Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Love Strand Challenge

I have an idea. You've probably see on Flickr, Facebook or somewhere on someone's blog where people step up to a personal challenge of taking one picture every day of an entire year. They will have captions like 1/365 for January 1st and then continue on through the year. The super amazing people make it to post picture number 365/365 on December 31st. I have thought I'd like to do that, but when the idea flits across my little brain, it's mid-year some point.  I think, "Well, I'll remember in January and start the year off right." Yep, you guessed it, today is January 30th. I missed again.

I got to thinking, "Why not just do it for a month?" AH HA!!! And what month is next??? FEBRUARY!! The shortest month of the year! Hey! Now I just might be able to follow through on 28 days of picture taking and posting! The more the idea rolled around in my head, the more like a snowball it became, picking up other ideas too. I'll keep a theme: love. Everything I photograph will be about love. Either something I love, something that speaks love or is a symbol of love. I will let the creative muse for the day simply take over and inspire me each day.

And then my idea expanded. What about getting other people to participate too? It's one thing to look at my pictures of love for a month, but what if a whole crew of us were doing it? What if we could all link to each other's blogs so we could see what each other is posting? What if I could find a way to post on my blog like Missy did on her blog of practical ideas (see her post here) so that we could easily check in on other's posts? (You have to understand I'm a baby in the blogger world, only doing this since last month. There's TONS I have no idea how to do!!) UPDATE: I figured it out!! Add your name and url in the box below and your name will appear in this post with a live link to the site you name! COOL! :)

So here's my challenge: Take a picture each day of February. Keep the theme of love. Post one picture each day with the caption 1/28, 2/28, and so forth. Add a caption or text if you like. Word happy people like me will be challenged to let the picture stand alone. Some poets may like to express themselves with prose or rhymey lines. You do not need any special photography skills, only to be motivated by your heart. (Everyone's will look different and that'll be the charm of it!) Link back to my blog (you can grab the button down the side if you like) or click "follow" so we stay connected.  Until I figure out how to have you place your own link to your site from mine, post a comment down below with a link to your blog, Facebook, Flickr or wherever you're planning on posting your love strand. Then spread the word.

Let's have some fun. :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Flaunting the grace of God...

So, our family blog is about our adoption...or it started out with that intention, but I haven't said much about it. Don't get me wrong, I will talk about our adoption, probably more than people want to read! But right now I don't really have words, just a video about the blessing of adoption. (It's a promotional for an adoption conference.) One of my favorite quotes from this was that we, as adoptive parents, will be "flaunting the grace of God in front of everyone starting with [y]ourselves." Wow. How can it be that I am privileged to be invited into this gift?

If ever you feel the tug on your heart to adopt, pray about it, ask others you know who've already adopted and remember that there are 147 million orphans around the world who are looking for people just like you! Who knows what God might want to do in and through you???

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A beautiful tribute

Eric with his daughter Ruby
My brother in law's birthday is today and his beloved wife found this quote that in her words, "describe him perfectly." Wow. What a tribute to a husband. These are two people maintaining, fostering and reinventing love in the middle of raising 3 small children. Bless them, O God!!

"The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked: Did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, an visit the sick and the prisoners? That is all I shall be asked." ~St. Maria of Paris

Happy birthday, Eric. The way you live your life to serve the downtrodden and needy inspires us all.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A few tips to make the days go smoother...

Over at It's Almost Naptime! my fellow mom friend, Missy, has asked for us to share our tips on making life run a bit smoother. I loved reading other mom's tips (what a wealth of knowledge!!) and thought I might post a few that we have used. Nothing earth shattering, but after reading in our adoption training manual that children 4 and under assume that every family is like their family, I think we can all learn from what it's like in each other's houses. I love picking up tips from YOU! Here are a few things we do:

1) My older girls DAILY empty the dishwasher. Even on Sunday. One does the top and bottom rack, the other polishes all the silverware (ha! we all know "polish" is a bit of a stretch here...) and puts all the sippy cup plugs back into the lids. This saves me so much time and it's SO NICE to open an empty, clean dishwasher at the start of the day! (We run it every night while we sleep...look and see if yours has the "4 hour delay" option!)

2) When we homeschooled we had a special daily cleaning time I dubbed, "Home Blessing." We have a watered down version of that now that they attend public school (poor them, with homework, ya know?! wink wink!) I had little plastic nametag pockets that they wore around their necks that I would slide in the tasks for that 1/2 hour segment of the day. It was awesome! This is the ONLY way the 2 ferns on the porch survived the hot summers. (Thank you, Anneli!) Between the 3 of us (Oliver was too young then) we cleaned the entire house each week. Truly, our house was never as clean as when we homeschooled! Hmmmmm...

3) Earning computer time. My kids have to read 1 hour for every 15 minutes they play online. (Mom or Dad approved website, of course.) Books are where it's at and I'm trying to foster a love for reading. Did you know that just having books in your house (you don't even have to read them!) will increase your child's literacy rate? Imagine what would happen if they see Mom reading books at every chance she gets? (That's in the car, one by my bed, one at the table for after dinner for all to listen to (usually a missionary biography) another on the island for when I'm having lunch! People are surprised that I am reading more than one book at a time...but that's why!!)

4) All laundry is taken immediately upon removal-from-body to the 3 baskets in our big closet. I quit having laundry baskets in each room b/c it was more work. One station for all of it. (I need a trick to get them to take it in there!!) My kids know how to sort: dark on the left, light on the right. (that rhyme is important!) I gather the basket that is the most full when I first get up in the morning and get it started as I'm filling up my water bottle for my morning workout.

5) Daily exercise. This is critical in my house, and not just because I'm a Beachbody coach. This is for my own sanity and for the purpose of modeling good habits for my children. I am CONVINCED that watching my mom jump rope for hours in our kitchen has carried over to my willingness to make this a daily part of my routine. (Thanks, Mom!) My tip is that as soon as I get out of bed, I put on my workout clothes. I don't have my quiet time with the Lord in my jammies, I've got a sports bra on and I'm ready to BRING IT! right at 6 am. If I work it right, I can get my workout(s) in and a shower before we have to load into the car by 7:30 am to go to the bus stop. (This doesn't always happen!)

My last tip is to go to bed on time, which I've not done b/c I'm writing this! I have a bed time too...and I try to keep it. It sure makes 5 am a lot easier to tolerate! Good night all!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Do you "Just LOVE Coffee?"

There's something really neat that happens when you embark on the journey of adoption. A lot really! But one thing that has delighted my heart is interacting with the amazing community of fellow adoptive families. I have been so blessed and enriched by them! I feel like I am just beginning to dip my toes in the waters of adoption and and already I am just so blessed!

One such blessing I have come across is a family by the name of Rob and Emily Webb. They have adopted daughters from Ethiopia and while doing their preparation research, they discovered that COFFEE was born in Ethiopia. (I didn't know that! Did you?) This was interesting information to him in particular, not just because they loved coffee, but because Rob and family owned and operated a coffee roasting house in Tennessee. He was brokenhearted by the way coffee farmers often were unfairly compensated for their work and decided to make a difference. He now runs Just Love Coffee that roasts FAIR TRADE coffee and donates a portion of the proceeds from each bag ($5 each!) to the orphanage where his daughters once lived. This alone would be really cool, but Rob has gone further. He has opened up this coffee loving venture to any family who is in the process of adopting as well!
Coffee in your favorite mug is always the best!
So you coffee enthusiasts, you can order your next bag of beans from Rob and support our adoption at the same time! I love things like this! You can make a slight change in your routine and by that slight change, make a big impact! (Picture the image of a pebble making big ripples in the lake!) If you were to order your coffee online from Rob instead of picking up your next bag at the supermarket, you will help us get a step closer to reducing the orphan population by two. And that is a big thing when you are those two orphans.

You can click on the link above (the name in white) in this post or you can use the widget on the side of the blog to be directed to our Just Love Coffee account. I thank you in advance for your java-drinking-orphan-loving support! Hey! It's time to brew!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The 5 Minute Snapshot

It's amazing to me what all happens across the world at the same time. I remember coming home from Haiti (my first long visit out of the United States) and being in awe that while I was ordering food at a restaurant while the people I just left were literally starving to death. I went into an anti-American funk for an entire year. Now that I'm older and hopefully a bit wiser, I realize that my hating America and not singing "God Bless America" on the 4th of July did nothing to help anyone in Haiti.

In his book, The Hole in Our Gospel, Rich Stearns talks about Former President Jimmy Carter and his take on what was the biggest global challenge facing us as we began the  new millennium. Carter wisely answered, "the disparity between the rich and the poor." It wasn't the fact that there were so many poor, or that so many died of preventable diseases but the problem he identified was that so many of US had so much and were ignorant or doing nothing to help out those who were so desperate in need. Part of my life-curriculum that God has for me is to become AWARE of the needs of the world...but not to stop there. All that becoming aware alone does is to make me feel guilty. I need to ACT upon my knowledge.

We were just saying this two weeks ago to our 5th and 6th graders whom we teach at our church. How awful that so many are in need! So many are hungry...we have more food than we need! What can we do? We waited to hear their answers. One of them raised a tentative hand, "We can give money to organizations?" YES! We don't have to necessarily buy a plane ticket and fly our leftover casserole to India and find a hungry person to give it to, but we can do smart research and pray about where we direct our resources to. Organizations already have the infrastructure in place and the connections with which to do SOMETHING for these needs.

I am not a proponent of any particular organization. I have many that I really love though. And I know that there are so many more that I have yet to encounter. I also know that corrupt organizations exist and that the need for smart research before giving is an important step. I want to encourage you (especially if you are taking the 3% challenge!!) to not just watch a video like this and walk away shaking your head at all that just happened while you watched it. DO SOMETHING!! Even if it's just $5. If you want a list of some of my favorite charitable organizations, I'd be happy to provide them, but my guess is, you may have some of your own. The important thing is to not walk away without action. This verse is coursing through my mind:

James 1:22-24 

 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

(And just so you know, I can't hit "publish post" before I go make my own donation to a favorite cause!! Here's where I just gave: 60 Feet)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Liftin' up the roof with PRAISE!!!

Just wanted to announce what a GREAT BIG GOD we serve!! Our spaghetti lunch fundraiser that our church held on Sunday created a wonderful chance for people to enjoy one another's company and was a great success! Many people have wondered how it went so I wanted to post a quick update. Thanks to the generosity of so many people, the fundraiser brought in a total of $3,500! This blessed amount will be shared between our family and the sweet Bailey family who are also adopting from Africa. Praise be to the name of our God!

(You can always see our progress toward our goal of $40,000 by looking at the thermometer down the right side of our blog. I keep it up to date with all the different ways we are raising money. Thank you for all you are doing to become part of what God is doing in the world, in these children's lives and in our lives as a family. Blessings!!)

I wanted to add that our church has set up a fund called One Less Orphan to which you can also donate if you so choose. This would make your gift tax-deductible and would be split between our family and the Bailey family. You can see their blog here.  You can also contribute to our adoption needs directly by using the ChipIn on the right hand side of our blog. These funds will be delivered into our PayPal account and will be used strictly for our adoption only (we won't take a quick trip to Disney or Jamaica!)

Three Percent

It's after midnight and I've just woken up from a dream. Not a very powerful one, really, something about eating mushrooms and my mom returning an old childhood book on butterflies. So that's not it. It's the something that lies just under the surface of my conscious rolling around constantly all these deep truths about the world we live in. The reality that while I sleep in my pretty flanneled bed, people around the globe shiver on the streets. The reality that while I get up and stumble a few feet to my indoor bathroom and turn on the faucet and drink a small cup of water, this is impossible to a good percentage of the world. And then I remember.


And the actual number that it would take is lower. It really works out to be less. It's only 2.5%, but guessing that many Americans won't do it causes me to increase it a little. (My math skills are a little like my painting and cooking skills--I do A LOT of estimation. (Enter snickers from my brother.) So I'm really only guessing three percent.) Okay, back up, I'm in a half-awake state and no one knows what I'm talking about. Sorry. I'm typing quietly to not wake up my sleeping husband, but let me click a few more keystrokes to explain.

Americans spent $450 BILLION on Christmas. Yes, that's right. 450,000,000,000 hard earned dollars. And we're in a recovering recession!! And did you know that it would only take $10 billion to permanently fix the world's water crisis. That's right. Take just a minute here to let that sink in. {pause} If we took $10 billion of our $450 billion from one year of Christmas spending and gave it to a reputable water drilling organization(s), we could end the water crisis forever. {pause again} The 1 billion people who don't have access to it would require simply 2 1/2% of what we self-righteous "Christian" Americans spent on ourselves at Christmas. This makes my stomach turn. It keeps me awake at night! Since the number 2.5% would require every American household sharing their Christmas and I know that is unrealistic, I've bumped up the number to 3%. What if WE all gave a simple three percent of what we spend on our loved ones at Christmas to help stop the water crisis of our globe?

And then I wondered, does each American even keep receipts for what they spent at Christmas? Do we even realize what we are doing? It's only been 24 days since Christmas. Do we even remember the gifts we gave? Are they now a distant memory because we are so swallowed up in that project at work or the latest gossip? What if we had all given just 3% of our spending to an organization that could responsibly use it to help solve the global water crisis?

So I challenge you: this year in 2011, in another 11 months from now, I want you to give 3% of your Christmas spending to provide water to someone on our planet you'll never know. (Yes, I realize I'll probably have to remind you. I'm willing to do that.) I really don't care through which organization you do it, but I can certainly suggest a few that we use. Will you do it? Will you take this challenge? Will you step up to the plate in this way and allow me to fall back asleep this cold night in January? I've got four kids to be alert for in the morning you know! Seriously, this is true, but something deep within me compels me to write. (Just might be the Spirit of God!) I am literally compelled to motivate you to understand the real life-altering HELP you can be to these far off distant people.

Here's a verse I'm going to sign off with from Matthew 10:

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Yeah, I know I already posted this picture from Charity:water...but it is perfect again and I want to go back to sleep! ;)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eat for Orphans!!

"You want me to eat...for an orphan?" Yes. That's right.

Our church is hosting a big spaghetti dinner this Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 11:15 am. Freewill donations will be accepted and will benefit our family and the Joel and Lisa Bailey family. Both of our families are in the process of international adoption. God has led us both to adopt from Africa: us of course from Uganda, and them from Ethiopia. Come and fill your belly with a delicious Italian meal, enjoy fellowship of believers and know that you are helping bring home some amazing children who we haven't even met yet!

        Where: Pettisville Missionary Church, Corner of Co Rd. D & 19, Pettisville, Ohio
        When: This Sunday, January 16, 2011
        Time: 11:15 am - ?
        What: Spaghetti and the trimmings...and desserts brought in by women of the church!
        Who: People who are hungry and have a heart to reach the world for Jesus and love orphans
       Why: Because it's a tasty way to live out James 1:27 that says, "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress..." 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lord, I want to SEE!

Luke 18:35-43... A dirty cast-off man cries out to Jesus and others try to crowd him out, to shush him up. No way. This guy's serious--he is blind and has been forced to live his life as a beggar. He has heard about this Jesus guy, and he's heard that He heals! So he shouts all the louder and makes himself a bigger nuisance to the crowd. But not to Jesus. Jesus has this way with people. The very ones we ourselves are annoyed with. The ones we sorta just wish would leave us alone, the very ones we ourselves would be tempted to just walk on by.  But here's what Jesus does--he stops and he has the beggar brought to him. Wow. Then he asks him a simple question, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind beggar's response always causes me to stop and ponder.

"Lord," he said, "I want to see!"

Two things have come to my mind as I've pondered this passage lately. I wonder if you might think on them with me.

The first: this blind man, though a beggar and clearly disliked by the population, did not assume that his blindness was a permanent condition. (But we certainly know that it is, don't we? haha) I LOVE that he didn't accept his blindness when he saw the chance to ditch it. Would I? If I were blind in the year 2011, I am quite sure I would have found ways to make peace with it. I would not be bitter, but I would have learned to master Braille (as completely impossible as it seems to my fingers!) and I would have probably joined a blind mother's support group. I would have learned to do life as a blind woman. Would I be constantly pounding on the door of heaven to be healed? No. I'm pretty sure I would not. I would accept my lot in life and figure, "This is how it is. I'll just have to make the best of it." But here is a man who seeks after Jesus to have his reality CHANGED. Matthew 7:7 tells us to keep on asking what we're asking for. Don't give up! Even in this same chapter of Luke Jesus shares the story of the persistent widow. Why? To emphasize the importance of persistence in prayer! Justice will be given to His chosen ones who plead with Him day and night. Now I am sure that I can rile up people by what I've said just now--because we should make the most of our current situation and we should avoid bitterness...but how do we fit that with this man's refusal to accept his blindness as forever?

The second thing I have pondered is the fact that the blind man clearly identified what he wanted. "Lord, I want to SEE." He didn't hem haw around. He was serious and straight to the point. I have echoed this man's prayer often in my life. But I'm not blind, right? Hmmm. I daresay I am though. I have eyes that show me my physical surroundings, but so often are blind to the spiritual realities that co-exist. I love the Old Testament story of the battle where God reveals all the heavenly fighters up on the hillside! If only we could SEE!!

So often I only look at my circumstances and ignore that there might be another perspective on them. My selfish perspective causes me to give way to my fears, doubts and worries. When I hear the Lord ask me, "Amy, what is it you want me to do for you?" I am careful to imitate this beggar's prayer: "Lord, I want to see." Rather than, "Well, God, could you please fix this problem for me...."  I ask to see. Gaining God's perspective on my life is often what I need far more than the actual thing fixed. Why? Because the next time something comes up (it will you know!) I want to still have my heavenly perspective in place to deal with it all. If I merely ask for a problem to be fixed, then I am no further ahead in my character.

Let's choose to SEE. Ask Him. The view might be overwhelming, but we'll for sure join the blind beggar: "Instantly the man could see and he followed Jesus praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too." Luke 18:43

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's worth it all...

At the end of it all: the endless essays, the fingerprinting, the paper chase and all the fundraising...this is what it is all for. It is such a great reminder to me that the children are God's children and they wait to have their Momma and Daddy come and hold them for the first time and take them home. It's worth it's worth it all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Popcorn Analogy

We are a popcorn loving family. At least once or twice a week, we make it and devour bowls as we spend time talking and laughing together. We have our pretty red popcorn bowl that we regularly use and Brian even mentioned that one day, they will all want the popcorn bowl!

Last week, the final week of 2010, I was stressed. It is a normally difficult time for me anyway with the anniversary of our sweet boy Oskar's birthday. There were other deep stresses on us as well, and they left me sleeping poorly, run down and generally feeling depressed. I tend to be an optimist so when I was down it was extra difficult because my family counts on my buoyancy.

I could tell I was stressed because while I was sleeping and actually dreaming of our adoption (and it had all gone wrong!) I woke up to myself saying with great horror, "Oh no!!! I printed at 72 dpi!!!" (Never mind what this means, but in photography world, this is trouble!) I had no conscious level of thought regarding our photography jobs, but apparently it was going on in my head somewhere. I fell back asleep after getting up and attempting to remedy the situation and later woke up with a popcorn analogy in my head. I thought I would share it with you.

When you buy popcorn kernels, you expect them to pop. No one would dream of eating them in their unpopped state.

No, we want them in their delicious white puffy state! But the Lord spoke to me a truth right there as I lay in my bed: what is required for the kernels to reach their potential? Intense heat!!! It is with the pressure of heat that the kernels finally explode into their beautiful, fluffy, tasty state that we know and love. Hmmm.

I got up the next day and took my children to the stove. We made popcorn in a glass-covered pan so we could actually watch the steam build up inside. Finally the heat and steam gave way to the delightful sound of pop pop popcorn! Before I even made the analogy for them, Jensi jumped in with her eyes lit up! "Oh!! I get it Mommy!! We have to be heated up in life so that we can pop and do our best for God!" In the words of a child, that's just it, isn't it?

We all face trials in this world. It's actually a promise we get from our Savior. (But you'll be hard pressed to find it in a cute little promise book!)  "In this world you will have trouble," Jesus said. "But take heart! I have overcome the world!!" John 16:33  So this silly popcorn analogy will apply to us all. You and I require intense situations for our potential to burst forth. But let's take another look into the bottom of the popcorn bowl:

Do you see what I see? There are some that remain hard and unpopped. {hard hearts} There are some that are partially cracked and some that have a tiny bit of white emerging. {1/2 hearted Christians} But I want to be fully popped, white, fluffy...a tasty mouthful to my Creator. I want to allow the heat of my trial to fully pop me! (Far be it from me to want to break anyone's teeth!) I want the aroma of my life to give off Christ Jesus to the world: For we are the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and to those who are perishing. II Corinthians 2:15  The heat is going to will I pop?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Year of Adoption...and FUNdraising!!

Happy New Year!!  It is 2011 and what joy fills my heart as I anticipate all that God will do this year! None of us can know what lies ahead, but sometimes we get a glimmer! I am filled with excitement and great anticipation at the miracles God will do this year. :)

This morning we sat down with all our adoption information and wrote out a plan that takes us from where we are in our adoption process (waiting on the home study to be completed) to the very end of finalizing our adoption 6 months after we bring our precious ones home from Uganda. We made careful notes of how much money will be required and at which points along the way things need to be paid. Then we sat back with a huge sigh. WOW! This is definitely something that is WAY WAY bigger than we are!

You can see over on the right, I have included a new widget on our blog to reflect our funds that we will need in order to bring our two children home from the orphanage in Kampala. And yes, that really says $40,000!! I was amazed that it will require this much, but by the time we added up all the needed paperwork, lawyers, court fees, visas, passports, plane tickets and on and on...that was the number we reached! There is a US adoption credit that will become very important to us, but it is not given until after our children are officially adopted. The program in Uganda is such that we will get full custody of the children in Uganda and then come home and proceed as if it were a domestic adoption. In Ohio, that means an additional 6 months of home study visits and a final lawyer and court visit to complete the process. That said, the tax credit will not come to us until well after we have needed the money. We hope to take advantage of no interest loans that are available to families who are adopting, but we do not have any guarantees.

Now this is gonna get fun!! What? Fundraising is fun? Sure! (Why not? I see the word "fun" in there, don't you?)  ;)  Just today I was contacted by a friend of mine who offered to help out with our fundraising! She is a rep for a neat little online boutique called Thirty-one. She has set up a Shaw family adoption fundraiser that begins TODAY! :) Here is a link to enter the fundraiser and SHOP!  Purchases can be made toward our adoption until January 23rd. Your ordered items will ship about 3 weeks after that. There are some fun thermal bags on special this month (my girls excitedly pointed out the patterns their friends have for their lunch bags at school!) that would be fun gifts for Valentine's Day or Mother's day or even teacher gifts. There are many more fun products available beyond is a link to the general catalog. Just enjoy looking around and know that you can shop till your heart's content and know that it is going toward reducing the orphan population by TWO!! YAY!!!

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