Friday, May 28, 2010

Birthday Celebration with Family

After a full day of celebrating my birthday, it was finally time to open my gifts from my family.  Hooray!  Anticipation had filled me all day long.
Over the years, Reid and I have done less and less materially on birthdays, but tried to make them special for each other through creative ways.  This year, Reid surprised me with my BIRTHDAY BLOG full of well wishes from friends and family.  (Sorry, after reading it, I felt the notes were too personal to share a link.  They were written for my eyes and for my heart.  So, thanks for understanding.)  The blog meant so much to me because it provided needed encouragement.
This year, Reid did have one small gift for me though.  It was a candle.  He said he bought it because "I share the light of Jesus with others."  Very sweet!
I love handwritten notes and cards.  Braden gave me a note that read, "I love my Mom.  Happy Birthday!"  Adorable!
The artist, Franklin, gave me a picture he's been working on for months.  It was a beautiful color by number.  He granted me the gift of his finished masterpiece!Weston is not to be outdone by his older brother.  He's also been working on a color by number.  He handed it to me with a big smile!  I love it, and will frame it when it is completely done.  You bless my life!
Still the love of my life - my honey and his 41 year old wife!  Oh my!
Mason was not with us for the family celebration because of his DI Competition downtown.  One of my birthday memories will always be seeing him perform with his team.  They ROCKED! 

Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me-e, Happy Birthday to Me!

They say that age is all in your mind. The trick is keeping it from creeping down into your body. ~Author Unknown
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Birthday Celebration with Friends

What a BIRTHDAY!  Being a full year over the hill isn't so bad!

Kristie and Janet blessed me with a birthday celebration at one of my new favorite restaurants - Pei Wei.  They lavished love on me...and a few gifts!  Hee-hee!  I truly felt loved.  Kristie even had my favorite cake - red velvet!
Why the "M" on top?  Well, because I am a "Mom" of course!  At least that was Sydney's reason.  What completely cracked me up was when I opened my fortune cookie to read, "Mother."  Too funny! 
Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to Me, Happy Birthday to Me-e, Happy Birthday to Me! 

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~Albert Schweitzer

Thank you dear, precious friends for making my birthday so very special!  Love you both so much!
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Heroes Inspiring Vision

According to Merriam Webster online -
HERO   : a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities : one that shows great courage : an object of extreme admiration and devotion

Who are the heroes around you?  Lately the heroes around me have been children willing to give themselves away to make an impact - a difference - in this vast world.  Very few adults, but multiple children.  Little ones living large. 

Middle schoolers are blogging to challenge peers to live out their faith, Sydney, a ten year old, is selling shirts to feed orphans in Africa and this precious adopted eight year old girl with HIV is authoring a blog that inspires while she gives her money away to an adoption fund!

As we grow up, do we become unwilling to take a risk?  Do we think too much instead of acting on faith?  Do we hold back?  Do we try to control and predict rather than trusting?  As you read my next blog entry, know that I am pondering each of these questions heavily.  What will be our answer to each pointed question?  What is yours?

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.   - Isaiah 11:6
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Adoption Birthday Call

Today at 1:40 pm our adoption agency called.  Today - my birthday.  What a birthday gift - to realize this is a reality!  There is a child waiting for us - a child(ren?) we are pursuing.  A child(ren?) we are praying for and who is being birthed within our hearts!

Normally a phone call from your adoption agency would not be strange, but I think this is the first time I've received a phone call.  Most communication is done via e-mail.

Jeanne, from our agency, was calling to be sure she had the information correct for a referral.  (A referral is a statement of preferences for the child(ren) to be placed within your family.)  I was caught completely off guard, but answered her as I've answered most people recently - one boy or one girl, one boy and one girl, two boys or two girls - ages 2-6!  Oh, we need prayer.

Jeanne said, "So, you're just playing it by ear, huh?"

Well, no not really, but do not have clarity from the Lord about how to answer your question.  Reid and I continue to talk about it, and neither one of us feels released to only one child, but have not felt complete confirmation for two sibling children - although, I do think we both lean this direction when we dig down deep.  Please pray for us to KNOW what God would desire for our family and for these children.  We want to be in the center of HIS WILL.  We need clear discernment.

Please pray that God would direct our paths.  The same excuses that used to keep us from adopting one, now bear their ugly heads as we consider two.  However, isn't that ultimately what these reasons not to adopt two children are?  Excuses?   

All information is in for the home study.  Once it is written, it is done.  So, we will need to make decisions about a referral soon.  May we step forward in faith in God - not faith in our circumstances...not faith in ability...not faith in others...but FAITH IN GOD! 

Jeanne called today because there are more children coming into the orphanages.  Children in need of a family to love them.  Perhaps one of these (or two of these?) belong in our home.  Please come alongside us in prayer for this decision.  Reid and I have never faced a greater decision in our lifetime.

Please pray for us -
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5,6

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Birthday Blessings

This morning I awoke twice.  First, at 5:42 am as Reid wished me a Happy Birthday and then kissed me good-bye before leaving for work.  Second, my ears were filled with Franklin, Weston, and Braden singing Happy Birthday.  I glanced at the clock to read 7:20 am.  My sleepy eyes opened to them holding a tray of fruit, yogurt, toast, and my morning cup of coffee!  What a wonderful way to start they day - having breakfast in bed surrounded by three of my boys!  (Mason is staying at UT for his DI competition.)

As I came into the den, I found my birthday letter from Reid.  What a gift from my husband as he poured out his heart to me.  At the bottom of his letter, he told me about the birthday blog.  (He created a blog filled with birthday wishes from friends and family!  Wow!)

I just finished reading the life-giving words from everyone and there are tears in my eyes.  Thank you for blessing me with words of affirmation and encouragement.  Lately I have not seen any of the things you stated about me in myself.  I've struggled to see anything "good."  I can not tell you what your words meant to me on this day in my life.  Thank you for taking the time to send your love to my heart!  I am truly blessed. 

What does the rest of the day hold?  Lunch with two dear friends at 11:00 - can't wait!  Headed to Mason's competition at UT at 1:30 pm.  Taking Paige and Tyler and planning to pick up Omar and Lamar on the way to provide a cheering section for Mason's DI team.  (Mason's performance is at 3:48 pm so please pray if you can!  Global competition with 10,000 competitors!)  Afterwards, dinner with Reid and the boys including Omar and Lamar at 6:00.  (We will be celebrating Omar's birthday as well as mine.)  Finally, Franklin's baseball game at 8:00.  Whew!  It should be a day full of fun, joy, and excitement!  What a wonderful way to spend my birthday!

Thank you friends and family!  You have been a blessing!

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you."  Phil 1:3

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Yesterday, I enjoyed my birthday-eve.  It started with the Bible Study at Water Angels.  Stephanie is away on vacation, so I was privileged to lead three different Bible Studies at the ministry this week.  Oh, it was amazing!  There were around 21-24 homeless men and women at the morning studies.  Reading straight from God's Word and discussing it yields so much fruit.  The wisdom and discernment from these friends astounds me.  I have left challenged every morning!

The Undivided Devotion study held 17 women on Tuesday night.  Most of these women have been or are currently prostitutes.  Their heart's desire is to follow Christ and get off the streets.  After the Tuesday morning lesson, I felt led to share the same talk I previously gave at our FBCK Women's Retreat - "Step Away...From Sin."  Oh, it was powerful!!  The study ended when Summerlee, who is a homeless girl but a very gifted writer, shared a prayer she had written.  Everyone was touched by her words!  We prayed on our knees seeking God's abundant forgiveness for our actions and our inaction.  It was BEAUTIFUL!  One woman, Samantha, surrendered her life to Christ and many women prayed aloud from their hurting hearts.  God's Spirit was evident!

After the morning Bible Study yesterday, I headed to a birthday celebration with my two sisters and my mom.  We enjoyed a delicious meal together celebrating the birthdays of Wendy and myself.  I love my personalized gifts - a monogrammed pool bag, monogram key chain, and monogrammed water bottle!  Mom even gave me some birthday money to treat myself.  After lunch, Mom splurged for us to have pedicures and manicures.  What a TREAT for me!  (The guy doing my pedicure asked if he could have a different client because my feet were so rough!  Sorry buddy, but pedicures are only once a year or less for me.  I'm a busy Mama!)  It was a great start to my birthday tomorrow.  Thank you for loving me so well!

Where were the boys during all of my commitments at Water Angels and the birthday lunch?  On Tuesday, they were playing games at the Kuhn Field Day.  Wendy hosted 23 kids for the morning to have a Field Day of sorts filled with exciting competitions.  Tuesday afternoon, Mathiang came to the house and stayed with them until Reid arrived home to grill out.   On Wednesday, the boys were with the Brownings.  Janet treated them to homemade pancakes and an afternoon playing in the fountains at World's Fair Park.   When I arrived to pick them up, they were all smiles!  Thank you Wendy and Janet for helping watch the boys during this busy week!

Last night Braden asked to play "Apples to Apples."  He asked me if I wanted him to be on my team (usually he only wants to be with Dad.) 

I responded that I would LOVE to be his partner.

To which he replied, "It can be an early birthday present!"

Thank you Braden!  What a start to my birthday!  Thank you all for cheerfully giving to me - it is evidence of God's love.

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.                              -2 Corinthians 9:7
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Monday, May 24, 2010

I Need a Bumper Sticker or Two

After receiving the following e-mail from Mathiang, I've decided I need a bumper sticker for the back of my van. It would read, "My son is an Honor Student at Maryville College." Mathiang is doing fabulous. Here's his update on this semester:

Dear All,

How is everyone doing? Hope that all is well with you. I just want to let you know that I have finally got my grades for spring semester and it looks like I did better than last semester. I made three lower As and one A ( that bring up my overall GPA to 3.6). I would like to take this moment to thank you for your prayers and continues support that you constantly portrayed. What had happened the previous semester and this semester is an answer to prayers. Thank you once more and God bless you.

Mathiang my book, a low A and a high A are still As. He made straight As this semester! We're so proud of him!  Who would have imagined one of the Lost Boys of Sudan on the DEAN'S LIST?  Wow!

As for the other boys, we are proud of them as well. Great progress in school this year. Encouraging testing results arriving in the mail to spur us on to continue home schooling. Wonderful spiritual growth as well. What a joy to be with them as they learn!

Mason is competing in a global competition this weekend. His team placed first at regionals and at state. We are anxious to see how they will do stacked up against teams from around the world. There are over 10,000 students competing in the Destination Imagination Event. We'll keep you posted!

God is so gracious and we are blessed with an amazing family in so many ways! However, still...

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. - 3 John 1:4
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PS - Mathiang is modeling the adoption t-shirt in the photo above.  Doesn't he look handsome?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

GEE Adoption!

When I was pregnant with our first four boys, I began to feel that pregnancy was contagious. It seemed once I became pregnant, many others around me became pregnant as well. So it is with adoption.

One of my sisters is now pursuing adoption - from the African country, Ethiopia. Reid's sister is also pursuing adoption - also from the African country, Ethiopia. It's astounding to realize that this child of ours will have an African cousin on both sides of the family! Isn't that incredible?

G - Ghana
E- Ethiopia
E- Ethiopia

Another close friend has also started the process - from Ethiopia. Friends of friends are hosting orphans for the summer. A different family - praying about it, but where? A family from church deciding - domestic or foreign adoption? Others, wondering...about...adoption?

The truth is that orphans are everywhere. Children need homes. Children are desperate for LOVE and SECURITY. Who will accept the responsibility? Could it be you?

There was a time I thought it certainly would never be us. Money - not enough. Age - too old. Family - too big already. House - too small. But then Reid and I allowed God to lead our hearts. Our answer - YES!

The truth is also that it seems to be God's heart to care for these children. Throughout scripture, God continues to point us toward loving, caring, and giving to others, but especially those who are forgotten. There are many adoptive families in scripture - several in the lineage of Christ - Moses, Esther, Ruth, etc... Even Jesus was adopted by an earthly father, Joseph, who chose to love this child which was not his own. Finally, WE are adopted into this kingdom because of God's great love for us! YES, it is God's heart!

I recently read this quote by Clayton and Amber Jones who adopted from Ethiopia,

"Alone. Unclaimed. Forgotten. Longing. These are the words I would use to describe the faces of the orphans I met while uniting with our daughter for the first time in Ethiopia. other words I would use: Beautiful, resilient, joyful, forgiving, humble, and I could go on and on. Our daughter is one in a million, but also one among 4.6 million orphans that are still in Ethiopia...waiting...just for a family. Just a family. Not possessions. Not riches. Not fame - all the things many on this earth seek after. These kids simply want love and belonging.
But the question remains: Who will go? Many families may be willing but are afraid to take the leap of faith because of the terribly high cost of adoption..."

Clayton and Amber continue on to thank the organization Show Hope for giving them a grant to help offset the cost of the adoption.

Today, God continues to amaze me with His continual provision. Today we received the first donation by the "donate" button on this blog. I nearly fell out of my computer chair when I saw the e-mail! So unexpected! (Since the button had never been used, I'd forgotten it was even on here!) God is so good! Several have sent gifts in the mail, ordered t-shirts, donated to the yard sales, or shopped at the yard sales. A young girl sold root beer floats to help us. Another young person gave us her "Mason jar" full of money. A friend paid our portion of a hotel room for a competition Mason competed in recently. A doctor waived his co-pay for my visit! Friends worked to the point of exhaustion last weekend to host a HUGE Yard Sale for us! There are so many other ways people have helped beyond what I've listed. Thank you! Friends and family, YOU are bringing this child home! YOU are the hands and feet of Jesus to do so! THANK YOU! Words seem so inadequate. I can not believe God's provision! My faith continues to grow, as I witness God's love for this child.

To borrow more of Amber's words to each of you who have helped us, "Most importantly, our Father in heaven will be well pleased that you are participating in HIS redemption here on earth. Thank you, thank you, and a million more thank yous!"

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. - Ephesians 1:4-6
For more encouragement on helping orphans, read Sydney's blog and find out what this 10 year old is doing to feed the orphans in Africa!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Ten Year Old Growing Up Trip # 3

It's hard to believe, but the time has come for another "Growing Up Trip."  Reid has taken each of the boys on a special trip to talk about growing up.  Finally, it's Weston's turn!
The boys choose the destination, but Reid decides the topic of conversation.  Reid and Weston are headed to Indian Boundary Campground this weekend (May 21-23) with kayaks in tow.  (Weston's first choice was Club 180, but camping wasn't available at the State Park.  Therefore, they settled on Indian Boundary.)  They've planned some campfire meals, and the weekend weather looks promising.  Weston should have a memorable time.  I can't believe how fast time flies.  He really is growing up!  He will come back with knowledge he did not leave with on Friday.  Oh my!  I'll be praying!

Update:  After a few hours on the road, Reid called.  He informed me that Weston had decided he didn't want to grow up!  Can you blame him?  Ugh!