Saturday, December 31, 2011

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around

Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
(Beautiful Things, Gungor)

If I had to put the year 2011 in a song, this would be it. This year has brought joy immeasurable and so much pain that I felt I couldn't take a breath. And in the midst, there was God.





In this year, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about spiritual warfare. But I also learned and experienced more than I ever fathomed the Presence of Jesus, my comforter. Here I am, on the cusp of a new year, and I feel a bit like Mary, holding these things in my heart and pondering the goodness of God. But I'd be remiss if I didn't testify to the faithfulness of my Savior.

In this year, a battle raged for our son. Satan thought he had won, and if truth be told, there were moments that I believed it too. It was a hard time, for lack of a better description. I cried until the tears would come no more. I hurt. I felt like my heart had been ripped from within me. The bleakest days of my life were during that time. Jeff and I spent a week at home, mourning the decisions that Bryan had made that caused him to be placed outside of this home. And in that moment of him leaving here, the lies came flying into my mind: "You weren't good enough, or he wouldn't be struggling like this". I wanted to believe it. To blame myself seemed better than admitting that my son had made decisions that went against everything this family believes in. But that's not the end of the story.

I can't tell you how beautiful redemption is when you witness it in your child. Jeff and I often say how incredible it is to have our son back. It's not been easy, but he's home and he smiles again. God is speaking to him, and he is learning to listen again. God is daily redeeming him and using his story. You see, what was meant to harm him, God intended for good, and we see the good coming from that time. We've hugged more, laughed more, cried more, prayed more in the past few months than I can ever remember. It's beautiful, and I feel more proud of him than I can describe here.

A few weeks ago, our sweet Ellie asked Jesus to come into her heart. We've witnessed her redemption too. It's been three years this week since we said "yes" to adopting her, and the transformation in her life is unbelievable. She has literally come to life before our very eyes, and we are so thankful for her!

I have no idea what 2012 has in store. I'm sure there will be days of incredible joy, and I'm sure there will be days where my heart will feel torn apart. If I've learned anything in this year, it's that my feelings cannot be trusted. They change like the wind. But God- oh my, He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He hands out HOPE in abundance, and my cup surely is overflowing with it. I can't wait to see what 2012 holds- all of it. For nothing comes to me that He is unaware or unprepared for.

How about you? What did God teach you this year?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ethiopia Water thoughts...

I'm tempted to apologize for not posting sooner about the water project in Ethiopia this summer with One Child Campaign. However, I have spent the past couple of months thinking, praying, meditating, pondering in my heart all of the individual moments of our time there. I needed that time. God needed me to have that time. Now I'm ready to tell, so I pray you're ready to read. More than that, I pray you are changed as I try to put in words what we experienced.

Korah is a community on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. It's a community of unwanted outcasts of society. It's a community built on a trash dump. It's a community of dirt, filth, smells, hunger, disease. It's a community of some of the most beautiful people I've ever had the privilege of knowing. It's a community of HOPE.

When we arrived in Korah, I was immediately overcome with love for these people. They had nothing of material value, yet it was so obvious that they were wealthy, rich in love. I was able to listen to their stories- stories of leprosy, HIV, death, desperation, hopelessness, fear. And I heard over and over again, "But then you came to us. God sent you to us, and now we have great hope because of Jesus".

We were able to spend time with the ladies of Mission Ethiopia, hearing the stories of these beautiful ladies and how God has redeemed their lives. One by one, they told us how "before I had this work (with Mission Ethiopia), I did not have time to do what I love most which is praise God". I was humbled by those words. They have haunted me every day since then.

One of the first things we did in Korah was to test their water to see what impurities were there. It was positive for fecal matter. Really, is there anything else to say? These beautiful faces, forced to drink water infested with human waste in order to survive. I will never forget the moment that I showed the Pastor there what our test had proven. With tears in his eyes, he looked over at his beautiful little girl and said "She has been drinking that?".

Oh, but the story does not end there, my friends!

It was our honor to give this small section of Korah a water purifier. In just a few hours' time, we taught them how to work the system and chlorinate water to get rid of the impurities they were currently drinking. They were eager and fast learners, drinking in all of our explanations, ready to demonstrate what they had learned. And in just a few hours, we were standing there witnessing our new friends taking their very first drink ever of clean, pure water. The Pastor looked at me, with tears flowing down his face and said "She doesn't drink that anymore". This is church, folks!

We placed this purifier at the local church. You see, Korah doesn't need to think that some white people with money from America came in to give something to them. What they need is to see the local church providing their needs. After all, that's what the local church is really about, isn't it? Once they are meeting the physical need of clean water to the people of Korah, they can then teach them about the LIVING WATER. beautiful.

My heart is still soaring from that day. Even now, we are preparing and raising funds for the next water project in Ethiopia. You see, although what we were able to experience this summer was great, the need is still greater. Others need clean water too. They need food, clothing, sustainable income, medicine, love, compassion, hope. Our eyes are indeed open, and we cannot quit now. We want to now work to empower other local churches with the ability to meet the needs of their communities as well.

By the standards of this world, these folks are poor. But by God's standards, they are rich indeed. I've never seen a rich man smile as brightly as these children. I've never seen eyes that sparkled quite so brightly as the eyes of the lady telling of how she was now free to praise her Savior all day as she worked to provide for her family. I've never before seen anyone Smile from ear to ear as he talked of being imprisoned for sharing the Gospel, then tell me that "it's my honor to suffer for Jesus". But I did there. And it has changed me.

I'm changed to the very core of my being.

And I beg God to never EVER allow me to go back to the person I was before.

So, all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord- who is the Spirit- makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Day With Tigist...and Gotcha Day!

I've been asked many times since we got back home from Ethiopia, "What was your favorite part of the trip?" That's a hard this to answer, as everything we did was so different and touched me in such different ways. But one day does hold a very special place in my heart. On Wednesday of our trip, we were able to spend a day with Tigist, Ellie's birth mom.

When we were in Ethiopia 2 years ago to get Ellie, we were able to meet Tigist. It was nice, and I'm grateful we were able to do so, but it was short and I didn't really have a chance to ask questions or allow her to ask questions of us. This visit was different.

We were accompanied on our trip by Bisrat Fantahun, who acted as our translator. He's an amazing man with an incredible testimony, but that's another post altogether! The drive out to Woliso was about 2 hours, and the scenery was beautiful. I was nervous as we drove, wondering what Tigist would be like, if she would want to talk with us or if she'd be resentful of us for being able to have Ellie all the time. My fears were short-lived.

We met Tigist at the orphanage where Ellie was. We began our time there with a short walk around, seeing again where Ellie had slept and some of the other rooms. We walked out of the girl's dorm and Tigist came running to us. She literally ran into my arms and hugged me. Both of us were crying, and I looked up to see that Jeff was crying too. This is indeed a moment I will never forget!

It was our honor to take Tigist to lunch at the Negash Lodge in Woliso. What a great time!! This place is stunningly beautiful, a bit of a surprise in the middle of a town of such poverty. We sat down to lunch and were able to talk. Tigist told us her story, not exactly what we had heard in the past. It's so good to know the full truth of how Ellie came to be at the orphanage from her mouth. We shared stories of Ellie and more pictures. We were also able to tell her of Ellie's younger sister, and what a joy to see her face when she heard that her girls would grow up knowing each other!! WOW! She told us of her work, how she lives on 200 birr a month (about $11), and after paying rent, had only $7 a month left to live on. That's about 25 cents a day, folks. My heart sunk in hearing that. Even in Ethiopia, that's not enough.
Negash is known for the monkeys that live there, and we were not disappointed. After lunch, we went outside and were able to feed the monkeys. They ate right out of our hands! What a blessing to see Tigist smile and hear her laugh (JUST LIKE ELLIE'S LAUGH!). She told us "this is the only fun day I've ever had in life", and I don't doubt that at all. Then she asked us if we would like to come to her home for a visit. What an honor!

Tigist lives in a 10x12 mud and straw home. She was so proud to have us there, smiling for pictures with us. It was meager, but she was so proud of it. She had taken such care to decorate it, and I was humbled by all of it. I was overwhelmed at the thought of my little girl lying on that dirt floor to sleep.

Here's one thing I know for sure. Had Ellie been able to live with Tigist, she would not have the gazillion dresses she has now. She wouldn't have barbie dolls, coloring books or princess dresses. She would likely never go to school, learn to read, take dance or gymnastic lessons. But there is one thing she would NEVER be lacking, and that is love. Tigist loves her daughters. Of this I am sure! I saw it in her eyes, in the tears that fell on her face. They were tears of joy, knowing that her daughter has what she couldn't give. I felt it in the way she held my hand as we walked together. She held my hand with love and gentleness, not with any animosity or begrudging feelings. I felt it in the way she hugged me, as if she were thankful for me for how I love her little girl.

We connected that day. I feel a closeness to her that I can't explain. She's not a believer, yet I believe that God put this closeness within us. I believe it was His design that led us together. It is my honor to share Ellie Kedest, to mother her on Tigist's behalf. I pray I do it justice. I believe that God has a purpose for Ellie to be here, but I also believe that in a perfect world, her birth mother would be the one tucking her in to bed every night. I don't take this lightly, this gift we have been given.

Tomorrow we celebrate 2 years since we first held Ellie. It's been a gift far beyond my imagination. It's hard to remember life before her, before princesses, barbies, beads and braids, dresses, hair bows, singing and dancing all the time. It's hard to remember who I was before her. I don't really want to remember. She has changed me; Well, God has changed me through her. People tell us all the time that she is so lucky to have us. The truth is that we are the ones who are blessed.

Tonight my thoughts are with Tigist, wondering if she remembers that tomorrow is the anniversary of the day we first met. I wonder if she's staring at Ellie's picture and thinking of her. I pray she knows that we are telling Ellie of her every day, reminding her that she is loved by two mommas- one who gave her life, and one who holds her daily. I promised her that day to tell Ellie her story, of how her first mother loved her so much that she sacrificed everything for her. It's a promise I will keep.

Happy Gotcha Day, Ellie Kedest! I'm so blessed by you in our lives. I love love love being your momma!! I love watching you with your big brother, and I love how you are such a daddy's girl! I love celebrating you in our family!!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thoughts on Ethiopia... part 1

Many of you have asked about our trip to Ethiopia. To say that it was incredible, mind-blowing, life-changing, awesome, etc etc is all just an understatement. It WAS all of those things. But it was so much more. It was redemption, sacrifice, vulnerability, humility, healing, convicting...

I've put off posting here for a little while so I could pull my thoughts together. I could write stories for days, if truth be told. But I don't want to just tell stories. If that's all I do now that I'm home, it's all been in vain. What I want is for people to see the change in me, in my life, and to be able to say why I'm different. Because, believe me, I AM DIFFERENT NOW.

This morning was my first time in corporate worship since we've been home (we took last week off to catch up on sleep and try to get over some jet lag). It was hard for me. It was too comfortable. I know that may sound odd to some of you. To explain, I'm going to share with you an excerpt of I wrote in my journal while at the Covenant Church in Ethiopia.

The Spirit is alive here this morning. I've watched the young man in front of me weep as he raises his hands in praise to God. I watched a family of 4 come in and immediately kneel. The mother seems both relieved and broken to be here- a picture of conflict. It's as if this place truly is her resting place on earth, as if she's been waiting for this moment all week long. I watched as she buried her face in her hands and wept, all the while her young daughter danced and sang in the aisle beside her.

The people here worship as if they really believe that God is listening. It's beautiful, scary, exciting, passionate, lively and ultimately it is convicting to me. How often do I sit in my pew and wait for something good to happen? How often do I walk into church with a thousand things on my mind and none of them Jesus? How many times have I felt led to lift my hands, but don't because I'm worried about what someone behind me might think? How many times have I entered into worship thinking of Holly instead of my Savior? Here I sit , a little cold on this rainy morning, watching the rain drop down onto the man across the aisle, unable to understand the language being spoken (Amharic), wondering if their bathroom has toilet paper. All of these things run through my mind and more. But the only thing that really matters is Christ glorified. And I know without a doubt that He has been glorified here today.

Here's the thing about that worship time. The people who came there brought everything they had; they brought themselves. They didn't have fancy clothes, cars, bibles, programs, bulletins, orders of worship. none of that mattered at all. They brought themselves to their Savior, broken and spilled out for the One they love. They came surrendered in their poverty, their need, their desire, their sickness, their desperation. And they bowed down to the One they know is greater than all of that. They worshiped with complete abandon, their only thought to bring glory to the Father. They came broken, hungry, hopeless, poor, in need. But they left whole, full, hopeful, rich in His grace, satisfied with Jesus.

This morning, I entered my church broken by my sin, hungry for His word, poor without Him in my life, in need of a Savior. And He was faithful, as He always is. I met God there because I was looking for Him. I came ready to worship, having put all of the unimportant things away.

My sweet Ethiopian friends taught me that it doesn't matter what our circumstances are, what our clothes look like, how full our bellies are, what our church looks like (even if there is rain pouring in the sanctuary!), or if there were crying kids in the service. They reminded me that what matters is whether of not I'm there seeking to meet Jesus. Because HE IS ALWAYS THERE, seeking to meet with me.

May I never forget this experience. May I worship with reckless abandon, the One who gave His life for me. May I experience daily the freedom He bought for me, for where His spirit is, there is freedom indeed. God be blessed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Thing about Water...

The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of all sickness in the world can be attributed to unsafe water and inadequate sanitation.

Every year, approximately 19 MILLION children die from diarrheal disease.

In the world's poorest countries, 5,000 children die EVERY DAY. 90% of those deaths are due to unsafe drinking water.

Women and children spend more than 200 MILLION hours collecting water from distant, often polluted, sources.

A child dies every 15 seconds from unsafe drinking water, poor sanitation and hygiene.

If we did nothing more that provide clean drinking water, without any medical intervention, we could save more than 2 million lives a year.

These stats came from the website of Edge Outreach, and are a compilation of stats from places like the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Edge Outreach, and Fresh Water Society. Reading those words hurt, don't they? I mean, I poured out a perfectly good cup of fresh clean water this morning just because I didn't like the temperature it was. People around the world would never think of doing that. For them, that lukewarm water is life-saving.

In just 6 days, Jeff and I leave for Ethiopia, where we will have the privilege of being able to give the gift of clean water to a community of people who have never had it before. We will be traveling with One Child Campaign as part of an orphan awareness trip, and this is just a portion of what we'll be doing and seeing while in Ethiopia. When I first blogged about this trip, we talked of how excited we were to take clean water to the place where Ellie was born. Things have transpired, unfortunately, that are out of our control and have hindered us from being able to travel to that area. However, we wholeheartedly trust that God has another plan, and we are so excited to stll be able to go and take this gift to others in need.

We spent yesterday training at Edge Outreach to learn how to "purify" water and make it safe for drinking. I don't have the words to tell you how incredible the staff at Edge Outreach are or how much I believe in the ministry they are doing. Seriously, check them out here to see a group that is truly being the hands and feet of Jesus. We left there feeling confident that we can really do this, and my excitement is more heightened than ever!

Here is the truth: If people are suffering and sick, it's hard to tell them about a God who is the Great Physician. If they are starving, it's hard for them to hear of the Bread of Life. And if their water is bad, how can we tell them of Living Water? Oh, but now.. now we'll be able to tell them that just as their water is now clean, their hearts can be too. THIS is why we are going.

So many of you have made this possible. You've given selflessly to this effort, with your money, your prayers, your rescources. We are so grateful to you, and we don't take it lightly. You are a part of this journey as well, and I promise to share all that God teaches us with you!

Please pray for us as we prepare to leave. Pray for safe travels and that we are able to get all materials for the water system into Ethiopia without any snags. Pray for our children who are going to be here in KY with friends and family (and for us as we are away from them this long- YIKES!!) Pray that lives are changed in Ethiopia, both physically and spiritually. Pray for the people of Ethiopia who live difficult lives that you and I can never fully understand.

I can't wait to share more with you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Where does the time go?

To say that I'm a blog slacker is a huge understatement!! I really hope to do a better job at this thing...

Father's day has come and gone, yet I cannot pass up the opportunity to say what a wonderful dad Jeff is to our kids. He has the biggest heart I've ever seen. His love is so obvious, and he is so great with them! I love watching how can go from wrestling with Bryan or head-banging with him to dancing "like a prince" with Ellie all dressed up in her princess costumes. Yet he does it every day. and he does it well.

Jeff, you are my hero. I love how you father our kids. I love that our Heavenly Father is your role model of the dad you want to be. I love how you lead us spiritually every day. You rock in every way! I love you!!

On a different note, yesterday was "Healing Day" in our home. 4 years ago, God healed Bryan from a year long struggle with horrible stomach issues that led to 6 surgeries in 11 months. I cannot begin to say how grateful I am to look at him, healthy and strong and full of life. Thank you God for healing our son, for giving his energy back, his smile back. Thank you for the joy of being able to watch him grow into the young man he now is.

Bryan, it is a joy to watch you live. I don't take a single day for granted with you, and I pray you don't either! YOU are a blessing, inside and out, and words could never express how grateful I am that you are healthy again.

Finally, it's just 4 weeks (from today) until we leave for Ethiopia! Oh, I'm getting so excited!!! More to come on that!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

This is why I celebrate. Thank you God for entrusting these two to me. This is my greatest calling.

My children are such a blessing to me. They bring me such pride and joy, and it is a complete honor to raise them in the ways of the Lord. I don't know why God chose me, but I'm oh so glad He did!! They give me reason to celebrate today and every day.

I can't let this day pass without acknowledging the beautiful lady in Ethiopia that made the ultimate sacrifice that ultimately allowed me the privilege of being a mom to Ellie. Tigist, you are a hero to me. You've taught me what it means to love your child unconditionally, to love enough that you would sacrifice being able to watch her grow. You've given me an incredible gift, and my words will never say enough of how much I appreciate you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Today I took part in the Lord's supper at church. I sat there, holding the bread that represented His body, broken for me, and I was struck with just how much He loves me.

He loves you too, my friend.

This song has been playing in my mind all day, and it speaks what my heart is feeling.

You Are For Me
So faithful, so constant
So loving and so true
So powerful in all You do.
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You.

I know that You are for me
I know that You are for me
I know that You will never
Forsake me in my weakness
I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me of who You are.

So patient, so gracious
So merciful and true
So wonderful in all You do
You fill me, You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You.
(Repeat chorus)

More than anything in this world, I want to be like my Jesus. And I realize that means sacrifice, even to death. It scares me to think of that kind of commitment, but I'm all in. I don't want to be casual about my walk with God. I'm sold out. I want the fullness of God, the freaky side of God. And I want Him to have all of me... the secret parts I hope no one knows about, the loud and boisterous parts as well. I'm His.

May I never forget what He has done for me. And as He is breaking my heart for the things that break His, may I live in such a way that brings glory to Him alone.

He is for me. What else could I possibly hope for?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy 15th Bryan!

15 years ago tonight, I went to bed thinking of you, but surely not expecting to see your face so soon. There were no contractions to warn us of your coming...yet here you came nonetheless. You've been full of surprises from the very start! I should have known when you came on Leap Day that you were always going to be full of surprises!

My first glimpse of you was of your tiny foot. That's it; just 5 little toes and that chubby foot, and I was head over heels in love. (My oh my, how things have changed! It's not tiny anymore!!) I didn't even know yet that you were a boy. I just knew you were my baby, and that was enough.

It's always been enough. I loved you then, and I love you now, just because you're my son. And that is a beautiful thing.

I'm proud of you Bryan. I see in you a young man who is learning what the world is about, and more importantly who is learning what God is about. I see you working out your faith for yourself, and I'm glad you are. I pray it becomes more real every day, and that you live it out loud always.

I love your laugh, your quirky sense of humor. I love your eclectic style, your charm, your wit. I love your talent. I love that you are your own person, not worried about being just like everyone else around you.

For 15 years, I've watched you grow. It has been my complete joy to be your mom. I love you so much, and I'll always be your biggest fan! You bring joy to my heart every single day... even when you mess up or have to be taken to the ER (again!). You are exactly what I had dreamed of in a son, and my life is richer because of you.

Happy 15th Birthday Bryan! I love you so much!


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Who Needs Gifts??

He's my Valentine today
And every other day of the year as well.

He's my best friend
And so much more.

Just look at him....
What's not to love?

I love you Jeff... today and every day of my life! I don't need a gift when I have you....

Thursday, February 10, 2011

yes, it's for real

I'm sometimes amazed at the questions I'm asked about adoption. I don't really get angry anymore (I did at first, admittedly). Now, more and more, I'm just saddened by it all. Ignorance really isn't bliss, is it? So, I'd like to set the record straight on one thing- once and for all, just in case any of you were wondering.
Ellie is my REAL daughter.

No, I did not give birth to her. She did not come from my womb. She doesn't have my genes or my blood flowing through her veins. If she were in need of blood, I might not be able to give it to her. Her DNA does not match my own.


The Creator of the Universe carved out a master plan that placed her in my arms. She is a spunky at 4 as her brother was. She has the same gleam in her eye when she laughs as her daddy does. She has never met a stranger, also like her daddy. She has a free and boisterous laugh like I do. She loves all things girly, just like this momma does. She has a heart for people like I do, and she sees the good in others easily like her daddy. She is creative and mischief as well- just like her brother.

I didn't have to give birth to her physically to birth a love for her. My bond with her is the same as my bond with Bryan. His took 9 months of pregnancy to develop; hers took time once she was home with us. I am not disappointed that I didn't have her naturally. She is our gift, and we are thrilled at that. We didn't adopt to replace the 4 babies that we lost to miscarriage. Ellie is no replacement for anything. She is simply our daughter.

When God places a love in you for someone, it doesn't have to make sense. I love her. That's all there is to it. I'm blessed beyond measure at the two children God has entrusted to me. I believe He perfectly orchestrated this family, and I will do my very best to honor Him at this most precious work of mothering them.

Whew....glad I got that off my chest. Now, I've got some kiddos to love on!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Intentional Marriage

For several months now, I've felt the need to pray fervently for the health and safety of my marriage. Some of this is because I've watched the marriages of several around me struggle, and I don't want to allow Satan to get a foothold in my own. Some of this is simply because it's an absolute honor to pray for Jeff and our marriage.

When we took vows, 17 1/2 years ago now, we promised to always put God first, then each other second. And what I'm realizing is that in order to fulfill those vows in today's world, you have to be willing to have what I call an "intentional marriage".

What I mean by that is this: purposely sacrificing my needs for his, purposely making what I know he will prefer for dinner when I know he's had a long day- even when it's not what I had originally planned, purposely getting Ellie and Bryan involved in some activity or chore before he gets home from work so that he can have time to himself for a few minutes- especially when I know it's been a long day, purposely carving out time to pray for Jeff, his ministry and his leadership in our family. I'm not always good at this; please don't think that. But I do always try. I value my marriage, and I'm willing to do the intentional things to keep it healthy and vibrant.

One thing that Jeff and I have been better about is intentional time together. This afternoon, we will be heading out of Richmond for 2 nights of alone time. The rules are as follows: no schedules, no alarm clocks, and no talk about the kids. Simple.
And we're good at it :)

I love my husband. I love my kids too, but let's face it... without my husband, I woudln't have the blessings of those two kiddos. I will always put him first, submit to him (because that's biblical ladies, and he is doing his part in that biblical equation too) , and honor him. And I'll ALWAYS be willing to get away for a couple of nights to celebrate this gift of marriage that God has given us!

So... go get your spouse. Get out your calendars, and carve out some intentional time for your marriage as well. I promise it will be worth it!
PS. Special thanks to my incredible mother-in-love for taking care of our kids so we can do this getaway! Love you Joann!