Saturday, September 27, 2014

What Is This Place?

If you have been with me for a while, you know that SO much of this adoption journey has been fraught with pain, tears and despair. There have been countless hard days and so many nights filled with tears. And I even told you in a post the other week that the month of September had gotten off to a particularly difficult start.

But for the last week, I have felt something different.

How do I explain this in a way that makes sense?

I have felt…

Good.

It's weird. Mainly because there are a LOT of reasons to feel sad. But I don't.

I find myself walking around, in the midst of a whole heap of tough stuff, feeling happy.

So I have to ask myself:

What is this place? Where am I? How did I get here? Do I have to leave? Like…ever?

And I think I know the answers.

This place is God's peace with where He has us. Quite honestly, it is a place I have been searching for for some time now. I have been longing for it, craving it. But it has eluded me. Not because God was keeping it from me. NOT AT ALL.

I was refusing contentment. I have been running SO hard after something I want SO much, only comparing myself to the people around me, thinking that I must have been somehow missing the point because everyone else has what I want. And in all of that racing and comparing, I missed God. I missed being grateful for where He has me, for all of this time with my husband, time to take care of student loans before little Ethiopians arrive, time to love on my precious puppy, time to invest in my friends and my students, time to have time.

And time to learn how to humbly surrender my life to Christ in whatever way He asks.

So much of this journey has been learning how to die to myself in a VERY real way. The idea of dying to oneself is something we hear in church all the time. But what does it even really mean? And what in the world does it look like?

For me, it has looked like learning how to set my wants, my desires aside in favor of what God has for me. And please believe me when I say that it has not been easy. Rather, it has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done. By NO means am I perfect at it. I am actually sure that there are a lot of times when my Heavenly Father must shake His head and smile at my refusal to let go.

But now He has brought me to this place where I feel like I have been able to let go, to die to myself and not have it hurt so much. At least a little. You see, dying to yourself can be an INCREDIBLY painful thing. It involves turning away from what your very nature wants and trusting God instead. I have struggled with this. Struggled on a deep, deep level. Way down in the depths of my soul. I have fought against it, and to God's everlasting credit and glory, He did not just give up on me and walk away. He stuck it out with me, and together, we have arrived at this new place. I am finding myself feeling God's peace and walking around with this sense of "I know He will do what is right and what is best."

I hope I stay here in this place. Surrounded and filled by God's peace. I know I will struggle again. It's my nature. But now I know that this place is real. I know, I know, I know, I know that God's peace can break through the toughest and most formidable of exteriors. I know that His persistent and unwavering love can crash though the walls we build around ourselves. I have always said that these things are true, but now I have seen them become reality in my own life and my own heart. I have felt the effects of God's pursuit. I trust Him with whatever comes my way. And I hope in what His plans are for my future.

I hope and pray that you find your way here, too. That you can find it in your heart to trust God with the very life He gave you. If you can, if we can, then God will use us to do great and awesome things. I know how hard it is. I do. I'm right there with you, my friend. And so is He. Lean on Him. There is no shame in that. We were built to need Him. And we can always trust Him.

Love,
Baylor

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.

Love,
Baylor

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

Love, 
Baylor 

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

Love, 
Baylor 

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.

Love,
Baylor

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. 

Love, 
Baylor 

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!

And…

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!
Baylor
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