Sunday, December 29, 2013

"My home is in Heaven..." ~ Billy Graham

17 years ago I stood in a crowd of thousands of people in a California amphitheater. We were there to hear some guy speak. I didn't really know who he was but I knew that he was famous... and I could sense from the energy of the crowd that something huge was going to happen. I knew that God would move and my life would be changed. His name was Billy Graham. 

I was 13 years old and in 3 months I would undergo a major surgery to fuse my spine in order to stop the progress of my Scoliosis. The back brace I wore had become a part of me... something that I couldn't imagine living without. It held me together... binded the parts of me that were broken and seemingly, defined the parts of me that were not. My head knew that back surgery was 'routine'... my heart hadn't gotten the memo.

I was terrified.

When a doctor preps you for surgery, he explains the pros in depth... and quickly mentions the cons. The risks. Death always seems to be a risk. This time was no different.

I stood surrounded by friends and strangers at the same time. A man came on stage and I can't remember a word he said... but his words hushed the crowd of thousands and the world seemed to fade away. His presence was empowering... his words echoed off the walls of your heart.

I would say I couldn't speak for everyone there... but I'm certain that I can.

His words changed people. They changed me.

I remember his question; Would you like to dedicate your life to Christ? I'll help you!

But I had done that years ago. His conclusion didn't apply to me. Until...

Have you already given your life to him? Have you spent each day living purposefully? Living for him? Would you like to RE-dedicate your life to him? Let me help you...

And I did.

And my fears faded. Death no longer filled me with fear but instead, filled me with hope! My hope rested in him and in him alone. The promises I had made years ago renewed in my heart and became the anthem of my life.

All because of his words.... of the words that my Jesus put in the mouth of a man.

A man named Billy Graham.

In early October I was contacted by the Billy Graham Association. One of their head publicists reads our blog. A compliment? I think so!

The Billy Graham Association wanted to host a blogger luncheon. They were inviting some of the top bloggers in our region and wanted to clue us in on the BGA and what makes it tick, what they have to offer our community, and most of all, who this guy is. 

If you've ever heard of Billy Graham, then you know that no one in their right mind would pass up an opportunity like this. And if you've never heard of him, a quick Google search will give you some perspective.

The day was amazing! Billy Graham Headquarters... the birth-place of so many of his movies and crusades and interviews... breath-taking! The library... a chronicle of his life... of the millions of people who were imprinted in the patchwork of his heart from the day he was born... inspiring. Pieces of his life... large and small, minute and monumental... all played a part in the purpose of his life... humbling.

I didn't learn anything about the life of Billy Graham that I didn't already know. It's impossible to attend one of his crusades and lose track of him... he's just 'that guy'. What I learned had more to do with his ministry than anything...

The Library, located in Charlotte, NC, has something to offer for everyone... free tours of the library that chronicles the plan God has for his life from day 1, Christmas festivities free of charge, tea parties and luncheons for kids, gardens more beautiful than any I've ever seen...

A hidden gem.

Billy Graham's life work defines 'purpose'. His library, just one small glimpse into the life of a true prophet, gives anyone who visits determination to find their own. Men like him are few... his life has been rich and full... but his time is growing short. Pray for this man. Learn more about him... visit his legacy... support his cause. 

I am honored to have been given a glimpse into his life... a life that changed lives... including mine.

My perspective was changed, my fear was squelched, and my life-verse can now be echoed through his words...

"My home is in Heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."
~ Billy Graham

To Lisa and the many people who made opened up this opportunity and included me in the impressive list of bloggers who were invited... thank you! I am proud to be considered a Billy Graham Blogger and look forward to working with you in the future to continue the purpose of Billy Graham's life and of his library... to carry on his legacy.

Other BGA Bloggers;

Emily A. Clark
Malise Terrell
Briana Bruzali
Gail Purath 
Jennifer Schmidt
Megan Scheibner 

A little about us...

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Give the freaking Elf a break!

Do you know someone who's faith in the human race and belief in all things good was shattered when they realized that there really is no Santa?
Probably not.
Have you ever met someone who never spoke to their parents again when they finally told them who the real Santa is?
I didn't think so.
Does your 5 year old daughter believe that Cinderella and Ariel and Jasmine live at Disney World?
I'd guess that she does,
Does your son think that Superman saves kittens and stops trains?
He does.
So why is everyone giving the Elf so much flack?!
My news feed is full of people who are 'confused' by the hype surrounding the Elf... who put other parents on the naughty list when their Elf tee-pee's the Christmas tree or repels from the doorbell.
Whether you facilitate and encourage your child's belief in Santa or not.... whether your Elf reads the Bible or ate the last cookie... or if Cinderella lives in a computer or Superman is just a man in a cape...
Did you believe in Santa when you were little? How'd you turn out?
Did you think that Belle was the most beautiful girl in the whole world? How'd you turn out?
Did Superman follow your airplane to Gramma's house? How are you doing after that?
I am disgusted lately that the biggest argument in a season of joy and family and BELIEVING is whether or not the belief in Santa is healthy or why an Elf would get into a little trouble (I do, however agree with those who think he's slightly creepy looking...).
So annoying.
My kids believe in Santa... it's from their belief in Santa that they learned how to say 'ho ho ho' when they were babies and it's him who first introduced them to candy canes and started their little minds to thinking about cause and effect... naughty vs. nice. Santa works at the North Pole in the Winter but he spends his summer in Heaven with Jesus and our angel baby. He and Kazaar (yes... we believe in the Elf, too) meet at McDonalds and chat about the week's happenings... over a McFlurry. For a few short weeks out of the year, we don't have to take privileges away... because Kazaar is watching... so we all get dessert, everyone gets to watch the Christmas show before bed, friends come over to play when plans are made... and that's just good enough! We get to watch our kids' faces light up when Kazaar gets into a little trouble... no one is perfect, after all!! (And... Elf's get bored when we're not home!)
I don't care if your kids believe in Santa or not.... they'll be fine either way. 
I don't care if you have an Elf or not.... they'll be fine either way.
But we have chosen to allow our kids a few short years of a little extra what? It doesn't really matter, does it?!
In the world they will grow up in... whether they believe in Santa or not.... they sadly face a lifetime of more significant disappointments; people aren't always good or nice... not everyone believes in Jesus like we do... people die... not everyone is going to go to Heaven... the Bible doesn't tell us what happens to our pets when they die...
We have chosen to allow our kids the opportunity to believe in Santa and Kazaar.... it won't last forever... their lives won't end when Santa and Kazaar turn into Mom and Dad....

and  they'll always know what Christmas is truly about, because we're the one's who are responsible for that....
And we've chosen to give them a lifetime of memories.... waiting in line to meet Santa.... sitting at the top of the stairs while mom and dad take a painfully long time to brush their teeth so they can run downstairs and see what Santa brought them... anticipating the surprise when Kazaar took flight while they were sleeping and landed himself in a new spot...
We made that choice.
You made your's.
Don't judge me and I won't judge you....
(though our Elf might... ;-))

But please, give the freaking Elf a break!

And just to tick off a few of you 'Elf Critics' even more, I thought I'd share with you what our Jesus-believing, Santa-serving, church-going, love-and-logic practicing, away-in-the-manger, tree-tee-peeing Elf gets into when the babies go to bed...

When the babies are away, the Elf will play (courtesy of said-babies' Daddy and Uncle ;-))...


Make sure you don't miss our new info video.... we love it!!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Baby K update and our new video!

I continue to be amazed by the overwhelming response to Baby K's story... the dedication you all have had in finding her family has been truly remarkable!
I have to apologize to so many of you ... I've received dozens of messages and emails asking for an update on sweet Baby K and I haven't responded to one of them :-/ I'm so sorry! But this was because I had no update to give you... 
When an adoption situation crosses my path, I put lots of effort into verifying the details and confirming policies, etc about the representing agency or attorney. I'm super picky about the situations I put in front of you.... I KNOW your passion for these kids and I KNOW that God uses you to move mountains on their behalf so it's never my intention to mislead or misrepresent anyone! I take it very seriously.
I did my research on Baby K's agency and even spoke to the woman who was primarily responsible for finding her family... she and I were in contact with each other as your emails poured into her inbox! When the number of inquiries about Baby K reached over 500 she asked me to remove Baby K's story so she had time to catch up on follow-ups for the inquiries she had already received. I did so right away and she promised that she would keep me posted as they continued searching for a family... and she promised to let me know if they needed any more help.
Long story short... she never followed-up.
And that's where I get pretty ticked off... for you AND for me.
I spent the majority of last week emailing, calling and texting the agency to get some sort of update on Baby K. We all need to understand that privacy is the main concern in adoption situations... Baby K's story had travelled SO far, her picture had been posted everywhere, and the agency had to be careful to protect this sweet girl AND her family. HOWEVER, the response I finally got last Friday was NOT good enough for me...
"We can't disclose any information.'
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! People's lives have been forever changed by Baby K's story... hearts became aware of special needs adoption, of adoption in general as an option for their family, and I didn't accept that as an adequate answer. So I pushed... hard. Is she ok?! ALIVE?! Does she have a family? Was it one of the 90,000 people who visited this blog ALONE over those 2 days?! These people deserve a little better than that!
And here's what I got...
'Baby K is alive and doing very well."
And that, my friends has to be enough.
Needless to say, I won't be posting any more situations from that particular agency. And please, just know how much you helped... how many lives have been changed... and that 'our' sweet girl is alive and well :-)
On another note...
I'm SO excited to share our new 'intro' video with you!! My brother has an amazing talent for photography and film... he has done incredible videos for PT schools, churches, and has recently been asked to complete a film for a local refugee ministry! SO... when he asked me if I wanted a video just for On Loan From Heaven, I couldn't wait to get started! AND... I couldn't love it more!

To watch an amazing video about our Fighter, Hunter, head over here. To see more of Eric's talent for capturing life, or if you'd like to contact him about a project that's on your mind, head over here  or email ericchole (at) me (dot) com!

Friday, December 13, 2013

the look...

Parenting a child with special needs is tough.
It's a joy, don't get me wrong...
but it's tough.
Words like 'age-appropriate' or 'developmental delays' or 'failure to thrive' swirl around in your head... but at the same time that medical professionals warn you of those terrifying realities that have become your child's life, 'don't compare' and 'I'm sure he'll catch up' and 'by the time he's 2 years old....' are meant to be soothing and comforting to the already-terrified parent.
I remember so many times when Hunter was tiny... at the store or a doctor's office... watching 'typical' kids run and play and talk... things we were told Hunter would never do. They were full of joy and life and I'd watch them longingly...
I didn't long for me...
for my son.
This is where I first became aware of 'the look.'
The look on a parents' face when, no matter how hard they try not to, they find themselves comparing their child to another seemingly-more 'normal' child... doing seemingly-more 'normal' things.
I'd watch closely... how they moved, sounded, responded to kids and adults... and I'd look at my son and my heart would shatter.
Not because he wasn't good enough or as good as them... because he was.
It would shatter for him.
For the things he'd never be able to do or say or understand... for what he would miss out on in life...
And I would walk through the rest of my day paralyzed with the fear that if he wasn't able to run and play and talk and understand, then he would never experience joy... the joy that comes from being full of life.
'The look' in my face... the look I know other mom's could see... was the look of a Mama who was....
scared? anxious?
jealous, even?
That's a hard one to swallow.
It took months for me to learn how to hide 'the look'... how to block out the sounds and sights of other kids who were Hunter's age. I put so much energy into ignoring what was 'typical' and settled over and over again on the reality that Hunter would be his own 'typical'... his movements and growth and development redefined 'normal' in my head.
And I was ok resting there for a while... in a place where 'normal' and 'typical' didn't exist... where the sounds and sights of kids running and playing and talking and responding to their surroundings didn't define 'normal' anymore.
We were sitting in the waiting room at Hunter's Audiologists the other day ... Hunter took over the place! He was running from chair to chair... he would walk over to someone else who was waiting and would gently put his hand on their knee, just so they would say 'hi' to him... he'd move on and grab a magazine just so he could throw it on the floor... he made himself welcome behind the front desk and got a kick out of the paper shredder...
and then I saw them.
The beautiful couple sitting around the corner with their son, in the far side of the waiting room. Their 6 year old son was in a wheelchair... sitting up, but not really... aware, but not... happy, so happy!
His parents were watching Hunter so closely... his movement, his sounds, how he responded to his surroundings....

the look.

We were getting the look... US!

My heart broke at the longing in their face... the grief.... the jealousy.

It was as if Hunter sensed their attention and, as if on cue, he walked over to their son's wheelchair and gently placed his hand on the wheel. He looked from the boy to his parents and back at me... I knew what he was asking me and I nodded... he looked back at the sweet boy and smiled at him before he toddled off.

He broke the ice for me...

Their son had just had brain surgery... he went into it as a fully hearing boy and came out of it deaf.

As we talked... as I travelled through Hunter's story with them... I saw the most amazing thing...

as we talked, their precious son struggled to turn his head just so he could see his parents, so he could just be assured that they were there... with him, in the middle of the visual chaos and silent conversation surrounding him... he needed to see them but more that that, he needed them to see him. Their look meant that everything was ok... would be ok... that he was safe.

And it hit me;

I had spent so much time focused on how other people looked at us and how looking at other kids felt to me...

that I had missed the real looks... the only ones that matters;

the look of contentment and security and safety on my son's face when he looks for me.... and when he finds me.

And when our eyes meet? That look brings out confidence and strength in him ... confidence and strength that only a glance between us can bring out in him because I'm the one who taught him that look, after all.

"I love how your son looks at you."

They sat speechless... and something else amazing happened...

their look slowly transformed from hopeless...

to hopeful.

A few simple words... a million hidden meanings.

What makes a child 'normal' or 'typical' isn't in their movement or language...

it's in their look...

 the one that tells them that they're wanted and accepted and deserving... that they're strong and capable and confident... the one that defines 'joy'...

the one that tells them that they're loved.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Tube Sock Snowman- Tutorial!

I have LOVED being Hannah's Room Mom this year... it just always felt like one of those things that stay at home moms do... and the fact that I get to do it makes me want to do it so well!
I am NOT the crafty type... don't get me wrong; I can make a mean tissue paper pom pom or scrapbook paper pinwheel but they followed over an hour of studying online tutorials and asking friends for help ;-)
The 'craft' part of being Room Mom has been the most challenging for me. Reindeer Nutter Butters, Snowman String Cheese, Grinch Fruit Kabobs... easy!

A craft that's cheap and easy for a 5 year old to do without strict adult supervision?
Another story completely.
 I was SO SO SO excited when I ran across Tube Sock Snowmen on Pinterest! The pin I found didn't have a link but I was able to find a wonderful tutorial ... and I could not be more excited about doing this project with Hannah's class at their Christmas party! In fact, Hannah and I have had so much fun creating our 'samples' that we've decided to make family gifts out of them, too ;-)
I've done my best to give you a step by step tutorial and I sincerely encourage everyone to do this craft with your kids this year... they make adorable gifts for grandparents or birth parents or teachers or.. anyone! And they are a decoration that anyone would love to pull out year after year!
So here goes nothing....
Tube Sock Snowmen
(in 6 easy steps!!)
I purchased everything needed for this project at WalMart and will include prices for you, too to give you an idea of your investment... and believe me, it's worth every penny!
You'll need....

*1 package of men's white tube socks (6 pairs will make 12 snowmen) ~ $5.00
* 1 box of rice or 1 bag of dry beans (optional)~ $1.97
* 1 bag of Fiber Filling ~ $3.47
* 1 package of black 'fuzzy sticks' ( 20 pipe cleaners)~ $0.88
* 1 package of red 'fuzzy sticks' (20 pipe cleaners)~ $0.88
* 1 package of 'wiggly eyes'~ $0.97
* 1 package of various sized buttons (any colors)~ $1.97
* 1 package of pom poms (various sizes, any colors)~ $1.97
* Fabric glue or hot glue gun
* Holiday or birthday ribbon in any size, color, or shape (I liked using wired ribbon)

Total (will make 12 snowmen)~ $17.11 (plus tax)


Step 1 (optional):

Pour a small amount of rice or beans into the bottom of the tube sock to provide a base for the snowman to stand on. It seems as though the project will work without the base but it does help provide stability!

Step 2:

Stuff tube sock with fiber filling... approximately 3/4 full.

Step 3:

Tie the open end of the full tube sock in a knot.

Step 4:

Fold the open end back over the knot to create the snowman's hat (secure with a dab of hot glue or fabric glue, if you'd like to. I didn't and they still turned out great!).

Step 5:

Tie off the top 1/3 of the tube sock with your choice of ribbon to create the snowman's head and body. (I used the Holiday ribbon I already had and found that the wired ribbon made the best bows).

Step 6:

Decorate to your heart's delight!!

* The black pipe cleaner arms stick right into the sock... no cutting, gluing, or sewing necessary!! If you're SUPER crafty (I told you that I am not), you could even find some real sticks ;-)
* A tiny piece of red pipe cleaner made a cute mouth!
* We used a tiny pom pom for the nose and a larger one for the cute puff-ball hat.
* Use as many buttons as you'd like for your snowman!

The best part of this craft?! Hannah was able to do almost every step by herself and each snowman took about 5 minutes to make.... all 12 took us about an hour! It truly became a project created by her and with her cute signature on the bottom, I can't imagine a better school craft , birth-parent present, or family gift! 

(See original tutorial here)