Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Orleans Favorites

Last weekend we took the kiddos to experience a few New Orleans favorites!

Chad and I had been talking of how ashamed we were that Ava is 4 and had yet to ride on a NOLA streetcar.  We put it on the "Things to do on Chad's day off" list!

Last Saturday our great friend Leah Brown was in town and came by the house to catch up for a bit.  Leah was a member of Edgewater for years while she lived in New Orleans and we were blessed to send her out several years ago as a missionary to Bolivia.  Leah is in the States until January when she will head to Peru to  continue making disciples of all nations.

We asked Leah her plans for the night and she confessed that she really wanted to go eat at Camellia Grill and ride a streetcar, but she hated to go alone.  It took about two seconds for us to change our plans and jump on the chance to hang out with Leah AND take our kiddos to experience some of our favorites!

I was shocked that on a beautiful Saturday night we were able to walk right in to Camellia Grill because the line is usually far out the door.  This yummy place exudes true NOLA character . . . our waiter has been working there for 19 years and all the staff refer to everyone who walks in as "baby."

Grayson really wanted to be in daddy's lap and be done with pictures!

After our delicious dinner, we hopped right on the St. Charles street car.  The kids LOVED it!  Ava spend the ride trying to decide which house she liked best . . . the $4 million or the $5 million?!  Grayson enjoyed waving out the window to everyone who looked his way!

We are so blessed that God has planted us in this amazing city.  What a treat to enjoy a few of our favorites with one of our favorite people!

Friday, September 28, 2012


When Americans get fired up, we (as a whole) get loud and persistent and a little crazy until things change.

Most of America has been in a complete outrage the last few weeks about the replacement refs in the NFL.  But look what happened . . . the outcry resulted in a deal being made and the referee drama should finally be over.

So now what America?  What will be the new thing to fan the fires of our outrage? (Because we all know that there has to be something we're all hollering about!)

I've got an idea . . . Sex Trafficking.

Can we get some outrage going on about the global crisis of human sex trafficking?  And I'm not just talking about what many think goes on only overseas.  I'm talking about here in the US, in your town, down the street, right next door.

If your only frame of reference to trafficking is the movie Taken, then you might think this is a far away threat.  Not so.  Take a minute to read this article from USA Today.  Even if you think you know, please still read it.  It reveals the shocking reality that this evil is all around us and is only getting bigger.

Trafficking statistics are hard to come by, but let me give you a few that will make your heart drop to the floor.

  • Human trafficking is the 2nd largest criminal industry in the world and will probably surpass the drug industry soon.  Why?  Because you can sell drugs once, but you can sell a person over and over and over again.

  • Every year nearly 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade.  

  • US citizens account for 25% of sex tourists worldwide.  The #1 destination for sex tourism is the United States.

  • 55% of child pornography originates from the US.  Pornography is a causal factor for trafficking.

  • Around 80% of human trafficking victims are women and girls and up to 50% are minors.

  • The average age of entry into prostitution is 12 years old.  TWELVE.

  • A child/teenager who runs away or is left on the streets will be approached within 48 hours to be lured into prostitution.  (What if the Church could get to them within 24?)

  • Atlanta is a major hub for trafficking with an estimated 500 minor girls trafficked there each month.  The average age of these girls is 14.  The average life expectancy after being trafficked is 7 years.  Young girls dead by 21 and this is happening right where we live.  7200 men are served by these girls each month.  Men can order a girl online, fly to ATL, have sex with a child, and be back home in time for dinner with their family.  Unimaginable, but happening every day.

This is worth outrage.  There are at minimum 100,000 children trafficked in the US each year and most would say that number is much too low for what is the reality in our nation.

President Obama spoke strong this week about trafficking and new initiatives to address this crisis.  Praise God that it is definitely gaining more attention because these  women children need people to see them, to fight for them, to rescue them, and to help them heal.  

Outraged?  Here are a few things you can do . . .

  • Memorize this number.  1.888.3737.888.  This is the phone number to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.  If you suspect that someone is being trafficked, this is who you call.  They will connect you to local resources and will know the best way to get that person help.  You can pass this number on discreetly to someone you fear is in danger so they have a way to get help.

  • Get educated about signs of trafficking.  Are they always accompanied by a controlling person?  Do they have lack of control over money, documents, schedule?  Are they unable to come and go freely? Do they have to ask permission to eat, sleep, leave?  Are they being threatened?  Do they show signs of abuse, depression, anxiety, fear?  

  • Be aware in your everyday life.  I told Ava just yesterday that if she ever got lost from me that she should find a mommy with little kids to ask for help.  Why?  Because mommies (at least most) love kids and will get all "Mama Bear" to protect a child, even one who isn't their own.  So let's have our "Mama Bear" eyes and ears on when we are out and about.  Look for these signs.  Look deeper.  Notice children at the park, at school, at the airport, at the bus station.  Let's notice and take action before they are quickly lured away.

  • We don't want to be afraid of our own shadow (or teach our kids to be), but there is just no way around the fact that you can't trust people like you used to.  Be overly cautious about your kids playing at a friend's house, going to a sleepover, even hanging out at a public place.  Just like that article mentioned, pimps and traffickers are smart . . . they go where they have easy access to vulnerable kids.  They don't always look big and scary, in fact most often they will be very seductive and say the things that a lonely child is longing to hear. I heard of a young girl who wanted to nanny in New York.  Her parents even skyped with the family before she moved up there.  As soon as she got to the house she realized it was a scam, but it was too late.  She was trafficked around the US for years before she was able to escape.  But she wasn't the same . . . even her freedom couldn't undo the trauma to her body, mind, and heart.  Maybe her parents could have done more, but it just shows you the elaborate schemes and just how far traffickers will go to get a girl to sell.  

  • Get informed.  Here are a few websites with great education about trafficking as well as ways that you can practically support the fight against trafficking.

  • Get involved.  Find out if there are ministries or projects in your city that are fighting trafficking and jump right in.  For the last 3 years, I've been a part of a ministry reaching out to the men and women in the sex industry specifically on Bourbon Street.  We are currently planning our efforts to combat trafficking during the three weeks when New Orleans will host the Super Bowl AND Mardi Gras.  There will be thousands of girls brought into the city for these events and we want to be ready to put help within reach of as many girls as possible.  Groups like ours can always use more help . . . prayers, financial, or hands-on.  

  • Pray.  This is much more than just a fight against pimps.  This is a spiritual battle that is raging and our greatest stance is to be on our knees before our God and Savior.  

The NFL is back in business.  Outrage in full force = mission accomplished.

So now let's get outraged about trafficking.  Let's show these pimps that we will not stand for this evil any longer.  Let's show these women and children that they deserve more outrage than a halftime score.

"O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; 
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear 
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, 
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more."
Psalm 10:17-18

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Minivan Mama

Yep.  I'm a minivan mama!  I couldn't be more excited and sure never thought that would be the case!

We've been cruising in our new van for a little over a week and LOVE it!  Ava still talks about how awesome it is each time we get in and we have uttered many prayers of thanksgiving for God's amazing gift to our family.

(So much love for the new van Grayson just had to give it a hug!)

Our new van proclaims that God provides in ways that only He can get the credit.  We are so thankful for my cousins for their generous gift and are even more thankful that they themselves give all the glory to God!

Our new van is also a daily reminder that there is room for more.  We wait expectantly for Easton to be part of our family . . . not with anxiety, because we trust in God's timing, but with such excitement for God's good plans for our family and our new son.  Oh man I can't wait to get another carseat and have another sweet little face smiling back at me in the rearview mirror!  (And Chad has been quick to point out that even after Easton is home we now have room for 2 more! Only the Lord knows about that one!)

The van is amazing.  The travel to get the van was not.

My cousins who gave us the van live outside of Nashville.  We had already planned a trip up there to see them and attend the Empowered to Connect conference.  The details worked out perfectly for us to visit them and bring back the van, but we hated to have to drive home in two cars.

Solution = Megabus.

The Megabus is amazing really.  It goes to many cities and is ridiculously cheap.  Chad and I both got from New Orleans to Nashville for $30.  Not $30 each.  $30 total.  You can't get down the road without using that much in gas these days!

Megabus seemed like the perfect solution.  We ride a bus together there and drive our van home together.  Sounds all rosy and snuggly, right?  Wrong.

Our bus ride from New Orleans to Atlanta was from 9:30 pm to 7:30 am.  I obviously knew this, but talked myself into the fact that it would be an "adventure" for us, great bonding time, blah blah blah.

The bus was full.  The wifi wasn't working so we couldn't watch movies like we'd planned.  And for the love of all that is good, I just can't sleep in anything but a bed.  That little 2 inch reclining does nothing for me.  I had ear plugs, an eye mask, a pillow, and my Louisiana Tech blanket that I never leave home without.  And I still barely got 2 hours of sleep on that never ending ride.

Not to mention that every time I would start to doze off, I would jump up in a panic when I heard the bus make a noise because I was just sure that our driver would be dozing off too. (I had to sit up half the night keeping a bus driver awake on a college trip to Glorieta and I've evidently been scarred for life.)

Chad did a little better and got maybe 4 hours of sleep, but you wouldn't have known it.  When we got to Atlanta, Chad woke up quite delirious and kept talking about how he couldn't see right.  I'm like "Yea, yea.  Just keep moving and get me off this bus."  We waited for them to unload the luggage and as Chad grabs our suitcase he swung it around and literally knocked over 4 other suitcases and almost sideswiped an innocent bystander.  I'm picking up suitcases and looking at Chad like everyone else . . . "Are you crazy?"

We walk down the road a bit before Chad realizes that he's left his phone on the bus.  Thankfully it hadn't left yet, but as he runs back up to me, I'm like, "Chad you better snap out of it and get yourself together.  We are in the middle of an overpass in downtown Atlanta and I need you to be able to think!"  If that hadn't worked, there is a good chance he would've gotten a slap in the face. :)

Middle of an overpass?  Yeah, that's another fun part of this adventure.  Megabus is so cheap because they have no bus stations.  You literally get dropped off on the side of the road.  No address, just an intersection. And in downtown Atlanta, it just so happens to be in the middle of an interstate overpass.

So there we are . . . exhausted, hungry, in desperate need of coffee, and pulling our luggage behind us as we wander through downtown.  Sensing that we clearly needed help, a security guard kindly guided us to a cafe where we fueled up (and brushed our teeth in the bathroom).  We found a little courtyard to read our Bibles until we had to be back at the overpass to get on our bus to Nashville (I stared at the same words like a zombie and then just gave up).

The Nashville trip wasn't near as bad, but I was D.O.N.E. by the time we got there!  I so wish I was a better traveler, but it just hasn't happened yet.  :)

Even with all the adventure in getting there, our time in Nashville was incredible.  We loved getting to spend time with our family.  And the conference was life changing.  Too much to put into words.

And let me tell you . . . the ride home in our new van was like a ride in luxury compared to what it took to get there!

 Letting Ava and Grayson check out the new ride for the first time!

Testing out the buttons!

My two cuties with SO much room!  Ava asks daily if she can play in the van . . . it's like a playground in there!

Monday, September 10, 2012


5 years ago yesterday, Chad welcomed everyone who walked into Edgewater with the news that he was going to be a daddy.  To say he was excited is an understatement!

We had known for about a month, but had been keeping our big news a secret until we could tell our family. The weekend before, we flew up to Kansas and surprised my parents and brother with news that a little one would be joining our family in April!  Precious, precious moments that I will cherish forever!

We told Chad's family as soon as we got back into town.  We immediately realized that it was time to go public when Chad's mom told our waitress at dinner that she was going to be a grandma . . . there was going to be no keeping this a secret for much longer! :)

That week was filled with some of the most joy-filled conversations I had ever had!  News of a baby is just pure joy and we were swimming in it.  So that Sunday at church was just the icing on the cake . . . telling our faith family and having them share in our joy was priceless.

But 5 years ago today, our joy turned to despair as we learned that our little one was gone.

We went for my first doctor appointment, saw the first picture of our first baby, but didn't see the heartbeat we longed for.  I was 9 weeks, but our little love had stopped growing at 7 weeks.

There just aren't words to describe what we went through that day and the days that followed.  Pure heartbreak.

The next 2 weeks were miserable, painful, and exhausting in every possible way.

But God was near.  Chad and I held on to each other and tried desperately to help one another cling to God.  Our Edgewater family truly were the hands and feet of Jesus as they loved, served, cared, and prayed for us.

About a month after the miscarriage, we went to Galveston, just the two of us, for a week-long getaway.  We slept.  We cried.  We watched an unhealthy amount of LOST.  We cried some more.

We took long walks on the most gorgeous deserted beach.

And for the first time in my life I flat out wrestled with God.

I boldly asked Him all my questions.  I gave Him the full force of my anger and hurt.

But just like David after he cried out to God with questions in Psalm 13, I ended this way . . .

But I trust in your unfailing love; 
My heart rejoices in your salvation. 
I will sing the Lord's praise, 
for He has been good to me.

I can't believe that it has been 5 years.  I look back and see nothing but God's faithfulness and grace.  He has healed our hearts from the pain that was so raw and overwhelming.

But healing is not forgetting.

His name is Ashton.  Named after his Daddy.  

And today I went through the memory box we created with all the cards, emails, prizes, and keepsakes from those months.  I cried tears of loss, but also gratitude.  

I'm amazed that anything of my weak faith was even left after the trauma of Ashton's loss.  I was not the woman then that I am now.  I didn't feast on God's Word daily or even consistently.  I didn't take each Word in the morning as my daily Bread.  God was so gracious to one so weak and lukewarm.

His grace sustained me and has drawn me into depths with Him that I couldn't have imagined then.  He has heaped blessing upon blessing on our lives . . . two amazing kiddos and hearts waiting for another.  

In fact, exactly a year after we sat on our couch and sobbed over the fresh news of our loss, we sat on that same couch for the first time holding our precious 10 day old daughter.  

Beauty from ashes.  Joy from mourning.  Life from death.  Isn't that God's way?

This morning as Chad and I prayed, remembering the darkness of grief and still aching for our son, God again reminded us of His sovereignty and faithfulness.  

Ava heard the garbage truck and came flying out of her room.  We smiled as we listened to the pitter patter of feet that wouldn't have been a part of our lives had it not been for Ashton's feet only knowing the streets of heaven. 

Today I grieve and give thanks to the One who is Creator, Sovereign, and Good. 

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Psalm 105:1-4 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nations Night

If you think "Djibouti" is slang for your backside, this post is for you!

Maybe its just me, but have you ever realized how uneducated you are about our world?  I feel completely ignorant.  I can't recall a whole lot about the history of America so I certainly don't know anything about the history of other nations.

Seriously.  Most international students I've met in the US know more about my own country than I do.  And then I've got nothing in return.  Oh, your from Estonia?  I didn't even know that country exists.  End of conversation.

Why would someone want to hear me share the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ if I don't even have an ounce of knowledge about where they call home?  Ouch.

The horrible result of this ignorance will be upon my kids unless I stop the cycle.

How am I going to disciple my children to have God's heart for the nations if I know nothing about them and therefore have nothing to teach?  

That question has resulted in an intentional focus on the nations in the Gilbert house!

We got a new world map to put in Ava's room (Grayson ripped down our first one . . . shocker!).  I feel like I need to go back to 7th grade World Studies and do some quizzes!  We so want our whole family to be familiar with every nation and the work God is doing there so having them in front of us daily will certainly help!

We have used Operation World during our family worship each evening for the last few years and this has been amazing for all of us.  In a year, we pray specifically for every nation and are able to learn details about their history, politics, geography, religion, answers to prayer, and challenges for prayer.  If I could recommend one book to families (besides the Bible of course) this would be it!

The latest thing we are doing to increase our knowledge of the nations is a focus on one particular nation each month.  The idea started as a Nations Night once a month, but one night just wasn't going to be enough!

Our nation for August was India.  We have a group from Edgewater traveling to India in March (I so wish we could go . . . maybe next time!).  As we pray for those going on the trip the next few months, we will definitely be praying with more insight because of this last month!

I checked out a few children's books from the library about India.  This was a great way to teach Ava some of the culture and to give all of us a glimpse into life in India.

Chad and I are also trying to learn the states of India and their locations, but this will definitely be taking us more than one month!

We did decide to pick one night in the month for a Nations Night!  There was a lot going on so instead of making a homemade Indian meal like I planned, I picked up Amy's frozen Indian food from Target. Cut me some slack.  :)

Ava tried it, but wasn't a big fan.  Grayson, on the other hand, was chowing down!  It was fun to give them a taste of India and talk about some of the things we'd learned over the month.

I found a few videos on You Tube with traditional Indian music and dancing so the kiddos could experience that part of Indian culture.  And then we might have just ended up watching the dance scene on the last part of Slumdog Millionaire. :)

It was a fun month learning about India as a family even though I know we only touched the surface of the rich history and culture of their nation.  When we evacuated last week, we met an Indian family at a playground.  We praised God for His leading us to this focus because we were able to talk with them with confidence. . . not just about us or America, but about their culture as well!

We serve a God who created and loves people of all nations.  He wants to see His glory proclaimed in every people group because He alone is worthy of the worship of all peoples!  I'm praying that God will continue to cultivate in us and in His Church a love, knowledge, and passion for all nations!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

August Waitlist Number

Three cheers and a little happy dance for movement!

6 spots since last month and 19 since we got on the waitlist in July!  If this keeps up (please pray it does), then we could have our little man home in no time.  

I also want to give a shout out to my mama for making this little chalkboard for our countdown!  I'm all about something easy and cute!

As you pray for our number to drop, you are praying for little ones to be united with their forever families.  This is truly amazing and such a picture of the Father's heart.

But there is also great loss and tragedy that comes before, during, and after the beauty of adoption.  Please remember to pray for the birth families.  No matter the circumstances there is pain, hurt, grief, love and loss.  Pray that God would be so very real and close as birth families make life changing decisions . . . many making the most selfless choice one could make.  Pray that the Gospel would be proclaimed in adoption, both in actions and words.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ava's birthday . . . must mean a hurricane is headed to NOLA!

Not only did Hurricane Isaac bring deja vu for everyone who experienced Katrina (especially since it hit on the 7 year anniversary . . . not cool), but it brought another set of flashbacks for our family.

Ava was born four years ago on September 1st . . . the day Hurricane Gustav pounded into New Orleans.  Evacuating while 40 weeks pregnant is no joke, especially with all the drama/miracles we experienced.  (I wrote a bit more about it for Ava's birthday last year plus great pics of her through the years!)

Once again we found ourselves preparing to evacuate as Ava's birthday drew near.  Isaac was only a Category 1 hurricane, but it left us away from home for a full week because of no power, 4 days apart from daddy, an empty fridge, a broken fence, a little water in the church . . . and compared to most we were hardly impacted.

So in the spirit of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" we decided to make the whole week a celebration for Ava's birthday!  She got to see both sets of grandparents, was given some really fun prizes, and best of all got a call from daddy on her birthday that our power was back on and we could come home!

The week was fun, but several days without daddy coupled with being completely out of our routine was honestly wearing me down a bit.  Thankfully the Lord gave me a precious moment on the morning of Ava's birthday both with Him and my girl!

I have been reading through the Psalms for the past few months asking God to give me a specific Psalm for each of our kids to be our prayer/vision for them and one that we would help them memorize.  That morning I just happened to be reading Psalm 96 and it was God speaking so clearly to me as I thanked God for Ava.

This is her Psalm.  Pray this for her . . . and really mean it.

This wouldn't seem a tough task, but I only had to get as far as verses 2 & 3 to make my breath catch.

"Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples."

Of course I want to pray this for my girl . . . this is why we were created, this is what we teach her our lives are supposed to be about.  But a mama praying that her precious little girl would go to all nations and all peoples with the Gospel means complete surrender . . . for her and for me.  It means letting go of comfort, safety, nearness.  It means trusting her fully to her Maker.

So I'll admit that I paused a second and took a deep breath before I continued with this prayer.  We have to choose to raise her in such a way that she will have a heart for the nations and desire for all to know the salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ.  And as tough as this road may be for her/us to walk, it is the only one that makes sense in light of what Jesus has done for us.

This was a special moment in the heart of this mama, but it wasn't done.

When Ava woke up, I shared those few verses with her and that I was praying for her.  We talked a little about what the verses mean . . . going to all nations to tell people about Jesus.  I asked Ava what different nations she might like to visit to share the Gospel and her answer brought me to tears . . .

Oh mom . . . when I'm a mom I'm going to live in Ethiopia and take care of all the babies whose parents can't take care of them anymore.

So simple. So matter-of-fact.  So the heart of Christ.

I'm praying great things for my beautiful daughter.  I'm praying Psalm 96 and her vision of the future are truly prophetic words for her life.  Like Mary, I'm treasuring all this things in my heart while at the same time wrestling with how to let go.

What a precious gift with which we have been entrusted!  Ava is funny, smart, compassionate, quirky, and such a joy!  (Check out this post for some of her latest funnies!)

I've got a bunch of pictures that capture Ava's week-long birthday celebration!

We got to love on cousin Penny while at Grammy and Paw Paw's house!

Grammy made Ava some birthday cupcakes!  They also got Ava a new swing for the amazing swing set God provided for us!

And Ava got to eat her favorite "spicy" ice cream . . . mint chocolate chip!

We went to a wildlife/alligator farm with Papa T and Lili.  They were content to let daddy feed the crazy goats!

We watch a whole lot of alligators being fed and they got to pet one.  Standing by the wall was as close as my girl was willing to get!

Ava's princess cake!

Ava is still willing to read birthday cards before tearing into the prize . . . don't think that will last much longer!

My girl has been really into having tea parties lately.  Lili got her a tea set of her own and we've already enjoyed several cups of water tea. :)  Papa T and Lili got a new swing for Ava too!

Aunt Sheryl got Ava a new baby doll who was immediately named Mary Poppins. 

Daddy left on Thursday to head back to NOLA and figured we probably wouldn't be back by Ava's actual birthday on Saturday.  He gave her flowers before she left . . . so precious!  If you ask Ava what is her favorite color, she says "purpleyelloworange" as if it is one color.  Chad couldn't believe that he found the perfect bouquet!  She looked at the flowers, looked at her daddy with such love, and then threw her arms around his neck.  I love watching Chad teach her how she should be loved by a man!

Uncle Clay sent Ava some new games to practice her counting, math, and reading . . . such a teacher! :)

Papa T and Lili got down the doll house that I played with when I was a little girl.  Ava literally spent hours moving all the furniture around and playing with her dolls . . . as long as the door was shut with Grayson on the other side!  The doll house stayed at Lili's house so it doesn't cause World War III at our house!

Chad and I got Ava, you guessed it, another swing for the swing set, but also got her a few prizes for our "school" time.  I've never seen a girl so excited about gel pens and a "measurer" (ruler)!

Such a good birthday week, but nothing compares to being home with Daddy in the city we love!