Fostering Children

Everything about being a foster parent terrifies me and excites me, and both of those emotions assure me that this is what God has for us right now.

If you have followed me on Facebook at all, you know that The Engineer and I have been through the Foster Parent training classes for the state of Georgia. We completed them in March 2014. It has been a long process, but hoping to be approved at some point this summer to be official foster parents.

We always talked about fostering. We want our home to be open to anyone, everyone, all the people, anytime. But, I think we thought we would foster later in life, you know, after we had a few children biologically. Since that has taken longer than planned (Ha! Our plans! God is so much bigger than our plans!), we thought we would adopt. And you all know that story, and if you don’t, well it’s here and here. And then we started reading more about fostering, like this book by Dr. John DeGarmo. We said YES to fostering in January of this year. We obviously have no idea what we are doing!

So, we are continuing to read, pray, figure out what we are supposed to do, and wait. We wait because the system is slow, overworked, underpaid, and exhausted. We wait because that is what our life is like right now….a lot of waiting. But it is often in the waiting that we come to know God more, what He is truly like, and how He is working on our behalf even if it does not feel like it. We are trusting that He will build our family the way He wants it to be. We are hoping that we receive children and will be able to adopt them, eventually. We understand the system a little more than we did 4 months ago and made some new friends. And we know that in the end, if children come into our home even for a day that they were meant to be here and meant to be in our lives.

We know God is opening our hearts to receive many children who have never known love or safety and that we will get to provide that for them. We are beyond hopeful that they would come to know Jesus by being in our home. But overall, we just want them to know they are cared for, loved and safe. Even if they go back home or to another relative or foster family, we will love them no matter what the circumstance or outcome. That is what we are called to do. That is what we will do. Because of His love for us, we are able to love. And we will give away His love as much as we can. No matter what.

So, this Mother’s Day, even though I do not have children, I know God is making a way. Even when it hurts beyond hurt that I am not a mother just yet, I am trusting in His promises and His plan. I will be a mom one of these days. I am thankful for the 16 children I have been able to teach this year and the place in my heart that they are in. I have been where God needed/wanted me to be this year and I am so thankful. He placed me in a good school with children and families that are amazing, supportive and loving.

He has a plan for ALL THE THINGS and I am thankful.

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One Word

This year, instead of a list of resolutions…and let’s be real, I usually forget about them in a month…so, I am choosing ONE WORD. Each month I will revisit this word, and create an action plan based on it. I guess it helps to have a little accountability here in the blogosphere…so thanks for keeping up with me!

Intentional. Doing the things that matter most. Being intentional with my time, our money, my thoughts, with other people, and with my time with the Lord. Doing it all for Him.

Colossians 3:23-24 is what I am standing on this year.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

My action plan to go with “Intentional”:
January–lose 7 pounds. I am working towards this goal a little bit every day. I chose this as my goal to hopefully give my reproductive system a jump start so that we can possibly have a baby. As many of you know, we have tried for 2 years to have children…and we have not succeeded. My doctors are pretty sure it is because I do not have a regular system. Praying for a jump start to help move things along…and then we will revisit this in February. Pray with me about this. It is very difficult for my body to lose weight…any and all advice would be appreciated!

What is your one word? I’d love to know what you are focusing on this year and where the Lord is taking you! Follow along at Incourage.me to see other’s “one words”.

Happy 2014! It is going to be a good year, I just know it!

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Giveaway TIME!

Y’all, I love giving things away. It just makes my day! Especially when I get to give something away that I love, something that I made, or something a friend of mine has made! I love it around the holidays, especially! I pray that you and your families have a wonderful Christmas season and a Happy New Year!

Sharing with you today one of my favorite Christmas blog posts from Ann Voskamp

“Whenever Christmas begins to burden, it’s a sign that I’ve taken on something of the world and not of Christ. Any weight in Christmas has to be of this world.

Christ came into this world as grace to lift all the weighty burdens.

Christ the Babe comes to us in Christmas as Christ the Savior comes to us on the Cross — seeking only our embrace.”

So, this month I have been doing a series of Facebook giveaways. For today I thought I would do a blog giveaway from something in my Etsy shop! The winner gets to pick out their favorite item from the shop!!

Enter to win using the rafflecopter below! Giveaway ends on Saturday at 10am EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Happy Thanksgiving!

“If you never learned the lesson of thankfulness, begin now. Sum up your mercies; see what provision God has made for your happiness, what opportunities for your usefulness, and what advantages for your success.” ~ Ida S. Taylor

Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite of all the holidays, and I am really excited for the festivities tomorrow!  This fall has been one of the hardest that I can remember, emotionally.  We have had some very sad things, disappointing things, and downright hard things…but I am looking forward to spending time with family, reminiscing the life of my sweet Aunt Mo, and sharing the things we are all thankful for in life.  I have made some fun decorations, garland, and printed some cute cards to write our thanksgivings.  I have challenged myself to cultivate thanks every day.  I began writing my thanks as gifts 3 years ago this December (as I read Ann Voskamp’s blog and book 1000 gifts), and I am beyond blessed as I look back and read the thankfulness, giving glory to God for all the ways He has shown me His love.  I would challenge you to start writing down at least one thing every day that you’re thankful for that day.  It is amazing to read them back over the years and see His goodness!

The engineer and I went to a wedding of some sweet friends from church!

My mom is hosting the day at her home, so I am helping her by making the turkey!  This will only be the 2nd time I have roasted a large bird, so hoping it will turn out well!  I have already made the cranberry sauce, and the pecan pies are in the oven as I type, and the turkey is brining in the fridge!  Tomorrow morning will be an early one as I get up to pop the turkey in the oven, and make the giblet gravy!

Many of you have asked about the recipes that I use…I always use a recipe, but I often alter it based on my favorite flavors, or what I have on hand, etc.

My go-to always use Pecan Pie recipe is from Ree Drummond (y’all, I really love her!!)  I don’t really alter this one at all–except I have found that the recipe should be for 2 pies, not just one.  I use 2 regular store bought pie crusts (gasp!) and bake them for 50 min at 350*.  I cover them with foil for the first 30, and take the foil off for the last 20 min.  They are perfect!!  You could probably use one deep-dish pie crust, and just bake it a little longer.

Oh and I may have already put up one of my trees (its a small one) and on it, I hung some of the garland I have been making (going in the etsy shop today!!)

There it is!  The most fun scrappy garland ever!  I really love it on the tree,
but you can use it on your mantel, above a bed, a doorway, on a festive table, etc!

Hope you all enjoy your time with family and friends.  Take time to give thanks, and eat some yummy food!

What are you thankful for?

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joy emerges from the ashes

I am not going to even pretend that the past month has been easy.  It has been hard, difficult, and I have been really raw with my emotions.  But, I also feel like this has been a sweet time.  If that even makes sense.  We have had sort of a “cocooning” time together, me and the amazing engineer.  We were planning to be parents, and then we did not become parents, so it is like we have been given this time to cherish each other and enjoy life as a family of 2….until we become a party of 3, 4 or 5…or 10!  We still do not know what happened with the birth mother…we never heard a word.

We have had a hard month…but we will not let it define us.  We will not let it keep us from what God desires for our lives.  We will press on…even if it brings more hurt and more hard times.  We will do it, because God is better.  His plans for us are better than our own plans.  And we want His plans over our own plans.  We will continue to seek adoption, and see where God takes it.  
Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity as we learn to trust and cultivate thankfulness in our lives.  We are thankful for the past month, as crazy as that is to say.  We are thankful for what it has done in our marriage.  How it has increased our communication and love for each other.  
We press on.  We know there is more.  We know there are children that are meant for us, and we are trusting in the Lord to build our family.  He knows our hearts and our desires.  We must wait.  Even when it is hard.  We will wait.
Recently I read about “Moses Moments”: when we are asked to believe what we cannot see, to walk in a way that seems beyond impossible…and then God opens the Red Sea to walk through.  Right there, in our fear and helplessness, in the brokenness and weariness.  He is there.  He is the God of Redemption.  We know He will redeem that which has been hard in our lives.  We will wait with expectant hearts.  With joy!  Knowing He is good!
I have the cutest niece in the world!  How could you not be happy when you see her sweet face!  
I feel like this new season of Fall came at the perfect time.  It is like new life has emerged and I can breathe deep again, taking in the scents of the season.  Joy has emerged in my heart through this change in season.  I am beyond thankful for all of your prayers and how you have loved us so well during this season.  We are blessed, for sure.
He makes beautiful things…out of dust!
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Why we said YES to Adoption!

We had a plan.  We were taking the steps to adopt a child or children from Ethiopia.  We knew it was what we were supposed to do.  We just knew.  And then, we got a phone call on August 17th…

The phone call was from our good friends, who have adopted one of my favorite children ever, and they knew of an expecting mom through a series of friends who wanted to have her baby adopted.  We talked with the expecting mom that week and immediately loved her.  She had thought through all of this and decided that she wanted us to be the parents of her baby girl.  We began the process of our domestic home study and figuring out all of the legal steps we needed to take (thankfully I have a good friend who is an adoption attorney!).  We called our parents, people we trust and look to for guidance and support, and we began to pray for this incredible opportunity to be parents.  Our families were thrilled and many of our friends responded with great support, encouragement and prayer for us.  Somehow, someway, the Lord had opened this door for us.

We continued to talk with the expecting mom every day, either by phone, text, or email.  She told us she would like to come to Georgia to have the baby (she lives in Boston), just to have more closure with the situation.  We found a way for that to happen and a doctor who would see her here.  She would take a train and come 2 weeks before the baby’s due date: September 22nd.  Yes, this was a very fast process!  We started making a nursery and borrowing anything we could from friends.  We made plans and bought her train ticket.  We were amazed this could be a possibility.  Completely amazed at the way the Lord would open a door and let us walk in.  Even to be a part of this woman’s life, we knew we were supposed to be in her life…and to hopefully see her come to know Jesus in the process.  We would have an open adoption, with the ability to communicate back and forth, share pictures, and share life with each other.  This baby girl would always grow up knowing she was loved, by us, and her birth mom for being so brave and courageous.  

So, up until Sept 6th, we communicated daily with the expecting mom.  We formed a friendship with her, even though it was all over the phone and through pictures.  It felt like we knew her…even if it had only been a short time.  September 7th, we didn’t get a call from her but didn’t worry….then September 8th no word….September 9th she was scheduled to be on the train to come to Georgia and she did not get on the train….but we didn’t get a call…fast forward to today….September 19th…and still no word.  No call.  No text.  No email.  Nothing.  

We do not know what happened…we do not know why it happened the way that it did.  But something I do know is that we were to trust.  Just to trust in the Lord’s guiding.  We know we could not have consciously said NO to the expecting mom, after hearing her situation.  We know we were supposed to walk through that door…even when it led to uncertainty and disappointment.  

Yet, in the midst of all of this, the ups and the downs, we have felt the presence and peace of the Lord like no other time in either of our lives.  We have been amazed and overwhelmed by the love of our family and friends who we know have prayed for us and prayed us through this situation.  My job could not have come at a better time, and my sweet coworkers have been so encouraging, and those 16 smiling (sometimes crying or whining) 4 year olds are such a great blessing every day.  

So, really at this point, we do not know anything.  We don’t know if she’s changed her mind, or what her thoughts are.  We wish we did, but we just don’t.  We knew going into this that there would be a great risk involved–but really there is anytime with children and babies–you put your heart into it, hoping upon hope, and things just happen.  We know we took a great risk, and we know we stepped out in faith, asking the Lord all along the way for Him to lead us.  We are continuing to trust in His leading, and His heart for us we know is good.  We know He has a plan in all of this…and hopefully one day we will know what happened.

I think we have always known adoption could go this way…we have heard so many stories from people….but we did not think this was going to turn out like this.  We really believed this was going to happen.  And now that it is pretty clear that it is not going to happen, even in the disappointment, we just know we have to keep trusting and keep walking through the doors the Lord opens for us.  We did not seek this out…but when we said YES to the Lord and to adoption, we said YES to however He wants to build our family.  We know that through this, our marriage has become stronger…and we know we can make it through hard times beside each other, leaning on the Lord.  We are so thankful for the prayers, calls, emails, texts, and love from so many of our friends and our family.  I know we have been carried by the Lord through the past few weeks…carried by prayers…loved so dearly.  

We aren’t ready to make any decisions about what to do now…but one thing we do know is that God is good, no matter what.  And we will continue to seek Him, seek His plans for us, and continue to say YES to Him.  No. Matter. What.


And then I read this and I am so thankful for this…posted by a missionary friend:

We’re often looking for God’s will—especially when we’re in a difficult situation. We wonder, What will happen to me here? Should I stay or does God want me somewhere else? The only way to know for sure is to do what He asks you to do right now—the duty of the present moment—and wait for God to reveal the next step. As you obey what you know, you will be strengthened to take the next step and the next. Step by step, one step at a time. That’s how we learn to walk with God. But you say, “Suppose I take the first step. What will happen next?” That’s God’s business. Your task and mine is to obey this day and leave the future to Him. The psalmist says our steps are “ordered by the Lord” (37:23). This day’s direction is all we need. Tomorrow’s instruction is of no use to us at all. George MacDonald said, “We do not understand the next page of God’s lesson book; we see only the one before us. Nor shall we be allowed to turn the leaf until we have learned its lesson.”If we concern ourselves with God’s will and obey each day the directions and warnings He gives, if we walk by faith and step out in the path of obedience, we will find that God will lead us through this day. As Jesus put it, “Tomorrow will worry about its own things” (Matt. 6:34)  

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Etsy Shop Grand Opening

Hi Friends!

It is with great pleasure that we are opening our Etsy Shop today!  It has been a busy summer, but when my friend Julia called to tell me she had some bags she made for us to sell, I knew it was time to start this shop!  All proceeds from the shop go toward our adoption expenses!  We are so excited about this and hope you enjoy it, too!

Just for today thru Tuesday we are offering a PROMO Code for 15% off all sales!!
Use Code: GRAND15  to receive the offer!

If you purchase an item today, you receive a $5 off coupon in your inbox for your next purchase.  Must use this coupon by Sept 1st, 2013.

Thank you all for your prayers, your support, and your love as we journey down this adoption road!  We are beyond thankful!

Visit our shop by clicking the image above!  Or click here 

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The Engineer writes about adoption

Dear friends and family,

A few weeks ago, April and I sent out a letter and postcard that talked about our heart for children, adoption, Ethiopia, and serving the Lord through adoption. We briefly mentioned the costs, and it may have been as much a shock to you as it was to us. After all, $33,000 is a lot more than most of us have to spend even on important things. I found that it helped me to put this number in perspective to our everyday lives.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average four-person household in America (I’ll use this household size throughout for simplicity) spends $65,597 per year. Of course, most of that is on good and essential things. But two numbers stood out to me: entertainment ($3,416) and cash contributions ($1,468). And the cash contributions category, according to the BLS, includes “alimony and child support payments; care of students away from home; and contributions to religious, educational, charitable, or political organizations.”
What do those numbers have to do with adoption? Consider this: if 100 of those typical families gave the equivalent of just one month’s worth of entertainment spending, an entire adoption could be funded, start to finish. If twenty of those typical families committed to cut their entertainment budgets in half, an adoption could be funded every year, or a small church could hire a new full-time pastor, or an aspiring missionary could go to seminary, or several local missionaries in third world countries could give their full attention to reaching and serving the lost. All from small sacrifices to our daily lives. Can we even imagine what thousands of kingdom-seeking disciples could do with what we’ve been given, if those two dollar amounts I mentioned – entertainment and contributions – were reversed?
Part of this adoption process for me has been opening my eyes to just how much God has given me and the people I know. And I for one use so little of it for His kingdom. I want that to change, and if you’re in that boat with me, I hope you want to change as well. God doesn’t need you in order for us to adopt. He doesn’t need April and I in order to show His love to orphans. But He’s invited us, and He uses us, in ways we don’t even know, to accomplish His good purpose.
All of that to say, we are inviting you to be a part of this process with us.  We need you to pray.  We need you to give and share with others our heart for orphans.  There are a few ways to give, including the DONATE button on the right-hand side of the blog.  We are opening an Etsy shop in a few days with amazing, handmade items made by friends of ours, and everything you purchase will go towards our adoption.  We will do many other fundraisers, and also apply for grants and scholarships (all of these have to happen AFTER our home study is complete).  

Thank you for partnering with us, praying with us, and believing in God’s plan for orphans to receive forever families.  We pray that our home will always be open to children who need a family to love and take care of them.

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Weekend Fun and Recipe

This weekend was filled with wonderful things, wonderful people, and a fun trip to the Farmers Market in Atlanta!  
My sweet sister and my niece, Addie!  Addie was 4 months on Sunday and had her first trip to the pool this weekend!  

32 oz of blueberries from the Farmers Market this weekend…y’all, I only paid $2.99 for all of these!!!  What a deal!!!

Apple and blueberry gluten-free cake!!  AMAZINGNESS!  Recipe below!
Finally, today seems to bring enough time when there is not too many things that demand my time, and I can rest.  Glorious, glorious, wonderful rest.  In all the things this weekend, though all of them were good things, there wasn’t enough time to really rest.  I am hoping all of us are able to take some time, reflect, read the Word, pray, and just rest.  
With all of the thoughts and ideas about our adoption, raising money, saving our own pennies and trying to get by on one income until my job starts in August, etc I have felt a bit drained.  In all of the family get togethers, friends coming over, taking care of my niece, loving people so much, tending the garden, and all the rest…all good, amazing, wonderful things.  Even in the wonderful things, I need to realize that God needs me to rest.  To breathe Him in, and take time for Him.  If I am not keeping up my own relationship with Him, everything else is going to start falling apart.  I realized this last week…and was humbled by it…and knew I had to just stop for a little while.  Ask for forgiveness.  And rest.  He is so good to answer us.  He is so good to require us to rest.  We were made for it.  We need it.
And for the recipe:
Gluten-free Apple and Blueberry Cake
This may be one of my new favorites…the engineer really liked it, too!  It tastes more like a pound cake, with fruit added!  It is made like an upside-down cake and is so moist!  It is easy to make and it is delightful!  The engineer and I are trying new things and I want to learn more about gluten-free baking and how to make some of my favorite things in a new way!

Ingredients:
2 small dessert apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I used Jazz apples–my new fave, too!)
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups rice flour (I used brown rice flour–found at Kroger in health-food section)
1 tablespoon gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup blueberries

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease the base of a 9-inch springform deep cake pan.  Layer the apples over the base of the cake pan.
2. Cream together butter and sugar with a stand or hand-held mixer until well blended.  Add each egg, one at a time, until well combined.  Scrap the sides of bowl after each egg.  Add vanilla.
3. Mix together rice flour and baking powder.  Slowly add to butter mixture until well combined.  Add the blueberries and mix for 5-10 seconds, until mixed well.
4. Spoon the mixture over the apples.  Place in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, until golden and just firm to the touch.  Remove the cake from the oven, cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and let cool completely.  It is delicious for dessert with a little whipped cream, or even breakfast!  Enjoy!

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”
1 Corinthians 10:31

I was thinking on this Scripture this weekend, and all the ways we are to glorify the Lord.  Even in the eating and drinking.  Even in the things we do every day, multiple times a day.  Even in the ordinary.  Even in the mundane.  Even in the “boring” (though Beth Moore says we are not to have boring lives if we follow Jesus!!).  We are to do it all to the glory of God!!  
Blessings to you all!
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Road trips and a new recipe!

The past few weeks have been sort of a blur.  We have done so much, started our new church gathering group, been in Kevin’s sister’s wedding, had his family at our house for a week, I had a root canal and went through some of the worst pain of my life and we road tripped to Michigan and back to visit with “the engineer’s” family and friends.  I am thankful for all of it…well, except for the extreme pain from my tooth!

We have also begun our fundraising for the adoption!  We are in full swing and we are realizing how much this is going to take and how much we really want this and how much we already really really love this child!  (Shameless plug, but you can look to your right and click donate through Paypal to help us out and get our home study started!)

All of the engineer’s family live in Michigan…well, most of them do…so we wanted to spend some time with them this summer, especially while his parents were here from Germany.  So, we road tripped it up there, 14 hours straight through!!

Here’s a few pictures from the past few weeks!

14 hour road trip!!  But we took the scenic route home…which made me happy happy happy!!  I love the mountains!!

Some really sweet people sent us money after our yard sale…I cried…and we are just really thankful.

Ohh I made homemade vanilla ice cream….and y’all….why do I buy store brand??  I mean, for real??  This stuff is too good….I am literally eating some right now, as I type!!  Also eating it with the new recipe I’ll share at the bottom of the post!

Lake Michigan!!!  Y’all, it is beautiful!  You cannot see the other side of it!  It’s like the ocean!  I was completely in awe!  We walked up and down the sand dunes, too!

This high chair came from Kevin’s grandparents house…but it was originally at his great grandparents house and has held countless amounts of children!  And one day, I will probably weep and cry when our own child sits in this chair.  So much love, so much history.  I love antiques, y’all!

Did I mention we got some really cool pieces from the engineer’s grandma?  This cradle was at her house, too!  Kevin actually slept in it as a baby!  And she made the blanket that is draped over the back!  Our child is already so loved, and we still have so far to go!

Gluten-free and Dairy-free Cherry and Peach Crisp!  YUM!  Recipe below!

Y’all like that tour of the past few weeks?  I realize none of the pictures are of people…but there’s not much I can do about that!  One day there will be cute little photos of our child, and you’ll love every minute of it!  Until then, food and places are going to have to do!

Finally, for all those that are wanting this recipe!!  I just finished reading Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist and LOVED every minute of it!  I have made several of the recipes, and decided to try her Blueberry Crisp, but with cherries and peaches!  Kevin’s aunt has a Rainier Cherry tree in her backyard and picked those cherries for us!  I am in heaven, I just know it! (ps. I am eating this crisp as I write this…y’all it is so good…get over here!)
While on the subject of the book, I absolutely love the idea of having a cooking club.  Not sure who else out there would be up for it…but I would love to have gatherings with friends where we cook together, eat together, and share life together.  It just sounds so wonderful and real and yummy!  I want our home to be a place where people walk in, and they know where to go to find a cup or a plate or a bowl.  When they don’t have to ask to find a snack, they just go for it.  Real community.  Life to the full.

Ok, enough about that, on to the recipe!!

Gluten and Dairy free Fruit Crisp

This recipe is completely adaptable.  I have made it twice and did it completely different both times.  So, do what makes you happy!  I think you could eat it as a breakfast (it has oats and fruit!) or for dessert (with a little vanilla ice cream…or a lotta vanilla ice cream!!).  You could use brown sugar instead of maple syrup, or walnuts instead of pecans.  I used butter and whole wheat flour the first time I made it, and it was great…used olive oil and the almond meal the 2nd time and it’s wonderful, too!  Whatever makes you happy!

Ingredients
4 cups fruit (blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples, blackberries–really any kind you want!)

Crisp topping:
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pecans, halved or chopped
1/2 cup almond meal (you can find it at Trader Joe’s, but really it is almonds ground in a food processor until fine, but not yet turned into almond butter)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Mix together crisp ingredients.
Pour the berries or fruit into an 8 by 8 pan, and then layer the crisp topping over it.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or up to 10 minutes longer is fruit is frozen.  Fruit should be bubbling and topping is crisp and golden.

Enjoy, y’all!!!  

And really, I did not miss any of the flour or the butter in this the second time around!  I did eat it with a scoop of my vanilla ice cream, which sort of defeats the purpose, but that’s ok with me!

Are any of you gluten-free?  Share with me some recipes or some of your favorite treats!  I love to bake and try new things!  Some of our friends are gluten free, hence the recipe, but I like to see how things work and how well they come out!  Feel free to share!

Blessings!!
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