Praises and Prayer Requests – November 2017

Friends!  Happy Belated Thanksgiving and Merry Early Christmas!  From our family to your’s Gobble till you Wobble and Santa Baby!

It’s been an awesome time this month with family, friends, ministry and fun!  Times are always crazy but we have always said life is an adventure…thanks for adventuring with us!  Here’s some of the quick notes.

Tradition Makers

I remember the things that we did as a family, picking out the Christmas tree, “santa’ leaving the presents out instead of wrapping them, French toast on Saturday mornings.  As I got older, I remember not doing some of those things anymore and then still doing others!

Amy and I were looking at Thanksgiving and with family stuff on Thanksgiving day not really an option this year (NOTE: There was a large family event about 3.5 hours drive 1 way.  We declined to attend that), we were determined to make Thanksgiving Traditions.

So we got cinnamon rolls for breakfast, sat around in our PJs all day, listened to Christmas music, watched Christmas Movies and the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Day parade, played a couple of fun games and prepared and ate an AMAZING meal!  It was slow, low-key, relaxed and we LOVED it!

This got us thinking….how this year for Christmas will we continue to build on some of our family traditions and make new ones!  What are your traditions during this holiday season?  What about traditions / rhythms weekly or even daily?  Here are two of our more regular traditions.

  • Daily – Each night before the kids go to bed we tell them the following.  “You are so smart.  You are so beautiful (or handsome).  Mommy and Daddy will always love you no matter what.  And Jesus loves you even more.”
  • Weekly – This pleasantly plump adolescent ate mounds of French Toast every Saturday morning.  I think the most I ever got up to was probably 6 or 7 pieces.  Now that I am home on the weekends every weekend, I have started to prepare a French Toast breakfast like my mom did for me.  First it started out just for Amy and now the girls Madeline, Z and L wanted in on the action.  So each week, we go through about a carton of eggs, too much syrup, a loaf of bread, etc and sit down for our Saturday morning Breakfast tradition.

Traditions don’t have to be elaborate or they can be.  They don’t have to be out of the house!  Traditions are just routine experiences done with enough frequency and celebrations that they develop memories.  And those memories are what develops the desire for the routine experience!

School Update

  • Things are Wacky Tacky – Tuesday was Wacky Tacky Day at the elementary school!  We were so excited in our house.  I helped Jojo build his outfit and ultimately all he wanted to wear was a suit Jacket, one of my ties, and it was “tacky” because he had basketball shoes on.  I told him I have pictures from Easter one year of me wearing almost the same thing, only a worse tie and Reebok Pumps!  Z couldn’t participate (punishment for peeing on the floor on purpose to make mommy clean it up…Fostering is always an adventure).  And Madeline and I spent some serious time planning her outfit.  The kids got off the bus and Madeline let me know Madeline was the Wackiest – Tackiest in her grade level.  She won the same “award” in Kindergarten as well!  Edmonds’ got style for dayzz!!!
  • An update on Z’s school
    • When Z entered our home about 8 months ago, she was behind educationally.  At 5 years old, she had never had books read to her.  She had been in and out of several preschools (inconsistency).  As a result, she was behind.  She didn’t know colors, letters, directions, or basic vocabulary.  One example: We would point to an egg and she didn’t know what that was.  And she didn’t have a guess.  Another example:  she simply couldn’t communicate.  All sentences started with “raise your hand.”  She learned that phrase in preschool and everything she would say would start with “raise your hand.”  Amy and I were nervous, worried, and we along with the help of MANY MANY people worked hard to get Z ready for school.
    • Praise GOD she was ready.  She had tested out of speech services.  Vocabulary sky-rocketed! and language developed!  She knows her colors and shapes and numbers 1 – 10.  She can count to 39…(seems to always get tripped up on “40”).  As school has continued we have noticed that she is far behind on letters.  We thought she knew her letters in her name but really didn’t.  It was too the point where the teacher was noticing and Z was showing signs of discouragement as her classmates were picking up reading more quickly.
    • So Amy (being the teacher) requested to have a meeting and get started on some interventions to help Z’s letter learning.  We had a review of those interventions and progress last Tuesday.  Amy and I were expecting (at least I was expecting) moving forward with a learning disability testing.  However, the progress was great!
    • Z still does not know all of her letters.  However, she is improving.  In fact she is ahead in some areas relative to her peers in her class!  We even learned that she is adopting some of the strategies we worked on at home in her classroom!  We were STOKED to learn that!  We did ask about retention (repeating the grade) but the team said it’s too early to tell and that with her improvement they at this time don’t see a need to repeat Kindergarten!  We are so blessed!  Z works so hard to learn and engage!  I am so blessed to have Amy as a patient teacher wife who will create strategies, work patiently with Z, and advocate for her needs!

Ministry Update

  • Children’s Ministry – continues to be a HUGE blessing.  I love getting to partner in ministry with my wife.  We are still figuring out how to best work together (more clearly, I am still figuring it out.  Amy knows already!).  We are continuing to see new families come into the church and even another (unrelated) Edmonds family which was cool!  December is upon us and it’s involved to say the least.  Continue to pray!  We will need pace and endurance to get through all the activities in the curriculum this month!  But it’s going to be AWESOME!
  • Students – You remember the post, A story about life-change.  Well our student ministry continues to expand at both campuses.  At our South Fork location, we have seen 3 students take their next step and begin to serve on Sunday’s!  That’s HUGE!  At our North Campus, we just completed a student retreat.  Fourteen students with volunteers unplugged for 3 days (no phone, no internet, no tv) and instead of being engrossed in those spent time studying God’s Word together.  The students came back on FIRE for God and a had a legit hunger and thirst for His Word.
  • Community – Amy and I are still evaluating community for us!  Couples group?  Family group?  Meeting with men for me to lead, Amy to be part of a women’s group.  Prayers for wisdom, discernment and appropriate margin and opportunities to meet this need and deep desire to have deeper and stronger relationships with our peers!
  • Preaching – I am preaching this weekend at our South Fork Campus!  I am so excited to share God’s Word with our people (and so nervous too)

Praises and Prayer Requests:

  • Prayer Request – The beginning of the weeks are hard.  Monday’s are visitation days.  We love that Z and L have a great time with their biological mother.  Often Monday we sit on pins and needles waiting to see if visit will happen and then deal with the aftermath of visits with bio mom.  Z often says she can’t call us mom and dad (which we are ok with….it’s her choice) and tends to be stand-off-ish until about the end of the week and then warms up all in time to go to visit again the following Monday.  It’s a roller coaster of emotions for sure for her, for Amy, and for the rest of the family.  Pray for endurance.
  • Praise and Prayer Request – Financial Partners – Praise God we have had a couple of additional financial partners join our team!  Thank you and again Praise God.  We are still praying for $250/month in additional support.  If you are thinking about partnering with our family in ministry financially, let me or Amy know.  We would love to share about ministry here in Winston Salem, NC at our church or with Z and L.
  • Pray – Multiplication – We are praying specifically over the next season for multiplication.  Multiplication of disciples, of leaders, of kids in the children’s ministry, of rooms.  We are praying specifically that God is NOT waiting on us to multiply.  We wont be caught not ready.  Pray that God will multiply and we will be prepared!
  • Pray – Student Ministry –  Our student ministry is growing and thriving!  We have students taking next steps (desiring to serve, desiring to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus).  Continue to pray as we preach over the next few weeks on the Bible, The Holy Spirit, and Fasting.  Pray that our students would latch onto the Gospel and have their lives transformed by Jesus.
  • Pray – GET AWAY – Amy and I are about 2 weeks away from 3 days without any kids!  Be in PRAYER now that it will be a time of reflection over the last year. Be in PRAYER now that it is a time of expectation for the new year.  Pray for rest!  Pray for fun!  It’s going to be AMAZING!
  • Pray – Preaching – This weekend I am preaching at one of our campuses!  Pray for our house to be a place of peace as I work on the final preparations.  Pray for nerves.  Pray specifically that it’s NOT TOO SHORT!  I’m excited just nervous!

Friends, thank you for petitioning the Lord with us!  God is on the move.  We have so much to be thankful for!  How can we be praying for you all?!?

11046504_10102979270370209_5351404790408557193_n

Wacky Tacky Kindergarten Champion!

IMG_0579

Date breakfast with the wife – we’re so cool. Calendar Planning!

IMG_0582

Because who doesn’t love the Habit ReSTORE for a date location

IMG_0609

IMG_0617

Love our leadership time as a staff each and every week

IMG_0626

2nd grade WACKY TACKY CHAMP!

IMG_0650

Decorating the Christmas Tree at Grandma Jane’s house with the cousins!

Advertisements

No Watch me BUAY

In all our years of living in Belize, we learned to speak English-Creole…well most of us anyway. (Side bar – I never learned how to read it, I mean ever!  I tried and tried and a pastor ONLY texted me in Creole and still nothing)

I continue. Perhaps no one learned to speak Creole as much as our most Belizean boy – Jojo.  Jojo was 10 months old when we moved.  More or less his entire language formation was developed in Belize, most often while being passed around by women and youth speaking Creole to him.  From 10 months to 3 years old Jojo spoke nothing but Creole.

This past week was Jojo’s birthday and as part of his birthday present he wanted me to come to his class and tell them about Belize.  As I prepped the presentation, I road down the memory lane of Facebook, looked at pictures and listened to videos, and heard that accent as Jojo started to speak.

At school, when I was “teaching” his classmates Creole, Jojo beamed.  He was proud of the language he knows but won’t speak.  (2nd Side Bar – Even now, we can tell Jojo formed language in Belize….his “r” are never HARD.  They are soft almost like a “Boston R”)

Then I saw a little bit of sadness as he looked, laughed, and shared about a country we love and really the first home he knew.  I looked at him telling his friends “No watch me buay” that he missed being there sometimes and today was one of those days.  And I realized…today son, I miss it too.

Happy Birthday to that dude.  Our Belizean buay in every since of culture.  A buay that refuses store bought food because in Belize mommy made everything homemade.

Happy birthday to the buay that wants flour tortillas and fry jacks.

Happy birthday to the buay who says bananas here taste funny and would rather have a mango fresh off the tree and eat his oranges with salt and hot pepper.

Happy Birthday to the buay that is fiercely competitive and fiercely loyal.  That loves his friends and deeply desires to please others.

Happy Birthday to the buay that is ready to the big kid but wants to cuddle at night with mommy or daddy or his blanket.

Happy Birthday to the buay that deeply desires to serve others and learn much.  To the buay that refuses fiction books at the library and dives into non-fiction.

Happy Birthday to the buay that loves passionately, is wild and free, and is waiting for God to form and shape his heart.

Happy birthday day Jojo, our Belizean Buay, we pray that you always know and remember everything we have tried to teach you.  You try our patience many times but that’s parenting.  May the Lord take your loyalty, passions, love, deep desire for learning and position you to pursue Him relentlessly in whatever avenue He directs.  We pray that you meet Jesus at an early age and do not stray from the right or the left.  We pray that your testimony is filled not with sin the Lord had to redeem you out of but rather sins that He kept you from because of your relationship with Him.  We love you buay!

Will you join us in praying that over Jojo?

IMG_0531

Jojo at “hours old”

IMG_0532

Jojo at 3.  My baller shot caller!

IMG_0533

4 yrs old

IMG_0534

This might be my favorite Jojo pic ever.  Channeling his inner Tupac

IMG_0536

Jojo on his birthday!  6 years old!! 

IMG_0537

Jojo @ 2!

IMG_0577

Jojo the 1 year old!

 

A story of life-change

Baptism is a big deal!  It’s a HUGE deal at our church!  As a leadership team, we want to make sure that no one, and we really mean NO ONE out celebrates us.  Since the very first Baptism service, our leadership team said, “why can’t the church have the most crazy incredible loud, fanatic, celebration?”  Isn’t someone having their life transformed by Jesus bigger or better than a touchdown?

Out answer is simply yes.  Therefore we put A LOT of energy into a Baptism Celebration.  Noise Makers!  Bounce Houses!  Bounce House Obstacle Courses!  FOOD!  MUSIC!  and this past Sunday was no different.  Here’s one story of why

A story… To understand Hez, you have to understand what we prayed for when we launched REVO at South Fork.  When we launched our campus in the South Fork neighborhood, we were so excited to be in a residential area.  As a leadership team, we began to pray for a student ministry at our South Fork location.  We prayed specifically that we could have students from the surrounding neighborhood come into a church, encounter the Gospel and be transformed.  So several months ago, we launched a student ministry!  And Hez was one of the first ones to come.  Hez was graduating in May and we could tell he was searching for something more, maybe what’s next.  He had maturity and was genuinely curious.  Our leaders began to meet with Hez, and build that relationship.  Each week we would faithfully present the Gospel, praying that someone would respond.  We realized we weren’t putting Hez in front of God, so we began to pray specifically for God to transform Hez’s heart and for him specifically to be baptized on Nov 5th, 2017 at our Baptism Celebration!

We were faithful in prayer.  We were faithful in preaching the Gospel.  We had some specific leaders that invested into Hez.  And Hez desired to give his life to Jesus.  Did you catch that?  Hez realized his life was incomplete with Jesus.  He desired to stop living one way and start living for Jesus.  Jesus sparked a revolution of life-change in Hez’s life.

The Lord heard our prayers and ANSWERED YES when Hez was BAPTIZED last Sunday.  Not only that, we prayed specifically that Hez could be a LIGHT to this neighborhood and the students he has influence over were all out to see him take his next step to move forward to Jesus.

And God is doing immeasurably more!  Hez is now a student ministry leader each Wednesday night!  And Hez is attending and serving our church as part of our Guest Services Team!

But God’s not done….Friends our prayer specifically for Hez is that he would take our churches core value of LIVE BOLD to heart and he would shepherd and lead one person in his sphere to Christ.  It is our specific prayer that Hez would baptize one of his friends at our next Baptism in May!

Friends thank you for being part of this story.  Thank you for being part of the story of God using our family to help spark a revolution of life-change through Jesus in our city.  Thank you for being part of sparking a revolution of life-change through Jesus in Hez’s life!

IMG_6323

Zach who has invested heavily in Hez celebrating like crazy after Hez came up out of the water!  God we desire for Zach’s face to be repeated in Hez at the next Baptism as he is baptizing one of his friends!!

Praises and Prayer Requests – October 2017

October has been a month.  I wanted to say is a month but I sit and write this on Halloween Eve and realize October is GONE!  So it’s been a month.  It’s been a great month of activity, family fun, a lot of ministry, and some foster care ups and downs.  A brief recap, some praises and prayer requests and A LOT of pictures!  We hope you enjoy!

Family

  • School has gotten in a good rhythm for everyone.
    • Jojo tries to be the best behaved in his class.
    • Madeline’s Spanish is amazing and her 2nd out of 3 total teachers is from Colombia.  Between that and my love for the Netflix show Narcos, I think the Lord is directing to her Colombia as a missionary.
    • Z: School for Z is going well.  She loves her teacher, her friends, and riding the bus.  She LOVES numbers and shapes.  But letters….that’s another story. We are realizing that she doesn’t know letters.  She can write them but only if looking at them.  She cannot recall them and has a hard time identifying.  We are really stumped at this time but we are now enlisting the professionals.  We are blessed to have such a large support system.  Amy is moving forward with the PEP and IEP process and getting some interventions in place to help Z learn these letters.
    • Elijah – This dude loves school.  We were worried heading into this year because his best friend was in a different class.  But of course Elijah comes home this entire month and talks about 4 or 5 different people that are his best friends!
    • L – She’s the star of her class!  She loves her class and works a room and hallway almost as if she is running for office and with her belly, snack time continues to be her most favorite time of any day.
  • Fall Fun – We have LOVED the fall weather….well sort of.  We have loved fall.  We have done the corn maze thing, the fall festival thing, the paint and carve pumpkin thing.  Josh went with the seniors of the church apple picking and looking at the fall foliage.  We’ve been extending the Edmonds Garden (about a 50% increase in size) and working on new composting strategy.  Stay tuned cause the Edmonds Garden will produce some dividends this year.  Sign up early to claim your jar of pickles, jam, canned salsa or homemade tomato sauce!
  • Kids Activities – We have dodged the big family / lots of activities bullet for some time (Praise God).  But we are heading into a season of many activities.
    • Madeline is currently in Piano lessons at her school (Yay for free lessons from Wake Forest students).  She’s had two, so naturally we bought an electric piano!  Now I’m practicing (and it’s so hard!).  Pray for me that I practice every day!
    • We’re playing basketball.  Jojo has been counting down the days since he was 4 to when he could start Kindergarten and play a sport.  His first choice is basketball.  I thought to myself, surely he’s going to hate it.  Only he’s really good, like dribbles without looking at the ground, with each hand independently good. Is he going to the league?  Nope but I think he might actually like it!  We shall see.

Foster care Update

  • We’ve been to court and we don’t have another court hearing until March.  Therefore, Z and L will remain in our care until at least then. We aren’t sure what’s going on with their mom and the case plan other than she is working it.
  • The fun – We have done some cool firsts with Z and L this month like make leaf piles and jump in them, carve and paint pumpkins, and just last time we took them to their first fall festival!
  • The not so fun – We continue to battle days and sometimes weeks of bad moods and disobedience.  We did enter the first “but why do I have to obey you, you’re not my parents”.  We also had some behaviors that were honestly a little scary.  Fostering isn’t easy.  It isn’t always fun but it’s the calling He has placed on us.

Ministry Update

  • Ministry at REVO church has been AMAZING.  Our children’s ministry is growing and it’s been a real pleasure to serve with our AMAZING volunteers.
  • We have adjusted our curriculum and are doing almost everything that we can to resource our parents and partner with them in sparking a revolution of life-change through Jesus in their lives.
  • Facility remodel – You may recall in the first part of the year, our church was in the home stretch of renovating our 2nd permanent facility.  Amy and I were specifically focused on the children’s ministry area with a HUGE host of amazing staff and volunteers.  Well this August, September and October we renovated the children’s ministry area at our campus in the north end of town.  It was hurry up and wait for a while but we just finished and it looks AMAZING!  We had another INCREDIBLE team of staff and volunteers partner with us!  So cool to see our church sacrificing so much so that kids can come to know Jesus in environments that are safe, fun, clean, and exciting!!
  • Student Ministry – When we moved our mobile campus to the South Fork neighborhood, we began to ask and beg God for influence among the students in that neighborhood.  After weeks of prayer and some tweaks here and there, He heard our cry, inclined his ear to us!  We have approximately 15 students each week.  These are students that have never heard the Gospel presented in an engaging way.  I have had the privilege to hang out on some Wednesday nights and share the Gospel with them!  We have seen some students take next steps, with now routinely attending our Sunday Worship Services and (1) of them is serving on our Guest Services team and getting Baptized this weekend!
  • Community Group / Small Group – We took a break from our community group over the summer and adjusted to life with the girls.  After looking at our schedule, Amy and I said the only night during the week that would work for our family and bed time for the kids, etc is Friday night.  So we said we would have small group at our house on Friday nights.  We weren’t sure if anyone would come!  We prayed.  We sought counsel and again the Lord heard our cry.  We have 3 other families coming to our community group now.  These were families that weren’t already plugged into community in our church!  The Lord is faithful and we are excited to do life with these families!!

Praises

  • It’s fall y’all – We have really enjoyed some intentional family time within our unit and with our extended family.  Praise God for good times of lunch dates, cool weather, and fun fall firsts!
  • Ministry – Ministry is growing, fun, tiring, exciting, and awesome.  We are praising God for growth.  Praising God for people moving forward, taking next steps in their relationships with Jesus.

Prayer Requests

  • Foster Care / Z’s educational needs – We are learning that it is a challenge to get the appropriate approvals for Z’s educational testing.  Apparently Foster Parents do not have the authority to initiate that.  Therefore we are waiting on the bio mom to approve the educational testing needs.  This whole process is truthfully frustrating, most especially for Amy, since she is a former teacher and is in the “know” on the process.  Pray for patience for us!  Pray for immediate action from the bio mom.  Pray that Z can get the testing / screening and subsequent interventions she needs.
  • Student Ministry – I have the opportunity to share about every 3 weeks at our student ministry.  Please be in prayer as our student teaching team lays out the next several weeks of content.  Also please pray that our students begin to be stirred towards the Gospel.  We have a whole host of students who have NO IDEA about Christ.  Pray that they would hear and believe!
  • Preaching – I am excited to share with our church later in the year!  Please be in prayer for great clarity, peace at home and for low nerves!!
  • Parenting – Continue praying that Amy and I can parent in a way that is pointing our kids to Jesus.  Pray that we shepherd their hearts well towards their Creator and not simply ask (or demand) obedience to us.  Pray we parent to the heart of the issue in all circumstances.
  • Get away – Amy and I are blessed to be able to have a small get away in December (Thankful for church family that has a place we can get away to).  Please be in prayer for this NOW!  We are so excited!!  First time away since the girls came to our house!
  • Financial Support – Amy and I continue to rely on financial support from you all our prayer and financial partners for part of our income.  We are currently praying for $250 additional per month in financial support.  That could be (1) family at $250 a month or 10 families at $25 per month.  We would ask you join us in praying.  We would also ask that you prayerfully consider partnering with us financially in ministry.  If you need more info, find one of us on social media or simply email one of us and we can get you the 411.

Friends, thank you so much for celebrating what God is doing in our family and through us in ministry here in Winston!  We are so thankful for ALL of you!  If we can be in prayer for you in anyway, please let us know!

For the Kingdom! – Edmonds Family!

Put away the Tupperware and Stop Trying to be Perfect

(A post by Amy)

I’m Type A.  Really, super, duper, Type A.  Josh says “Everything has a place and everything in its place.” But I take it to another level.  Everything has a place, everything in its place, with a label made with my label maker, all the containers are the same size and they are arranged by color.  That’s a brief glimpse into my Type A brain.

You know what’s hard?  Being Type A with 5 kids, scratch that, being Type A with any kids.  They are constantly putting stuff away (in the wrong place I might add) and pulling stuff out (and leaving it out).

And then they get LEGOs.  Not just any LEGOs, LEGO SETS.  Police stations, fire stations, race cars, ice cream shop, Cinderella’s castles, Batman boat, Spiderman helicopter, Shop-Kins Legos, and on and on and on.

So we follow the instructions; we build.  And TEN MINUTES LATER they tear it apart!  GRRR.  And of course they don’t keep the box or even know where the same pieces are.  They leave, go outside even, and walk away from the minefield of little LEGO pieces all over the basement floor.

Only then it rains.  They’re done with outside and want the castle built back.  There’s a problem.  The castle is in the sea of mixed up LEGOs.  Is that a crown or a wheel?  Is that Batman’s cape or Elsa’s?  And I got sick of it.

So like any self-respecting Type A parent would do, I went out and bought all the Tupperware / Rubbermaid I could find and organized all the LEGOs by individual piece types.  Squares here, people heads there, and on and on and on.

Josh comes in and says “Amy, put away the Tupperware and stop being perfect.  It’s doesn’t have to be.  Let them build ramps with cars with wings.  What if it’s a batman helicopter and a Spiderman boat?  What if the race cars were ice cream cars or what if they don’t build ANY of it?”

I didn’t want to admit it but he is right.  I struggle with wanting to be perfect.  And I always have.  I wanted the LEGOs to look organized because that would project that I’m organized and I’m not.  I wanted the kids to play with the pre-assembled LEGOs because that was easy and creatively building something took more of my brain and I don’t like it.  It wasn’t perfect.  But to them it was.  To them building the 4 story flying bunk bed banana house is perfect.  So I started thinking.

I thought about my childhood

When I was a child, we had A LOT of toys.  I mean A LOT. We had all the Playmobil toys from my two older brother’s childhood (and as a side note that stuff kept really well.  Seriously, my mom has toys that my brother played with in the 1970s still!).  Back to my childhood.  I would play with the castle or the ranch or the pirate ship with the cannon.  But they were only that, the ranchers didn’t play with on the pirate ship.  The cannon balls weren’t pretend cows, and the kings couldn’t ride horses on the ranch.

I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but imaginary play and especially playing across toy lines wasn’t appropriate.

Another example.  I had MANY Dolls growing up.  MANY.  REALLY.  Some of my dolls were Cabbage Patch.  If you didn’t know Cabbage Patch dolls come with a birth certificate that states their name.  Only their names weren’t fun.  I wanted to name my Cabbage Patch doll “Dolly” only her name was “Regina Marsha”.  Seriously, who names these things!?  REGINA!? Marsha??  Come on!

Anyway, all the way home from receiving the gift on a LONG LONG car-ride, my mom had me repeat the ENTIRE name of the doll over and over and over again.  REGINA MARSHA that’s who she was, and that was that.

This might not seem that significant but parents take note (and I AM talking to myself and Josh as well) “constant criticism in the eyes of a child begins to wear them out and down.” That wearing out begins to create unrealistic expectations and unrealistic expectations require perfection.  Even when perfection is not possible.

I thought about when Josh and I were getting married

Growing up I had seriously warped body image issues.  I laugh now thinking back on them but growing up it was serious.  I don’t know if it was from years of training in ballet classes or unintentional comments here and there.  But I was messed up.  I thought about my arms, the desirable “thigh gap”, the extra pooch on my lower abdominal (hilarious now, especially after 3 kids in 3 years AND an Umbilical hernia repair).

Anyway, Josh and I were on the road to getting married and I was panicked on how I would look in my wedding dress.  So like any other bride, I dieted way down, subsisting on too little food and too much exercise.  Josh was REALLY excited because he thought I LOVED the gym.  HA!  Fooled him!  But friends, here’s where that landed me, sick. As. A. DOG.  My entire honeymoon.  Literally I spent the whole time we were on our honeymoon with Laryngitis sprinkled with bronchitis and a little touch of pneumonia.  I had run my body down so much that I couldn’t enjoy Mexico with my new hubby.  The pursuit of perfection was NOT worth it.

I thought about 2 years into our marriage.

All I wanted to do was to be the best mommy.  I knew Josh could be a great daddy.  Only it wasn’t happening.  Like FOREVER.  If you all have followed our story for any period of time, you know it took us FOREVER to get pregnant with Madeline (including a birth mother for adoption rescinding her consent).  I spent the majority of 2.5 years fighting feelings of worthlessness.  I wasn’t giving Josh what he wanted.  I couldn’t get pregnant.  A mom who wanted to give her child up for adoption didn’t even what me to be a mom.  I wasn’t perfect and I knew it.  And it almost ruined our marriage.  But GOD…

I thought about when Madeline was born

I was the mom!  And if you’re a mom, you know…Mom’s just know their kids.  I knew the cry for food vs the sound of spit up.  I knew gas bubbles and a full diaper.  And you know who didn’t…Josh.  He was (and is) a GREAT dad. He’s the fun one and played and LOVED Madeline when we were starting out on this adventure of parenting.  But he would hear something, offer his suggestions and I WOULD LISTEN TO HIM!  I would question it in my head.  “She just ate, no she isn’t hungry, it’s probably gas but I am sure he knows better”.  I would go in and feed her, she would spit up all over me, herself, her sheets and be up all night.  I wasn’t even sure enough of myself as a mother to trust the “motherly instinct.”  I would get frustrated at Josh and then spend the majority of the time being upset at me!  I was too concerned with being perfect that I wasn’t even sure enough of my own motherhood.

I thought about Belize

That’s how we got started here on the trip to Belize.  I thought about how I wasn’t quite Belizean and I wasn’t quite American.  American’s wanted to talk about how wonderful life was; I wanted to talk about how I miss Oreos and Chick-fil-a.  Belizean’s wanted to talk about how wonderful it was that I was there; I wanted to talk about how they get ants off their laundry.  And so it was for about 2 of our 3 years there.  I was tasked with being the perfect missionary wife, not complaining, not whining, not missing home. I was tasked with being the perfect missionary (not complaining about the lack of food choices, clothes choice, bugs in cereal pasta or my birthday cake.  This pursuit of perfection was the strangest and strongest I had felt yet and it almost crushed me.

I thought about coming back to the United States

And I was all upside down.  I walked into Target and turned around and walked out.  I’m a mom of small children.  This was my mecca, my nirvana, my Holy Land and I was paralyzed to react or go in.  I get to the grocery store and I am so overwhelmed by the produce section that I cry, literally tears down my face.  Time goes on and I am able to grocery shop but I still can’t bring myself to American Consumerism.  I find myself crushed by the weight of expectations….does my house need to look like a Pottery Barn catalog?  What will my friends in Belize think about me if I buy a new shirt? Or a decorative rug or even a towel?  Are scented candles necessary?  I like my house to smell nice but is that wasteful?

Perfection is not attainable it’s not possible and I wanted it so badly.  Why can’t I be perfectly American?  I’m back here!  Shouldn’t I be American?  Why do I have to be different?  I didn’t fit in Belize and I don’t fit in now.  How can I do this?

I thought about this struggle as the weather started to cool and the leaves start to fall.

My favorite season is here!  I’ve gotten a couple of pumpkin spice lattes and it’s starting to turn a shade of orange in my house.  I ALWAYS want MORE decorations with FALL and of course Christmas being my top two vices.  Being frugal and lived overseas in missions, this struggle is real and intense.  It all boils down to frugality and need vs want.

Anyway I start scouring my house looking for something, anything that I can make “fall-ish”.  I make it through all the kids’ stuff and land on their blocks downstairs.  These 18-inch scrap pieces of 2 x 4 boards are PERFECT.  Giddy I pull out Pintrest and start frantically looking for anything I can do.  The best I find is a painted “rectangle pumpkin.”  I’m intrigued and I have to have it.  Surely they have a pattern I can print and follow, remember it HAS TO BE PERFECT!

One problem.  Nothing.  They don’t have anything.  No pattern.  How will I paint these?  I’m pacing at this point, trying to figure out what to do.  Can I blow this image up trace it on wax paper, etc.  As I am walking back and forth, as intense shooting pain shoots through my heel.  I’m stopped.  I look down and it’s a LEGO.  Frustrated at the lack of cleanliness I go into the boy’s room to put it up and I see the LEGO creations.  I’m immediately reminded of my pursuit of perfection.

My hand goes to my head and I feel my messy bun which is way messier than it is bun.  It’s definitely NOT perfect and I laugh, a HUGE belly laugh.

I feel the extra jiggle in my belly and am reminded about all the stretch marks (3 kids in 3 years does a number on ya).  It’s not perfect and I start to laugh.

I look around at the room, think about our life, and as if a burden was being lifted off of me from the Lord I was free.  No more pursuit of perfection because I am pursuing HIM and I am perfect in HIS eyes because of Jesus.

I got my paints and free-handed those pumpkins.  AND I think they look GREAT.

Why share all of this?  Here’s why. I was paralyzed for a lot of my life with this constant pursuit of perfection, stifling of creativity, etc.  I was more than paralyzed; at times it felt as if I was buried.  At the moment of freedom, it was as if I was breathing fresh crisp fall air for the first time.  It was as if I was honestly tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.  The pursuit of perfection LEFET and Joy entered.  I share because it’s changed my thoughts, my pursuits and my parenting.  I share because I pray you experience that same freedom.

Stop pursuing perfection that’s you will not reach.  Choose joy instead.  It’d be a whole lot cooler if you did!

 

IMG_0421

My free hand pumpkins. Not perfect but I LOVE them

IMG_0422

This is the kids version of perfect LEGO play.

IMG_0430

One of the Tupperware Lego containers now relegated to holding left overs!

Happy Fall Y’all

I can’t believe it’s Fall!  Well at least in this part of North Carolina, it may be “Fall” on the calendar but it’s really SUMMER outside!  Can I just be done with mowing the yard?

Amy and I were talking and we haven’t really provided a basic update on our family in some time so we wanted to do so since school started, we’ve had a court date for the girls, and things with children’s ministry at church are really churning along!!

We still don’t have it all together

Since our last post we are still evaluating if we have it all together in the parenting game.  Two weeks ago, I was home to pick up the kids from the bus stop at the end of the road.  Z was getting picked up by the Department of Social Services to go to a visit with her bio mom.  Therefore, Jojo and Madeline were the only ones that were “supposed” to come off the bus.  Only when the bus arrived, Jojo just came off!  I said “where’s Madeline?”  He said “I don’t know.” We walk back home and Amy is packing Zutaeya in the car with her snacks and the DSS worker when she asks where Madeline is.  I literally just laugh out loud shrug my shoulders and go to call the school.  It turns out her whole class missed their buses because of a scheduling mix up with her teacher.  It sure was hilarious though.  And another feather in the cap of we still don’t have it all together….and that’s ok!

Foster Care Update – the girls

The girls, Z (5 almost 6) and L (~2.5), have been in our home since late March!  Adventuring as a family of 5 has been an adventure.  We have hit some great milestones with Z THRIVING in school!  Her teacher has said that she is a JOY to be around and more than that her teacher said “my favorite part of the day is seeing Z and your other two kids run to each other when they are waiting to get on the bus.  They hug and then start telling each other about their days”  Z’s teacher told me that at lunch one Friday and I choked back some serious dad tears!

Another huge praise is at the time of placement in our home Z and Madeline had a power struggle.  Who is dominant female in the house?  As Z has become more comfortable and learning to play “girly” play (something she did not ever do before), she and Madeline have become very close!!  We PRAYED so much about wanting a sister for Madeline and He answered!!

L is a typical almost 3 year old. She is INSANELY cute, LOVES everyone but does stuff that a toddler does and it’s so FRUSTRATING.  Before entering into the house the girls weren’t familiar with meal times and / or healthy food options.  This was particularly true of L.  After a long 6 months, L now chooses to each certain veggies freely!  We are so blessed!!!

Foster Care Update – The Case

The Faith As a multi-racial family, we receive questions all the time.

  • Some are inappropriate – Are they yours?  Where did you get them from (like children are a commodity that I swung by Kids – R – Us and picked up before dinner)?
  • Some are hilarious – Are they twins? – said when looking at pointing at Jojo and Z who are both 5 years old but obviously look NOTHING alike
  • Some are legit – So you’re doing Foster Care to Adopt right?  – The answer to that is … it Depends

See when we entered into our licensing classes, it was our intention to only Foster-to-Adopt.  But as Amy and I sought wisdom from God and prayed, we realized He was saying “the plan is mine.  Faith in my plan must be yours.”  So we changed our minds.

  • Are we Fostering to Adopt?  – Yes
  • Are we just Fostering? – Yes

The real answer is we are obeying God. He told us “Trust me” and we are.  So we are Fostering Z and L.  If we are part of the story that ultimately ends with them reunifying with their bio family then Praise God.  And if we are part of the story that ends with them adopted in our home then Praise God.  He will guide and reveal His plan and we will say Yes to the opportunities He directs us to!

The Frustration – With that faith and the unknown of Foster Care, there is a fair bit of frustration at times.  We find ourselves frustrated with communication with the birth family.  We find ourselves frustrated with trying to identify and receive services necessary to meet the girls needs.  And most recently we found ourselves frustrated with the legal system and the court review process.

See the are certain periods of time that the case must be reviewed.  This is called a permanency planning or review hearing.  At this hearing, the court hears progress on the bio parents and their case plan.  The court also receives an update on the girls.  As foster parents, we are not given a voice in court but it’s a great place to learn about the case and the only place to get updates on the bio parents which in turn projects for us as foster parents HOW LONG the girls would be in our care.  Here’s what happened over the course of the past couple of months

  • August wk 1 – Case was scheduled for 2PM.  I arrived at court before 2PM.  The case was not heard and continued for 3 weeks later.  I left court after 4:30PM
  • Next Court Date – Case was schedule for 11AM.  I arrived around 10:30AM.  Case was NOT heard and continued AGAIN for 3 weeks.  I left court after 4:30PM. UGH!
  • Next Court Date (YESTERDAY) – Case was scheduled for 11AM.  I arrived around 10:30AM…just in case it was heard early.  Don’t worry it wasn’t!  The CASE was heard!!  Praise God!  I left court after 5:00pm!

And contrary to what you may think…it’s NOT like Law and Order.  It’s dry and quiet.  You really can’t even turn the page of a book without getting the stank eye from one of the baliffs!   Goodness.

Before this court date Amy and I were praying that the case would be heard and that we would have some idea into the future of when the next hearing would be.  Specifically we were praying that it would be AFTER the girls birthdays (December and January).  PRAISE GOD!  The Lord heard our prayer and the next hearing is in 6 months.

Does this give us any idea where we are going, reunification or adoption?  Nope.  But God’s plan was revealed for the next 6 months so we say Yes to Him and this opportunity and wait for the next revelation of His plan!  Thanks for being on this adventure together with us!

 

Praise Report

To be honest God has answered very specific prayers of ours over the last few days and we want to celebrate with you.

  • Amy – a potential mentor – Amy is enrolled in Bible Study Fellowship, a weekly Bible study meeting at a local church near our house.  Approximately 200 women attend each week and they are further divided in small groups.  After surveying the scene, Amy asked if we could jointly pray for an African-American older woman to reach out to her.  THE VERY NEXT WEEK, yesterday, GOD ANSWERED THAT SPECIFIC PRAYER!  The hit it off and are looking forward to connecting next week as well!!  PRAISE GOD
  • Court Case – Amy and I were praying since the last court continued date for court to be heard YESTERDAY and specifically for the next review to be AFTER the girls birthdays (Dec and Jan).  The girls have NEVER had a birthday and we wanted to make their day a BIG BIG DEAL!  And guess what GOD HEARD US!  AND ANSWERED! Next case review is in March!
  • Dates – Amy and I have been praying for some time to spend with just each other, weekly we were taxed at the end of the day and weren’t able to fully give ourselves over to each other.  We were getting lost in the phones and / or Netflix binge (currently Criminal Minds).  So we were praying for time during the week to have more time when we were fresh!  GOD ANSWERED.  Tuesday and Thursday the young ones are in preschool for a few hours so Amy and I have spent time working together on organizing Children’s Ministry stuff and this past Thursday we went to Chick-fil-A and visited with my grandparents!  GOD ANSWERED our PRAYER!!  Thank you for praying!

Prayer Requests

  • Homework – Homework with 3 kids (2 Kinders and 1 2nd grader) and 2 small ones around is NO JOKE!  Madeline’s homework is all in Spanish and now even I (Josh) don’t know some of the words (relying on Google Translate unfortunately).  Our SPECIFIC prayer request is an attitude shift of Jojo.  He is the type of dude who only likes what he likes to do (play, toys, food, and homework).  So he will breeze through some math but writing his name….UGH!  It took us 2 hours the other day and only 10 minutes of that was spent doing his homework, the rest was him pitching a fit.  Pray for patience and wisdom as we navigate helping him self adjust his attitude about homework.
  • Financial Support – Amy and I have been blessed and y’all have partnered with us for approximately $1000 per month!  Thank you!  We still need to raise an $500 / month in support to meet our overall goal of $1500 / month in support.  That’s only 50 additional families giving at $10 / month.  If God is moving in your heart to partner with us financially in ministry, please reach out to myself or Amy.  We would love to sit down grab coffee, talk on the phone, etc and share how you can be a part of what God is doing in our lives and in Winston!
  • Baptism – Our church is having a BONKERS BAPTISM PARTY the first weekend in November!  Its going to be full of food trucks, bounce houses, and of course LIFE CHANGE.  I’ve had some great conversations with people about their spiritual next steps.  Please be in prayer for myself and Amy as we talk to those in our lives about the GOOD NEWS and are BOLD in asking people to take the next step and GO PUBLIC with their faith!  We can’t wait to share with you how God uses your prayers!

Friends, God’s up to some cool stuff in our family, in our ministry and in the lives of everyone!  Thank you for praying.  Thank you for partnering and Thank you for being on this adventure together.  It’s a blessing to know and love and partner with you all!

IMG_0230

It’s always fun with Madeline and her friends!

IMG_0227

I’ve been eating lunch with Madeline each Friday since she was in Kindergarten.  Jojo was so excited for his very first Friday lunch date!

IMG_0245

My beautiful date at Chick-fil-A.  Thankful for gift cards!

IMG_0268

Madeline danced at the Spanish Fiesta this weekend.  It was of course a Colombian dance.  God has impressed that country on her little heart!

Pull yourself together man!

A common conversation in our house begins with “What did you do with….” or “Where was the last place you saw….” or “Please stop…..”.  It’s the nature of the season of life we are in and I know the days are long but the years are short….

Can someone just Amen the fact that where we are at right now in this very season sometimes the days seem really really long!

And there are many days and times that I am literally telling myself to pull myself together, get a handle on these kids, this family, this life and move forward.  I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and as he and his wife were lamenting about their crazy toddler this what I said:

“Sometimes I feel like parenting is taking a test that we don’t get the grade back until 25 years later.  And there are seasons that 95% of the time we feel like we flunked it.  No clue.  Guessed wrong.  Used the wrong formula, etc.  But then there are those times that make up the other 5% and we feel like we CRUSHED this test!  Had time to double check our answers.  Etc”

I get it.  I am in one of the 95% seasons or have been for a couple of weeks.  It’s just been a time where we look at ourselves and realize that without Jesus we don’t have it all together….like not at all.  And folks, we were missionaries….in another country, and now I am pastor!  I am supposed to have it all together!  But read below because these stories definitely illustrate that we don’t have it all together.

Story 1 – 5 kids at the beach

Amy and I were blessed with the opportunity to take our whole family to the beach.  It was a welcomed vacation from appointments and a hard push to get some children’s ministry things tied together.  Was it restful?  Well yes in one sense and no in another….we had 5 kids at the beach!

One day we were all in the Ocean about the middle of the week.  Amy was with L in the surf and I was sending all the kids on their Boogie Boards out a little bit further.  The waves were good…not too small but not too big either.  And for about an hour all was right with the world.  I would tow a kid out turn them around and send them flying back to Amy and L in the surf.

Every so often I would turn and look and get a count of all the kids.  1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Got it.  Some time passed and I was loving it.  Z, Madeline, Jojo, Elijah, Z, Madeline, Jojo, Elijah…. then Z, Madeline, Jojo, Z, Madeline Jojo….

UH-OH.  My rotation of 4 kids to Boogie Board was down to 3.  I looked over to Amy and L. NO Elijah there (insert mild panic and lump in my throat).  I quickly sent the kids on their last Boogie Board ride and started to make my way to shore.  I glanced up at the house and our tent….no Elijah there.  (Heartbeat quickened).  I start to talk to Amy about “have you seen Elijah”  Wasn’t he with you?  I thought he was with you?!

Eventually we look down the beach about 200 yards Elijah is out with a large family just Boogie Boarding with them, happy as he can be.  When we got him, they said “we saw him float down this way and he let us know where y’all were.  He was having fun and we were watching him.”  Ha!

Panic ended.  Hugs, kisses and some clearer instruction later, our beach vacay continued without a hitch.  But no we don’t have it all together!

Elementary School Open House

Elementary Open House was a HUGE deal to me growing up!  That’s when I got to see who my teacher was, go to my room, get the supply list and see who was in my class.  This year Amy and I had to go to 3 classrooms as Madeline enters 2nd grade and Jojo and Z enter Kindergarten.  So we were STOKED and the kids were too.

The day came and we loaded up all 5 kids (reminder: ages 7, 5, 5, 4. and 2) and went around the corner to meet the teachers.  The school has grown in attendance year over year so the hallways wouldn’t allow for hand locking, with our family size we take up the whole hallway.  Also our choo-choo train single file conga line didn’t work either.  We started to snake our way through the halls.

First classroom stop – Jojo – Success.  Things went really well.  Everyone played together and despite forgetting both phones in the car Amy and I were able to fill out appropriate paperwork for the teacher with the correct emergency contact numbers.

Next classroom – Z – Success.  Z was able to interact with the teacher and some students.  Remaining 4 kids caused little damage in that classroom.  And paperwork was more or less filled out.  Patience with everyone seems to be holding.

Third (and final) classroom – Madeline – Not success.  This is a 2nd grade classroom so there aren’t as many toys to entertain L or Elijah.  Elijah has to pee.  I let a frazzled Amy (already tired of doing paperwork) know I was taking him to the bathroom.  He successfully uses the bathroom and we are even able to stop and see one of his friends.  I said Elijah follow me back to Madeline’s classroom.  I turn into the classroom and see L eating Madeline’s teacher’s pencil.  I finger-sweep that out of her mouth and sit her down in a chair, asking her not to get up or touch anything.

Noticed above I said “I turn into the classroom.”  Elijah didn’t make that turn, only I didn’t know it.  I said Amy where is Elijah and it’s a repeat of the beach scene all over again.  I look briefly around the classroom (heart begins to race).  I pop my head out of the classroom and through the sea of students and parents I see one little boy with his head on a swivel with a teacher, tears streaming down his face.  Poor Elijah that’s twice in two weeks buddy.  He cinched his hand into mine and does not let go.

I pop my head back into the classroom, letting Amy know that Elijah was found and trying to answer the 100000 requests coming from all children who are not Elijah.  Nerves are shot and patience has left.  Out of the corner of my ear I hear snickering from an adult, and someone touches me on the shoulder.  “Is she yours?” she asks.  I look over and there is L in the seat I placed her in after eating the pencil only she is not wearing any bottoms, bare bottom for the classroom to see.  HORRIFIED.  She literally just took her pants off so someone would notice.  Panicked I looked around for the potential evidence of going to bathroom…fortunately nothing.  I immediately scoop her up and put on her pants and underwear in one simultaneous moment all while holding Elijah’s hand.  I sit her down on the floor at my feet.  Amy finishes up the paperwork, all of us bury our heads and we are outta there!

Pull yourself together man!  You are a PASTOR!  But we leave hanging out heads about the test.  The parenting test.  It’s obvious this day we aren’t doing so hot.  It was a moment that reflects what we feel is 95% of the time!

We share it with you all because it’s real life.  Our life is crazy, chaotic, and exciting and beautiful.  It is moments of frustration, moments of hilarious laughter, and moments of sweet cuddles.  It’s moments when Amy and I feel that we aren’t good enough or even good at all and moments we feel like we are doing a great job at this parenting thing.  And yes the days are long (and some days are longer than others) and the years really are short.

We also share our craziness because the ONLY way we get through any moment of any day is through the grace, mercy, patience and love of Jesus.  That’s what anchors our days and allows us CONFIDENCE to know that we will do our best but Jesus changes / shapes and molds hearts.  The reality is that ONLY Jesus can change the hearts of Madeline, Jojo, Z, Elijah, and L and we continue to rely on Him and His strength even when, especially when, we are pulling our hair out (what’s left of it for me) and screaming at ourselves to Pull it together man!

Our prayer for each of you is that in the moments that you don’t have it all together for you to acknowledge it and then lean into the comfort and confidence of Jesus.  Our prayer is that in everything we realize that we don’t have to have it all together but rather we have Faith in the One who does have it all together and works all things out to draw us closer to Him.  (even moments of 2 year olds eating teacher’s pencils).

Elijah last 1st day of preschool 😦

Boogie Boarding adventures at the beach!

Madeline being Madeline