Friday, December 20, 2013

Answering the Right Question

In my last post I talked about the confusion that holidays bring.  They teach our kids pretty much the opposite of the example Jesus lived and taught us.  Kids are overwhelmed with messages in our culture on a daily, hourly, and now smart-phone-instantanious basis.  Parents, here's a wake up call: 1-2 hours a week sitting in a church gathering of some sort will not break through all that other noise.

So this brings me back to the question that we really need to answer:  How do I show my children who Jesus is?

  •  It starts with us, parents.  How can we expect to show our children who Jesus is if we know nothing about Him, never speak with Him and never listen to what He has to say?  Start by digging into the Bible and talking to God about what you're reading. And if your kids happen to see you doing this, awesome!  They learn by example, so be mindful of what you're showing them.

  •  We need to talk with our kids about Jesus.  I know this sounds simple and trite, but so many people just expect that a little time in church will cover all the basics, and they're scared of not having an answer for their kids' question.  Well, if your kids don't ask you questions and you're not starting a dialogue with them, I can guarantee you they are asking someone else or hearing answers elsewhere.  Don't be afraid to tell your child, "I don't know the answer to that, so let's find out together."  Even if they don't show it, they will appreciate your honesty and probably feel special when you go to any length to help them find the answer.

  • It's Christmas time, so even more so than the rest of the year kids and adults alike are inundated with advertisements for what they need.  We ask our families to make wish lists that only confirm we must really need this stuff.  Watch out, I'm proposing two radical ideas...  Turn off the tv and do not make wish lists.  If you want to watch something, try popping in a DVD or turn on Netflix and enjoy the show without the onslaught of ads.  Instead of having your family make lists of things they want, have them make a list of things you could surprise other friends or family members with, or even a local family in true need of the basics.  Keep the focus off of themselves and onto others.

    •  This Christmas, don't let Jesus stay a baby in a manger.  I think a lot of times that's all kids (and adults) see Him as, a baby.  Ask your kids why they think the magi would come from so far to bring gifts and worship a baby.  At the level they can understand, discuss what Jesus did, how He is God, He is Messiah and He is King.

    • Cut down on your family gifts. I know it's fun to give and receive, and we should celebrate with some of that, but set some limits.  One that we like and implement is "something they want, something they need, something they wear and something they read."  That includes our stockings stuffers.

    • Allow your children to choose a family gift.  There are a lot of ways to do this and you can make it look however you want, but if your kids are old enough, let them take the lead.  Have them do research and come up with something they can do for someone else, whether it's an organization, a local family, a ministry, whatever their little hearts are drawn to.  If it's something they want to donate to, then let them figure out how to earn some money and help them take/send that money.  If it's buying gifts for a local family in need, it's always nice if the kids can actually pick out, wrap and give the presents to the family.  Don't write off doing this with your kids if they're still young.  Mine are both 2 but helped me pick out clothes and toys to send to Zoe's orphanage in China.  We even had a full discussion about where the box was going and who was getting the present.  They were very excited to help me pack the box, after they made sure the toys were good, of course.

      Zoe packing the box.

    • Make an advent calendar but get creative.  Do not do candy and presents.  Make each day different.  Maybe some have scripture you can talk about and have the kids draw a picture about the scripture.  Maybe other days have simple ways to give back around your community.  Perhaps even others say things like "Tell someone about Jesus today" or "Pray for a friend that is having a hard time."  Each day can be a way to learn more about Jesus and how to live like Him.

    • Invite someone over for Christmas.  We have always had an open door policy in our family.  Our friends know they are always welcome, so some years friends just show up unannounced, and sometimes we invite friends that we know don't have anyone to celebrate with.   Either way, we can always make room for more!

    • Keep things simple.  From decorations to presents to food.  This is the most stressful time of year for most people, but it should be a time of celebration, joy, and love for Jesus.

    Keep your eyes on Jesus and He will keep you from sinking.  Fill your heart with love for Jesus and there won't be room for all the overwhelming things this world offers.

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    Asking the Wrong Question

    Becoming Mommy forces you to think about issues you haven't been confronted with since your own childhood but with the stakes raised to a whole new parental level.  You are now fully responsible for every aspect of raising another little human.  Suddenly you are faced with difficult questions that everyone else on the planet seems to have a very opinionated answer for.  It's hard to have open discussions with people because they just jump on their soapbox and rant and rave.  So how is a Mommy to navigate these turbulent waters, figure out how to parent, and come out the other side with more than just a barely functioning child?

    I'm learning that there are many times where I just have to be like Peter- disregard everything else, plant my eyes firmly on Jesus, jump out of the boat with both feet and start walking, trusting Jesus to grab hold of me when I get distracted and begin to sink (Matthew 14:22-33).

    You know you this is how you pictured it in your head.

    Well, one turbulent parenting topic that's been weighing heavily on me for a long time is the holidays and the overwhelming monstrosities they have become.  My kiddos are still very young (2 and 2.5), but I've been thinking about this since they were just little hopes in my heart.  And I've had plenty of time to think about it since I became a parent later than most of my friends.  So I've been an avid watcher of everyone's experiences.

    My biggest issue with pretty much every holiday is they now promote buying a ridiculous amount of stuff, blowing budgets, caving into what everyone else is doing, stress, self indulgence, guilt and feeling empty when it's over.  How is that good for us OR our kids?

    It's not.

    Since we're closing in on Christmas, one of the biggies, let's go there.  My first big dilemma, was Santa or no Santa?  I've heard all the debates, rationalizations and arguments on both sides.  When deciding what we should do in our house, that topic and discussion led to many, MANY more discussions, no longer just about Santa but about all the other issues that surround Christmas as well.

    Last year right after Christmas, a friend of mind posted a simple question on Facebook.  She said something to the effect of "How do you talk to a child about Christmas without them only talking about the presents they received?"  I immediately thought of several Jesus specific questions to ask or things to do with our kids leading up to Christmas that might help.  People, I was TORN APART in the comments that followed.  It made me angry at first, but that anger quickly turned to sadness as I was so disheartened to hear these moms' responses.  At first I thought, maybe I really don't know anything because my kids are still so young.  But after dwelling on the topic, praying about it and dwelling some more, I realized that these poor parents missed some great opportunities to teach and grow their kids and themselves.

    How do children learn the best?  How do adults learn the best?  By doing.  And by doing repeatedly.  If I want my kids to learn about Jesus Christ at Christmas time (or any and every time of the year), how should I go about doing that?  I need to show them.  I lead them by example.  Then I should invite them to join me and teach them to do the same.

    If we are to be an example of Christ to our children, then we should obviously look to His example.  What kind of example did He set for us?  One of love (John 15:12-13), humility (Phil. 2:6-8), serving (John 13:5), sacrifice (John 19:30), teaching (John 13:12-15), obedience (Matt. 26:39), and prayer (Luke 22:45-46) to name just a few.  Pretty much the complete opposite of all those things I mentioned that the holidays are teaching us.

    So I realize now that I had been asking myself the wrong question all this time- to have Santa or not to have Santa?  The right question is: How do I show my children who Jesus is?

    Why is it so important to answer this question?  There are many reasons, but for a parent, here's a biggie:
    "Most statistics say that 80-90% of students who grew up in church are leaving the church within two years after they graduate high school."
    Friends, showing up on Sunday and sitting through a sermon or Sunday school class is not going to show our kids who Jesus is and why He is so important.  It is something they need to SEE and DO up close and personal, in a very real and tangible way on a regular basis in order to learn.  We can't be scared or shy away from having or initiating a discussion about Jesus.  Otherwise, Jesus is just a story in book, a baby in a manger and something to talk about in a particular building once a week.  After all, they are doing sports, music, school, etc. on a daily basis, discussing those activities ALL. THE. TIME.

    I'm working on another post to help answer the question: How do I show my children who Jesus is?  In the process, I hope it helps us focus on Jesus this Christmas, begins to open our kids' eyes to all that Jesus is, and that it also grows and strengthens us as parents and followers of Christ.

    Come on parents, let's set the example.

    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    One Year Anniversary of Zoe's Gotcha Day

    A year ago today we were in Changsha, China.  We were filled with mixed emotions as we walked into a room where we met Zoe for the first time.  She had one emotion- FEAR.

    As she tried to run the orphanage director out of the room, then cried and flailed in my arms for a half an hour before passing out, she made it very clear she was not happy and not sure of what was going on.  I can't blame her.  Poor little thing had been in a small orphanage since she was a day old and had probably never been outside those walls.  She had never been in a car, then the day before we met her, she was driven over 8 hours on bumpy roads to this room.  To this room where for the first time she saw white people with weird curly hair and was then handed over to those scary looking people.  That's a lot for anyone to handle let alone a 12 month old.

    We discovered that at a year old she could not crawl, feed herself finger foods or be fed from a spoon.  The only thing she wanted and was familiar with was a boiling hot bottle of milk.  If it was not made with boiling water, she would not take it.

    In those first days and weeks were night terrors, only wanting to be held by me 24/7, sickness, and cries for her orphanage nannies while she slept.  Loving someone you barely know is hard.  Loving someone who doesn't yet love you back is hard.  Loving someone in the midst of trauma is hard. Loving someone when they only push you away is hard.  But loving them where they are, in a way they can accept it, and without expecting it in return is vital.

    Within 4 days she was smiling, clapping, crawling, waving, signing "thank you," saying "dada" and responding to the name Zoe Xiu. She was starting to bond, although still very cautious and unsure.

    After two weeks of living in hotels with her in China, we finally arrived back in the states.  When we got to the house, she just seemed to know she was finally home.  She LOVED Arella from the very first minute and started walking right after we got home, trying to keep up with this fast moving big sister.

    It was a bumpy road.  It was hard.  It was awesome.  We wouldn't change it for the world.  Over the last year Zoe has blossomed into a little toddler and loves her family very much.  Happy Gotcha Day my spicy peanut, and thank you for adding so much love, giggles and joy to our family!

    + LOVE =

    Fear and a Stranger

    Happy with Mommy

    Sisters from day 1

    Quick to love

    Always together

    Wednesday, November 27, 2013

    Falling Into Perspective

    If your pumpkin pie is liquid, your turkey is still frozen in the middle and your family is arguing, you can still be thankful on Thanksgiving.

    Everyone is busy today starting to cook up their Martha Stewart masterpieces or running to the store one last time so not a roll will be out of place on that perfect spread of a feast tomorrow. 

    At 31 weeks pregnant, I just fell flat on my back on the stairs and my two girls went down with me. We are all okay, including baby, and for that I am so thankful. 

    This was not a fun accident but I am thankful for it because it does help put tomorrow into perspective. I could care less if all we eat is corn out of a can tomorrow, I'm so thankful for this amazing family to eat it with that God gave me. 

    "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." -Philippians 4:12

    Tomorrow is not just a day to be thankful for food, family and things or another chance to go buy stuff for the next big holiday. It's a day to rest, to reflect, to dwell with thanksgiving for all that God has given, namely His son. 

    "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:7-8

    “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends." John 15:12-13

    Thank You Lord for the reminder of how we should love and what we should be thankful for.

    This is my little nurse who refused to leave my side after the fall.

    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Elephants, Minnie Mouse & a Spicy Peanut

    On Zoe's first birthday, there were no precious frosting-all-over-the-face pictures taken. Presents were not opened and played with as family oohed and ahhed at her cuteness.  There were no special birthday outfits or blowing out of candles.  I'm not even sure if anyone in the orphanage remembered or knew that it was her birthday, let alone sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

    Zoe did have a family on the other side of the world praying for her, wishing desperately that they could do all of those things with her on that very special day.  We made her a cake, set her picture next to it and sang "Happy Birthday," dreaming that she could hear our heart felt, teary-eyed song.  We took her picture and cake to House Church to celebrate in her honor.  It still felt so empty, so meaningless without her here.

    But...  on Zoe's second birthday, all was right in her world.  She picked out her pretty Chinese dress to wear.  She chose to have Minnie Mouse and elephants featured on her cupcakes.  She actually ate frosting for the first time (she's not much of a sweets kinda gal).  And when we sang "Happy Birthday," that girl soaked up Every. Single. Note.  She savored every moment of her party.  She shared every toy that was opened.  She hugged each friend and family member as a thank you.  Zoe knows now that she is special, loved, remembered. 

    I love you Peanut.            So. Very. Much.            Happy birthday.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Walking on Water

    While preparing for a talk I'm giving on Thursday morning, I went through an old journal entry I wrote a little over 3 years ago.  It's exactly what I needed to read tonight.  I hope it hits home for you, too.  

    I went to Matthew 14:22-33 because I wanted to read about Jesus walking on the water but also when Peter walked out to Jesus on the water. This scripture struck me a few months ago, too. When I was dwelling on it then what really stood out to me was Peter’s walk out to Jesus. Peter, full of faith, climbs right out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. But midway there, Peter gets distracted by the strong winds and fear gets the best of him. He begins to sink. He cries out for Jesus to save him, and Jesus reaches out His hand catching Peter and says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

    If you think about it, it took an incredible amount of faith for Peter to walk out to Jesus in the first place. It’s somewhere between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., pitch black, the wind is raging and everyone on the boat thinks they see a ghost before Jesus tells them that it’s Him. But Peter in his beautiful child-like faith wants to just jump right out of the boat and go meet Jesus on the water. And he begins to! But at some point he takes his eyes off Jesus because he’s distracted. The moment his focus shifts off Jesus, Peter begins to sink. Wow, I bet we’ve all been there. Can you think of a time in your life when you felt like everything was lining up perfectly because you were running after Jesus, eyes firmly planted on Him, then in a moment everything changed? How is it we get so easily distracted? The great news is though, that Jesus is still there, ready to reach out and save us when we begin to sink. I know I have the crying-out-to-Jesus-to-be-saved part down, but it’s the not sinking/get distracted part I need to work on.

    When I read this passage again tonight though, another part of the story really stirred my mind. The disciples think they see a ghost and they cry out; then Jesus calmed them down letting them know it was Him. What happens next I can’t get over. In verse 28, Peter says this to Jesus, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Peter is always so zealous, so trusting and loving like a child.  It struck me as a little odd that Peter didn’t just ask permission, but he asked Jesus to command him. And with the fear they used to have of the sea back then, especially in the middle of the night, why in the world did Peter want to go out to Jesus on the water?! I’m surprised he wasn’t like, “Oh good, it’s You Jesus, now come in the boat and hang out with us.” Peter didn’t just want to go out on the water with Jesus; he wanted Jesus to command him to do it. I really find this fascinating.

    Sometimes I think I’m similar to Peter and his attitude.  My excited reaction might also have been to want to go meet Jesus on the water, but I probably would have just run right out there without asking. Why did Peter ask? Maybe because he knew that no matter how much mustard seed faith Peter had, if Jesus didn’t want him out there, he would never have made it. This hits me to the core. I’m a very goal oriented person and when I know my objective, I just set out to make it happen. Every once in a while I stop to ask if God wants to join me, but I forget that I’m not in the driver’s seat.  He is. I can know exactly where to go and how to get there, but there’s no gas pedal or brake on the passenger side. I can have all the faith in the world that my plan will work and God will like it, but if God decides not to go that direction, we’re not going that direction.

    I think I can learn a lot from Peter here. I want to be excited to meet Jesus wherever He is, even if it looks like a scary path, Jesus is there so I want to be there, too. I need to keep my eyes and heart focused on Jesus no matter how crazy and frightening the world around me may look and feel. And whatever bright ideas or goals I come up with, I need to first seek out what God wants me doing and where He’s driving me. Because on my own, I’m going nowhere fast.

    Father God,
    Thank You for showing me why I begin to sink in life sometimes. Forgive me for taking my eyes off of You sometimes. Please help my focus be more constantly directed on You, Lord, and what You want me doing. I know sometimes I kick and scream in the passenger seat like a spoiled child. Help me to be more patient and to listen to You when You’re telling me where You want to take me. I’m ready for our road trip Lord!
    In Jesus’ name, Amen.

    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    The Pumpkin Patch

    Visiting the pumpkin patch at The Old Christmas Tree Farm this year made us reminisce quite a bit.  This was Arella's third trip.  She's growing but yet she's the same silly little girl.




    Like most things this year, the pumpkin patch was a first for Zoe.

    It's hard to remember that sometimes because it feels like she's been in our family her whole life, not just 10 months.  Eriek also just happened to be wearing the team shirt we made for an orphan run we did in Zoe's honor long before we received her referral.  She was about 2 months old at the time of the run.  I love that he's wearing it while the little one we ran for is now on his shoulders.

    I also had a precious conversation with her about a pumpkin she told me was sad.  I asked her what would make the pumpkin happy.  She said "Dada, Mama, ALL!"  Apparently just 10 months in, she knows that a family makes her happy.  And that just melts this mama's heart completely.

    The girls loved the hayride and train ride, although we couldn't get them to smile for a picture.

    But throwing hay and climbing on a hay turkey bring out the pearly whites!

    Hopefully we wore them out enough so they'll get a solid night's sleep.  After a few weeks of sleepless teething nights, we're ready to get some shut eye before our next big adventure.

    Tuesday, October 8, 2013


    Several kids have asked me if Arella and Zoe are twins.  Not just sisters, twins.

    At first I just thought this was just a funny little kid thing.  But it's happened more often than you would guess, and as it happened again tonight, it's just stuck in the forefront of my brain.

    We were out and about getting blood tests and other fun medical exam stuff done for our next adoption and Daddy was going to be working late through dinner.  So like any brilliant mom, I set my mom-mobile on autopilot for Chick-fil-A.  We got there early so it was actually relaxing.  Had a nice little meal with my girls and then giggled on over to the play area to get some energy out before driving home.

    There was just a 5 year old boy and 7 year old girl already in there.  After studying my girls for a few minutes, our conversation went something like this:
    Girl: Are they sisters?
    Me: Yes.
    Girl:  How old are they?
    Me: (pointing) Arella is 2 and Zoe is almost 2.
     She ran off and played but kept watching them.  A few minutes later she wandered over again:
    Girl:  Are they twins?
    Me: No, but they are sisters.
    Girl:  But they're wearing the same shirts.
    There it is.  Nearly every time the girls wear the same shirts, kids ask if they are twins.  It's funny to me that kids seem to have the idea of sameness or likeness in regards to what a twin is but a similarity in their outfits is the most compelling argument that they might be twins.

    I just love that kids, even older kids, just see two little girls wearing the same shirts.  I love that it doesn't compute that those girls are completely different sizes and have completely different appearances.  They just see two girls playing together wearing the same clothes. 

    I think it's important for us to celebrate our uniqueness and different cultures and histories, and I think looking at each other through the eyes of a child is how we do just that.  We need to take off our predetermined judgements and assumptions and truly see the beautiful person sitting next to us for the first time.

    In the last week or so, Arella and Zoe have started discovering their differences and I stand in awe of the sweetness of it.  Arella has discovered Zoe's "little ear" for the first time and Zoe has discovered Arella's curly hair.  It's like they have found MORE things to love about each other instead of less.

    Lord, I pray that you would help me discover more things to love about those around me instead of reasons to keep my distance.

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Blue or Pink, What Do You Think?

    We found out last week and had a little shindig to surprise our family and some close friends.  Here are some fun pics of the big reveal!

    Here's how I measured up according to the Old Wives Tales.

    Everyone had to cast their vote and wear their guess.

    Here's the final tally.
      I think because we have 2 girls, everyone was rooting for a boy!

    Blue or Pink, what do you think?

    I love seeing our playroom full!

    Zoe & Arella making their official guesses a few days before.

    Oh my sweet friends and the things they do for me...
    Everyone is wearing their guess for the picture.

    Finally, the big reveal!

    Our little boy's name is Zadok Brady.

    Zoe's either very excited to be a big sister or she just likes the balloon.

    We're super excited to shake things up around here with a little boy!  Many people are curious about his name as it's unusual.  Here's some background on it from my hubby:
    Zadok was a priest of the tribe of Levi during the time of David’s reign. Twice during his reign two of his sons tried to usurp the king and become the King of Israel themselves. This happened early in his reign (Absalom, 2 Samuel 15) and later, near the very end of David’s life as Solomon was primed to succeed him (Adonijah, 1 Kings 1). All along the turmoil Zadok the priest stood by the side of God’s anointed, David.
    Later, Ezekiel, a Prophet of God during the time of Israel’s exile to the nations and Babylon, prophesied about the new Temple and the promised return of the glory of God to it (Ezekiel 40-48, cf. Revelation 20-21; note the Ezekiel passage comes directly after the promise of the New Covenant and the return from Exile that brings it about, where Ezekiel 39:29 points to Joel 2:29, Zechariah 12:10 and finally Acts 2:17-18 as its fulfillment). During its description three times the sons of Zadok are honored as the only line who can have charge of the altar (where sacrifice is made) “to minister to me” as they, among all the Levites, did not go astray when the people went astray (during King David’s rule and subsequent coup attempts)(Ezekiel 40:46; 44:15; 48:11).

    The name Zadok is derived from the Hebrew word “tsedeq” and connotes rightness or righteousness. Lately I’ve become more acutely aware of the righteousness of God which speaks in part to His faithfulness to His promises, in particular to the promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.  There God promised to Abram that through him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed”, which later was revealed by Paul as the gospel:

    “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’” - Galatians 3:7-9

    The middle name, Brady, was taken from a very influential man in my life, Father Brady. He was a priest of the Catholic Church who loved the Lord and loved people. He devoted his life to serving others and lived a simple life, eschewing titles and position (even denying the opportunity to be a Cardinal so as to stay closer to the parish and his sheep there) in favor of servanthood. He lived in a meager trailer home on my Grandmother’s property and at the end of his life he was buried in a simple pine box, void of all pomp and circumstance.

    My mother made a comment that my Grandmother visits his grave annually and leaves flowers because he, like many if not all other priests, has no family since they never marry nor have children. It is they, she noticed, that are most easily forgotten since no one lives on to carry his name. I was determined not to let that happen. Since we had already chosen Zadok as our son’s name it made perfect sense to give him the middle name after Father Brady - they complimented one another so well: priest, devotion, and a love for the Lord.