Monday, November 29, 2010

One Thousand Gifts

     Black Friday.  Cyber Monday.  Free Shipping.  Earlybird Specials.  Tis' the season for deals, and every retailer on this planet is trying to lure us towards the perfect gift for everyone on our list.  For some reason, the glitz and glamour of the glossy ads aren't impressing me this year.  Don't get me wrong, I love shopping just like the next girl (maybe more), and I humbly confess that I used to own a t-shirt with the script, "Shopping is my therapy!"  But something is wrong when the amount of money we spend on one plastic battery-operated toy could feed a family in Africa for a month.

     How have we lost our way?  We fight to keep "Merry Christmas" in our retail establishments, yet aren't we the very ones taking Christ out of Christmas by feeding the consumer frenzy?  Keeping Christ in Christmas is more than semantics -- it's about actions, sacrifice, compassion, and crazy love.  I love giving gifts, and there will be several wrapped under our tree on Christmas morning, but I pray that the biggest gifts I offer this year will be those that can change lives immediately and eternally.  

     If you're looking for a different way to give this year, perhaps you'll find the perfect gift through one of these trusted sites:

     I don't think I could keep a goat hidden in my "Christmas closet", but wouldn't it be fun to surprise a family in the Uganda with one?  Just one goat can provide enough milk for nourishment as well as income from the sale of extra milk to purchase other necessities.  How about a couple of chickens for Christmas?  The protein from the eggs may very well keep a toddler alive all the way across our planet.  I'm getting really excited about my Christmas shopping now!

     P.S.  I'm so glad God gives me gifts of grace every single day.  I don't know about you, but I tend to overlook some of the most special gifts so I've decided to intentionally start jotting them down as a way to worship with gratitude.  I started my list in my Thanksgiving post, and I've joined up with an online community who gives thanks every Monday.  Won't you join me?  You can read more about this group here:

One Thousand Gifts

     This week I'm thankful for:

13.  warm covers over me and arms around me as I fall asleep

14.  children’s forgiveness given to an imperfect mother

15.  an evergreen candle filling the house with memories of when we had a “real” tree

16.  really good vitamins that balance out the Costco hot dog dinner

17.  6-second kisses around every corner

18.  candle-lit Advent talks on blankets around the Christmas tree

19.  photo cards from friends that I yearn to see in person

20.  the colors of fall not quite yielding to winter

21.  brisk family walks on the Noland Trail

22.  sweet support from friends joining us in our adoption journey

23.  rom-com movies with a man who gives me daily rom-com

24.  children who (for the time-being) think yard work is a game

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

We read the books and discuss the theories of the first Thanksgiving, and my kids re-enact the Pilgrims' adventure to Plymouth Rock.  It’s a happy play they put on, one sanitized almost 400 years later with feasts, feathers, and festive dance.  Of course, with my three boys the “turkey hunt” is the highlight of their production, and I hear statements such as, “It’s not fair that we have to get our turkey from the grocery store” (yes, we are city slickers without apology).  I do my best to re-create Hallmark’s Thanksgiving around my own 21st century table, but I’m reminded that it’s not how the presentation looks.  I can’t imagine that the Pilgrims were caught up in their menu plans on that first Thanksgiving.  These were the ones who lived without shelter, faced sickness and disease, buried their own, and brushed the nose of death themselves. 

As I’m surveying our place settings, the thought hits me hard.  I am the Pilgrim.  I wandered away, I lost everything, and I nearly faced death.  God in his grace rescued me from my own self, and He paid the price so I could live.  Forever.  He set me on solid ground, gave me life, and placed me on mission. With grace we’re on mission to live Thanksgiving every day of the year.  Giving thanks – and giving because we want to say thanks.  Giving money, giving time, giving words, giving prayers, giving love, giving ourselves all to say thanks to the One who ultimately gave.  

Sometimes it take a near-death experience to make you really appreciate what you have.  Just as the Pilgrims recognized the significance of their survival that first year, may I never forget how my life was rescued for eternity. 

P.S.  I’ve got a great online community who worships God with gratitude, and I can’t wait to share more about how you can join in too!  For now, here are some things I’m grateful for this week:

1.  warm little boy breath in my face whispering for me to get up in the morning

2.  leaves spread all over the yard serving as the great equalizer of all our neighbors’     

3.  notarized signatures on adoption applications

4.  spices leftover at the bottom of warm mugs after the last sip of cider

5.  the daily question from excited children about how many days until the Christmas tree 
     goes up

6.  fake snow perfectly placed for a mall photo-op on a 70 degree November day

7.  cousin sleepovers and family bonds that overcome the miles between us

8.  sister chats and unspoken understanding

9.  quiet nights and warm, fuzzy blankets

10.  challenging books that make me want to really get it right

11.  baby-sitters who have the house clean and kids happy at the end of a special night

12.  extended gym time so an extra piece of pumpkin cheesecake won’t really matter

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Here We Go. . .

Playing catch up in life’s journal seems way daunting (and probably way boring for anyone happening to stop by this page) so I think the best place is to jump right into the current chaos.   We all know that life can be unpredictable and lead us down turns we never expected to go, yet when we look back we can see how every twist was part of God’s perfect plan.  I’m really excited about the latest example of that in our lives, and that is in relation to our adoption journey.  Yep, I’m saying it, OUR ADOPTION JOURNEY, which means it’s really happening.  Sometimes I have to do a reality check myself! 

For those who know me well, you’ve probably heard me mention that adoption was always a possibility for us, but then a few kiddos into our family, and I pretty much only gave that idea lip-service. I’ve admittedly been enjoying the newest stages of independence in our kids – I really love that we can safely ignore them in the early mornings while we catch up on sleep since they can all fend for themselves now, and I definitely was glad to see the diaper era go alongside the Wiggles (after all we’ve already changed 22,000 diapers by conservative estimates).  I’ve given away every last baby item in our house so I really felt like that train had left the station.  Until recently, which only by the grace of God, there was no denying what was stirring in our hearts.  Through a series of events and nudges, we began feeling like someone was missing from our dinner table, from our bedside snuggles, from our family circle.  This feeling was different from the desire to reproduce more of ourselves, it was more of a calling that our child was already out there somewhere waiting for us. 

To be perfectly honest, we fought that calling.  Brian and I tried to convince ourselves in so many ways that this was someone else’s call, but when it all came down it felt so right to say, “Yes, we hear you, sweet child, and we’re coming for you!”  I literally prayed over the globe we use for daily geography lessons asking God to show us where that voice was leading.  We talked about many options locally, but in the end we feel a global call to go to Ethiopia for our child.  I’ll have to save “Why Ethiopia?” for another post, but I will just say that God loves all the children of the world, and He is sending us there.

So if you’re kindly taking the time to read this, will you join us in prayer?  Pray for this harried momma who needs more of God’s grace than ever, pray for our sweet child who is waiting, and pray that paperwork and pennies will come together to make this dream become reality.

 The kids found Africa on the big globe at the Norfolk Zoo. . . I couldn't resist a picture!!