Worth It

We are surrounded by encouragers.

What a gift a positive word is.

Yesterday was a wild day, lots of ups and downs and stressors.  Today looks brighter, but fibro has come to visit today. I’ll be forced to be still and know today.

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I believe in speaking truth about where you are in your journey.  Feel awful?  Say so.  Feel overwhelmed?  Say so.  Feel heartsick?  Say so.  I’ve long believed that things hidden, things in the dark lose their power when drug into the light.  So I tell the truth.  And my village receives me in my truth and speaks life and light into me.

Texts, Facebook messages, calls…all came through as we waded through the muck and mud of yesterday.  All with the same word:

God has GOT this.  He is with you.

And then this picture of this recued one in my Facebook messenger this morning.

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She’s the reason we know we can fight this thing all the way through.  She’s the reason we know that we can handle whatever comes our way. She has given us a face to the needs of the orphan. She has shown us the joy of being in a family, of being rescued.  She illustrates how we are all fearfully and wonderfully made and she is so specifically Aila, created in His image….

And her mama typed these words to me:  “She is here.  You can do it.  It’s going to be worth it.”

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I want Sylvie to have the joy that Aila does. To know that she belongs to us.  We want to teach her that she is created in His image.

God’s got this.
We can do it.
It’s going to be worth it.

Yard Sale!

I woke up this morning early.

Lila was standing beside my bed.  She’d had a dream of a purple pterodactyl that eats children.  She was shaken.  “Can I get in bed with you?”

The answer is always yes when they’re scared and so she climbed in and was sound asleep again in minutes.

But I was wide awake.

Our yard sale is tomorrow.  We have a house, back deck and shed completely and totally FULL of yard sale-ready merchandise.  And I suddenly realized at 6:34am that it has to get out of our house and onto tables tomorrow morning by 8am.

Picture it.  John and I and two bleary eyed grown up daughters dragging furniture, boxes of toys, clothes, kitchen ware, home decor, baby gear…you name it, we probably have it, out the front door and to the yard.  Julia and Aubrey do not even yet know that they will be pressed into service.  (Surprise!)

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I speak to Jesus, “Lord, the harvest is plentiful.  The workers are few.”

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I say also, deep in my heart, to Sylvie:  “You are loved, child because I absolutely hate doing yard sales.”

We’ve got a lot riding on this yard sale.

It’s a labor of love.

And so I think about that this morning.  I think about the work that goes into international adoption.  I think about the labor pains and the waiting and the unknowns and I think…it’s so different from becoming a mother the past six times…and it also isn’t.

I pray a more hopeful prayer.   “Lord, let this yard sale propel us towards the goal of giving Sylvie what you want for her.  Bless our efforts and our hands.  Bless each person who donated things to us, bless each person who purchases things from us.  Multiply every dollar to get us closer to raising the ransom for her life.”

Will you pray with us over this yard sale?  It might seem like a weird prayer, but will you?  Pray over these points with us:

  • Cooperative weather
  • An amazing turnout
  • No fibromyalgia issues
  • Helpers who are excited to come over at 6am and help set up
  • Generous givers
  • Good morale

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Even for yard sales, the above is true.

Sisters

Last night, I prayed for bonds to be forming even now between my three wild littles and their sister Sylvie.  They understand and get the orphan crisis in a way that many adults do not.  To them, the idea of not having a family just makes no sense.  They’ve been praying for an “orphan to come into our family” for as long as I can remember.  And every single night, Claire in particular asks Jesus to get “all the orphans in a  forever home soon.”

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These three love each other fiercely, fight passionately and have elaborate inside jokes and games and language.  I am praying that God would build that in with Sylvie.

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I know that it won’t be easy.  I know that it won’t be all unicorns and rainbows…but I also know that God can do things that aren’t easy and that He can bring beauty from ashes.

And I guess that’s my prayer.

That Sylvie’s life would go from ashes to beauty.  That she would feel such a sense of belonging with all six of her siblings but especially with the three I call the “Littles”.

You can support our adoption by visiting our Etsy store at Cartesterson INK

Or by purchasing a t-shirt at www.bonfirefunds.com/bringsylviehome

Or by donating directly to http://www.gofundme.com/sylviagrace

5000 Miles

There’s a little girl called Sissy who lives about 5,000 miles away from me.

Right now, while I type these words and sip my coffee…she is halfway through her day in Bulgaria.  Is she taking a nap in daycare?  Is she playing? Is she coloring?

I think about her about a million times a day and I just find the whole thing so amazing.

We love her.

We have ever since we were told this could happen.  Since we were told that we could do this.  We could be a family for this very little girl who has no idea that she even needs us.

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We know her name.

We’ve seen her face.

And we can not wait to hold her.

Being a part of this story has already been so filled with God and wonder that it defies description.

He has been in the details.

And certainly there are stressors and concerns.

For creative, flaky people like us, deadlines and paperwork that must be done at the right time and in the right way…whew.  That part is hard.

Fundraising creatively and in a (hopefully) non annoying way is equal parts fun and difficult!

I keep saying this:  “Adoption is a full time job!”

Several well meaning friends have said this, “But what if her special needs are more severe than you realized when you get her home?”

And I respectfully reply.  “What if they are?”  Please understand that I don’t mean to be a smarty pants, I don’t mean to be rude…but it is my answer.   If her needs are more than I expect…doesn’t she still have them?  Aren’t they part of her story, whether or not we bring her home to us or not?

She is who she is.  Just as she is.  And she can have her medical issues in Bulgaria where there are such limited resources and no real future for her…or she can have those issues here in America, close to us, with unlimited opportunity.

I think back to tiny little Nora, born crazy early and would we have just chosen not to parent her if she had residual issues?  (I don’t think coloring on EVERYTHING and throwing tantrums count.)

I think about a couple of my kids who struggle with anxiety, one with dyslexia…one with wheat intolerance…I think about other kids I love who have special needs and I just have to say…

“So what if her needs are more severe?”

I guess we’ll just have to figure that out.

Because it bottom lines to these two things.

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“My friends, adoption is redemption.  It’s costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.”

We will pay the ransom (with a LOT of help from our village) and we will rescue our daughter.  Because we have been rescued and redeemed.  We didn’t have to meet any criteria to be redeemed.  And it cost our sweet Jesus.

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“I always questioned if I was ready to adopt, and then I realized no child was ready to be an orphan.”

Oh this statement stops my heart.

Surely Sissy’s first mother, the one who gave her life and a name…surely her heart’s desire for this beautiful girl was not that she would be an orphan.  Surely the foster mom, Sissy’s second mother, who is with her every day and has been for most of her life, surely this sweet mother who has sustained her for all this time and who prepares herself to say good bye…surely her heart’s desire is not that Sissy would live her life as an orphan.  And we look at her picture and we watch her videos and we listen to our six live life fully…and we just know that our desire is not that Sissy would live out the rest of her life an orphan.

This child, fearfully and wonderfully made, she deserves a mom and a dad and host of sisters and even one brother.  She deserves all these grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  She deserves to be welcomed in.

Weren’t we welcomed in to the courts of a King?

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Be a part of her story here:

To give:  http://www.gofundme.com/sylviagrace

Buy a t-shirt:  http://www.bonfirefunds.com/sylviagrace

Commission art:  cartestersonink@gmail.com

Buy a bracelet:  cartestersonink@gmail.com

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Apparent Project Bracelets $8
$4 goes to the moms and dads in Haiti that make them, $4 goes to our adoption fund.

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We are keeping a record of every single person who has participated in this story. On the wall, by Sissy’s bed, when she comes home, there will be a great big painting.  A painting of a tree.  And on that tree will be leaves and each leaf will have a name.  The name of every single person who believed she was worth rescuing.  The name of every single person who fought and gave and sacrificed to pay her ransom.

The Vacation Code

So.
I am often asked to explain how we survive on vacation with a jillion kids and not so many adults.

It’s simple.

Vacation Rules.

1. Honor the vacation code. Your happiness level on vacation should be 8 or higher. If you feel yourself slipping, you should immediately ask for help. Your peers will drop everything and try to get you back up to where you belong. If, for some reason, you slip to a 5 or lower, you just need to go to your room and get yourself together.

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The above pictured is not an old maid, but they are definitely both below a 5.

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I guess Philip just really loves turtles.  He’s well above an eight here.

This is critical.  With a ton of people on vacation, it does not do for someone to get a case of the crankies.  Also, we look forward to vacation all year long and for heavens’ sakes, we LOVE each other.  No one will blame you if you need a little time out.
2. Beware the day 4 meltdown. It’s a tried and true concept. On day 4, it will start with one and go downhill from there. Everyone eventually has a day 4 meltdown. (Your mileage may vary- for some it’s late on day 3, for others, it might be day 5.) There WILL be tears, tantrums, extreme exhaustion and general irritibility. All that needs to be said is this: “It’s the day 4 meltdown.” Expect it, be prepared to not be fazed by it and move on with vacation. It’s not a bad thing, really. The meltdown tends to be cleansing and provides a sort of reset.

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I have been a mother for 23 years.  I have six kids and we are working on adopting a seventh.  I know a thing or two about vacationing with children.  They are going to flip out.  Everyone is tired.  We are on the go, swimming, walking, going to museums.  They are full of junk food and sand.  We eat stuff on vacation that we don’t typically go for at other times.  And our philosophy is basically this:  Whatever, man, get out of Mommy’s sun.  They have been doing nothing but fun stuff, including playing board games with the grown ups, eating all that candy that Meema brought whenever they want and staying up crazily late.  We are creating between 16 and 18 (it varies) little Veruca Salts and it’s bound to happen.

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Let me point out, however, that this applies to adults as well as children.  See above- tired, junk food, sand, board games with our children, candy, staying up too late.

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3. Just know that you will only be getting your way 1/26th to 1/28th of the time. You can’t go wrong if you keep this in mind. That said, we will honor exactly one vacation dream of each and every person. (Mine was good pictures this year.)

We are a team.  It’s about being together and having fun and in my son’s case, getting a sunburn every year.  It’s about looking for a child who shall remain nameless who decided to go spear fishing.  It’s about trying to believe one of the moms when she insists she saw dolphins off of the front porch.  It’s about removing the flying bird statues so they don’t give another mom a panic attack.  It is about togetherness, love and fun, people and don’t you forget it.

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You get your one dream.  One per customer.  Otherwise its all for one and one for all.  We will also see to it that EVERYONE respects, honors and at least pretends to enjoy your one dream.
Here are some examples:
1. A family picture by the ocean

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2. Going to Forbes candy store

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3. Flying a kite on the sand dunes
4. Playing putt-putt
5. Drinking margaritas out of a really large tervis. (That dream did not belong to a child.)
6. Going to the aquarium.

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7. Having Scott’s cavatini for dinner.
8. Resting in a hammock while holding a baby

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9. Going to Wings to buy hermit crabs (That one is off the table this year)
10. Chasing ghost crabs at dusk

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The memories make it all worth it.

This post is dedicated to Bethany, Philip, Eden, Addy Lin, Ezra, Tae, Drew, Kristin, Michelle, Scott, Angelo, Mia, Miranda, Anthony, Luke, Sam, Caleb, John, Julia, Aubrey, Chase, Lila, Claire and Nora…and anyone else who has ever gone on vacation with us!

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Let’s Talk About Surrender

It’s been a wild couple of weeks.

John was excited to be hired to teach in the Newport News Public School system.  He’s been commuting an hour to an hour and a half back and forth to Great Bridge since we got married.  He’s been a great sport about it and he has LOVED Great Bridge High School…but 3 hours of commuting time + 6 kids + grad school + me for a wife + dogs, cats and rodents + yard work + home stuff + church + friends = whoa, man.  Those extra hours are going to be life changing.

NNPS assured John that he would have a high school position but…middle school kept calling.  Middle school is not his forte and frankly, no one’s favorite.

But John said this to the Lord, “I’m all in.  Whatever your plan for me is, I’m all in.  If it’s middle school, Lord, I will go and teach middle school.”  He may have even prayed this prayer with fear and trembling.

And then he put action to his words and accepted an interview at a middle school.

He went to the interview and he liked the principal and he liked the building and he totally surreneded.  “Okay, Lord.  I’m ready to go where you send me.”

On the way home, he, with a grateful and fairly happy heart, prayed again, “Lord, where you send me, I will go.  I surrender to your will.”

The phone LITERALLY rang that moment and he got an interview at Denbigh High School.  It’s 15 minutes from our house and he doesn’t even have to travel down 17.  (Anyone who is local knows the importance of this.)  It’s the place he most wanted to be.  The interview went great and the job is his.

On June 11th, I posted this:  Peace In Disappointment, all about our surrender of our big dream of international adoption.

We had been wrestling with it, literally, for more than a year.

I could not reconcile this great desire for this Biblically recommended thing and the simple facts that the doors were not opening.  It caused so much angst (I hate that word, but it fits) in my soul.  Foster agencies didn’t like that we had a house full of people and would work with us when some of our older kids moved out.  Another agency discouraged us from the beginning because we really wanted to choose a waiting child, and they kept pressuring us to get all the finances done first.  That same agency was inconsistent with their advice and just left us uneasy.  No peace and God’s plans have a supernatural peace all over them.

So, we laid it down.

Then.  BOOM.

I read a blog (or a Facebook article or maybe just a post?) about a disabled mom in a wheelchair.  She and her husband had adopted several times from overseas and every time, only her husband traveled.  Truly, our main issue with the whole thing was both of us being away from the littles for so long and my health.  I simply can’t manage international travel right now.

But wait. Only ONE parent needs to travel?

I confirmed it with an agency and tentatively asked about this little beauty I’d seen on Reeces Rainbow.

The agency cheerfully said, “YES!  One parent is FINE and we would love to tell you more about ‘Shyla’.”

I told them all about us, how busy our house is, how full it is and how I have fibromyalgia.  “Okay!” she said, brightly, “Here’s all the info and the paperwork to get you started!”

We sent it in.  She sent us COMMITMENT PAPERS specific to ‘Shyla’ so that she would be our daughter and we would need to hustle to get all of our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed.

She told us her name- Sylvia…and the fact that she goes exclusively by Sissy.  Oh my heart.  This is OUR daughter.   She showed us a video and I don’t speak Bulgarian but I caught one word- musika…She likes music. And in the photo, behind Sissy’s are big pink poodles, just like Lila had all over her nursery as an infant.  She turns three in August…wouldn’t it be amazing if we could celebrate her fourth birthday with her at home?

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We love her.  The kids love her. They’ve been praying for the past year that God would “help the orphans find families and please God, let one find OUR family.”

We are honored that God is trusting us with this.

There are fees galore and lots of red tape to come.  We will rely fully on fundraising and grants but we trust God to provide.

We have named her Sylvia the name her first parents gave her when they gave her life Grace because the grace of God is covering her and us and this whole thing Virginia after a beloved member of John’s family, his great aunt Carter the name we give her as she comes into her second life.

Help us bring Sissy home here.   There is no amount too small or too large.  If money is left over, it’ll be donated to Reece’s Rainbow to help other families bring their children home.  If our adoption fails and our place in Sissy’s life was just to love her and pray for her from here, the money raised will go towards her adoption still.  We can give specifically to her through our agency.

Every penny of these funds will go to the orphan crisis one way or another.

The cost is high, though not as high as adoption from some countries and not as high as through other agencies.  We see it like this- it’s a ransom for our daughter’s life.

She has no future in Bulgaria.  She has some special needs.  We expect she will flourish with therapies and quality medical treatment here with us.  But in Bulgaria, she will just decline.  There are not the resources to get her what she needs there.  She will stay in foster care until she is “too old” then she will move to a children’s home.  When she ages out of there, it’s off to pass the rest of her life in an institution.

I believe God has better things for her.

Being in this place of surrender feels right and it feels peaceful.  I know that this is God’s plan and God’s course for our life and we are going, full speed ahead until, she is home.

Help us make this miracle happen!

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Sylvia Grace Virginia Carter

Peace In Disappointment

I don’t like feeling disappointed.

I really don’t.

And I know, I know, I know that no one does.  But today, I am bogged down in disappointment and discouragement and I am sad.

I have long held a dream close to my heart.  A dream of adoption.  I have felt a stirring for it ever since I was very young.  I specifically remember a couple of families from high school that had large families full of kids of all kinds- special needs, neurotypical, adopted, bio, foster.  I was always so fascinated by the whole thing.

I met my friends the Tiefenbacks and got to know their beautiful daughters from India and my friend Dianna and her beautiful three.  This dream, it has waxed and waned over the years but it has never, ever gone completely away.

It was set ablaze all over again in knowing and loving our sweet  Aila.  In watching several Facebook friends go through growing their families through adoption and fostering.  In standing with my sister of the heart Kristin and her husband Drew as they began the foster parent journey.  Watching another family I just love adopt their second daughter domestically.

I looked around one day and I realized that I know so many people who have a heart for adoption. I realized that even my current heroes in the faith (Sara Hagerty, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Melton, Ann Voskamp) all also have Big Hearts for adoption, for protecting and serving children in crisis.  It’s all around me.  And God does not do coincidences.  Everything is purposeful, everything has meaning.

In my first marriage, adoption was not something my husband wanted to do, so that dream had to be surrendered.  And that was okay, because sometimes life is like that.

In my second marriage, it is something my husband very much wants to do.  Our heartbeats on this are very much in sync…and so somehow, now having to surrender it because of my health is just so much more painful.  It’s as though it was in my grasp and then was snatched away.

We fell in love with a three year old in Hong Kong last year, while my fibro was under control.  We tentatively asked if he was an option for us.  The answer?  He was already in process with another family.  Yay! That’s what you want.  For kids to get adopted.  No worries, there are 147 million children in need in this world.  Surely there would be one for us.

We fell in love with several sibling groups in Bulgaria but were warned by the adoption agency not to go that route because of how many young daughters we had still at home.     The situation for orphans in Bulgaria is heart wrenching.  You can learn more here:  

Okay, so we paused to regroup and pray for a while and see where God was leading us.  We had some goals in our personal lives to meet with our finances and John was in grad school and Nora was still so young.  It felt like the door was closing for just a little while longer.

Now, we are prayer warriors for four special little ones on Reece’s Rainbow.  And these four are just so precious and deserve a family so much.  And we would gladly adopt any and all of them.

Shyla

When I saw her face…she just looks like one of us.  Her name would be Lydia if she was ours.

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Brayden

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I just believe he would flourish in a family of his own.

Rubin

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This sweet love.  Is he beautiful or WHAT?!

And finally this guy who is about to age out of the orphanage, with the same name as my own son.

Charles

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These are just four of 147 million and my mothers’ heart longs to go and swoop them up, bring them home and love, love, love them.

But I have this disease that steals my days.  This disease that makes an hour long car ride into an excruciating ordeal.  This disease that makes travel to another country almost impossible.

The costs of adoption are entirely overwhelming but can be overcome.  This I know for a fact. I  saw the body of Christ come together and bring sweet Aila home.

But my health.

This fibro thing has been out of control since about January and nothing I have done seems to be bringing it back in line.

So…time to lay down the international adoption dream again.  It’s disappointing.  It’s heartbreaking.

But what I know is this:
1. God gave me the dream of international adoption.  And He is not going to ignore a dream He placed in me that falls right in line with His word:  “Pure and undefiled religion is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” Why would he set our hearts on fire for this and then render us inactive? He wouldn’t! That’s not who He is. He will show us our path, in His timing.
2. God loves these four I’ve posted here and all 146,999,996 others more than can even be imagined.  More than I ever could, even if I adopted all four of them.  They are of eternal significance to Him.  Precious, fearfully and wonderfully made.  Treasured and cherished by the God of the Universe.  He is their Abba Father, Emmanuel, God with us.
3. I can help in so many other ways, not just as an adopter.  There is much I can do for these four. I can pray every time they come to mind.  I can teach my children to pray for them, to have their hearts open to the needs of others.  I can raise funds to help them on their journey.  I can advocate for and speak for them.  I can be their voice, stateside.
4.  There is beauty in surrender.  God can turn my mourning into dancing.  He can rescue me in my sorrow and distress.  He meets us in our hurt places.  He walks with us.  He is the Great Healer, of all pain- physical, emotional, spiritual.

I don’t know where the adoption journey will take us.  There are about a million different ways it could go.

What I do know is that the crisis is epic.  Forget my sad little heart for a second and just consider the magnitude of the orphan crisis.  I type and I delete and I type and I delete because there is nothing I can say that can even come close to describing it.  Just research it for yourself.  Read up on foster care needs in your own town, scroll through the kids on Reece’s Rainbow, watch the documentary I linked to above.  Go to Show HopeThese 400Amazima and countless other websites.  Check it out for yourself.

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This is my prayer over these precious ones.

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Please pray about the orphan crisis and please share your experiences with me and with my readers.  We are not all called to adopt, we are not even all called to give financially…but I believe that God does call us all to action one way or another.

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And that is where I am today.  This morning.  I feel peace about it, sad but peaceful.  I am just going to be still and wait on Him to give me the next step.  I’m going to advocate and pray for these four He has laid on my heart and I’m going to keep praying this fibromalgia away.

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If you want to help financially, you can donate to Reece’s Rainbow or to one of the four I’ve linked to specifically by clicking any link above.

OR, if you want to help through shopping, from now on, my retail profits from DoTerra and Norwex will go to these four kiddos’ adoption grants.  (You can read more about the adoption grants and how they work on the Reece’s Rainbow webpage.)

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And, stay tuned, because I’m opening my Etsy store soon.  It’s called CartestersonINK and it’ll be filled with art from our family.  20% of all profits will go towards our little RR friends’ adoption grants or to other organizations that are designed to help end the orphan crisis globally.

Faithful readers, I am thankful for you.

Tilly

Tilly

Tilly

Tilly still has scars from her past.

I take off her collar this morning and it stares me in the face.  The pink groove that will never grow fur, no matter how much time goes by, because she spent so many months of her life tethered.  A groove that says that she grew but no one adjusted the rope or chain or collar that held her in place.  She’ll always have that scar.

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When she came to us, she was afraid.  Her tail stayed tucked, she wouldn’t look at anyone, she seemed ashamed when we tried to give her affection.

As months have gone by, she’s thrived under our care.  She is brave now, jumping up on the table to steal food, barking the backyard, wrestling with Caroline, climbing up into my lap.  She is my constant companion, always where she can see me.

I love her.

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When we were still fostering dogs, Tilly was a huge part of it and not just because she was our foster fail.  (Foster fail:  when you foster a dog but then can’t let it go to get adopted.  You’ve failed at fostering.)  She coaxed shy dogs out of their shell.  She played with them and snuggled them and herded them.  (She’s a champion herder.)  Whenever I saw her with the other fosters, I had just one thought.

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She who has been forgiven much, loves much.

She’s grateful.  Inasmuch as a dog can be.  She’s grateful.  And she has thrived because she is so loved.

She still has to be disciplined, she still has to be trained and taught.  I’m tired of her eating my shoes.  I wouldn’t mind if she stopped stealing food off the table.  I absolutely can not stand it when she jumps on people with her sharp little claws.

But most of all, I love her like crazy.

And I think about that shy, tail tucked dog who is now, at this very moment, wrestling with a dog three times her size in the living room…think about how she has blossomed in our family.

Living things just need love.

I’m grateful that when I walk through trial and fire, that God loves me.  I’m grateful that He can see the scars from my past and can make them beautiful.  I’m grateful that I can use my struggles and my hurts to help others.  I’m grateful that in the very middle of all my mess and chaos, He can place a hand on me and still my heart.

And so, yes, I realize that I’m comparing my walk with God to my relationship to my dog and I also realize that’s a bit crazy.

That’s okay.

I mean, I seriously, crazily love my dog.  So it makes sense to me.  And it’s just like God to use our every day to teach us Big Lessons.

Today, I’m grateful for this little brown mutt and for God who gave her to me.  And I’m so grateful for what He has shown me through her.

You should rescue a dog.  I know some people that can hook you up.

Xoxo Pet Rescue

He’s A Good Father

Today, I am going to a birthday party.

It’s a birthday party for a sweet little girl turning three years old and this is the first birthday party she’s ever had.  Maybe the first birthday anyone has taken note of.

She was adopted from China.

I made her a little piece of art last night and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what verse of Scripture I wanted to use.

I landed on James 1:17.  Every good and perfect gift comes from above.

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Aila is a good and perfect gift.  Her smile is infectious and when she claps those sweet little hands, everyone falls to pieces.  This verse perfectly sums up who she is to her family.  This little girl is truly beloved by her parents and her sister and brothers, her extended family and her family of friends too.  She is a much prayed for, much adored little treasure.

But in her country, she was not seen as a treasure.  She was not seen as a good and perfect gift.  Aila has Down Syndrome.

And it strikes me that it is just like God to shine a light on a jewel like Aila, so that others can see her beauty…where some tried to hide her away….He would not have that.

And that makes me think about God and gifts even more…because some of the gifts He gives me, I’m not always grateful for.  Some of the things that come my way do not seem like favor.

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My first real blog post here was called Caroline and the Puddle and the gist was that we were walking our then puppy to the sound to play and jump in the water.  She saw a puddle on the way and was straining to get to it.  It was the best thing she’d ever seen, because she didn’t know that the sound was in her future.

This is me.  As I pray about our future- seminary, buying a house, adoption…I want it all right now.  Waiting is so hard.  Not knowing what is next is even harder.

And then, it dawns on me…not being in control is the hardest part.  I think this is what God wants from me. To relinquish control and to surrender in the waiting.  To trust that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.  And to trust that He is a good father and He wants good things for me.  To be still and know that He is God and to relish every day as it comes, taking notice of the good gifts all around me.

To stop wishing my life away on things that are to come.  Those things are going to come whether I love the life I’m in or not.  I might as well settle in and bask in His love.  He is always there.  He does not leave.  He gives good gifts every single day.

Tonight, I will celebrate one of those good gifts.  I will kiss Aila’s sweet cheeks and hug her parents and just be grateful with them, for the good and perfect gift that Aila is.  For the way God loves us.  He’s a good father.

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Oh How He Loves Us So

Jesus really, really loves us.

And He cares about every single thing we care about…the big and the small.

About thirteen months ago, I asked Jesus for just one thing.

“Make me a woman of the word.”

I knew I was a woman of worship.  Worship sets my soul ablaze.  I connect with Him in music, in song, in the midst of the guitars and the piano and the drums and the bass and the other singers. God’s people singing together, hands lifted, eyes closed. My friend Nicole once said- “It’s your happy place.” And it is. It’s where I feel most whole.

It’s where I feel close to His side. Drawn up like a beloved child, safe in the shelter of Abba’s wings.

How He loves me.

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I knew I was a woman of prayer.  I’ve been talking to God all day everyday for as long as I can remember.  Back when I was little and I didn’t quite understand who God was and what it meant to be His…still I prayed.  I chatted.  I gave Him a to do list and I gave Him a  wish list.  I asked Him questions.  When I was a bit older and traveling dangerous paths…I still found Him in my days, still offered Him my to do list and my wish list.  Still asked Him hard questions and even though I feared the answers…I didn’t stop asking.  I’ve worked and lived as a prayer missionary. A handful of years of prayer and worship as a vocation.  What sweet years, what an honor to live that calling for a season.  As a mother, goodness knows I’ve prayed and I pray.  Salvation, joy, peace, knowledge of Jesus over my sweet six.  As a wife I’ve prayed.  Through a hard marriage, through a divorce and now with my second marriage and for my sweet husband…the priest of our home.  I have prayed.

I’m a woman of Prayer.

And how He loves me so.

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But I was not a woman of the word.  I did not love to study the Bible, to read it…And though I tried and tried…I just couldn’t make myself a woman of the word on my own steam.

I did so many different devotionals.  I tried so many Bible plans.  But my eyes just glazed over and I just could not get there.  And I was ashamed of that.  Embarrassed by it.  Shouldn’t a lifetime, career Christian love the Bible?

And it’s not that I didn’t love it.  I cherished the word of God and loved to go to classes where someone else taught me about the Bible.  Just couldn’t get into that whole “Eat the Scroll” thing.  I didn’t crave it.  I didn’t even really want to read it.  In fact, given the choice, I’d choose “Chopped” or basically any HGTV show over Bible time.

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And I cringe even writing that because what will people think???? But I have to live as though I don’t care what people think because I just really don’t want to care about what people think.

And maybe I’m not the only one.

So.  About 13 months ago, I heard two women say these words:  “I am a woman of the Word.”  And these are two real, authentic, honest women who love Jesus with real love. And something about the way they said that stirred something in me.

I prayed, “Make me a woman of the Word.”

And I continued to doggedly try to make myself a woman of the word the same old ways.

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It didn’t work.

May became June, the summer zipped by, then the fall and the winter. Christmas came and went in a whirlwind.  It snowed way too much.

Two things happened.

1.  John accidentally bought me a journal with no lines.
2. I got the flu.

I was stuck in bed for TEN DAYS.  As a mother of any number of children will tell you, be it 1 or 10, momma in the bed for ten days is super impractical.

But God used that time for good.

He met with me there, in the quiet of my room and we communed and something happened.

I read a book called Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet and I journaled like crazy.  In color.  With a pack of pens that John got for Christmas.  And I found that I liked it. I liked all that color on the page.  I liked what the book did to my heart.  Through tears, God and  I worked through so much hurt.  (P.S.  If you have ever suffered in any way, read that book.)

I would show you a picture but I’m not entirely sure where I’ve laid that journal.

I showed John my journal and we talked about the happy “accident” of the unlined journal…so that I could write in color and all over the page.

And he showed me this:

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He had seen it on interest but it came from Here.

I was intrigued.  And I began a Pinterest search for “Bible journaling”, “Bible Doodles”, “Illustrated Faith”, “worship art”.

I learned about Valerie Wieners and her artwork.

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I learned about Shanna Noel and Illustrated Faith

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I learned about loads and loads of Mommas just like me who were loving this idea of meeting with Jesus through creativity.

And something clicked in me.

The old ways didn’t work for me because my brain doesn’t work that way.  But this new way was just what this crafty, flighty, ADD, creative brain needed.  And I was in love.

In love with the word.

And my first attempts were…well, Lila or Claire could’ve done a better job.  But I didn’t care.  This was me, the Word and God and I was having a ball.

I drew and drew and drew.  I filled a sketchbook.  I got myself a journaling Bible with plenty of space. I  began to play with paint and colored pencils and every kind of pen you can imagine.

I found out that I love watercolor paints and Micron pens.  I found that Inktense pencils are my favorite. I found out that I love drawing and painting on paper and in my Bible.  And, it got better and better.

My extremely artsy twenty something daughter told me that the work was good.  My husband (who, among many other things has an art degree) said the same.  People began to ask me to make things for them.  People began to offer me real dollars to make things for them.

And I just kept right on drawing and painting and all of that.  My Bible is getting full and I know I will need a new one soon.  I love it so much.  The great illustrations and the really awful ones…they all speak to this new love I have for the Word.

It’s such a gift.

And here is the absolute best part.

This gift came along when I was sick and in bed.  Forced into rest.  This gift progressed as the arthritis in my knee grew worse.  I was forced into rest.  This gift sustained me every day when I was forced to slow down, to be still, to rest.

Because He loves me so.

He’s given me this, this study of the Word in images and in color…He’s given me this to make those times when I must be still sweet.  He has given me, at forty two and after years of walking with Him, a new way to meet with Him.

It’s infinitely sweet.  It shows how He cherishes me and delights in me.  Because he knew how it would trouble me to have to be still.  He knew how hard it would be for me to rest.  He knew how I would absolutely loathe slowing down.

So he gave me this.  I could not draw a circle in December.  Did not know watercolors from acrylics.  But now it’s part of my everyday and I look forward to my quiet time.  I look forward to opening up the word and seeing how it will come alive today.

He’s made me a woman of the word.

See many of my Doodles here.