Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New! Shop Notes

In an attempt to make a little extra adoption money, as well as enjoy some crafty time, I have set up a new page in order to sell some custom dresses, as well as hats that my friend Phyllis has generously donated to the cause. :) Check it out (tab is at the top). All proceeds go to our adoption, of course.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rwanda Adoption News

Last week we learned some pretty big news in the Rwanda adoption world: Rwanda has decided to suspend all new adoptions, as of August 31, in order to work on ratifying the Hague Treaty. All dossiers that are either in Rwanda or at the Rwandan Embassy are still going to be processed. That means that our dossier, which has been in Rwanda since January 25, is still okay.

This is good news in the long-term. The Hague Treaty is basically an agreement that countries will conduct adoptions a specific way, making them safer for children and more efficient. We're glad Rwanda is taking this step! But we have no idea how long it will be before it reopens its doors. Likely, it will be years.

But this news has really been tough for many people in our adoption community. People who were in the paperchase, who thought they were on their way to Rwanda, have suddenly been brought to a halt. Please pray for them as they try to decide what to do (wait for Rwanda to re-open? switch to a different country?).

Then there are those who are so very close to being done, who are frantically trying to get their paperwork to the Rwandan Embassy in DC before tomorrow. Several are flying up personally to hand-deliver their dossiers. Pray for favor for them, and for speed!

And then there are those of us who are waiting. Although this certainly has given me some perspective in our wait (at least we are in!), we have all been waiting a long time (some far longer than us). We are praying that Rwanda will work on the dossiers they already have, and get them processed, before they start in on Hague. Our wait is even more undefined than it was before, but we are praying and hoping that we are close to the end.

"Now we know that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen..." (Heb 11:1)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What Would You Do...

When we moved from FL to GA, one of the people it was hard to leave behind was my friend Lauren. Lauren and her family live within walking distance of our old house. Her son Noah is six weeks older than Iain. Her husband Pete plays piano (and does lots of other stuff) at the church we went to in Florida (something we didn't know when we first met--that we went to the same church!).

Lauren and I have done our kids' birthdays together, made them their first Christmas stockings, spent long hot summer days hiding in the air conditioning and talking over the din our offspring created. We worked together to put on the first Conversations, a gathering for woman at our church. We read books recommended by each other, and then talk about them (again, over a certain din). I was at Lauren's house when we found out we were accepted into the Rwanda program. She wrote some of our recommendation letters for us, for the home study and for grants we were trying to get. More recently, when we return to FL for a visit, Lauren and I have hit up Starbucks or Steak n Shake to talk about intentional mothering, and writing. Yes, she's a writer, too. 

As you can see, this dear friend means a lot to me! 

And now I have a chance to help her with something pretty major: Lauren made this really great video for a contest. She's currently in first place with this video, and the prize is... are you ready for this?... she and Pete would have their mortgage paid for an entire year! 

This is one of those vote-for-your-favorite contests, and the end is Tuesday. I would love-love-love for them to win this. (Normally, I wouldn't use this blog to ask for a favor like this... but for my dear friend Lauren, it is totally worth it.)

So will you please consider taking a moment to vote for their video? Do it in honor of a good friend you have, near or far. If your friend was about to win this great prize and needed more votes, you'd do it for sure! And, as a bonus, if you vote (you have to register with them, but that's no big deal--really!), they enter you in a drawing to have your mortgage paid for a year too!

To vote, you can go to this web site, and choose the video that is second to the left (the Week Two video): Memories From Scratch. I promise that you'll enjoy watching it. Even from an unbiased opinion, it's the best one on there.

If you want to read Lauren's post about the contest, click here.  You can click here to read her guest post about the contest on another blog. And feel free to spread the word! Let's get these good people some house payments! :)

And just for fun, leave a comment and tell me what YOU would do, if you had your mortgage paid for a year!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Adoption Humor

This is so funny. And so true. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Granddad's Birthday

I can imagine the scene in heaven today: My granddad, Mark, wakes up realizing that if he were still on earth, he'd be turning 78 today. He walks out the front door of his heavenly home (which I like to think is a flat-roof, oddly-angled, creative dwelling like the ones he designed on earth), and into the cool morning. He walks through a meadow perhaps, or along the road into the city. He's thinking perhaps about how he gave his birthday away, presented it to my sister Kelsey in the form of a notarized document stating that he had had enough birthdays. But regardless of that gift, he knows that he'll still get a heavenly birthday party today. His friends--ones he knew on earth and ones he's gotten to know in heaven--join him in a celebration. They thank Jesus for giving him life, and then for giving him new life in Him. Heavenly celebrations, after all, are really about Jesus. Then they eat some really good cake.

My granddad was an incredible grandfather. He loved Jesus with his whole heart. I remember when we'd gather as a family to pray over our meals. We'd stand in the sticky heat under the fans on the porch. Dinner on the table, complete with the ever-present carrot sticks in water, applesauce, and bread and butter would wait as he'd lead us in prayer. He always started with "Praise You, Jesus, hallelujah." Granddad left a spiritual legacy to his children, his grandchildren, and even the great-grandchildren that he has not yet met. His children are walking in the truth (3 John 4), following his example.

Granddad has eight children, thirty grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren (although one still lives in Rwanda). My son Iain, the first of the great-grandchildren, has Granddad's name as his middle name: Mark. Cory has his eyebrows (as do I: pointy on the outside edge). I am sure my daughter will have something in common with him, too, since God knew before He even created Granddad that this little Rwandan girl would join his family line.

We have this video of Granddad singing. One of my uncles recorded it as a Christmas present for another of my uncles (did they know what a treasure this would be?). Granddad is sitting in his customary spot in the living room, on the hearth in front of the fireplace. He is playing his guitar and singing all the family favorites: Big Rock Candy Mountain, The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, Sweet Violets, Casey Jones. He sings cleaned-up versions of the more...bawdy songs (something we never knew until we heard his brother singing the "real" version one time). The boys love these songs; they sing along with the buuuuuuzzzzzzzzzing of the bees. I treasure this video because it captures the rich voice of my grandfather singing as he loved (loves) to do. He sings playfully through most of the songs, but on Bless This House, he really lets his voice soar and it's beautiful. I'm glad my boys can hear and see him on the video. I miss hearing him sing.

I am incredibly thankful and blessed that this man was my grandfather. I wish Jeremy could have met him this side of heaven. Enjoy your birthday cake, Granddaddy! We miss you and we love you. Happy birthday!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What Did We Do?

It was Cory's idea. He and Iain talked about it and decided they wanted to do it. I told them we couldn't put it back. I asked if they were sure. I made them wait until after naptime, just to make sure they wouldn't change their minds. Then I said...okay...

Cory was all for it until the last minute. Then he made Iain go first. Iain was thrilled. He absolutely grinned the whole time. He said it tickled.

Then came Cory. He was sleepy. He didn't like the process as much as Iain did, but he liked the results equally well.

Jeremy did most of Iain and came up from his office basement room to help me with Cory as well. He promised them treats for sitting still.
I have to admit, I shed a tear or two as Iain's long hair came off.  They look so different, and I miss their "surfer hair." But now we can see their handsome faces better. I never realized how much Iain uses his eyebrows when he talks - he's constantly moving them! And Cory's big brown eyes look even bigger and browner. They are very happy with their short hair, and I'm sure it's much cooler in the summer. Iain says, "I like it! We just like it because we both have the same hair." Cory says, "Good. I like it. That's all."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tell Me This Isn't Adorable

Look what came in the mail today! Stickie notes from my mom... Iain especially likes his hat. He has one like that in real life, and it's his favorite. :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Book Review - The Vertical Self

The Vertical Self, by Mark Sayers

I love sociology and anthropology. This book, which is about how our culture's fascination with media, celebrities, fashion, etc cause us to create horizontal versions of ourselves rather than vertical ones, looked fascinating to me. The horizontal self basically means that one's identity is found in how one relates, compares to, or rates in the eyes of others. Keeping up the horizontal self is obviously impossible. The vertical self refers to finding one's identity in Christ, and walking in holiness and peace because of the security, meaning, and purpose found in Him.

Sounds good. But actually, this book fell far short of my expectations. Sayers' points were very vague and repetitive. While several of his stories were interesting, they didn't really make the points he was aiming for. But I take the most issue with his theological explanations. He talks about how we are created in the image of God and therefore have value, meaning, and purpose. True. But then he talks about how living right with God is asking Him to redeem our desires and living in holiness (which again is attained by having our desires redeemed). No mention of repentance, the Cross, or salvation through Jesus -- or if it was mentioned, it certainly wasn't emphasized.

Sayers talks a lot about evil. Rather than living in strict holiness, we need to find a balance between good and evil. If we were purely good, he says, we'd never be moved to action by anything. We need the tension that our darker desires create in order to act. What?! And then later, he said the opposite when he quoted someone stating that truly evil people are the ones that actively avoid extending themselves on behalf of others. Redeeming our desires, not fighting them, is the way to holiness. And yes, of course that is sometimes true. But we still are imperfect people, and sometimes our desires are truly sinful. Managing sin is not the same as killing it.

Finding our true selves seems to be the goal of life, according to this book. Even though Sayers has us looking at who we are in Christ to find those true selves, he neglects to mention how we get to be who we are in Christ, namely, through Christ. And a life lived "for God," if the purpose of it is really to satisfy our need for purpose, seems narcissistic at best.

At the end of the book, Sayers challenges us to find three "soul friends," teach them what we learned from the book, and have them teach three more friends. Not much in terms of how to live out the vertical self. Lack of clarity, practicality, and most of all, Gospel truth. I'm sorry to say, this book is not one I recommend at all.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Baseball Fever

We went to our first Braves game a few weeks ago. We're officially Atlantanites. Altantonians? Atlantites? Anyway. It was so much fun! We contemplated leaving the boys at home with a babysitter, since the game didn't start until 7, and they go to bed at 7:30. But we threw bedtime caution to the wind and we are so glad we did. 

Because baseball fever has struck the house.

The Braves beat the Mets 9-3. We did not stay until the very end of the game (we're not that crazy), but we did stay until 9:30 and the, what, sixth inning?

This boy loved it. 

We started the night off right with a trip to Walmart to get Braves shirts for the boys. We ate hot dogs and pizza there more for the experience than because we thought it would be so tasty. It was pretty gross. Later, we saw a guy eat a huge praying mantis because people were egging him on. That was way grosser.

Cory mostly played with a little action figure of the Human Torch that someone gave him at McDonald's the other day. But every time they'd play any cheer, clap, or song over the loudspeakers, he'd jump in and participate. He said that was his favorite part.

Iain sat on Jeremy's lap for most of the time and Jeremy narrated the game for him. Both boys got very excited when someone broke a bat. And Iain said "I am so impressed that they can hit the ball so high!"

Back on the homefront, baseball fever continues. Come to visit us, like Nan did, and you're likely to be recruited as a pitcher. Iain always wears a helmet, like the real baseball players did.

Cory's swing is more of a chop. Can be one-handed, or two. And then he chases the ball and whacks it when it's on the ground, to make it hop.

Love this face!

And this one!

Look at the dimple.

What good form this boy has.

Cracks me up.

Daddy gets in on the fun.

Grammy and Papa came to visit next, and of course, Iain asked them to play baseball with him.

They showed Iain some techniques.

Oh my goodness. What an adorable boy in overalls with his bat. I love it.

Quite possibly my new favorite Iain picture.

Cory attempts to "stick his bottom out" like Iain was doing.

Iain demonstrates:

Papa assists:

I have no idea what Cory was doing in this one, but Iain just hit a homer! 
Good times, good times. Batter up!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Election Day

Today is election day in Rwanda. Current President Kagame is running against three other candidates, and is expected to win handily. Please join me in praying for a peaceful election day and that God would use the person who is elected today to lead Rwanda further along the road to healing, rebuilding, and growing.

I read that it is expected that 5.2 million people will vote. This is the second presidential election since the genocide. Tora, Rwanda! (Vote, Rwanda!)

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Bells' Visit

The Bells came to visit the week before last. Well, I say they came to visit. Really, they came to go to Six Flags, and I made them stay to visit. :)

They spent Friday at Six Flags, returning tired and wet, with maps for my boys to pore over (and they have), and descriptions of the fun rides (enough to make Iain ask me almost daily when we will get to go).

Saturday, we went to the lake. It was so hot, but fun.

We hit up the 49 cent sodas/slushies at the QT that afternoon. Look how much Iain and Luke look alike.
Saturday night, Aunt Sam and I went to Sips n Strokes (my second time--so much fun!). This time was much harder than last time. I think it allowed for more artistic freedom, which translates into a more difficult project to pull off. Plus I was sitting next to a real, published artist. Intimidating! We both liked our finished paintings. Mine will hang in the baby's room.

It was great fun to have the Bells visit, especially for the boys. They love, love, love their cousins (even though they are really my cousins!). What fun for them to grow up with such cool family members. :)