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Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Can Only Imagine

Have you ever noticed how when you are going through some type of event you can see aspects of that in everything.   The simplest things in life can become overwhelmingly joyful or painful based on the emotions they retrieve.  When I was in high school youth group a song called "I Can Only Imagine" by Mercy Me became very popular.  Recently while driving I heard this song on the radio.  When I heard the first lyrics I could only think about my girls.  I am sure  it is wrong for my mind to take a song written about my Savior and turn it into a song about my daughters.  But read the lyrics below and see what I mean.
I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk 
By your side
I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine

Why am I so scared of Hair Care?

When preparing for a transracial adoption there are many issues that one should be concerned with.  However, the main thing I am worried about is hair care.  For some reason I am concerned about how I am going to do the girls hair.  A dear friend recently sent me a wonderful package to help ease my concerns.  The best part about the package was the step by step instructions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Gospel is My Culture, Is it yours?

There have been many books mailed and referred to our family as we prepare to adopt.  They cover an abundance of issues from eating, bathing, and cultural issues with adoptive children. When you decide to adopt children from a different race you are bombarded with information about maintaining the child's culture and identity.  The books express the importance of giving the child a sense of culture identity in their new world.  Our homestudy agency, social worker, and adoption agency have all shown concern for these issues.  They all have good intentions and are wanting Chad and I to feel like we have discussed the issues that may arise.  One of the first things that arises in my mind when this topic is brought up is "not again."  What does giving a sense of their own culture mean?  Our family is the definition of mixed cultures.  In fact we will just refer to it as the Stewart's Crayon Box.  Our box is nothing like anybody else.  We can't tell you how it is going to work or what colors you are going to get, it's an experiment.  Our children are being raised up with a little bit of American, Russian, and Ugandan influence.  If you ask Sadie she will tell you Santa comes to our house twice a year once for American Christmas and once for Russian Christmas.  If anybody has experience with this I would love your input.  Anyway, with all these experts inputs on how we raise our children I can't help but get stuck on the fact that they leave out the most important aspect of "my" culture, the Gospel.  The culture that I will raise my children in is that of the Gospel of Christ. I want them to know that they are adopted by the King.  John says it  best "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in faith" 3 John 1:4.  All the other issues we will figure out.  I can't predict what will happen so please stop asking me what we will do when issues arise.  All we can do is pray that our children know the Lord.  For when this happens He will direct their paths.
Growing up I remembering being sung "Jesus loves the little children of the world."  I now sing this to my family but in an altered version.  If we just remember the culture of the Gospel when raising our children the rest of it will fall into place.
Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Sadie, Nolen, Hadley, and Liana
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the children of the world.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

T-Shirts are Here



Our family is selling shirts to help fund our adoption. We have a few in stock for immediate purchase. After that we will be taking preorders. T-shirts will be available to purchase until April 15. The shirts do run small so keep that in mind when selecting your sizes. You can choose to have the shirt shipped or personal delivery. If you live near us please let us know and we will delivery it to you (if this is the case you can also pay by check or cash instead of paypal).
If you live in the Memphis area and have contact with Paula Lipford or Nancy Stewart you can also choose to not have your shirts shipped.
To access the shirts link click on the tab above the posts.  If you wish to purchase one without using paypal please let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Writing God Out/Into My Life

I was recently having a discussion with a friend about how we view events in our life.  We have the option to look at all things that happen in our lives as something of God or as something of the world.  This friend had recently read my post about time off work.  We were referring to my believing that God gave Chad an extra week of vacation to aid us in Nolen's adoption.  We talked about how easy it is for us to think that an extra week of pto is nice but just coincidence.  Why is it so difficult to admit that God does work in our lives?  We live in the age of science and reason.  My strong science background teaches me to look for hard evidence and scientific reasoning to explain the events of my life.  I learned in statistics that Chad had the same probability as everyone else of winning this vacation time.  But, I also know that God works in mysterious ways. If it is mysterious it can't be explained by science.  We are left with the choice: was it God or was it just the way the world turns.  I am so guilty of seeing the wonders of my God as just part of everyday life.  After this friend and I had the conversation I revisited the blog.  The first thing I read was the small intro shown just below the header.  When I ended it I originally wrote, "This is how we did it."  As you see I have know changed the intro.  I quickly changed it because I realized that I was writing God out of my life, I was trying to take God's glory from Him.  When I first wrote the intro I in no way had the intentions of not giving God glory.  It was just what came into my head, my sinful nature.  I am realizing that in order to see God's glory in our lives we must make a conscious effort.  In Isaiah 55: 8-9 we are told
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
When God works in our lives we will not understand.  In fact, we are not capable of understanding.  But what we must do is follow Him and give Him the glory.
To my friends currently in the adoption process and to everyone else try to see the what is happening in your life as the work of God.  Include in this the little things.  It is easy to see God in the big stuff but I think we learn the most from the little stuff.  Paul told the people at the church in Corinth to "So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Whats in a name?


Many of people have been asking "What are you going to name the girls?"   We have decided to name the girls Hadley and Liana.  Their middle names will be their African names but I can't post that on the blog until after the adoption is complete.  I hope changing their names does not confuse them.  Often God changed people's names in the Bible to give them a new identity.  He changed Sarah, Abraham, and Paul's name to mark the start of a new part of their lives.  We are marking the change in our daughter's lives by giving them new names.
I am so excited to be able to begin preparing to bring the girls home.  I can't wait until Chad makes their names to go on their bedroom wall (I will post photos as soon as this is done).  I enjoyed getting to purchase the necklaces for them, these are the first items I have bought for them.  Hopefully they will help us all tell them apart.
Thank you so much to you who have participated in the flowers for Jinja project.  You can keep updated on that project by clicking on the tab at the top of the posts.  To encourage participation in the project we are going to be offering a giveaway.  Someone has donated a $25 Bath and Body Works gift card to be given away.  For every flower that has been purchased or will be purchased you will be entered into a drawing for the gift card.  The drawing will occur on April 9th after the flowers for Jinja project has ended.  Please keep me busy making flowers.  I am looking forward to praying over the little girls they will bless while I make them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Crowning the Princesses of Jinja

Every girl is a princess, at least that is what I believe.  Unfortunately not every girl feels like a princess.  It is common practice in orphanages to shave the hair from all children.  This helps keep lice away and is easier to maintain.  While in the baby house in Russia Chad and I had a difficult time determining if a child was male or female.  Occasionally we would see a child with a bow in their hair which would let us know they were a little princess.  Sadie loves to play dress up.  In fact she is usually dressed up like a princess; dress, jewelry, crown, and high heels of course.  It is sad to think that many little girls in the world don't think they are a princess.  So we are going to let them be princesses.  After all we are all sons and daughters adopted by the King.  Our family has set the goal of crowning 100 princesses in Jinja.  This has been inspired by the video shown on our blog.  This person collected headbands for a trip to Ethiopia.
What does this mean?  We want  to take 100 soft headbands with flowers on them to Uganda to distribute to the little girls.
How can you help?  When you order a flower for yourself one will also be sent with us to Uganda.  The flowers you will receive come on hair clips and safety pins.  They can be used as hair bows or you can pin one just about anything including clothing, hats, and bags.
The flowers are made by Holly with a little help from Chad.  100% of the proceeds will help bring our girls home.  One flower for you and one flower for a princess cost $8.00.

...bestow on them a crown of beauty.  Isaiah 61:3



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gracious Receiving

It is crazy to think that receiving is something that we have had to learn.  Thanks to our wonderful parents Chad and I have been taught that it is better to give than receive.  We have throughly enjoyed getting to give to others throughout our marriage.  One of the things we have learned is how amazing it is to give.  When God tells you to help someone and you obey, it is wonderful.  Like I have said in the past, there is no greater way to worship than to obey.  God has taught me this lesson many times and it is one that we will always be learning.  It is difficult to understand just how much Jesus gave for us.  He gave me life, how can I ever repay him.  The truth is I can't and I am not expected too.
Over the past few weeks, God has been trying to teach me to be a gracious receiver and I am failing big time.  Why is this so hard?  Our family has been so blessed by our amazing friends and family.  Almost everyday someone asks "How can we help?"  We have been receiving encouraging cards and packages in the mail.  To you we send our greatest gratitude.
I must apologize to those of you who have offered to help and to whom I have not been such a gracious receiver.  Receiving the amazing help that has been offered to us has been a humbling experience.  I need to learn to accept this.  I promise to work on this for those of you who are wanting to assist us in this process.  God has made me aware that by denying you the ability to help us is denying you the ability to worship and obey God.  And for that I am truly sorry.
For those of you who are wanting to know what you can do, you can pray.  Please pray for God speed for the process.  We are currently waiting on paperwork in Uganda.  Our prayer is for this to be processed in a timely manner.  For everyday that it takes to do paperwork is one day my girls are in an orphanage, one day they go hungry, and one day they want for love.  There are a few physical needs our family has.  I have posted a list of some of these in the left column of the blog.  Next week we will be launching our t-shirt fundraiser to help us bring our girls home.
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. ...   Philippians 2:3-11

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Grocery Blog Followup

Thank you so much for the wonderful comments about the grocery shopping blog.  I love to hear everyones feed back whether it comes blog, facebook, or email.  I have received several questions about my shopping at other stores.  I will try to give you a quick summary below.
Kroger:  Has electronic coupons on their website that you can load directly to your store card.  They double manufacturers coupons up to 0.50.  They also send store coupons through the mail.  You can stack all of these different types of coupons for one product.  They will also give you a $25 gift card for transferring a prescription when you have a coupon. I love their scan right policy.  If an item purchased scans for a different price at the check out counter than the tag on the shelf, you get the item for free.  They willingly charge you the correct price on an item when you tell them it scanned wrong.  However, if you ask for it for free because it scanned wrong then they give it to you for free.  Check out my free block of knives recently received for free thanks to the scan right policy.
Kroger provides the kids with a free cookie from the bakery.  There are also free suckers available in the pharmacy department and stickers at checkout.
My free knives

Publix: I love the BOGOs at Publix.   These are fantastic and when you combine them with coupons you can get things at great prices.  They double coupons up to 0.50.  Publix has store coupons that you can get from a kiosk at the front of the store.  Publix accepts competitors coupons such as Target store coupons.  Every Publix accepts competitor coupons from different stores, check with your Publix store for this info.  They also allow you to stack store and manufacturer coupons.  On Wednesdays the stores have a penny item.  This item can be purchased for one penny with a ten dollar purchase (last week it was a roll of paper towels).  I find that Publix everyday prices are much higher than that of Kroger and Target.  I mostly go there for the sale items.
Publix also offers the kids a free cookie from the bakery.  They can also get a balloon at customer service.
Target: Target has some of the lowest everyday prices on food.  However, they are not known for their big sales and do not double coupons.  Target does offer an abundance of coupons on their website.  I love Target diapers especially with $1.50 off coupon from Target.com. The Target pharmacy also offers $10 gift card with coupon when you transfer a prescription.
Target also has children cookies available in the bakery department

Please feel free to add your tips for your favorite store in the comments section.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Love Coupons/ Hate Coupons/ Love Aldi

I would not recommend getting behind me at the grocery store.  In fact I am probably very annoying to the people who are in the same aisle with me at the store.  I am the lady with two kids in the grocery cart.  They are both eating a cookie from the bakery however, one is in the back of the cart squashing the grapes while he refuses to sit still and the other is reorganizing my not so organized coupon binder.  I am the lady who is somehow able to ignore all of the commotion that is coming from my grocery cart.  I am usually trying to attempt to spend the least amount of money on the food we need.  Figuring out price per unit, what do I have a coupon for, what's on sale, and do we really need that.
I am an avid coupon lady.  It saves our family money and sometimes I enjoy doing it.  However, most of the time I find that I have a  love hate relationship with coupons.  I love the fact that they save me money.  I use approximately $100 to $150 worth of coupons a month.  I love getting free things and kind of get a little rush when you see the tally at the check out counter go down every time the checker scans a coupon.  My family rarely pays for things like hair care products, deodorant, toothpaste, and soap all because of coupons.  If you don't coupon I would recommend doing some research into getting starting.  I have been weekly matching coupons to sales for years and enjoy the fruit of the work.
However, man is it work.  Couponing takes organizational skills that I seriously lack.  It is difficult to find that coupon in my binder while shopping with two toddlers.  It also takes a lot of time.  It takes time to organize, clip, print, and plan a trip to the store with coupons.  I know many people are turned off to couponing because of the time it takes.  If you are one of those people I have found several ways to save on the grocery budget without coupons.  The number one thing I would say is shopping at Aldi's.  I try to make a trip to Aldi's once or twice a month.  You just can't beat the price at Aldi's.  They don't take coupons, so you don't have to deal with them, YEAH!!
If you decide to take the adventure to Aldi's here are a few tips for the first time Aldi shopper.  Take a quarter.  You basically use the quarter to rent your grocery cart, you get it back when you return the cart (Heather stop laughing).  Take your own bags.  One of the way the keep cost down is by not providing you with free bags for groceries.  This is great opportunity to be green and use those reusable bags.  You can also pick up an empty cereal box as you are shopping and use that for your groceries.  Take either a debit card or cash.  They do not accept credit cards, therefore saving you more money.  Good Luck.  Please post any other tips I might have forgotten.

MORE ADOPTION NEWS COMING THIS WEEK

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Time Off Work

One of the issues with international adoption is travel time.  It requires you to be gone for long periods of time and therefore time off work.  This was a factor we had to face while preparing for Russia and now for Uganda.  Chad and I spent a total of six weeks in Russia.  At that point in his career he had four weeks of paid time off.  On top of these 4 weeks he also had 6 weeks of FLMA.  I like to think of Family Medical Leave Act as a type of mens maternity leave. The benefit of FLMA is that your job must let you off work for an adoption the same way they would for having a biological baby.  The downside to this is with most companies this time is unpaid.
While preparing to bring our Nolen home this was something that was a worry for us.  Not only would Chad not be getting paid for part of our Russia trip but we would be hemorrhaging money at the same time.  We choose to deal with this by prayer.  God answered that prayer in a huge way.  At this time Chad's company was celebrating their 40th anniversary.  As part of the celebration they announced that they were going to give away 1 week of PTO to 40 employees.  There were different things you could do to increase your chances of winning one of these weeks.  For example, if you donated items to charity you got an extra entry into the drawing.  During this year I made it my mission to do as much as possible to increase Chad's chances of winning this extra week.  All of the work paid off because his name was drawn.  About two months before we went to Russia his company announced the winners and he was one of them.  What an answer to prayer.
Right now I am praying for God to help me with this request again.  I am not aware of any free weeks of vacation floating around Chad's company but my God is powerful.  We are told to be prepared to be in Uganda for four to six weeks.  I believe Chad has four weeks of vacation saved up for this trip.  My prayer is for God to help us with this need or to shorten our trip (wouldn't that be nice).  Please add this to your prayer request this week.
When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3

Monday, March 7, 2011

One Less

I wanted to share with you a song that has been released by Matthew West.  He is a christian artist who wrote a song about adoption.  I love the lyrics of this song and hope you enjoy it too.  I just need to change them to two less instead of one less.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18403QD6S-E
So let worlds collide
Colors fade
Let your life
Be the miracle today

One less
One less
One less broken heart in the world tonight
Tonight I know there's one less
One less
One less broken heart in the world tonight

One less child without a home
One less birthday gone forgotten
One more soul rising from the bottom

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fundraisers/ ADOPTION UPDATE

Many people choose to do fundraisers to help pay for their adoptions.  Some common types are yard sales and t-shirt sales.  Adoption yard sales typically involve family and friends donating items to the yard sale.  The adopting family will then get to keep the proceeds from the sale.  I have also known lots of families who have had t-shirts designed and sold them to raise money.  This seems to be a popular choice for adoptions.  Chad and I have discussed doing this, please send us your inputs on this idea.  I have also known families to have bake sales.  I think these are all great ways that people use to raise money for their adoptions.
Chad and I choose not to participate in any fundraisers when we went to Russia for several reasons.  One of those is our God.  We felt like our God had called us to adopt and was requiring us to have the faith that He would provide.  We had to learn this lesson the hard way a couple times and I hope we are done with those experiences.  At that time we felt like actively fundraising was saying that God we don't trust you with this,  we are going to do all that we can do to raise the money for this adoption.  Therefore, Chad and I choose not to do any fundraisers.  We finally learned to put the finances of the adoption in Gods hands.  This actually did not 100% happen until we were in Russia during the second trip.  Once we were done screwing them up and let God take control of them everything work out wonderfully.
To those of you trying to decide if you should do fundraisers or not: Pray about it.  God might use your fundraiser as an amazing opportunity to spread the gospel.  Or, He might just be trying to teach you a lesson.  We are still praying about fundraising for the girls, I will let you know what the verdict is when it is decided.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

ADOPTION UPDATE:
This week our family received photos of girls.  They are absolutely precious.  I can not post them on the blog but if you are interested send me a message and I can email them to you.  We are currently in the process of deciding their names.  I have placed this responsibility on my husband and am waiting the final decision.  We also found out the name of the town where the girls are located.  We had a few travel questions answered and are beginning to collect the items we will need to travel to Uganda.  As far as the adoption paperwork goes, we are waiting on the documents for the girls to be collected.  Please pray that this goes smoothly.  This requires attempting to track down living relatives and other information that is difficult to find.  Please pray for God to ease our nerves.  I think we are all starting to feel the stress of taking our family to the other side of the world for the summer.