My Heart To Adopt

For as long as I can remember I have felt very passionately against abortion. I always knew in theory why. In my grade eleven english class we had to do a speech, and I chose to do it on the pro-life stance regarding abortion. After researching all the facts, seeing horrifying pictures of babies lives being lost, and listening to personal testimonies of women who chose to abort their babies who are now living in the emotion aftermath – I felt like I was going beyond “theory”.

As a teen I felt strongly that one day I wanted to adopt a baby whose mom was going to abort him or her, but then chose to give life instead. I listened to many Focus on the Family programs in high school about the different sides of adoption – the good, bad and the ugly. From Reactive Attachment Disorder, to perfectly integrated kids, I read it all.

When I found out I was pregnant with Caleb I knew that it would be a test of my heart for other kids. Would I just be passionate about my biological children? Would I only feel a deep sense of love if I had laboured and birthed them? Thinking of all the hurting, abandoned and orphaned children and babies in the world has often left me questioning whether it would be fair for me to bring more lives into the world without helping them.

Holding my own precious child for the first time did not fill my void to snatch another baby from heartache and sorrow. If anything it has placed in me a deep urgency and longing to build a home that could one day bring in babies that need so much to be loved, cared for and accepted.

A few weeks ago my husband and I watched this video. Focus on the Family had put on a contest called “Faces For Life”, a promotion for National Adoption Awareness Month in the United States. This video won first place, and moved us so much inside and fanned into the flame the flickering light in our hearts to adopt.

I’ve been thinking about what Jesus said regarding what “True Religion” is in James 1:27;

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Maybe I’ve got it wrong here, but do I even need to seek God and find out if his heart is for us to take in orphans? His heart is for the fatherless.

Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that we aren’t praying about this, but I don’t think it is quite as complicated as I was originally making it. Whether we ever get approved to adopt a baby or not, my heart and my home should be open to help. Adoption isn’t just a one time thing, it’s a lifestyle. It’s helping an orphan across the world have food. It will be taking time to be a mom to one of Caleb’s friends (when he’s older) who doesn’t have a good home life or whose mom or dad walked out on him.

I want my front door to be open to the needy. I don’t know what this looks like yet. I hope that as years go by our house will be filled with kids, maybe not all our own, but filled with kids who need love and who need Jesus. I hope to one day hold all my kids in my arms and look across my family and see the ones that I physically laboured for from my body, and the ones that we laboured for through paperwork and courts. As I imagine myself in that place, my heart overflows with love. In some ways I overwhelm myself wondering how it would all work, but I know it would all be worth it. Whatever we had to give up to get there. Each child would be marked with a unique call, destiny and gifts from God. Whether their life was unplanned or prayed for, they already have my heart.

Jeremiah 49:11 shows me a glimpse into God’s heart for orphans.

But I will protect the orphans who remain among you. Your widows, too, can depend on me for help.

Protect. These kids are vulnerable. If I want to do God’s will, I also need God’s heart.

All the details are still very unclear, and I’m not sure we are in a place in our lives where we would be approved to adopt. But there is one thing I do know. I’ve sung so many times “break my heart for what breaks Yours” – and I think it’s finally happening.

Lost Perspective

Wow, what a crazy week, that turned into a crazier weekend! Looking back over my instagrams from the weekend and fun Facebook status’ about decorating for Christmas and nice family time, I realized I did not accurately portray how I was doing at all. And in some ways, rightly so! The world doesn’t need to know day by day my emotions and current struggles. But as Sunday afternoon rolled around, my perspective was gone. Exhaustion had over taken my body, and I was an emotional wreck.

This past week was a huge challenge for me as my beautiful little boy has not been sleeping well. The old “sleep when your baby sleeps” wasn’t working either, as his naps were hardly long enough to be considered a nap. I felt like I barely survived the week, managing to make it to Friday with three out of five suppers on the table, a relatively intact body and some scraps of sanity that I was looking forward to building upon while my husband was home. Saturday morning was lovely as we set up our tree, spent some time together and relaxed a little (although I was still severely short on sleep). That afternoon something happened in Caleb and he became increasingly whiny, miserable, grumpy, and an exhausted-but-not-willing-to-sleep little man.

Last night we were up every one and a half to two hours as he cried in his sleep. Poor little guy was probably teething, and I felt bad for him. There were definitely a lot of factors that I won’t bore you with, but don’t worry, we weren’t taking him for granted, we had a pretty good idea as to what were causing the issues.

Realizing, for the first time since we had Caleb, we were all way too exhausted to try to rescue our appearances and make it to church, we opted for a stay in your pajamas day, trying to lie down when Caleb settled a bit.

So bringing us back to Sunday afternoon, today. I started having an absolute meltdown. As any of you moms out there know, you get to a point of being so tired your mind starts playing tricks on you. You start forgetting why you’re doing the things you’re doing. You can get angry at this little person that certainly doesn’t mean to be causing all this chaos. Lots of you are jumping up and down inside wanting to tell me “oh Monica, it will all be worth it.” Don’t worry, I know. But in the middle of such extreme exhaustion, even the best of us get beat down. The breaking point for me was trying to get enough milk from myself to mix with Caleb’s cereal, to no avail. Nothing was going my way, Caleb was getting more and more cranky, Andrew was being very patient but surely getting frustrated and I wanted to snap.

Needless to say, we made it to bedtime. As Caleb played calmly in the bath with his Thomas Train, oxytocin flowed through my veins once more and my emotions became intertwined with that amazing little boy. My perspective was returning.

Andrew offered to make sure Caleb went to sleep and I climbed into bubble heaven in my bath tub. Thomas was still floating around from Caleb’s bath. I smiled. What a sweetheart I have. He sure loves play with his bath toys. There is nothing I want more than for our tub to be overtaken with Caleb’s toys, and I would never in a hundred million, billion years desire for my life to be any different.

Resurfacing from a temporary submerging in frustration, anxiety, exhaustion and self-pity, I saw how my joy had escaped me. Yes my circumstances are still the same, and for all I know Caleb will still be up a seemingly endless amount of times tonight – but I love that little guy. Even in my weakest moment God is still giving me strength. Although I didn’t see it, today was completely a picture of that. Our worst day happened when Andrew was home to help me out. The Lord knew what I could and couldn’t handle.

So whatever this week brings for you, may we accept this prayer that Paul prayed in Colossians 1:11-12

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy always thanking the Father. 

Choosing The Perfect Gift

This year my husband and I have been trying really hard to think creatively and, especially, make some homemade gifts. I’d LOVE to give away what some of them are, but since probably some of the recipients may be reading this, I will restrain myself. After Christmas I’m going to post some of the things that worked well for us.

Are you familiar with the Five Love Languages? If you are not, this page will give you a quick definition of all them if you scroll down past the description of the book. A basic understanding of the love languages is must to get the most out of my thoughts on creating or choosing a perfectly satisfactory gift to anyone you are buying for (this will apply for any gifts, any time of the year).

Recognize the love language of the person you are giving the gift to. Once you know what love language they have, then you can think of the type of gift, or how the gift should be delivered, that they are more likely to enjoy receiving. Some of the love languages are more easy to think ideas to go with than others, but we’ll try to be creative here.

Remember…most people have a secondary love language, which can make it easier to mix and match up ideas for gifts. Our nature is to show love in the way we like to be shown love, but my hope is that this will encourage you to be objective and analyze that unique persons true desires.

1. Words of Affirmation – A card is really important to this person, and you should take the time to write a truly encouraging note. Don’t flatter them, but write something from the heart. The card may be even more important than your gift. When putting together their gift, try to incorporate different items that speak to who they are, things you appreciate about them and that offer encouragement. Some examples of this are:

  • Sentimental Gifts  – Willow Tree Angels or another item that represents something
  • A Devotion Book or encouraging daily calendar
  • Inspiring Painting or Plaque
  • *Never forget a card with someone who is a words of affirmation person! 

2. Quality Time – Giving this person the gift of time will be incredibly meaningful to them. Any gift that you give that show you either spent time and energy making it, or that involve you and that person spending quality time together after, will be a big hit. Here are some examples:

Time Together Ideas:

  • Tickets to an event where you have time to connect, maybe a sporting event, bridal show, etc. 
  • A promise of a meal, coffee or other food date (high tea is a fun one too)
  • *for kids* an assemble together gift, or something that you need to build or create together. 
  • A board game or other group activity 


Time Spent Ideas:

  • Homemade gifts that show you are aware of their likes and interests. If they love fancy coffees make them a homemade Vanilla, Raspberry , Coconut or Caramel Syrup and take time to decorate a jar. You can find so many ideas online if you just think of what the person enjoys. 

3. Receiving Gifts – Since gifts are such a big thing for this person, a lot of thought needs to be put into it. In my opinion, always go over the top with this person. I’m not meaning put yourself in a hole financially – but pay attention to what they are asking for, what they are interested in, and then take time to add a personal touch.
Examples:

  • The person mentions to you they would really enjoy the new movie “Courageous”. You would take that one item, and build around it. Turn it into a “movie night” basket with popcorn, hot chocolate, and homemade decorated popcorn bowls. 
  • You know your friend is stressed out and really needs to relax – find a homemade bubble bath recipe, decorate a jar, and make a “relaxation basket” with tea, bath time items, new loofah, nail polish, etc. 
  • These people are also wonderful to go in on big gifts with friends because they love the excitement of receiving a gift so much! 

4. Acts of Service – Anything that would improve this persons life and help them out would be much appreciated!
Examples:

  • Homemade meals – can some of your homemade soup! Bake fresh bread, etc.
  • Make “free babysitting” cards or offer some other needed task for free
  • If you must buy a gift card, this would be someone who would really appreciate something practical – like a car wash card or oil change.
  • If you know of a project that they’ve been needing or wanting to get done, go ahead and do it! It could be as simple as getting their favourite picture matted and framed. 

5. Physical Touch – This one I think comes down mostly to execution of the gift. Thankfully most people have a secondary love language, so you can try to figure out what that is for the main portion of the gift and then make sure that when you give the gift they get a hug from you and really sense that you love them!

Okay, I’m ready to hear some of your suggestions! Feel free to comment below and share with others some practical ideas for giving meaningful gifts that will bring joy to every love language, and show the deep appreciation you really have for your loved ones!

Happy dreaming, creating and giving! You may just have more fun thinking of what to give people, than you do actually receiving a gift yourself!

A Poem To My Baby

Has it really been six months? Wow, the time has flown.
Weren’t you just born yesterday? Oh how we could not have known
Just how quickly time would disappear the moment you were finally here.

Weren’t we just setting up the crib and decorating your room
While you were still sittin’ cozy, all wrapped up in my womb?

Really, it was was mostly daddy, since all I could do was sit.
I was still trying to believe that all the sickness would be worth it.

Then I held you in my arms, and felt your mountain of dark brown hair.
Right away I deeply knew
My heart would not be anywhere
But all wrapped up in daddy and you.

Has it only been six months? Wow, you’ve changed our lives so fast.
I feel like I’m starting to lose my precious baby to the past.
Lack of sleep, sore feet and many tears aside
Do you know my son for you I’d gladly give my life and die?

So even though you’re not yet one, today your life we celebrate.
How can we with hold a party for someone to us so great?
You’ve accomplished so much
in your six short months.
You laugh, play, babble, and scoot.
And although we’d love to promise it, this life won’t be a hoot.
But my dear little guy, look into my eyes, this I can tell you true.
No other person can ever love our Caleb, as much as we love you.

A Lesson From The Persistant Baby

Caleb reached forward, trying so hard to grab the intriguing tower. It was like there was nothing else in this world. Just those cups all stacked up to make a lighthouse looking object. The focus in his eyes was incredible. He had just discovered his new ability to maneuver around the room. There was nothing to stop him from getting his slobbery little hands on this toy.

He took a moment and looked at me for encouragement. I knew he was asking, “Mama, do you really think I can do this? I only just started moving around, is it too far out of reach?”

“You can do it, honey.” I answered, “Just inch forward a little more.”

He tried different angles and various approaches. It was still out of reach. Eventually he inched himself close enough to touch it.

And then…

It all fell over and scattered! Some pieces rolled way farther than he was physically capable of moving to. Frustration passed over his face. All his hard work moving towards his toy had not paid off. His lower lip trembled for a moment, but then his eyes zeroed in on one specific piece. He inched towards that one again.

He snatched it up. Finally he had one of the pieces he had wanted to play with so bad, right in his hand. Instead of chewing on it though, he put it beside him and zoned in on another piece.

I know what you’re thinking. This is all babies, Caleb’s no super human. He’s just a curious kid who will stop at nothing to get something in his mouth. Although I like to believe he’s pretty incredible, it’s true. Each of us were born with a very curious nature. Each of us as babies would have laid on the floor reaching and reaching for something far out of our grasp because it was fascinating.

So why do we not always work relentlessly to attain something anymore? Why do we give up so easily? Throughout our lives we lose faith in ourselves and in God. Our heart gets broken and our dreams become shattered. We have tasted defeat more than triumph. Why reach for something unattainable? We’ll only be disappointed.

The truth is if God is on our side all things are possible. Sometimes that dream or “tower” in our life is finally within our reach, and then it all falls apart. We can choose to become fed up and abandon our destiny or we can zero in on the little pieces that are scattered around. We can focus on a little piece at a time. Perhaps we weren’t ready to see the big picture. Maybe that promotion or position would have led us into pride, but God wanted to teach us humility by taking us down the longer road.

Whatever it is, giving up is not the answer. Galatians 6:9 says;

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 

I had no idea such a little guy could inspire such big things. But the lesson here is clear. Keep reaching for what God has placed on your heart. Do not give up even if your dreams seems to have broken apart. Keep focused on the little things that you can continue to do to get you back on the road towards the big picture and your ultimate destiny.

Relentless 2011

This weekend marked my tenth November Retreat (a youth retreat put on by our church), my second as a married woman, my first as a mom. Each year this weekend becomes a milestone where I look back in awe that it’s already been another year, celebrate what God has done in my life and look forward to where I’ll be at the following November.

This past year has definitely gone the fastest out of every year yet. As we made it to retreat time, although we’ve completed our First Year of Marriage (you can read more about that whirlwind by clicking on the link) and had our baby boy, I felt like a youth again, absolutely craving this mountaintop experience I knew I would have with the Lord this weekend. Anticipation filled my heart because I knew God always does something incredible in me. No matter how big the flame in my heart has been, whether flickering or going strong, He has always breathed softly on it and renewed passion and purpose in me.

Last night in the service, our speaker, Danny DeLong spoke an incredible message about our calling in life. I was challenged to the very core of my being. He was talking about the Great Commission and how we are all called to be missionaries by default. He made the bold statement that we only add-on to our call as missionary other professions if we’ve heard clearly from the Lord. We watched a video about missions in Asia, and it gave tragic statistics about people over there and the broken lives that they lead and the lack of missionary presence serving there.

When I was listening to this, it made me feel like we should abandon everything, take our family and go do missions. Thankfully my husband was able to remind me that we have heard from God, and we are confident that we are where we are supposed to be for the time being. That moment though, really revealed a lot in me. Sitting in that pew listening to Danny speak with passion about helping people overseas shone a light into a dark part of my heart. This part was ravaged with fear. Questions swirled in my mind: What if we were persecuted? What if one or all of us died? What if we never saw our family and friends again? What if we couldn’t afford to give Caleb all the things that I think are important to a happy childhood?

I want my heart to be so broken by the Lord for the things of His heart that I would go anywhere. In that moment I felt that I couldn’t tell him “I’ll go anywhere”. I thought my agenda was surrendered to God, until I realized I have always subconsciously begged Him, saying, “I’ll do anything in North America, just don’t send us where we could die.” I hate admitting this since I have the one thing that can save other people’s souls for all of eternity – a relationship with Jesus Christ. If we have peace with God, losing my life should mean nothing. With all the emotions, responsibilities and love that goes with becoming a mom, it breaks me  to imagine missing any moment of watching Caleb grow into the courageous man I know he’ll be. This realization of the fear holding me showed that I need to commit to asking God for courage to walk out everything He asks us to do.

After many tears, prayers and talking to Andrew over the last twenty-four or so hours I feel like I’ve reached the point where I know I would go anywhere if the Lord asked us to. I’m so glad that God can use these times to speak directly to me. God can speak to us any time, but there is something about getting together with other believers and devoting an extended period of time to worship, prayer and teaching.

I want to thank every person who has ever been a part of putting on the November Retreat at our church. For the last ten years, I have been challenged every single weekend to draw closer to God and examine my heart. During the toughest years of my life, as a teen from a small town, I knew that I could come away for this weekend encounter with the Lord. I have laid at the altar so many times, weeping, as the Lord whispered different pieces of my calling to me – and He is still doing that today.

So if you’re still exhausted from putting the retreat on, I hope that this encourages you to know that ten years from now someone might be sharing how coming to this retreat radically impacted their life. These events are incredibly important. Even though my involvement looks different right now because Caleb is my current priority, I hope I will always be involved to some extent, whether billeting or serving to see this happen.

If there are two encouraging pieces to take away from this post, I hope they are:

1. If God has asked you to work at something, do it faithfully. You may not see results right away, and you might NEVER know the lives you are affecting for eternity. Whether it’s putting on a youth retreat, serving in your community or doing missions overseas, obedience will bring about amazing results.

2. The Lord wants to continue to reveals pieces of ourselves that aren’t fully surrendered to Him. If we invite Him to do so, He will shine a light into the dark places of our hearts. A newly exposed area may be raw at first, but it will draw us into deeper intimacy with our Saviour as we humbly say to Him “more of You and less of me.”

May Jesus Christ reveal YOUR unique purpose for being on this earth, and may ours lives plant seeds of hope in others everywhere we go. May the Lord bless you for your faithful service to Him. When the going gets tough, don’t quit. Go to the source of strength, and He will give you all you need.

Leaving a Legacy

This weekend has brought a celebration of two lives. It’s really got my thinking the last few days about life, purpose, destiny and legacy.

My great grandma who would have been 100 yesterday. She passed away at the old age of 99. She was an incredibly special woman to me. For some reason the best times we had together involved her being in the hospital. On three of four separate occasions I was with her in the hospital, mostly because I was the only family member in the city who was able to get there when she had various ailments or accidents.

One of the most amazing things about my Great Grandma Hazel was her resilience. When Grandma was in her early nineties her friend accidentally hit her with a car. This sent her to hospital with a broken hip. As I drove up to the hospital to be with her, my mind was racing with how I’d need to encourage her not to give up on life. I was sure her spirit would be crushed by this injury so late in life. I was shocked when I arrived at the hospital to see how exuberant she was. Her main concern was making sure that no one canceled her trip out to Ontario on the train. She also needed the entire hospital staff to know she’d still be golfing. She just had to be good to go for the golf season.

Great Grandma pulled through remarkably and showed amazing character in her ability to overcome adversity. She is now remembered today by my family as a woman of perseverance, strength and a true love of life.

Tonight we celebrated Grandma Switzer’s (Andrew’s grandma) 75th birthday. During the night there were many tributes given to her. Her kids stood up and shared many ways that she was and is an amazing mom. Her kids spouses, and some grandchildren shared thoughts about her as well. Her devotion to her husband, love for her kids/grandkids/great-grandkids, commitment to prayer and hard work ethic were mentioned over and over.

The verse that kept resounding in my mind was about the wife of noble character from Proverbs 31:28 “her children will arise and call her blessed, her husband also and he praises her”.

A legacy is described as anything handed down from the past. It doesn’t matter how much life you have left to live, you have room to leave a legacy, to hand something down – to turn something from the past into an encouragement for the future.

Whether it’s been from bringing a new life into the world, celebrating the lives of other, or hearing of tragedies where someone too young is taken from this world – the message to me has been loud and clear: Don’t waste your life.
Don’t pursue things that in the end will come to nothing. Matthew 6:19-21 talks about this and says not to store up treasure on earth, but to store up treasure in heaven, for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

I don’t want my heart to be in my house, my car, my clothes or any other possessions. I first want my heart to be with Jesus, and then my husband and son. How rich I will be if my treasure is found in my Saviour and my family!

The song in this video talks about the kind of legacy as Christians we should want to leave. This always makes me cry as I reevaluate just where I’m at in life. Andrew and I frequently ask each other, are we wasting our lives? Are we really making our time on earth count? Are we impacting people, or are we just indulging in selfish desires?

When I think about this long-term perspective of legacy, it helps me overcome some of my insecurities. This morning as I was getting ready for church I just felt like my clothes, hair, make up and everything just was not working right, and I was getting really frustrated about my appearance. But when I die, do I really want to be remembered for having nice hair, fashionable clothes or any kind of superficial beauty? No. I pray that I will have lived a life that my kids will honour. I can only hope that by God’s grace I will have loved people, worked hard, encouraged everyone to follow whatever the Lord put on their hearts and empowered my kids, grandkids and great grandkids to use the gifts God has given them to influence their spheres and take on the world for Jesus Christ.

Please, if you feel like you’ve wasted your life: don’t give up. Find strength from the Lord and ask Him what He wants your legacy to be. Even if you pass one thing positive on to the next generation, you will have made a difference. The Lord’s mercies are new every morning. There is no sin too great that He will not forgive. There is no mountain too large that He can not move.

Life is short, Lord help us make the most of it.