Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Uganda or Bust

As you may have heard by now, 
this girl and I, along with our friend Erin, 
are heading to Uganda in May to serve with Sole Hope
(You can read more about the work Sole Hope is doing and why I think it's so very important here.) 

And we can't wait. 

But first, we've got to sell some t-shirts. 

If I've learned anything in the past few years, 
it's the fundraising is humbling. 

It's hard to put yourself out there and ask people to join you and stand beside you while you step out in faith to do whatever it is you believe you've been called to do. 

I wish you could see Libby's face every time someone places an order. 
It's like you rang our doorbell, looked her in the face, and told her, 
"I believe in you, and I support what you're trying to do."

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: 
If you wanna make me feel loved, love my littles. 

And you guys are loving us so very well. 

The love has come pouring in from all across the country, 
and I seriously wish I could high five and fist bump each and every one of you. 

I've been to Africa five times. 
And each of those times, 
Libby has begged to come with me. 

But this time? 

This time, she will. 

And it's not too late for you to help us get there. 

Simply head HERE and purchase the shirt you're loving. 

And then imagine me  and Libby happy dancing in the kitchen. 

You only have until next Wednesday, February 15th to place your order. 

So run, don't walk. 

And thank you from the bottom of my mama heart. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

So I'm taking my daughter to Africa....

As you may have heard by now, 
Libby and I (and our dear friend Erin) are headed to Uganda in May....
and I absolutely can't wait. 

But while I'm over the moon excited and counting the sleeps until we leave, 
I'm sure that a few of you will raise an eyebrow at this news. 

In the six years since I fell in love with a land far, far away, 
I've pretty much heard it all. 

Why would you ever want to go back? 
How can it possibly be safe? 
Why don't you just serve here? 

( I won't even begin to talk about the things people have said in regards to our adoption; 
that's a post for another day.)

While I don't hear remarks like these as often any more, 
(Pretty sure people gave up on trying to convince me not to go back after the second, third, fourth, or fifth times....)
I don't doubt that there are people out there
(maybe even someone reading this now?)
who simply can't understand why I would take my twelve year old daughter across the world. 

Where do I even begin? 
I'm pretty sure I could talk about this for days on end, 
but for your sake,
I'll try to keep it simple. 


Yes, Jesus. 

God has called us to serve. 
He's told us to love our neighbors. 
He's told us to treat others as we would want to be treated.
And I am certain that the word 'neighbors' is limited to the people living next door. 

I want my children to know more than their own towns. 
I want them to see the ways other people live. 
Yes, materially many people we will meet will have less than us. 
But do material things equate happiness? Joy? Quality of life? 
I'm  pretty sure you know my answer. 

By seeing where and how other people live, 
we can better understand and empathize and relate to others. 
We become more aware of what matters. 
Our perspective shifts.
Our hearts stretch just a little bit bigger. 

I mean with all of my heart when I say I fully believe the greatest joy we can experience on this Earth comes from serving others, and if my daughters learn only one lesson from me as their mother, this is the one I hope they learn. 

God has called us to love. 
We are never too young to do that. 
As long as we are capable and able, 
we should serve others whenever and wherever possible.
It's our responsibility as Christians, 
as families, 
and as people. 

I can't wait for my daughter to experience the beauty that is Uganda. 
I can't wait for her to see more of this world that God has created. 
I can't wait for her to step foot in the land I love so dearly. 
I can't wait for to step outside of her comfort zone in the name of serving others. 

So yes, I'm taking my daughter to Africa....
and I absolutely cannot wait. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

2017: Resolutions and My Word for the Year

So clearly I'm a little late to the game, 
but seeing as how it's still technically January and still early in the year, 
I've spent some time thinking about what I want from this year. 

The past three years of my life can be summed up in one little word: 

If I wasn't crying or praying or filling out paperwork then I was fundraising or planning or traveling to Africa. 

The aftermath of that? 
Well, who am I now?
What do I want to do next? 
How can I work towards something that will be as meaningful as that was? 

We don't feel called to adopt again, at least not any time soon. 
And while I would love to buy a one way ticket to the land I love, 
we aren't there yet either. 
And while there is a little something on the horizon (more details to come soon), 
WHAT'S NEXT is still a work in progress. 

Here's what I do know: 

I want this year to matter. 

Adoption (while totally worth it because EVIE) was hard and consuming. 
There are things I pushed aside while spending all that time filling out forms, 
and this year I am playing catch up, which leads me to my word for the year: 


I want to invest more in my family. 

I want to invest more in my body.
(You try being paper pregnant for three years and let me now how well your jeans fit.)

I want to invest more in my friends. 

I want to invest more in my marriage. 

Here are some others things I'm dreaming about for 2017: 

-More reading time and less TV time. 
-More recognizing birthdays and important events in the lives of people I love. 
-More date nights. (Can  I get an AMEN?)
-More time in the Word. 
-More prayer time spent listening and less time spent talking. 
-More intentional memory making for our family. 

What are YOU resolving to do in 2017? 
Do tell. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Eight months home.

Eight months. 

I can't believe she's been home that long. 
It seems like yesterday when I first saw her face.

To say she's amazing would be such an understatement. 
This little girl is so smart, so funny, and so perfectly made for our family. 

She is our little balancer. 
She brings out the best in Libby and plays for hours on end with Hollyn, 
and I just couldn't be more in love with her. 

I know this sounds so rosey, but she fits to seamlessly into our family. 

Her English is amazing. 
She said MIXING last week. 
Such a big word for such a little girl. 
She also asked me why the snowman was wearing a hat, but that's neither here nor there. 

Sharing Christmas with her has been one of my favorite things we've done so far.
Although I must say, have you ever tried explaining all of the Christmas traditions to someone who's completely unfamiliar with our Christmas traditions?
It's actually harder than you may think.

I'd be lying if I said it hasn't be an adjustment;
adding a person of any age to your family requires making some changes.

But at the end of the day, she is one of my best YES's.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Welcome home, Evie.

May 12, 2016. 
I will never, ever forget the day that our Evie girl came home. 
After three years almost to the day, 
our baby girl, our missing piece, 
our Evie girl finally finally finally came home. 

We are officially a family of five.

It was truly one of the sweetest moments of my life. 

I was so overwhelmed with how good and big our God is 
and how many people were waiting and praying along with us.

For all of you who couldn't be at the airport that day or were there and want to relive it all, 
here you go: 

Thank you again to everyone who joined us to welcome our girl home and to Katie Kubler and Nicole Cole for capturing these moments so very beautifully. 

Welcome home, Evie. 
We've been waiting for you, baby girl. 

And then I cried.

It's been quiet around here.
 It's not that I haven't had anything to say, but more that we've been busy. 
We've been working to find our new normal and become a family of five. 

Evie has been home just shy of three months. 
It's funny to even say that because it honestly feels like she's always been here. 
She has fit so seamlessly into our family. 

But I don't want these memories to be lost-- 
our first memories together. 

We met on a Sunday. 
I saw her get out of the van and just like that, she was mine. 

Here we are within minutes of meeting. 

I won't say I was scared. 
I knew that God had planned this and put so many details into place. 
But I will say that I was nervous. 
What if she was scared? 
What if she was sad and longing for her foster mother? 
What if she didn't feel like mine right away? 

But my worries were for nothing. 
Meeting Evie was far better than I could ever dreamed. 
One minute she was a stranger, and the next minute she was family. 
She was my daughter. 

Our time in Congo was short and sweet, 
filled with bubbles and stickers and play-doh and peanut butter crackers 
and lots and lots of waiting. 

And then, just like that, my lawyer showed up at our hotel with our beloved Exit Letter. 
I've never been happier to see a piece of paper in my whole life. 

And then I cried. 

Within an hour, we were headed to the airport and boarding the first of several flights home. 

I won't say that flying with a toddler was the most fun thing I've ever done. 
I will say that for the most part she did very, very well and that I'm thankful for pound cake, headphones, nice strangers, and clean bathrooms. 

After over twenty-four hours of travel, we finally landed in the good ole' US of A. 

And then I cried again. 

America, you just got a little cuter. 
And our family just got a little bigger. 

I'm an adopting mama no more. 
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Packing is an art. (#adoptionpackinglist)

Packing is my jam. 
I love it. 
The planning and organizing and strategically placing all the right things in all the right places-- 
I love all of it. 
Actually, I think it's the fact that I like being prepared. 

*NOTE: I'm writing this post before I bring my girl home b/c I have the time to write it now but plan on being too busy with her to write it when I get home. However, I will edit it to reflect any recommendations once we are home and settled. 

This will be my fifth trip to Africa, 
and I've learned a thing or two about what I really need versus what will waste space in my suitcase. 
And when I did some searching for African adoption packing lists, the posts were in short supply.
This will probably bore most of my readers, 
but it helps even one Africa-bound traveler or adoptive mom, 
then it will be more than worth the time it took to write it. 

Please note that I am not an over-packer. 
I know what I can get in-country and would rather not carry things I won't use. 

Okay, so first here's what I'm packing in: 

-1 large suitcase (This will weigh 50 lbs. or less and will be checked and stored under the plane.)
-1 carry-on, small suitcase (This has my adoption paperwork and enough food and clothes to sustain me and Evie should my check bag be delayed.)
-1 Kavu sling bag (This will be my personal item that will sit under the seat in front of me. It has all the things I will need on the plane in it.)

NOTE: This list will vary from one person to the next. Everyone has different food preferences, medical needs, and comforts of home. Also, the list will vary depending on the age of you child and whether he or she has any special needs or medical issues. My daughter is between 2-3 years old and has no known medical issues. 

Okay, so here's what's in each bag: 



-1 roll of paper towels 
-3 small washcloths
-2 towels (The towels in Africa are notoriously bad. I always take one with me to Africa and then leave it there. This frees up room in my suitcase for souvenirs.)
-1 hand towel (to use for washing my face, brushing our teeth, etc. This could also be used for cooking.)
- 2 travel packs of Lysol wipes
-2 packs of baby wipes
-1 package of disposable bowls (Bowls can be used in place of plates, but not vice versa. These are invaluable in Congo b/c the water isn't safe to drink or wash dishes with.)
- a few packs of disposable cutlery
- a few child-sized spoons and forks
-a sippy cup ( I suggest bringing two different styles in case your child prefers one over the other. Also, when I met Emily, she knew how to drink out of a regular cup and did so much better than my bio babies, but we needed a non-spill cup for when we were out and about, and I'll want one for Evie on the plane ride home.)
-a water bottle for me for in-country use
-several Ziploc bags of various sizes
-3-4 packs of travel-size disinfecting hand wipes (These are way better than liquid germ-x, as they remove dirt AND germs.)
-a blanket for Evie (She has most likely never had air-conditioning and will be much colder on the plane, etc. than I will be.)
-shampoo and conditioner for me and Evie
-coconut oil for Evie's skin and hair
-a non-tangle brush for Evie and one for me


TIP: I pack anything that's crushable in tupperware containers to keep them in one piece. 

-a bag of goldfish
-several squeezie packs of baby food (Even toddlers enjoy these. They don't require utensils. They're a great way to get some veggies into your kid.)
-a package of suckers (These are great for keeping your little quiet while you're meeting with government officials, etc. They're also good for little ears on airplane rides.)
-Fiber One Brownies (It's hard to find vegetables I can eat in Africa that won't make me sick, and a girl needs her fiber. This is my compromise when I travel.)
-a few packs of travel-size trail mix
-2-3 bags of beef jerky 
-2-3 boxes of raisins for Evie
-instant coffee individual packets  (I CAN'T STAND airplane coffee but can't stand the thought of traveling without coffee.)
-individual coffee creamers 
-Propel drink mixes 
-Crystal Light packs with caffeine (These tend to help when I'm feeling jet-lagged.)
-several packs of oatmeal (I like the kind with extra protein.)
- all the bars (They're easy to carry around when you're out and about, and you don't have to touch them to eat them. I try to bring some that are packed with protein.)
-several packs of individual peanut butter (These are great for little ones. They can eat them with a spoon, and then you can just throw them away. They also take a little longer to eat and are more filling than crackers, etc.)
-canned chicken with pop-top lids 
-rice (I usually bring instant b/c it's easier to cook if you simply have access to hot water.)
-instant mashed potatoes (also good with just hot water access)
-tortillas (easier to pack and last longer than bread. Plus, I actually LOVE the bread I've eaten in African countries, so I try to buy some when I can. These can be used with peanut butter or chicken.)
- a can of Pringles (comfort food, and the can helps keep them in tact)
-Belvita breakfast crackers (Blueberry is my favorite.)
-two pre-packaged camping meals that one require adding boiling water
-some candy and chocolate (Comfort food :) )


- tweezers
-toddler safe Vapo-rub stick 
-toddler tylenol (chewable)
-toddler benadryl (chewable) 
-toddler cold and cough medicine (chewable) 
- Lotrimin for ringworm
- a lice kit
-precription cream for Scabies
-children's Pepto
-children's Bonine (for motion sickness)
-adult Advil
-adult Pepto
-immodium (I've taken this every time and never had to use it, but better safe than sorry.)
-Cipro (prescription antibiotic I'll take if I have stomach troubles or anything else until I can get home to a doctor)
- prescription malaria meds (I prefer Malarone.)
-Melatonin (adult and children's for the trip home for Evie and for me as needed)
-Pedialyte drink mixes (These are for Evie, but I'll use them if I worry about being dehydrated.)
-bug bite itch stick 
-travel size essential oils (Thieves, Lavender, DigestZen, bug repellent oil, Tea Tree oil to repel lice)
-adult cold and sinus meds
-Vitamin C chews for the plane
-adult motion sick meds (Again, I've never had to use these, but better safe than sorry.)
-sunscreen (Whether or not you wear in at home, you will want sunscreen when you meet the sun over Africa.)
-bar of antibacterial soap
-small pair of scissors


--1 pair of flips flops (I can wear these in the room or to step outside, etc. But be careful about wearing flip flops in villages; there are many parasites in African countries that enter the body through the feet.)
-1 pair of Converse (which I'll wear on the plane and everyday in country. Any closed toe shoes that you prefer would work though if you're not a Converse fan.)
-2-3 long skirts ( You actually don't have to wear these in bigger cities, but I think they're cooler than pants.)
-5 t-shirts
-1 nicer shirt that I can wear if I have to go to the Embassy
-2-3 pairs of pajamas (I always pack something I can sleep in and wear around the hotel, usually Nike shorts and a pair of leggings and t-shirts)
-1 pair of socks in case it's cold at night (I don't wear them with my Converse.)
-1 rain jacket (I will wear this on the plane coming and going.)
-1 pair of jeans (I will travel in these.) 
-unmentionables (Don't forget these, as you'll have a heck of a time finding them in country!)

CLOTHES (Evie): 

-10 pairs of panties (You can't have enough of these.)
-5 pair of socks 
-3 pairs of shoes in different sizes, since I'm not sure what size she'll actually need
-7 outfits (a mix of dresses, leggings, and tops. I think I know her size, but I'm not sure, so with a mix, I'm more likely to be able to make it work.)
-a sweater for the plane ride home
-a few hair accessories
-5 pairs of pajamas


-Adoption paperwork
-neck pillow for the plane (I highly recommend this. Sleep is precious on an airplane.)
-a converter and phone charger
-my DSLR camera and charger (don't forget your memory card!)
-a change of clothes for me and Evie
-a hairbrush
-a quart size Ziploc bag of liquids (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, contact solution, mouthwash, travel size container of coconut oil)
-a Ziploc full of a few diapers (for bedtime and travel home) 
-my make-up bag (for the trip home) 
- Evie's Ergo (I'm packing this here instead of my suitcase b/c I can't replace in country if my bag doesn't arrive.)
- a thin diaper changing pad for the plane ride home with Evie


-my headphones (the airplane ones are terribly uncomfortable. Mine are comfortable enough to sleep in and help block out the unwanted airplane noises when I'm sleeping.)
-a pair of compression socks (These are one item would NEVER leave behind! They are such a game changer for long flights!)
-all the snacks (Airplane food is lame.)
-a sleep mask (Again, sleep is at the top of the priority list on an airplane.)
-my I-pod
-a black ink pen to fill out my customs info on the plane
- small notebook with the address of where I"ll be staying inside of it (also for customs info)
-chapstick (Another item I'd NEVER leave behind!)
-meds (Melatonin, malaria pills, Advil, sinus/allergy/cold meds, Vitamin C pills)
-travel pack of Kleenex
-antibacterial wipes to wipe my seat tray, armrests, and hands with on the plane (In real life, I'm not a germaphobe AT ALL, but put me on an airplane, and it's a totally different story.)
-my cell phone (and a USB cord in case I can charge it on the plane) 
-a small toothbrush and some Wisps disposable travel toothbrushes


-a small backpack in my suitcase for her to carry on the way home
-a small container of play-doh
-a package of pipe cleaners
-a small toy car
-a Barbie doll
-a small baby doll
-some volume control headphones (I normally wouldn't encourage my toddler to watch TV, but when you're traveling for about thirty hours, you do what you have to do.)
-crayons and a coloring book
-magie wonder markers and a magic wonder coloring book
-some Silly Putty
-a ziploc full of little plastic toy animals

On the way home, I will use her backpack several changes of clothes for her, diapers, a pair of pajamas for the plane for her, and as many snacks for her as I can fit in it.

I hope this is helpful to someone one day. And if you're an African adoptive mom who has any additional tips, please leave them in the comments!