Joshua Stones

My prayer journals are some of my most valuable possessions. At least to me. If I had to leave my house unexpectedly and could only take 1 item, it would be them. I have a stack of them by my bed that I have kept for the past 15 or so years, chronicling highs and lows, valleys and mountain tops. All of them shining a light on the graciousness of God and his kindness and mercy on my life. Whenever I am going through a deep struggle, I tend to look back through them and flip through the pages to be reminded of how faithful God has been in my life and will continue to be through each present trial. They serve as a monument – a reminder – that God was here. He was present. And He was victorious.

In the Old Testament times, the Israelites also documented the faithfulness of God so that they could be reminded of how God delivered them through their own struggles. Instead of writing things down in a journal format, they used stones and built an altar or monument in the place where God granted them victory. This would remain a symbol to future generations of God’s faithfulness and the legacy of God would continue to be passed down.

I love the idea of using stones to symbolize God’s faithfulness. This past fall, we took Hope to the beach one night after dinner and collected stones for hours. She absolutely loved it. We took them home, washed them, and over the next few weeks painted them with chalkboard paint. Each stone is big enough to write down a way the Lord has provided or something to give thanks over. We gave these out over Christmas with the prayer that others will be blessed by visibly seeing God’s hand in their lives and be able to look back on it at the end of year with a grateful heart for how God has guided them.

I don’t know about you, but I desperately need these vivid reminders as of late. It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday, the routine, and feel a tad overwhelmed. Anyone else out there feeling like they are just getting through the day? (The lack of sleep over here is definitely not helping..:) So this week, we are making our own stones and placing a basket in our kitchen with them in it, so we can go back often and reflect on God’s goodness. I challenge you to do the same! This is such a fun project~ and if you have kids, they will love finding stones and painting them and can be such a great teaching tool for them.

I pray that you see God’s fingerprints on your life this week. He is working and moving. Write it down so you can be encouraged when you need these reminders in the future.

“These stones will stand as a memorial…Then Joshua said to the Israelites, “In the future your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over.  He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:7,21-24)

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JUST AS HE SAID

With Easter just finishing up, I have been reflecting back on the familiar passages that many of you also read during this past week.

There is so much power in the Resurrection- victory over death, hope in eternal life. But over the past few days, I have been reflecting on 6 words found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew 28:6 (NLT) says ” He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.” Read those words again. Let them sink in. These words have been floating through my mind throughout the week- as I played with my kids, as I cleaned the house, as I fed my 9 week old late in the evening.

These words affirm that a promise has been fulfilled.

But right before? 3 days of darkness, sadness, and despair for those that loved Jesus.

Feelings of loneliness and being let down.

Silence from God. Everything felt final- I mean, Jesus was dead. There was nothing more final.

Valleys. Silence. Despair. We have all been there in some way, shape, or form~ where the trial we are facing feels final, like there is no way out, and the silence of God is so loud it is deafening.

But then Sunday comes~ “a new day dawning” as Matthew writes in 28:1. An empty tomb. God at work. A promise fulfilled.

Jesus~ the keeper of His word. I have come to realize how true this is. He has been my Peace when all else was chaos , my Comforter when there were tears of sorrow, and my Provider when needs needed to be met.

So, press into Him. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. There is a new day dawning.

Just as He said.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23 For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24 Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?27 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? (Luke 12:22-28)

 

Waiting Turned To Joy

Hope was only a few months old when I felt it. It is something hard to explain unless you have experienced it too. God prompting. Sometimes it comes in subtle manners. Sometimes it feels like a bulldozer. That day was a bulldozer moment. God was trying to get my attention. I was in the middle of a church service listening to a song about grace when I felt this heavy burden to start praying for a sibling for Hope. For those who know our story, you know how much of  a miracle Hope is! To pray for another baby so soon seemed crazy.

Maybe I heard wrong?

I was certainly doubting it all, but I also knew what the promptings of the Lord felt like. So I started praying. I wrote everything down in my journal just in case, by some fluke chance, another baby somehow was added to our family.

A couple of months later, for the first time ever, I became pregnant. I was in awe; I couldn’t believe that God was pouring down another amazing blessing on me.

Until.

About a month later, I miscarried. When the ultrasound tech told me “Some people are just not meant to be pregnant”, I doubted everything I believe God had asked me to pray for. Over those next several months, I battled with anger and sadness. Sadness and anger. Why would God take something away that He had asked me to pray for? I will never know that answer. But what I do know is this: He is good, He is faithful, and He never stops working.

Over the next 2 & 1/2 years, I continued to pray for this baby. But it came to the point whenever Adam and I had a discussion about it, the door was closing. So last April, we decided it was time to start selling all of our baby things.

One month later, I was pregnant. And this was confirmation to me that God really does have a sense of humor. 🙂

As I faced new fears that this would end in another horrible miscarriage, I meditated on some verses in Isaiah in the early weeks of the pregnancy:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. (43:10)

“From eternity to eternity I am God.
    No one can snatch anyone out of my hand.
    No one can undo what I have done.” (43:13)

Remember the things I have done in the past.
    For I alone am God!
    I am God, and there is none like me. (46:9)

Ad the verse I claim for Henry’s life:

I am doing this so all who see this miracle
    will understand what it means—
that it is the Lord who has done this,
    the Holy One of Israel who created it. (41:20)

On January 24th, Henry was born. And once again, I am humbled at God’s kindness in my life. He is so full of grace.

I don’t sit here and write this with a presumptuous attitude that life is easy and God gives us anything we ask for. Because I certainly know this isn’t true. I sit here and write this with a heart that can only proclaim His mercy and grace despite my shortcomings, despite my moments of unbelief.

I write this to encourage anyone of you who is in a waiting period to continue to press into the Lord even if you really want to run away.

I write this to encourage anyone of you that God is not a waster of time. When there seems to be no movement, God is moving still.

And..most importantly…God’s mercies are new every morning.

GREAT IS HIS FAITHFULNESS.

He makes all things new. And with that, He has the power to turn your waiting into joy.

Thank you for loving my family and following along with us. We are so grateful for each of you.

This year

Oh, this blog. I am surprised I even remembered the password. But I actually have a free minute from shoveling and Hope is napping, so I thought I would write a quick update.
How can it be that Hope is almost 2 years old?? I can’t take it! I miss the baby stage, but I have to admit, this is by far my most favorite stage yet. Hope loves to sing. Amazing Grace, Jesus Loves Me, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are some of her favorites. She is obsessed with the alphabet and she constantly has a book in her hand. Hope loves to pray. We could be in the middle of talking and it would be perfectly normal to see her fold her hands, bow her head, and yell “pray pray” until we stop what we are doing and pray with her. Most recently, she has been taking her Bible and will sit next to me while I read mine in the morning. and will say “Jesus Jesus; Cross Cross” Can time just stop right now???
Almost exactly 4 years ago we announced we were starting our adoption journey. Time has flown. If you would have told me 4 years ago, we would be parents to an energetic little girl, I wouldn’t have believed you. Time seemed so slow, so long then. It seemed that everyone around us was advancing through life, but we were at a standstill. And now… I can’t hold time down. Last year kind of seems like a blur. Having a baby, going back to work, leaving my job, figuring out what the heck parenting is all about, sending adoption updates, and the list goes on. But this year…my goal is to enjoy the simple moments of everyday life: slobbery kisses, crumbs on the floor, coffee with good friends, date nights with Adam. I have been keeping a small scrapbook of each week. It has helped me stay focused on God’s goodness in the midst of ordinary, normal life.  It hasn’t slowed down the clock but it sure has taught me to enjoy each moment I am given. I have been following a blog written by a young mother who is dying of cancer. Her story has impacted me greatly. She encourages her readers to live life, soak in each moment, and live with intention. Her days are numbered. My days are numbered. I want to make each of them count.
And this is certainly a foundational year for Hope, I believe. Her mind is like a sponge. So I am trying to talk with her more about adoption, show her pictures of her birth family, and explain how she was born into our family. I know her little brain can’t comprehend it all right now, but it is good practice for me. I pray she will realize how much of a miracle she is and how truly cherished and valued her life is, not just by Adam and I but by Tami and Joe.
I am so humbled to be chosen to be Hope’s mother. I truly am. Words seem to escape me today. She is such a gift. Someone had said to me awhile ago that the love you have for a child born to you biologically is always going to be different. Maybe. I will probably never know. But what I do know is that I can’t imagine loving Hope more than what I already do. My heart is overflowing.
Thank you for continuing to follow us and be part of our lives. We love you.

Reflections Part 2: Celebrating life

Life. I started writing this post almost 3 months ago. We have been busy, to say the least. I’m not going to change any of it. I am on a time crunch…trying to squeeze this post in while Hope finishes up her nap 🙂

About a month ago, I was looking through my calendar on my phone and came across April 13th: “My due date”. I have no idea when I put that in there but it caught me off guard for a second. A little bit of sadness came because how I pray that Hope someday and somehow can be a big sister. But as quickly as it came the sadness quickly left. In that moment God showed me that He is the God of details and sees our hearts and I truly believe orchestrates events to show His compassion on us. Just a few days before I had seen this in my phone, Adam and I had picked April 12th to celebrate Hope’s 1st birthday at a butterfly garden. So instead of dwelling on “what could have been”, He had it all planned that we would be celebrating the miracle of Hope and the faithfulness that God has shown us this past year. I continue to be amazed at how faithful He has been to us and how much He loves us.

We have such a compassionate God. As we walked with Hope looking at butterflies (well, she more screamed then looked at them happily:) I thanked God for the one who flew into our lives forever and the one who flew away. Both such amazing signs of His miracles. I am so thankful.
Another God-orchestrated event this week has been the opportunity I have had to participate in “40 Days For Life”. For the past 40 days, people all over the world have been peacefully praying outside of local abortion clinics for these women in crisis. I found out that there is a clinic about 7 minutes from my house, so Hope and I have been making the trek over there to just pray. Fridays are the day the doctor comes in to perform the procedures and I saw many women and men walk through the doors to make their decision final. Beyond heartbreaking. I often times would look down at Hope and thank God for her mom choosing life for her. And then my heart would break for these young women who think this is the only option for them. (Side note: I do not mention this to spring a debate about pro-life vs. pro choice. So, please no negative comments. Thanks.)
So not only have we celebrated life but we have prayed for the lives of women in crisis and their unborn babies. It has been a full week, but I am beyond blessed.
I share these 2 stories only to encourage those who are hurting and feel God has forgotten them. I hope this encourages you in a small way to see how God is invested in the tiniest details of our lives and desires to show His loving kindness to us.

Fast forward to today, July 1. Hope is 15 months old and active, active, active. She keeps us very busy. Her personality is quickly developing and she is such a joy. She loves to read out loud, loves music, loves to throw her food, and loves to hug her Curious George. I still can’t believe God chose us to raise her.

And God continues to grow and develop me. Right now I am in a stretching stage. He has been burdening me with writing more and developing a book about our adoption, our waiting, and how our faith sustained us. So, since about February I have been slowly working on it as time allows. I am thankful for the 10-12 prayer journals I have kept over the last 12 years that will pretty much write this book for me. It has been a time of great reflection for me. A time to see where we started and to see the finish. I am not the same person that I was when I said “I do” in 2002 and I am definitely not the same person that I was when we started our journey to Hope in 2011. Thank God. I was reading this morning in Psalm 119. Verses 71-72 jumped out at me:


“My suffering was good for me
for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
Your instructions are more valuable to me
than millions in gold and silver.”
And it’s true. It was hard. But it was necessary. And it was ultimately good. I was brought to a place where I could only rely on the goodness of God’s promises. It’s not an easy place to be. But it is the safest and most secure. 

Reflections Part 1: Adoption

So many of you have been asking how life is: asking about adoption, life as a mother, and how I have been feeling since our miscarriage. So I thought I would do 3 separate posts. It was going to be 1..but was waaayyyy too long. 🙂

Adoption:
As most of you know, our adoption with Hope’s birth family is open. This means we have unlimited contact with them. We have chosen to give them our phone number so they can call any time to hear how Hope is. We continue to update our private Facebook page on a weekly basis so they can see Hope grow. For Christmas, we made a scrapbook of each month since her birth so they have something special for her.
We have also skyped with them so they got to see Hope ‘live”. That was such a joy.
We wouldn’t have it any other way. We are so comfortable with them. They are our family! What a gift to them as well as to Hope. It brings me so much happiness knowing that she will grow up knowing her birth family. When she is old enough, it will be her ultimate choice to decide what she wants to do with that. But my prayer is that by her being brought up with knowing them, she will continue to want to foster that relationship.
One thing I had been dealing with is guilt. Guilt of being overjoyed with Hope, while Tami has been grieving. Guilt of taking her daughter, even tho I know she chose us to raise Hope. It started the moment we said goodbye to Tami and Joe in the hospital. I almost told her I couldn’t do it. My heart broke for her. Tami and I hugged each other for so long, I am pretty sure neither of us wanted to let go. Phone conversations for me after that were initially awkward. I struggled with sounding excited about Hope, struggled with calling myself her Mom, etc. I am so thankful for some friends who are adoptive moms who said this is normal. It has gotten so much better for me. Tami loves to see Hope with us…it brings her so much comfort in knowing how loved Hope is.
Many of you have asked how Tami is doing. That is one thing I can’t bring myself to ask. I can’t know because of this guilt I had been battling with that I just shared about. It seems, from what I can tell, her grief has eased. But let’s be honest, this is something that she will think about every day. Our conversations are always upbeat..we talk like we have been friends for a long time. So, I just leave it at that. I pray constantly that she has a support network around her.
One amazing answer to prayer is that long before we were matched, I had been praying for whoever this lovely woman would be. My heart’s prayer was that she would be surrounded by someone..anyone…who could pray for her and give her the comfort that only Jesus can bring. Come to find out, 2 of Tami’s relatives are strong Christians! (At least from what I can tell and what small interaction I have had with them.) And I know they have reached out to Tami (as she has allowed) to tell her about Jesus. What an answer to prayer!Some have asked when we will tell Hope about her family. Well, it is always part of our conversation. On occasion, I show Hope pictures of her birth family and say their names. I will start doing this more often now that she is alert and pays attention to everything. We want her to now them, to know how much she is loved by them, and to know that she has 2 sets of parents that care for her deeply.
Adoption has been nothing short of a miracle for us. And the blessing of having an open relationship with Hope’s family is just beautiful. We are so grateful and humbled by God’s faithfulness to us. He is the God of the impossible and makes all things beautiful in His time. We given Him all the glory.

A Year of Miracles

Have you ever bought the perfect gift for someone and were so excited to give it to them but knew you had to wait for the right time, such as their birthday or Christmas? This is how I imagine God this time last year as Adam and I waited for a baby. Little did we know as we entered into 2013 how close we were to Hope coming into our lives. She was only a couple of months away. I imagine God in Heaven with an excited smile waiting to give us His perfect gift. We have been so blessed. I couldn’t help thinking this over and over this holiday season. And with this thought, were many moments of happy tears. My heart has been overflowing. I have been cherishing my time with Hope, especially as I rock her to sleep. That, lately, has been my quiet time; my time to pray and talk to God. I love how when I start singing Amazing Grace to her, she looks up at me and smiles. (It’s what I have been singing to her since she came home.) I love how she gets excited when we read together, and I just pray that each time I read from her baby Bible, that the words even now are piercing her tiny heart. How I have loved my time in that glider, staring at this sweet baby…our miracle…and praising God continuously. He is faithful. He is gracious. And I am so humbled.
I remember back in May, when Hope was just about 2 months old, she was going through a hard time with eating. She was so colicky and I was beyond sleep deprived. It was about 1AM and I was trying to rock her to sleep. I just started praying. God reminded me of life before Hope. How I would give anything to have a sleepless night if it meant I could rock a baby. How I would give anything to hear a baby cry in our home. (Only those who have waited/are waiting so long for a baby would understand these crazy prayers:) Anyway, I remember praying “Don’t let me forget. Help me to still feel the pain.” I know, crazy. But I don’t want to forget how I felt before Hope. I certainly don’t dwell on it, but to still feel some of that pain deepens my love for Hope and reminds me of what a miracle she is. It also helps me to pray fervently for women who are still waiting for their baby whether it’s through adoption, foster care, or pregnancy. (Ladies, you know who you are and I am praying in my glider 🙂
As I look back on 2013, I see miracles surrounding me~ my miracle through adoption and my miracle through pregnancy even if it was for just a short time. I do still feel sadness as I look at the ultrasound picture from time to time. But the sadness doesn’t define me anymore. I am thankful for God’s deliverance and for people He put in my life to literally pray us through that time. For the past few years, I have chosen a word for the new year. My word for 2013 was “mission”. Little did I know what mission God had for me. It’s amazing how He works:) 
For 2014, I have chosen the word “wholehearted”. Since November, I have been struggling with what this actually entails…to wholeheartedly follow Jesus. God has been working on my heart to loosen the grips of pride, time, and comfort that have taken a stake in me. I am excited to study the verse Mark 12:30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”, as well as read through the Chronological Bible throughout 2014. 
As God begins a new story for each of us this year, Adam and I continue to thank Him for each of you. You have played a part in our miracles of 2013 and we are forever grateful. Our prayer is that through each of these miracles, you have seen the goodness of Jesus and have seen the grace and love that only He can offer.
Happy 2014! We love you.