November 24, 2014

Tour through Blogland. {Sieb Fam}

Meet Alyssa. Her writing is honest and real. Her words inspire and challenge. And, y'all, her blog is gorgeous {really. It's absolutely beautiful -- the photos, the design, it's just so pretty!}. And she is the kind of friend that makes me immensely grateful for this blogging community. She labored alongside us in prayer as we pleaded for our Sylvie and I have been honored to pray with her for her own baby girl. When I asked her to join this series, I knew her words would bless us as we read. However, I wasn't prepared for the way she would write my heart. I've been wrestling with this very subject in my own life and she articulates it so very well.

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Hi, y’all. I’m honored that Jenny invited me over here to her bloggerhood. My name is Alyssa, and I run a little blog called Sieb Fam with posts ranging from light-hearted subjects like inexpensive DIYs to deeper topics like adoption and humanitarianism. Since Jenny told me I could write on any topic I want….dangerous, Jenny, daaaaangerous, I’ve written a post on something the Lord has been pressing on my heart lately. Thanks for reading! 


A few months ago I finally read the classic “To Kill A Mockingbird”. My sister-in-law was due with my nephew who was to be named Eli Atticus after one of the main characters, so I figured it was time to find out what the hype was all about. There was one spot in the book that really got to me: a group of white church women were working to support a missionary in Africa while actively participating in racism in their home town and even ignoring the plight of an obviously innocent man convicted simply because of the color of his skin. While there is reeking hypocrisy in this illustration, there is also something else. There is the Christian club. The missionary is in, the convicted man is out.

We all want to feel like we belong. Garden clubs, country clubs, gangs, fraternities, even the girls-rule-boys-drool tree house clubs. Everyone wants to feel like they belong.

But what about a Christian club? We bond under the name of Jesus, right? Brothers and sisters together, right? But are we off? This is some ugliness that God has been undoing in my own life. 

Social media is ripe with it. When a company promotes something we feel is unbiblical, we band together to boycott them. When a Christian-owned company seems to be oppressed because of the beliefs, we band together to keep them in business. When a fellow Christian is attacked because of their faith, we start petitions. And above all, we share it on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere possible- club members unite! Come out of the woodwork Christians, your club needs you.

But what are we really telling people? To me, it seems to scream: “You don’t belong! You’re not one of us!”

Clubs are formed for the good of the members. To serve them. But guess what y’all? Jesus didn’t die to form a club. He died to bring the lost to Him to form a Body. Then He gave that Body a mission: Go be His feet- Don’t just sit on your computer advocating; take the beautiful news of redemption and do life with people. Go be His hands- Don’t busy yourself making your club nicer and more tight, go love on people. Mutually encourage one another to love and good deeds. Get messy doing life with people. Not just because you want to make them a Christian, but because you are a Christian.

I just returned from a trip to Japan to visit a dear friend who moved there with her husband as missionaries. While Japan is one of the most unreached people groups when it comes to the Gospel, my girlfriend, her husband, and their church-planting team are not working to build a mega-church. They are far more interested in what they call “missional community”. In layman’s terms, this means that they aren’t splitting up evangelism and church activities. They spend their time doing life with their neighbors and their fellow Christians all in the same setting. They don’t expect people to join “their club” before integrating them into their lives. They’re having community meals with the people around them while opening up about the imperfections of their own personal lives. My friend told me, “I’m not interested in converting anyone. That’s God’s job.” Don’t get me wrong, she’s open and honest about the Gospel since it flavors her entire life, but her new friends know she loves them for them- not for the sake of trying to change them. And you should see how effected these people are. When she shares a recent struggle in her marriage; suddenly, in a culture of privacy, they are starting to be willing to open up about their own marriage. Like Jesus hanging with the prostitute and tax collectors, they can smell the aroma of Christ’s love.

I would never presume to be included in an exclusive garden club; Lord knows I don’t belong. But aren’t we basically doing the same thing when we set ourselves above others? By doing this, we make sure they know they don’t belong. Did we forget our roots? NONE of us belong. No. One. None of us have achieved some level of goodness that earned us a relationship with the God of the universe and secured our eternity with Him. None of us are able to stay pure enough to be part of that family. It’s not a Who’s Who Club of the Righteous. It’s all grace! ALL GRACE!

If we present ourselves as that messy, broken group that is the Body of Christ only because of HIM, then we will attract other messy, broken people which just so happens to be all of us.

So next time we share that link or that status, maybe we should ask ourselves if we just put out a club memo that excludes or a call for love that attracts the broken to the broken who are both desperately in need of grace.

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*You can read the other posts in this series HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.



November 22, 2014

visitors at the farm.

Our new guest room has been put to good use lately. We loved every second of the past two whirlwind weekends.

First, Nana and Papa came for a visit. And, all was right with the world.


These littles {and this momma} absolutely adore these weekends together.



Unfortunately, time moves at warp speed when they're here. Just when we are getting used to the extra sets of hands at mealtimes or baths or book-reading, it's time for them to pack up and leave.



Papa's homemade apple pie. Nana's shopping trips. My early risers running up to wake Papa each day. Late night laughter and reminiscing. Way too much food {every time}. Long walks. Snuggles and hugs. Tears when it's time to say "good-bye."

Our time together is short so we make every effort to cram the most memory-making, laughter and love into the moments.




Then, last weekend, my bestie from childhood {Brandy and I have been friends since our 4-year-old pre-school days...crazy to think that we were the boys age when we met!}, came to visit with her daughter. {remember when she came to visit while pregnant? Time flies... Brooklyn is already two!}

The photo on the left was taken in 4th grade. The one on the right was last weekend. CHAOS. 

Sylvie and Brooklyn were instant pals. They had THE most fun. Watching the two of them together was ridiculously adorable.






These farmhouse walls have heard their fair share of laughter...and the last couple of weekends were no exception. Feeling especially grateful today and missing our favorite houseguests...



November 19, 2014

the importance of community.

Our little farmhouse has had a revolving door of (awesome) visitors lately {warning: onslaught of photos to come soon}. Life has been so very full and rich. Calendars have been packed full with activities and playdates with friends.

It's sort of too much. These two are ridiculously adorable together. 

I should be filled up. I should be energized. Instead, last night it hit me, I am exhausted. As I look at the week ahead, I feel overwhelmed with the over-scheduling of our time.

I *know* I need to have margin in our life. I *know* we function better as a family when we have time to slow down and breathe. I *know* that long days spent at home, with nowhere to be and nothing pressing that needs to be done are fulfilling.

I need to be intentional with our time. I need to be intentional with each of my kids. I need to be intentional with my husband. I need to be intentional with my friends. It sounds so simple and lovely, doesn't it? In reality, it is so very difficult to live out.


Commitments are made for things that are, in and of themselves, a good way to spend my time. Yet, when these commitments are stacked one upon the other upon the other, they become heavy.

Last night, my ridiculously thoughtful husband {who knows me so well}, told me to get in the car and go to the store {I had completely forgotten to purchase the black pants and black shirts needed for my little pilgrims in today's Thanksgiving program at school until 5pm last night}, while he watched the three older kiddos. He knew that I was dreading dragging everyone into Wal-Mart at that hour. So, I bundled up lil' Charlotte and off we went.

Then, my phone rang. It was Dave. He was calling to tell me to go pick up my friend, Erin. I was so confused but thought maybe she needed to go to Wal-Mart too. So, I called her. She laughed and said that our husbands were cohorts in getting us out of the house for an evening out. Then, Corrie called. She asked if I was on my way to get her. Dave had called her husband too.

So, there I was. In my yoga pants, sweatshirt and no make-up, driving my mini-van to pick up my friends for an impromptu girl's night out. We went to dinner and talked and laughed and shared our struggles and parenting advice and our hearts. Those girls offered grace upon grace. They understand this season of my life like few others can. They are both adoptive mommas and mommas to four. They know the road we are walking better than anyone and can offer wisdom that only comes from the rear-view mirror of life.

We sat at that table for almost four hours. It was exactly what we all needed. We came to the table depleted and left full.


With the holiday season approaching at a neck-breaking speed, I am staking my marker in the sand. I am going to say no to certain things in order to create room for evenings like last night. Hours set aside to do nothing other than be with loved ones. No productivity. No checks on my to-do list. Nothing other than relationships. Real, honest, life-breathing relationships that cannot be replaced with screens. Sharing moments that replenish and restore.


24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. {Hebrews 10: 24-25}




November 17, 2014

Tour Through Blogland. {Plain + Simple}.

Once again, I am thrilled for the chance to introduce y'all to one of my favorite gals! This little blogland tour has brought us to my sweet friend, Sarah. Sarah's blog is a place of beauty and wisdom and grace. I always walk away encouraged after reading her words.

Sarah is one of the very first people I told about my surprise pregnancy last fall. She had just announced her pregnancy with Naomi and was also in process to adopt from DRC.  At the time, we discussed options for traveling while pregnant since we both assumed our girls would be home before the babies arrived. We never would have guessed how wrong we would be about that timing. I continue to pray fervently for the long-awaited day when all of Sarah's girls are under the same roof. In the meantime, Sarah is my go-to person to for essential oil advice, to share the latest with our girls or to commiserate our lack of sleep from these chubby little babies who both love a good midnight par-tay. We are in the {beautiful, messy and exhausting} trenches of mothering littles together and I'm grateful to walk alongside her in this season of life.

Enjoy her story...

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Hi! My name is Sarah and I blog over at Plain + Small where I write about my new journey of mommmyhood, our never-ending journey towards adoption, faith, and everything in between. My desire for my little space in the blogosphere is to be an encouragement to women as they live life in the trenches and remind them that even in the mundane of life, we can take plain and small steps of faith to move the Kingdom of God forward into the lives of the people we encounter.

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Currently though, I'm just trying to remind myself of all of that as I am in the trenches of mothering a 6 month old who doesn't like to sleep and waiting to get the call/email that we can finally end our 2 year wait and fly to the Congo to bring our two daughters home. So...my blog hasn't gotten much attention lately...

But let me share a little more about my story and how God has interrupted it in all the best and hard ways to make it more about HIM and less about me.

 After knowing and dating Jason for less than 8 months, we married about 4 years ago on a freezing, yet beautiful day in Iowa (-12 degrees). My husband had already moved to Tucson, AZ and I would pack up all my belongings and drive down to Tucson just 2 days after we said, "I do." I had no idea what I was getting myself into down in the Old Pueblo. All I knew was that I was madly in love with Jason and would follow him anywhere...even to the hellish temps of Arizona.

Soon after we were settled into our first little apartment, depression hit me like a cold slap in the face. I spent the next year crying every day and asking my husband when we could move back to Iowa. In only the way God can move, we found a church right around the year mark of living in Tucson and my depression slowly lifted as I began to find friends and open up to the truth that God was in control of my life...not me (we will see this as a recurring theme...).

All in God's grace, we bought our first house and decided that maybe Tucson would be our home for a little longer. Right around that same time, we decided that we would start trying to have a baby, because that's what you do after you buy a house, right?!

Let me back up a little bit to give you a little foreshadowing...a few weeks after dating Jason, he told me that he ONLY wanted to adopt and didn't want to have any biological children. To be honest, I almost ended it with him right then and there. But because he was cute, I decided not to and figured I could just change his mind...and I told him, yeah we can adopt but I want to have babies too.

So flashforward to us trying to have a baby, I had complete confidence that I would be able to get pregnant right away because I was very healthy and had been tracking my cycle for the past year like it was my job. Plus, we had had an early miscarriage during our first year of marriage (I don't mean to say that flippantly because it was hard), so I thought that if I could get pregnant I'd definitely be able to have a baby.

12 months later and 2 miscarriages, we still had no baby in our arms. And I was a hot mess. For anyone who has walked infertility, you can understand the emotional pain one experiences every time "that time of the month" rolls around. I felt like I had been forgotten and that God just didn't really care that much about me. Thankfully my husband held on to our hope and gently reminded me of our heart for adoption. We also had friends in our life who had adopted or were on the journey as well and God started to do a work in my heart. He changed my attitude from a "Yeah, we can adopt someday" to "I am called to adopt because of God's great love for me".

We decided to switch gears and listen to the voice of God in our lives. We signed the paperwork to adopt from the Congo right after we celebrated our second anniversary, thinking that we would have a little family in roughly a year. And in April (after having lost 2 referrals prior), we received pictures of our girls!

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Most of you reading this, know what happened to the adoptions in the Congo in 2013. Everything stopped or at least starting moving at a snail's pace.

Then in August, we found out we were pregnant! What a surprise! Initially, I felt guilty about being pregnant because that wasn't a part of my plan and I wasn't sure how I would be able to mother 3 children. Thankfully God had 41 weeks to work on my heart and remind me that He is in control and knew exactly what He was doing.

God knew that I would need to have Naomi at just that time because I would need a visual reminder that God is faithful to His promises. (Almost) Every time I look at my sweet girl, I remember that she is a beautiful gift that God gave in his perfect timing. And even though I'm not a fan of the perfect timing God has for our girls being reunited with us, I can trust that God is going to bring them home to us.
 

I'm so thankful that I said yes to this journey with my husband four years ago. I'm also grateful that I didn't know what I was getting myself into because I may have said, "Mmmm, no thanks. That looks too hard. See ya."

For if I would have said no, I would have missed out on this amazing journey God has set me on and I wouldn't know the depth of God's goodness and faithfulness in my life.

*You can read the other posts in this series HERE and HERE and HERE.



November 14, 2014

feed their tummies. {an update}

Life has been so full around here. I have all sorts of fun updates and photos to share ... but first, I have to show you guys these photos. I received them from our team in Kinshasa early this morning and I just couldn't stop smiling.

*In case you don't follow our Feed Their Tummies updates, there have been some changes to our program lately. Check out THIS update to read all of the details...

To sum it up for you, we started feeding a new orphanage. The orphanage houses 26 girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking.


These girls had no hope. They were broken. They were alone.

Our partner organization, Mwangaza International, stepped in. Each girl is now living in this safe place, receiving an education, healthcare and counseling.


These girls are being taught who Jesus is.

There is healing.

They are learning their place in the Kingdom of God.

Truth is replacing lies. Light is pouring into the dark.


They are learning their true identity: treasured daughters of the King.


What an honor it is to walk alongside our Congolese friends in this important work. Feed Their Tummies has stepped in to relieve the burden of feeding the twenty-six girls. They had been eating once a day and now they will eat three warm meals every day.

Tummies are being fed. Hearts are being healed. Love wins.

*You can partner with us: HERE or local friends, HERE.



November 11, 2014

celebrating our sylvie-girl.

Earlier this year, I penned a post recapping the sweetest surprise baby shower of all time. We were celebrating the upcoming arrival of our little Charlotte-love. At the time, my heart was so very full yet it was also so very heavy. It was a messy dance between celebration and sorrow and joy and grief. 

"...Honestly, my heart was very heavy that day. Dave was in Congo at the time visiting our Sylvie and reports back were not positive. She was sick and Dave was getting nowhere trying to find any information on what we could do to get her home for treatment. It was a stay-in-bed-and-cry kind of day.


So, the surprise shower took me completely off-guard. It was a tangible reminder of the way joy can seep in right alongside sorrow. Although my heart ached to be celebrating the upcoming arrival of both of our beloved daughters, it was a beautiful evening honoring this little life God is intricately weaving and preparing for the world."


Fast forward eight months. 

Another shower. Another opportunity to celebrate life and God-sized miracles. This time, the guest of honor wasn't a baby on the way. Instead, we celebrated a little girl who has been loved and prayed over from afar for years. We celebrated her life and her place in our family. 

Although I feel like a baby shower-hog this year, I don't even care. This day was long awaited and so ridiculously special I could burst. 

Because photos speak louder than words sometimes, I am going to stay quiet and just share these images of a day soaked in love and joy and friendship and happiness. 
















My prayer for my fellow DRC-mommas is that they are celebrating the homecomings of their little loves so very soon. My heart's cry continues to be for the families and children waiting for moments like these. Because every child deserves to be fully and unconditionally lavished in love. Every child.



November 10, 2014

Tour Through Blogland {Lee, Me, and the Girls}.

Unexpected friendships are my absolute favorite things about the blogging community. McCall is one of the friends that I like to tell Dave "I met online" - because that sounds creepy and hilarious. I have been reading her blog for a couple of years and I don't even know when she went from being "the girl who writes a blog I love" to "a real-life friend" but I'm grateful that she did. I'll never forget standing in the driveway of our rented house at the beach when she called to tell me about this precious little girl whom she had fallen in love with. The waves crashed in the background as we talked through the fears and the unknowns of adoption in the DRC. At the time, McCall was fervently praying and asking for discernment but, in her heart, she knew. The little face looking back at her from the computer screen was her daughter. And, life would never be the same. 

I'm so excited to introduce you to my friend, McCall today. I just love her story and I know you will too. 

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Hi, I'm McCall! I'm a wife, mother, and former high school English teacher, I live in a tiny Mississippi town with my Chemistry-teaching husband and two daughters (Libby, 10, and Hollyn, 5).  We are currently waiting to bring our third daughter home from the DRC. 
Sometimes I try to be funny, but mostly I just love Jesus. 

Three years ago, we were 'normal'. 
We lived a comfortable life with comfortable jobs in our comfortable town. 

And then, one day, I watched a Youtube video, and my life hasn't been the same since. 

You see, I was living in a bubble. 
I had no clue about what was going on in Africa. 
It's funny the ways God uses to draw us to Him and reveal His plans for us. 
But once my eyes were opened to this great need, to all of the children in God's great big world with no families, I couldn't UN-see it. 
And I had to do something. 



It wasn't a hero-mentality situation.
I didn't think I would single-handedly solve the orphan crisis.
But I also couldn't stay home and do nothing. 
At least, not any more. 

So, I prayed. 
I researched. 
And I talked to my husband. 

Adoption and Africa were both on our radar. 
What we didn't know then was that they'd never leave. 

I asked him if we could go-- 
I NEEDED to be in Africa. 
I dreamed about it, thought about it constantly, and saw Africa everywhere. 

He agreed that if I could raise the money, we could go. 

So I did, 
and we did. 


We headed to Uganda to serve in a children's prison that summer. 
(Yes, you read that correctly.)


We came home, and I knew instantly that it wasn't enough. 
I had to do more for Africa. 
I had to be there.
God was up to something. 

So, I did the only *logical* thing I could do-- 
I quit my job as a high school teacher and took an unpaid internship for a non-profit that helped provide clean water to the people of Malawi. 

And then, naturally, I went there too. 



And when I came back from Africa, 
the hubby and I agreed that it was time to adopt. 
We had the choice to either follow God's call for our family or to say no. 
We said yes, and I'm so glad we did. 

We're currently still waiting for our daughter to come home. 

And in the meantime, I'm still doing what I can to help spread God's love in Africa, which led me to Rwanda this past summer, where I got to meet the women I'm helping to create jobs for while here in America. 


These people in this place-- they are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. 


And now, I'm so very honored to have the opportunity to set foot on their ground, soak in their culture, and sleep under their stars. 


I have no doubt whatsoever that I will continue to travel to Africa as often as possible until one day, when I'm old and grey, my daughters will sit me down and lovingly tell me that I'm too old to go back to Africa even one more time. 

My heart has been broken. 
My life has been changed. 
People think I've lost my mind. 
I've never been happier or more fulfilled. 


Saying yes can be scary. 
Stepping out of the bubbles we live in can be sad.
Leaving our comfort zones can be overwhelming. 
Adoption is hard. 
But God is good.

We've seen our daughter's face. 
In fact, we've been staring at her dimples and watching her grow up in pictures for over a year now. 
I never imagined adoption would take this long or be this difficult. 
But God is in control. 
His ways are better than my ways, even when His ways don't always seem to make sense. 

And these day, I am nothing but thankful.  
No matter how hard it is to be different, no matter how much my heart aches for the daughter I haven't met yet, no matter how much I long to be in Africa,
 it's better than living blind to all of the needs in this world. 

And while I can't do everything, 
I'm working hard to do my little something, 
even if my something comes by the way of very long plane rides to the land I love far, far away. 

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See? Don't you just love her?

{And, I love how her story and Catherine's intersect in Malawi and the DRC --- I didn't even plan that}.

Happy Monday, friends!

*You can read the other posts in this series HERE and HERE.