Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The best Christmas present I didn't have to pay for.

Since he was laid off back in January from a great job with Ryder Trucking, Tony has been working at a job he really couldn't stand. He wasn't being productive, he wasn't able to witness to his customers and share Christ's love with them. He wasn't able to minister to others when they were hurting or in need. See - that's the funny thing most of us don't realize about a successful job. It's not about the money, or the success - it's about doing GOD's work all day, every day; and just getting paid on the side. My two cents anyway.

Anyway, for about two months I had really focused my prayers on him being released from this prison of a job. For him to feel the joy of being out ministering to others instead of being stuck behind a desk being told how worthless he is. For him to feel success again, not for the money but for his happiness.

Last Tuesday my prayers were answered. And I was crushed.

Being laid off the week before Christmas, the day before we were to have our last homestudy. In essence, stopping the adoption dead in it's tracks. No job, no adoption until he had one. And besides that, if he were to take a job making any less than before, just to get us by, we would still have to stop for now. I could see the writing on the wall..

I had a temper tantrum. I'm sure God was very pleased. Or not. I got a gift and I didn't like it. Like a spoiled child. All those what if's? What if it takes him 3 months to get another job? What if he is forced to take a low paying job and it takes us 6 months, or even a year, to start the adoption process again?

I know God is leading us to adopt. I know God will bring Olivia home. But His timing is not my timing. 3 years from now may be his plan, but I don't like that. (stamping my feet like a brat).

I felt like I had miscarried. "You can still have another baby, just not right now."

BUT...... Tuesday night he had an old employee of his call him out of the blue. He hadn't talked to this friend in about 8 months. He told him about the job and he told him he would pass along the info to HIS WIFE who manages a Ryder-type trucking company.

She called Tony Wed. morning at 7:20 to tell him that just that LAST WEEK, they had created a position of outside salesman and had even talked about HIM filling it as they knew about his success at Ryder. He was the only one interviewing.

But, we still had to pray that the pay would be enough. For us to keep on with this homestudy uninterrupted, he would need to be making the same salary as he was. Tony met with the company manager and called me back celebrating like he had just scored the winning touchdown. He said that if he could have designed his own working conditions, it would be this exact job. The manager has the same business ethics and philosophy of the "customer comes first" and "relationship sells". They really hit it off.

Have you ever heard someone loose a job - get a job - all in the same week?? Much less in this economy??? GOD. 250% GOD. We have heard several people say, "you were very lucky." No - it's not about luck. Not in the least. Luck is an abstract. My God is solid.

And the pay? Exactly the same as he was making, car allowance and all. It's just that now he will be making 20-30% commission vs. the 5% he was making before. Pretty good deal. Tony says my prayers gave him the best Christmas present ever. Does that mean I can take back his other gift?

What's funny is that the morning he lost his job, I had emailed him the following verses that God had given me that morning. (Funny is how I forgot them so easily at 6:00 p.m. when he told me he had been laid off):

Isaiah 43:19 "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?"

Isaiah 43:5 "So do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east, and gather you from the west."

I love how when I told the above story to my sister Jerry - she replied in her wisdom that "God did lots of miracles through the generations like in Moses, Joseph, David...... he is still the God of you and me. He is on His throne and wants to make something in your life and in your generation and that is what you are doing. You see satan knows these plan of God, and want to interrupt, but he can't. Nothing is impossible to God."

How silly of me? I wish I had such faith as to not be taken off-guard at God's miraculous works. It is just so humbling when they are in your own life. To realize that even as He spins the planets in their orbits. Even as He controls the tide and the climate. Even as He creates a little baby in it's mother's womb. My God can still give me, his daughter, a perfect Christmas present. Amazing.

Addendum: in Tony's first 3 days on the job, he sold 2 transfer trucks. They weren't sure how to do the paperwork as it had been so long since they had sold a truck. Again, that wasn't Tony - that was God - helping to provide for our adoption, a bonus Christmas present!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our paid artist - Part II

So once again it is Christmas Card competition time. And da-ta-da-daaa: Seth placed Third place this year! And gets a whooping $10 bill!! Needless to say, I'm pretty darn proud. But he --- not so much. "I don't get it - how can I get First Place last year and only Third this year?" I told him that, "Remember, you have been spending a lot of time practicing sports and not as much time drawing, so maybe the winners just spent more time practicing this past year?" However, the board told me that they received about 5-600 cards so for him to place in the finals for the second year in a row, still pretty awesome.

But for the record, according to his dad, "his WAS way better than First and Second place." But we're guessing the "Merry Cherry Perry Christmas" may have threw him down to third. Can't say I've ever seen that greeting on a Christmas card...

And then finally, just to show you how cute my shirtless studs are, ribs and all - and prove to you that even in my bah-humbug mood this holiday season, my children are still having fun:
I'm not sure how the escaped monkey from the Columbia zoo got in my background, but we'll keep him anyway cause he's just too silly to throw back!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Perfect Princess Pampering Party

say that 5 times fast!!

Last weekend (yeah, I'm a little behind, to say the least) - we invited a plethora of pretty princesses to our pampered little pumpkin's party. O.k., I really will stop now...

I....had....the..... most....fun.

Oh, I am so loving being a mommy of a daughter. I am so OCD when it comes to my kid's birthdays. O.k., let me take that back, I WAS so OCD when it came to my kid's birthdays that I would plan every perfect detail, decorations, games, cake, etc. All on a small budget I might also say. And usually our parties are at our house. We've had dinosaur themed parties, baby doll themed party, Star Wars, Little Einsteins...the list goes on and on. I say WAS OCD, as in the last couple of years I have become the tired/lazy mommy who #1 either bribes her kids with trips to Carowinds in place of a party. #2 pays a small fortune to rent somewhere where all details are taken care of. Or #3 is an idiot and plans a boys sleepover with a cake and ice cream. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Boys + pillow to fight with + sugar = a very late night.
(And yes, that is one girl, who was a sister that was sweet on my eldest and was sent packing when it got dark. No co-ed sleepovers at MY house, thank you very much.)

So back to Addison's 4th birthday. I flipped a mental coin between idiot? or mommy of the year? and threw her a princess party (which I guess you kind of knew by now..) for lots of giggly little girls who I assumed would be screaming at every opportunity. We invited the little girls in her class and of course, her 'sissy' Calista (my niece - who Addison has claimed as her sister because up to this point I have neglected to provide her with her own sister yet). Bad mommy.

So we, or actually, the ones under 4 feet dressed in princess attire and then took turns getting mini-manicures in shades of polish that anyone over the age of 8 really should never be seen wearing. After the paint dried, we started a round of tiara fittings, a little bling for the nails, and a dusting of glitter. The girls were SO CUTE YOU JUST WANTED TO EAT THEM UP! Add cake, forget the ice cream in the freezer, and apple juice and we were good to go!! The princesses were so well behaved that all 6 of them retired to Addison's castle and spent the rest of the hour tending to her various babies and Barbies. Without the tornado mess I might add.

And yes, I did make the cake. And yes, Tony still hates it when we take a picture of the cake - every year. But hey - I have to have something to bribe my kids into putting me into a good rest home when I get older. "I loved you so much I slaved for 3 hours over your special birthday cake every. single. year."

And they lived happily ever after.... The End.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

what I'm figuring out

Adoption mommies stick together.
America World mommies pray together.
America World mommies cry together.
America World mommies rock.
So glad I get to be an America World mommy.

(This mommy wants to win a huge bag of adoption 'stuff'.)

So this mommy is shameless enough to direct you to this all-purpose, one of the smartest American World Adoption mommies out there - Kari Gibson. (Her baby is one of THE cutest I have ever seen.) She's written several children's books. She has the most comprehensive blog/website regarding adoption and Christian parenting out there, and she's starting Ethiopian adoption #2. Go take a look!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Just One

In October, I wrote about how our life had become a see-saw with it's ups and downs. And last week was a low one. Exhibit one: my Christmas post. If I didn't know it was God led, I would have already deleted that depressing thing.

But here's the thing - I can only write, really write, when the words aren't mine. When the Holy Spirit within me gets me going, that's when you get the good stuff. It's like a blog entry gets stuck in my head and I can't sleep until I get it out on the screen.

So, back to my low last week. Here I am - passionate for Compassion. Hurting for the plight of the orphan. Then I get on my see-saw....
  • Once I get passionate about something, I don't shut up as I am pumped about getting involved. I tell people.
  • Who then reject my message, usually. (9 children have been sponsored since I came back from Ethiopia. How many people do you think I have told my story to? How many people think us adopting from Ethiopia is a good thing??)
  • So then I feel down and embarrassed and don't want to spread the word anymore, but I know I should, as I know God would want me to.
  • And then I feel guilty because I know I should/could be doing more, but I'm not. I'm only one person, not making much of an impact, spinning my wheels, for what?
Now could you follow that rabbit's trail?

So I'm down, feeling like the crazy person I am. Feeling like, why do I hurt so bad for the rest of the world when others can go on with their lives so easily without thinking about it? Then we go to a new church on Sunday, last minute decision, and this is what the message was about:

Being ONE. Making a difference, as ONE. Working for the Kingdom, as ONE.

ONE man was brought in chains to Egypt and went on to save the Israelites from starvation.
ONE man asked to go build a wall, and the city of Jerusalem was re-birthed.
ONE man started the Salvation Army, and it ministers to millions around the world.
ONE man started Compassion International, and as we speak, over 1 million children are being saved from poverty. Not counting the millions before and after this point in time.

And a new ONE I wanted to share with you - Katie. A 21-year old in Uganda who felt called to go - and is now caring for FOURTEEN foster children. There's just one Katie. She didn't say, "I can't do that.... there is only one of me... I'm too young.... I don't have the funds...I need to live my own life first."

This is her blog with pics of her newest addition, the dramatic changes in this baby will amaze you. There is only one Katie, but there are 14 people that I can guarantee you, will be forever grateful that ONE girl said, "Yes Lord".

The pastor brought up the story of the sand dollars, where a little boy was working hard to throw them back into the sea before they died. When told it was a loosing battle and he couldn't make a difference, he looked up and threw one in and said, "I made a difference to that one."

It spoke right to me. God's perfect timing again. We are on the right track and I'm not fighting a loosing battle - cause I may just be one person, but I'm doing what I can, even if my family may think I'm a little crazy.

** There are between 143 and 210 million orphans now, worldwide, according to UNICEF.
** 4.5 million orphans in Ethiopia alone.
** We want to make a difference to at least one.

So in answer to the question we now get so often - "why not just adopt from the foster system here, it's faster and cheaper??"

Just take one look at that precious girl on Katie's blog! We are adopting from Africa not because it's popular with the movie stars, and not because we just want a beautiful baby girl. But because our daughter is ONE of those babies, and we've been called to go and get her. Call me crazy. I'm fine with that.

2 Corinthians 5:13 "If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God." NLT

When you have time - please go to her blog and read this post. Oh.... my..... goodness. She blew me away just now so that I am speechless. A modern Mother Teresa.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ornament stories

So today was a better day - we visited a new church and really felt welcome and comfortable. Came home with a plan to spend the day laying around (or Sunday napping, per usual) and then decorate our trees. So see.... I told you my kiddos would not be neglected, even if their mommy is a bit scroogey.

Yes, I said trees. I'm a little OCD when it comes to my Christmas tree. I love my babies, but back off mommy's tree...

So they have their own. A Charlie Brown tree that we bought when we first got married and thought anything that was 'ours' was the most beautiful thing ever. Now - that tree just looks kind of pitiful undecorated. Not living room material, that's for sure. I think it was a KMart $20 blue light special, seriously. This year, the boys didn't even need my help getting it up and put together. They had a blast! With perfectly spaced balls - mommy's OCD must have rubbed off a bit... and a tear runs down my face.

They even went a little overboard and decorated "Turdy the Turtle's" aquarium. I assure you, Turdy is in no way at risk for electrocution.
Addison's little girley tree. Notice her nativity scene she set up. Baby Jesus is the main attraction, as he should be! Although they might want to get him back in the stable before he catches cold..
Anyway, putting the tree up did help my sour puss mood as every ornament spoke to me of Christmases past. A few years back (or 14) I decided to make my tree an 'angel tree' with all angel ornaments - but vowed to not have any plain Jane angels but angels that were meaningful, or unique, or really, really pretty. My mom has done an excellent job of finding Tracy-style ornaments for me every year.

So while putting the ornaments on, I ran across my very mostest favorite ornament in the whole wide world. My special ornament that I found at the Biltmore House and gets special tree placement every year. Is this not the cutest thing ever!! (her little legs wobble back and forth too...awwwww) AND how perfect is it that it has been my favorite for almost 10 years now? 10 years and I had no idea how special it would be to me this year.....
Special ornament #2 was also bought at the Biltmore House. This one in 1999. We had been married 3 years and as I bought it I told Tony, "we'll have a baby ON our tree this year and hopefully, a baby UNDER the tree next year." Worked like a charm!
Ornament #3 was bought in Trinity Church in 1997, on a trip to New York City with my mom and sister. A church near the Twin Towers, which we also went in that day. No explanation needed.
#4 is actually Tony's. I bought it on the same trip from Macy's New York. He hates it, I love it, that's all that matters.

So what ornaments really speak to you and what is their story??

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Celebration, or lack of

Is my mantel decorated with my beautiful nativity scene ? Nope.
Is my tree up, twinkling for all to see? Nope.
Have I even removed the pumpkin from the porch or the Autumn flag? Nope.

Why? I am usually fully decorated by the day after Thanksgiving. But this year, something has changed, and it 'aint good.

Before I get a barrage of comments of 'decorate for the kids', 'get in the spirit', 'the real reason for the season'. Know --- I know that. But here is what the problem is :
  • Christmas is about love - and I'm not really feeling or seeing it in today's world.
  • Christmas is about hope - that's hard to come by also when children are hurting, starving, or being killed in their mother's wombs.
  • Christmas is about peace - the world is at war, our citizens are at war politically, and our churches are split with in-fighting, gossip, and pride.
I think about Christ looking down on His church, His bride, right now - What does he see? Is he happy? Is he the proud father?

Or does he see self-absorption... prideful speech... arguing over theology... greed? His children fighting over which method of baptism is right?!? His children fighting over what music is sung on Sunday mornings ?!? His children fighting over whether it is permissible or not to have a glass of wine at dinner ?!? Modern Pharisees, more concerned with laws than love.

And society??? Getting up at the break of dawn, or even midnight to go consume. To spend outrageous amounts of money on our children. The latest and the greatest. Hearing other parents tell me about spending upwards of $2-300 on each child. Children that have every need, and most wants, met already.

And please don't think I'm judging, I am there too. Hustling in the early morning crowds. Giving my children good gifts that I know they probably don't need. But if you're already involved in showing Christ's love tangibly, this post isn't for you. But there has to be a point where we say, what is this all about?? And what am I doing about it???

I heard that once you visit a foreign country, or jump in the chaos that is adoption, you are forever changed. And maybe that's it. My sickness. But how, Lord how, can we spend the amount of money we do on toys, on treasures that will moth or rust, when there are babies shaking, dying in rags? Children sucking marrow from bones for nourishment as they have no other form? Mothers making cookies of mud to feed their children, something to trick their bellies into thinking they are full? How can we not see? How can we not care?

I know that 'even as a father gives good gifts to his children'.... Christ did not condemn us for loving our family. But when it is all about us, and we have nothing left over, and only credit card bills to show for it, what have we given?

"I just can't afford to give this year."
"We're just not financially able to help."
"We have so many commitments." I've said these more than a few times this year and season. Weren't those just lies to get someone off my back?

It's not fun. Having your eyes opened. It's not fun, seeing blind around you. So please don't judge me if I can't celebrate what we have done to Christ's birth. How we have mangled it beyond recognition. And know, my children will feel the joy of Christmas. They will know it's real meaning. They will laugh, go on our normal Christmas outings, play with their new toys, knowing none the difference. But I pray, this year and every year, that I will keep their eyes open. That they will not turn blind.

I was told, I can't save the world. And that's true, and that hurts. But someone came that did. And it is Him I celebrate this season.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

And the winner is........

Our adoption pickle jar went from this in October (sad isn't it?):

to THIS :

to this!!!

Congratulations Beth & Noah ! They also happened to be the first ones to contribute to our adoption fund and have been so encouraging with their advice and prayers. We are so happy that God saw fit to have them win the print!

Also, thank you so much to Marie Kluttz for her donation of her beautiful work for our raffle. AND for the great idea! And to everyone else who has donated $5 to $1500, we are so blessed to have wonderful friends and family like you! Thank you!

Overall, we have now raised $4570 for the adoption. With a huge chunk due around Feb./March, we can't wait to see what God does next!