Small Victories

Giraffes are seriously one of my favorite of all God’s creatures. Today at the zoo, I got to watch my kids interacting with these amazing animals.

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When those great long tongues reached for the leaves, Kylah was delighted. Hanissa, however, was a bit more timid. The idea of a big slobbery tongue was a bit much for her. That and the size of these gentle giants.

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In the end, she faced her fear, gained a bit of courage, and had a wonderful experience.

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Everyday we are given opportunities. In those moments, we can either feed our fear, anger, and negativity or we can feed the good and watch it grow in our lives.

Life is made up of thousands of little challenges and every victory, no matter how small, gives us confidence to try again next time.

I love watching my kids overcome fears and hindrances because it teaches them they can do the hard things in life. It grows their belief in what is possible. Feeding a giraffe may seem like a tiny accomplishment, but when stacked up with all the other small ones, it expands their victor mentality exponentially.

This lesson isn’t just for kids, either. Every time I step out in faith, regardless of my circumstances, regardless of what my eyes see and my heart feels, every time, I learn to trust a little bit more and my fear a little less.

This next week, I hope you experience the victories that come from a faith-lived life.

~ Regina

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When Faith Steps In

I’m a researcher by nature. I pour over professional articles (and personal opinions from blogs, too) from both sides whenever I am preparing to start something new like raising chickens, Colorado gardening, starting a health and wellness business or when I just need a refresher on topics like food and nutrition.

But, I’ve also been labeled a risk taker. I’ve lived and visited places in this world that most would call scary and unsafe. I’ve sat with orphaned children. Some abandoned because of the rampant sex trade around the world others because their medical needs were just too great a burden. I’ve seen the rejected cast out on the street because they chose to follow the God of the Bible rather than a government system. I’ve sat with college students before and after abortions as they cried in my arms. Our family has embraced strangers who were fleeing from abusive situations. Then on top of all that, we chose adoption with all its unknowns.

Looking back at my life, it doesn’t seem possible that God could and would choose to use me in so many different ministries. I was a person who liked my four walls. I liked to know what to expect next. If left to myself, I probably would have chosen what was comfortable over the great adventure that God had in store for me. But, that was before.

Before faith stepped in and changed me forever.

Faith has a way of growing us beyond our imaginings. It grips us and pulls us into a life far more complicated but ever so much better than the one we plan for ourselves.

It stretches us until we feel like we will snap at any moment and the pieces of who we once were will be scattered on the floor.

Faith moves our feet along a path we would never choose to follow on our own.

It makes us appear reckless to those on the outside.

But, we never snap. We are never abandoned. And each crazy step, grows our faith even more.

Faith leads us to experience intimacy with God. We search out His plan and learn to trust Him over our expectations and fears.

As faith is exercised, it grows in strength. The more freedom we give faith, the less we question and second guess.

We find ourselves agreeing with God more and more. We immerse ourselves in His Word longing to know Him better. The fear and duty factors of Christian disciplines are removed.

Faith leads us to a life earmarked by forgiveness and praise. It makes us less critical of ourselves, our situations, and others.

Faith make us more like Christ. And isn’t that the very essence of what every believer wants to be?

Faith heroes have always inspired me. A small shepherd boy facing a giant. A defenseless, old man thrown into a pit with lions. Three young teenage boys unwilling to bow before an idol. A prostitute who chose to defy her people to help rescue men of God. These stories and so many others leave me with a feeling of awe and wonder.

My faith isn’t always strong. Too many times I’ve declared that God’s next move was just too radical for me. Surely, He doesn’t clearly understand my needs and my situation. If He did, He would never ask such a thing of me. At that point, I begin to rely on my on strength, my own understanding of life, and the end of self-reliance is always failure, discontent, depression, and sometimes, even sin.

There is no excuse for me, as a believer, to live a faith-less life. Not only have I experienced the richness of walking by faith, but I have His word telling me that a life without faith makes it impossible to please Him. (Heb.11:6) I can come up with great excuses for why I choose to live life in a bubble of my own making. But God knows, regardless of my excuses, a life without faith will lead me down a path that is anti every thing God wants for me.

Regardless of my past faith failures, God is calling me to get up and walk beside Him once more. He is pulling me back into a relationship where I fully trust His goodness. He reminds me who He is and whose I am.

And with those beginning baby steps of faith, strength from my Father fills me. I am able to run and not grow weary, walk and not faint because when faith steps in, everything changes.

~ Regina

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On this Day in 2016

My first glimpse of her she was sitting at a table in a small coffee shop. She seemed quiet and reserved and maybe a little confused about her current surroundings. As we entered the room, the quiet transformed into noisy introductions. Parents were meeting their children for the first time. The air was filled with a mixture of fear, excitement, and uncertainty.

The nannies rattled off details regarding their schedules, gave us a brief idea about eating habits, and told us tidbits regarding their personalities. Our little girl was pushed into our arms and she had been instructed well in her role. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, “Mama.” Then turned and did the same to David pronouncing him, “Baba.” Our hearts melted. She posed with us for a few pictures, sat on our laps while papers were signed, and smiled whenever we looked at her. It was a perfect introduction to our youngest daughter.

We had traveled by train with another adoptive family all morning and were looking forward to getting cleaned up at our hotel and then heading out to meet our little girl. When we arrived in Jinan, we discovered our children, along with their nannies, had been waiting in our hotel lobby for several hours. We were all happy to find the children somewhat content rather than distressed as a result of the long wait.

After the papers were signed, farewells were given, and luggage safely deposited, we were hurried off to get official pictures needed for documents we would sign the following day. The smiles and kisses we experienced in the lobby didn’t completely disappear, but fear seemed to be gaining a foothold.

It was well past lunch time and we were told the children hadn’t eaten. What was it the nanny had said as she was leaving? Something about Kylah not eating much solid food, I brushed it off sure that we could find something she could eat. I was wrong.

Our first outing was a disaster. In her 6 years of life, she had very little experience outside the walls of the orphanage. The normal sights and sounds of China terrified her. Walking any distance was exhausting. The normal treats we had shared with Chinese children dozens of times during our 9 years of living there were foreign to her. She had a meltdown in a grocery store and we, complete strangers to her, had to figure out how to calm and comfort her.

We weren’t strangers to adoption nor to Chinese culture, but we were struggling to understand the best way to help Kylah adjust to us and her new life. She seemed to have no recognition of her Chinese name. Her ability to communicate (in any language) was almost non-existent, although we saw her trying in the evening when it was just the three of us. She only ate liquids (good thing we had taken nutritious shakes with us) and things that dissolved quickly in her mouth.

We made a trip to her orphanage, about an hour from our hotel, to let her say goodbye to her friends and nannies. It also gave us a window into her life. And it was truly an “Ah ha” moment for us.

For whatever reason, Kylah had been deemed as special needs. Her room in the orphanage was filled with children who were unable to go to school, mostly non-verbal, many unable to get out of bed, self harm seemed normal, and frustration in the room was high. Her diagnosis was a mental and emotional disability with no hope of getting better. The nannies really didn’t know what to do with her.

It was as if she were hibernating. She had buried herself so deep and most believed she was destined to stay there, alone in the dark with no understanding of others and no one to understand her. When we entered that coffee shop on that cold January morning, this is the girl we met. She laughed and sang for no apparent reason, with no seeming connection to anyone or anything, and at the slightest inconvenience she would rail and scream as if rage and joy were the only two emotions possible in her world.

As the days went by, we would catch her looking at us, studying us. She would have the most serious face full of contemplation and worry. She didn’t yet trust us to meet her needs, physical, emotional, or in any other way. But that slowly began to change.

By the time we said goodbye to everyone at the orphanage, it was dark outside. We had an hour long trip down a mountain back to our hotel and Kylah sat snuggled in my lap crying. Not the angry outbursts we had come to expect, but quiet tears. She sunk deep into my arms and sobbed. Maybe it was the finality of those goodbyes or maybe she just knew life was changing. Regardless, she cried and allowed me to comfort her. And hope was sparked in my heart.

We came home without the expectation that she would eventually “get better” or “become normal.” We were uncertain what was really part of her and what was learned in an institution. We had no idea how many walls had been built around her tiny heart or if we would ever penetrate them all. We didn’t know what she was capable of but we were determined to give her every opportunity to succeed, whatever that looked like for her.

There have been many days when behavior threatened to squelch the little spark that was lit on the ride home from the orphanage. But, it has gradually grown brighter. Fewer places remain hidden and her mind is waking. We’ve been purposeful in helping her dig her way out of the darkness that once engulfed her. She is connecting with people, she’s learning healthy ways to express emotions, she’s learning to deal with stress in acceptable ways, and so much more. She still has a long way to go, but, in general, life is better and easier two years later.

We still have so much more to learn about this sweet girl that God gave us. There are still walls that surround areas of her heart and mind but we are resolved to continue digging deep and celebrating each victory along the way.

I just had to share some of the pictures from our time together two years ago. Enjoy this glimpse of our amazing girl.

~ Regina

Two years ago: the worry and fear were constant

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Two weeks ago: hiking in the CO mountains with family

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First meeting and spending time together:

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Recent photo with Mom and Dad:

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2018 Anticipation

Our family sat around the living room last night as the first day of 2018 came to an end. We weren’t gathered for a movie or a game, but to talk about the future. The question was asked, “What has God been teaching you in these last few months and what do you see Him guiding you towards in this next year?”

Answers came out slowly. It is a very personal thing to share areas that God is refining in your life. It puts our imperfections and sometimes our blatant sins on display for others to see. It makes us vulnerable. And that isn’t easy, even among family.

I soaked in the words of my children and husband. I could see their fears and disappointments wrapped up in their revelations, but I also saw hope and expectation in what was still to come. One is striving for holiness, another is wanting to maintain proper focus, and another feels the need to learn how to study the Word better. The hearts of the people who live in my home amaze me continually.

When it was my turn, I shared how I felt my heart for the coming year has been prepped for surrender. God has shown me the need to replace my wants, my plans for His. Surrender doesn’t come easy. We sing the song in church, I Surrender All, but we seldom actually act on those words and we definitely don’t want God to hold us to it as if it were a heartfelt commitment.

In the days of prayer leading up to this calling, God revealed some areas in my life that I have been selfishly holding on to, unwilling to surrender. It was a necessary revelation because I was trying to argue with God that this wasn’t what I needed in 2018. Whoa, was I wrong.

To start a new year from a posture of surrender doesn’t fill me with boldness or strength. I am uncertain. I am a bit afraid. I have absolutely no idea what part of me God will turn inside out next or when He will direct me to do something that is absolutely beyond what I want. But, I am willing to step onto this path He has called me to walk.

I am confident that God is good and everything He does is good. I will choose to trust in Him because of His great faithfulness. It is because of who He is that I am willing to step into a new year full of anticipation, hope, and even surrender.

I like how Priscilla Shirer puts it in The Armor of God Study. “Your level of faith will always be tied to your perception of God. If your perception of Him is faulty, your faith will be faulty. If your perception of Him is on point, your faith will be too. You don’t need more faith; you need a more comprehensive and accurate view of the faithfulness of your God.”

Through this year of surrender, I want to gain a better understanding of who God is. I want to see Him at work in ways that I never imagined. I want to enjoy sweet fellowship and communion with Him. Though fear and uncertainty may fill my heart, I choose to surrender all.

~ Regina

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Christmas Books

I didn’t set out with the intention of creating another tradition. I was just doing what the teacher inside of me always does. I pull thematic books to match the season or holiday and put them into a basket in the living room.

When it came time for Christmas decorating this year, our youngest, who had only celebrated one Christmas with us, kept asking, “Christmas books, now? Christmas books, now?” I had no idea this routine had become a treasured memory from the previous year.

Once the tree was up and the boxes cleared, I sent the girls downstairs to gather every Christmas book they could find. They were so excited. They searched the shelves, each looking for their favorite.

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Now the basket is filled with books and is lovingly searched through daily. And every night, we choose a different story to read together. Who knew something so simple could create such special moments in the hearts of my children.

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In a season where we often over extend ourselves physically, emotionally, and financially, it is good to remember that kids can and will enjoy simple celebrations if we let them.

This new “tradition” of Christmas books has brought unexpected joy and simplicity to my life and those two gifts are always welcome in my home.

~ Regina

PS – If you are looking for Christmas picture books, Amazon has a good selection…everything from whimsical Jan Brett to thought provoking Max Lucado. http://amzn.to/2jSpkYA Share your favorite in the comments.

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Advent Readings for Kids

If you are looking for a way to engage your kids this Christmas season, Arnold Ytreeide’s books are amazing. Your kids will hear the Christmas story from a child’s perspective filled with awe and adventure.

Our family has been reading these books for several years. We started with Jotham’s Journey and each year worked our way through a new book until we had read all four. Then, we started over again. We’ve read them aloud as a family and enjoyed the discussions they’ve brought to our evenings.

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It isn’t too late to start. Check them out yourself.

http://amzn.to/2nsxEU8

~ Regina

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Staying Strong and Courageous

Four years ago, I wrote something to remind myself of God’s goodness in allowing my strength to fail. At the time, we were preparing to go stateside for 18 months. It had been twelve years since we had spent so much time in the US and the thought of that much time spent stateside made all of us nervous. Our youngest daughter had unknown medical needs that seemed to be getting worse and we had to find some answers. Our oldest would be attending college on the East Coast while we would be living out west.

We packed up not knowing what the future had in store for us. We told our friends goodbye. We left our ministry in the hands of others. And, we walked into the unknown. Little did we know, it was the end of our time in a place that we had called home.

Looking back, I can see God weaving it all together. One by one our four older girls revealed a secret that David and I were not willing to accept…yet. They told us that they were confident that God was leading our family to stay stateside. Not one of them wanted it, but they were all willing to submit to that calling. Our business overseas closed and almost every local ministry partner moved away. God was closing those doors. Still, we weren’t ready to hear His call to not return.

Eighteen months came and went. Our youngest daughter’s needs were far greater than we had anticipated and the medical intervention would be ongoing. David and I began to feel peace in staying and knew that God had prepared a ministry for us in Colorado. We didn’t know exactly what life would look like, but we stepped out on faith and resigned as missionaries.

Soon, God would place us in the very ministry that we had always dreaded. David became a stateside pastor and I, a pastor’s wife. He did a lot of heart changing in us and made it a ministry of joy rather than fear.

Four years ago, I was walking in the unknown. I clung to verses that reminded me of God’s presence. I cherished the reminder in Deuteronomy 31:6 and Joshua 1:9 to be strong, because I felt very weak.

The last few weeks have been tough. I’ve felt the enemy attack and I’ve felt tired, weak, and discouraged. Then today, God sent me a sweet reminder in the form of a four year old note from myself:

Be strong and courageous…a command needed when our strength fails…when circumstances overwhelm and our own strength fails…when we don’t feel strong and don’t desire strength…the command keeps us going. Strength and courage aren’t optional, especially when your tired, overcome, and facing the enemy.

For forty years, the Israelites had wandered because their fear of the new place God was leading them was greater than their faith in God. The people looked at the land and saw hardships. They saw threatening giants. Fear caused them to rebel against God’s plan and so they wandered until a new generation took leadership.

God spoke to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.” He repeats this phrase three times as He instructs Joshua to lead the people into the land their parents had rejected. In His charge, God reaffirms His position as an ever present help. He explains to Joshua that He is the one who will give them the land. It isn’t up to Joshua to fulfill God’s plan. God got that. Joshua’s responsibility was obedience.

God knew the people would be afraid. God knew they would encounter difficulties as they marched into the promised land. And, He knows my struggles, too. The same command given to Joshua is given to me. “Be strong and courageous.”

He doesn’t expect me to find the courage within myself, but to recognize the power that lies within all mighty God and is available to me when I walk with Him. My strength comes because my faith is in Him. When I know God is beside me, when I am confident in His ability to fulfill His plan, I am able to stand strong and courageous.

The command isn’t given because the road ahead is easy. It is given because God knows what tomorrow will bring in my life. He knows the friends that will misunderstand and walk away. He knows the blame that will be placed at the feet of the innocent. He knows the heartache which will arise when a loved one takes a destructive path. He knows the loneliness, discouragement, and defeat I feel. But in all of the chaos, His voice is clear, “Be strong and courageous.”

~ Regina

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International Women’s Day

For International Women’s Day,

I will enjoy the knowledge that my family loves and appreciates me.

I will go out of my way today to model godly womanhood through acts of service to those around me.

I will try to demonstrate grace when I’m frustrated.

I will speak words of Truth and encouragement because I value those around me, not because of gender or race, but because they are my brothers and sisters scattered around this globe.

I will demonstrate what it means to accept and fulfill obligations by being reliable and responsible in whatever work, inside and outside of my home, I have been giving to do.

I will demonstrate strength by enduring when I’m emotionally, mentally, and physically tired.

I will model wisdom by not jumping to conclusions about situations.

I will model self-control in my speech and actions so that I can be an example to those around me.

And if I fail in any or all of these things, I will clothe myself in humility and ask for forgiveness where needed.

This is how I will choose to celebrate being a woman today and everyday.

~ Regina

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2016 in Pictures, Part 1

This gallery contains 15 photos.

2016 was quite a year. We hit the ground, running fast and furious, and didn’t slow down until the end of December. Lots of good, a bit of bad, victories, and defeats. A year filled with opportunities to grow and … Continue reading

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First Christmas

Everyone always looks forward to the first Christmas with each child. The experiences, the pictures, the memories. I remember those special moments when our older 4 were babies and when Hanissa came home from Ethiopia. They were all amazed at the lights and just the ambiance of Christmas. Celebrating your first Christmas as an emotionally needy child and at the age of 7 is a bit different…for everyone. In the beginning there is more confusion and even fear, than joy and celebration.

As the weeks went on and the decorations became more familiar, Kylah began to relax and enjoy the season with us. We adjusted our celebration and had a different sort of Christmas. We were still incredibly busy but we chose to stay closer to home instead of attending parties with friends. Shopping excursions and car trips to see lights were shorter. We were busy trying to prepare her for the big day, Christmas. Other than a few meltdowns, we were doing really well…until Christmas Eve.

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