Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stepping Stones

I'm reading a devotional called, "Daily Steps for God Chicks - 90-day devotional for real women" and this morning's reading is a MUST to share. :)

"A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman - who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls. " Proverbs 31:10, AMP

Well...this can sound a little scary: capable, intelligent and virtuous?? Maybe this makes you think of all the times that you felt incapable, unintelligent and hardly a force on the earth.

So what? Forget what you have felt and start right where you are. With God, you get a brand-new opportunity to expand your mental strength in order to be a force of impact and significance on the earth. To gain mental strength, you have to swallow your pride and be willing to learn. This journey will require you to constantly be learning new things. For example, if you are getting married, are married, or planning on being married, I would suggest that you get around some awesome wives [omit] and learn something new. And you know, kids don't exactly come with guarantees, warranties, or instructions, so a few good books on parenting might be a good idea.

Are you clear on your purpose? Are you operating in that purpose? If not, discover what your passions are and learn some new things about them. If you are passionate about music, maybe you should take some lessons. If you are passionate about interior design, consider a night course that can help you grow in that skill. Consider the career you want. If you would like a job as an editor at a publishing company and you are currently waiting tables, you have to prepare yourself now to receive that job later. Stop asking God for that new job and position yourself for Him to provide it. Begin to retrain your mind about who you are and all the wonderful ways that you were created. The thoughts that you have been thinking about yourself have led you where you think some new ones! Change begins with your thinking....And when we are given a new direction, we should avoid being defensive and act on that direction. Change makes us stretch..."

My favorite parts -
  • encouragement to let go of negative "feelings" about this moment in life and just start right here with the positive!
  • reminder that with God, we get a BRAND-NEW opportunity to expand. [Lamentations 3:23 - Great is [the Lord's] faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning]
  • to retrain my thinking and remember "who you are and all the wonderful ways that you were created."
  • AND that "The thoughts that you have been thinking about yourself have led you where you think so new ones!" Amen.
What are the stepping stones you see in front of you right now? Maybe it's time to take those next steps?

Let's stretch, baby!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Random

Ran·dom -  odd and unpredictable in an amusing way; out of place

Your eyes do not deceive you. This is indeed a painted cow on a roof.
I saw it the other day while driving through a downtown neighborhood.

 Above is another random thing I took a photo of last week.
Then there was the co-worker who poked this cuteness
around my door at work to make me smile.


I was reading a blog post at Going Beyond Ministries and was moved by this article "God of the Random." In it the author writes, "As an artist, one of the things that I try to mimic is the randomness that is found in nature...Our eyes naturally tell us what looks "right." While we yearn for balance, what looks "right" in nature is often unruly, UNbalanced and untamed. It's the unexpected bloom on a plant that spills over a trellis, the swaying leaves of a gnarled tree, and clouds that look like someone took a giant brush and scattered them across the sky. That's what makes those things beautiful - and difficult to recreate...How has God surprised you? Have you ever experienced a "random" event that only He could orchestrate?"

So to answer that, I give you the pictures above. God brought these random moments of joy and surprise into my week. He also put me in my car, in the park eating lunch, listening and relaxing to the beautiful sound of rain when a woman in her 50's riding a speed bike suddenly wrecked. I was able to jump out, make sure she was okay and drive her & her broken bike home. Random moment to me - random incident to her and yet totally God orchestrated!

So how has God surprised you lately? Any random events that upon reflection you realize with excitement, "That's totally God"?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cheerful Greeting - Chidodolo

Last week I received a cheerful greeting from Chidodolo. He wrote to me without the need for a translator. :)

Mpendwa, Amy Baker
I'm greeting you in the name of Jesus. How are you? Me and my family all are fine and are greeting you. At home I'm continuing with different activities like cooking and cleaning house. Thank you very much for the gift. I enjoyed it and thanks too for your letter. I like all the picture in your letters like the photo of the Mountain (it was of Mt Esja in Iceland), cheetah, your parents and those cards which contains good messages. At Centre I'm doing well and we continue with different stories from the bible but now we still with the topic which deal about Easter. In this topic we learn about Redemption and to know that Jesus has died because of our sins. I love so much this topic. Did you like this? Thank you very much for your prayer and always I pray for you and your parents in your different activities. THANK YOU VERY MUCH AND GOD BLESS YOU.

Chidodolo William John

Compassion also sent me a school progress report and he looks to be doing pretty well. Some of the lessons he learned specifically where:
  • reducing incidence of illness
  • interpersonal relationship skills
  • Jesus as savior
  • enterperneurship skills
  • summer camp
I'm happy to hear from him! I not certain if he's talking about receiving his birthday gift or his gift from Christmas. I wish he had expanded and I might ask Compassion about it. Still I'm happy he's receiving what I send :) I can't wait to write him back and talk about Jesus more. <3

Friday, May 24, 2013

Praying through a Child's Room

I've started spending my Coffee & Cozy times in a different place - my future children's bedroom. It all started when the beds first arrived. I had just broken my toe and I decided to take a nap in the room. One day I took a nap in one bed, the next day I took a nap in the other.

The room is still a work in progress and I'm trying to keep it gender neutral until God reveals the child/children he has planned for me to adopt. I've spent tons of time praying through the house over the past few years but this week I find myself spending extra time in there, extra time praying for the children that will some day walk through the doorway to sleep, play, and live in this 13 x 11 room. 

So what am I praying for in my times with God in here? Well, I'm thanking God for the opportunity to take care of this child/children someday. I pray that He will help prepare their hearts, minds, and spirits for the change and for His help in the transition for all of us. I am praying that we will be able to connect, bond, and attach to each other in a deep mother-child way.   

I'm also praying for them to hear the call of Jesus' voice when it's time and that nothing and no one would stop them from turning to Him. I pray for their futures ...including their future joys and future heartaches. I pray for guidance and openness in talking with them about their adoption, their birth family, and I pray for their healing.

There is of course much more that I pray but usually I finish with praying that we have a blast together as a family! And I share with my amazing God how exciting it is to think about the moment I see their picture for the first time, then get to meet them, and watch the whole thing unfold! How completely exciting. :D

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Vacation to Thailand

To celebrate this week's "World Day for Cultural Diversity," I decided to take a mental vacation to a place I didn't know much about - Thailand. I read all about the Thai culture, ate Thai food for lunch, and listened to a stream of traditional music from Thailand.

Also, I decided to write my Compassion kids to share with them the things I learned and made some suggestions of possible activities they could do to celebrate the cultural diversity around them any time of year. I mentioned that they could use me as an example too! :) Some of the things I learned about Thailand were:

*Thailand is roughly the equivalent in size to Texas. 

*They greet each other with their hands pressed together, fingertips pointing upwards, then they bow their head to touch their face to their hands and say hello.

*It's not polite to point with your feet.

*Thai food often blends five tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty.

*Thailand is referred to as the "Land of Smiles." 

*They have an instrument there called a "wot" that is a circular pan flute. They blow into it and spin on their chin to play - they've played it for over 1000 years. It's sometimes played to pray for rain before the harvest.

A big thanks to my coworkers, Debbie & Heather, who joined me for our Thai lunch experience. What a great "mental" Thailand vacation!

 Do you need a mental vacation? If so, then I highly recommend this activity! :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

World Day for Cultural Diversity

Ten simple things YOU can do to celebrate the World Day for Cultural Diversity on May 21.

1. Find & visit an art exhibit or a museum highlighting other cultures
2. Learn to say hello in another langauge
3. Host a pot luck meal where participants bring in dishes that represent their ethnicity or their favorite ethnic foods.

4. Listen to a musical tradition from a different culture
5. Play a sport related to a different culture (Karate, Criquet, P├ętanque…) or learn a game.
6. Learn a different style of dance from another culture
7. Read a book by a well known author from another culture or country
8. Volunteer with an organization working for diversity and inclusion
9. Ask someone from a different culture their favorite family tradition from their childhood.
10. Talk to your children, family, friends about diversity and the beauty of different cultures.

“It is never too late to give up your prejudices”
Henry David Thoreau

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Heart's Treasure

The heart is a treasure chest that we can fill with some valuable truths! Sometimes we have to reconfirm the truths we know about God from the scriptures then move this knowledge from our heads to our hearts again so they can flow out through our actions. So this weekend, I spent time setting back into my heart my trust in: God's faithfulness, in His deliverence through my hardest situations and in His mercy.

Are there any basic truths about God or the life He calls you to live that you need to reconfirm? Maybe ones that you "know" in your head but that you might not be still carrying in your heart and living out? Maybe about His faithfulness, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, sacrificial love, unchanging character, trustworthiness or provisions for you? Or maybe about His call to love your enemy, confession and repentance, not people pleasing, God's call to stand out from the world or that your walk with God is more than what takes place at a Sunday service? May God help you to keep the truths connected in both your head & heart! :)

Reading the bible, it's clear that something God calls us to do is to personally care for those who are poor, needy, need a family and are alone. I am confident that one of the ways He wants me to live this out is through adoption but I've had fears come up that He won't see me through the challenges and that I could even lose my relationship with Him because I'll become too overwhelmed or consumed.

So besides the verses I've shared in previous posts, I read these verses below today to encourage my heart and to strengthen me. The verses in Isaiah have been a secret encouragement for several years now. My mind often recalls Isaiah 54:1-5 when I get discouraged that I do not yet have children or a husband. In context, these verses are referring to God's church in the future and is using a human analogy yet somewhere in my spirit I find great hope! 

Isaiah 54 The Future Glory of Zion
“Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.
For your Maker is your husband - the Lord Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

Today is the first time I've ever noticed verse 9 from Psalm 113.
Psalm 113
Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord, you his servants; praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore.
to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.

We all have fears and at times we let fears loot and steal the treasures of our heart. I hope you get to spend some time this week reflecting and letting God strengthen you from his word. 

Proverbs 4:23, "Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Daily Steps for God Chicks

Recently, I bought a new devotional book and some motivational cards to help inspire me. Yesterday evening, I sat on the back porch with my friend Ivonne and we drew from the deck, read cards to each other, laughed and pondered them. One of the cards matched a devotional section I read recently so I thought I'd share both:

Devotional - Day 13 - Daily Steps for God Chicks

"One thing I noticed about [Olympic] sprinters is that each of them must run in his or her own lane. In fact, the sprinter would get disqualified if they decided to try to run in someone else's lane. And yet I wonder, how many of us are trying to get through life running in someone else's lane? We are all supposed to do great things on the earth. And each of us is given different gifts and different tools with which to do those great things."

"You were gifted and called by God to run in the lane that He set before you...not in my lane or the lane of your friend. Your gifts and talents won't help me to fulfill my purpose (other than be an inspiration to me)...and my gifts and talents won't help you...It is your job to begin the adventure of figuring out in just what area you are to be His servant."

Card - Give Yourself Permission

"Give yourself permission to glow. After all, no one else has the authority to do this for you. Assert your inner authority. Wrap your arms around yourself and appreciate your beauty, empowerment, creativity, wisdom, and peace. Give yourself permission to break free from the limiting constructs you have created and radiate the immensity that you are. This is your birthright. Claim it!"

Hebrews 12: 1 says, "... let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." We each have a race to run and we each have OUR OWN LANE. When I get discouraged or frustrated at life I've got to check within myself and make sure that it's not coming from looking into the someone else's lane and becoming dissatisfied with my own. So today I am giving myself permission to glow.

Want to join me? Then let's say together, "I appreciate my own beauty, creativity, skills and lane of life that God's put me in...because it really is awesome and no one else can run in the lane God's designed for me as well as I can!"

Psalm 139

Monday, May 13, 2013

Darkness Before the Dawn

"A sunrise is a beautiful thing to watch, isn't it? But it doesn't happen all at once. It starts with a gradual lightening of the sky, an almost imperceptible change from inky black to promising gray. Then the gray gradually changes to beautiful shades of lavender and orange and you catch a glimpse of the sun just below the horizon and you know that you know that you know, it's going to rise. Just when you think you can't wait another minute – there it is, bursting forth in glorious radiance, shining just for you and promising a new beginning." ~Kim, Rejoice Ministries

Each of us has experienced what is considered the, "darkness before the dawn." The quiet, dark of the morning when vision is strained and nerves of the unknown are high and sensitive. But then, what happens? The sun begins to rise! I like the description above of the sunrise because this morning I woke up feeling nervous and apprehensive about the upcoming day, week, rest of the month..maybe even the next few months. Do you ever have mornings like that?

So I pulled inspiring things to my side as I sat down in my oversized chair; my God, his bible, my coffee, a devotional book I've been reading, and the computer. Then, with cats purring all around me, I dug in to find some inspiration and to push the darkness away. After about 30 minutes I looked right and saw the light of the dawn outside my backdoor.

Ah...the sunrise!

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard." Isaiah 58:8

I'm so thankful for mornings. I'm so thankful for God and how he understands our hearts & minds and in advance has prepared us for the darkness before his dawn! :) This song always inspires me in times like these so I hope it will inspire you too!

For mobile viewers select this link: Josh Wilson: Before the Morning

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Moving Slow

"Life is not an emergency, slow down and enjoy it."

As many of you know, it has happened. After 39 years, I've broken my 1st bone. Not a bad record of time though! :)

What happened? Well, I dropped a table leg right onto my bare foot. I didn't think anything was broken and I couldn't find anyone to drive me to the doctor/hospital anyway so I did what most single women do...tough it out. But the fact is that once I was able to finally make it to the doctor, the x-ray revealed that I had indeed broken my toe.

In my family, if we are waiting on someone we often say, "You're moving like a herd of turtles." And let me tell you, this is totally me right now! So what am I learning? PATIENCE & TO BE SECURE. The doctor has me in a post-op shoe for support and suggested crutches. Crutches hurt though so I've just decided to wear the shoe and walk slow.

Moving slow is interesting. I notice a lot more! A slower pace makes me breath deeply. This pace makes me notice how the body sways back and forth when walking. A slower pace makes me a bit...insecure. Yeah, I find it pretty awkward to make the slow walk past the front reception desk on my way to the restroom. : / LOL! I just want to go faster and be there already! Ha. And people notice me more...which causes me to smile and be pretty talkative.

I read a quote that said, "Once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed how much more life she had time for." True! Why do I walk so fast anyway? It's kind of silly. But, mostly moving slow is helping me to live in the moment, take it easy, and be at peace with my progress. I'm slowing down to savor and heal.

So if you happen to see me, feel free to walk along side me. You can use me as your excuse to give it a try...let's slow down together!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Her Own

"There is an instinct in a woman to love most, her own child -
and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own."
 ~Robert Brault

That quote warms my heart! 

It's human nature that before we seriously consider something as large as fostering/adoption, we want to know the experiences of those who have already done it. I wish the process was not filled with meetings, paperwork, and waiting but, since it is, here are some tidbits I've learned so far. By sharing this, I hope to encourage others to fight back the fear of the unknown. (most of this is information is for my state and could vary by agencies as well)

Fast facts:
How many children are in foster care? In my state, it's reported that there are around 28,883 children in foster care with 10,768 of these children waiting for adoptive families (that's right, ten thousand+ are waiting for a family to call their own!) and in the US it's reported to be as many as 400,540 children in foster care!

Can singles foster/adopt?
Yes. Not every agency accepts single parents but there are some. It's more challenging if you are a single parent who wants to adopt internationally but that's not impossible either.

What are the options?
The options that I've been learning about are fostering, fostering to adopt, and straight-match adoption. There are different certifications needed for each option and possibly for the number of children you want to adopt. There are more avenues besides these three - you can find one that fits your situation best with just a little research! :)

What's the difference?
Fostering certification allows you to foster only. Fostering to adopt certification means you get certified to be a foster care home and if in the future one of your foster care children seems like a good match, then you could possibly adopt depending on the situation with the biological family. Adoption (or straight match adoption) means you get certified to adopt, review with your case worker & CPS possible good matches and if a good match is agreed upon, after many meetings and a 6 month live in period, you can become the legal parent of a child/children who have become wards of the state and are in foster care. Cost could also go up because of travel if the child you decide to adopt is in another state. If the child's in your state, then the travel cost is much less.

It's important to mention here that the mission of foster care placement is the child's reunification with their biological family if at all possible. "If your end desire is to adopt, then fostering might not be the best avenue for you. ~case worker from my agency"

What are the costs?
So far for me and considering the agency I'm using, not much. They cover the training and other fees even for the home study for both foster/adoption. I will pay out of pocket (about $60) for the fingerprinting/background check and the fire/safety home inspection but I can get reimbursed for that. So far, the largest cost besides buying beds for the kid'os will be the legal fee (lawyer) at the final adoption proceeding. (est. between $1,250-$2,000; the final adoption is less expensive because the child/children will already be wards of the state) **Update** I just learned that my agency will most likely cover the cost of the legal fee's for the adoption. 

Does the state help with costs?
Yes. I am exploring this more but there are monthly state subsidies (beginning at $23.5 per day or just shy of $700 per month) and college tuition assistance for children in foster care especially if the child/children are considered 'special need." (even after you've adopted since they were once in foster care!) After adoption the state still provides a subsidy (until they are 18, I think). The amount decreases some...I think to around $400? There are also adoption tax credits that you can look into, etc...**Update** The county that my daughter is from provides small assistance with clothing each quarter too. Additionally, you can provide respite care to other foster children once certified and they provide some reimbursement (and you get some practice!) Finally, these children are on Medicaid health insurance which GREATLY reduces a family's costs. I have paid nothing out of pocket for my daughter's health care so far and that's great for this single momma!

What is "special need?"
Special need does not just mean a physical/mental need. A child can be just fine mentally and physically but the state considers them to have a special need because of age. So basically, if the child is white & 6 yrs old+ or a minority & 2 yrs old+ then they qualify as a 'special need' child. Also, sibling groups are in the category of special need because they tend to be harder to find families willing to take 2 or more.

How much space is required by the state to have in your home? 40 sq ft. (yup, that's it!). So basically the child needs to have a bed of their own and a dresser.

If you are exploring the options of fostering or adopting, then my friend and I highly recommend these books below. :)

    Thursday, May 2, 2013

    Courage for a New Adventure - Adoption

    Think about this...the resources you have right now at this very moment, 
    though you believe and argue that they are too small,
    would be more than most orphaned children could ever dream of...
    ~ sentiment shared by my friend, Guy-Michel

    Can we talk about courage? I've been out of the loop a bit lately because I've been in prayer, study, and council about something that God has placed on my heart again. Adoption.

    My life has always been a bit nontraditional so of course the scriptures that move my heart toward adopting aren't the traditional ones that people mention. Besides the James 1:27other verses pierce me like... 

    Proverbs 3:27 "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them."

    Luke 6:36 "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

    James 2:14-17 "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” - but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn't enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."

    Matthew 25:34-35 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home."

    Psalm 68:6 "God places the lonely in families;"

    It really is a spiritual battle!! The facts are that God's provided me amazing blessings, abilities, resources, and support structures but then evil steps over the hills waving its fear banners. Yet it's in those moments I imagine the Spirit steps in front of me with his shield, looks me in the eyes and says, "Courage." 

    Ephesians 6:11-13 "Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For [you] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm."

    Now, I don't tend toward wearing 'rose-colored glasses.' I'm a realist on my own and there are very few concerns people can share that I've not thought about intensely already. So what I really need is encouragement, spiritual encouragement. Do I think I'll be a great mom? Yeah! But it's not about that...what really matters is that I have the Creator God to lead my household now and this same Merciful God to lead my home if I adopt children. It's God...that's the most important factor that I must not forget!! Pray I don't forget it. Help me not forget it.

    My battle cry is changing to "Courage & bravery!" and Psalm 121 is becoming a song of my heart.

    Psalm 121 A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
    I look up to the mountains - does my help come from there?
    My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!
    He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.
    Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
    The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
    The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
    The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
    The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

    We know there are children in need of a home, needing someone to love them oodles, and care for them. And I am confident that God puts us in a place to be able to help if we are open and willing to let Him use us.

    What about you?

    I hope you'll consider those verses above and my friend's sentiment too. :)
    Specific prayers: I'm praying to adopt domestically in what's called a straight match adoption. Ages 5-9. I'd like a sibling group - probably sisters. These children are in foster care and have come from hard places. All my paperwork is in, except for my pet's vaccination records, so classes will begin for me in either June/July, then home study, then matching begins.