Thursday, December 17, 2009

meeting Mesfin

"Come to me all who are
weary and burdened
and I will give you rest."
Jesus of Nazareth
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

This is the photo that captured our hearts a little less than a year ago. Liam, actually, was the first to recognize his brother from half-way across the world.

"That little boy, with the puffy hair, that's my brother!"

His words were spoken with both sincerity and deep conviction. I felt myself start to cry and laugh at the same time.

Puffy hair? Um, big curls, maybe?

I had noticed his gorgeous hair. But honestly, it was his big, brown, teddy-bear eyes that pulled me in.

My mother's heart immediately recognized his fear and bewilderment, but, I also saw something else. A glimmer of hope.

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls."
v. 29

When we called Michelle to inquire about this precious boy, she shared her special connection to him. She wrote about her heart-wrenching experience in her ministry's newsletter. (See: "Facing the Lion: The Ethiopian Famine")

Over the past year, we have received updated photos of our precious son, and watched him grow from a frightened little boy to a now energetic eight-year-old.

We have been assured that he is doing well, but that he really needs to be home with his family and have parents.

We've completed each of the necessary steps as quickly as possible, but adoption takes time and the process has been painfully slow. Especially for Mesfin.

As our family both celebrates the gift of a new son and brother, we are also cognizant that there are sure to be challenges ahead. For all of us.

But, God is good and we completely trust His plans for our family. We have already experienced the incredible miracle of adoption with Sara. It's absolutely indescribable. The best thing we have ever done. Sure, it's been hard, but it's been so worth the struggles.

We are excited, but truthfully, a little bit apprehensive. As I'm sure Mesfin is. (If not a lot apprehensive!)

My faith rests in the words of Jesus found in Matthew 11. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. I've experienced that over, and over, and over in my life so far. I will cling to that promise as I prepare myself for the incredible adventure ahead.

I am the proud Mama of four beautiful, loving, intelligent, creative and amazing children. This brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.

My God is so good and His blessings leave me humbled to the core.

Trust His love for you, my Friend. It is better than anything this world has to offer.

He loves you with a fierce devotion and will never leave you abandoned and alone. His love and life claim each of us as His very own adopted children and heirs.

He is the reason for my joy and in Him, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!
Sweet blessings & JOY,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

truly wise

"The LORD looks down from Heaven
on the entire human race;
He looks to see if anyone is truly wise,
if anyone seeks God."
Psalm 14:2 (NLT)

I love sitting at the feet of my Master. This morning I woke up at 4:45, feeling giddy for all the adventures 2010 will bring. Most especially, my new son HOME! I knew it was going to be a long day, so I tried my best to put the thoughts of my ever-growing list of "to-do's" on hold and go back to sleep. Didn't work.

So, I brewed a cup of coffee and pulled out my Bible. Unfortunately, my kids were excited for their day to start (friends were coming over,) so they decided to wake up early. BUT, the fifteen minutes of quiet I received were especially sweet this morning.

A couple of years ago, my sweet friend, Sarah, shared her love of the Psalms with me. She invited me to pray through the Psalms, one a day, along with her. Since then, Psalms is usally the first book I turn to when I open my Bible.

Today, God drew my attention to Psalm 14. Many times, I think the second verse made me cringe because I didn't have God's perspective on what David was saying.

As I allowed the words to wash over my spirit, I began to understand that a truly wise person is one who seeks God. When I seek God I am looking at Him. A truly foolish person (which, unfortunately, describes me on too-many-a-day) turns away from God.

When I am looking towards God, I am bathed in His light and able to see Him, myself, and my world clearly. When I turn away, my vision is clouded by darkness. That is when I stumble and fall.

When I am looking towards God, I am assured of His presence. When I turn away from God, I begin to doubt His existence, and believe the enemy's lies.

When I am looking towards God, His love completely fills me. When I turn away, my flesh takes over and I feel abandonded and alone.

The reality is that when I turn away, God is still there, He still loves me and I am forever His cherished child. The darkness blinds me and my flesh fails me, but God will not. He is trustworthy and true. His love never fails. In Him, I am truly wise.

Have you had a chance to sit at your Master's feet today, my Friend? If not, I encourage you to grab your Bible and find a quiet place to meet with Him. He's still there and He always loves you. No matter how many doubts and fears are filling your thoughts.

God is good, all the time, and He loves you, with an everlasting love!

Choosing to seek God and not turn away allows me to keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! Praying you are as well. :-)

In His presence,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

introducing Mesfin!!!

"Faithful is He that calls you,
and He will also bring it to pass."
1 Thessalonians 5:24

A friend shared this Scripture verse with me this morning before our agency called. It is most definitely fitting. God is true to all of His promises.

It is with great JOY that we introduce our new son, Mesfin Berhanu!!! It took three different court dates, but last night, while we slept, we passed court!!!

God is SO good!!! We are so thankful for this incredible adventure God has brought us on and know that it will only get better!

We should know our court date next week and hope to travel to Ethiopia mid-to-late January to bring our precious boy home.

Don't you just LOVE his big, beautiful eyes?!? I told you it would be worth the wait. If only you could hear his sweet accent. :-)

We are thankful to have had several friends travel this past year and meet Mesfin. One of them asked him if he wanted to keep his Ethiopian name, or if he wanted an American name as well.

We still have to confirm with him in person ourselves, but at this point, our plan is to name him Luke Mesfin Ivey. Our desire is to welcome him into our family and do all that we can to keep the memory of his beloved birth parents alive for him.

We are just so full of joy and thankful for God's blessing of another precious son.

More photos and news will be forthcoming, but I couldn't wait another moment to share our exciting news!!!

We are so very thankful to all of you for your faithful and persistent prayers!!! May God bless you abundantly. Especially those who are going through difficult seasons or waiting for good news yourself. In the midst of our joy, our hearts are aching with you for breakthrough and healing.

You are loved and treasured, my Friend!

God is good, all the time, and I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! May you experience the richest of His blessings this Christmas season.

A smiling new Mommy,


Monday, December 14, 2009

round three!

"But I keep praying to you, Lord,
hoping this time you will show me favor.
In your unfailing love, O God,
answer my prayer with
your sure salvation."
Psalm 69:13 (NLT)

It's funny, because I thought God taught me patience with our first adoption process. Waiting for Sara seemed to take forever! I think our wait for Luke M. has been more difficult because we fell in love with him a whole year ago.

We received another DVD of our sweet boy this week. It was only about five seconds long, but it was still fun to see his sweet face and briefly hear his voice. Our friend and orphanage direction said that while he is doing well, he seems to "have a mind of his own" and has been causing mischief. Oh my.

We're not surprised by this update. All children need parents to love them and set healthy boundaries. Luke has been on his own for close to two years. I know that while the wait has been difficult for us, it's been excruciating for him.

While I most definitely cherish your prayers for our family and the challenges we may face in the future, I also share this on behalf of the other 147 million orphans worldwide. Perhaps you have been contemplating doing something on behalf of one of those orphans.

Maybe you sponsor a child, but haven't written them in awhile. (Note to self: send a care package to Tengetile in Swaziland, Joseph in Uganda and Aubrey in China!!!)

Maybe you want to sponsor a child, but haven't found the time to do so. (Note to self: take next steps on sponsoring an Ethiopian widow.)

Maybe your family has been talking about adoption, but you're not sure if it's really God's will. (Note to self: continue praying for families looking into adoption.)

Or, maybe you are a family like us who is patiently (OK, maybe not-so-patiently!) waiting to bring your child home and need something to do during the l-o-n-g wait. (Note to self: be persistent in encouraging and praying for families in-process.)

As passionate as I am about adoption and caring for widows and orphans, sometimes my motivation gets derailed by apathy, procrastination, selfishness or just pure laziness.

As I try to wrap my heart and mind around the needs my new son will bring with him, I remember that he is only one of 147 million orphans. The need is great and they never end.

Now is not the time to get lazy. Now is the time to put my words into actions and do something to make a difference. To reach out to a child in need and be a blessing.

Tonight is our third court date. Our agency has communicated that everything appears to be in order and we should pass this time around. (Yay!) If all goes well, we should be traveling in early 2010.

As excited as I am, I know our trip will be emotionally difficult. We'll be experiencing poverty in a way we can only imagine through the photos we've seen and stories we've read. So often, my flesh gets tired and am my heart overwhelmed.

I'm thankful that when God gives me a burden, He also gives me His grace and strength. He's not expecting me to do anything on my own. He is, however, waiting for me to step back up to the plate and do those things He has already placed upon my heart.

As I think of how long Luke has waited and the effect it's had on him, I'm inspired to make a bigger difference in the lives of orphans.

Today I did a little Christmas shopping online. There are so many opportunities to shop for a cause. Below are some of my favorites:


There are lots and lots of fun opportunities for us to make a difference in the world. Of course, some of the things God calls me to do require more than my credit card...

Friend, today I pray that God would continue to give us His heart for others, especially those in need. And, that we receive the burden not as an obligation, but as a passion fueled by His amazing love and joy!

Thank you, again, for continuing to pray Luke home with us. Your love and support are such a priceless gift. We are eternally thankful for each and every one of you and pray God's sweet and abundant blessings upon you and your family.

Waiting expectantly and LIVING A BLESSED LIFE for His glory!

With JOY and thanks,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

is there room?

"She wrapped him in cloths
and place him in a manger,
because there was
no room for them in the inn."
Luke 2:7 (NIV)

For the past couple of years, I've struggled with decorating for Christmas. After repeating the same tradition, year after year, it's lost some of its appeal. Honestly, it feels like a whole lot of work to put it all up and then take it all down.

Or course, decorating our home is one of our children's highlights of the season. And so, we decorate the tree, hang up the stockings and put the lights up outside. They become giddy with excitement when it's finally time to haul out the boxes of decorations.

I have to admit, having children really helps keep the "spirit of Christmas" alive in our hearts. Getting excited over Christmas as a child was fun, but, it really is more awe-inspiring as I watch the joy of season grow within my children. It gives me a completely new perspective.

I realized as I helped my children finish decorating our tree this year that part of my struggle has simply been allowing the world to define my meaning of Christmas. We all know the true meaning is to celebrate the gift of Jesus and what His birth means to all of God's children. But, when the shopping starts and the "to-do" list grows, it feels like just another tradition in great need of meaning.

This year, God is helping me to realign my focus and thinking to His. I feel Him asking me if I have room in my heart for Jesus. I have to admit, my heart has been feeling an awful lot like a messy stable lately. There's some serious cleaning out that needs to be done. Thankfully, my Creator is always up to the task.

I feel my Father's unconditional love remind me that His Son is not turned off by my stinky, dirty heart. He was born for those of us who are sinful, broken, poor and in need. That's me!

I'm in great need for my Savior and I'm humbled that despite my own sinfulness and need, He desires to not only visit my heart, but reside there. Because of my great love for Him, I in turn, desire to face the sinfulness in my own heart and do my part of the cleaning.

Bad attitudes, impatience, selfishness and laziness aren't the offerings I desire to lay at the feet of my King.

And so, as I enter into my favorite time of the year, my primary focus will be on preparing my heart for my precious Savior and loving those He has placed in my life.

It sounds like a great plan, doesn't it? But it's never as easy as it sounds. It's not something our human flesh can pull of on its own. Thankfully, we don't have to.

Friend, I pray that God would continue to bring our focus back to Him, His love for us and the gift of His Son, Jesus. He understands that we get busy and distracted and His grace always covers us. At the same time, He delights when we make an effort to stay connected with Him and keep our hearts open.

May we both receive fully the very best gift we can ever receive.

It is through the Christ Child, born in a manger in Bethlehem, that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! I pray you are as well.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

still praying...

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5 (NIV)

We're halfway there. Our agency let us know today that our son's orphanage representative was unable to attend court today. Thankfully, they knew in advance and were able to notify M's uncle in time. We've been rescheduled again to December 15th. It's a delay, but still earlier than we originally expected.

The good news is that MOWA (Ministry of Women's Affairs) has signed off on the approval letter for our adoption. That's a big step, one that several other friends have had difficulty receiving in the past.

So, it's not the news we had hoped for, but we're staying positive and continue to trust in God's goodness and timing. Thank you, again, for praying for our new son and our family. We are eternally grateful!

As the Holiday Season kicks off, I pray the Lord blesses you abundantly with His sweet presence and rich love. I know how easy it is to get caught up in the doing. May we both find creative ways to let some things go undone, simplify others and enjoy the blessing of just being.

God is good, even (especially) in the wait. By His grace, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With JOY,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

more prayers for Luke, please

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show
them they should always pray and not give up."

We are so thankful to all of you for covering our new son's court date last week. As you know, there was some confusion with the Ethiopian calendar and all court cases were postponed. We had expected our appointment to be pushed out another month. Instead, our agency notified us that our case will be heard December 2nd (which here in America is actually TONIGHT!)

We're not sure why other family's dates were postponed longer, and continue to pray that their cases will be heard sooner and pass the first time around. Waiting can be emotionally draining and our hearts go out to them.

Our family is very hopeful that our appointment will hold, Luke's case will be heard, that his paperwork is complete and that we will hear news tomorrow morning that he is officially our new son. Our prayers especially cover his uncle, who will need to travel a great distance and appear in court. We pray that God will give him peace of mind and heart, and provide all of his needs for his immediate family. It's a difficult situation, one that most of us are fortunate to not need to face.

We are so grateful to all of you for supporting our journey this past year through your friendship and continual encouragement. We are so appreciative of your continued prayers for our family and new son.

May God bless you and your family abundantly, and may you know how very dear you are to our hearts (whether we have met in person or not!) We are so blessed by you!!!

Today, I am extremely excited for the future and so very thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

In His peace and JOY,

Photograph courtesy of Geoffrey D. Ivey (new lion in Africa, Oregon Zoo)

Monday, November 30, 2009

trapped?

"When Pharaoh let the people go,
God did not lead them on the road
through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.
For God said, "If they face war,
they might change their minds and return to Egypt."
Exodus 13:17 (NIV)

God always knows what's best for us, and I am so thankful for that. It's a truth I've needed to hold on tightly to lately. Like the Israelites, I've felt trapped with seemingly no where to go.

While my circumstances are quite different, I can relate to how they must have felt as the Egyptians closed in behind them with only the Red Sea before them. They had no way out.

Did God made a mistake? Had He brought them out of captivity, only to abandon them? What about the promises God had made? Death seemed their only option. Was this really the end?
NO. God had greater plans for His children. Just as He did for His Son, Jesus, on the night He was betrayed and crucified. What often seems like the end is simply the beginning.

I am so thankful to be reminded of God's brilliant performances throughout history. Granted, His ways don't always make sense to me. Oftentimes, they seem to be far more complicated than my human mind can comprehend. However, His ways are perfect and they are always for my own good and His glory.

Not only did God protect the Israelites, but He completely destroyed their enemies. The same miracle that delivered God's children also defeated the Egyptians. How's that for brilliance?

So, today, as I come to the end of myself, I realize that I can only sit on the beach crying and complaining for so long. I have two options. I can either head back to Egypt and remain in captivity -or- I can choose to press forward in faith, trusting God will make a way through my own Red Sea.

These seasons of struggles can be so very hard. It's important to remember that pain always serves a purpose.

In God's economy, no pain is ever wasted. He delights in growing, refining and healing His children. The way is sometimes incredibly difficult and the process can feel oh-so-long. But, the good news, is that God is doing a mighty work in and through each one of us. He loves us and has good plans for us.

Keep pressing into God, my Friend, His faithful love will always bring us through. We may feel trapped, but the reality is that God is on the brink of bringing us amazing breakthrough and deliverance.

Today, inspite of my struggles and pain, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE because my God is a mighty God!

Stepping into the sea,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

makin' music

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts...
And be thankful...
sing songs, hymns and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your heart to God.
And whatever you do,
whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him."


Today was a day to sing songs and make music. It would have been really easy to wallow in self-pity and feel down, but to what end? God has every situation in our lives under control and He is working out all of the details for our good and His glory.

Geoff is enjoying a much needed break from work this week and we are all enjoying having him home. Our day started off with a (very expensive) visit to the travel clinic in order to get the required vaccines we need to travel to Ethiopia. One step closer, and we were actually able to enjoy some laughter in between the needle pricks. Here's to staying healthy!

Our next stop was a delicious late breakfast, followed by an afternoon at the Oregon Zoo. Like yesterday, the weather couldn't have been nicer. We ended up spending quite a bit of time in the new Africa exhibit. (I think it made all of us feel just a little bit closer to our missing family member. And besides, who doesn't love banging on African drums and watching lions sun bathe?)

At the close of a near perfect day, I'm left remembering how important it is to stay focused on all of the blessings I have in my life. It's so easy to focus on the negatives, the things that need to be done and the problems I have yet to resolve. Honestly, though? I really don't think that is what God's intention is for my life.

When all is said and done, this life on this earth is just a blink of an eye. Yes, it's important. God has exciting adventures for each of us to pursue--and our lives here do have eternal value. But I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in the details that we forget that our number one purpose is to love God and love each other.

Today God gave me an opportunity to just be. To enjoy the incredible creations He has surrounded me with. To rest in His love. And, to laugh and make music with my beautiful family. And that, my Friend, made for one incredible day.

Sure, I came home and there were laundry and dishes to do, my new son is still sitting in an orphanage in Ethiopia and I still have a hurdle of problems to face. But, I can rest in the fact that God's got all of the details under control. He is holding the world, and each of us, safely in the palm of His loving hand. And that, is a very good thing!

There are so many things wrong in this world; so many things that can steal our joy and peace. It's a battle we all face daily. Whether to give in to life's struggles or press into God's grace. May we, together, choose to rejoice in all that's right and make a little music for our Glorious King.

Today is a day to rejoice and enjoy LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Singing for Him,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

not yet

"Know therefore that the
LORD your God is God;
he is the faithful God,
keeping his covenant of love
to a thousand generations
of those who love him
and keep his commands.
Deuteronomy 7:9 (NIV)

So, it didn't happen today. Our adoption agency called around 10:30 to let us know what we had suspected. Whatever delays happened last week affected the scheduled court dates this week. Ours has tentatively been rescheduled to December 20th.

Not much to say. We're all incredibly disappointed and sad. But God is faithful. We're holding onto our firm belief that His timing is always perfect.
I was hoping to post our big news today along with official photos of our new son. I will, I promise. Just not yet. Instead you can see how beautiful it was down at Cannon Beach, OR.

After the call came, we decided a beach day was much needed. God surprised us with a summer-like day in the middle of Winter! Who would have thought?!? A little ocean are and playtime on the beach was just what this family needed. Hopefully next time, we'll have one more Ivey along for the day!

Taking a break in our regular routine gave me some much needed time to refocus my spirit. God reminded me of how faithful He has been to my family.

When we traveled to China in 2006, we had of course, hoped to travel earlier to receive our precious daughter. But God had other plans. Miraculous plans that required us to travel no sooner and no later than November. We were able to visit Sweet Sara's finding spot. Not only that, but we were able to meet the two people who first found her and interview them on video tape while our guide translated every single precious detail.

I'm sad, truly sad, because I really want my new son home safe. I want to wrap my arms around him and reassure him that we are real and that we will be his forever family. I long to see my husband meet him for the first time and watch that bond begin to grow. I can't wait to see him get to know Chelsea, Liam and Sara. They are so anxious to bring him home. And we will. Just not yet.

In the midst of my sadness and disappointment, I need to remember that none of this is about me. God is in control. He has good plans for all of us. And, He has every single one of our needs and our son's needs taken care of. It just looks different than I expect it to at this moment.

Friend, if God doesn't appear to be answering your prayers or responding as you would hope, I understand. I know how very hard it can be to wait and hold onto your faith. I just want to encourage you to keep pressing into Him and trust that "all things work together for the good of those who love Him." (Romans 8:28)

He's got us covered. This will all work out. I just know it.

On behalf of my family, I would like to thank each and every one of you for your faithful prayers. You have no idea how much your love, support and prayers have blessed us throughout this journey. May God bless you abundantly!

God is good, all the time. For His glory alone I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Keeping the faith,

Saturday, November 21, 2009

please pray!

"The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he made."
Psalm 145:13 (NIV)

We received some really disappointing news on Friday. One of our soon-to-be son's friends from his orphanage was scheduled for court in Ethiopia. At the very last minute, the hearing was canceled. Sigh.

"M3" has an incredible family desperately waiting to bring her home and unless something BIG happens, they'll be waiting another month before their next court date.

It's all really hard to understand. As parents-in-waiting, we understand God's timing is best and truly we do trust that. It just doesn't make it any easier knowing how long our kiddos have already waited.

One of our adoption friends recently brought home her new son and daughter. Her precious three year-old son shared with his new mama about how he and his sister cried because they wanted their new family to bring them home.

On another sad note, our agency let us know that the delay that happened on Friday could potentially affect our court date on Tuesday the 24th in Ethiopia. Oh, how I hope that's not the case.

There are so many, many children worldwide aching for the love and nurturing care of a family.
That reality just makes me cry. I'm so thankful they aren't alone, that God is watching over them 24x7.

That said, I do believe that God is moved by the faithful prayers of His children. Please keep praying for all of the children. Please pray for beautiful little "M3," that she would continue to trust that her new family loves her and is coming just as soon as they possibly can. And, that her court date would be pulled in.

Please pray for our sweet Luke M., that he would know that same truth. Please pray that God's favor would be shown on their behalf. That all roadblocks preventing our children from coming home would be removed, and that in the process, God would be glorified.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You are such a blessing to us. May God shower His abundant love and grace upon you, my Friend! Thanks for being a part of this amazing adventure with us. :-)

A faithful God and praying friends keep me LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With hope & faith in a mighty God,

Friday, November 20, 2009

3 years ago today!

"Even before he made the world, God loved us
and chose us in Christ to be holy
and without fault in his eyes.
God decided in advance to adopt us
into his own family by bringing us to himself
through Jesus Christ.
This is what he wanted to do,
and it gave him great pleasure.
So we praise God for the glorious grace
he has poured out on us who
belong to his dear Son."
Ephesians 1:4-5 (NLT)


Three years ago today, Geoff and I met our precious Sara KangXia. We continue to be amazed and humbled by the incredible blessings He has brought each of us since that memorable day.

We love you, Sweet Sara, and are so honored to be your forever Mommy and Daddy. You are a brave, beautiful, strong, funny and sweet little girl. We are so very proud of you!!!

It is because of the miracle of adoption that I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Sending sweet blessings your way, Friend!

With JOY,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Blind Side

"I've never had one of these before." (Michael Oher)
"What? A room to yourself?" (Leigh Anne Tuohy)
"A bed." (Michael Oher)


I'm so grateful for the impact the Chapman family has made on my family. It was through their passion for adoption that my family has been blessed beyond words.

Steven just posted a video on Show Hope's blog about the new movie The Blind Side. If you haven't seen the preview yet, I encourage you to hop over and check it out. The movie premiers tomorrow night and I can't wait to be able to see it for myself.

Last night, I spent some time buying some essential items for our new son, Luke M. Many adoptive parents can tell you how challenging the homestudy, paperwork and time spent waiting can be. And they're right. It's not an enjoyable process. But, when it's finally time to shop and prepare your home for your new child, those "labor pains" quickly fade.

Aside from finally having your child safely in your arms, being able to actually start doing things on their behalf is a really good feeling.

"M" is an 8 year old boy,who, aside from a few trinkets and the clothing upon his back, owns nothing. Not that things matter when his daily concerns are food, clean water, shelter and staying healthy. It's something most of us take for granted here in the land of plenty. I know I do.

Don't get me wrong, more than the things we can provide for him, I'm excited to pour love into his heart and feed him good, healthy meals. I'm thankful that we have a great pediatrician and dentist to help care for any medical needs he may have.

In the meantime, though, I'm thrilled to be able to do a little shopping. And so, last night, as I picked out a booster seat for the car, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a hair pick (how fun is that?!?), special hair product for his big curls, gloves (can't wait to introduce him to snow!) a hat, and prayed that the clothing sizes I chose will fit, I couldn't help but smile and tear up. It's so nice to be able to do something tangible to start preparing for our new son.

We're almost there. The culmination of many prayers (thank you!), appointments, paperwork and patience will hopefully come to fruition on Monday evening while those of us in the US are sleeping. Oh, how I pray that his uncle is able to make the long trip to Addis Abbaba, and, that all of M's paperwork is in order so that we can pass court.

Please keep praying with us, Friend. And, if you've shared your prayer request with me, know that I've got you covered as well!

Adoption truly is a miracle, and because my Heavenly Father adopted me into His family, I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Sweet blessings & love,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hoops of Hope

"I spent the day with Austin and his family
and found them inspiring.
The first thing I thought as I drove to the airport was:
What was I doing when I was twelve?
And then, of course, the next thought:
What, exactly, am I doing now?"
John Larsen, Former NBC National Correspondent

So, Blogger ate my post when I tried to spell check it and now it's gone. Sigh.
Worse than that, after a two week break, the "piggie flu" decided to make an unwelcome appearance at my house again. This time, it's Liam's turn. Oh, I can't stand to watch my kids be miserable and sick. Sigh.

Instead of trying to remember my previous post, I thought I would focus on something positive and introduce you to Austin Gutwein. I first "met" Austin, Friday night when he shared his amazing story at the Revolve Tour.

(Chelsea and I joined our friends and 7,000 other exuberant pre-teen/teen girls at this powerful youth event. Um, can you say LOUD?!? Whew. Those girls can really hit the high notes with their screams!)

Seriously, it was a really great weekend and the highlight was definitely learning about Hoops of Hope and the incredible work they are doing in Africa.

God is using this generation we are currently raising up in powerful ways. I was reminded this weekend how very important it is that we don't look down upon today's youth because of their age or "lack of experience." Age is insignificant to God when it comes to fulfilling His will. Just as He did in Biblical times, He can and will use the young and old alike.

It doesn't matter how young a person is, we can all make a difference. And, as adults, we can learn from those younger than ourselves and follow their lead.

Austin's book, Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself, would make a great gift for teens and adults alike. (Shhh, don't tell my daughter, but she'll be finding her own copy wrapped and hanging in her stocking come December 25th.)

On that note, I'll stop writing and let you follow some of the links I've posted above so you can meet Austin and learn about his mission work yourself.

I pray you are having a blessed week and staying healthy, my Friend. Keep pressing into the Lord and enjoy LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With JOY,

Friday, November 13, 2009

no need to worry

"Be strong and of good courage;
fear not, nor be afraid of them:
for the Lord thy God,
he it is that doth go with thee;
he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."
Deuteronomy 31:6 (KJV)

This morning, I started thinking about the different challenges I am facing. All together and on my own, they feel incredibly overwhelming. Too big.

As I opened my Bible, I found myself reading again about how capable and powerful my God is. Nothing is too big for Him. Nothing is impossible.

As humans, we do a really great job at worrying, stressing and striving. But is any of that really necessary?

God is BIG. All we have to do is look at this incredible world we live in and how glorious His creations are. Look at how unique each and every one of us are. His creations are complex, but none of us are too complex for us.

I felt God reminding me that nothing is too difficult for Him. No matter how big of a mess I've made in my life, no matter how intense the struggles feel, He can handle it.

My job? Again, it's simply to surrender all of my worries and needs to Him and trust Him to take care of all of the details. He's a good God and we can trust Him.

As we press into His love for us and believe in His goodness, we can't help but find we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

God is SO good,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

confidence well placed

"But blessed are those who trust in the LORD
and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green
and they never stop producing fruit."
Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NLT)

This week, I've been meditating a lot on God's promises. Despite walking (sometimes crawling) through this season of intense pain and struggle, I have a deep abiding sense of hope.

While I can't explain it, I am extremely grateful for God's promises. Like a tree planted by a river, my spirit is being nourished through His truth which has been planted deep within my spirit.

I know that whether we are in a season of joy or grief, our flesh can really resist taking the time to be with our Creator. There are so many things vying for our attention. So many items waiting on our list to be checked off. Not to mention lots of interruptions every time we try to focus.

On the other hand, once our spirit begins to experience the true nourishment that God's Word provides, we begin to hunger for it. It's a habit that truly reaps future rewards. When the storms of life come, we find that every moment we've spent reading, studying, meditating and memorizing Scripture helps to sustain us.

I know how easy it is to get sidetracked and busy. Spending time with the Lord and reading my Bible are habits that are still being learned. That said, as the winds of struggle begin to pick up, I'm so thankful for every. single. moment. I have spent soaking up God's love and His promises.

Friend, wherever life finds you today, I encourage you to open up your Bible and find one verse that speaks to your spirit. Breathe deeply of all God has for you. Let every pore of your being take it in. Allow it to take root and trust that God will use it to nourish, bless and grow you.

He loves you. He has so many blessings to bestow upon you. Trust in His love and have faith in His promises. They are for you.

Thankful that God's Word allows me to keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE, even when it's really, really hard.

Walking with Jesus,

Saturday, November 7, 2009

reach out a hand

"Filled with compassion,
Jesus reached out his hand
and touched the man."
Mark 1:41a (NIV)

This evening, I sent out an email to a small group of close friends and mentors asking for their prayer support. Just as I hit "send," one of those friends called me from her cell phone. She had a few minutes to talk and was calling to ask me for prayer support.

At exactly the same time, we both reached out a hand asking for support. And when we both heard each other's need, we responded by reaching out a hand offering support.

A short time later, I logged onto my email account to find a couple of responses to my email. As I began to read my friends' sweet words, I was immediately moved to tears. Through the beautiful people God has placed in my life, He is showering me with His love and faithfulness. There's nothing sweeter.

Earlier this week, my boy, Liam, had a couple of days where he would cry at the drop of the hat. We weren't quite sure what was going on. On the second night, as he was getting ready for bed, he completely fell apart and was inconsolable.

Truthfully, I was really tired and his tears were really hard to hear. He sounded like a wounded little lamb and it just broke my heart. It had been a long day and the cause of his tears didn't seem like a big deal. At the same time, I could tell that he was really hurting. And, honestly, as worn out as I was, I wasn't sure that I had it in me to give him what he needed.

I almost missed the moment, but thankfully, God was able to thump me over the head and get my attention. God wasn't calling me to fix Liam's problems. Only He is truly capable of doing that. He was, however, calling me to be present with my precious son and offer him my love and attention.

I took Liam into our office, sat down on the floor and reached my hand out to him. As I took him in my arms, he began to sob. He cried and wailed for a full hour. He had been holding in a lot of sadness and thought that he should keep it to himself for awhile. :-(

He's a sensitive boy and feels deeply for others. His heart had been wounded in different ways and he thought he needed to be strong about it.

After he cried, we talked and prayed. And finally, we laughed. I was even more wiped out; and of course, he was wide awake. It was after midnight by the time I finally got him to sleep. I'm so glad I didn't miss that moment. In the future, I'll be more aware of how my sweet boy carries his emotions.

Life can be so hard at times. Thankfully, God never calls us to walk through the valleys alone. He's given us family, friends and mentors to walk along side us, to listen to us share our struggles and bring our burdens before the Lord in prayer. It's important that we don't try to do life alone. It's also important that we don't try to carry other's burdens for them.

I'm so thankful for the people God has placed in my life. They've loved me (and my family) through some incredibly difficult times. I'm so grateful that in turn, they have allowed me to love and support them through their struggles.

Friend, please don't do life alone. If you're hurting, please don't be afraid to reach out a hand to others for support. And, of course, keep your eyes open for the people God has placed in your life who could use a hand reaching out to them as well. Life is so much richer when we do life together.

God loves you, and He is faithful. May He shower you abundantly with His goodness and grace.

Keep pressing into Him and keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Thankful for His hand,

Thursday, November 5, 2009

promises

"...You know with all your heart and soul
that not one of all the good promises
the LORD your God gave you has failed.
Every promise has been fulfilled;
not one has failed."
Joshua 23:14 (NIV)

This is the Scripture verse on my calendar for today. I flipped the page, read it and felt an immediate peace come over me.

God's promises have never failed. Not one.

As I read through both the Old and New Testament, I'm astounded by all of the promises God has made. I'm even more astounded that not a single one has failed.

It's important to remember that oftentimes, God fulfills His promises in unexpected ways.

It's also important to remember that God fulfills His promises in His timing.

We need to remember that when our human flesh becomes impatient and expects instant answers.

We need to remember that when we feel as though God is ignoring us.

And, we especially need to remember it when we feel as though He has completely abandoned us.

God loves us, Friend. He has good plans for each of us. His promises never fail.

Today, I am especially thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE.

Expecting God's faithfulness today and tomorrow,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

staying aware

"After seeing this poverty, I told my wife,
'If I ever complain, kick me twice. Hard.'"
Max Lucado (following his trip to Ethiopia)

Have you ever checked into a hotel and found that your room left more to be desired? Maybe the decor wasn't your style, or housekeeping didn't do a very good job at cleaning it for your stay? Have you ever gone camping and felt disappointed because your site didn't have a view of the lake? Or maybe there were too many roots and rocks where you wanted to put your tent.

Personally, I've been in both of those situations. After watching the video below of a beautiful Ethiopian widow, and hearing her story, I realized again that I desperately need to change my current perspective.

It's easy for me to stay in my comfortable and well-pampered world, knowing that there are many people who live in far greater luxury than I.
But the reality is that far more people live in complete poverty; and in comparison, I am living a life of luxury. (Even if I don't have my own chef or Town Car.)

My family enjoys being able to sponsor children through World Vision and Philip Hayden Foundation. My kids love hearing how their sisters and brother are doing half-way across the world. They are faithful to remember each of them during their nightly prayers.

Some may say, "We do also. Isn't that enough?" Yes and no. It really depends on what God is calling each of us to do.

For me, today, I'm not feeling the ache of true sacrifice. For me, I know my family can do more. I can do more.
God continues to pour out financial blessings upon us and I don't want to be the end point of those blessings. I want to stop thinking about my wants and realize that today I have far too much stuff to manage.

And so, I log onto my computer and seek out new opportunities. I pray for God to continue to grow my heart and stretch me out of my comfort zone. I long to stay aware of the great needs around me. Both in my own community and also world-wide.

It's videos like the one below of Max and Denalyn Lucado in Ethiopia that remind me of what the true reality is. It helps me to stop complaining about my current life and inspires me to be thankful for all God has given me and seek out ways to share those resources with others.



I admit that on some days, I really get it. On others days, however, I'd much rather bury my head in my excess and pretend like poverty doesn't exist. It's hard to see poverty, but I imagine, it's much harder to live. Especially on a daily basis.

Oh, Father, please give me Your eyes and Your heart. Thank You for Your faithful provision for my family. Please forgive me for my own selfishness. Help me to stay aware of reality and guide me in making a true difference in the lives around me. May my heart and my life glorify You. Daily. In the name of Your Holy Son, Jesus, Amen.

I am LIVING A BLESSED LIFE and I am humbled by the joy I see in those whose lives are blessed through their poverty.

With grace and hope,

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

beauty will rise

"Out of these ashes
Beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
Out of this darkness
New light will shine
And we'll know the joy that's coming in the morning"
"Beauty Will Rise"
Steven Curtis Chapman

While I don't use this word very often, I absolutely hate to see other people hurting. Especially when the source of their pain is either the loss or suffering of a precious child.

Like so many others around the world, my heart broke when I learned of the Chapman family's devastating tragedy.

Not only are they grieving the loss of their beautiful daughter, but they are also helping their beloved son heal and recover. I can't even begin to imagine the pain they have walked through.

The family has been very open with their grieving process and healing journey. They have shared their complete brokenness, but they have also continued to trust God as He walks with them through their intense sadness and grief.

I just received an email announcing the release of Steven's latest CD, Beauty Will Rise.

I had to smile when I listened to the preview of the CD. God was just speaking to my heart yesterday about His promise to bring beauty from ashes.

You see, I've been a parent who has watched a child suffer. I've experienced complete and utter brokenness. And God came through. The journey was long and hard, in fact, it's one we still continue to walk.

I would never choose suffering, especially for my precious child. And yet, God has done a deep and mighty work within my family.

He has performed miracles and showered blessings upon us that we otherwise would never have known.

God has used our pain to minister to others. He has used our story to prevent other children from suffering. He has allowed our experience to grow a deep compassion within us, that we might give hope and encouragement to others.

Our experience is nowhere near what the Chapman family has gone through, and yet, I know what it's like to have my world come crashing down around me. I know how extremely difficult the journey of grief can be. And, I know that God never allows pain to be wasted. When we trust Him to be our Healer, new life begins to blossom in ways we could never have imagined.

I've recently found myself in another difficult season. I needed God to remind me in a tangible way of where I've been and what He has done for me. Reading about Steven's thoughts about his new CD reminded me again that I can trust God, especially on my darkest days.

I'm so thankful that death is not the end. It doesn't take away the pain, but it does give us hope for the future. Hope for our King's return. Because He will return. And, when He does, all things will truly be made new and all pain will be redeemed.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

Until then, let's continue to press into God for all that we need. We can trust Him with our pain and believe that He has good things in store for each of us.

God uses the suffering we experience in this life to refine us, stretch us, grow us and bestow upon us unbelievable blessings. (I promise!)

Friend, God's love will bring us through. Whether you are in a season of suffering and loss, or experiencing a season of peace and joy, God is still God, and He is good.

Good days or difficult days, in Christ, we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Now, off to buy that new CD,

Monday, November 2, 2009

beauty from ashes

"They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations."
Isaiah 61:4 (NIV)

The above photo was taken a few years back when Geoff hiked up to the rim of Mt. St. Helens with a group of friends from work. A lot has changed since it erupted back in 1980. Homes, bridges, railways, highways, trees and plants were destroyed that day.

Even more tragically, fifty-seven lives were lost. Families were left devastated.

I always find it breathtaking to see how God's promise of bringing beauty from ashes rings true, time after time.

After the volcano erupts. After the child becomes an orphan. After the fire is put out. After the loved one dies. After the dreams are crushed. After the family is left devastated. After the job is lost.

God comes through. While all of these scenarios seem like they would be the end, to God, they are just the beginning.

It's amazing what He can do when our "everything" has been destroyed. When it feels like we've hit rock bottom.

He is there. Always.

In some situations, God plants new life. In other situations, He plants new dreams. Out of the pain and suffering, hope and peace are always restored.

Lives that rise up from the ashes are more magnificent because they have been nurtured by the very hand and heart of God.

Friend, if you are in a season of heartache, you are not alone.

Life can be so incredibly difficult and the burdens too heavy to bear. Thankfully, Jesus has promised to carry our pain and burdens for us. All it takes is trust and surrender. (Always easier said that done, but the peace that results is so worth the courage and effort.)

I encourage you to keep pressing into Him. Allow Him to be your strength. Trust that even in the silence, He is doing a new thing. He will not leave you desolate and destroyed.

God will bring "a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:3b, NIV)

New life is coming. Believe it and embrace it. You are loved.

Keep LIVING A BLESSED LIFE, one day at a time.

Thankful for God's promises,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

we got it!!!

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

Wouldn't you know, just shortly after I posted yesterday's blog, God answered one of my biggest prayers?!? His timing is always, always perfect.

Today our agency called with news of our court date! If all goes well on Tuesday, November 24th, Luke "M," will be forever our new son!

Oh, how I wish I could post his Ethiopian name and beautiful photo, but soon enough!

As only God can do, our court date falls right around the same date that Sara became our forever daughter three years ago. Amazing, eh?

We still have some hurdles to jump and we would greatly appreciate your prayers. "M" has an uncle who is unable to raise him. He will need to travel from the region of Soddo to Addis Ababa in order to attend court and sign off on his nephew's adoption papers. I can only imagine how difficult that decision has and will be for him.

About 50% of the court cases fail the first and second time due to incomplete or incorrect paperwork, so this is another prayer request.

Finally, all children are required to have updated medical tests prior to their travel to the US. Please pray that our sweet boy stays healthy and does not have any medical complications.

If all goes well, we should be able to travel early in January. I can't think of a better way to start of 2010, can you?

To all of you waiting for referrals, court dates and travel, please know that I continue to pray with you.

For those of you who feel a tug on your heart to make room in your hearts and home for an orphan in need, listen to your heart! :-) God will never require more of you than you can handle and He will be with you every step of the way.

For everyone else, please keep praying with us for the 147,000,000 (plus) children worldwide in need of a family and home. There are countless ways that all of us can make a difference in the life of a child. No act of love is ever too small to change a life. Let's all rise to the occasion, because together, we can make a difference.

Whether God answers your prayers today, tomorrow or next year, He loves you immensely and has so many blessings to bestow upon you.

(Side note: The photo above is so very precious to me. In 2006, God introduced me to 15 amazing women. Together we embarked upon the adventure of a lifetime when we all adopted daughters with medical/physical needs from China. Although a few of the girls required surgeries and/or ongoing medical care once they were brought home, many of our girls surprised us by being 100% healthy. God is good, all the time.

Since then, several of the families have returned to China to bring home another daughter or a son. Several more families are currently in the process of bringing home a second or a third beautiful child. Our big, extended family just keeps growing and I am such a proud and happy auntie! I cannot wait to see Luke officially join the family...and photo!)

This adventure we're on is so amazing, and I'm so thankful to be on it with each of you!

In Christ and through Christ, we are LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

To God be the glory,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

contentment

"The rabble with them began to
crave other food,
and again the Israelites
started wailing and said,
"If only we had meat to eat!"
Numbers 11:4 (NIV)

This morning in Liam's Bible class, he was learning about the Israelites time in the desert. As I listened to the story, I remembered again why it's important not to dismiss the Old Testament and assume it's no longer applicable to my life today.

The Lord was using the Israelite's time in the desert in order to prepare them for the great blessings He had for them in the Promised Land.
God rained down manna from Heaven and required only that they collect enough to eat for that day. No fire, no meal preparation, no clean-up. Not even chewing was required! The manna was sweet like honey and melted in their mouths.

But, manna wasn't good enough. They longed for the foods they enjoyed in Egypt, while they were slaves. And so they complained. (Actually, the NIV translations says they wailed. Even better, I mean worse.)

If you're not familiar with the story, God Almighty was far from pleased with their lack of gratefulness. His track record with His chosen people was awesome (as in truly awe-inspiring,) up until this point.
And yet, the Israelites still doubted God's best for them. They wanted what they wanted, when they wanted it.

I think what infuriated the Lord the most was their inability to be content with what He had already blessed them with. Those who chose to whine did in fact receive their meat, but that was all they enjoyed.

"But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therfore the place was named Kirbroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who craved other food."
(Numbers 11:33,34 NIV)

The key point of Liam's lesson today was contentment, and let me tell you, my spirit was deeply convicted.

The chances of quail raining down from the sky is pretty slim, thankfully. But, you see, quail isn't on my prayer list today. I'll take an Ethiopian court date, breakthrough in my areas of struggle, and complete healing from the flu. (In that exact order.)

However, those things weren't God's best for me today. And yet, I am extremely blessed.
God desires me to be content with exactly what He has blessed me with today.

As much as I want what I want, I would rather be content with what the Lord has given me today. I want to believe in His impeccable track record. I would also like to be alive to enjoy the very best He has for me when He grants it.
Probably the wiser choice, wouldn't you say?

Oh, Friend. Contentment in this day and age is truly a challenge. There is very little that we are truly left wanting for. Even without money in the bank, a little piece of plastic can momentarily make are "dreams come true." And yet, as I try to teach my children daily, those things that we work hardest for, and wait to receive, are so much sweeter in the end than instant gratification.

And so, may God give us patience during the wait, wisdom to know God's best for us and faith to believe that His promises will always hold true.
(By the way, were you wondering why I chose the above photo? Well, that was me earlier today when I tried to ignore the painful truth about how much I have in common with the Israelites during their 40 long years in the desert!)

Today, I'll gladly gather my manna, allow my heart to be humbled and remember that in Christ I am truly LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Learning to be content, one day at a time,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

turning a corner (finally!)

"Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice."
Psalm 105:3
Chelsea and Sara have both recovered from the flu. Yay! Thankfully, I'm starting to turn the corner as well.

It's been an exhausting few weeks. Lots of life got canceled along the way. And, even worse than the symptoms was the onset of some serious Cabin Fever. This girl has got to get out of this house. Soon!

One of the things I have missed most has been my early morning quiet time with the Lord. This morning as I dusted off my Bible, I felt my spirit sigh.

There's a saying that says, "Starve a fever, feed a cold." I have yet to determine if it's accurate or not. One of my good friends gave me a new saying that definitely holds true. "Starve your flesh, feed your spirit."

My flesh has had my complete attention for the past eleven days. My spirit has unfortunately, been left to fend for itself.

As I spent time reading God's Word today and giving Him my complete attention, I felt His incredible love and peace wash over me. It felt so good.

I hope your body and your spirit are both doing well, my Friend. This is the time of year where sickness seems to run rampant and our schedules start to get really crazy.

If you're feeling worn out and struggling to keep your focus, I encourage you to take a few moments and allow God's amazing peace and love to wash over you. Yes, our bodies need to be cared for and fed, but spirits do as well. :-)

Keep pressing into Him and enjoy LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

And now, to break my cabin fever,