Tuesday, August 21, 2012

He's on a roll . . .

I didn't think I'd be writing another one of these posts so soon, but God is rocking our world and I love nothing more than to share His goodness and grace!

I wrote a month ago about how God has miraculously provided for this adoption so far.  Go back and read that one if you haven't yet . . . God has done some truly amazing things to bring Easton home (an adoption grant and being given a van, just to name a few!).

But evidently God just wasn't done!  He has been on a roll in the Provision Category this last month and we've again just been blown away.

First of all, our computer monitor died a few weeks ago.  Chad takes his laptop with him to work so that left me high and dry, which so doesn't work for me!  No funds to buy a new one means you do the next logical thing . . . ask on Facebook if anyone has one to sell cheap or give away (one moment where I love technology!).  Right way Chad's sister texted that her hubby had one he wasn't using that we could have.  I know this is small, but to us it was just another reminder that He will meet our EVERY need (or want . . . never going to say it was really a need).

Then two weeks ago, we got an incredibly generous and sacrificial gift from some friends at church.  They gave Chad an envelope that said "Open Later" on it, which we of course opened immediately.  We happened to be teaching the 1st-3rd grade Sunday School class that week so the kiddos were utterly confused as to why we had tears streaming because of Paul's second missionary journey.  :)

To top it all off, we got the craziest surprise on Saturday night (the teaser I gave on facebook).

Ava's birthday is coming up and the grandparents had been asking about ideas for prizes.  I always try to think of experience based prizes rather than just a bunch of random toys to add to the chaos.  Chad and I started talking about the idea of going in with the grandparents for Ava's birthday, Grayson's birthday, and Christmas for both of them and getting a swing set for the backyard.  They love to be outside and this would make it even better.  I was thinking that it could also be a lifesaver when Easton comes home and is needing extra attention.

I was sold on the idea and then I started looking at actual prices . . . yikes!  We quickly decided that buying a set from Lowe's was out.  Chad started talking about building one himself until we learned what the price tag on that would be.

So . . . Craigslist it is!  I only searched for a few days and then found the perfect one.  I emailed the owner and we made plans for us to come see it on Saturday night.  He was selling it for $450, but it looked from the picture like it was in really good condition.  We chatted with the grandparents and went to their house ready to buy it if it was really as great as it looked.

It wasn't as great as we'd hoped . . . it was better!  This man built it 10 years ago for his two young sons and he did it right.  He used treated lumber and bought commercial grade accessories (seriously the slide looks like no one has ever been on it).  It needs new swings, but other than that it is amazing!  The kids were immediately climbing all over it and Chad was giving me that look that said "Keep cool, but this is flippin incredible and we are definitely going to own it."

I went inside with the wife and we chatted while the men negotiated outside.  It was so neat to be able to share with her about our adoption and how this swing set would be a blessing to our family for years to come!  The men finally came inside and I reached in my purse to get out the checkbook when Chad said these words . . .

He's made us a deal.  We have to buy new swings, but they want to give the swing set to us.

What was that?  My jaw dropped and tears once again were streaming.  I couldn't believe it.  We don't even know these people and they are going from $450 to $0!

When they were outside, the man explained to Chad that they had offered to give it away to several of their friends, but no one wanted it (They crazy!).  And until us, all he had gotten from Craigslist was people asking if they could have it for free.  He just really wanted to know that it was going to a family who had kids who would enjoy it as much as his boys have for the last 10 years.  We clearly fit that bill!

So he proposed that deal, which Chad said left him speechless.  Chad again offered to buy it, but the man insisted that they really wanted to give it to us, especially after seeing our kids and hearing about our adoption.

Mind. Blown.  We (okay, I) cried in their kitchen and tried our best to put into words what an incredible gift they were giving our family.  Meanwhile I look over and Ava is jumping up and down on their couch.  I could have died.  She doesn't even do that at our house.  It might have had something to do with our dinner at IHOP before we got there.  She got a little too excited about all the different flavor syrups and just had to try them all.  Note to self:  never do that again. :)

Needless to say, we got in the car and praised God for His incredible gifts.  This was most definitely not a need.  He was just blessing us like a Father loves to do for His children.

I can't wait to have it all set up (it will be a beast to take apart, transport, and set up . . . sorry Daddy!) and see the kids having a ball!  It will also be amazing for our Life Group on Monday nights because we have 57 11 kids to entertain each week!

So there you go.  More ways that God is taking care of us and providing in ways that only He can get the credit.  Thank you Father!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Haircuts and our FDL!

My kiddos have been way overdue for haircuts.  I usually trim Ava's myself, but we've been letting it grow so we I could enjoy a few months of ponytails and braids!

Grayson's mop is another story . . . I wouldn't dare to cut his hair!  He has a double crown in the back and I couldn't begin to know what to do with that unless I was just buzzing it off, which I am so not ready to do on my baby boy!

Thankfully we have a friend who does this for a living and was willing to come to the house to give these cute kids a trim!  Thanks Kallyn!

Ava got her cute little bob back!

Before . . . almost getting to the dreaded mullet stage!

The sucker was a brilliant trick to keep him still . . .

until hair fell on the sucker and got stuck all over his hands . . . then he was just done!

After . . . He looks like such a little boy now instead of my sweet baby!

In other exciting news, we got a very important letter in the mail today . . . our FDL!  For those of you not in the world of adoption paperwork, this is the one little letter from US Immigration that you must have in order to adopt!  I wrote a couple of months ago about how there was a problem with our first FDL because of a problem with our homestudy . . . all is resolved now and we are officially ready (at least in the eyes of the government) to welcome Easton home!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ava Funnies

I can't believe that my Ava girl will be 4 years old in just a few weeks!  It seriously seems like she was born just yesterday, but then again the last four years have been so full of fun and amazing (and tough . . . let's be honest here!) moments with her!

I thought I'd share a few funnies that show Ava's firstborn intense big and hilarious personality!  :)

  • Ava is flat out obsessed with the garbage truck.  Go ahead and laugh (it's all we can do).  We have no idea why, but the sound of the garbage truck is literally what gets her out of bed most mornings. :)  If she hears even the slightest tremble that sounds like the truck (school buses are now frequently mistaken and are cruising around way too early . . . not a good combo), she flies out of her room and heads straight to the front window to watch the truck roll by.  It is not uncommon for her to run out in a panic with tears already streaming because she is terrified of missing the truck.  As you can imagine, this drama is not our favorite way for Ava to wake up each morning, especially when it is an hour before we expected.  At least our garbage men know they have a huge fan at 5245 Chamberlain who is always ready to give them a wave and a smile bright and early in the morning!

  • Ava loves to watch movies and is a big fan of the fact that you can "pause" them so you don't miss anything.  Unfortunately, she's been disappointed to learn that this feature doesn't carry over into real life.  The other day she was, you guessed it, at the window watching the garbage truck.  She started crying because she had to go to the bathroom, but didn't want to miss the truck going by.  She panicked, looked at me dead serious, and said, "Mom, you have to push pause.  Pause the garbage truck."  Never thought I'd have to tell my daughter that there isn't a pause button in real life and that she'll have to miss the garbage truck so she doesn't wet her pants!

  • My girl has LOVED watching the olympics!  She had a meltdown one night because I told her it was bedtime.  She said, "But I saw a girl on the TV and she looks like she will be so good so I really need to see if she wins."  Nice try . . . mommy can stay up way past her bedtime to watch gymnastics, but not 3 year olds!  The Olympics have also gotten Ava thinking about what sports she would like to do. She announced the other day that instead of going to school when she turns 5, she wants to take ballet.  Not mutually exclusive, my dear. :)

  • She might have a big personality, but she is still my very little girl.  As I got the kiddos dressed one day, I realized that Ava and Grayson were wearing the same size clothes . . . 24 months!  Um, just 2 years behind in sizes!  At least it has saves us money on clothes . . . this is her third summer wearing the same swimsuit and she is in all her summer clothes from last year!  I let little girls at church wear all the clothes that Ava has out grown, but they are quickly catching up and will pass her by soon!  
Swimming in June 2010.

Same swimsuit in May 2012!
  • Speaking of my little girl . . . we are always trying crazy creative ways to get her to eat.  She really doesn't get excited about eating unless it is what she will tell you is her favorite food . . . "cake and junk" . . . and she definitely doesn't get that often!  Our latest strategy was all Chad's idea and has been working well for the past 2 weeks.  Ava gets a hole punched for every bite of the main dish she takes and we try to see how high she can go.  Amazing what a sticky note and a hole punch can do to make meal time not such a battle (at least for now)!

  • I've been doing some preschool stuff with Ava and she is doing really well.  She has a short attention span for "school" so I have to make it fun or even better make her not realize she is actually practicing what I've taught her!  We've been working on her writing . . . I started out writing words and then she would copy them below, but now she will write if I just tell her the letters in the word!  I've been having her make a lot of cards to send to people where she writes the message by herself (tricky and encouraging to others . . . win/win)!  The other day she brought me a paper and asked me to write a bunch of words on it for her to copy.  When I asked what words, she said, "Just some words I know like camouflage or something."  What?  I laughed out loud at that one!  One, that is a completely random word.  Two, I wasn't exactly sure how to spell it . . . she had to make due with camo!

My girl is so funny, creative, and imaginative.  She can definitely be strong-willed and controlling, but she comes by it honest (firstborn, my daughter, a sinner)!  It has been so amazing to watch her learn and grow, to see her love and serve others, and to witness the seeds of the Word that we are planting begin to grow in her heart!  I'm blessed beyond measure with this precious girl who makes me laugh, cry, smile, and thank God!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

I don't typically blog about food (even though it is a great love of mine!), but I'm all about sharing yummy recipes so I thought I'd pass this one along!

This recipe for Chicken Pot Pie is the one I'm asked for most often.  One, because I make it frequently for other people . . . if you have a baby, get sick, or I just want to show you a little love, this is most likely what will be for dinner!  Two, it's just downright delicious! 

Before you think I'm bragging on my cooking skills, I'm not!  I love to cook and I'm not awful at it, but I score zero points in the inventive category.  I find great recipes, which is key to my family eating yummy food!

I got this recipe from the mom (Karen Sanders) of one of our good friends (Justin Langford).  Chad and Justin have been friends since 9th grade . . . high school together, college together, seminary together, and now they serve at Edgewater together!  Mrs. Karen is like another mom to Chad so when she's coming to visit (especially when she's bringing food) we love to get to visit with her!

One night we went to the Langfords and Mrs. Karen had made Chicken Pot Pie.  I'm not gonna lie, I was less than excited.  I've never liked it, mainly because I'd only had the pre-made frozen stuff and it didn't do anything for me.

Then I was introduced to this Chicken Pot Pie . . . I took a bite, ate it all, went back for seconds, definitely licked my plate, and immediately asked for the recipe!  So good!

Now some people like to keep their yummy recipes a secret, but thankfully Mrs. Karen and I aren't like that!  If you love what I make, I'll gladly share!

(Sorry about the half-eaten picture!  We'd already chowed down when I thought about taking a picture and sharing the recipe!)

Chicken Pot Pie

1 to 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz. sour cream
1 can veg all (or you can use frozen assorted veggies)
Black Pepper to taste
Tony's to taste**
1 package pie crusts (The pkg. with 2 crusts in the refrigerated section by the crescent rolls. Not the frozen ones.)
1/2 stick melted butter

1.  Mix together the first 6 ingredients.
2.  Spray your pie pan and put down the first crust, pressing it down into the pan.
3.  Put the mixture in the crust and spread evenly.
4.  Make little divots all around in the mixture.  Pour a little melted butter in each divot and then cover back up.  (I don't know why this is best, but it is.  I tried just adding the butter to the mixture one time and it wasn't as good.)
5.  Put the second crust on top.  Pinch around the edges to seal the top and bottom crusts together.
6.  Cut a few slits in the top crust . . . make it pretty too!
7.  Bake at 350 for 45 min to 1 hour or until top crust is golden brown.

*I often make two at a time and freeze one.  Just cover with foil before you bake and it freezes beautifully (Did that make anyone else think of Steel Magnolias?!).  Thaw in the fridge and bake normally.
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning 8 oz
**I realize that not everyone who reads my blog is from the south.  Sadly some of you may have no clue about the amazingness of Tony Chachere's.  If this is you, I'm so sorry.  :)  If your grocery store doesn't have it, do yourself a favor and order some now . . . this recipe won't be the same without it!

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mark 5

I think I've mentioned it before, but almost a year ago I started reading a chapter out of the Gospels each day.  It started from a conversation with Chad that went something like this . . .

Me:  I love Jesus.  But I just want to know and love Him more.  I want to just be all wrapped up in Jesus.  I want to know more about who He is.  How can I start each day with Him?  How can I be consumed with Him?  (statements and questions like this probably went on for another couple of minutes)  So what do you think?

Chad:  You should read the Gospels.

Oh the wisdom.  And the incredible difference between men and women. :)  My many, many words.  His few.  So simple, but exactly the wisdom I needed. 

I get easily overwhelmed with Bible reading plans.  I start off strong, but if I get off for one day, I'm done.  I can't handle trying to get caught up and I certainly can't handle just skipping what I missed, so I quit.  Done it many times.

But this has been different.  I read one chapter of a Gospel each morning as I start my time in the Word.  Sometimes I go on to study other things or I stay in that chapter and let it soak a while.  Sometimes I miss days, but then I just pick up where I left off.  No stress!

I'm also not a journaler, but I like to take notes (figure that one out!).  So I made a notebook with a page for each chapter where I can write my thoughts as I read.  It has been so cool as I cycle back through the Gospels to read notes from even a few months ago and see what God taught me then and how He might be speaking differently now from the exact same passage.  I also really like this because unlike a journal, I can easily find what I've written on a specific passage.  No more flipping through 100 pages trying to find that mind-blowing revelation from months ago!

If you've struggled with what to read each day or get overwhelmed easily like me, give this a shot!  I've seriously seen much fruit in my life from being daily confronted with the life and teaching of Jesus.  And my prayer was answered . . . I do love Him more than I did before!

Case in point . . . Mark 5.  I usually do a chapter a day, but I've been in this one for the past three days.  I just can't get over it.  It has gripped my heart like a love letter . . . getting a verbal picture of the One you love in action and being simply overcome with how amazing He is. 

I would tell you to stop and read Mark 5, but be honest, you probably wouldn't.  So I've got part of it right here for you!

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.[a] And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed[c] man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus[d] to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Familiar story, but it struck me so powerfully new this time. 

This man is beyond miserable . . . isolated, uncontrollable (though it has been tried with chains many times), a danger to others, a danger to himself, completely out of his mind.  Can you imagine the horror? 

And then Jesus comes in a boat and everything changes.  I wonder what drove the man straight to Jesus.  Was it his desperation for freedom?  Or was it the demons realizing that Someone with ALL authority just stepped on shore and they shouldn't even bother trying to hide? 

Regardless, this hopeless man, looking like who knows what, is suddenly at the feet of Jesus.  Little did he know that there was absolutely no better place on earth that he could have been! 

Can you imagine having many demons speak out of your mouth?  Arguing about where to be cast out . . . just get out already!!  And then watching as 2000 pigs plunge to their death from the very evil that just moments ago was inhabiting your body.  Finally free, but how could he possibly wrap his mind around all that just happened?

Verses 14 & 15 are what have consumed my mind and filled my heart with love this week.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed[c] man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.

What kind of conversation did this man and Jesus have while they waited for the mob of people to come see for themselves?   That couldn't have been a quick thing . . . Can you imagine the hours they probably spent together?  He was naked or half-naked, probably wounded, weak, and most likely hadn't had an intelligible conversation in quite some time.  He was a mess.  

But our Savior welcomes the mess.  He sits beside the dirty.  He bandages the wounds . . . body and soul.  He clothes the naked.  He doesn't give condemnation, but offers unlimited grace.  

Does your heart just acheCan you think of the brokenness this man must have felt as he shared about his life in captivity and thanked the One who just rescued him?  Can you just hear Jesus teaching him about the kingdom of God and blowing his mind that had just then been restored to clarity?  Can you picture sweet Jesus embracing this man who had only known violent hands, hard chains, and self-inflicted pain?

Oh. How. I. Love. Him.

And this is just the first half of the chapter!  The rest has more "messy" people (a desperate father, a dying/dead little girl, a hopeless woman) and Jesus met them all with the same compassion, healing, freedom, and LOVE.

Again, I'm overcome by His great love and tender care.  Jesus gave freely to those in Mark 5 . . . just like He gave freely to me.  I came to Him broken, needy, wounded, in despair, hopeless and helpless.  And He provided ALL that I needed to be healed, restored, and His forever!  

Reflection on this Word has produced two main things in me this week . . .

First of all, extreme gratitude and a greater love for my Jesus.  I will never cease to be amazed as more of His character and heart is revealed to me.  My cup runneth over!

Secondly, I've really been questioning my reflection of Jesus . . . Do I put myself in situations to interact with the messy?  More than that, do I make time to just sit with them, listening to their story, speaking Truth, letting them into my life?  Do I show people the reality of Who Jesus is . . . compassionate, loving, willing to walk with us in the hard places and tough moments?

At the end of their encounter, this man begged Jesus to let him come with him.  

After an encounter with me or you, are people desiring, even begging, to follow the Jesus we've shared and shown?

Cause if not, then something needs to change.  And it isn't Jesus.

Something to let marinate a while.  :)