A Special Christmas

For those of you who are my Facebook friends, you might have seen our big news. Our family has decided to host a 16 year old girl name Mariya from the Ukraine for 4 weeks this Christmas! She is an orphan, so we feel very honored to be part of giving her a taste of what Christmas is like in America.

New Horizons for Children is a non-profit organization that arranges these visits for Christmas and during the Summer to give orphans a chance to come to the USA. They have a few goals in doing this. Their biggest goal is to share God’s love for them. I can’t even begin to imagine what orphanage life is like, and the emotional turmoil they all must go through with not having a family to love and support them. Telling them about God’s love for them, and the value they have to him is an amazing opportunity! Also, another big goal is to let them feel the unconditional love that comes with a family. We hope to show Mariya what it’s like to be part of a loving family, and encourage her that we too find value in her life. Most of the children in this program don’t speak English, and those who do, speak a limited amount. We’ve been told that in the 4-5 weeks that they are here they can pick up as much English as they would back in their home country in 4-5 years! We’ve been told Mariya speaks some English, but we’re not really sure what that means. So, I guess we’ll be brushing up on our charades skills in the coming weeks :) Finally another very cool outcome of this program is the adoption of eligible children. Generally speaking, older children are not as desirable for adoption, and this program exposes these children to prospective families who may not have otherwise even thought of adopting an older child!

Unfortunately Mariya will not be available for adoption. We will only be hosting her. She turns 16 this month, and Ukranian law dictates that she will no longer be available for adoption once she reaches that age. My heart breaks for her, knowing that her birthday will not carry the same joy that a 16 year old birthday does here in the United States. I imagine her 16th birthday will be a sad day of loss. But, shortly after that we get the chance to love on her, and hopefully give her a really fun, relaxing trip here in the USA!

She will be staying with us from December 18th – January 15th. She will arrive with just the clothes on her back, so we will provide all of her clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. I have to admit, I have zero idea what in the world to do with a 16 year old! I know God will arrange the details, and we’ll just have to do some shopping once she gets here and we find out her size. The planner, control-freak side of me has a hard time not having everything all ready to go once she gets here! But I imagine she might enjoy picking out things she likes, so we’ll just do our best to have a few things available for her and go from there.

It’s up to us to fund this trip for her. There is her plane ticket, of course, as well as program fees, visa, chaperone expenses, etc. All in all it will be about $3,000 for the whole thing. We are asking our friends and family if they would be willing to help us do this. David and I feel very passionately about orphans, and the idea of opening up our home for a month was something that both of us didn’t really have to think twice about. We realize that not everyone is called to do what we’re doing, but I do know that when Jeremiah’s adoption gets brought up in conversation I hear all the time from so many people that “they have always thought about adoption.” So I know there are so many other passionate people out there with big hearts, wanting to do something. If that’s you and you’re not in a place to be adopting, or hosting then would you consider donating to help us do it? Every little bit will help, $5, $10, $50…whatever you have to give will all add up and make it possible for her to come visit!

There are a couple of ways to donate. You can do it the old fashioned way and mail a check to the organization. It’s a non-profit so whatever you give is tax deductible and they will get you a receipt. If you’d like to do that:

Make the check payable to: New Horizons for Children and mail it to 3950 Cobb Pkwy Suite 708 Acworth, GA 30101. In the memo, please indicate that you’re donating for Mariya U159 or write our last name on it. That way they know whose account to credit it to.

The other way to donate is through PayPal. You can go through their website:  www.newhorizonsforchildren.org. Look for the “More Ways You Can Help” tab. Hover, and then click on the “Tax Deductible Donation” option. It will take you to a new page and about halfway down, there will be a “Donate” button. Click it and you’ll be redirected to PayPal. It’s pretty self explanatory from there. Once again please either add a note with our last name in it, or mention the money should go to Mariya U159.

I’m sure as the date approaches I might be looking for people with clothes, shoes, winter coats, boots, etc to donate. And of course we would appreciate your prayers for Mariya. Pray that her heart is already being prepared for her time here with us, and for our hearts to be open to whatever her needs are so we can minister to her and love her in the way that she needs.

And for those interested, this is what she looks like:

Image

The group that interviewed her learned that someone had recently decided to cut off all of the girls’ hair in her orphanage. They asked her about it, and her reply was, “it’s okay. It will grow back.” When I heard that, I felt convicted. This 16 year old girl, who has no family and lives in an orphanage appears to have a better perspective on what really matters in life than I do. It might look like we’re hosting her to teach her all sorts of things, but from what I can tell I think she will have a lot to teach us too. Look at her precious smile! I can’t wait to meet her!

Leave a comment

Filed under Family

A Yes Face

So, I know it has been forever and a day since I posted on my blog. Don’t get your hopes up that this is going to turn into a regular thing any time soon, because life has gotten a little hectic for me and blogging has taken a backseat to everything else. This little guy has something to do with it…

Image

Jeremiah. The newest addition to our family :)

Anyway, this blog post is about an experience I had recently, and it was too long of a story for Facebook so I figured my blog was a good place to put it.

So 2 weeks ago I was at Wal-Mart with all 3 of my kids. We ran in quickly to pick up something small, and once we were done and I was loading the kids back into the car I heard a voice behind me saying, “Ma’am, we have a situation over here.” It was the shopping cart attendant wanting to speak with me. My first reaction was, “great, what did my kids do now? Did Anthony shove a pack of gum in his shorts?”

Well, turns out my kids were not being devious. In fact, there was a couple standing behind their sedan parked 2 cars away from me with a huge refrigerator in a shopping cart. I’m not sure what nationality this couple was, but I would guess they were from some Middle Eastern country. Their English wasn’t great, but they stood by watching as the Wal-Mart employee explained to me that the fridge didn’t fit in their trunk, and then immediately asked me if I thought it would fit in my minivan. Without much thought I remarked that it just might fit in my van.

Looking somewhat stunned, and sheepish the couple watched as I popped the trunk to my van and proceeded to clear out Jeremiah’s stroller to see if we could make it fit. The Wal-Mart employee took charge and began directing the endeavor. He told me to fold the backseat down and then climb in the van and pull the fridge in from the inside while he and the other guy pushed from their side. My kids watched in complete shock and awe as the situation unfolded.

After putting the seat down the fridge fit without any problems and I closed the trunk and told the couple that I would follow them to their house. As we followed them my kids began asking questions.

“What in the world are we doing with this fridge?”

“We’re helping these people take it to their house because it didn’t fit in their car.”

“Why?”

“Because Jesus loves us, and when we help other people we can show Jesus’ love to them too.”

“But you told us to never talk to strangers.”

“Yeah, well I’m a grown up and I can decide when it’s okay to talk to strangers.”

We drove for quite a while (all the way to Fitchburg for those of you familiar with the area). We pulled into their apartment complex and I backed my van up, popped the hatch, and helped them unload the fridge.

When it was out sitting on the sidewalk they both proceeded to thank me repeatedly while shaking my hands. One of the things that the husband told me was that they had a very hard time finding people in our country who were willing to help them out. The wife told me that she wanted my name and phone number, and then proceeded to put it into her phone so that she could invite my entire family over for a traditional meal from her country. I just told them repeatedly how thankful I was to help out, and that I was glad they asked me.

We said goodbye and the kids and I left. I was so thankful for a day with nothing going on so that we could drop our plans and help out these strangers in need. I think it made me feel more thankful than they might have even felt. It was such an amazing experience to teach my kids how important it is to be willing to help other people out (with a good dose of not talking to strangers thrown in there!).

Later on that day I was telling my mom the story and remarking how strange it was for that Wal-Mart employee to ask me to help these people. He had just watched me walk by with my 3 kids in tow, it was lunch time, and I sure wasn’t the ideal candidate to ask for help in this situation. But he did ask, confidently expecting my answer to be yes, and he was right. I never thought twice. Even though it was a very unique situation, it didn’t phase me one bit.

My mom then told me to look up a particular story about Thomas Jefferson. So when I got home I googled it and this is what I came up with:

During his days as president, Thomas Jefferson and a group of companions were traveling across the country on horseback. They came to a river which had left its banks because of a recent downpour. The swollen river had washed the bridge away. Each rider was forced to ford the river on horseback, fighting for his life against the rapid currents. The very real possibility of death threatened each rider, which caused a traveler who was not part of their group to step aside and watch.

After several had plunged in and made it to the other side, the stranger asked President Jefferson if he would ferry him across the river. The president agreed without hesitation. The man climbed on, and shortly thereafter the two of them made it safely to the other side.

As the stranger slid off the back of the saddle onto dry ground, one in the group asked him, ‘Tell me, why did you select the president to ask this favor of?’

The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the president who had helped him. This of course was before the days of photography, television and the Internet. ‘All I know,’ he said, ‘Is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No,’ and on some of them was the answer ‘yes.’ His was a ‘Yes’ face.’

My mom commented that I must have had a “yes” face. I sure hope that had something to do with it. I felt so blessed to be able to help those people out. I’m now even more aware of what image I present to all of the random people we interact with on a daily basis. As a mom to 3 young kids I don’t have a lot of opportunities to serve others. Their needs are always greater than my free time, so I focus on them. It was amazing to be able to serve others with my kids in a way that I didn’t even have to seek out. I hope that we continue to find random situations in our lives to make a difference in other’s lives.

And so I challenge you. What does your face say about you?

“The most significant decision I make each day is my choice of an attitude. When my attitudes are right there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme and no challenge too great.” – Charles Swindoll

5 Comments

Filed under Family

Can you help?

Some of you may know that in under 2 weeks David and I are leaving on a missions trip to Uganda! We will be there for 2 weeks serving the orphans. We feel very honored to get the opportunity to go show love to all of these children who have been abandoned and neglected and who are desperate for affection. Would you like to have a part in helping us? I’d like to share with you a few ways that you can help us, and would be so appreciative if you would consider what you can do to be a part of our missions trip. Not everyone can take the time off of work, or have the flexibility in their lives right now to do a missions trip, but you can help us minister to orphans by supporting us! Here are some areas we need help:

1) PRAY!!! We need all sorts of prayer! Pray that we stay healthy. We’ve gotten all sorts of vaccines, and have started our malaria medication, however I wasn’t able to get the yellow fever vaccine because of the Remicade I am on for my Crohn’s. So please pray for protection of our health. Also pray that our eyes will be open to whatever it is that God has in store for us. Pray for safe travels, peaceful flights, and no missed connections! Also pray for our safety there. Things are currently peaceful in Uganda, but there have been riots and protests there recently. Pray things remain peaceful and calm while we are there. Finally please pray for our kids. 2 weeks is a long time to be away from them. Pray the time will fly by for them, and please pray for my parents as they will be watching them. Pray for unexplainable energy for them, and inexplicably perfect behavior from our kids :)

2) We’re going to spend a TON of time loving on orphans. We’d love to fill a suitcase full of special items to help us make them feel special. Here are some things we need:

  • Face Paint
  • Paint Brushes
  • Nail Polish
  • Stickers
  • Construction Paper
  • Crayons
  • Soccer Balls
  • Small Prizes (Beanie Babies, little dolls, yo yo’s, little balls, notebooks, pens, pencils, shirts, dresses, anything a child would love to win).
  • Lots of CANDY

If you’re able to donate any of these items, or if you have something else that would be great for kids let me know. I know as a parent sometimes we end up with all sorts of stuff and it’s way more than we need for our kids. If you have an overabundance of anything, or if you’d be willing to purchase and donate some of these items that would be great!

3) While we are there, Dwight, the pastor who is leading our missions trip will be putting on a pastors conference for about 800 men. They are coming from all over the place, and we’re all very excited to see how God is going to use these pastors! Right now we need to raise A LOT of money to ensure that all of these men can afford to come. It only costs them $10 a person to attend. Are you able to help these men attend this conference? If you would like to donate some money to support these pastors please get in touch with me. It would be awesome if we could sponsor lots of pastors!

4) So, David and I thought we had a great plan in place for what to do with our kids while we are gone for 2 weeks, and things haven’t worked out the way we had hoped. My parents have very kindly stepped up and are going to take the kids for an entire 2 weeks, which is awesome. The thing is, my dad works, so my mom will have the pleasure of having the kids all day long every day, which speaking from my experience is exhausting. I would love it if we could find some people who would be willing to take the kids over for some play dates so that my mom doesn’t suffer from extreme exhaustion. If you would like to have a play date with one of the kids could you let me know? I know the kids would love the chance to play with some friends, and it will help my parents maintain their sanity in our absence :)

5) And this one is not super critical, but we don’t have anything to do with Sadie. We could pay to board her somewhere, but if anyone is just dying for the chance to have a little puppy love in their life she’s all yours!

4 Comments

Filed under Adoption, Amy, Anthony, David, Madeline, Orphans, Uganda

From a Child

I know I haven’t blogged in a long time! Lots has happened and lots is coming up. Let me give you a quick update: David and I are in the midst of a home study in preparation to adopt, we are going to Africa in June on a missions trip, and we hope to adopt a child from Uganda. There you go! More details to come…

I wanted to blog about Madeline today. There’s been much talk of Africa in our house. We spend a lot of time looking at pictures of people from Africa and talking about what mommy and daddy are doing. Madeline understands things pretty well for a 4 year-old. She talks about our child in Africa, and prays every night for him or her. She also has put in her request for a baby girl, and has promised she will change the diapers and take care of her :)

Today I was online reading a blog of someone serving in Uganda. I passed my computer to David so he could read a blog post about a sweet 4 year-old little boy who had passed away due to severe malnutrition. He was basically the same age as Madeline and weighed about 14 pounds when he died.

As David was passing the computer back to me, Madeline wanted to know what we were looking at. For a split-second I questioned whether I should show her the picture. She’s so young, maybe it’s not appropriate to show her a picture like that?

Instead I chose to show her the pictures and I explained to her that the little boy was her age, and how kids in other parts of the world didn’t have food like we do. She had just gotten done eating an ice cream sundae, and I explained to her that kids like that little boy didn’t have any food to eat, let alone special treats. I don’t even think I bothered to tell her that he had died. She asked me a question, and I honestly can’t even remember what she asked, I only remember that I heard her choking back tears. Not the tears I’m used to hearing when she is whining about wanting something, or upset that she didn’t get her way. These were genuine tears, coming straight from her heart. I glanced over at her and saw tiny, little tears forming in her eyes.

It was then that I realized I wasn’t stealing her child-like innocence by showing her that picture. I was just giving her a chance to show it. She hasn’t been hardened by our society, or jaded by all of the ridiculous stuff on TV. She is still innocent, and showing her that picture and explaining to her the truth of what other people are going through only allowed her to feel those genuine emotions deep inside of her.

Most of us have seen TV commercials with pictures of emaciated children asking for our support, but most of us continue to eat our snack and wait for our show to come back on without giving it a second thought. I’m so thankful for the empathy and concern that Madeline was born with. I know she was born with an extra dose of it, and I pray that we will be able to encourage her to grow in these gifts that she has, and that she won’t become hardened by life.

1 Comment

Filed under Adoption, Madeline

Thankful

As promised in my last blog post…a long, long time ago I decided what better time to talk about my Grandma Mary than the night before Thanksgiving when I am pondering all the things I am thankful for.

For those of you wondering what in the world I’m referring to, I mentioned a while back that it’s sad we don’t spend more time talking about why we love people, and fun memories of them all the time, instead of just at funerals. When I was thinking of all of my happy memories of my Grandpa Jack I found myself thinking of so many fun “Grandma Mary” memories, so I figured I would share them on here.

Growing up, Grandma Mary was the epitome of everything you would desire in a grandma. You could always count on marshmallows in your hot chocolate, a cozy warm bed, with fresh smelling sheets, an afghan while watching your favorite TV show, a home-cooked meal complete with dessert, and plenty of hugs and kisses. There was never a shortage of love at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and it was a place we could go and feel special, and cared for.

One of the coolest things Grandma would do for my brother and I was let us go “fishing” down her laundry chute. We didn’t have a laundry chute in our house, but Grandma and Grandpa did, so it was quite the novelty. Their laundry chute went from their first floor, into their basement, where Grandma also stored her extra canned goods. She would give us some long string, and Steven and I would take turns sending it down the chute into the basement where Grandma would surprise us with green beans, or corn. Never were canned vegetables so exciting! I think we ended up carrying it all back into the basement when we were done, but fishing down the laundry chute was a special activity we got to do with Grandma!

One of the many “grandmotherly” things Grandma did was knit. I can’t even count the number of home-made gifts Grandma made just for me. Not only did I get all sorts of special, knit gifts from Grandma, she also was the one who taught me how to knit. She patiently taught me the basics while I did my best to knit a washcloth. I believe it was the saddest, most pathetic looking washcloth ever made, but it laid the foundation so one day I could pick it back up and even knit my own children a few hats, and blankets. Even as an adult Grandma has continued to gift us with her lovingly, made creations. David and I each have our own afghan, my kids received baby booties, sweaters, blankets, and most recently Madeline got her very own sweater, in her favorite color…Pink of course!

Not only did Grandma knit, she also painted. I remember all sorts of beautiful pictures she painted for our family. What I always thought was the coolest, was that she taught me how to paint. She would come up with craft projects for me to work on, and I always felt so proud of myself after having her help me paint whatever project she had come up with for me. She painted some Easter baskets for my brother and I that were made out of wood and looked like bunnies. We still have those baskets, and my mom has been known to still put goodies in them for us for Easter!

Up until I was 13 we lived just minutes from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Whenever Grandma heard that I was home sick from school I could count on her stopping over with some chicken noodle soup for me. She always made sure that we were more than cared for when we weren’t feeling well.

Even after we moved further away, I was still always able to count on Grandma being at every birthday party, holiday gathering, or any other special occasion. She’s always made family a priority and loves to be a part of our special days. In fact, if a get-together is scheduled to start at, say, 2:00, we start to worry at 1:55 when Grandma hasn’t arrived yet. You see, we can always count on Grandma to arrive bright and early for any gathering and if the set-time arrives and she’s not there we start to wonder where she must be!

When I moved even further away to go to college Grandma was still able to share her love even from a distance. She would send special cards and notes and would even surprise me with care packages! When the weather cooled a little, she was even known to send me some Wisconsin cheese curds! I went to school in Virginia, and no one there knew what a cheese curd was. I had the pleasure of introducing my dorm friends to the wonderful world of squeaky cheese thanks to Grandma!

I’m all grown up now, with a family of my own and my parents have now taken on the “grandparent” role but I’m thankful to say that Grandma Mary is still an active part of my life, and my kids’ lives. It’s been so much fun to have her at all of our family events, and she has taken on the role of Great Grandma without skipping a beat. So this Thanksgiving, among all of the many things I have to be thankful for, I am so very thankful for Grandma Mary and the ways she has been a part of my life growing up, and how she continues to be a part of my family’s life.

I love you Grandma, and hope you know just how special you are to me and everyone in our family!

1 Comment

Filed under Family

Reflecting

This past Thursday was my Grandpa Jack’s funeral. It was a difficult day grieving the loss of him, but it was also a beautiful day as well. Seeing family members who I hadn’t seen in years made a sad day much happier. Although I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with a lot of those family members on Facebook, seeing them in person, hugging them, and catching up was great. Not only did I get to reconnect with all sorts of family I also got to meet many of my grandparents’ friends. The service was held at my grandparents’ church, and when I looked out over the group of people who had gathered it was full.

Countless people came up to me and introduced themselves as church friends of my grandparents’. My grandparents’ have always been very faithful attenders of their church and it was obvious that their time at church has been spent getting to know people. Everyone who introduced themselves explained how much they loved my grandpa, how he was so special, had a great sense of humor, and made an effort to get to know them.

After my grandpa passed away my first thought was of my Grandma. How would she go on after spending the past 60 years with someone who took such good care of her, and loved her so deeply? After meeting all of their friends from church I felt a sense of relief knowing that she is not alone. There are so many people who love her, and care for her who I know will be sure to continue to show their love and support for her. I listened to her pastor explain to all of us how the church was here for her and all of us as we work through our grief, and once again felt such a peace knowing that she has such a great group of people wanting to support her and carry her through her grief.

As I lay in bed reflecting last night on the funeral, and my impressions of it I had a few thoughts I wanted to share. The first thing that came to my mind was what a beautiful day it was. Yes, it was very sad, but the spirit in the church was one of love. We shared our favorite memories of my grandpa and honored him for who he was. There was laughing and tears, but the spirit was very uplifting.

Another thing that really stuck out to me was the impact that my grandpa had on people (and when I say my grandpa, I really mean both my grandma and grandpa, because they were always a package deal). The number one thing I heard repeatedly was how my grandpa made people feel loved and special. People could have talked about what a funny guy he was, or how smart he was but instead told me how he made them feel. Instead of just interacting with people on a surface level, he chose to get deeper with people and made an effort to uplift them. I think it shows that my grandpa had a genuine love for people and instead of being selfish and making his relationships all about himself he chose to make people feel important. That doesn’t come naturally to most of us. I mean, who doesn’t love talking about themselves? We all think we’re pretty special, right? It takes an effort to put others above us.

The last thing I thought was that I would hate to think of anyone I love dying without truly knowing how I feel about them. I’m very thankful that just last month we all spent a morning celebrating my grandparents 60 years of marriage and sharing with them what was so special about them, and how thankful we were for them. I think in this day of technology and social media we really neglect that personal interaction we used to do more of in years past.

These days we spend our time talking all about ourselves. Our Facebook statuses are all about us, our kids, and our lives in general. We’re all so used to talking about ourselves that it almost seems unnatural to take the time to address one another, and if we do address each other, then we just post on each other’s wall on Facebook or if we’re feeling really motivated we text the person.

So, my challenge is that we not wait until a loved one dies in order to talk about why they are so special to us. My grandma told me that she had forgotten some of the memories I had shared on my blog and in the eulogy, so why not reminisce with those we love about all of our happy memories while they are still alive? So, keep an eye out for a future blog post all about Grandma Mary. I have already thought of all sorts of things I want to share, and I want to be sure she knows the impact she’s had on my life.

1 Comment

Filed under Family

It’s Official

Her name is Sadie.

Yep, we’re getting a dog, a golden retriever to be exact. Last week we took the kids out for a visit, and Madeline picked out her favorite. Thankfully she seems to have extraordinary talent when it comes to picking out a puppy, and David and I agreed that she made a great choice.

It wasn’t too hard of a choice. She was a very social puppy, who seemed to have the perfect blend of playfulness and cuddliness. Every time we put her down she would immediately come running back to us and either climb into our laps, or snuggle up next to us. She seems to love our attention.

She happens to be the biggest girl in the litter, and is also bigger than 3 of the boys. That was one thing I wasn’t so excited about. Lucy is 12 pounds. I used to think I was a big dog kind of girl, but then I got Lucy and thought maybe I liked little dogs. It was a big step for me to agree to a Golden Retriever since they are pretty big, and I have to admit I kept picking up the tiniest one hoping she would be a good match, but it turns out that the chubby one had the best personality. So, yeah, she will probably end up being really big.

Sadie is still not quite old enough to come home with us, and needs some more time with her mom so we have 2 more weeks until we will get her. In the meantime the breeder is keeping us updated with pictures and emails, and we are welcome to go visit her while we wait, so tomorrow we are going out for a visit.

Madeline is very excited about her new puppy, and is doing a surprisingly good job of being patient while we wait for her to come home. Anthony, on the other hand, isn’t really that interested in puppies. He preferred the big dogs.

He had lots of fun throwing balls for the big dogs. He did take a little bit of time to harass play with the puppies, but overall he wasn’t very interested in them.

Now the only family member left to come to terms with Sadie is Lucy. I think Lucy will do great with her, and will be excited to have a playmate. I’m sure there will be an initial adjustment period, but I think overall it will be a good thing.

So why another dog? Well, we happen to think Lucy is a pretty awesome dog. She is about as low-maintenance as dogs come. She’s great with the kids, isn’t crazy, and has an overall sweet personality. So our hope is that Sadie will learn all about how to be a dog from Lucy. Lucy has congestive heart failure, has seizures, and just recently had a herniated disc. Needless to say she’s not in great health, although she is only 8 year old and potentially has a number of good years ahead of her. Our hope is that we’ll have these 2 dogs for a long time, but just in case, we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity for our next dog to get a little training from Lucy.

So, wish us luck!

1 Comment

Filed under Puppy, Sadie