Sunday, January 30, 2011

What Is God Telling You To Do Today?

Our pastor has been teaching out of Proverbs for the past few weeks and today's message was based on these verses:

Proverbs 24:30-34

I went past the field of a sluggard,
past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
thorns had come up everywhere,
the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw:
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

While the topic that he's teaching on is wealth and wisdom, I took away a "lesson" that pertained more to the overall way I live my life in addition to the financial aspect. We've all been given a "vineyard." That is, we've all been given our own lives. Our assigned duties. Our given jobs. Our families. Our talents. Our allotted time on this earth. Each of us is in exactly the spot that God knew that we would be in at this very moment. Something he said that really stuck with me is that this day and time is the only day and time that we are given to meet God where we are and take the next right step in our walk with Him. We don't have next year, or "when the kids are older" or even tomorrow as a guarantee.

The proverb talks about passing the vineyard of a sluggard (someone who has wasted time away-someone who is lazy and inattentive) and seeing the thorns and weeds that had grown up and the wall that had crumbled in ruins. I thought of my family. This is my vineyard. I've been given a husband and a home full of children to nurture and grow. They are my vineyard and if I choose to be inattentive (busied by unimportant things), I run the risk of the walls crumbling and thorns and weeds suffocating the harvest right out of my family.

So how do the thorns and weeds get in? Well, as the proverb warns, little by little. Little by little we fill our days full of tasks and responsibilities that often blur the big picture. When I had my first baby, I remember holding him for hours (literally). Just holding him, soaking up all of his cuteness and just being filled with joy in his presence. As we added kids to our family, while all equally loved, the load that came with each new one (5 kids in 6 years and one on the way:) slowly began to outweigh the joy that I felt with that first new bundle and "little by little" I stopped enjoying my role as the vineyard nurturer as much and just started "getting by." While I continued to love my children, the joy of mothering had faded into a list of duties and essentially, I was functioning like the sluggard who has no sense. Really, how much sense does it make to to "get it all done" and not enjoy the ones that you're doing "it all" for?

This past year has definitely been a learning process on many levels, but one of the most important things that I've realized is that if I do not depend solely on God for my strength and my guidance in nurturing the family that He has given me, then the job I have as a wife and mom of 5 (almost 6) kids is really an impossible one. Especially if I'm trying to do it well (which is the goal right?).

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Matthew 16:26

If I am to keep my vineyard free of thorns and weeds, then I must first be free of them myself and I must be seeking God with my whole heart or the walls will eventually crumble. So now, when I feel the familiar feeling of being overwhelmed setting in, I know that I am guilty of relying on myself more than God. So often, I hear comments like, "I don't know how you do it" and I think, "I don't do it-I can't do it." If things are running smoothly in our home, then it is purely by the grace of God and His strength within me. If it's not going well-well then you know I need to spend some more time with God.

I've talked a lot on this blog about how God has used our adoption journeys to grow our hearts in ways we never dreamed and how He has shown Himself to be faithful and sufficient in meeting all of our needs. We have relied fully on Him during these times more than any other in our lives-I mean how else do explain the peace we had in making the decision to adopt one more after only being home for 7 months with the girls? It was us totally trusting God and saying YES when He called us to it.

Today at church, our pastor made the point that another reason why the "vineyard" goes down hill is because we put off the things that God is calling us to do TODAY. We don't say "yes" even when we know we should because we're afraid that WE can't do it right now (and the truth is, we can't unless we're relying on Him). We don't actually say, "I'm never going to do that." We just say, "Not yet" or "Now's not the time" or "I can't do that until...." Putting God's call off until we think it makes sense or until we are ready sets us up to miss out on the "daily bread" God has for us along the way.

We have all been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Each one of us has the opportunity to live out our lives in the freedom of God's will, walking down the path He has chosen for our lives. When we recognize each day as one more day to take a step towards God, instead of neglecting our vineyard and procrastinating God's call, we'll begin to experience and enjoy the blessings along the way.

What is God telling you to do TODAY?

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

That's A Wrap!!

As of yesterday, the Trees of Glory livestock fund goal has been met!! Thanks to the generous gift of one donor, all the money needed to secure the land at Trees of Glory has been raised. I've loved being a part of this fundraiser and seeing so many people give towards this one cause to make a difference. May God be glorified by these gifts and may these gifts multiply beyond our wildest dreams as they are utilized by the kids and staff at TOG.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:20

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Check Out Our Newest Family Member

Nick's little brother!

Through the gift of sponsorship, Nick has acquired a new brother (and I guess that makes him my new brother-in-law).

Nick's parents have been matched with this precious 10 year old boy Mitiku. Pretty cool right? Here's the even cooler part. Nick met him by "chance" when he visited Trees of Glory in September. He took the picture of Mitiku above just before leaving TOG. Mitiku had followed the travel group around all day. You see, he wasn't a student at TOG. He didn't have a sponsor family supporting him. In fact, he didn't have anyone supporting him at all. He is a true orphan and sought refuge at TOG. He has since been taken in by the care point director and now, thanks to my in-laws and Children's HopeChest, he is a full time student at TOG where he receives love and discipleship along with an education and his most basic need-food.

You can read the whole story about this great coincidence here.

Mitiku is just one of the very special kids that we can't wait to meet when we travel to TOG next month.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Trees of Glory Update

It's been about a month since our "Christmas Trees of Glory" livestock fundraiser ended. Through many generous donors, all but $270 that was needed for this project (read here for details) were raised! I was overwhelmed by the way God moved during the fundraiser, providing over $5000 in about 4 weeks ($3000 of that in the last 4 days!!!). It was amazing to watch emails pour in from donors from across the country willing to give to a community of kids across the world.

That being said, we still need to raise $270 to complete this project and ensure that the land at Trees of Glory is protected for the nearly 100 children that are now being ministered to there.

Having started with a goal of $5600 and seeing God move mountains, $270 seems like a drop in the bucket. So here's my proposition. Nick and I will be travelling for court for "R" next month. We have the amazing opportunity to not only meet our newest daughter, but to also meet our sponsor daughter Meseret and her friends at Trees of Glory. I'd love to be able to visit Trees of Glory knowing that the land is safe and that the care point has all of the funds that they need to complete the barn and purchase the livestock needed to occupy the land there.

So, I was thinking that with just 9 days left in January, we could all work together again to raise the remaining $270. That's just $30 a day for the next 9 days. Or, just 9 donors giving a gift of $30. Or, 10 donations of $27. Or, 27 donations of $ get the point. It's not going to take much to make this project a reality for the kids at Trees of Glory. If just a few of us come together and make a teeny, tiny sacrifice (I mean really, a trip to the movies is $10.50 a person now-can't we all spare $10???), then we can easily meet our goal of raising $270 by the end of the month.

To make a donation, go to (from the home page, click on the orange GIVE button on the far right side at the top of the page)

Under "Gift Information," click on "choose a fund" and select "designated gifts"

Then write in your gift amount .

Then (this is the important part) under the "notes field" be sure to add in the Trees of Glory Livestock Fund code which is "ET2119000 LIVESTOCK."

Finally, add in your info and follow the prompts to complete your donation.

Once you complete your donation, send me an email at with your donation amount so that we can make sure that your donations went to the correct fund.

Simple as that. Hopefully, by the end of January, I'll be posting the good news that all the funds have been raised and the kids and staff at TOG will be able to rest peacefully in the knowledge that their land is safe.

Feel free to link to this post and pass the word on.

Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." John 21:16

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Waiting Game

I'm not typically good at being patient. Sure, I'm fairly patient with our 5 kids (most of the time), but waiting for big things like court dates and embassy appointments and travel to pick up my child-not so good. At least that is the way it was when we were waiting to bring Hermela and Meron home. I had count downs of all kinds going until we finally had them home.

This time around, I am thankfully more aware that nothing in life is really on "my" schedule- which is a really good thing. Think about how badly I'd mess things up if the world revolved around my time frames and plans. God has shown us time and time again that His plans are always better than ours. Had we not figured that out (although we're constantly having to figure that out:), we'd have missed out on these cheerful smiling eyes that now wait for us.

I'll probably be writing a post in a month or so about not wanting to wait anymore to bring her home. For now, I'm thankful that we have someone to wait for again and praying for patience to continue and contentment to remain.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Year Ago Today...

...our girls ran into our arms and our lives have been forever changed. Hermela ran-Meron was pretty hesitant.

First few moments together-the m&ms were a great ice breaker.

One of our first pictures of the girls while they were waiting in the care center.

Here they are one year later-they have grown in so many ways and we have been so blessed by them.

Happy First "Family Day"

Snow Days

We took an impromptu snow trip this past weekend and had a blast. The grandparents called last week to say they had gotten almost a foot of snow and Nick decided we should drive up. That's the great thing about home schooling-you can take a field trip whenever you want. I assigned the kids homework while we were there and tested them all in their snow ball making, snowman building, sledding and snow angel making abilities. Aside from some freezing toes and fingers, they all pasted the tests with flying colors.

I've never seen more than a little hill of snow myself. Never snow covering "eby where" (like Colton kept saying). Snow was everywhere, and it was beautiful and so much fun for the kids. While we enjoyed every second of it, I sure am glad we were just visiting. After two days, I had my fill of snow bibs, hats, mittens, socks and snow boots. Glad to be home and enjoying the 72 degree day!

8, 7, 6, 4, 4, 3

Those are the ages of our kids now that Caleb just turned 7 (could be 9, 10 or 11 instead of 8 as we all know in the Ethiopian adoption world:0). But, for now, we have a nice run of ages. This year, we decided that instead of having birthday parties, we will take each child out to do a special activity with just me and Nick. With 5 (almost 6) kids, it doesn't happen very often that Nick and I spend one on one time with just one of our kids together. We thought that this would be a fun tradition to start. We took Caleb to a giant 5 story arcade-which he loved. He said it was the best day of his life! We had a great time with our 7 year old. He is a great older brother who loves baseball, star wars, Legos and drawing. We love you so much Caleb and are very proud of the nice boy you are becoming.
Happy Birthday!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Melkam Gena! Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas day in Ethiopia. I asked Hermela what they would do on Christmas day when she was in Ethiopia and she said, "dress up, go to church, eat and dance and chat with your family." Sounds like fun to me. Tonight we will celebrate with Ethiopian food, music, dancing, traditional dress and our friends who adopted their baby boy from Ethiopia just after us. What a nice way to celebrate the birth of Jesus-no fuss, no frills, no big shopping list....just the way He came-humbly sharing love.

Hermela prepared the "coffee" ceremony and instructed all the kids to put on their Ethiopian clothes this weekend. She pretended to roast coffee beans and passed out popcorn and "dabo" (bread-actually left over corn bread from New Years:)

Then the kids danced to Ethiopian music.

Then Hermela wanted pictures taken.

The girls have definitely spiced up our lives with a little culture.

Melkam Gena!!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Our Baby is All Grown Up

Colton is our baby and loves that position in the family. He has taken full advantage of it and we've definitely babied him more than any of our other kids. He just turned 3 and is beginning to leave some of his babyhood behind (which is a little sad, but good). He asked for a Star Wars cake for his birthday. He loved it! Colton is such a fun, active, silly and happy kid. He loves music, playing outside, riding his motorcycle (big wheel) and playing baseball (he's go quite the swing for a 3 year old). He's pretty much all boy and definitely keeps us on our toes. We are so thankful to have him in our family.
For his third birthday, we prepared him to give up his "boppy" (pacifier) in exchange for a super birthday surprise. Whenever I would talk about giving it up, he would say, "I'm not a big boy yet."

Once he saw this though, he decided it was a super enough surprise and he sent his boppies to my in-law's cat Boomer (kind of strange, but we had visited earlier in December and the cat found one of Colton's boppies and liked playing with it and Colton loves the it was our desperate attempt to convince him to give these things up).

He definitely went through withrawls-seriously like an addiction-for about 2 days and then it passed. I've found that it's always harder for mom and dad than the kid to break a habit.
Now, we're working on potty training (we've been really lax with this and now we're paying for it). He shows no real signs of "wanting" to complete this next phase of growing up. I'm pretty much over diapers and hope he jumps on board soon. I'm sure he'll hate that I've posted this picture one day, but I couldn't resist it.

Happy Birthday Big Boy!!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

December In Pictures

We were fortunate enough this month to be able to visit two theme parks. We were given tickets to both parks and only had to buy at total of three tickets between the two visits which is pretty great for a family of 7. It was the girls first time to visit a theme park and Caroline and Colton were too young the last time we went, so it was really fun to see them all enjoying everything.

The carousel had five horses in a row-perfect for us!

Meeting Buzz

The girls were nearly speechless when they met the princesses-such a fun experience for them.

First 3D show

The night took a toll and by the end, our stroller looked like this. Even during the fireworks, Caroline and Meron couldn't keep their eyes open.

Uncle Nathan braved Sea World with us along with my cousin, her little boy and my mother-in-law took the troops.
A new baby killer whale.

In the wild artic.

Caleb and Hermela got to be in our church's Christmas play. Caleb was Joseph and Hermela was the Angel (she was super thrilled with her costume).

We made gingerbread houses for the first time this year. It was lot of fun (and very messy). I found a kit that had 5 little houses, which was perfect (for this year anyway-next year, we'll have to add on more house for "R").

The kids also took turns making (and tasting) cookies and yummy treats with me.

This is a picture of the girls on their first Christmas Eve. Hermela was so, so excited and she said, "mom, you have to teach me how to go to sleep on Christmas Eve."

The crew just before bed the night before Christmas. They all slept in the girls room together (the boys slept in "R"'s bed).
Caroline opening up her stocking. I love how excited the kids get over simple things like new toothpaste, markers, and batteries.

This is one of my favorite videos-"The Letter Factory" by Leap Frog. It teaches all the letters and sounds. After struggling for 3 months to teach Meron the letters and sounds, we rented this video from the library and within a week or two (no kidding), she was singing, "The A says ahhh, the B says buh..." Colton likes it too.

The girls are going to play soccer in the Spring and after three seasons of watching Caleb play baseball, the girls (especially Hermela) are really excited to try out a sport of their own. I think she's really looking forward to having a cheering section (instead of being the cheering section:)

Caleb got catching gear this year (his request). He played catcher the last few games of the Fall season and loved it. Nick also played catcher, so he loves that Caleb loves that position.

I love this picture of Meron. She is so excited to recieve her first Christmas present ever-her stoking-and couldn't have been more thrilled with her two candy canes. She reminds me of Cindy Lou Who from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."

Happy New Year. What a year 2010 has been. Can't wait to see what 2011 brings!

Don't worry, it's sparkling cider:)