Saturday, July 31, 2010

Heart to Heart

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children." (Titus 2:3-4)

14 years ago, I moved to Nebraska. I was young, far from home, and very, very naive. I was engaged to the wrong man, trying to earn a graduate degree, and generally trying to find my way on my own in the great big world. I started attending a new church, and saw a notice in the bulletin for the "Heart to Heart" program. Heart to Heart paired older women with younger women in a mentoring relationship. I was familiar with Heart to Heart back in Oregon, and thought it would be a good idea to find someone and plug myself in here in Nebraska.

Early in the week, I called the number and was paired with a lovely woman named Mary Ann. I was a graduate student studying music, Mary Ann was a piano teacher. On the surface, we were a perfect fit.

I'm so glad we were able to go beneath the surface. For 14 years, Mary Ann has become a mother figure to me (she'll never replace my mom, but it's wonderful to have somebody HERE when I need a shoulder or some advice.) She has helped me learn to be more selfless and fall more deeply in love with my husband. She has given me an example of a heart that is always worshiping her Savior. She has Godly insight into parenting. God has orchestrated so beautifully in our families the gift of adoption. We have our precocious Dayna, and Mary Ann is grandmother to precious Joshua (Liberia), Danny (Sioux), Alex (US- Hispanic), and Matthew (US - Caucasian).

Today we all gathered and celebrated Mary Ann's birthday. I was honored to be considered part of the family and join in the celebration. (I even got to help with wedding invitations for the upcoming nuptials of Mary Ann's youngest daughter.) To see those children (and sweet Savannah...a beautiful foster grandchild) playing together must bring a huge smile to God's eyes. I know it put a smile on ours.

Mary Ann is one of those bright spots of sunshine that helps everyone she touches to grow and bloom.

So now it's my turn...I wonder who God will bring to my life, and how He will use me to help another woman become more like Him.

Happy birthday, Mary Ann!

My Friday Night Frenzy Bargains

After the stress of the insurance debacle, I decided it was time to do something different on Friday. So, Dayna and I headed into Lincoln to do some school clothes shopping (is it time already!?) I must say, we scored at Kohl's. 4 outfits + a package of really cute socks for $65. I saved $73, picked up Kohl's cash for next time, and will receive an additional 15% of a future order. Not bad! Dayna was so cute in the fitting room...striking a pose and dancing around (often while not fully clothed as I was trying to pop a shirt over her head!)

From the store, we ran to Hy-Vee where I had my daily Facebook deal in hand. (If you live near Lincoln, and you haven't become a fan yet, you really need to check out their page and join.) I was supposed to get a large one-topping pizza for $2.99. At the checkstand, the pizza rang up for $5.00 and they gave me $4.00 off. That's for the family for one dollar. And...I might add that it was one of the tastiest pizzas I've eaten in awhile! I'm definitely remembering that option for a night that Dan gets to be the "dinner hero."

We took that pizza to Dan's work and ate it quickly in the cafeteria before heading to our evening entertainment:

Earlier in the week, Dan had helped a coworker set up her new laptop. In an unnecessary act of generosity, she paid Dan a small amount for his time. It happened to be the perfect amount to pay for admission for the three of us.

Financially speaking, last night was a huge win.

Now...on to the movie...we have been reading the Ramona books to Dayna all summer. It has been so much fun for her to have the family time (us, too!) I have thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I LOVED the Ramona books as a child. Growing up on the east side of Portland, I totally related to the Quimby family. I was disappointed when I got a little older and realized that not every child had a view of Mount Hood from their classroom window.

Well, I was so pleased to see that the movie was indeed set in Portland. I would have been so upset if they put it anywhere else, or even in a "nameless" city. Beyond that, the movie really kept to the integrity of the books. It's difficult to take books that span 7 years of a girl's life and put them in a few month's time. But the key parts of the stories were all represented. It was a fresh, modern take on the books, but I never felt that the director or screenwriters were taking liberties. I also found myself completely engaged in the movie. With Selena Gomez, I thought it would be geared to the pre-teen crowd, but Dan & I were both engrossed in the film. (Don't tell...I even teared up a little bit at the end.) Because we had spent all the time reading, Dayna also followed the movie well...she was the youngest in attendance by about 4 years.

All in all...a great movie, and a great series of books!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Homemade *kosher* Marshmallows

Alaina's idiosyncracy #436: I don't eat pork. I don't eat food cooked in the same pan as pork grease. I don't eat anything with pork byproducts (i.e. lard, gelatin, etc.)

Did you know that cheap, store-brands of frosting are filled with lard? And gelatin...let's, see...most brands of yogurt, many candies, and yes....marshmallows. Do you know what this does to my camping-loving soul? How miserable I am watching and smelling everyone's marshmallows toasting and oozing out from that tasty little graham cracker sandwich while I sit and munch on a plain old graham cracker and bar of chocolate... longer! I made my first batch of marshmallows last night...I can't believe I've gone this long in life without the joy of homemade marshmallows. I made sure that the unflavored gelatin I used was kosher (our local store brand is...I also believe Jell-o makes an unflavored gelatin. All Jell-o products are kosher as well.) I even made a huge mistake (omitted an ingredient during the boiling process...I just added it quickly when I was mixing everything together.) I also used twice the vanilla it called for...definitely adds to the flavor.

Try'll fall in love. You may never buy regular marshmallows again.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ranting of a Mama Bear

We're trying to get a small procedure scheduled to reduce the size of Dayna's scar before she starts school in a few weeks. We've been working for almost 2 months to get it on the books. The problem is that our insurance company is requiring a preauthorization to do a "cosmetic" procedure. Apparently, they are the only insurance company that requires this (at least, the only company our doctor works with.) They have lost requests, shuffled our paperwork around, etc. for five weeks now. In the past week, 3 urgent faxes have been sent. Each time I call, our estimated timeline for approval gets longer.

Today, I was finally told that the insurance company will not approve the procedure. They told me to schedule it, submit it, and appeal it (because it WILL be denied....straight from the insurance company's mouth.)

Well, meanwhile, we found out that Dayna's ear tube has dislodged itself and needs to be removed. This is causing some minimal hearing loss in her left ear. We figured we'd have that done while she was getting the scar revision round of general anesthetic for two procedures.

Because we are now denied the "cosmetic" procedure, we are forced to go through two surgeries with Dayna in the coming months.

I'm absolutely disgusted with our insurance company. I have never heard of a company denying care ("cosmetic" or not) for a cleft affected child. Her lip was repaired (beautifully, I might add) when she was 14 months old. Since then, her face has grown, skin has stretched, and her scar and lip need to be revised. I don't fathom how the insurance company doesn't consider this medical. Do I really WANT to put my child under the knife? Do I just arbitrarily schedule plastic surgery for a five-year-old because I don't like how something looks? Seriously, now! ranting is over...for now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winning the Skirmish

I've long been convinced that since there seems to be no earthly value or good in crabgrass, it must be one of the consequences of the curse.

So, as I pitched yet another battle with this not-so-ornamental groundcover in my back flowerbed this morning, I couldn't help but send thoughts out to Adam and Eve while doing my own share of gardening this morning. Of course, my thoughts weren't exactly charitable or kind. Then, to confirm my suspicions of crabgrass being part of the curse in that original Garden, a sneaky, ugly snake made his way across my path.

I really have no deep spiritual thoughts about this subject...I suppose I could have spent more time praying and less time muttering to the crabgrass and snake. I will say, I may not win the war, but I have won today's skirmish with the crabgrass.

Now...what to do about another one of my garden creations that seem to have no earthly value....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Disclaimer: random, honest ramblings ahead.

I recently wrote of a party I threw to celebrate God. I never wanted the party to be about me, but to be about God's goodness.

The lead-up to my party was kind of disappointing. I confess, I wonder why it's so easy for people to spend hours on Facebook or other computer sites, but when asked to send a brief story of something God has done in their lives, I got little response. In fact, over 90% of some very personal messages and requests were outright ignored. Invitations went out to people I knew have been touched by the Lord in some way...people who profess a relationship with Christ. Less than 10% of the people I invited responded with a story. I don't share this to sound judgmental...I just don't understand why people wouldn't want to take a moment to share God's goodness.

In talking with my mom, we discussed that the whole concept of celebrating your re-birthday is foreign to many people. They didn't quite know what to do with my invitation. If you fell into that category, I'd love to get into your head a little bit and know what I could have done differently.

Anyway, I did receive some lovely stories, and I cherish the scrapbook that I have made. It's a wonderful way for me to celebrate what God has done for my friends, and a reminder when things look bleak that GOD IS WORKING.

As far as the party goes, aside from husband and daughter, I had 4 friends come. I had planned on 30. It was a little hard to not be disappointed, but since I had been specifically praying about my expectations, I see that God hand-picked the friends who would come. When I think about the 3 people who have influenced my faith the most since I moved to Nebraska, I realized that all 3 were there. I was also able to make a connection with a man at church (he "happened" to be walking by, so he came in and joined us...he makes the total jump to 5) who works with foreign students at the University. We're hoping to use this connection to meet some Chinese students and further make an impact on that country we love so much.

So, if you were able to share in my celebration, either by sending a story or coming to my party, thank you. If you weren't, please take the time to celebrate God by sharing one thing...just one thing...God has done with someone around you (it doesn't have to be me). it today!

Thanks for letting me honestly ramble...I pray I haven't offended.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Story

Tomorrow, I'm having a 25th Birthday celebration. I hope this will be a time of worship and praise for what God has done not only in my life, but in the lives of my friends. I've asked my friends to share a brief story of something God has done in their lives. Here's mine (not very brief, but hardly everything I need to say, either.)
It’s amazing to look back at 25 years of life in Christ. I don’t even know where to begin as I think of the lessons He’s taught me along the way, the blessings He’s so graciously given me and my family, and the times He’s carried me and held me close when I just couldn’t seem to take another step.

For some reason, God chose to give me the thorn of anxiety and depression. At various times in my faith, these have hit me with a vengeance. I even remember a slump when I refused to open my Bible for several months. I’m so glad God didn’t go through a similar slump and ignore me. When I was finally able to forgive a friend (whom I blamed for my slump), I saw that God had never really left me. I see that these times have prepared me for other trials by imprinting Scripture on my heart.

These lessons came back when I foolishly agreed to marry a man who was absolutely NOT the man God intended for me. After almost a year and half of being mistreated, God extracted me from this relationship.

As the initial shock wore off that day and the uncertainty about the future started to sink in, I called a friend for one of those heart-to-heart talks. I cried, I sighed in relief, I worried, and I asked my friend to pray. Knowing that sleep would probably not come to me that night, my friend opened the Bible and read these words to me over the phone:

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
2 My help comes from the LORD,
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

My friend gave me permission to sleep, knowing that God would keep the night watch for me.

You know, I ended up marrying my friend...

Early in our marriage, it became evident that becoming parents by traditional means was not a probability. By God’s grace, we realized that our plans for a family were shutting out God’s plans.

Meanwhile, Dan was working at Back to the Bible. After hearing the stories of a coworker who regularly traveled to China, the seeds of passion for the Chinese people were planted in his heart. In fact, Dan gave up his dream of getting a short wave radio for his birthday one year so he could send one to China instead.

During this time, I read the book Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. After reading this book, she was awakened many times in the middle of the night with the overwhelming need to pray for the people of China. “Why China?” I asked. The message gently came, “I have plans for you there.”

After about a year of separately praying for China, we visited a church in another town. The guest speaker was a missionary on furlough from China. After the service, one of us mentioned to the other (we forget who now), “I think God wants us to go to China.” Imagine our surprise when we realized that this desire had been planted in both of our hearts without the other’s knowledge.

We attended an informational meeting with the adoption meeting in November of 2003. The morning session was about international adoption (specifically Chinese); the afternoon was about domestic. We walked into this meeting open to whatever God would have us do. By the end of the day, we realized that God had brought our hearts to China “for such a time as this.”

Our adoption journey was bumpy, filled with detours and potholes, and often roadblocks where we would simply stop and wait on the Lord.

But holding my daughter today, I see that she was EXACTLY the child God planned for our family, and that we are the parents she needs. I can’t imagine giving birth to a child whose personality and interests would complement our family more.

Today this little girl, who for reasons known only to God, survived the first few days of her life, has been hand-selected by Him to come to the United States, become a Wilson, and ultimately be part of His family. On February 8, 2009, Dayna asked Jesus to be her savior.

Somehow, God has seen fit to entrust us with a child who has a compassionate heart, especially toward others. At least once a week, we hear her wish to grow up and go to China so she can tell people about Jesus. She prays for people who worship Buddha, that they would know Jesus is the only true God.

She also cares very much about orphans. Last fall, she enthusiastically wanted to give food to hungry kids in Africa and reluctantly shared one dollar to send to them. Through word of mouth (but ultimately God’s purposes), that dollar stretched and grew to over 1,000 dollars, providing over 4,000 meals to children in Sierra Leone. To further impact her little heart, we had the chance to physically package many of the meals that were sent to these children.

These are just a few stories of God’s faithfulness in my life. We’ve seen God provide through unemployment (and underemployment). We’ve experienced the heartache of leaving a church that we took part in planting. We’ve learned to depend on God’s Word alone as the authority of our lives. We’ve also learned to depend on those Words for comfort, conviction and daily Spiritual nourishment.

My story began in God’s heart in eternity past. My physical life began 9 months before I was born. My eternal life began 25 years ago when a faithful teenager shared the story of my sin, God’s grace, and Christ’s sacrifice. I’m so glad my parents sent me to Bible Camp that year.

I only pray that through these past 25 years, and however many more the Lord gives me here on earth, I can likewise be as faithful as that high school volunteer. I pray God gives me the courage and compassion to share what He’s done for me, and what He longs to do for others.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Responsibility System

I've been praying this summer about how to instill more of a sense of responsibility in Dayna, as well as finding a routine that will fit our family's "new normal" in August once Dayna starts school and I return to work full-time.

This week, a friend on Facebook posted a link to a great resource: the Fisher-Kids system. (Click here for more details.) I absolutely love the philosophy and motivation behind this system. Teaching kids that they are part of a team, that they earn rewards and are not entitled to them, learning wise (and dare I say, Biblical) financial skills...this just makes sense to me.
Unfortunately, I don't have the money to invest in their system (but if it works for you, I say go for it!) We did find a way to make it work for us, though, at an investment of around $20.00. I still plan on buying 3 little piggy banks for Dayna (Give, Save, Spend), and some play quarters to represent her "Commission". (They will be magnetized on to her board.)

So, this is how we made it work for Dayna:

Daily Responsibilities (these are expectations...she receives no monetary compensation for them, it's just part of being on Team Wilson):
  1. Make bed
  2. Get dressed
  3. Clear dishes
  4. Empty box (we all have a box now for our stray things)
  5. School work
  6. Tidy room
  7. Brush teeth
These are represented by a yellow stick. When she completes them, she moves the stick to the empty pail.

Weekly chores (she will have to complete an assigned number each day, excluding Sunday; she will receive 1 quarter for each chore completed. Dayna helped choose most of these tasks.):
  1. Pick up basement (putting stray items in appropriate boxes)
  2. Pick up living room (same)
  3. Vacuum stairs
  4. Sweep under kitchen table
  5. Spot clean kitchen floor
  6. Wipe toilet and bathroom sink
  7. Gather and sort laundry
  8. Fold laundry (as she is able)
  9. Dust living room
  10. Mom's choice
  11. Dad's choice
  12. Free chore (extending grace and giving her the occasional day off when least expected)
These are represented by a red stick. Once completed, they go in the empty pail, and she can move the magnetic quarter to her weekly "commission bank." There are more chores to choose than she will have to do in a week. This adds to the randomness, and also shows that Mom & Dad are helping get things done as well...she doesn't have to do EVERYTHING. (I am aware that there are many things Mom & Dad do that aren't on sticks.)
Sunday is a day of rest and worship. It is also the day that she can collect the quarters she earned in the week.

She will need to fill out a slip of paper telling us what she earned.

For now, from her earnings, she will be expected to give at least one quarter to church and save at least one quarter for the bank (we will start taking regular trips to the bank). The rest of the quarters are for her to save short-term and spend with our guidance.

We are all excited to start our new system on Monday. I love the fact that it looks pretty cute hanging in her room as well.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Anniversary

I love you, Dan! 11 years and still getting stronger!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Christianity Today

I received this from Elizabeth Wiebe at the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Exciting news!

We wanted to share with you some rousingly good news. As we’ve anticipated for some time, July’s edition of Christianity Today is centered on adoption and orphan care. Four different articles help sound a clarion call to the Church: God cares passionately for the orphan, and His people are called to do so as well. Although the articles won’t be posted online until later in the month, here’s a preview of them from today’s Alliance blog post from Jedd Medefind.

July’s CHRISTIANITY TODAY: Why Every Christian Is Called to Rescue Orphans

It’s a beautiful thing. For Christians who yearn to see the Church grow impassioned for the Gospel and the orphan, the newly-arrived July edition of Christianity Today is little short of thrilling. The cover declares, Abba Changes Everything: Why every Christian is called to rescue orphans. Inside, the framing introduction to the magazine is headlined, “Adoption is Everywhere. Even God is into it.”

That the leading print voice of evangelicalism in America would choose to make orphan care and adoption the center of its July magazine underscores what many of us already knew: God is stirring His people to again be known as those who “defend the cause of the fatherless” (Is 1:17).

Page 18 begins a tremendous article by Russell Moore, which gave the magazine its cover language, “Abba Changes Everything.” I’ve heard Dr. Moore articulate this message from the podium, via radio and over the dinner table, but I must admit I felt my heart expand against my ribcage as I read this fresh expression. Beautiful and heartbreaking; daunting and inspiring; and profoundly rooted in the ultimate reason for it all: the Father-love of our God revealed through the Gospel.

Page 23 starts the cover story, “Coming Alongside Parents: Churches are getting real about adoption’s challenges—and helping families after the child arrives.” It shares the experience of Summit VI and highlights the robust growth of orphan ministry within churches. Writes author Carla Barnhill, “…[T]he Summit drew more than 1,200 attendees, most of them ministering to orphans through their home churches. Watching those gathered, I knew this was not my parent’s generation.”

Finally, page 52 carries a list of list and descriptions titled “My Top 5 Books on Orphan Care” that I had a chance to provide: Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life, Dr. Karyn Purvis’ The Connected Child; Melissa Fay Greene’s There is No Me Without You; Tom Davis’ Fields of the Fatherless, and Doug Sauder’s The One Factor. (Several others came to mind after I’d submitted that I wish I’d included as well, but five was the limit).

If you can, pick up a copy of CT from the newsstand today. If not, all these articles will come available online over the month ahead, and we’ll post them on the Alliance blog as they do. In the meantime, advocates of the orphan care take heart: God continues to build both passion and action in His Church for these children He so deeply loves.

Elizabeth Wiebe

Director of Outreach and Member Services