9 Reasons to Celebrate Valentine’s Day Every Week

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Recently, I was with a group of women and they were talking excitedly about going out for Valentine’s Day. When they asked me what Josh and I were doing, and I said we weren’t doing anything special that day because we don’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day.

They all looked at me with a look that said, “Poor thing.”

The reality for us is that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14th because 7 years ago, we began having a weekly date night, so Valentine’s day is less important to us.

As a funny way to answer the question, Josh and I came up 9 reasons we don’t celebrate it and instead celebrate it every week with a date night (some are his and some are mine).

Here you go:

Vomit. Someone is bound to throw up (ie. our daughter last night) and ruin your plans.

Action. You will get more action if you celebrate Valentine’s day every week instead of once a year. Scientifically proven fact.

Little planning. Valentine’s day takes little planning. Roses, a card someone else wrote that you signed. Plan ahead and have a great date night.

Expensive. Everything is more expensive on Valentine’s Day. Everything.

Not enough. Celebrating valentine’s day, having a date night once a month or three times a year is not enough for your marriage.

T & A. You will get more of this with a weekly date night.

Irresistible. You will be irresistible to your spouse with a weekly date night. Also, find out what scent they like and wear that.

Never let your underwear drawer go more than a year without updating, keep it interesting (that’s just free advice and has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day but we needed another letter).

Everyone else is out on Valentine’s day. Plan a weekly date night and avoid the crowd.

So what do you do for a weekly date night? It doesn’t even have to be expensive. Here are some of our rules for date night and some ideas on how to do date night at home.

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Beauty Comes out of Brokenness

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We just spent 10 days on vacation in San Diego… And there were predictable, smooth, and wonderful days.

We were able to soak in the sun and enjoy God’s beautiful creation at the ocean and in the tide pools. We were able to start reading “The Narnia” series as a family, do a puzzle and eat amazing food. We were able to spend a day at sea world and Lego land.

Now we are going to ruin it.

By deciding to adopt, a 4 year old, from a different country, we have intentionally decided to send our family from a place of predictability to triage. Overnight.

Truth be told I have been afraid of the transition now that it is finally becoming a reality. Adoption is beautiful, but it is born out of loss and abandonment. For Judah Mamush to become a part of our family he must lose 2 languages, a culture, country, food, smells and sounds that are familiar to him. We do not take that lightly. There will be a grieving process that we will walk through with him and we don’t know what that will look like. It has scared me.

I am certain of one thing: we felt very specifically called to adopt, and although I know that call does not mean that it will be easy, it will be beautiful; whether on this side of heaven or the other. Praise Jesus that he is constant and our feelings do not need to control our reality.

As He is prone to do, God has reminded me of his presence and that he will hold and guide us through this.

Because our 4 kids who are at home with us were having a hard time with me leaving, friends of ours drove me up to Phoenix for an early morning flight. They are in the process of adopting internationally as well, so we had much to talk about on the way to the airport. Things that I have thought through, but won’t know how they play out until we have Judah Mamush home… Like how will he react to our routine, will he get along well with the other kids, when will we start taking him out of the house to church and the grocery store, have we found him a barber, how will he/we deal with the fact that we are a transracial family, etc. We have tried to educate ourselves to the best of our ability, but there is so much unknown.

I used the curbside check-in, it was a breeze. The attendant was African-American, he asked why I was traveling to Ethiopia, I explain. He asks if we have a name for him. Yes we do… And then he pulls out his name tag and tells me that we can use his name Jamal… It means beautiful. He got so excited and said he was proud of me and to enjoy my trip. It was such a lighthearted exchange and brought a smile to my face, after having tucked in 3 crying children the night before.

After sitting at the gate for a while we realize that our flight is delayed by a few hours, this is not a big deal for my travel plans because I will be staying overnight in DC before leaving in the morning for Addis. Many people were annoyed, but in God’s providence I got to sit and talk with a women who was born in Ethiopia and moved to the states with her parents when she was 9 under political asylum. We talked about the changes that have taken place in Ethiopia over the last ten years, but we also talked about the adoption. Her words were a balm to those places of anxiety. As I travel a peace is washing over me. I know that there will be a time of transition and a road to complete restoration in our family…. But isn’t that always to work of a family, of a mother. To help our children to see themselves as sinners and try to help them find their true identity in Christ, instead of their past.

I join in prayer with all of you parents who are facing a situation that is hard. I love that God sees the end, and we can trust him to that; while taking steps each day, enlightened by his word and prayer to get there.

Sometimes all we can do is trust God to be good, pure and right and take that next step in the direction that we feel he is calling us in. And so I step onto a plane to travel across the world to bring home our baby.

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The Beginning of The End

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I am on the LONG journey to finally pick up our son, Judah Mamush. The process of adoption is almost over, but the journey of integrating Judah Mamush into our family is just beginning.

The last two weeks have been a mix of emotions…

Earlier in the month we watched as a group of families who were a week ahead of us in the process be screened and clear embassy quickly; we anticipated that we would hear from the embassy right after them. If you know anything about international adoption, you know that it is anything but predictable and smooth. It was two more weeks before we heard anything from the embassy, and those two weeks were excruciating.

We were planning our trip to San Diego (which we had moved from the summer because of traveling to Ethiopia the first time), and waiting for any morsel of information from the embassy. Finally, we got word that our case was being screened and they were requesting a birth relative interview, this is not uncommon when there is a living birth relative, but it took a while to schedule an interview with him, because our agency couldn’t reach him by phone because of the remote location where he lives. After scheduling the appointment we decided to purchase tickets in anticipation of clearing and traveling the following week.

That decision ended up paying off, but was riddled with high emotion as we found out the embassy was booked almost solid because of holidays… Thankfully they took pity on us and scheduled a visa appointment that would work with our prearranged travel plans.

Josh and I started this journey of adoption in February of 2010… Just shy of 4 years ago. There are so many people and memories during that time. It has been a humbling experience having to ask people to help us accomplish something that we could not have doe on our own. So many of you have given time, money, stuff, prayers, and well wishes.

I still remember, one of our first small groups prayed over the initial paperwork, many of you worked at one or all of our rummage sales- sorting, selling, translating, folding, boxing, unboxing. Through this journey we have adopted Nehemiah, who we brought home from the hospital and straight to our MC! We we able to bless a local widow in tucson with a house facelift while raising funds for our adoption. Your support and love have been heard and felt.

Especially during these last few months as the wait from meeting Judah Mumush to picking him up has been gut wrenching. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

The journey is not over… We will still need your prayers and support. This next step I our journey will be riddled with educating ourselves and those around us how to best show Judah Mamush what a family is, and how that is played out within a community of believers.

Thank you for your part in our journey. We are closer to the end and the next step.

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Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week I asked Katie to share about a recent book she read that would be helpful for the female readers of this blog.

In Becoming Myself: Embracing God’s Dream of You, Stasi Eldridge takes a very practical look at how our pasts impact our present and future, while giving advice on how to implement immediate change into lives, through the power of the Holy Spirit. She is very honest and upfront with her story throughout the book, which makes it personal and an easy read. I appreciate her reliance on the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. Some quotes that stuck out:

  • Jesus, come. Guide me. Holy Spirit, fill me. Dream with me and in me. Help me to unlock the desires you have planted in my heart and to write them down. Help me to dream big.
  • Ask yourself:
    • What would I love to do? What would I love to experience or create or offer?
    • What do I want to be really good at?
    • What do I want with God? What does God want with me?
    • What do I want to be known for?
    • Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing is too good to be true. And besides, if you don’t have a dream, how can you have a dream come true?
As she walks through the journey of embracing God’s dream of you, here are a few more things she said that I found helpful and hope you will as well:
  • Laying down what we want to protect or are afraid of losing or are terrified we will never have is not the same thing as losing those things. It is surrendering them. It is opening up our clenched hand around them and allowing God access to them and to us. It is actually saying yes to God for them. Yes to his plan. Yes to his way. It is believing that just as his ways are higher than the heavens are above the earth, so his way for the things we fear is higher. This God of ours is a God of life, of goodness. He is the God of the Resurrection. We lay down our fear. We pick up Jesus. He is the only way we can live beyond fear. He is the Way.
  • Truth be told, a good part of our becoming takes place int eh sanctifying work of relationships. And not because friendship is always a greenhouse, either. Trees grow strong because of winds; drought forces their roots to go deeper. There isn’t anything on earth like relationships to make you holy. When our frail humanity is revealed in some way we and others don’t like, we bring it to God. We ask for forgiveness. We ask for his life to fill us and his love to flow through us. Which means “Christ in me, love through me” becomes a regular prayer. It always comes back to Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
  • John and I learned long ago that in cases of suffering, you can have understanding or you can have Jesus. If you insist on understanding, you usually lose both. When suffering enters into your life, take a deep breath. The very first thing to do is to invite Jesus into it. Pray, Jesus, catch my heart. When painful trials come your way, by all means ask God what’s up- ask him to interpret it for you. But whether he provides understanding or not, invite Jesus in. Keep inviting Jesus into the pain. Invite Jesus into the places in your heart that are rising to the surface through the suffering, be those painful memories, unbelief, or self-contempt. Pray, Please come meet me here, Jesus. I need you. Let suffering be the door you walk through that draws you to deeper intimacy with Jesus. Suffering can do that, if we let it. And though it would never be the doorway we would choose, it is one we will never regret walking through.
This is just a smattering of the writing of Stasi, but for me it took a little different look at things that I have read and known for some time. Although there were a few times I was afraid she was about to jump off the diving board into the deep end, she didn’t. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who has ever been hurt, and struggles to live the life that God intends.

Books on Adoption & Parenting

I’m often asked about book recommendations when it comes to parenting or adoption. Everything from how you get your child to eat the food you give them to organizing your day to not go crazy and everything in between. Below are some of the books that I have found to be the most helpful and useful, with a little bit about each book so you know which ones to get for your family.

Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne Schooler & others

A great book with an overview perspective on parenting traumatized children- less of a how to and more of a why things play out the way they do. MANY books are referenced, and there is an extensive appendix of additional resources and support groups/aids. There is an honest look at extreme abuse/trauma cases but doesn’t talk through cultural/language differences or more mild cases- though I would assume it is much of the same. There is a good section on how adoption affects the “original” family; including siblings already in the home.

Just Take a Bite: Easy, Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges by Lori Ernsperger

As a mom of a resistant eater this book covered many things that don’t apply to our specific situation ie. a healthy son who refuse to try new foods, but is has some great ideas to help include a wider variety of foods into a resistant eaters diet. The book provides a middle ground that I could not see- not acquiescing to whatever your child will eat and not forcing them to eat which can promote negative attitudes toward new foods. There seemed to be many ideas for kids with special needs who need help developing a wider diet.

Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen

For a soon to be adoptive parent of an international child this book is a must. It gives so many practical tools and games to connect with a child who needs help bonding and also gives clues into what your child is feeling based on the type of play that they are engaging in. The book uses a few “stereotyped” kids to talk through typical reactions for different personality types and coping methods for kids from hard places. This book does not need to be read in one sitting, but can be read incrementally because it is written in chronological fashion.

A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot

This has nothing to do with adoption, but I know that a solid routine for kids from hard places is very helpful. This book is written by a mom, who gets at the heart behind a schedule- namely mortification- self-discipline to promote Godliness.

Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control: Volume 1 by Heather Forbes

Is a how-to book in dealing with specific issues experienced in adoption. The premise of parenting from a place of love instead of fear is very freeing. I think that this book is a good first step to many of the behaviors addressed, but I would guess that there needs to be a certain amount of self awareness from the child to be able to have the discussions used as examples in this book. The biggest take away from this book is that children are not trying to be manipulative, but their behavior is the only way they know how to express what is going on inside.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim Payne M.Ed., & Lisa Ross

Again, this book is not about adoption, but deals with… simplicity in schedule, stuff, and making sure that there is a solid connection and grounding for children. The thing that was an eye opener about this book lies in the introduction; the author talks about how he was doing some work at a refugee camp in Africa and was treating kids with PTSD, then after that he started a private practice in the states. Through his practice he started to see that children in the US were exhibiting some of the same behaviors as the children from the refugee camp… mainly because of the pace and disconnectedness that so many children grow up with in their homes. My fear is that many children are adopted out of their original culture, and then through another environment do not give them the connectedness and grounding that they need, so the underlying issues are not addressed just masked.

The Connected Child : Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family by Karyn Purvis

This is one that I am planning to read along with the workbook by Karyn Purvis; found here http://empoweredtoconnect.org/created-to-connect-study-guide/.

Unbound…

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I loved Josh’s sermon last Sunday. The imagery that for a resurrection to happen there must be a death struck so close to home.

For so much of my adult life I have known that I was a Christ follower, but I was living life like I was still bound by those linen strips associated with death… The lies that I was too much, or not enough. That I had to earn my way into God’s good graces and his love.

John 11:43-44 reads:

When [Jesus] had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Lazarus was alive!!!! But he was still bound by the linen strips and the only way for him to become UNBOUND was by the help of those around him. He was only free to live that life that Jesus had just called him to by the help of those around him.

BY THE HELP OF THOSE AROUND HIM

And so I ask, Are you alive, but are still bound by those strips of death? Have you asked for help from those around you?

I love what Elyse Fitzpatrick has to say about relationships in Because He Loves Me:

“Through our relationship with [God] and our relationships with other believers, God is in the process of restoring his image in us. He is making us like himself. He does this by his Spirit as his grace and Word is applied to our lives through the incarnational ministry of believers one-to-another. God uses means to inform and transform us, and the primary means that he uses to do this are relationships in the local church.”

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I Can’t Compete With Your Perfectly Coiffed Hair & other Perfections

Recently, I have been asked how I do all that I do. My response is that I probably do not do all that you think I do. At this writing I have clean laundry piled in the playroom and there is toothpaste spattered all over my kid’s bathroom mirror. (As a friend said, you really should wonder if your kid’s bathroom is not dirty, it means they are not using it.)

As a mom, wife – heck as a woman, I feel competition everyday. Are my kids as gifted, attractive, athletic and well-rounded as the kids in their class or down the street? Am I the best wife, with the best recipes, and the best hair that I can possibly be? Are my jeans fitting a little too tight today because of that extra brownie last night and was my mom right, does everyone one I meet actually like me?

I can drive myself crazy before my foot hits the floor in the morning, and this is all before coffee!

After reminding myself that my approval is already complete in Christ, and my identity is not derived from what others around me think about me, I drink my morning coffee.

And I am reminded about the beauty of the church and how diversity is good, but it usually feels like a competition.

How about we all agree to be good at what we are gifted at and leave the rest to someone else. Let’s celebrate the strengths in those around us and encourage each other in our weaknesses, instead of allowing it to be fodder for gossip.

You are not suppose to do all that I do. You are suppose to do all that YOU are wired to do.