Friday, December 27, 2013

(No) Fun Friday: Update 16

A couple of weeks ago we were able to send a package with a family traveling to Ethiopia. We bought the girls each a Christmas outfit and made them a family photo album. We waited with great anticipation to see their sweet little faces but nothing came. Instead, what we received from online resources was that Ethiopia is possibly closing its doors to adoption which sent a viral gasp to many in the process. The rumors continued for 2 days with speculation of what might or might not happen to the future of Ethiopia adoption. 

Our adoption agency asked many families to take a deep breathe and wait until Monday (Ethiopia time) to get more information. Of course, I wanted to stand in firm faith that this could not be the case. But as we gear up for a trip to see the girls, my tired mind wonders and I catch myself in what if’s. What if Ethiopia adoption suddenly stops? What will happen to the girls? What if we can’t be grandfathered in to this new system? What if God places us on a different path? Finally, Monday came and this is the message that we received in response to the rumors. 

Dear Adoptive Families,

As some of you are aware of there have been some rumors about the current state of Ethiopian adoptions.  I would like to take the time to clear up these rumors and get you all some answers.  I was able to communicate with our agency director several times sense Friday about everything.  Time and time again he stated that the rumors were not true but he needed some time to find out where they were coming from. 

To refresh everyone’s memories and because not everyone knows what has been going on I will recap the events that started on Friday and went through this morning.  An internet media sources posted on Friday that the head of MOWA (this is the organization in Ethiopia that oversees adoptions) made statements calling for Ethiopia to close to adoption.  This person is known for being opposed to international adoption so it was not a surprise that she made these comments.  It did not take long for people with blogs to pick up this article and give their opinion on the situation.  (I would caution anyone about using blogs as a source for information on subjects like this).  Things seem to quiet down until Saturday evening when an unreliable source publicly stated that head of MOWA was calling for adoption to close within 10 days.  As I heard from many families, this was upsetting and frustrating, for all of you.  Everyone one of you have invested so much heart, time and money in this process and to hear that this could even be a possibility was devastating. I spent a lot of time trying to find some legitimate information but I was unable to find anything on it.  With all of that being said Radu was able to respond with information about what has been going on along with a better insight on laws in Ethiopia surrounding adoption.  I have posted this information below for you to read. 

After talking to several families, I think it is important to address the slowing of MOWA letters in our two biggest regions.  I want you all to know that these are two separate issues.  The timing of these issues is difficult but MOWA is not signing the regional MOWA letters because they are going to close Ethiopia to adoption but because, in these two regions, they are working on changing the documents at the grassroots level (the beginning of the process).  There are other regions (some of which we work in) that are still signing MOWA letters.

I would like to take just a moment to say that I appreciate all of you and thank you for feeling comfortable enough to contact us with your concerns.  Please do not ever hesitate to call or email with anything you may need.

Information received from the director

As you know, the international adoption process is a process to assist orphans.  The Ethiopian parliament voted the right to have an orphan adopted to international families into a law when they originally opened the country for international adoptions. As with any laws it cannot be stopped in “ten days” like some very irresponsible sites implied.

Let’s take a few moments to think about this: if they stop the international adoption process in ten days, as rumors have said, what will happen with all the orphans? Who will take care of them? Where are they going to go?

What will happen to all the orphanages and with the orphanage employees? Some of you may not know but the law states orphanages cannot be supported by anybody but by the adoption agencies, so if adoptions stop the children will not have anywhere to go and the orphanage employees will lose their jobs. Stopping international adoptions will create a mess nobody is willing to handle.

I have said this many times: creating rumors is not helping the orphans! Creating rumors is dangerous and not constructive…. but nothing else can be expected from organizations that release information without checking their sources.  We are here to help the orphans, and with your support we will do it. We have to show the Ethiopian government and all other governments, for that matter, that families are adopting orphans in order to give them a home forever. We have to show them that we are doing our best to help the governments make the international adoption process as transparent and ethical as possible.  One of the ways to do this is that we have to make sure ALL the orphans match the definition of an “orphan” and nothing is slipping between the cracks. We here at Adoption Avenues have programs which support the biological parents to raise their children because we believe it is very important that the children to stay with their biological family, when possible. We believe international adoption should be the last resort. We know and support the facts that the officials are trying to keep the children in homes in Ethiopia first, and this is how the process should be. But we also know the orphans have the rights to be adopted, so in cases where all efforts to find a home for the orphans in Ethiopia are not successful the orphans will be placed for adoption internationally.

So how did these rumors start?

The Ethiopian officials are trying to raise awareness, with the general public, about the orphans and they are trying to be more transparent about what inter-country adoptions means. In Ethiopia last week and over the weekend more than two hundreds politicians, including the President of Ethiopia, participated in a series of conferences. These conferences covered several subjects such as (and in this order): the increasing and ever disturbing drug related problems among the students, the protection against sexual harassment of the women in working places, the humanitarian problems created by the over 50,000 Ethiopians which are returning from South Sudan (which is devastated by the civil war at this time) and the orphan issues.

When it came time to discuss international adoptions, like in every country, some voices were against international adoptions, but there were many other voices who are for international adoptions.  During the hearings, at these conferences, the politicians presented their points. Here are a few things that they spoke about related to adoption: increasing domestic adoptions and having the international adoption as the last resort.  Also they would like to set a clear age difference between the child and the parents.  An example is a person which is 65 years old, can adopt under the present law, should they be allowed to adopt? And if they are allowed to adopt what is the youngest age of a child that they can adopt? Another example is a 25 years old woman can adopt a 17 years old boy, again under the current law, should this be allowed? Also they talked about single women adopting, which we have known for years is a very sensitive subject for the politicians in Ethiopia.

Also at the end of several conferences committees were established which will check and analyze all of these issues (the drug issues, the working place protection, the refugee issue and the international adoption concerns. The committees have 10 working days to come up with proposals which will be presented to the parliament. (It was stated as rumor that Ethiopia will close adoption in 10 days - this is where the 10 days comes from)

Bottom line it was agreed that stopping the international process is not the solution. The improving of the economic conditions should be addressed, and that will bring down the number of orphans.

I hope this gives you a clear and real picture of the events. As things develop we will keep you informed.

Thank you for your time and again we are here to answer any questions

Two countries have recently made big changes to their international adoption programs. Russia has shut down international adoption to the US completely for political reasons. The Dominican Republic of Congo has stopped giving exit permits to children. So basically, the children are stuck in the DRC though they have legal adoptive parents elsewhere. Some parents have been in country to bring their children home and have had to leave without him/her until exit interviews begin again. We ride the wave of international adoption and pray for a solution for so many children in need. 

I exhale and breathe thanks for so many who advocate for the needs of children without families in Ethiopia. I’m relieved to hear that better standards of care will be made to help families stay together whenever possible. My heart rejoices that international adoption will be a last resort and that Ethiopia will work hard to improve supportive family dynamics. There are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia in need of a home. Children are worth every moment of wait. Every second of paper work. Every emotional twist and turn.  

Dear Father, thank you for having the best interest in mind for all of your children. For using what is intended for harm, for good. Thank you for the way that you try our patience and test our hearts. Thank you for stretching our faith and drawing close to you in stressful times. Thank you that you love us despite our moments of doubt in life. Thank you for continually molding our hearts to be all that you want us to be. Thank you for caring for widows and orphans. Thank you for meeting your people in need and for reaching families where they are. You are here, in this place and there where love calls your name. Thank you for holding our girls close and for keeping them safe and healthy. Thank you that you love them. You love us. Thank you for being faithful and for never leaving our side. Never once did we ever have to walk alone. Amen. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 15

Cute little toes

Praise God! Strong, healthy girls! Pink eye is gone and we have been told that they are as happy as can be. They are each approximately 13.9lbs and continue to grow each week. Thank you Jesus!!

This last week, on Thursday, we were finally able to officially send off our PAIR documents to be evaluated. There was a minor error on a document that needed to be resolved. Though we probably would have been okay not correcting it, we decided to wait, and error on the side of safe. We have dug through our paperwork with a fine comb. We have analyzed their stories and rechecked document accuracy. We feel that we have done our best to ensure that their stories are correct. Now our paperwork will go to the US immigration office and the US embassy in Ethiopia, where they too will verify the documents to ensure an ethical adoption. Any concerns will be further evaluated. Their history appears to be well documented. Three judges have already cleared their case along with 3 witnesses. 

It's been almost four months since referral. The wait is getting harder, but we trust in God's timing. There are days that I feel at complete peace and other days that I feel this inside bubbling of urgency to bring them home. Since our PAIR process is now in the mail and will arrive on Monday there is still nothing that we can do but wait. We do so in great anticipation. 

Mike and I always try to take an annual couples-only trip to regroup and refresh. We go in the winter because, honestly, I need some sun. Our vacation usually involves a beach and quite reflections with a good book.We have been going back and forth regarding whether or not we would go anywhere with preparations of traveling to Ethiopia for court - which now will probably be February or early March. So we have wrestled. To go or not to go. 

There is nothing like an early Christmas surprise to make my heart sing! And this was a big one. Mike came home from a busy day this last week to let me in on his planning. He had already taken off the time at work. He had looked into flights. He arranged for excellent care for the kids. And we are currently still ironing out the details of our upcoming trip to Africa! The beach trip is a no go this year. But doing mission work will be. Because simply put, this is where our hearts are. Aaaanndd…the icing on the cake is that we will be meeting the girls very soon!! 

While we are in Africa, not only will we be loving on our girls, but we will have the opportunity to meet with many great organizations that serve widows and orphans in Ethiopia. We are so very excited to be able to have this opportunity to serve in this way. On the West side of Addis Ababa (the capital city and where we will be staying) is also a women's hospital that helps women with injuries from prior deliveries. The Fistula hospital has been a blessing to many women who have been segregated from their homes from simply not having access to the modern day medicine that we each experience every day. 

The girls are currently in a foster home where all of their basic needs are being met. They are amongst 20 other infants and approximately 30 other children of varying ages. When we went to China, we were able to take suitcases full of goods for an orphanage there and are hoping to do the same for the foster home in Addis. I know many of you have expressed interest in helping so I thought that it would be helpful to list what we need:

1. We have received an abundant amount of formula and bottles from the Columbus Children's Healthcare! We are blown away by their generosity and kindness. This will make a huge difference in the life of the children in the foster home who are currently struggling to survive. Many children, just like in the US, struggle to digest milk protein. Obviously, if they are in an orphanage they do not have access to breast milk - though that would be awesome if they did. Nor do they have access to specialized formula. So bringing formula such as Nutramigen is a game changer for these kids. We are still looking for another donation of formula and would love to have this for our trip. Please contact us if you have connections to formula reps or formula companies. Or if you would like to purchase a container. Coming together as a team will make a huge difference! 

2. We have 2 Bumbo (thank you Brigette and Craigslist) seats and are looking for 2-4 more. This will make a big difference for the babies who lay down a lot in their cribs. It will also help with feeding. The nannies of the best that they can to let the children on the floor to play. They do their best to care for 50 kids. But honestly, can you imagine this without having the tools that we have access to. Give thanks for all that we have. Then donate a Bumbo. Thanks friends. 

3. We are looking for sweaters, jackets and shoes for all ages. Currently, the temp in Addis is 72-75, but at night the temperature drops and its cold. Also, shoes are great for these little ones to run! 

4. We are hoping to gather school supplies. This can be colors, coloring books, safety scissors, pencils, construction paper, etc. This can be as simple as collecting the extra crayons when you are out to eat with your kids. Any extra help is appreciated. 

I have a hard time asking for donations (or for help really - which I'm growing in). I like to bless others - to give - but realize that we can't do it alone. I would love for you to come along side us and weave a beautiful story of hope. I've grown to understand how much we have and take for granted each day. I know that your donation, both big and small will make a giant difference in the life a child. Whether you want to donate $5 or more, you will be part of the miracle that brings JOY and LOVE to these children. Please consider joining us to help those in need. To reach out with big, open arms and embrace another. Thank you in advance for your kindness. 

Father, thank you for the blessing of health. Thank you for Christmas and that you came to earth to bring redemption and salvation for our sins. Thank you that you came as an infant dependent upon care from adults. You were small and vulnerable. You came to us through a teenage mom, born in a barn. You didn't have a home like we do. Yet, through your birth, you gave us all that we need. You lived a life free of sin. You brought miracles and love. You lead the perfect example of how we strive to live our life. You died to forgive us all while we were still sinners. We each fall short of your glory. But you reach us through love. You pour over us mercy. You bless us with grace. You walk beside us as you call us to love others. Thank you for allowing us to meet our girls soon. Thank you for the gift of children. Thank you for preparing our path. For covering our journey. For going before us and behind us. Thank you for our experiences that have brought us to where we are today. Each lesson learned. Each hard, difficult season. Each joyful praise of thanksgiving. For its all to bring glory to You. Amen. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 14

Our baby, happy as can be!!

It's week 14 and we are so ready to see these happy smiles! Each week it is pure joy to be able to say that the girls are doing really well. They are healthy, strong and growing! One of the girls, however, does have a little pink eye but is on antibiotic drops to help clear it up. They both look great despite minor infections. Please continue to keep them in your prayers! We greatly appreciate so many of you who have greatly blessed us through the power of prayer! 

Mike came home from work this last week and decided to let me in on a little Christmas surprise  early! I am so excited to share it this next week after I have more details! Stay tuned my prayer warriors, family and friends! It's the best Christmas surprise! Eeeek!! {I'm dancing in delight}

Father, thank you for the gift of our family! Thank you for Mike and for the way that he loves me. I know how blessed that we truly are to have each other. Thank you for this holiday season and for the gift of surprises. Please help us use this time to draw close into relationship with you. Let us praise your name in worship. Show us how to be still and how to look for you in the quiet moments of each day. Help us, in the busy, to remember the reason why we celebrate this time together. Welcome us to delight in your birth. To celebrate your love. To joyfully give thanks. To feel your grace. And to rest in your presence. Amen. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 13

It's Friday!! The girls are doing amazing! We could not be any more encouraged by their health and growth - over 13lbs. There is now a sparkle in both of their eyes as they reach new milestones with each passing week. We are pleased with the girls' care in the foster home as they continue to be monitored closely and fed around the clock. Thank you prayer warriors for your gift of supporting us. Each prayer is heard and is truly a blessing.

According to tracking, Our PAIR paper work is now in Memphis, TN. We are hoping to have it by Monday. All other documents are ready to go. As soon as it is here, we will zoom over to FedEx and mail it to USCIS. And then we wait...and wait...until we hear of approval. We will continue to get updates on the girls during this time which is a great encouragement for our family.

Lord, thank you for another great update! Thank you that our girls are healthy and strong. Thank you for the friends that have been able to encourage us with validation of the girls' well being. Thank you for your peace in this journey. For bringing comfort on the days when the wait seems hard. For blessing us with great support. Please continue to bless over our girls. Continue to bring light into their little hearts. A twinkle in their eyes. Please hold them close until we can wrap them in our arms. Shower them with love and help prepare them for their new family soon. In your name, Jesus. Amen.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 12

The kids decorating the Christmas tree

It's the day after Thanksgiving and we find ourselves counting our many blessings. The Christmas tree is up and being decorated by the kids (with help) while we listen to our favorite Christmas music.  Snowflakes are dangling in the window. The wreath hung on the door. Stockings ready to be placed. This is the time of year when life around is rushing and I wrestled with the concept of just being still. Parties are attended. Gifts are bought. Time with family and friends are planned. And I find the importance of learning to receive. I look for opportunities to see God's love. And I welcome His peaceful presence in it all. 

No update this Friday with the holidays. We did, however, receive a phone call from our agency saying that our documents for our PAIR process are finished and will be here soon from Ethiopia. Eeeek! We are getting so close!! 

It is unlikely that we will be traveling before Christmas. The PAIR process will take approximately 4-10 weeks. While the US state side is working to open our file and review documents the US embassy  in Ethiopia will be working to investigate the case. When the girls are again determined to be orphans we will receive our PAIR letter. With this letter we can be submitted to court. This will take 4-8 more weeks. We are looking to travel for the first time between 8-18 weeks. The good news is that because the PAIR process is taking longer than anticipated before court, our time after may even be do-able in one trip. This is not set in stone, but rather our hope. One trip would be awesome! It would mean that we could take custody of the girls after court and have them with us through out the 10 days that we would be there. We will know more regarding time frames, the possibility of one trip and travel as time draws near. 

Father, thank you for the joy of the holidays. We had an incredible day yesterday feasting on the food that you provided. We are so thankful for your many blessings. We look forward to learning about you each day for advent and we prepare a place in our home to celebrate the joy of your birth. Thank you for the continued health of our girls. They are thriving and growing better than we could have hoped. Thank you for loving them. For loving us. We are grateful, God, for the many people who lift up our family and the girls in prayer. Please pour your blessings over all who touch our lives each day. In your great love. Amen. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 11

G sporting her little monkey shirt and laced jeans. Love this! We always joke that the kids are our favorite little monkeys - especially when they are attached to each limb :) 

Don't mind that her pants at pulled up so high. We'll totally help her out with that when she gets home. Zoom in on the words surrounding her little heart - "Worth the Wait". Gush. 

I really wish that I could show you their sweet little faces. Each week, their photos get better and better, because their smiles and giggles are bigger and brighter. It's simply incredible. Your prayers and Gods grace has really just left me in absolute awe. These girls needed a community of people to wrap their arms around them and that's exactly what has happened. I want to say thank you for your prayers. There is absolute power in each word spoken! Thank you for being part of the miracle that brings our family together!

We received a phone call from our agency on Wednesday night. All documentation that we have been waiting on from Ethiopia are complete and in the hands of the director. We are planning on getting started on the PAIR (Pre-Adoption Immigration Review) process as soon as our paperwork arrives, hopefully, this next week. I called the USCIS officer working on our case and she estimated that the PAIR process will take approximately 6-8 weeks to complete. Of course, we are always hoping for as soon as possible. Deep breath. Never late. Never ahead. Always on time. His timing is perfect. Exhale. 

During the review, there will be an investigation to view documentation and orphan status. An interview will also most likely be done. We are trusting that the US will conduct thorough reviews and investigations. We are considering a private review as well. The great news is that this will all be done now before court. Though it will take a little more time up front, we were encouraged that the time in between court and embassy may be shorter. 

Lord, thank you for healthy, happy little girls. Thank you for loving them so richly. For hearing our prayers. For keeping them safe. Thank you that they continue to grow - 11.5 lbs this week! We are incredibly blessed to know you and to experience abundant Fatherly love. Thank you for welcoming us into your family so that we may have a relationship with you. Thank you for community and for allowing us to touch the hearts of others as they experience this journey beside us. Lord, thank you that you recognized that I was weary yesterday. Adoption is hard and beautiful all in one breath. There is this ache in my heart that longs to hold tight to these girls. I want to reach through those photos and kiss their soft, plump cheeks. I long to nuzzle noses and cuddle in close. To give butterfly kisses and whispers of "I love you's". But, You know just what I need exactly when I need it. Within an hour our of pleads for peace brought an update. It arrived a day early with good news. In the background, on their crib, was our last name. African first name followed by American last name. This is real.  

You didn't call us to adoption because it was easy (it's not). Or convenient (nope). Or because we weren't already busy enough (we are full). Or to gain glory (its sacrificial). You called us to be here, in this moment, because there is brokenness in this world that started with one sinful bite. There are millions of children in this world without mommy's and daddy's to love. There are toddlers without a warm home or clothes to protect them. Tweens living on the streets sold for drugs into prostitution. Kids working in dumps making less .50 a day to barely survive. Babies that are born premature with no healthcare and are in desperate need of food because their mama went to heaven after complications of childbirth. Kids that recall curling up next to their father for days after he slowly fades from HIV. Children that have come from unthinkable circumstances that are waiting for someone to bring hope. To bring redemption. To have a relationship with You, Lord. The thought enters in, "This could have been any one of my children". You whisper in my soul, "What if it was?" What if it was? What if it was my child who needed help? Who needed me? The thought instantly becomes personal. I would do anything to protect them. I would lay down my life. I would jump through lengthy hoops and walk through pits of fire to bring them home. I would wade through muck and overcome political interventions. I would fly anywhere in the world to keep them safe from preventable disease. I would empty my savings and spend anything I had to be face to face. To be together. Each child is worth the wait. Every battle. Every tear. Every moment of hurt or ache. This is what you ask of us. To welcome those in need into our homes. To care for others - for orphans. To look after widows in distress. To keep first families together if possible. To adopt when it's not. Because You, Father, adopted us into your family. This is what love does. You didn't say that it would be easy. You said it would be worth it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Amen.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

First Snow

We caught the first glimpse of snow from this year through the window…and then without hesitation… our mouths! On Wednesday, it was 65 degrees outside. We were running races and playing soccer while we laughed wildly together in the back yard. Today however, it is 25 degrees for a high and snowing - how quickly weather changes around here. Peering through the glass, the kids were too excited to stay in doors. Two by two they each funneled through the door with their tongues out ready to catch the blowing snow into their mouth. Quin bounced up and down, "Got one"! Cole, "Me too"! Sam, "I got it. I got it. I got snow, mama"! Kai, with her hands clasped below her chin, "I love snow. I a snow princess"!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 10

Our funny little man - because sometimes your day looks like this

No update this week on the girls. I know. I know. My heart feels sad too. Each update, every week is a true blessing (with Kai, we only received one update between being matched and meeting). The director of our agency was actually in Ethiopia this week. We are hoping to hear more between Wednesday, Nov 20th and Friday, Nov 22nd. Please keep our family and the girls in your prayers as we learn more about the direction of our adoption journey.

Meanwhile, we have been very busy. We owe a big thank you to our kids for their continued patience and silliness to get us through the last 4 months. We sold our house and built another in 4 months time. And to top it off, because of random variables, each month we moved our small load to a different location. We have been in a hotel for a month, 2 different town homes and now our house. Crazy yes! As of last week, we were able to move into a home that we love! A beautiful place to welcome 2 new girls home, hopefully, soon!

I remember telling my sister in law that I felt guilty that we weren't providing the most stable of environment over the last several months (we all like routine around here). We not only moved several times, started homeschooling and travel often but are welcoming two new family members. She tilted her head, looked me with her big brown eyes with a smile and said, "That's life, Jenn." Her words were right on. Thank you for saying what I needed to hear. It's life. And it's often unpredictable. Our kids need to experience real life in action to prepare them for their own journey's. They need to know that we can't always give them routine. We can't indefinitely protect them from the unbalanced. From trials or challenges. When we experience these moments together it gives us an opportunity to work through it as a family. To communicate and pray. To direct them to their lifeline. To lead them to their heavenly Father. Two simple words, "Its life", helped me turn my guilt into gratitude.

The truth is that we love stable. We covet safe. We find comfort in the known. But sometimes God calls us to step outside of that. He disorganizes our lives. Causes wreckage underneath. Mixes it up a bit. Makes us question just what exactly He has in mind. And I've learned that asking questions is encouraged. He already knows our thoughts. It gives us a chance to be still and listen. God wants us to be real with Him. He wants an authentic relationship. Here we are standing strong calling His name. He calms the winds, stops the rain and welcomes the sun to shine. I'm in awe of His provision.

Just 6 months ago, we felt God prompting us to take the kids out of extra activities, school and to simplify as much as we could. In the moment, we weren't sure of His plans, but we followed through in the great unknown. We re-prioritized our lives. Made a list of what was most important. Drew close as looked to each other for support. When others questioned, we stayed steady in our hearts. We pruned back and waited in delight for His plans. Looking back, I smile as I can clearly see His hand in each detail of it all.

Lord, thank you for our girls. I trust that you hold them close and that while we are away, you are there. Thank you for our children and the resilience that have shown during this busy, uncertain, ever changing period. There were many times that I wondered if our kids really understood that we had their best interest in mind. We held the key to what the future held and yet they so willingly went along with our plans. They were flexible with staying where ever we happened to be that night as long as we were together. Not only did they accept rotating places each month but they looked forward in anticipation of something new. Our playful kids do not let us get too serious. They hold us accountable to laugh. To be silly. To enjoy the crazy. Sometimes I look at our children and admire their "child-like" faith. Father, I want to know deep in my heart that even though I don't always understand your plans, that you have my best interest in mind. I want to continue to learn how to joyfully - not half heartily - follow your plans with great anticipation of knowing that you already have the answers. You know the victory that is in store. That you hold the key. I want to be flexible in my days and not get easily discouraged when my plans are not yours. I do not want get disappointed with my own expectations but be open to your gentle guidance. I want to take refuge in your all knowing, omniscient presence. I want to cheerfully balter, with my sweet children, knowing that we are together forever Yours. Please bless over us this week. Please keep us healthy and strong as we move in to our new home. Thank you for providing. For giving us a home to enjoy. For every lesson learned. For blessing us more than we could imagine. We wait with great anticipation for all that you have in store for us. Amen.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 9

Pretty like my Mommy! Seriously.Love!

Praise God for another healthy report! This is our first report that the girls are both smiling! It was just absolutely amazing to see their sweet, smiley, chubby faces! The girls both continue to gain weight and they look fantastic. We are getting so excited!!

We've had many questions regarding travel. The answer is that we simply do not have any answers yet, but are really hoping to know more after November 20th. Please continue to pray for our family and our girls. We are still hoping to at least travel, if not have them home, by Christmas. I know this is a stretch but I'm going to continue to pray big, bold prayers while I stand still in the perfect timing of our Father. I know that even though I can't physically see the work that the Lord is doing, that He is actively interwoven into each step. Each decision. Each Outcome. We trust His plan. 

We are watching their development closely. I'm taking an educated guess that they were born 4-6 weeks premature. Their hands are starting to relax. They are really smiling big smiles. They seem to be more active than before. Glory to Him as He holds them close while we wait. 

Heavenly Father, thank you for these beautiful girls. Thank you for protecting them and keeping them healthy. We are getting so anxious to meet them and bring them home. We are so close. Thank you that they are meeting new milestones each week. That they continue to grow and put on weight. Thank you for pictures with smiley girls in tutu's with "Pretty Like Mommy" shirts. It simply melts this mama heart. Thank you Jesus for your love. For your peace. For your comfort. Please continue to bless our journey and wrap your big, powerful arms around our family. In your name, Amen. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ode to Adoption: Our Life Journey

Our Family 2013

A shout out to our dentist for asking us to share our adoption story in their monthly news article. Your love for each other and your family is a treasure. Thank you for your big hearts and kind spirits. It's been a pleasure for Mike and I to know you! Life is a beautiful journey. Thank you for inviting us to take a walk down memory lane. 

Hi I'm Jenn. I am a blessed mama to 4 (almost 6) kids under the age of 7. I'm married to the greatest, most supportive man I know. Mike and I met almost 10 years ago at a friends birthday party. Our relationship blossomed early on. After four months of dating, Mike left for a medical mission trip (He was then entering into his fourth year of medical school) to the Dominican Republic setting up clinics in small villages. After two months of being apart, he came home and asked my dad for my hand in marriage. He arranged a beautiful night of dinner and a walk in our favorite downtown park. He then got down on one knee to asked me for forever. It was a magical moment. We were married a little over a year from the day that we met. From instant connection to a lifetime commitment - we are still crazy in love.

Both Mike and I grew up in lower to middle class families. Our parents are very similar in character, teaching us hard work and dedication. We grew up knowing the importance of family, to explore life's many adventures and to believe big in our dreams. Our parents have always been supportive of our choices including the opportunity to go to college and continue a higher education. We were both first generation children who went to college with dreams to make a positive change in the world. What we discovered was our true passion lies in reaching out to those in need, specifically women and children.

I received a bachelor of science in Early Childhood with an emphasis in Child Life. I was then accepted into a Child Life Internship program at an exceptional nearby Children's Hospital. During my training, I learned how to help families overcome life's most challenging and stressful events. Through play, preparation and education my job was to support the optimum development of the child and to advocate for family centered care during hospitalization. Four years ago, I also took on the additional role of Safe Kids Coordinator in our area to help educate families on safety in their homes, vehicles, schools and communities. I also became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to help support the mother baby dyad in our hospital and community health center. Over the last 14 years (10 in the hospital) I've had the opportunity to work with children of all ages with a variety of special needs and medical challenges. Less than a year ago, I made the transition to work from home as a full time mama. We recently took on the opportunity to homeschool our oldest which has been a tremendous blessing to our family.

We both love sports but Mike has a specific place in his heart carved out for both baseball and football. He was drafted after high school to play catcher for the minor leagues. He played baseball for four years before deciding to go back to college to receive his bachelor of science degree in biology. While balancing his undergraduate studies, Mike went on to be the quarterback on the football team. After graduation, he was accepted into medical school where he studied and trained for four more years. After receiving his medical degree, he completed an additional four years for his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He was drawn to OB because he enjoys both the surgery and delivery aspect. He likes that he can be in clinic one minute and welcoming a new baby into the world the next. Mike now has a private practice where he appreciates working with mothers and families. He has had the opportunity to travel on medical mission trips to developing countries and enjoys his time at the health department making an impact for those most in need.

We talked on our first date about our hearts for children in need and specifically, I shared my desire for wanting to adopt from both China and Africa. Since I was a young girl, God planted the seed of adoption in my life. Little did we know, though, that Mike and I were planning our family on our first date! After getting married, it was never a question of if but of when we would adopt. We were extremely blessed to have three biological children - three boys. When our youngest son was 6 months, we started to feel God stir in our hearts the need for care for children without a home. At first, we thought that the timing couldn't possibly be right, but God was persistent in His prompting. So we started our research and applied to an agency in 2011 that had a local office. We decided on Holt International. After attending a weekend of educational classes to prepare adoptive families, there was no doubt in our minds that we were to move forward with adoption. Once our eyes were open, really aware, of the need of the 153 million orphans in the world who need homes we couldn't pretend that we didn't know what to do. God weighed our hearts and we believe held us responsible to act.

Our first glance at her sweet face

Fast forward through 6 months of paperwork, home studies, physicals and clearances (from a local, state, and US level) we came across a little girl from China on the "waiting child list". We had been approved for a child with special needs but thought that it would be mild or correctable. When we saw her we knew that she was meant to be our daughter. We were captivated by her. In that moment, praying over her picture, we felt a peace like nothing I had ever experienced. We felt like God was asking us to look past her medical information and trust that He was going to bring healing. No amount of medical education can prepare you for God asking you to put aside your fears and take a leap of faith. What we did know was that she has a myelomeningocele (the worst form of spina bifida), hydrocephalus (accumulation of fluid on her brain), a tethered cord (scar tissue attached from her spinal cord to her surgery site which has caused lengthening of her spinal cord) and Arnold Chiari Malformation (part of her brain protrudes below her skull). At 8 months old, she had her first surgery in China to remove a large lipoma and stop the leaking of her cerebral spinal fluid. Though her surgery was a success to remove the fatty lipoma and stop the leaking of fluid, her spinal cord still remains directly under her skin. In her developmental report she wasn't walking or talking. It was questioned if she could hear. We didn't know if she could ever use the potty independently. She was small for her age and had obvious developmental delays. There were many unknowns. But we knew what to do. We set aside all fears and prepared ourselves the best that we could with the given information. We were on our knees praying for our soon to be daughter. We said, "Yes"!

 Meeting Kai for the first time

At the Notary Public in China hours after meeting her to make our adoption official

She's ours and we are hers

First full day with us - she loves mama's jewelry

After eight long months of more paperwork, we took our family (kids were 5.5yo, 3.5yo, and 18mo) to China to meet our new daughter for the first time. The moment was surreal. It was a week after her second birthday. There we were in the middle of Shijiazhuang, China - halfway around the world - meeting this little girl that we would have the honor to raise. They handed her to me first. Her eyes met mine and she searched me deep as to seek my reassurance that it was ok to love. Daddy held her next and then hugs from the boys. We were there for three weeks sight seeing and enjoying our new little girl. We traveled through out Beijing, the Hebei province, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. We loved China and the people that we were able to meet were incredible. While there, Kai took her first steps unassisted at Disney Land in her red tutu skirt and Daisy sunglasses. Today, one and a half years from our first meeting, she is dancing, walking, running and talking English a mile a minute. She was potty trained in just 3 months from being home. She has reached all developmental milestones for her age. We have not done surgery in the US, but will continue to watch her progress with specialists as needed. She is everything that we hoped and prayed that she would be and more. She is strong, bold, opinionated, compassionate, empathetic and a little sassy. She is an overcomer. A world changer. We couldn't imagine our lives without her.

Disney Hong Kong

Boys in China

Our boys are now 7, 5, 3 and our little girl is 3.5yo. They each grew together at their own speed over a course of a year asking many questions along the way. For us, the dialogue was always open if needed. We were patient. Love takes time. But God has knit our hearts into a beautiful tapestry. Overall, not only have we adjusted but God has poured into our hearts a grander perspective of love. A depth that we wouldn't have otherwise experienced. A calling for our family that only He could have orchestrated. Adoption has placed an ache in our hearts that motivates so much of our desires and actions for others. We want our children to appreciate what makes themselves and others special. They have come to appreciate their first hand experience of different languages, history and culture. Just this last week we were pointing out our similarities and differences on the outside. We celebrated that God made us each unique. Then we shared our hearts for what matters the most on the inside - the things that we love about each individual in our family. God sees past our skin color, hair color, or shape of our eyes. He's not looking for perfection. He wants to show us our purpose!

There was a time before our adoption that I wondered if miracles were something that still happened. I thought maybe they were reserved only for biblical times. I was often in a hurry to stay on my own agenda. I didn't always take the time to enjoy each day the way I do now. I didn't see the miracles all around me. It wasn't that miracles didn't exist. It was that my focus was off causing my picture of the world to be distorted. After our adoption, I've learned that most things can wait. That each day flies by. I want to spend my days stopping with the kids to smell flowers. Dancing in the living room. Exploring all that God gives us. I want to spend less time rushing to daily activities and instead spend it as a family making fun memories. Watching the kids paint. Hearing them giggle as we chase them in the yard. Being silly. I want to be more flexible and support my husband. I want to reach out to others in need. Lead by good example for our kids. When we started our adoption we were unaware of how much we would change. How much our family would grow. I couldn't have planned the way that God would show me appreciation for our child's past, their birth family and their story. For its their story that also becomes our journey. I was unprepared to know the depths of which my heart could love. To truly know what it meant to be adopted by a King. To be an heir to His throne. God is constantly looking for opportunities to shower us with blessings. It's up to us to open our eyes.

Double Rainbow

After the incredible experience with our daughter, we started the adoption process again last year. This time from Ethiopia, Africa. We were anticipating the referral of a boy this time (with being open to a possible sibling). We were approved for 2 children just in case. But in adoption, we have learned to expect the unexpected. God knows what we need most. He has our best interest in mind. If we believe big, He will respond big. We were recently matched with twin girls! We spend each day in awe. In delight. In joy. Overwhelmed by His greatness. We prayed for 24 hours and in the stillness of praise we asked God to show us that these girls were meant to be ours. As we were seeking confirmation that this was the direction we were meant to travel a double rainbow appears into the sky to the south. Love is all around us. Miracles happen every day. God gives us opportunities to play a small part to his grand production of life.

In the wonderful, ordinary of our days you would find us exploring our world as a family. We like to play sports, swim, read and be outside on an "adventure" with our kids. We enjoy traveling, experiencing different cultures and meeting new people. We are a part of a large group of adoption families that forever have a unique bond. A red thread that connects us all. If you have never been in a room with adoptive parents, you are missing out. Incredible, warm, passionate families. Adoption is a beautiful experience full of soul aching love. But I know that adoption isn't for everyone. There are several ways to get involved to help orphans and widows. We personally, also sponsor eight children across the world so that they can be fed daily, have clothes, be educated and most importantly stay with their biological families if possible. In the near future, we hope to start a nonprofit organization to help bridge the gap in the adoption costs as expenses are rising each year and it's becoming increasingly hard for families to pay such a large sum up front.You may simply pray for others. Go. See. Experience the orphan crisis. Support families adopting. Be a respite for parents when their children have a hard time adjusting. Bring a meal. Offer help with the other kids. Be a listening ear when the adoptive child grieves the loss of their world and doesn't understand the new language. It takes a village. Most of all, offer your big, open heart full of love.

If orphan care isn't your passion seek out something that is. Reach out in a way to benefit others. Volunteer once a week. Find an opportunity to bless someone. Donate money to a good cause. Pass out random acts of kindness. Help a friend in need. Offer to help your coworker with a move. Pay for a random strangers groceries. Give sacrificially. Bless in secret. He sees when nobody else does. God is looking for ordinary heroes each day. He qualifies the called. You are already prepared. He says that you are enough. He just asks us to be willing to take a leap of faith. You need the will to come to the edge. To stretch outside of what makes you uncomfortable. To come alive. Initially, you will believe that you are going to make a dramatic difference. And you most certainly will. But what you won't anticipate is your heart needing them more than they need you. There are millions of hurting people in this world waiting for someone like you, like me, to reach out and say "Yes"!

Quin, Cole, Kai and Sam

You can follow our journey more at If you have questions or would like to contact us further you can reach us at:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy Birthday Quin

Oh buddy, you are 7 years old today! How time flies by when you are having fun. Daddy and I have been thinking about how much you have grown and changed. You are an amazing child, to say the least. I want to share with you just how much you have grown by telling you about your younger years in your short life. When you were 3 years old, you still didn’t talk. You never crawled, but stood up to walk at 10 months. You would sometimes stare off into your own thoughts and were slow to respond to me calling your name. You were fascinated with fans. Through nonverbal communication, you asked us to show you how things worked. You have always been very observant. You moved at a slow pace but took in each moment as if it was your first. You would spend hours bringing order to your world. You like symmetry and color coded perfection. You used to go into full fledged tantrum mode when your food touched or your cookies were broken. The store has always been overwhelming to you often bringing on melt downs. Your focus is sharp when determined but can be distracted easily if you are not interested. You didn’t like to get dirty or touch textures that were unfamiliar. Loud noises were never your favorite and too many people can bring you into withdrawal mode. You used to relate better to adults than other kids. The same kids that you used to see everyday brought chaos into your space. You just couldn’t figure out why they didn’t want to play the same way that you did. You had a nervous stimulating finger gesture that turned into a flap when faced with fear. We were told that you may have trouble academically and were asked to get you tested for autism. I tell you all of this because I want you to know just how far that you have landed in your life journey. I want you to know all that you have overcome to be who you are today. 

You’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone and faced your fears. You have reached for the stars and landed in a galaxy far greater than we could have hoped. Every obstacle above, you have overcome. You started early childhood programs and began learning how to make friends. Your mama and daddy spent hours each day teaching you. We read you books. We taught your numbers, colors, shapes and how to read yourself. Your brother, Cole, came along side you and not only became your best friend, but he brought out a side of you that was exactly what you needed. When you didn’t want to be touched, he jumped on you and asked you to wrestle. He taught you to be ok with physical contact. When you built a lego creation for the day, he would destroy it in a matter of minutes. He has helped teach you to keep trying, to never give up, even in the face of disaster. Cole is constantly on the move and has encouraged you to participate in his wild all-boy schemes. He has drawn out a very special part of you. Then Sam was born and though you fiercely loved him, he too broke down barriers to help you become who you are today. You two are most alike and he has taught you more about patience than you like to admit. Then Kai came home and introduced you to love on a new level. She is the first girl in our home and you needed to adjust to her sass, determination and strong will. You have embraced growing outside of who you were. You are not only now developmentally on target, you far exceed every limitation placed in front of you. 

We found out that you have many allergies and started eliminating food from your diet. You are intolerant to dairy, gluten and corn. You are allergic to tree nuts (walnuts specifically). You are also allergic to the cold - systemic cold urticaria. You could be anaphylactic to the former two allergies. We had to eliminate many of your (and our) favorite foods but you have blossomed on your new diet. Though it can be hard, especially around the holidays, you have done exceptionally well. You enjoy baking with your mama and love to eat your daddy’s fun food that he makes. 

This last year, we decided to homeschool you. We talked and prayed a lot about it. With your permission and excitement, your mama went to a conference and purchased your first curriculum to help you through first grade. But in classic Quin style, you decided to stretch my understanding of how you want to learn. I want structure and you want to dance to the beat of your own drum. I want you to sit politely in your chair and study. You want to put your feet up or stand. I want you to stay on task to learn with in the 2 hours each day but you have chosen to make learning a day long lifestyle choice. You read through nonfiction books faster than I can buy them. You are quick to pick up math and have over achieved my expectations. You have taught me to love learning in a different way. You love to discover the history of the United States and asked me today if I had interest in being the first woman president. Though I am happy that you think so highly of your mama, I’ll let you take office and support you, if you so wish. You are learning the periodic table of elements and disciplined in your learning time on the computer or iPad. You may not like to write much, but you far exceed my expectations in all other areas. You love Legos and have submitted your first Lego project to the developers of Lego. You tell me that you are going to invent something wonderful some day. We have no doubt, that through hard work, you can accomplish all of your dreams.

You love to go to the zoo and explore. You like the Children’s museum and the Air and Space museum. We took your first trip to LegoLand this year. You asked if you could move closer to come every day. You enjoy hands-on projects and love science. This last weekend, you dissected a squid. You weren’t sure you liked it at first but embraced the experience. You love random facts.  You appreciate history. Most of all, you love to learn how things work. You like to make up jokes and are super proud when you can make your daddy laugh. We have found that you come alive in water so we enrolled you in swim lessons and have given opportunities to spend time near a lake. If your face isn’t buried in a book it is asking a million questions faster than I can answer. If we don’t know the answer then we seek it out together. You teach us to never stop asking questions. Its your curiosity that fuels your desire to learn far greater than your developmental appropriate age. 

Being the first child, you have often had to teach us about life more about life than we would like to admit. Our expectations of you are high because we want the best for you. I think it’s okay to have expectations as long as we are there to embrace you when you fall. We set rules so that one day you will know how to be obedient to God. We have taught you that we too must follow His plans. He always has your best interest in mind. You have brought understanding about childhood that text books can’t come close to providing. You challenge our guidelines and a part of me loves that you don’t always take “no” for an answer. You have learned to negotiate your will and to be persistent. We have learned to listen closer. You love to read the Bible and your favorite story is about Moses. Your grandma brought you daddy’s Bible from when he was your age. You are so pleased to be able to share this special belonging with him. You hold your parents to a tall standard and ask us to be all that you believe parents should be. You correct me if I am in the wrong. I appreciate that you hold me accountable. You ask me to be better and for that I am truly thankful. You constantly have new ideas and are curious to find the answer. I love that through your eyes, we are able to learn and grow too. You have taught us more about life than we could ever teach you.  

You tell me often that we are “the best parents that a boy could ever have”. Then you ask me if I am your favorite “oldest child”? You are absolutely the best oldest child. Your love for us and life is incredibly touching. We love you soooo much. Nope, not a little. But to the heavens and back. Far greater than we knew love existed. You enjoy music and have an ear for sound. Your favorite song is “10,000 Reasons” (Bless the Lord, oh my Soul) by Matt Redman. You sing it with bursting with great joy of being a son to your heavenly Father. I know that He looks down from Heaven grateful that you sing songs of love to Him. God is going to use your heart, curiosity, courage, joy, motivation and leadership skills to do great works to honor him. 

Today sweet boy, we celebrate you! We celebrate each day being your parents. All you have overcome. All of the ups and downs. All that you have become. Today, we are thankful for each moment of that we get to spend with you. We truly are honored to be called your parents. We can’t thank you enough for showing us that “normal” is a blanket statement in development. You have shown us just how great it is to be different. That as parents, we shouldn’t expect a square peg to fit in a round hole. You will change the world. You will make a difference in the life of others. You, our beautiful child, are exactly who God called you to be. Always stay true to who you are. We all need more of you in our lives. 

Thank you heavenly Father for this child we get to raise. Thank you for bringing such a bright light into our world. We are grateful for the opportunity to spend each day with Quin. We pray that you bring abundant blessings into his life over the next year and in his lifetime. We ask that you continue to stretch his faith. We ask that you shape him into the young man that you call him to be. We ask that you show us, as parents, how to parent him the best to help him grow. We ask that you bring him health and protect him from harm. We hope to provide him with the tools that he needs to excel in this life. Thank you Father, for our oldest son. We pray over him in your name, Jesus. Amen.   

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Q: Mom when I die, do you think God will make me an angel warrior?
Me: God has a very special job for you in heaven. Maybe you could ask Him when you meet Him some day.
Q: Yes! I'll invent a "holy gun" so all of the bad guys I shoot will be filled with the Holy Spirit and Gods love!! {he runs off shooting his pretend air gun}

Absolutely adore both these boys and am so thankful for the love lessons that God teaches me through them every day!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fun Friday - Update 7 and 8

Another week of good health! Praise God! The girls are growing quick - each one weighing close to 11 lbs. We just love seeing their growth and little milestones each week. A bright encouragement each week - how awesome that we get these updates!! It somehow makes the wait a little more manageable knowing that they are safe and healthy. 

The last eight weeks we have been waiting on one extra Ethiopian document from the state level (we had city/church documentation) from the region that the girls were born. Though the girls were MOWCYA ready, they needed this one document for us to proceed to court. It should arrive this week! Our program director is traveling this week to Ethiopia to meet with officials so we should know more about the next steps upon his return the third week of November. So we wait. And wait. And wait. 

And they are worth each day of waiting. Each hour. Each minute. Each second. We wait because this is what we need to do to bring them home to join our family. Because with each update, each prayer, each week we are falling in love and preparing a place in our home. In our hearts.

Lord, thank you for this information given to us. Thank you that you prepare a place for us. That you love us so that we can love others. Thank you for blessing us with such wonderful children who we learn from each and every day. There are so many days that I am simply humbled by being their mama.  Please continue to bless over our adoption journey to bring home our babies girls safe and sound. Please pour blessings over each official reading the documents that they would be honest and thorough. That each document would be true and authentic as stated. We lift up each question, each hiccup, each step to You as we continue to move forward. In your name, Jesus. Amen. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pumpkin Patch Run

The kids before diaper dash (12mo-3yo) and ghoul run (4-8yo)

The morning was crisp and cool as we bundled up. The smell of fire pits and coffee filled the air and warm apple cider warmed our hands. "Sports candy", as the kids call fruit (thank you Sporticus) and water were waiting in the pavilion for a yummy post race snack. We were excited to run our first family race together!

I think it's fair to say that we may have caught the running bug. The kids have been begging to run since they saw their mama run the half marathon this past spring. The pumpkin patch run was the perfect place for the kids to start. K dressed up as Sophia, S a ninja turtle, C was Mario, and Q Iron Patriot. 

C and Q finished their race in record time. They both ran a 400m and I was lucky enough to get to run it with them. They were so delighted - and so were we. Just love them!

Seriously overjoyed for this little girl. Two years ago she wasn't walking. She has the most severe form of spina bifida. Today she dances, jumps and runs. Unbelievable. So honored to place her first medal around her neck.  Thrilled for her! 

S excited to have finished chasing Elmo down the dirt road for 40 yards. Look how adorable he is in his costume. And so super sweet to be around. So proud of this little boy!

Oh Lord, thank you for these days with our children. Such special, unforgettable memories!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Love-ism: Unique Characteristics of Love

My loving S man

I had a bit of a rough start to a busy day this last week. Several factors were adding up, and to be honest, I was exhausted. This little guy must have felt his mama's discontent. He rides his horse (paper towels on the wood floor) next to my feet and hands me my phone. He had already started my Christian music from my playlist. He reaches his arms up and asks me to dance. And that's what we did. We danced in the living room. His sweet face buried in my cheek, arms wrapped around my neck snuggled in close. We sang out loud, "Bless the Lord Oh My Soul". Everyone joined in and before we knew it the room was filled with praises to God with four beautiful, little voices. 

In just moments our day completely flipped around. Gods there in the crazy. In the chaotic. In the storm. He's there in the still. In the quiet. In the peace. In our strong and week moments. He's abounding in grace for our family. And in the love of our children. He knows just what I need when I need it. And wow - I needed this. I needed a small change in perspective to get this day going well. The days agenda can wait for minutes like these. For this day, in this moment, I just needed a reminder to breathe. To soak in these moments that we can easily dismiss in the busy. I needed to dance. To praise. To be in His presence. And to simply love.

Thank you Jesus for showing me love through our children! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Let's Talk

Phil 4:13

When I was a junior in high school, our 2 mile (3200 meter) relay team made it to the state tournament, ranked number one in our class. I remember getting the baton and running my first 400 faster than I had ever ran before that day. I came upon my second 400 in first place as expected. My coach, who was always a positive guy, encourages me from the sidelines saying, "You're doing great, J. You are 6 seconds ahead of your personal best time." My immediate next thoughts were, "Oh my goodness, 6 seconds?!? I'm never going to make it at this speed to the finish line. I have to slow down. What am I doing on this team? Everyone is faster than I am. I will never succeed." I passed the baton after crossing the finish line. Though the next 2 runners made up time, we did not come in first. In fact, I don't think that we even placed. 

It's common for children to talk out loud their inner thoughts, especially through play. They use "self talk" as a way to work out their feelings and thoughts. Around the age of 5, children start to internalize their self talk. We continue into adulthood using this same method to process our days. Research says that we use self talk approximately 50,000 times a day. What we say to ourselves can have either a positive or negative impact on our behavior and our relationships. It effects all around us. It shows up in our confidence or lack there of. It makes its appearance in the way that we succeed or fail. It rears its ugliness or beauty when one compares themselves to others. It's obvious in the way that we treat our spouse, our friends, our co-workers, strangers and family. 

When we get caught in negative self talk, like I did above, we allow the enemy (satan) to add to our thoughts. He may speak words into your mind that will cause harm. They will alter the way that we see ourselves. The way we see others. Phrases that completely contradict what God says is true. He will ask you questions that manipulate your mind into believing all that you know is from Jesus. Satan will use deeply hurting people to negatively speak into your life until you start saying the same thing to yourself. Some of the most freeing words spoken to me were, "Please don't think that every thought that enters into your mind is yours!" I'd never considered this before it being said. You have the power to stop negative thoughts. God blesses you with the strength to overcome every strong hold. The bible speaks of spiritual warfare saying that the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. That someone is you and me. The enemy seeks to proclaim war in our hearts. A battlefield in our minds. 

To further complicate our negative self talk, we allow ourselves to attach emotions to our feelings causing them to replay like a broken record. We can't seem to get rid of them. We often then go to our spouse or our friends, especially women, and say, "Help, I've got this yuck". Talking to others in a time of need is important. Its part of community. It allows an exit from our inner workings. A place to vent. To allow the self talk to depart. Most of the time, relationships are the glue that hold us together. It the place where God allows communion. A place where He allows His spirit to work through others. 

Sometimes though, your friends can wrestle with their own negative talk and not even realize the poison that it allows to slowly seep into their lives. It can add a muck layer of their opinions in a matter that may not line up with what God says. That's why it is so important to go to God in prayer and to know what He says about us. It's essential that we know the love that only he can offer. The unconditional love of our father. We have a choice each day to believe what we say to ourselves or to believe what God says about us (read my post on Identity to learn what our Father says about you). When we choose Him, He opens our heart to His promise. 

We may recognize a mess but Gods makes it our message.

We may see a trial but God turns it into our triumph. 

We may say test but God says let this be your testimony. 

We may feel like a victim but God shows us the path of victory. 

The beautiful part is that He isn't done sculpting our hearts. He takes the negative and makes it positive. When we go through a rough patch, He is refining our minds. He promises to be faithful. He showers us His love. He gently guides us back to Him. I rejoice for He offers all that I need. He asks us to trust His plan. God asks us to learn what it means to be a child of the everlasting true King. He says that our richest duty is devotion to Him. He wants a relationship with us. He isn't stuck looking into the do's and don't of religion like we sometimes humanly do in order to gain a checklist of control over our environment. Instead, He asks us to relax. To be humble. To find security as we rest in Him. He is our Father. In Him he is well pleased with us. 

Stand strong in His word. Welcome challenging times as an opportunity to learn from Him. Do not measure your strength or let others size you up to them. God measures life differently. In your weakness, He wants to teach you of his strength. Turn every negative thought about yourself and others into a word of praise and thanksgiving. Let Him be the center of it all. The peace that He gives you transcends your intellect. He wants to stop the spinning of your mind while He covers you in love. He gives you the time that you need to make the switch. He invites you to be still and let Him control your inner most being. He is loyal. Worthy to be praised. Immanual. He is with us. 

He shows us each day to come to Him. He has designed us to need Him. God is all around us abounding in love. It is us who get distracted with the stimuli of the world. We need Him in each moment. As we become aware of our need for Him, so does the realization of his abundant sufficiency. There is nothing that He cannot do. When no one else seems to understand, it is He who says, I know. He loves you just the way that you are. He views you through His eyes of grace. He's waiting for you to ask him for blessings. You only need to lean in. He doesn't require fancy prayers. Just You. Just Him. Just simple love. 

This last week, I ran on another relay team. This time the race was 78 miles long from one city market to another. We had a great team. The weather was just right. The day was perfect for running and I could feel God's favor as the adrenaline pumped through my body. I'm standing on the dirt path waiting for my teammate to hand me the time chip band - our baton. As I get ready to take off, my thoughts start to kick in. My mind is flooded with emotions. I'm reminded of the above high school experience. This time though I give thanks. I'm not who I used to be. God has grown me and developed our relationship. I'm glad that I didn't put a time frame on allowing God to work in my life. I didn't give up on Him. Fifteen years later, my initial thoughts were balanced and in line with His. "You've totally got this. God is with you. When you get tired, lean into Him for strength. Let Him carry you. Allow Him to speak into your heart.  Run the best that you can and let Him do the rest." I beat each mile that I ran 1.5 minutes faster than my estimated time. Glory to God!

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the circumstances that you have given me to alter my thinking. Thank you that you continually work in my heart. Thank you that you never give up on me. Thank you for showing me through trials that its You that I need to run to when my heart is heavy. It's you who says redeemed when others say condemned. It is in you that you bring peace to my heart and comfort in the storm. Thank you for never leaving me. For breathing truth into my life when my fleshly thoughts were to listen to negativity from myself and others. I ask that you bless over others when they get stuck in that rut. I ask that it is you that they seek to find hope. I pray that you pull them close and shut out the business in our minds when it is not a productive thought to bring you praise. I ask that you quiet hearts when the negative words find their way to their mouths. Stop our minds and tongues from anything short of glory to you. Help us to only speak truth about others and ourselves. Help us to lift up others in your omniscient presence. Help us to be a support in time of struggle. To remember that you have called us all on different journeys. Called us all to have different struggles to form us uniquely into your plan. Help us to remember that what we see on the outside is only a small percentage of what is going on inside. There is no judgment and condemnation in You. Let each word that I speak be a blessing to myself and others. Let the words I say bring love and life. I trust that every difficult lesson, each trial, in life is a specific tailored-for-me blessing. That you work all things together for good. Thank you Father for your truth. For it is you, your truth, that sets us free! Amen. 

"I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13