Sunday, October 21, 2012

2 years

Exactly 2 years ago today, after months of tackling paperwork and raising funds, we were finally added to the much anticipated boy wait list with our adoption agency! We started at #71 on the list... and today we sit at #4!!! I could go on and on about the crazy amazing stories God has written in this 2 year window, but what brings my heart the most joy is knowing that 67 little orphan boys have been given a forever family since we were added to the list! This wait sure seems long some days, but I rest in the truth that God is busy placing the lonely in families and I'm confident He's writing a story of restoration and redemption right now for our sweet Isa! I love that He makes all things beautiful! Can't wait to see our sweet babes face!


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lifeguard Maddy

So clearly my lack of time is totally effecting my blog writing! Part of me feels guilty and wants to apologize for the lack of updates and promise to do better and make a point to blog more often... BUT who I am kidding and who the heck am I apologizing too?! So I'll take this moment to remind myself that I have been doing LIFE and LIFE comes before writing! If I was sitting around being lazy and twiddling my thumbs that would be one thing- but no siree bob, I'm one busy mama! At the end of the day, I think the little nagging guilty feeling isn't because I unrealistically think that I have readers who I owe an apology to, rather it's that I want to make sure that I adequately document all the amazing things that God is doing throughout our journey. For Isa's sake... and for mine! So often I forget about God's goodness, an answered prayer, His divine intervention... but if I have it written down, than I can reflect back over His faithfulness and once again stand in awe. So my prayer is that despite this season of busyness and the inability to write as often as I'd like- that God's goodness would remain fresh on my mind! May the incredible details that He is weaving together to bring Isa home and to transform our family never loose their awesomeness, whether written down or not!

All that being said, I would not want to leave a good God story unfinished, so I'll share with you part 2 from my last blog post!....

To catch you up real quick, the gist of part 1 of the story is this... I received an email from a friend, that was intended to share with me how God had been at work over the past 2 years transforming her heart from a place of bitterness to a place of beauty. But because of my emotional, insecure self, I got hung up on one line in her email about the fact that our fundraising had rubbed her the wrong way initially.  After "pout praying" (yes, that's a real term)  I re-read her email a couple times, asking for God's perspective, where He revealed, once again that His story is far bigger than mine- and that He will use our life how He sees fit (even in ways that make us uncomfortable) so that He can restore hope and healing to the broken! It was the following pout prayer that took place and got me to the point of seeing things through God's lens...

"God, Seriously, if SHE thought this, then no doubt, EVERYBODY does! Oh my gosh, how many other people are walking around out there thinking that we have some sort of expectation that they should pay for our life!? I'm not even kidding God, I'm so tired of fundraising!!!"
(then the overwhelming realization that if/when we move to Zambia, we'll have to be raising support there too came crashing down on me!)
"AHHH!!! GRRR!!! God, I know it seems like you're paving the way for us to get to Africa once Isa gets home, but UGH, I do NOT want to be a missionary and have to raise support for the rest of our lives! You hear me right?! I'm done! (insert pout, whine, pout, whine!). For real God, if this Zambia thing is where you're taking us, I need some serious clarity... and a paycheck would be nice too!" 
 I can only assume that because my emotions were blowing everything out of proportion, I instinctively pulled the "Africa card" out on God. The truth is, this gal's email mentioned nothing of us raising support in the future if/when we get to Africa- but I figured while I was on a role letting God know the parameters in which He could use me, I might as well make it crystal clear to Him that I was less than excited about any future support raising possibilities!

All that being said, after re-reading her email through God's lens, I began to have a sense of peace about the whole thing. You see, God could have stopped there- He could have just left me with a new perspective and that would have been sufficient. But He didn't. He poured more peace on my soul that day! Remember how I begged for some serious clarity about Zambia if that's where He would take us?!...
We decided to head to the neighborhood pool as a family later that afternoon- at this point, I had pulled myself together and was totally up for a some quality family time and suntanning (I'm always up for both those things!). Joshua, Jude and I had gotten out of the water for lunch and were eating our packed picnic on some lawn chairs. I noticed a young girl lifeguard approaching us that I had never seen before. (If you know me at all, than you know that the lifeguard instructor that lives inside of me makes me keenly aware of every lifeguard at the pool! I critique their skills, or lack there of, behind their back and regularly point out to Joshua, or anyone who will listen for that matter, which lifeguards are quality and which lifeguards are crappy. It's horrible, I know.) All that to say, all summer long, I had never seen this lifeguard girl before. She walked straight up to us and the following conversation took place...
Lifeguard:  Mr. Helms?
Joshua: Hey there! 
Lifeguard: I don't know if you remember me, my name is Maddy, and I was one of your students  like 3 years ago?"
(Keep in mind this happens to us A LOT when we're out and about- it's just a given when have a husband for a teacher/coach! The uncomfortable thing is that Joshua is HORRIBLE at remembering names and faces, so half the time he just smiles and goes with it.)
Joshua: Yes, Maddy! I remember you! (he was being honest here... this time!) How are you?
Lifeguard Maddy: Good! I just wanted to come say hi to you guys, I saw you walk in here to the pool a little bit ago and I had been thinking of your family! I heard that you guys are thinking about moving to Zambia?!
(At this point I totally perk up wondering how in the world this mysterious lifeguard girl had heard anything about us moving to Zambia?!)
Joshua: Yeah, we are! How did you know that?!
Lifeguard Maddy: Well, just last week I was actually IN ZAMBIA on a mission trip with my church! We worked with a place called Lifesong for Orphans along side of Mitzi and Shane McBride! We would have dinner in the evenings at the McBride's house and one night I saw your family picture hanging on their refrigerator! I told Mitzi, "Hey! That guy used to be my teacher!" And Mitzi shared that you guys are actually praying about moving out there to work along side of them!
Me (you know I had to chime in here!): Seriously Maddy?! That's crazy! Yes, we have been praying for quite awhile about moving there to work with them! Things are still up in the air with everything because we're waiting on our adoption, and we can't make any big commitments until we get our Isa home. That's crazy though that you saw our picture on their fridge! (Hold up! Had God seriously just put a teenage girl right in front of me to speak peace into my heart?! For goodness sakes, she had just been to the EXACT same place/ministry in Zambia that we're praying about moving to and she's coming to talk to us on the EXACT same day that I was begging God for clarity?! Uhm, YES that's the way my God rolls!)
Lifeguard Maddy: Well, I just feel like I need to tell you that it is TRULY AMAZING THERE! The kids are awesome, the work they're doing there is awesome, and the McBride's are awesome! It was truly a life changing trip and I can't wait to go back! I'm actually praying about applying for an internship there right now! Who knows, maybe we'll all be there together someday?! 

The conversation went on for a couple more minutes about her time there and how God had used it to change her forever. All the while sweet lifeguard Maddy completely unaware of the fact that God was using her to speak peace to my heart! Ironically, she shared her fears (and her parent's fears) about the task of raising support if she did decided to go over there as an intern. It was if God whispered, "Now... it's your turn Hilary to bring peace to her heart".  I was able to encourage her to never let support raising get in the way of your obedience to go and do what God asks of you! I genuinely shared that while it's hard and uncomfortable, God will bless it richly and use it in ways you never thought imaginable! 

She thanked me for my encouragement and said, "Well, who knows?! Maybe we'll all be working there together one day! I'm so glad I came over to talk to you guys, I just knew when I saw you guys walk in today that I needed to come talk to you!"

Oh sweet "mysterious lifeguard that I've never seen before Maddy", if you only knew how God used you that day! Coincidental that you felt the need to come talk to us, I think not! Thank you God for using Maddy that Thursday afternoon in August to reassure me that you are indeed alive and well! You are indeed alive and well and at work in Zambia, at Lifesong, with the McBride's... and if it takes a teenage girl to travel half way across the world to see our family picture on a refrigerator, so that you can later use her to speak encouraging truth into our lives- than so be it! YOUR ARE WORTH FOLLOWING, no matter the costs, even if we have to raise support for the rest of our lives. Thanks for the clarity God. I stand in awe.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Facets Unseen

Last week I received an email that quite honestly stirred up a mix of emotions inside of me. The gist of it is this... a friend emailed me to let me know that for the past 2+ years God has been working on her heart in some pretty significant ways. Unbeknownst me, when we first "announced" that we were going to be adopting, the fact that we would be fundraising, left her negatively thinking, "Wow! So they're adopting and wanting all of us to pay for it?"... Here me when I say, when I read her honesty in admitting that this was her initial thought, MY HEART COMPLETELY SUNK! First off, it is my worst nightmare for ANYONE to think for a second that we have ANY expectation that someone should give! I'll be the first to say that fundraising & raising support is NOT at the top of my fun list, and there have been many days I've cried over how uncomfortable it makes me feel. BUT no matter what, I KNOW it is God who placed the burden of adoption on our hearts and when we prayed and asked for how the heck we were suppose to financially come up with the means to do it, we felt like God told us to simply "let the need be known and watch Him provide".

I tend to think that I have a pretty good radar for the people that probably are taken back by our life choices and those who think we might be a little crazy (or really crazy for that matter) for fundraising for our adoption. Here's the deal though, this email completely threw me for a loop because this gal was someone I would have NEVER pegged for thinking this! I was floored! Clearly my radar was way off! I was clueless that she ever had a single negative thought about our adoption! Side note: I'd be lying if I said that it didn't bother me that inevitably there will be people that are rubbed wrong by our fundraising, (heck I had one lone stranger negatively comment on a blog post almost 2 years ago, and it still bothers me! I've often thought I'd like to sit down with this person over coffee and try and explain myself in hopes that they would change their mind and like me and not think I'm a free-loader once they hear me out! Can you tell I'm a people pleaser?!) That being said, I know I will never have the approval of everyone and ultimately at the end of the day, it'll be God that I stand before, and I KNOW it's His approval that is most important!

 I feel shallow in admitting that the rest of her email was a bit of a blur at the time as I was still stuck on her initial thought being, "Wow! So they're adopting and wanting all of us to pay for it?" I cringed that she ever thought this! I walked away from the computer with a flood of insecurities eating at me... which prompted the following (super mature) conversation with God...

"Seriously, if SHE thought this, then no doubt, EVERYBODY does! Oh my gosh, how many other people are walking around out there thinking that we have some sort of expectation that they should pay for our life!? I'm not even kidding God, I'm so tired of fundraising!!!" 
(then the overwhelming realization that if/when we move to Zambia, we'll have to be raising support there too came crashing down on me!)
"AHHH!!! GRRR!!! God, I know it seems like you're paving the way for us to get to Africa once Isa gets home, but UGH, I do NOT want to be a missionary and have to raise support for the rest of our lives! You hear me right?! I'm done! (insert pout, whine, pout, whine!). For real God, if this Zambia thing is where you're taking us, I need some serious clarity... and a paycheck would be nice too!"

It's funny how in re-writing how that little "chat" went down, I sound a lot like a bratty teenager who is throwing a hissy fit over not getting my way! Yes, I'm a 31 year old grown women...  apparently with an insecure, overwhelmed, people pleasing, teenage girl who lives inside me!

I love how God, regardless of our approach, always seems to gently speak back with His subtle nudge that is easy to miss if you're not seeking it. After I spewed all my worries and complaints, I managed to somehow tune into His whisper (which is becoming more familiar to me the more I beg for His will in my life), "Read her email again. Not through YOUR eyes Hilary, but through MINE"... and so I prayed for God to help give me His perspective, to help me read her words through His lens and not my own emotional lens. As I re-read her email probably three or four times, it was as if God had gone through it with a yellow highlighter and underlined and drew my attention to each line that had His love written all over it!
Suddenly new lines captured my heart...

"And that began sort of a spiritual revival in my heart"
 "2+ years later the Lord has given me a new song to sing.  A song about my own adoption into his family.  A song about his heart for "the least of these."  A song about the sacrifice that families and people make to follow the heart of Jesus.
" a beautiful weaving of our lives and stories together"
" He used you and your faithfulness to open my eyes to the selfishness and pride in my life"
"He has redeemed what was once very, very dark and broken"

You see, the point of her email wasn't ever intended for my self-centered insecurities to get stuck on that one line, "Wow! They're adopting and wanting everyone else to pay for it?".... the point of her email was to share how God had redeemed and restored her from that initial thought! This email wasn't about ME at all, but about the beautiful work God has been doing the past couple years in her life!

God is revealing to me that sometimes my life may need to rub someone the wrong way, in order for Him to get to work in their heart. Sometimes I may not like the way God uses me to accomplish His bigger plan, but I just need to get over myself and rest in the truth that His plan is far greater than my own! He is a God of healing and restoration and drawing people back to Himself, and if He chooses to use our story, even in a way I don't necessarily like initially, than so be it!

It's amazing how one's perspective can change so quickly when we ask to see a situation through God's lens! He is at work in facets unseen every day in our lives! Last week, I was just given the privilege to catch a glimpse into one of the ways He's using our adoption journey (even the dreaded fundraising) for His bigger purpose!

That same day, God continued to show off, pouring His peace into my heart, revealing His perspective into my life. But this post is getting a little lengthy, so I'll wait and share the second half of the story for another day! It's good stuff!



Friday, July 27, 2012

God knew...

Well, it's official... I'm completely out of the swing of things when it comes to knocking out blog posts! I'm not sure why I feel the obligation to let everyone know why I've put blog writing on the back burner, but my hunch is that it has something to do with the people pleasing side of me that worries about what others think. For some reason I fear that there is one lone person out there that might assume there is a direct correlation between my lack of blog posts written and me having a lack of passion or interest in all that God is doing in our lives! Rest assured, more now than ever before, I am passionate and invested in our adoption journey and I am in awe of God's faithfulness! I have never had such peace about God's timing and His divine orchestrating of every detail as I do now! The sole reason I have completely slacked at posting is because life has been cRaZy nutty here this summer and all the twists and turns that come with it, have made sitting down to write be the least of my worries! 

Here's a quick update of the past 2 months and all it's happenings!....

Needless to say this has not been the "summer break" Jude (or his mommy and daddy) had hoped for! He has spent more time out of commission with being sick rather than doing any summertime playing! I think we'd all agree, that's no fun for a 5 year old, summers are suppose to be spent on the slip'n slide and running barefoot until dark. So we are all more than ready for him to be back and at 'em for good! 

 It all started in June when Jude came down with a strange virus that lasted for a solid 10 days. We were at a loss for what was going on with his poor little body! First we thought he had just come down with strep again (7 times in the past 12 months, and we've unfortunately become pros at strep throat!). What threw us for a loop this go around, since it had never happened previously with his strep, was that day 2, he woke up vomiting (side note: we've managed to make it 5 years without him throwing up, which I think deserves a high five- but this also meant we had one scared little boy who didn't understand what the heck was happening to his body- boo to throwing up! It's NO FUN!). We thought that maybe he had caught the stomach bug on top of having strep, and although the vomiting did go away after 24 hours, he was not perking back up in the slightest and his diarrhea continued and had us worried about dehydration ! To make a long story short (or at least attempt to),  after 7 days of Jude being incredibly lethargic, not eating anything, getting a doozy of a shot in his thigh for the strep we thought he had (which didn't do ANYTHING to help him- it only gave him a serious fear of needles), and our doctor at the time being more concerned about talking about himself rather than our kiddo, we switched doctors to get a second opinion! My only regret is that I wish we would have switched doctors years ago! The new doctor was SO much better, asking questions, listening, and she actually determined that Jude in fact did NOT have strep. She wasn't sure what was going on with our little man, but she said it wasn't normal either and worried that he might have mono or something else.  She ordered Jude to have quite a bit of blood work done (which was a heart breaking moment for this mama to have to reassure her scared boy that everything would be okay after the giant needle experience earlier in the week!). Once the results came back, other than determining that his potassium levels were pretty low, everything else came back normal. The doc reassured us that no news was good news and that this probably just meant he had some strange virus! Sure enough, after 10 days, he started to perk back up and we slowly but surely saw our normal Jude return!

Jude then had a week and half to play his heart out like normal and "recover" before his already scheduled tonsillectomy was due to take place the beginning of July! We did our best to bulk him up since he had lost so much weight from previously being sick, especially knowing that after his surgery, he would loose even more weight from only eating liquids and soft food for awhile. Joshua and I both felt comfortable about Jude going into surgery the day of, because he really had bounced back to normal. Removing his tonsils and adenoids went great and he was such a trooper after surgery! We braced ourselves for the worst as far as recovery goes (PS... if you're a mama getting ready to take your kiddo in for a tonsillectomy, don't google anything about it! There are some serious horror stories- save yourself the worry!)  BUT we were pleasantly surprised when Jude handled it like a champ! He ate, drank, and took his meds like such a trooper and  quite honestly this recovery seemed like a breeze compared to his virus a couple weeks before! I'll be the first to admit that my biggest complaint was a selfish one, and it was just that both Joshua and I were super tired from getting up every 4 hours through the night to give Jude pain meds. But all in all, I bragged on how well everything had gone and thought we totally lucked out with Jude tolerating this recovery so well! The doc told us that there was no activity for 10 days, but after that- he should be good go! 

Sure enough, after 10 days, Jude was anxious to get back to the pool and play with his cousin! We were all going a bit stir crazy quite honestly! We still made sure he took it easy at the pool, no wrestling or crazy stunts- and he appeared to be doing great! It looked like summer was finally under way and that Jude could at last get back to his normal fun! That is until the evening of day 14.... 

This past Tuesday night around 11pm Jude called out from his bedroom. Daddy went to check on him and he was complaining that it felt like he had a hair stuck in the back of his throat. Joshua turned on his bedroom light to check it out and Jude started to cough/gag into his blankey. Once he pulled the blanket away from his mouth Joshua noticed that there was some blood on it. He called for me to come in there and bring the flashlight so we could look into Jude's throat. But by the time I got there, Jude was already in his bathroom coughing and spitting up a disturbing amount of bright red blood into the sink. I remembered the doctor saying this could happen when the scabs fell off, (although I was pretty sure we were past the normal window of when this would happen) but the doctor had said the best thing we could do is not freak out because it would only scare him more. Keeping this in mind, we managed to keep our wits about us and I called the doctors office to have the on call doctor paged. He called me right back and at this point Jude had been bleeding for about 5 minutes- he told me if it didn't stop after 10 minutes to head to the ER. In the meantime, just to have him swish ice cold water in his mouth and spit. Sure enough, his spit started to become more clear and I could tell the bleeding was slowing down. After 7-8 minutes, it seemed to be under control, and so Joshua and I took a deep breath and looked at each other like, "Well that was crazy!". I was able to look into his throat with the flashlight at this point and see that it still looked pretty bloody and in fact the scab on the right hand side of his throat had fallen off and there was a little hole there. I worried that the same thing was going to happen if/when the scab on the other side came off, so I climbed into bed with him for about an hour and laid there just staring at his sweet face and mouth to make sure there was no more blood! He quickly fell back to sleep and seemed to be okay, so I reluctantly went back to our bed hoping to get some sleep myself. I laid there, eyes wide open, worried that he would start to bleed again and not wake up and choke on his own blood- but eventually I dozed off while praying. I woke at 2:30am and went in and checked on our little angel who was peacefully sleeping and all seemed well. It seemed like I just laid my head back down on my pillow and blinked and the next thing I heard was Jude calling out at 5:15am! I sprang out of bed and ran into his room where blood was pouring out of Jude's mouth as he was crying for me. His eyes were as big as saucers and I could tell his look was a combination of fear and the fact that he was about to vomit. I scooped him up and brought him to the bathroom. I'll spare you the details because frankly it's so disturbing and the images are forever imprinted in my mind! 

Immediately I knew we needed to get in the car and head to the ER because this was way worse than the first episode earlier in the night and I saw no sign of it slowing down. Joshua quickly grabbed the bucket we use to wash our cars from the garage for Jude to hold in front of him and we jumped in the car and floored it to the hospital that's only like 5 minuets down the road (what a blessing)! By the time we were pulling up to the emergency room doors, it appeared that the bleeding had again stopped and I sat there second guessing if we should have even come. I always fear being the crazy mom who overreacts (Although, I gotta say... I think any parent in this situation would wig out- so I don't feel too silly showing up at the ER.) All this to say, I was on the phone with the doctor I had spoken with earlier in the night and he said to go ahead and go on in, that he was on the way and they would check him out to make sure he was all good. So, bloody bucket and all, I brought Jude into the ER, while daddy parked the car. Immediately the gals behind the counter jumped up and were like, "What in the world happened?!" as they noticed the blood all over Jude's face and covering his PJ's. They quickly got him checked in and in no time the on-call doctor I had spoken with was there. He took one look at Jude's throat and said he needed to go in for emergency surgery to have his throat re-cauterized. My heart sank a bit as I realized this meant Jude would have to get an IV and I knew this would be tough for him- he is just so over needles at this point! We talked to Jude about how even when you're brave, it doesn't mean you you're not scared, and how it's okay to be scared- but to not let the fear win out. He did awesome and listened and obeyed to everything the nurses asked him to do, all the while he had broken out into a cold sweat and was shaking uncontrollably. Broke my heart! I cried for him. They quickly wheeled him back for surgery and the doc said it would be a super quick procedure, like 5-10 minutes! He said just to hang tight in the waiting room and they'd come get us.

As Joshua and I sat in the waiting room, my mind replayed images of the CSI looking scene in Jude's bathroom that we would have to clean up once we got home. I was trying to figure out how we could get it cleaned up before Jude saw it, thinking it would totally freak him out. After a little bit, I realized we were waiting longer than the doctor had originally said we would, but I just told myself that they would surely come get us once Jude was in recovery. Eventually the doctor did in fact come into the waiting room shaking his head and sighing (not the facial expression you're typically hoping for from your doctor!) He quickly told us, that Jude was okay- BUT that while they were putting the tube down his throat Jude's mouth immediately filled up with blood and began pouring out of his mouth and nose! A blood vessel/artery had busted resulting in him loosing a significant amount of blood fast! Thankfully the doctor was able to get the bleeding under control but had to cauterize a pretty large area in order to do so. He also had to vacuum out his stomach due to the amount of blood that inevitably drained into it. (Another side note: did you know that it takes less than 1/2 teaspoon of your own blood in your stomach to make you throw up?!... The nurse told me that. Consider that little known fact a freebie for you just for sticking with reading this long post!) He said that it was a good thing we went ahead and came on in because we would NOT have wanted this blood vessel to burst at home! More than likely it would have resulted in a blood transfusion. He also decided to go ahead and admit Jude to the hospital in order to keep a close eye on him. So we spent this past Wednesday hanging out in hospital room 10, cuddling with our sweet boy, realizing how fleeting life can be, and counting our blessings that we are blessed to have doctors and hospitals near by for moments just like these! They released Jude Wednesday evening around 8pm under strict instruction to take it super easy this next week and only eat a soft food diet. They cannot guarantee this won't happen again, although they say the chances are super slim. There is nothing we could have done to prevent this from happening, they say it is so rare to have any bleeding after 10 days, but every so often there is this fluke chance of bad luck that it'll happen. We pray that we steer clear from anything else causing another bleed- but more than anything we trust that God is in control and will prepare us for whatever is to come! Hopefully an uneventful rest of the summer!!!! (So you know how I was worried about getting the bloody CSI crime scene cleaned up before we got home so Jude wouldn't freak out? Well my awesome parents came to my house, washed all the sheets, and cleaned the entire bathroom! Its looked spotless when we walked in the door! We are truly blessed!)

A cRaZy summer right?! ... Here is my new perspective.... thank goodness God's timing is SO much better than ours! My impatient heart has been hoping for our referral for quite some time! And quite honestly it still is longing for the day we get to see sweet Isa's face for the very first time! But let me just say that as we were sitting there in the hospital room earlier this week I thought to myself, "Thank goodness we are not out of the country right now traveling for court!" and I also thought "I can't imagine this happening in the midst of accepting a referral and scrambling to get all our paperwork together!".... but GOD KNEW! As I was reflecting more on it today, it hit me like a ton of bricks... all the way back at the end of March our agency, much to my surprise, told us that it would be VERY WISE for Joshua to NOT go on his school club sponsored trip this July that he was planning on chaperoning to Ethiopia. They thought there was a good chance that we might already have a referral or that we would be in between trips. After much prayer and conversation we decided to take their advice and Joshua cancelled the trip because he was the one heading it up. We were torn because we truly thought this could be a life changing trip for so many of his students, but we felt like it would be foolish to ignore the strong advice from our agency. That being said, I have to admit that I did say several times, "If we end up in July when that trip was suppose to happen and we don't have a referral, I'm going to be so mad and bitter!" (I know, not very grace-filled, sorry about that!)... So here we sit this week, the week that Joshua was suppose to be in Ethiopia, and we DO NOT have a referral.... but I DO have my husband home and I can't imagine having gone through Tuesday night on my own! But... GOD KNEW! He knew we needed him home! I can't think of any other reason we would have cancelled that trip, but because our agency told us it was important, we did... but GOD KNEW that would be the only way Joshua wouldn't go. He uses His people to accomplish His work. So NO, I'm not mad at our agency that we don't have a referral right now- I'm grateful that God used them to accomplish his plan and that HE is the author of this story, and I am not! I read a blog post earlier in the week that talked about God's "Prevenient Grace"- God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. I'm so glad we got to experience a glimpse of that this week with God at work all the way back in March, causing us to cancel a trip, for this week so that daddy would be here with us! Good stuff, God stuff! 

Let me leave you with a quick update where we're at in this wait! The unofficial number that we're showing on our list right now is #7, but I've also heard we're #5... either way, it doesn't really matter- we're right where God wants us. We are next in line for a babe over 12 months old but under 18 months... so we could technically skip a couple spots if a child meeting those parameters comes into the care of Hannah's Hope OR we could end up waiting until we're in the #1 spot anyway. There is no way to know! But again, it doesn't really matter, because it'll happen exactly how God wants it to! My heart does skip a beat every time my phone rings between 4pm-5pm because from what I can tell, that is typically the time when others have gotten "the call" for their referral... but I'm doing my best to not be consumed with it. Jude is doing a good job of keeping my mind off it! (o; 

Until "the call" I rest in the peace that God knows the end (or should I say beginning?) of this story of Isa joining our family! I don't want to take anything into my own hands- His timing is PERFECT!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Praying over crazy big possibilities!

My sis and I are sitting here at a coffee shop that we decided to bunker down at this morning and knock out some work after we dropped our boys off at their first ever Vacation Bible School. If you're a mama, than I'm sure you can relate... It's about efficiency really, we have a precious three hour child-free window to accomplish as much as possible and there's no use in wasting any of that time driving all the way home and back again. Not to mention, who doesn't love to surround themselves with the aroma of coffee and the company of their sister?!

So I've decided to start this blog post well aware of the fact I won't come close to finishing it here at the coffee shop given that I only have 15 minutes left out of my 3 hour child-free window (my oh my, where has the time gone?!)  But, I figured I would get a head start on writing this because my gut tells me it's gonna be a doozy of a post (you know the kind...where you write a sentence and then delete two sentences because it just doesn't seem to truly convey what is stirring in your heart?!) Well I think this is gonna be one of "those" posts. Why you ask?!

Well you see, Joshua and I have been praying hard the last three months! We've been praying over crazy big possibilities that have presented themselves to us and we've been seeking His direction on what our response should be to these possibilities! .....  (And here we are folks, 15 minutes is up and I only got this far.  My sweet boy needs to be picked up at VBS, BUT I will continue later today as soon as I get home and find some down time. I didn't plow through nearly as much of this post as I had hoped, in my head I like to think I'm a super fast speed writer, but in real life... not so much!)

Okay, I'm back! How was that for a cliff hanger?! Oh yeah, that's right... you didn't have to wait, you get to just keep on reading! Lucky you. (o;

So, like I said... past three months... been praying hard! You see, back in March we had a conversation with some wonderful friends of ours, The McBride's. You've probably heard me talk about them as I've been blessed with Mitzi's friendship and privileged to see God at work in her family's life over the past 2 1/2 years. I'm beyond thankful to have had a front row seat in watching God clearly answer their prayers and lead their family to Africa to work for Lifesong Zambia almost one year ago this July.

Let me give you a little history first before I dive in... There are several super cool things about my friendship with Mitzi and it started before I even met her... it's one of those rare moments in life where in hindsight you can see that God clearly meant for two paths to cross! Shortly after Joshua and I made the decision to jump into the unknown world of adoption, when I knew NO ONE else that was adopting or had adopted, when I was desperately praying for a friend that was in this journey too, I had two different people mention to me that we should really meet the McBride family. One of which was the UPS guy down the street where we printed our very first letter announcing that we were going to start the adoption process. I figured if the UPS guy thought I should meet the McBride's... maybe God was trying to tell me something!?! So I did what every "normal" person does and "facebook stalked" Mitzi (that's "normal" right?!) Totally to my surprise, as I was looking through her photo albums I noticed that her and  Shane were from East Tennessee (which is where Joshua and I met, got married, and lived before moving to Dallas) and both of them had in fact gone to Carson Newman, Tusculum College's main rival (where Joshua went to college)?! Both schools are pretty small Christian colleges that typically no one has ever heard of! What a crazy small world, right?! One thing lead to another and I was in touch with Mitzi and knew right away that she was my kinda gal! Down to earth, loves the Lord, loves Tennessee and good cookin', great mama, and just an easy stress-free friend! Truly, she was an answer to prayer! An added perk was she was a pro when it came to the adoption world! At the time, her and Shane were working for a division of Campus Crusade called Hope for Orphans, they had two bio kids and an adopted son from Ethiopia (Hannah's Hope mind you, where Isa will be from!). So during the paper chase phase of our adoption, whether Mitzi liked it or not, she was my go to gal with questions! And she always patiently walked me through all the nitty gritty details of the endless stack of confusing required documentations.

Flash forward to February 2011 and Mitzi, Courtney, and I made a road trip to Atlanta together for the Created for Care adoption retreat. My theory is, once you spend 12+ hours in a car with someone, you're either automatically gonna love them or hate them... and I walked away from that road trip and loved both Mitzi and Courtney all the more! I was able to see Christ shine in both of them and I knew that God had blessed me with two amazing, God-fearing, friends who "got me" and made me want to be a better example of Christ in the world. It's not every day you find those kind of people in your life! Mitzi and I shared on that trip that we both thought adoption was just the tip of the iceberg of God's story and we both felt like eventually, in time, we saw our families in Africa. We both had NO IDEA when or how we would get there, we just felt the burden to go. I think we even halfheartedly joked that maybe we'd go to Africa together one day!
Courtney, Mitzi, myself, and Lara at the Created for Care Retreat Feb '11

Little did Mitzi know that it wouldn't be long at all before God got to work at opening one door after another door for the McBride's to actually be in Africa (we were both thinking we had like a 5 year time frame, ha!)! She had no idea it was going to be that following July that they would pack up and move, but God made it pretty stinking clear that this is when He wanted them to go! I won't get into all the details for the sake of keeping this post from becoming a novel, BUT you can read more about their incredible journey HERE! Truly, from an outsiders prospective, it was such a privilege to watch and see them be obedient and faithful to say YES even when it stretched them and even when they didn't have all the answeres! The point of this not so brief history of how God brought the McBride's into our lives, is so that you know- I truly do believe that God is in the details. I have no doubt He's weaving together a beautiful big God-size story through the little every day occurrences in life. Even a casual passing conversation with the UPS guy... Even when we're praying along side of someone else and we have no idea that their story may also be our story too?! (o;
So, the McBride family courageously moved to Zambia last July and took on the HUGE task of heading up the Lifesong Zambia school. They have made tremendous progress with the educational programs and even more of an impact relationally with the Zambian staff! Currently the Lifesong Zambia School only goes through grade seven BUT they're expanding! You can read all about it HERE! It's good stuff that makes my heart beat fast and leaves me with a permanent smile on my face! Here's a glimpse into the Lifesong Zambia School, check it out! 

Zambia November 2010 from Lifesong for Orphans on Vimeo.

 So that leads me to the exciting and big news that Joshua and I have been laying at God's feet over the last three months! The McBride's approached Joshua and I about the possibility of joining them there in Zambia! With the launch of the high school, they're are in need of an American teacher/leader that is willing to partner with a Zambian teacher/leader to help head up the high school portion of the school! We've skyped a couple times with the McBride's and we've emailed back and forth numerous times over what the job would most likely entail, and truthfully, it sounds like a perfect fit for Joshua! Discipleship and mentoring as well as curriculum development and teaching are right up my man's alley! The fact that the McBride's are already there and blazing the trail for us, brings peace to this mama's soul. The little "contingencies" I let God know about after returning from Uganda about how He would get our family to Africa, are surprisingly all being met with this particular opportunity! Which makes me smile because that's just the way God works! Now, all that being said... this is by no means a done deal!

The time frame of it all, at this point, is the main thing that is up in the air. You see, this whole possibility panning out, is all really contingent on when we bring Isa home, how he's doing,  and how our family is functioning! That's a pretty big unknown, and we totally get that, but it's our number one priority!!! And so we're praying through what that might look like and trusting that the Lord will be clear if this is a step we should take as a family! That being said, so far, we have not hit any red flags or road blocks that scream, "No! This is not meant for your family!" If fact, every time I've been overwhelmed at the thought and begged God for clarity, He has answered in unique ways confirming that we should just keep taking one step forward at a time. I can guarantee one thing and it's that I will continue to plead with God to be a burning bush and speak loud and clear as to what His will is for our family! WE ONLY WANT TO GO WHERE GOD IS LEADING US!

The reoccurring answer to our prayer is, "Keep taking one step forward at a time unless I tell you to stop". To which we say, "Okay Lord! You've proven to be faithful over and over again throughout this journey! We will trust you!" So you might be wondering what this "next step" is... at this point it appears to be making a trip to Zambia to check it all out for ourselves! After much thought and discussion, the best time for us to make this trip, not to mention the most cost effective way, is for Joshua and I to go to Zambia on our way to Ethiopia when we travel for our first court trip to meet Isa. Of course, at this point, we don't know when that's going to be. BUT it's our game plan as of now! We've talked it over with both our social worker and our agency case worker, and they both agree that the best time to make such a trip is the front end of our first trip. Our prayer is that this visit will help provide clarity if in fact Zambia is where God wants to use us and if we can see our family there. 

Sigh, this does mean that before too long, we're going to have to start what appears to be the never ending process of fundraising again to help cover the cost of the additional leg of the flights for Joshua and I. So my apologies in advance if you're tired of seeing my homemade Africa tee-shirts or whatever other kind of creative little thing I can whip up to help bring in the extra money! I promise I'll do my best to make cute things that you actually want to buy! (o; Please also know that both Joshua and I are taking on any extra work we can to help bring in money! Joshua is actually in Utah right now for the week doing this AP Reader thing that will bring in an additional $1500 that we'll put towards the tickets and he's continuing to mow several yards in our cul-de-sac. I'll put any additional money I'm able to bring in with photography and dog sitting toward it as well! I don't have a set amount at this time that I know the airfare is going to cost us because I just don't know exactly when we'll be traveling- so my game plan is just to try and build up a cushion in our adoption savings account and trust that it'll be what we need to cover the flights!

Deep breath, okay so this whole thing is just so much bigger than us, and I get overwhelmed & humbled every time I think that God would use plain ole' Joshua and Hilary as a part of such an amazing story! Even if this entire thing doesn't pan out the way we think it might and His plans are something totally different, I'm cool with that, I'm just privileged to be used in whatever capacity! All I know is that I want to be obedient and keep taking one step forward at a time unless He tells us to stop. And so we'd ask that you too would pray for us... That we would be keenly aware of God's direction and agenda, that we would have the courage to get uncomfortable when we need to, that God would prepare our family for whatever lies ahead, that God would bring Isa home in just His perfect timing and that we would know without a shadow of a doubt what the best thing to do for our family is! We are beyond grateful for your prayers and support, thank you!

I'm excited to wait and see how this whole things unfolds! God sure does write the best stories! (o;

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fear fades as faith deepens

A happy ending to an eventful canoe trip!
 Ask any mama and I'm confident they'll tell you there is nothing worse than being gripped with fear for your child's well being- whether it's because they're sick, hurt, or there has been a life-threatening accident.  For real, I can't think of a single thing that can knock the wind out of me more than when I'm concerned for Jude's health or safety! Within each us there is this crazy little voice that whispers worse case scenarios to our souls and if this voice is given enough attention, the fear can spiral itself out of control. In the book, Protecting the Gift, Gavin de Becker says in regard to parental worry, that “preparedness is a funny thing: there’s only so much of it a soul can stand because the problem with bracing for the worst is you have to imagine it first!”  How true is that?! 

That brings me to our canoe "adventure" from this past weekend! (o; Overall, we had an incredible weekend camping with Matthew and Courtney at the beautiful Beavers Bend State Park in Oklahoma! It refreshed our spirits to be in the outdoors and be in the midst of great company! Let me first preface this whole story by saying that in the grand scheme of things, our little canoe mishap this weekend, is exactly that... little. Especially given that some of you reading this have truly experienced close calls, heartache, and loss on levels that I can't even begin to imagine. More than anything, I'm just trying to process through all the thoughts that have been triggered because of this situation- and writing helps me do that. 

On Friday, we all decided we would hit up the local canoe and kayak rental company and it would be fun to take a trip down the river. Matthew and Courtney would take the kayaks and Joshua, Jude, and I would take a canoe. It made sense- the canoe fit the three of us in one boat and the kayaks were intended to be for only one person. We decided to sit Jude in the middle of the canoe on the floor of it, and he tucked his legs under the wooden bar that went from one side of the boat to the other.  I was sitting up front on the seat and Joshua took the back seat. We were excited and set to go as we pushed off the sandy bank. And we were off down the river... well... kinda... Joshua and I quickly realized that our communication skills for directing this stupid boat were, let's just say.... lacking! Given the fact that I think Joshua and I both sort of pride ourselves on being outdoorsy and river savvy, the tension between the two of us was a bit high as I swear I was paddling on the correct side and so does Joshua- YET our boat wasn't listening! Let's just blame it on the boat for the sake of having something to blame our poor steering skills on! (o; My friend Sunny refers to these boats as "divorce canoe's".... and I think she is spot on! It was like steering a giant log down the river. 

Well, ready or not, our first set of rapids was approaching! Somehow we managed to bang our way off the rocks, no doubt looking like the most ungraceful paddlers ever! But I thought to myself, "Okay, we got this- we made it through that without tipping, we're good to go!" Joshua and I continued to work on our communication skills (or lack there of) before the next set of rapids that were around the bend of the river. I'd love to tell you how much we improved, BUT... not so much! (Seriously, per-marital counseling should require canoe paddling-101!)  I'm trying to scope out the rocks we're approaching so we can have a game plan on how to weave our way around them through the rapids. Much to my demise, it quickly became apparent as we got closer and closer... there was NO WAY to make it through this rapid without hitting the rocks, the canoe just wasn't able to cut and maneuver around them all. So before we new it, we were turned sideways pinned up against a giant rock. It caused us to loose our balance and shift our weight where the current quickly caught the lip of the canoe and immediately started pouring water into our boat. Joshua and I both fell out and I quickly was trying to get myself in position to grab Jude, knowing that he would be scared. He has never been in white water before, only pools and lakes, so this is a whole new thing to him. He had his life jacket on, so I wasn't so much concerned about him going under, as I was about him just getting too far downstream without me. 

Well... turns out, Jude didn't fall out of the canoe like Joshua and I did- instead he was pinned IN the canoe, because his body was wedged under the wooden bar that he was sitting under and the current was pushing him up against the bar while the boat was engulfed with water and sinking! Thankfully, Joshua and I were both able to put our feet down in the rushing water and stop ourselves from going down river. (The "lifeguard swift water safety side of me" wants to chime in here and say that typically one should NEVER put your feet down in white water because of foot entrapment- but given our predicament, it was necessary- but normally, not a smart move! The water was about chest deep on me, and the rapid itself was maybe a class ONE, if that- so nothing crazy at all! BUT rushing water is such a powerful thing, and should never be underestimated!) So... Jude's huge eyes are locked in on me and he's totally in panic mode. I'm holding the canoe on it's side so that it doesn't completely flip over with Jude inside it and I look up at Joshua with that intense look of, "You better get our boy out of there NOW!" Joshua quickly grabs the shoulders of Jude's life jacket and yanks as hard as he can against the current to pull him back up to the surface and into his arms! The relief that flooded my heart once Jude was out of the boat is like none other! Don't get me wrong, we were still in quite the predicament, standing in the middle of the river, with a canoe completely submerged, my paddle down river somewhere along with my shoes, and grasping for Joshua's bag that had our video camera and some clothes in it. BUT at that point, I didn't care about anything else besides the fact that our boy was out of the boat and in our arms! Joshua handed Jude over to me while he tried to hang onto the nose of the canoe that was the only portion of the boat still above water, so that it didn't go down the river without us. Jude is crying, scared and cold, shaking in my arms with the water rushing around us. I can't pick my feet up and try and walk to the edge because the current is too strong and it'll sweep me off my feet, so I'm "stuck" in a sense and Joshua and I are looking at each other like "Now what?!" It's right about this time that I spotted Matthew who was able to paddle his kayak upriver to us and help out- which I'm seriously so grateful for, because I don't know what we would have done if he wasn't with us! Matthew and I were able to carefully put my shaken up child on the nose of his kayak for him to take to safety. Joshua and I were then able to figure out our game plan for pulling our stupid canoe up on the same stupid rock (can you tell I'm a fan of the canoe and the rock?!) that had flipped us in order to empty it out. Meanwhile, little did I know that Courtney had managed to go downriver and snag my paddle and both my flip flops! What a gal!

After we got the canoe pulled back to the surface and emptied out, we made our way over to the boulder on the side of the river where Matthew had safely sat Jude and told him to stay put. It was one of those moments as a parent where the image of your frightened child breaks your heart. Jude had his knees curled up to his chest shaking, cold, and crying. I quickly realized that our parenting skills needed to step it up a level because we now had to somehow convince our child to get back in the boat and go another 3 hours down the river all the while validating his fears. No pressure! I just kept thinking to myself, "Don't jack this up Hil, this could be a defining moment in Jude's life where he either thinks we helped him overcome his fears OR we traumatized the poor kid for life!" Matthew suggested that we switch up boats and try putting Jude in one of our laps on the kayak. It sounded like a GREAT idea to me considering I wanted to chuck this darn canoe on the river bank and kick it a few times! So we traded boats and Jude reluctantly climbed into daddy's lap in the kayak to continue down the river.  Daddy and Jude spent a lot of time praying for courage and safety while riding in that kayak- and despite a little detour where Jude and I got out to hike around one last rapid, Jude recovered and ended up having a great time on the lower half of the river! Answered prayers for sure, as I was envisioning a LONG day of fearful crying!

That brings me to today- several days later and images of my sweet son's fear-filled eyes staring up at me while the canoe filled with water still flash in my mind. I hate it. It sucks the life right out of me. I'm not one to freak out during an emergency, it's actually ingrained in me to want to run to an emergency and respond with all my years a lifeguard trainer- BUT it's afterwards when I'm processing the whole thing, it tears me up. The "what ifs" haunt me as I play through every scenario. It goes back to the quote, “preparedness is a funny thing: there’s only so much of it a soul can stand because the problem with bracing for the worst is you have to imagine it first!” 

That being said, I am continually reminded that Jude is not my own- God is gracious enough to let me borrow him for his time on earth. This brings peace to my unsettled mama's heart. Yes, life is fleeting and things can drastically change in the blink of an eye but I also have also been reminded that fear fades as my faith deepens. I pray that God continues to wipe away the "what ifs" from my mind and instead fills my thoughts with His faithfulness and goodness. God protected precious Jude that day on the river and I am forever grateful! Gosh I love this kid!
Nice calm water = Happy Jude (o;

Friday, May 11, 2012

Respond to the Call not the NEED

Earlier this week I was reading a fellow adopting mama's blog post and was scrolling through the long list of comments made below it.  I came across a comment that caught my eye by a women who's opinion I truly respect, Beth Templeton. You may or may not have ever heard of her, but I had the privilege of hearing her speak at the Created for Care retreat that I went to back in Feb 2011. She has an incredible testimony and offers much wisdom when it comes to world of adoption! In her response to this particular post, she offered such truth, that I find it keeps coming to mind over and over again the past couple days. Here is a what she said that has captured my thoughts...

"The key is responding to the Call, not to the need. Jesus always and only responded to what he saw his heavenly Father doing and what he heard His Father saying, and never to the need or the expectations of others. It's fascinating to read through the Gospels and see his actions from this perspective. It seems to me that the many families I have had contact with who have experienced destruction of their marriage or family structure as a result of adoption often adopted out of a sense of pressure that this is what they should do as good Christians, or in response to a very enthusiastic advocate who they respected. That does not give a strong enough foundation to deal with some of the extreme issues that many adopted children face, many not until they reach their teen years. I think it is important for people to be always encouraged to hear from God and not to overstep, so to speak, their level of faith. And if there is disagreement within the marriage about it, moving forward only with the revelation of the most conservative perspective. In our advocacy for special needs or older children (we adopted our 4 from Russia at 5, 7, 10 and 10), it is important that we don't encourage people to live out of our own faith or experience. Our role can be one of strengthening faith in this amazing God, so that others can then look to Him and hear what He is telling them-- possibly to step out of an already shattered comfort zone (as most people who are considering adoption have!) into another level of believing Him."

I LOVE this... respond to the CALL not to the NEED! How awesome is it that God has designed each one of us so uniquely different in order to accomplish His purposes AND that because He calls each of us to a different story- if we say YES, we are privileged to play a role in the most beautiful script ever written, specifically designed just for us?! Our distinct personalities, our God given passions, the way we are wired-they all play a role in what God has called us to do!  

I can say with confidence that God's call for our family has been to pursue an international adoption of a baby boy, our Isa... we didn't conjure up the idea of adoption on our own, God flipped our world "right side up" (as my hubby says) with the unexpected burden to adopt. We've had no agenda of our own this entire time, which has left us begging for God's direction and clinging to His lead! Honestly, there have been more times than not where it would have just been easier to take matters into our own hands and walk away from the whole thing, or change our parameters, or pursue an entirely different route- after all, two years into this process is WAY LONGER than we ever thought it would be! The thing is though, God continues to confirm that we are exactly where He wants us to be (maybe not always where we want to be) but exactly where HE wants us! And so we stay put until HE tells us to move. My sweet friend Nancy Powell reminded me a couple weeks ago when I was discouraged  to, "consider it a privilege that God thinks our story is worth the wait!" (thanks for reminding me of that Nancy!) His purposes are far greater than I can comprehend, He is working in facets I can't see, and my responsibility isn't to meet the need of the orphan crisis... it's to be obedient in responding to the call that He has so clearly placed before our family and to glorify Him in the process!

And so we continue to do our best to respond to the CALL (even when we're tired and wish His time frame was different than our own!) (o; 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Feeling yucky = Quality time

Jude man and I are feeling under the weather today (I seriously sound like I smoke 10 packs a day with my raspy voice! Uhm yeah, I thought raspy was suppose to sound sexy?! Well, not so much... I don't!). Boo! As a result, the two of us have been taking it easy all day and watching movies cuddling in our comfy clothes (AKA... pajamas). Yay for a forced lazy day! Today has got me thinking... it's sort of a sad that it takes me feeling yucky in order to let the house go, the to do list slide, the errands be put on hold... in order for me to spend some downtime hanging with my little man! Lord, help me be intentional in the quality time I spend with Jude. When he was a baby, this intentional time was frankly a heck of a lot easier! He depended on me for everything- being fed every meal, rocked to sleep every 3 hours, a diaper change countless times a day, you get the idea. But as he's gotten older his independence has resulted in me not being needed as much. Or should I say, not feeling needed as much. Today I'm reminded that I am in fact still very needed- it just looks different! To Jude, it's all about my company and undivided attention that he needs these days. Seriously, he has looked at me today at least four times, snuggled up extra close, starred me in the eyes and said, "This is great mama! I love you!". The kicker is, I really DO spend quite a bit of time with him- but what I'm realizing is, it's often spent multitasking. I'm an awesome mom when it comes to chillin' out with Jude, watching him play in the living room floor... while I fold laundry. Oooh, I might even get an award for mom of the year for my stellar ability to watch him ride his bike.... while socializing with other mom's in the cul-de-sac! (Catch the sarcasm!) The reality is, neither one of those mom multitasking moments are wrong... it's just that they are more common than not! Truth be told, I don't regularly go out of my way to put the laundry down, get down on the living room floor and actually play with Jude nor do I regularly take him to a park where he has my undivided attention and play with him. I'm challenging myself to make those moments more frequent than not... especially before Isa joins our family and I'll have to be all the more deliberate with my one on one time! 

So I guess I'm grateful for a sick day where I'm left realizing that I'll always be asking for God's wisdom in how to best use my time!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

BUSY as a bee! Photo re-cap...

Our official April boys wait list number was #12! And in fact I know that another referral has since gone out of a baby boy, so we are actually unofficially #11! Oh how I can't wait to be in the single digits! We're now done with updating our home study and we've sent off all the important paperwork to our agency and the USCIS office... I'm glad to have that all done and off my shoulders! After much prayer we decided to change our parameters from 0-12 months old to 0-18 months old. With the age difference continuing to grow between Isa and Jude we found ourselves hoping for a bit "older" of a referral, meaning closer to a 12 month old. I have no idea how old our little dude will be when we get our referral, but Joshua and I are totally cool with skipping the newborn stage (well the sleepless nights really, ha!)... no matter his age, all I know is that we're gonna love him like crazy!

We've been working hard on Isa's room! Slowly but surely it's coming together! His crib was made with love by his Uncle James and I've manage to whip up some homemade things as well! I made his crib bumper and valance out of material I got while in Africa back in February. We got his dresser on sale at IKEA the other day and painted it to match his crib.
Our church had an awesome One More Life Gala on it's new property where the new building will soon be built! Joshua and I are both grateful to be invested in a church where no perfect people are allowed where it's mission is "We exist to give our lives to help people find and follow Jesus Christ". If you live near me and are looking for a home church, please know the invitation is always there for you to join us anytime!
The handsome "coach" and I before heading out to his soccer banquet. His soccer season has finished up and now I get my hubby back in the evenings! I'm a happy wife! (o;

We celebrated our kiddo's 5th birthday, camp out style! Lots of prep work and love went into this party!
Camp Jude was a success! He invited his closest little buddies over for a fun backyard camp themed party! We had hotdogs, s'mores, campfire songs, and a backyard movie to end the night! It was such fun!
A handsome bunch of boys!
Grams came into town from Atlanta!
Some quality evening family time has been had! Crazy boys!
I've been snagging any free cuddles I can get from my big 5 year old these days! He's growing up so fast and I know that inevitably when Isa gets home the dynamics of our family will change (which if I'm being honest, I'm a little sad about- but I trust that God will give me enough love to go around!). This leaves me soaking in my evening routine with Jude in bed, laying there a little longer than normal and chatting about his day and doing my best to intentionally make quality time throughout the day with him!

Well, there you have it! This is just a glimpse into the busyness that has resulted in why my blogging skills stink lately! All good things though- memory building things- quality things! I'm one grateful mama!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Keep on Singing

 Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending a Leadership Network Missional Renaissance workshop with several amazing individuals from our Compassion Ministry at church. The premise of the workshop was to gather like-minded church and community leaders that had a passion and heart for meeting the needs of the vulnerable and collaborate on ways we can wrap around the hopeless and restore hope. Our church's vision is to go beyond the church walls and into the community to live out the gospel and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who may otherwise never step foot in our building. I could go on and on about all the goodness I soaked in over the two days we were there, but for now, I just wanted to share a video that they showed us there that I thought was so stinking powerful! This may just be one of the coolest things I've ever seen- I think you'll agree! Check it out!

After we watched this video, the leaders asked the entire group what our thoughts were, and as people shared, very true points were touched on. One person shared how this video really revealed the importance of community and how everyone longs to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Another shared that clearly technology is powerful and can touch lives all around the world and bring people together (I can testify to that just since blogging!). Another shared how it was so cool that before the conductor started this huge project, he didn't know how it was all going to come together, but he stepped out in faith anyway and trusted it would all fall into place at just the right time, and it did! But it was what the last person shared that stuck with me most- here's my spin on what was said...

It's like God is the conductor over this entire world, orchestrating an absolutely beautiful song with each of our individual lives. He's inviting us to sing in His choir and be a part of the most incredible music piece to ever be written. What a privilege it is to be asked to join in!

So that has me thinking... Here I am, with Joshua and Jude, and we're singing this little song over here in North Texas, sometimes we're off pitch, and sometimes we don't sing as loud as we should, and other times we're singing the wrong part all together! And I can't help but think that there's another song in Ethiopia being sung right now, and that Isa and his birth mom are singing their hearts out this very moment- and they may not feel like it's even loud enough to be heard... but it is! God hears them! God hears us! And the best part is, He's orchestrating our voices together just perfectly so that it makes a beautiful song! And the reality is, this music piece is far bigger than just our voices... it includes so many of YOURS as well! Thank you for joining in singing with us!

So today, and every day, I'm choosing to trust that a beautiful song is being written, even when my part doesn't always sound too hot, and I just need to keep on singing! What an honor it is to be a part of something far bigger than myself! Make my song beautiful Lord and thank you for orchestrating it all so well!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Begging for HIS PLAN

As many of you know, the burden to GO (literally move our family) to Africa has been heavy on our hearts for over a year now. Both Joshua and I expected that our trips (in July for Joshua and February for me) to Uganda were just another piece to the puzzle of God equipping and preparing us for what is to come, whatever that may be. I think Joshua was anxiously waiting for me to get back from my trip to see if my experience there was similar to his. He came home pretty stinkin' sure that he could see our family in Africa. He most definitely didn't have all the answers to how and when we would get there- but no doubt Africa captured his heart and the desire to GO was only strengthened.  I've always said to Joshua that he leads our family and if he came home tomorrow and told me, "Hil... we're moving to Africa this week, I know it's where the Lord wants us!"....  that I'd go, I wholeheartedly trust him! He seeks the Lord's guidance for our family and I couldn't have more confidence in his willingness to say YES to whatever God asks of him! And here's the deal... if my man is seeking God's story for our family, than I'm 100% behind him! For this, I'm beyond grateful, what a blessing it is to have a husband that is the spiritual leader of our family! Now that being said, while I'm pretty sure the hubs appreciates my vote of confidence in his ability to hear the Lord so clearly, he also let me in on the fact that it would make him feel a tad a heck of a lot better if I experienced Africa for myself just to confirm that I too felt the Lord tugging our family in that direction after having been there. Fair enough! I'm also grateful for a hubby who desires to make sure I'll be a happy mama and not get to Africa one day and say, "What?! Why in the world did you bring our family here?! I hate it!"- I think that would truly be his worst nightmare!

Keeping all that in mind, inevitably my experience in Uganda was captured through a filter of "Can I see our family living here?" I most definitely took advantage of every opportunity to talk with any "non-Ugandan's" (is that a word?! I would say American's but I spoke with a gal from Holland too, so I can't lump her into the American category?!) who already live there to pick their brain for what Africa life is like from their perspective! Thank you Kirby (with Sixty Feet), Danielle and Renee (with Serving His Children), and Mariska (Yep, you guessed it, the gal from Holland with Food Step) for your gracious spirits and precious time you were willing to give me in answering my plethora of questions! Our conversations meant more to me than you probably will ever know! What amazed me most as I spoke with each of these ladies, was how God so clearly was woven into how they ended up in Uganda. Each of them with a very different story of how they got there and each of them with a very different story of how God is using them there! 

But here is where I have to be honest and say as I spoke with Kirby, Danielle, Renee, and Mariksa,
I thought to myself, "There is NO WAY I could do what they do! I would emotionally break down and be a crappy mom and wife if I did what they do on a daily basis! I'm not as strong as them, or smart as them, or brave as them, or as faithful as them! How in the world are you going to get my family to Africa God?!?!?"

It's funny how in hindsight it can seem so clear that God was trying to teach me an obvious lesson, yet I totally missed it! I remember thinking to myself that each of their stories were so uniquely different from each other, BUT how I assumed for some reason that my story was going to look like one of theirs! And I was overwhelmed at the thought of trying to put myself into their shoes, because their shoes seemed to fit them perfectly, but be way too big for me to fill! I missed the point... God was showing me how all their stories were so different from each other so that I would realize my story would be different too! He would write it, I didn't have to figure it out!

It wasn't until I got home from my trip and I was sharing this thought with my sweet (and very wise) friend Courtney, and she gently reminded me, that of course I couldn't do what they do! I'm NOT them! God wired them specifically for their role! He didn't wire me for their purposes... God's story for each of our lives looks totally different! As she shared that simple truth with me, it was as if a weight was lifted from my chest, and God's lesson He had tried to reveal earlier to "slow to catch on Hilary" was all the sudden so clear!  God's plan for my life is custom made to suit my personality and the way He created me so that He can shine through me best. His plan enables me to be the wife and mother He longs for me to be! God's story is tailor made for our family so that Joshua and Jude (and Isa too!) will be used by God for far greater things than I can imagine!  Does that mean life is always going to be easy?! Absolutely not! Does that mean that I won't ever have to step outside my comfort zone?! I wish, but NO! BUT, what it does mean is that I don't have to figure it all out....  all I have to do is be available! What it does mean is that I can trust God's agenda and plan, and I don't have to come up with it on my own. God will pave the way to our own unique story of how He gets our family to Africa!  

Can I just tell you what a relief it is to hand this one over to God?! If I learned one thing for sure while in Uganda, it's that life is hard there. I am confident that when we move to Africa, however God gets us there, we will face heartache, we will face poverty, we will face injustice, we will face brokenness... and we'll only be able to face all of this by God's strength, clinging to the hope found in His goodness and trusting that we are in HIS will! The reality is, it's gonna be hard. So... that leaves me on my knees begging for HIS PLAN, HIS AGENDA, HIS STORY, HIS WAY, HIS DESIRES... because I don't want to live my life outside of HIS PURPOSES! 

Like Joshua, I too came home from Uganda certain that God was in fact preparing our family for Africa. I have no idea when or how we'll get there- but I'm learning that's okay! It leaves the door open for God to reveal His path and not let mine get in the way! I have more peace about that now than ever before.

Rest assured, we are seeking God's wisdom and discernment for our family and we're trusting that He will be clear! We will be faithful to GO and FOLLOW when He opens the door!