Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer Fun

There is nothing like your firstborn getting ready to start kindergarten to make you acutely aware of the shortness of summer.

I know some of y'all with kids at home who are normally at school are wondering what in the world I am talking about ... summer is loooooong. :)  I'm sure I'll be changing my tune in a year, but for now I feel like the day when my baby girl heads off to school without me is hurling toward me.

So this summer, we decided to be a little more intentional about making memories together.  It is awful to end up feeling like you've wasted precious time so I've been determined to make the most of these few months.  

Enter:  Summer Fun List.

 We sat around one of the days that Chad was still home {but not in a pain or medicine fog} and came up with these ideas together.  It shouldn't take you long to guess which ones Ava added to the list. {anything involving sugar!} Or be surprising that our first one checked off was to make smores . . . over the grill in the middle of blazing hot June!

I'm looking forward to getting the whole list checked off by August 21 when life gets turned upside down!

Since we're on the topic of summer fun, I thought I'd share a yummy recipe that is especially great for summer.

Hummus Veggie Wrap

whole wheat tortillas {I like the Whole Foods ones best}
hummus {I could eat Sabra Roasted Pine Nut hummus with a spoon!}
fresh lemon juice
red onion

{When I do something I like, I do it that way every time.  I'm weird like that.  So I'll give a step by step that is delicious and you can feel free to change it up!}

Spread hummus all over the tortilla.
Sprinkle lemon juice over the hummus.
Slice the tomato and put over half the tortilla.
Put sliced cucumber on top of tomatoes.
Sprinkle a little more lemon juice on cucumbers then add pepper on top.
Put sliced red onion on top.
Add romaine lettuce on top {not in the pic because you wouldn't see anything else!}.
Fold over and enjoy!

We love this wrap and seriously eat it for lunch at least 2 or 3 times a week.  It has no meat, but is super filling.  Chad even asks for it now!

 And just in case you needed a little more cuteness, here's a few more pics of my little loves . . .

 Ava and Grayson are actually playing together a lot more now. {translation:  Grayson will actually be still long enough to listen to what Ava wants him to do!}  They are getting creative together and it is such a joy to watch!  This is their "bunk bed" which kept them busy for 30 minutes. :)

Grayson is hilarious, especially now that he is talking and pretending.  This is him being a "mower."  The backpack is a blower and he uses the strap to pretend to blow the grass off the sidewalk.  He even makes the noise as he waves it back and forth.  And the hat is a necessity {you'll never see a landscaping guy without a hat on!}.  So cute!

Swinging and a picnic lunch at the Botanical Gardens

What are some of your favorite summer fun activities?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Adoption Update

An adoption update is long overdue.  It hasn't been that there is nothing to share, but with all that has been going on, I just haven't had the words or the energy to write until now.

I never gave our May waitlist number {88} because we got it right before the surgery and I was freaking out focused on that front.  Little did I know that I had missed my last chance to share our waitlist number. 

We received an email from AGCI a few weeks ago letting us know that they would no longer being giving families an updated waitlist number each month.  They aren't changing their process so we are still on a big list, but we just won't be getting that number anymore.  Essentially the process is so slow and complicated by lots of factors and parameters that the waitlist number can be a little misleading and lead to confusion and discouragement.  I get that.  A countdown is good, but when your number is still huge, it isn't as exciting as you'd think it would be.  And when your number is small, you could be on the edge of your seat for months, freaking out each time the phone rings . . . not great either.  {So if anyone has a great idea of what to put on my cute little chalkboard in the kitchen that previously chronicled our countdown, let me know.}

The slowdown in a nutshell is because like anything in our world, corruption can come into something beautiful and screw things up.  Thankfully AGCI is an ethical and trustworthy agency and has an amazing team in Ethiopia committed to doing things above reproach.  Because other agencies and orphanages aren't as ethical, there is a slowdown while US and ET authorities try to sort out and get rid of corruption.

AGCI also opened up a few possibilities because of the long wait . . . switching programs, concurrent adoptions, and letting your paperwork expire until you are closer to receiving a referral.  It is good they are looking at the timelines realistically and giving families a little more freedom in the meantime.

However, none of these options are something we sense God leading us to at this time.  Since we are still high on the list, we might normally be open to letting our paperwork expire, but I knew the list of families open to HIV was smaller and so I thought we should keep our paperwork updated so we'd be ready for a referral at any time.  

We don't have access to the details of families on the list, but I only knew of a couple of families in front of us open to HIV.  I decided to email our caseworker just to see if she would give me an answer as to exactly how many open to HIV were ahead of us {I was thinking 2 or 3}.  

Seven.  Not gonna lie, that email was like a punch in the gut.  {Now before you freak out at my selfishness . . . Of course I'm thrilled that so many families are open to a positive child.  I love it.  These kiddos need families and access to life-saving medication.  I'm thankful for how families just like ours are obeying God's call to be open to little ones that some in our world would disregard.}

But the difference between three and seven in the adoption world could be months and even years.  So there was some excitement, but quite a bit of discouragement too.  {And you have to cut me some slack too because I got this email right after Chad had come home from the hospital and I was exhausted and he was in all manner of pain and my kids were probably going crazy and it was all just too much.}

So what did I do?  I sadly did what many a woman before me has done when faced with a delay in her plan . . . I began to manipulate.  {Think Sarai and the whole Hagar episode.}
I found a moment alone and began to think of ways to fix it.  My train of thought went something like this . . .

We could leave AGCI and be matched with a waiting child with HIV in no time.  No . . . we would lose all the money we've already put in and we can't do that with everything that friends and family have sacrificially given.  We could do a concurrent adoption.  After all, we've already talked about adopting again one day.  Maybe another little one will come before Easton instead.  No . . . that would require another $30,000 that we don't have.  Maybe we could do foster-to-adopt since there is such a great need in our city.  No . . . AGCI won't let us do that while waiting.  Maybe I could just get pregnant again and have another little one before Easton even comes home.

And that's when God snapped me out of my craziness.  I had let my mind go so far down the track without realizing that the Holy Spirit had gotten off the train several stops back.

God whispered . . . When did the goal become just adding another child to your family?  Doesn't matter who, doesn't matter how . . . just get a kid in our family as quick as possible.  When did you trade in My perfect plan for this idea?

Ugh.  Thankfully I wasn't in that pit for long, but it was sobering to see the road that a little discouragement could send me running down.  I confessed.  I repented. 

And then I did what I predicted two years ago would need to happen at some point . . . I went back to when God spoke.  

This is an excerpt from my very first blog post announcing that we were adopting . . .

We know it will be a hard journey and we want to be able to look back and know that we heard God speak and were led by Him alone. To combat the desire in us to figure it all out and to pursue options that would be quicker, cheaper, etc., we committed to just spending time in daily prayer asking God to teach us, refine us and show us our next step.
Boy did He speak! In the last week, God has given us some clear answers.
What we know for now is that we are to adopt a son from Africa!

God spoke in incredible ways that we were to pursue adopting a little boy from Africa.  Months later God refined our call to adopt an HIV positive little one.  
This reflection gave me a fresh resolve . . .

Until we hear Him speak again, we will continue down this road for as long as it takes to see God's plan fulfilled.

{That's an easy sentence to write, but a much harder reality to walk.}

 I was strengthened and renewed by returning to our call, but it still weighed heavy on my heart as to why I was so thrown out of whack at the thought of our adoption taking even longer.

Then the other day God used my kiddos to reveal to me my heart and error in thinking.  
Ava said to Grayson, "I'm 4 and you're 2 so I win."  {She just might have a bit of her mama's competitive nature in her!} I said, "Ava, you are making a race out of something that isn't one.  Of course you are older, you were born first.  It isn't better, it's just how God planned it."

The words had barely left my mouth before I was humbling my heart.  I have looked at friends start the adoption process after us and already have their kids home and somehow have felt like they have won and I've lost.  I've turned this journey into a race so that every month waiting feels like a hurdle in my way and every victory for another family feels like defeat.
What a mess I've made of such a beautiful thing.  Of course our friend's have already welcomed their little one home . . . it was God's perfect plan.  Of course Easton isn't here yet and there are seven families in front of us and it could be years before we see his face . . . it is God's perfect plan.

And if I can't trust in His perfect plan, then what can I trust?  Walking in faith . . . that is what we are called to . . . even when it is hard and we can't see and it hurts.  So back on the journey {with the Holy Spirit this time!} and looking forward to more of how God will refine my heart and our family through the journey to our precious Easton!

So there you have it.  {Now you know why I haven't had the energy to write it all out!}  It is humbling to be honest on here for anyone to read, but I don't want to be anything else.  I don't have it all together.  I don't always wait well.  I worry and manipulate at times instead of trusting.

But I am seeking my Father through it all and I can still hear His voice that brings me back to quiet waters and green pastures.  His Word reminds me of His faithfulness to His promises . . . always.  The Gospel proclaims His great mercy and grace lavished on me.  Where else can I go?  I will trust in Jesus.  Praise be to His Name! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Missionary Training

We have a missionary in our family.  

Her sending date:  mid-August.  

Her sending agency:  Us.

Her destination:  Lusher Elementary School.

Her next two months:  Training for the field.

{Ava ready to be a flower girl a month ago.  How is it possible that my girl is old enough to go to school?} 

The past year has taken us through the craziness that is applying to public schools in New Orleans.  We applied to three of the incredible public schools in the city, all of which are open enrollment to anyone in our parish.  They each have a lottery since there are way more applicants than spots.  It was time consuming and a little stressful . . . and we trusted in God's sovereignty from the beginning . . . I can't imagine the families that are desperate for their child to get a good education and are just hoping to get lucky.

We went through all the lotteries and Ava didn't get it any of the three.  And we were fine with this.  We signed her up to go to Arthur Ashe, which is 3 blocks from our house and started buying uniforms.  

Then, two weeks ago, we got a call from Lusher.  Because of Ava's good score on their assessment test, she had been #2 on their waitlist.  Even so, we didn't expect her to get in because people don't typically give up a spot at such a great school.  We were shocked to hear them offer Ava a spot.  We took a few days to pray about it {the weight of this decision was more overwhelming than I expected}.  

We are confident after much prayer and wise counsel that God has opened this door for Ava to learn at Lusher and for our family to intentionally make disciples in the Lusher community.

We have talked with Ava about the fact that she will be a "missionary" at Lusher.  Don't worry . . . we're not heaping pressure on her.  But we do want her to understand that God calls us, even her, to be intentionally making disciples as we go about life, in all areas of life.  We want her to get a great education, but that is not our greatest goal for her life.  We want her to see {and we've got to show her} that her place at Lusher is for a purpose far greater than just her education.  Our family will now have the opportunity to encounter other families, students, and teachers who may not have heard the good news that Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

As you know, missionaries don't just get thrown on the mission field.  They go to training first.  Intensive training.  Our great friends JB and Liz have been at training the last few months before heading to Africa.  Ava has been faithful to pray for them as they prepare {she always prays for their language learning, which they haven't even started yet!}.  

This morning the Lord opened my eyes to the fact that we are her sending agency, but don't yet have an intentional training plan for Ava to prepare her for going to school.  

{The catalyst was a nightmare last night about Ava's first day of school.  I'm still having the "can't get my locker open" nightmares and I've been out of school for 14 years!  Now evidently I get to have them for my daughter too!}

So I spent time this morning praying and thinking about how to best use the next two months to prepare Ava for school.  Now here me . . . it isn't like we have never talked to Ava about Jesus or don't read the Bible with her.  We do.  But it is a whole other thing to think specifically about what Truth I want to make sure is hidden in her heart and mind as she steps foot in a whole new culture.

Our plan for now is to focus each week on one of the "I AM" statements of Jesus recorded in John.  {If anyone has any craft ideas or illustrations for any of these, feel free to pass it on!}  

Ava has also been very interested in my Scripture Memory System and has asked for one for herself.  It might be a little much for her, but since she's asking, we're going to give it a try. {She is a firstborn who loves structure and routine so it just might be perfect!}

That's a start, but I'm writing this because I know I'm not alone.  I know there are families who have already walked or are walking this road and have priceless wisdom to share.  And I know I'm not the only mama who would be grateful for practical ideas and insight for intentionally discipling our kids to be a light for Christ at school!  

So this is where you, my friends, come in!  I would love some wisdom, advice, and sharpening to be shared here!

What are some of the verses that have been most beneficial for your children to have memorized to deal with what they encounter at school?

What teachings from the Word have you focused on that have been practical and encouraging for your children?

What things have you intentionally done to prepare your little one's heart for engaging with children and teachers who don't know Christ?

As school begins, what do you do to keep the big picture in mind of making disciples . . . for your child and for your family?

What are the best ways that you have connected with teachers and parents that have opened doors to share the Gospel?

 Please share!  Life is so much better in community {even online community!} where we can spur one another on in our faith!