December 31, 2013

2013 recap

Happy New Year!!  It's definitely time for an update and there's no better time than a good 'ole 2013 recap post!  At our last gathering of our church we were reflecting over this past year and it's amazing to me how much can happen in a year!  It's really true that the days may go slow, but the years go so fast!  Last year at this time we had just left Pinelake church to pursue church planting, and now we have been meeting together as Arise church for 6 months and are really growing close as a family of believers and pursuing God's mission to disciple our neighbors.  I'd love to go into some posts about our experience planting a church soon ;)  I also started working 5 days a week again this fall and those two things combined for a nearly non-existant blog!  I basically started this blog to share info with friends and family about our adoption journey, and since we've spent the year waiting in that category, sometimes it's hard to have new info to share on that front.   I did want to share that it's been hard work this year!  However, when the Lord calls you to do something it is always going to be the best thing for you to obey, and He will always be faithful to be present and to equip you for the task.  (I may have gone into this year kicking and screaming!)  For me there was a lot of grieving this year as we left a church family we had been a part of for 10 years.  There was also the daily grieving for a daughter who isn't home yet.  This sadness mixed with the relational time and energy that it takes to begin a new church has left me emotionally exhausted on most days, but the Lord is my strength and He has given me my daily bread!  I wouldn't trade the growing dependance I've had on Him this year for anything!  We finished this year with a new family of believers who love us and that we truly do life's ups and downs's amazing!  And we also have seen the Lord provide our salary from everyday church members and have received NO network support so far-something we would have never thought possible last year at this time!  The Lord has also provided by allowing our house to sell, and now we're waiting on Him to provide a new place to call home in 2014!  This song by the David Crowder Band seems to sum up my 2013 quite well.  Praying for 2014 to be a deepening of our faith and growing of our family!

 Isaiah 41:10 "Fear not, for I AM with you; be not dismayed for I AM your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  AMEN!

October 21, 2013

Count it all JOY

so I didn't post in September because it was honestly a very hard month for me and I don't ever want to relive it-thankfully I don't have to!  I knew going into september that starting to work 5 days a week again after staying home for the past 5 years was going to be an adjustment, and transition is not my strong suite....I think I hear Michael shouting, Amen!  My husband deserves lots of shout outs for being amazing this month, we've put our house on the market this past month and He's the listing agent, He has done lots of dishes, loads of laundry, dusted and shown our house a handful of times, nursed me back to health, encouraged me, and prayed for me during some tough days.  During the month I was reflecting on our daughter's name....Marlee JOY.  These are both names of beautiful women in our families, but Joy is also something I think God had in store to teach me when we set out on this journey, and I had no clue as to the double meaning in her name!  This adoption process has been a journey to Joy...and we're not there yet folks!  From what we can gather it's going to be a long wait still, so I've got a lot more time to get better at this!  It's uncanny how many times this summer I heard sermons on Joy, read scriptures about the command to rejoice, and prayed for joy.  It's a time in the adoption waiting and just in my life in general that is trying.  Planting a church is tough.  wading through old and new relationships is tough.  trusting God to provide is tough at times too.  I know this lesson to 'count it ALL joy" is not just related to our adoption, but God is trying to teach me it in many areas lately and I've journaled a few of my thoughts I wanted to share.

An obvious lesson to learn from this season in my life (a season I now like to entitle, 'waiting and working' ha!) is patience and trust in the Lord.  The not as obvious lesson is trying to lean into gratitude to uncover real JOY.  I started by reading '1000 gifts' by Ann Voscamp and I really understood the correlation she pointed out between gratitude and joy.  Joy is not circumstantial.  Joy is deeper than circumstances; it's a choice.  I've also found that circumstances can knock the joy right out of us for a time, and WAITING can drain the joy out too.  I read an article on the gospel coalition blog awhile back entitled, "5 signs waiting has weakened your faith" by Paul Tripp and I've certainly found that I have all 5 signs and waiting has weakened me!  He says that if you've given way to 1. doubt 2. anger 3. discouragement 4. envy and 5. inactivity then you aren't exercising your faith muscles.  Instead, I should grow in my faith by seeing the waiting as pointing me to God, making me note my need for dependence on Him, and pointing me to God's goodness.  God is ultimate wisdom and all sufficient love!  I need to exercise good spiritual habits to put my mind and heart in the right place-gratitude...that will lead me to joy.  In a sermon I heard this summer, a pastor suggested that when I don't have a lot of joy in my life I should do a two part check.  1. step back to see the big picture.  I can count my blessings here and fix my eyes on Jesus-my hope that doesn't disappoint.  2.  Ask myself how much time I'm spending with Jesus?  You can only trust as much as you love.  Intimacy takes time.  There's a reason for everything; sometimes I know that reason, and sometimes I don't.  I have to choose to believe and be grateful.  I heard this Beth Moore quote that says, "If you pray for God to remove this cup from you and He doesn't, that cup must be essential to your mission on earth."  Joy is also a command that the scriptures give us WHILE we're suffering.  I was reading in Philippians 1:29-30 that we get to suffer for Christ-it's a right and priveledge we have as His disciples! 

SO, "Consider it all Joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have it's perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:2-4

August 15, 2013

first day of 4K!

 Happy first day of 4K, Myles!  I wish this year would never end with him in preschool!
 Picking out a 'treasure' from the treasure chest for being on 'green light' today!
 Mrs. Erin's class!
and we are both pretty excited because this year I get to be one of his teachers :)  I'm teaching the music and bible program this year!  We had a great first day and are excited and prayerful about what this year will bring!

July 23, 2013

summer happenings 2013

I'm not going to go into the 'I can't believe I haven't blogged since..." rantings because I'm not going to feel guilty over blogging (or the lack thereof!)  I'm simply going to highlight what we've been doing during this sweltering heat...

We began with a road trip outta here ;)  We had a blast at our best friend sleepover on the way to the beach this year!  Mac shared his room with Myles ;)
first time shooting a bb gun at bass pro shop!
birthday jumping and eating with best buddy, Mac!
Next up on the summer schedule was to leave the mosquitoes behind again and headed for the 2013 Carr reunion in beautiful Pennsylvania where my whole mama's side of the family came together for lots of fun-note the 'best cousins ever' picture above and my brother letting Myles anticipate that water balloon! we road tripped both times and we are not getting back in the car until thanksgiving ;)
We've been doing lots of library trips, softball games, eating with our neighbors, swimming in our neighborhood pool, and seeing the local sites in between times.

If you're still reading, I'll give you a little adoption update...and that is...we're still adopting! haha, that's all I got for ya! 

June 13, 2013

1st Missional Community Launched!

We commissioned ourselves 'Missionaries' to our city.  We're trying to see ALL of life as 'on mission', because we are a sent people according to Jesus in the gospel of Matthew.  So we decided to embark on this crazy, intentional journey to reach those in our city who are not interested in coming to a sunday gathering of Christians in a building designed for those purposes...(our former definition of church).  This summer we are experimenting with meeting as a missional community.  a what?!? A missional community is a family of missionary servants sent as disciples who make disciples.  We're talking about the gospel of Jesus.  It's the framework of the church-who we are not where we go, or what we do.  My hubbie explains it in detail on his blog which you can check out here.

Michael teaching at our first Missional Community

sweet gathering in our home
Pray for us as we seek to listen to the Holy Spirit's leading and follow hard after Him to reach our 'not yet family members' with the GOOD news!

June 2, 2013

No More Numbers for us (and our sweet friends referral!)

The dreaded 'program update' email came into my inbox late last week.  Whenever we have gotten a 'program update' on our adoption it has never been good news.  It really means your Ethiopia program has changed in some negative way and here we go again blah blah...  This program update was not a shocker as we already had some ideas that there were yet again some slow downs happening (there hadn't been a baby girl referral in months) and we had heard of Ethiopia discontinuing partnerships with some agencies, and we all know corruption is a part of African govt (and probably most govt).  We participated in a webinar for couples in our program and learned that they will be doing away with our current number system, and instead when we hear of referrals they will be labeled by the date the adoptive family turned in their paperwork.  Our dossier (paperwork) submission date (DSD) is July 2011.  The lastest referral for a baby girl was DSD May 2010-and a VERY EXCITED referral she is!!! more on her in a bit :)  So in pure estimation we have another year and a half to two years of waiting.  We also learned that Ethiopia wants to convert to a centralized system for processing their adoptions.  Right now we have to make two trips because there are two different govt branches that process adoptions.  This is good news.  However, this will take time-and most likely, a lot of it.  we are unsure at this time what will happen to the current system, or even when they will start to implement this change over. Our agency is very trustworthy and they refuse to participate in any unethical situations that are currently happening in our adoptive country.  This is also great news.  However, this means not many children are coming to our orphanage because we are not bribing, mothers are not being paid for their children etc.  Let me try to summarize a bit- Ethiopia is still open to and processing adoptions.  We don't know if that will continue to be the case when they implement a more central system.  We are going to have to wait a lot longer than expected.  Corruption is not going to be part of our adoption process! Our agency provides opportunity for simultaneous adoptions (while we're waiting we could adopt another child from another country) and there is a 'pregnancy hold' in place now that says in case we would get pregnant our adoption could be on hold for a year while we have a baby.  They used to end your adoption during a pregnancy.

So where does this leave us?  honestly, we are not sure.  we are heart-broken in this situation.  Our hearts are pulled in so many ways, but we know that we want to walk God's path for us.  We know He has good plans for our family, and these many orphaned children in Ethiopia, and around the world.  We desperately want to follow Him, and we trust that He will give us everything we need to walk whatever road He has for us.  Would you pray for the voiceless Ethiopian orphans today, and would you pray for us in this?

Now I have to switch gears from heavy news to amazing, super-duper, exciting news!  The latest baby girl referral is our dear friends, Alison and Jody's baby girl!!  y'all this latest baby girl is the much anticipated, Caroline Faith, that our dear friends (and us) have been praying for during the last 3 years!!  I'm brought to tears every time I think about it!  God showed His sweet goodness to me during this referral by giving me this hopeful and happy news the day after we received our program update news!  Can't wait to get this baby girl home!!

May 1, 2013

Counting the Cost

This post has been ruminating in me for a few weeks, so here goes my feeble attempt at communicating it!  The events that led me to count the cost were pretty messy.  My own meltdown one monday morning, my anxiety/depression, my perpetual state of waiting purgatory,  my 'changes' involved in planting a church, all combined to make the perfect storm in my soul.  I let it rage. 

It was ugly.

But something so unexpected happened...


God showered it on me (and He used my amazing husband to do a lot of the work!  Michael is so often a faithful and true representation of Christ to me).  I've been working hard at uncovering lies, clinging to truth, wrestling with doubt, and practicing gratitude.  It's been a sweet time of growth through some storms.  Then last week I was finishing up the month long prayer I had been praying on behalf of a friend's adoption.  We were asking big things and God decided in His perfect sovereignty to answer in a different way.  rough. tough. but ultimately we know God is always good and His ways are better...higher.  I thought of my own circumstances, and realized that I needed a kick in the proverbial pants, or possibly even a real one!  It's time for me to count the cost of really following Christ.  It's promised in scripture that we will suffer.  I've been lulled in my life into comfort, ease, and distraction at times from my mission to bring God's kingdom.  I was reading in a devotional a week or so ago and a thought has been stuck in my mind....there's so much to pray for!  There's a lot at stake here.  It matters how I think and live.  I need to do it all for God's glory.

Rich Stearns is retiring from serving as the director of World Vision this year, and he writes in his new book, "Unfinished", "[Jesus' call] was not a call to give up on the world, holding our 'tickets to heaven' firmly in our hands and retreating into our churches.  It was a call to go INTO the world to reclaim, reform, and restore it for Christ."

April 4, 2013

Church Planter's Wife

I've been hesitant to blog this year, because I honestly don't know where to start.  And I'm a perfectionist so I want it all categorized and themed nicely.  AND I'm dreadfully fearful of people having negative views of me, and if they see I'm not in control (which none of us really ever are) then...what I'm not really sure, but I always imagine it would be real bad!  But then my friend started a blog and I remembered why I started doing this in the first place.  It's my attempt to put myself out there despite my fears.  To let people know my struggles in hopes that it would encourage them in theirs.  To be vulnerable.  To tell of God's goodness and faithfulness in my life.  I must declare that at least!

So this year I have a new title I guess.  I don't label myself to box me in, but it sometimes helps me to identify something and then dive in to what it means and what it doesn't.  You probably have heard, I'm a 'church-planter's wife".  (As if plain ole 'pastor's wife' wasn't bad enough :)  I'm still trying to get my head around what this means and what it doesn't.  here's some of my thoughts: I AM God's loved daughter ALWAYS! I AM a wife and mother before any other ministry.  I AM a minister of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus.  I AM a hostess, but I AM not a doormat with no time for recharging myself (an introvert) or protecting my family time.  I AM not unapproachable, super sized holy roller, or a know it all.  As a matter of fact, all I know is enough to know I don't know very much :) I AM a person in need of community-friends!  I don't know why it's hard to be a pastor's wife's friend, but it seems to be intimidating or something...wanna hang out?!  I had a sweet 'church planter's wife' (friend) who is a step ahead of me really encourage me this week with this...she said God will provide all you need and it'll be fun to see how. my daddy's faithfulness!

March 10, 2013

Spring break

It's been a whole month so I need to update you on our waitlist number first and foremost :)  we are officially #50 and this month so far, we've already moved 2 spots!!  I'm praying that we move two more this coming week so that my sweet friend, Alison will finally be able to see her daughter's face for the first time!

It's also spring break here in the south, and I just love working on a school schedule so I get to enjoy the breaks too!  We aren't traveling anywhere, but I have some fun activities planned for the week.  We are going to try our hand at fishing, kite flying, swimming at the gym, and hopefully making a zoo trip.  We will finish out the week celebrating Henry's first birthday! He is the little boy that I babysit and he couldn't be any cuter...what do ya think??!

In church planting news we are beginning the fundraising process (insert dark, scary music), and on the more fun side we are also beginning to meet with people to share our vision, mission, and strategy with.  We're going to need to figure out how to have dinners and meetings with people that allow for bedtimes before midnight though :)  We just heard a great sermon on 'the church' that our friend, Kyle preached.  you can check it out for yourself here! and then click on this week's sermon.  My favorite quote from his message, "if we miss God's purpose for the church, we miss our purpose for life."  amen!

February 9, 2013

My hubby just started a blog and I had to share it with ya! it's

It's here that Michael's going to share what's going on with our church planting process, so if you're interested, then you should subscribe!  In hopes to keep my roller coaster type emotions out of it for now, here's the bullet point version so far...
-We are incorporated!  'Arise' church is officially official ;)
-We are getting the house in order to sell in order to downsize.  We are also praying about which neighborhood the Lord would guide us to in the Clinton area.
-We are wanting to plant a 'missional community' model of church (anybody besides Michael ever heard of me either!) There's a great video on his blog that gives you a glimpse.
-We are working on logos :)
-Thinking about part-time jobs
-Attempting to begin fundraising out!

January 31, 2013

first # of 2013

We got our new waitlist number for January 2013, and we are officially #51 for our baby girl!  It's been a month of paperwork renewal as we updated our homestudy and fingerprints.  We amended some things as well, we are now open to minor correctable special needs and are praying about upping our age parameters from newborn-two years old.  We had a good visit with our social worker and learned a lot about the state of adoption in our state right now.  We also had a lengthy phone conversation with our case manager (she is in in Oregon and works for our agency, All God's Children, Intl.) this month regarding the state of adoption in Ethiopia, some recent happenings in the region and some updates to the law there.  It's been more highs and lows emotionally.  But my favorite adoption happening this month was by far the traveling to Ethiopia by my good friends, the Smiths!  I think God is just so sweet to allow me the privaledge of watching first hand my friends walk through this process ahead of us :)  It helps me wait with hope and I have such joy in my heart for them and their new baby boy! (he's such a piece of cutie pie at 6 months old and 21 pounds!!)

January 26, 2013

God's guidance

Can you guess where Michael and I went?!  The last pic should tip you off :)  Las Vegas!  It was like another world full of body art, tight pants, and over-the-top everything!  The first picture was me in my first visit to a casino.  I was amazed by them, but in the pic I look less than excited because a strange traveling stomach bug thing was overtaking me-fun times!  The second day was much better and that night we went to see the 'singing fountains' in front of the Bellagio and ate at the Paris restaurant in the Eiffel tower-both were incredible!

As for the reason we went...well it was no vacation.  We were being assessed by a church planting network that our prior church uses as a training tool.  At the end of two days full of very intensely rigorous interviews, counseling sessions, and testing activities we were much more self-aware and they knew just about everything there is to know about us!  We took away a lot of great resources and with even more to 'work on'.  They recommended some things for us, and told us we could come back in 8 months to 're-assess' when they thought we would be more ready.  Ultimately that means we weren't accepted into our previous church's 'church planting program'.  Laman's terms:  God has another route for us, and now we are praying about what that plan will be ;)

So, what are our next steps?  I'd like to know too!  Right now, we are being proactive about waiting on the Lord (talk about a theme in life right now!) and working on some things in our marriage (communication during times of life transition, anyone??).  We heard God call us to plant a church.  We believe obedience should be immediate so He has our yes, and we don't want to rush ahead of Him so we're praying for direction, guidance, and provision... and guess what?  He's answering day by day! God will guide.  He is faithful.  Please pray for us.  The end :)

January 13, 2013

Christmas Review

 Myles LOVED every ounce of Christmas this year!  He sums it up with his favorite new christmas song, "holly, jolly, Christmas"-and he sums it up OFTEN!  he was singing it this morning and I said, 'I did have a holly, jolly, christmas!  Why do you keep telling me to have one?"  he said, "we have to remember it, mama!"'re right :)
 Playing his new and favorite game on the wars lego wii game was a common sight in our house over the break!
 The three cousins all ready for Santa in their matching pajamas on Christmas eve. (thanks to my sis!)
 Daddy took Myles on his first hunting trip, and before they left they went to bass pro for some practice shooting (or a bb gun game?!)
 Myles was trying out his new big boy bike for the first time...a little nervous, but excited!
Michael and I returned from our assessment in Vegas this week and while it was a thorough and tiring interview process, it brought about some great conversations and made us more self aware.  We were glad for the treat of eating out at the Eiffel tower restaurant one night, and at Wolfgang Puck's new restaurant another night :)