Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Cousin on a Snowy Day





snowy day fun



and, best of all, the arrival of Baby Diaz...






Monday, December 28, 2009

Waiting for Her

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh."  Luke 6:20-21


We returned from Arkansas to find a pile of mail on the counter, a pile of packages outside the door, and a driveway blanketed with snow.  As Ethan snow blowed and William hauled in luggage, I began to slog through the mail.  It was a fun slog!  So many Christmas cards and fun pictures!  But it was the little half sheet of paper slipped into a really thin envelope that made me giddy...our license from DCFS.  Unfortunately, this was NOT what I thought it was.   Our homestudy has yet to be approved, and this little slip was not the approval.   So we wait.   If that would have been the approval, we could been receiving our referral 6 weeks earlier than projected, and that thought was so. incredibly. exciting.   UGH.  Not so.

So in the meantime we will hold onto the above verse, a promise straight from heaven, for our daughter.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas held so much meaning this year.   Maybe it's because of all of the things swirling around us this year, things that cause us to wait...and be still...and anticipate.
Our little one in Ethiopia.  
Ethan's healing.   
Dad's healing.   
Advent.   
Watching family turmoil...waiting on the outcomes.
Watching God work, powerless to control so many things.  Yet trusting in His absolutely perfect timing, his faithfulness which stretches to the sky, but mostly His abundant grace.

Each night (well, almost), as we walked through the Bible, following the lineage of Jesus from the very beginning, we were blessed to glimpse into God's plan for humanity.

Our Jesse Tree


We are continuing our Jesse Tree this week, walking through the Bible past Jesus's birth.   It's amazing to think that each of us are a part of His plan!

Memories of Christmas 2009


Michelle and I reconnect after 16 years!


Aunt Trisha and the boys on a lazy morn


A beautiful hike through Devil's Den State Park


Ice skating


My grandmother's handmade ornaments


Woooooo...Pig Suey!


Dad telling stories and making us laugh


Aunt Mary


Immanuel, God With Us


Christmas Legos


On the ice with mom


The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  I John 4:14-15

Thank you, Father, for Christmas, this yearly time to reflect and meditate on your coming to this earth so that we might have life, and have it to the full.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Unforgettable Thanksgiving



Memorable Thanksgivings in Arkansas abound.

family...sunshine...fried turkey...4-wheeling...football...


This year was different.   All of the above took place, ensconced in an atmosphere of love and thanksgiving, rich, authentic and beautiful.

My cousins and aunt from Dallas came up, we came down, and for a couple days we enjoyed reconnecting.  My family in Dallas always inspires me to greater heights.  My aunt always speaks a wonderful word over me, her faith brilliantly shining in this sometimes dark world.  My cousins are 100 percent Texan, beautiful and full of life, always authentic.  They inspire me to shop and wear heels.   Although this is a rather short-lived inspiration, I love the reminder that dressing up is not such a bad thing...occasionally.

Thanksgiving morning, Dad cooked his amazing breakfast of fried potatoes and eggs, bacon and ham.  We all sat around the rattan table (as old as me) and laughed.  Family is precious.   We have the wonderful blessing of being knit together by blood and Jesus and store-bought biscuits.

Later we sat down to another meal, this time with Allen and Mary.   Beforehand, the men frying turkey in the garage, the ladies in the house making potatoes and cranberry sauce, the kids playing in the woods, in the stream, up and down Allen and Mary's hill, Shiloh racing along with them  -- this is what an Arkansas Thanksgiving is all about.  The meal is just to cap off an already perfect kind of day.
Mary placed corn kernels by our plates, and as we ate, someone would take a kernel, place it on the table and say a thanksgiving.   I don't think I've ever been so blessed.   The words poured out:
I am thankful for my husband... my wife... amazing kids... our health... Joseph Prince.... fried turkey... a brother...a baby to be... grace, love, hope... all gifts from our Heavenly Father.

After a life-changing year in so many ways for our family (E's diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and the decision to adopt) I am reminded this Thanksgiving of God's lavish love, poured out so tangibly over the last couple weeks especially.  He loves us.  He loves our family.  He gave us this day as a gift.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Homeward Bound!

The Parker family passed court today in Ethiopia!!! Sweet Ela is coming home! As I think about the pictures of this precious 5-year-old in the orphanage halfway across the world, I cannot help but be amazed at God's providence. And now she'll travel, with her new family, across the world to the US, a new life, a new hope...yet leaving everything and everyone she's ever known. And still, despite her huge losses already in life, I know God will abundantly pour out more than enough to bind up her wounds, soften her little heart, and show her Himself in amazing ways. She was chosen to be in this family months ago, a sweet, tender family full of love. Little Ela, you will see, the Lord loves you so.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things to Do

We completed our 2nd Home Study meeting this morning and left with a stack of to-dos! I love it when our social worker hands us stuff. It feels so satisfying to be able to do something, check it off the list, and feel a small step closer to the end of this adoption. I know that a time will come soon when there will be nothing to do but wait...and wait...and wait.

But, Lord, you are sovereign. You are holy. You are powerful. You hold this in your hands.

From Hole in the Gospel this week: What keeps me from full surrender? What keeps me from being the hands and feet of Jesus to those who need love without condemnation, who need a smile instead of indifference, who need food instead of judgment?
What keeps me from the to-do list that God would have for me today? Is it to do laundry with joy? Read to my precious little niece? Give grace to my child? Reach my hand out to a complete stranger?


Lord, I thank you that the more I look at You, my view becomes so much larger than my surroundings. Your eyes see the broken, the unforgiven, the lost. Let me have your eyes today...and free me from the idols of fear, approval and distraction. How many opportunities have I missed because these things have been front and center?

Your mercies are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul. (Ps. 143.8)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Our Children are in Ethiopia

It's been over a month since I've posted about our little ones. After much research and conversation, we are adopting from...Ethiopia. After weeks on the domestic train, we've hopped off. It really came down to peace. We couldn't settle on an agency, an area of the country, etc.


Many months ago, maybe back in the spring, I came across an international adoption website and began mindlessly clicking through the various countries represented. I'll never forget watching the video about Ethiopia. I have tried to rediscover this site since, to no avail. Their video of Ethiopia introduced me to this beautiful, yet scarred, country. Some lady talked about the beautiful and diverse land, but mostly she talked about the people...joyful, special people, full of affection and life. Despite poverty, famine, disease and war, these people were smiling. I remember. It stuck with me.

I remember Christian's crestfallen face when he discovered we were adopting domestically. Why, he asked, are we doing that? Why not Africa? Because, I said, it takes forever. He gravely asked the question again. Because, Christian, there are plenty of kids here.
Sometimes our kids are way ahead of us, their vision unhindered by logic.

I look back and smile when I think of how the Lord began preparing us long before we knew we needed preparing. Little Aziz of Burkina Faso is in our prayers nightly, has been for years. A call to compassion by Bono of U2 at a Willow Creek event. I walked away from that event with a new awareness of some terrible things happening on the other side of the world, events that I never thought about, didn't care about. An introduction to refugee kids at Longfellow. I remember thinking, What are refugees? A few years later I made a turkey, my one act of kindness for the year probably, for a refugee family. I will never forget the small, tidy apartment with 7 kids and the mom wrapped in a hat and scarf graciously taking the turkey and adding it to the feast already brewing in her tiny kitchen, the smell of rice and fish sauce wafting through the air. My overcooked and painfully American turkey was hopelessly out of place. But she was gracious, and I smiled and hightailed it out of there.
Then Clapham opened its hearts to refugee families and I found myself volunteering to show up at the gatherings once a month between the C kids and the refugee families. I say "show up" because that's all I knew how to do. It was rather awkward, not knowing how to communicate with people from all these other countries, and so I think I just smiled and nodded. Sometimes that's all I still do at these interactions. The C kids? They're just fine. They play. The refugee children play. They play together. It's that simple.

Then came Re:new. As I interact with these amazing women from Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, I am overwhelmed by God's wonderful grace, His love, His delight in these women. They delight me. They inspire me. I am falling in love with Africa too. He knew. He knew just what I needed all this time. He's slowly brought me along, sharing His heart with me, softening William's heart too, showing us even through E and C, that we are to forever be intertwined with this beautiful continent.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Hole in the Gospel

This week I started a 6-week study on The Hole in the Gospel. Around Sasha's coffee table we sat, eleven very different women sharing eleven reasons why they wanted to do this, all of us, radically loved and transformed women, hungering to live out the Gospel in the way that our Lord expects. I Corinthians 13 was set before us right off the bat. Because without the divine love of the Savior being poured into us and then back out...well, it's empty.

Yesterday I learned that a child dies every 21 seconds from a water-related disease. This amounts to nearly 6,000 deaths, or the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing every day.

17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
19TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."

20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

21And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Luke 4 = The Whole Gospel: Forgiveness, Justice, Compassion

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ramblings

Ah, the feeling of a good run on a crisp fall day. Yesterday was the first official day of bundling up; I had on three layers! I donned an old sweatshirt for today's run, and although it was wrapped around my waist in less than 5 minutes, still, it was with me...fall has officially begun. Today the boys get to play. No school today. We love our days off. We're in the middle of reading George MacDonald's Princess and the Goblins, a wonderful book I read as a child. George was one of C.S. Lewis's favorite authors, and I can see why. Laughter, suspense, scenery, with a healthy dose of plain weirdness...this book is interesting, to say the least.
I am excited about Clapham. I am amazed how, in their third year of classical education, the boys are thriving. Ethan is consistently picking out great books, living books, to read. Christian continues to be fascinated more and more with nature and science. Their minds are being filled with things that are beautiful, worthy, and true. Mom and I talked last night about "doing hard things." Clapham is hard. But oh, so rewarding. Ethan's basketball program is hard for him...but he's learning. Christian is working hard in football...and it's paying off. He scored another touchdown this last week, made a lot of great tackles, and the smile on his face was priceless. He works hard and comes home a sweaty little mess. I can't wait to read more about "doing hard things." As God reveals how our family is wired, individually and as a whole, I pray that He continues to show us what hard things He would have us do for our good and His glory. God does not call us to a life of comfort; He knows we are fulfilled only through Him and the abundant life He provides...hardly easy, but immensely satisfying.

Now an adoption update: The Lord is faithful to lead. Over two weeks ago I requested info packets from two agencies; they have yet to show up. I have moved on. Some phone calls have not been returned. I've moved on from those agencies. I think He might be closing the door on the agency in CA. And I will move on. The pastor from ECFA has not yet called to schedule our appt. I will be patient, because God's timing is perfect. I talked with an agency yesterday and was encouraged to learn that many moms actually prefer adoptive parents with children. They appreciate the fact that their child will have siblings and that the adoptive parents are experienced. I was grateful for the conversation. Another confirmation that we will be chosen by someone, somewhere. So I can see how, in the little things, God has been shaping this search and shaping our thoughts to conform to His will, educating me more every day, educating my sweet husband too, and turning our hearts towards this little one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Be Still...I'm Stretching You

This week started with a flurry of research. I talked with ECFA at the beginning of the week and they suggested we go out of state. Since we have family in TX, CA, and AR, I started with those states. By the middle of the week I was somewhat overwhelmed. William graciously diagnosed me with TMI (too much information).
He's right, my brained is TMI'd out. Research is good. Research 8 hours a day is not. Once again -- I have a feeling this will be an ongoing theme -- I had to give myself a huge timeout and pray...and be still...and listen. In the middle of the week, the Lord gave me the gift of information in the form of a phone call, all the way from California. I had pm'd a very sweet woman on an adoption forum and ended up talking with her by the end of the day. As she relayed her beautiful stories of adoption, once again God encouraged me with His faithful -- and often miraculous -- orchestration of her babies' lives, a testimony to me that He will orchestrate our journey to this little one. He is AMAZING! She had great experience with her adoption agency, and as it turns out ECFA thinks they're great too. So I'll call on Monday and get more info from them...maybe this is the one? Meanwhile we're waiting for the pastor from ECFA to call; we'll meet with him before the homestudy officially commences.

William told his parents our news this last weekend, and they were very excited. We had a nice family weekend of football games, a family BD party, and a great church service on Sunday. I am reminded often these days of blessings. I am thankful. Friday has rolled around again, and it's been gloriously summer-like here. The air has yet to turn crisp and cool, and I'm savoring the warm days. Tomorrow the refugee women are registering for sewing classes, and I begin teaching sewing classes in less than two weeks! I'm excited to see God work in this ministry and in these women. I know it's going to be a stretching experience for me, but stretching is what I'm doing these days...in more ways than one.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Prayer of Thanksgiving

What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?

I shall lift up the cup of salvation
And call upon the name of the Lord.

Oh Lord, surely I am Your servant,
I am Your servant...You have loosed my bonds.

To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
From Psalm 116


I am thankful for...my sweet husband, my amazing boys, my loving parents, my faithful friends, my crazy dog...our health, our wholeness.

We have dubbed Wednesday nights Family Night. We enjoyed the whole afternoon together...no friends, no phone calls, just togetherness. I read to the boys on the back porch, the cool breeze tempered by the sun. When William came home, we sat down to dinner around our table, candle lit, and told stories. They particularly liked the story about the time I locked myself out of the house when they were super little and had to call the fire department to rescue us all. We laughed. Of course, Dairy Queen somehow happened. Not a planned event, but a surprise from Dad. All in all, it was a sweet night, a blessing from the Lord, another marker of His grace and love pouring out upon our family.

What must I give you, LORD,

for being so good to me?

I will pour out an offering

of wine to you,

and I will pray in your name

because you

have saved me.

I will keep my promise to you

when your people meet.

You are deeply concerned

when one of your loyal people

faces death.

I worship you, LORD,

just as my mother did,

and you have rescued me

from the chains of death.

I will offer you a sacrifice

to show how grateful I am,

and I will pray.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

His Pure and Undefiled Wisdom

Rivalry: opposition, antagonism; jealousy.



The synonyms listed in the dictionary are kind of surprising. Jealousy? Antagonism? In our culture a "good old-fashioned rivalry" is thought to be a good thing...until we lose. And then the mask comes off, the selfish ambition and jealousy revealed, and all those pleasant thoughts about how healthy competition is a good thing, a character-building thing...well, it all rings a little hollow.




13Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom.


14But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts, do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth.


15This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal).


16For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.


17But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle). [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity).


18And the harvest of righteousness (of conformity to God's will in thought and deed) is [the fruit of the seed] sown in peace by those who work for and make peace [in themselves and in others, that peace which means concord, agreement, and harmony between individuals, with undisturbedness, in a peaceful mind free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts]

James 3:13-18 [Amplified]



The truth is, I'm a more competitive person than I once thought, and not in a good way. I want all of us to be “better.” These rivalries, even if they’re only in my mind, bring about unrest and disharmony in my thoughts. I have often wished that my kids were more athletic than they are, smarter, more well-behaved, like so-and-so's kids. These are mostly passing thoughts, not ones I dwell upon, but ones that are "false to the Truth."



Thankfully, as the Lord sanctifies me and makes me more like Himself, as He teaches me to have His wisdom, my thoughts will turn from thoughts of rivalry and “being better” to thoughts of harmony, "in a peaceful mind free from fears." Fear drives me to think irrationally about the successes and failures of myself, my husband, and my kids, whacking them wayyyy out of perspective. This is why God tells us to gird our loins with truth. The truth is, His perspective is that my kids are perfect just the way they are. And I love every inch of who they are. I am glad they are not like so-and-so's kids, because then they wouldn't be how God wired them to be.



As the Lord continues to strip away these false thoughts, He is now probing me about how rivalry affects my thoughts on adoption. He has made it our heart's desire to be a mom and dad to a child who needs a mom and dad. It’s that simple. No strings attached.




18"He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.

19"So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.


20"You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.


21"He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen.

Deuteronomy 10:18-21




He has dealt with me in His very wise and loving way. I was once alienated from my God, and when I was unlovely He died for me. Now I am beloved and adopted, an heir. I now call him My Father, who has done these great and awesome things for me which my eyes have seen. He tells me to show my love for the alien, because I too once was one.



So when I think of this little one we are called to love, should I worry and fret about the what-ifs? What if.....something's wrong with her.....she loves dolls (ick).....he would rather play music than play sports....she cries all night (I realllly love my sleep)....other people think she's less than beautiful....other people are prejudice against her dark skin....he has a hard time making friends....and on and on.



The Lord is showing me that many of these thoughts stem from my human wisdom, which he says is earthly, unspiritual and even develish. Wow.



HIS wisdom is pure, pure as a sparkling, clean river flowing with thirst-quenching water. He didn't have a speck of "what-if" thoughts about me. He looked at me and saw glorious possibility, a creation made in His image, chosen and beautiful. I know that when I lay eyes on our precious little one, my thoughts will be His thoughts. He is showing me what it is like to have wisdom from above, pure and unfeigned. He washes away the what-ifs and shows me His heart and teaches me how to have His heart of compassion, undefiled and pure.



As He works all this out, I am grateful for His Word. I am grateful for this journey. Again, Lord, I trust you. Not only with my own gifted, chosen, beautiful boys, but with the little one to come, who is also gifted, chosen and beautiful. Thank you for changing my perspective towards the orphans and the aliens. You love them in a thousand different ways, in pure and selfless ways. You want me to love them like that too.



Friday, September 4, 2009

Expanding Our Hearts

My Wonderful Father in Heaven,
I just had the most amazing conversation with another one of your daughters, and my sister-in-Christ.

"I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
Great is your love. It reaches to the heavens.
Your truth reaches to the sky."
Psalm 57: 2, 10

Another testimony of Your faithfulness. Another testimony that You are trustworthy and true. Yet another reason to believe you. How many, Father, do I need to hear before I give this heart of mine fully over to your will and let go of the fear of The Unknown. You KNOW! How many times have I witnessed in amazement the orchestration of good things in my life? Even the not-so-good parts, You've redeemed and made beautiful!
And then there was the conversation last night at my bedtime (You know how much I cherish bedtime!) in which you blessed me and showed me AGAIN, through a friend, how You e..x..p..a..n..d hearts and change lives...for eternity! Conversation after conversation, and again through the Psalms, the Proverbs, Romans, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, even on Moody radio yesterday, You work and say "Trust me." I trust You.
My friend said that the adoption process strips you. Only a week in, and I understand. As I ponder the intricacies of adoption -- racism, love, grace, redemption, the what-will-they-think? thoughts -- I truly do feel stripped down to truth. What is my truth. What is Your truth. Once again, I am grateful that my identity in the One and Only Jesus is firm, yet being refined and sanctified. Expand my heart, O Lord. Give me Your eyes, Your heart.
"Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul."
Psalm 143:8
You are the One who accomplishes ALL THINGS for me. Thank you for your guidance, holding our hands along this path you have chosen for us, leading us in truth and grace. You are beautiful to me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

5 Days After the Decision

Wow, who knew adoption could be so complex, beautiful, yet sometimes laced with corruption and oh, so much heartbreak? After Day 1 of research, I felt hopeful and excited. Day 2 brought about a feeling of being assaulted by the Internet, thousands of posts, blogs, websites, forums....get me out of here! I could not sleep. Then in my quiet times the Holy Spirit shows me that God is my trust, my hope, and He goes before us in this journey. He already knows.

"In peace I will both lie down and sleep."
Psalm 4:8
We can rest assured that He will guide us to this little one, that He will guide a mom to us! Is it hard? Yes! Will it be emotional? Yes! But
"Blessed are those whose trust is in the Lord, whose trust IS the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water, who extends its roots by a stream
and will not fear when the heat comes.
But its leaves will be green,
and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit."
Days 3 and 4 lead us to think we'll pursue this adoption independently. And we believe she might be Hispanic, maybe somewhere here, maybe in CA or TX....Oh, Lord, where is she? My heart is already breaking for her mom, who has to carry a child, knowing that this baby was not in the plan, and staying awake at nights wondering what to do. Staying awake just like me, wondering what I can do, where I can find her. I don't know...yet.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
Psalm 143:7

My 38th Birthday

My 38th birthday was awesome. William took The Day off work, and we celebrated all day long. In the morning I ran with my dear Sarah, and William made the short trek to Starbucks for my birthday latte. Ahhh, I am made happy by the smallest delights of life. Before long, Christian appeared and said those wonderful words, "Happy Birthday, Mom." My sleepy-headed Ethan joined us downstairs a bit later, and as we went about the routine of sending the boys off to school, I felt grateful for my precious family.


My birthday fell on a cloudy, cool day, not the greatest weather for August, but actually great for golf. William and I played nine waterlogged holes. Actually, he played, I attempted to play! He was pretty patient with me until the last couple, when he would sweep my ball into the hole with his foot if it got even remotely close!
Over lunch we talked about lots of stuff, mainly God's continuing pull on our hearts toward adoption. I felt peaceful about the conversation and by the end we both agreed that we needed to trust God and leap forward. We want to live a life with no regrets, no misses on God's plan for our lives...and someone else's little life. Our purpose in life is to glorify our Heavenly Father, and He is a Father who has an amazing heart for children, and gives us that heart too. This journey begins full of uncertainty, full of what-ifs, but we began it joyfully. I can't wait to see who God adds to our family!
Later we pick the boys up from school and.....Christian got his hair cut! He loves his long hair, but, alas, school requirements force him to submit to the shears. I'm happy to report that he lived, we lived, and he's looking awfully handsome. By the time we got to P.F. Changs -- my birthday dinner...yum! -- he was in good spirits, and we had a lovely time. I would give an arm and a leg to know how to make those vegetarian lettuce wraps...oh. so. good.
We ended the day watching Connor and Dominick's football game with Grandma and Grandpa, Joe and Claire. It was a sweet day, full of family, full of promise.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ethan's Baptism







The day dawned cloudy and uncertain. After several phone calls and backup plans for the baptism (including an emergency dunk in Dina's pool!), Kelly decided to postpone the baptism to 11:30 a.m. As it turned out, the Lord was not only gracious to give us a beautiful window of good weather for Worship in the Park 2009, but also for the celebration at our house afterwards.

How can I possibly capture the day in words? To see my oldest son baptized by his father, surrounded by family and friends, the day full of God's love and blessing....indescribable.



Sometimes pictures speak louder than words, like the ones above. When Ethan entered the water and waded into William's open arms, to witness the intimate, tender smiles between them brought me to tears. Love. So strong. Between father and son, between Jesus and Ethan.



William baptized Ethan in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit...the names of an indescribably holy God who calls Ethan His chosen and beloved.



Before the baptism, Ethan gave his testimony in front of our church, family and friends. He spoke with confidence about his decision to follow Jesus at a young age and then read his favorite verses, Psalms 103:1-5. Ethan said these are his favorite because they talk about how good and powerful the Lord is. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."



This story really began in the winter, when Ethan told us that he wanted to be baptized at Worship in the Park. Just as Ethan in this picture is probing into the wood to find maple syrup (Klein Creek), God's Word was probing his heart. In school and home we had been reading through the Gospels all winter. God tells us in Hebrews: "For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." I love how sweet God is, to move in Ethan's heart at the age of 10 to be obedient in baptism.


He began baptism classes in the spring while juggling school, baseball and swimming. This year he landed on a Longfellow team coached by Keith Litavsky and Josh Gerry...a huge blessing, a reconnection to friends at Longfellow and a reconnection for me too. The dads are William's biking buddies and Bible study friends, those who lift up Ethan and Christian in prayer, who walk with William through the challenges of fatherhood. And for me, to sit through baseball games on lazy Saturdays with my friends, cheering on our boys, is wonderful.






We are blessed to have friends who pray, friends we laugh and cry with, friends with whom we share moments like this. As I looked at those present, I saw my parents, who have prayed for my boys since before they were born, moms who have prayed for Ethan since kindergarten through Moms in Touch, dads who encourage Ethan in sports and life, who, with William, pray, my best friend Dina, who has spent many an hour listening to my heart, William's parents, who bless us in so many ways, his brothers and sisters, and an amazing church led by Pastor Kelly.

It's now been a week, and yesterday as a church body we thanked our amazing God for the beautiful day last Sunday. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ethan took communion for the first time yesterday, Abuelita explaining it carefully beforehand. As we remembered Jesus' sacrifice for us, Ethan looked over at me and smiled.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Hair Day

The sun is rising now, a beautiful gradient of warmth blanketing the horizon! So beautiful. I am always amazed at how a sunrise or a rainfall influences my emotions. This week has been mostly made up of chilly rain, perfect really for springtime, but I am so glad to finally see the sun. As I write this I am also IMing with Lisa, and we were just reminiscing about our early morning sunrise runs so long ago.

Anyway this week: Computer crashed. I'm waiting for my new computer to arrive. This week has been spent fixing my laptop and backing up files...lots of time.
The boys started baseball, although most practices were rained out. Ethan pitched an inning, and as he said afterward, it didn't go so well. But he came up with some ideas for practice, which is great! He had a single, popped it out once, and struck out once. Christian plays his first practice game on Saturday. Let baseball season begin!
And then there's the hair story. My Christian LOVES his long hair. He's a cool kind of kid, the kind of kid who will always be hip. We call him our California boy because he always looks like he could be on a surfboard at any given moment. Sun-bleached hair in the summer, sharktooth necklace, flip-flops...that's Christian.
Well, since I couldn't see his eyes on Tuesday (the hair a little TOO long), I insisted upon trimming it up, RIGHT THEN! He was okay with this, and before long we were set up with a towel draped around him, hair damp (I've seen professionals do this), scissors in hand.
He was a bit squirmy, I was a bit distracted, and the scissors took a rather unattractive turn on his bangs. I was horrified, but it looked funny too, and so I started giggling. He immediately was suspicious and demanded a look in the mirror. I told him to wait until I was done (holy cow, what do I do now?) before looking in the mirror, but he insisted, I told him no, and we ended up ON THE FLOOR wrestling it out. He won. Mirrors don't lie. He was devastated, to say the least. I quickly sent out an SOS to a friend. Unfortunately she wasn't home, so I found myself on YouTube searching for "how to cut a boy's hair." Who knew there were so many informative home-grown videos on the subject!
Fortunately, as I was about to follow the YouTube instructions, I connected with my good friend who gives good hairuts. Yea! But there was a problem. Christian REFUSED to get in the car. After begging and pleading (I realize I am the authority, but....) I finally bribed him and said, "What do you want? I'll give you whatever you want if you get in the car!" Well, he's no fool. This was a rare proposition! "Cake. Cake for dinner." "Done!" I proclaimed. An hour later we were back home with a half-decent haircut with strict instructions to let it grow all summer long (don't touch it, Amy warned me).
The next night we sang "Happy Hair Day To You" over a vanilla caked with whipped cream and lots of pink candles (the only ones in the house). The pictures were delightful! They will definitely come in handy when he grows a teenage attitude and I need to bribe him (Yes, mom, I know Dr. Dobson would not approve, but I'm not talking about my finest parenting moments here).
And that's it. We end the week with this bright, sunny day, a welcome sight after the rainy days.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good Friday Eve

It seems like yesterday. I wrote that I was looking forward to Lent, a time of reflection and...what exactly did I say? Here I am, about 40 days later, time vanishing any hopes of reflection.

I finally pulled out our Lenten book yesterday. The boys and I read about nailing our sins to the cross. We read about The Last Supper this morning. As I look at all of the devotions, I wish I would have carved out the time, this precious time, to talk of our Savior and His sacrifice for us. We contemplated this morning of what it must have been like, hanging on that cross, the way the lowest of the low were treated. The rampant unbelief before His death. Above anything, this must have grieved God the most, the unbelief of the people that Jesus was truly His son. I look forward to tomorrow, Good Friday, when we read the devotion about that very sad, yet glorious, day.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Miso Dressing and Pasta

I'm on a quest for a good miso dressing, like the one William and I enjoy at the local sushi house. This is a start. It's waayyy too sweet. Try a bit of honey next time. I used less oil than the recipe called for. The garlic was also strong.
I also made a pasta dish from the 2005 Cooking Light cookbook. I roasted fennel, grape tomatoes, whole garlic cloves unpeeled, and kalamata olives, then tossed with pasta. Definitely delicious...a keeper. It reminded me of a dish I haven't made for a while, a pasta tossed with roasted butternut squash and shallots. Add some Parm and you're set.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good day DeAngelis Family! It is a beautiful Spring Day in Wheaton.
Have fun watching Dom in the Variety Show. I had the pleasure of seeing the show on Thursday with Joe and Claire.


Oh, and don't forget to bring the video camera. Perhaps you can post the video on YouTube?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Abundant Life

Yesterday Ethan stayed home from school. He awoke with a fever and a sore throat; an hour later, it was gone. We had a sweet day, another unexpected gift this week. In the morning we played Yahtzee, read together and talked. I treasure this precious time with my son, on the brink of turning 11, a stone's throw away from adolescence.
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These are the sweetest of times. I see glimpses now of the young man he is becoming, a young man who is so different than I was at almost 11, and then he frowns or smiles and I see flashes of my younger self in him. He is his father's son in many ways, good ways, like his servant's heart and his easygoing demeanor. God has wired him to be detail-oriented and logical. How many times has he said to me, "Mom, why don't you do it THIS way?" And I think, wow, that IS a better way! I see God shoring him up in the confidence that he is deeply loved and created by God, for God, with a great purpose in life.
Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with two amazing sons and an amazing husband. You are good. You are faithful. You are the giver of abundant life...life like today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Let the Games Begin

Ethan's home today...hanging out with Shiloh.



The Making of March Madness Picks...





Monday, March 16, 2009

The Extraordinary One

God is THE Extraordinary. This Monday morning, I toggled back and forth between praising the One and Only and then falling down in my flesh all over again. Back and forth we went, but The Victorious One pulled me up again, giving me the sweet glorious victory over my negativity, over my pride, giving me the ability to humble myself and apologize to my beloved. He gives us abundant life. The kids and I had a rough morning; we have a family meeting after school. We need a new game plan for the morning and new attitudes in our hearts. Words that uplift, not tear down. John told us this morning that "grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ"; we pray Jesus permeates our beings in the morning, just as the morning sun blazes joy into our hearts, the day suddenly hopeful and full of promise.
Then my One and Only gave me a gift. Here's how it went. I glanced at my calendar this morning and realized that I was helping out with the ESL families this a.m. Christian loves interacting with these precious children from all over the world. His heart of delight and compassion for these kids is contagious.
I quickly settled into a conversation with a woman from Iraq, her 4-yr-old clinging to her leg. They've been here five months. The conversation started with the trivial. Then silence. Then more trivial stuff. More silence. Then the trivial turned coincidental as we discovered we lived near each other, her older attends our old school, her son in our old class! Oh, and she's part Armenian, and I know an Armenian connection in that particular class.
She asked a question about the upcoming fundraiser for the school, and I stupidly asked her if she had played golf (the fundraiser involves golf) in Iraq. She looked at me kindly and patiently explained that when you live in a country of constant war, when you fear for your life, when you cannot send your child to school for fear they will be kidnapped, you think little about fun; it's all about survival. But, yes, she would love to try golf, whatever that is, someday. There are many things to do for fun in America, and she's looking forward to trying them all.
As I probed her about her previous life, she told of the persecution of Christians in Iraq. She told me that she fears for the family she left behind there. Last time she talked to them, they told her of a Christian girl who was burned to death. The Christians have to pretend they are Muslim in public, or they will be killed. Children are kidnapped from families, and the ransom is a thousand dollars, or they are killed. They escaped one night with only the clothes they had on their back and fled to Syria. The two years they spent there were pleasant, with many Christians around them. They filed papers with the UN and were relocated here five months ago.
It's a new life, she said, with many new things to experience. She is grateful that her son attends a good school, he's adjusting well. She's grateful that they do not remember Iraq. The only good thing about Iraq, she said, was the food, but that is all. Her husband started a job today. Her eyes are bright with hope.
I told her I would take her to the park. I can't wait. Thank you, Lord, for opening my eyes and teaching me more about your heart. As my friend agreed, the Lord provided a way for their family to escape; He is their Victorious One too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

In the Dawn of Spring


Today the sun shines, darting in and out of clouds as I write. I can tell spring is upon us. As the birds chirp and the clock rolls forward, I adjust to a new season slowly.
As I rise and head for the coffee pot, it feels too early. I've been a crab all week, not a cheery thought before 10 a.m. The time change? Hormones? Or something deeper? As I sit in the presence of God each morning, as His Word probes my soul and speaks to me in these dark hours of the early dawn, truth is revealed and the road to healing begins. From healing flows new life and growth.

Now it's Friday and the sun shines. I look over at my husband and smile. I listen to the constant drum of a basketball and boys' chatter outside my window. As the dormant ground prepares for tiny shoots of rebirth, my heart softens towards my family and a renewed sense of blessing takes root.

"And I will give them one heart and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people and I shall be their God."
Ezekiel 11:19-20

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Life Without Sports


Our life without sports is...well, let me back up. Our three-week hiatus from sports began last night. Ethan is already missing his swim workouts and so he ran almost 2 miles on the treadmill instead and then went to his last basketball practice of the season. Today he ran a little over two miles. Other than that burst of activity, that was it, but it got his energy out and he was ready to tackle homework fairly quickly. The problem is, we have WAY TOO MUCH TIME on our hands. Christian came home from practice last night sweaty and tired -- just the way I like him. Today he wandered around the house rather aimlessly while I reminded him 27 times to get going on his homework. We quibbled over details of homework, apologized to each other for this and that. I nagged. He cried. He wanted to play in the kitchen sink. I kept shooing him out of the kitchen.
See, when we have a practice of some sort in the evening, oh, we are so on task! Things get done! Dinner gets made! Oh, speaking of dinner, I made the most yummy potatoes from The Pioneer Woman. Hot Crash Potatoes are easy and oh-so-tasty! Even Christian, who will be a phenomenal eater someday, loved them!
Anyway, life without sports is challenging. But tomorrow is another day, and extra time is always a gift. I think.


Throne of Grace

As I continue to walk with the Lord through the life of Moses, He shows me His holiness. He shows me that in the OT, the area around His presence (Tent of Meeting) had to be absolutely clean, pure, undefiled. He made it painstakingly clear to the Israelites that He was a holy, pure God. I am amazed by Moses and his boldness with God. He interceded constantly for the rebellious nation, but sometimes he expressed his frustration with the people too. He had an amazing love for His fellow Hebrews, but above all he cared for God's reputation more than he cared about his own life. He staked his life and the lives of the people on the truth of God's character. And God never disappoints us with lapses of character. He is always the same, always true to who He is. I love that we can trust Him completely.
Today I was in Numbers 18 and 19. And then, refreshingly, in Hebrews. Today God gave me a vivid picture of how the priesthood was, and how Jesus is our High Priest today. We stand before God blameless, faultless, His presence undefiled and pure, all because of the cleansing, atoning, redemptive blood of Jesus. We now stand before Him or lean on His throne and call God our Father, our Friend, and also the Holy Most High. And He's okay with us being there. He delights in our presence, as we delight in His. The atonement for our sin has been made once and for all time. Jesus's blood continually cleanses us, and He continually intercedes for us to the Father. It's all a bit much to grasp. And He doesn't stop there!
The Holy Spirit guides us and teaches us and walks us through the valleys and peaks of life, gives us comfort and strength. He changes our hearts, gives us victory over our sin, teaches us to pray so that the lives of others are forever changed. What a God of mercy! He delights to show us mercy! His love is faithful and true and everlasting! I praise You, Lord, for your living and active Word, illuminating my heart this morning.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pictures, Etc.

The experimental picture taking continues! I'm anxious for my photography class to start so that I actually know what I'm doing. But until then...
First, dinner last night. Once again, a yummy recipe from 101 Cookbooks. Spinach-Rice Gratin is a dish I've made a couple times. The first time I used feta, my favorite, the second time I used Gruyere. As a side, I tossed broccoli with olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes and garlic and roasted it(410 convection) for 10 minutes. I think I could eat this twice a week at least!




Another weekend picture...
This rainy Saturday our day was brightened by basketball. The boys each played a game (here's one of Ethan's shots), and then we headed over to Wheaton College for the Div. III playoffs. Wheaton barely pulled it off in overtime -- very suspenseful!



Here's a great picture of Christian. We were waiting for our flight to Chicago, and I was playing around with my camera. This is my favorite shot of the day, although it's a bit overexposed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

God's Teaching Me!

This weekend we headed up to Canada for skiing and snowboarding. We had an adventurous time on the slopes and also got to experience snowshoeing and swimming outside! surrounded by snow. What was most pleasant about the weekend, though, was the company. Our hosts were gracious, fun, and seemed to truly enjoy entertaining. I never felt for a minute that we were imposing, because to them we weren't. No doubt the weekend was a huge sacrifice on their part, the cooking, scheduling of activities, and having guests in their home, but I could see that when Margaret said she enjoyed it, she really did. What a wonderful picture of true hospitality!
I love how the Lord teaches me about servanthood. I was grateful to be on the receiving end this weekend, and now I have a clearer picture of the heart of someone who truly enjoys serving people. Several times Mario and Margaret put their own agendas aside to serve us, like teaching Ethan snowboarding or watching the boys while we went snowshoeing. They didn't have to do any of that, but they chose to because they are people who put others before themselves. So in the end, skiing sure is fun, but being around selfless people? Very refreshing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Another Recipe to Remember

Before I forget, Sabine sent me this recipe from Health. We've been using a yummy carrot soup recipe from Cooking Light for years, and she happened upon this one and thought it was way better. Last night I made it, and although the coconut milk adds a Thai flavor that's a little different for me, it's light and yummy. Nutritious too. I needed something healthy yesterday, and this Carrot-Ginger Soup hit the mark. Off to watch American Idol with my boys...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Blessings


Last night Christian came downstairs and said, "Either Ethan is playing with me, or, mom, he's sleeping sitting up!" Sure enough, our 10-year-old had fallen asleep while reading what I consider one of the best books of all time. I guess Where the Red Fern Grows couldn't keep him awake!


Last night I made brussels sprouts, from 101 Cookbooks. They were delicious and easy. William loved them. The boys, of course, thought they looked like little cabbages and said that they hated cabbage; they refused to try them! That's okay. One day they'll love them.
On another note, Lent starts tomorrow! I'm excited about going to the Ash Wednesday service and entering into a special time with the Lord over the next 40 days. Every year I resolve to read Lenten devotions to the boys, and this year is no different. We never get through the whole thing, but I trust that the nuggets they hear will bear fruit. We believe Isaiah 55:10-11!

Monday, February 23, 2009

First Photos...First Research


Celebrating Dina's BD Saturday night (automatic)


Saturday morning at home...Starbucks and the paper ever present


Monday morning...learning the light, NW exposure at 7 a.m.


Shiloh is curious at first...


...then she's bored. But her tail is still wagging.


* So I've read my photography book and already have a greater understanding of how those f-stops work. Now comes practicing. I shot all of the above except for one on manual mode (it's weird that I had no idea how to do this two days ago), with my dear dog as my subject. She was a trooper.
* We had fun celebrating Dina's BD Saturday night. The boys all had basketball games at the same time (Ethan made a shot and got a felt star for best defense!), and then we came back here for a very yummy meal of Shrimp Scampi, from the Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics cookbook. After dinner we sat by the fire and talked...it was a nice evening
* On the adoption front, I've spent a lot of time researching, and it is not a good time for international adoption at all. It would take years to get a child, which is so sad considering the many out there wandering the streets. But corruption and red tape has taken its toll, and governments are closing the doors in many countries. Very sad. So the next step is to talk to people and some agencies. I pray for clarity and God's divine intervention if this is what He wants us to do. Perhaps He's just putting His compassion in our hearts and wants us to follow that in a different way altogether. We'll see.

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