Thursday, September 26, 2013

Noonday Collection

As the fundraising train was leaving town, a dear friend asked me "So, what's next?" We have been going nonstop since June! It was only natural to wonder about the next big adventure on the horizon. Well, here it is......
Noonday Collection

I have taken a huge risk and hope for big rewards for not only my adoption fund, but for women around the world living in poverty. I am one of the newest Ambassadors to Noonday Collection. I certainly am not a sales woman and that was never my goal, but I am an advocate for the oppressed, for the orphan and for the widow. I stumbled upon Noonday after reading on of Jennifer Hatmaker's blog posts! I just love her!! I found that Noonday is a company that has formed lasting relationships with artisans from impoverished areas around the world. Noonday and the artisan themselves agree on a fair wage, that is many times 2-4 times more than they would earn in their local market places. Noonday started in 2010, as a single trunk show by founder, Jessica Honegger, as a fundraiser for her own adoption from Rwanda. Noonday became a company in 2011 and now has formed partnerships with over 1,000 artisans in 11 different countries, and even refugees who are located in the United States. I fell in love with Noonday the moment I read the story behind the company. Noonday gives all of us the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus, serving oppressed populations around the world, while looking beautiful along the way. With Noonday's partnership with these incredibly talented artisans around the world, they are being allowed to rewrite their own futures…futures where families stay intact, where medical supplies are afforded to those in need, where life sustaining meals are no longer luxuries. While we are clothing ourselves in one of a kind accessories, we are allowing these women to earn sustainable wages and self worth. Talk about remarkable beauty! I cannot think of a more fulfilling way to feel beautiful that wearing a unique piece of jewelry, knowing that a woman with a heart for God, hand-crafted it with us in mind. We are so very rich in prosperity and blessing in our country! Let us give back!

 Noonday works through trunk shows in the home of a hostess, just like YOU!!! Open your home to the women of the world and help create a pathway out of poverty for families. Invite your girlfriends over and introduce them to Prossy, Jalia, Alma, and Fara (just to name a few). These artisans and small business owners handcraft distinct accessories, receive a living wage for their work, and allow our Noonday Ambassadors to fill your home with the latest style trends. Each trunk show guest can enjoy the fun and beauty of shopping while impacting lives. Whether it is a sandal that provides a scholarship to a young girl, a necklace that restores dignity to an HIV positive woman, or a scarf created through a micro enterprise loan, each purchase tells a story (with style!). Not only will you learn about about the artisans themselves, but you will learn exactly how each unique piece is hand-crafted. You will marvel at their talent and weep at their stories!

Experience a Noonday Collection trunk show in a setting like no other: your own home.  I would love to tell you more about how you can bring Noonday to your friends and family, by hosting a trunk show of your own, while earning FREE products! Oh yes, I did in fact say FREE!!! Hostesses will earn anywhere from 10%-20% of their party's total in free merchandise, while gathering with your friends, admiring beautiful accessories and having sips and snacks together. as many of you already know, orphan care is near and dear to my heart. It is near and dear to Noonday as well! Do you know an adopting family in your community? Noonday will donate 10% as a fundraising effort the help bring a child home! Now go browse my website, and fall in love with the accessories…and the story behind each one!

Sassy and Seven

In the fundraising whirlwind, our big girl got even bigger! Actually the same day of our church Yard Sale/Bake Sale was Mia's seventh birthday. We did not want to make our girl miss out on celebrating SO.....what are good parents to do? Invite five 6-9 year old GIRLS, plus your own two (three is you count Abe!) over for a spa slumber party (Mia's choice of course). Eli bailed on the all-girl party. Too many X chromosomes for him! We barely had time to come up for air that day! Up at the crack of dawn, yard sale until noon, all packed up by 1:30 pm, late lunch, pick up cousin Carley, grab cake, ice cream, nail polish and pizza, head home for the festivities. The house began to fill with little girls, laughter and squeals! This is definitely that age of squealing!

They jumped on the trampoline to exert as much sassy energy as possible. 

Then we came in for pizza, cake and ice cream. 
 We promptly began the foot soaking, scrubbing, and lathering. Maybe I should clarify....I began the soaking, scrubbing and lathering.

 Shy even got in on the foot washing!

 We discussed the night of the last supper when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. I know the feet of the disciples were not nearly as cute and dainty as the feet of seven little girls, but I would be willing to compare filth! After each little lady received her foot spa, I proceeded to paint all 70 toes. Each girl picked out her favorite colors (most picked the glittery mix) and design of choice (my favorite was the polka dots).

Here are the finished products! 
After everyone had beautified toes, they steeled down with giant bowls of popcorn to watch An American Girl: Saige Paints the Sky. I was sure after all of the activity, all or most would be asleep by the movie's end. No chance. 

I believe they began to drift off around midnight! 

We were blessed to have been trusted with these little ladies over night. We were blessed to have a house full of friends who genuinely love our daughter. We are tremendously blessed to have been entrusted by God to raise our daughter Mia. It was a happy birthday! The Lord, He is good! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Eat Wings, Raise Funds

Our local Buffalo Wild Wings location partnered with our efforts to raise money for our adoption! They allowed us to choose either a Monday night or a Wednesday night to hold an event at the restaurant. Since most of our posse attend Wednesday night church, we elected a Monday evening, August 26th, straight off the heels of our church fundraising yard sale/bake sale. We had to give out a "golden ticket" to everyone we could. To obtain the 10% proceed from an order, a ticket had to be turned in with the order. We placed a golden ticket with most of our purchases from our yard sales. We used facebook, the workplace and all of our friends! We had many friends and friends of friends, show up to support us! We are humbled by your support!!! 

We received a check for $93.05!!! 

THANK YOU, Buffalo Wild Wings!!

Blood, Sweat and Tears for His glory...Fundraising

We God placed the mission of international adoption in our hearts, and WE AGREED TO BE OBEDIENT, we felt sure about one thing. God did not plan for our family to accrue the enormous debt of $40,000+. We bought the book Adopt Without Debt by Julie Gumm. She has compiled in her book, various ways to raise funds to offset costs associated with adoptions. She was called to the same beautiful mission as we were. And, through God's provision, she was able to accrue NO DEBT. We bought and read her book. We gained a lot of valuable information and are utilizing many of her tactics. We have just concluded our third yard sale fundraiser for our Ethiopian adoption. We started publicizing our plans and asking for donations; just anything people planned to rid themselves of, give to Goodwill, or even leftovers from previous yard sale. The outpouring was tremendous and greatly humbling. Our first sale was held at our house, Friday and Saturday, August 2nd and 3rd. The night before our first sale, our garage was filled from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. We even had a large pile of merchandise under tarps in the drive way that just would not fit.

Here is a photo (the only one of the day) of our garage at 6:00 am Friday morning as early birds waited eagerly. The pace of the day never let up, with record-breaking sales (at least for me). The miracle of it was, we had not priced a single item. Not because of sheer laziness, our schedules just did not allow it. It did not matter, God was in control. Saturday we were rained out by 10:30 am, but was still amazingly productive. Our first sale raised $1,365.50! Have you ever? I have never made anywhere close to that kind of cash through any yard sale I have ever had...IN MY LIFE!

Our second sale was held in Ripley, my old stomping grounds! My grandmother lent us her farm, so we loaded up our garage contents and headed to Ripley. Does it seem possible that we sold over $1,000 worth of items and still have this much stuff left? We also had our preacher's truck (our loaner, while Marcus's car is being fixed!) loaded down as well. And, we still had a pile in the center of our garage that we just could not seem to fit.

 Loaded up! Ripley or bust!
 Seeking shelter from the rain!
Although we were forced to reschedule this sale due to unforeseen car turmoil, and being a rain out before noon, our total profits for our Saturday-only sale in Ripley was $410, but that included selling 3 of our new fundraising shirts (totally different BLOG POST**). Technically, $350 in sales from the yard sale itself. Then, we sorted everything, organized it, and once again loaded everything left over and hauled it back to Jackson. Next stop Hillcrest Baptist Church!! Our bodies were tired from all of the loading, unloading, loading and unloading again, all in one Saturday.

Our third sale was in collaboration with our church, specifically the Women's Ministry (LIGHT) and the Activities Committee. It was a Yard Sale/Bake Sale combo. The sale was publicized in our church bulletin and even in the pulpit. Our gym began to fill with more needed donations. We began organizing merchandise on the Wednesday before the Saturday sale, and continued through Friday evening. After set up was complete, or as complete as could be (we actually did not have room for every single piece of clothing we were donated!), we loaded up and went home to bake cookies. We baked 48 iced, sugar cookies in the shape of Africa with a tiny heart over Ethiopia. We retired at 2:00 am just to rise again at 5:30 am in prepare myself and Shy, feed her and set off for the sale that began at 7:00 am. As I drove, praying God's presence and provision over our efforts, God gave me peace. We had certainly put forth our hard work and now it was in His hands. As I turned into the church drive to the view of a packed parking lot, I knew He was in control and would be showing out yet again. I had no idea just how much!!

 Setting up! And, sampling merchandise??

 Not for sale!!!
 Bake Sale

 Check out
 Hard Workers!!
We were consumed with busy customers every hour until our sale ended at noon. It was amazing to look around the gymnasium after all customers had left and wonder, did we sell anything. The place was still full of merchandise! The committees and we worked hard and got everything packed up by 1:30 pm. We raised an amazing $2,239.45 from the yard sale and bake sale combination! What an awesome testament to God's faithfulness to those that love Him. How do we feel? Amazingly blessed, awesomely loved by our church family, friends and our Father, who receives ALL of the glory for this!!  

Feeling very uneasy about releasing all of these generous donations by people who believe in our mission, we packed most everything BACK up and hauled it BACK TO OUR GARAGE for another attempt!Our final attempt (and I do mean FINAL!!!!) came September 13-14. We hit it hard with low, low prices to move all of the excess merchandise and the kids insisted on having a lemonade stand to raise money themselves to bring their siblings home! Starting again, early, this was our easiest sale by far. All of the items were already prices and organized, thanks to the efficiency of the Women's Ministry at our church. The dates were still hectic, with a trip to Nashville for an eye appointment for Eli and a soccer game mixed in with the sale. We did manage to pull in $443.26, which was worth the time and effort by far!! 

 Last attempt and still SO much left to sell!

 Who wouldn't buy a cup of lemonade from these two cutie pies?

 Yes, for the skeptics, there was actual blood...and maybe even a few tears along this extensive journey!

We have found that we have been given NUMEROUS opportunities to raise awareness of the orphan crisis in our world. And in return our heavenly Father has given us story after story of renewal through the ministry of adoption. People are sharing their stories with us, they are sharing intimate moments of their lives with us. I had this sweet, little lady come by our first yard sale. We told her our reason behind our sale and she prayed the sweetest prayer over me at that very moment. I could not contain my tears. "The joy of the Lord is my strength." Nehemiah 8:10. Many of these people are unknown brothers and sisters in Christ that we would have never had the opportunity to meet. I am continually humbled and blessed through this. God is showing Himself faithful. Our grand total of combined yard sale totals is $4365.01! How amazing!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to School!!!

In the midst of adoption paper work, fundraising and simply maintaining our family, summer slipped away before I could even say goodbye. So long summer! The end of summer break, means the inevitable back to school!! We have been going strong for three weeks now. My plan this year was to get a jump on school before it got a jump on me. So far, so good. We have stayed on task for the most part and have been finishing up right after lunch on most days. This year I get the entire week all to my homeschool. In the past years we have been members of Faith Tutorial, a homeschool program that meets two half-days per week. I have sent each child to the Kindergarten and First Grade programs. They were a super help at emphasizing what I was teaching in phonics and reading, both of which I feel are key to successful schooling. Eventually it became more of a burden than a help, so I knew it was time to bring us all under one home. It has been freeing! I am loving it!

Our current curriculum consists of:

Math - Math U See - Delta/Division
Language - First Language Lessons Level 3
Handwriting - Rod and Staff 3rd Grade
Spelling - SpellWell - Book B/BB
Vocabulary - Wordly Wise 3000 - Grade 3
Logic - Mind Benders
Foreign Language - Rosetta Stone - Spanish

Math - Math U See -Gamma/Multiplication
Language - First Language Lessons Level2
Handwriting - Rod and Staff 2nd Grade
Spelling - SpellWell - Book A/AA
Vocabulary - Wordly Wise 3000 - Grade 2
Logic - Mind Benders
Foreign Language - Rosetta Stone - Spanish

Phonics - Explode the Code Books A,B,C

History - Story of the World 3: Early Modern Times
Science - Apologia Swimming Creatures of Fifth Day
Old Testament - Beautiful Bible Stories
Bible Application - Secrets of the Vine for Kids
Art - Artistic Pursuits Book 1

One of the many perks to homeschooling is that I, the teacher, get to make our own schedule. I have scheduled us with full days Monday through Wednesday. Thursdays are lighter days, usually done by lunch and Fridays have bee designed to have fun activities or accommodate field trips. I try very hard to be finished with all of our curriculum by sometime in May. Although, I cannot wrap my Type-A mind around leaving my curriculum unfinished if we meet our 180 day requirement before being done. So far this year, We have started each day with a new bible story or devotional lesson. We have memorized The Goops, which I have loved using to encourage good table manners, and Land of Nod by Robert Louise Stevenson.

We have gotten off to a great start in Math, beginning division and multiplication. My last year's student who absolutely hated math, is loving it this year.

We have created an ocean box that we look forward to filling with new creatures with each new chapter. We have already molded our Orcas, representing our chapter on Cetaceans. 

We have made gold dabloons, representing the Spanish quests to South America in search of treasures. We have drawn the Inuit tribes of northern Canada that the English befriended in their quest for the Northwest Passage. 

And, we have flooded the Netherlands! 

All while keeping my sanity! Can we keep it up?   

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Baby Blues

Did you know that there is only a 25% chance that a child of two brown-eyed parents will have any other eye color? It took five times trying, but we got a blue eyed girl! Marcus and I had often discussed the possible recessive genes that he may carry. It was a toss up between blue and green. I knew mine was blue. In fact, I was 100% sure that mine was blue. You see brown eyes are dominant over any other eye color, hazel is dominant over green, green is dominant over blue, and blue is recessive to any other color. Those among the populations that have blue eyes, have two blue genes. That is the only way a recessive gene can be expressed. No dominant genes = two recessive genes = blue eyes! My mother has blue eyes so she HAD to pass one of her blue genes to me. I have a brown gene and a blue jean. My sister on the other hand has blue eyes and married a blue eyed guy and have had nothing but blue eyed babies! For my husband it was not as easy to figure out. His mother has brown eyes. Since he has brown eyes, we know she passed her brown gene on to him. Here is the tricky part. We were not quite sure of the other color gene Marcus had. His father has green eyes. Paw Paw had an obvious green gene passed on from his father and a blue from his mother. With that information we could concluded that Marcus had either a green or a blue recessive gene from his father, but which one?. The only way we would ever know is if it was displayed in one of our children. Shy was the child that beat the odds.

As she has recently hit the one year milestone and is at lightning speed, transitioning from our baby into a toddler, I find myself reflecting on this year. Shy has beat the odds more than once. Many of you close to us know that Shy had a slow start and thus I had a rough go after her birth. I had the post baby blues! Postpartum Mood Disorders (including Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis) were once thought to be experienced by a mere 10-20% of childbearing women, reported by the CDC in 2008. This study consisted of self-reporting mothers of live births. This did not include those mothers experiencing loss due to miscarriage or stillbirths. Also, exactly where is the counter where we check in to report these symptoms? Possibly to your OB-GYN who may or may not prescribe an anti-drepressant or an anti-anxiety medication for you, AND YOUR INFANT if you choose to breastfeed. We are a society that treats the symptoms. A study released in March of 2013 by JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association) showed 30% of the women showing signs of a postpartum mood disorder before giving birth, 40% with symptoms after birth, and two-thirds showing signs of anxiety in combination with depression. One in five has thoughts of harming themselves. John Hopkins is even working on a screening to test for genetic markers that they claim can identify mothers who are more prone to postpartum depression. I am not here to promote screenings and medication. I am here to advocate for the mother, for her rest, for her nurturing, for her healing.

There is an unhealthy trend among women in Western culture, that we have to be like the materials of our desire...better, faster, stronger. Have we bought into that philosophy when it comes to our own person? Sadly many of us have. Media is trying, and succeeding on most accounts, to make us believe our bodies must immediately bounce back after baby. One must not let her baby hold her back from her dreams. And, if one of us falls weak to the emotional roller coaster, then let her hide it behind the mask of perfectionism. "Never let 'em see you cry!" What a twisted idea by marred humans. We must be able to embrace weakness, thus the power of Christ can lay on us. Foolishly trying to do it in our own strength will only lead to a fall. I know, I did it! I. Crashed. And. Burned. Or sank, or drowned, whatever analogy you need here. The "Super Woman" era must end, the cape must come off! None of it is real. For me, it all started before my daughter was ever brought into the world. To an extent I believe in mind over matter. Had my mind been calm and not preoccupies on other responsibilities, much could have been prevented. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. I agree. Shy was due to be born sometime around mid August. And, my type-A mind was thinking about all of the responsibilities I was to pick up in August along with the life-altering event of birthing a new life and changing a family dynamic. I was to begin my first AWANA year as Commander. I was the "in-charge, go-to" lady with this entire program riding on her shoulders. I really hate to fail, I mean REALLY. So, I made plans to jump right in without a thought to any repercussions. I was also beginning a new home school year. One of the MANY luxuries of home schooling is that I CAN MAKE MY OWN SCHEDULE!!! I can start and stop when I choose. My pride obviously was telling me that I did not need to start later. It said I could do it all. And, for any of you regulars who might remember the Nesting Kitchen...I was in the midst of a very large kitchen renovation come mid-August. Why??? I am a "Martha", a doer. I find joy in being busy, in serving, in teaching. But, I often get lost in my numerous good intentions. I have many how-did-I-get-myself-into-this moments. I have to make an effort to "Be still...". In my mind, I needed this baby here so that I could recoup quickly and keep on keeping on. I even tried rushing this baby through her labor. Time was ticking. Despite my incredibly ill-considered behavior, her birth was perfect, arriving quietly at home surrounded by loved ones. Fast forward to day #3, her weight was nowhere near what her first reading was! In fact, the discrepancy was alarming. Thus began the downward spiral. Once I was on it, there was no getting off. With phrases such as failure to thrive and hospital admittance being thrown at me, and twice weekly weight checks, I no longer knew which way to turn or which decisions to make. Shy had jaundice, thus was a sleepy baby all the time, BUT SHE WAS FINE. She fell asleep nursing every time, BUT SHE GAINED WEIGHT STEADILY, although I had to wake her routinely. It was not enough for me. I never had this problem with any of my other children. Their appetites were ravenous. Shy was different. I have a hard time with different. Many type-A's do. Instead of breathing and having complete faith that God was holding Shy in his hand, my faith was halfhearted. I woke her 3 times a night. I could not sleep anyway. She also had reflux, which took me far too long to realize because I just plain thought she was starving. Hindsight is 20/20. I desperately needed someone to hold my hand and tell me I was doing the right thing.

To this day I firmly believe the birth scales were not accurate. I have carried five children and I knew my biggest baby was big and I knew my smallest was small. I remember telling those who were present that she was a little one. The scales told different and we were all shocked. I have looked back at her tiny foot prints and my instincts tell me I was right and the scales were wrong. Although, for me that was all it took. Satan was able to plant the seed of doubt and I fell for it. I fell hard. For months there were no days that did not involve tears. I felt like a failure. I did not measure up. I was not enough. While many around me tried to give me space, all I needed was presence. I silently became bitter toward those who could not, and seemingly would not save me from the darkness that surrounded me. The times we look elsewhere from the Lord for salvation, we are ultimately disappointed. When I turned to the Lord I could not even produce words, but he knew my heart's longings. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."- Romans 8:26. He was the only hand that could delve into this black abyss and lift me from within its grasp. I could not escape it in my own strength. To this day, an entire year later, the feelings are still so fresh. I shiver recollecting even the most remote of these emotions. It took many months before letting her sleep as long as she would at night. and, if she wakes at night now, many times I will nurse her still. Undoubtedly my compulsion created her disrupted sleep patterns. But, my daughter thrived and is still thriving. She was thriving by two months, though I would not allow myself to see it. I trembled at the thought that something would eclipse the light that had finally began to shine. The light still shines because HE is faithful. Regardless of shining light or deep darkness, He is faithful if we seek Him. I do believe Shy was the Lord's tool to refine me. The fire burned, but there is something more pure about who I am now. I walk with less of the world's yoke and more of Christ's. His is so much lighter. My faith has been solidified even more. 

Many of us do not have to face this feat. Those of us who do deal with angst after birth or the loss of a child, need support, long term. Many of our personalities will require persistence, even insistence. Women are nurturers by nature, who many times are uncomfortable with being nurtured. We are burden lifters, never wanting to be burden builders. Let us advocate for one another, support one another, believe in the need for rest and the bonding period. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Bring dinner, take the siblings for a day out, visit, make mom get fresh air and sunshine, and chocolate always helps. When signs emerge of struggle, rally around mom. Be her cheering section. Words are powerful. I read a beautiful article on the Birth Without Fear blog, stating that "most traditional cultures, including those throughout South America, Europe (Greece), the Middle East and Asia, a 40-day rest period is considered mandatory after an infant’s birth. In this time the mother is not expected to leave the house, cook food, or do anything but bond with her infant." An African proverb states "It takes a village to raise a child." Then let that village start with the mother as she brings forth this new life.