Friday, April 29, 2011

Here Comes the Bride

So, Kaya and I LOVED watching all the footage of the Royal Wedding this morning.  No, we were not the crazy ones who got up at 4 am to watch it live, but rather the replays on the morning news!!  I watched as my sweet daughter marveled over the gown (didn't we all!!),  the palace, the horse-drawn carriage and ALL THOSE FANCY HATS!  It brought back memories of my own wedding day....I remembered all the planning that went into making that day so special, my family and friends that supported us, and every little painstaking detail.  I reveled in the memories, as well as the anticipation of someday having the privilege of watching my two very own daughters (as well as two sons) get married.  Oh beautiful day!!

As little girls, isn't it what we all dreamed of?  Didn't we dream of princes and princesses and knights in shining armors and castles and far-away lands?  Didn't we dream of being rescued?  Of being cherished?  Of being accepted just as we are?  Didn't we dream of OUR wedding day? 

Now, most of us will never grow up and marry into the Windsor line (some can hope, can't they!!), but we have ALL been born into royalty.  And we are ALL anticipating a wedding day, far grander than any held at Westminster Abbey. 

"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession...."
1 Peter 2:9 

You see, we have each been created in the image of a beautiful and loving God.  A God who, despite our turning our backs on Him, sent His son to the cross for us. 

In. Our. Place. 

We were worth dying for!!  A God who loved us so much that He set out to redeem us, to buy us back from our sin.  To rescue us.  And someday, if we put our faith in Him, we will meet Him face to face at our VERY OWN WEDDING FEAST!  Oh beautiful day!!

"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."
-Revelation 19:7

Just as the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton MUST be built on something other than forced tradition, our faith must also be built upon much more than mere religion.  Tradition fails (just look at some other Royal arranged marriages).  Religion does too.  It is only through a relationship with Jesus that we can be assured of our salvation.  It is only through putting our trust in Him and accepting this FREE gift of eternal life, that we can enter into the wedding celebration. 

Well, in the spirit of wedding ceremonies, I can't help but to share a couple pictures of mine with you.  I hope you enjoy!!

                                                                                            December 16th, 2000


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Plans

So, I'm afraid that Easter has kind-of snuck up on me this year!  Most years I like to take the couple weeks prior to Easter and spend them reading the Resurrection story with my kids, dying Easter eggs, making crafts, participating in a Passover meal and just looking for as many opportunities as I can to share the Good News with them.  This year??  Nothing.

Oh, wait!  There was the one afternoon I pulled out the Resurrection Eggs with Jackson.  Does THAT count??  :)

So THIS weekend, we're making up for lost time!  Besides the traditional egg-dying ritual, here's a look at what we've got planned:

Passover Meal:
Every Passover week, our family attempts to re-create the Passover meal with the re-telling of the Exodus story.  It is a tradition that my children have grown to look forward to every year.  It has been a great tool for us to use to show how the Old Testament points to Christ as the fulfillment of the prophecies.   Here's a look at our Passover celebration in year's past.

Resurrection Cookie Recipe:
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these fun cookies!  Each ingredient helps to tell the story of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  After making the dough and plopping in onto the cookie sheets, simply tuck these into the oven overnight and seal it shut (we use tape!!).  In the morning, when you  break open the cookies, they are hollow on the inside.  The tomb is empty!

Resurrection Cookies 
You will need:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
a pinch salt
1 cup sugar
a zipper baggy
1 wooden spoon
scotch tape
These are to be made the evening before Easter. Preheat oven to 300F.
*** (this is very important --- don't wait until you are half done with the recipe).
Place pecans in zipper baggy and let children beat them with the wooden spoon to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested. He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.
Read: John 19:1-3

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar to drink.
Read: John 19:28-30
Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life
to give us life.
Read: John 10:10-11
Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers, and the bitterness of our own sin.
Read: Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to know and belong to Him.
and John 3:16
Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed. Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.
and John 3:1-3
Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid.
Read: Matthew 27:57-60

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door. Explain that Jesus tomb was sealed.
Read: Matthew 27:65-66


Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed.
Read: John 16:20,22

On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.

 Join us THIS Saturday for an Easter egg hunt at Everybody's Playground from 10:00 - 11:30 am.  Three separate egg fields for hunters of all ages, inflatables and music!!  Come out and join us!  It's gonna be a blast!

Our Favorite Easter Books:

I am so looking forward to a fun-filled weekend with family and friends!  I hope you are also planning out your celebrations as you look for ways to honor the King.  Happy Easter!!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Adoption Update

Well, we are just about done our homestudy packet.  Can you believe it??!??  I can not!  Especially when, upon first seeing this ENORMOUS packet of information that we had to fill out and compile, notarize and organize, I nearly had a heart-attack!!  I don't consider myself a very good direction-follower, so I was more than a little overwhelmed when I first saw all of the steps that had to be taken.  But, here we are!  Simply waiting for our physicals to be signed and notarized THIS FRIDAY.  And you know what???  It really wasn't that painful after all. :)

Our next step is to begin working on our dossier.  This is the piece of our adoption that will be translated and sent over to Ethiopia to be evaluated.  The dossier, even more so than the homestudy, is VERY direction-specific.  EVERYTHING must be notarized and must be done EXACTLY as stated.  If there is one thing I've learned throughout this process, it is not to look at the entire picture all at once, as I tend to get easily overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.  Instead, I have found it best to look at one piece at a time and to JUST DO THE NEXT THING. 

Life has been full.  Amidst paperwork, online adoption classes, and running around trying to pull all the pieces together, there are still four littles underfoot.  :)  There are reading lessons and science experiments, diaper changes and three meals a day to cook, laundry to wash and laundry to fold.  Errands.  Housecleaning.  Co-op.  Bible study.  Doctors appointments.  Whew...I'm exhausted just thinking about it all! 

The wonderful news though is that when God calls us to something, He equips! 

"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."
2 Corinthians 12:9

Despite life being full, God has definitely enabled us to get done what we've needed to get done in a timely manner.  Whenever I say, "I can't", God gently reminds me, "No, YOU can't, but I can."  :)

More good far in Ethiopia, not much has changed in the adoption world in regards to the number of cases being processed per day.  If you will recall, about a month back, the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) was talking about reducing the number of international adoption cases per day from 50 to 5.  A reduction of 90%!!!  This, obviously, would INCREASE the wait time by ALOT.  Since then, many child advocacy groups, as well as adoption agencies, have met with MOWA to attempt to come to some sort of agreement.  As of right now, it looks like things are still moving along as they should.  Yay!

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for us!  We certainly feel those prayers!  We'll be excited to get through this "paperwork stage" so that we can enter into the "waiting stage".  Continue praying that God would grant us wisdom and peace as we rest in Him. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Faith vs. Works

Last weekend I had the privilege of going to a one-day conference out in Lancaster put on by Hope for Orphans with a couple of other women from my church.  I've been silent in blog-world this week, as I've been really processing alot of what I heard. 

Did you know??  The Bible mentions caring for the poor and oppressed 21 HUNDRED times in scripture?  2,100 times!!!  Now, I knew God had (has!) a heart for the hurting.  Many people do.  But God doesn't simply stop there.  He has a heart for those who hurt.....and then He DOES something about it!  Over and over throughout scripture, we see a God who heals the sick, provides food for the hungry, comforts the hurting.  His love extends out and reaches actual, physical needs.

What exactly is this relationship between our salvation and our works?  We know that we are NOT saved by our works.  It is simply a free gift that God gives us.  There is NOTHING we can DO to receive salvation.  No matter how good we are.  God loves us, not because of what we've done, but because of who He is.  That being said, the Bible says that "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26).  Clearly works is important too!

So how do the two reconcile? 

According to Tim Keller, in his book, The Prodigal God, :

"Religion operates on the principle of  'I obey - therefore I am accepted by God.'  The basic operating principle of the gospel, however,  is 'I am accepted by God - therefore, I obey.'" 

We obey God's commands and strive to live like Jesus, not out of fear or guilt, or because we want to earn favor with God, but because we are loved eternally by our Creator.  "We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19).  He therefore, becomes the source of our love.  And it is because of Him, that we love in the first place.

The more I have grown in my relationship with God, the more I DESIRE to do the things He commands.  The more His heart, becomes my heart (or at least that is my hope!!! :)  The more you have become aware of God's overwhelming love for you, how has it compelled you to love others??  Because according to God's Word, it should!!!   As we grow in Him, we should be compelled to not only "love" others in theory, but to put that love into action.  We are called to love like Jesus, in word AND in deed. The two should go hand in hand.

When we began this crazy adoption journey, everyone who had gone before us told us that God would provide.  They all said that the money would just be there.  And. It. Has.   But that money has not just appeared out of thin air.  It has been because of people (like many of YOU!!), who have matched your deeds to your words.  It has been because God has blessed us tremendously with brothers and sisters in Christ who DESIRE to put their faith into action. 

For proof, take a look at our fundraising thermometer to the right!  It just keeps creeping up!  Just the other week, it was at $8,000.  Today, we have raised a total of $10,000.  Every penny, exactly and perfectly when it was needed.  Not a moment before.  Who knew??!!?  Well, it turns out, God did. :)

We are truly blessed.  Thank you for loving on orphans, and in the process, loving on us!

"Dear children, let us stop loving with words or lips alone, but let us love with actions and in truth."
1 John 3:18


Friday, April 1, 2011

In His Perfect Timing

I learned a very important lesson this week.  Well, perhaps not learned it for the first time, but was reminded of it. 

For the past year, my children and I have been a part of a homeschool community that meets once a week.  We absolutely LOVE it and it has quickly grown to be the highlight of our week! The only problem, is that it is about 45 minutes away.  That's why, this year, we had decided to start one of our own right here in our community!

Now, I should note that I was VERY apprehensive at first about starting my own.  We had just made the decision to adopt (which is a huge under-taking in and of itself), and then here I was contemplating taking on another big task as well.  However, the more my husband and I prayed about it, the more we felt that this was the right time.  I quickly set to work, organizing informational meetings, talking with possible host churches and various other responsibilities.  A month and a half into the process, I began to feel discouraged though.  We still hadn't secured a facility, and although we had had a TON of interest from other homeschoolers, without a building, our group would not happen.    I began to ask...."God, are we on the right path?"  "Had we heard correctly?"  "Was this really YOU?"

On Tuesday morning, at my women's bible study, we had been talking about how so often God will allow us to move along in our own strength.  We'll get frustrated and wonder why He's not moving.  It isn't until WE step aside and let HIM move, that we begin to see results. 

The thing is....I already knew this.  I've been at this place before when I have finally allowed God to be God and take control.  I've seen Him provide just the perfect amount of money needed at just the right time.  I've seen Him provide encouragement through others when I needed it most.  I've seen Him provide for our family time and time again, always in His perfect timing.  And yet, here I was, just like the Israelites, forgetting what He had done for me.  Essentially, forgetting His very nature. 

That night, I began to pray and pour my heart out to Him.  I surrendered my agenda, and asked Him to take control.  If this homeschool community was meant to be, then I asked Him to provide.  If not, then close the door.   I was done trying to make it happen in my own strength.  And just like God does so often, it is in THAT moment, and not a second before, that God begins to move. 

The next day, I received an email.  A large church from the area had been told about what we were looking to start and wanted to partner with us.  They were, not only willing to allow us to use their facility all next year, but EXCITED to work with us.  AND, they were going to allow us to use it for FREE!!  WOW!  I had not done a thing.  I had not picked up the phone.  I had not driven out to the church and talked to anyone.  I had simply surrendered, and in His perfect timing, He had provided.  And not only provided a building, but one beyond my expectations. Why?  So that no man could get the glory.  Kirsten Gregoire did nothing.  It was all HIM.  Isn't God good?

Sometimes my flesh wishes that things did not work this way.  Sometimes I wish that I could plan it all out and take the glory for myself.  It would be easier, in some respects, doing things on my own time table.  But that would not be faith.  "Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)  It is trusting in an unseen God and knowing that His timing is always perfect.  Even when it doesn't make sense.  Even when we are not sure what the outcome will be.  Or WHEN it will be.  It is trusting, that although our plans may be good, His are always better. 

Before I go, here are a few pics of the kids doing school from home today.  Oh, how blessed we are!!

After our math lessons today, we put math into practice and worked on our measurement equivilents.

Just add water, and math becomes FUN!