the kiddos

the kiddos

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Heart of a Finisher Step 2

Yesterday morning I as listening to a podcast recommended by a friend and the speaker said something pretty powerful - it really should have been included in Step 1 but here it is:

"The faith to step out is worthless without the faithfulness to stick it out". (Steven Furtick)

Isn't that powerful? Read it again, let it sink in.

Now - it sort of goes with Step 2, as well, in that in my opinion the next super important thing a person needs to do is stay plugged in. What does this look like? What does it even mean?

If you are married, staying plugged in means regularly spending time together building the nights, getaways, notes to each other, dreaming together about your future, reading books and/or listening to podcasts about building a great marriage, spend time with couples who are committed to one another, etc. Life is busy, work is often stressful, then there are money issues and struggles with parenting and before you know it, you are unplugged and things begin to fall apart. I don't believe anyone enters a marriage planning to divorce but if time and energy are not invested in the relationship by staying plugged in - oftentimes that is what happens.

Staying plugged in when I was a consultant in Mary Kay meant that I regularly attended sales meetings and company events. It was important for me to spend time around people who had already walked the path I was headed down. It was important to hear how others set and achieved the same goals I was working towards, how they overcame obstacles, and what it was like on the other side. Just hearing the stories once wasn't enough. I needed to be regularly reminded that the journey was worth it in the end!

If a person sets a goal to lose weight or get in shape or quit smoking, it is important to stay connected to others who are working through the same challenges...or better yet, someone who has worked through the same challenges and came out successful on the other side! You can do this by building personal relationships, reading good books on the subject or listening to podcasts about building good habits but if you set a goal to develop a new habit and never remind yourself why you set the goal in the first place, it will not take long before you are right back where you started walking out your life with the same daily habits.

For me, listening to that podcast yesterday reminded me that in order for me to fulfill all that I believe God has called me to, I need to stay plugged in to God's Word by reading good books and regularly listening to podcasts or services on-line. It reminds me of my goals, it reminds me of the person I want to be, it reminds me that I am not in it alone, it encourages me and helps me learn and grow in new strategies.

What does staying plugged in look like for you? How can you continue to feed the passion and fuel the commitment that you experienced in the beginning?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Heart of a Finisher Step 1

If you want to be a person who is known for integrity and keeping your commitments, the first step is truly considering what it is that you are committing to before you make the commitment.

In Luke 14:28, Jesus asks the question "for which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?" I think we would do well to use that line of thinking when making all of our decisions regarding where we do or do not make commitments.

We get so caught up in the moment sometimes, overwhelmed with emotion that we set super lofty goals or tell others we will do something for them without really taking a moment to consider what that commitment will cost. We have all done it!

Please hear me - I am not saying don't make commitments. I am not suggesting that we do not set goals. I am not saying that we never step up and take responsibility to complete a task. I am simply saying - before you do - make sure that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Consider the cost - emotional, mental, physical, time, monetary, etc. If you cannot say "I am willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen" it would be better for you to not commit.

When we make commitments that we do not keep - not only does it destroy our credibility and integrity with others, it affects how we feel about ourselves. We may not even realize the subtle way it affects us, but over time, the broken promises, the goals un-achieved and the projects not completed pile up and they cause us to lose confidence in ourselves.

It is better to commit to something smaller and follow through than to commit to something awesome and fall short.

Become a person of your word, a person of integrity, someone others can trust and depend on by being careful, thoughtful and considerate of the cost of a commitment before you  commit.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


Image result for feelings
That is what our feelings do...sometimes they will change quickly, other times it takes months or years but inevitably feelings fade. And with our fading feelings, commitments aren't kept and promises are broken. It happens to us all - sometimes we are the promise breakers and sometimes we are the breakees (I know that is not a thing but go with it).

Once upon a time I was a Mary Kay sales director and we would often speak of our pink bubble. The pink bubble is a magical place most often found at our annual company event in Dallas. The pink bubble is a place where literally all of your dreams can come true. You are on top of the world - you feel beautiful, you feel important, you have friends, you can overcome every obstacle and you are going to change the world! But we all knew that pretty much as soon as we crossed the Red River or very soon after, those feelings would fade. So it was important to make plans - to break our goal into bite-size pieces- and make commitments to ourselves, our spouses, our fellow consultants or directors, etc. so that we would have an action plan and people in place to hold us accountable.

Sometimes, we (I) stuck to the action plan but more often than not...we (I) did not.

Every year people all over the world make a decision at the beginning of a new year to lose weight, get in shape, develop better habits and it usually lasts for a week, maybe two, but at some point, we lose momentum, we get discouraged or maybe we are just plain busy.

Sometimes people stick with the plan and see results but often they do not.

Love is a special, wonderful, beautiful thing and day after day many, many couples pledge their eternal love for each other until death do them part. Everything is so romantic and lovey-dovey. They build a life together, they have children, they make promises...everything just feels so right.

Sometimes couples stay together until literal death separates them but so often they do not.

What is up with this? These are only a few examples but there are so many! Time and time again we make commitments when feelings are high. We plan futures, we make promises, we are certain that this time we will follow through because this time is different. This time we really mean it. We will be more disciplined with our money, we will give more to missions, we will get better at reading our Bibles, we will get the house remodeled - shoot, we will get it cleaned! We will spend more time with our kids, we will speak sweeter to our spouses, we will go to bed earlier, we will stick with the diet, and on and on and on and on. And believe me, I am not pointing my fingers at anyone else - I am speaking from daily personal experience! And I get so frustrated with myself! When will I learn, when will I do better?

What does better look like? Do we make less commitments? Or do we strive to be perfect? Do we focus on one thing at a time? (because God knows there are too many things to fix all at once!!!)
What about when we change our mind? I am going to spend the next couple of days talking about how to have the heart of a finisher!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Time to Connect the Dots

In considering adoption or fostering I really believed that only special people are called and equipped to foster or adopt. And, I mean, how can you love a child you did not conceive and carry in the same way you love and care for your own flesh and blood???

I have never really fully entertained the idea because I didn't really think it was possible to feel real, deep feelings for a child that was not your own. You hear stories, sure, of people visiting another country and claiming to KNOW as soon as they laid eyes on a child that he/she was THE child for them...that they fell in love immediately. But I wanted to have my own 4th child. My flesh and blood. There is something about carrying and giving birth to a child and there is a special bond that takes place as you raise and love and nurture your could a person actually experience anything like that with a child not their own???

I worried that it was not possible for me to find a child that produced the joy and love and fulfillment that I so desperately want.

And then...Peru.

We had the opportunity to have a couple of block parties in front of Casa Alcance with the neighborhood children. So many kiddos came to play. But there was one in particular that I fell in love with from the very beginning. A 9 year-old named Hassiel. Oh my gosh - her smile, her eyes, her feisty personality! I am literally in love with that child! Let's be clear, I am quite certain that she is not in need of being adopted but that is not the point.

Here's the point and the thing that God spoke to me after our trip...His love and His grace makes a way. It is possible to fall in love with a child that you did not personally give birth to. And how many children are there around this world who have no one on this Earth to love them. It doesn't take a special person with special love to adopt or foster - it takes someone who is willing to be used by God, someone who is willing to be obedient, someone who is willing to be a channel of God's love and grace. He equips those He calls...but in reality, it is not a chosen few who are called to love, we are all called to love. And if God has placed a desire in my heart to parent a 4th child - who am I to doubt that, who am I to shy away from it, who am I to question whether or not I could love "someone else's child"??? It's not someone else's child - it is God's child and He needs people who are willing to care for and love on and raise each one of them.

Hassiel opened my eyes to the reality that when I am obedient, when I am willing to put myself smack dab in the middle of God's plan for my life - He will equip me and give me the grace to accomplish any and every task He has planned for me. AND I can love a child -to the core of my being- that I did not personally conceive, carry and give birth to!

I don't know exactly how this plays out detail by detail but I know God and I am so thankful that He teaches us and guides us in such a sweet and loving way. He used a precious Peruvian girl to teach me more about Him and about love. I don't know the details about if/when/how we will foster or adopt but it is a seed within me that is growing...

Very Long (and difficult) Backstory...

You know...God is funny in a cool sort of way. I knew that when we went to Peru there was the possibility that it would change my outlook on life and serving God. I knew that I might come home more thankful for the things I have. I knew that I might feel the need to do more or give more. And those things did happen and as I shared in an earlier post, so much more. There was; however, one very unexpected result...

You probably need backstory. And I haven't shared any of this backstory at any point because I didn't think people would want to hear it, I didn't want to be a Debbie Downer AND it is still pretty difficult. But here it is...

Mother's Day 2014 I was dealing with the loss of a child. In April of that year, at the age of 41, I had found out that I was quite unexpectedly pregnant. I had always regretted not having had a 4th child - we didn't because we weren't sure how to afford another child (which is another blog post all together) - and so the years passed and our youngest child was almost 13, oldest child was 22 and having a 4th child on purpose seemed like a crazy, impossible, foolish thing to do. I had shared these feelings with friends in March and a couple of us spoke about how we had always felt like someone was missing from our family. So, when I found out I was pregnant I had A LOT of crazy mixed up emotions. I was scared about the process of having a child at 41, I was nervous about the reactions my friends and family might have, I was anxious about the future and finances and where we would put a child and my job, etc. etc. etc. But I was also excited that our family would be complete-that the regret I had about never having the 4th child I had so desperately wanted would go away.

We told everyone - our family, our friends, my boss! We made plans and started picking out names. I got excited about the things I would do differently - cloth diapers and being more careful about what immunizations I would do and when. How does that thought still make me cry all this time later!

And then we went for our first doctor's appointment (on my son's birthday, no less) and were told that there was no detectable heart beat. My word, we were in complete and utter shock. And we were broken. BUT - we decided that we were going to trust God. We were told that it was possible that we were looking for the heartbeat too early so a follow up appointment was scheduled to see if perhaps the initial ultrasound was premature.

We decided to stand in faith and speak the Word of God. I was so very careful with my words and we were also very careful about who we told because we did not want anyone speaking fear or death. We didn't even tell our two youngest children. We just spoke the Word, prayed and trusted. In fact, at our First Wednesday service, we went for prayer and I was convinced that in the following months, our church would be able to share our story of life and redemption and healing with the congregation. That the life of our child would be a testimony to God's faithfulness and the power of God through faith and prayer.

As it turned out, upon returning for a follow up appointment, we found out the baby was, in fact, not alive. What a devastating blow. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't stop crying. How could this happen? What had we done wrong? Why did this happen? Why did we even have to have conceived in the first place? I had been just fine. I had dealt with the fact  that we were never having a 4th. And then, after getting so excited - it was ripped from me!

Fortunately, God put key people in my life that helped me process the whole event and deal with the thoughts and emotions that accompany tragedies like this. I never blamed God - it is the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy. I was confused though about why my faith didn't appear to work like I had always believed it should. Thank heavens a friend shared with me things she had learned out of her personal tragedy. She shared that as believers, we know that as soon as a child is conceived, God places a spirit within the new child. The Bible is very clear that God knits us together in our mother's womb and that he makes a plan for our days before we are ever born. That spirit had a say in the matter. I believe my child had a choice and chose heaven. And I can't honestly say I blame her! I believe that I will see my child in heaven and I believe that she is hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa Grape in the meantime!

All of that being said I do still desire to the core of my being to have another child. Scott is completely NOT on board with the idea but we have talked multiple times about the possibility of fostering or adopting....

...and that is where the backstory ends and the dots are connected!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Moses and Me

So today I had kind of a big opportunity...I was interviewed for a video they will show at church in a few weeks. This sort of thing is not something I feel completely comfortable with - I don't really like to be in the all. And quite honestly it is because I don't really feel like I have a whole lot to say. Or I do have things to say but I might not be able to articulate them as well as someone else, or I'm not funny enough, charming enough, intelligent enough, etc. In fact, on my way home I was thinking to myself "will there be anything at all of value that they can use from this interview?" and "why didn't I say...?" or "why did I say...?".

God reminded me of the story of Moses in the Bible. God asked Moses to speak to the Pharoah and ask him to let the Israelites go free. 

But Moses pleaded with the LORD, "O Lord, I'm not very good with words. I never have been, and I'm not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled." Exodus 4:10 NLT

But in the end Moses did speak to Pharoah on several occasions and God used him to lead the Israelites out of captivity!

Here's the deal, Moses didn't go to speech class or Toastmasters to perfect his speaking ability before he led the people out of Egypt. God was able to use him because he was willing and obedient. God reminded me that it is His work through me that makes a difference in the lives of others. I am not the game changer, I am not the one who wins people. It is not my words or the amazing ability I have to speak into the lives of others that is ultimately going to make a difference. It is simply my willingness to be used by God. My prayer is that God will speak through me, through my words, through my actions, through my example, etc. to make a difference in the  lives of others and in His kingdom. 

We need to remember that even when we feel like the things we do or who we are or the amount of money we give is small or insignificant, God takes what we give with an obedient and joyful heart and multiplies it to bless others.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Love in Any Language

So, I know I am going to date myself with this one but back in the day I loved to listen to Sandi Patty. She was one of my favorite Christian artists and she had a song called "Love in Any Language". She sings of how we are all different but how the important things, like love, are the same. That song came to mind as I was thinking about our trip to Peru.

Obviously there are many things that are different in Peru. The obvious difference is that they speak Spanish. Another big difference is that you can't flush your toilet paper. That was a tricky one! Also, they drink a delicious beverage called Inca Kola! I don't even drink soda but I LOVE it! Their homes are different, oftentimes protected by a wall/gate at the street with some type of deterrent at the top of the wall (barbed wire, broken glass, etc). Even though it was "winter" there, the flowers and flowering trees are incredibly beautiful! Also, the avocados are ginormous! We were told that these were medium sized!!

Walls protecting the homes or businesses within

Park along El Malecón in Miraflores

Medium sized avocados
But even with all of the differences, there were so many things that are not different! Children playing and laughing, praise and worship (if it is different it is because some songs sound prettier in Spanish!!), the love parents have for their children, and the positive effect we can have on one another, to name a few!

During one of our block parties in front of the house in La Victoria, a young girl on our trip began playing with a sweet little boy. She would gather up the hoola hoops and roll them to him. He would smile and squeal with delight, give them back to her and she would repeat. I am not exaggerating when I say they did this for probably an hour! And he never tired of it! Lauren made a friend named Kaory coloring with sidewalk chalk. The sweet girl didn't want to do anything else, only color with Lauren! There was a soccer game going on, face painting, Twister, and at one point even a game of Pato, Pato, Ganso (the Spanish version of Duck, Duck, Goose). We couldn't communicate with our words but we could play and laugh!
Cait setting up the pins for these cuties to bowl

Lauren and Kaory

Sierra and the hoops
Hank was the Ganso!

The super cool thing about this is that the parents were standing around beaming with joy as they watched their kids playing and laughing. And Sierra had the privilege of watching her friend's mother raise her hand to accept Jesus as her Savior! Sierra investing in this little boy opened the door for the mother to trust us and Camino de Vida.

Also, as the week progressed, the families in the neighborhood would gather outside and watch us work. We weren't asking them to participate in the clean up - no words were spoken. But as we began cleaning up the area in front of the house, neighbors began sweeping in front of their homes. We were leading by example!

And probably one of the highlights for me (okay, I know there were many) was the praise and worship! On that last morning, after pouring our hearts and souls and strength into getting the house ready, we walked into the main room where the guys were practicing for the service and we were overwhelmed with the worship. It was so beautiful! The wonder and awe associated with praising God for all that He is and all that He has done and for His love and grace is the same in any language! Many of us were completely overwhelmed with emotions - for all that had taken place over the week, for all of the potential in that place, for the opportunity to be part of something so much bigger than us, and with all of the love for these people and the La Victoria community! It didn't matter that we didn't know all of the words or that we couldn't pronounce them exactly right - the worship behind the words was what is what should always matter the most.

I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to go to Lima and I am so thankful I did not let a language barrier keep me from going! A hug, a smile, love - they mean the same thing and have the same effect in Lima as they do at home!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hospitality is Alive and Well in Lima, Peru

Have you ever been someplace where you felt at home immediately? Where you felt comfortable and welcome? Growing up that place was my grandma's house. Partially it was because her house was fun - she had a swimming pool, she always kept crayons there for me and she had little candy bars stashed in various places but more than anything it was the way she and my grandpa treated us. It was the way they spoke, the way they considered us in plans, the way they loved on us. No other place has ever felt quite like Grandma and Grandpa's house.

When I consider the time we spent in Peru - one thing that I keep coming back to is the way we were received. The people at Camino de Vida were absolutely incredible! Obviously they were happy to have a group of people come to help finish a very big project but it went so far past that!

Israel and the crew on the bus

I should start with Israel Chavez. Our trip would not have been the same if not for this guy! He was our constant companion, our translator and our friend. He sacrificed his time (vacation time) and time with his wife and four kids to be with us. He made sure to show us some of the coolest places in Lima, made sure to introduce us to some of the best food in Peru, came early several mornings to walk us 20 minutes to the best coffee shop in Lima, helped us pick out chocolate at the grocery store, rescued us at the check out when the cashier was speaking muy rapido en Espanol, and did an incredible impression of our Catacomb tour guide. He is an incredible story teller and we so enjoyed hearing about his time in the US in high school and about the first time he ever saw his wife. Also, he is like a legit praise and worship rock star! My daughters and I agree, meeting Israel was a highlight of our trip and it wouldn't have been the same without his investment in our lives and our trip.

Look at those smiles!

Then there were the ladies and gentlemen in the kitchen!! I want to remember their sweet faces forever. They cooked and cleaned and chopped literally all day (they started before we arrived each day and were always working when we left preparing for the next day) to serve us some of the best food I have ever eaten! I actually think I gained weight while I was there!!! And they were genuinely happy to do it.

Dominique, Haley and Stephany

Then there were these two, Stephany and Dominique! They were so very gracious, constantly checking on us, going floor to floor offering water and checking to see if we needed anything. They were eager to try to talk with us and build relationships despite the language barrier! They truly have a heart of serving and hospitality and it blessed us!! And look at those beautiful smiles!!

Jon Carlos and Braxton

The beautiful Veronica Chiang

And I can't forget to mention Jon Carlos and Veronica. Jon Carlos will be running the house in La Victoria and he has such a heart for this community. He was so grateful to have us there and was so sweet to us. Veronica was amazing! She went out with us on outreaches to help us with our Spanish (which improved while were were there but is still VERY lacking!) She is genuinely kind, extremely patient, funny and loving and we are blessed to know her!

These are just a few of the people who blessed us while they were there but honestly, there was an overall spirit of hospitality! We felt so welcome and loved! I think that is part of the reason it was so hard to say goodbye! I didn't expect to fall in love with the people of Peru - but I did!

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:9 (amplified version)
Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). [Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body.] And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly (cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him).

This is exactly the way they received us - they are representatives of Christ and I pray that every person who steps foot in the La Victoria house senses this love and grace. That they feel welcome in that place and in the family of God!

Back at home, it is our job to make sure we make others feel this way in our homes and in our church. It is more than saying hello as a visitor comes through the door. It is a genuine smile, a conversation, meeting needs and loving them! It is slowing down a bit to actually listen when someone talks. It is considering others in our plans, taking into consideration how we would want to be treated. I need to grow in this - I will use my sweet friends in Peru as my example!!

Muchas gracias, mi nueva familia! Te amo!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Meet Lisa Alfonsi

So, I feel like I should tell you that in general I find myself getting pretty disgusted  and discouraged with and by humanity in general. I often shake my head when I consider all of the horrible things going on around the world that people allow and usually applaud. And don't get me wrong...I've not done much to help the situation. I find myself asking the question, "what can one person do, really?" In fact, I realized on this trip that I have a character flaw (ok one of many). When I don't feel like I can do something with excellence and finish a task in a reasonable amount of time, I just don't start the task. The problems seem impossible. However, on my trip to Lima, I met people doing things to make a difference. I met people willing to do whatever it takes to obey the call of God on their lives. And I realized that everything you do to make a difference, even if seemingly small, God can multiply to make a difference for and in many! I'd like to tell you about one of those people - her name is Lisa.

One day while in Lima Caitlin, Lauren, Sierra and I had the opportunity to visit a local orphanage with Lisa.

Caitlin, Lauren, Sierra and me
Lisa and 3 year old Adriano

Lisa is an occupational therapist who works with children with various disabilities in Lima. She serves at two local orphanages and will have an OT room at the new Camino de Vida house in La Victoria. There are 24 children who live in this house and while it is sad that they do not have parents, Lisa encouraged us to remember that while they live in this house, they are cared for, receive medical care and therapy, are bathed and fed, etc. Oftentimes parents of disabled children do not have the resources or the knowledge to appropriately care for their children. We so enjoyed watching her with Adriano, a sweet 3 year old boy who stole our heart with his sweet smile and we were so thrilled to see him progress in the short session Lisa had with him! Watching Lisa speak sweetly to each child, gently caressing their hair and kissing their sweet little heads melted my heart.

She uses a platform swing with most of her kiddos. I'd never seen anything like it but we loved watching her use the swing in her therapy session. The kids loved it and really responded well. I was reminded of how much my nieces and nephews enjoy their time on the swing and thought it was so cool that something like that could be used to help children in so many different ways! She mentioned that she had donated her swing to this particular orphanage so she would be without one at her new location at the La Victoria house.  I hope to help her remedy this situation!!
Adriano and the platform swing
I was blown away by this young lady and her commitment to being obedient to God and loving on and working with children. She only worked with 3 kids that particular day but she impacted the 4 of us forever and inspired us to do more and to love more. She is making a difference in Peru and I don't think we will know the full story on the difference she has made until we get to heaven! I can't wait to celebrate with her when she receives her crown!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Exceedingly Abundantly Above and Beyond

So, I haven't blogged for a very long years. But, my daughters and I have just returned from a missions trip to Lima, Peru with COTM Missions serving at Camino de Vida and I have to start putting some of my thoughts into words to process them. Plus, this way if people want to know details about the trip - they can read the blog and I won't bore to tears someone who is completely uninterested by telling story after story after story!

I think I need to say that I decided to go on this trip because my daughters wanted to go on this trip. COTM had several trips a person could sign up for but Caitlin wanted to go to Peru and she is under 18 so she had to be accompanied by an adult. When we had our first meeting before the trip and everyone was sharing why they were going to Peru - I felt like an imposter. God had not spoken audibly to me telling me to go to Lima, I had never really even considered the Peruvian people. One guy from our group had already made several trips to Peru, one had been praying for Peru since he was a child, even my older daughter, Lauren, had had this particular church on her heart for years. For me, I knew that I wanted to serve God somewhere...I knew that I wanted to go on a missions trip...I knew that I wanted my kids to have a missions trip experience - where they come back more thankful for their lives and their things and their parents. I wanted them to see how good they have it. So even the whole time we were raising the funds to go I felt like I was piggybacking on Caitlin's desire to go to Lima. I felt fake.

When the time for the trip was drawing close, people began telling us to have fun and there was always talk of a trip like this changing your life but I felt like it was wrong to expect to have fun...I felt like the priority should be on changing the lives of others - not on personally having an experience.

What I found was that serving God, being obedient and willing to serve others does it all - it changed me, it changed the community, it changed my daughters, and it was fun! God is so cool like that - serving Him blesses everyone involved - it wasn't either/or! I can't think of a time in my life where I worked as hard and laughed as much or loved as deeply or felt like I was making a difference or made as many lifetime friends or was as proud of my daughters, and on and on and on!

The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20 that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all I can ask or think (infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams)..and that is exactly what He did!