Weekend of Fun

If the disciples learned from Jesus by walking through life with Him and watching how He lived, I’d say that’s probably a pretty good method for learning.

Watch as I go, learn as I do.

It’s funny that I just mentioned in my last post how much I love to read — outside looking in.  But it’s the hands-on moments in life that teach us exponentially more than what glossy words can feed our eyes.  I can read articles and posts all day long, but in any given period of time with my sister and her two boys, I learn more about parenting watching her than in 50 articles combined.

Despite my attempts at being different growing up — doing my own things in order to be my own person — I always followed my big sister’s lead and learned from her as a little sister, having the privilege (and the blessing!) of seeing her do it first.

I guess you could say I’m like her disciple. :)

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Sisters.

This weekend, Trey and I hosted my sister our two nephews at our place.  My brother-in-law, Brad (a doctor), and his mom are both currently away on a medical mission in “Hon-DOOR-us!” as James would say.  The boys don’t understand it completely, but they know that Daddy is helping people, and it’s in a place where people have never seen a doctor.  (In fact, in one day on Friday, Brad’s team saw 190 people.  Keep them in your prayers!)  All weekend long, the boys wanted to play doctor.  We had a lot of sick dinosaurs at our house.

It’s always fun hanging out with these guys, but having them in our home is extra special.  Everything about having the boys around is fun!!!  One of the best parts about the weekend was the down time I got to have with Sarah, talking about life and decisions in parenting, bouncing ideas off each other, sharing opinions and perspectives… I’m so grateful!

Having them stay with us also gives me a glimpse of what our life with our kids might be like.

Like blanket forts after breakfast…

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PJs and play time :)

And mornings at the park…

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Fall weather fun!

And frozen yogurt after lunch!  (Let’s be honest, frozen yogurt is already steadily incorporated into my life.)

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In good company.

The first night they arrived, we went to eat downtown by the water, and of course the boys were fascinated by the boats.  Not the huge USS North Carolina Battleship docked across the river, but all the boats coming and going and crossing under the bridge!

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Dinner and a walk by the river.

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Me, the boys, and our friend Ms. Lindsey

The next day was filled with discovery… which I’m convinced is one of the best things about spending time with kids.  The serpentarium was a big hit — for all of us!

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Giant crocodile ahead…

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Lots of creepy critters to see at the serpentarium!

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Having fun with Uncle Trey.

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Snake faces!!

It was a fun-filled weekend for sure!

Pulling up to our place on the last night they were here, I couldn’t help but think what awesome buddies, big cousins, and role models James and Eli will be for our kids.  Partners in crime… maybe that, too. :)  But as well as those boys are being brought up, I’ll be so grateful for our kids to watch as they go and learn as they do…

And a little sister should know. :)

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The Journey to Here (An Honest Account)

I can remember the first time I ever had what felt like an “adoptive love” for anyone.

It was with a young man named James, who lives in Kenya.  He was the first sponsor child that Trey and I have had the privilege to sponsor at Mama Hellen’s Rehabilitation Center in Nakuru, Kenya.  I remember the very first time I ever went to Kenya and got to meet James in person.  I can remember saying the words out loud to a team member that I had this “crazy adoptive love” for him.  (Her prompt response: “Have you told him that?”  Wise words.)  The feeling was not expected — it took me by surprise, and it was not something I had ever felt before.  But I knew somehow it was rooted in the fact that he was ours, and we were his…

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I also remember the first time I ever knew for a FACT that I could love a child just as much who was not biologically my own.  This one was another James: my nephew.  He is my only sister’s first child.  I could not even believe how much I loved James when he was born.  Of course I love my second nephew, Elijah, just as much.  But when James came first… at that time, I never knew before that I could possibly love someone that much that I didn’t even know yet…

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And, since we’re on firsts, the photo below was NOT the first time I ever felt like I wanted to bring a child home from a mission trip… but it was probably the first time I really almost didn’t let go…

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White Mountain Apache Reservation, Arizona

Through family, different missions all over the world, and other life experiences, I have fallen in love with many children — and God has shown me that He loves them ALL.  All children have limitless potential and are love-worthy, despite incredibly varying circumstances, because all of them were created by God, in His image.

At this point, I have to tell you:

I’ve come a LONG way since 18 years old… valuing my independence and not even sure I ever wanted kids.

At that time, it seemed perfectly OK to me if maybe I never had kids.  I didn’t have much experience with them.  I didn’t even think I was “good with” them.  Kids were NOT “my thing.”  Maybe children should just be for people who are more inclined to them.  And even when all of that changed, when somewhere along the way my heart changed forever, it still took me a long time (or maybe just from the world’s point of view) to know I was “ready.”  I’m not talking about the worry and fear of not knowing if you’re ready to be a parent, which I know all first-time parents go through… Of course you still have doubts, even after you know you’re ready.  I’m talking about the knowing deep inside that you’re just not ready for kids yet versus when that changes.  (Kind of like the time at which you are ready to leave home for the first time and how that’s different for everyone — I didn’t have a problem there, by the way.  Ha!)

Some girls have wanted to be moms their whole lives.  And they’re just waiting for the timing in life to be right.  That was never the case for me.  It was my dream deferred.

I can remember having many, many conversations with God — a few in particular over long runs out in His creation — just asking Him that if I don’t feel ready to have kids soon, to please just give me that feeling (…or, sometimes, even just the desire…).  I was in my late 20s, with everything aligned (married, owned a home), and by this point I had, for a LONG time, really loved children… yet still I was waiting, personally, for God to give me a “go.”

Although my affection for children has completely flourished in a 180-degree way, I admit I still don’t feel like I’m necessarily “the best” with them.  My introverted personality lends itself better to conversations and teachable moments and encouragement/ development, rather than all-out crazy extroverted playtime (which, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of, too).  And I think that’s OK.  And I can tell you that, in spite of that, there are many faces I can picture in my mind right now — ones that blossomed out of my bloodlines, ones that are dark as the night sky — and they fill my heart up to combustion when I think of them…

I don’t think my developing a love for children happened because all along I was drawn to them or thought they were cute.  I truly believe it came out of a deepening love for God — and because children are so heavily on His heart, He grew them in mine… in a big way.

In bare-walled classroom building in Kenya, during Sunday School on a dusty August day, God planted a seed in my heart for generational discipleship… beginning with a love for teaching children about Jesus… that has since developed into a fascination with the biblical relationship between the Great Commission and the institution of the family.  The fact that God created two institutions for advancing His kingdom: the local church and the Christian family.  (If this is resonating with you, check out this great article.)

Of course all the rest of it comes with that, too: Are you kidding me, I think they are immensely adorable, and I enjoy spending time with them very much!!!  But His purposes are even greater than that.  This can be through fostering, adoption, OR biological parenting.  And if, after reading that article, you are thinking I’m not technically a parent… well, I guess I’m not.  Yes, I am currently pursuing it, but that still doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed for me.  So whether or not you have your “own” kids, grown kids, or no kids, I think the question also becomes:

Who are all the children who have been placed in our lives for a reason — to spiritually parent?

In her book One Million Arrows, Julie Ferwerda says, “Spiritual parenting can be just as meaningful and impacting as traditional parenting in matters of eternity and can take on many forms.  You can invest time, talents, prayer, money, possessions, and skills into shaping kids locally, nationally, and even internationally.”

God has given me the great gift of mentoring an 11-year-old girl over this past year, and I can tell you that “mentoring” her blesses ME in more ways than I can count.  Although I did pray specifically for opportunities to mentor (particularly to pre-teens or teens with Type 1 diabetes, like me and like her), this relationship is one that God ordained — altogether different than what I originally sought after and one million times better than I ever imagined.  (Isn’t that just like Him?)  Truly, it was a gift from God that He had in mind, and it’s a relationship in my life that I absolutely cherish.

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I do realize that mentoring and parenting are going to look a lot different… but it’s all about investing in the next generation for God’s kingdom.  It’s helping ignite an excitement in them about who God is and a love for Him in their hearts that’s going to carry out Psalm 78: 4-8… right alongside the Great Commission.  Not to mention, in my case, she’s a super awesome kid, and I absolutely LOVE hanging out with her!! :)

So… that’s part of my story.

Then there’s a whole other part about deciding to adopt “first,” about parenting children not biologically ours — which is a different tale in itself.  And maybe it’s one for a later day (at least the parts that God has told me so far).  But I can tell you that He was weaving that story in and out of both of our lives and hearts before we even knew it, and He’s been gracious to allow me to see fractions of those threads in looking back on my life.

At this point in the story, I know I feel ready… and it goes without saying that I am super excited to be a mom (it can’t happen soon enough!).  Of course there are the normal “am I really ready for this” fears.  Those are a different kind of “ready.”  I’m not worried about those.  I don’t doubt God’s timing or sovereignty or faithfulness, because I can look back to see the ways He has been faithfully sovereign and perfect and good.  I think that He has designed me in a unique way to be a mother, and His process for me was different than any other mother’s process.  Not better, not worse — just different.  And, now, we’re just positioned to meet the one He’s chosen for us…  The “especially special” one we get to call our own. :)

Be blessed.  Stay tuned.

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{ In April of 2014, I wrote the follow-up to this account: “Part 2.”  It is about our decision to adopt and for adoption to be our “Plan A.”  You can read that post here. }