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It's interesting to look at your life, past to present, and think: "It has all led up to this...." And then wonder where it will lead to next.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Adoption has always been something very important and dear to me. From a very young age I knew that one day I would adopt children of my own. It wasn't a decision I had to be convinced of or even really think about. It was just a fact. I knew I would adopt. It was a new concept to me when I realized that not everyone felt that way. With so many children in need of homes, in need of families, in need of love, how could anyone not be willing to adopt? I have gotten older and I have learned some things. I have learned that adoption is expensive. It is messy. And even with the strongest convictions and determined spirits, it doesn't always work out.

After I had Aiden was the first time I started to have doubts about adoption. I loved him so much, in such a different way than I had ever loved anyone before, I couldn't imagine replicating those feelings for anyone else. Could I bring another child into my family and love them as I loved Aiden? Would I be partial? Could any child feel as much like my child as Aiden did? Being a mom was also really hard, could I handle parenthood with the added complications that adoption brings to the table? All kinds of doubts swam through my head. I thought, can we bring another child into this family with doubts like these? When I found out I was pregnant with Gabriel, it was difficult at first to experience those same feelings for someone other than Aiden. In a lot of ways Gabriel didn't feel real until his tiny body was placed in my shaking arms. Even then it shocked me. How did I feel this much love, all over again, and for someone else? Yet as they both grow, I am only more amazed at how my love for them grows as well.

During the months of depression this winter, I once again doubted my ability to love any more. It was a battle to show love to my loved ones already, how could I add anyone else? I doubted a lot of things during that time, and was starting to seriously believe that all things I had felt God had placed in my heart would never be, including adoption. Perhaps it seems silly to be worried about something that can not happen right now anyway, but just as anyone might long to be a parent one day (no matter how far in the future it may be), I have longed to adopt one day. It is a dream that has been planted and only seems to grow with time.

Recently I started following a blog (http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/) that a friend shared that has been talking about institutionalized children, specifically autistic children, who have been so completely neglected that most can not survive. When they are not adopted by age five (and most aren't), they are transferred to a mental asylum where they will spend their lives in cribs and where most will die. My heart was wrenched and I found myself scanning through the pictures quickly because I didn't really want to see how tiny they are, how utterly neglected and abused these precious little innocents are. I didn't want to know. Because once you know there is no going back. Once you know, there is no denying the responsibility that is undoubtedly ours.

I do not think that everyone is called to adopt, just as I do not think that everyone is called to be a parent at all. However, I do believe God calls many more than are actually willing. There are countless reasons not to adopt. It's hard. Not just the adoption process, which can take years, but there are many issues that are troubling and very hard to deal with that come along with coping with and healing from the scars of abandonment or abuse. It can be very expensive, especially if you are looking to adopt internationally (how many of us have $30,000+ on hand?). I've even heard the excuse of not being good enough. I'm sorry, not to overly simplify things, but these kids don't need a perfect home, they need a loving family. If we all had to be perfect parents before we could have kids or adopt, the human race would have died off long before it even began. If you will love, nourish, and protect these children, they are a million times better off with you than in an institution or mental asylum! Being "good enough" is never an issue when it comes to obeying God--He died to make sure of that.

I'm not trying to pretend like I think it's easy. I know there are so many hoops you have to jump through, criteria you have to fit into, fears and doubts you have to face. But you know what? I (as well as millions of other women) have stretched in ways unimaginable, sacrificed things I never thought I could ever give up (freedom, perky boobs, and half-way decent amounts of caffeine included), and pushed two babies out of a hole that should be much too small (which feels just as excruciatingly impossible as it looks, mind you). Not because I am a super hero or a saint, but because God takes the impossible, the painful, the broken, and He makes beautiful lives that are so incredibly worth it!

I have been really convicted this year on how I use the resources God has given me. No, we don't make much money according to American standards, but we still waste plenty of it. Aaron and I have been having many conversations on how we can change our spending habits and become more responsible with what God has given us so that when God calls us to give to those in need, or to bring another child into our family, we can. Instead of shamefully admitting we don't have anything left to offer because we like coffee shops and Thai food.

Whether you feel you are called to adopt or not, whether you are at a place to adopt or not, read the blog I posted above (or here to make it even easier: http://www.nogreaterjoymom.com/). Honestly, I have never thought about the fact that even though I can't adopt right now, I can help someone else to adopt. We can also help pay for these babies and children to get much needed medical treatment and care. Never underestimate the power of prayer (regardless of how broad and diverse the need may be--God knows the details). And by all means, spread the word! There are plenty of other people out there who have been sitting on their butts just like us, waiting to be enlightened, convicted, and challenged to move. Don't ever fool yourself into thinking there is nothing you can do. God gives love abundantly, so we never have to worry about running out. He is not limited by money, resources, or messed up people. He is a God of redemption, grace, and mercy. He has commanded us to care for the widow and orphan. He has promised to never forsake us. What excuses do we have left?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Boys and Guns

Now that I have a 3 year old, an issue that has come up is play fighting and pretend weapons. It's a well known fact that give a little boy anything he can hold and point, and he'll turn it into a gun (a "bew-bew" as Aiden likes to call them), a sword, or any other deadly weapon he can imagine. This is a fairly common topic with moms with young boys at any park around here. Will we let our sons run around pretending to shoot at everything in their path? Will we let them play "swords," which will undoubtedly lead to someone falling down "dying"? I guess the general fear is that our boys will become desensitized.

Growing up I could have cared less about boys pretending to fight with weapons. I have five brothers, it was just part of life (I played along when they'd let me). We loved playing pirates, watching and reenacting "Cops" (I still find myself singing: Bad boy, bad boy, whatcha gonna do! Whatcha gonna do when they come for you!), cowboys and Indians (yes, I do realize how politically incorrect that game is now), along with any other game that involved weapons and fighting. I remember my mom coming in not to yell "Love not war!" but, "TAKE IT OUTSIDE!" All that fighting and "killing" and none of my brothers grew up to be violent. I don't think they even got into school yard fights (as far as I know, I could be wrong). In fact, they are five of the most loving, nurturing men I know.

Something changed when I had Aiden. My perfect little baby. My epitome of innocence and purity. I was not going to let the world corrupt him! I thought I would never, ever, ever let him play such violence-driven games. In my naivety I guess I thought I could help him come up with more creative, less destructive games and somehow control and curb his "male" tendencies to want to destroy everything. And believe me, I have tried. He's only three and a half and I'm already realizing how very unrealistic those thoughts were. On nature walks he finds bugs with seemingly the sole purpose of stepping on them, picks up sticks to demolish any plant in his radius, and throws rocks to see what magical thing might happen when they hit their targets. I remember showing Aiden a butterfly one day and explaining to him that we couldn't touch it's wings or else it wouldn't be able to fly. He was mesmerized and I thought how wonderful it was that he loved nature. As we walked on, I suddenly realized I was the only one walking. He had returned to the poor thing to step on it and smash it. He came running up to me holding the once beautiful creature, so thrilled that he had discovered what was inside it! Had I not grown up with brothers, I probably would have been seriously worried. I still try to encourage less destructive behavior (I am a woman after all), but I've also come to expect it.

My oldest is three and a half, I by no means have it all figured out, but one thing I have learned these last couple years is this: the bigger deal you make out of something, the more obsessed your kid will be with it. We will not have violent movies in our home and I will NEVER allow a video game system in my house (call me fanatical, or naive, but this I will stand by!), and I will do everything I am able to show them how to live as children of a loving and merciful God. Because really I think it has more to do with what you teach your children to do, than what you teach them not to do. Don't get me wrong, I do believe in boundaries and even saying the n-word ("no" yeah I know I am just so negative). I hope to raise my boys to see the hurt of the world as well as the beauty, to know the importance of compassion and "loving your neighbor as yourself." Above all else, I am going to pray diligently and fervently for them daily. Because like I said before: I do not have it all figured out (not even close)!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Life With A (My) Nine Month Old

This morning I woke to the strange sensation of a small child chewing on my elbow. The "strange sensation" soon translated into pain, the small child being my 9 month old son practicing his chewing skills with his 3 and a half new teeth. I believe he was also trying to tell me he was hungry. Several teeth marks later and message received, Gabriel. Message received.

I have been blessed with the most relaxed, easy-going child I have ever met. He is pretty introverted, particularly in social situations, and can come across as being rather serious. But don't let him fool you. He is quite the goof ball and can even be a noisy little talker/screecher when he's in the mood. He seems so tender and quiet, but the kid has a scream that even makes Aiden cover his ears and say, "Make it stop!!" His favorite pass times are yelling and/or laughing hysterically at Aiden and Gypsy (no reason needed, other than walking into the room), taking long walks at the park, biting, and getting himself into precarious situations (even though hardly being mobile). I can put him down in the middle of the room surrounded by non-threatening, chewable toys, walk into the other room to grab something (let me remind you my house is a whopping 700sq ft) only to come back 5 seconds later and find that he has somehow managed to make his way under the couch and find a phone charger (that just so happens to be plugged in) and either have it in his mouth or wrapped around his neck.

Gabriel refuses to crawl. He gets himself around either by changing his postion (butt to belly, belly to back, back to belly, belly to butt), inching forward (looking like he's going to attempt to crawl, only to return to the seated position, having moved a quarter of an inch, this is his most patient practice), or moving to his belly on the hardwood floor and simply pushing himself backwards. The last tactic often ends with him wedged under a couch or cornered into a wall. I have tried everything to get him to actually crawl (why I would even want him to crawl I have no idea): Demonstrating (this I save for the privacy of my home as me traipsing around on my hands and knees making exaggerated facial expressions to show how very happy I am to be crawling can be a little embarrassing in the wrong setting). Bribing with toys (it feels quite cruel at times when he gets so close and I move it just a little further. Nevertheless, he is not to be persuaded and usually stops after a few minutes to give me a look that says, "Really? Think I'm gonna fall for that?"). I have even tried manually moving his hands and legs, just to get him used to the movements. He responds to that tactic by falling to his belly and looking at me as though I just tried to push him off a cliff. Really, I am not that worried. Aiden didn't crawl till he was 10 months, and even then it was a scoot not a crawl. I guess our kids inherited my caution (I'd be lying if I said I am not a little thrilled about that fact--considering the alternative). Gabriel's signature look is raised eye brows, arms held out to the side, legs straightened forward, hands and feet twirling about. It looks like he's trying to ride an invisible motorcycle and he seems to say, "I'm trying so hard and still getting no where!"

Gabriel can make the most profound expressions. I've had more than a few people tell me he seems "mature", as though he's an old man trapped in the body of a baby. Strange, yes, but it definitely describes him when he is in his serious moods. He can say so much with the littlest of facial movement. A smileless smile that can fill you with joy and wonder. A frownless frown that makes you willing to go to the end of the world and back to fix whatever the problem might be. A raised eye brow that makes you question the very purpose of life. It all sounds like nonsense, but I'm not making it up. I'm not.

When you first have your second child, you kind of expect them to either be a miniature version of your first child, or the polar opposite. It's funny how surprising it is to see how unique they each are, even in their similarities. I love it. I also love that I am at a place where I can notice these things and find joy in them again. Love, love, love it all. :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love Is In The Air

Over the weekend pretty much every status update on facebook has been about Valentines day. People going out, people staying in, people who love it, people who hate it. Aaron and I have had two dates in the last week: one involving an overnight stay in a sweet hotel, the other involving delicious chocolate goodness (fair trade and locally made--yeah, that's right). So to celebrate Valentines day would almost seem redundant... NOT! Shoot, Aaron and I will take any excuse to eat good things and turn on the romance. First date, first kiss, first "I love you," birthdays, national holidays, marriage anniversary, wedding anniversary, someone's great aunt Judy and her husband Joe celebrating their 42nd anniversary? Call up the babysitter, let's celebrate the love!

Aaron was quite the romantic when we were dating. Poems, flowers, songs, early morning breakfast on a mountainside, romantic picnic by a flowing creek... you name it, he did it. I, however, was one of those people that didn't like "labels" (I almost didn't let him call me his girlfriend till I realized how silly that would have been), and "please don't waste your money on impractical gifts." His unabashed love for me, though incredibly romantic, tended to embarrass me because I didn't think of myself as one of "those" kind of girls. In other words, I was incredibly stupid. But alls well that ends well, and eventually I came around.

Valentines day has never been all that special to us, if we could spend it with pizza and a movie we were happy enough. It's been since we had kids that we've made more of a deal out of it (like I said, we don't need an excuse to go out, but we'll take any we get). However there is a much bigger deal that goes on that same week: our anniversary! On the 15th we'll have been married for four years! Can you believe it? In some ways it feels shorter, and in other ways it feels much longer.

When we first found out we were pregnant, I was adamant about not moving up the wedding and getting married in the summer as we had planned. But by the time I had moved to Georgia to be with Aaron and we were setting up our home, there was nothing I wanted more than to be married to him. We hadn't set a date yet, but decided we would go ahead and get married legally before having an actual wedding. It was a Friday morning when Aaron called me at work and asked if I'd marry him that afternoon, before our family came in for the weekend. I said yes.

I got off work early and told Aaron I needed to go to the store to get something to wear. We were running late as it was and Aaron didn't understand why I needed to wear something new. Needless to say, this really upset me. I didn't feel the need to wear a white dress or anything like that, but I did want to look kind of nice and I no longer fit any of my kind of nice clothes. Why do I have to spell everything out, why can't he just understand me... So I did what all soon-to-be-brides do and silently let him know I would not be happy if I didn't get my way. As a wise soon-to-be-groom he soon consented without further opposition.

On our way to meet Aaron's mom (our witness) we called the courthouse to make sure we had everything we needed. As it turned out, Athen's courthouse didn't marry people on Fridays. Although it had been a last minute decision, by that point it was something we were determined to make happen, and it had to happen that day. We began calling courthouses in the surrounding towns. Lawrenceville courthouse married people until 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. It was 3:00 p.m. Lawrenceville was about 40 minutes away. We jumped in Linda's car, and as I recall she got us there in record time. To me though, the drive felt endless.

It was a warm, cloudy February day. This little fact of the weather hit me as Linda dropped us off and we made a run for the main doors. Nobody wants to get married on a cloudy day. I knew it was irrelevant, but still it bothered me. It all kind of bothered me. Why were we rushing? It wasn't the fact that I was marrying Aaron. My answer was yes before he even said his proposal. It just wasn't how I had imagined it happening. Wasn't this every little girls dream? It just wasn't how I imagined it...

There wasn't much time to process as we ran throughout the building searching for the right room. We found it just in time, and from the line we could see we weren't the only people desperate to get hitched before the weekend. We had everything in order until... "That'll be $53, cash or check?" We looked at each other. Crap! We had both forgotten our checkbooks and even when Linda arrived we did not have enough cash combined. In fact, we were $1 short. "Sorry..." the lady said, looking more concerned with the clock than our sad predicament. So this was it. All our efforts and this is how it would end. Just then, before we could feel too sorry for ourselves, the couple next to us took pity and handed us a dollar bill. It was one of those triumphant moments you would see in a chick flick. The crowd started clapping and cheering, Aaron wrapped me in his arms, tilted my head and kissed me passionately. Yeah, no. Not really. But we were certainly happy and profusely thanked the couple. We couldn't help but laugh at ourselves and the whole situation as we made our way to the courtroom.

There were two other couples in the courtroom, we all smiled awkwardly at each other. We would forever share this date with them, even though we didn't know them. When it was our turn to approach the judge, we made our way down the aisle together. No music, no flowers, no pews full of friends and family, no long flowy dress, and only a cell phone picture to document. Surprisingly enough, none of that really mattered. I fumbled with my vows through tears, tried to put Aaron's ring on his right hand (which is the wrong hand by the way), and hardly had to wait a moment before we were husband and wife! Out we went, our lives forever changed. The present quickly turning to past, my husband by my side, walking out the door to our future. I have never regretted it, not even for a second. And I'll be honest, by the end of it, I wasn't sure why more people didn't do it that way. A life long reminder of what a wedding is really about: not the dress, the music, lighting, or food. Not even the people, or the money spent/saved. Marriage. Simply two lives united by love and commitment. (And $53 dollars...)

So here's to life, love, and even Valentines day. Because nothing that involves love and chocolate can really be that bad!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Life With a Three Year Old

You know when you think you're finally figuring out this whole parenting thing and life seems to be flowing just fine? And then your kid turns three? Yeah that's pretty much been my life these last few months (like 6). Life with a three year old is never boring. Also never quiet. Unless said child is sleeping. Which becomes much less often. This third year of parenting really has had me questioning... a lot of things.

Most mornings begin with something like this:

Aiden enters room with much more energy and enthusiasm than any human should have before 8 a.m.

"G'morning mommy! Can I have breakfast? I need some food to eat. Come get me some food. Can I have lollipops for breakfast? Let's get some lollipops. C'moooon mommy! Come. On. Cooooome oooon. Mommy, get me food, mommy!"

(Almost every morning he begins by asking for a dessert item. I am not sure why. I don't think I have ever given him cookies, ice cream, or lollipops for breakfast before and I highly doubt I ever will. He remains undeterred.) All of this before I can even get a good morning out. Slowly we make our way to the living room, Aiden hopping and bouncing, me stumbling over scattered toys that some how made their way out of the basket sometime between bed time and wake-up time. Before I can get to the kitchen, a new request has become his primary focus.

"Mommy, can I watch a show? Let's watch TV mommy. How bout a cartoon mommy? Let's watch somefin'. C'mooon mommy, let's watch somefin', mooooommmmyyyy....."

Here I have a choice... Be the wise adult of the situation and realize that if I allow one cartoon, even if it quiets the voice for 24 minutes, the request will just become even greater and louder once the show is over and with even more crying and whining when I say no. Go ahead and nip it all in the bud, deal with the tears and dramatic protests, start the day out right without the tube and have a much less whiny child in the long run. OR, succumb to the beauty of silence while I fix myself some coffee and attempt to wake up completely before the talking commences. Sadly, I choose the second more often than not. I am weak.

Once the TV is off and the agony and quite impressively dramatic displays of disapproval make their way out of my little boy, beat me over the head, and move on, we actually have a lot of fun. It's really cool to be able to have real conversations, even if most of them involve a lot of repetition, the question "why?", and an obscene amount of truck discussion. He has a gift for turning anything you give him into a truck. He has done this since he first learned what a truck was. And I mean anything. When he was much younger a friend of his brought him a doll to play with. He looked at it for a moment, the turned it over and started pushing it around, making "vrooooom, vroooom" sounds. He turns blocks into semi-trailer trucks and his toy box into a car. He even took a little bird house thingy he got for Christmas and reconstructed it so that it actually really looks like a truck. The kids got skill.

Lately Aiden has really been into both art and imaginative play. I am a big supporter of both. I've never been artsy or crafty, but even I love sploshing paint onto a blank canvas. Aiden recently discovered the thrill of spreading his art to other things such as doors, floors, walls, and dressers. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I walked into his room (where he was supposed to be sleeping) and found permanent marker EVERYWHERE. I didn't even know I owned a permanent marker. Imaginative play involves a lot of yelling, "Heeeelp!" "CRASH!" "Whoooooo sssskkkkk!" "Aaaaahhhhhh!" And other high volume noises of impending doom and destruction.

Because of this incredibly warm winter (thank you Jesus), we have been able to spend a lot more time outside than we normally would (than I normally would). His favorite things to do are to "race" Gypsy on his bike, throw things, search for deadly snakes and spiders, and see how hard he can crash into rocks. When I advise him to be careful he gives me a long, drawn out explanation as to why my worries are needless and that what he is doing is perfectly acceptable. None of it makes any sense to me and it reminds me a lot of someone else I know... Last week he found a mama brown recluse guarding her pile of eggs. I am so over this hobby.

Like I said before, life with a 3 year old is never boring. Or quiet. I imagine there is only much more exciting/frightening experiences to expect as he gets older and Gabriel joins him. Dear Lord, patience, wisdom, and strength, these three I pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My husbands back and he's better than eeeeverrr!

Aaron is back! Every time we spend time apart I am reminded why I married him. Let me tell you, 8 days feels like a life time when you can't just pick up a phone and call. Lucky for me I was able to stalk their group on the mission's blog and see the pictures and feel somewhat in touch with all that was going on while they were there. Before I go on about how awesome Aaron is and how perfect he is for me (which I am sure you really care to hear), let me share some praise. Before Aaron left and while he was in Haiti the two main things that kept repeating themselves in my prayers were for Aaron to experience God in a way he never has before, and that God would shed some clarity on the direction He has laid out for our family.

My parents were awesome and watched the kids for us so that we could get a hotel room the night Aaron got back and have a chance to ourselves before we returned to the chaos that we call life. Now that we are back in our home and the busyness has already set in, I am more thankful than ever that we had that time to sit uninterrupted! It was amazing to hear the crazy stories and for Aaron to be able to share the things God placed on his heart while he was there. I am not going to attempt to share all the things he learned and is learning (we are still processing ourselves), but it's really exciting. To see the journey and realize not only how present God has been, but how present He is in our lives, is so encouraging and pushes us to seek Him more earnestly. One thing that God has made clear is that Haiti is in our future. We don't know when or what that looks yet, and it is both frightening and exciting. My prayer now is that as life settles in again we will be able to continue to process the things God is teaching us and keep our focus on Him. That He will continue to transform our lives in ways we can not yet even imagine. It would feel strange for me to try to write about Aaron's experiences, but maybe if we're lucky he'll write some down and I'll share them.

Here is an encouraging reminder from a devotional that was given to Aaron's mission group for their trip:

"A proper view of the scope and complexity of poverty is overwhelming and a bit discouraging, that is if we see ourselves as the answer to the problem. However, when we see ourselves as broken healers and co-laborers with Christ in His ministry of reconciliation, then I think there is hope."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Living=Learning, Learning=Living

As many of you know, my husband is currently in Haiti on a missions trip. Yes, God provided! The EXACT amount of funding needed was provided, through many unique ways and through many awesome people. I am so thankful for all who have kept us in prayer. I mentioned before that it felt like our family was under attack leading up to Aaron's trip to Haiti. Since he has been gone I have had tremendous peace. I am visiting my family and staying with my parents, and I have felt very blessed. There have been times that I have sensed a hint of the spiritual warfare going on around me, but I have felt God guarding me from fear. This is a big deal for me. I have experienced a lot of spiritual attacks in my life and I struggle with fear often. I should clarify that when I say I have had "peace," I do not mean that everything feels great all the time. I am still healing, and processing, and growing. At times it is joyful and at other times it is painful. Yet my heart is of peace, not anxiety and helplessness. What a huge difference that makes.

Aaron will only be gone 8 days altogether, and there is only less than two days left until I see him, but I am crazy excited about his return! Not only to see him and kiss his ridiculously good-looking face, but to hear about everything and vicariously relive his experiences with him. Yes, I am a little jealous that he got to go and I didn't, but not in a spiteful way. Really I am just so grateful that he got to go and really, really excited to see how God has and will use his experiences to teach us more about Him. I think I'm going to be surprised (I usually am). Also, I can't wait to peck his brain, What does Haiti smell like? How did the air feel? What does Creole sound like? What is the food like? And most importantly, When is God telling us to move there?

Only joking... sort of. I really am not expecting Aaron to come back and tell me we're moving to Haiti (although originally part of me hoped that would be the case). God has been teaching me so much the last few months about so many things, that for the first time in my life, I feel like I am finally learning to trust. Not that I have it down! Like I've said before, I think trust is not a skill you attain and always have, but a constant reminder of letting go of fear and coming before the Lord. I am learning that, "not yet" doesn't mean, "nothing now." And that, "trust me" doesn't mean "everything will work out just as you plan."

I am learning so much that I want to share, but I get worried I'll over simplify--or over complicate. Lately it's been easier to share in spoken words than writing (this is very unusual for me). I will share when and what God has for me to share when I have more time to write. Right now my 8 month old is managing to find every choking hazard, electrical wire, and heavy object to pull on to himself. It's actually quite impressive the danger he puts himself in while barely being mobile (not quite crawling yet, and I'm not sure if I want him to).