Monday, March 25, 2013

Count Your Blessings

I'm going to copy my blog post from our adoption blog today, as the events with our adoption in the past 2 weeks are just plain amazing!

God's Amazing Grace.

Where to start.  The last time I blogged, I had opened a savings account so I'd have a place to hold any money donated as we work to bring in the funds needed for our I800a ($1100) and our dossier (roughly $6000, including postage and document preparation).  Since then it seems that on every turn, the Lord is granting us grace.

Did you know that the term "Grace" is defined as unmerited favor?  I was pondering on that today as I was driving home from gleaners, overwhelmed by God's amazing outpouring of blessings over the past week.  Who am I, Who are we, to be given such amazing grace?  We aren't all the special.  We aren't even that great of parents.  I see so many other parents who are doing what seems to be so much more for their children.  I am so flawed.  I am so inadequate.  I am so not the energizer bunny.  I am so inherently selfish.  I am so easily tempted to take the easy way, to give in to selfish interests, to escaping from the things that matter to do things that are a complete waste of time.  But that is the amazing thing about God.  He doesn't give us what we deserve.  He doesn't give us what we have earned.  He doesn't give us what will get us by.  He gives to us with amazing generosity according to His will for us, regardless of our merit.

I know, some of you will say, "but look at how great your older kids have turned out!"  And yes, our older children are all amazing young adults.  But I can't take credit for that!  I made so many mistakes as a young mother, and as a not-so-young mother.  God has led and directed our lives and stepped in to shown us so many things that have changed who we are as parents over the years, but He has also worked in their lives to work His good will.  I can not take credit for the good that I see in our children.  God gets all the credit.  I know that without His grace, I would have failed miserably as a parent.

But God has taught me so much.  He has taught us so much.  I have come so far.  I praise God for the dynamics of our family today.  We are not perfect, we are all sinners living together under one roof.  We sin against each other, we get impatient with each other.  But we all love each other and are quick to forgive and forget.  And He has drawn us to walk down a road that surprises even us.

So many times since we started down this road I have questioned the wisdom of this.  How can I care for one more, how can I learn to care for a child damaged from living in an institution?  How can I continued to meet the needs of the children I already have and another child with medical and special needs?  How in the world can we afford to adopt when we have never even had a saving account when we seem to have more month than money most of the time?

But God keeps stepping in and showing me that this is NOT about me.  This is not even about US.  This is about HIM.  Look at every man and woman who is in the hall of fame in the Bible and you will see flawed people il-equipped for the job that God gave them.  You will see parents who make mistakes, people who sinned greatly, even people who didn't learn from their mistakes.  But you will see a God who orchestrates HIS will regardless of the worth of the people He chose to use.

I just wanted to share with you that I have doubts, I feel ill-equipped to take this new adventure on, but God continues to show us that this is HIS will.  And so many times, when people follow God's leading, everyone, even those called, feel that it is crazy, reckless and ill-advised.  But God does know what He is doing.  Every time.

So, now to specifics.  I'm going to list my recent doubts, and then how God has answered...

We have not met the standards of BCS to pass our home study, how will we adopt Priscilla now?  God knew what was best.  Being rejected by BCS, although it looked like a dead end, was in reality a ticket for an upgrade!  Our new home study agency,  Adoption Home Study Service, has been a breath of fresh air.  Mike has answered our questions quickly and patiently.  His visit with us last Thursday was comfortable and friendly.  Esther was even sharing a book with the social worker that Mike brought with him once she warmed up to them.  He found nothing that would prevent us from being approved, but did give us a little home work (we need to install 2 more fire extinguishers and create a couple of documents).  He plans to have our home study completed in under 3 weeks from now!  It was definitely an upgrade to switch to Mike's home study agency!

How can we afford this?  God has already caused Daryl's boss to grant him an unexpected bonus, then last week a raise, and now he has the opportunity to work overtime.  He has blessed my business when we needed it to make ends meet.  People have stepped in to donate towards the spaghetti feed to cover the supplies we needed.  We were able to sell some exercise equipment to cover the cost of some documents.  Our tax return covered our commitment fees, as well as our home study fees and also pay off our dental bill from this past winter.  And to top it all off, we now have a family stepping in to match all funds raised in the next 5 weeks!  It is not if WE can afford it, it is really a question of How is He going to provide.

How can I handle another child with special/medical needs?  Looking back, I was not equipped in the slightest when Esther was given to us.  But God knew that, and He gave her to us anyway.  We are being equipped for this every day, every hour.  And He will give us the grace we need when we need it.  He has always come through in the past, and I must trust.  But I must also prepare.  I'm reading about attachment disorders, sensory disorders and we will be working with a team at the University of Washington to prepare for her medical needs. Looking into the future is futile as a  human.  We can't change it or even know what is coming.  We can prepare for probably situations.  But I know from experience that God does put us in situations where we can only go on by His grace.  And I know from experience, that it is not that bad a place to be is an amazing place to be in.

Another year without a swing set for our younger children (we had planned to use our tax return to purchase a new play set for the kids as swinging is great for kids, especially for Esther right now).  Last week a family we know locally asked if we wanted their "old" swing set.  Now we have a 4 year old swing set just the right size for Esther (as well as Dayton, Elizabeth and Carese soon).  And just in time for the wonderful sunny weather we are having around here! (photos courtesy of our daughter, Rachel).

What if the spaghetti feed is a bust....we can't afford to purchase the supplies even!  Well, I still have no idea if we'll have a decent attendance  but in the last couple of weeks we've had lots of encouragement in the way of donations - gift cards for businesses, commitments to cover all the noodles, half the sauce, and all of the corn.  Plus two families have donated $100 ea for us to use to purchase the remaining ingredients.  I'm still not sure if it will cover everything, but I'm sure we are close!

You know, adopting Priscilla is such an amazing picture of God's grace.  She doesn't know about us,  she doesn't understand that God is working to ransom her.  She has no idea.  She has done absolutely nothing to earn our love.  She has nothing to offer us.  She is seen by the world as flawed.  She is seen by her culture as unworthy of keeping, even seen as a curse by some.  But God sees her a His child.  His creation.  Worth of everything it takes to ransom her.  To save her life.  To give her love.  To give her a place to call home.  He's done this for me.  I did not deserve His love, I did not deserve anything, but He loved me enough to die for me and adopt me as His child.  To pay the ultimate price. I hope you have experienced His amazing grace in your life.  I pray that someday Priscilla will experience and know God's amazing grace and that she too will become His child.

So, here we are.  Experiencing God's amazing grace.  Unmerited.  Undeserved. Unlimited.

We will work hard to be faithful to His call, His provision, His mercy.

Will you work with us?  Will you help us to make the most of this gift of a matching grant?  Please share our story. No, wait.  It isn't our story, it's His Story!  Please share what God is doing to ransom our Priscilla.  Share how He is moving mountains to give this little one a new life, a new home, and a new family.

And just to be clear.  The matching grant offered to us is not limited to funds sent to Reece's Rainbow or to monetary gifts.  They have offered to match dollar for dollar all funds raised whether it is via Reece's Rainbow, our FundraiZr account, directly to our paypal account, donated to us in person or even if it is an item donated for auctions or raffles.  Amazing, just Amazing!

37 days to see miracles happen!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Eighteen Years Ago Today

I was experiencing my first home birth.  Rebekah Jane was ushered into this world in the privacy of my bedroom.  I loved the experience, and I love my little girl.

Rebekah had a fine covering of blond hair unlike any of my babies to date - it was a soft blonde, not the near white of my other "dutch" babies.  And she had a nice amount of it too!  When she was born she was mad at the world.  The midwife commented on her little attitude even.  But she was a very good baby...most of the time.  Very early I wrote in her baby book that poem about the little girl with the curl...and it was very true.  She was such a good baby, content to do whatever I set her up to do whether it was hanging out in her highchair or sitting on a blanket playing with her toys.  She rarely complained.  She was adorable chubby as a baby, but that didn't last long.  She was probably our chubbiest baby and resisted any attempts at a bottle of baby food until she was over a year old.
Rebekah's First Birthday!

All dolled up for a wedding!
She was my latest walker, as she waited to walk until she could do it perfectly.  She spent a long time perfecting her fall before she was willing to take those first steps.  Just after learning to walk, she fell off our coach and her arm was broken.  She didn't let it keep her down for long though.  She was walking again in no time.

She was a beautiful child - lovely hair and a face that had the look of a princess in the making.  She was very loving and showed signs of being an artist at a very early age.  She was very creative, even in the areas of mischief!  I have lots of funny stories about the adventures of this little girl, who we lovingly called "Becka Baby" until the nick name was no longer appropriate.

She was quite the little leader.  She loved to come up with creative ideas and get the other kids, especially Rachel, involved with her fun play.  They would spend hours and hours playing house or riding bikes or trying to build forts in our woods.

Rebekah has grown into a tall, graceful young lady.  She still has remnants of her childhood showing up here and there - she loves to goof off and loves taking time to play with girls much younger than herself.

Her favorite activities have always been drawing and  creating things.  Her jewelry is amazingly original.  Her drawing covers many different media, but she excels at caricatures, cartoon and anime!

She loves to create her own style of clothes. True to her artist's nature, many of her clothing choices have flair!  Bright colors, feather accents and a fedora hat are just a sampling.

She is really good with her younger brothers and sisters, and is always ready to give her dad a hug when he comes home from work.  She has made rag dolls for Esther, which Esther loves more than anything.  She also makes little cloth dolls that look like ginger bread people too!

One of her other talents is face painting, but it doesn't stop there.  She's been known to paint hands, feet, ankles, shoulders, biceps   Her temporary tattoos are amazing!

She also has quite the sense of humor.  She can really hit the nail on the head, especially with puns.  She loves to laugh  and be a little goofy - she's good for our family!

Although she's turning eighteen, and has become a beautiful young woman, she still has the heart of a child - innocent and loving.  She wants to grow up, but all in good time, my dear, all in good time!

This is the first of what I hope to be Birthday Highlights - I'm going to make a blog post dedicated to each child, talking about their childhood, character and interests.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

One Year Later

One year ago today Carese Faith was rudely ushered into this world via emergency C-section.  She surprised everyone by being so tiny and yet so strong and opinionated.  She has excelled in everything, especially at being adorable.  I can't imagine our home without her.  I am so thankful that God saw fit to give us yet another blessing in our 'old age' ;-)

Friday, March 8, 2013

My T-Tapp Experience....So Far!

Since I am now a T-Tapp affiliate, I think it's time for me to come clean and share my experiences with T-Tapp!  T-Tapp is an exercise program (comprised of many different work outs, suited to differernt needs) and is named after it's founder, Teresa Tapp.

I had never even heard of T-Tapp until last summer.  I found Charlotte Siem's blog and was so inspired!  I've tried different exercise programs and diets through the years, but they never stick because they just are not compatible with a large family mom's life.  But here I found a mom of 12 who had used this program, with no 'dieting,' who had lost an incredible amount (went from a size 22 to a size 4!).  But the thing that amazed me was that she had not only lost the weight, but she did it without dieting, was healthy and had kept it off for years!

I knew I had to look into this program, and I did.  If you remember, last April, while recovering from my first C-Section I had injured my knee.  You know, the kind of knee injury that never truly heals.  I had been told that I could find a "new normal" but that my knee would never be the same again.  I had also spent months on modified bed rest and had reached an all time high weight for myself.  I was out of shape, overweight, unhealthy and injured.  It doesn't get much worse.

When I came across this blog, I had just begun to walk without crutches after 12 weeks of physical therapy. I found that Teresa had created a workout that was tailored just for me!  T-Tapp More is design for those of us with MORE!  More candles on the cake, More joint issues, More weight to lose!  So I saved up and ordered the DVD.  I started the moment it came in the mail.  I sat down to watch the "Yes You Can" seminar DVD, and the kids all watched too - enthralled!  The older girls were excited to try it too.  There are just so many health benefits that they wanted to try it out as well!

So we all did the MORE workout for a couple of months.  Then I purchased the MORE 2 and Jessica purchased the Basic Workout Plus since they were not really needing the MORE workout as they did not have any of the MORE problems like I did.

In 3 months (15 weeks to be exact) time I lost 44 1/4 inches!  I only lost 15 pounds though.  I had burned fat and gained muscle.  The scale was not my friend, but the tape measure was my salvation!  I dropped at least 1 size, pushing two sizes.  I had energy, I felt great.  But best of all my knee was completely rehabilitated.  One day I even found myself trying to remember which knee I had injured.  That was easy to figure out though, as all I had to do was go up the stairs - the clicking is still there, but no pain.  I could even run up the stairs!  The kids were even commenting about the fact that I was moving faster!

Then Thanksgiving arrived and brought with it a cold.  While I weather the cold very well, the cough had caused me to cause some back problems, and I also did something to my rotator cuff (nursing Carese in bed I am sure of now).  I also pulled a muscle in my hip.  So December I was pretty much unable to consistently do any workout, and when I did I had to modify a lot of it.  January brought Esther's surgery and influenza which brought me down for 2 weeks being sick myself.

February I was able to get inspired to jump back in, and finally measure again.  I had gained back 10 inches.  Bummer.  But I tried to get over it and start.  I got a couple of workouts in, but was down with a very heavy cycle and Carese got really, really sick.  I measured at the end of February, preparing to see no loss but was pleasantly surprised to see that with only a few workouts in those 2 weeks I had actually lost nearly 5 inches!

During all this time I was never on a "diet."  In August I had chosen to go "sugar free" for a month to break some bad habits and tracked what I was eating calorie wise to see if I was eating more than I should, and I also did some juicing in September (just for breakfasts) to improve my health, but that was it.  No dieting.  In fact, I increased my inch loss when I wasn't worrying about what I was eating.

That is the amazing thing about T-Tapp.  It creates dense muscle fiber so you are burning more calories just sitting around doing nothing special most of the time and eating whatever.  Granted, if you ate like a glutton, I'm sure the inch loss would not be great, but if you eat "normally" the inches will vanish.  The other amazing thing about T-Tapp is that less is more!  There is no need for long workouts (The Basic Workout is only 15 minutes, the MORE workouts are only 25 minutes!).  You don't even have to do it every day!  I was doing my workouts 3 times a week, sometimes even less often!  You don't need to leave the house and you only need about 6 square feet to do the entire workout!  No exercise equipment either!

The health benefits of T-Tapp are also amazing.  It's great for your cardio-vascular system, your adrenal system and your lymphatic system.  It gets everything pumping!  It is also designed for great spinal health.  I have not had to visit my chiropractor even once since starting T-Tapp!  That has totally off-set all the money I invested in T-Tapp all by itself!

I also started "skin brushing" that Teresa recommends.  I don't do this as consistent as I would like due to my busy days, but even the little I have done has helped tremendously.  As I lost inches, I was not finding sagging skin!  My skin was toning as I lost the inches.

So now I am back in the swing of things!  I can tell I'm losing inches again, but I'm committed to measuring only once a month now.  I started out measuring once a week, which is fine, but measuring less often makes for more impressive loss!

I have a long ways to go, but I am hoping that over the next year or so, I will be consistently losing those inches!  I hope to become the "amazing shrinking woman!"

I hope I've inspired you to try it out - what do you have to lose...inches?  And there's so much to gain - energy, health, strength and a new lease on life!

If you use the banners here on my blog, I will earn a commission on all sale that we can use to help facilitate our adoption too!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Little Gremlin + Adoption News!

Carese is the most adorable baby on the least in my opinion.  She does the cutest things like talking and babbling as she walks through the house.  But the faces she pulls are amazing.  Here's a sampling of her funny faces:
"I'm so Cute!"

"You're a weird kind of way"

"I'm going to eat you in your sleep..."
This is her official gremlin look!

And on the adoption home front, we are having our first of four home study visits tonight!  Yesterday we successfully applied for our passports.  Donations have been coming in steadily - our FSP is now at $235!  Our first round of Facebook Auctions was also very successful bringing in over $100.  We've also had donations come via our FundRaZr promotion on my blog sidebars, as well as some in person.  God is encouraging us all along the way!

If all goes well, we'll have our home study completed in about 4 weeks, and then we will be applying for the I800a approval (approval that we as a family can immigrate a child), and then compiling our dossier!  I am close to having the money for the I800a, but we'll have a long ways to go for the dossier (around $6000).  But all in good time, I know God will provide.  We plan to apply for grants as soon as our home study is approved!

You may notice that there are two new banners here - one is for restaurant coupons.  This one you purchase for $20, and you get $50 coupon for participating restaurants, and we get $10 towards our adoption!

Secondly, there is a T-Tapp banner.  I am now a T-Tapp affiliate, so anything you order starting with using my banner link will earn a 10% commission for us!  We will use that money for facilitate our adoption!

Got to run!  I'll be posting more about T-Tapp real soon!