Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's In a Name?

What's in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.


That is completely untrue. If a rose was called a dungflower, no one would even dare to smell it. Names have a huge impact, whether we anticipate it or not. That is especially true with naming people. A name is something a person will have with them their whole life, defining them. Their name is who they are.


I've always loved names. I got my first baby name book when I was eleven or twelve. Yes, on purpose. I loved looking through it, pairing first names with middle names and last names, discovering what kind of feel each name had - was it soft? Harsh? Weird? My mom would have her friends come over and they'd see my baby name books all over the place and ask Mom, "Is something happening?" She'd just laugh and say, "Oh, that's just Tori. She likes names." I even go so far as to make up my own families. If I had a daughter, what would I name her? What about a son? Of course, I'll have to become more focused on a name when I actually have kids. As of now, my favorite names change about every week.


My family places huge emphasis on names. We like to stay away from the cultural norm, and have some meaning behind the names we choose.


My full name means "victory from the little King".


Jace was actually named after his dad, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather. A family legacy.


The Levites in the Bible were God's messengers, so you can see the meaning behind Little Man's name.


Names are big for us, which is why we're having a hard time coming up with a middle name for Evan.


It's unclear as of now whether her name is Evangeline or Evangelina (but I like Evangeline better, so I'll just stick with that for now). Either way, we are going to keep her given name. It means "bearer of good news".


My parents want her middle name to mean "princess" or something along those lines, so that she knows that she is just as much a daughter of God as anyone else.


Names are powerful. So for any expectant parents out there, I strongly suggest doing some research on the meanings of the names you're considering. You wouldn't want the meaning of your child's name to be "bitter and sad" (Mary) or "crooked nose" (Cameron).


What's in a name? Everything.

Good Ol' Southern Home Cooking

I'm a picky eater, I really am. But I can guarantee that I will always love good ol' Southern home cooking!
Every Friday night, we go all out on dessert. We don't have it the other nights, be we cook it up for real on Fridays.
Now, I'm a baker. Not a cooker, a baker. So it usually falls upon me to concoct some delicious treat for the end of the meal. So last night I tried Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake. For those who don't know, it doesn't get much more Southern than Paula Deen.
I don't know what it is about good food, but it just brings people together. I don't care where you're from or who you are, you can eat a piece of cake with a complete stranger and feel like you've known them your whole life.
I highly recommend this recipe. Everybody loved it - even Mom, who usually needs some chocolate in her sweets. It was kind of like chess pie in cake form.

Ingredients:
Cake:
1 18.25-oz. pkg. yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 Tbsp. butter, melted
Filling:
1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
8 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1-lb. box powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2. Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer.
3. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13x9 baking pan.
4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth.
5. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat together.
6. Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well.
7. Spread over cake batter.
8. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to overbake - the center should be a little gooey.

Enjoy!

Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm Going to Die in Russia

It's a fact. I am going to starve to death in Russia. Unless we can sneak in a lifetime's amount of Ramen noodles, Easy Mac, and Slimfast bars, I am going to die.
We watched an episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman today and you'll never guess where he went.

That's right - St. Petersburg, Russia, which is very close to where Pskov (Evan's town) is.

First, they introduced us to all the lovely vegetables and cold cuts available in a Russian marketplace. We had a piece of ham that incorporated every single part of a pig (including the tongue and head). And pickled everything - from tomatoes, to garlic, to pickles. Yes, pickled pickles.

They did seem to have some quality honey, which is comforting. Although, you can't live off honey for three and half weeks.

He then sampled some traditional borscht, which seemed to be sort of a weird Russian stew. They said it had vegetables, sour cream, sometimes meat. He ate one that was purple, beets I think. You can be rest assured that I will not be eating purple soup.

Then we went to the classiest restaurant in St. Petersburg, and I thought for sure they'd at least have some chicken or a burger or something. But no. What our dear friend Andrew sampled was "delicious" caviar (fish eggs). He enthusiastically pointed out the greenish-blue liquid that was leaking out of them as fish oil. Lovely.

When we finally arrived in the countryside, we had a traditional Russian barbecue. A mystery meat skewered on a stick.

After the meal, they decided to do banya. It's basically a sauna where the guys are in bathing suits and the girls are in nothing but a towel. Oh, and while they're in there, they bat each other with dried leaves for their health. Afterward, they quickly run and jump into a freezing cold lake. And keep in mind that all of this is apparently beneficial to their "health."

You know, I don't care how sickly I look. I am not sitting in a hot room in nothing but a towel with a bunch of scantily dressed Russian men. Not gonna happen. The Russian people can think whatever they like about me.

The only food that looked remotely interesting to me was bliny. Kind of like a Russia taco, it's basically some sort of meat and/or cheese wrapped in a crepe. Since you can basically get chicken wrapped in a salty pancake, I think I'll be okay.

Before I end this post, I have a simple prayer to offer up. I am not being sarcastic in any way. This is a serious matter for me.

Dear Jesus, thank you for this day. Please let there be a place that sells bliny in Pskov, and please let the airport allow me to bring Ramen, Easy Mac, and granola bars. Thank you that America will be waiting with a cheeseburger, pizza, and mashed potatoes when I get home. Amen.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

That's the tentative title of a new book I'm starting to write. The inspiration for this was just so sudden, so present, that I believe it could only be from God. I'd like to share an excerpt with you, but I'll set up what's going on for you first.

Ivy Grayson is a freshman in high school. She's pretty, popular, what every girl wants to be. But hiding underneath that is a messed-up home life - no dad, an overworked and stressed mom, and a delinquent brother who's in jail. In my story, the spiritual battle is real and present around you - only you can't see it except for when one of the spiritual warriors are injured. So as Tina (Ivy's love protector) is fighting for Ivy's protection against Primo, the leader of the Sadem (Seven Deadly Sins), Ivy is so spiteful towards her brother, that Tina is hurt in the battle. She immediately becomes visible, dropping onto Ivy's floor.
Ivy becomes more aware of the spiritual battle around her and who the good and bad guys really are in the world. With the Kristus Kareivis (Christ Warriors) as her protectors and mentors, she becomes very spiritually strong. The Sadem no longer have the power to defeat her, so they send in the Boss.
So there you have the setup, so you can understand what's going on. Just be aware that Ivy is the only one who can see Tina, the Kristus Kareivis, and the Sadem.

"Class, we have a new student today," my teacher droned in his usual flat tone. "Please welcome Mr. Boaz Britton to our school."
A hush came over the classroom, and Tina tensed beside me, her hand flying to her sword hilt. A tall, handsome young man walked into the silent room. He was handsome, I'll give him that. And interesting - I had never seen anyone like him. His hair, a gray-silver color, fell over his forehead. He had a cunning smile on his face, and his hands were stuffed casually into his pockets. But the most intriguing thing about him was his eyes. There was no color, just black and white.
"You can have a seat next to Miss Grayson, Mr. Britton." All the girls glared at me, seething with jealously. He grinned at me, and I shivered. He was charming, for sure. A little too charming. Tina jumped over my desk to stand between us, and I saw a flicker of aggravation cross his composed face before returning to his usual mischievous countenance. He was attractive, but if Tina thought he was dangerous, I would keep my distance.

Any guesses as to who the mysterious Boaz Britton is? Comment with your guess!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Daddy's Girl

I've always been a Daddy's Girl. Always. So when I came across this excerpt from the Christian book Interviewing Your Daughter's Date after listening to a sermon on courtship, I just had to post it. I don't know why I loved this so much, probably because I see my dad reflected in Mr. Rainey. Many girls (and I'm sure guys too) would think he was overprotective, but not me. I see love and needed protection. Parts of this actually made me laugh out loud! I'd be willing to bet my dad will do this when I start dating (which will not be any time soon, I assure you), except that he'll probably have either a gun or a baseball bat with him... Enjoy this! I did!

I was seated at my desk, barely able to concentrate. I shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers... I felt like I was expecting an important phone call and was just trying to do something, anything, productive while waiting. But it wasn't working.
Neither was I.
Finally my executive assistant informed me that the young man I'd been expecting was waiting for me in the lobby.
Deep breath, Dennis. You're the adult here. You can do this. I was about to interview the first of many young men who wanted a date with one of my daughters.
I stood to my feet and walked across the room, still amazed at how nervous I was as I stepped into the lobby to meet Kevin - the only person in the building more anxious and ill at ease than I.
"Afternoon, Kevin, glad you could make it."
"Hello, Mr. Rainey."
"How about we get something from the Coke machine. I hear you're a Dr. Pepper man."
"Yes, sir."
Riding a very thin wave of forced, uncomfortable chitchat, I deposited enough quarters to dislodge a cold can for him and a Diet Coke for me. Then, not wanting to be the Ultimate Intimidator, I suggested we go outside and chat in the parking lot. That's where he showed me his motorcycle - which wasn't exactly how I wanted Ashley to go out on her first date!
I popped the tab on my soft drink and looked squarely into the same eyes that enjoyed looking at my sixteen-year-old daughter. We began with the basics. I asked him about school, his mom and dad and family, interests - just a general get-to-know-you type of conversation.
"Kevin," I said, hoping I'd also remember the rest of the words I wanted to say, "God did a wonderful thing when he made women."
The color fell from his face. This was going to be worse than he had thought. I wondered if at any moment he might hop on that motorcycle and bolt!
I continued. "And, Kevin, God made men and women different. You've probably noticed some of those differences."
Kevin was getting paler by the minute, but he had the presence of mind to nod.
"Actually, God made us different so that men and women would be attracted to one another. Now, Kevin," I paused for dramatic effect, "you have probably noticed that God made Ashley quite attractive. She's a really cute girl. In fact, you've probably noticed that she has a cute figure."
This was less of a statement and more of a question. If Kevin said no, he and I would both know he was lying. If he said yes, however, he was admitting to the obvious: that he had the audacity to notice my daughter's figure!
After a brief pause, I spared him the agony and continued.
"I mean, you're a young man and Ashley is a young lady, and God made men and women to be attracted to one another. It's good." Kevin seemed relieved at my pronouncement. I went on.
"And, Kevin, I just want you to know that I am a man and I understand this attraction. I was once a teenage boy, and I know what teenage boys think about. I've even read some research on this, and the studies show that teenage boys think about sex every seven seconds."
At this point Kevin's eyes darted, wondering where I was going next.
"And, Kevin, you and I both know those teenage boys were lying about the other six seconds."
At this point Kevin's eyes began to dilate! There was no dodging this one. "Yes, sir," he said, with a nervous little laugh.
"Kevin, I don't know how to put this any plainer: I want you to keep your lips and hands off my daughter. And I'm going to help you with that. Because whether I see you at the door after your first date with Ashley - or after your fiftieth date - you can expect me to ask you, 'Kevin, are you dealing uprightly with my daughter?' And I want you to know what I mean when I ask you that question. Are we communicating, Kevin?"
"Yes, sir." His eyes were fully dilated at this point.
I continued. "Kevin, more than likely Ashley is going to be somebody's wife someday. And I don't want you touching her body. Would you want someone touching your wife's body?"
"No, sir."
"That's what I thought. So you and I, we know what we're talking about when I ask you to be accountable for protecting the emotional and moral purity of my daughter, right?"
He nodded enough to let me know my vocabulary was in his dictionary.
"And, Kevin, I want you also to take this challenge: If God ever gives you the privilege of being a husband and a dad, especially if He gives you girls, I want you to take your role so seriously with them that you'll talk to your daughters' dates the way I've talked with you today. Will you promise me that?"
"Yes, sir."
At that point both Kevin and I were relieved that the conversation was over. I grinned and patted him on the back. I told him I was proud of him for coming to talk to me and allowing me to interact with him around such important issues.
As he was putting his helmet on, he answered one last question by assuring me he'd take Ashley out in a car!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mindy Has a Family!

Need I say any more? You all remember Mindy, right? The little girl who only had a week or so until she got transferred to an institution if someone didn't step up? Well, Mindy now has a family! Her forever family is coming to get her soon! Pray that she comes home safe!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bake Sale (Again)!

My very good friend (who is the same one that stayed at my house for a week earlier this year) graciously offered to do a bake sale during lunch at school one day to raise money for Evan. However, being a sixth grader, she can't be expected to do everything on her own. So we split it half and half, selling puppy chow, brownies, cookies, and Rice Krispie® Treats for $1.00 each.

I had an e-mail sent out this time to raise awareness, so no one would be caught off guard. That was the best decision I've ever made. We raised $196.37!!! Words cannot express how joyful and just utterly thankful that makes me!

We had lower academy students giving $10 or $15 donations, teachers giving money and not wanting anything in return. It was brilliant. As the money came in and kept coming in at lunch, my heart was overflowing with joy. My school had come around me, to help me bring my sister home. We had one student scour the building for change and bring back about $5. We had highschoolers giving us $10 and $20, just telling us to keep the change.

I almost started crying right there in the school building I was so happy, and so thankful for the people at my school. And, I hope, that through these bake sales we are raising awareness for the orphans of the world like Evan. People who never even knew what Down syndrome was are learning how to advocate for orphans diagnosed with it.

We're just getting started. This is a tidal wave that no one can stop. Because I will stop at nothing to bring my sister home. And I will stop at nothing to help other children like Evan find their forever families.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hijinks at the Hook House

I thought I'd let you all in on some of the craziness that is my family. Especially Levi. If you don't laugh at his laugh, there's something wrong with you.

This video is stuff from the last week or so. A lot of Levi (he's standing up now a little bit as you can see!). The last video is Jace's 5th Grade Olympics! He's in a green t-shirt with the tatoo on his cheek, looks like he's doing rock-paper-scissors, next to the kid waving a flag around. My friend and I joked that those 5th graders had more school spirit than the entire high school.

Enjoy!


video

Monday, February 15, 2010

At the Movies


As many of you all know, I am quite the movie buff. Especially when it comes to romance. REAL romance, not that sappy stuff you all call love.

This weekend my church group (a group compiled of girls in my grade who live in my area) went to go see Dear John. The basic premise of the story is boy (John) meets girl (Savannah), they fall in love, he chooses duty to his country and what is right over being with her immediately, and the drama ensues.

Caution: This post WILL contain spoilers, so for those of you who want to see it and don't want to know how it ends. DON'T READ.

I thought it was a good story, but Savannah made me furious. John decided to go back into the army after 9/11 because he thought it the right thing to do. And, of course, it is during this time that she writes him the real "Dear John" letter (which, for those like me who didn't know, is when a girl breaks up with a guy in the army). Now, it seemed to me that John had full intentions of settling down with her once he got back. But Savannah couldn't wait any longer. She married another man, and John was left in the dust.
She disgusted me. My dad pointed out to me that they were NOT in a marriage covenant or an engagement so they had no real commitment to each other. But, as John had intentions of marriage when he came back (or so it seemed), she could've at least talked about it before she made her decision. Yes, I can understand where she's coming from. If the man I loved was going to be away from me again, for another two years, I would be crushed. But I would stand by him because he was doing what he felt to be right.
John, however, was a very honorable man. When his father died (after Savannah had married) he sold his dad's coin collection and used the money to give Savannah's husband the treatment he needed for his cancer. That is love, right there folks. Even though she had betrayed him, used him, threw him in the dirt, he still sacrificed for her.
Autism was also shown in a very good light. Not as a bad thing, but as something special, something to be treasured.

I also saw Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief today. Truthfully, I don't know how they're going to be able to make the second one. The books are AMAZING. But the movie, for me, was not quite equal to it. They changed the plot so much that I don't think it's possible for them to continue. Standing on its own, it was a good movie, but compared to the book it was weak. The casting was good, albeit they were too old (they were 12 years old in the book). Percy - good but a little too "I'm-so-cool." Annabeth - great acting, especially her eyes (very intense eyes), although her hair was supposed to be blonde. Grover - GREAT! I never pictured him as African American, but I guess that's just because I'm white.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Top Songs of 2009

As I was browsing through iTunes the other day (if you don't know how big a music fan I am by now, you've got some catching up to do), I found an iTunes Essentials playlist with all the top songs of 2009. I immediately decided to see how many I knew at least the chorus for.

Almost all of them. From "Right Round" by Flo Rida, "You Belong With Me" by Taylor Swift, "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa, and "Boom Boom Pow" by Black Eyed Peas. I knew AT LEAST the chorus on most of them and the entire song's worth of lyrics for quite a few of them.

I was so proud of myself. I was up with times. I wasn't such a complete classical music dork.

But as I listened to what I was singing, I was shocked and angry at myself. Have you heard some of those lyrics? They're disgusting! Gross! I can't believe I know them, let alone sing along with them! I was ashamed of myself for being proud of being so much like today's culture. I was getting sucked in by something as innocent as music. And I never even knew it.

I'm not saying it's bad to listen to mainstream stuff, I'm just saying you have to make sure you guard your heart while you're listening. I've caught myself almost letting a cuss word slip out every now and then. And I know it's because of that music. I just have to keep reminding myself that saying those things or thinking in that manner is NOT OKAY. No matter what culture says.

Words have tremendous power. But words coupled with music. It's catchy and powerful. Double whammy. Make sure it doesn't take hold of you.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Stephanie Meyer is the New Jane Austen?

That's what one of my friends defended passionately the other day.

"Twilight is a classic! Stephanie Meyer is the new Jane Austen!"

I will allow my friend some liberties. Today, Edward and Bella's relationship in Twilight is the kind most girls dream of.

But, as my mom and I were watching the new Masterpiece Classics version of Jane Austen's Emma, I realized that Jane Austen is ten times the romance writer that Stephanie Meyer will ever be. Stephanie Meyer creates relationships that don't happen in real life, where the character's only argue about who loves the other more, and their only problems are people getting in the way of their love. In Jane Austen's novels, characters have very deep concerns about their relationships that are not all motivated selfishly. For instance, Emma would have refused to marry the man she loved because she knew her father could not bear it if she left home. Jane Austen's characters have a depth about them and their relationships that Stephanie Meyer's don't (I mean a vampire trying to drink your fiancé's blood in real life? I don't think so.)

Stephanie Meyer's books also encourage infatuation other than real sacrificial love. Bella is not in love with Edward - she is completely OBSESSED. That was not healthy two hundred years ago in Jane Austen's time, it's not healthy now. But in Jane Austen's novels, the heroine's examine their feelings and do not "fall in love" on a whim. They take time to understand their true feelings and separate them from selfish desire. And the characters' who do become infatuated are heartbroken, and realize that obsession does not equal love.

And, finally to my favorite point of all. Jane Austen's men are wonderful. Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, Mr. Bingley, all of them. They are truly chivalrous, considering a lady's honor above anything else and treating women of all rank with the utmost respect. They open doors, they bow, they court a woman and get to know her before completely throwing themselves into a relationship they will regret. And they stick with their decisions. The ones that don't are shown in a bad light. I wish there were more men like them today. Guys today think they're being all cool when they talk about how many girls they've dated and slept around with and, to me, it's just outright disgusting. My defending line when friends ask me why I just won't try dating right now - "I want a husband, not a boyfriend." Jane Austen's men didn't take advantage of a woman's feelings and time and attentions and then drag their feet when it came to marriage. No. If they wanted a relationship, they committed. You boys want a real role model? First of all, try reading the Bible. Second, read some Jane Austen.

Girls, try watching Pride & Prejudice (the Keira Knightley one is my favorite), Emma (the Masterpiece Classics version is best), or Sense and Sensibility (the one with Kate Winslet). It's unexplainable how much more worth your time they are than Twilight.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Sister Comes Home

I'd like you all to meet the Shore family. From left to right - Caleb, Mrs. Kathleen, Isabel, Mr. David, and Nathan.
We've known the Shores since pretty much forever. For the past two years, they have been trying to adopt a child. They felt called by God to add to their family. Today their dream came true! After two years of waiting, baby Acacia Grace came home!
Acacia is from Ethiopia. Both of her parents had HIV. She was born a twin and, unfortunately, her twin sister died of HIV at birth. Miraculously, though, Acacia does not have it at all! That's why she was named Acacia - the acacia tree symbolizes healing and health! She had a big ol' crowd of people waiting to meet her at the airport today. And, let me just say, she's even more precious in real life than in the picture! I could clearly see the joy in the faces of her family members. I started tearing up. Because I know exactly how they feel. They've waited so long and finally, finally their baby is home. They are about to figure out just how God has blessed them with the gift of adoption! It goes so beyond just leaving the country or bringing the child home. I praise God for their family and for Acacia, and I pray for her healing (she has quite a bad cough). I couldn't be happier for the Shores!

Throughout the joy and celebration of Acacia's homecoming, I couldn't help but feel a pang in my heart. It's going to be another five months or so before we do that with Evan. I don't think people who haven't gone through this process can fully understand what I'm talking about. When I think of Evan, I feel a literal pull on my heart, like it's trying to burst out of my chest and fly to Russia to stay with Evan, to comfort her and let her know her big sister's coming for her. I know some people have to wait so much longer, but I think we all have the same feelings of impatience and longing. On the way home from meeting Acacia at the airport, this song came onto my iPod and I had to send up a prayer of thanks to God for it. It describes perfectly my relationship with Evan, and I've decided it's going to be my Evan theme song for now.

You all can listen to it and share your thoughts by commenting or shooting me an e-mail.

video

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Musical Journey

People always ask me why I love music so much. And I'm not talking about the average person, yeah-I-like-some-music kind of guy. I'm talking I love ANY music. I'll do country, hip-hop, classical, even opera. I love it all.
Because when I listen to music, I can hear God. I hear the different voices of God in different music. My favorite example of this is The Prince of Egypt soundtrack. So, today, I'm going to take you an a musical journey (no, I'm not being sarcastic or cheesy) through the different voices of God apparent in this soundtrack.

1. God of Joy - Listen to this. How do you not want to get up and dance and sing praises to Him? This clearly demonstrates that God is a joyful God who is happy to be with His children. I mean just listen! Joy leaks from this music!
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2. God of Anger - When I hear this, I think that my God is someone not to be trifled with. He is not to be joked around about. He is not to be laughed at. He is God and He could strike you down at any point if He so wanted. Surprisingly this is one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack. Each chorus strike sounds like a blow of God's hand on a disobedient nation. "I send my scourge, I send my sword. Thus saith the Lord."
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3. God of Children - God just loves the children. All of them. No matter what race, what mental capacity, whatever. He loves them all as if they were His own. Because they come to Him willingly, trusting that what He says is true even though they can't see it. They have a sweet innocence about them. In this song they are singing his praises! They sing: "I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously. Who is like You, oh Lord, among the celestial. Who is like You, majestic in holiness. In Your love, You lead the people You redeemed. I will sing, I will sing, I will sing."
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4. God of Deliverance - God takes care of His people. He delivers him when they call out to Him. Do you hear them begging, pleading with God to save them? And then at the end, He proves himself faithful - and they sing His glory for it.
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5. The Unfathomable, Indescribable God - When I listen to this, I just think, "Wow." To me, this describes God better than anything. But even this song can't describe Him. We just can't. We can never fully understand who He is. I think this melody captures some of that mystery and awe.
video

This is why I love music. Because that's what I can hear. I can hear God. I hope you all have enjoyed this musical journey! It's one of my all-time favorite soundtracks (and I like A LOT of soundtracks)! Thanks for listening!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wondering

Sometimes people wonder about me. About my family.

They wonder why a couple would have chosen to adopt a biracial child when they could've had another of their own.

They wonder why a family who already had two children that looked (more or less) exactly like them would adopt yet another child.

They wonder why we would want a child whose skin didn't look like ours.

They wonder why we would want a child with Down syndrome, when we weren't obligated to take him.

They wonder why we would adopt another child with Down syndrome when we already have one as a burden.

Family. That's the real answer to all that wondering.

Jace is my brother. I don't care that he's adopted; that doesn't matter at all. He's my brother and he always will be.

Levi is my brother, my baby, my Little Man. I would protect him with my life. Because he's my brother. Why should it matter that his skin is different, that he doesn't think the same way? That doesn't make him any less a part of our family.

I've had people ask me if we would ever stop pursuing Evan.

No, never, not in a million years. If it took me all my life, working day and night to earn the money, that girl would come home. Because Evan is my sister. No, I've never met her. I've never heard her voice. I've never held her. I've only ever seen one picture of her. But she is my sister. There is a bond between us. Already, I can tell. God put it there. Every time I think about her (which is quite often) I feel like there's a hole in my heart. Because that's where Evan belongs. She has a place there now.

We get lots of stares in restaurants because of Levi. We've had people ask us if he's our baby. We've even had people racially discriminate against him to our faces. But you know what we don't think when that stuff happens? That Levi is a burden. That we only adopted him because we felt sorry for him.

No. We adopted him and Jace, and soon Evan because we love them so much our hearts feel like they could burst. They are family.

Jace is my brother. Not my adopted brother. Not my biracial brother. My brother.

Levi is my brother. Not my adopted brother. Not my African American brother. Not my brother with Down syndrome. My brother.

And Evan is my sister. Not my adopted sister. Not my sister from Russia. Not my sister with Down syndrome. My sister.

Family. Forever.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February Children

Yes, yes, yes!

It's time to announce the childREN of the month! It used to be just child (singular) to pray for, but, hey, what's one or two more, right? When you're praying for a child to come home? So, I've decided that for MAXIMUM prayer impact, we are going to line up our children of the month with the Hollis family's (http://the30dayjourneyforhope.blogspot.com/) children of the month.

There is a family that is adopting two little girls with special needs from the Ukraine. They're in the same orphanage as Amy Joy (the Hollis's little girl)! They have seven children, three with special needs, but are ready to follow the Lord and take this next step to add to their family.

Child #1: Laura
You can view her picture at http://www.reecesrainbow.com/. She is under Waiting Children -> Children with Down syndrome 0-2. She is under Orphanage 16.

Child #2: Vivienne
You can view her picture at the same place as Laura's. They're at the same orphanage.

Emergency Child #3: Lera
You can see her picture at Waiting Children --> Most "At Risk" Children Ages 3-5 --> Waiting Children and then scroll down to the Other Countries section. She's right at the top of it.
Lera was actually a child my family was considering adopting because she was going to be transferred to an institution within a matter of days if someone didn't step up (and who can say no to that face?). But when we e-mailed and said that we would take her, we found out that someone else had already chosen her. But Lera has lost her family. Just like Dennis. And she will be moved to an institution soon if someone doesn't step up for her! Please, PLEASE be praying for little Lera! You all know how I get my hopes up for my sisters (and she was pretty close to becoming one).

Do NOT underestimate the power of prayer! Please commit to praying for these three children for the month of February! Oh, and for those just joining, all of these children have Down syndrome and live in countries where they will be institutionalized at age 4 if they aren't adopted before then.

UPDATE: Neither Dennis nor Mindy have been transferred to an institution yet, but neither of them have families yet either. So keep them in your prayers this month as well.

Got that? Pray for: Dennis, Mindy, Lera, Laura, and Vivienne. (And also Evan and Amy Joy if you think about it).

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Turnaround

I think I've finally made the Turnaround.

The past six months or so have created in me such a change that I can hardly call myself the same person that I was in eighth grade.

A year ago, my goal in life was to be famous. Be a famous oboist. Be a famous film score composer. Be famous for something. Be known. After high school, I wanted to go to college at Juilliard or University of Southern California and be a film score composition major. And after college, I was going to be skyrocketed into musical stardom. I wanted to be the next Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, or John Williams. And then, maybe, I would get married and have kids. But being a famous film score composer was more important.

Now, my goal is to help. I want to help the hurting in this world. The orphans, the widows, the fatherless. And I want my life to reflect a glimmer of light back to my King. I'm contemplating not even going to college after high school. If I did, I would go for composition/orchestration or classical performance, and how is that going to help me where I want to go? I want to go to Africa, to somewhere where I can love on children, feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and give dying people the message of Jesus Christ. And, yes, I absolutely want to get married and have children, but serving my God comes first. And if it is not in His will for me to marry, then I will trust He has my best interest in mind.

I've made a 100% complete turnaround. I don't care about fame anymore. It's not important. God's people are hurting, crying, even dying. And I can't just stand by with my fame and fortune and do nothing. Fame and fortune will all be gone when I face God on judgment day, but what I can have to show Him is that I spent my life helping his children. I want Him to say to me, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

That is far more important to me than fame, fortune, or even marriage is. My God comes first now. Because I've made the Turnaround.