Tuesday, December 24, 2013

merry christmas!

Couldn't get the cards in the mail this year.  A first, but I'm oddly okay with it -- which is interesting because I used to love to do them.  A new season, I suppose.

I did still make unending amounts of Chex Mix -- that mostly went into our mouths and into very few hands as compared to past years.  I got a late start, but rallied at the end!

The fudge for Santa is made.

The Oreo balls are in the freezer.

A nice Christmas meal is planned for tomorrow to share with our dear family and friends who have come to spend it with us.  We are thankful for times of feasting when so many are without.

We couldn't be more grateful for good health as we are acutely aware of and praying for our dear ones who are unwell and fighting the good fight.

We are thankful for family as we are acutely aware of those millions of lonely hearts across this globe.  Including the one who is currently resting her head in our home each night.

We are thankful for fellowship as we are acutely aware of how it fills our hearts with joy, laughter and cheer.

So, here's to you and yours this Christmas!  May 2014 be blessed!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

little update.

Things continue to go well.  

Our kids are amazing kids.

Really all kids are amazing in their ability to accept people for who they are.  I've learned that it's not until later in life that we put so many parameters around people.  

But Christine is also easy.

She's just a sweet, sweet girl.  She has this smirky, half-smile she does when something tickles her.  

She's quick on her feet with humor.  

She's open and willing to try new things, like Chick-fil-A, Sweet Frog, Panera, and going to the Nutcracker.  I'll post photos tomorrow!

The poor girl got multiple fillings on Friday, yet she'd never had Novocaine before.  She was such a trooper.  

She loves to fold laundry!  Yes, you read that right.  When I walk in the room with an overflowing laundry basket (which is daily), she jumps right up and comes over to help.  In fact, the other day I left it and came back and it was folded.  And what do our kids do when she jumps up to help?  Declare how much I love to fold laundry and it's just what moms do, so it's okay if I do it everyday without their help.  I kid you not!  They said that.  Phew.  They have a lot to learn!  Ha!  

Payton and Christine have hit it off.  I find them up in Payton's room just hanging out, shooting the breeze and doing what teen/pre-teen girls do.  Christine loves to write, read and sing.  Payton said when she learned that about Christine, she couldn't believe how much they have in common.  

James has really taken to her, along with Jackson.  Avery's definitely a fan and Brookster is his own, independent, kind of aloof self.  Man, I love that kid.  Sometimes I look out the window and see him walking around in our yard with a dinosaur or lizard toy just lost in make believe.  So sweet.  He doesn't need high levels of entertainment.  I love that about him.  And he's the one who I greeted first in the family room the morning after Christine had arrived (she was still sleeping) and he said with the hugest Christmas-morning-grin on his face that he couldn't believe Christine was finally here.  

She is amazingly Americanized.  She's read the Harry Potter series, Percy Jackson series, Hunger Games series...you name it.  She loves American Idol, pizza, bbq ribs, and iced tea.  Her English is superb.  Man, that's made all the difference.  Being able to talk with her has been so nice.

It's been great getting to know her and hearing about her life and growing to appreciate more and more what a strong young lady she is.  I appreciate everything she shares with us.  And she and Payton have some really great conversations.  

I will do a photo-laden post tomorrow.  I have a bunch to share.  I can't believe we have just three days until Christmas!  Wow.  

Where has the last week gone!?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

the christmas of christine

This is like that show 'The First 48 Hours.'

Christine's stocking arrived just hours before we picked her up at the airport.  So cool.

Here we are -- what a motley crew! -- waiting for her to arrive.  

More times than I can count, these two asked me when Christine was going to arrive.  

We snagged her an RVA sweatshirt at the airport.  :)

Day One (Tuesday): we had to introduce her to Sweet Frog, of course.  Largely due to the fact that a sweet friend gave us a gift card to use when Christine was here.  We have the best friends.  :)

Christine turned 14 today (I was off by a year)!  What a treat it is to celebrate her birthday with her.  Especially because her children's home director called last night and told me that Christine wasn't too thrilled at the idea of being away for her birthday and Christmas.  She was unsure about celebrating with people she doesn't even know.  I can't say I blame her.  

We made a cool tie dye cake that required six different colors of cake batter.

Good thing I had lots of help!

Batter in the pans...

...to a very cool cake!

The kids and I weren't sure how this was going to turn out, but we were very impressed.

Then off to the Wednesday night service at St. Stephen's when Payton sings and we have dinner.

The boys were having fun with Christine.  Brooks, Jackson and Avery fight over who gets to sit next to her at the table and in the car.  Every time we sit down or head out.  Oye.

But this was sweet.  All were laughing, and carrying on.

She's soo good with them.  Very patient and not put out by them at all.

 Making a 'star' with their hands.

This Christmas is proving to be a very special one with Christine here.  Somehow having her here has added a little sparkle to our days.  Amazing what opening your heart and home does for your spirit.  The kids are floating (er, at least they were for the first 36 hours)...now they're slowly returning to their normal fussing, tattling, whining, arguing ways.  

Welcome, Christine.

This is family.

I'm amazed at how well things are going.  I expected nothing less, but all the 'manuals' and 'trainings' for hosting warn you that it won't be a cake walk and that most kids aren't going to be without attitude problems, gratitude issues, sulking, etc.  I've seen nothing of the sort so far.

Yes, I know it's early, but so far so good.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 days

Five days and counting until Christine arrives.

We are so excited for her to come, yet I feel like a chicken with my head cut off.  The kids keep asking me, 'When, mama, when will Christine come?'  They are super excited.  In fact, a couple of them keep asking why we can't adopt her.  It's a tough one, right?  I mean, God opened their hearts to adoption.  They get it and know how wonderful it can be thanks to our wonderful Jimmy Jam.  So I find myself saying I don't feel in my heart that we're meant to adopt Christine, we're just meant to bring her here, love on her and help her find her family.

A pair of pajamas and a toothbrush & toothpaste wait on her bed for her.

I just ordered her a stocking that matches ours with her name embroidered on it.  I couldn't imagine picking up some random stocking and having her feel, perhaps again, like the odd man out.  And I hope it might mean a lot to her to have her very own stocking with her name on it.

Our dear friends, yet again, have risen to the occasion.  They're always so quick to show us that they're with us on these little 'adventures' God sends us on.  They gave us a $100 Target gift card to take Christine shopping.  Mm-mm-mm.

And it doesn't end there...

Two fellow Hopers (i.e. folks who attend our church, HOPE Church) have offered to treat Christine at no cost.  A dentist and an eye doctor.

This is huge, y'all.  The dentist is even coming in on his day off to treat her so he can devote all the time necessary to her possible need for restorations.

A family with a 15 year old has offered hand-me-downs from their daughter.  Yes!

It's amazing to watch God move in His people and to see a community rally around a girl from a faraway land.  A girl no one's even met, but who we all know deserves to experience Jesus and to feel loved.

JD and I found out yesterday that we have to have physicals completed before Christine travels.  Um...that left us four days.  Now, we have appointments late in the afternoon on Friday.  Talk about 11th hour.

Sometimes, I can get all grumbly and grumpy when things aren't simple, tidy and smooth.  I don't like curve balls, but they sure are a part of life, aren't they?

We're rocking and rolling and looking forward to 8:45 PM when her flight arrives on Monday!

Please pray that she feels safe and comfortable with us.  Can you imagine the bravery of this young woman to come here literally all by herself?

That alone is humbling.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

update: christine


We got word on Thursday that all the Filipino children who are being hosted are fine.  Phew!

Here's Christine (14 years old)!

We're so glad to hear that!  And we're only a few weeks out from welcoming Christine.  If anyone knows an eye doctor who might be willing to treat Christine pro bono, please let me know!  :)  

The other day I learned (through our hosting agency) that many Filipino children are being evacuated.  Still, the footage I see (we all see!) is just so devastating.

We're still awaiting official word on our Compassion child, Lyka.  As much as we're excited to host Christine, we do not have a relationship with her yet.  But with Lyka, we've journeyed along with her for many years, watching her grow and mature into a fine young woman.  I have so enjoyed writing back and forth with her...waiting for news on her status is hard.

I sent a request to Compassion (they're probably receiving thousands!) to see if Lyka and her family are okay and to offer them refuge should they need it.  I know it's a long shot, but events like typhoon Haiyan are how people become displaced from their homes/countries.  Perhaps knowing they have a place to go (albeit very far away) will be comforting.  They responded back within a day (such an amazing organization!) saying the following:

We are grateful for your sponsorship of Lyka Mae. She lives in Southwest of Puerto Princesa City. We are in the process of contacting our projects and accounting for all the children in the impacted areas.

At this time, we do not have specific information on your child's status. Our staff in the Philippines continues to assess the damage and gather information. Our church partners are coordinating with local government agencies and organizations for preemptive evacuation and relief assistance. A disaster team has been established and is monitoring the situation closely. Please remain patient as information is being collected during such a difficult time. Once we receive specific information, we will contact you IF we learn your child has been directly impacted. In the meantime, please continue to pray for your child and their country as they deal with this latest disaster.

Now back to hosting Christine...

Before I share with you a cool story of how God met us when we stepped out to host, let me fill you in a little about hosting.

First of all, this is something anyone can do!  Hosting an orphan increases his/her chances of being adopted.  In fact, our hosting agency, New Horizons for Children, has a 70% 'success rate.'  Meaning 70% of the children who are hosted get adopted!  Isn't that incredible!?  That's the greatest purpose behind hosting.  The hope is that families who are open to adopting will meet these children and God will prick their hearts to step forward and adopt them!

A second purpose is to simply show these children what a family is.  Most of them have never experienced a family.  I think about how much my family takes for granted just being a family.  We all take each other so for granted!  Ugh.  It pains me everyday.  But to be part of a loving family is one of God's greatest blessings.  To feel belonging and love and acceptance no matter what.  Priceless.

One of the greatest benefits of hosting a child is that she/he will learn about and experience Jesus' love in a more tangible way.  We hope that Christine will learn about Jesus while she's here with us (despite our shortcomings).  May she feel His love and be drawn to Him.  What a gift!  Especially at Christmas time.

What a lot of people don't know is that being a host family has a cost associated with it.  It can definitely be an obstacle.  It certainly was for us.  We've been interested in hosting for a couple of years, but simply didn't know how in the world we could swing the costs.  But for whatever reason we felt very compelled this year to just step out and trust that God would meet us there.  Wow, has He ever!

The cost to bring Christine over is $3150.  That's all the travel expenses (multiple flights, visas, passports, travel chaperones, and agency fees to coordinate it all).  The day that we were filling out the pre-app (and feeling lots of trepidation!), we learned that Christine had just been assigned a $1000 scholarship!  We took that as affirmation that we were doing the right thing and that God was trying to indicate that He was behind this and we could trust Him.

Our balance was now $2150.  We submitted the pre-app and began working on the, a-hem, 25 page application!...five references, faith statements, a home visit by a social worker, the rules of hosting a child, 12 hours of training, etc.  Yikes!

A few days later, we get a call from our coordinator who said I wouldn't believe it but a gentleman and his wife who'd hoped to host this year, but can't wanted to contribute money to the 'most needy child' to increase his/her chances of being adopted.  Our Christine was it!  She's 14 and will be 15 in December!  She'll age out of the orphanage at 16 and be literally put out on the streets with the clothes on her back...very likely headed into a life of prostitution and desperation.  $1000 this generous couple gave!  A perfect stranger!

Balance: $1150.

Then, a local friend who hosted a child last Christmas and had been cheering us on the whole time said immediately that she and her husband wanted to help with our expenses.  They chipped in $400!

Balance: $750.

Then we paid our required payment of $600.

Balance: $150.

Then, a few weeks later I went to my hairdresser who is a friend from church.  We were catching up.  She asked how James is doing and had some questions about adoption, etc.  I shared with her about our plans to host Christine and how this step of faith was being affirmed through provision, provision and more provision.  I said, 'Fran, can you believe that all we have left to pay now is $150?!  Isn't God so cool when He shows Himself as trustworthy and faithful?'  She loved hearing the story about Christine and told me that she grew up with always having lots of 'visitors' in their home -- 'strangers' at Thanksgiving dinner...just people her parents opened their home to.  I loved hearing that because she's such an open and loving person.  As a parent, I can only hope that our kids will grow to be adults with open, loving hearts towards others.

As I got up to leave and began digging in my purse to get out my payment, she said, 'I want you to keep that and put it towards your balance for bringing Christine.'  Gulp.  I had $130 in my purse.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Aren't the images of the Philippines just heart-wrenching?

It's crushing.

I find myself staring at the TV or videos on-line feeling such helplessness.

I just cannot imagine.

As I climb into my cozy bed every night, I think about the people who live in those parts of the world.  It's not that we're completely immune here -- look at New Orleans or the many towns just ravaged each year in this country by tornadoes alone.  But to live in such extreme poverty anyway and then have something like a typhoon come in and practically wipe you off the map is so, so sad.

'Why them and not us?' is what I often ask myself.

A hard thing for us at this moment is that just a couple of weeks ago, we committed to bring a 14-year-old orphan from the Philippines into our home for four or five weeks over Christmas.  It's called hosting.  Think: bring the mission to you.  The hope is that these kids will learn about Christ while being hosted, experience the love of a family and maybe, just maybe, meet the family who is meant to be theirs for forever.

Her name's Christine and we haven't heard how she is yet.  Or how the rest of the children in her orphanage are.  We're waiting for news.  Ick.  I don't do well with waiting.  Not one bit.

Not to mention that for the past seven years, we've sponsored a sweeeet girl named Lyka.  She too is Filippino.  She's not an orphan though.  Her parents are married, her father's a fisherman and she has three siblings.  The thought of anything having happened to her or her family creates the biggest lump in my throat.  Again, waiting for news.  Ugh.

Would you pray for Christine and Lyka?

Pray they're alive.  

I just can't imagine receiving any other news.

Friday, October 18, 2013

the newest beams...

Shortly after we moved, we started thinking about having chickens.  We've always talked about putting a garden in, but didn't feel like we had quite the right space before.  The thought of fresh eggs was wonderful too, but we never even considered it at our old house.  Somehow, moving here has brought forth many more considerations of the sort.

I like to say that we've dipped our toes into the country.  We're only five or six miles from our old house, but we're now in a rural county instead of a suburban county so having chickens is more doable.  And simply having more space (almost an acre versus 1/4 of an acre) creates lots of possibilities.

So when the kids and I left for Michigan, JD and our dear friend, Bootsie, began to repurpose our play set into a chicken coop.      

We loved that playset and the kids had many years of good play on it.  But when we took it apart and moved it to our new house, the sight of it just made reassembling it feel a tad hopeless.  Granted, I'm sure we could've gotten it together again, but it was going to be a tough task.  It was a heap of wood and we didn't have the original instructions.  My wheels started spinning about rebuilding the fort section into a chicken coop and simply enclosing it.  JD wasn't so sure at first, but the kids were totally thrilled at the idea of having chickens.  They quickly chose chickens over their playset which kind of makes sense because they spend so much more time here riding their bikes and playing sports with the neighbor kids.

JD and Bootsie spent several days building (a weekend, plus a couple of evenings after JD got home from work), but then JD left to join us in Minnesota for our summer vacation.  Bootsie kept on truckin' (this man loves a project!).  And we came home to a finished coup!  

Aren't they cute?!  Including the coop!  

Time to paint!  Good thing I have lots of little helpers!

We decided to try to match it to our house a little.

This is my kind of painting with the kids -- outdoors!  Drips and drops!?  Who cares!  

Jackson concentrated on the nesting box.

Brooks lends a hand.

Little bodies sure do fit well in small places.  Thanks goodness.


After JD and I wired it on Labor Day, we headed to a farm to purchase chickens.

Gathering all our chicken supplies: feed, scratch, bedding, water cans, feeders.

Avery's got the bag of scratch (this is a treat the chickens love and get one small cup of each day)!

'Mom, put the camera down!  We're ready to pick out our chickens!'

Jackson picked out a Barred Rock and named her Layla.

Brooks picked out a Black Star and named her Goldie.

Payton picked a cross of Buff Orpington and Rhode Island Red and named her Henrietta.

I went with a Maranaucana and named her Mabel.  She'll lay olive-colored eggs!  

Avery chose an Ameraucana and named her Flossie.  She'll lay blue eggs!  

Jimmy Jam guarded the chickens still in the boxes from transport.  I don't have a photo of him with his chicken (JD took him to the car at the farm because he was being eaten up by mosquitoes!).  His chicken is a Black Star like Brooks' and he named her Jessie.

Laying the bedding in the coup.

Cozy little nesting boxes waiting for eggs -- although we chose to get young chickens so they won't start laying until closer to Thanksgiving.  When we find our first egg, our entire neighborhood will hear our squeals of delight!

Brooks brought over some compost to put in the coup for the hens.  They love to scratch in it and find bugs and worms.

My goodness they're so little!  I need to post a more current photo -- they're getting big and fat!  Not that we'll be eating them.  :)

Their first time down the ramp (they practically slid down).  But now they have the hang of it.

They're so fun to have!  Sometimes we just sit outside down by their coup and watch them while they peck at the ground and sometimes our shoes.  Chicken behavior is fascinating!  We were letting them roam our yard and they were doing a good job of staying down near the coop.  Well, apparently they've gotten a little too comfortable with their new surroundings because now they're wandering all the way up our side yard into our neighbors' bushes and almost into our front yards!  Good gracious!  We can't have that.  We've gotten one estimate from a fence company and I'm waiting for a call back from another.  We gotta fence these girls in or they'll roam the neighborhood!  And we're not sure our neighbors would appreciate that.  We may be out of the 'burbs, but we do live in a neighborhood and need to be sensitive to what our neighbors are willing to put up with.  

Not to mention that we could have a disaster when a neighborhood dog goes strolling by -- which is all the time.  

Interestingly, our Lucy doesn't mess with them.  We find her in their coop sometimes!  Doing what?  Eating chicken poop, of course.  She's more interested in eating their poop than she is in eating them!

Go figure.

Now, if only she could act like a sheep dog and help us round them up when we need to put them back in their coop.  

Now that is fun (read: not fun at all).  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

i promise...

...this is my last post from the summer in October!

I really do have many other things I want to post about, but every time I go into my photos to choose them I keep stumbling upon some that I missed that I so want on this little Beam Team blog, so here goes...

We had the immense pleasure of visiting old friends on our way home from our Michigan/Minnesota trip.  They're friends we met in Richmond who moved to Ohio over seven years ago and they're 'those kinds of friends.'  You know the kind -- the ones who you can not talk to for months and not see for years, but when you get together it's like no time has passed.  That's a gift!  

They're just super fun.  And our kids kinda match up age-wise.  And it's a really cool story of how we met.

One evening, probably pushing ten years ago, I went to participate in a focus group.  If you don't know what that is, look it up.  They're pretty cool.  This particular focus group was on...wait for it...disposable underwear.  Oh yes it was.  The ten or twelve women in the room had to discuss their 'undergarment habits' and if they could see the need for disposable underwear (think throwing a pair of panties away after a workout).  Yes, this is really what this evening was about.  

One woman in the group and I seemed to align on many things.  We couldn't get into the panties with pictures on the front, neon colors, etc.  We were poppin' out kids and weren't really feeling very, a-hem, adventurous so a lot of the scenarios presented made little sense to us.  We shared glances across the room and shared a chuckle or two a few times and then it was over and we walked out with our 75 bucks and waved good-bye with mutual nice-to-meet-you's! 

Then I walked into church a few days later and there she was!  I said, 'Hey, weren't you at that focus group this week?'  

And, as they say, the rest is history.  For years, we got together at least once a week with our toddlers and babies for play dates, we threw baby showers for each other, our husbands hit it off, we did family gatherings, dinners together, cook outs, and...we share a special commonality...we both had two toddlers and then twins.  That's one unusual club, so this sweet friend of mine and I became kindred spirits.  

Then the news came that her husband had a great opportunity in Ohio, their home state.  They had to take it.  I was pregnant with our boys and, man, I was sad to see her go, but very happy for them to be headed home.

We've seen each other a couple of times over the last seven years and it's always wonderful!

It was a great couple days together this August.  And, although, it'd been four years since we last saw each other, our kids hit it off!  

And it didn't hurt that they'd just installed a pool.  :)

Their oldest (sitting next to James) was so sweet with him.  They all were, but there always seems to be a child in the group that takes a special liking to him.  So sweet. 

Super fun.

This little cutie had us seriously considering adding a member of the canine variety to the Beam Team. 

Otis stole our hearts with his sweet smile and spunky personality.

An ice cream outing with nine kids is fun.  

All the kids.

Two sets of twins.

The girls.

The boys.

After baths.

And of course we had to introduce them to Dutch Blitz before we said good-bye.  

Wonderful friends are a true blessing.


Design By Sour Apple Studio | All Rights Reserved