Sunday, November 07, 2010

Plan A

It's Orphan Sunday in many churches. There is a precious one in our home who NO LONGER bears the title of "orphan." But, by God's grace he's not the only one! God has graciously adopted ALL of us into His family. I pray we will all think about how, as His adopted children, we are to respond to orphans. WE are God's plan for orphans.

If you are His, YOU are His plan for them.

Plan A.

Friday, October 29, 2010

5 Months Later...

Whoa! Has it been 5 months since I last posted?? HOW can that be? I think I say that everytime I take an unintentional "blog break." As I always say... too busy livin' it to blog about it.
SO. The past 5 months has been quite blog-worthy though, had I taken the time to write!

June: We wrapped up a great school year. Also, we prepared to send our two oldest children to Ghana. It was a great month, our only month of "summer" as a family, really. We had fun packing and preparing, and just being together. I took the above photo of the kids in their mission fundraiser shirts, and would eventually stare holes in this photo while they were away.
July: A hard and wonderful month!! Bethany and Kyle, my now 17- and 14 year-old spent almost the entire month in Ghana, West Africa. It was hard because, well, it's always hard when all or part of us are so far away. It was hard because they (along with the rest of the team) got very, very sick on the trip. They saw some and did some hard things, and ALL to God's glory! They saw Him work, and had a front row seat to see some amazing things the Lord is doing in northern Ghana. I wish I would've blogged during that trip... Maybe I'll dig back through some of my thoughts another time. It was an amazing month!

While the older two were gone, we took Minte on a trip, too. We went to south Texas to visit family for a wedding and to take Minte to see Shamu (something he requested a few months ago). We invited one of his favorite people to go with us, his cousin. The boys had a wonderful time together! He also experienced his first Polish Catholic South Texas wedding... also a fun time!
We took another trip when the older two returned, this time to east Texas to the lake with family. A relaxing and wonderful time to reconnect with our amazing extended family and gear up for the beginning of another school year.

We have just wrapped up the first couple of months of school. Now with a senior, a freshman and a 6th grader. I officially have all high schoolers and a middle schooler! No more younger ones! Well, except my middle schooler is learning to read English. I neeeeed to blog on my homeschool blog about homeschooling ESL middle school....very fun and challenging! In the last few weeks our daughter has applied and been accepted into the college of her choice, yey! After being completely homeschooled... I always wondered if that would happen! Praise God!

So, it's been a wonderful 5 months, we are still here, still busy, still blessed. Since the advent of Facebook and Twitter, I just don't get on the blog as much, but I miss it. Thank you to all who have commented or emailed to check on us. I have lots of bloggy thoughts on any given week, but they just don't make it here. Perhaps I'll start being better about that! God is constantly teaching me SO much! Oh, and I'm planning to return to Ethiopia in January. Yey!! More on that later...

Happy Fall, Y'all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

No Parking

I did it again last night. I went to bed feeling incredibly guilty about how I had handled a situation with one of my children. I totally blew it. Again. The guilt was palpable, my chest actually felt heavy.

Oh, I had apologized (and so had my child... for we both had a part in it). All was forgiven. The truth is, I'm not perfect. I blow it, usually more than once a day! Not only do I need to ask my child's forgiveness, but God's as well. He freely gives it, as well as the grace to do better next time. And there seems to always be a next time!

In his book Sacred Parenting, Gary Thomas says:

"What is better for the kingdom of God: That my son and daughters would say, "I can never serve God like Dad did" or "If God can use my dad, he can use me"? There is no question- the latter statement is the reality that most serves God's purposes long term. It is my job as my children's parent to model my own need for God's mercy and to demonstrate how God can use even sinful people to accomplish his aims."

"In this sense, we shouldn't look at guilt as a parking lot but as a car wash. When guilt feelings keep us self-absorbed, destroy our motivation, and make us discouraged, guilt has become a parking lot- not a good thing. But when guilt reminds us that we are insufficient, and when this insufficiency points us to God- his forgiveness, his empowering Spirit, and his provision of grace- then guilt becomes a spiritual car wash. You don't camp out in a car wash; you just go there to get clean! You drive through the car wash and come out on the other side with a completely new outlook. That's one of the healthy roles that guilt can play for parents: pointing us and our children to God."

Lord, thank you for the gift of this child. Most of all, thank you for the incredible gift of Your Child, who came to earth to pay for my sins and my child's sins. Thank you for the gift of guilt, which points me to You. Please help me not to self-centeredly stay in the guilt, but to come to You who will wash me "whiter than snow." Thank You for teaching me about Your grace, mercy, and sufficiency as I parent my children. Help me and my children to experience those in abundance, daily. Amen.

Originally posted February 21, 2008. But I needed these words again. I was parking in a car wash.

Friday, May 14, 2010

If You Give A Duck A Cracker

…pretty soon you’ll remember an afternoon just months before, when you were sitting in traffic in a crowded African city, giving those same types of crackers to beggars through the window of a car because you desperately wanted to give all of them... something.

Sharing that memory will cause your Ethiopian son to recall (very matter-of-factly) a time when he was much younger and he was begging in that same city. Once he sang a song for someone and they gave him a bite of pasta. Another time, he shined shoes on the street, hoping to scrounge enough money for a soccer ball.

After a few moments of sharing a vanilla coke and African memories, you’ll be amazed once more by how our amazing God brought such different people together to be on the same side of a car window. To be a family. To make new memories. Like sitting at a Sonic by a lake. Sharing crackers with ducks.

And chances are, next time you see a duck, you may or may not have the urge to give it a cracker, but you'll certainly want to give your son a hug and remember what a survivor he is.

Most of all, you’ll want to give God glory.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adoption Blogger Day... Our Truth

From the Joint Council on International Children's Services:

We Are The Truth
– an adoption blogger day: To ensure the world knows about every successful adoption, on Thursday, April 15, 2010 blog about your adoption or the adoption of someone you know. It doesn’t matter if your adoption is with Russia, domestic or otherwise international. Let the world know your truth!


How to write just one blog post about our adoption? I don't think I can! My truth? My truth is I'm a woman of many words. My truth is I haven't posted on my blog in well over a month and I've got a lot of words stored in my brain. My truth is, also, that our adoption has totally changed our life and blessed us beyond measure... so much so that I can't even formulate just one blog post about it.

How could I capture it all?

...Like when we started our paperwork while on a camping trip Thanksgiving of 2007.
To adopt a baby girl.

...And then how the "paper pregnancy" and home study felt like a trip to the gynecologist.

...Why we decided to adopt almost 12 years after completing the "perfect" boy/girl family we had always wanted.

...How we knew she (remember, we were going for a baby girl!) was in Ethiopia. And how God used a literal "sign" in China, Africa-shaped grapes and an Africa-shaped grease spot. Because He can do that if He wants.

...And how the baby girl we were adopting turned out to be a 9 year old boy.

...How he reacted when he was told he had a family... seven precious words.

...Finally passing court after 3 (or so) attempts, and finally revealing his photo and name.

...Our unspeakably amazing trip to Ethiopia as a family to bring home our precious boy. What memories!

...The transition to the "new normal" and things that worked for us, like establishing a routine, labeling the house, and, thank goodness for Netflix!

...Becoming a US Citizen.


...Having a new son who pulls his teeth with RC cars (and subsequently throws them on the roof!), and also inspires drumming in the kitchen sink.

...Honoring his Ethiopian parents.

...and showing my backside on television.

See? No way I could capture all of that in one post!

The truth is... we could've missed this. And I'm SO glad we didn't!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Menu Monday- My Menu Planning Binder

March 1st! How can it be? Another month beginning already! It seems we were just packing away our Christmas decorations.

We have been so busy with our kids' basketball teams and activities lately. It's been so good to have an "anchor"- AKA, my menu plan! Today it was time to turn to a new month and so it was time to plan out the month's menu. I know that sounds like a lot (well, it used to to me before I started menu planning) but now it's really not hard at all. And it makes it so easy to go through our days and weeks, knowing what I need to shop for and prepare.

I've shared here and here about how menu planning has become such a sanity saver for me. I was not always organized in this very important area. It continues to be a journey for me (as all areas of organization are for this natural-born procrastinator!) This week I thought I'd share how I do my menu planning binder. It keep it right in my kitchen on my island/bar, propped up on an iron cookbook holder. It's so helpful, always accessible, an invaluable resource to me, and it was really easy to put together!

First of all, don't be impressed with the cover (or the pages.) I have found that a cheap package of pretty paper from the dollar store or the sale table at the office store and some cheap page protectors makes even the most boring print-outs look "fun." A few years ago when I put this binder together, we had purchased this "bamboo" looking paper for some letters we were sending out for a mission trip to China. The green matched my kitchen so I used a couple of sheets. :)

At the beginning of the year I printed out monthly calendar pages from (Oh, if you haven't been to her site GO THERE. Forms for EVERYTHING!!) I printed all 12 months at once on some dollar store paper, three-hole punched them and wah-lah. They were ready for the binder. So. On the right I've got my monthly pages and on the left are the recipes I'll be needing for the current week.
This particular photo was taken at the end of January, so you can see my checkmarks for the meals that actually happened. If they don't, then I know I can bump that recipe to another night the next week/month/ whenever.
The current month stays in the very front, but the other months' pages go behind this sheet, one of my favorite resources I created. This is a "quick reference" I typed up of my family's favorite recipes. (You can click to enlarge.) Again, it's really not rocket surgery, and it looks like a bigger deal than it is because it's on pretty paper and in a page protector. I simply categorized my family's favorites and beside each one put where the recipe is located. So when I sit to plan my month, if I'm not cooking from a new book or trying some ground-breaking new recipe, I can scan this list easily and plan a chicken, a beef, a meatless, an Ethiopian dish and a soup. There. It's all listed. Each week I try to do that type of variety, so I can simply choose from each category of "tried and true" recipes. It's so helpful, and it really didn't take that long to type up.
This particular list continues on a "page 2" which is on the other side of the page protector. At the end of this year I'll add new recipes to the list that we enjoyed during the year, since I'll have my year's worth of monthly pages. If we love a recipe I'll put a star on it, or I'll notice as I go through the pages to make my binder in January if I kept making something repeatedly, it'll get bumped to "favorite" status.

So, there it is, one of my most helpful resources in my monthly menu planning. There are many (and better!) ways to do this, but this has helped me tremendously. I'd love to know what works for you, as I'm always looking for ways to improve. If you have something, please let me know!

And now for our menu for this week:

Monday: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, rolls

Tuesday: Mini Meatloaves, baked sweet potatoes, green beans

Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Ye Doro Alicha Wet (mild chicken), chick pea paste (yummy and so healthy!) and injera bread

Thursday: Senior Night at the basketball game, and out to eat with the team afterwards

Friday: YO-YO (you're on your own!) leftovers, etc.

Please, please if you have a menu planning binder idea do share it with me! If you have a menu you'd like to share, or want to visit more weekly plans to get some ideas, hop on over to Laura's at She's such a great resource for getting organized (one of my major endeavors at the moment.)

Have a yummy week!

*S*N*O*W* Much Fun!

After living his first 10 years on a continent that never gets snow and then moving to Texas, which almost never gets snow, a couple of weeks ago our little African boy got his wish... SNOW that he could play in! And since our other two have mainly traveled to the beach and to sub-saharan Africa, the record snowfall in our area was a first for all of them. We had two days of SNOW much fun!!

His "snow buddy," Haley. He would throw snowballs up in the air and she would catch and eat them. That totally cracked him up!

Our first class of the day was "Snowman 101." He thought it was so cool how you could roll a snowball and it would get bigger. It bothered him when there was a strip of grass showing after we rolled a snowball, so he would go get a shovel and fill it back in. (That was before it snowed the rest of the day and covered it back up. I hated to tell him that's always how Texas snow is...)

Our first snowman in the backyard. Another snowman and woman were forthcoming in the front yard later.

Catching snowflakes with your tongue. Everyone has to do this at least once! I just love how it looks on his hair, too. :)

Snow + Half-n-half+ sugar= snow ice cream. Yummy!

He wanted to make a snow angel but couldn't stand the snow falling in his face. You can click on the photo to make it bigger and see his face. So funny!

African Snow Angel

Snow ball fight... you wanna piece of this??

Bring it on!

Wait, not on the camera (wo)man!!

Daddy and daughter. Looks like Dad may be watching for oncoming snowballs. For good reason!

Ethiopian snowman with his Ethiopia hat and flag.

Time for a snow-woman. Since Valentine's Day was in a couple of days, we decided on a Valentine theme for her attire...

Candy hearts for eyes and mouth, blow pop for a nose. She was trying to catch the attention of the cute African snowguy next to her. :)

You might be from Texas if you're hauling snow on a boogie board!

A good hill at the park.

He spent most of his afternoon IN the snow. As in, laying in it. Loved it!

A great way to warm up after a cold afternoon. I kept the hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies coming, and ran the fleecy blankets in the dryer so they would be toasty warm when everyone came in to thaw out. It was a great day!

Fun memories!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monday's Menu Tuesday

I often think of Tuesday as Monday's "do-over." That's because many weeks I need it to be! So, it's not at all unusual for me to do my Menu Monday post on Tuesdays when I need to. :)

I figured since it's Valentine's week and this is a kitchen-y post, I'd snap a quick photo of my kitchen table this morning. Yes, those are our baskets of books in the background. In fact, just after I took this picture with my phone, my sweet Ethiopian son and I sat down for breakfast together and as we were chatting we went through some of the "Planet Earth" geography flashcards over breakfast. Some of those photos are fascinating! He has never seen those things, and it's also really fostering more English vocabulary. So, there's my kitchen... as theme-y as I can make it, but mostly very utilitarian!

Before I share this week's menu I have to tell you about a fun idea we did for my sister-in-law's baby shower this weekend. We made brownie sundaes in big martini glasses. They turned out so cute! So cute that I don't even have a picture! However, I did find these Grasshopper Sundaes on Rachel Ray's site, and there is a photo. Instead of crumbling the brownies I made them into small muffins that fit right in the bottom of the glass. They turned out great! Oh, and the cooking time for "mini brownie muffins" using just boxed brownie mix is exactly 20 minutes on 350. My family was happy to be the brownie testers for me last week as I experimented with cooking times. :)

A meatless recipe I made last week that turned out great was this Enchilada Casserole. But OH my GOODNESS I didn't think it was going to be good at all! When it came time to put the cornbread batter on top, it immediately sank down into the mixture (which had been in the crock pot for about 4 hours). I thought it was the worst looking conglomeration I'd ever put in the crock pot. I was already mentally planning "breakfast for dinner" as a back up. It was awful-looking! But after awhile, the cornbread cooked up and it turned out really yummy! So, I encourage you to try it!

This week I only need to make one "portable dinner" for a basketball game. I'm trying some calzones tonight. We'll see how they turn out!

Monday: Out-to-eat for a missions fundraiser at a fun hamburger place in town

Tuesday: Calzones, fruit

Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Yetekekele Enqual be Misr (boiled egg and spicy lentil stew), Yeatakilt Wet (cabbage and potatoes)

Thursday: Crock Pot ham, green beans, roasted carrots

Friday: Tomato Barley Soup, Cheese Paninis (<--- you know this is a fancy way of saying "grilled cheese" right? LOL)

I hope you have a Valentines week filled with love! For more menus or to share yours, visit Laura at

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Thankful Thursday

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lam. 3:22-23

It's a cold, rainy, dreary day. It's the end of a week that has seemed to stretch on and on. My daily tasks have exceeded my energy level. I have spent most of today feeling achy and icky. So, what's the perfect thing to do right now? Give thanks! If we are to give thanks "in all circumstances" then certainly "blah days" are the perfect time.

Off the top of my head, I am thankful for:
  • the healing of the husband of a friend. He had complications following sinus surgery and they were quite serious and unexpected this week. God worked in a miraculous way.
  • healing and less severe injuries than were expected in one of my daughter's teammates , who suffered a concussion during a game this week. She was hit by another player who landed on her and she fell on her head and neck, coming down quite hard on the gym floor. It was a very disconcerting thing for all of the team members and parents, as she progressively got worse, the ambulance was called, the sirens approached, and the paramedics came and took her. We all came to grips with how serious some injuries can be. She experienced God's hand of grace that night. I am thanking God in advance for her full recovery.
  • time yesterday with a cherished aunt and uncle of mine. My Uncle Jerry and Aunt Lois are such a huge part of who I am. I love them so much. They braved the weather to fly out of South Carolina earlier in the week to be here for a funeral. God granted that we should have a few moments together this week and it was such a precious time.
  • a daughter who is a careful driver in all of this rain. She is also so respectful, and texts me when she arrives at her destination and before she leaves to come home. I just got a text that she was heading home from her part time job. I am thankful for a hard-working, mature teenage daughter.
  • respectful sons. Just now that sprang to mind, so I called upstairs to my oldest (13 yo) son. Upon hearing his name he answered "Ma'am?" That may just be a southern thing, but I love it. We have our "typical" mother/teenage boy moments, but in the end he remains very respectful of me. I am not taking that for granted! He now has a younger brother who is learning from him how to respect his parents and it is such a blessing.
  • the smell of dinner in the crock pot. It isn't simply a reminder of another task I can check off the list... it's the scent of God's provision. Food. Appliances. Electricity. Warmth. Fellowship. With the winter storms to the north and east, the situation in Haiti, and the many circumstances we have seen all over the world, I don't take any of those for granted either.
To share what you are thankful for today, or to read others' "Thankful Thursday" posts, visit Iris at Grace Alone. Have a blessed weekend!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Menu Monday

Brrrr!! It's downright cold outside!! I know for those of you north and east of Texas, who are buried in snow right now, this is no newsflash. In fact, some of you are without power, you are not even reading this right now. I'm so sorry! I'm praying you are keeping warm! This is a pic of my kids back in December when we went to see the "ICE!" exhibit. It was just starting to snow on us when we left, so I snapped this photo of them all bundled up. I posted this today for those of you who are freeeezing so you would know we are with you in spirit and praying you thaw out soon!

Well, we are in the thick of basketball season. While I am a major fan of climate controlled sports, I am not a fan of being out of the house multiple evenings per week. Eating dinner as a family, and eating home cooked food remains a priority for our family, but during certain seasons it gets challenging! I've had to plan and make more foods that are "portable" that we can eat on-the-run or in between games. I thought about this last week, as the five of us were sitting outside the gym in the hallway, eating our Whole Foods market healthy hot dogs and homemade dessert... at least we're eating together! It's a really fun time for all of us, but with two of them finishing up busy basketball seasons it's a nutty time. I'm hanging on until the middle of March!

I've been really trying to not only make sure we eat home-cooked food during this busy time, but also trying to make it as healthy as possible. I made several recipes out of Fix It and Enjoy It last week that turned out great. I encourage you to pick up that book. (I got mine at Wal Mart.) It has some easy and healthful recipes. The fact that I'm cooking out of it during this action-packed time in our schedule ought to tell you that it's not that hard! Last week I made Banana Oat Breakfast Cookies which everyone liked. I also made a wonderful fruit cobbler recipe for dessert one night (using whole wheat pastry flour and frozen fruit... really good). This weekend I made Pumkin and Ginger pancakes that were so good as well- using whole wheat pastry flour, yogurt, cinnamon, ginger and pumpkin. Perfect with a dusting of powdered sugar on top and served with homemade syrup. Great recipes!

So, here's my menu with 3 dinners "on the go" and two in the slow cooker, as we will be at various gyms this week finishing up our active and fun basketball season!

Monday: tuna salad "jellyroll" sandwiches, pita bread chips and fruit

Tuesday: Crock Pot Enchilada Casserole (from Cooking Light), spanish rice, baked apples

Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Ye' Assa Wet (spicy fish- one of our family's favorites!), split peas, ayb (cottage cheese), injera bread

Thursday: Paula Deans's BBQ pork sandwiches (made in the crock pot), sweet potato fries, fruit

Friday: grilled chicken pita sandwiches, baked zucchini chips

To share your menu or to get some great ideas, visit Laura at Have a yummy week!


(Ethiopian Spicy Carrots and Green Beans)

1 small bag baby carrots or frozen carrots, whichever you prefer
1 small bag frozen green beans
3 green onions
1 large red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbs tomato paste
3 Tbs chopped fresh garlic or 1 T garlic powder
1 tsp cumin

Slice carrots into small pieces. Cut or break green beans into small, bite-sized pieces. in large frying pan, soften onion for 3 minutes, but do not brown. Add tomato paste and carrots. Stir for approximately 5 minutes, or until carrots begin to get tender. Add green beans and stir gently for another 1o minutes. Add garlic and cumin. I usually lower the heat, cover and let the carrots continue to get tender, checking every few minutes. Serves 4-6. I usually serve this as a side dish.

Minchet Abishe

(Hot Ground Beef Stew)

This is one of our family's favorites, and very easy to make. The only ingredients not readily available in most grocery stores are the berebere spice, which is available at Ethiopian markets and online here, and the injera bread.

2 pounds extra lean ground beef
6 large red onions, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2-4 tablespoons berebere spice
3 cups water
2 tsp powdered garlic
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 teaspoon black pepper
sea salt to taste
injera bread

Saute red onions in olive oil in a large pan. When onions are brown, add bere bere spice (we started with 2 tablespoons... now we are up to 4. It is very spicy!) Add a little water and mix well. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Ad garlic, ginger, nutmeg, and black pepper. Stir. Add sea salt to taste. Serve with rolled up injera bread. Makes 4-6 servings. Enjoy!

(pictured above: Minchet Abishe, Yeatakilt Wet (cabbage and potatoes), spicy lentils, injera bread)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thankful Thursday

Well, I'll be. I just checked and I haven't written a "Thankful Thursday" post since November 2007. I felt a bit "bloggy" this morning, realized it was Thursday, and it sprang to mind. But really? Over 2 years?

Not that I haven't had a lot going on in the past two years, or haven't been thankful! So much has changed... the whole landscape of our family has changed since that last "Thankful Thursday" post. Just weeks after posting that, we began our adoption process toward adopting a baby girl from Ethiopia. Now, 2+ years later, here "she" sits, an amazing 11 year old boy who's been home almost a year and a half. Amazing!!! So much for which to be thankful.

Here are my random, off-the-top-of-my-head Thursday Thanks today.

I am thankful...
  • For new fireplace logs. I know our gas bill will be through the roof (literally... through the chimney) but this new fireplace blesses my soul. I may burn it all summer long. Okay, maybe not.
  • For Ethiopia. How that country, its people, my son and our extended family there has forever changed me. Forever. Glory to God. My heart is there today and every single day. I can't believe I was just there again in November. I still thank God every day that He sent us again. I didn't even unpack my backpack from that trip until my daughter needed it a few weeks ago for China, because I didn't truly want to be home from there yet. ;) I saw and talked to an amazing Ethiopian woman yesterday. I look for Ethiopians everywhere I go! I will study the language, make the food, think about, read about, and emotionally reside there for the rest of my life. Thank you, Lord, for Ethiopia.
  • That the smell of Ethiopian food still lingers in our home this morning. I make it every week. My daughter shared with me that while she was in China recently she missed Ethiopian food! Usually we miss Tex Mex when we travel, now we miss Ethiopian. That is just cool.
  • That my husband looked at me yesterday morning at 5:something when we got up and told me I look so beautiful in the mornings. At 42, I really needed to hear that. What a dear man.
  • For the sleepy-faced, curly-haired African boy who just crept downstairs and hugged me good morning. For my two precious, amazing teenagers who are sleeping a few minutes extra upstairs. They all make it so fun to be a mom, and I remain so honored to get to be theirs.
  • For my little weenie dog who is curled up on the couch. My husband gave that precious dog to me 10 Valentine's Days ago, and he has been one of my favorite creatures on this earth since that day.
  • For the chores that await me today, the homeschooling that I get to plan and teach today... all of these tasks that make me feel needed and vital in the lives of each person in my home. What a privilege it is, and I'm thankful that God reminded me of that this morning, on a day when I can so easily begin to run out of steam!
  • I'm thankful you spent a few minutes of your busy day reading my blog. Every time I blog, I pray ahead for anyone who might come here and read my ramblings. If you are reading this, you've been prayed for! And I thanked God in advance for how He's going to work in your life.
What are you thankful for today? Share in the comments or link your post at Lynn's. Be blessed and be a blessing today!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday's Menu... Making Level Paths

I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised,
and I will bring you home again.
Jeremiah 12:10

Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
Proverbs 4:26

Happy Monday! Aren't those two verses above so good? I love them. As a mom and a homemaker, they mean so much to me. God is doing some good things in our family throughout each day, and I love how He leads us home each night, around our table. Some nights it's later than others, and it takes a bit of effort, but God honors my efforts to have everyone around the table together. The second one has turned out to be one of my verses for 2010. I am trying so hard (with God's help!) to make "level paths for my feet." So many things become stumbling blocks for me, and disorder is one of them. Menu planning is one way I can make a level path through my week before I even get going on it. Unexpected things happen... life happens, but with a plan in place, especially in this important area, I seem to be able to handle it better.

I have some other posts "brewing" about how, specifically, I am making level paths for my feet in other areas of my home and life. God is so good to continue teaching me!

I read a book last week called "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. It was so good and such a quick read, I assigned it to my high school daughter as part of her health curriculum. It has 64 "rules" for, well... food. Here are a couple that caught my eye:
  • "Eat food." "Duh?" Not really. Pollan says (and I agree) that most food we eat isn't really food, it's really "edible foodlike substances. They're highly-processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients ... that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted." Hm. So, eat food.
  • "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." This one cracked me up. He uses the example of standing with your great-grandmother at the grocery store, and her picking up a tube of Gogurt. What would she think that is? Toothpaste? LOL
Anyway, I encourage you to pick this book up. Right now it's only $5 on! The kids and I enjoyed reading through it and it's got some great tips!

Another tip in the book, which I've tried (inconsistently) to do over the years, is to serve fruit with every meal. Every meal. Every. Meal. If I'm honest, I haven't really been doing that, so that is my goal this week. So below, beside each dinner item, mentally insert the word "fruit." Because it will be there. :)

Monday: Black Bean Lasagne Rolls and Mediterranean Fruit Salad (From Fix It and Enjoy It)

Tuesday: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos, black beans, corn casserole, and Fruit Cobbler (also from FIEI)

Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Minchet Abishe (spicy beef), Fosoleay (carrots and green beans), Gommen (spicy collard greens), and Ayb (cottage cheese)

Thursday: Grilled chicken wraps on our way to a basketball game. I'm also planning to make cupcakes using the Honey-Sweetened Spice Cake recipe from FIEI to take along.

Friday: Crock Pot French Onion Soup, salad

For more menu ideas and some great organizational tips (and photos!) to help you make "level paths" in your home, visit Laura at

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


This morning started out as most mornings to... early. Not as early as most, as I gave myself a few extra minutes of sleep due to being awake off an on during the night. As I kissed my sweet husband goodbye as he headed out the door, I was just beginning to fully wake up. Clad in my flannel robe and warm fleecy house shoes and clutching my morning coffee, I spent my first waking minutes in God's Word. I am still working through the wonderful Bible Study, Ruth: The Message of Redemption and Revival, by Nancy Leigh Demoss.

I flipped open my study guide, found my place and realized that today was a video segment day. "Oh, good" I thought. My wakefulness during the night combined with the fact that I was only on my first cup of coffee meant I was inwardly glad I could just "sit and watch" this morning. I flipped open my Bible, read the scripture passage, prayed inwardly for God to please, please teach me today, then settled in for her video lecture.

Today's topic: Resentment.

In the story of Ruth, when Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi return to Naomi's native land after 10 years away, Naomi announces to all who thought they recognized her "Do not call me Naomi" (which means pleasant"). "Call me Mara" (which means "bitter").

As I watched and took notes on Ms. Demoss's teaching this morning I realized the degree to which I have harbored bitterness in my heart over some things... specifically toward certain people. In fact, I know I have shared with others that that is my struggle, and I've certainly discussed it with the Lord. I have taken what I thought were steps toward removing the bitterness, I've prayed and "forgiven" the people close to me who have wronged me... the ones I thought "caused" my bitterness. What else is there really to do? But, if I'm honest, it has still lingered.

Some questions we can ask ourselves if we want to see if we harbor any bitterness are these:
  • Is there anyone in my life that I have never fully forgiven?
  • Is there any person or circumstance in my life for which I have never thanked God?
Whoa. Did you see that second question? That was the kicker for me this morning!

I have, admittedly, been battling a few physical things over the past few years. Some of them are piddly, but they add up. I have made changes to my diet, begun working out, and acknowledged physical changes I need to make.

Naomi returned to her native land after having only been gone 10 years, and it was hard for others to recognize her. I have run into people that I haven't seen in 10 years (or even more) and I totally recognize them. Ten years is a long time, but not really a long time. You know? Why did they not recognize her?


God never intended for our physical bodies to bear up under the weight of bitterness and unforgiveness. It will take its toll. So, I must ask myself: Is there a load of bitterness and unforgiveness to which my body is not responding well? Certainly not all physical problems are related to bitterness, but when I develop a physical symptom I would do well to go to the Lord and ask Him to reveal to me any unforgiveness and bitterness in my heart.

I have noticed in recent years that I don't respond to situations the way I used to. Things get "under my skin" more than in my 20's and 30's. I thought the opposite was supposed to be the case! I thought I was supposed to "mellow with age!" What is up with that? As I learned today, my emotional stability is impacted by bitterness as well. Chronic emotional disorders can be rooted in bitterness.

As I closed my study guide and Bible, finished my quiet time and put them back away, I headed through the kitchen. I got things in order to begin our day, kissed my "early riser" Ethiopian son good morning as he padded, bleary-eyed into the kitchen. I looked over our schedule and made mental steps through our day. I straightened something on the coffee table and watered a plant. I took a few moments to set some of our school papers in order. I turned on lamps and lit my favorite candle, readying the family room for our morning. I preheated the oven for the breakfast. It was only after I had been going through my morning "routine" that I happened to glance out the window on the back door and noticed the thick, thick fog. I almost couldn't see to the back of the yard!

It occurred to me that that's how bitterness can be. I can think things are "normal." I can function in what I perceive as clarity. All the while the cloud of bitterness can descend around me. Inside my home, things seemed "clear" this morning. I could see my way around. But if I were to leave my home this morning, even navigating the familiar streets surrounding my home would be a challenge! Bitterness clouds how I interact with others, how I navigate relationships. Naomi announced to those who would've perhaps been glad to see her and welcome her home, "Don't call me Pleasant! Call me Bitter!" A bit off-putting, to say the least.

I would encourage you, as I have been encouraging myself, to look for any hidden roots of bitterness in your heart. Ask those two important questions above. Get to the root of any unforgiveness and with God's help, get it out. Soon I'll share more about what I'm learning about forgiveness and some specific, practical steps to deal with any hidden unforgiveness and bitterness.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that
no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Hebrews 12:15

Monday, January 18, 2010

MPM, MLK, and a Family Favorite

Wow, the weeks are already starting to fly by! I simply cannot believe it's already the last half of January! I wonder if the February "time warp" will start (that weird way that February always seems to d-r-a-g on forever, even though it's the shortest month, because by that time I'm really ready for March, and spring, and Spring Break, and sunshine, and Easter... I'm a flip flop girl at heart, stuck in my Ugg boots for another few weeks!

Today in the U.S. it's Martin Luther King Day. I love this holiday, I really do. Each year we read about him, discuss the Civil Rights Movement and watch footage of the "I Have A Dream" speech, but if I'm honest, last year and this year it's harder for me. Now I have a black son. And truthfully, he has no idea that there was a time in this country where he couldn't have taken a drink out of the same water fountain or gone to the same school as his brother and sister or have us as parents. I know it's time to begin talking about it, and we will. Up until now I haven't discussed it with him simply because he lacked the English necessary to have it fully explained to him. Now he's got the English, only I don't have the words. I'm praying they will come.

I'm so glad that Ethiopian culture is now interwoven with our family's traditions. Just this weekend we took down the last of our Christmas decorations because we left them up for Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) which was on Jan. 7. This week we will celebrate "Timkat", another Ethiopian holiday! This celebration commemorates Christ's baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. I want to talk more with Minte this week about his own baptism. He's been showing an interest at church and has mentioned in the past that he would like to be baptized. Along with our weekly Ethiopian meal, we will hopefully have some meaningful discussions.

Speaking of family traditions, here's a recipe that means so much to our family. Laura asked us to share (and link) some of our "Family Favorite Recipes." Here is one of my very favorites, and was in fact the subject of my first-ever blog post, where I shared about my grandmother's tube pan going on an interesting journey and making its way back to me.

Nana's Banana Nut Bread

3 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. baking soda
4 cups flour
3 mashed ripe bananas
1 cup chopped nuts (I usually use walnuts, but frequently leave them out or just sprinkle them on top right before I put it in the oven, in case someone is allergic or doesn't prefer nuts)

Cream sugar and shortening. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well. Add vanilla. In a separate measuring cup, combine baking soda and buttermilk. Add flour and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Add bananas and nuts. Bake in a well-greased and floured tube pan or large bundt pan at 300 degrees for 1 hour 55 min. or two 8" loaf pans for 1 hour 15 min.


So here's what we've got cookin' for dinner this week:

Monday: YO-YO (You're On Your Own)- I actually cooked over the weekend, so we have plenty of leftovers and a basketball game. Mom's out of the kitchen. :)

Tuesday: Chicken n' Dumplings, carrots, and (don't judge me) fried okra

Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Yekik Wet Besiga (spicy beef with split peas) Yebesele Dinich (potatoes), injera bread

Thursday: YO-YO again... another basketball game

Friday: Savory Cheese Soup, salad, wheat rolls

To read more recipes or to link your own, visit

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haitian Adoptive Families: We are Praying!

Those of you who read my blog who are also adoptive families know. You just know. You know the emotional ups and downs of adoption, the frustration over the lack of information, and the need to balance the acknowledgment of God's sovereignty over the whole situation with your need to be proactive. Some of you reading this are the precious ones who came alongside us in our journey to Minte, joining us on that roller coaster ride. Not only did you ride it, prayed us through it. Some of you reading this also walked through last week with our family as my daughter went on an adoption journey to China with another precious family... a journey that didn't turn out as planned. Blogs have a way of doing that... of weaving our lives together, of drawing us into one another's stories for a time. I know there are people who read my blog during our adoption and prayed our precious child HOME, who for one reason or another, don't stop by anymore. Believe me, that's okay, because we are not that fascinating. ;) God, in His providence, ordained that for a time people would know our story and be part of getting Minte to us, to be a part of how God "sets the lonely in families."

After our week last week, I thought my fearful mind had gone everywhere there was to go in adoption. I thought I'd read every scenario and made up every fearful situation there was to imagine. I fancied myself just that good a worrier.

Then the Haitian earthquake hit.

Can you imagine? Adoption, especially international ones, can take you places you never expected. You're dealing with foreign governments, family histories (yours and your child's), and life's most dire moments all begin to intersect. So, what if, in the midst of it, there's a disaster "of Biblical proportions?" What if, in the midst of the angst surrounding your prospective child's care, you had to worry that their orphanage might have collapsed on them, or wonder whether they or their caregivers were still alive? What if, in the midst of waiting for those elusive calls and emails containing precious shreds of information, there was such a disaster that all communications for any purposes were shut down?

No. I simply can't imagine.

That's the road many, many Haitian adoptive families are walking today. And I want to walk that road with them. There are so, so many things to pray for right now for the country of Haiti. The infrastructure, the hospitals, the relief organizations, the injured, those who were already sick, those who are trapped and still alive, missionaries... on and on. And I am praying for all of those.

But today on my blog I want to focus on on just one group, as God has ordained that I could identify with them in this way: the waiting adoptive families. Here are a few blogs I found. In the sidebars of those blogs are others. I encourage you to keep on clicking! There is an amazing network of blogs, each of a family and their story as they walk this unspeakably hard road that God ordained for such a time as this. When they started the paperwork and began this tumultuous ride, they had no way of knowing that one of the biggest disasters in Haiti's history would happen during it. But God did. And He also knew that some of us would want to come alongside them and pray.

If one of these blogs is yours, and you followed the trackback here, please, please know you are being prayed for. Your precious, amazing children are being prayed for. The adoption community is lifting you up. I know there are no words right now, but there are prayers.

Sea Salt Mosaic

Bringing Our Boys... From Haiti to Home

A Twinkle in My Eye

The Livesay [Haiti] Weblog

Cry Haiti

Countdown to Homecoming

A Family for Frankie

One Girl

Life, Kids, Homeschooling, Adoption

Haiti Adoption: The Journey and Details

The Ivey Family (CNN video interview)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wow. This was not my initial response.

But, admittedly my knee-jerk reactions are rarely very "grace-filled." Here is an excellent response to Pat Robertson's Comments about Haiti by author Donald Miller. This helps me. In a lot of ways.

Monday, January 11, 2010

MPM- Back to a Routine

Well, a new week is beginning. Now that my sweet daughter is back from China and our outside classes are all beginning, it's time to get back into our routine. I actually spent part of New Year's Eve day and New Year's Day organizing my Menu Planning and recipe binders. I know that doesn't seem like a very festive thing to be doing, but my daughter was packing and then en route to China, the mess from all of Christmas seemed to still be everywhere, and that was one way I could get some control. What a great feeling it is! My binders are straight and my menu is planned for January.

I know it sounds like I'm really organized. That's because if you're reading this like I tend to do when I read blogs, you may be envisioning my above-mentioned menu planning binders, but also assuming that I also have a clean house decorated with all of the most current colors and trends, my dog is well-groomed, my photos are all scrapbooked, and I am at my ideal weight. (WHY do we blog readers so often do that to ourselves?) Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, decluttering, getting organized, and staying that way is one of my BHAG's (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for 2010. Menu planning is a great way to start!

Last week we had a couple of things that were really good, and I want to pass on the recipes. I found a recipe for a really good Black Eyed Pea Gumbo that I made with some of our New Years Day black eyed peas that I'd saved. (I added some Healthy Choice sausage to it for flavor and "oomph" and it turned out great!) Another night we had yummy tostadas made with Crock Pot Mexican Style Pulled Pork. SO good!

Here's what we've got cookin' this week:

Monday: Hawaiian Meatballs, rice, stir fry
Tuesday: YO-YO (You're On Your Own) leftovers or cook-it-yourself
Wednesday: Ethiopian Food Night! Yetekekele Enqual be Misr (spicy stew with boiled egg and lentils), injera bread
Thursday: Baked Pesto Chicken, green beans, roasted carrots
Friday: Flatbread sandwiches on the way to a basketball game

For more recipes and some great organizing tips (including this post about making "decluttering" decisions- SO helpful!) visit Laura at

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Not How It Was Supposed To Be

My daughter is home from China. Yesterday's homecoming was not the reunion at the airport that we were envisioning taking place a week from now.

I would never and could never presume to speak for what our precious friends are going through. But since my daughter walked this road so closely alongside them last week, it has touched our family in a profound way as well. We are dealing with grief in our home.

A good friend suggested I study the "cycles of grief" and become acquainted with the grieving process, and then just encourage her to talk about it when she feels like it. Good advice. Of course, I want to be careful what psychology I read, having learned to stay away from the "Man Most High" theology, which so permeates even Christian psychology. Any psychological help I embrace must hold a very high view of God.

This morning I came across the following article which I found particularly helpful. Exploring Myths and Transformation In The Grief Process. For Christians, the "grief cycle" has been transformed. We have a Redeemer. We can grieve with hope. Please read the article if your life has been touched by grief. (And, in this Genesis 3 world, whose life hasn't?)

I certainly do not have any great insights to share at this point. She only arrived home from the airport yesterday and we have not yet begun to get back to any sort of "normal" here. For us, that time is much closer than for our friends.

But, there is grace.

When we were going through our adoption, I read John Piper's book, Future Grace. (The first 3 chapters are available for download here.) I cannot stress enough what a profoundly helpful book that is for any Christian, but I almost feel like it should be required reading for any Christian adoptive family. The day before they were to say goodbye to Johanna, I told my sweet daughter that there was grace already apportioned to her for the day ahead. God already knew she would need it, and it was there for her... waiting.

And it was.

The road ahead is a long one for our friends. I don't know what it will be like for my daughter. But, like the above article says,

"...the historic, Christian Faith actually provides the possibility of a more hopeful, less messy experience of grief by providing a strong Redeemer – a living Person who calls Himself “The Way, Truth, and Life” – and who enters our world to transform it, by “bearing our griefs and sorrows” (Isaiah 53). His victory at the cross, triumphal resurrection, and promise to begin renewing all things right now (especially our hearts of stone), as well as a future new creation where death is finally and completely removed, changes everything. No longer do those who look to him need to sorrow “as those who have no hope” (I Thess. 4:13)."

Please, please continue praying for our friends. And for Johanna.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Change of Plans

My daughter will be returning earlier than planned from China. Things took a turn we never could've imagined. Please, please pray.

I'm so glad we serve a sovereign, loving, GOOD God who has us all in His mighty grip.

You can read more here.

Monday, January 04, 2010

A Call to Pray

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter is currently in China. In the wee hours of New Year's Day, my husband took our friend Andrew, his son Jack along with Bethany to the airport to check in by 4 AM for their 6 AM international flight. I have to say, that in her 12 (if I'm counting right) trips, 5 of which have been without either of us (her parents), this was the hardest one for her to go on. But that's odd, because it's one of the most JOYful! We've gone so often to visit orphans in their distress, visit the poor, and proclaim Christ in the darkness... but only one other time (our adoption trip) to bring a precious someone HOME with us. How cool is that?? But that was all of us, not just one of us. It was hard to say goodbye that day.

The three enjoyed the trip over, except for Jack who had a brief battle with nausea. I had prayed that their plane would have TV's in the seats, instead of one for everyone to share. God Ephesians 3:20'd my request, bestowing more than "asked or imagined," because Bethany texted me from her seat just before the long flight that she had 3 empty seats next to her! She would be able to stretch out! Not only that, she told me once she got there that the nice flight attendant kept randomly bringing her chocolate. Okay. Extra seats and random chocolate have to be blessings from above!

They arrived in their city in China late at night and got settled in, eager to meet sweet 8-year-old Johanna the next day. They are in a nice hotel, with Bethany's room next door to the guys' room, and a door which opens in between if needed. Another answer to prayer. They were able to rest when they got there and found out that the breakfast buffet downstairs was open until 10 AM. Another bonus. God knew they would need this rest and refreshment, for the hard part was to come.

The next day, they were guided to the conference room in the hotel where they would meet Johanna. Unfortunately, Johanna had understood that when she went into the room, her family would be waiting for her. They had not been taken to the room yet when Johanna got there. By the time they got to the room, there was a scared, tearful young girl being consoled because she was deeply upset when she arrived in the room and no one was there.

And instead of joyfully jumping up and running into her new father's arms, as any pretty adoption story goes, she would not, and will not, have anything to do with her father. And why would she? She has lived her entire 8 years within the confines of an orphanage. With women caregivers. The only men she has ever been around have mainly been doctors (she has had two surgeries on her mouth.) This is a precious, fragile, broken, grieving, frightened little girl.

So, they are on day 3. As we are winding down our day, they are just beginning theirs. Another difficult one. Another day of joyful laughter one moment and terrified tears the next. As of yet, she mainly responds to Bethany. Bethany absolutely adores precious Johanna, and has since before they left, but she shared with me that it is so hard to watch her be so very frightened and upset, and also know that she is the only one who can help and not be able to communicate with her. You see, she also knows very little Mandarin. Bethany knows some, but Johanna's dialect is different. It is very moment-by-moment, and that is stressful for all involved.

My amazing friend Tricia is Johanna's new mom. She waits anxiously at home with the other three children, catching snippets on the webcam and skype. It's so very hard for them to be apart. We have ached and cried together in these past few days, eager for them ALL to be home and for healing to begin. She has written a wonderful post on her blog today about being thankful in all circumstances.

As I was reading her post today, one thing caught my attention for some reason. Of the list of things for which she's thankful she listed this:

"for my phone ringing constantly because I know it is someone else calling to encourage us."

As I read that I thought how nice that was, how awesome the Body of Christ is, and inwardly wished that someone would call and encourage me. I have been so anxious about their daughter's transition, and it is compounded by the fact that my daughter is over there too! So, for just a moment I had a "mini pity party" thinking about how, although this isn't our adoption, I could really use some encouragement and my phone hasn't rung once. But it was really a mini one, because I'm really not a phone person. However, truth be told, I would've been encouraged by that. Just then...

the phone rang.

I checked the caller ID and it was our bank. Still, it was a phone call, so partly wondering if there was a problem with our account, and partly just wanting to talk to someone, I answered. It was the banker who handles our kids' accounts wanting to know if I wanted her to set up online banking. Oh. Well, yes, I guess so. Thank you. Then she asked me a question, just making conversation: "Have you all been on any mission trips lately?"


I told her that yes, in fact, one of us was gone RIGHT NOW. She was fascinated by that fact, and the reason why. Not only that, she encouraged me and assured me that she would be praying for Bethany and wanted to hear how it went when she gets back. And truthfully, more than encouragement for myself, I just want to know that people are praying. Even if it's my banker who thought she was calling about online banking! Every momma just wants to know someone is praying for her little girl. Whether her little girl is a poised, Godly, brave young woman of 16 doing the hardest thing she's ever done, or a grieving, frightened, tiny, confused little girl of 8.

So, will you please join us in praying for them?