31 May 2013

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

So, I mentioned this book at the beginning of the year. It has been on my nightstand for 5 months and although I knew I would enjoy it, I waited for the right time to pick it up. God prompted me to do so a week ago and now I know why.

God never shows up late. In fact, He’s got impeccable timing.

Five months ago, I didn’t know we were going to be in the middle of pursuing adoption. But God did.

Five months ago, I was still unsure, fearful, and hesitant about adding another child to our family. But God knew all along.

(Just like He knew I needed to read this book at this very moment in my life).

I can honestly say, Jesus used this book to wreck me. And then He took those broken pieces and began to put me together again, more beautifully. 

This is a story about relentless love, radical obedience, and true redemption.

I used to think only the specially “gifted” people like Mother Theresa or missionaries were called to care for the least of these. I used to think, “Well, not everyone’s called to adopt.” 

Jesus does not simply suggest we take care of orphans, widows, and the under-privileged. He mandates it.

Yes, I understand, not everyone can or should adopt. However, for the majority of self-proclaiming Christians in America, adoption should be an extension of our love and obedience to Christ.

“The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.”
― Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

This young woman did not go to Uganda to adopt 14 girls or even set out to write a story about adoption.

She went to Uganda because she loved the Lord, she knew how much she had been given, and she wanted to be obedient to what He asks of us: To care for the least of these because by doing so, you are caring for Me. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Kisses for Katie has ministered greatly to my family. We’ve had many conversations around the kitchen table about what we’ve read or what we’re reading (Morgan’s reading it, too). We line it up with God’s word and then we reflect on what that means for us and our lives. Each day, we talk about the children in Uganda and their needs. It has given us a clearer understanding of our calling and how it’s preparing us to welcome another little one into our family. 

This is one of those books you will never forget. And I never want to. 

If you have a heart for the least of these and you are brave enough to reflect on your own life, you will never, ever be the same after reading Kisses from Katie. 

Go ahead, I dare you.

30 May 2013

Roasted Tomatoes with Shrimp & Feta


I love shrimp as a quick cooking lean protein so I’m always on the look out for fabulous new recipes. I’ve actually made this a few times now and it combines some of my favorite summer flavors-- vine ripened tomatoes, lemons, herbs, and FETA cheese. I don’t know why but to me, feta and summer just go hand in hand. There’s not one “star” that stands out in this recipe. It all just goes very well together!
I love dishes like this that are rustic enough for a family style dinner yet elegant enough for company. 
Roasted Tomatoes with Shrimp & Feta
  • 4-5 large tomatoes, cut into eighths
  • 1- 15oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes (use esp. if you plan to serve over noodles, otherwise, you can omit but I like mine extra juicy)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2T minced garlic cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pound large or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (I use basil, too)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup Feta, crumbled (I prefer to buy the block of feta rather than the pre-crumbled but whatever you have is fine. Also, low-fat works great here)
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Place the tomatoes in a large baking dish. Add the olive oil and garlic with the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss. Then, pour in the can of diced tomatoes and mix gently. Place on top rack of oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove baking dish from oven and stir in the shrimp, parsley, basil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with the Feta. Place back in oven for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked. Serve warm with crusty bread to sop up the juices or serve over whole wheat spaghetti.
Both ways are absolutely delicious. My girls love it best over noodles. Seriously, this dish is rather simple to prepare and leaves a BIG flavor punch. If you like shrimp and feta, you gotta try this.
Bon App├ętit and Happy Summer, friends!

27 May 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

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We enjoyed a wonderful church service on Sunday morning, honoring all those who have served and continue to serve our country. We were deeply moved by the testimony of Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Gonzalez, a 19 year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp.

Below, is a little glimpse into his life.

May God continue to protect and bless all those who bravely sacrifice their lives, their families, and their comforts for the sake of ours.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. ~John 15:13

 

This morning, we took the kids up to one of our favorite places… Oak Glen!

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We loved the fresh cool air as well as the fabulous BBQ picnic lunch. I think it’s safe to say, we’ve never had a bad time at Oak Glen. The kids can roam around, collect bugs, climb trees, and run free around the countryside. What’s not to love, right? 

Not to mention, the delicious Applewood smoked Tri-Tip and freshly baked Apple Crisp a la mode.

SO YUMMY!! 

26 May 2013

Respite Care

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Boys= dirt… and bugs. :)

 

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So thankful for all this SHADE in our backyard!

 

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Batman, doing what he does best.

 

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Playing Go Fish.

 

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Story time at the library.

 

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“Miss Caffrin, your windows are dirty. I can clean them for you.”  Why, sure!!

 

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Cutie pie.

 

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Fun at the park.

 

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Wee!

 

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A human caterpillar.

 

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It’s been a busy but fun week over here. We’ve been providing respite care for the wonderful Seals family while they’ve been away on a family trip. Through Safe Families, the Seals have been caring for these two little ones for the past 14 months.

Throughout the week, we spent lots of time playing outside and tried to maintain all of our normal activities and errands. It’s funny-- the looks, the stares, and comments you get when you’re out and about with FOUR children.

My favorite was, “Are these ALL yours?” :)

Unfortunately, this will probably be the last time we’re able to host or provide respite care for a while.

We learned we cannot simultaneously pursue adoption and serve through Safe Families at the same time. Understandably so… 

The girls have really enjoyed having more children in the house and for us, well, it’s been great practice for what may come!

24 May 2013

A special thank you and an exhortation

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For the past 3 years, the girls have had dear, sweet, loving Miss Linda as their CBS teacher. Miss Linda has gone from teaching them how to put crafts together and sing bible songs, to having witnessed various milestones in the girls’ lives. She has celebrated with us in their reading, writing, profession of faith, baptism, and overall spiritual maturity. We are so thankful for her. She has been an incredible partner in helping us shepherd the girls’ hearts for the Lord.  

Next year, they will move up to the Junior Class and have a different teacher but Miss Linda will always have a very special place in our hearts. 

Last week, we finished up our year at CBS and this was the girls’ last memory verse.

(Grace was being shy so Faith flew solo).  

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. So then, dear friends, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. ~2 Peter 3:11-12, 14

22 May 2013

Come, follow me

lifeofastranger:<br /><br />theconsofbeingawallflower:<br /><br />(via rockie nolan)<br /><br />

Our decision to adopt this time around feels a bit different from the first time we said yes. The first time we didn’t have any children so the thought of forming a family through the beauty of adoption was our underlying motivation. Sure, we had a heart for adoption anyway. We knew there were millions of kids out there that needed a loving and forever home. We trusted God through every detail of the girls’ adoption and we still marvel today and how He orchestrated our lives to come together. The last 6+ years have been nothing short of amazing.

We are truly, truly blessed. Life has been rich and joyous.

This time around, I’d be lying if I said the decision to adopt again was an easy one. For a few years, Morgan and I had talked about the idea of adopting again but ultimately, it only led us to our default responses:

  • four is a good number for a family
  • the girls are getting older
  • we’re certainly not getting any younger
  • we have new and exciting vacations/experiences planned (in our minds)
  • maybe we should start thinking about buying retirement property?
  • more kids cost more money
  • we’re in a great rhythm/flow
  • life is good and full  
  • and perhaps the biggest overriding theme to our reasoning… we’re quite comfortable.

See, all reasonable responses, right?

Except for the fact that for the past year or so, Morgan and I have been on a journey. We have sought, wholeheartedly, the will of the Father in our lives. We have desired to be more than just a Believer. Our Lord calls us to be a Follower.

He whispers, “Come, follow me.”

Well, low and behold, it turns out a Christian (a Christ Follower) must actually follow Christ. This requires action, surrender, and yes, even death. As a Follower, we cannot simply pick and choose what aspects of Christ we wish to follow and ignore all the rest.

In fact, Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be my true disciple, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it.” ~Matthew 16:24-25

Little by little, in our hearts, we knew our “default responses” had more to do with our worldly flesh. In other words, like many Americans, we loved our “comfortable life” in our self-serving world. Jesus calls us to be many things, however, I’m pretty sure “comfortable” isn’t one of them.

We knew deep down, we were created for so much more. And so, gradually, we came to a crossroads. When you’ve answered the call to “Come, follow me”, and you say to yourself and to God, “I’m all in,” there comes a point in your life when you have to count the cost, and then choose.

You see, the notion of disrupting our lives as we know it, wasn’t. going. away.

In fact, it was becoming clearer and clearer. God was interfering with the dreams and plans we had for our future.

The last year has been an incredible journey to the heart of our Maker. He knew all about our doubts and fears but He also knew our love for Him was greater. He began slowly chipping away at our excuses and our plans.

He asked tough questions like, “Do you want to live your life in comfort for yourself?”

Or, “Do you want to live a life, worthy of your calling, a truly FULL and ABUNDANT life?

Jesus said, “I came so that you may have life, and live it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10

Could it be that the life we were so bent on hanging onto wasn’t the kind of full life He had in mind for us? Could it be that our hands were trying to clench onto our own plans and dreams, instead of gratefully opening them up to His plans and purposes? Could it be that the days we were afraid of walking into, might actually be the best days of our life?     

Again, He says, “Come, follow me.”

In the bible, Jesus says these words 23 times. I often felt like Simon Peter-  so human, so flawed, yet so desperately wanting to follow our Lord.

Jesus Reinstates Peter

Jesus asked him, “Simon Peter, do you love me more than these?  “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon, do you love me” He answered, “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time to said to him, “Simon, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

The truth is, we know our lives are not our own. We died on the day we accepted Christ. He gave us a new life, bought by His precious blood. The reality is, this life that we’re so comfortable with isn’t all there is. And although God gives us the experience of enjoyment and comfort, He certainly doesn’t want us to settle in there. This life, this time we have here is about using whatever gifts and talents He’s given us to serve and love others (especially the least of these), to further His Kingdom, and to make disciples of all nations.

And so, for us, we count the cost of discipleship, we search within our own hearts, we take a small step towards doing the hard but holy things, and most importantly, all the while, we trust.

We trust Him to work out the details once again. We trust Him to know what’s best for us and for our family. We trust Him, even when we cannot see the way.

We trust Him, simple because we know He is the Way. The Truth. The Life.

And He beckons, “Come, follow me.”

19 May 2013

A “Little” Announcement

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Most of our friends and family already know about our exciting news but I thought it was finally time to make it “official” here.

YES, we are ADOPTING… again!!

Morgan and I spent much of our weekend attending adoption prep classes as well as having an interview with our adoption agency (the same one we used for the girls).

Although we still have some paperwork as well as a few other things we need to complete, we are one step closer to bringing home a little brother for the girls. 

Of course, they have been praying for TWIN boys! :)  Now, wouldn’t that be something?!!

This time around, we’re adopting from the California Waiting Child Program (aka “fos-adopt”). 

We’re hoping for a boy, age 0-4.  And we hope to be done with everything we need to do by mid-July. 

The Lord has faithfully guided us thus far and we have great confidence He will continue to lead us, every step of the way. Soon, I hope to share some of our thoughts and experiences as we seek to bring home OUR SON!!

Thank you all for your love, support and encouragement!

To whom much is given, much shall be required. ~Luke 12:48

15 May 2013

{Lightened Up} Apple Brown Betty

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The cast of characters… literally!

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Knives are tools that take practice and we use with caution.

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Making cubes.

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Check out the focus.

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Moms may need to skin the apples for the kiddos. :)  

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Chatting away, making memories.

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About 5T is what I had left in my butter dish (1/3 cup).  I just sliced them thin.

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The assembly begins.

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Using a buttered 8x8 dish, layer the bread, apples, brown sugar, then butter slices (x2).

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Lastly, spoon several tablespoons of water along the top.

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Simple… Comforting… Perfection!
Did you know? The Apple Brown Betty was first mentioned in print in 1864. The original recipe used applesauce and cracker crumbs. Also, the Apple Brown Betty was one of the favorite desserts of Ronald & Nancy Reagan in the White House.
{Lightened Up} Apple Brown Betty
  • 4 sliced of whole wheat bread
  • 2-3 granny smith apples
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 5 T butter
  • 4-5 T water
  • a few dashes of cinnamon between layers
  • Bake at 375 covered with foil for 40 mins.
  • Remove foil and bake for an add’l 10 mins.
    • Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.  
    • Double the recipe for a 9x12 pan.
At first, I wasn’t sure about the wheat bread but it actually gives a great texture, yet it still feels light and crunchy in all the right places. The original recipe called for more than TWICE the amount of sugar and butter.
This lightened up version seemed to satisfied our sweet tooth plenty. However, feel free to add as much or as little sugar/butter as you’d like!
I love the fact that this recipe is very forgiving. For a baking recipe, there’s not a whole lot you can mess up here. Plus, I always seem to have these ingredients on hand so this scrumptious dessert is definitely a keeper!    
The girls enjoyed it so much, they wanted to make sure I included this as part of the future family cookbook I pass along to them. :) So sweet!    

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