Oct 17, 2013

Our Marriage Renewal

     At then end of summer, as we approached our 15 wedding anniversary, the hubs proposed the idea that we should renew our wedding vows.  I was so excited and felt like a newly engaged woman. What woman wouldn't want her spouse to tell her that he loved enough to say I do all over again? That very day we started discussing what the renewal would look like, and where and when we wanted it to happen. It was then that my great excitement started to dwindle. I'm the type of girl who is a total hopeless romantic. I love flowers, sappy movies, romantic dinners, and all that, but the one thing I don't love is standing before a crowd with all eyes on me. So when Josh said he wanted to invite all of our family, friends, and church, I cringed. I did not want this to turn out to be another full blown wedding.  I was thinking more along the lines of us, the kids, and maybe our parents. Don't get me wrong I love all those other important people in our lives but I don't wanna stand in front them with all their eyes on me.
      We talked and talked and talked about it some more. Now, I know and you know that one of the keys to a happy marriage is compromise and most often I am willing, but this time, I must confess, I stood my ground for a long time until the compromise fell heavy on him. ;) The guest list was under 40 including our crew.
     The process of planning the renewal and making the decorations turned out to be almost as much of a blessing as the actual event. Sitting up late at night with my girls making our bouquets and table decorations proved to be more fun than I had imagined. We laughed as I told them dating stories and cried as I told them how they were a part of our dreams and prayers even way back then. We discussed marriage and the commitment that it takes. We discussed their future spouses and our desires for them.

     All of this led right up to the service, that day. We had a friend/mentor of about 10 years lead the service. This was really important to us. We wanted someone who knew us well and had seen our marriage through many years. He read scripture and talked about the two of us together. He also talked directly to our children and told them that in this day and age they had something rare. They had the security of knowing that their parents were in love, committed to one another, and that they didn't have to worry about enduring a divorce as a child. The girls wept through this part, as we did too.
     We wrote our vows to one another. Josh read his first. They were wonderful and perfect, just like I had imagined them to be. Mine however, were at home lying on my desk. I admitted this, and in pure Andrea fashion burst out laughing. Thankfully, I remembered most of of what I wanted to say.

     15 years may not seem long enough to some to warrant a vow renewal. It was on our hearts though, and those years for us have been full of change and growth. We got married at the ages of 19 and newly 21. We were babies some said on that day and today I would agree. We got married at a time in our lives that wouldn't require us to simply grow old together but to also to finish growing up as husband and wife. Now with four children, we have to remind ourselves, me especially, that this family began with the two of us. Our relationship has to be kept strong because this world can be relentless and temptations of many kinds lurk around every corner. We are only able to beat those temptations and meet those demands if we are standing firm together in Christ and putting ourselves aside for the one another.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—
Ephesians 5:21-29

     The most beautiful part of that day is that we stood there knowing that if these bodies held up, we would still be together to do it again in another 50 years.

     Our commitment is deep. It begins with our love and devotion to God. He is the rock that our marriage stands on. His word provides all the instructions we need to make this work. It's not always easy and often requires great sacrifice, but it's definitely worth it.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
*All photos by EverAfter Photography  

Oct 16, 2013

Fall and Community

     I love fall. I love the changing of the leaves, the football games, the bonfires, the smell of leaves burning, the cool breezes, the nights sitting outside wrapped up in a quilt, the hoodies we wear, the socks that come back into our wardrobe, the apple picking, the pumpkin patches, the harvest of crops, and the small town festivals. I simply adore this time of year.
     This weekend was our small town's annual festival. "Corn Days" started off for us with a 5K to benefit The Guardian Center (a local advocacy center for children who have endured sexual and severe physical abuse). I walked it pushing the two littles in the jogger with Gbug and her friend beside me. Grace ran it with a friend and placed 2nd in her division. Yay! After that we enjoyed the children's parade, good "fair" food,  and some rides.  The festivities ended with the big parade.
     Then on Sunday, we went to hear one of the hub's friends preach at a church just a few blocks from our house, and then we headed out for a picnic and visit to a nearby pumpkin patch.  The weather was beautiful and the kids had a blast. Later that night we sat around the fire with our pastor's family. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and drank apple cider. Does it get any better than that?!

     In our Sunday School class, we're discussing the importance of community; how living and doing life with other believers is essential to not only our own walk but also to bringing others into the body of Christ.  The book we are going through is the Gospel in Life, Grace Changes Everything by Timothy Keller. In the book, Keller describes Christian community as three things: the people of God, the body of Christ, and the fellowship of the Spirit. I have longed for and prayed for this very thing. That the Lord would provide for us a great community within our small church. That we would be bound together not just on Sunday mornings or during Bible Studies but through the week and in everyday life. The more we grow together and "do life" the more others will see the gospel lived out. Keller shows us that there are many behaviors that lead to the recognition of a Christian community. He list 9 community-building practices:
1. Affirming one another's strengths, abilities, and gifts
(Romans 12:10 Honor one another / Romans 12:3-8 Confirm one another's gifts)
2. Affirming one another's equal importance in Christ
(Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you/ 1 Corinthians 12:25 Have equal concern for one another)
3. Affirming one another through visible affection
(James 1:19 Be quick to listen, slow to speak / Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another)
4. Sharing one another's space, goods, and time
(1peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another/ Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love)
5. Sharing one another's needs and problems
(Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burden's/ Hebrews 3:13 Encourage one another daily)
6. Sharing one another's beliefs, thinking, and spirituality
(Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another / 1 Corinthians 1:10 Agree with one another)
7. Serving one another through accountability
(James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other / Romans 15:14 Instruct one another / Ephesians 4:25 Speak truthfully)
8. Serving one another through forgiveness and reconciliation
(Colossians 3:13 Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another / Galatians 5:26 Do not provoke or envy one another / James 4:11 Do not slander one another)
9. Serving one another's interest rather than their own
(Hebrews 10:24 Spur one another on toward love and good deeds)
     This is quite the list. It is obtainable though, I believe. The desire to have community is for me, to share in spiritual and physical growth with others, to have accountability, fellowship, and for our children to have a network of spiritual mentors. It is not that we would have an exclusive group, but a community that readily invites others to join in. 

Oct 14, 2013

They Say I'm A Dreamer

I don't know why I'm ever surprised. Things simply have a way of falling into place and God's blessings seem unending. I'm a dreamer. I am a wishful thinker. I, most often, am the girl with her glass 9/10 full. I rarely dabble in the negative. I see God as an infinite source of strength and love. I stand on the side of hope. 
When thoughts or the visions roll through my head and my heart, I am likely to say "sure, if God's willing, it will be", even when it seems impossible. This often seems careless and sometimes it appears as though I'm simply floating the way the wind blows. But I know this is who I was created to be. I know that my thoughts and decisions are tucked carefully each day in prayer and seeking the face of my God, who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and who directs the wind.
You see, I find that many things that surprise and bless me today were asked for and sought after in the days and years past. Prayers I didn't even know how to pray, I didn't know what I was asking for or how He would answer. Those are the blessings that my life is wrapped up in today.
Dear friends keep watch today for the harvest of the prayers and obedience from yesterday.
"Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:3-4



Oct 9, 2013

Hello Again!

    It has been what seems like years since I have actually posted one of my blog entries. I have wrote many but just can't seem to bring myself to posting them. If you only know us from the blog then I would like to give you a little update. Last June (2012), we accepted the referral of a precious 14 month old boy from Gambella, Ethiopia. On July 23, 2012 we passed court in Addis Ababa and he became our son. After a long three and a half months, a decline from the US Embassy, and then a review and acceptance from USCIS, we returned to Ethiopia to bring him home. He has now been home exactly 11 months today. His name is Was (sounds like Woz) and he is a joy. The last 11 months has consisted of lots of adjusting, transitioning, and refining, most of it by Josh and I. We have had moments of pure bliss and others filled with grief and heartache. I think even the "easiest" adoptions are still more than most imagine.

     Our girls have been great throughout the entire year. They welcomed their brother with open arms and their hearts bursting with love for him. I think there were days when their love came close to even smothering him. ;) He has gotten used to it though, and often approaches them for hugs and kisses now.

     Almost a year later, life is finally seeming back to normal, or at least our normal. We currently have a 9 month old boy staying with us Sunday night through Friday night. He and his mother are enrolled in the Safe Families movement. A movement that definitely has our hearts. The other day we were discussing serving God and the ways we serve. Safe Families was brought up and D (age 4) said "it's really great when God ask us to take care of babies". ;)  We also began homeschooling this year, just the younger three. It has definitely been an adventure. The kids and I are really enjoying it. We have lots of kinks to work out but I think we may always have those.

     Well that should catch you up a bit.
I hope to keep the momentum going and post a little more often.


May 24, 2012

Two Years

Two years ago this week we officially began our adoption journey. I remember making those first phone calls and exchanging initial emails with our agency. I never dreamt that two years later we would still be a family of five. It has been a very long road and we are not through. We have yet to even see our next child or children's face.  I am not sure if I were told back then that it would take this long I would have been on board. I think I would have looked at other options. Today though I am glad we said yes.

You see the Lord we serve is good and faithful. His love endures. His loves continues even while we wait. His love refines, reshapes, and changes us each day.  In the last two years He has asked us to step out on a limb over and over. He has searched our hearts and saw more work to be done. Sin that I thought was not there, was there, hidden. For myself it has been selfishness, pride, and unwillingness to release control. The way I see it now is if you deal with any of these things the best way for it to be dealt with is for God to 1.) open your eyes to the plight of the orphan,  2.) ask you to fund raise the money to adopt, and then 3.) make you wait at least 100 2 years! LOL!

The wait can be difficult. We continue to pray for those that He will bring into our family. I long to see the face of my child(ren), to hear their name spoken, to know their story, and to experience that first embrace. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about them. Our days are filled with laughter and many memories and I am thankful for that, but my heart aches for those that are without a family to call their own.

Three bright smiles that continue to bring the sunshine throughout the long wait.

God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. 
1 Corinthians 1:9  -The Message

Feb 28, 2012

What are we called to do?

The second month of 2012 has come and gone. Still no referral. We still don't know if we will be adding a boy or a girl or a set of siblings to our family. I can't even remember now if I had posted or not about our parameter changes back in October. It was time to update our homestudy after a year of waiting. We had been praying for several months about opening up to any possibility that God might have for our family. In late August we made the decision.
Our current parameters are 0-24months boy, girl, or up to two siblings.  How exciting, not knowing!
We continue to pray each day for our child(ren). We ask that you too might join with us in prayer.

I wanted to share with you something that I spend most of my time thinking and talking about these days.

In Luke Chapter 10 it is written:
 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"  He answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself."  "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."  But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. "Look after him," he said, "and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have." "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

The first part of this scripture is something I think most believers expect to hear. I think that the man of the law expected it as well. That Jesus would say that we are to love God. He goes a step farther though and says that we are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind.  Essentially every bit of our being should be wrapped up and focused on our love of God. Point blank. There is nothing left. The only possible extra we could have is overflow of what He has added to us.

He doesn't stop there. He continues to say that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This leaves the man of law asking more questions.
When first reading this I was brought to some of questions of my own.  If Christ says that I am to love my neighbor as myself , who is my neighbor?
As we read through the scripture Christ demonstrates that anyone who could receive an act of kindness is our neighbor. Not simply the people on our block or even those that live in the same town, but anyone and everyone that we are given an opportunity to show kindness too. Including those of different backgrounds, races, religions, or cultures.  Possibly anyone on the planet could be our neighbor. 
He also stated that we are called to love them as ourselves. So how do I love myself? What things do I do for myself that demonstrates my own self love? I guess for me it is easier to look at the things I wouldn't allow because I do care for myself. I know I don't allow myself to go hungry, I don't allow myself to live on the street, I wouldn't sit idly by if my children were in need, I wouldn't allow myself to knowingly walk into a dangerous situation, I wouldn't want for myself to be hurt by the words of another, and I wouldn't want to live life alone. These are just a few. So if I believe what Jesus is teaching here is truth, why do I or do we as believers obey part of what he has commanded and why do many of us continue to forget the second half?

I often say and proclaim that all that I have been given or blessed with is God's but more often than not that is not how I live. I strive but fall short. He has blessed me and my family with much and it should all be for the taking and using for his kingdom. My neighbors should not be in need if I am in excess.

A quick pic at the end of our date night on Sunday in STL. The next day we had an appointment to get our fingerprints redone.


Jan 7, 2012

Christmas thoughts

Today is Christmas in E*thiopia.

While in E*thiopia there is some celebrating going on, in our home there are many thoughts and prayers drifting about. Today we consider the Christmas we experienced just a few weeks ago. We think back to the day of celebration, gifts, and food. Are those we love in ET celebrating the same way today? It is truly unlikely.  You see the ones that we have grown to love over the last year or so are probably experiencing the day much differently. 

Firenesh, the young girl we sponsor in ET, comes from a family who has been in great need for several years. Her family has not been able to maintain a steady amount of food,  receive medical treatment, or provide a substantial  education for their children. She is 9 years old and from her letters you can tell she is just like our girls in many ways. She has a child's heart and truly just wants to be a kid.

The others that we have come to love, we hardly know at all. They are the faces we see over and over again on the waiting child list of various agencies.  We also, of course, have grown to love the child or children that will some day be ours. We have yet to even see their sweet faces but they hold a special place in our hearts and our prayers.

Today is a day of celebrating the birth of Christ in a country whose people have endured much affliction. A day for us to reflect and remember the hope that was born on that very day for all the people of the world including those we love in E*thiopia. 

We are called and commanded to share that hope and come to the aid of those that are suffering and afflicted.

Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:17

 Blessings my friends and Melkam Gena!
(Amharic for Merry Christmas)