Be the Light. Be the Defender. Be the difference.

“Be The Light” on Orphan and Stand Sunday from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

Happy November!! Goodness, I love this time of year. The food, the fellowship, the serving, the anticipation of Christmas, the food…. November has become one of my favorite months of the year. And one of the reasons, besides the food, is that it’s a month where the church comes together to advocate and raise awareness for vulnerable children. The second Sunday of November is international Orphan Sunday and Stand Sunday. According to Lifesong.org, “An initiative began by Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO), Orphan Sunday occurs each year as an opportunity for local churches and communities to rally together in response to God’s call to care for the orphaned and vulnerable.”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:15-18

As you all know, our family has a passion for vulnerable children. The Lord called us into the world of adoption two years ago and we became more and more aware of the responsibility of the church to care for the fatherless and be a voice for those without one. Because of verses like James 1:27 and because the Lord has adopted us and made us His sons and daughters, we are commanded to go and do likewise. Not all families will have the call of adoption placed on their hearts, but, as Believers, we all are required to respond to the Scripture’s mandate to care for orphans and vulnerable children. A saying we use often in our family is, “You don’t have to ‘feel called’ to do what the Lord has already commanded you to do in Scripture. You’ve simply to be obedient.” We want to share God’s heart for orphans with our brothers and sisters in Christ. November 8, 2020 is Orphan + Stand Sunday and a great opportunity to raise awareness for the fatherless and discuss ways our churches can get involved in God’s command to care for the vulnerable. If your church is hosting an Orphan + Stand Sunday, I want to encourage you to attend and listen. If your church isn’t hosting an event, attend one in your area or consider how you could organize one next year. There are so many resources available and organizations, like CAFO and Lifeline, provide all the tools and support needed to host an event. Lastly, I want to challenge you to search the Scriptures and as you do, to pray a bold prayer that you will obey whatever the Lord lays on your heart through His Word. If the Lord is calling you to adopt or foster, please reach out to other foster and adoptive families. They hold a wealth of wisdom and can pray for you and support you as you enter into that decision. It’s not something you can do alone. If you’re eager to get started in caring for vulnerable children and you just don’t know where to start, I’ve provided a list of ways to get involved, below. More than anything, please pray. Holy Spirit will show you what to do, you’ve only to be obedient. Here’s how you can get involved:

Pray for the Vulnerable
• Pray for children currently in foster care waiting to be reunited with their parents
• Pray for children who are waiting to be adopted, both in foster care and around the world. Follow this link to child profiles in the U.S. and choose a specific child to pray for until they are adopted.
• Pray for social workers in your community and for foster and adoptive families. Pray the Lord will place the call on families to foster and adopt.
• Rally others to pray with you
Provide Wrap-Around Support
• Identify foster parents, adoptive parents, and social workers in your church or community. Look for creative ways to support and encourage them.
• Provide a meal for a foster or adoptive family (this is especially helpful when a new child arrives in a foster home)
• Help out with household chores, such as lawn care, laundry, cleaning, etc.
• Offer to assist with transportation (this is especially valuable to a foster family that has children of varying ages and activities)
• Offer to babysit for a foster or adoptive family
• Organize a Parents Night Out at your church for foster and adoptive families in your community
• Provide donuts, muffins, snacks, etc. for your local child welfare agency staff
• Reach out to local agencies to find ways to support children in foster care through mentorship, advocacy, tutoring, providing resources, etc.
• Advocate for children waiting to be adopted. Follow @lifelinechild on social media for updates.
• Clean, restock, or decorate a visitation room at your local child welfare agency
• Become a volunteer CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) or GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) in your community
Support Women in Unexpected Pregnancies
• Support your local Pregnancy Resource Center by providing needed resources
• Volunteer at your local Pregnancy Resource Center
• Host a Baby Shower for your local Pregnancy Resource Center
Make a Financial Donation
• Begin an adoption fund in your church
• Make a donation to a family in the adoption process
• Host a yard sale or fundraiser for a family in the adoption process

(list courtesy of Lifeline Children Services)

Brothers and Sisters, let us do the hard work. Stepping into the world of orphan care, of trauma and pain and brokenness is not easy. It will take everything you have (and everything you don’t have) to pursue these children and love them and bring them into your home. It will require a death to yourself that these children, these images of God, may flourish and have a chance at a beautiful life. But that’s precisely what Jesus did for us. And if we don’t do it, who will? Be the Light, church! Be the Light! Until every child has a home…

HOME – An Orphan Sunday // Stand Sunday Video from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Adoption Update: October 7, 2020 NOC

Happy fall, all!! It has been a long time since I’ve posted an update (since March). It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything…. like many of you, I’ve been pressing into this time of quarantine and closings. I’ve happily gone days without checking emails or touching my phone and I can say that I sleep deeper because of it. It’s been sweet to spend more time with family and dear friends. It has been a season, for my little family at least, to snuggle more, read more, and feast more. And that’s exactly what our hearts have needed in the extended period of waiting to bring our son home. As most of you know, we started the adoption process more than two years ago. In March of 2020, the Lord answered many prayers and we were matched with our beautiful little boy, Micah. By the way, that’s his name. Micah Oren Medlin. Named after the biblical prophet and Micah’s late paternal great grandfather.

In mid-August, we celebrated Micah’s 5th birthday amongst the sweet souls of our dearest friends and family. As we welcomed guests into our home that evening, my husband joked that this was probably the first birthday party we’ve all been to where the birthday boy was absent. The humor and warm embraces helped to lighten the burden on our hearts of the deep grief we have felt for missing another momentous occasion in our son’s life. The week prior had witnessed many tears and pleading with the Lord on our son’s behalf. This night of celebration and prayer and fellowship was needed. So, we all feasted on delicious Indian dishes like homemade chana masala, raita, garlic naan, chutneys, samosa, and other snacks. After filling our tummies with delectable food and our hearts with bubbly laughter, we gathered in the living room for a sweet time of worship and prayer. I was overwhelmed by the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ as they all prayed over our adoption process, us, and our Micah. We finished the evening off by circling around a chocolate cake and mango kulfi, and sang hearty wishes to the birthday boy. A sweet friend captured it on video and we were able to send pictures and video to Micah’s orphanage, so that he could see the many people who love him, are celebrating him, and are praying diligently for the Lord to bring him home.

So, what’s up next? After waiting for three months, we have just received our No Objection Certificate from India. We are praising the Lord that this has come through! This means that our adoption petition can now be filed in court. Once we go through court, which could take several months, we will then be the legal parents of Micah and can travel to India to bring him home. While we are at the final stages of the process, we are painfully aware that it could be quite a while before we are able to travel on our Gotcha Trip. Could you please join us in praying that the Lord will rise up on our behalf and perform a miracle to swiftly bring our son home? We are thankful for the many prayers over the years. We believe it’s these prayers that will finally see our son home.

8 more check marks since the last post in March!
Micah’s birthday cake, decorated by his big sister.
Oh, the delicious things we ate!
Prayer guide for praying for vulnerable children.
Our fellow celebrators! Happy birthday, Micah!!

Adoption Update: March 8, 2020 We’re matched!!!!

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! –Psalm 27:14

We’ve been matched!!!! We’ve been matched!!!!! After a year and 7 months of being in process, and two years of steadfast prayer, we have seen the face of OUR SON!!! I’ll never get tired of saying, “our son!!” Eeeeep! Oh, God is so so good!! Yes, there are tons of exclamation points already. Disclaimer: there are more to come. Because y’all, we’ve been matched!!!!!!! Praise the Lord!

We’ve just spent the last three days celebrating with our family and dear friends and our hearts are so full they could burst! Thank you for the joyful texts and phone calls and celebratory feasts and impromptu fellowship. Thank you for sharing in our joy!! Now let me tell you about our baby boy.

Celebrating with family, enjoying the best Indian food in Charlotte at Blue Taj

Our precious boy is 4 years old and from southern India. From the beginning of our process, my heart already knew he was in the world and the Lord prompted us to accept the call to adoption at just the right time so we could be united with our son. The Lord confirmed this when we were presented with his file. He’s the most beautiful little boy we’ve ever seen. He has the prettiest black, curly hair, big brown eyes like his big sister (Clara is over the moon and can’t wait to teach him everything she knows), and he has skin the color of warm cocoa tinged with cinnamon. Y’all, he’s just precious and perfect in every way.

So, when can we bring him home? We don’t have a time frame for that. There’s still many steps to go, as you can see (above). Next up is preparing our immigration paperwork and dossier to send to India. Could you please unite with us in prayer that the rest of this process will go smoothly and all paperwork and court dates will be expedited? Also, pray for our hearts as we prepare, and continue to wait, to bring our son home. But mostly, pray for our boy who doesn’t know he has a family halfway around the world. Pray for his heart and his protection.

Clara and I celebrated being matched by getting matching henna!

Thank you all so much for your prayers over the last months and years. We know none of this would be possible without the way you all have loved on us, prayed with us, and supported us. We are beyond blessed to be surrounded by the most wonderful community. From the deepest part of our hearts, thank you. Now let’s praise God and eagerly await what He’s going to do next!!!!!

A Year of Abundance

Fam

May the God of hope fill you with all joy, and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13

Helloooo, 2020!!! I’ve been impatiently awaiting your arrival. 2018 was challenging. 2019 will take a lot of time to process (therapy might be useful). I couldn’t write about New Years stuff in January, the time for such posts. Yes, I know I’m late to the party. My heart was still pink and tender and I wasn’t ready to talk about hopeful things, happy things, joyful things, abundant things. I don’t do resolutions, but every year I write a letter to God about my hopes and dreams for the new year. I look forward to it in December. I love a fresh new year letter, but I couldn’t even do that. Instead, I wrote how my heart was bruised and battered and still hurting and still confused. I’m processing. And I suppose this post is part of that.

Every January, I wait for the Lord to lay a word upon my heart for the year. I’ve been doing this for five years now and I love looking back on this Ebenezer of words to see what God has taught me and my family, and what he has brought us through. Here’s a snapshot of my past years and words (I record these in my Bible annually):

  • 2016- Discipline
    • trained for and ran a marathon
    • became more disciplined in reading and listening to the Word of God
    • overhaul on shopping habits
  • 2017-Obedience
    • read the Bible every day
    • read the entire Bible cover to cover
    • became obedient in the stewardship of our money (cheerfully giving and debt paid off)
  • 2018-Humility/Submission
    • submitted to the leadership of my husband
    • resigned from teaching
    • sacrificed my idol of independence and pride
    • answered the call to adopt
  • 2019-Faith
    • Impossible to contrive in a list

Actually, for the majority of the year in 2019 I had no clue what my word was. By March, I was convinced my “word” was “I don’t know,” as that seemed the common response to every single question I was asked and every single question I asked, myself. How long will you be in Oklahoma? I don’t know. When will you get approval from India? I don’t know. How much time does she have left to live? I don’t know. How long will you be in Oklahoma this time? I don’t know. What’s making Clara sick? I don’t know. When will you be matched? I don’t know. What are you doing about church? I don’t know. What school will she go to? I don’t know. What will you do when she goes to kindergarten? I don’t know. Will you go back to teaching? I don’t know. When will your baby come home? I don’t know. What do you want to do with your life? I don’t know. How many more loved ones will die this year? I don’t know. What will you eat for dinner tonight? I don’t know. Chickfila?? It wasn’t until September that the Lord revealed to me my word was “Faith,” which looked a whole lot like “I don’t know, but I’m going to trust in Him, anyway.” And that’s what I did, we did. My little family clung to our faith that the Lord had a plan for us, even in the hard. And he saw us through the grief and the long waiting of 2019.

Waiting for our baby is like:

A shiny longing

Blinding excitement

Glittering announcements

Confetti

Pink sunshine

 

Days.weeks.months.

Spottings of doubt

Questions

Desperate phone calls

Out of control

Year.days.weeks.months…

 

Strangers and friends toss flippant reassurances

Well-meaning lectures

Bitten tongues

Plastered smiles

Hide behind-

               Cheery speeches. Rehearsed. Given. Repeated. And again. 

 

Fatigued hearts

A throat closing in

Aching open hands

 

Rain

Silence. More.

Numbness

Acceptance

Settle, be still

Mourn

Breathe

Trust

Speak life

Start living again

 

We often get asked about our adoption wait, and we love an opportunity to talk about our child and seek prayer. But it’s not always easy. It actually involves a confusing conundrum of feelings. We want to be asked and to know that our friends and family haven’t forgotten, but at the same time it’s like asking a couple who’s been trying to conceive for almost two years if they’re pregnant yet. If anything, this whole waiting experience has helped us to empathize with other people in times of waiting better. We’ve learned to be sensitive, to focus on questions that check-in with the heart instead of the situation, to listen, to pray with them, and not offer cheerful “encouragement” in the midst of their pain, but to sit with them in it until they are ready to stand up.

Jeremiah 29 has been an anchor to my soul over the past year and a reminder of how to love others well through their difficult times. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…” Jeremiah 29:11 So often this verse is taken out of context. It’s used by man to encourage and pump people up or even to perpetuate the prosperity gospel, that if one just has the right amount of faith and a tablespoon of prayer and a cup full of naming n’ claiming that they will be protected from all bad things and be healthy and prosperous. People using this verse from the prophecy of Jeremiah in this way are not reading the rest of the Bible. In this sin-sick world, the righteous experience injustice; the poor are plundered; children starve; wars rage; cancer abounds; and e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. dies. God doesn’t promise that hard things won’t come, but He does promise to be with you and near you and beside you and to fight for you and to carry you when they do. In fact, the Lord gives this promise to the exiled Israelites in Jeremiah 29 right after pronouncing that they will have seventy more years of being exiled. Context is everything. God is interested in the end game, in the refining of our hearts and the renewing of our minds. Maybe if we kept reading after Jeremiah 29:11 we would glimpse this masterful plan. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

2020 is here and the Lord has laid on my heart that this is the year of Abundance. In just one month, He has brought clarity to unanswered questions, peace to my impatient heart, and wisdom to our family to make big decisions that have been weighing in the balance for months and months. He has also brought new lifegiving friends and fellowship with other Believers. He’s bearing much fruit in our family. We are not the same people we were a year ago. As the bulbs begin to poke through and chartreuse leaves unfurl, I sense a spring in our family’s spiritual life, too. A growth and renewal, a reawakening from the dark year where we’ve had to cling and cry out to the only Rock and Foundation of our faith. We may not bring our baby home this year. We may not even be matched by December of 2020. But this year is different because, like the Lord gave the Israelites, He’s giving us hope. And a future. And I just can’t wait to see what else He has in store for us.

The Greatest Gift

Merry Christmas! We bring you tidings of great joy! Jesus is King and our Lord reigns forever! As we settle into the Christmas season, let’s constantly (because there’s constantly a distraction) meditate on what God has done for us through His son, Jesus Christ.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. -1 John 4:10

But when the time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights as sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out,”Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. -Galatians 4:4-7

Family. That was, is, God’s greatest gift to us. He reconciled us to Himself by sacrificing His only Son on the cross for our sins, and then made us part of His family. We are now coheirs with Christ. Like, what?! Talk about a really undeserved grace, and elaborate, bounteous, flamboyant, magnanimous gift!! God is just so generous.

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Let’s give a gift!

This past November, my family had the amazing opportunity to participate in the China hosting program with Lifeline Children’s Services. We were blessed to host a precious seven year-old girl from China. Prior to her arrival, we spent the months preparing to make her visit as comfortable as possible, meeting local Chinese followers of Christ to support us during her stay and after, and praying every day for this beautiful soul the Lord was entrusting to us for ten days. Even with all the preparation, it was impossible to steel ourselves for the overwhelming emotions of bringing an orphan into our home. We were heartbroken for her loss, and enchanted with her vibrant laughter, and devastated when she would wake up crying in the deep hours of the night. We were in awe of her bravery, and enthralled by her love of dancing and music and all things princess. We spent our days with her relishing every second the Lord allowed us to be a small part of her story. And now we get to share this great joy! We get to share her! This is also where your own chapter comes in: This beautiful girl has been waiting for a family for seven years. Will you please help us give Ping Ping the gift of a forever family?

Below is a write up of Ping Ping’s vivacious personality. Will you please share this post or her hosting information with as many people as possible? Please contact me if you, or someone you know, are interested in pursuing this little girl. I have more videos and pictures I can share and can connect you with Lifeline for more information. We believe her family is waiting and praying for her right. this. very. second. By sharing her information, you might be the one who helps bring a family together. I can’t think of a better gift we could all give this Christmas!!! Our family is eternally grateful for the moments we spent with Ping Ping and the memories we made. We’re forever marked by her life and excited about the prospect of helping her find her forever family. What a beautiful, indescribable honor.

Ping Ping Hosting Notes

Waiting Child Profile

Ping Ping is a vibrant 7 year-old girl. She has Down Syndrome, but no other medical needs. She is small in stature and wears a 4T in US girl clothing size. She speaks Mandarin, but is perceptive to body language, tone, and hand gestures. We did not consider communication much of an obstacle while she was with us. She is very loving and affectionate. She likes to cuddle and offers many kisses on the cheek. In our opinion, she attaches well and has clearly had healthy attachments in her past. She especially liked my husband and warmed to him quickly. She knew we were her caretakers while she was with us and did not turn to other adults for her needs to be met. She loves to play and has a wonderful sense of humor. She is musical and would probably do well with classic dance or piano lessons. She is independent and can do almost all personal care activities on her own, such as dressing, bathing, toilet, hand-washing, brushing her teeth and hair. She plays well with other children and enjoys wrestling. She does very well with small children and wants to hold and care for babies. She would be a wonderful big sister. She prefers to eat with chopsticks, but does well with a fork and spoon, also. She is a very good eater and will eat/try most foods. She travels well in the car (traveled from Charlotte to Birmingham easily). She is a girly girl and loves all things glittery and princess. She is sassy (lets you know what she thinks with an eyebrow raised and hands on her hips) and full of personality.

Potential discipline challenges: She is strong-willed. It is important to establish rules from the beginning and consistently enforce them. She is smart and will test the limits in the early days, but if you continue to uphold household rules, she will quickly comply. She does hit (but not hard) sometimes when she is frustrated or you are not doing what she wants you to do. It would be important to address this behavior from the beginning. We did not consider any of her behavior to be out of the ordinary for a 7 year-old. When behavior is addressed (we only did so verbally) she is often penitent and wants to make up quickly.

Overall, we loved every single minute with Ping Ping. She is a ball of fun and energy and would do well in a family who is affectionate and loves to laugh.
Likes:
Dancing
Playing the piano
Singing
Her favorite songs (Jesus Loves Me, If You’re Happy and You Know It, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star)
Looking at pictures and videos of herself and ones she loves on the phone
Princess dresses
Baby dolls
Sequins and glitter
Bracelets
Hair bows
Having her hair fixed
Lavender hand lotion
Fruit (bananas, strawberries, peeled apples, mandarin oranges)
Chickfila nuggets and fries
Chinese corn chowder
Congee
Rice and noodles
All meats
Green beans
Room temp milk
Frozen yogurt
Someone to lie next to her to go to sleep
Reading books and being read to
To be praised (she will celebrate with you, my husband called her a little cheerleader)
To entertain others and make them laugh

Dislikes:
Dogs (she is afraid of them)
Sleeping alone
Blueberries
Green vegetables
Loud noises
The dark (night lights help)

Podcasts, please!

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m an avid listener of podcasts. It’s difficult for me to complete a conversation without adding, “So there was this podcast I was listening to…” There are all kinds of podcasts out there for a motley of purposes. I mainly listen to expository and personal narratives to learn and broaden my perspective. My husband loves to glean through stories. His favorites are harrowing and inspiring tales from international missionaries and, in contrast, true crime mysteries. Like books, everyone has their own genre of podcast they prefer. Because I get asked so often, I thought I’d share some of my favorite podcasts. And if you’re new to podcasts or you’ve never listened to them before, welcome!! Grab your earbuds, and get ready to feel like the greatest multitasker in the world. I swear I get my daily chores done 10x faster while listening to a cast. Laundry (yes, the worst chore ever that I hate with the white hot passion of a thousand suns) goes by quickly. And let’s not even get started on how essential they are to a road trip. I hope this list of podcasts can help you to learn and grow and challenge you, like it has me. Share your favorites with us in the comments! I’m always looking for another show.

The Happy Hour

One of my top three favorites, this podcast makes me cry and laugh simultaneously. It’s equally educational and entertaining and just dang encouraging.

Love Thy Neighborhood

Another top three, LTN inspires me to show the love of Christ to everyone I meet.

The Bible Project

Probably the podcast I listen to the most, Tim and Jon are constantly blowing my mind and causing me to dig deeper into the Bible.

Radical

Because David Platt is just awesome. I appreciate his blunt but grace filled approach to the Gospel and the Christian walk.

Truth’s Table

These marvelous women are sooo stinking smart and wise and hilarious. I love their work and I love learning from them.

Ask Pastor John

If I ever have a question about the Bible, Pastor John has already answered it, thoroughly.

The Defender Podcast

The priority of our family in a podcast. If you have a heart for vulnerable children or want to know what that even means, listen to this cast.

The Gospel Coalition

I can’t go to all the conferences I would like to attend, but I can listen to most of them here. Thank you, TGC!

Red Couch

Because there is nothing funnier or more accurate than this show’s segment of Hood Politics.

Real Christianity (formerly Ultimate Marriage)

The episodes on marriage are really good. Dale likes to provoke, so be ready. Lol

Honestly Adoption Podcast

A great podcast if you’re just wading into the adoption or foster world.

The Heritage Women Podcast

This is a shameless plug for one of my best friends. She’s smart, she’s funny, she loves Jesus, she’s an amazing momma, and fellow dreamer. She just started her first podcast and I can’t wait to see what she is going to do for the Kingdom. Go listen to her on Spotify (coming to Apple soon) and be sure to rate the podcast so it can be available to more women seeking to grow in their faith and relationships.

Recipe Roundup: Pumpkins! Pumpkins!

Shout aloud, O earth beneath; burst into song you mountains, you forests and all your trees.

Isaiah 44:23

Happy best. month. of. the. YEAR!!!! Ya’ll, my family and I look forward to October 334 days out of the year. Yes, I’m as basic a white girl as they come, concerning the autumn season. And if they didn’t cost so dang much, I would be strutting around in those duck boots and fair isle socks. I don’t even know if those are trendy anymore, but that doesn’t matter. L.L. Bean, like Chanel, is eternal. I am obsessed with all things fall. The pumpkins! The leaves! The campfires! The mums! The scarves! The hayrides! The mountains! The flannel shirts! The pumpkins! The spiced teas and coffees! The corn mazes! The festivals! The hot apple cider! The pumpkins!!! Need I go on (I can)??

In honor of this most glorious month, I’m going to share some of my favorite pumpkin recipes and store finds. Try them out, pick up a pumpkin, gather around a bonfire with those you hold dear, and join the celebration of nature praising our Creator.

Favorite Fall Finds

I will first state the obvious: Trader Joe’s is a pumpkin lover’s haven. Go stock up on their pumpkin streusel, pumpkin pancake mix, petite pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin cranberry crisps (sooo good paired with goat cheese), and, my personal favorite, pumpkin body butter. Click the link for even more autumn options.

Caramel apples at Aldi are delicious, festive, and only $2.49 a pack. Aldi, we love you.

Lidl is where it’s at for fresh pumpkins and mums. Large carving pumpkins are only $2.49 and big beautiful mums are $3.99. With these prices, you won’t feel guilty about loading up your front steps with fresh fall decor. While you’re at it, grab a joyful bouquet of sunflowers for just $2.99 and try not to break into a huge grin every time you look at them. I dare you.

 

Starbuck’s new pumpkin cream cold brew is. to. die. for. Get a venti or you’ll live in regret for the rest of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

Silk is making all my dreams come true with a dairy-free option to enjoy pumpkin spice in my morning coffee.

Autumnal Recipes

Pumpkin Bread

I have been making this spicy bread on the first day of autumn every year since I was a teenager. I don’t remember where I got the original recipe, but I’ve tweaked it over the years and I’m convinced there’s no better pumpkin bread. Extra tip: I always heap all my spice measurements and sometimes double them (i.e. 1 tsp cinnamon = 1 big heaping tsp cinnamon).

  • 15 oz can Libby’s pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. cinnamon applesauce
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • Splash of vanilla
  • Chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two loaf pans. Mix together pumpkin, eggs, oil, applesauce, water, and sugar until well blended. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mix until just blended. Add vanilla and nuts, if desired. Pour into pans and bake for 50 mins until toothpick comes out clean.

Fire-Roasted Stuffed Pumpkins

This recipe, from Smoke, Roots, Mountain Harvest, is so stinking easy, delectable, and just too much fun. The main ingredient is time, but don’t let that deter you. You can roast the pumpkins while you make the filling and start the charcoal. Then, just throw it all together. Or stuff the pumpkins and refrigerate the day before and roast when you’re ready. This really is as good as it looks.

  • 4 small pie pumpkins
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausage (mild or spicy)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 cups crumbled cornbread (bake beforehand)
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 c. crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 Tbs Fresh green onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Place pumpkins directly on oven rack and roast for 30-35 mins, until the skins darken and become shiny. Remove and let cool until easily handled. Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion, and garlic powder until meat is browned and onion is soft. Remove from the heat. Add cornbread, Gruyere cheese, goat cheese, and herbs. Toss to mix evenly.

Cut the top off the cooled pumpkins like you would a jack-o-lantern. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous innards. Season the inside of the pumpkins with a little salt and freshly ground pepper. Fill the pumpkins with stuffing mixture and replace the tops of the pumpkins. Finish roasting on a charcoal grill (or wrapped in foil on a campfire) in indirect heat until the centers are hot and cheese is gooey, about 30 mins. Transfer the pumpkins to plates and dig in.

Skillet Apple Pie

This is my go-to recipe for fall gatherings. It was featured in a Southern Living magazine years back. It’s super easy and the presentation is festive. Plus, it can easily be reheated over a fire with friends. This pie will knock your socks off, it’s so good. Remember to always always always serve with vanilla or butter pecan ice cream.

  • 2 pounds Granny Smith apples
  • 2 pounds Braeburn apples
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 (14.1-oz.) package refrigerated piecrusts
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Peel apples, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss apples with cinnamon and 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and place 1 piecrust in skillet over brown sugar mixture. Spoon apple mixture over piecrust, and top with remaining piecrust. Whisk egg white until foamy. Brush top of piecrust with egg white; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar. Cut 4 or 5 slits in top for steam to escape.

Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly, shielding with aluminum foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla or butter-pecan ice cream.

 

Pumpkin Cream

Because I’m obsessed with Starbuck’s pumpkin cream cold brew and I cannot afford to buy a cup everyday, I went in search of a recipe. Give Me Some Oven inspired my cream creation, but I wanted to make a bigger serving so I ended up with this. I’ve been using this cream in my hot coffee, too. It’s the perfect balance of creaminess and sweetness.

  • 1 Tbs canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup half n’ half
  • Pinch of salt
  • Maple syrup (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Combine ingredients and mix with a milk frother until thick and foamy. Stir into your cold brew or morning cup of coffee.

Fall Fun at the Apiarists’ House…

I’m seeing nothing but spoons! Here’s hoping for lots of snow this year!

First fall cookout of the season.

My husband bakes the best cookies. And he builds stuff. And he has a muscle car. Dreamboat.

Adoption Update: August 19, 2019 CARA Approval

Celebratory ice cream at Melt

Last week, Bret decided we needed to take a few days off to enjoy some time with Clara before school begins. Yes, she’s starting kindergarten in mere days. No, I still don’t want to talk about it. So, on Sunday the 18th, we woke up from our after-church-nap, fed the chickens, and packed up the car to stay with my mom and stepdad at the beach for a few days. We awoke late on Monday morning and I glanced at the clock, relieved that most of the morning was already gone. For the past few months, I’ve fallen into a routine of vigilantly staring down the minutes until 10 am. I knew that if we didn’t get a call from our caseworker by then, then we would not be getting one that day. One more day added to the weeks we had been waiting for CARA approval. (29 weeks and 6 days, to be exact, or, nearly 7 months). We slowly emerged into the kitchen, chatted with my parents over coffee, and started to prepare brunch. At 10:19, in the middle of a sizzling batch of bacon, my phone rang. I glanced down at it, saw our caseworker’s name scrawled across the top, stopped breathing, looked at Bret, watched his eyes grow large with understanding as he took in the look on my face. I answered and managed to croak out a feeble “hello.” Toria greeted me and calmly stated, “I have some good news.” She paused for me to respond. I couldn’t respond. She continued and told me the words we’d been waiting so long to hear… “Your family has received approval from CARA.” I dumbly replied with something like “that is good news,” and then had to hand the phone off to Bret having met my capacity for spoken words. Bret finished the unexpected and long awaited phone call with stamina, as I melted into a puddle nearby. We looked at each other, our cheeks wet and round with smiles and both repeated the surreal words, “We have approval!!” The rest of the trip was spent celebrating and grinning and earning a sunburn and sharing the news with our family. We cheered over nachos, then ice cream at our favorite parlor, followed by dinner with a sprinkled cake and toast at my mom’s house. (We kind of like food). It was pretty great!

All this to say, WE FINALLY HAVE CARA APPROVAL!!!! Praise the Lord!! That means that the Indian government has given us initial approval to adopt. This is a really big milestone in the adoption journey. We are now officially allowed to match with a child on the waiting child database!

So what’s next? We’re waiting on our team of awesome caseworkers at Lifeline to present us with a child’s file. This could happen at any moment. Based on our special needs considerations list, the team will reserve a child’s file on our family’s behalf. Once this happens, we have up to 30 days to decide whether we would like to move forward in pursuing this match or if we would like to release the child’s file back to the public waiting child list. Once we have reviewed a child’s file and are ready to move forward in pursuing their adoption, we will sign off on all of their paperwork and apply for NOC (No Objection Certificate).

We’ve been told the matching process is the most emotionally arduous part of the adoption journey. That’s honestly very difficult for us to imagine after this long wait for approval. We are going into this phase with optimism and we are eager to finally “meet” the babe God has planned for our family.

Will you please continue to join us in prayer?

  • Pray for wisdom and discernment as we review files. We’ve chosen to have pictures withheld until after we’ve accepted a file. We don’t know how we could objectively look at a file with a sweet face staring at us. The very idea of “choosing” a child is bizarre to us and difficult to wrap our minds around. How do you make such a choice?
  • Pray for our hearts as we delve into one of the most emotional decisions of our lives.
  • Pray God’s will be done and that whatever happens is to the glory of His name.
  • Pray for financial provision as we near the end. Once we are matched, several large fees are due, but we will finally be eligible to apply for more grants. We only have about $5000 left and we are praying that the Lord will continue to provide through these grants. We are so thankful for His faithfulness in this area, already.
  • Pray for Clara. This wait for “her baby” has been hard on her, too. Please pray for her little eager heart.
  • Keep praying for our unknown child. That they are safe and loved and cared for. They are unknown to us for the moment, but completely known by God. And that brings us such peace and reassurance.

August Book Talk

Happy hottest month of the year!! I usually dread this month, with its scorched grass and blistering temperatures. I feel so keenly the blaring of the sun, always watching like the Eye of Sauron. I’ve already found myself longing for flannel and spiced hot chocolate and crunchy leaves and crackling fires and pumpkins. But I must not let myself fall headlong into such dreams. Autumn is months away. Months away…. No, this August I will relish the remainder of my. last. summer. with my little lamb before she goes off to kindergarten. And speaking of little lambs and learning, this month’s book talk is for them.

When it comes to choosing books for my girl, I am extremely selective in what we read. Books are the first ways that we shape their little characters and I want to be mindful of that as I choose her literature. It’s important to me that the texts she is exposed to challenges her academically and helps her to grow spiritually. The ultimate goal is that she become a lover of words and a lover of the Word. Many Christians, today, are biblically illiterate and struggle to have a desire to read Scripture, let alone understand it. I want to give my children the tools to read, comprehend, and love the Bible. Here are some things we do to encourage a love of reading in our house and ensure she’s receiving good, life-giving instruction from texts:

  • We read all day, everyday- We start each day with God’s Word and end with God’s Word. Every morning, we begin our day with Scripture. For the past few weeks we’ve been focusing on the Ten Commandments. After breakfast, I settle Clara into my lap, wrap her up in a big hug and we read the Ten Commandments together. Later in the day, we will read a picture book or a chapter from her current read. We’re about to finish reading Ella Enchanted. While she’s playing, or if we are running errands in the car, I will put on an audio book for her to listen to. And then at bedtime, she will pick out a picture book for her daddy to read to her followed by the Bible.
  • We read the classics- I prefer classic literature to challenge her and expand her vocabulary. We love to use the Hoopla app through our local library to listen to such books as Winnie the Pooh, Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Chronicles of Narnia, The Princess and the Goblin, Mary Poppins, Paddington, Peter Rabbit, Aesop’s Fables, etc. We also use the Streetlights app to listen to Scripture.
  • We assess themes- I’m diligent in examining the themes of a book before reading it to her. I don’t want her reading books that are contrary to our Christian worldview. There will be a time when she is older and can make this discernment for herself, but for now it’s my responsibility to protect her mind and her heart. Preview books before reading them to your children.

    This is an example of why it is important to preview your kid’s literature. This was found in a collection of classic children’s poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is NOT something we want our young children reading. We removed this page from our book.
  • We read poetry- If you want your middle schooler or high schooler to love and understand poetry, expose them while they are young. Shel Silverstein is most American children’s introduction to poetry. And while his poetry is fun and has forever changed the way we think when we see a sidewalk come to an end, it should not be the only poetry our children are exposed to. Read Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman, E.E. Cummings, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes. A vast portion of the Bible is poetry. I want my children to love and be able to explicate poetry.
  • We read multi-cultural literature- God is not an American. I repeat, God is not an American. In heaven, there will be people from every tribe, language, and nation. And what better way to get to teach our kids about their brothers and sisters in Christ than through literature. Books are mirrors and windows for our children. I make a point to purchase books that represent as many cultures as possible to put into Clara’s library. It’s also important to me to not have a bunch of Bible stories with a white Jesus. Be mindful of this. What we convey to our children about who God is, is important. Kid’s Read Truth is one of our favorite resources for Gospel centered lit. Pro tip: When looking for multi-cultural texts, check to see if the author is from the culture being represented.

    img_0523
    Our Princess loves the books by “Once Upon a World.” The series takes classic fairy tales set in different cultures, and uses illustrators who identify with those cultural backgrounds. 
  • We read books with colorful families- As a transracial family, it is important to us to incorporate books in our kids’ library that “look like us.” We choose books with biracial families and transracial families to show our kids that families come in all shapes and sizes. Some of our favorites are The Hello, Goodbye Window, Guji, Guji, The Simple Life of Ollie & Vern, The Lamb-A-Roo.
  • We snuggle- I always wanted my children to associate reading with love. We are intentional about holding our daughter when we are reading to her, pausing for a big hug every now and then, and proffering several kisses on top of her head before the book is through. Reading time has become the most cherished times in our house. When we tell Clara to get a book, she runs to find one and literally jumps into our laps, or as she calls it, ‘her nest.’ And that’s exactly how I want her to feel, like she’s safe and loved and adored in our arms while we read to her.

Hopefully, this post will encourage you to grab a good book and snuggle up with your kids. It’s one of the most important things you’ll do today.

Why I Quit Social Media

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

I didn’t actually think I would ever write this post, but since I deleted my Instagram account back in February after a three month break, I have been asked by so many people why I stopped. I am reluctantly writing this because I know the topic of social media gets pretty dicey rather quickly. But here we go…

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (me, whom has an all-or-nothing personality) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of all millennials or evangelical Christians. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They could be utilized in real-world analysis of social media use as they are based on open source information (the Bible). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of all Christians. The author invokes the scripture Matthew 10:16 “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves,” as you determine whether social media is for you.

The Journey | Summer 2018

Last summer I kind of had a lot going on and I started to notice how verrrrryyyy much I was on my phone, specifically, on Instagram. I started noticing things about my behavior like how I mostly watched the 4th of July fireworks while on the White House south lawn through my screen instead of actually viewing the spectacular display and taking in the enormity of the moment. I noticed how I would put off answering my little girl or my husband when they would ask me a question because I was busy scrolling or responding to a comment. I noticed how I would get frustrated at my family because “couldn’t they see that I was trying to respond to someone, I mean, I can’t be rude to the well-wishers.” I noticed how almost every picture I took or video I recorded was for the sole purpose of posting it to my social media account. I started to notice that I was actually planning trips and things to do with my family because I knew it would look good on Instagram and people would think we were so fun and adventurous. Seriously. I noticed that a 4.7 inch screen was ruling my life. Somehow, that piece of glass and metal was calling the shots in my day-to-day choices.

So I did what many “self-controlled” Instagrammers do, and I took a break. For a week. What I learned that week was that I was absolutely addicted to Instagram. I found myself sitting at red lights reaching for my phone to scroll, only to remember I had removed the app. I was on a break. I remember feeling ridiculously out of the loop from my friend’s lives and I often felt the need to explain my ignorance in group settings with, “oh, I’m on an Insta break, what’s going on?” Just as I thought the world was surely moving on without me and I was on the verge of dropping off into anonymity, my week ended and I rejoined the masses with much relief. I posted something about how nice it was to take a break and “focus on what really matters” and went on my merry way as a happy member of the social media club.

Winter 2018

By the winter, my life had drastically changed. I had looked cancer in the face (not for the last time) with my mom, and my husband and I had plunged headlong into the adoption process. I had posted about our adoption on my Insta account and received the most ‘likes’ I’d ever received on posts. I was becoming more skeptical about social media and starting to feel really protective of my family. I didn’t like how some people elevated us for choosing to adopt as if we were some kind of super heroes. I also became painfully aware of how many couples have exploited their precious adoption and foster journeys on social media for some paltry ‘likes.’ The whole idea of putting our children’s lives on broadcast for the world to see had become disgusting to me. Being on social media at all was starting to rankle with my convictions.  I texted a couple of my close friends that I was thinking about deleting my Instagram account, and they suggested taking a three month hiatus. So I did.

February 2019

In February, my three month trial period was up and I was more certain than ever that it was time to do away with social media. During my time off, I encountered convicting quotes that made it evident social media was an absolute waste of time and a distraction from the devil. Yes, I know I sound like a total weirdo saying that. Let me explain. While reading “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan, this quote made it so apparent to me that social media is a form of idolatry and that I had to stop… “What is a tremendous, unspeakable honor [speaking of worship] may feel insufficient for those who are used to being god of their own blogs and Twitter accounts. It feels insignificant to those who have erected their own shrines on Facebook and Instagram, filled with beautiful pictures of themselves. Herein lies the danger of clamoring for attention: we don’t realize that true joy comes from the opposite.” I had never heard anyone ever describe Instagram as a shrine before and with that light, I saw it for exactly what it is. I was reminded that God called his people to be holy, to be set apart. To be what the culture considers weirdos and radicals, at times, for the sake of His Name. And that was the end of social media for me.

So what

In my journey through breaking up with social media, I have learned a few things and become convinced of a few more.

  1. It’s a distraction. How many pictures or video do you take just so you can post them on social media? How much time do you spend living through your screen instead of in the moment? How many questions do you miss from your spouse? How many peels of laughter from your children do you watch through a lens? We take picture after picture and video after video because we don’t want to miss a thing, when in fact we are missing all of it. Or how about those posts about social justice that make a poster feel like they are trumpeting a cause when, in fact, you. are. doing. nothing. To quote Truth’s Table on how being anti-racist is in vogue, “When you go home and read a book to your baby boy and your baby girl, is there enough diversity on your book shelf? Is there enough diversity in your children’s church curriculum? Because if your baby and my baby are arguing about whether or not Jesus was white, and you taught them that, you ain’t no anti-racist, you just like to shout on Twitter.” Faith without deeds is dead, my brothers and sisters. Posting on social media is a distraction from actually enacting change.
  2. It’s an idol. Are you spending more time on Instagram than in your Word and praying? Then social media is not only a distraction, it’s an idol. Listen to this song by Jimmy Needham. Is social media an idol for you? “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame. Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit nothing?” Isaiah 44:9-10
  3. It’s an addiction. The fact that all the terms interchanged with social media are the same ones we use when speaking of drugs and other addictions, should be cause for a pause. Consider, we use social media. We’re social media users, we detox or quit social media. I recently listened to a well-meaning podcast about how to “control” your use of social media. It went on to document how the creators of Instagram and Facebook actually model their apps off of addictive gambling behaviors. It is created to be addictive, but the podcaster then just says to proceed with caution. Would we give the same advice for drug use? If we know something was intentionally made to addict users, why would we ever submit to it? Jesus came to give us freedom from everything! “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.” Luke 4:18
  4. It’s destroying our relationships. I recently hung out with some precious friends and the majority of the night’s conversation revolved around something(s) posted on social media. Since I’ve spent the last seven months social media free, I was hyper-aware that the bulk of conversation centered around posts. I felt that I couldn’t contribute much to the conversation because I had no idea who or what they were talking about. I began to wonder when our friendships came to this point of mostly connecting in person based on our social media connections. I sat in a room with friends that I dearly loved and mourned the fact that what was mostly discussed was frivolous posts, knowing that there was deep pain and need for connection in the room. Knowing that there were women sitting right next to me that needed to be seen and heard and loved in their brokenness. How many times do we miss out on these opportunities to really connect? How often do we look at a friend’s post and think we know what’s going on in their lives, think we’ve connected when we haven’t? How much more alone are we with our hundreds of “friends” on social media who never get a glimpse of the real you? Has social media made you a better friend, one that’s physically present in the pain, one that listens through the tears, one that reads pain on a face, one that sits with someone in joy and in mourning? Or has it made you more indifferent, oblivious? There’s only so many lives we can connect with, after all. Don’t let social media fool you, we don’t have the emotional capacity to invest in all of our “followers” the way they are meant to be loved. The way we are called to love. Social media is arguably (and it issss argued) a great place for meeting people, but does it foster deep, authentic communion with others or is it just a shallow farce of friendship? Btw, the park is also a great place to meet people.
  5. It’s destroying our children. Teaching middle schoolers for 8 years, I have witnessed first hand the consequences of social media use on our youth. I have sat with child after child who has had their character defamed on a social platform and feels like it’s the end of the world. I have grieved with girl after girl whose pictures of their body has been illegally circulated by ex-boyfriends and classmates before Instagram or Snapchat could remove it. Please, turn on Netflix. Watch “Social Animals.” Then try to defend how social media is not harmful to our children. If you’re still not convinced, research and weigh how the use of social media is strongly tied to pornography, child exploitation, and sex trafficking. And then remember this, “If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Matthew 18:6 If we don’t want to stop social media use for ourselves, maybe at least consider doing it for our children.

I really think coming to the conclusion that social media is something to be wary of and even quitting is a personal choice that comes from your own convictions. Has social media been used for good? Absolutely! But I’m always asking, at what cost and how good was it, really? I determined it wasn’t worth flirting with for me and my family. Below are some links to articles that have muuuuuuuch more to say on this topic and explain better than my own opinions do. Take a look. Do your own research. Ask God to search your heart. Be obedient to what He tells you.

10 Commandments for Entertainment & Social Media

How Has Social Media Changed Bible Reading

Before the Throne of Social Likes

Why We Should Escape Social Media (and why we don’t)

A Social Media Heart Check

How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers