Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Well, I have been a bit silent for the last week, but I have a very good reason.

I have experienced a couple of crashes.

First, last Thursday, I crashed my truck.  Let me begin by saying it was REALLY  MINOR.  It was totally my fault.  It was a careless mistake, and I was so frustrated with myself.  The damage to both vehicles was really small.  Ours is so small that we don't even think it will warrant a claim because it should be less than the deductible.

Basically, I was sitting behind a truck at a stop light.  The light turned green and out of of habit, I started driving.  The problem is that I started driving a little, tiny bit faster than the truck in front of me.  I slammed on my brakes, but it was too late.

The man was very kind.  I was very mad at myself.  My husband was completely and absolutely loving and grace giving over the whole ordeal.  

The next day, after realizing how much I actually drive(over 50 miles every day, but between 75-100 many days), that only having this one accident since we have lived here(almost 13 years) is pretty good, and I decided to be kind to myself as well.

Now, I cannot blame the car crash for my lack of blogging, but I can blame the other crash.

On Saturday morning, I woke up and my computer screen was blank.  I know the computer was on because I could move the cursor around, but there was no response from my computer.  I wasn't surprised.  I didn't even freak out.  Electronics of every kind do not like me.  I am pretty sure there is something in my body that messes up electronic/technological devices.  There is really no other explanation for the amount of issues I have on a regular basis.  I figured Rick would come down, do the same things I had tried and it would started working again as usual.

After some research on Rick's part, he can find no other explanation than that my hard drive crashed.  Thankfully, we just backed it up a week ago.  Hopefully, that back up was successful.  I really only NEED my pictures.  Everything else can be restored despite all the work it will take.

So, I have been without my computer.  On the bright side, we have had hot water for a week now.  I must confess, I think I miss the computer more than I did the hot water.

Sad, but true.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lessons of Lent

This was the first year that our family observed Lent.  It was a good exercise for us, and I feel like I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about sacrifice, giving, and grace.  I probably went a little overboard with my fasting.  I just really wanted to make it a sacred time with the Lord.  I feel like I accomplished that, but not always in the ways I expected.  

I challenged each member of our family to participate by fasting from something in their lives during the 40 day period.  In case you don't know, Lenten fasts actually last over 40 days.  It is suggested that Sundays be a Feasting Day where you do not fast.  We chose not to do that and just started a few days later because I was in Hawaii when Lent officially began.  We fasted for 40 straight days.  Next year, I will do it differently.  We will definitely start on Ash Wednesday and will use Sundays as "feasting days" and allow ourselves the freedom to break the fast on those days if we choose.  I feel like that would have been beneficial for our whole family.  

I allowed each member to choose a different thing to fast.  Here are the things that were chosen by my kids:  spending, sodas, Leapster video games, Innotab video games, and sweets.  

I also read "40 Days in His Presence" by Sarah Young each day with the kids on the way to school.

As a family we did some "almsgiving" (making voluntary contributions to aid the poor).  My favorite thing we did in this area was let the kids buy toys to send to Africa.  They each picked 5 items to send.

I chose to fast from Facebook and sodas.  I attempted a spending fast, but was not very successful at that.  I did spend less than I would have, but would not call it a true spending fast.  We had several kid expenses that came up during the month.  I also used this time to focus on some Spring Cleaning in our house trying to choose a different project from this list throughout the 40 days.  I did about half of these items, and I added some things that I felt needed to be done that weren't on the list.  Some of the things on the list didn't apply to my situation.  

During the fast, I also took 5 week days to eat only beans and cornbread for lunch each day.  I did this to identify with the poor around the world whose diets are very different and limited compared to ours.  This related to one of the books I read.  I also did 4 days of juicing with Rick that ended on Easter.  
These are the books and studies that I focused on during this time

1. "Jesus Today" by Sarah Young - If you have the devotional, "Jesus Calling," this is by the same author.  These are short devotionals that I really love to start my day with.  Don't let the size of the devotional fool you.  They are power packed!!

2.  Bible - I have been reading through the New Testament so I continued along with that spending most of my time in Acts and Romans during Lent.

3.  "Made To Crave" by Lysa Terkeurst -  As you can see, I have both the book and the devotional.  These are great in examining the place that food has in our lives.  They really challenge me.

4.  "A Place at the Table:  40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor" by Chris Seay - This book offers 40 days of devotionals and challenges the reader to eat only the foods that someone in an impoverished country would have access to for 40 days.  That is why I did the 5 days of beans and cornbread.  I know it is not nearly the sacrifice that he challenges, but it did bring perspective for me.  Each day also has a country to pray for and gives a picture of a child who lives in that country.  There are also really short videos online to go with each day.  It was a great addition to my Lenten readings.

5.  "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker - I really loved this book.  It reminded me a lot of how God "interrupted" our lives 7 years ago with the burden for Africa.  It also really ministered to me in the area of all the changes we have experienced over the last 2 1/2 years.  I could really relate to it, and it was so easy to read.

6.  "Seven" by Jen Hatmaker - I resisted reading this book for a long time.  I didn't want to be challenged by it.  I finally gave in.  It was really good and made me laugh out loud constantly.  The basic idea is that Jen, took seven months to narrow down the choices in her life to fight against the excess that we live with as Americans.  One month she only wore 7 items of clothing all month long, another month, she only ate 7 different foods all month, etc.  I haven't taken on these challenges, but would consider doing it with a group of people.

All of this to say, the biggest lesson I learned during Lent was that of Grace.  I was not perfect in my execution of my fasting/readings/giving.  For the first time in my life I felt like God was saying to me, "It is not about perfection.  It is about seeking me."  Did I do it perfectly?  "NO!"  Did I seek Him desperately?  "YES!"  I sought after Him more than I would have without a plan.  I spent time every day in at least one of those books.  Every time I wanted a soda or Facebook, I tried really hard to offer it as a sacrifice to God.  After giving those 2 things up for 40 days, they don't nearly have the appeal to me that they once did.

I am glad I did it.  I will do it again.  I pray that I can take the grace that I felt in this exercise and apply it to other areas of my life.  Perfectionism is a lie of the enemy that I listen to on a regular basis.  I want to fight against that so desperately.  If that means failing a bit in my goals in order to see that the world doesn't end and that God still loves me, then I will welcome that failure.  I need to offer grace to my kids more as well.  This was a huge lesson of Lent that I never even imagined I would experience.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

From Patriots Day to Family Celebrations

Abby had a big project to complete on Abigail Adams.  
She did EVERY BIT of this by herself.  
She even made the flag look like it is waving and the bottom left pic is 3D
 She had to dress up for her presentation
 Her class had a "living museum."  Each student had a button to be pushed.
When we pushed the button, they came alive and gave their speech about their person using props that represented their Patriot.
 We celebrated Lauren's spiritual bday with some homemade lasagna
 She got a new devotional book and some big paper clip bookmarks
 This is how Rick gets work done at home.  
His headphones allow him to focus with all the chaos that surrounds him.
 I found some better pics of Isaiah's field trip on my camera.
He got to dress up, and he chose a sweater, his favorite thing to wear these days.
(It is so funny to me, because I could never get Cody or Sam to wear sweaters!)
 On the bus!
 We got to celebrate Laila and Isaiah's Gotcha Day last week.  
We ordered pizza for a special dinner.
 I had big plans for us to go see The African Children's Choir as part of our celebration.  Well, the snow came in and the concert was cancelled.  I was SOOOO disappointed.  Maybe another time.
We got these 2 books as a celebration of Gotcha Day.  One is about adoption and the other is about how God made us all different and perfect just the way we are!!
I cannot. believe. it. has. been. four. years!
We love you both so much!  You have changed our family so much.  Love and hugs forever!!  As Isaiah says, "Being in a family means you never have to be alone again!"  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

From Hot Water to Invisible Cell Phones

~Well, we lost the battle of the water heater.  We are just going to have to replace it.  BOO!  After two weeks with only sporadic hot water, I am just ready to have it readily available again.  Did I mention that our 12 year warranty ran out March 21?!?!  I am pretty sure they program them to quit immediately after the warranty goes out.

I went on a field trip to see the play, "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" with Isaiah on Friday.  We got to ride the school bus together.  He thinks that is so cool!  (Sorry for the blurry phone pic)
 This is one of Lauren's dessert creations this week.  
She really does enjoy cooking.
Cody had his 8th grade dinner/dance on Friday night.  He had a great time.
Look how handsome he is
He is officially taller than me and his shoe size is now bigger than Rick's!
 Afterwards, they went out to IHOP for a late-night meal.  We got our first taste of late nights up waiting for one of our kids to come home.  This is only the beginning.  I wonder how many late nights there will be between now and when Laila is an adult.  It is a good thing Rick and I are night owls!

~Laila has informed me that she would like her very own tiny hot tub.  I just get this visual of her in her own little hot tub built for one relaxing on our back patio drinking a Caprisun.

~Laila also has an invisible cell phone.  She will call out periodically throughout the day, "Wait a minute, I just got text on my invisible cell phone.  I need to answer it!"  

We are living in three different stages right now.  I have preschoolers, elementary kids, and teenagers.  It brings about quite a contrast in my daily activities.  I go from invisible cell phones to dinner dances in a matter of seconds.  My life is so rich and full.  I just want to savor each stage with each kid.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Breaking Down

Do you have those periods of time where it feels like everything is breaking?

On a physical, earthly level, that is happening at our house.

Since my trip to Hawaii,(have I mentioned that I went to Hawaii in February?) we have had one thing after another breaking.

It started with fans and doorknobs.  For some reason, our kids are really rough on box fans and doorknobs.  I feel like we are replacing them every other week.

Then, the spring in our garage door broke.

Then, our truck got hit in a hit and run accident.  (Thankfully, that one was paid for by the other person's insurance)

After that, our ice maker in our fridge overflowed with water pouring down into our basement.  Since that time, a month ago, our ice maker has not worked.

Last week, we found out that one of our credit cards was being used in Canada.  This person had a grand ole' time buying groceries, furniture, and several other random charges.  Thankfully, it was caught and dealt with by our credit card company.

Now, we are going on 2 weeks without consistent hot water.  Our hot water heater pilot light keeps going out.  We have had to arrange our showers, laundry, and dishwashing around relighting it and waiting 2 hours to have hot water available.  Rick researched and replaced a part that was the likely culprit(I love that he tries to fix it before calling someone.  Good job, honey!).  Unfortunately, that did not solve the problem.  Then, someone came to our house, "fixed" the problem for $120(that felt manageable), but once again it is not working.  I so don't want to replace that thing.  That is a painful purchase.  We'll see.

All of this to say that many of these things are just inconveniences.  People around the world survive without these things every day.  But, I have seen how accustomed to ice, hot water, a vehicle, a fan to cool, a garage to put my truck in, etc. I have become.  These things definitely make my life easier.

While my "things" are breaking all around me, I have seen many of the people in my life and around this country experience great loss and suffering over the last 3 months.  It feels almost unbearable, the weight of sin, the grief of death, the loss of everything this life has to offer.

It is so hard to make sense of it all and my general cry to God has been, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"  I know God has a plan.  I know that He is not surprised by any of these events.  It just hurts so much to see the suffering.  It brings about fear in the hearts of so many.  Then, today, God showed me these verses:

"Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared."
~Proverb 3:25-26

These words give me comfort in this time.  These words challenge me to strengthen my faith in God during the trials that I face and as I walk alongside those in my community and country who are facing trials.  I think the next verses are really cool because they take it to the next level.  I think we can get so caught up in the yuckiness all around us that it paralyzes us to act.  We can become so fearful for our own safety that we withdraw when God is giving us the perfect opportunity to reach out and share His love.  Look at the next two verses:

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.  
Do not say to your neighbor, 
'Come back tomorrow and I'll give it to you'-
when you already have it with you."
~Proverbs 3:27-28

So, today, I pray, I seek, and I act in ways that I can to reach out and make a difference in the lives of those around me who are hurting so desperately.  


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ketchup for Africa

Images of Africa have been appearing again in my everyday life.  I love that God gives me these little reminders.  He reminds me that my is calling is still strong.  He reminds me that even when I don't feel like anything is happening, that He is still working.  He is preparing me for how He wants to use Beyond Survival this year.  

Really, when I share these next few pictures, you are going to see how random these are.  I could not manufacture these if I wanted to.  That is what I love about God.  I will share the story of each one.

I was making dinner recently.  I had drained the grease from the hamburger meat and set it aside.  When I came back after dinner to do the dishes, this is what I found:
 We had tacos last week.  I made Spanish rice to go along with them.  I took a spoon of rice and plopped it on Sam's plate(I know it is Sam's because it is orange.  We have color coded system going on around here!)  When I looked down at it, this is what I saw:
 On Sunday, this was on my desk:
I love how Sam saw this, thought of me and made the effort to bring it to my attention.  He even added Madagascar to make it authentic.

I am thinking a lot about Africa this week because we are at the 4-year mark of bringing Isaiah and Laila home.  On one hand, I can't imagine my life without them.  On the other hand, it seems like just yesterday that we met them.  I will never forget that day.  The memories are etched in my mind.  Here are a couple of pics:
The day I met my son
 The day I met my baby girl
 Rick and Isaiah meeting.  
(If you look carefully in the background, you will see Laila all sprawled out being fed in the pink outfit)
These two have a special bond.  I know that Cody's time with us in Africa played a big part in that.
 Rick meeting Laila
Oh, my goodness.  I just want to eat those little lips!
 Our kids waiting for us at the airport.
We had been gone for 5 weeks
 Brother and sister meeting.
 Our Welcome Home Crew!!
Today, Isaiah and I were talking about celebrating his adoption.  He said, "When I grow up, I am going to give food, water, TVs and ketchup to all of Swaziland."  We know where his priorities are.

I love them with all my heart.  I would not trade this experience for ANYTHING!!  I feel so blessed to be their mom.  I pray every day for the wisdom to raise them with the love and guidance they need to minister to the broken places in their hearts.  Here is to many more years as a family!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring, Schming (Random thoughts about my life)

No one is allowed to say the word "Spring" in Colorado UNLESS you are talking about a spiral metal contraption.

I laugh at the 68 degree days like we had yesterday because I know what is to come.  Those warm days mock and tease me with their small taste of warmth.  Today we are all home cuddled up in our jammies under blankets, drinking coffee and hot chocolate as the wind howls and the snow swirls with our BLIZZARD conditions!!

~Abby is working on her Abigail Adams Patriot Day project.
~Lauren is in her bed on her ipod.
~Cody, Sam, and Isaiah are in the living room playing PS3.
~Laila is playing Wii in the basement.
~After some meetings outside of the office, Rick is home, sitting under a blanket, working, with his head phones on.  I am sitting right next to him, but have to text him if I want to talk.  He is "in the zone" and cannot focus with all the noise in our house.
~I made pancakes this morning and plan to make some strawberry jam with some strawberries that were on sale and creamy wild rice soup and crusty bread for dinner tonight.

Even though I hate the snow and I will not be deceived by these warm days we sporadically have, I am kind of happy to have lazy day.  For the first time in 2 weeks, we have not been awakened by loud machinery in our neighbor's back yard.  They are doing the landscaping project that will never end.  For today, we got to sleep in.


How about those Louisville Cardinals!!!!  Contrary to almost everyone around me, I have been a Louisville Cardinals fan since I was in elementary school.

I pick them to win the NCAA Championship EVERY year no matter what their ranking.

They have not won it since I was Cody's age, 14 years old.

Last night was a sweet victory, especially in light of Kevin Ware's horrific injury last weekend.  We watched it happen live, and I still have not recovered from that image that haunts my mind.

I wore my cardinals shirt yesterday and will continue to support my team no matter how much they win or lose.

Congratulations, Louisville Cardinals!!  (Please do not say the name "Louisville" unless you can pronounce it correctly like a true Kentuckian!)


Rick and I have been juicing.  The week of Easter we only consumed fresh juiced fruits and vegetables for four days.  I was so hungry I could hardly stand it!  We are trying to clean up our diets.  I gave up sodas for Lent and have since also given up my coveted Crystal Light Peach Tea.  I have only been drinking water and occasionally coffee.  We aren't getting any younger so we better take care of the bodies we have!!
One of our meals before I juiced it


We celebrated our beloved Ms. Julie's bday last week with a meal of BBQ Chicken Quesadillas, Cilantro Lime Rice, Guacamole and chips,  and Chocolate Dump Cake and Ice Cream.
 Some of her favorite things:
Swedish Fish and Mike and Ikes
 Sam gave her popcorn and a dollar
 I love this pic
 Sweet Tart jelly beans
 Marshmallow Eggs
 Atlanta Braves Cup
I think we ca safely say she is stocked up in the sweets department for a while.

We love you, Ms. Julie!!  Happy Birthday!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Heavy Days

Wow, that last couple of days have been heavy.

There are some people in my life that are hurting deeply this week, and it breaks my heart.

I have felt the weight of sin, the depravity of man, and the brokenness in our world.

If I think about it too much, it really puts me in a place of grief and sadness that feels overwhelming.

Today, at church, I was reminded that even though we grieve, it is not without hope.

In those moments of hopelessness, we allow the enemy to creep in and consume us with fear, doubt, and despair.

I witnessed a living example of faith today that encouraged me beyond words.

I watched a friend who has experienced, what to most would be debilitating, stand up and lead us in worshipping and praising God.

In that moment, I could say, "Lord, this is real.  It is real in her life and if she can stand up and praise you in the midst of these circumstances then I have all the more reason to."

Who knew that I would be so ministered to by someone that I felt might need ministry from me?

These words became more real to me than they ever were before:

"You Never Let Go"  ~ Matt Redman

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Your perfect love is casting out fear
And even when I'm caught in the middle of the storms of this life
I won't turn back
I know you are near

And I will fear no evil
For my God is with me
And if my God is with me
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me

And I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
We'll live to know You here on the earth


Yes, I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on
And there will be an end to these troubles
But until that day comes
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You

(Chorus 2x's)

I don't know what pain you might be experiencing, but I do know this, the only hope you will find is in Jesus.  This life can feel really long and hard many days.  Guess what?  With Christ, we have the hope of Heaven where all pain, all sin, and all sickness will be gone for eternity.

That is the hope I am clinging to today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our Easter in Pictures (ALOT of pictures)

At the end of our very relaxing spring break, we had a weekend of Easter traditions that make this holiday even more special for our family.  For those of you with all little kids, I must say it does get easier.  I remember thinking, "Is this really worth it?"  There was so much preparation, they needed so much help, there was often fighting, and the mess afterwards was overwhelming  My big kids were such a big help this year.  They helped me set things up for each one, were self-sufficient, and even helped with the younger ones. When it was all over, I was thinking, "Wow, that was actually fun."  AND, they know how to continue these traditions with their own families if they choose to.  Being able to reap a little from all of the sewing is very encouraging. 

Laila was so empowered by her student-led conference, that she wanted to read the book from school to her brothers and sisters.  So, we kicked off our Easter traditions with "Circle Time."  She put out a blanket and everyone gathered around while she read the book to us. 
 On Friday morning, we dyed Easter Eggs. This is a tradition that all the kids can enjoy, even the older ones.  The older they are, the more creative they become.

 Can you see Africa on Abby's egg?
 Our church had a Good Friday Service on Friday at noon that we participated in.  I really liked kicking off our weekend with that focus.  My favorite part of the service was the artist on stage painting a picture of the crucifixion on a huge canvas during worship.

On Saturday morning, we did our tombs.  

 Abby had her own gluten free version

 Jesus is Alive!!
 The tomb is empty!!
 We did Communion as a family with the tombs and sparkling grape juice

 Abby's Easter artwork on our bulletin board
 On Saturday night, I did Easter Story Cookies with the big kids.

We went to bed and woke up on Easter morning to these cookies and a scavenger hunt
The clues led them all over the house with some little treats at each spot
Thank you, Papa and Grammy.  We missed you this week!
We went to service together afterwards.  I knew this day was special, but it became even more special once we were at church.  While we were worshipping, Isaiah leaned over to me with a big smile on his face and whispered, "I am so glad I have a family, and I am not an orphan anymore." That just melted my heart.

At the end of the Easter Service, our church does baptisms.  They have many already scheduled, but they also open it up for spontaneous baptisms.  Last summer at VBS, Sam gave his heart to Jesus.  He had made a decision a few years earlier, but felt like he really didn't understand it back then.  When they started baptizing in the service, I could tell by the look on his face that he felt like he needed to.
When I asked him what made him want to get baptized, he said, "God was pulling on my heart."  
Afterwards, I told him how proud of him I was and that every time God pulls on his heart, I want him to listen and follow that pulling. 
What a special day for our family!
I told Laila, "Sweetie, you are so pretty.  How did you get so pretty?"
Her answer, "I was made for pretty."  
Yes, you were sweetie.  Yes you were.
We had a very relaxed Easter Dinner
Ham, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, dinner rolls, pistachio salad, and Blue Bell ice cream
Our festivities ended with our annual Easter Egg Hunt.  The 3 big kids hid most of the eggs for the little kids.  Rick and I hid the prize eggs.  There was 1st, 2nd and 3rd places for the big kids and the little kids.  The weather was perfect this year.  We are usually in winter clothes freezing during the hunt.
They are serious about this

"I found the prize egg!"

The 3 big kids climbed in this trees, got scrapes and ended up with bruises looking for their prize eggs.
Cody found the grand prize egg
3rd place prize winners
Laila won a bigger container of cotton candy as her 2nd place prize.  When she saw it, my sweet little introverted girl yelled, "Oh yeah, Booyah!  In yo face, suckas!"  I did not expect that.  She said to me, "Mama, did you know I am a fan of cotton candy?"

Easter 2013 will forever go down as a special year.  Continuing all of our traditions was so much fun.  Watching Sam take the step of obedience in his walk with God made it the best Easter EVER!