"" Life A Bit Sweeter: April 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Well...the test was done...

and what do you know...thinks went okay. I'm not saying they went 'great' but that's only because we still have lab work that needs to be done once the doctors saw the form from our agency.

Now the REALLY, REALLY cool part! I met my new doctor that was assigned to me by my insurance carrier and guess what...she's from Ethiopia! In fact, her first name is Ethiopia! We had a nice long talk about her time in Ethiopia as a doctor and our adoption process. She's from Addis and worked at the Black Lion hospital some years ago. How cool is that?!?  She made me promise to keep in touch with her and let her know how things are going with the adoption...and you know I will!

So, for know we'll wait until the rest of the lab work comes back and today I'll go back for a TB test and one other piece of blood work. So....all that to say...it wasn't so bad after all!  (smile)

Since my doctor mentioned Black Lion Hospital, I decided to find out a little more about the hospital.  Watch with me here: 

You can view part 2 on YouTube's website: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veysHvMEZZ4

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Praying for Us Today: Medical Screening

So today is one of those days that I've been dreading.  I know it's a crucial part of the adoption process but I've been nervous about it from the beginning.  Later today, Tony and I will have our physicals with our doctor.  We've never had any major problems but I'm one of those people who just gets nervous that something will pop up in our health.  I've just been like that since a child.

My mom died of a brain aneurism at 30.  My dad died of cancer at 55.  There is a history of cancer on both of my birth parents sides of the family.  So to be totally transparent with you all, I am very nervous about our physicals today.  So what is it that I am asking for from you today?  Your prayers as I get myself mentally ready for today's physical and our health as a whole.

I think I said it before.  This adoption process requires me to deal head on with just about everything that I fear or have said in the past that I didn't want to do.  Yet, thank you Lord, for reminding me that my life belongs to You and is not my own.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Good Eatin'

Need I say more???  Okay...I will.

In the midst of the craziness of adoption paper work, blood tests, and dreaming up fundraising ideas, it's always great to step back and spend time with the boys.  It's important for us to always let them know with our actions that they are still a priority in our lives even in the midst of all the busyness.  This was one of those days.  We spent the day just hanging out and I was actually able to get them to take Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages assessment for kids.  (If you have children, you have to pick up a copy of this book:  see here.) This particular weekday morning during their spring break consisted of us crashing at a local diner, tons of laughs, choosing a song from the personal jukebox at our table, and some good old-fashioned breakfast.  EVERYTHING is always better over a meal I think.  Pancakes, bacon, and potatoes sang to our stomachs.  No, we couldn't eat it all but it was definitely good eatin'!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jae Franklin: Now Performing in Addis Ababa

One of the BEST things about social media is that probably like you, I've had the pleasure of connecting with people whom I otherwise may have never met before.  It really opens you up to a whole new world...don'tcha think?  I'm kind of a geek because I have my Twitter TweetDeck account set-up to search for tweets and conversations about Ethiopia and adoptions.  Basically, whenever someone mentions those words or a combination thereof, it pops up in a personalized search column for me.  In one of those searches, the name Jae Franklin popped up.  Jae Franklin who resides in Georgia is currently performing in Ethiopia.  In reading her quick little tweet, I was led to her Facebook fan page and then to her MySpace page where I was TOTALLY BLOWN away by this diva's voice.  She has one of those voices that is timeless....none of this new school artist using a bunch of computerized equipment to pull off vocals...no, this girl is the real deal.  Check her out (http://jaefranklin.com/) and then go by and become a fan on her Facebook fan page here:  (http://www.facebook.com/jaefranklin)

For my friends who are traveling to Ethiopia soon, be sure to check her out while she's still performing there.

I had an opportunity to ask Jae a few questions and she was kind enough to share with me here.  Kick back and meet the woman behind this powerful voice....Jae Franklin!!!  (While you're reading more about Jae Franklin below, feel free to open a new browser window and listen to her song "Beautiful Soul" on her MySpace page....http://www.myspace.com/jaefranklin)

How long have you been singing?
I began singing at age 6 which contributed to me receiving training in voice at an early age. By the time I was a teen, I was performing at a professional level. I was accepted into The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, TX where I honed my musical abilities in singing, songwriting, and arrangement.  

Who do you gain your greatest inspiration from in pursuing your passion?
My greatest inspiration comes from Rachelle Ferrell, an American vocalist and musician. Although she has had success in the mainstream scene, she is also recognized for her success as a contemporary jazz singer. Her artistic expression is unparalleled. As an artist known throughout the world, she inspires me to keep pursuing my passion.

Where are you performing now? How long will you be there?
I am currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia performing at the Sheraton Hotel. I will be in Addis Ababa until August 2010.

How did that come about?
This opportunity came about by a referral from a very talented vocalist, Adam McKnight, who has worked with everyone from Louis St. Louis to Elton John. He suggested to Richard Smith, the music director for this band, that I be considered for one of the female vocalist positions they had available at the time. He contacted me to see if I was interested. We had a pleasant conversation too.

At the time, I had a song on my Myspace page in which I had written and arranged called Beautiful Soul. He listened to it and contacted me again to ask if I'd like to go to Addis and sing with the band. It happened in the span of approximately two weeks and was really that simple.

What have you learned the most while in Ethiopia?
It's something that I always knew, but life itself is a blessing. Everything else pales in comparison. Just to wake up every day and breathe and have functioning limbs and senses is not to be taken for granted. I've learned that I am definitely going to be back!

If at all, how has your experience in Ethiopia changed you?
I am changing every day. Before I came to Ethiopia, which was the beginning of 2010, I knew a change would occur in my life. I just didn't know what opportunity would propel me to realize that change. I can honestly say that coming to this developing country has made me want to contribute my time to non-government and non-profit organizations that want to bring about change, especially for women and children in Ethiopia and other developing countries.

Where can people purchase your music?
My music will be available for free download on May 5th via my website, http://www.Jaefranklin.com, and social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks Jae!

If you liked what you read and heard, please do me a favor and spread the word about Jae Franklin.  I'm sure she'd REALLY appreciate your support!  

Also, if you can, shoot by Jae's Facebook page and show her some love by posting on her wall.  Let her know that you read about her on my blog!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Taste of Ethiopia: Bete Restaurant in Silver Spring, MD

For our anniversary this year, I really wanted to introduce Tony to Ethiopian fare.  I tried Ethiopia food at the baby shower I attended and also a little at a restaurant near the University of Maryland.  Tony was game so I was excited.  As I shared before, I am not an adventurous eater.  This girl grew up on southern fare like chicken and dumplings, macaroni and cheese, candy yams, collard greens, rice and gravy, corn bread, and sweet tea!  Have mercy!!!  (okay I'm back now...lol)  Because our family often played it safe in our comforts of southern cooking, my taste buds are doing cartwheels as I take them out to the deep end of international cuisine.

The place of choice for our date was Bete Cafe.  It was a quick hop off the Capital Beltway in downtown Silver Spring.  When we arrived, we realized that its name described it perfectly.  As the manager, Teru (also pronounced True) shared, Bete means 'my house' in Amharic.  This quaint beauty is just that....a red brick house that when you walk in you feel as if you are walking into a good friend's house.  We were warmly greeted by our server and snagged the table by the window.  Tony started a little safe and ordered a ginger ale.  I decided to get things started for me with a macchiato and a sambusa.  Great choice for a starter!  You've got to try it.  I've had sambusas before but the ones at Bete have the right blend of spices and have just enough kick to make you keep taking another bite.  (Of course after sipping on my macchiato, I did as I often do....sipped on Tony's beverage a little too.)

We decided to experiment with a bounty of food.  Tony wanted the beef tibs or more properly named on the menu as Yeshint Tibs.  This was my absolute favorite and is described on the menu as:

I ordered the Doro Wot:

The Doro Wot wasn't my favorite thing but I have friends who love it.  Just not my personal preference.
To enjoy our Ethiopian harvest more, we also ordered the vegetable combo which was served on a large platter flanked with plenty of injera.  The combo included gomen (collard greens), Tekil Gomen (cabbage and carrot), Yekik Alicha (split peas), Yemisir Kik Wat (red lentils), and much more.

So if that wasn't enough, as we were getting ready to pay the bill Teru tempted us in a MAJOR way with the most delicious cakes to celebrate our anniversary.  Yes, I said cakes...plural!  She gave us two slices of cake.  I don't know what kind of cakes they were other than one tasted similar to tiramisu which is one of my FAVORITE desserts and the other had puff pastry and custard....OH MY GOODNESS!!!!  If you're in the area, even if you're not really hungry on that day, you have to stop in to Bete for a macchiato and dessert.  But really, their entire dessert case is AMAZING!

Bete is fairly new and has a great patio area for dining.  They also host private parties and will cater an event for you.  The owners are finishing up the upstairs to allow for more seating in this portion of the house.  Teru was gracious enough to give us a tour of the patio and the upstairs.  When I say we'll be back...trust me...we will!  This was one of my favorite date nights with my honey.

Bete Ethiopian Cuisine is located at 811 Roeder Road in Silver Spring, MD 20910.  You can also call them at (301) 588-222....sorry web friends...no website yet!

Anyways...what about you?  What types of other international cuisine have you tried?  What did you think?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

TONY: 12 Reasons I Love Him

Today, Tony and I are celebrating our 12th year anniversary.  This is huge!  Colossal!  Supercalifragilistic....okay, I think you get the picture!  (smile)  It is such a great privilege for me to call him my life partner, my boo, my baby, my man, my friend, and my lover.  In honor of our 12 years, I wanted to celebrate 12 things I love about him...(in no particular order)

  1. He allows me to be who I am without changing me.  He's comfortable in his skin so he allows me to be comfortable in my own.
  2. I love the fact that I am emotionally safe with him.  My pastor's wife used this term and I love it!  I really feel safe with Tony.  I can share my inner most secrets with him and be vulnerable with him without feeling like he'll throw my shortcomings and fears back in my face at a later date.
  3. He's an amazing lover and friend.  (Enough said! smile)
  4. He is probably the best father that I've ever known and I'm not just saying that.  On a DAILY basis, Tony finds ways to pour into C's & MJ's life.  Quality time with them is a non-negotiable.  
  5. I feel physically safe with Tony.  Tony is a 'round the way kind of guy so I always feel safe.  I feel good in knowing that he can hold his own.
  6. He's such a softie.  While on the outside, he can really hold his own, on the inside at the core of his being is a man with a generous and sensitive heart towards people.  He reminds me of my birth father in that he will literally give a person his last to make sure that the other person is straight.
  7. He is absolutely handsome!  I love his smile and his physical strength.  It does this girl good to walk beside him and know that he's all mine!  smile
  8. He adores his mom.  They say how a man treats his mom will tell you how he'll treat his wife.  Absolutely true here.  I love the fact that Tony adores his mom and takes care of her even though she is a very independent spirit!  It's important for him to do things like stop by her house before she gets home at night to turn on her porch light or swing by to cut her grass even if she's not home.  Absolutely love it!  He treats her well and I certainly can't complain about how he treats me.
  9. He taught me to confront issues head on!  I grew up being a people-pleaser and consistently avoided confrontations, often to my own detriment.  Tony taught me to speak up for myself and what was right.  This one attribute has totally transformed my life and who I have become.  Thank you baby.
  10. He wraps me in his arms and the rest of the world just disappears for a moment.
  11. He really loves the Lord.  Tony is not the man you'll find with a Bible under his arm and he may not be the man who can quickly turn to Daniel, Joshua, or Colossians but he is the man who believes in who God is, His power, and how God has radically transformed his own life.  I love the man that he has become in Christ and I continually fall in love with the man who he is becoming in Christ.
  12. I love the daddy that he will be to this little girl.  I love the fact that he was sensitive enough to allow me to share with him this strong desire to adopt this little girl and that he too is excited about the thought of his little girl wrapping her petite arms around his neck and calling him daddy.  Thank you baby for standing with me in all that our family is sacrificing to bring our daughter home.
Tony, truly my love, Nothing Has Ever Felt Like This....

Oh....and I can't forget...
In celebrating our love, over the years we've kept a sampling of love letters and cards that we give each other.  I guess one of my primary love languages along with receiving gifts is Words of Affirmation....and baby, you really affirm me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Let the Paper Cuts Begin!!!

We completed our 1st Home Study!!!  1 down and 3 to go!!!  That's right. While many folks were dreading tax day this past Thursday night, Tony and I ventured to Virginia to attend our agency's home study orientation.  It took us 2 1/2 hours to get there in this ridiculous rush hour traffic (in non-rush hour, it takes us 40 minutes).  There were 3 families attending, including us.  We were warmly greeted by Ms. H and one of the sweetest interns who assisted Ms. H for the night.  We spent about 2 1/2 hours at the office talking about the home study process and what to expect out of the adoption.  To be totally honest, a lot of the information I knew because of all the great sharing that takes place on the blogs of other families and within our Yahoo! group.  Yet, it was just soooo wonderful going over the information with Ms. H, the intern, and the other families.

Honestly, I know others like their adoption agencies, but I am SUPER partial to ours.  Whenever I have visited, I feel like I'm going to someone's home to visit.  I guess it doesn't hurt that the founder of the agency is an architect by trade and is often doodling around in the office changing the design.  It really is beautiful.

So.....we are off with the horses in this paper chase!  With this heap of paper, I'm expecting lots of paper cuts and boo boos (smile)!  (Okay, maybe not as bad as the damage I did when I sliced my finger with a glass in this photo from last year but paper cuts still hurt too!  lol) To give you an idea of what we'll be up to, here are the documents we must compile before we can really get going with our other 3 home study visits - 2 of which will be at our home.  If I can get the majority of these forms notarized and turned in, we'll be able to schedule our remaining visits:
  • Autobiography (2-4 typewritten pages for each of us)
  • Birth certificates for everyone in our house
  • Marriage Certficiate
  • Verification of Employment
  • Income Tax Return
  • Three Reference Letters/Forms
  • Signed & Notarized Guardianship Statement (who will take care of our kids if something happens to us)
  • Financial Statement
  • Recent Pay Stubs
  • International Disclaimer
  • Complete Driving Records for me & Tony
  • Home Fire Safety Inspection
  • Full Medical Reports for everyone in our home
  • State Police Gold Seal Letter/State & Child Care clearance 
  • Child Abuse Clearances
  • Child Support clearances
  • FBI Clearances
  • Reading Agreement (we each have 5 books to read)
Many of these documents will also be a waiting game as we wait for state and federal agencies to sign-off on them and send them back to us.  (HMMM....hey my DC folks....anybody have connections in these offices????  Just thought I'd ask!)  Okay...I digressed...Along with these documents, we must also get started on and complete our  Hague Training.  This is an on-line 8 hour course that each of us will take....and this is just the beginning.  Surely, our little girl will have to know that we CLEARLY want her in our life.  Little girl, wherever you are tonight...know mama loves you dearly, prays for you and will go to the ends of the earth to make sure you know that.  You are being created with purpose and both of your mommies have been forever changed by you. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

April 15th is a BIG day and I'm not just talkin' taxes!

Hi Friends!  There's quite a bit going on in our household and with our friends on April 15th and we'd REALLY appreciate your prayers.  If you'd agree to pray with us, here's what's on our hearts for prayer for this coming Thursday, April 15th:

Our Home Study Orientation at 6pm in Virginia at our adoption agency.  Please pray with us about these specific things regarding our home study orientation:
  • Tony's ability to get off of work early so that we can get through the crazy traffic in that area and make it to the orientation on time.  Being late would not be a good look for our first meeting!
  • Someone that we trust to pick-up the boys and keep them until we return later that night.  
  • Completion of our paperwork to bring with us to the home study.

C's Lottery Application to a New School for Next Year.  C is graduating from his current school this year and I'm not at all thrilled about the school that he is assigned to next year within our community.  We've put his name in a lottery drawing for a charter school that is about 15 minutes from our house.  The lottery will take place on April 15th but it will be days later before we receive a notice about whether or not he was selected.  Please pray with us about these specific things regarding C's education:
  • My submission to whatever God wants to do with C's education next year.  Because God says that we can ask him for what we desire, my desire is that he would be selected to enter a school next year that will help him to excel academically and socially (I'm not talking about being popular.  I mean a safe atmosphere where his personality can flourish.)

The Dubois Family Adoption Court Case.  You may have heard me mention Sara and Daniel Dubois before.  They are friends of ours we've met through the adoption journey and are also adopting from Ethiopia.  Sara and Daniel are among some of the sweetest people that we've met along this journey.  This Thursday, their court case will be heard before the Ethiopian government for the FIFTH TIME.  Yes, I said their adoption case has been heard and not passed FOUR TIMES prior to this Thursday's court hearing.  During this time, I have been in awe at Sara's steady faith in God and the peace that she has shared on their blog.   Please pray with us about these specific things surrounding the Dubois Family Adoption:
  • Birth mother and father.  We know that while one family/one mother rejoices over an adoption, another family/mother grieves losing a child.  Please pray for their birth son's mother, birth father, and their families.
  • Little brother as he is affectionately referred to by the Dubois Family.  For each day that he waits in the orphanage, please pray for his health and well-being.  The caretakers from our agency in Ethiopia do an excellent job but their resources to medicine, health care, and individual attention to children is very limited.  Also pray for little brother's future and his adaptation into the Dubois Family if it is God's will for him to be there.
  • Dubois Family.  Please pray for Sara, Daniel, and Madeline (their daughter).  For every day that has been difficult, draining, and heart-breaking, please pray with me that God restores that to them and it continues to help them lean fully on God during this process.

If you'd like to know more about the interesting circumstances surrounding not passing court, you can click the links below:
Court Appearance #1
Court Appearance #2
Court Appearance #3
Court Appearance #4

Thank you so much for praying for us.  Now, how can we be praying for you?

Monday, April 12, 2010

EVERYBODY has their MOMENTS....what have been yours?

As I traveled back from North Carolina last night, we stopped in a diner that had a little jukebox.  To my surprise, I saw a song that I have a strong affection for.   I first saw the video for this song on the Country Music Channel and instantly fell in love with its message as it caused me to reflect on my own life.  The song is Moments by Emerson Drive.  Take a look at the video below, really listen to the lyrics, and think about your life.

When I think about my life, I'm sure there are more than those that are listed here but to keep this post short, here are 4 of my "moments" (in no particular order) that I'll share today....

  • My "two" dads walking me down the aisle.  Why?  They are brothers.  One is my biological father and the other chose to take me into his family and adopt me after my mom died and my dad could no longer take care of me.  That was special.
  • Marrying Tony & Giving Birth to My Boys.  Why?  We've have some tough spots in our marriage but he has helped me to grow so much.  While God gives me strength on one level, my husband gives me so much strength that when he tells me I can do something that odds say may be impossible, I believe him.  I trust him.  He has pushed me and helps me to grow into something beautiful on the inside.  Loving Tony and then giving birth to CJ & MJ have been huge in my life.  They help me to experience, receive, and give a type of love that I never knew could honestly exist among human beings.
  • Landing my dream job at Zion Church.  Why?  I had gotten to a place in my corporate positions that I felt like I had achieved all the 'golden toys'.  I loved my career choice but I wanted to do it in a full-time ministry capacity.  The perfect position opened up at a perfect time, in a perfect location, with an amazing group of people.  I'm so blessed to work where I worship.  Sometimes I can't believe I get paid to do what I love!
  • That moment on September 1st when God starting working on my heart about adoption and I sent out a simple 'tweet' on Twitter trying to figure out where God was trying to take me.  Why?  I knew God was up to something but I couldn't figure out all the pieces yet but my heart was softening and crying out in such a special way for something that was so unfamiliar to me at the time.  Since that day, my life has been radically changing and my world has opened up in so many beautiful ways in comparison to how small my world was before.
So I shared my moments.  Now, tell me about some of the 'moments' in your life that have made you smile and made you proud.  Whether you're the man or woman who sleeps outside in a cardboard box, the President of a Fortune 500 company, or a mom who makes sure she's home when her kids arrive from the school bus....we've all had our 'moments'.  Let's share...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Grading Myself As A Parent

Wow! I've really appreciated the GREAT advice I received from you guys.  You have really helped this mama out in ways that you probably will never understand.  If you're in the dark with regards to what I'm talking about, I'm speaking of a situation I had the other night with my youngest son, MJ.  I had to choose whether or not to stay in-town and go to his playoff game or go out-of-town to my Nana's funeral.   I was so super conflicted that this mama put a S.O.S. for help to the blog world (see it here).  After such great advice from both sides of the coin (to go or not go), I've decided to go to my Nana's funeral and do some extra special things for MJ with regard to his game.

The underlying feeling that sank in my heart was whether or not I was being a good parent and making the best choice for my son.  As I began to ponder my specific issue more, I started thinking that many parents struggle with whether or not they're doing a good enough job raising their children.  Sometimes we may put so many expectations on ourselves as parents because of the way that we were raised or 'not raised'.  We can also put high expectations on ourselves as parents because we can fall into the trap of comparing ourselves or our kids to someone else's family.  Those are times when we can feel like we are totally blowing it as parents. 

But then, there are those days when I'm sitting on my front porch, the boys are playing, and the breeze is kissing my cheeks.  It's in those moments when I stop and take it all in and realize how blessed I am to have such an amazing family...perhaps I am doing a great job as a parent.

The trouble with this up and down roller coaster report card that I can sometimes mentally give myself is that I'm not always sure where this measuring stick is coming from.  I know we have really great kids but am I really doing my absolute best?  Should I be doing more/better? 

What about you?  When do you feel like you might be blowing it as a parent and when do you feel proud of yourself as a parent?  How do you measure success as a parent?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Son is Upset....What's a mama to do?

My youngest son, MJ, is definitely a sweetheart but his feelings are hurt.  My grandmother on my father's side, Nana, passed away two days ago.  Nana was in her 80's and lived a great life.  There are so many great memories of Nana and I hope to share them with you in a future post.  Here's my dilemma.  Nana's funeral is in North Carolina on Saturday at 1pm.  MJ's playoff game is on Saturday at 11am in Maryland.  So what's a mama to do?

I decided while he and I were out at the grocery store tonight to tell MJ that I wasn't going to be able to make it to his playoff game on Saturday.  What a mistake?  The tears...the tears.  He tried so hard to be a big boy and hold them back as we cuddled next to cupcakes in the aisle but the tears flowed anyway.  So what's a mama to do?

MJ is not quite in the double-digits age range yet.  This is his first year playing organized basketball and their team was the underdog.  They were the team that no one thought would make it this far.  Honestly, it doesn't matter to me whether or not they win or lose this Saturday.  (Grant it, yes winning is great but it's not my driving factor.)  What matters to me is that my son wants me there at his playoff game with him.  What I don't want to do is regret it years down the road.  Will he remember that his mom wasn't at this crucial game to support him?  (Perhaps you may think that I'm over-thinking this whole thing but it really is a big deal to me right now.  Perhaps you think this shouldn't bother me so much but it does.)

On the one hand, my mind says that I need to be at the funeral...honestly, not so much for my grandmother because I personally believe that funerals are more so for the living, not for those who have died and gone on.  Being at the funeral is more so for my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  To share in the grief with them, yes perhaps even to see the remains of my grandmother one more time.  I very rarely get to see this side of my family, in fact there are many strained relationships that need healing and I'd love to see some of that happen and perhaps help to facilitate some of that.  So what's a mama to do? What do you think?  Should I stay in town and go to MJ's game or should I travel to NC to the funeral to be with my extended family.  What do you think?  This mama really needs your thoughts.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mission Accomplished...well, almost.

While some of us may speak very little Spanish and others are very fluent, I believe the phrase ‘mi casa es su casa’ is universal and spoken by many. If you’re not familiar, I’m talking about the phrase - my house is your house. One of my former manager’s wives seemed to me to have the art of hospitality mastered. When you enter their home, you immediately feel as if you are truly ‘home’. You are made to feel welcomed and wanted and never an intruder into their lives. Besides their personal bedrooms, there were no rooms off-limits to their guests – no clear plastic-covered furniture here! You are instead encouraged to come in, take your shoes off (if you want) and just relax. It is a home that truly feels lived in. I made it my purpose to try to glean from Debra, my manager’s wife what she ‘did’ to make this house such a sanctuary and refuge. Without any specific instructions from her, what I learned from watching her was that this was just a part of who she is – a true servant at heart. By observing her family as well, you will find that they are a family who purpose to serve people wherever they are.

Thinking about Debra and her home made me think about the mission of my own home. Any successful business or organization grows and operates purposefully because it lives for its mission. Whether it’s intentionally created or ignored. Whether you’re married or single and live in an apartment or single-family house, your home has a mission. What does your home’s current mission say about your household? Is it there to tear down or build up? Is it there as a show place or a place of rest and renewal for your immediate family members and visitors? Does it nurture and protect or destroy and shamelessly expose the hurting spirit?

I remember when my husband and I started looking for our first home. We completed all of the pre-work for purchasing a home from securing financing to the exciting discussions about our dreams for the look of this new house. Despite all of this preparation, the process was frustrating because we thought that since we had been pre-approved for our loan, everything else would be a breeze! It was during the housing boom when houses only stayed on the market for a few days….a true seller’s market. We must have looked at close to 100 properties by four different real estate agents over a 1-year time span and been turned down for at least 20 contracts. During this time, it seemed like everyone around us was purchasing a home or getting a new car or something EXCEPT us! We were irritated and devastated and it just seemed hopeless which is why we kept switching agents. Foolishly, we thought they didn’t know what they were doing, little did we know or probably want to accept that God was preparing a home that was just for us.

Our final agent took us to see a property that strangely enough been on the market for several weeks. Prior to this home, all the other homes that we truly desired were newer or remodeled and showcased hardwood floors, berber carpet, granite countertops, and stainless steel appliances just to name a few of the upgrades that made our eyes shine. Needless to say, we had our eyes fixed on something newer and/or already fixed up so imagine our faces when we first entered this older home. This 1970’s-outfitted house displayed royal blue carpeting, brown wooden hollow doors with gold knobs in every room, gray wood paneling in the bedroom, and psychedelic tile in the kitchen and family rooms. While the previous homeowners had done an amazing job maintaining the property, they hadn’t done much in terms of modern upgrades according to what our tastes were at the time. All my husband could do was say no, this is not for us! Well, truly, although the interior of the house didn’t compare to the newer homes we had seen, I was captivated by the amount of space; it had quite a bit of square footage and sat on almost an acre of land. This space didn’t compare to the small square footage and land lots we had seen previously in newer homes. Now, when you add that to the fact that we had been living with my mother-in-law for the past year, this house was looking pretty good to me. While she had gone above and beyond in being a gracious hostess and probably wanted her house back to herself, we also definitely needed our own space and there was just something else about this home that felt ‘right’. With the guiding of the Holy Spirit and despite his original resistance, my husband agreed within 24-hours to put a contract on the house. In short, the owner accepted our offer over another family, although we offered below the asking price. After we closed on the home, right away we started pulling up the royal blue carpet in the living and dining areas and discovered gleaming oak hardwood floors which appeared to have never been used. My father-in-law worked tirelessly in replacing over 20 brown wooden doors with new white paneled interior doors. We painted and pulled down the paneled walls. We replaced the psychedelic tile in the kitchen and family rooms. Finally, we had a home that we loved and it was all ours....or was it?

What I discovered a year later was that this home was never and will never be ours. This was never about us. This was and is God’s house. While we could only see the negative in the house when we encountered it for the first time, God saw the potential. (Doesn’t He do the same with us?) While we thought that every door was closing in our faces when we were turned down for contract after contract, we were actually walking one step closer to the home God was preparing for us to inhabit. (What doors are seeming to close for you? What could God be saying to you about your circumstances?)

Since moving into this home, we’ve seen many people, including ourselves, blessed because of this house. We’ve had family members and friends come to rest and stay at this home for hours, weeks, and even a year at a time. I feel the peace of God in this place. We never needed this much square footage for our little family but God had a mission for this home and for our lives and it’s up to us to be obedient to fulfill it. This is exactly where our little girl will fit in. God knew that this would be her home too.

Some years ago, I took a cue from something Debra’s family did, we named our house. It’s called ‘The House that Love Built.’ To some, this name may be interpreted to refer to the love that we, the inhabitants, display to one another and our guests. While this is very true, consider that Love refers to God. I John 4:8 says that God is Love. To us, it’s the House that God Built to serve the needs of others.

From this, I say to you that no matter what it may look like in your home right now (and I don’t just mean the physical appearance of your home – I’m talking about your circumstances too)…whether the children seem to be running wild or your marriage seems to be falling apart, along with your spouse if you are married, take some prayerful time to write out the mission statement for your home and watch everything else line up accordingly as you speak life into your home. Don’t worry about making the mission perfect because it may change over time as God leads you. This mission will help you to stay on course for where your family is headed and the purpose that He wants you to fulfill in that community. Learn to have a servant’s heart for every person that enters the threshold. Pull out the best china at dinner. Purpose to make your home a haven that becomes a refuge from the bitterness of the world. Truly learn to be a keeper of your home and watch the Lord be a keeper of you and your family. You’re not in that home by coincidence or mistake. Our communities need beacons of light where the lost can find refuge and a place of healing and hope. When you turn on your streetlight tonight, consider the Message translation of Matthew 5:14-17 – “Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”

As for me and my house and in the words of what used to be my son’s favorite song as a baby...this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine! God bless and keep you.

Friday, April 2, 2010

$7.71 Equals.....did you guess correctly???

So what can you get with $7.71???  Hmm...perhaps from Starbucks a sandwich and a cup of house coffee.  From Subway, you'll get a footlong sub, bag of chips, and a drink. In our household today, $7.71 gets us something soooo much bigger!!!  It gets us on our way to starting our home study!!!!  Woo hoo!!!!

Thanks to your generosity, orders, and us pinching pennies, we were able to save $3,188 which is the exact amount we'll need for our home study.  If you'll remember in one of our previous posts, a home study can often times be stressful for prospective parents.  It's an in-depth look at you and your family.  Because we haven't actually gone through a home study before, I thought the information below from the Child Welfare League provided a great overview.  You still may be wondering so what does this mean?  Basically, it means that we REALLY need your prayers to put our mind at ease.  Adoptive parents at this stage often worry about what if we're not approved but...as they also said on this site, "We're not looking for perfect parents.  We're looking for real parents to parent real kids."  Well, if that's what they're looking for, you can't get any more REAL than our crew here.  PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for us.  Thanks so much for your support thus far.  Our first part of the home study, the orientation, is scheduled for April 15th at our adoption agency's office.  

If you want to know more...here's more about the home study report as taken from the Child Welfare League site.  Hopefully, my adoption buddies who have gone through this process already can tell us what parts of this is accurate and share any other tidbits that will help us get through this.  (smile)

In general, home study reports include the above-mentioned health and income statements, background checks, and references, as well as the following types of information:
  • Family background. Descriptions of the applicants' childhoods, how they were parented, past and current relationships with parents and siblings, key events and losses, and what was learned from them.
  • Education/employment. Applicants' current educational level, satisfaction with their educational attainments, and any plans to further their education, as well as their employment status, history, plans, and satisfaction with their current jobs.
  • Relationships. If applicants are a couple, the report may cover their history together as well as their current relationship (e.g., how they make decisions, solve problems, communicate, show affection, etc.). If applicants are single, there will be information about their social life and how they anticipate integrating a child into it, as well as information about their network of relatives and friends.
  • Daily life. Routines, such as a typical weekday or weekend, plans for child care (if applicants work outside the home), hobbies, and interests.
  • Parenting. Applicants' past experiences with children (e.g., their own, relatives' children, neighbors, volunteer work, babysitting, teaching, or coaching), in addition to their plans regarding discipline and other parenting issues.
  • Neighborhood. Descriptions of the applicants' neighborhood, including safety and proximity to community resources.
  • Religion. Information about the applicants' religion, level of religious practice, and what kind of religious upbringing (if any) they plan to provide for the child.
  • Feelings about/readiness for adoption. There may be a section on specific adoption-related issues, including why the applicants want to adopt, feelings about infertility (if this is an issue), what kind of child they might best parent and why, and how they plan to talk to their children about adoption-related issues. If the agency practices openness, there may be information about how the applicants feel about birth families and how much openness with the birth family might work best.
  • Approval/recommendation. The home study report will conclude with a summary and the social worker's recommendation. This often includes the age range and number of children for which the family is recommended.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

$7.71...Do you know what that is???

$7.71...do you know what that is?  I can't tell you yet.  You have to wait until tomorrow and I'll announce it on GOOD FRIDAY!!!

Leave me a comment with your guess!

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