Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Two Years: The Post I REALLY Never Thought I'd Write

Well, it's here. I knew it was coming. I knew it would happen. But it still feels like it can't be real.

Today marks our two year anniversary of being on the waiting list to bring our children home from Ethiopia.

Two years ago today I stalked the FedEX tracking site to watch our dossier make its way to Addis Ababa. I was in my classroom teaching when I finally hit refresh for the last time and saw this:

I remember being SO happy. So relieved to FINALLY be finished with the paper chasing and officially be a waiting family. I was excited to be waiting. Hmmmm…

Two years and thirteen minutes later, the excitement of waiting has waned. It has been replaced by a fierce determination to bring our children home. Don't get me wrong. I am excited BEYOND WORDS to see my children's faces, meet them, hold them, hug them, kiss them and then BRING THEM HOME. But in in this process, right now, I am determined.

God has asked us to stand here. In this dark place. This place where He is really the only light we can see. Man cannot offer us hope here. Our God can. He can and He does by reminding us that He has called us to this. For that reason alone, we can persevere, knowing that we are not on our own. Good gracious, it is so hard. And I fail at it on what I think is a daily basis, but I am trying. So when you see me, and I am knee deep in my own pity party, please remind me that God is there.

Today is hard. I can't lie to you. When we started the adoption process on April 10, 2012, we were given a fifteen month total timeline. Now, two years, five months and one week later, we are still waiting. And there is no end in sight. That is a hard place, a dark and lonely place. I remember sitting at this computer one year ago in a state of disbelief that a whole year had gone by and we were still so far away from being matched. And now another year has passed, with MUCH less movement, and here we sit.

I hope and pray that we do not waste it. That, somehow, I manage to see God in this more and more and trust Him more deeply as a result. Will you pray that, too? And will you please pray that this is the year? That we see our children's faces before Christmas? I want that so badly it hurts. Please pray for adoption officials in Ethiopia, that they would move swiftly and with urgency, that they would see how crucial their work is. Please pray for our children, that they would be safe and fed and cared for while we are apart. Sometimes, I look around at my friends' children and I think, "We are missing all of this with our own children." And that is so hard. So I pray that they are loved and cared for in our absence. And I pray that we won't be apart for too much longer.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Worth It

I have been a bit blog silent lately. Sorry. I can attribute that to three distinct things:

1. Being an 8th grade English teacher all day. Every day is craziness. I love my little chickens, but, dang, do they wear me out. Most days, I make the 25 minute drive home in complete SILENCE just because it sounds so sweet in my ringing ears. The preparing, the teaching, the questions from my darlings and the GRADING. Oh mercy, the grading. Why do they have to write in English class?? Can't math handle that?
My current stack with a Diet Coke can for size reference. 
The struggle is real. 
Also, do you like the apple on my desk? Quite teachery, no? 

2. As evidenced by the tiny Alka-Seltzer box in the photo above, I have been sick for almost ten days. Yup. Ten glorious days of coughing, sneezing and mouth breathing. Nice, right? Have I gone to the doctor? No. Of course not. Apparently, my stubbornness has soared to new heights. But I think I am almost over it, whatever it is.

3. September has been a tough month for me so far. I won't go into all the details, but this month has just been hard for me in a lot of different ways. And when things get really tough, I struggle to write exactly what I want to say, because, well, a lot of times what I want to say is not rainbows and butterflies and unicorns. It's more like storm clouds and bats and alligators. And, while I want to ALWAYS be honest and transparent with you, there are times when I can't really even get what is in my head into rational, readable words.

So anyway, September has been like that.

BUT that is not where I want to focus today.

Instead I want to focus on what God has us doing and how it is one of the few things for which I would stand firm for this long. You see, sometimes in this waiting process I get really tired. And when I get really tired, it is easy to want to give up and walk away. There are lots of moments when I just can't bear the thought of facing another day of waiting. Another day of wondering whether we will ever be parents. Another day of feeling so helpless. In these moments, I want to just give up and say, "That's it. I'm done. I tried. It didn't work. It's over."

And it is right there that I remember exactly who I am fighting for and exactly how much I love them. And in all of this, as hard as it is, I know without a shred of doubt that it is worth it. All of the tears, all of the hurt, all of the anxious nights and the days with empty arms are worth it.

Because one day I will sit across from my beautiful brown-eyed children and be able to tell them…

"I love you. I have loved you for such a long time. Long before I knew you, God placed you in my heart as my own. You are treasured and cherished and worth fighting for. And I would do every single moment of this journey again and again and again if it meant I could get to you. Because you are worth it. You are precious, and I would fight through anything to get to you. You are the reason I didn't give up, even when it was so hard. I knew I had to keep going, because, ultimately, my path would lead to you. And here you are. And you have given me this beautiful gift. You have made me a mom."

So in the tough moments, of which there have been many this month, I hang on to the reality that Adam and I are fighting for a life. We are fighting for our children to have the right to grow up in a family with two parents who love them unconditionally. We are fighting for their health and their safety. But most importantly, we are fighting for their hearts and their souls. And so I can't give up. I love them too much.

Maybe you are struggling, too. Maybe God has asked you to do something that feels impossible or seems endless. Allow me to speak some truth into your life as I speak it into my own. If God has called you here, to this hard place, don't give up. Keep fighting. Stand firmly rooted in the confidence that only comes from trusting the One who has written all of history. He knows what He is doing, especially when we don't. And please know that you are not alone. God calls people to hard things at different points in their lives, and if we can just trust Him enough, He will use those things to stretch us and grow us into looking more like Him and less like us.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, 
having stood the test, 
that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wait List Update: September 2014

A day we have been praying for for several months has finally come with this month's update. We have finally broken into a new decade on the waiting list! Amen and hallelujah! Here it is…

Solo photo with my Daisy girl this month while Adam recovers from some serious hornet stings. 

We are both so excited and relieved to be making progress toward the top of this verrrrry long list. God continues to be faithful to us in the midst of this difficult journey, and we are trying anew to press in and lean solely on Him. It is SO hard sometimes, because want SO badly for this just be over and to have our children home with us. But we are trusting in our great God and His timing in our lives and the lives of our children. We continue to be so grateful for each of you who is praying for us and our family. We are honored by your love and faithfulness to our mission. 

I pray that we will be faithful to this calling on our lives and that we will always give God the glory as we continue down this path. 

"May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
Psalm 19:14


P.S. As always, please message me for the actual number. I would LOVE to share it with you. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bethe for Beth

This past weekend, I traveled down to Jacksonville, Florida to spend time with a woman I love, Mrs. Beth McCallister. She valiantly fought against breast cancer for nearly ten years. Mrs. McCallister was a beautiful, brave woman whose heart has an unlimited supply of love to give. I have been richly blessed by the impact this incredible woman has had on my life. She loves so well, and I am blessed enough to be a recipient of her great love.

I want to do something in her honor, and I want to invite you to join me.

The Bethe Rope Necklace, made of up-cycled artillery, is Noonday Collection's top selling piece. I took one of these down for Mrs. McCallister this past weekend, and we wrapped it around her wrist, where it sat until yesterday, when she went to be with Jesus, a reminder that she is a strong and special woman who has touched more lives than we can count.

So, I want to ask you to purchase a Bethe Rope Necklace and wear it with pride, or maybe give it to a strong woman you know. And I want to let you know that 100% of my commission for every single Bethe Rope Necklace purchased between now and September 30 will go toward a donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation made in Mrs. McCallister's name.

Bethe for Beth. 

Click HERE to place an order. Please make sure you select me as your Ambassador so that I can know to donate my commission from your purchase.

Thank you for being a part of honoring this incredible woman.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rwanda in Photos: Day 2

Day two in Rwanda was a tough one. We started out at the Nyamata Genocide Memorial. I am working on a separate post about that, but it is slow going, as it is next to impossible to explain what we saw there.

 The Nyamata Memorial is a church. In 1994, an estimated 10, 000 Rwandans came here seeking shelter and protection from the Interhamwe. They believed that they would be safe here, because no one believed that people would commit murder inside a church. Sadly, there were almost no survivors. 
 Nyamata is a peaceful and beautiful place. It has stood, undisturbed, since the horrifying acts of 1994. Once inside the outer gates, you are to keep as quiet as possible, and inside the actual church, there is not talking at all. 
Photography is not permitted within the church, itself. 

 Behind the church, there is, what our guide called, a crypt. It lies beneath the white tiled memorials you see in this photograph. 
We went inside, and what I saw I will probably never be able to describe to you. Shelves and shelves, all the way to the ceiling, lined with human remains. It was the most horrifying thing I have ever seen. 
 Still, there is now a sense of peace that fills the courtyard. 
And it is beautiful place. 
 The back of the church, where you can still see marks in the bricks from the rebel soldiers trying to get inside. 
Stained glass windows that have been broken out. 
This morning was one of the hardest of my life. The massive loss of life, the terror these innocent people must have felt. To think that human beings would do this to one another. It's something I hope I never understand. 

 The beauty of this day came in the restoration we saw first-hand after we left the memorial. We traveled to Bugasera, a community where Africa New Life has a Christian school and community outreach. Seeing these beautiful children in school, learning how to read and write and hearing of the love of Christ right on the heels of our visit to Nyamata was completely overwhelming. I was able to see, with my own eyes, God's restoration at work. He is using the faithful workers of Africa New Life to raise up a generation of Rwandans who live and preach love, not hatred and violence. 
It was an honor to meet these sweet children. 
 To talk with them. 
 To watch them play. 
 To try to play with them. 
(I am not very good at hopscotch/rock soccer!)
To watch them be silly and just be kids. 

 To serve them lunch. 
 And to help clean up when they were finished. 

One of my favorite (and most nerve-wracking) moments is right here. 
I was given the opportunity to share my testimony with these precious children. Given the chance to tell them of Christ's redeeming work in my own life. It had been too long since I had shared my testimony in front of a group (and it was my first time to do so through a translator), and it was so, so, so good. 

And this right here. 
I have no idea why we are laughing. Probably something I mistakenly said. 
But I love this moment. This man and I, we do not know each other. But we both know Jesus, and he helped me share my story with a room full of sweet faces. 

 And then as we were leaving, they called the entire school together to pray. 
And this young man, Isa, got up and prayed in front of the whole school. 
I had been talking to him earlier and did not realize that he was such a strong young man and leader. 
Hearing him pray in Kinyarwandan was absolutely beautiful. 

And as we were leaving, God caught my eye with this little reminder. 


P.S. If you missed the first photo entry, just click HERE to get to it. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Unfailing Love

I love a good adoption conference. Time with women who just totally get it. Women who don't give you crazy eyes for sitting on the floor of a hotel hallway, crying. Women who just hug you because you look like you need it. Women who know what it is like to wait…and wait…and wait.

And I am so excited that in TWO weeks I am getting to go to Unfailing Love right here in Birmingham! I went last year with my doll of a mother-in-law, and this year I am going with my dear, dear friend and fellow adoptive mom, Laura Catherine!


I have a Noonday Collection table for the weekend!

I am so excited to meet over 100 beautiful adoptive and foster moms. To hear their hearts and share mine, too. And I am SO excited to share Noonday with them and show how Noonday can be part of their adoption stories by helping to bring their babies home!

So here's the skinny, you sweet adoptive mommas.

Come stop by my table at the retreat and see all of the Noonday treasures. Shop around and try on some lovelies. You can place an order right then and there. If you do, your name will go into the hat, and at the end of the retreat, I will draw and a name out of the hat and that pretty lady will be the recipient of the rewards for the weekend. That means you will get a gift card to shop online any time you desire. OR, if you are home study approved for your adoption, Noonday will donate that same percentage toward your adoption instead!

Adoption is the heartbeat of Noonday Collection. We actually came into existence BECAUSE of adoption, and the first ever Noonday trunk show was an adoption fundraiser.

And you can have a fundraiser for your adoption, too! All you have to do is partner up with me (if you are here in Birmingham) or your local Ambassador (if you are outside the Birmingham area) to have a trunk show. All of your lovely friends can come and shop with Noonday Collection, and then a percent of your show's total will be donated DIRECTLY toward YOUR adoption! How awesome is that? Please stop by to say hello. I can't wait to meet you.

So I hope to see you in two weeks. I hope to hug you and hear all about what God is doing in your life through the powerful work of adoption.

Ohhhh, and there will be some Noonday door prizes being given away throughout the weekend, so hang in there when it gets late!

Love to each and every one of you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rwanda in Photos: Day 1

So I know what you have been thinking.


Well, I have good news for you. Over the next few days, I am going to work on organizing all of my photos into separate posts by days. My hope is that this will give you a little taste of what my amazing week in the Land of a Thousand Hills was really like.

So, here we go.

Sunrise on our first morning.
I'll be honest. I woke up not knowing what to expect. And I was definitely not prepared to be swept away by the tidal wave of love that followed. 

 Noonday Collection's founder, Jessica Honegger, with all of our Rwandan seamstresses sharing with us how Noonday started in Rwanda. It is a beautiful story that wraps adoption, economic opportunity and female empowerment into one. 
 She shared with us that she sat in a room with these women three years ago, promising them jobs without knowing whether she could actually deliver. 
And now, three years later, these women all have dignified jobs, they have homes and their children are in school. 
 We gave them  picture of all of the Ambassadors from last year's conference for them to keep in their studio as a reminder that we are on the other side of the world working hard to sell their beautiful pieces. 
 And to reaffirm the Noonday sisterhood, we brought them some gifts from their sister artisans in India
And then we had a chance to hear from Charlotte, the co-op president, as she shared what Noonday means for her and how her life has transformed since linking arms with Noonday Collection.
Important side note: Charlotte had her baby while we were in Rwanda!!
A baby girl named Jessica Honegger. 

 Then we were able to go inside the sewing studio, and these blessed women tried to teach us how to sew. They are the most patient of teachers. 

 Our artisans do ALL of their sewing on foot pedal sewing machines. 
 So Lindsey and I got paired with Charlotte.
You know, the president of the whole co-op. 
Poor Charlotte. 
I won't speak for Lindsey, but I am a terrible seamstress! As in, totally hopeless. 
 I paid really close attention. 

 But, as you can see, I was not feeling too confident.

 But Charlotte, eternal blessings upon here, was a very patient and thorough teacher, and I loved every minute of learning from her. Watching her explain and teach something that is obviously so near to her heart (and something she has SUCH a talent for) was an incredible experience for me. These women are real. Their lives are real. Their stories are real. Their talent is REAL. And I get to be the one to share that with my little world over here? Are you crazy? This is my JOB? I am honored to work WITH these women. Honored to call them my sisters and my friends.

So after MANY false starts and Charlotte have to jump several times to prevent me from totally breaking her sewing machine,
I eventually, kinda, sorta got the hang of it. 
I am being very generous with myself in saying that. 

 Love this sweet woman!
And now I have a whole new appreciate for what she and all of our Rwandan artisans do for us every single day.

Serapia at her station. 
Talk about a woman who gives good hugs! 

 Grace and Solange (see her in our new fall look book!) helping Emily and Leslie learn how to sew on the foot pedal machines. 
 Beautiful ladies taking a break from trying to teach us. 
Apparently. we are exhausting students. Ha! 
The sewing studio from outside. 
The name of our Rwanda co-op is Umucyo (ooh-moo-cho). 
The name means "Light" in Kinyarwandan. 
And these beautiful women are full of light. 

 So then we were off to the fabric market! 
Talk about being overwhelmed. 
Beautiful market fabrics hanging all over the place. 
 So many to choose from! 
 Oh, and I don't speak Kinyarwandan, so this was all done with pointing. 
My final selections. 
All of these were taken back to Umucyo, where our artisans were going to create some gorgeous new treasures for us. 
Skirts and dresses and make up bags and aprons, oh my! 

Getting measured for my skirt! 
My first ever custom piece of clothing. 
And I LOVE knowing that it was crafted by these precious women. 

If you want to read my impressions about day one in Rwanda, just click HERE. I wrote about it that night when we got back to the Africa New Life guest house. This day stands as one of the the very best in my whole life. 

"If you pour yourself out for the hungry
    and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
    and your gloom be as the noonday."
Isaiah 58:10

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