Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oh so busy... photo heavy post! (it's easier to re-cap that way!)

Back in the BEGINNING of November (yes, that's how behind I am at blogging!) our church's orphan care ministry, Abba's Children, hosted it's very first respite event for children within the foster care system! It was a huge success and our prayer is that it blessed the families that we served! Many thanks to all our volunteers and to my co-leaders, Sunny and Rebekah, who poured so much of their time and energy into making this night happen! I would encourage EVERY orphan care ministry to host a night like this as an outreach and service to local foster families!

At the end of November I decided to take the leap of faith and say yes to our church's upcoming trip to Uganda! Since then, I've stood back and watched God do His thing, like He ALWAYS does! In 15 days $2740 towards my goal of $3050 has graciously been taken care of, through the hands and feet of others being used by God!!! I'm still shaking my head in amazement! He is faithful! If you want to be a part of this amazing story God is putting together, and help me reach my $3050 goal, just click on the image above. I would be forever grateful!

The first weekend of December, Abba's Children had it's first annual Christmas social/cookie exchange! I wish I had a picture from the afternoon, but apparently I was too busy socializing! Regardless, a great time was had spent in community with fellow families from our church that have a heart for the least of these! I continue to be amazing at how God is growing this ministry and bringing new families, each with their own story of how God broke their heart for the fatherless and how they want to make a difference in these precious children's lives! I pray that God continues to lead this ministry and bless it in ways I could never imagine! 

In the mix of it all, we've been busy getting stuff done around the house, from yard work (check out my little helper, cutie!)....

To hanging Christmas lights! (Yes, that is Jude on the roof of our house with his daddy! What you can't see in this pictures is the nervous mama behind the camera! I got "cool mom points" that day for letting my boys be boys!)

I also have been busy doing DYI projects inside the house! I managed to replicate a pallet idea I saw on pinterest and made this for our kitchen!

We also made our annual trip to the tree farm to get our Christmas tree! This is a tradition that Joshua and I have done ever since we got married and we're determined to never let die!(Yes, we have talked about what the heck we're going to do when we move to Africa one day and what kind of tree we'll cut down! But it'll happen, rest assured!)

Jude had his very first school performance! It was his Christmas show, and he did great! For an overly shy child, he doesn't seem to mind the stage! He sang ALL the words to the cute songs they sang and did the little hand motions with them and everything! He was thrilled to have my parents come to his school and watch him AND daddy took off of work to be there too! We even got to join him back in his classroom after the show for his Christmas party! 

This past week, I helped host my first school party for Jude's classroom, a Jesus Birthday Party! Call me crazy, but I was all nervous, not knowing exactly what to do (yes, I just said I was nervous to throw a party for a bunch of 4 year old kids! Make fun, go ahead!). Honestly, what it really came down to was not wanting the other mom's to think I did a crap job- which is also ridiculously silly that I care! Clearly I have issues! (o; That being said, I think it turned out pretty cute! I made up some birthday cupcakes with "Happy Birthday Jesus" toppers on them and brought my trusty Jesus Storybook Bible, and read them the "He is Here!" chapter, while they ate their cupcakes and snacks on the floor. The party was complete with the cutest little voices you've ever heard singing Happy Birthday to Jesus and blowing out a candle! Jude and I also made up these cute ornament twig crosses I saw on pinterest for each kid in the class as a gift (and when I say Jude "helped" I mean, he helped pick up the sticks- but I'll take what I can get!

Grams and Uncle James just came in for a Christmas visit from Atlanta! We had such a great time soaking in each others company! They arrived with a carload packed to the ceiling of goodies! Uncle James custom built a crib for Isa... and it's AWESOME!!! The boys put it together while James was in town and I'm simply amazed at the time and love that was put into this bed! Photos to come! Uncle James... this was by far the best Christmas gift you could ever give us! Thank you so much! I just know Isa is going to love it!

Jude and Grams spent some quality time together making a gingerbread house.

While they were in town, they got to join us for Joshua's Club 2412's, 2nd annual Battle of the Bands night! It was a huge success and is seriously such fun! $552.74 was raised toward the sponsorship of a sweet boy in Korah, Ethiopia through Project 61! The students have been sponsoring this precious boy for the past 2 years and this summer, Joshua is taking 8 graduating seniors to meet him! More on that later! (o;

We also celebrated Christmas with Grams and Uncle James while they were here and Uncle Jame scored big with his Star Wars spaceship gift to Jude! I'm just not sure what boy likes playing with it more! (o; I'd also like to mention that we are now the proud owners of our very own iPad, thanks to Grams and Larry! What a fun gift that we're so grateful for! Now, while I'm in Uganda, I can Skype with the hubs! We will get much use out of this gift!
Jude was so sad to see them leave last week! He asked me with tears in his eyes, "Why can't our home be their home?!".... I think he assumes since my family lives near by that all family should live nearby- so sweet!

So that about does it! Busy, right?! Even Harley girl is tuckered out these days! (o;

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Helms Happenings-Uganda Edition (Hilary Style)

Friends and Fam, 
I would like to first start off by saying thank you to each of you who have been faithfully following the story God is writing in our lives over the past two years! What a crazy amazing journey it has been so far! So many of your faces come to mind when I reflect on all the people that God has used to accomplish His work in our lives! Funny how almost two years ago we were certain that saying yes to adoption was the biggest leap of faith ever... little did we know the snowball affect it would have on our souls! God knew. I love that! Truly our journey to Isa is far bigger then we could have ever imagined! I love how one cautious, and even skeptical "YES" to God's call, has left us begging for more of His will in our lives! We are confident that God is equipping us, and growing us, and stretching us, for MORE! An upcoming trip to Uganda for me in February is just one more piece to this God-sized puzzle.

Joshua’s trip to Uganda back in July only confirmed the nudge we felt God was giving us to “GO” to Africa. He came home a changed man. He came home with a deeper passion for the people of Africa. He came home insistent that I go on this next trip! That being said, the business of every day life quickly seeped in after his return. It left me second-guessing whether or not I should go on this upcoming trip in February. Concerns that we would be too close to our referral for Isa have been wiped away with the slow down of movement on our wait list. Worries that we wouldn’t figure out the logistics of childcare for Jude with me gone have also been wiped away and are no longer an issue thanks to family willing to offer help. My other hesitations fears regarding the trip have been given a new perspective as God gently has reminded me that none of my fears are too big for Him to handle! He has cleared what I thought would be obvious roadblocks and paved a way for me to join this team! I have this unique window of opportunity before we bring Isa home to GO and experience for myself what Joshua was adamant I see with my own eyes, and hear with my own ears, and feel with my own heart. This is just another equipping opportunity for our family and the plans God has for us! I trust that God knew all along that I needed to be on this trip.

So, here is the gist of the trip…

I will be joining Preston Trail Community Church this February on their third trip to Uganda! While there, we will be visiting imprisoned children at remain centers (with Sixty Feet), hosting a conference and training Ugandan pastors and their wives (with HesedInternational), and we'll have the opportunity to love on some orphans at a couple local orphanages.

If you would like to know more about these incredible ministries we’ll be working with, check out their websites: (Near and dear to my heart!)

Here is how you how you can be part of the trip! (o;
First and foremost… PLEASE PRAY! Pray for our entire PTCC team, the ministries we’ll be working with, and safety over the entire trip! 

Second, prayerfully consider financially supporting me. (Yes, I know in the past year we have fundraised a mere $28k for our adoption and then $3,300 for Joshua’s trip, and now we’re tackling another $3050 in order for me to go! Uh hum, have I mentioned that Joshua is taking a group of graduated seniors to Ethiopia this summer?!... More on that later, wink wink! Trust me, I know this seems nuts! This is one of the fears/hesitations I talked about earlier, that God is assuring me He is big enough to handle!  He has always been faithful to fund His callings!)

We’ve each been asked to raise $3,050 total for the two-week trip (February 20th-March 2nd).

All donations are tax-deductible and can be made out to Preston Trail Community Church. Feel free to put my name on a sticky note and attach to the check, but please do NOT put my name in the memo for legal purposes. Please mail donations to our home at 8205 Sonnet Dr. McKinney, TX 75071, and we'll personally hand them over to the gal in charge. You can also give online through THIS LINK our church has set up. There is a section where you can "Choose the team member you are supporting" and my name is listed in that drop down section. Let me know if you have any questions! 

Here are our support raising goals/deadlines:

$200 God already provided! Wahoo!

Raise $1500 by 12/15

Raise $2200 by 1/15

Raise $2800 by 2/15

Balance of $3050 by 3/15

I am looking forward to how God will change the lives of those in Africa, our team and you as a supporter! Have I mentioned how grateful we are?!?! Seriously, THANK YOU for your support and prayers!

Much love, 

Hilary Helms

"This is for Sunday"

 God is faithful. It's true. Sometimes this truth sits heavier on my heart than others, and right now it's H-E-A-V-Y!  Joshua got a phone call around 9pm tonight from our neighbor across the street. He asked if we were still up and if he could stop by real quick. The hubs says, "Sure thing, come on over!" I'm busy ironing while watching TV and Joshua answers the door and has him come on in. I do the typical, "Hey, how's it going?" over my shoulder thing, and he says, "Alright" over the noise of the too loud SNL I had recorded and was watching. I nonchalantly look up from my ironing board to see him standing by the couch with Joshua and a piece of paper folded in his hand. He simply handed Joshua the folded check and said, "This is for Sunday." Simple as that. A check for $200. Hmmm... God is faithful. Believe it.

He then proceeded to pull out his iPhone and look up the devotional that his wife had read earlier in the day. He read it out loud to us (love this). He then said his wife felt burdened to make sure we got this check today. Wow. God uses His people to get His work done. 

To my neighbors, thank you! I pray you know my sincerity when I say that! God used you tonight to encourage me in a huge way! May you be blessed richly for your generosity and boldness to act on the nudge of the Holy Spirit! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Uganda Round Two

These images are forever ingrained on Joshua's heart from his Uganda trip in July. He came home certain that I too needed to GO and see for myself! I agreed, wholeheartedly. I saw the spark (and maybe a manly tear or two) in his eye when he shared how God stirred his soul for the people and culture of Africa. I too fell more in love with Africa from Joshua's time there, the stories and images forever impacted my heart as well! It was a done deal, I was on the next trip! 

I'm sure you would guess that I was the first one to sign up for this trip in February with our church, right?! Well not so much ... truth be told, the business of life seeped in and began to weigh in on my "gusto" to GO. So many hesitations swirled in my head... 
What if we're really low on the wait list by then and we get a referral for Isa while I'm there?! There is no way we can logistically figure out childcare for Jude the entire time I'm gone! What if Jude has anxiety about me being gone? I mean after all, I'm so needed! (Ha!) Ugh, more fundraising! Seriously God?! I'm kinda over it! People are gonna think we're nuts, we've already raised over $30k this year! Plus it requires SO much faith, and sometimes I just don't have it!  My plate is already full with mommy duties, wife responsibilities, and Abba's Children in full swing... I don't think I can tackle another thing!

You get the idea. "Life" began to filter what I was so sure was clear back in July! For months I've been in prayer over whether or not I should go on this trip. Truthfully, I've heard silence. I begged God for a clear answer if I should or shouldn't go. He didn't give it. I went to the first orientation meeting back in the beginning of October for those interested in the trip. As I sat there and listened to the details of what this upcoming trip includes and past experiences, my heart beat fast as it resurfaced the feelings that God had placed in the core of who I am. However, I left that meeting and shortly there after was confronted once again with the filter of my hesitations. Again I prayed, again I heard silence. Sign ups for the team came and went, all the while I was well aware of the deadline dates that I was missing to turn in my application. There was an "ugh" disappointment in my gut but I told myself that my concerns were valid and that God's silence must mean no? Still Uganda sat in the back of my mind. The team of people was set, an amazing team at that, I might add! I thought the ship had sailed and I missed my chance to jump on board.

Flash forward to Saturday, November 19th. Jude and I dropped daddy off before the sun even came up that morning at the church for him to head out with a team of about 40 others to Mexico for a short term mission trip. As we drove away from the church, with tears in my eyes (because I'm proud of my hubs and an emotional girl, I guess?!) Jude and I prayed for daddy and the group of others going. We prayed for the children they would serve at the orphanage, we prayed for safety and God's blessings on the trip, and we thanked God for such a great daddy... and in that moment I was instantly taken back to driving away from the airport in July after dropping Joshua off to go to Uganda. It was as if God was gently reminding me once again of Africa. 

That very next day, Sunday, I was at church and on my way to get Jude checked into his classroom. Jason Kanapkey (co-leader of this upcoming Uganda trip) came up to me as I was walking and said, "You know it's not too late to join the team?! Just sayin'! Another gal dropped out of the trip, so there's room!". Wait... What?! This messed with my head. I had told myself the door was shut, the ship had sailed! Again, my heart beat fast and feelings of excitement resurfaced. Joshua called that night from Mexico to catch me up on the days projects they had worked on. I didn't share with him what Jason had said that morning. I did however ask Joshua, "So do you think I should go on the next Mexico trip?" His response took me back a bit, "Yeah, maybe,  BUT... I think you should go to Uganda." Okay weird.  What was going on?! He didn't know it was an option for me to still tag along on this trip- he was just saying what was on his heart. At this point I informed him that in fact there is room on the upcoming trip and it's apparently not too late for me to sign up! This made him smile, the kind of smile you can hear through a tone of voice. We committed to pray once again. 

Tuesday, November 22nd, Joshua came home from Mexico. We chatted through all his incredible experiences he had while he was there and without intentionally doing so, he kept comparing almost everything to Uganda. I guess when you experience extreme poverty in two different regions on these levels, you unknowingly compare the two. I think it was once again a gentle reminder from God of the foundation of love He laid in our hearts in for Africa many months before.                          

Evening rolled around that night and I received a much anticipated email from our case worker from AGCI with our new November wait list number. I quickly scrolled through her message to find the important line that says, "Your new November # on the boys list is..." and my heart sank! We actually went UP one number, from #21 up to #22!!! I sighed loud enough for Joshua to hear it in the kitchen!
Hmmm... maybe God was up to something. Maybe my concern of us being close to Isa's referral by the time the trip comes around, wasn't such a concern after all?! Maybe God was beginning to wipe away my hesitations.

I hit my knees again asking God for an obvious answer if I was to go on this trip or not. I heard nothing. Crickets chirping, that's all. I decided it was probably a good idea to hash through my remaining list of concerns I had come up with. I invited God to give me His perspective over each hesitation on my list, and asked him to help me sort through what were my fears and what were legitimate issues.  Recalling His incredible faithfulness in our lives over the past two years, God began to assure me that the fears on my list were not too big for Him to handle! He began to wipe away hesitation after hesitation.

At the end of the list I was left with ONE valid concern to figure out, childcare for our Jude man.  Convinced that this was the clincher, I told Joshua, "There is just no way! My sister is the only possibly option and honestly, I don't even think she is an option! You would have to drop him off at her house at the butt crack of dawn (excuse my crudeness, but this is how the conversation unfolded) on your way to work every morning, it would be a pain to try and get the boys dropped off at school on the days they both go (their schools are on opposite sides of town), not to mention that she works and probably has a project or something she needs to tackle, PLUS... it's soccer season, so you're not going to get of of work until later! Yeah, there's no way!". Joshua heard me out and then said, "You may be right. And if so, there is your answer. But, why don't you at least ask to know you've covered all your basis?" Sigh... fair enough. So I reluctantly asked my sister if it was even an option for her to help out with Jude nine of the twelve days I would be gone, doing my best to assure her that there was absolutely no obligation or expectation on my end of the deal that she do this! I was simply convinced that she would say there just wasn't a way to swing it because of work or the logistics of it all! 

Well, so much for roadblocks... Her exact response, "Of course we'll watch Jude! We can sit down and figure out how to best organize it..."! I'm pretty sure she just earned an extra jewel in her crown in heaven!

After hearing from her, I turned to Jude and asked "If mommy goes on this trip, I'm going to be gone for little while. Daddy will be here but Aunt Phoebe is going to have to watch you quite a bit and take you to school and pick you up, are you okay with that?" Jude, "Yes! Am I going to Aunt Phoebe's now? I can show her where my classroom is and maybe even Jake can come and see it! But you'll have to show her where to park. And when Jake is at school and I am not, I'll hang out with Aunt Phoebe and we'll be excited for Jake to be done with school!".... there you have it, hesitation wiped away! (o; Clearly I'm not as needed as I thought I was!

In what I perceived as God's silence to my prayers... every hesitation I have had, He has wiped away! (Well honestly, I am still freaked out about raising all the money... but I continue to reflect on His faithfulness and I have peace!) So maybe He's not so silent after all, maybe He just wanted me to remember how clear His voice was back in July and act on it?!

So you guessed it folks... I'm going to Uganda this February, last one to sign up (nice Hil!) but it's a done deal, I'm on this trip!!!! It's gonna be good!

If you don't think our little Helms family is crazy by the end of reading this, and you want to somehow support me going on this trip- you know we would be forever grateful! Big chunks of money are due in a an intimidatingly short amount of time, BUT God is faithful, He always blows our socks off, so I'm trusting Him despite my fears!

$200 due this Sunday
Raise $1500 by 12/15
Raise $2200 by 1/15
Raise $2800 by 2/15
Balance of $3050 by 3/15
Support letters are going on later this week, so keep an eye in the mail! And obviously if you have any questions, I'm an open book- so shoot me an email or call! Thank you in advance for loving our family and supporting us through prayer! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fundraising and Faithfulness Re-cap of our Journey

In the past couple weeks I've had several random conversations with people regarding fundraising for our adoption and how we went about the whole thing. As if to just reiterate the recent theme of conversation, I then got an email this morning from another gal who was asking any advice on fundraising because they're beginning an adoption as well and she wanted me to share what had worked for us. It forced encouraged me to look back over the past (almost) 2 years of our adoption story and recall the different ways that God provided!  And man did it ever leave me shaking my head at God's goodness once again!

I thought there might be some of you out there that would benefit from hearing my response to the email I received this morning as well. Maybe you are on the fence about jumping into the sea of huge adoption fees that come with international adoption, but there seems to be a relentless nudge from the Holy Spirit to step out in faith regardless of the dollar signs and trust Him?! Let me urge you, if God has burdened you to "jump"... JUMP! Our family is living proof! God is faithful.

Okay, so first off, here are some of the fundraisers we took on and worked for us....

Our first "big" chunk of money was raised by doing an online auction of items/services that were donated by friends. I started by sending out a heartfelt email to my closest friends and family (both local and far away) asking them if they had a talent, service, or item they would be willing to donate towards our adoption for me to auction off. I was amazed at the response of people's willingness to get involved- not to mention their creativity and determination to find a way to offer something worthwhile to donate! I mean, a week getaway to a farmhouse?! Awesome!  I gave the entire "set up" of the auction a month to get everything put together and hear back from everyone, all the while sending reminder emails and getting people's descriptions/details of the items they were donating. I started spreading the word about the auction dates about 2 weeks before it began, so people anticipated it. I set up a separate blog just for the auction that I could send people directly too, and I would highly recommend doing that. Here is the link to that blog, and it'll give a better idea of how it was set up.
This auction brought in $1455 towards out adoption! God is faithful.

Another big fundraiser we did was our adoption yard sale. This one required the most work on our behalf honestly, but also brought in the most money! If you've ever done a garage sale, then you know the prep work going into it is killer! Pricing items and organizing the garage is a beating! But here again, I sent an email out to local friends and asked if they had items that were thinking of giving to goodwill that they might be willing to give to us instead! I'm truly a minimalist and so even after going through our entire house searching for anything we could possibly put in a garage sale, there was barely anything! So... this project really did require the help of others who were purging through their stuff (and made me grateful for the hoarders in my life, ha!)- and when all was said and done, we had TWO garages (our neighbors generously let us use their garage too) FULL of stuff to sell! Good stuff too, like furniture and refrigerators... big ticket items! The key with the yard sale is to get the word out there! Advertise like crazy on Craigslist and post that the proceeds are going towards your adoption! Post pictures of the best stuff you're selling too! We had several people buy things before the actual yard sale off of Craigslist and give MORE than what we were asking, because they read about our adoption. Link everything back to your blog. The day of the actual yard sale, we did have a table set up with info on Ethiopia and a sign letting people know that all the proceeds were going towards bringing our baby home- but honestly, the majority of the people that were shopping the garage sale didn't speak English (depending on the area you live, that may be different), and so I don't think they were even aware of what the sale was all about. Don't take offense when they want to haggle the $1 candle sticks down to .$25, and you're sitting there thinking to yourself, "But it's going towards our adoption people, you can't seriously swing $1!?!?!". Even just one cent is that much closer to your goal!  The adoption yard sale brought in $2121 towards our adoption! God is faithful.

If you have a talent or craft, or for instance your mom or mom-in-law likes to sew, like my mine... you can always do these simple side projects and auction them off! These Africa t-shirts have brought in a good chunk of money- probably close to $500 or so! The totes have easily brought in over $500 as well! I suggest promoting them on both your blog and FB. I typically have more "lookers" on FB and that's where I have auctioned off almost all the shirts and bag/totes. God is faithful.

I make the adoption countdown walls for adopting families and they have raised about $400 or so just making them here and there when an order gets placed. I actually just shipped one off today! God is faithful.

Here's the deal though... what I think you'll find is that God will provide in ways you NEVER imagined and use other people in ways you NEVER imagined! You'll find that you may have others who think outside of the box on your behalf...  and it'll simply bring you to your knees in humility and gratitude! I have MORE stories of the roles others have played in funding our adoption, than I actually have of the ways we came up with the money!

Take sweet Kalisha, one of Joshua's former students for example, who sold our An Inexhaustible t-shirts for us at the high school and raised $1000 towards our adoption! God is faithful.

OR the lady from my mom's bible study who hosted a little bake sale on our behalf without us even knowing and sent us a check for $150... God is faithful.

OR the stranger who stopped by our yard sale, heard our story, and generously offered her photography talent to do a photo shoot raffle where folks bought $5 tickets for the chance to win a photo package with her. That brought in just over $500! God is faithful.

OR you might go to your mailbox one day and find a note with $4 tucked inside from the sweet 9 year old boy on your street! You WILL cry, trust me! (o; God is faithful.

OR I can mention my sister's friend from college who took it upon herself to go shopping at garage sales for cheap stuff, and clean it up- then resale it at a consignment event- and then send us all the proceeds from her hard earned money! She sent a check for $75 towards our adoption. God is faithful.

OR the day I went to grab the mail and we received a check for $1500 from another adopting family that we had NEVER met! The following day, no joke, another adopting family, who we had NEVER met as well, sent a donation for $500!!! Both of these families were also fundraising towards their adoptions! There are moments you will simply be left speechless! God is faithful.

OR just when I thought God simply couldn't show off anymore, I came home from running errands the next day (after receiving the $2k from the adopting families) and nonchalantly checked my email only to find a pending donation of  $845.26 from my old Promisland Sunday school teacher who lead me to Christ! Her donation was the exact amount needed to turn in our dossier and get put on the wait list with our agency! God is faithful.

OR one of my lifeguards that had worked for me one summer at camp, Lenora, that I hadn't heard from in 5 years who randomly contacted me and said she wanted to give us $1000 that she was given from her dad's trust fund! The only catch was, it needed to be tax deductible. Well, let's face it,  there are no roadblocks too big for God! Which leads me to encouraging you to apply for grants!... God is faithful.

I highly recommend checking out both Lifesong for Orphans and ShowHope for adoption grants! We applied for both and we're blessed with one. We were approved for a Matching Grant of $3000 from Lifesong for Orphans! This opened up the floodgates of people willing to give towards our adoption! Because it was tax deductible sweet lifeguard Lenora was the first to give towards our grant with her $1000 gift! The stories are endless of the generous hearts that God used to meet every need along the way! I mean, crazy generous, make you say, "WHAT?!" kinda generous, like this particular family that gave $2,750 towards our matching grant! God is faithful.

 Our grant from Lifesong was by far our biggest amount of money raised! Today we have $10,667.21 sitting in our Lifesong account waiting to be used once we get our referral! God is faithful.

I wish I could share every single story of how God provided- but I would seriously have to write a book! This is just a snip-it of His goodness! Every story is written down and documented, so we never forget! I would encourage you to do the same in your journey! Give Him the glory along the way! You get the idea, God is faithful! Yes, fundraising is one of the ways God provides, think creatively, bust your butt and do your part to bring in extra money... BUT always know at the end of the day, HE'S GOT THIS! HE WILL ROCK YOUR FACE OFF!!! HANG ON!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The meaning of Isa's name

Last week after eying these board/signs on pinterest (I'm sure they have a more legit name, I just don't know what else to call them!) I naively decided that, "I could totally do that! AND save myself a good chunk of money!". Well, let's just say that the ambitious creative Hilary that I thought I was quickly left about half way through cutting out the card-stock stencil letters with a box cutter (that's right, you heard me, box cutter...because crafty me doesn't own an x-acto knife)! It became very apparent to me that the people that sell these signs no way spend this much time cutting out homemade stencils! What I've since discovered is that they probably use one of those glorious and super nifty silhouette machine thingy's or something similar! Lucky them! That expensive bad boy can get added to the wish list of items that will never realistically get purchased in my lifetime! With a cramped hand and a kinked neck, I finished up my first board project at like midnight and was torn whether I loved it or hated the darn thing it because of all the unexpected time I had to put into it! But after after a night of rest, some advil, and a the fresh perspective of a new day- I decided I was happy with it!...

So... I did what every normal person would do, and decided to make another one! Joshua came home from work the next day and saw me sitting at the kitchen table in deep concentration cutting more stencils and was like, "Seriously Hilary?!". The thing is, after I finished the first one, all it did was inspire me to want to make more for around the house! And once I get something in my head- I'm determined to make it happen!

I've been working on Isa's room over the past couple months a little here and there, when I have the time.  Walls are painted, world map is hung, handmade bed (thank you Uncle James!) is on it's way in December, and so I decided it needed an extra little piece of artwork to hang in there too! The one thing we love most about Isa's name (besides the fact that it doesn't scream "white boy"... when clearly he will not be that!) is the meaning of his name...

Isa \i-sa\ , is a variant of Isaac (Hebrew) and Isaiah (Hebrew), and the meaning of Isa is "laughter; salvation of God; the Lord helps me"... good stuff, right?!

So, as a reminder to him and to us, this board will be hung in his room! 

You know that leaves me feeling like I need to make one for Jude's room now too! We just have to wait and see if Ambitious & Creative Hilary comes back out again anytime soon!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My lil Superhero

We have our very own Clark Kent in the family these days, ready to rescue and keeping us safe! Our little superhero is ready for some trick-o-treating this Monday!  I love his heart that always desires to be the "good guy" in life! May he keep that quality about him always!

the REAL obscenty...

I have no doubt this video will ruffle some feathers... so be it.  (o; What's the real obscenity?! 

Drought is inevitable, but famine is not. Congress can help keep our commitment to farmers in developing countries by fully funding Feed the Future— a life-changing USAID initiative that is investing in long-term agricultural development and could help put an end to famine for good.
Please sign the petition to Congress calling on them to fund this vital program:
Thank you!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Perfect Timing

At the end of last week we received our monthly email from our agency with our official October wait list number... #21! Down TWO spots from last month- yeah, I know you're probably thinking... that's not crazy fun movement! My fingers were crossed that this month's number might have been in the teens, but no such luck! The unpredictability of it all is sometimes a kick in the gut! I hate to even sound remotely like a "Debbie Downer" about it though, because here's the deal, I've been convicted over this before... while moving only 2 spots might seem a little "blah"... try saying that to the TWO PRECIOUS LIVES that were forever changed and given a family! TWO vulnerable and orphaned children that had no hope, now have a loving mommy and daddy! TWO families that have been desperately waiting for the referral of the newest addition to their family finally received that much anticipated, infamous phone call from our agency that will forever be ingrained in their minds!  TWO families saw their child's face for the very first time this month and now it's become oh so real WHO they are fighting to bring home! No doubt, God is smiling with tears of joy in His eyes over this TWO spot move! And so I chose to celebrate this victory as well! Isa's day is coming, all in God's perfect timing! And oh how I will do the happy dance when that ONE spot move is to our sweet boy Isa!

In the meantime, I'm doing my best to soak in the joys of being a mama to our tender-hearted Jude. I don't want to be so caught up in the wait for Isa, that I miss the here and now with Jude. I'm daily reminded that this window of opportunity to pour into his life is so small in the grand scheme of things. This truth leaves me on my knees, daily, begging for God's guidance and wisdom in how to intentionally parent our little man. And I'll tell you one thing, keeping an eternal perspective in parenting requires some serious intentionality! It is so easy for me to get caught up in the grind and routine of every day life so much so that it absorbs every last drop of guidance I have to offer Jude. I pray for wisdom, boldness, time, creativity, and compassion in intentionally finding moments to teach Jude about the eternal, bigger purpose of his life! This past year (after going to the C4C retreat and having a conversation on the road trip home with Mitzi and Courtney) my eyes were opened up to the importance in praying the fullness of the Holy Spirit into his life. I desire for Jude to truly know how God sees him. How God loves him. How God created him and uniquely wired him for a purpose, a bigger purpose, a God purpose. How God already views him as purified and made right (or as Jude likes to say, "A good guy"). How God has rescued him and how, as His children, our lives are to reflect that. 

While teaching Jude these truths is my hearts desire as his mom- the reality of it is,  I am still trying to teach myself these truths! Seriously... this is deep stuff to wrap my mind around, I have so much to learn! I've only skimmed the surface of knowing and believing the goodness and power of the Holy Spirit. All I know is, the more I learn, the more I'm amazed! The more I trust, the more of my life I want to give to His purposes. Just this morning I was once again taken back at how God uses the Holy Spirit to bless our lives! I dropped Jude off at school and was driving home, it's about a 20 minute ride, perfect for some quality prayer time. I specifically prayed that God would continue to give me confidence and reassurance in His timing over our adoption process. I prayed that I would stay rooted in the truth that God is in control. I prayed that He would provide comfort and peace in knowing His ways are far better than mine. I'm just here to tell ya folks... the Holy Spirit is faithful to nudge His people to act on His behalf! I came home and opened my email and the first thing I found was a comment left this very morning on my previous blog post....

"Because you know many adoptive families I am sure you have heard this BUT...the wait is so orchestrated by the Lord. I waited for 15 years for mr. man to say "yes", then 2 1/2 to finally hold my boy in my arms. When you do get that referral and meet your son you will be AMAZED and so unbelievably grateful for the wait. The month and year we signed up with our agency was the month/year that Hudson was born. We asked to review the file of another little boy while we were waiting but we were "2nd" in line for him and his family was right before us. Even signing up for Special Needs when we did was God ordained (we started out on the "healthy girl list")......I had another adoptive mom tell me when we began the process "just know, the Lord will slow things down and speed things up just when He needs to, He's got it" is SO VERY HARD in the wait, I will not pretend that I do not remember the ache in my heart for my child who I didn't even know if they were a boy or girl labor, it all is ok when they are placed in your arms. At one point while we were waiting on China for their final approval and we were about 2 weeks past due I cried to Mark that certianly the Lord knows it would be better for Hudson to be with us NOW..not LATER...being an adoptive child himself (at almost 9) and living among foster homes and an orphanage this smart man said "if the Lord is asking us to wait it is for good..Hudson may need more time to bond with his nanny so he can bond with us better, his nanny may need more time to say goodbye, our bio kids may need more time, the favor of officials"...for whatever reason the wait, it is for HIS glory!...... bottom line, the wait will not be waisted and I admire your strength in it!!" 

How awesome is that?! I love that my God hears my prayers and is faithful to creatively use the hands and feet of others to answer them! Thank you Sharon for being obedient to the Holy Spirit's nudge to write this, this very morning to me! Thank you God for using Sharon to answer my prayer! Again, the more I see the Holy Spirit at work, the more I'm amazed!

I'm excited to share with Jude this afternoon the way God uses others to bless our life!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Wait- ONE YEAR

Jude is ready for his brother, his mom is too!  While sitting in the Firestone Auto Repair parking lot, patiently waiting on daddy to get the keys to our other car (that had to get a new alternator, boo!), I turned the music up, unbuckled myself, and turned around from the drivers seat so that I could face Jude in the backseat. In my oh so "hip" Hilary fashion, I started singing obnoxiously with the song on the radio, using my hand as a microphone, eyes closed for dramatic effect- this typically is a sure fire way to crack a smile out of my little man. He knows talent when he sees it! Ha! I had drug the poor kid around running errands in the car all day and he hadn't napped, so I knew time was ticking before he was over being in the car! He was blessed with my awesome little concert for a few minutes before he interrupted me, mid-song mind you, and said very seriously, "Mom, I want Isa home, it's been a really long time that we've had to wait!". I turned the radio down (taking the cue that he was over my singing), and told him I totally agreed, it has been a long time!  You see, this month marks us being on the wait list for ONE YEAR! Keep in mind too, that just because we've been on the wait list for a year- we started the paper chase process, in order to get on the wait list, back in June... so it's been well over a year that this 4 year old's little world has had to wait! We never knew going into this that the wait would be this long. Honestly, when we jumped into this journey, our naive selves hoped and prayed that Isa would be home this past summer (to our credit, the given wait time when we started the process was 6-9 months)! Little did we know! BUT despite the twists and turns and changes of timing along the way, there has been a strange peace, peace that can only come from God. It's with confidence that I say God is using this time to equip us, and pour His truth into us, and use us as His hands and feet. The past year of our lives has been like none other! From ministry opportunities, to cherished relationships being established, to catching a glimpse of seeing Jesus in a more intimate way, to having our hearts moved for Africa so much so that we feel God is calling us to move there someday! All of these blessings in our life would not be so without the wait. Yes, I grit my teeth as I say this- because I wish all this goodness could happen WITHOUT the wait! But it has all been possible because OF THE WAIT! 
When my patient heart grows weary Lord, may I continually reflect on the worth and treasured moments of this past year and thank you for Your perfect timing! (That being said, if you would like to speed this process up, Joshua and I are totally game, and so is Jude! Feel free!) In all seriousness though, I know and trust without a shadow of a doubt, that God is at work, orchestrating every detail, so our sweet Isa will be here soon enough! Hanging on His truth!


Friday, October 7, 2011

And the good just keeps comin'!

Last night, Abba's Children got to welcome home their newest member, sweet Noah! This baby boy was truly prayed home over the past couple days, and God moved mountains and shined in mighty ways to join this precious child with his mommy and daddy!  I can't even begin to tell you the roller coaster ride this journey has been for them! But one thing is for certain... there is power in prayer friends! I have had the privilege to join with an incredible body of believers that God has already brought to Abba's Children, and genuinely cover this family in earnest prayer in times of uncertainty and in cheers of joy in times of victory! I stand in awe of all that God has done just since this past Tuesday! CrAzy!

Amy and Nathan (mommy & daddy) are one of my partner's in crime in being co-leader's of Abba's Children and have genuinely been a God-send to me in coming along side of launching this ministry! The comradery that comes with doing life and ministry together is like none other and after walking this journey with them, I cherish their friendship on a level I can't even put to words! One of those friendships where you find yourself teary because you love 'em so much and you're so darn proud of them for living out the gospel in a tangible way! I'm honored to call them "friend"!

Up until the last minute, I honestly didn't know if we would be greeting this family in their driveway with an empty car seat in their hands and tears in their eyes to wrap our arms around them and grieve a loss with them OR if baby would be in tow and we would party it up and celebrate the miracle of another child given a forever family! Either way, we were committed to be there in that driveway to support them, in the joys AND the heartbreak that can come with adoption! Each time we've had a welcome home party, God never ceases to amaze me and show up and bring His people with Him! It was truly a powerful evening of celebrating a car seat with a precious baby boy in tow! Okay, enough chat from me! The video of the evening speaks for itself! God is good, we stand in awe!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Abba's Launch Video from Sunday!

Sunday's Abba's Children launch was incredible! Truly, I'm overwhelmed and moved to tears just thinking about it. God showed up, He stirred hearts, and the truth of His love was evident! Not sure I should really be surprised! I never ceased to be amazed at God's ability to show up when He's invited!

The current message series is on "What's Your Story?" and one of our senior pastors, Jim Johnson, shared his personal testimony of how God's story has been woven into his life from the very beginning. God truly used Jim's sermon to prepare hearts for the element that Abba's Children ended the service with.

Each family that participated in this element has the unique story of adoption woven into their lives. It was a privilege to stand on stage next to these amazing families!  As you'll see, the beginning of the video was playing on the side screens while the band sang the song, and then at the end of the song, all the families that were shown in the video walked out in the end singing the chorus. Truly, we are all Children of God! Without further ado... here is the video from Sunday!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Over a year in the making... would you come?

Remember THIS POST that I wrote just over a year ago? Or THIS ONE about six months ago? Man, I love looking back and seeing how God works and orchestrates conversations and meetings, all for His glory! 

Here's a sneak peak of something you'll see on Sunday!
Well, THIS Sunday, October 2nd, a big step towards God's vision is being fulfilled! Preston Trail Community Church's orphan care ministry, Abba's Children, that I have the privilege of heading up, is officially being launched! All the prayer, all the discussions, all the meetings, all the time and effort put into developing this ministry are coming to fruition! I am so stinking excited!!!

I feel like this ministry launch is my proud moment to brag on how God has brought it all together! That being said, I just want to invite anyone local to come this Sunday to Preston Trail, to catch a glimpse of what God has been up to!  I honestly can't think of anything that would mean more to me than to have those I care about there this Sunday.  I know many of you have your own home church that you go to, and that several of you can't even remember the last time you stepped foot into a church... don't worry I'm not asking you to switch church's and I'm not expecting to see you every Sunday from here on out... BUT if you'd be willing to come this one Sunday, I would be so honored! Growing up, I never was in theater or involved in a performance of any kind, but I can only imagine I would have felt the same way as I do now, hoping that my friends and family would come and see what I've been pouring my heart and time into. It's gonna be good, I promise!

I'm confident that God will show up and I'd love it if you did to!

Church services are at 9:15am and 11am! You can click HERE for directions on how to get there!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Abba's Children

Ahhhh!!! I just realized it's been FOREVER since I've updated about our church's unfolding orphan care ministry, Abba's Children, that is about to officially launch October 2nd! Exciting stuff is happening folks! Over the past several months, we've been dreaming, planning, praying, and developing Abba's Children and we've watched God stir hearts, answer prayers, provide leadership, and confirm that His heart truly does break for those in need. If I'm honest, there are times where I'm flat out overwhelmed considering all that God has in store for this ministry and the responsibility that comes with that as one of it's leaders. I've mentioned it before, but the fear of inadequacy and not meeting expectations is a constant battle for me. I'm regularly reminded that God likes my dependency on Him and He is leading this, not me. I'm so glad my only responsibility is to be obedient to what He asks of me, and then He'll do the work! Despite my fears, there is an underlying peace and joy as I trust in God's ability to develop and mold this ministry into what He desires! He has already proven to be so faithful!

So October 2nd is our "official" launch and I'm super pumped about it! We're going to be incorporating a powerful worship element that echoes God's heart that we are ALL adopted children of God. I would share, what we're doing, but I don't want to spoil the surprise- trust me, it's gonna be good! I'm hoping to have this element captured on video,  I'll post it here afterward for ya'll to see if we do in fact video it! After both services we're going to have a table set up with our leadership team ready to answer questions and hand out info with our upcoming events! I pray specifically that God's love would be reflected well, that the announcement of this ministry would come a blessing for families who have longed for support, that seeds would be planted in the hearts of those God desires to rise up to possibly pursue adoption/foster care, that souls would be burdened to make a forever impact in a child's life resulting in them taking the next step and signing up for our upcoming events, and that above all else, His name would be glorified! Would you join me in prayer for our Oct 2nd launch?

Even though we have yet to launch, God has already gathered a core group of passionate people who love orphans! It makes me smile to have seen first hand how sweet friendships have formed, how the power for prayer has knit families together, how heartfelt conversations and laughter have gone late into the night, and how we have CELEBRATED along side of one another as children have been joined with their forever families!!! This past weekend we were able to have have our 2nd Abba's Children Airport Welcome Home for one of our sweet families, the Stows! After a long and faithful journey to their precious son "L", they were finally able to bring him home from Ethiopia and begin their new adventure as a family of 4 (they also have an adopted daughter from China). Here are some pictures from their homecoming! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What we desire for our boys

I can't even begin to tell you how many prayers I've shot up to God begging Him for guidance in this crazy thing we call parenthood! Often my prayer goes something like this... "Please Lord, don't let me jack my kid up! Cover me in your grace... AND cover Jude's ears and heart from anything I say or do that doesn't reflect you well!" If you're a mama, I'm sure you'd agree, we just desperately want the best for our children and hope that we don't get in the way of just that!

Lately there has been a reoccurring theme surrounding me (you know the kind, everywhere you turn, there seems to be an obvious trend of topic. Whether it's the book I'm reading, the message at church, or conversations with friends). Typically this means (eh, I take that back, this ALWAYS means) God is trying to speak to me. God apparently also likes to use life circumstances to push my thoughts towards a topic He's particularly trying to drill home in my life...

I was driving Jude to his first day of Pre- K yesterday and was suddenly hit with the realization that my little man is growing up! Yes, I know... this shouldn't have come as a surprise to me! All kids do it (it's true), I've had 4 years to prep myself for it, yet I felt like I had blinked and my chubby baby (more like little sumo wrestler) had become a slender pre-school big boy in a matter of seconds! I was bombarded with the reality that time is so precious and that investing in that time is everything! This sappy sentimental mom moment carried my thoughts to yet again, you guessed it, the oh so persistent, reoccurring topic! Here it is...

What is our deepest desire for Jude (and Isa) in this life? And how are Joshua and I, as the parents, cultivating in him (them) this desire?

As we sort through what our prayers, hopes, and dreams are for our boys and their future, I can't think of a better way to capture our ultimate desire for their lives than this...

"My daily prayer is that God would use (your) victories, wounds, and transgressions forged along the way to encourage others to risk losing everything to know the life God dreams for them, for you...
Your journey will be where God's pleasure and your purpose meet, not mine. Your destination is the same as mine- an intimate encounter between you and your Creator- but your route will be filled with adventures, both mild and wild, made just for you. No less challenging. No less exhilarating. Uniquely yours. As when Abraham placed Isaac on the altar, when we're ready to risk what we hold most sacred, we step into that adventurous life, the only one that matters. There we find our purpose and feel His pleasure- His delight in us. Beaming with the Light of His image, we clearly see the exact dream He holds for each one of us. In that Light and life, we find Him- our passport through darkness. " (Excellent book! Totally recommend reading it!!!)Passport Through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith

The resounding answer to the second question (what are we doing to cultivate this desire in him?) that keeps starring us in the face... LIVE IT! Simple as that. God continues to confirm in our hearts that if we desire for Jude to live a life or reckless abandonment, sold out for God's purposes- then we sure as heck better be doing the same! Talk about accountability! When fear creeps in and doubt weighs heavy on my heart, thinking about Jude's little 4 year old eyes watching, soaking in every decision we make, brings me to my knees in prayer. I find myself begging for the courage and wisdom to live "this life on the edge- where so much is uncertain, maybe even scary, certainly out of our control; but also where true freedom lives" .... so that, Jude will do the same with his life! (Kimberly L Smith)

More than success, more than family, more than the American dream..... I wish for my children God's story, God's dream, and the courage to live it!

And I continue to pray and probably always will, "Lord, please don't let me jack up my kid!" (o;

I can only imagine that this message/topic continues to surround me because I'm a slow learner and need constant reminding!

 For entertainment purposes I've included Jude's video of his first day of Pre-K yesterday! Enjoy our silly conversation at the end of the video about transformers and his Capri-Sun!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beautiful Outlaw

Guess what?! Remember a couple posts below when I was sharing about my husband's zest for John Eldredge? How the last monthly Ransomed Heart Ministry newsletter captured my heart and attention so much so that I just had to share a snippet from it?! Well, lo and behold, I opened my email last week and found a message from a gal with the Ransomed Heart Ministry team saying they had read my post! To top it off, I also had a comment on the post from the executive assistant of John and Stacy Eldredge!!! What?!  (OkayI'll admit, I was a tiny bit flattered/intimidated for a moment at the thought that ANYONE from a well known ministry, let alone anyone who isn't family or close friends, read a post I wrote! That being said, flattery is fleeting and I'm well aware that it wasn't my crazy mad writing skills that caught their eye, rather a simple google search of "John Eldredge" or "Ransomed Heart Ministry" that just so happened to pop up my blog- but whatever, I'm still excited about it!)

They were grateful for the encouraging words I had to say about John's writing, and let me know that the portion of the newsletter that I liked so much, was in fact taken from John's upcoming book- Jesus_Beautiful Outlaw. You ready for this?... Here's the best part.... they're sending me a signed copy of the book as a gift!!! (Now at this point, if I had been thinkin' ahead, I totally would have taken advantage of the fact that my husband's birthday is next month and kept this a secret, resulting in winning the wife of the year award as I handed over the book signed by his real life hero! But instead, in classic Hilary style, I got so excited because I knew he would be excited, that I blurted it out the moment he walked in the door from work! I stink at keeping good news to myself! But his reaction was well worth my outburst as his mouth hit the floor and he quickly called his mom and brother to brag that he's getting a signed copy of John's book! Totally made his day!) They simply asked that if I liked the book, that I would write a review about it here on the blog! Uhm.... Gladly! There's no question, after checking out this short video trailer about Beautiful Outlaw, I am already hooked and can't wait to read it and let ya'll know what I think! It's gonna be a good one folks! You should check it out too!!!

And yes, in case you're wondering, this only furthered my husband's love affair with John Eldredge! (o;

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Entertaining Chats...

I thought I would share just a couple of my latest chats with Jude as of late, enjoy! 

We drove by a field fire off of a nearby interstate the other day, and after Jude noticed the smoke, with a concerned tone....

Jude: Mom, what caused that fire?!
Me: I don't know bud, but I'm guessing it's because the grass is really dry from the lack of rain, so it probably caught on fire a lot easier.
Jude: Well mom, the grass won't burn... God lives inside the grass. (said very matter of fact)
Me: (chuckle) No, Jude- God doesn't live inside the grass. He made the grass, but he doesn't live inside it.
Jude: Uhm mom... Remember Moses and the bush! (with a "duh" attitude) The leaves didn't burn on the bush because God lived inside of it! Remember?
Me: Oh my goodness Jude, you crack me up! Yes, I remember. But that wasn't normal. Moses was surprised to see that the bush wasn't burning because that's not the way fire normally works.
Jude: Well, I'm just saying, God could be in that fire. He could mom, just don't argue with me.
Me: Sigh... sure Jude, whatever you say (as I shake my head at this entire conversation!) 
We haven't read this bible story in weeks- but the kid is memorizing his entire Jesus Storybook Bible... I mean, he LOVES it!

While eating breakfast several weeks ago...
Jude: Mom, I love this toast, the stuff that is gooey on the inside is soooo good!
Me: Yeah, that's the cinnamon and sugar, it's good stuff! 
Jude: Yeah, the cinnamon and sugar are like the same thing, just in different forms.
Me: Uhm, yeah- kinda I guess. 
Then he leaned in and whispered to me, as if he were telling me a secret, "It's like God and Jesus, mom- they're the same thing... just in different forms!"... 
How crazy is that?! I swear he has a direct connection with God! 

That same day we were driving in the car talking about when he grows up and "has a family of his own"... to which he informed me he DOESN'T want a family of his own, he wants to "live with mommy and daddy FOREVER!". I told him that just because he gets married and has his own family, it doesn't make him not our family- it just means that we ADD to our family. So then he says totally matter of factly, "So, I'll say... Wife, come to my home?" ... I laughed and said, "Sure, she can come to our home- but don't call her wife, call her by her name"- ha! He sat there in the backseat for awhile quietly with the wheels turning, and then all the sudden says, "Mom, I think I'm going to be SO nervous when I get older!" I said, "For what bud?" and he said, "To get a wife!... I'm nervous just thinking about it!".... Cracks me up! What a goof!

And last but not least, today, Jude hurried over to me this morning with a worried expression and his Hulk action figure in hand...

Jude: Mom, look! Hulk doesn't have any freckles on his nose like me! How am I going to be Incredible Hulk when I grow up?!

Oh how the thoughts of a 4 year old keep me entertained! There is no greater joy than being a mama!