Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...

"But, someone, please give me—who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew—give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?"

— Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are)

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The other day, I ran across some pictures of Amelia's first days at home.  Both of my girls look miserable.  I laughed out loud.  At the time, I thought we were doing great.  Sometimes it is only in hindsight that I realize how difficult a phase of life really was... we just had so much to be thankful for that I was blind to the difficulty... but 1 year olds and 3 years olds aren't always counting their blessings when they're sleep deprived and have had their worlds turned upside down.  Adjusting to huge life changes is no piece of cake, even when the changes bring remarkable blessing.

at least Brad is smiling :)

can't tell if Amelia is screaming or laughing.  Caroline is not happy!

I am thankful that we have very few pictures like these... I think our adjustment period was very short lived.  What can I say?  I have some wonderful, adaptable girls who just lean towards "happy" most of the time!  (And we're humble about it! Ha.) 

My brother's family has recently moved home from three years in Japan, and that jogged my memory regarding how difficult adjustment can be.  Not that bringing home Amelia compares to their moving across the world. :)  I'm just saying.

We're so happy to have them home.  I'm looking forward to the first Christmas in a long time with my whole side of the family!  (Followed by Christmas with Brad's side of the family, woohoo!)

"Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Plato

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Waiting Wednesdays - Advent

For those of you who are waiting...

"Advent links our hearts with those of ancient prophets who pined for a long-promised Messiah but who passed away long before his arrival. In the process, Advent reminds us that we too are waiting." - Timothy Paul Jones

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Waiting Wednesdays - Advent

For those of you who are waiting...

" 'The whole creation,' St. Paul declared, 'has been groaning together for redemption.' In Advent, Christians embrace this groaning and recognize it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for a divine banquet that is already being prepared. In Advent, believers proclaim that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word. In Advent, the church admits, as poet R.S. Thomas has put it, that 'the meaning is in the waiting.' And what we await is a final Advent that is yet to come."  - Timothy Paul Jones

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Concert + Prayers Needed!

We're going to the best concert ever with my dad tonight.  I could not be more pumped. I laughed my way through a five mile run just thinking about the miraculous ways God had pulled my dad through the medical year from Hades.  He came with me to this concert last year, and we were knocked off our feet by God's grace shining through it then.  How much more so one year later, one huge heart surgery later, two strokes later, a million miracles later!

Also, please pray today and tomorrow for the Ribbens family.  Looong ago, I talked on the phone several times to adoptive mama Sara and instantly loved her.  They got to Africa two days after we got home with Amelia.  THEY ARE STILL THERE. They have court on December 14, which falls partially today in U.S. time.  So please pray.  Their story is on the video below.


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Santa Debate

I hate this topic!
Do you hear me? I HATE this topic!

Yet, it’s worth addressing. I think. I hope.  Please feel free to write many affirming, church-unifying comments at the end of this email to feed my fragile ego (kidding!... sort of) and reassure me that the Santa debate does not have to be divisive!  We can all be friends!

Recently, a couple of Christian bloggers have raised the question: Santa or no Santa? I’d been asking the question myself for years, and now that Caroline is nearly four, we had to make a call.

We were torn.  We wrestled.  We avoided.  We waffled.  We finally decided... Santa will be a "pretend game that lots of people have fun with," according to our household.  Please refrain from throwing tomatos.  Hear me out.

It was just a family, personal choice. No, I’m not one of those people who think that “Santa” is one letter away from “Satan.” I don't claim that they wear the same red suit!  If your family practices the Santa tradition, I think that’s fun!

So feel free to disagree with our family's stance.  I highly doubt that God will choose whether we spend eternity in heaven or in hell based on how we handle the tradition of the jolly man with a jelly belly.

Here were our pros and cons.

Amelia in fur last Christmas.  (No, it was not cold in Uganda!)
Pro Santa:
  • It’s fun!
  • My parents did it for us, and I loved the tradition until I was eight and a stinky kid spoiled it for me. I cried.
  • Santa is a generous guy.  I am still touched by the way my parents lavished us with gifts on Christmas, yet took no credit for it, all to make some magic for us.  AND they somehow simultaneously taught us to NOT BE MATERIALISTIC.  I am thankful to my parents for how they handled both Christmas, generosity, and their children's attitudes towards STUFF.  It's a picture of God the Father, isn't it?
  • The historic story of St. Nicholas is a great way to show the importance of caring for the poor, the needy, the children. 
  • I think C.S. Lewis once had some awesome quote about the positive effect of fairy tales on a child’s ability to develop faith. Or I could be totally wrong. Hmm… Anyway, fairy tales can be good.
Con Santa:
  • It *could* distract children from Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. (Let’s face it… the Santa tradition is so stinkin’ awesome, and so much more understandable to children than theology.  Baby Jesus in a barn gets lost in the excitement of gifts headed "my" way through magic and flying reindeer.)
  • It *could* contribute to selfishness and materialism… the constant, “What do you want for Christmas?” mentality.  Children might learn that it's all about them, and about getting, rather than giving.
The Cons Against Santa That I Don’t Buy Into:
  • Some say it’s lying to our children.  I disagree.  I could be wrong, but it just seems like a fun game. 
  • Some claim that when children find out that Santa isn’t real, they’ll wonder if God isn’t real, as well.  I doubt this is often the case.  I guess anything can happen, but I don't see this as a common issue.  But hey, I can always be wrong.
In any case, in our desire to keep Jesus as the clear center of the holidays, we evicted Mr. Claus. 
Are we happy with our decision?

Yes and no.  I love focusing solely on Jesus coming (and future coming) during Advent.  But we've already had a big uh-oh moment...

Caroline last year
The other day, Caroline pointed to a dressed up Santa-man and asked me if “that is the real Santa over there.”  We'd already told her that Santa was just a fun game, so I was surprised that she once again believed him to be real.  (These things happen at preschool, I suppose.)  I explained to her that none of them are the REAL Santa, because it’s all a fun game of pretend. We've now talked about this several other times when she seemed to get confused.

But then, in preschool, she announced to the class that Santa is not real. That her mom told her so.


So now MY child is just like the stinky kid who made me cry on the bus when I was eight. Except these kids aren't eight... they're preschoolers!  Their parents are NOT ready to give up the Santa game.

So despite the fact that none of these kids gave a moments thought to Caroline's blunder...
      and despite the fact that they all "KNOW" that Santa is real...
      and despite the fact that they (thankfully) wrote my daughter off as crazy...

I have heard that some of the class moms have death threats out for me. (Ok, not literally.  But almost.)

I’M SORRY!  Please forgive me and trust that I am now doing EVERYTHING in my power to keep my girls from ever doing this again! Please know that I understand your frustration.  Please show this I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing Mama some much needed grace!

Please help me! Can any of you offer advice? I am now sure that our family’s Christmas traditions will exclude Santa, but I don’t want to become an outcast in society and ruin everyone else’s Christmas, as well!  How do I keep Caroline’s precious know-it-all mouth shut?  (And Amelia's, as soon as she's old enough to spoil Santa!) And how do I keep the focus on Christ’s coming and off of the Great Santa Debate!?  Please tell me!

For a Santa-debate blog post waaaay better than this one, (and well worth reading,) click here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


People ask me often what Amelia's hair looks like loose. The answer? Beautiful! She can't stop smiling at her reflection. Take a look for yourself. :)

Growing Girls, Growing Hair!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amelia's First Christmas

Just because it's fun... pictures of Amelia's first Christmas Day (2010), in Uganda.  While I was at home with an ache in my heart, Amelia was living the dream. 

(That's Mama Sarah spending Christmas next to "Mercy." Sweet!)

The babies' home bought a live chicken for Christmas and let it run around in the yard until they decided to cook him up.  A rare treat of meat at the orphanage!  Nevermind that Amelia was only eight months old and still was on a 99% milk bottle diet... she wasn't missing out on chicken.  Nope, she sucked that bone dry!  (While wearing her gift of a Christmas bell... thank you DeBardelebans!) 

This picture is priceless! I will laugh my head off as I put it in a "Baby's First Christmas" ornament for our tree!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Waiting Wednesdays - Advent

For those of you who are waiting...

"Just as the ancient Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the consummation of the good news of God through his return in glory. Left to myself, I turn too quickly from the God of the Gospel and bow to the gods of efficiency—false gods that proclaim waiting a waste, a “killing of time.” Advent reminds me that time is far too precious to be killed, even when that time is spent waiting. Advent is a proclamation of the Gospel through the discipline of waiting."  - Timothy Paul Jones

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Love My Church

The youngest female members of our church small group :)
 I am ridiculously proud of my church.  For so many reasons.
  1. They're the most servant-hearted, time-money-support-friendship giving people I've been around in my entire life.
  2. We live in the "good" side of a notoriously divided and historically racist town -- yet Amelia was welcomed with the love she deserved, and we've never recieved anything but warmth from the congregation.
  3. The church humored Brad and I over the past year, giving us plenty of time to talk about "our" thing... adoption.  YET, they are quickly making it THEIR thing!  (since it is a God thing)
    1. Caroline with Uganda-mom-in-process, Lacy!
    2. Many families are considering adoption
    3. Twenty families signed up for foster care certification classes after Orphan Sunday!!!
  4. I never understood Christian community until I lived it here.
  5. There are so many at our church who are EAGER to be radically responsive to the call of God in their lives.  The former young adults/singles ministry is an example... they've completed INCREDIBLE projects in the past, and now the group is almost dissapated because they've scattered to follow various callings... international missions, marriage, etc etc!  Now that's a great reason for a church "program" to dissapate.
  6. My church gives people the benefit of the doubt. I love that.  It is not a place of judgement, but of grace.  And not the phoney, feel-good, televangelest grace.  The real stuff.
  7. My best friends are there.  (except a few!)
  8. The music/worship there rocks my socks off. (Okay, I dont' usually wear socks on Sunday... I guess I mean it is meaningful to me!)
  9. No one who I knew when I met them at our church six years ago is still the same person they were back then.  And that is healthy.  Growth is so good.
  10. They're good to my husband.  They're so great to the staff.  They've been amazing to our family.
  11. They can throw a party like it's nobody's business, and make the person of honor feel overwhelmed with love.
  12. Our church handles change beautifully.  We went from one great pastor whose wife was the talented women's minister, to another amazing pastor and wife with new lay leaders of the women's ministry.  Each leaders' strengths are different, and the church loves and embraces the best of whomever is in charge.  I've seen churches fall apart because of change.  THIS is the way it should be.
I could go on, but I sense you getting bored.  YES, I saw you yawn! :)  Love to my church at Saint James UMC in Montgomery!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Because I Couldn't Say It Better Myself...

“It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld–one attitude or the other becomes a way of life.”  - Elisabeth Elliot (as quoted here)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Feasting Our Eyes

I am constantly aware of lessons I'd like to share with the youth of my church.  I was given a solid foundation when I was a youth... one that I still lean upon and build upon today, and one that stood firm even through the storm of my own rebellion.  

One of the things I'd like to tell them... heck, tell myself and every adult whom I love...

Our minds, eyes, ears are so easily swayed by this world. Be careful! We must fight to fill ourselves CONSTANTLY with things of God, or else the culture with erode us to nothing.  Don't get me wrong -- step into my home and you will see televisions, magazines, catalogs.  But I pray that we learn to leverage iPads, books, and other media for a spiritual ADVANTAGE rather than disadvantage.  

As my three year old sings, "Oh be careful little eyes what you see..."