Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Today I have felt very challenged in my spirit...

...challenged in my calling as a mom.

...challenged in my relationships with others.

...challenged in my grace and forgiveness of others.

...challenged in the pain from the last year of my life.

...challenged by the examples of others who are following God in extraordinary ways.

...challenged by God's Word.

...challenged to rejoice in the healing of others.

...challenged to seek healing in some wounds that keep opening back up.

...challenged to CHOOSE love over anger.

It has been quite the day!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

What a relaxing week we had as a family over Thanksgiving break!! The kids had the week off from school, Rick had the week off of work, and we stayed home. No packing, no traveling, no recovery afterwards. We spent more time in pajamas than we did regular clothes. We slept in. We stayed up late. We played Wii "Just Dance" and "Mario Kart" A LOT. We watched movies. We only left the house a couple of times.
When I saw this, I knew this kid was not feeling well.
So glad we decided not to travel. I am pretty sure this little guy would have ended up in the hospital like he did last year. That was not how I wanted to spend Thanksgiving.
We did lots of this...
...and this
Sam chipped Lauren's tooth once again(she chipped it 3 weeks ago in a soccer game), so we had to make a visit to the dentist.(One of the 2 times I left the house for the week!)

Abby was so anxious to decorate for Christmas that she started making her own decorations early in the week. She is my little Martha Stewart!
We began preparing for our holiday baking
I realized last year that our baking time is much more fun if I bake individually with the kids rather than everybody helping with everything. I cannot handle the chaos of everyone helping. I am a much better mom doing it this way.
We also had a play performed for us,
"The Neverland Pirates"(there was no one willing to play Jake)
Laila was "Izzy," Lauren was "Mr. Smee," and Abby was "Captain Hook"
Sam is making progress on his six-pack.
He wanted to share a picture of his "two-pack". Only 4 more to go!
I enlisted the girls to help me prep the food.
Those onions are really strong!!
The beloved Cornbread dressing in the making
"Reginald" the Turkey
He was a stubborn little booger taking much longer to cook than expected.
It was worth the wait!!
We decided to wear our Cowboys' gear for the day
This one is much more real
The food was delicious. Between shopping and food prep, the meal took me about 15 hours to create. It took about 30 minutes to consume. Thankfully we had LOTS of leftovers to give me a break over the next few days. Rick printed out a "Thankful" paper ahead of time and handed them out the day before. Everyone's assignment was to complete it and bring it to dinner the next day. It was so sweet to hear their answers. To top off this pretty perfect day, the Cowboys won!! It doesn't get much better!!

On Friday we kicked off the Christmas season. We gave the kids the VeggieTales DVD "St. Nicholas" for a family movie night. During the day we decorated for Christmas. I LOVE the end result, but I really HATE the decorating part. Thankfully, I have a husband who is passionate about it and leads us in the effort.
I told you I wore jammies all week.
I didn't fix my hair either. Can you tell?

The kids' tree in the family room filled with their ornaments
Rick's and my tree in the Living Room with our ornaments
We did not participate in Black Friday. Sometimes, Rick will go out, but there was nothing this year that we saw that was worth our effort. I will say, Cody and Lauren were begging us to go out. They wanted to see the craziness!! Maybe next year.

The girls and I ventured out on Sat. to do a bit of shopping. Those crowds were much more my speed. The weekend ended with going to church on Sunday and getting everyone to bed on time to prepare for school on Monday.
Isaiah brought this home from school today:
Yes, my 4 year old is thankful for Lightning McQueen, Soda, and Coffee.
That should get me some kind of "Mother of the Year" award!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bedroom Makeovers!!

We began rearranging kids, painting rooms and choosing new bedding about 2 months ago. We have felt for a long time like we needed to make some changes. As a 13 year old, Cody was ready for his own room. Isaiah and Laila have been with us for 2 1/2 years. I felt like they were both incorporated enough into our family that they would be okay if we separated them. Since we didn't see any opportunity to sell our house anytime soon or finish our basement, we decided to just change our upstairs to better accommodate our family. We still have some things to buy to decorate the walls, but they are all painted, the carpets are cleaned, and the bedding is complete. Over Christmas Break, I hope to get some pictures of our family up in their rooms and a few more decorating items. Here are the "Before" and "After" pics:
Before: Cody and Sam's room
(messy and plain)
After: Sam and Isaiah's Room
(blue walls, Sports bedding for Sam and Cars Bedding for Isaiah)
The other side
(I need to get some pics/decorations for this wall)
Before: Lauren and Abby's room
(individual twin beds, old bedding and very messy walls)
We bought bunk beds for Lauren and Abby
Laila moved into their room with the toddler bed
After: Laila's side of the room with her "Tangled" bed
Abby took the top bunk, Lauren took the bottom
After: Lauren and Abby's side of the room
(freshly painted walls, polka dot bedding for Lauren and monkey bedding for Abby)
Before: Isaiah and Laila's bedroom
Painting the walls
Cody's new bedroom
He loves having his own space!
Go Cowboys!!
It feels so good to have it done. They are all settled in. Laila and Isaiah adjusted beautifully to their new beds. Laila moved from a crib to toddler bed and Isaiah moved from a toddler bed to twin bed. We have figured out how they can each compromise to learn to live with "new" roommates. They are learning some great life lessons.

Cody's room has become a good place for him to be alone when he is overwhelmed or needs to get homework done. With his sensory issues, it is a great refuge in times of stress.

One of my favorite stories of this process has been with Laila. The first night, Lauren said, "Laila, if you need anything during the night, you just let Lolly know." in the middle of the night, Laila woke Lauren up. Lauren said, "What do you need?" Laila responded, "Lolly, I need a hug." So sweet.

I am looking forward to adding some more personal touches over the next few weeks!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Promise, Pain, Provision, Praise

I have been writing this post in my mind for the past 2 1/2 months. It seems appropriate to share it on Thanksgiving Week. I share this with you for many reasons. One, I want to honor and praise God for His provision in our lives. Secondly, I want to encourage each of you to follow the calling God has given you. Don't allow money or opposition to stop you from following God's calling. More specifically, if God is calling you to adopt, I want you to know that it is the most blessed experience you will ever be privileged to participate in. God has revealed Himself to me in this process more than any other in my life.

2 1/2 months ago, God fulfilled a promise that He gave to me 3 years ago. It was not vague like, "I will provide for you," or "I will be with you." It was a very specific, tangible and concrete promise. To all earthly standards, it would take a miracle to fulfill.

When we began our ministry in Swaziland, we had no intentions of adopting. We were called to come alongside the people, partner in any way that God led us and help meet the needs that He revealed. We wanted to be advocates for the children and women with whom God crossed our paths. We desired to create opportunities for the people of Swaziland to not only survive, but thrive, thus the name "Beyond Survival."

In July '08, God expanded that calling to Swaziland to include adoption. When He placed that calling on my heart, He promised me that He would provide the $40,000 it would most likely cost. Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, international adoption is extremely expensive. That fact alone deters a lot of people from moving forward in this calling. Our family did not have that kind of money to spend.

This calling was overwhelming and painful in so many ways. The process alone is enough to weed out the weak. The amount of paperwork, documents needed, classes to complete, and homestudy will send anyone over the edge. To add to that, we had only 3 months to complete a process that most families complete in a year or more. It was the stressful adoption process on steroids.

In addition to the actual paperwork process that we had to complete, came the emotional process. We did not have the support of everyone in our community of friends and family. In actuality we faced some strong opposition about this decision. It was extremely painful. It is so easy to doubt in the midst of opposition. It is so easy to give in to all the arguments of why this is a bad decision for your family. Believe me, there are many, and we heard every one of them.

The spiritual warfare part of adoption will mess with your mind in ways you could never imagine. I believe Satan wants to do everything he can to oppose adoption. He uses other people to oppose it. He hinders the process to oppose it. He creates so much doubt and fear in your mind that you feel you almost cannot stand up against it. I cannot tell you how many sleepless nights I had in this process. Every time I was up during the night battling with Satan over this calling, something MAJOR would happen the next day. It was during all the doubt and fear that I experienced that God continually reminded me of His work in this process. God gave us so many evidences of His Hand and His direction. That is the ONLY thing that got me through.

When God promised to provide for our adoption, I had a picture in my mind of how I thought that would look. I thought we would have every penny provided by the time we traveled in March '09 to pick up the kids. What a great story that would be to tell. Look how much God would be glorified by that. I never imagined that it would be 2 1/2 years later before we would pay off that last amount of debt from the adoption. God didn't give me a timeframe. I created one in my mind.

I can say that during that 2 1/2 years we saw His Provision in more ways than just actual money to go towards the cost of adoption. People gave us clothing, furniture, meals, baby items(I had gotten rid of everything), etc. We never went without a need in our family. We had to max out 6 different credit cards to make all of the adoption payments. We had 3 weeks in a row where we had thousands of dollars due each week. We had 2 payments that God provided by people just in time, and those people did not know the amounts we owed. Many people sacrificed and gave to our family to participate in this calling with us. It truly was a "family" effort by those in our circles of friendship. We experienced community in a way that we never had before. Without this sacrifice, we would not have experienced the blessing of seeing God work the way He did.

I could not go through this journey He has taken us on over the last 3 years and not be changed. I am not the person I was 3 years ago. I am so thankful for that. God's plan of provision for this calling was exactly what we needed to grow and develop us into the parents, spouses, friends, and followers that He has called us to at this point in our lives. Every time Laila kisses me(she does this about 100 times a day) and tells me that she loves me, I feel blessed to have been called to this process. Every time Isaiah gives me that look that he gives and puckers up those lips of his to kiss me, I am grateful to be on this journey. It hasn't been easy, but that is a different post. Today I choose to praise God for his fulfillment of that promise He gave me over 3 years ago. I praise Him for the promise. I praise Him for the pain. I praise Him for His provision.

I encourage you to follow WHATEVER it is that God might be calling you to. You will not regret your obedience. You will feel purpose even in the pain of it.

My prayer is that He will give ALL of us the strength to take that step of faith. I don't feel like He is finished with me yet. There is so much more for me to learn. There are so many areas where I am weak and fail.

Today, I am thankful, and I praise Him for His Hand in my life!!! I look at this picture and I think, "WOW, I never could have dreamed up this plan for my life."
I wonder what the next 3 years hold????

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Week

~wearing jammies all day long

~movie nights

~staying up late

~sleeping in

~reading good books

~ordering pizza

~Wii dance competitions

~hot chocolate and popcorn

~painting Sam and Isaiah's room

~traditions lived out

~wrestling with Daddy

~board games


~Date Night

~decorating for Christmas

~donuts and cinnamon rolls

~lunch date with friends

~no time schedule

~Cowboys football

~Macy's Day Parade

~yummylicious Thanksgiving Meal

~spending lots of time together as a family

That is what this week is all about, and we are LOVING every minute of it!!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Native American Day

Abby had Native American Day in her class on Friday.
She got all dressed up for the day, face paint and all.
Her class had a feast, made sand art, made a game that Native American kids
would play, and watched a movie.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


"It is a bit outrageous to learn that Americans spend more for garbage bags each year than 90 of the world's 210 countries spend for everything."
~Linda Kuhlman, "Our Consuming Interest"

I don't even know what to say about this.

Friday, November 18, 2011

You Never Know What Your Day Might Hold!

I am constantly thinking through Isaiah's comments like the one I shared yesterday. This whole parenting through adoption thing has thrown me for a loop at times. It doesn't matter that I have already parented 4 children before Isaiah and Laila became ours. What matters is that they feel secure as our children. What matters is that they know that we love them the same as our bio kids. That means in my parenting of that I have to keep that in mind ALL THE TIME!!

One issue that has come up quite a bit with Isaiah has been that we weren't there when he was born. We didn't know him as a baby. The first picture we have of him is at 2 years old. We were really blessed to get Laila at such a young age(9 months), but even at that age, we missed so much. I LOVE the baby stage, and I feel cheated that I didn't get to enjoy that with them.

In thinking through all of that, I had a realization this morning. I had no idea on the day of each of their births that my life had changed forever on those days. I became a mom to two more kids without any knowledge of it. God had planted Swaziland in my heart earlier that year that Isaiah was born. In fact, I can look back now and realize that the time period that God put Africa on my heart was, in fact, the time in which Isaiah was conceived. That is profound to me and just one more piece of the puzzle that will show him God's Hand on his little life.

I have thought through and analyzed every detail of both of those days.

Isaiah was born on December 18, 2006. I woke up that morning early to head to Ft. Collins to visit my friend, Andrea, who had moved there earlier in the year. I had such a great drive up alone in my car, praying and listening to music and sermons on my ipod. Swaziland is 8 hours ahead of us so at that point, he may have already been born. Sanele, my little baby boy, born to his Swazi Mama. What was his birth like? How much did he weigh? What did he look like? So many questions swirl through my head. All along, I am just going about my day with no clue of God's bigger plan that was forming on the other side of the world. For me it seemed like just another day in my life. In reality it was monumental.

Laila was born on June 24, 2008. I was actually in Swaziland on that day and have discovered that we took our team to visit the hospital where Laila was born ON THE DAY she was born. I remember very vividly seeing a group of laboring women in a grassy area in the hospital courtyard. How amazing would it be if I actually saw her Swazi mama???!!! Her mother was sick. I may have walked by my baby girl in the children's ward without even knowing it!! Demalangeni was her name. This little girl in just a short week would lose her Swazi mama and spend the next 9 months without a mom. That was a profound day for me because any day in Swaziland is profound, but I had no idea of the depth of God's timing in where He had me on that particular day. Once again, a piece of the puzzle to say to Laila, "I was close to you the day you were born. I didn't know it, but we were there together."

I woke up this morning pondering these thoughts. I realized that even though my day is planned with certain activities, I have no idea what kind of work God is doing behind the scenes. I may look back on this day later and try to remember each detail because of the significance that it played out in my life. God's plan is bigger than the cheesy potatoes I need to make for a lunch I am going to and the picking up of kids from school and the party at church that I am going to with Lauren tonight. Even in our everyday lives, He is orchestrating His bigger plan.

Today, that gives me HOPE. Hope I have needed to feel for a while. Hope that I will grab hold of with all my might and not let go. I pray, despite the circumstances you are facing, that it gives you hope, too.

I feel like our work in Swaziland is on hold right now. We are following through with God's leadership to make Beyond Survival a non-profit. That is the only direction God has given us at this point. While we WAIT for the process to be complete, I feel restless. I know that the needs are great and day-by-day become greater. I see the work that others are doing and feel ashamed that I am not doing more. I want to jump on the bandwagon and make things happen. I want to raise money for this "need"(insert- school fees, carepoint Christmas party, medical issues, etc.) I see or make people aware of this "issue"(insert- weather destroyed this Gogo's house, this missionary needs support, this child will not go to school without a uniform, etc.) that has come to my attention. All the while, God continues to say to me, "Wait. Complete this process. Don't try to control this."

You may not know for years the significance of this very day in your life. All I know is that 2 days over the last 5 years that were just normal days from the beginning to end resulted in these amazing blessings in my life:
As I watch "Little Einsteins" with them and feed them their breakfast this morning, and even send Isaiah to time out, I feel HOPE in my spirit. That God can do this thing way better than I ever could.

Today, I release it. I give it over. I trust. How about you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I had a particularly challenging obedience issue with Isaiah last night.

After the process of discipline and restoration, it was time for bed.

As I was tucking him in the bed and reminding him that he belongs to our family forever, he asked me a question,
"Mom, if I become a baby again, will you still choose me?"

Once again, he needs to be constantly reminded of his security in our family.

It makes my heart sad to see that pain in his heart.

My bio kids would not even think to ask that question.

As an adopted child, Isaiah has to struggle with the pain and loss in his heart on a daily basis.

I reminded him that just like God chose me as His child, that he is chosen by us. We love him. We treasure him. Our life would not be the same without him. God decided he was my son before he was ever born!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Weekend Getaway

Lauren and I had a really great weekend away. One-on-one time is always so nice with the kids. This chick definitely feels loved when she gets quality time.

Before we left town, we stopped to eat at Smashburger. This was our first time there, and I will say, we give it a "thumbs up"!!
We drove up to Denver and checked in at Embassy Suites.
This is one of our favorite places to stay because of the yummy breakfast
and all the rooms are suites.
We then did some shopping!!
First stop, American Girl Store.
Our room was great!!

We decided after walking around the mall so much that we wanted to have a nice relaxing evening at the hotel. We thought about going for a swim, but the pool was FULL of children. We grabbed some Subway to take back to the hotel with us.
Throughout the weekend we did a thing called "The Question Cup." This is an idea that my friend, Mandy introduced me to, and my other friend, Laura, gave me some question ideas. I added my own in and we spent a lot of time talking about her relationships with God, with friends, and with our family. We talked about love, self-esteem, and peer pressure. We had some really good conversations, and I got a deeper glimpse into her heart and what is going on in her life right now. This made the weekend worth every bit of effort it took. I feel like we were able to pack in months of deep conversations in this one weekend.
We rented a movie, "Marley and Me: The Puppy Years" to watch in bed and had popcorn. We both thought it was really lame and ended up turning it off to go to sleep.
We had a little treat, too!!
One thing Lauren and I have in common is that we both adore yummy food!!
We like to cook it! We like to eat it!
We did some manicures and pedicures with glow in the dark polish
"Charging" her nails to glow.
When we turned off the lights to go to sleep, our nails were glowing!!
We woke up Sunday morning to our yummy breakfast.
We took a little trip to Ikea
We also had some frozen yogurt.
We looked everywhere for a frozen yogurt place on Friday,
and it turns out, there was one right by our hotel.
We ended the day by shopping at the outlet mall in Castle Rock. Lauren needed new tennis shoes. I had no idea that hers were 1 1/2 sizes too small!! I asked her why she didn't tell me, and she said,"If I just curl up my toes, they are fine." That was guilty-mom moment. My child's feet are going to be deformed because she didn't have the proper shoes!

I learned some things about Lauren over this weekend. She really has a hard time saying what she wants. I let her choose EVERYTHING for the weekend. She so wanted to please me and make sure I was happy. I talked a lot about that with her. I appreciate her consideration, but also want her to be able to speak up for herself. She and I have a lot in common. We are both people pleasers to a fault. I am hoping to work on this in her and help her find some balance in this area. She also has a really healthy self-esteem which encouraged me greatly. I so want my girls, especially, to love themselves and their bodies.

When I asked her what her favorite thing was from the weekend, she said,"Spending so much time alone with you!"

That was my favorite part, too, sweet girl. I love you and I love seeing the young lady you are becoming.