Saturday, September 27, 2008

music & burdens

Hope ya'll are enjoying a relaxing Saturday! We've got the sickness in the house, so we're laying low today. Although we did enjoy getting together with some of our good friends that we haven't seen in quite awhile last night. (One of the families just survived the hurricane in Houston. Ugh. Praying for all those who are working through the loss and damage that occurred. I can't even imagine.)

Anyhow, we had some pizza and tried to catch up on lost time while the seven kiddos went crazy around us. Good times!

So, on a fun note, I added some of my favorite music with a playlist...if you're interested in giving a listen, you can scroll down to the bottom of my blog. Two of my favorites are Esterlyn and Lindsey Kane.

Esterlyn is named after one of my beautiful "nieces" from China. My close friend, Sarah's, brother Luke is the lead singer. They are currently touring with Kutless. They have amazing hearts for the Lord and appeal especially to the teens & twenty-somethings. Sarah's family is waiting to bring home Hudson from China. Unfortunately, he's in one of the orphanages that was using the tainted baby formula. Please pray for his health and his new family's peace of mind.

Lindsey Kane is one of my other favorites. I was blessed to enjoy worshiping with her at She Speaks in June. Her latest CD is spectacular. I loved it so much I brought home copies for some friends. Be sure to check out her website when you have some spare time.

OK, so I'm realizing that I was planning on making this a light post, but you know, while I love to have fun, my heart is still burdened for those sweet children in China. Please keep praying!!!

Hope you enjoy the music, but even more, I pray that you are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE, enjoying the amazing joys and pushing through the inevitable challenging times.

With love,

Friday, September 26, 2008

two weeks ago today...

This morning I was reflecting on where I was two weeks ago, today. Sara and I had boarded a plane for yet another adventure. The destination? Colorado Springs, CO. The purpose? Connecting face-to-face with 4 beautiful women and 4 of my precious Chinese "nieces."

Here's 4 of us at the zoo (from the left, Me from OR, Laura from NJ, Nichole from both FL & CO, and Heidi from CO). Our sweet friend Dawn, from OH, re-injured her ankle the day before while having way too much fun at Focus on the Family! I'd post a picture of her in the wheelchair, but I know she's probably got a blackmail picture of me that she'd then post. You can imagine how very cute she looked. :-)

These are our precious daughters (from left: Bekah (daughter of Dawn), Sara (my girl!), Lucy (Laura's daughter), Emily (Nichole's daughter) and Jaya (Heidi's daughter).

We tried hard to get a great group shot, but the girls were less then pleased. Especially when there were two pink bikes waiting for them to ride! (From left: Jaya, Emily, Bekah, Lucy & Sara). Aren't they too cute for words? The shirts say "best friends," but Lucy gave them an even better name - "sisters Chinese," and it's stuck!

Unfortunately, the rest of our amazing group wasn't able to join us, so we were missing 9 other families. :-( We're hoping we can get all of us together SOON. Until then, we talk DAILY on our Yahoo Group.

This group of women and girls has been an incredible and unexpected blessing along this adventure called "adoption." As I wrote about the other day, God has intricately woven our lives together in an indescribable way. (BTW-Bekah's little sister, Leah, is one of the sweet babies over in China that I asked all of you to pray for.)

It's such a phenomenal story, that I am currently working on my first book about how God transforms lives through adoption. I was blessed to be able to interview my friends in person while were together. The night was incredible. Through our conversation, God gave us a deeper understanding of what He is doing, and will do, through our group.

God has life changing gifts for each of us, sometimes we resist receiving them out of fear. I pray that each of you will take a risk today to open yourself up to not only seeing, but receiving, those awesome gifts. A friend once told me that however much (risk of) pain we are willing to open ourselves up to is the amount of joy we will be able to experience.

I pray that today you are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

ah, sanity nights

When my oldest was young, I quickly realized that life as a full-time mom was both incredibly rewarding and desperately draining. My husband knew that in order for me to be at my best, I really needed to have a break in my normal routine. In return, I recognized that although he "gets to be out of the house five days a way" (ha ha ha, I know it's not the green grass I used to think it was!), he also deserved a break in routine.

And so it was, in between our first and second children, we birthed one of our best ideas yet...SANITY NIGHTS!!! One night a week, I drop my children off with Geoff at his work and enjoy a child-free night of my own. No cooking, no dishes, no bath time, no bedtime. Geoff takes full responsibility for all things child-related. (And he does a really, really GREAT job!) The kids in turn, are blessed with some special time with Daddy.

On these nights, I try to avoid doing things like grocery shopping and any other family errands that need to be done. (However, I do admit, that some weeks require that I squeeze those in as well!) Instead, I enjoy a quiet dinner out, served to me by some gracious soul; hitting the local bookstore; grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend; shopping for myself and working on anything writing or reading related! On a rare opportunity, I squeeze in a pedicure or trip to the spa. HEAVEN on EARTH! :-)

My husband prefers to spend most of his sanity nights at home as most of his days are spent away from home. On these nights I work to keep the kids at bay and gently remind them that "Daddy's enjoying his sanity night tonight, but I would be happy to read you a book." On those nights I serve up one of their kid-friendly meals, while Geoff grabs one of his favorite meals. He also enjoys being excluded from all things kid-related. He enjoyed watching one of his "guy movies" or getting a run in. On a rare night, like tonight, Geoff kindly uses his sanity night to attend business dinners and events. Oh, how I love this man!

When I've shared our routine with my friends, most of them admit that they are (1) too tired to go out (2) have way too much to do at home or (3) would rather go out with their husband. I agree on all accounts and completely understand. I will say for us, however, that sanity nights are what get us through and help US to be the best parents we can. Self-care is so hard to fit in on any given day, however, we've chosen to make it one of our top priorities. If two nights a week are too hard to squeeze in, consider trading off weeks...or even months. Every once-in-awhile is definitely better than never! Oh, and we do enjoy Saturday nights alone together after we get the kiddos off to bed. Works for us!

Here's what I did two weeks ago on my sanity night:

Sushi at my favorite little restaurant...enjoyed while reading "Wide Awake" by Erwin McManus. I met him twice while he was preaching at a local church and have never been the same. Turns out he has a DVD out as well. Netflix just delivered it to my mailbox this I know what I'll be doing tonight. :-)

I found another new Starbucks tucked away. It's really nice because most people use the drive-thru, so I was able to enjoy true solitude!

Funny enough, when I walked in the barrista said to me, "Wait. Your name doesn't happen to be 'Amy' does it?" I stopped for a minute because (1) he didn't at all look familiar and (2) aside from God, no one else knew I was there.

So, I responded with a hesitant, "Um...yesssss." He then told me that his best friend is named 'Amy', she lives in California and looks exactly like me. She even wore her hair like me (which happened to be in a style I haven't ever worn before that night.)

How bizarre is that? I then replied, "Oh, man, I thought I might have won something really cool! (Like at least a free coffee...) No such luck. Ah well, it was an interesting interaction, all the same!
And here, my friends, is a photo that makes me smile. My first ever sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte, a venti ice water, my new voice recorder (which happens to have recorded on it 3 hours of interviews with my Chatty Girls from when we were together in Colorado Springs), and my laptop with a brand new document open in Word, ready and waiting. this picture probably only has real meaning to my Chatty Girls...and anyone else out there who understands what it's like to begin your very first book project. Can't wait to tell you more about it.

So there you have it. A perfect sanity night, blessed by my sweet husband and filled with lots of quiet time and relaxation. If you are a parent, and have never enjoyed a sanity night yet, I strongly suggest you call up your spouse and try to work out a schedule that works for you and your family.

One of the keys to LIVING A BLESSED LIFE is giving your all to the responsibilities God has placed before you, as well as taking the time to refill your tanks and get a fresh perspective.

Praying you find rest and peace today,

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

making it personal

Now that the summer Olympics are over, it's rare for Americans to give a thought to China. Today I ask you to do something a bit more than that. As you know, China is very near to my family's heart. It's the birthplace of our youngest child, Sara, it's the home of her birth family, and it's also where four of my soon-to-be nieces and one of my soon-to-be-nephews are now living.

If you have had any contact with the news lately, you're probably aware of an ongoing problem with tainted baby formula and milk. Several children have died and thousands more are very sick. This tainted formula has made it's way around China, including orphanages.

The parents of my five soon-to-be nieces and nephew are very, very dear friends of mine. They are my Chatty Girls (see sidebar on my blog). We received our referrals for our first Chinese daughters at the same time in 2006. Many of us traveled to China together that same year. Our lives have been intricately woven together by God, FOREVER. They are amazing woman (and family's) who have followed God's call on their life to reach out to children in need.

My heart is grieving for ALL of the children and families affected by this horrible act of evil. I really don't think that 'evil' is too harsh a word because evil is meant to steal, kill and destroy. Putting poison in something that is supposed to help children grow strong and healthy results in stealing their health, joy, peace and quite possibly, life.

Sometimes it's hard to be moved by the things we see on the news. In order to survive all of the terror, trauma and devastation that is happening around the world, we turn a blind eye, harden our hearts and try to desperately ignore it. My purpose behind this post is to make it personal. It may not be for you, but I'm asking in faith that you would please share the burden that is on my heart today.

I beg you today, to please, please allow this news story to have your full attention. I boldly ask you to join me in praying for the healing, recovery and well-being of the children affected. Please pray that God would purify any and all formula and milk products so that the children would be able to receive the healthy nutrition they both need and deserve. Please also pray for peace of mind for their parents (those in China and those waiting around the world to bring their new child home). Watching a child suffer or being concerned about their health is one of the most difficult things to do.

I'm also praying that God would get a hold of the person responsible for this heinous crime and turn their heart towards Him. That instead of choosing to do harm to the Chinese children, that he/she/they would allow God to use them in a mighty way to help improve the current situation in China, especially for those presently without a family or home. God is BIG! Just look how He used the apostle Paul!!! He can and will move mightily when His children call upon His saving grace.

I'm praying this very moment that God will work a miracle, so that each and every child affected by the tainted milk will recover fully and be able to enjoy LIVING A BLESSED LIFE.

With hope,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

awesome God

This morning during my prayer time, I asked God to give me a deeper revelation of His love for me. (Intellectually, I "know" His love, and yet my heart is still trying to fully grasp and receive that His love is unconditional and limitless for ME. I'm learning, slowly. And, so this morning, I boldly asked Him for MORE.)

I am continually awed by the way God answers my prayers. I'm not sure why, but I usually try to anticipate what I think I need and ask Him for that. What I'm finding, is that God's ways are most definitely far beyond my ways. While He does meet my needs, He does so in ways that leave me stunned. What an awesome God we serve! Funny enough, my Scripture verse for the day was Matthew 6:8 "...your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." Wow.

As I started my morning workout, a bright light caught my eye. The sun was just starting to rise and the darkness was beginning to melt away. The sky was spectacular! I couldn't help but grab my camera and try to capture the amazing sunrise appearing at the end of my street. I quickly decided that working out INSIDE, while something so breathtaking was happening OUTSIDE, was just plain ridiculous.

So, I grabbed my sweatshirt (it was chilly today!) and clicked to my favorite CD by "Pocket Full of Rocks" on my MP3 and hit the pavement. I eventually ended up at the baseball field at the high school down the street and finished my aerobics workout there. (I'm sure a few of my neighbors got a good laugh at what I was doing; but truly, I was far too caught up in absorbing the beauty and depth of my Creator's incredible love for me.

The dark clouds you see in the picture began to lighten up and were laced with pink. The sky itself actually looked like the Pacific Ocean when a pink sunset is reflecting off of it. I wish I had thought to bring my camera with me, but the image is forever burned in my mind. And, even better, God's priceless love for me is burned deeper into my heart.

Have you ever seen the movie City of Angels? I love the scene where all of the angels stand on the beach at sunrise and worship God together. Can you just imagine what the scene looks like in reality? Today I felt surrounded by all of God's creation standing in awe of Him and humbled by His amazing love.

I pray that God gives YOU a deeper revelation of His love for you, my Friend. I know that we get busy with the details of our days; but, I pray that you are able to find a quiet moment in the midst of the chaos and just soak up His amazing and abundant love for you! Remember it comes in ways you may not be expecting it, so keep your eyes (and heart) open.

It's truly mindblowing to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!