Posted by: Eric and Heidi | January 17, 2014

A Little Something from the Yogurt Aisle

My Grocery Girls

My Grocery Girls

A trip to Walmart is never boring.  The people-watching alone is worth the trip.  Add to that the convenience of getting everything you need in one location, and you’ve got a real winner.  For those of us that are extra-adventurous, we add a couple kids to the mix.  The other day, though, I had an encounter at Walmart that has left me thinking.  There we were, the three of us, doing a little grocery shopping, minding our own business.  Ok fine, we weren’t minding our own business.  We had just come from the dentist and Abbi was greeting every shopper we passed by showing them her rhinestone-encrusted, pink plastic ring and informing them that she got it out of a treasure box.  But other than that, we were minding our own business!  We were in the yogurt section, loading our cart with an exorbitant quantity of yogurt (it really is shocking how much yogurt this family consumes!) when a young woman addressed me.

“You are so lucky to have a cart full of girls.  I just found out I’m having another boy. (big sigh)  I’ve already got two boys at home.  You people with girls.  It makes me so mad.  I wish you would just stay home and not rub my face in it.”

Seriously.  That’s what she said.  A big part of me wanted to explode in indignation.  A big part of me wanted to step up onto my soapbox and give a speech that would sound something like this:

You have no idea what I’ve been through.  You have no idea of the battles I have fought.  You have no idea what I’ve sacrificed.  You have no idea of the tears I’ve shed and the work it took to bring me to this place.  I fought for these girls.  I prayed.  I waited.  I never gave up hope.  These girls are my miracles, and I will NOT hide at home.  I will celebrate every moment that I have with them.  I will revel in the joy of motherhood, for every smile and laugh is a reminder of God’s blessing to me.  These baby girls are my treasures.

But I didn’t say that.  Instead, I smiled and affirmed that yes, I certainly am blessed.  Then I congratulated her on her new baby boy.  See, the thought occurred to me that no, she didn’t know about my battles…but I didn’t know about hers, either.  I don’t know this girl.  I have no idea what battles she might be fighting.  All I know is what I observed.  I saw that she was very young.  I saw that her clothes were dirty and tattered, and her hair was greasy and unkept.  I saw that she had some dental issues that indicate that she has battled/is battling an addition of some sort.  I saw that the spot where she would wear a wedding ring was bare.  No, I don’t know what she’s battling, but I’m pretty sure she’s not going to return home to a beautiful home in a safe, pretty neighborhood.  Like I am.  I’m pretty sure she’s not able to buy whatever groceries her family might need and pay for them at the register with plenty of money left over.  Like I am.  I’m pretty sure she won’t be greeted this evening by a kind, gentle husband who will show her in a million little ways that she is cherished.  Like I am.

My encounters at Walmart usually give me a smile, a little shake of my head, a chuckle, and then I go about my day.  This encounter has stuck with me, though.  I am reminded that we all fight battles.  We all need kindness.  I picked up a whole lot more than a tasty treat in the yogurt aisle this week.  I picked up a fresh supply of perspective.

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Posted by: Eric and Heidi | December 24, 2013

Tidbit #2

IMG_0383We are having the absolute merriest of Christmases this year.  The tree is up, the lights are lit, the cookies have been baked and distributed to the neighbors.  The menu has been planned, the groceries have been purchased, and the gifts are wrapped.  Feel free to hum along with me real quick as I proclaim: it’s the most wonderful time of the year!  The merriment of Christmas ’13 is held in sharp, sharp contrast with where we found ourselves in the days leading up to Christmas ’12.  Last year at this time we were focused on survival, not celebration.  I worried, not about whether my homemade cinnamon rolls are as good as I remember, but whether I would have custody of both of my children come Christmas Day.  I listened, not to a playlist of my favorite Christmas songs, but to wave after wave of bad news from nurses, doctors, social workers, and lawyers.  There was no tree.  No cookies.  No friendly neighbors.  We carried some gifts for Abbi around in a suitcase with the idea that wherever we were on December 25th, that’s where we would have Christmas.  Yes, Christmas 2012 was a tough one.  I remember the moment, a couple weeks into our ordeal, when Eric turned to me, shook his head, and proclaimed, “I’m done.”  He had given all he could and, for the sake of his own psyche, had to emotionally withdraw.  I understood where he was coming from and I supported his need to protect himself.  I nodded, squeezed his hand, and said, “It’s ok.  I’ve got this.”  Brave words, right?  Yep, brave words on the outside.  On the inside, though, I was exhausted.  This burden was big.  It was heavy.  And now I was carrying it for the entire family.  Alone.  Inside I was thinking, “I don’t think I’m strong enough.  I don’t think I can do this.”

Enter Gideon.  To set the scene, Israel had once again fallen away from God and was now seven years into severe oppression from the Midianites.  Life was so bad under the Midianites that Gideon, a farmer, was threshing his wheat, not in an open field where the wind could blow away the chaff, but hidden in a winepress so that his crops wouldn’t be stolen yet again.  In the midst of this mess, an angel appeared.  “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” the angel told Gideon. (Judges 6:12)  Mighty warrior?  Threshing his wheat in secret?  Gideon found it as unbelievable as we do.  Gideon responds to the angel, not with gratitude, courage, and awe, but with doubts and excuses.  “‘But sir,’ Gideon replied, ‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?'” (v. 13)  The response that Gideon receives has reverberated with me for weeks now.  Listen to this.  “The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  Am I not sending you?” (v. 14)

Go in the strength you have.  That is beyond powerful.  Yes, Christmas ’13 is sweet indeed for our family.  I am acutely aware, however, that not everyone is merry at the moment.  In fact, in the immediate circle that surrounds me, the people I love are carrying impossibly difficult burdens.  God’s instruction to us today is just what he said to Gideon.  Go in the strength you have.  For the little girl fighting leukemia and her parents who must stand by, powerless to ease her burden…go in the strength you have.  For the wife who is standing alone, fighting with every breath to save her marriage against all odds…go in the strength you have.  For the mother who, even today, is beginning a second round of continuous chemotherapy…go in the strength you have.  For my new friend who has been told that this will be her last Christmas, that she won’t live to see her newborn daughter celebrate her first birthday…go in the strength you have.  These burdens are heavy, impossibly heavy.  There’s no way any of us are strong enough to carry a burden like that.  God doesn’t ask us to have the strength, though.  He tells us to go where we are sent, to go with the strength we have.  And when it’s over?  When marriages are restored and remission is achieved?  When we are filled with a peace that passes all understanding and our paltry strength is magnified by an all-powerful God, what then?  Then we echo the words of the Psalms and say, “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your name be the glory!” (Ps. 115:1)  Whether you are celebrating or surviving this holiday season, go in the strength you have and watch what God can do.  In the meantime, from my heart to yours, Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | December 18, 2013

Tidbit #1

I’ve begun to read my Bible on a daily basis again.  It’s been a long time coming.  And yes, I’m totally doing it the way experts say you shouldn’t.  I’m starting in Genesis and working my way straight through to Revelation.  It’s not the recommended method because most people hit about, oh, Leviticus and then their eyes start glazing over while reading about the exact specifications for burnt offerings and rules about uncleanness.  I’m doing it anyway, though, because I feel like I need to “reboot.”  I need to remember how to eyeball the approximate location of Isaiah and quickly flip to my favorite passages without Googling them.  (Yes, I do it more often than I’d care to admit.)  And get this, I’m using my actual Bible- not on my phone or anything!  I know.  I’m going old school.  Anyway, one thing that has helped me stick with it is to keep my eye out for tiny tidbits that I can tuck away.  Over the last couple weeks, there have been a few that I’d like to share in the hopes that they’ll encourage you as much as they have encouraged me.  Here’s the first…

From There: Deuteronomy 4:29-31

To set the scene for you a bit, God used Moses to lead His people out of Exodus.  They’ve been wandering in the desert for forty years and are about to enter the Promised Land with Joshua.  The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ farewell speech.  He reminds the people of their journey, gives a refresher of the laws they are to follow, and offers some advice for the future.  What strikes me, though, is that Moses is super realistic.  He tells the people that they’ll probably obey God for a while, but that after a couple generations they’ll forget all that God has done for them and will become corrupt.  He warns that, “The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you.” (v.27)  Here’s the part that has stuck with me so strongly, though.  Moses then says,”But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.  When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him.  For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.”

From there.  I love that.  Right there, in the midst of their mess, desolate and scattered, poor and pitiful, from there the people are encouraged to turn back to the Lord.  I feel like it’s pretty easy to judge the people of ancient Israel.  Let’s be honest, they seem about as dumb as rocks.  They are petty and complainers.  They run off to other gods at the drop of a hat.  They break their promises continuously, and show no gratitude for God’s unending forgiveness.  In other words, they are just like me.  And yet, God loves them.  God loves me, too.  God takes them back.  God takes me back, too.  The best part is that he takes us back from there, from right where we are.

I feel like when we’re in a mess, we often make a list of reasons why the time is not right to turn back to God.  When sleep schedules change.  When seasons change.  When sports schedules change.  When work schedules change.  When babies are born.  When babies start sleeping through the night.  When flu season is over.  When vacations are done.  When the house is clean.  When the yardwork is done.  When our kids are better behaved.  When our marriage gets ironed out.  When our lives aren’t so stinking messy.  It never ends.  It’s as if we feel like we need to fix our mess before we ask God for help.  Moses reminds us that God wants us to seek Him from within our mess.  We seek Him from there, from right where we are.  And how will He respond?  He is merciful.  He will not abandon, destroy, or forget us, Moses promises.  I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a tiny tidbit worth tucking away.

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | December 7, 2013

Real. Great. Moms.

Some days I feel like an amazing mom.  MacVey-118Today is one of those days.  My house is sparkling clean from top to bottom and smells sweetly of Christmas.  The laundry is underway and both girls got one-on-one time with mom before going down for naps like angels.  The homemade pizza dough is rising in the kitchen while I sit, enjoying Christmas music.  Heck yeah, I’m writing a blog today!  I’m rocking this mom thing!  Not many days ago, though, I collapsed into the bed totally defeated.  Despite running from sunup to sundown, all I saw when I looked around my house was tasks left undone.  My girls had driven me absolutely nuts and by the time bedtime rolled around, I couldn’t escape their bedrooms fast enough.  As I brushed my teeth, the guilt set in.  I had failed.  The day was a waste.  Surely my kids deserved better than this.  Better than me.  I crawled into bed and, in a very small voice, said to Eric, “Tell me that I’m a good mom.”  Immediately, he reassured me, “You’re a great mom.”  My day had been so dismal, though, that I needed a little more.  “Tell me why I’m a great mom.”  (I know.  Poor Eric.  These are the kinds of questions that drive men nuts!)  “You’re a great mom because everything you do is for our kids.  You are incredibly patient and you give everything you are.  And tomorrow, you’ll get up and do it all again.”  I can not underscore enough how well I married.

Be honest.  You’ve had days like that too, haven’t you?  Of course you have.  We all do.  We just don’t talk about it.  But let’s just put it all out there for a minute.  Even great moms have really bad days.  Here is a list of very real moments that great moms have shared with me.  (To be clear, not all of these are mine.  Lots are, but not all.)

Real moms leave their children at pizza parlors and drive a half an hour before realizing their mistake.  Great moms go back to retrieve those children.

Real moms get locked out of the house by toddlers and then look through the window helplessly as the child proceeds to break all the recyclable glass and toddle around in the shards.  Great moms only have it happen once before learning to keep a key hidden outside.

Real moms bite their child when said three-year old viciously chomps the tender part of her arm and leaves a shocking purple mouth imprint.  Great moms feel bad about it, however justified that instinct may have been.

Real moms go upstairs to vacuum and return to see their two year old sitting in the open window, waving to people across the street.  Great moms manage to retrieve her child from the windowsill before collapsing to the floor in tears.

Real moms fly halfway across the world to bring their children home and then, so overwhelmed, retreat to the hotel bar for a glass of wine.  Great moms rally after a glass (or two) and go back upstairs to begin parenting.

Real moms answer one phone call, and turn around to find their child on the doorstep being held by a disapproving German woman who plucked her out of the street.  Great moms still manage to make eye contact with that woman in the days that follow.

Real moms discover their children enjoying gum that they found on the bottom of a food court table.  Great moms chalk it up to immunity building and only make the child brush their teeth three times.

Real moms take a quick shower and hear the front door slam as their child heads out to the street.  Great moms manage to throw on a towel before running outside (shampoo suds and all) to grab her before she makes it to the street.

Real moms find their son peeing in the neighbor’s yard or on the slide at the park.  Great moms celebrate that potty training is going well at last.

Real moms go to the bathroom for one second and come back to find their four year old attempting to purchase a film entitled “Some Like it Kinky.”  Great moms immediately cancel the purchase and investigate how to block those channels.

Real moms look at a baby who is screaming for no reason and are overwhelmed with the desire to smack that child in the face.  Great moms smack themselves in the face instead, just to get the “smackage” out.

Real moms hide in the bathroom to get just five minutes of peace.  Great moms don’t stay in there all day.

I could go on, but you get my point.  And let’s be honest, you could probably add a rough dozen of your own to this list.  Motherhood is real.  Real messy.  Real tiring.  Real tough.  Some days we rock it, and some days we get rocked.  That’s real.  Eric is right, though.  What sets us apart, what makes us great, is that every day we wake up and do it all over again.  We retrieve our children from the street, and teach them where to potty.  We brush the smell of food court out of their teeth and stash extra house keys all over the place.  We breathe deeply through tantrums and mentally chant, “I love my children.  My children are a gift” when we’d rather swear at them instead.  We sneak chocolate into the bathroom and install parental locks on our TVs.  We cry and we laugh, we throw our hands up in victory and occasionally in defeat as well.  So next time you fall into bed at the end of the day, feeling defeated and discouraged, remember that you are not alone.  We all have those days.  We are real.  We are great.  We are moms.

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | December 4, 2013

A Fantastic First Year

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | November 18, 2013

A Birthday Letter to Me

A couple weeks back our church- Cheyenne Hills, which we love, by the way- celebrated their twentieth anniversary.  The associate pastor was preaching and, just in passing, really, tossed out the question- “What were you doing twenty years ago?”  I thought for a second, leaned over to Eric, and whispered, “Twenty years ago?  I was busy turning fifteen.”  It has been TWENTY years since I was fifteen.  That’s pretty crazy, actually.  Over the last couple weeks my mind has gone back time and again to Fifteen Year Old Heidi.  She was a good kid, but man!,  there was a lot she didn’t know.  I’ve done a little thinking about what I would say to that girl if I could pop a birthday card in the mail and send it back twenty years.  I think it might go something like this…

Dear Heidi,

Happy fifteenth birthday!  I know you’re celebrating this year with your closest friends.  You guys are having tacos for dinner.  happy birthday, heidi!Dad will eat too many beans, pass gas, and blame it on Stacey.  Mom will reprimand him, but twenty years later, he’ll still call Stace “Beans” from time to time.  Later you guys will go to Meijers (I have no idea why) and end up having a perfume fight.  The fact that I still remember what you’ll do tonight is testament to the fact that this birthday is a good one.  Before you get to all that, I wanted to talk to you about a few things.  In honor of your fifteenth birthday, here are fifteen things that I’d like you to know…

1.) Take your time.  You only get to do this once.  I know that high school is uncomfortable for you.  I know you feel like you don’t fit there and I know you told Mom that you’re already counting down till you can go to a college where you “fit.”  Slow down, Sweetie.  You’ll get there.  Don’t rush these teenage years.  Enjoy them.

2.) Lighten up.  The reason that you’re not enjoying high school is because you aren’t even giving it a chance.  Open your eyes a little; open your heart.  You’re missing out on some really great people because you’re only focusing on how you are different.  The kids around you aren’t nearly as different from you as you think they are.   And besides, different is good!  Different makes you grow.  Different challenges you.  Different expands your horizons.  The world is full of “different”…and that’s what makes it beautiful.

3.) Believe in yourself.  I know, I know.  Blah, blah, blah.  I’m serious, though.  You may talk a big game about how confident you are in yourself and what you believe, but you don’t fool me.  I know that you are afraid.  You’re afraid of being real.  You’re afraid of failing.  You’re afraid of not being perfect.  You’re afraid for anyone to actually see you because you’re not sure what they’re going to see.  Fight that fear, Heidi.  Let people see you.  No, not everyone will like what they see, but you know what?  You’ll survive.  Being real, flaws and all, is so much better than being a sanitized plastic version of yourself.  And guess what?  When you let your walls down and start being you…you’re pretty great!

4.)  Have some self-respect.  Yes, I’m talking about boys here.  If you can somehow follow my previous bit of advice, believe me on this, it will save you a whole lot of embarrassment in the relationship department.  Do not hide who you are.  Do not change who you are.  Do not apologize for who you are.  You are a beautiful, smart, talented young woman.  Do not beg someone else to assign you value- you have your own value.  And another thing?  Listen to the people who love you.  Mom, Dad, and Justin know what they’re talking about.  So do your really good friends.  If they see red flags, run!  And never, ever, ever let a boy come between you and the people who love you most.

5.) Consider broadening your circle of friends.  This one is tricky.  I know you prefer a couple really close friends to a room full of nominal friends.  I get that.  Honestly, twenty years later you still have that tendency.  I’m going to be honest with you, though.  Investing so heavily in only a couple people is risky.  When those friendships end (and I know you probably won’t believe me, but most of them will end) you’re not going to have many friends left.  Don’t abandon your close friends (a couple of them are still going to be around twenty years later and those friendships are rare and precious treasures) but push yourself to reach beyond your comfort zone and develop more real relationships with people.

6.) Do your homework.  No, not your actual homework.  You’re already great at that.  I mean, do your homework when it comes to the big things.  Don’t blindly set your allegiance to the mission organization that your church supports.  Don’t you think an organization with a focus on service rather than evangelism would be a better fit for you?  Yeah, I do too.  Visit more than two colleges.  Yes, you might end up at that first one anyway, but do your homework.  Take the time to really look into it.

7.) Practice driving.  I know you aren’t starting Driver’s Ed quite yet and you’ve still got a year till your test, but have Dad take you out now to practice.  Trust me on this.  That’s all I’m going to say.

8.) Eat.  Eat whatever you want.  Eat whenever you want.  You have the metabolism of a hummingbird and it is awesome!  You know those annoying people who tell you that your metabolism won’t always be like that?  I am so sorry to tell you- they are right.  So, for the love of all that is delicious, eat!

9.) Don’t hide.  Honestly, girl, step away from the baggy sweaters and the jeans that are three sizes too big.  I am all for modesty, but there is a difference between being modest and being afraid of your body.  Your life will not end if people see that you have a waist.

10.) Get ready to work.  You’re going to start your first job very soon.  It will be such a blessing to you.  Your bosses will invest in you and genuinely care for you.  That is rare.  You will make amazing friends who will influence you and shape you in profound ways.  You will develop a lifelong appreciation of people in the food service industry.  You will realize that the food service industry is not what you want to do for a living.  Your job will help you to travel and give generously to causes you believe in.  You’ll help pay for college and you’ll have a nest egg for when you live on your own.  But first?  Buy some decent shoes.  Seriously.  Those $10 shoes that you bought are so pitiful that your feet will ache twenty years later when you even think about those shoes.  Buy some real shoes.

11.) Spend as much time as you can with your grandmothers.  Listen to them.  Talk to them.  Ask them lots of questions.  Cook with them.  Hug them and hold their hands.  Twenty years later they will all three be gone.  You will miss them every single day.

12.) Study abroad.  I know this is getting a bit ahead, but I’m going to say it while I’ve got your attention.  Take a semester in college and study abroad.  Yes, it’ll postpone your graduation a bit, but it’ll be worth it.  You are this close to being fluent.  Go live abroad for a semester and you’ll have fluency in the bag.  Do it.

heidi is 15!13.) Rush.  Yes, again with the college advice.  I’m not saying that you need to actually pledge a sorority, but you really should at least rush.  It’s all about expanding your horizons, stepping out of your comfort zone, and being open to new experiences.  I think it would be really good for you.

14.) Turn the light on when you get dressed in the morning.  Getting dressed in the dark makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  You’re already up.  Keeping the lights off does not change the fact that you’re awake.  All it does is cause you to go to school mismatched more often than you should.  Don’t be ridiculous.  Turn the light on.

15.) Go to the pool on June 19th, 2004.  There will be a guy there who will change your life forever.  Yes, he will be the most attractive man you’ve ever laid eyes on.  Yes, you’ll sneak a cell phone picture of him to show your roommate later.  Yes, you’ll assume that he’s a jerk because guys who look like that usually are.  He’s not a jerk.  He’s the love of your life.  Mark your calendar and do not miss the pool that day.

Ok, go eat some tacos and get back to your friends.  Enjoy being fifteen, Heidi.  Hold onto being a kid as long as you can.  But know this…your best days lie ahead of you.  You’ve got an amazing life waiting for you.  You’re going to love it!

Heidi

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | November 2, 2013

Giants…

Recently I’ve been on a quest to bring balance to my life.  One area that needed some work was the personal time I was spending reading the Bible.  As in, it was non-existent.  That needed to change, so over the last month or so I’ve pulled my Bible off the shelf, downloaded a Bible reading plan to my phone, and now my time in the Word is my first priority during the one magical hour when both girls are napping.  Some days, like today, when my to do list represents more than what can be accomplished in 60 minutes, making the choice to be still is painful.  The benefits, though, far outweigh the cost to my daily productivity.

A couple days ago I read the account of Joshua and Caleb giving their report of the Promised Land to the people of Israel.  You may know the story already, but the main points are this:  God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt and promised to lead them to a beautiful and plentiful land.  The only catch was that the land was already inhabited by other people.  Moses (the leader of the Israelites) sent 12 spies into the land to gather a report for the people.  Ten of the spies came back dwelling on the negative, while only Joshua and Caleb focused on God’s promise.

This story has caused me to be pretty reflective over the last couple days.  Last summer, in the midst of waiting to be matched with the baby who would become our daughter, this story was a pretty important turning point for us.  We received a call one Friday night from our social worker.  There was a baby girl due to be born and our social worker wanted to show her birthmother our profile.  She was calling first, though, because this baby had been exposed to some pretty nasty stuff en utero.  There was the possibility that she’d face some significant challenges both at birth and down the road, and our social worker encouraged us to research and let her know on Monday if we wanted to be presented or not.  So we researched.  We sought wise counsel.  We talked about it.  We cried.  We prayed.  We cried a little more.  And God reminded us of Joshua and Caleb…

Invading the Promised Land was risky.  “But the men who had gone up with him [Caleb] said, ‘We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored.  They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it.  All the people we saw there are of great size.'” (Numbers 13:31-32)  Those risks were persuasive.  “That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud.  All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” (14:1-2)  But Joshua and Caleb were unfazed.  They stood in front of the people and confidently proclaimed, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good.  If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.  Only do not rebel against the Lord.  And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up.  Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us.  Do not be afraid of them.” (14:7-9)

To this day, I can’t read that without my eyes welling with tears.  That was a tough weekend.  We did our research and it did not look good.  We sought medical advice from godly people we respect, and they backed up our research.  This baby was a real risk.  We could be looking at significant issues at birth, and, more disturbing still, we could be looking at ongoing issues throughout this baby’s life.  This land was full of giants.  We were determined, though, to be like Joshua and Caleb.  If this baby was our Promised Land, if she was the child God had intended for us, we would march in with confidence.  We would focus on the good and we would trust God to drive out the giants from before us.  It would be foolish, however, to go marching into a land full of giants without God’s promise backing us.  As we talked and prayed and cried and sought wisdom, we began to feel more and more confident that this little girl was a part of another family.  We were not to be her parents.  Our baby was still out there waiting for us.

What escaped me until I re-read this story the other day, though, is that I missed the other half of the story.  As it turns out, we didn’t dodge those giants after all.  Our Promised Land was full of them, too.  All of the “giants” we might have encountered with that first baby- a lengthy NICU stay, possible side effects, complications with our PCS- reared their ugly heads again when Lia was born.  I’ll admit that, as I’ve reflected on that story this week, I’ve found myself wondering why God said no on that first baby and yes to Lia.  I mean, the risks were the same.  In fact, I would check in on that first baby from time to time during her first few months, and she came through completely unscathed- no NICU, no side effects, just a happy little girl safely at home with her loving parents.  I’m thrilled about that, of course, but it just makes me wonder.  Why wasn’t that baby for us?  The answer, of course, is that she simply wasn’t our Amelia Joy. IMG_2040 There’s only one Lia, and no other baby would have her smile or her sparkly eyes.  She is one of a kind and I wouldn’t trade her for any other baby in the world.

I also wonder, though, whether God was giving us the opportunity to search our hearts, to prepare for the challenges that were coming.  Would we back down from giants or walk boldly forward?  When tested, would we default to fear or faith?  Would we obey, even if it was difficult?  I wonder if God heard our cries for wisdom, if He saw in our tears our desire to be obedient…and He knew we were ready.  He sent us into our very own Promised Land and drove out the very real giants from before us.  We echo with Moses, “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed” (14:17) . May all who see our family respond with joy, “Look what God has done!”

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | October 28, 2013

Four Years of Fabulous…

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | September 6, 2013

Just one picture…

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Today I took this picture of Lia.  Take it all in- the smile, the solo standing demonstration, the dress and the hammer, the tub of toys.  Cute, right?  Super cute.  I’ll admit that I’ve returned to this picture about a half a dozen times this afternoon, and somewhere around my fourth peek I started tearing up.

It’s been nine months.  Nine months ago today I was in the NICU.  Nine months ago today I was visiting Amelia for the first time after getting her back.  Nine months ago today I was emotionally battered and bruised, in shock and overwhelmed.  Nine months ago today I rocked a baby in the NICU- an innocent baby, yes, but a baby tainted by all the filth this fallen world has to offer.  Nine months ago today I was barely holding on.  Imagine with me that at that moment, nine months ago today, one of Amelia’s nurses brought me an envelope.  Inside the envelope would be this picture and a note from my Heavenly Father.  Maybe that note would have read something like this…

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My dearest Heidi,

Hang in there.  I know you are hurting and I know this is hard.  I know your reality doesn’t match the picture you had in your head.  I know the doctors and nurses are saying scary things to you.  I know your social workers keep calling with more bad news.  I know you feel like a punching bag and that you’re stretching further than you ever thought you could.  I know you feel like you can’t win- that you’re giving all you have and still coming up short for Eric, and Abbi, and Lia all three.  You aren’t getting it all right, but you’re doing your best.  I am so proud of you.  Just so you know, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  The phone calls are going to bring worse and worse news.  You’re going to be asked to make sacrifices and compromises that are going to hurt you in parts of your heart that you didn’t even know existed.  I know you’ll try desperately to get your emotional footing over the next weeks and months, but be prepared.  The ground is going to shift on you several more times.  It’s going to be a long time before you feel safe.  And this baby is going to test you.  She’s not going to sleep for five months, so prepare yourself now for that reality.  She’s going to glare at you with absolute disgust for the first two months.  That’s going to be hard.  And yes, I know about your PCS.  You’re going to be uprooted far longer than you’ll feel comfortable.  Just hold on, Sweetheart.  It’s hard right now, but it won’t always be like this.  Better days are coming.  Look at this picture.  You’ll take this picture nine months from right now.

See that smile?  Amelia is happy.  You’re behind the camera in this shot (as per the usual), so you can’t see it, but you’re happy, too.

And see her standing on her own?  Don’t listen to the scary things the doctors warn you about.  Amelia is going to be just fine.  In fact, don’t tell anyone, but I gave her a little extra to help her be ahead of the curve.  I’m God.  I can do that.

And look at the background of this picture.  See that?  That’s your home.  It’s beautiful, isn’t it?  I’m saving it for you, so don’t you worry a second about any of that.

Hang in there, Heidi.  I know it doesn’t feel like it, but you can do this.  I have called you to this task.  I created you for this.  You do have the strength.  I gave it to you.

All my love forever,

Your Father

ps- Let go of the idea of getting newborn pictures taken of Amelia.  It’s not going to happen.  This does not mean that you should have another baby.  Do not pester your husband about it.

pps- Tell Eric that I’ve got his back.

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Yep, a note like that sure would have been nice.  It sure would have made those days in the NICU (and the tough ones that followed thereafter) a whole lot easier to bear.  But we didn’t have this picture.  We didn’t have that note.  All we had was the conviction that, against all logic, against all emotion, against all probability, we were doing the right thing.  We saw God’s hand clearly at work, so we lowered our shoulder and took the hits.  I think that makes pictures like this all the more precious.  We walked (or crawled, depending on the day) through that dark time believing for something we could not see.  Now, we see it.  And it is BEAUTIFUL.

Posted by: Eric and Heidi | August 20, 2013

Treasure

I’m not going to lie to you.  I’m about to get my geek on.  Bigtime.  If you’ve spent any significant time with me you know that I’m hyper-organized.  In fact, when asked to describe me in three adjectives (which many of you have been asked to do over years and years of adoption references and job references and grad school references, etc. etc. etc!) one of words that always comes up is organized.  Every time.  And it’s totally true.  I think in lists.  I talk in lists.  I write in lists.  Everything in my house is de-cluttered and organized to the absolute max.  My brother calls it OCD.  My husband calls it quirky.  My mother calls it good sense.  My daughter calls it Mommy’s playtime.  So yeah.  I like things clean and organized.

Up to this point, though, there’s been one big exception to my organization- our finances.  Since the day we’ve married, Eric has been in charge of our finances.  I’m not really sure why.  I managed my own finances just fine before I was married, but once I was hitched, that was all Eric’s territory.  It actually got pretty bad there for a while.  Eric did an awesome job with our money and there was always plenty there, but I couldn’t have told you within $1000 how much money we had in our checking or our savings accounts.  That’s how checked out I was.  Not good.  When Eric deployed, I even had him take care of it all electronically from the desert.  Just pitiful.

But now we have two kids.  And we bought a house.  It’s safe to say that our financial stakes have just gotten a little higher.  I decided that this was a perfect time for me to start paying attention.  So I created a spreadsheet.  And, my oh my, it is a glorious spreadsheet.  I mean, really, it’s a thing of beauty.  In fact, I may or may not have had an hour long conversation with my mom on the many virtues of my spreadsheet.  (To be fair, only about half of it was me talking about my spreadsheet.  The other half was Mom talking about her spreadsheet.  So, you know, I get it honestly.)  At the top I have an at-a glance view of our finances.  Each month has a column with pre-tax expenses, then our income, then our expenses.  Our expenses are broken down into very specific categories like gas, groceries, clothing, gifts, entertainment, etc.  But wait, it gets better.  Underneath the at-a-glance section is a series of itemized lists.  There, each category is broken down by date.  So, for example, each time I get groceries I can add the date and the amount of money spent to the grocery category.  And just when you thought it couldn’t get better, here is the coup de grace…each of my itemized lists are linked to my at-a-glance view.  So each time I add a new grocery expense to the itemized list, bam!, my grocery total up top is updated to reflect the new total.  I’m telling you.  It’s glorious.  I genuinely look forward to sitting down every morning and updating the spreadsheet.  On a related note, how much do I love my online banking app?  Lots.  Lots and lots.  (Don’t judge me.  I told you right from the beginning that I was about to geek out.  If you’re still reading, that’s your own fault.  You were warned.)

So yes, now even our finances have been overtaken by Heidi’s Hyper-Organization Frenzy.  But why am I doing it?  What’s the point?  There are several:

1.) It’s fun.  I mean, really, updating spreadsheets and creating lists??  Hello!  Amazing.

2.) It’s empowering.  I’m not sure if you noticed, but we don’t really do the fragile female thing in this family.  I’m all about surrounding my girls with strong, passionate women to whom they can aspire.  And that includes me.  I want them to see that Mommy and Daddy are both smart cookies.  Money and math?  Those are girl things, too.

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Being equal partners feels great!

3.) It’s unifying.  While I was teaching, I was contributing financially to our family income even if I wasn’t paying any attention to our finances.  When I left the classroom, I wasn’t bringing in an income and not paying any attention to the finances, which put it all on Eric.  That’s not fair.  Now that I’m paying attention, it feels more like we’re partners financially.  And that feels good.

4.) It’s a conversation piece.  The first week or two were a tiny bit tense, I’ll admit.  I think at first Eric felt like I was checking up on him; like I was asking him to justify every energy drink he bought to get him through 6am PT.  After a couple weeks, though, he saw that wasn’t it at all.  Now that I’m informed about our money, we can have more conversations about our financial priorities.  We can make sure we’re on the same page.  That our goals are the same.  That’s good marriage stuff, right there.

5.) It’s a heart check.  This one right here is the most important.  At the end of the month, I give Eric the run-down.  We spent this much on gas, this much on groceries, this much on Abbi’s activities, this much on house upkeep, this much in charitable giving, etc.  Some of the numbers surprised us.  We spent about $200 more a month on groceries than I expected.  Hmm.  All of a sudden, my anti-leftover husband was more receptive to leftovers!  When I read him the amount that he spent on alcohol for the month, he was shocked.  “I spent what?!  No.  That’s unacceptable,” he declared.  He cut the number by 60% and asked me to let him know when he reached his self-imposed limit.  (To be clear, Eric is a “have a beer while watching a football game” kinda guy.  Definitely does not drink much at all.  It’s just that alcohol is expensive.  Go ahead.  Keep track.  You’d be surprised at how it adds up.)  The issue for him, for both of us, wasn’t the number on the spreadsheet.  It’s what that number represented.  We spent as much on alcohol as we did on Abbi’s activities for the month?  Are those two of equal importance to us?  Please.  Not even close.  We were reminded of the verse in Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Looking at our spreadsheet gave us the opportunity to see exactly what we do with our “treasure.”  It gave us the opportunity to adjust how we use our treasure to better reflect our heart.  What matters to us?  Having our kids in fun, educational activities.  Providing them with healthy food.  Being faithful stewards of the beautiful home that we have.  Being consistent for the children we sponsor through World Vision and Tesoros de Dios.  Our expenses should reflect those priorities.  Here comes that same idea of being intentional.  Just like we’re being intentional in our parenting decisions, tracking our expenses helps us to be intentional with our spending.  Our finances, like our children, are a gift.  Let’s be intentional with our treasure.

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