Thursday, July 30, 2009

It Finally Happened!

At 16 1/2 months old, Madeline started walking this week! She has been toddling along while holding onto our hands for a while. Then she took her first solo steps two weeks ago, going from mommy to daddy and back again. But on Wednesday, she really, truly started walking. Suddenly the balance part of her brain kicked in, and she just took off.

She is quite proud of her new skill, and she wants to practice everywhere we go. No longer is she content to ride in a shopping cart or hang out on my hip. It's lots more fun to get around on her own two legs. Look out world, here she comes!

Madeline is quite the little talker these days too. She jibber jabbers through the day, and loves to pretend like she is talking on the phone. She knows the routine well and knows just what to say - her phone etiquette is remarkable. It's interesting what you learn about yourself by watching your child imitate you.

She is picking up new words every day. She knows her body parts, animals and the sounds that they make, the names of lots of foods and things around the house, and Elmo. She asks for Elmo by name.

She loves to "read" her Beginner's Bible. Every night before bedtime, we read her a story from it. She understands that it is a special book and the time that we read it is a special time. So every day lately she has been sitting on the floor with it and for ten minutes or more at a time (a long time for a 16 month old!) she will flip through the pages, talking and talking and talking. Priceless.

Last night she imitated us praying for the first time. Oh my goodness, was it cute. We were in the middle of eating dinner, and we had prayed just a few minutes earlier. When she saw that she had my attention, and she pressed her little chin against her chest, babbled for several seconds, looked up and shouted - "Amen!" I wish I had the video camera.

I am having a blast being her mommy these days. Every day is an adventure. She is becoming more affectionate, and we are able to do more fun things together. Life is good.

Madeline loves to play the piano, to sing, and to dance


We arrived home to a wonderful surprise today! We received our I-171-H in the mail. This is the form from USCIS (U.S. Immigration) that we got hung up on. I mailed the latest round of paperwork to them exactly three weeks ago today. I had expected it to take at least a month longer than it did. This is a huge answer to prayer!

Our immigration paperwork is the final thing that we need for our dossier. Well, actually... there are a couple of small things that I left to do at the last minute. I guess the last minute has arrived. I had better get to work on those photo pages and notarizations.

The wait time for a referral for a male infant has been reduced to an average of 5-8 months. That means that, Lord willing, if our dossier makes it to Ethiopia by the end of August, we could have our referral as early as January 2010. That sounds so soon! I'm doing my happy dance!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday....

…To me! Today is the big day. The Big Three-Oh. Yep, I’m turning 30. I’m not afraid of it. I’d much rather be where I am right now than the awkwardness of the early and mid twenties. You know, right out of college and entering the adult world: No longer a kid but feel like you are just pretending to be mature and knowledgeable enough to hold your own in the grown up world. No fun.

I can really say that now is the most joy-filled time of my life thus far. I feel rather sorry for the people who tell you that the high school years or the college years are the best part of life. I find the security of a happy marriage, the peace of knowing myself and my gifts, the joy of working with purpose toward decided goals, and the freedom of being an adult with my own family to be way more fun than the insecurity, pressure, and unsettledness of my teens. No way, man. I’d choose to be thirty any day over that.

Our culture worships youth. Beauty is defined as smooth skin, dark hair, and a firm body. The old are cast aside as irrelevant, a burden. We fear the first wrinkles and gray hairs. We spend godless amounts of money on beauty treatments, gym memberships, and hair dyes, desperately afraid of growing old. Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t enjoy the fact that I have begun to spend more time than I would like plucking the gray hairs from my head, one by one. But I am reminding myself – “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Proverbs16:31). :) And focusing on the fact that with years and experience come wisdom and compassion. So bring it on! I’m ready for thirty. And I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me in the next decade.

Here is a fun list that I've been working on for a while. Enjoy!

30 Things That I Have Learned in My First 30 Years:

1) Who you marry is one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. Being married to someone who listens, who is gentle, who encourages me, who is insightful, who shares my faith, who I respect, and who is my BEST FRIEND makes a huge difference in my life every single day.

2) It takes a lot of work to be a good listener. It is worth it.

3) Growing up in a home where your parents love you and love each other is not something to be taken for granted.

4) Life does not consist of the abundance of my possessions. I am much happier living on little (by American standards) and having much to give away.

5) “You have been made rich in every way SO THAT you can be generous on every occasion. And your generosity will results in thanksgiving to God.” (II Cor 9:11)

6) Treasure old friendships. It takes a really long time to replace them.

7) I MUST have time alone to think, pray, and be quiet. If I don’t, no one will want to be around me. College was really hard because of this…

8) It makes so much more sense to put things away immediately: throw the junk mail in the trash as soon as I walk in the door, put the dishes directly in the dish washer, hang up my clothes when I take them off. I save myself so much work when I live this way.

9) I am so much happier when my home is in order. It is entirely worth the effort to keep it that way every day. I wish I always followed through with that…

10) Being scared is not a good reason to not do something that you want to do.

11) Doing a good job of something and getting DONE is better than aiming for perfection and never finishing.

12) Life is so much less stressful when I plan well.

13) Life is way too short to spend it watching TV.

14) “I can do no great things, only small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa

15) We are all selfish by nature. Left to ourselves, everything we do is selfishly motivated. All we want to know when we listen to the news or to the conversation of another is how something affects us. We are interested in other people because we think it will benefit us or make us feel good. Yucky, but true. Only through Jesus can we get outside our all-important selves and care about a hurting world.

16) “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Cor 12:9)

17) Having kids is not about personal fulfillment. It is a great blessing and lots of fun. It’s also hard. I have realized that what it’s really all about is offering my life as a living sacrificing, an act of worship (Romans 12:1) as I daily pour myself into molding the next generation to adore and serve our Creator.

18) Being outside puts things into perspective. When I have scurried around all day, my restless mind always racing, nothing calms me more than sitting outside under the night sky. I remember how small I and my problems are and just how big my God is.

19) When it’s chocolate I cave, chocolate I must have. Nothing else will do. :)

20) When I have a complaint against my husband and I take it first to God in prayer, God usually responds by opening my eyes to something about MYSELF that needs to change.

21) “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary. But what is unseen is eternal.” (II Cor 4:16-18)

22) Being healthy is a much better goal than being “skinny.” Healthy is a goal that can be achieved. Skinny can never be fully attained. Healthy makes me feel good and has great long term benefits. Skinny makes me self-obsessed and self-harming. I thank the Lord that I have a husband who loves me “healthy.” :)

23) People are paying attention to what you say way less than you think that they are. However, they will remember how well you listen to them. If you want to make a good impression, put others first and listen.

24) Travel opens your eyes in a way that nothing else can. It has made me realize that the world is much bigger than my backyard. Seeing such different customs, languages, and foods reminds me how small my little corner of the world is. And how big God is. He knows and loves all of them. My favorite bumper sticker that I’ve ever seen says: “God bless all nations. No exceptions.”

25) I would much rather spend an afternoon with one or two friends talking at a coffee shop or going for a walk than going to a party. I may be 30, but crowds still scare me.

26) There are so many hurting, lonely people in the world. It’s easy to forget when you surround yourself all the time with people who have families and an abundance of possessions. That’s why we have to get outside our circles of comfort and get our hands dirty. Spend time at the rescue mission, reach out to refugees, go on a mission trip… God’s heart is with the brokenhearted. Be like him.

27) I am much happier when I pour myself out to serve others than when I focus on meeting my own needs.

28) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard yoru hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-8)

29) Three books that have changed my heart and mind: Tramp for the Lord (Corrie Ten Boom), The Heavenly Man (Brother Yun), The Treasure Principle (Randy Alcorn) (26)

30) “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves. It is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:9)

God bless!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

There Are No Orphans

Please take a few minutes to watch this moving video and listen to the words of the song.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

He Sets the Lonely in Families

Please read this blog post and say a prayer for the lonely, hurting children of the world. It is God's will that they ALL grow up in families, with mamas to hold them when they cry and daddies to tuck them in at night.

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. He sets the lonely in families; he leads forth the prisoners with singing.
-Psalm 68:5-6

My heart is broken right now. It is so difficult to understand why God would allow such suffering and loneliness among the innocent. I don't have any answers. But I pledge to be obedient to God to do all that I can to help. Please, do all that you can too.

Gary Haugen, the visionary who started the International Justice Mission and the author of several life-changing books, said this:

In times of great trial and when disaster strikes I used to ask, "Where is God?" But now my plea has changed. Instead of asking, "Where's God?" I ask, "Where are God's people?"

Be there. Don't turn your back. Be the arms and feet and heart of Jesus to this broken, hurting world. Heed the call. Just do it.

Consider attending the fundraising dinner for Orphan's Ticket Home in Nashville on August 8th and find out how you can help.

P.S. The blog post was written by an employee of our adoption agency who lives here in Nashville. She just returned from leading a mission trip to Ethiopia and Uganda. It's a trip that I would dearly love to go on in the future.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Second Success!

$871. That is what we made at our second yard sale yesterday! That means that we have earned a total of $3200 at our two sales. Whoa. That is a lot of money to have come entirely from selling other people's castaway stuff. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who donated. And a huge thanks to my parents who hosted this sale in their driveway.

We had several people stop by who were interested in our adoption. And we had some great conversations with at least three families who have adopted (or are in process). We even had a visit from a Tennessean photographer. He wasn't photographing US, though, he was just covering yard sales in general. Still, it was cool. :)

The weather absolutely could not have been better for a mid-July day. This was a huge answer to prayer. It was overcast all day and probably at least 15 degrees cooler than the day before. And the rain held off until time to pack up.

At the end of the day, we donated all the leftovers to a family having a benefit yard sale in a couple of weeks to pay for medical expenses. They came and picked everything up. Yea!

We feel overwhelmed with blessings. Thanks again to all who helped to make this happen. We love you!

Daniel clinging to his coffee in the early-morning hours

A small sampling of the cool stuff we sold this time around

Mom and Dad

Madeline just chillin'

M practicing her walkin' skillz

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yard Sale Tomorrow

Don't forget our yard sale tommorrow, July 11th, starting at 7 am! My mom and I are working hard to get set up, and we've got lots of great stuff to sell. Come early before the heat of the day and do some shopping. 100% of the proceeds will go toward our adoption.

The sale is at my parents' house in Franklin:

652 Aylesford Lane
Franklin, TN 37069

Click for a map

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

That's what Madeline says when she sees a clock. So cute. It's also what I am thinking today. Tick, tock, tick, tock - the eight week countdown has finally begun for the processing of our immigration paperwork (the last thing that we need for our dossier). Woo hoo!

We have dealt with several frustration delays with USCIS that have caused us to be about two months behind where we thought we would be at this point. A couple months ago I felt sure that our dossier would be headed to Ethiopia by now. But that's behind us now, and I am just praying that God will watch over the documents that I just took to the post office and will bring back the all-important immigration papers in record time. At the latest it should happen by Labor Day.

Please pray with me that there will be no more delays in bringing our son out of the orphanage in Ethiopia and into our arms.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Yard Sale II

We're doing it again. We had so much GOOD stuff donated for our yard sale that it was impossible to sell it all in one day. So we are giving the Franklin area an opportunity to shop and take home a few treasures.

Our second yard sale will be THIS SATURDAY, JULY 11th @ 7 AM.

It will be at my parents' house 652 AYLESFORD LANE, FRANKLIN 37069 (in River Landing subdivision off of Berry's Chapel Rd). We will have lots of bright orange signs to point you in the right direction.

Come one, come all, and come early, to get a great deal on a kitchen table, a gas grill, a papasan chair (and lots of other chairs), a book shelf, a little girl's bike, a great set of knives, an ice cream freezer, many valuable silver items, kitchen goods, holiday decor, kids toys and games, and lots more. All proceeds will benefit our adoption! And by the way, we are getting really close.... God has blessed our fundraising so much!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Birthday America!

We had a fun day yesterday on the 4th. I am so thankful that we had a break from the blistering heat we experienced last week.

Independence Day is a very big deal in our small town of Pegram, TN. There are festivities all day, beginning with a pancake breakfast at 6 am. There is a parade; games, inflatables, and a petting zoo for the kids; tons of food and music; and lots of competitive fun - pie eating contests, horseshoes, baby beauty pageants, and the like.

Madeline loved the parade. Life is more fun now with a youngun'. Things that seemed kinda lame before (like a small-town parade) seem exciting now when I view them through her eyes. There were lots of kids throwing candy from floats, and whenever any would land on the ground near us she would point and say "Uh oh!" That's what you're supposed to say when you drop something, right?

We took her to the petting zoo too, and she got to touch bunnies, goats, sheep, and an alpaca. Big fun when you are 15 months old.

Later in the day we got to welcome our friends from Nepal to their first 4th of July in America with a cookout. It was fun to explain what it means to them and try to describe fireworks to those who had never seen them before. We had planned to take them to the fireworks display in Pegram, but the torrential rain made us decide to just let the kids play in our living room instead.

Here are a few photos of our Indepence Day fun:

Swinging with Grandpa

Practicing our walking skills with Grandma and Grandpa at Pegram Park

Parade Time!

Daniel helped to direct traffic during the parade

Cool! You don't get to see alpaca very often in Middle Tennessee.

4th of July cupcakes :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Heart Netflix

...because we have access to movies that we could never get at Blockbuster. In the past few months we have watched several wonderful documentaries about Africa that opened our eyes to the rich history and beautiful lands of the continent, as well as the terrible struggles and suffering that they have endured.

I am hungry to learn all that I can about Africa these days. In sixteen years of private education, I never studied anything about the history or culture of Africa. We studied about the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia... but never Africa. Why is Africa so neglected? I have so much to learn.

Here are a few documentaries that I highly recommend:

War Dance
- about three children who live in a refugee camp in northern Uganda.

National Geographic: Africa - 4 DVDS with 8 episodes, each beautifully highlighting the culture and history of a country in Africa. One is about Ethiopia! We LOVED this!

The Empire in Africa - tells the story of the horrible civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990's. It is very graphic.

God Grew Tired of Us - about the experience of three "Lost Boys of Sudan" who move from a refugee camp to America.

You just can't get movies like these at your local video store!

Does anyone have any additional movies or books to recommend?