr. Cathy actually said, but what they feel like he meant.
I read an article last night that highlights this very issue and has links to other pieces also written about the error of the press in this all out attack on Chick-fil-A.
"... the press put aside context and decided to paint this company as some
radically-religious-gay-hating-entity and then let the forces of anger,
hate and spite have their way with it." It is like they yelled "FIRE" in a crowded room and are just sitting back watching the chaos ensue.
Then there is the issue of mayors/government deciding that it isn't okay for a person or a company to believe differently from their personal opinions and that they have the right to deny them a license for business. Really? We are actually to the point of a refusal to let others have different opinions?
Makes my heart heavy. And makes me wonder what is ahead. How bad will it get?
Then I read Matthew 24 this morning . . . "As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Christ," and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of birth pains."
"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Friends, it will only get worse.
Be honest . . . how many of you are scrolling through your list of friends in your head and deciding who you would want to live in a commune with you?! We all have this natural desire to flee chaos and especially to protect our children.
But Jesus doesn't call us to insulation. He calls us to endurance and expansion.
We aren't to try to hide from all evil, but are called to stand firm as the enemy rages against our God. Instead of drawing in, we are to advance . . . advance the kingdom of God by literally advancing to all peoples with the Gospel.
We can't just be thankful that as followers of Christ we will go to heaven when we die and just wait until that day comes. The hope of the Church is not that we'll be going to heaven, but that Jesus will return. As Chad said in a recent sermon, "Revelation doesn't end with "We're coming Lord!", but with "Come Lord Jesus!"
Later in Matthew 24 Jesus declares that no one knows the day when He will return, but we should all be ready, living as if that day is today. "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes."
Even in the midst of chaos and evil and persecution, we still have a mission . . . to make disciples of all nations. And I do believe that an all out abandon to our mission will be the very thing that helps us endure the days ahead.
I've been preparing to teach 1 Peter in Sunday School. Peter is writing to followers who are facing intense persecution because of their faith. The commentary I've been reading notes that "there are also many modern readers of 1 Peter who cannot relate directly to that situation, for we have been fortunate enough to live in societies where, generally speaking, Christian faith does not lower social standing, jeopardize livelihoods, or threaten life itself."
American Christians might have a hard time understanding and applying the Word of 1 Peter, but that might be changing. The more we face persecution for our faith, the more we'll grasp the riches of God's Word on the subject of suffering. And the more we'll have compassion and unity with the millions of brothers and sisters in the faith who have only known suffering since they made the life-changing decision to surrender to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
Let us be a people who endure to the end. Let us be refined and purified by persecution. Let us stand firm against the enemy. Let us make disciples of all nations.
And let us "Eat More Chikin" while we're at it. :)
From many conversations, I've realized that it might be a good idea to explain how the waitlist works now that we're finally on it! It was confusing to me at first so I hope a quick explanation might help y'all know more of the reality of where we are in this process.
First of all, each adoption agency has their own list. Someone asked me why we didn't just get on all the lists so we would have better chances of getting a referral quicker . . . Oh how I wish that could happen! To be on a list with an agency, you have to have an official contract with them, which also means you've given them a large amount of money. Definitely can't do that with more than one agency! :)
Our agency, All God's Children International (AGCI) actually has three lists for those adopting from Ethiopia . . . the girls list, boys list, and siblings list. A family can be on one, two, or all of the lists depending on how God is leading them. We felt clearly that God has a son for us, which is why we are only on the boys list.
Each family on the list also chooses certain parameters regarding age and special needs.
Our agency is very strict about the age parameters. You are not allowed to disrupt birth order so your adopted child must be younger than any other children in the home. Not all agencies have this rule, but there are a lot of studies about the importance and impact of birth order so our agency feels strongly about it and has the right to require it. AGCI also won't let you do "artificial twinning," which is adopting a child very close in age to a child in the home. The adopted little one must be at least 9 months younger that your youngest child.
So because Grayson is only 19 months old, our parameters are for a boy anywhere from birth to 12 months old at the time of our referral (the call where we are matched with a baby). There seem to be many families on the list who have young children so there are a lot of us who are only open to a child 0-12 or 0-18 months. Praise God though that there are also plenty of families with older kids who are available to adopt the precious toddlers and elementary age kids who so desperately need and deserve a forever family!
The other parameter a family can choose is regarding special needs. The homestudy completed by your social worker has to be very clear and detailed about what sort of special needs, if any, your family will consider . . . minor phyiscial deformities, major phyisical issues, diseases, surgeries required, and the list goes on.
While the homestudy is very specific, there is no separate list for those open to special needs. This information also isn't made public by the agency, but is only known if a family chooses to share with others also on the list.
Confused yet? :)
The reason I explain all this is that it dramatically impacts when families actually get their referral. I'll give a pretend list to make it clear (hopefully!).
1. Family A - 0-12 mo.-not open to special needs
2. Family B - 0-12 mo - open to major special needs
3. Family C - 0-4 years- open to minor special needs
4. Family D - 0-2 yrs - not open to special needs - also on the girls list
5. The Gilberts - 0-12 mo.-requesting HIV positive
Scenario 1 . . . So let's say that a little boy is connected with our agency who is 8 months old and has a major special need. The AGCI caseworkers would start at the beginning of the list to see a family that has the right parameters and would be a good fit for this little one. Even though Family A could get an 8 month old, they wouldn't be open to the special needs. So even though they are #2 on the list, Family B would get the referral. Family A would have to continue at #1 and everyone else on the list would move down one spot.
Scenario 2 . . . A 3 year old boy is available. The caseworker would have to pass over Family A and B because of the age parameters and the referral could go to Family C.
Scenario 3 . . . Family D receives a referral for a 1 year old girl. Because they were on both lists and since they now have a referral, they would be taken off the boy list. This means that every family behind them would move down a spot even though there wasn't actually a boy referred.
Scenario 4 . . . An HIV positive little 3 month old boy needs a family (pick me, pick me!). Even though we are #5 on the list, if no one else in front of us on the list is open to HIV, that precious little one would come to us!
Does your head hurt? Just imagine the caseworkers who have to keep up with three really long lists like this!
Why am I telling you all this? Because it makes a big impact on how long we could be waiting for our Easton! We are officially #124 on the boy list (this has been an amazing month so there is a good chance we'll be #115 or below by the end of the month . . . hooray for God setting the lonely in families!).
Because of all the scenarios I described, we are not going to have to wait for 114 more boys to be referred before it is our turn. As families who were on multiple lists get referrals, they will be taken off the boy list and our number will continue to drop.
The fact that we are requesting a boy with HIV is also a big factor. I have absolutely no way of knowing how many families on the boy list in front of us are also open to a positive child because the list we can see only shows age parameters and not special needs parameters. But if it isn't many and God sends several positive little ones, then it could definitely be sooner than later!!! We might have to wait until we get all the way to #1 on the list, but we might not . . . you know what I'm praying for!
So all this to say that we really have no idea when we could get that life-changing phone call and see pictures of our son for the first time! I kind of like not knowing though. . . I am trusting completely that God is Sovereign, Good, and that He knows exactly who our Easton is and when will be the perfect timing to bring him into our family!
I'm not gonna lie . . . I had a dream last night that we were going to get a referral in October and I woke up seriously excited! I'm not claiming it was a prophetic dream or a word from the Lord, but I'd sure be okay if it was! :)
Until that day comes, I just want to wait well.
I want to pour into my two incredible kiddos that God has already entrusted to me.
(They got up one morning and joined Chad reading their Bibles! I love these kids and their crazy bedheads too!)
I want to soak up every moment I have to love Chad and invest in our marriage.
I want to serve my faith family of Edgewater.
I want to make disciples in New Orleans and all nations.
I want to prepare my heart and mind for Easton.
I want to learn more and educate others about HIV.
I want to live each day radically to glorify Christ because my citizenship is in heaven and I'm awaiting my Savior's return!
Can I tell you that God provides? Because He does. Abundantly, graciously, miraculously . . . He provides.
When He calls you to walk a costly road, He provides. When you have a need, He provides. When the unexpected comes, He provides. Can I get an AMEN?!
We have experienced Jehovah-Jireh (The LORD will provide) so powerfully during this adoption journey. When we first started the process last summer, I was overwhelmed at the thought of needing $30,000. But we chose right from the beginning to walk in faith instead of worrying. We knew we didn't have that much money and that God was going to have to provide.
He could have just rained down the money and we would have been praising His name! But He chose to provide most of what we have so far through the generosity and sacrifice of family, friends, and even strangers!
It has been a truly beautiful experience to see people partner with us and how Easton's story is already impacting lives. Each gift from friends has been more than just money given. It has been someone linking arms with us . . . not just to bring Easton home, but to be the Church and fulfill God's call to care for orphans. Thank you to each of you who have denied yourself and given, even out of your own need, to help us bring our little boy home!
God's perfect timing has been put on full display as well! We have had every dollar we needed, just when we needed it . . . and sometimes not a moment sooner! As we got ready to finally mail in our dossier, we were $100 short for the dossier fee. No joke . . . a friend sent a $100 check in the mail and I received it that day! There are many other moments like this, but just know that your obedience to the Spirit's prompting has encouraged our hearts, strengthened our faith, and given us every penny we've needed so far!
We've had fun and worked hard as we have raised funds this last year. I love love love seeing our adoption t-shirts all over the place! Still praying that those shirts open countless doors for people to proclaim the Gospel through the beauty of adoption! The raffles have been such a fun way for people to partner with us too. I mean, who doesn't love a great prize up for grabs?! And I might never talk Chad into doing another yard sale again, but the hard work definitely paid off!
We needed around $15,000 to get through all the paperwork and fees and officially get on the waitlist. I'm so thankful to say that God, through many of y'all, provided every dollar to get us this far (we got on the waitlist on July 3)!
In the last few weeks, God has been rocking our world! Some incredible things have happened that I'm so blessed to share with you!
The next payment will be the referral costs once we get the call that we have been matched with a little boy. I'll explain more in a future post, but that call could come for us sooner than later. We're looking at needing $6000 within a week of that life-changing phone call. So as soon as we wrote the last big check, I immediately set it in my mind to get the $6000 ready for whenever the call comes . . . not a small task!
We are finally able to apply for adoption grants now that our homestudy is done so I've been filling out applications for as many as possible. We sent an application in April to Show Hope, the incredible organization founded by Stephen Curtis Champan. We supported Show Hope for years and it is so cool to now be on the other side . . . at least we prayed we'd be on the receiving end!
We received a letter on June 30 that we had been awarded a Show Hope grant. And you'll never believe for how much . . . $6000! I know. I was so flippin excited and just in awe of how God provides perfectly! We're still applying for other grants, fundraising, and saving (travel will be around $8000), but we are so blessed to know that we are ready for the referral fees when that amazing call comes!
And I'm not done! In the back of our minds this whole time has been our car situation. I drive a Ford Escape that I got in college (yay for getting scholarships!) and it has been an awesome car for us. We got Chad's Cirrus after his other car drowned in Katrina, but it has been having tough times lately. We really don't want to put more money into it AND the backseat is broken so it isn't even safe for the kids to ride in . . .not ideal.
The issue is that we didn't think my car was big enough to fit three carseats all in a row (Ava is almost 4 and only 23 lbs . . . she'll be in a carseat until she's 16!). That left us with needing a van. But we don't have car payments now and have no room in our budget for a car payment so we were stuck. We had two options . . . pray for someone to give us a van or buy really expensive carseats that are super skinny and would just barely let us get three in a row. Obviously we decided to go with the latter route because people don't just hand out vehicles! We chose to wait on buying the carseats until our referral, but just settled on making this work.
Oh, but God had other plans!!! My cousin called the night I announced on the blog that we were finally on the waitlist and had our number. He told me how excited they were for us about this big step. Then he dropped a bomb . . .
And we want to give you our van.
Say what?! I seriously sobbed for the next five minutes as I tried to wrap my mind around what was happening. Who just gives away a van?!
When I finally got ahold of myself, I was able to share how this was an answer to a prayer that he couldn't have know about. A prayer that I prayed with such weak faith, but God still delighted to answer. A pouring out of grace . . . we don't deserve a van, but God loves to give good gifts to His children. And I hope this is a tremendous blessing to this amazing family who are giving up the money that could have been made on selling the van and giving us a priceless gift instead.
Chad was in shock when I shared the news with him. We cracked up because he started asking me all manner of questions about the van (such a man) and I had no clue. I didn't ask a single question because all I could do was cry! I didn't even know what kind it was . . . FREE was all that mattered!
Ahhhhhh! God provides. Abundantly. Graciously. Miraculously. He provides!
I pray that our testimony of God's provision encourages your heart today. We are nothing special . . . He is just that amazing. We don't deserve these gifts . . . He is just that gracious. We could never have asked or planned for how He has provided . . . He is just that sovereign. Jehovah-Jireh!
As if all the above wasn't enough . . . another cousin just gave us a twin bed! Now Grayson will be ready to let Easton use the crib when he gets home!! So blessed by our family and friends being used by God to meet all our needs!
Since we FINALLY have a waitlist number that we pray we can watch drastically fall each month (please pray with us!), I wanted some way of keeping our number visible in our home. Not that we really need it, but having our number and things about Easton right in front of us are great reminders to be praying for our son and for orphans worldwide. We have the arrangement right by our kitchen table so I have a feeling we'll have many mealtime conversations about the little brother coming soon!
So let the countdown begin!
Another adoptive mom creates these beautiful Africa paintings as a fundraiser to bring their own little one home from Ethiopia . . . thanks Emma! (I can get you her info if you want one for yourself!)
On Thursday last week, Chad and I celebrated our 9th anniversary! We of course didn't have a digital camera way back in 2003 so here is a picture of one of our wedding pictures! We were such babies . . . 22 and livin' on love!
I've sat down to blog about our anniversary and this last year of marriage several times in the last few days, but I just haven't had the words. Not because there is nothing to say, but because there is so much to share.
Last year for our 8th anniversary, I wrote and posted pictures about the highlights (and some lows) through the years. I also shared about the new anniversary tradition we were beginning.
We kept the tradition going and had another anniversary party to celebrate #9. Some of our closest friends came over to our house with kiddos in tow for an incredible night. We of course ate some delicious food and desserts, but the sweetest part came after the dishes were cleared and all 8 kids piled into Ava's room to play. :)
We sat around and shared words of wisdom with each other about marriage, loving your spouse, and loving God. It was so encouraging to hear how God is teaching us, refining us, scraping away the old, leading us by the Spirit, and renewing the love and commitment in our marriages even after 1, 7, or 9 years! We laughed a lot because most of the wisdom came from getting it wrong, but even our mistakes are beautiful when they put God's grace on display!
We wrapped up our night with our sweet friends laying hands on us to pray for our marriage, our family, parenting, and ministry. There are no words for how precious it is to have friends intercede on your behalf . . . encouraging us for how we've lived, but also challenging us to a deeper faith and to love more.
As we shared with our friends about this last year, the word that summed it all up was GRACE.
God's grace has truly been lavished on us in numerous ways this year and we are different because of it.
Just under a year ago, God graciously gave each of us a great desire to be in His Word. It isn't that we weren't already spending time reading our Bibles, but this was different. God gave us a hunger that we had never had before. He gave us the ability to discipline ourselves to make that time a priority each day. For the first time, I was really feasting on the Word of God and It. Is. So. Good.
Naturally, this changed everything else. Our marriage has grown in depth and love because we are knowing and seeking to love each other as Christ calls us to. We've learned much about our roles in marriage and as we've embraced them, each of us has given more and received more love from the other.
Ahhhhhh! This is where I just don't have the words to fully express all that God has done by His grace this year! But I'll keep trying! :)
He has graciously led us every step of the way in this adoption process. Because of immersing ourselves in the Word, we were ready to obey when He put it before us that we are to adopt an HIV positive little boy. The Word has been the foundation of our parenting Ava and Grayson. God has been so loving to speak to us by the Word in the hard and intense times, to confront sin in our lives, and to encourage our hearts to greater faith. It is all Him. All the Word. All His Grace.
Year 9 has been an intense roller coaster, but a year that has taken us to a new place as individuals, a couple, a family, and a church. I'm so grateful for my precious husband and look forward with excitement and much hope for what #10 has in store for us!
Chad just began preaching the book of Titus this week. We only looked at four verses, but it was so rich. Paul was consumed with the Gospel. And he was constantly challenging the audience of his letters to make the Gospel the center of who they are. The statement that stood out to me was this . . .
If anything other than the Gospel is orienting your mission and your message, then you are disoriented.
The Gospel must be our center, our foundation, our fuel for mission, and the message we proclaim! If it isn't, something is wrong.
A few weeks ago Chad and I had a conversation about this very reality. Honestly, Chad had been selfish that morning. (Let me break this to you gently . . . Pastors aren't perfect. Shocker, I know. They are men and they mess up.) So as he confessed and repented, he got to the heart of the issue and said something like this . . . If I really remembered when I woke up in the morning that I am a slave to God, then I wouldn't act with such entitlement and selfishness.
We continued to talk about how we need to focus our hearts on the Gospel EVERY DAY, every moment really. And if we did, the impact on our heart, attitudes, and behaviors could be dramatically changed.
Now I'm a pretty practical girl. So I was immediately thinking about how we could actually do this. How do I have the Gospel before me as I start every morning?
I decided to make some artwork to go in our bathroom so we can meditate on the truths as we get ready in the morning. (My mom (the real crafty one) helped . . . check out Lili Designs on facebook to see more of her amazing creations!)
We came up with seven statements that proclaim Who We Are and Who He Is. I pray that meditating on these truths based on God's Word will bear much fruit in our lives!!
I had a blog post all written because of the turmoil in my heart created by Fifty Shades of Grey, Magic Mike and Christ followers spending time on Bourbon Street.
I wrote most of the post on Tuesday night as I sat at the bedside of Mrs. Susie Butler. This precious lady and longtime member of Edgewater has been in hospice care and I had the honor of spending the evening with her. So as she slept, I typed out my frustration with sexual immorality that seems so prevalent in the Church and was just waiting to finish up and post it.
But then I said good bye to Mrs. Susie yesterday, cried with her precious husband, and praised God when I heard that last night she went from a hospice bed to bowing at the Throne of her Savior.
Moments like that make you change your perspective a bit.
So rather than giving a list of what we shouldn't do (you know I wanted to!), I want to share my thoughts about our hearts and what we SHOULD be doing. Because these issues are just symptoms of a greater problem . . . a heart problem. And until our hearts are transformed by the Word, we will continue to wrestle with how to live to please God.
(Please know that I am not perfect and desire to submit my heart to God's Word so I speak these words to myself and in grace to those reading.)
Maybe we need to let the Word wash over us . . .
Let's take seriously the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:18 to "FLEE from sexual immorality."
Remember Paul's words in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
Paul's words in Ephesians 5:3 are clear . . . "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."
Romans 12:1-2 sums it up well, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Isn't that what we need? To be transformed. Something we can't do to ourselves. Something that only happens as we become living sacrifices, as we die. Die so we may truly live.
And that has consumed my mind these last few days. Mrs. Susie lived, truly lived, as one who died to herself long ago and each day since. I feel as though if we could grasp a few things that she did, the issues above wouldn't be issues at all.
First of all, Mrs. Susie lived to make much of Christ. She served God by serving others. She went on mission trips to share the Gospel. She shared her faith with fellow New Orleanians.
Even on Tuesday, in hospice care, with almost no voice, Mrs. Susie had her mind set on things above. I happened to wear my adoption t-shirt that day. As her first nurse came in, Mrs. Susie pointed to my shirt and then to the nurse. She was so excited about Easton and I knew she wanted me to share! I had the chance to tell this nurse about our adoption and that the fuel for our journey is that we've been adopted through Christ. Mrs. Susie pretended to rock a baby and then folded her hands together . . . she was praying for my precious baby . . . what a beautiful gift to our family for her to intercede on Easton's behalf. At shift change, a new nurse came in and once again Mrs. Susie motioned for me to share our story. Those ladies had no chance of taking care of her without hearing about her God . . . even if she couldn't tell them herself!
I was overcome that even until the very end this sweet woman was was living to make her Savior known. If this was the cry of our hearts, the focus of our days, and the mission of our lives then I do believe the Church would be radically different people. Magic Mike would be just another commercial that we would miss because we don't have time to waste in light of the urgency of eternity and the hopelessness apart from Christ.
Secondly, Mrs. Susie was a devoted wife of 60 years to Mr. Glenn. 61 years in September. They had lived as one twice as long as they'd lived apart. I cry now just thinking about their precious love for each other, their service to one another, and how even at the end she asked me to pray for his grieving heart.
What if we all lifted up God's design for marriage, a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church, and proclaimed God's glory through our honor, respect, love and devotion to our spouse?
Imagine our world seeing followers of Christ who refused to be satisfied or fulfilled by anyone or anything other than the person with whom they have become ONE. Imagine marriages thriving because we take seriously the commands to flee from sexual immorality and to not have a hint of impurity. If we trust that God has given us these Words to protect us and for our good, then we obey, we fight temptation, we pursue holiness, we honor our spouses, and we glorify God.
If we threw ourselves into the pursuit of God's good design for marriage, I think we would spend our time thinking of ways to honor the one we love and easily leaving behind anything that doesn't fit that description.
Oh how I desire to be a woman who makes much of Christ and a wife who lifts high Jesus by reflecting Him through my marriage. I am forever grateful for Mrs. Susie and her example as just such a woman.
I pray that my heart, that your heart, would be transformed through the Word and by the Spirit so that we will keep our minds on things above and not on earthly things, so we will be about our mission to make disciples of all nations, and so holiness would characterize our lives as we daily die to ourselves and live in Christ!
It has taken a full year since God said "GO" and we began this adoption process. I never expected then that it would take this long for us to even get on the waitlist, but I'm clinging (daily) to God's perfect timing.
We'll get our updated waitlist number each month and will be praying for it to drop quickly as more and more little ones find their forever families!
For now, our number is huge. Depressingly huge when you consider how long the wait could be. But amazingly huge when you consider how many families are living out God's heart for adoption!
Chad has some hanging to do and then I'll be able to show a new area in our kitchen that will display our waitlist number and serve as a beautiful reminder to pray for the nations, orphans, and Easton!
Our sweet girl seriously asks every few days when we are going to fly over to Ethiopia and bring Easton home? Or she'll ask if we've gotten the call yet because she is really ready to meet her brother. So precious and heartbreaking at the same time!
Easton . . . you have a family that loves you so much and is counting the days until you are with us forever! (Of course mommy is taking every picture, but rest assured, I love you too!)