Friday, October 31, 2014

A longing. He must feel it, too.

The aroma of Pumpkin, enchanting spices and warm sugar seeps through my home. The kids spend the days giddy for all the festivities that this time of year brings. Their bright smiles are infectious and contagious.

We, Dad and Mom, find ourselves chuckling with them. It is a joyous time a year with much to be thankful for. We are happy.

But with each activity, there is an underlying current of anticipation. A sense of longing. We are anxious for this boy to join our home and our family. A boy we have prayed for often. I know he must feel it, too.

(Photo Courtesy of Coreluv Intl.)
Running, playing and even laughing with his friends in the hot Caribbean sunlight. Chowing down on rice and beans. He must wonder what its like to have a family of his own. He must wonder if there will be a Mom to love him and wipe his tears, a Dad to play soccer with.

This boy, our boy, should know the immense love of his Mom and Dad. He should know the love of his brother and sisters. He has the right to a family that will cherish him forever and always, the right to be loved and to be a part of a family!

We rest in the fact that God absolutely loves this boy! He LOVES him! Far more and greater than we could ever love this precious child. He sacrificially and selflessly sent His Son to make a way for this boy to be called into a greater family. We pray this boy knows this Father's LOVE. We pray that He will use us to help show this precious boy that LOVE.

What a joy and privilege it is to show our children this wonderful LOVE! We would love to share this love with our boy. We're onto the next hurdle in our adoption journey. Will you please pray for us as we move forward?

There are many more documents to be collected. Many more official stamps and seals to be obtained on said documents.

It has astounded us that so many have been so kind and generous to us in this journey. Your giving, prayers and kind words are humbling! We are so very grateful!

We know that this time of year presents many opportunities for people to be charitable.  There are MANY wonderful ministries and organizations that do so many wonderful things, that accomplish so much and ministers to people in very tangible ways.

Would you prayerfully consider supporting our adoption journey? We would be so blessed by your charitable gift and generous giving to help bring our boy home.. to his FAMILY!

Please visit our Adoption Fundraising Website.

Thank you for loving us.. and thank you for loving our boy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homestudy Part 2

Oh the Homestudy. Its the first step in the adoption process.

It sounds so simple, so easy.

I think we win the award for LONGEST home study process. EVER. Funny (and by funny, I really mean, not-so-funny) things happened like our coordinator leaving the country for a little while and our agency encountering a slight hiccup, and well.. it just made the process drag a tad.

After rounding papers from here, there and everywhere, we were finally ready to welcome our Social Worker into our home. We'll call her "B."

"B" came by on a lovely Sunday afternoon. We loved having her in our home, and the kids enjoyed "showing off" for her. She had a knack for being warm, welcoming and listened generously. Everyone tells you not to worry about the interview portion of the home study.

But you never listen. Instead you purge 8 years worth of stuff from every nook and cranny in your home. You get 4 hours of sleep the night before, and are running on pure caffeine and adrenaline when the worker gets to your home. Its awesome. (Said no one ever.)

About 30 minutes into your interview, you realize you should have totally listened to everyone. The interview portion is nothing to sweat over.

As soon as "B" left, and my caffeine high subsided, I went into a deep coma for 80 days. Just kidding. But I did sleep REAL good that night. And I've enjoyed the fruits of my spastic cleaning ever since. I've never found things so easily in my pantry before or had so much room to walk in my closet! Its totally amazing.

"B" does all the fun work of compiling all those documents and the interview into a nice 30-some-odd (really its just about 10) page essay about your entire lives and those closest to you. You get to review it, advise of any adjustments/corrections here or there. And then it gets mailed to you several weeks later.

Sometimes you might cry when you FINALLY have it in your hands after all those months (5 to be exact) of hard work to complete that thing!

Yes, we finally have completed our home study! YAY!!!

Next up? The DOSSIER building. That's just a real fancy word for all. the. papers. of. the. entire. world.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


There is not a day goes by, that our children don't speak about adoption. Most frequently, our conversations involve their brother.. what he might be like, how old he might be, how he will share our room with our sweet JoJo.

Inevitably, the conversation turns to WHEN our newest family member will enter into our home and call it HIS. We are all so very excited and anxious for the day that our precious boy will eat, sleep, play,  love, pick fights with sometimes, and BE HERE with us!

And sometimes, the conversation even leads to the financial aspect of adoption. Our eldest fair-headed one has a knack for being on top of things. She is in the know.. about, well everything. She is wildly confident and is a wonderful planner. Her mind articulates all kinds of scenarios, solves problems with ease, and best of all.. she is a dreamer!

When this girl gets an idea in her head, there is NO STOPPING her! Her bravery amazes me, and I wish I had half her self-esteem and confidence.

This morning, like so many other mornings, she sat at the table doodling. (Sorry. We are the reason all the forests and trees are cut down everywhere. I promise we will start planting trees somewhere to make up for all the paper this crafty kid goes through.)

And while she is doodling, she is rattling off all these grand plans left and right. The words flow off her tongue a mile a minute, while her tone fluctuates with excitement at all the right moments.

She's found the perfect solution to bring her brother home. She is going to have a LEMONADE STAND! Hard at work, the crayons and markers create beautiful images on the paper in front of her.
(With a tiny bit of help from Mom on making the words all fit with proper justification and such.)

We spend the rest of our day much like all other summer days. In the blistering Texas sun but making sure to keep cool in a neighborhood pool where we are LITERALLY the only ones in the pool for most of the afternoon.

We stop by the store on the way home to pick up a few supplies for our grand LEMONADE STAND adventure. And every chance my children get, they chirp to those passing by about our plans. They excitedly share about the boy they will share all their toys, time and love with. They gush over how they can't wait to help bring their brother home with the sales from this endeavor.

With little time to spare before the coming-home-from-work traffic hits our neighborhood, we prepare our Fresh Squeezed (straight from the Country-Time container) lemonade. We make sure to have all our supplies out and ready.

Then, the fun began!

The girls rushed to hold the signs advertising our "LEMON- AID" stand to each car that passed by!

I just prayed it wouldn't be a huge flop, and the girls would get just a couple of cars to stop.

Several minutes passed. We had our first customer. The girls ambushed politely asked him if he'd like a cup of lemonade.

He did.

Chattering a mile a minute, they enthusiastically explained how they will have a new brother soon because we are adopting! They explained how they wanted to have a "LEMON-AID" stand to help bring their brother home!

(I fought back the ugly cry. I actually fought it back the whole day. It snuck out a time or two throughout the poster preparing, and the shopping.. and the swimming. And I've realized I need someone to teach my the art of the "Pretty Cry." For pete's sake.. I'm going to be crying lots of big emotional tears. There will be lots of FEELS throughout this process. I can't be breaking down in a completely hideous face  everytime the FEELS overwhelm me in public!)

The man laid $7 down in our collection box. AMAZING! Which, also kind of set the bar high for future customers. I may have had to remind the girls that our most generous customers were free to give as they wished.. and not feel obligated to fork over $7 for some water-downed CountryTime mix.

The girls worked and worked. They sprinted to pick up a sign each time they heard the faintest sound of a car. With eager grins, they presented the signs advertising a sweet, refreshing beverage.

Occasionally, a car would stop. But there were others that just whizzed right by. (From henceforth and forevermore, I vow to stop at EVERY SINGLE LEMONADE STAND from here to kingdom come!) Our expressive four-year-old found great delight and pleasure from throwing her sign on the ground at every failed attempt to attract customers to our tart beverages. And with each person that did stop, we had the chance to chat with neighbors we never even knew lived down or around, or a street over from us. We had the chance to chat adoption, and orphan care, and our Faith. And we did it together. As a family. With my kids more than eagerly serving to bring their brother home.

As the evening wore on and nighttime drew closer, my little sales-people were ever so polite to keep checking product quality. Being sure to do a taste check here and there, they wanted to make sure that our product was of utmost greatness to serve to the general public.

We called it a night and closed up shop just as traffic slowed to a near trickle through the neighborhood.

 After a long evening in the hot sun, the kids enjoyed running through the sprinkler. The water cooled them and only made the excitement over the evening that much more palpable.

And I vowed to want to ALWAYS believe in my little dreamer girl. I want to keep encouraging her and the ways she dreams up ways of bringing her newest sibling into this family. I want to continue to remind her that her ideas are important, they are valued!

(And I may or may not want to keep cashing in on that brilliant mind and killer smile of hers... which might have raked in over $100 this evening! We are so grateful to God for the very generous people that stopped by our little stand! Thank you for loving our family and loving our sweet boy that we just can't wait to welcome home!)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New Opportunity

Hey there! Why, yes we are STILL in the home study process! The fun thing about adoption is ALL. THE. PAPERWORK. Our home study has included LOTS of paperwork. We've just sent in the last of it. Next up, our interviews! This is where we talk about lots of things with our wonderful social worker. Then, they'll compile all this stuff and write up one big summary. They'll slap it all together and VOILA- Homestudy COMPLETE!

In the meantime, I've started my own business! As you may or may not know, my husband does an INCREDIBLE job busting his hind end for our family. We are so thankful for the Lord's provision for our family in the jobs Matt has! We have been so blessed and taken care of in the last couple of years since I quit my job to be a full time Stay At Home Mom. To help ease the financial strain off of Matt, I watched various kids in our home while their moms worked, and I even picked up a wonderful cleaning job for a year!

A few weeks ago, my cleaning client let me know my services were no longer needed. Since then, we discussed how I might be able to help in our family's budget and expenses. We debated whether I should extend care to children needing a loving environment during the day or whether to find a new client in need of a clean home. Each option seemed to have vast amounts of pro's and con's. Unfortunately, neither of those options seemed like the best fit for our family at this particular point in time.

Around the same time, I began regularly communicating with a friend of a friend who is also in the process of adopting a son! She had started her own business through a wonderful company full of other adoptive Moms, ministry leaders, stay at home moms, business executives, and professional minded people. In her kindness, she shared with me how much it had blessed their family since she had taken the leap to start.

Matt and I prayerfully considered if this might be a good fit for our family. After some time in prayer and careful deliberation, we decided that it would be crazy not to join in this adventure!

It is with great joy that I let you know I have decided to partner with the creators of PROACTIV, Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields, in their newest business venture.

Rodan+Fields comes from the world's top dermatologists to offer customers products proven to fight wrinkles, large pores, reverse sun damage and signs of melasma, provide relief for skin irritation or treat sensitive skin conditions. and treat adult acne!

I love what these products have already done for my skin, and I would be so happy to help you find the perfect product for your skin care needs!

So, why do I need a job? Well, adoption costs. And not just adoption fees either. Every form, every little piece of paper, every trip to this office or that, every mile put on the car, every gallon of gas to get to here or there, parking for this location or that… It all costs! And these are fees and expenses I will gladly pay in order to bring our son home through the most ethical means possible! But they are still expenses that take a toll on a family budget.

In the future, we look forward to sharing with you some of the more traditional fundraisers we will have to bring our son home! We would be so honored and blessed for you to share in our joy by supporting us through those fundraising endeavors. But many times, fundraisers typically go straight to the adoption agency. So, in the meantime, I look forward to earning a sustainable income to help with the offset and more "non-traditional" costs associated with adoption… all those little things that add up!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Homestudy, Part 1

One of the first steps in the adoption process is the home study! Yay. (No, seriously, its a GOOD thing! Homestudies are essential to the adoption process. They are needed, and worth while.)

A homestudy, basically, is just what it sounds like. It's the opportunity for your social worker to study your home.

But before they even study your actual home, they gather lots of facts about you in documentation that you provide to them. Anyone and everyone will tell you that there's an ENORMOUS amount of paperwork involved with adoption. Tedious, yes. Frustrating at times, you betcha! Worth it and ultimately good, ABSOLUTELY!

So. What does a home study actually look like? It starts with a thick envelope from your agency to help you get started on the "paper chase." The forms are pretty mindless and not really out of the ordinary. Basic forms proving who you are, you're an upstanding citizen, and you're in good health.

But what happens when you don't have all these files and documents laying around at your disposal in your home?

You go on fun "adventures" with your kids downtown to gather said documents! You make sure to pack a backpack full of knick-knacks to keep little hands preoccupied, and you pray there won't be any catastrophes along the way! Catastrophes as in no pee-pee pants, no flying fists and no gnashing of teeth… from you or the littles. Standing in a long line waiting on 1 little document, going from office to the next isn't very fun for Momma. So, you can't expect it to be too fun for the people under 4ft tall in your life, either. As most kids who've been raised in the 'burbs though, they were ECSTATIC to be downtown and amongst the tall buildings.

When your number is finally called to be helped by an attendant, you see her tag holder thing-a-ma-jig says "I love Jesus" and she's playing the latest Hillsong album at her desk. You might just get leaky eyes and say a quick prayer of Thanks and praise Him for putting believers in your path to encourage you!

When your adventures are done for the day, you keep trekking along on all those documents. Those mind-numbing documents that in any other circumstance might make you scream. But knowing its bring you one step closer to bringing your son home, gives you a slight thrill and keeps you humbly praying as each thing is checked off that list. You will spend many nights like this. You and the computer screen. You and the gently hum of that scanner loading documents onto your harddrive, only to be emailed a few minutes later. You and the gentle klickity-klackity of that keyboard. Each keystroke on that 20 page autobiography that your pouring your heart out on… its not for nothing. It's your steady "pregnancy" & "labor" to bring a precious boy into your home that needs your unconditional love!

This is what the first part of the home study process looks like. Tedious, mind-numbing at times, heartfelt, worth it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Lifesong Blog Moment

14-05 MM email

 "If our effort to love only affects ONE is worth it!" -Ivan Zhykhariev, Ukraine Graduate

Child Sponsorship. It's easy to underestimate the impact sponsorship has on a child. Not only are basic needs (such as food, clothing, shelter) met, but also a sense of belonging is given that money can't buy. Sponsorship speaks "YOU MATTER TO ME." to a child who is longing for love from a family, security and hope for a future.

Giving FAMILY to Evelyn {HONDURAS}
Testimonies like Evelyn's reminds us of the work God is doing to change lives in Honduras. Children who lose their earthly father, learn about their heavenly Father. Children who lose their family can say they have a new family. Children with little hope are taught that they can change their nation!

Currently, Evelyn has not been chosen by a sponsor to help support her Christian education and hopeful future. By sponsoring a child like Evelyn, you can be a part of changing a life, letting a child know they matter by bringing joy and purpose to their lives.

Will you help us find Evelyn a sponsor?
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 Learn more about Child Sponsorship at

Testimony: More than Money {LIBERIA}
Listen in as Carla Cornell, Liberia Child Sponsor shares on sponsorship...
wp-image-83569" src="" height="290" width="290" />"Meeting Thomas, Sharine and Prince was something we had been picturing for months and to finally feel those arms around us was a priceless, God-given moment. It was then we realized that sponsoring a child can be so much more than just sending money.

It can be an opportunity to open our hearts and share the love we so often take for granted with a child who needs it desperately. A child who may never have the same blessings and opportunities that most of us enjoy but with our help, they can have hope and they can know Jesus loves them and has not forgotten them. And we can be blessed beyond measure to be a tiny part of God's plan for them."

wp-image-83575" src="" height="89" width="108" />This month, Help us find 31 sponsors in 31 days! Each day, we feature a child that does not yet have a sponsor. Will you join us in advocating on their behalf?

Meet a few of our kids waiting for sponsorship....

See all featured kids for the #31kids31days Campaign at 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

And so, it's begun!

If you've been around for any length of time, you may have an inclination towards our heart for adoption and in for caring for children.

Several years ago, through various events and happenings, Matt and I felt the Lord urging our hearts to care for orphans, and more specifically to adopt. At the time, we felt very strongly being led to adopt internationally. However, for one reason or another we were unable to begin the process of international adoption. (You can read about that here .)

Being open minded and having hearts softened by prayer, we even tried beginning the process of adopting a child from within our home state. (I've mentioned that here.) But for multiple reasons, we just did not feel at peace about adopting locally. (We talked about that here and here.. again.)

During our time in prayer, our hearts were continually being led back to the plight of international orphans. (Please don't misunderstand me, there are children EVERYWHERE that are in need of a loving home, and a family to sacrificially love them.)

And after years of prayer and preparation, we are so happy to announce that WE ARE ADOPTING! For reals.

Through the Lord's provision, we were able to acquire the amount needed to begin our application and home study process to bring our boy home from Ethiopia. We are nearing the end of the home study process and I can tell you that all of that waiting just to start the process was not wasted. Every day.. every month.. every year waiting to begin this process has worked in our hearts (and in our minds) in tremendous ways. We look forward to sharing with you all the joys (and the heartaches) this process will bring. And we would be so grateful for you to come along side us in this journey. First, please cover us, all the people we come in contact with through this process, and our sweet boy that's needing his family in prayer.

In the words of some of our great friends, our main goal in adopting our precious boy is to " 'commend the gospel through adoption.' Our adoption story is just one of many amidst the greatest adoption story. " (Josh and Angela Walker, Hymns for Selena)

Friday, May 2, 2014

My Kind of Therapy

"It's 9a.m. I'm ready to be done for the day. I want to get back in bed," the blunt text to my husband read this morning.

In typical Superman fashion, he texted back with an encouraging word or two.

It's been a long week in the Brantner home, and I was just ready to crash into bed and let it be Saturday already. I trudged home from the grocery store. Anxious for it almost to be nap time, I put away all the groceries in the blink of an eye. But try as I might, I couldn't settle down.

I knew what I had to do. Clean.

My spice/catch all cabinet has long been the target of my "need to clean to work things out" therapy. But today, I knew I needed to do more.

Armed with the cleaning essentials, I shuffled my two ducklings up the stairs to play in their rooms.

"Maybe if I clean the whole upstairs, I might feel better," the next text to my husband read.

I realized.. that I LOVE cleaning!

Here are 4 of my favorite things about cleaning:

1. It's therapeutic.  Instead of wallowing in my (figurative) funk, I got up and got busy. My body tries to confuse me if I'm stressed sometimes and makes me think I'm sleepy. But, I knew I wasn't sleepy because I've been getting plenty of sleep. And I knew my kids definitely would not benefit from a mommy that wanted to wallow and nap all day. Whilst cleaning, I was able to pray about what's been going on in my heart and head this week. I was also able to happily entertain two little people by providing perfect scenarios for Lego Man and Barbie. Although, I'm pretty certain the Lord afforded me an extra heaping of grace and mercy in that department today. My kids usually prefer the company of Mommy sitting and playing right next to them all. the. time., and not just vocal encouragement and instruction.

2. It makes me realize how much we have. I love decorating our girl's hair. Love it. Love putting in a braid or making a fun bun. And I love buying them different hair accessories. But I didn't realize just how much we had. "Cleaning today. 2 things I am certain of. #1. I will never need to buy another hair accessory for my girls, as I have picked up at least 5000 hair bands, 6987 hair bows, and another 1,230,495 head bands. #2. I am a hoarder of books."  And its just not the hair accessories. It's our laundry too, and the dishes. Cleaning always gives me a grateful heart for the Lord's provision in our lives. I see first hand throughout the day just how full our tummies have been, how well clothed we have been, and how spoiled we are even with pretty things.

3. It helps take the added stress away. Sure, this one probably can be filed under number 1. But, if something is already got my mind whirring… an extra large heaping load of dirty laundry staring at me from the top of the stairs isn't necessarily going to ease my troubled mind. I can tend to the laundry, scrub those nooks and crannies, and process everything that's been going on. And when I'm done, I've got somewhat tangible proof of the work that's been done in my heart during the process. Today, the 'ol  blood pumper got a real thorough scrubbing. You can tell just how deep it was cleaned because I even cleaned out under the beds, got the vacuum attachments out and vacuumed under the beds too.

4. It almost counts as a workout. And we all know, that working out gives you endorphins. And endorphins make you happy. And happy people don't kill people. They just don't. Working out also burns calories. Which lets face it, I'll be enjoying those extra calories in the form of some chocolate. Chocolate is also one of my favorite therapeutic stress reducers. So, there you have it. It all comes kind of full circle really.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback Thursday Story: Being close enough to Needtobreathe to be spit on

My husband loves music. I mean, I like it a lot too. But he really loves music. Which in a way is really good, since its kind of his job.

Now that we are real grown-ups, the concerts we attend are more few and far between than in yesteryears. And as we've "matured", our choice in visited venues is much more selective.

I'll never forget the first NeedToBreathe concert we went to. Several years back, on the heels of their 2nd album release they made a stop in Houston. They were already a big deal, but hadn't really exploded with popularity just yet. 

My handsome blonde guy and I dined at a nearby restaurant. We quickly made our way to the venue to get a good spot in the line for when they opened the doors. Being some of the first ones in, we planted ourselves (nearly) front row center of the general audience (standing room) section. 

And y'all. They put on an awesome concert! As in the words of BooMama, it was pure joy from start to finish. Years later, we still say that it is one of the BEST concerts we've ever been to. Definitely top 3.

(*Fun sidenote. I was a few months into my pregnancy with our sweet boy who would complete the trifecta of little blonde people in our home, or the 3rd musketeer, or the 3rd stooge, or … well, you get it.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Together We Wept

Sometimes our sinful nature and the evidence of the fall hit you with such abrupt force, it leaves you in tears.

My phone chimed with an email. Not really a sound I pay much attention to on most occasions. But in a quiet house, with nothing filling my mind but relaxation, I opened my email to see what the message might be.

Unfortunately, my excitement over it not being Spam mail was quickly replaced with heartbreak. Our beloved eldest child had chosen not to restrain her excited chitter chatter during a time that required her complete attention at school. Even after a gentle reprimanding by her instructors, she chose to keep jabbering with a few of her besties. Our strong, independent girl was unable to participate in the rest of the activities with her classmates due to her actions.

I wept when I saw the email. Utterly heartbroken over my daughter's blatant sinful actions towards her instructors. And as swiftly as I cried for her, the Spirit gently stirred my heart to recollect on times I have been unsubmissive to those in authority over me.. or times I was prideful in thinking my way was better than someone else's.

Her sweet face was remorseful as she buckled her seatbelt in the car. Worlds of sorrow and "sorry" flowed from her precious, little mouth. We wept together.

There are sins that are easily "swept under the rug" at times, or sins that don't quite catch our eyes all the time. The usual toy snatching and stinginess of a toddler and pre-schooler in a battle royale becomes almost normal in our eyes. So normal that it may not quite break our hearts over our own sinful natures each time we see it.

But sometimes, things happen.. and the Lord might use one particular instance to instantly open your eyes.

Digging deeper than just the surface of the situation, together we pinpointed what caused her to act the way she had. Obviously, she was reprimanded for being chatty by the authorities. But, at the heart of the matter she did not respect those in authority over her and acted out of a pride to keep talking with her friends.

Without the gospel, we could stay in this sorrowful place over her (and my) wrongdoings. But through the lens of the gospel, we can rejoice that the war has been won. The battle was fought, and Jesus secured victory through His work on the cross. Through our faith in Him, we can confess our sins and repent… knowing He is just and good to forgive us. We can pray that the Holy Spirit does a work in our hearts to make us joyful obeyers to those in authority over us.

I'm never a big fan of when my kids sin.. whether they are big sins or little sins (in our eyes at least). But I am a big fan of leading my kids to Jesus and the Cross. Whether I do that in times of strife or times of great joy in our house, may I do it boldly. There is no greater joy in motherhood than the opportunity to witness to my kids about our risen Savior.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reading Reading and More Reading

It's no secret that I've got a slight addiction to reading. I love to read. Reading is one of my favorites.

The past few months, I haven't done too much leisure reading because I've been all wrapped up in this gem:

Can I let you in on a little secret? This is my first completed women's bible study that took me through an entire book of the bible. It will hold a special place in my heart. Beth really helped you get the entire context of the scripture. Not only because you were engrossed in it, but all the cross-references and implications of the particular passage that was presented. I always had a fondness for the book of James. But having walked through an in depth study of it... well, now, its just real special!

Our next bible study won't start up for a few weeks. So, in the meantime, I'm hoping to squish in as much reading as possible!

First up:

I'm gonna finish this awesomely encouraging piece by Gloria Furman. I started this a few weeks ago on a little road-trip with the fam. The book is packed with deep, biblical encouragement for the busy mom. All the sippy-cup refilling, laundry folding, and home-work helping can wear a girl out sometimes. This book has helped shift my focus back where it needs to be- even in the midst of the chaos motherhood can bring sometimes. 


Reading really helps me grasp a concept or how to better serve people. While this particular story may not mirror every refugee family's story exactly, I do believe it will help me better understand what life in a refugee camp looks like, as well as what life looks like when they are first out of it. Plus, I'm just really intrigued to know how it effected this chick's life that reached out to the family!

What have YOU been reading lately? Any real page turners? I wanna hear about it! I love all books! Fiction, autobiographies, books to encourage me in my faith, etc.

(*Disclaimer: These are affiliate links. If you happen to make a purchase, my little fam will get a tiny kick-back. New and exciting things are happening around these here parts, and I'll share 'em with you soon.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Am I in labor?

Throwback Thursday Stories

My middle section was stretched almost to its limits. My feet showed swollen signs of the end of a pregnancy. And we were excited to meet our precious boy. 

The carseat was loaded in the car in the chance I went into labor. All the linens were washed, and ever preparation that could be made was made. 

I went to the doctor to see how the pregnancy was progressing. Because his two older sisters had to be forcibly evacuated from the womb, I was expecting our sweet boy to be content on holding out a bit longer. However one week prior to my due date, the doctor made an assumption that I wouldn't make it back for my next appointment. In his estimations, I would deliver our third child without the help of an induced labor. I chuckled right to his face and said, "ok, see you next week!"

The remainder of the day was as mundane as any other Monday. The phone rang and emails chimed in as I educated customers on insurance policies, rates and appropriate coverages for their needs. 

After the work day was done, I raced home to embrace my two favorite little blonde girls in a big hug. Being away from them for so many hours during daylight hours always made my Momma heart hurt too much. As much as I wanted to just sit and cuddle them on the couch that evening, I had a nagging feeling to clean every square inch of the house. So, I did. I cleaned from the tip top to the bottom, and back again. There wasn't a surface in the home that wasn't wiped clean, or any fabric that hadn't been swished clean in the washing machine. All the things were in their proper places, and everything was just so. 

My loving husband stubbornly encouraged me to quit for the night just after 10. Begrudgingly, I resigned to the shower. Once I had washed the muck from the day away, I retired to bed. Tossing and turning for an eternity did not ease me into a peaceful sleep. I just didn't feel well. 

Maybe fixing my damp hair and passing time would help lull me into a deep sleep? I got out of bed to primp my hair just a bit, returned to bed for more tossing and turning.

I still didn't feel well. So, I trudged downstairs for a snack. After a few glasses of water and a granola bar, I willed my legs to carry me back up the stairs. 

Several hours later, I still didn't feel well and just couldn't go back to sleep. I finally woke my husband in the smack dab middle of the night. 

"I think I might be in labor," I whispered to him.

"What? Really? How do you know," he questioned me.

"I have no idea! I've never been in real labor before," I exclaimed back.

After laboring most of the night at home, I finally made myself go to the hospital. This #tbt pic is me in labor with our 3rd blondie. 

After arrangements and decisions were made, I finally went to the hospital. Since my labors had not naturally started on their own for my previous pregnancies, I had no idea what the start of a natural labor felt like.  I was scared of looking foolish and kept telling my mom "I'm gonna feel so dumb if I'm not really in labor." 

To my amazement (and relief), I was in labor

I always chuckle a little when I remember the birth story of our spirited little Dino lover. Being a mom of 2 might qualify you to know what to expect when you go into labor, but I felt so clueless going to the hospital. And not much has changed since then. He's kept me on my toes and surprises me quite frequently.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lifesong Mission Moment

14-04 MM email
Lifesong Farms. We are thankful, with the help and expertise of our friends at Plant Sciences, Inc., to have active strawberry farms in Ukraine and Zambia. Our hope is to not only create jobs & self-worth for orphan caregivers, but also  provide future employment opportunities as orphans grow into adults. Eventually, we aim to establish sustainability to help fund on-going orphan care. Hear the stories behind the farms...

Bearing Fruit in Sergey {UKRAINE}
Like each and every child our Ukraine team reaches out to through Constant Christian Presence, Sergey was full of potential. Coming from a life of hurt, God breathed hope into his heart and life.
Through the team's support, mentorship and love, Sergey came to know Christ while developing relationships and life skills that is leading him towards a fruitful future.

Now, he and another orphan graduate are involved in helping manage a nursery, as well as play an important role in Lifesong Farms-Ukraine.

Listen in to his story...

Strawberries Help Send Kids to School {ZAMBIA}
Last month, Lifesong Farms-Zambia team were pleased to present the first check to the Lifesong School at a special ceremony. As the farm continues to grow and show profits, we hope to have many more check ceremonies in the future as we grow towards sustainability!

zambia farms
Farm team presenting $5,000 check to Lifesong Zambia School

Story of Lifesong Farms - Learn how Lifesong Farms got started in Lifesong Zambia. Watch Video

Impact on Farm Workers - Listen in to our Quality Manager, Pilijah, as she shares how her job has impacted her and her family. Watch Video
Christian Alliance for Orphans CAFO2014 {May 1-2; CHICAGO} - CAFO2014 inspires and equips Christians to care for orphans with wisdom-guided love. Register today! Learn More & Register

Celebrate Life Tour - featuring Cheri Keaggy & Zambia Children's Choir! Buy Tickets Today

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My kids are people, too.

It's a fact. One that I sometimes forget.

But, my kids are humans. Albeit, little ones, but still they are people.

They have feelings, moods, and react to things. They're really not all that different from adults. Sure, they can't contain their emotions or their reactions all that well, but its not like you or I don't react to things too differently from these pint-size youngsters.

I forget this simple fact sometimes in the midst of guiding and reprimanding them. I forget that, though are small, they are people.

And just like other people, I should treat them with respect, kindness, and love. I should treat them how I want to be treated. Not just because its an awesome coin-phrase, but because it is biblical. (Luke 6:31)

How many times have I tried to work a certain angle with my kids, or tried to find biblical references specifically to parenting? When in fact, the Bible is a resource rich in instruction on how I should interact with my kids not simply because they are my kids, but because they are PEOPLE.

I read a great blog post about this recently. Jen Wilkins was so kind to remind me, through her blog, of this simple fact, and how ample the bible is to give us instruction on how to love and serve our children well. Not just through the scope of motherhood.. but through the lens of the Gospel.

Gloria Furman's latest book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, has also radically transformed my outlook on motherhood as of late.

Being a Mom is part of my identity now. Christ's salvation of my life, and all the beautiful ramifications that it entails should also bleed into that part of my life as well. His grace covers me as a believer, a daughter, a sister, a wife.. and as a mother. His love should be so evident and seeping out of every facet  of my existence no matter my current season or schedule load.

The wisdom printed on the pages of this book are deep, insightful, and resounding with Truth. This book released me from the grasp of self-focus and set my eyes on Christ. Through her encouraging words and biblical references, my focus has been re-set on eternity.. rather than the here and now. It's like a nice breath of fresh air and a nice re-charge of the batteries to be reminded to savor Jesus in the midst of the chaos and business of motherhood.

"As we treasure Christ in our motherhood, it causes us to be heavenly minded, thinking often of the Lord who has brought us into his forever family and empowering us to live for his kingdom as we serve our family." (Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, pg 154)

That is my prayer as a mother.. and for my Mommy friends that are trudging through this joyously tiresome season of life.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Special Spot

Her tired hands have done much work throughout the day, and her aching back echoes the same sentiment.

The morning came too soon. She joyfully sends her eldest off to school, entertains another precocious one into the afternoon hours. And her midsection grows every minute, carefully housing and growing another precious blessing.

After a bustling morning caring for her beloved children, she rests on the couch. She lays on her side, with her legs bent just so. There's a perfect little nook of space between those arched legs and the back of the couch. The precocious preschooler climbs up into that special spot and settles in for an afternoon of rest with his Mommy.

It's one of our family's favorite childhood memories of my husband. His mom recounts how late into her pregnancy with her youngest, her body would tire out in the afternoon. Most afternoons, she would play a movie for her little boy, and he'd watch the movie in his Special Spot.

When my kids were old enough to start enjoying movies, we encouraged them to take residence in the Special Spot.

And the Special Spot has taken on a life of its own, almost. It is no longer reserved for the parent to encourage the little ones to enjoy.

You can hear little voices quickly instructing the others to climb in the Special Spot.

I love how this one special memory from my husband's childhood, and my kid's KK has been passed down to them. It not only encourages them to be loving to one another, but adds so much depth to this simple act of kindness. What a joy it is to share in precious memories of the past and of making new ones for the future!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Best EVER

"You're THE BEST MOM EVER!!" She exclaimed.

And if the excitement in her voice wasn't convincing enough, her spindly arms constricting my mid-section only made it that much more believable. The consistent bouncing of her little tiny frame from the balls of her feet only added more emphasis to the words she had just shouted. A broad smile proudly showing off a missing expanse of teeth on bottom was plastered from one ear to the other.

It's an expression I hear often from our eldest fair-headed one. The brave one who isn't afraid to voice her emotions or let us know how she's really feeling.

But of course she was excited. Of course, I was THE BEST MOM EVER!

A package arrived in the mail that day containing a dress she'd only been pining over for well over a year.

The ever lovely maxi-dress. 

I would be lying if I tried telling you I haven't fallen under its illustrious charms. So flow-y, so pretty… and so mischievously modest.

There has been much talk of The Dress since it arrived in our home. There has been much planning and deliberating as to when The Dress will be worn. And each time The Dress comes up in conversation, the same amount of enthusiasm escapes from that precious girl's mouth, like it has a will of its own.

But it's an expression I rarely hear from that lispy little voice when we're in the throws of disciplining. There's no tightly wound limbs around my pudgy middle section when we discuss what shenanigans were had with her little brother and sister while she was busy learning at school. The balls of her feet don't encourage the rest of her slender frame to bounce with joy when we don't cater to every request.

Sometimes, there's weeping and gnashing of teeth and all things un-pretty you can imagine coming from a child who has not gotten their way. Sometimes, there's a sorrowful nod of the head as if merely saying the words "okay" is putting forth too much effort. Sometimes, she buries the hurt and doesn't react nearly at all on the surface.

And it got me to thinking….

How do I react when my requests to my Heavenly Father are not answered in the fashion I fancy?

Is it my automatic response to leap with joy and proclaim, "You are God, and YOU ARE THE BEST EVER!!"

Or do I act like a foolish child struggling with inner-turmoil? Or do I act like a foolish child and put on a production that is sure to give any Broadway number a run for its money? Or do I act like a foolish child and answer with a solemn nod of my head?

There are a myriad of reasons why I don't automatically cave and cater to my child's every want or desire. Sometimes, its an issue of money. Sometimes, its an issue of convenience. But more often than not, its an issue of knowing it is for their good.

Now, doesn't God, who is infinitely Better and infinitely Wiser and infinitely Perfect,  have the right to refuse to cater to my ever flimsy wish or withering craving… not out of hateful spite.. but out of Loving GOODNESS?

May I be so bold and unwavering in my Faith in a loving God to joyfully exclaim "You are the BEST EVER," when He lavishes things aplenty on me.
May I be so bold and unwavering in my Faith in a loving God to joyfully exclaim "You are the BEST EVER," still when He chooses to not appease my appetite for things out of His loving kindness and for my good.
He truly is THE BEST EVER.

"You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures," James 4:3

"LORD, all my desire is before You, and my sighing is not hidden from you," Psalm 38:9

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Friendly Friends

I'm going to let you in on a little secret..something. I'm a loner.

Yes, we've discussed this a time or two, I know.

I am naturally independent and don't mind spending time by myself, or not being overly social.

When something happens, I'm not the type to normally call my girlfriends about it and gab for hours on end to process through the range of emotions. Most often, I retreat somewhere quiet to think and contemplate, and of course pray.

Because of my natural introvert and loner tendencies, I've believed the lie a time or two that "I don't have any friends."

I challenged myself on this recently. Surely it wasn't that I didn't have any friends….I do in fact have friends.

The best kinds of friends to have are the ones that not only invest in your life.. but care so much to invest in your marriage and your kid's lives. One of my dearest friends not only comes to grunge it up in pajamas and be lazy on my couch and watch movies, but she sometimes comes over to play with my kids and sends me off on a date with my amazing hubs!

The best kinds of friends to have are the ones you can send silly selfies to after a haircut. And they laugh with you at the ridiculousness of the thought of an-almost-30-year-old standing by herself in the mall taking a selfie.

The best kinds of friends to have are the ones who take you out for your birthday and buy you the most beautiful mound of nachos you have ever seen in your entire life!

The best kinds of friends to have are the ones that go with you on not-so-crazy adventures to play with some refugee kids in the city .. and then eat at a really interesting Bosnian restaurant afterwards. 

The best kinds of friends to have are the ones who go out and do fun things with you. And then they don't even make fun of you for your lack of painting skillz when doing said fun thing. 

And the absolute best friends to have? Those are the ones that the Lord has beautifully woven your stories together through shared conversations here or random text messages there. The ones that can laugh with you over a simple mishap from some time ago. The best friends to have are the ones that the Lord has placed in your life.. no matter what age or stage they're in, no matter the differences or likeness you share, no matter the closeness of your relationship.. or the not-so-closeness.

I am so thankful for the friends I have… thankful to pray for them, and to be prayed over. Thankful for the opportunity to pour into their lives, and be blessed in return. Thankful to serve Him together, no matter how that might look in our current seasons.. from big things like ministry outside the home.. to big things like investing in our ministries we've been entrusted with in our homes.

I love my friends, and I refuse to buy into the lie that I don't have friends.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Compassion Experience

The kids woke before daybreak. The sounds of train tracks being re-arranged, lego towers being made, and book pages being flipped made this house a home this morning. Excited voices and stomping feet turned a restful house into a lively one. It was a morning that mirrored so many mornings just like it.

After filling our tummies with a nutritious breakfast, we all got ready in a flurry of flying fabrics and managing of mangled manes. It was finally time to embark on our adventure for the day.

Little voices chattered with curiosity for what the day might bring, and Momma prayed in the front seat for hearts to be softened and minds to be changed.

I pray for my children often. And most often, my prayers are filled with desires of my kids' hearts to be captivated by and with Jesus. That they would LOVE Him and desire to follow His commands. I want them to LOVE His word.. but not just be lovers of the Word.. but DOERS of His word, too. (James 1:22)

I want my kids to know that life isn't about them.. but about Him. And today, I wanted them to see one small, but big, way we could serve Him and be DOERS.

We already sponsor a child (through another great organization) in Ethiopia (the country we originally felt called to adopt from, and that still holds a special place in our hearts.) But, we wanted the kids to get a more tangible feel for how kids their age(s) live around the world.

"We think sometimes that poverty is only meaning hunger, naked and homeless. The Poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty," Mother Theresa

As we waited for our instructions, my eyes swept over many quotes hanging on the walls.

And then it was time for us to journey with Julian through her life.

 We saw her replicated house that consisted of two chairs… one to use as a lock on the door. It helped keep the drunken men from a (very) nearby brewery from stumbling into their home. She and her brothers and sisters would take turns sleeping in the other chair at night. We learned that her mother wed at 14, and her grandparents were paid a handsome dowery as part of the marriage agreement.

 As she grew, Julian feared she too may be married at a very young age. But she was courageous, and knew that her dowery would help provide a better life for her younger siblings.

Julian did not attend school, but stayed home to help with her siblings. She also helped her mother sell items in the market to earn money. On a good day, they might make $1 for their fresh produce.

But her mother always hoped for a better life for her, and put faith in Jesus for that to happen. One day, her mother came to her, tearfully joyful. Julian received a sponsorship to take part in the Compassion program.

 Julian was able to attend school, where she not only received an education because of her sponsorship..
 but she also received a hearty meal,

 and received the Good News of Jesus.

 She memorized scripture, and the Lord would use one scripture in particular to keep speaking His Truth and Goodness in her life.

Her home (neighborhood) became increasingly dangerous. So, Julian's mother sent her to a boarding school for her own safety. Unfortunately, not all the schooling could be paid for. Julian was sent back home. But she put her Faith in God, and rested in the Truth that Scripture provides.

She was able to return to school through His provision through believers in the States. She went on to finish High School, and even graduated from College.

 Julian and her older brother eventually bought their Mom and younger siblings a nicer home in a safer neighborhood.

 Julian dreams of coming to the United States and attending Baylor University. She wants to earn a degree in Social Services to minister to the children of Uganda.

I don't even want to let my mind wander into the darkness of what Julian's (and countless other children in the world) life would have turned out had the family not sponsored her. But if you want to take a stab in the dark how it could have turned out, just turn on any international news station… or pinpoint almost any article and it might give you a vague idea of some of the possibilities.

 We wanted to make a difference. We didn't want to just be hearers of this precious lady's story.. we wanted to be DOERS of making a child's dreams come true in another county. So, we are.

We are so excited to add Rhoda, a beautiful girl in Ghana, to our family! We are so excited to provide Rhoda with the opportunity of an education, hearty meals, the Gospel of Jesus and basic medical care!


Here are just a few AMAZING organizations that provide you with the chance to change a kid's life through sponsorship: