A momma’s love is greater than …

I don’t believe I’ve ever supported a prayer cause more than the one I’m writing about today, a personal story with a request to lift up my sister’s family separated by an ocean—and by obstacles only God can move. I’m asking you to read this, share this, and more than ever, pray for God’s power and glory to be seen as the adoption story continues to unfold.

Last night, I glanced through my Facebook notifications, clicking on the several items that really caught my attention. I thought I’d catch up with my friends and head to bed. I was moving at a pretty good pace until I got to my sister’s new cover photo. I clicked on it, but the mysterious graphic stopped me and stumped me. I mean, would YOU have known what this was supposed to be saying?

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What in the world? Forget about going to sleep. I saw that Luann was online so I sent her a message asking about it. Her simple and profound answer:

Love is greater than the distance between me and my children. (That’s 7,867 miles to be exact.)

Some of you may not know what’s been going on in our extended family, so let me catch you up. I have three sisters, and Luann is the youngest. She lives in Illinois with her husband Ken and their 4-year-old son. For the past two years, they have been working through an international adoption of three beautiful Ethiopian siblings.

As an adoptive mom myself, and the auntie-to-be of these three kiddos, this is pretty near to my heart.

Ken and Luann weren’t expecting to adopt three, that’s for sure. But when they received those first photos of the children, their hearts were smitten. No turning back, they immediately began working with the agency to bring the two girls (ages 7 and 9) and boy (age 12) home. While they filled out a myriad of papers and progressed through required classes, their family and friends got busy, too, throwing a gift-card shower to help them prepare for three more kids.

In the fall, Luann and Ken picked up the pace, buying additional bedroom furniture, painting the rooms, and creating a larger playroom. Then as the days grew colder, they shopped for winter clothes, shoes, and boots for the children who were “scheduled” to join their family sometime in the winter. My own daughter began knitting pretty scarves for her new cousins, and the entire family practically squealed with excitement as the preparations progressed.

I loved hearing from Luann the weekend they bought a bigger freezer and new kitchen table to fit their family expanding from three to six.

Right around Thanksgiving of last year, Ken and Luann communicated for the first time with the children via their adoption agency. Special letters, a little personalized picture book for each, and the news “We’re coming soon!” reached the hearts of the elated children who had spent the past seven years in orphanages.

It was the stuff fairy tales are made of—the kind of precious reactions that would make you burst into tears. The oldest said, I know other kids who have been adopted, but I never thought it would happen to me! One of the little girls began asking daily when her family would arrive. And can you imagine the excitement over their new little brother and the adorable white dog waiting for them in Illinois?

Everything was pretty much set for Ken and Luann’s trip overseas. They would meet their children and spend time with them. They would finalize papers, wait on immigration paperwork, and then bring the children home,

And then it all began to fall apart. One thing after another seemed to go awry with final signatures and sign offs. And as time passed, the winter days turned into spring days, and spring into summer. The waiting game became a way of life, on both ends. Mommy and Daddy waiting for their much-loved children, and the children waiting for their forever family to walk through the door.

The last piece of news Luann and Ken just received from Ethiopia is that all systems are likely on hold for at least another six months. What? Can they really keep a family in limbo for an indefinite amount of time? Yes, evidently they can. And you know what? It honestly wouldn’t break our hearts quite so much if the children weren’t ready and waiting for their family, too. When are my parents coming? When will I go to my new home? When will I meet my new little brother? When? 

So why am I writing this? I’m actually asking you to join us, to print out Luann’s graphic and tape it to your mirror or fridge, or make it your screensaver. Will you let this simple little “equation” remind you to pray daily…

  • Pray for Ethiopian government logistics, a softening of hearts, and for God to move in a way we can’t even imagine.
  • Pray for God’s protection and peace on these three incredible children as they wait for their new family to arrive in Ethiopia and bring them home.
  • Pray for Ken, Luann, and Jack in Illinois as they continue to trust our Almighty God for the miracle that will bring their family together.

Yes, Luann’s mommy-love is greater than the miles that separate. Ken’s father-love is greater than the distance and days between. And God’s love and care is greater than we can even imagine.

As a family, we’re not stopping or putting a time-limit on our prayers. We’ll be praying continually until the children come home and this family of six has their first meal together around the same table. No matter how long it takes, will you join us as the story continues to unfold?

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Love is greater than the distance between me and my children.


Now all glory to God, who is able,
through his mighty power at work within us,
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Ephesians 3:20

***Please contact me if you’d like to be included in prayer updates and/or send a message to Ken and Luann.

Ten Things I Still Want to Learn

My daughter Jenna recently blogged at jennakristine.com. about ten things she still wants to learn. I felt like I was seeing an entirely new dimension in her as I read how she wants to learn more about art history, kickboxing, and how to stay motivated in cleaning her studio. Ok, well that last one actually wasn’t too surprising.

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I mean, seriously, though. Even though I think I know Jenna pretty well, it was fascinating to see all these areas of potential growth, mixed in with her almost non-funny humor. Her question stuck with me: What are ten things you still want to learn?

And so I took the challenge. I’m 27 years older than Jenna, with some vastly different interests. Nonetheless, here are ten things I still want to learn, in the order they come to mind.

1. Navigating our U-verse system better. I want to be able to watch what I want to watch and find what I want to find. I’m sure it’s not rocket science.

2. Advanced management of a WordPress website. This would be helpful on the job and for my personal blog. I’m sure IT at work wouldn’t mind me learning this, either.

3. Keeping up our fish tanks, from the scientific angle. I’d like to be able to keep the fish alive when my husband has to travel.

4. Cooking a decent burger on the grill—and on a completely different note, making my own kombucha. Maybe this summer for both.

5. Becoming more knowledgeable in the actual science of essential oils. There’s that word “science” again…

6. Writing quicker, finishing a blog faster, and not looking back.

7. (Stealing this from Jenna, although I’m a beginner and she’s advanced): Understanding InDesign and PhotoShop better. I need this in several areas of my life, and PicMoney isn’t cutting it anymore.

8. Navigating and dictating directions to my husband while he’s driving. I mean, I can follow a GPS, sort of—but this weakness isn’t especially strengthening to our relationship.

9. Laying out an amazing garden rather than just planting hodge-podge around the yard. The latter seems to work for me, but still.

10. Sewing. There, I said it. The only thing I’ve used a sewing machine for in the past 10 years was a Fred Flinstone costume for Greg. (And yes, he wore it.)

I feel obligated to clarify—this isn’t a bucket list of things I’d like to do, rather my list of things to learn and master. Also, it was harder than I imagined to come up with ten, and that was alarming in itself. At somewhere around 50, I’m hoping I always want to learn. Maybe in six months I’ll do an update on this post, cross off some things I’ve conquered, and add a few more.

My family hopes I start with the burgers.

What ten things do you still want to learn?

 

Come Grow a Tomato with Me

My first vegetable garden was on my apartment patio in plastic containers bought at Home Depot. The vegetables never received any direct sun and did poorly from the start. I eventually replaced the wilting tomatoes with flowers which also received no sun. They looked pretty for my mother-in-law’s visit but died soon after she left.

My second vegetable “garden” was on the kitchen counter in Solo cups as part of my daughter’s homeschool project. To her delight, the green bean plants grew quickly—but then never produced any more than a hint of a bean.

For the next decade I stuck to silk plants inside and a single flower pot by the front door. But again and again, as I replaced those potted seasonal flowers (if I could afford it), that gardening itch kept returning. Finally in my early 40s, I decided it might be time to get it right. With a little more planning and a lot more effort, vegetable garden number three was the charm.

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As a Christmas gift that year, my husband surprised me with all the elements needed for my first backyard vegetable gardening experience, including several bags of beautiful black soil, a must-have in our sandy Florida yard. (Don’t judge him for that; he also gave me a necklace!) The next week I methodically positioned my first plants in the 4×8 raised bed he built. I began to faithfully water my six cabbage plants, three tomatoes, and a few herbs. I watered and waited, watered and waited—and hoped for the best.

Crazy thing, but everything actually began to grow! I mean, I knew that was supposed to happen, but it had just never happened for me. I can’t even tell you how much fun I had watching those plants reach taller, expand wider, and start showing signs of real, edible food.

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And then came the day I realized it was time to snip off and use a couple sprigs of the herbs, harvest that very first cabbage, and start eating the tomatos. I felt like I’d become my dad during our Illinois summers in the 70s when he would come in from the garden completely delighted to cover the kitchen counter with his homegrown produce.

During the next year, my husband caught the gardening bug, too, and our joint efforts resulted in non-stop tomatoes for months and months, even after all the leaves were practically dead on the stems.

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As the tomatoes kept coming, I began to sympathize with my mom’s consuming efforts of trying to keep up with all the zucchinis my dad grew. I personally didn’t grow zucchini, but I felt like I was bonding with her in a new way, realizing her mix of gratefulness and frustration with so many homegrown garden delights. By the end of that second season, I had eaten so many tomatoes I became allergic to them.

Tomatoes on hold for me, and with the extended gardening season in South Florida, Greg tried planting peppers, onions, and carrots. Then one afternoon I walked around our backyard and realized he’d dug up yet another area—to plant carrots.

See, I told you he’d caught the vegetable gardening bug. Then he started planting fruit trees, and even brought home a baby avocado tree for me on Valentine’s Day.

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In the next couple years, we learned how easy it is to grow pineapples, if you’re super patient, that is.

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Of course, along the way, we had to brighten it all with some some orchids, another low-maintenance gardening beauty.

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Admittedly, the perennials I planted around the yard helped during the times the veggies died off and weeds overtook the gardens. During those times, this red shrimp plant just kept showing off its colors.

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After all this time, we’re still planting, watering, and watching things grow. It’s been a decade-long adventure of seeing up close the wonder of God’s artistry. I love it how during at least three seasons of the year, His intricate creation supplies us with fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and produce for juicing, smoothies, and salads.

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I don’t claim to be an expert on backyard farming, nor am I a photographer (except with my phone). But with those disclaimers, I invite you to join me here on my blog. Along the way, if you get the urge to dig a hole in your own soil and grow something edible (or just simply pretty), I’d love to hear from you.

My blog won’t always be about gardening, but you can be sure I’ll be returning to the backyard again and again in my writing. So go ahead and subscribe to Beyond (left of screen) for future ideas, photos, stories, successes, bloopers, and how to be part of this fun and fulfilling “farm to table” and flower-filled living.

(And one last thing. If you love essential oils, they’re going to pop up here, too. What do they have to do with gardening? Stay tuned. Because I’m rarely in my garden without them.)

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Coffee Traditions, One Shiny Pot at a Time

I woke up every morning of my childhood, it seems, to the permeating aroma of Maxwell House coffee and the distinctive gurgling, swishing sound of my mother’s percolator. I loved walking out to the kitchen to pour my cereal and instinctively take a peek at the coffee’s rise and fall in that clear-glass-bulb-thing at the top of the stainless steel pot.

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But then, as far as the coffee maker memories of my life go, at some point, in some way, there was no longer a percolator in our kitchen. Without any family discussionand certainly without consulting mea drip coffee maker showed up on the counter. I would guess it came from Sears, like all the other new gadgets which entered our home in the 70s.

Instead of gurgling and burping and swishing and steaming, the new machine just dripped. This coffee dripping did nothing for me on my school mornings, not to mention there was no longer that glorious rise and fall of coffee in the glass bulb. But mom seemed fine with the modern fraud of a coffee maker, and that was that.

Although I loved the smell of coffee, I didn’t start drinking it until the winter of 1990 when Jenna was born. My mom spent a lot of time pampering me on those cold days I lived with her while my husband was overseas. Mom made me coffee, raspberry cream coffee to be exact. With the raspberry flavor significantly overriding the coffee flavor, she lured me into her coffee world one small cream-diluted cup at a time.

I spent the next two and a half decades making coffee every morning in my own kitchens everywhere we lived, and I can’t count how many drip coffee makers I went through: cheap, semi-cheap, and my favorite Gevalia which sadly only lasted a year. Then came a birthday gift, my beloved Keurig, the best thing that ever happened to my morning schedule. I couldn’t have been happier, coffee wise, until the day I sat in my friend’s kitchen a few months ago and spotted something shiny on her counter top.

Is that a percolator?

Yes, indeed. A real, live percolator, the first I’d seen up close and in person in a lifetime. Honestly, my heart jumped a little, and at home that night I googled the price. Would it be wrong to buy myself a present for no special reason except nostalgia?

I thought about my possible purchase for two weeks and finally ordered a Farberware 12-Cup Percolator on Amazon. I paid $66.96, two-day shipping included, to bring a little piece of my past into my present. For those who care, here is my non-scientific analysis:

1. The coffee tastes better, seems hotter, and feels smoother, to me at least, but I know I’m partial.

2. The production isn’t as quick as with my Keurig, but I can make six cups in less than seven minutes. Yes, I timed it.

3. That gurgling, swishing, steaming sound is as mesmerizing as I remember.

2015-04-19+15.39.16It’s amazing how a simple, shiny coffee device could make me smile morning after morning. Hindsight, I kind of wish I’d bought a percolator with a glass bulb on top, like my mom had back in the day. Yet, if I close my eyes and stand still for a moment, I can see the rise and fall of the percolating coffee I remember so well from our kitchen in Lombard, Illinois.

Proverbs 14 tells us that a wise woman builds her home. I’m just continuing this building process and preserving the Yarrow-Pirrie coffee tradition, one shiny pot at a time.

Are you turning your own prized memories into traditions?