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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas from Revelation 12

John threw up twice Saturday morning but then worked busily the rest of the day and said he felt mostly better.  I woke up feeling very nauseous this Sunday morning - the 23rd of December.  He said he was still nauseous.  I desperately wanted to go to church.  I enjoy church almost always, no matter where we are.  I had missed the last time we were here in Mississippi because Jonah was getting sick and my hair dryer broke, and we have to attend First Baptist, and nappy wet hair and a sick baby just felt like a recipe for a really awful morning. That Sunday John took the rest of the kids.  Then we were on break the next Sunday at home in Huntsville and I missed church because we did not want Jonah to get passed around to a ton of people right in the height of the flu epidemic.  Honestly, we're not being crazy over protective. The flu outbreak was all over the news, with lots of nearby schools closing early for a few days because of the flu outbreak. Also, a random person in Zaxby's had commented on how cute Jonah was then said, "But keep him bundled up, there's a bad baby fever virus going around Huntsville right now! We took our daughter to the pediatrician for it yesterday and he said there was a big problem with it this week." Scary! So, I stayed home and surfed around Bible Gateway and some Christian blogs about family, marriage, and parenting, and played with Jonah.  This was the third Sunday I was about to miss church.  I couldn't do it.  I needed to hear a good message, and I wanted to sing Christmas songs, and pray with a body of believers again.  I ate a piece of toast and developed a real "Suck it up" attitude as I got ready for church feeling queasy, and trying to decide if John or I was feverish, contagious, or food poisoned, or what.  It's not easy to get a family of 7 out the door when the two adults feel like they might have to puke at any second, but somehow, against all of satan's little pansy schemes, we made it just in time to not spread any germs by socializing before service started. (We were about 5 minutes late for church, Sunday School at this point was not even feasible.)

When our new pastor down here put up that his scripture for his Christmas message was Revelation 12, I was pretty confused.  What about the story in Luke of Jesus' birth? However, I was blown away by his wonderful message of how Christ's birth was fought in the spiritual realm.  I tend to avoid Revelation because I have very limited knowledge of what it means.  I also know lots of Christians dispute the prophesies therein, even arguing about end times and such, which I really just don't care about because I am certain that my faith in Jesus Christ will result in me getting to heaven eventually, so whether there will be a rapture of the Christians first or not, I don't mind.  Therefore, I just typically don't read it much on my own other than to have it brought up in devotions, usually referring to the luke-warm/spit you out analogy.  This sermon changed my perspective though, because the pastor explained that some of Revelation is actually historic, not prophetic. Revelation 12 is just that.
     It depicts Christ's birth from the spiritual realm's perspective.  This is my favorite part which describes just after his birth:

Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
“It has come at last—
    salvation and power
and the Kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Christ.[a]
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters[b]
    has been thrown down to earth—
the one who accuses them
    before our God day and night.
11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
    that they were afraid to die.
12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!
    And you who live in the heavens, rejoice!
But terror will come on the earth and the sea,
    for the devil has come down to you in great anger,
    knowing that he has little time.”

I love that "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony...He is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short. " Victory in Jesus my friends! Christmas was fought for us on a spiritual level, not just in a stable in Bethlehem here on earth, but in Heaven, and all around us. That is awesome! It reminds me of Max Lucado's book "Cosmic Christmas" which I read about 10 years ago and I haven't been able to find since. I just love imagining the glory of those Angels appearing to the shepherds, breaking the blackness of night to reveal the light of the world. How brilliant it must have been! Then "He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."
("Filled with fury" is the NIV 1984 version for the end of verse 12). Satan is mad at us, and he is constantly trying to win the battles, although he has already lost the war. That is why we must: 

13 Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous.[a] Be strong.

I also know that having my own little baby boy this year is making the magnificence of Jesus coming as a baby boy very real for me.  I am so thankful that God came to earth as a baby to be my Redeemer, my Savior. 

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Learning to Say "I Love You"

    I frequently find myself in the mindless act of parking-lot driving to keep the babies asleep while John runs in a store to get something that he expects will take about 20 minutes or less (hopefully).  I know this wastes gas and is not good for the environment.  However, two sleepy babies who need sleep take priority right now.  If you put the car into park and turn it off, then one or both of them always wakes up within 2-3 minutes.  These babies are on a pretty good schedule, and we try not to interrupt it, but sometimes the older kids and life events, and church disrupts that schedule, resulting in their nap time happening somewhere other than home.  I try to keep their naps as long as possible because it rewards us with happy, healthy babies. Back to my story, sometimes I am the only other person in the car with the sleeping babies because the kids are at school, but sometimes one or more of the older kids is with me.  I found myself in this situation a few nights ago.

     I sat with one of our girls in the car driving around the sleeping babies, while John ran into Wal-Mart with the boys.  I have to initiate conversation, and she answers shortly at first, then relaxes and opens up more and we have a good time of talking and sharing about Christmas.  I asked if she remembered learning that Santa wasn't real.  I shared the way I learned when a friend told me and I was in disbelief.  I asked if she had a favorite Christmas memory (sadly, she didn't).  I shared how my grandparents surprised us by showing up one day on Christmas morning when I was 16, and it was because they came to see my reaction first-hand when my parents give me my first car. We were both laughing and having a good time, driving so slowly in the dark, around the parking lot.  I felt God saying, "Tell her you love her." My flesh is not so obedient all the time, and I tried to ignore this at first, and just continue the conversation. "Tell me about what Christmas was like at your house." A few minutes later, I felt it again, "Tell her you love her."  I try to do the next best thing, and pay her a really good complement on her responsible and hard-working character and tell her I appreciate her.  She smiles and conversation continues.  It wasn't good enough (disobedience never is).  I am feeling very strongly that God is asking me to do this, and it's the third time within 15 minutes, and finally our conversation has a pause.  I did it. "I love you." I was surprised to hear back, a little quieter than her conversation tone, "I love you too." I had to blink back tears.  Then God said in my heart, the way he so wonderfully does, "I love you too." *Break through on obedience!* Thank goodness John and the boys were done, and they loaded back up right then, and the quiet moment was over, or I would have had to get some kleenex.

     I think I am very good at expressing love to my immediate family.  I do not struggle to tell John that I love him frequently.  It would be difficult to actually not croon it softly to Jonah all the time.  I tell my parents a lot, partly because it was the way I was raised.  Love was frequently spoken in our house.  I can at any time, stop and hear my parents' voices in my head saying, "I love you and I'm very proud of you."   As a foster parent to small children, it was easy to tell those little kids.  We actually started telling them, "I love you, and Jesus loves you too!" Until the 2 year old could say, "I love you," and we'd say, "I love you too.  Who else loves you?" and she'd say in her sweet little voice, "Cheezz-usss luff me."  However, as a House Parent now with older kids, I have felt God teaching me/coaxing me to tell them "I love you" too.  I do love them, so it shouldn't be hard.  However, they are much older, and they understand what it means, and I don't want them to think I am joking or being flippant, or even patronizing them.  It doesn't just roll off my tongue so easily in conversation or during transitions in the day.  I have been really praying about this, and trying to do better with it.  So far I have noticed that the younger the kids are, the easier it is for me to tell them I love you.  I also notice that I sometimes use it not so lovingly as a precursor to semi-bad news (i.e. "I love you, but you have GOT to stop humming that annoying song!"), and that is not how God wants me to say it either.  He wants the Romans 12 sincerity.  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

     I'm not sure when exactly I felt I needed to say it more.  I think it revolved around suddenly intensely feeling God tell me, "I love you," the more I engaged in mindful constant prayer.  I connect parenting with trying to show and share God's love.  So, if God is always telling me (us), his child(ren) that He loves me (us), I came to the realization that as a parent it is my responsibility to share my love with my kids just like God shares His love with me (us).  I strongly feel I am to share the words "I love you" not just with Jonah, but any kid who I am "parenting" in any sense of the word.

     When we first got married, John and I read "The Five Love Languages" (at the strong urging of my grandmother actually, who bought us the book), and we discovered that I am almost completely Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch oriented to feeling loved. To me the words "I love you" are so powerful.  I realize they may not be to everyone.  We are now on break (hence the time to write and read more blogs), but when we get back, I plan to give the kids the children's love languages quiz to find out how they most feel loved, and then make a plan of action to implement it.   I already try to cook and prepare foods they like.  We take them places they enjoy as often as possible when time and money permit us.  Whether or not they list Words of Affirmation as important, I know God is leading me to tell them more often.  Please pray for me on this one.  I know they desperately need to hear these valuable words from me more, and I'm not sure why I am having a difficult time genuinely saying them, but I want to be obedient, and I want to share love.  Please feel free to share ideas/thoughts on ways to make this easier/better!

(I am almost finished with the promised post about our set of 4 foster kids - I couldn't find the right pictures).

Monday, December 17, 2012

Before I Forget Them...

     I have been so busy lately with our "new" kids living at the Children's Village, that I had forgotten to stop and remember thank God, pray for, and blog about our "old" (very young, not age-old, but life's timeline old) kids.  I am going to write a few memory blogs before I get too bogged down with the last year of our lives and forget sweet moments from our time in Memphis as foster parents.  I am also still struggling with the horrific events of the CT Kindergarten massacre and I feel that paying honor to the children in my life will help to honor all children.  This was our first baby:
Miss Adorable

     My friend Hannah and I were starting a girls' Bible study for the summer, and this was actually our kick-off first meeting in June.  I had been cleaning and preparing our apartment in Seminary housing all day for the Middle and High School girls who began arriving right on time.  About 30 minutes before they were arriving, our social worker began calling and asking if we could take a baby, right now, they had no idea how long yet.  We said yes, didn't even have time to begin our Bible study, and then she arrived! I was so happy and excited and had no idea what to do with her.  I stood in front of between 15-20 girls holding this little 6 month old Hispanic baby girl in my arms, wondering what I should do.  Baby girl looked just as confused as I, but was sweetly not crying.  She had the cutest big brown eyes and fuzzy hair and dimples.  My personal Baby-child-health-related-question philosophy is: 'When in doubt, call your mother,' (she's a mommy of 3 and a nurse) so I did just that.  She recommended I try to give her a bottle and then just see how it goes.  We did and I just kept right on talking to those girls.  John ended up taking her over to a friend's house and playing with her there so I could finish the Bible study. 
Calling my mom
     We fell in love with her so fast! She slept through the night, easily fell into a schedule with her bottles, and ate up some baby food.  It was strange to suddenly have this little person we cared about so much. We loved every minute of her visit!
Deciding He Liked to Be a Daddy
     That same friend Hannah offered to take these great pictures of us together that Sunday after church:

     She was only with us for 6 days before going on to her forever family.  We cried the night before court, but then got there and met some nice people who obviously loved her and deserved to keep her.  They were able to adopt her and she is now part of their family. The social worker explained that her mother had left her with them to babysit her and then never come back when she was about a month old.  They had had her the last 5 months but couldn't get her social security number and have custody and get her medical treatment and things like that until they went through DCS (Department of Children's Services).  While DCS was investigating them and checking their home and making sure she would be safe, well fed, etc, she came and stayed with us.  They were so happy to get her back. You could tell she recognized them and played with them sweetly while she had looked mostly confused at us. We left court happy for her future.  It was our first baby good-bye, and it was not bad. My prayer for her now is that she be raised to know Jesus as her Lord and Savior, that she be kept safe, well-fed, and learning and growing to her full potential.

      We then spent two weeks with no kids, deciding we should definitely accept a sibling group of two next time since one kid was much easier than we expected.  We had previously planned to go to summer camp with our youth group at church, and John and I were both to drive a 15 passenger van and be the adult chaperones in a room with 6-8 teenagers each at Student Life Camp at the beach. We had to leave for camp on a Thursday.  The Wednesday before camp, the social worker called and asked us if we could accept a sibling group of 3 kids, and it really broke my heart to have to turn her down because we were about to be gone for a week.

     I resentfully went on that trip, but fell more deeply in love with God than ever before.  They had David Platt as the speaker, and he shared about his adoption experiences and was in the process of adopting his daughter while we were at camp.  He preached a phenomenal message on praying the Lord's Prayer to fit your life - as in "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (praises, glory to God for his goodness/greatness) becomes "Make Your Name Hallowed in My Life" (show the goodness, glory, greatness of God with our lives, ask God to use our lives to show His Name is Great to others).  I had always enjoyed praying the Lord's prayer, and this really taught me how to use it more specifically. The worship was also excellent, and John and I spent some good time in prayer letting the Lord know that we were ready and willing to do whatever he asked of us as a couple.
At camp with some great girls!

Trying the beach hair look at camp

     Camp is rather exhausting though, staying up super late with cool teenagers, spending a lot of time at the beach, shopping, and at the conference listening to the speaker and worshiping twice a day.  It's a ton of fun, and worth every second, but exhausting by the end.  We were half-way home on the 6-7 hour drive, and I felt like I was falling asleep and asked if another one of our adult chaperones could drive.  I was a sleepy passenger for about 30 minutes before John called me from his van and gave me this news,

J: "So, the social worker just called and asked if we could take a sibling group of 4."
K: "We're only approved for 3 kids though."
J:  "She said it was fine because we have that other room with a bed."
K:  "How old are they?"
J:  "1,2,3, and 5, the three little ones are girls, the oldest is a boy."
K: "Three little girls and boy. Hmmm. What do you think?
 J: "I don't know babe, four kids is a lot."
K:   "You just told God we will do whatever he asks of us, and you've always said you wanted a girl.  He's offering us THREE of them!"
J: "So does that mean you want me to tell her yes?"
K:  "Do you want to?"
J:  "Do you want to?"
K: "What do you think God wants us to do?"
J: "I don't know.  I told her to try to find someone else, but we don't want them to break them up, so if they can't find anyone else to take all 4, we'll take them if you say it's OK."
K: "OK then.  If she calls back, let's do it!"
J: "Alrighty then."

  So much for being sleepy.  I woke right up and felt my heart racing as I wondered if she'd call back needing us and trying to remember what stages of development a 1, 2, 3, and 5 year old would be in.  She called back, and asked if she could bring them over right away. We were still 2 hours away from home, and told her that we'd call her when we got there. I got so excited talking about and imagining these little kids all the way home.

     We unloaded our stuff, helped to unload the church trailer, called the social worker and told her we should be there within thirty minutes, then raced home only to find that John had left our house keys AT THE BEACH!  So here we are outside our apartment with two huge bags each from being gone all week, and we are locked out of our house.  John began to get so frustrated, and I knew it was just the devil trying to discourage us from taking these kids.  He had to knock on several doors to find which one was the housing person who had an extra key.  At last we walked in the door, put our bags in our room, quickly tidied up, and they arrived, cuter than I could have imagined.  I'll tell you about them next time. :)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Let's PRAY for the people in CT

I have been sobbing off and on all day about this tragedy.  As a first grade teacher for 3 years, and a parent, I cannot image the shock, horror, and pain this community is going through. Please join me in praying what God is laying on my heart for them:

Dear Heavenly Father,

     We pray for the parents of the children killed.  God, you love us enough to send your son to die for us, but none of those parents sent their children to school to die today.  Be with those parents as they cry out to you for help.  Be there with those parents when they scream in anger at the pain of their child's life being stolen. Please be with them as they struggle with grief, shock, and unimaginable pain at suddenly losing their precious children to a senseless act of violence.  God, be their Daddy and help them to come to you for comfort, and find it. Lord, if they have other children, help them to be strong for them.  Help these parents to comfort their living children as they mourn together.  If these parents are married I pray you strengthen their marriage bond through this instead of allowing the human pain to weaken it.  I pray that husbands and wives would comfort and strengthen each other instead of casting blame or displacing their anger and sadness.  I pray you give these parents peace in knowing their children are with you in Heaven, rejoicing, playing, in no pain, completely whole, perfect, and happy.

     We pray for siblings of the children killed.  Kids form a special bond to each other, and now one bond is broken, but not lost.  Comfort those siblings with the knowledge that their brothers and sisters will live on in Heaven, in their memories, in their pictures.  Lord Jesus, please reach out to these children who may have been arguing last night about a toy, but are sobbing today about never having to share it again.  Help them to grieve in a healthy way and not to blame themselves or wish they had been killed too.  Jesus, be their friend right now and comfort them.

     We pray for the families of the adults killed in this act of terror. Lord, spouses, parents, siblings, friends, never expected to lose their loved ones like this. Please help them to grieve with support. Use these people to create a support network for each other, for the parents of the victims, to all come together and talk and grieve and remember their loved ones together.  Please reveal your love and goodness to them when all they feel is hate.

     We pray for the survivor students in the building.  God, the murderer began firing during morning announcements, so the whole school began their day hearing gun fire, and then living in frantic fear and confusion for the next several hours. Please help them to grieve for their little Kindergarten friends and understand that this was isolated, the bad man is dead, and they should not fear their school.  Lord, help them as their safe haven for learning today was turned into a crime scene of horror.  God, as they replay the sounds, the sights, please comfort them, help to ease their pain and these scary memories. God, I can't imagine the nightmares and sadness that will ensue for these children who heard the sound of the first murders.  I can only ask that you be their Prince of Peace and give them restful sleep to escape the tragedy, and then a fresh appreciation for their own lives when they wake up in the morning.  Please help them as they battle sadness, anger, and confusion about this tragedy.  Show them whenever school starts back, that their lives are so precious, and you love them and desire for them to continue to learn and grow up, and NOT feel guilty about living.

     We pray for the survivor teachers in that building.  Lord, help them to not fear their job.  God give them the wisdom to know what to say to their precious students when they return. Give them strength as they try to piece back together their lesson plans and their classrooms and their lives. Lord help them to grieve in a healthy way and not blame themselves for any part of this evil act or not being able to prevent it. Help them to continue to love on their students and communicate with parents that their kids are in a safe place, and these teachers will be the peaceful, helpful tone in the classroom the kids need to return to a sense of normalcy.  Please Jesus, remind these teachers to call on you to help them to know what to say, to know what to do when their students struggle with this.

      We pray for the people who will come in to this school to be counselors for the students and teachers.  God, they are going to hear over and over the horror that the students experienced and the pain they suffer in the aftermath.  Be with those counselors as they help the students and teachers to heal.  Please show them what to say, what to do to help the school.  Help them to help the adults and children alike.

     God, we also pray for the family of the murderer.  He killed his parents also, so this has certainly got to hurt the rest of their family.  Lord, if any of the grandparents are alive, if he had siblings, whomever is alive to carry the burden that their cousin/grandson/brother/nephew did this, please help them.  Help that family member who is also grieving.

     Lord, please help all students and teachers across this nation.  I remember going back to school after the Columbine shooting several years ago and the fear then.  Please be with students and teachers and administrators as they plan and review their safety and disaster preparedness.  Help them to not fear, to remain hopeful.

    Please be with this nation as we try to wrap our arms around this school, this state.  Help us to heal.  In Jesus' great name I pray,


Saturday, November 24, 2012

30 Days of Thanks: Second Half :)

Here's the rest of the list:

16.  I am thankful for modern technologies/appliances.  I especially love my little laptop (an apple fan for years, I took a leap of faith and have been trying out the google chromebook, and it is surprisingly efficient for all of my needs right now as long as the internet is working), and my iPhone.  When nursing Jonah, all I have is one free hand, and when he's half asleep I can play on my phone.  It sounds trivial, but many days those nursing times are my only free times to sit down, and so a little facebook surfing, playing "Matching with Friends", checking out things on Etsy, pinterest, and BibleGateway, are all just so enjoyable from my little phone wherever I happen to be.  As far as technology/appliances that I really appreciate though, I also particularly love the internet with it's social media sight that allow me to keep in touch with so many friends and learn new things.  When I was teaching I loved the smart board/Promethean board in schools.  At home I am fond of the baby monitor, microwave, the refrigerator, the stove, dishwasher, the toilet (can you imagine outhouses or bedpans? Yuck!). For transportation our van is crazy useful.  I was amazed at Boston's public transportation technology, and I do love a good plane ride now and then! Yay for these technological inventions and conveniences!

17.  I am thankful for the beautiful contrast of a bright cornflower blue sky against the rich Autumn red and yellow leaves.  I am particularly impressed by God's creativity with season changes, and I do enjoy all of them, but the change from Summer to Autumn is by far my favorite.  I love the slight chill in the air, the smell of woodsmoke, the fiery colors on the trees, the sudden sweet lack of humidity, and the scarf and sweater wearing. Mmmmmmm Autumn. We took the kids to a state park the other day and it was so peaceful and beautiful and fresh feeling. This is not that park, but a picture of this beauty somewhere:

18.  I am thankful for those peaceful moments when all the kids and babies are asleep, either during nap times in the day when big kids are at school and we manage to get both babies asleep, or late at night. During the day time we spend this time cleaning, exercising, or cooking.  Sometimes John and I spend these times together, and sometimes one of us is already asleep.  At night, alone is solitary and quiet but together it is warm and cozy feeling. Either way, the brief child-less-ness is joyous.

19.  I am thankful for my feet not staying fat and swollen after Jonah was born.  This may sound silly, but when you go for about 3 months straight of ugly, fat, swollen feet and ankles, to return to your normal feet, you have a whole new appreciation for them!  I remember being so very happy when Jonah was about 5 days old and I looked down and saw my old feet had returned!  While the rest of me is a little slower to bounce back to all of it's pre-pregnancy looks, my feet bounced back like champs! I appreciate them so much more than I used to! Here is a video of me playing footsie with Jonah when he was 4 months old.  He seems to like my feet too. :) But really, you should watch his sweet little face. He has the cutest smile. He was totally worth the fat feet and everything else pregnancy brought.

20.  I am thankful for the huge kitchen here.  I have never had so much cabinet or counter space in my life! The island is so helpful! Now technically it's big because we could be cooking for a maximum of 16 people, but right now with our total of 5 big people to regularly cook for, it is very spacious.  The rest of this house has lots of perks, but the kitchen is the most useful. I have cooked more here in the last two months than I think I have in the last year, and this kitchen has made it a pleasant task.  My parents and brother Kris came down for Thanksgiving, and my mom and I cooked all day together in here and never got in each others' way, and used the two ovens and two microwaves constantly. John even came in and cooked the dressing and green bean casserole. Three cooks int he kitchen, and no space/room problems. It was so much fun! (I think I am allowed to post pictures of the house, but I am not certain, so I have to ask, and then will give you all lots of pics if I have permission!)

21. I am thankful for coffee.  I don't have to have it every day, and since I nurse I can only have one cup a day anyway, but it is a special treat for me.  I have recently tried to cut out all fructose corn syrup/corn syrup in general, so I have had to change what I put in my coffee, and I like it even more now!  It's like I can feel hot energy sinking down into my bones and getting me revved up. I used to put about 2 tablespoons of dry powdered creamer in my coffee, and now I use 2 teaspoons of liquid Vanilla syrup, just like the coffee shops! Even though the coffee is darker, it is sweet in a different way. :) A teaspoon of natural cane sugar and a dash of salt still cuts the bitterness! I even like the way  a smooth mug feels in my hands. I like mugs that have been given to me as gifts. My dear friend in Boston got us matching elephant mugs and I left them in Alabama on accident. I have to pick those up the next time we go home. I really want to drink coffee in them! This is one of my favorite mugs right now:

The color is more turquoise than blue though. My mom gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. 

22.  I am thankful for God's faithful provision in our lives.  There have been times where money was tight, and we tried to budget more carefully, but we have never had to go without.  Just when we needed a job, God always put us right where He wanted us. I am so thankful that God has granted us so much financial peace. Now we are trying to be good stewards and are saving half of our income towards adoption.  Living on half our income has required some budgeting, but we are never in need.  We know that wherever our future adopted kids are going to come from, it will require a minimum of $10,000, so we need to have that ready. Speaking of adoption...

23.  I am thankful that God has called us to adopt, even though we have no idea when/where we will get our kids! We know we'd like two, and we think domestic, but we're not sure yet from where God will lead us adopt.  John was first called to adopt while on a mission trip in the Philippines.  He said "They throw away little girls like trash over there," and so he always really wanted an Asian baby girl.  I felt called to adopt when I found out about the AIDS epidemic in Africa leaving over 20 million children orphaned, and children raising children, because their parents died from this disease.  I always thought I'd get a baby from Africa.  Then God has used our foster kids to melt our hearts for domestic adoption when we thought we would get our last little baby girls.  God had other plans for them though, and our babies may not even be born yet.  So, that is why I say we don't really know yet, but I am thankful that we can pray and dream and prepare for them.  I am so thankful for friends who also have a heart and passion for orphans and adoption too!  I love keeping up with other peoples' amazing stories of adoption.  Here's one we've been really praying for a lot (and are getting so excited for!): Nathan and Kimberly Neely in Huntsville Then, I don't know these people but I enjoy reading their stories! Lots of cool adoption stories!

24.  I am thankful for food.  I really enjoy eating.   I think that's why I can't lose my last pounds of baby weight. I remember at school I'd tell my students every day before lunch that they should be so thankful for food because lots of children around the world don't get to eat lunch, and sometimes don't get to eat at all.  I have never had to go hungry, and it breaks my heart to hear of those who do right here in the USA and all across the world.  If you have internet service at home, chances are you haven't had to go hungry either, so please remember those people who don't get to have a Thanksgiving feast, and ask God how He'd like you to help.  On a less depressing note, I love food, and pinterest is making it worse.  I have been finding recipes on there like crazy and just trying a few a week.  Most recently, I tried Pumpkin Dump Cake (not too rich, almost light tasting) and Strawberry Pretzel Salad (traditional yumminess).  Both were a huge hit! I enjoy eating. Food tasted even better when I was pregnant too!

25.  I am thankful for laughter. I take great delight in laughing.  I like to laugh at John and Jonah, my crazy family, funny movies, and clean jokes. Even more than I enjoy laughing, I enjoy hearing babies laugh.  Jonah's little laugh is so sweet!  I like hearing my friends' babies laughing.  When I taught 1st grade, I loved making the kids all laugh.  I would read aloud in super silly voices to try to be as entertaining as possible.  I even watched a Profession Development video once that talked about how the brain works more efficiently, and students learn more when they are laughing and having a good time.  I then tried even harder to make them laugh. When I am sad or upset, I just want to watch a comedy. Laughter really is the best medicine! Can you imagine life without laughter? That's a sad thought! Here's a little Jonah laughter:

26.  I am thankful for round analog clocks.  I like to have a clock in most rooms in the house because I do not like to wear a watch.  I don't know if it's bad that I like to be constantly aware of time, or just shows how much time I spend thinking about time itself.  Ever since I began teaching, I started on a quest to try to fit more into each moment - at work and home.  During the school day you try to cram so much in that you get this new appreciation for time and minutes.  I would feel so guilty if I thought I had wasted the kids' time. Then I worked so much that first year, that I wanted to make the most of every moment I had off at home. Now I think of time mostly in reference to the babies - what time did he wake up last? When did they eat? Is it nap time yet? How long has he/she been asleep? Should I wake them up now? Do I have enough time to fit in a quick workout? How long have I been feeding him back here? Did I fall asleep? How long ago did we eat dinner? Is it somebody's bedtime yet? These are the reasons I look at the clock most of the time. However, I also find them to be pretty.  I think if I could pick a favorite shape, it would be the circle.  I like the perfect roundness.  I like big fat round clocks with pretty numbers. I do not like digital clocks much, they seem so technical and straight and sharp. I am thankful for the analog clock. Although, in some ways, it makes me sad to think of spending so much time thinking about time, time that we can never get back. How awesome is God that he lives outside of time? That blows my mind. Here's one of my favorite clocks in the house:

27. I am thankful for nature in general. I love to be outside in God's big beautiful creation. Growing up all over the world has allowed me different perspectives on this lovely planet. My earliest memories are from Germany, and specifically being up in 'Hitler's Hideout' and wanting to reach out and touch the clouds, and walking on "Volks marches" with my parents, sitting on my daddy's shoulders, being able to almost touch the trees as we walked through long paths of wooded, hilly land.  Then I remember the blazing dry heat and flatness of South Dakota in the Summer and the blizzards in October and throughout winter that let me make a million snow angels, snowmen, and just play out in that bright whiteness of sparkling snow.  Then the nature in England was very green.  It rained so much there that all the plants were always lush and pretty.  In Idaho the big expansive blue sky touched the ground on all sides because there were no trees. There was no humidity and the sky was always such a deep blue it instantly made me happy and calm.  It was mostly warm there, but even in the colder months the sky was clear and glorious.  Then living in Alabama and now Mississippi, both places have a lot of trees and grass.  Tennessee had some rolling hills up when we lived in Clarksville, although Memphis area was much more flat.  The south has taught me to appreciate the trees. My mom said she missed trees when we lived in Idaho, but I didn't because I was so enamored with the sky.  I think after the last decade in the south though, I would miss trees too.  I am so thankful for nature.  I love the sky, the trees, mountains, and water. Creeks, lakes, and the ocean are all so lovely and calming and peaceful. We have such a great Creator! I miss spending more time in outdoor activities.  I must work on that!

28. I am thankful for the five senses. I love the smell of wood smoke that reminds me of my Granny, and the way Jonah's hair smells after a bath.  I love the feel of warm water on cold hands or touching satin.  I love the limited sight that I have (and praise the Lord for contacts!) of all God has made. I love the taste of strawberries,  dark chocolate and a thousand other things. I love the sound of moving water and laughter and music. I would struggle if I lost one of these.  I jokingly like to say I'd give up taste so that I could lose weight, but I would really miss it. Food with texture only and no taste would be so disappointing. 
The teacher inside of me is feeling very visual tonight. :) 

29. I am thankful for my past. Of course there are things I regret, and things I wish I could go back and change, and do better.  However, I know that Romans 8:28 is so true in my life. God HAS worked all things together for my good.  All of my sins, my mistakes, my failures, have been used to lead me to where I am today.  I would not be interested in adoption, working as a house parent, married to John, mommy to precious Jonah, if it were not for the choices I made, both good and bad.

30.  I am thankful for this poem, which puts into perspective all the little things I did not think I was thankful for, but that I am when the author puts it this way. I hope it blesses you too! Let us all be thankful for our many blessings every single day!

Thankful For...
The mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

The taxes I pay because it means that I'm employed.The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.My shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.The space I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.The piles of laundry and ironing because it means I have clothes to wear.Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I'm alive.Getting too much email bogs me down but at least I know I have friends who are thinking of me.Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings, I thank Thee Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as possible, I thank Thee Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising, I thank Thee Lord, that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned and tempers are short, I thank Thee Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.
Even though our breakfast table never looks like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at times unbalanced, I thank Thee Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry; 

Even though the routine of my job often is hard, I thank Thee Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who have no job.

 Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my circumstances were not so modest, I thank Thee Lord, for life.

-- Author Unknown

Thursday, November 15, 2012

30 Days of Thanks: First Half

     I enjoy reading everyone's "30 Days of Thanks" posts on Facebook, but I knew I wouldn't get on every day, and I hate starting something but not finishing it correctly (like posting one thing every single day), so instead I am going to list all of mine here, while catching you up on our lives and thanking some people who are a little overdue. :) For some reason, I tend to be a little wordy, so in realizing how long this is, I am going to do half now, and half later. 

1.  I am so thankful for Jesus Christ sacrificing his life to pay for my sin.  I am so unworthy, undeserving of his all encompassing grace.  I am eternally grateful that through Him I am adopted as a child of God.  I enjoy reading his love letter, his handbook, the Bible, for inspiration on how to lead my life.  I wish I could share this relationship with everyone.  For those who don't believe, I can only hope that I plant seeds and live in such a way as to glorify God with my life.  Romans 12 is my favorite chapter of the Bible, especially the beginning: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. Do not conformany longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.Romans 12

2.  I love my husband! I have never been more in love with or thankful for my husband.  This job has forced/blessed us with being able to spend almost every waking moment together. I realize this might be difficult for some couples, but it's only improving our marriage so far.  We have a daily quiet time where we read the Bible, a few devotions and pray together.  That's my favorite part of the day with him.  I admire him most when he prays.  The other day I heard John pray with a lady on the phone. At first I teared up with pride and gratitude and echoed his prayer in my head/heart.  Then I though, "That was so HOT!" He's also a wonderful father.  From being foster parents now to house parents, and having one of our own, I can truly say I know he is a great dad.  He has changed about 7,453 diapers, fed numerous babies disgusting looking baby food, cleaned up puke, poop, and all other bodily and food-related fluids in between, and rocked babies and children to sleep uncountable times.  He was such a champ during Jonah's birth to encourage me and patiently wait on our little miracle through that 24 hour delivery process.  He also manages to make a bald head look handsome, (I don't even think I would like him with hair), keeps sculpted calves year round, and makes me laugh all the time.  I'm not saying he's perfect at all, and we most definitely have our disagreements, but I don't feel it's very kind to share his faults publicly, so instead I will only say that like all humans, he Needs Jesus EVERY SINGLE DAY! I'm thankful God brought us together, and brought us to this point in our lives.
Our engagement picture, 4 years ago, wow!

3.  I love my baby Jonah G! Being a mommy is a huge blessing! Psalm 127:3-4: 
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children[a] of one's youth.
I think for the first 4 months straight I kept telling John and my family, "I love him so much more than I thought I would!" It is unexplainable how much I love him.  I mean, I always knew that I'd love my kids, but I had no idea how much! He is also far cuter than I expected.  I'm not quite sure why, but I was eagerly expecting a very shriveled, pale, semi-ugly little baby.  However, (and I don't think I am much biased) Jonah is one of the cutest babies I've ever seen! He gets more adorable every day.  I asked God for brown eyed babies because I just think brown eyes are so pretty.  Then God proved me wrong and taught me that ALL of his creations are beautiful when he gave my baby boy big blue eyes that look a lot like mine.  I have cried over Jonah so many times already that it amazes me.  For this baby I have had tears of utter joy, of gratitude, of something deeper than contentment, as well as tears of exhaustion and frustration, and even those tears of sorrowful fear when we had to take him to the hospital and it took a whole day for 3 doctors to come to the conclusion he had a whole lot of gas hurting his little belly.  I even cried during a particular moving scene on TV when a couple sent their child off to college, and I turned around in tears and told John, "I don't want Jonah to go off to college!" He laughed at me and said, "He's only 5 months old, babe!" Even though he's not perfect either, and is now in the grabbing-reaching-pulling Mommy's hair all the time phase (I scream and he laughs as he yanks a little handful of my hair Much harder than I anticipated), I love him.  I really love that kid. I am so thankful I get to be his mommy and watch him grow up every day. He can go to college if God calls him to, I guess.
25 weeks - he already had a big nose :) 

4.  I love my parents.  I am thankful that they raised me to love people no matter what their skin looks like, to love the Lord and find a good church home, to work hard at everything I do, and to stick by my family and friends even when times get tough.  I know they taught me a million other little things, like how to make omelettes, how to make my bed, and how to drive, but I think the most important thing they've taught me is how to express love.  Both of my parents are great about finding what makes me feel loved, and then building me up that way.  I can't count the times they've told me, "I love you. I'm proud of you."  This has made me try to find ways to express love to those who need it, (also known as humans), especially my family and students.  Now as an adult, my parents are even MORE helpful!  My mom came and helped us so many times in the last two years when we had kids and needed help.  The week after Jonah was born she stayed and helped out around the house, it was so nice.  She likes to joke about quitting her job as a school nurse to come and be a house parent with us, and I think that would be fabulous!  I really could happily live with her.  I'm so proud of them for being married for over 30 years.  They are inspirational people, and as I hope to glorify God with my life, I pray I also make them proud. Ephesians 6: 1-2: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
On my wedding day

5. I am thankful for my grandparents.  My Granny Em was a courageous woman who battled breast cancer for 12 years.  She just went to be with the Lord when Jonah was 10 days old.  Her leaving earth is still very sad for me although I know she is pain free and living with the Lord now.  I will tell you all about her sometime later when I can maybe cry a little less while writing.   Granddaddy Jim (my grandfather) is still living and continues to be a Godly example for his children and grandchildren.  They always created a home for us when we were moving around and went back to Clarksville in between new bases.  They were a great example of life long marriage, to love and cherish in sickness and in health. I love and admire them so much! 

6.  I love John's family.  Some people have a lot of issues with their in-laws, and I am being honest when I say that we don't.  John and I both get along really well with each others' parents.  Nancy and Max always make me feel like I am right at home when we visit.  Stanley visits Jonah almost daily, and takes us out frequently.  They all love us and Jonah, and we enjoy spending time with them.  I know that it's really a rare blessing to have in-laws that I don't have much to complain about!
Nancy and Max aka Nana and Peepaw

Stanley aka PawPaw

7.  I am thankful for my true friends.  In elementary, middle, and high school, I struggled to make friends.  I never had more than one or two good friends everywhere we went.  I think I used to be shy.  Hahaha! That's funny now because after moving and going to so many schools, I was forced to come out of my shell and open up more, but it really didn't happen much until college.  I prayed and asked God for friends every time we moved, and he always gave me just a few.  Then one day my third year of college, I realized that I finally had quite a few real lady friends!  As I've moved and taught the last few years, I've made even more!  We've really enjoyed making couple friends too.  I've gone on trips to the beach and the mountains with friends. This once lonely girl now has plenty of people she can call, text, or send a message to whenever needed!  Thank you God for answering that prayer abundantly! I have too many friend pictures to post!

8.  I am so thankful for my time as a teacher. Although I am not teaching right now, I do fondly remember the students and parents of the three years/classes I had.  I loved teaching.  I do miss it sometimes right now, but I am certain we are doing what God wants us to, and I love getting to stay home with Jonah.  I love little kids so stinkin' much! I love helping them learn and making them feel valued and loved.  I also really loved getting to know other teachers.  I was so very blessed to meet lots of wonderful teachers at Barker's Mill Elementary in Clarksville and Farmington Elementary in Germantown (Memphis), who love students, and care about the kids learning.  I am thankful for celebrating holidays, season changes, birthdays, and all the fun and hectic moments in between.  I know some day in the future I will be a teacher again, and I do happily look forward to it. 
Honea Hive Calendar

9.  I am thankful for the time we spent in Memphis specifically, with John in seminary.  It may seem strange to the world right now that we went to Memphis so he could attend seminary, only for him to graduate and us become house parents, which does not require a seminary degree at all, but I feel like God has been directing our path.  He taught us so much there, and is using us here and preparing us for more ministry opportunities in the future.  We met many great people in Seminary housing, and developed friendships with people in housing and with our church family at Bartlett Baptist Church.  I didn't think I'd like working with John in youth ministry that much, but I loved it!  I really liked meeting some great teenagers who love the Lord and desired to learn more about him. I enjoyed being foster parents even though it was difficult raising kids who weren't ours and then saying good-bye.  I loved the school where I taught with a group of amazing teachers, faculty, and staff.  I enjoyed being less than ten minutes from about 100 restaurants, 2 Wal-Marts, 2 Targets, 2 Kroger's, Shelby Farms (huge outdoor walking/running/canoeing public park), Jonah's great pediatrician, our church, a large mall, and countless other shops and things to do. 
30 weeks pregnant with our 2 foster kids at the time, over at Bellevue.

10.  I'm thankful we weren't sick while we didn't have insurance! We could have paid for insurance from my last job if we had needed it for an emergency, but we chose to try to save $1700 and not use the insurance for the months of September-October.  If we had to go to a doctor or hospital or something we could have picked up the insurance if we needed it, so it wasn't like we didn't technically have it, we were just trying really hard NOT to use it so we wouldn't have to buy it.  Praise God - All 3 of us were healthy and fine! Yay for new insurance and Jonah's shots! Thank you Lord for helping us save money! Thank you for working this time for our good and not letting us get hurt! Romans 8:28 - And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.

11.  I'm so thankful for printed words in books and literacy in general.  I love reading.  I particularly enjoy my Bible and especially using Bible Gateway to read verses in different translations to gain new meanings and understanding to Scripture. I also admire Oswald Chambers'  "My Utmost for His Highest"devotions which help us to daily gain perspective on our human condition.  The book Adopted for Life  clearly gave John and I a better framework for our beliefs on adoption instead of just clinging to James 1:27 and the Holy Spirit calling us toward it.  The book "On Becoming Babywise" has changed my life in reference to getting Jonah and other babies in our care to be on a healthy sleep schedule.  The one month we deviated constantly from Jonah's schedule and spoiled him rotten by letting him nurse to fall asleep, he began driving me crazy wanting to be fed all the time, taking short constant naps, and only sleeping 3-4 hours at a time at night. The very first day we put him back on a schedule he slept 7 hours straight.  Four days later he slept almost 9 hours straight.  If you have an infant you NEED that book! It's never too late to start.  I also enjoyed reading "The Shack""Redeeming Love", and countless children's books by Mo Willems, Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Max Lucado (his grown up stuff is good, but his Children's stuff is better!). I enjoy Shel Silverstein's poetry, and cried the first time I read "The Giving Tree" and have enjoyed and cried over so many more books!

12.  I am thankful for physical health pretty much my entire life.  I had such a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery.  I enjoy exercise (I actually pull out my old exercise DVDs from when I was an instructor and have a blast working out alone in my living room on days I don't feel like jogging to the end of the driveway and back).  I rarely get sick, and now that I'm not pregnant my immune system is back to functioning at maximum capacity! (I caught a ton of viruses when I was pregnant: 3 stomach bugs that had me throwing up multiple times then feeling weak for a few days, 3 colds that lasted at least 2 weeks each of sore throat, sinus pressure, and lots of snot, and I got fever blisters a few times, but other than that it was a super healthy pregnancy).  I have heard several recent sad stories of difficult pregnancies, traumatic labor experiences, and people who just generally suffer from one physical ailment or another - young people with constant migraines, all ages of people with cancer, and I have to stop and constantly go, "Thank you, God for my health. Please continue to keep us healthy." I have never even broken a bone.  God's angels kept me safe during a particularly bad car accident 2 years ago.  I feel like as long as I get about 7 hours of sleep I'm usually pretty good to go.  I am so thankful for my health which affords me the freedom to do many things. Speaking of freedom...

13.  I am thankful for living in these United States of America.  It's actually taken me a long time to say that.  I used to really resent good ole' USA just because I hated growing up the military lifestyle.  I blamed America for robbing me of my daddy so many times growing up, and having to move and lose friends and struggle to find new ones.  However, I realize now that it wasn't ever America, it was my father's choice to serve his country that way, and I'm proud of him for it.  I am thankful that we have the freedom to vote, no matter the outcome. We have the freedom to worship God publicly, and live in such a culturally diverse place. It is land of free, because of the brave. I only hope that continues to be true. 

14.  I am thankful for the Baptist Children's Village where we are employed! I am thankful for the vision they have to provide children with a loving home and parents. I am thankful for the people who built this cool house we live in! I am thankful for our boss, Mark, with whom we really get along well. I am thankful for the fact that I get to decorate! Although several of the Bible verses we hoped to get for the walls haven't come in yet, and so we are leaving several main walls blank to be able to apply the verses and decorate around them, we have hung a few things, and bought rugs, and a new bed. It is a little awkward to decorate a bedroom for parents and baby to share, but I am trying to make it cute (photos when it's finished).  I am really thankful that God chose to let us take on this responsibility of helping more hurting kids.  I don't think we were bad foster parents, but I know we could have been more patient, more loving, more gentle with our words, more generous with our time to all of the kids we had.  I pray our parenting skills are getting better as God continues to break our hearts for his children.  I am thankful that they are almost done hiring some more house parents to join us down here!  

15.  I am thankful for baby entertainment/support structures/toys.  We have several of these colorful safe places for Jonah and the other baby to play in when they don't need to be held or we just can't watch them constantly.   I am so glad we have a safe place to put them down where they are happily entertained in learning about the world around them!  These things have really improved our quality of life from the first few weeks when all we had were their high-chairs, and Jonah's bumbo, that the other baby could crawl out of anyway.  From these saucer things, to the bumbo, to the baby swings, to the baby beds, and big stuffed animals I can prop Jonah up with, I am so thankful we have things to put them down on!
The bouncy swing that hangs from any doorway is so very useful and portable!

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for! Thank you LORD!!!

1 Chronicles 16:8-12
Oh give thanks to the Lordcall upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles and the judgments he uttered,