Our 2nd Gotcha Day

“One million reasons why, you shouldn’t even try.
After all you’re just one heart, a single candle in the dark.
And there are shadows here, feeding on your fears,
That you don’t have what it takes – who are you to make a change?”

“Whatever you do, just don’t look back.
Oh somebody needs the light you have.
Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart.
Keep on pushing back the dark,
Keep on pushing back the dark.”

Yesterday we celebrated our second “Gotcha Day”, the day we were reunited with our kiddos abroad, able to take them home with us forever, not to be separated again.

The video above shows our adoption journey, which began June 2014 with our first hosting trip.  Two years, four hosting trips to the US, and three international trips to Eastern Europe later, and we can FINALLY say THEY HAVE A FOREVER FAMILY! It wasn’t all easy, there were some heart wrenching decisions and tears, but every single second was WORTH IT! I can’t imagine life without these kiddos in it.

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I want to encourage you to pursue your dreams.  Live without regrets!  Take that leap of faith!  JUST DO IT!  Whatever you have been given, use it.  Whatever your talents are, employ them.  Whatever you are dreaming about, GO FOR IT! Don’t let fear stop you, fear is a liar!


And just when you are ready to give up, just when you feel you can’t do it anymore, remember these four points I learned from a sermon about where faith takes us…


–  to the point where we need to make decisions that involve BIG RISK

–  to the starting point of long journeys

–  to the point of waiting for the impossible

–  to the point of giving everything you have


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(song and lyrics are from “Pushing Back the Dark” by Josh Wilson)

Not for the faint of heart…

As we celebrated the third year of meeting our adopted kiddos, and we are closing in on our ONE YEAR anniversary of our adoption becoming official, I have so many feelings and thoughts swirling around in my head. SO MUCH has happened over these three years. It seems like a blink of an eye, and at the same time, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was mothering just a few in my home. I stand in awe of this story that I have NO doubt at all our Father in Heaven has knit together.

The first photo I ever saw of my beautiful children

I think about where I was three years ago and see how this hosting and adoption journey has grown my faith by leaps and bounds. At some moments, I was in danger of losing hope entirely.  Ultimately, it has always been my faith that has pulled me through the roughest patches.

Our adoption story has not been perfect. There have been amazing highs and terrible lows. In the end, one of the five siblings, one child whom calls me “mother”, one child whom I love dearly, has decided for now to continue with visits only (not adoption). So our story has never been tied up in pretty bows at the end. We still don’t know what “the end” of our adoption journey will look like. There continues to be sadness and worry over “the one”. With the other children adjusting, and more than doubling the size of our children at home to seven, there were some mornings that I didn’t think I would be able to pull myself out of bed and make another meal for another child or do another load of laundry. I begged and pleaded with Him and he faithfully got me through each day to the next.

Our first summer together (the girls were too young to host)

I have watched the faith of my children solidify over this journey. I have watched them pray together and for each other throughout our days. I have watched them take interest in and desire to read the Bible.  I have watched my children share their faith with others.

I have watched as all of my children have grown to become more loving, more forgiving, and more tolerant of each other. I have watched as my husband and I have grown immensely in patience and support of each other. I have watched as my family has developed a new normal, with new rhythms and flows and schedules. I have watched as blessings have unfolded time and time again throughout our process.

“Gotcha” Day where we were all finally reunited in Latvia

Has it all been rainbows and butterflies?  OH MY, NO!  Let me assure you that my children are still children and their parents are still bumbling around always asking Him to lead them, because they fail daily. Check out these past posts where we share the hurdles we have been through:

Fear is a liar

The Battle

(Almost) Missed Blessings

Whatever you do, just don’t lose heart!

Bearing with one another…

From childless by choice, to father of eight

If at first you don’t succeed…


Trust in Him

Your ways are not my ways…

Yet – God has continued to be faithful to us and carry us through the valleys in between the mountains.

Someone said to me early on in our process, “adoption isn’t for the faint of heart”.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has the following definitions:

Definition of “faint of heart”

  1. :  lacking the courage to face something difficult or dangerous —usually used in the phrase not for the faint of heart.

  2. faint

  3. :  lacking courage and spirit :  cowardly

  4. :  weak, dizzy, and likely to faint

  5. :  lacking strength or vigor :  performed, offered, or accomplished weakly or languidly

  6. :  to lose courage or spirit

  7. :  to become weak

It didn’t really hit me how powerful that statement was until I went through it. Now I can confidently say, it is true! Adoption of older children is not for the faint of heart. Adoption is HARD STUFF! You absolutely cannot lack courage, spirit, strength, or vigor. You cannot become weak. You have to be strong. You have to be brave. You have to ask the Holy Spirit to provide you with everything you need. I can promise you right now that if you complete an adoption process, you WILL go through some hard times. You WILL sometimes feel like giving up. Some days you will be wading through CRAP. Yet, remember what the best fertilizer out there is? Manure…crap. It stinks. It’s yucky. But you know what?  It grows some BEAUTIFUL flowers!


First professional photo of all the children once back in the US

Adoption of older children is similiar. It always begins with loss, the worst kind of loss there is, the loss of parents. Not only is there this trauma of losing one’s parents, but usually these children have suffered many other types of abuses and traumas . You are going to wade through the crap. It is going to stink. It’s going to be dirty. It’s messy. BUT – if you aren’t faint of heart, if you are strong and courageous, you will reap a harvest of the most beautiful flowers imaginable by the grace of God. A child is redeemed- a family is restored – just as we are invited and adopted as children of God into His family (despite all the crap we have dealt with in our own lives).

Maybe the crap you’re wading through today is not adoption related. Maybe it’s work related or relationship related or — fill in the blank. Whatever it is, there is still hope that flowers can grow from it.


He works all things for the good of those who love Him…

Not some things, but ALL things.

Rest in this promise today, my friend. No matter what you are facing, don’t lose heart. Don’t lose hope. Cling to His promise to work it for good. You may not realize it at the moment. You may not realize it until years later. You may not even realize it this side of Heaven. But you can trust His promises. He is faithful. He is good. He wants the best for you in the end.

The craziest thing happened to me today…

I felt this deserved a spur of the moment post because stuff like this just doesn’t happen?

Today there was a message left on my answering machine stating it was the IRS and they had an open case filed on us, something about past taxes. It seemed suspicious to me, but because we had recently been the victims of identity theft, including a letter that had been sent to us legitimately from the IRS stating someone had accessed our tax information, I figured I would call back. (Yes – I now know that the IRS will NEVER call you, they will ALWAYS send a letter, FYI.)

When I called the number back the person who answered the phone gave me his name and told me he was “an officer of the IRS Tax and Crime Investigation Unit” along with his badge number (no, I have no idea if this is an actual unit of the IRS or not). He then proceeded to tell me that I was a primary suspect in a legal case from our Federal taxes in 2013. He began to ask me who filed my taxes, which I did not tell him, and then proceeded to warn me that within the next 45 minutes there would be a local law enforcement officer at my door because there was a warrant for my arrest.

At this point, I pretty much had decided that this was a scam. I said, “Sir, I am sorry, but I don’t believe that this is true and I think that you are trying to scam me.” Now – here is the CRAZY part…

He said, “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry. You sound like such a nice woman, I don’t mean to harm you.” I could barely believe what I just heard. It took a second for my brain to process it.

I said, “Wait. What?  Did you just agree with me that you are indeed trying to scam me?” I have had people try to scam me on the phone in the past, but always the person on the other end just hangs up when I politely tell them I believe it is a scam. I have never actually had someone admit to me on the phone that it was a scam and APOLOGIZE?! I wasn’t sure what to respond to him. He just kept apologizing.

Since I had his ear, and he hadn’t hung up on me yet, I figured I would encourage him to stop what he was doing and find a better job. I shared with him that we were good people and that although I recognized this scam, there are a lot of other good people out there who would easily be taken advantage of with this sort of thing. And that was a shame. I ended with telling him I truly hoped he would go home tonight and think about the consequences of his actions and find a better job that would actually benefit society instead of harm it. He agreed that he needed to do that and would. WOW!

Honestly, he sounded very sincere with his apologies. I truly hope that he did go home and rethink what he was doing with his life and turn it around for good instead of evil. But here is my point…IF I had been rude to him on the phone, IF I had just hung up on him on the phone, we never would have had that conversation. He never would have apologized and rethought in that moment about the damage he is possibly inflicting on families and individuals.

Our words have power. They can tear down or build up. They can instruct or cause harm. It is up to us. I pray today that we can all (including me!) try to do a better job about using our words to positively build up those around us, whether they be the people we are closest to, the cashier at the store, or the scammer on the phone. You never know how you may influence someone positively or negatively simply with the words you choose.

So choose kindness. Always.

put on a heart of kindness


Mr. Owl made it to Germany from Japan!  He stopped by the home of a new friend in the blogosphere over at lorelledehnhard.com.  I actually met Lorelle through Instagram and she amazingly agreed to take part in our Around the Worldpress Amazing Race. You can find my lovely friend on her Instagram account here. If you happen to be on Instagram, you can also find me on my Instagram account, CrazyLoveParents.

Here is a photo of Lorelle with Mr. Owl taken in Germany.


Our friend Lorelle shared these two interesting, fun facts about Germany.

  • Everything is Closed on Sunday
  • It is bad luck to wish someone „happy birthday“ in advance

I decided to research WHY these two things happened to be?

I discovered that in the case of the birthday belief, it is sort of how we say in the US “don’t count your chickens before they are hatched” with Murphy’s Law kicked in. So in the US, we have the idea that counting the chickens before they are hatched is a bad idea because one shouldn’t be so sure they will all hatch. We could extend Murphy’s law to this and come up with the idea that if one were to count the chickens before they are hatched, then Murphy’s Law is likely to kick in, and the counted chickens will die. The same with the Birthday greeting in advance. One shouldn’t do it, lest one is prompting something bad to occur, making the person less likely to make it to their birthday. Just wait till a German’s actual birthday to wish them a proper greeting!

And if you find yourself in Germany some time, make sure you do any of your major shopping required before Sunday. As Lorelle shared, most all major stores are closed every Sunday. There appears to be some exceptions, with fairs or gas stations, airport stores, or sometimes some stores being open extra around Christmas. However, there is a supreme court opinion that says:

 “Sundays and public holidays are protected for religious reasons, but also to enable working people to recuperate and participate in social activities.”

Germans find it important for religious, as well as social reasons, to give most everyone possible a common day off, every week, to focus on family, friends, and social activities. I LOVE this idea!

I hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Germany. I am thankful that Lorelle was kind enough to participate in our Around the Worldpress Amazing Race, which began as a genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. Mr. Owl has now travelled from Montreal, Canada to Michigan, USA to Xitang, China, to Lugano, Switzerlandwith a surprise visit to Campione and Varese, Italy, back to Lugano, Switzerland, then to Tokyo, Japan and now Germany! PHEW!  He has sure been crisscrossing our world!  He has racked up an amazing total of 24,816 miles or 39,938 kilometers. He sure is a seasoned traveller by now. My photos of his criss-crossing journeys can be seen below.

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If you want to participate in our Around the Worldpress Amazing Race by having Mr. Owl visit you in your country, just drop me a comment or message me through the contact form and we will send Mr. Owl to you. It is just the cost of postage on your part, and hopefully some photos and/or fun facts before you send him on to his next destination.

I am



The soft whispering of the winds

The gentle sway of the branches

The faint chirping of the birds


He is beckoning


Come, my child




Be still


Know that I am God

I am enough

I am all you need


Abide in Me


I will give you rest for your soul

I will give you peace that surpasses all understanding

I will give you joy despite your circumstances


Call on my name


The King of Kings

The Prince of Peace

The Holy one


I am





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Photo credit: “Courtesy of JACOB ISRAEL”

Mr. Owl visits Tokyo, Japan

Hi Christina,

Mr. Owl made it to Tokyo and was sad to see that all the beautiful cherry blossoms, called Sakura, had blown off the trees just the day before… But, he found many other interesting things to explore:

First he visited our local international school K-12, CAJ or Christian Academy in Japan.


Next he found some other beautiful flowers along the street, but nobody here spoke much english and didn’t know the name of the flower…


But he didn’t let that stop his exploring:

He visited a shop known as “hyakuen” shop. Literally meaning 100 yen shop (dollar store…) and found some gorgeous hair stuff for girls.


Next, he found the best view of Fuji he could find. Unfortunately the clouds covered the great volcano but on a clear day, the photo he stuck himself to shows the view – literally – from this exact spot.


Very exciting, though a tad bit scary, so he rushed off to some genuine Japanese “conbini” (convenience store) bento lunches:


Far too much sushi, onigiri and nigiri rolls to choose from… oh, what is an Owl to do…

He got full and will be on his way to his next destination very soon. But he will need to take in some jetlag and fill his stomach with all sorts of other Japanese foods he would like to try, such as shabu-shabu, udon and nabe pot.
Greetings from Tokyo 😉

The children loved looking at the photos of Mr. Owl in Tokyo. They were especially intrigued with Fuji — A VOLCANO! Here are a few more things that the children wanted to share with the blogosphere. Mr. Owl coincided with the children learning a bit of Japanese history in their history book. They learned about the Yamato Dynasty, which united Japan and is the oldest dynasty in the world! The first Yamato emperor to rule was almost two thousand years ago and there is still a Yamato emperor to this day. The first Yamato emperors had a lot of work to do to unite all the differing clans back then, so they borrowed many ideas from China and Korea. However, they wanted to be considered equals with China and so they called themselves “The Land of the Rising Sun” and China was called “The Land of the Setting Sun” in an effort to say that Japan and China were equals.


The children’s history book also suggested we try making a Japanese meal, so we went for it. We made Osumashi -Clear Soup, Gohan -Rice, Goma-ae -Sesame Seed Dressing, which went on steamed green beans and Yakimono, this was how we prepared our steak. Cooking in the “yaki” method in Japan means that the dish has been cooked over a very high heat. This cooking method allows the outside of the food to get crispy and the inside juicy. We used the Beef Teriyaki recipe given, but one could use the “yaki” method to cook other types of meats, fish or vegetables.


We cut our steak into very small pieces and marinated them overnight. Then we skewered them and grilled them over very high heat. The children definitely loved the entire meal and we will certainly be adding this into the mix of menus for the kiddos!


We had such a wonderful time seeing Mr. Owl’s visit to our fellow blogger, Lene, over at Wrestling with Faith – Dancing with Jesus.  We are thankful that she was kind enough to participate in our little Around the Worldpress Amazing Race, which began as a genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. Mr. Owl has now travelled from Montreal, Canada to Michigan, USA to Xitang, China, to Lugano, Switzerland with a surprise visit to Campione and Varese, Italy and then Tokyo, Japan. PHEW!  He has sure been crisscrossing our world!  He has racked up an amazing total of 19, 113 miles or 30,760 km!  WOW! But he has only been to six countries (although he is on his way to a new country this very moment!) If you want to participate in our little Around the Worldpress Amazing Race by having Mr. Owl visit you in your country, just drop me a comment or message me through the contact form and we will send Mr. Owl to you. It is just the cost of postage on your part, and hopefully some photos before you send him on to his next destination.


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Mr. Owl’s Switzerland Journey Comes to an End – Part 4

We have been participating in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race with some fellow bloggers. The race began from the genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. So far, Mr. Owl has traveled from Montreal, Canada to Michigan, USA to Xitang, China, and to my dear childhood friend in Lugano, Switzerland. My friend Shawna, and her daughter Sylvia, have written some lovely letters to share with us along with some fascinating photos! There are four parts to Mr. Owl’s journey in Switzerland. You can view Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here, and today we enjoy the final, Part Four. ENJOY!

Hello again!!
It has been super fun to have Mr. Owl hang out with us, but he had to go on to the next place on his itinerary! I am going to miss this little owl, so I gave him a kiss goodbye. 🙂

Before he left he saw a picture of some kids he knows…….

He is all tucked in and ready to go!


So we say goodbye from beautiful Lugano, Switzerland.


Love in Christ,

Below shows the course that Mr. Owl has taken around the Worldpress so far. He has travelled from Montreal, Canada to Michigan, USA; from Michigan, USA to Xitang, China; from Xitang, China to Lugano Switzerland; from Lugano, Switzerland to Campione, Como, and Varese Italy and then back to Lugano, Switzerland. This adds up to a whopping total of 12,177 miles/19,597 kilometers. His next destination is Tokyo, Japan where he will visit a fellow blogger at Wrestling with Faith – Dancing with Jesus. We will see what Mr. Owl is up to in Tokyo in the next post. 🙂

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We continue to look for more people to join in our fun race. If you would like to have Mr. Owl visit your country, please don’t be shy, just leave a comment below or message me through my contact form, and we will arrange for him to visit YOU.

Mr. Owl’s Surprise Visit to Italy! – Part 3

We have been participating in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race with some fellow bloggers. The race began from the genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. So far, Mr. Owl has traveled from Montreal, Canada to Michigan, USA to Xitang, China, and now has made his way to my dear childhood friend in Lugano, Switzerland. My friend Shawna, and her daughter Sylvia, have written some lovely letters to share with us along with some fascinating photos! There are four parts to Mr. Owl’s journey. You can view Part One here, Part Two here, and today we continue with Part THREE. ENJOY!

Hi there!
The surprise is that Mr. Owl went to another country! Italy is so close to where we live that we go there quite a bit. The first place in Italy that Owl went to is called Campione, it is a small village that is surrounded by Switzerland. Here are the flags-

It is a beautiful place.


Owl also went to Como, Italy with us for church on Sunday.


Alessandro Volta is from Como, and he invented the battery. Just think about how much his invention has effected the whole world!!!


In Italy, the money is called euros.


The last place Owl went with us in Italy was to a shelter in Varese. We went to see Jackie, a rescue dog. Maybe you guys could say a couple prayers that Greg will let Jackie live with us:). Isn’t he a cute little guy?


We have been having some cool adventures with Mr. Owl, but in part 4 we have to wrap it up and say goodbye so he can continue on his journey!



We continue to look for more people to join in our fun race. If you would like to have Mr. Owl visit your country, please don’t be shy, just leave a comment below or message me through my contact form, and we will arrange for him to visit YOU.

Mr. Owl’s Switzerland Journey – Part 2

We have been participating in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race with some fellow bloggers. The race began from the genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. So far, Mr. Owl has traveled from Montreal, Canada to Michigan, USA to Xitang, China, and now has made his way to my dear childhood friend in Lugano, Switzerland. My friend Shawna, and her daughter Sylvia, have written some lovely letters to share with us along with some fascinating photos! There are four parts to Mr. Owl’s journey. You can view Part One here and today we continue with Part TWO. ENJOY!

Hi again!

Switzerland’s flag looks like this-


The money here is called Swiss francs and is abbreviated chf. One, two, and five francs are coins.


Paper francs start at ten; they are all colorful and pretty.

Here is the view from our apartment balcony. The mountain on the right is called San Salvatore.


Here is a pic from the top.


In the next part we have a small surprise in store:)


Your friends in Switzerland

We continue to look for more people to join in our fun race. If you would like to have Mr. Owl visit your country, please don’t be shy, just leave a comment below or message me through my contact form, and we will arrange for him to visit YOU.

Mr. Owl in Switzerland!

We have been participating in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race with some fellow bloggers. The race began from the genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. So far, Mr. Owl has traveled from Montreal, Canada to Michigan, USA to Xitang, China, and now has made his way to my dear childhood friend in Lugano, Switzerland. My friend Shawna, and her daughter Sylvia, have written some lovely letters to share with us along with some fascinating photos!  There are four parts to Mr. Owl’s journey and we begin with Part One today. ENJOY!

Hello from Switzerland!!!
Mr. Owl has been here for a couple of days and we are having a great time! That is Sylvia holding Mr. Owl. switzerland1We live in Lugano, Switzerland. It is a beautiful place with a pretty lake and mountains all around.


In Switzerland it is already very nice outside, and there are flowers all around.


There are many statues and sculptures. Who is this guy?


There are many beautiful churches. Here is one that is close to Sylvia’s school.


Part 2 is next with more fun information about Switzerland!Switzerland2

Your friends,
Shawna and Sylvia

We continue to look for more people to join in our fun race. If you would like to have Mr. Owl visit your country, please don’t be shy, just leave a comment below or message me through my contact form, and we will arrange for him to visit YOU.

Providential Relationships and Mr. Owl’s Journey in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race

A few weeks back my pastor did a sermon on Providential Relationships. I’ve been thinking about this ever since, and how often it seems that God places just the right people or circumstances into my life at just the right time. Mr. Owl’s first destination on his journey in the Around the Worldpress Amazing Race began because of this very kind of relationship.

As I said in my first post ever, “How do you do it?”, often at the start of a journey we can’t see where it will end. As we look back though, we can see the path emerge. We can begin to understand the why and the how of being led in certain circumstances.

Some people may call this fate. Some may call it coincidence. I prefer to think of it in terms of God’s providence. One of my favorite life verses is:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.— Romans 8:28 NASB

Personally, it is such a hope-filled verse.

God is working behind the scenes, directing all things towards His purpose. He takes our free will into account, yet He is the one in the driver’s seat. He is working it ALL, the good, the bad, the ugly, towards His divine purposes even when I don’t believe it, or I don’t see it, or I don’t understand it at the time or this side of Heaven.

And so it is with my own story. And so it is with my adoption story. Before I even came back to God, He was working in my life preparing me for my calling to adopt my children. I didn’t know what was to come, but He knew. Now as I look back, I can connect the dots. I can say, “Ohhhhhhhh, now I understand. Now I see. Thank you, Lord”. To connect all of the dots leading up to our adoption would take several posts, so I am going to focus on the dot that led to Mr. Owl’s first destination on his Around the Worldpress Amazing Race.

My family had moved from California to Michigan and I opened a home-based preschool for a few years when my first son was very young. As a new baby Christian, only coming back to the Church after many years as an atheist (THANK YOU church janitor, with your sweet and simple consistent invitation to your church. Your short, providential relationship, one where I don’t even know your name, changed the course of events for my entire family!), I felt a strong call to make it a Christian-based preschool. This was the first big stepping out in my faith for me. The first child that God placed into my care was without a doubt in my mind, a powerful providential relationship for both of us. Caring for her absolutely prepared me for adopting my children who did not know English, and it also proved to be a much-needed, powerful care placement for my first student as well.

This lovely girl, we shall call her Jewel (for she is a gem!), came from China to America at the tender age of four and spoke no English. Her Chinese parents spoke Chinese to her at home, but they desperately wanted her to learn English and to connect with the English-speaking children of her new city.  Wanting the very best for their daughter, they enrolled her in one of the most expensive, top reviewed childcare centers in the city. Jewel spent three months there and learned ZERO English words. She seemed to withdraw from the children and the teachers there, and her parents were concerned. They began their search for a new care setting for their daughter.

Through a series of what I prefer to call God’s providence, Jewel’s mom “happened” to catch a post that my Christian realtor had lovingly offered to post on her blog about my moving into the area and beginning a Christian preschool from home. What are the chances? This is the ONLY contact I got from that post, but of course, I am convinced that was THE contact I was supposed to make. Jewel’s parents enrolled her as my very first student. We were all a little concerned. She was older by a year than my son. At the beginning, it was just the two of them (until other students enrolled) and obviously they were opposite sex, would they make a friendship? There was also the concern that she did not speak English, and although my background was in teaching, I had little training in ESL methods.  But what I DID have, was FAITH, HOPE, LOVE,  and DETERMINATION.

This proved to be enough. And of course, God’s will never fails.

Early on, Jewel’s mother shared with me that Jewel told her my son was the nicest child she had ever met in China or in America. That is what she needed the most. She needed unconditional love in her childcare environment. She needed trust. She needed those caring for her to be reaching out to her in intentional, loving ways, despite language barriers.

Caring for Jewel taught my family the lesson that it doesn’t matter if we speak the same language as the person we are with. Everyone understands the language of love. Everyone understands a smile. Everyone understands a hug. Everyone understands a hand held out to help up a fallen person. We don’t need to speak the same language to feel these things, to understand these things, to trust these things.

Jewel quickly learned English, and our family was amazed at how fast children’s brains can learn new languages. She has grown into a lovely young lady, already taller then her mom. She excels in school, plays the violin and piano beautifully, and swims competitively.

Jewel’s family were the very first people to offer to help in our Around the Worldpress Amazing Race. We sent Mr. Owl to Jewel’s grandfather in China, who enlisted the help of a local second grade girl. She is the daughter of Jewel’s mother’s childhood friend who was touched to hear about our adoption story and wanted to help with the project. Following are the two letters the little girl wrote back to us. The English translations are below.


To Mr. Owl: Wish you a very pleasant journey and happiness forever.


To my family and future hosts: Dear friends, I am very happy to have a chance to introduce you to my hometown: Xitang, China. I hope you’ll like it.

Below are the wonderful photos of the little girl in Xitang, China holding our signed letter and Mr. Owl. If you are wondering how to pronounce “Xitang”, you can click hear and listen to three different audio recordings of people pronouncing “Xitang”.


My children were in awe to see her holding THEIR letter with Mr. Owl, in this new, distant land. They peered over the photos to see what they could spy in each.


They quickly realized that it must be somewhat cold there right now, due to the warm jackets, yet their trees have green leaves. They also noticed that there seemed to be a lot of water there, with boats and homes and/or businesses that were right on the waterways. Once we looked up Xitang, China we learned that it is an ancient, scenic water way town with nine rivers that criss-cross throughout it. Due to the beauty of the town, it has been a popular tourist destination as well as famous for landscape paintings.


Looking at the photo below, my children all jumped and yelled “those look like pelmeni she is eating, but in soup!” Pelmeni are somewhat like a ravioli almost, filled with meat, and are commonly eaten in Latvia and Russia with sour cream, ketchup or vinegar.


It is amazing to me that even though our world is so large, at the same time it is so small,  especially in this day and age where technology and the internet can connect people across the globe in seconds. We should never underestimate the power we have to connect with others. We each have a story within us, and our stories can inspire, help, encourage, teach and lift others up. We should be willing to allow God to use us in other people’s lives, as well as to allow God to use other people in our own lives.

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The Around the Worldpress Amazing Race was born from a genius idea over at Cyranny’s Cove. My connections with her in the blogosphere also led to my new favorite pair of travel socks, because you know, God’s providence can even lead you to discovering some really awesome travel socks, if you let it. So starting with Cyranny’s Cove over in Montreal, Mr. Owl traveled to our family in Michigan. From Michigan, he travelled across the world to Xitang, China. So far the total distance is 7,726.42 miles or 12,434.47km. He continues his journey, now currently en route to an old, dear friend of mine in Switzerland. From there, he will travel to Tokyo, Germany, Nepal, Latvia, and finally back to us in Michigan. This is of course UNLESS more of our DEAR READERS, which blog stats show us come from more than 80 countries across the world, agree to join in on our fabulous project. Just drop me a comment or email me using my contact form and YOU could have Mr. Owl come for a visit and share your country with us!

Finally, THANK YOU LORD, for bringing people into my life at just the right moments. May I always be brave enough to listen to Your urgings and promptings. I would also like to say THANK YOU to Jewel and her lovely family. Thank you for sharing your gem of a daughter with me for the short time I was able to care for her. She taught me life-long lessons that impacted an entire family and helped bring four orphans home forever. THANK YOU to Jewel’s loving grandparents, I know how involved they are in their grandchildren’s lives, and I am thankful that they have offered to help in our little project. THANK YOU to the little second grade girl in Xitang, China for sharing her stunningly beautiful hometown with us. Thank you and your mother for taking the time to bring Mr. Owl around Xitang and share your photos and letters with us. We loved your photos and your letters and we wish you peace, love, happiness and many blessings forever!

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image reprinted with permission from hearlight.org, see here

Haters gonna hate, hate, hate…

Not everyone will like you.

Not everyone will understand you.

Some will form ideas about who you are and what you stand for based on nothing more than superficial interactions with you, or brief knowledge of some basic facts about you. Some will even go so far as to gossip about you, or worse, do something to actually disrupt your life.

The Bible clearly tells us that we are to love each other. Paul exhorts us to try as hard as we can to be peaceable to everyone we meet. Jesus goes a step further and tells us to love our enemies. He knew we would be faced with people who hated us. When you are caught in this situation, you need to remember…

I know this is easier said then done. This continues to be an area that I personally need to work on. I want everyone to like me. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit that sometimes I like to play the role of a mind-reader, assuming I know what others are thinking about me. But the truth is, I’m NOT. I really don’t know what others are thinking about me and honestly, it should not matter.  I should not care what others are thinking of me.  The only one I should be worried about judging me is the ultimate judge. He is the only one that I should worry about. And I already know where I stand with Him.

I was talking about this with a friend and she gave me some wise advice. She suggested that we need to be careful not to be double-minded. For example, if I trust God to take care of my family through this adoption process, but I don’t trust that I am only accountable to Him, then I am being double-minded. She reminded me that God is an all or nothing God. We can’t pick and choose the pieces to have faith in. This was eye-opening for me.

As much as we may want others to like us, there is only ONE that we are accountable to. There is only ONE who’s opinion of us we should worry about. The rest doesn’t matter.


The Power of a Love Note

After 21 years of writing and hiding notes for my oldest daughter, I was blessed to be the recipient of HER notes the other day. I found them when I was having a tough time. And oh my, it is truly uplifting, affirming and just plain lovely!!!!Who wouldn’t want someone to take the time to write a few nice things about you and then hide them for you to find?How would it change your day to find a note like this, encouraging you, appreciating you, inspiring you?Since it is Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to BE the LOVE around you. Perhaps today is the day that you could leave some love notes for the people in your life to find?!?! Simple, cheap, and leaves a HUGE impact!

Be a Good Samaritan

This is Dan. I had the pleasure of meeting him at my hotel this morning during breakfast. I was sitting alone, messing around on my phone, when Dan came up to me and offered me $1 to use my phone to call his mom. He said he was cold and hungry.  As I was trying to understand the situation, the hotel staff quickly came up and tried to shoo Dan away. Once I realized what was going on, I told the hotel staff that Dan was with me and all was fine. I invited him to sit down at my table and have some breakfast with me and tried to ignore the disapproving glances of the other guests all around me. I handed him my phone to call his mom and set about fixing him a few plates of food.

Then I tried to share some unconditional love with Dan. I tried to talk with him as I would talk with any friend. I listened to his stories. Dan shared with me that he was an adoptee (before I even told him my own adoption story, how cool is that?) and that he was placed with his adopted family when he was 3 days old. He said he figured his mom was “a hot mom” and that is why she gave him up. He said his adopted family does not like him and that he can’t live with them. He also told me he had just come from Florida to Green Bay two days ago because he thought he could live in his family’s garage here (I’m in Green Bay for my uncle’s funeral). Unfortunately, he was kicked out of there as well and now said he had nowhere to go. When I asked him where he had been previous to Florida, he said he couldn’t remember. It was clear to me after speaking with Dan for awhile, that he probably had some psychological problems. He seemed to have some irrational fears that people in fast food places where trying to poison other people, and things of this nature.

My heart breaks for Dan and all the other lost souls like him in the world. They are in need of love, just like anyone else. They are in need of understanding, just like anyone else. They are in need of support, probably more than most people, because of his underlying mental conditions. Yet, they are pushed out of our homes. They are pushed out of our establishments. They are sometimes even pushed out of our churches. It is such a shame. We could all be Dan one day. We could all be the person in need one day. We should take care of our neighbors as we would want others to take care of us.

The Bible tells a parable of the Good Samaritan, a story we should all take to heart.

Luke 10:25-37New International Version (NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

There are many references to being a good neighbor in the Bible. Jesus tells us that we should treat ALL people with respect.

Matthew 25:35-40New International Version (NIV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

For we never know who we are truly entertaining…

Hebrews 13:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

Concluding Exhortations
13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. 3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

As Dan and I were talking, he said to me that he didn’t think he would ever be in love. This was my entry point to trying to share a bit of the gospel with him. I shared with him my view that people in our society get the definition of love wrong. They think that love is that gooey feeling you get for someone, instead of an action that we do. I shared with him that Jesus is the model of true love, unconditional love, that He laid down his life for us because THAT is what true love looks like. It is not a feeling, but an action (in my humble opinion). I tried to share that unconditional love with Dan this morning. And I told him that it was not me, but an extension of God’s love pouring out of me.

Then just as fast as Dan came to my table, he said he was getting his things and disappeared…I can’t get him out of my mind. I thought he was getting his things and coming back to my table, but he was gone. I wanted to get him a new pair of gloves, but I couldn’t find him. So now I pray for Dan, and all those like Dan in the world. The people that are seen as the “throw-away” people of our society.

It’s interesting because just yesterday a fellow blogger (also a Dan!) told his story of coming upon someone like the Dan I met today in his own life. You can view his story here: and subscribe to his awesome youtube channel to get more encouraging videos like this one below!

So as fellow blogger Dan also said in his video, I say here——-I tell this story NOT to pat myself on the backALL THE GLORY TO GOD— but to encourage others to be the Good Samaritan to the broken, the poor, the “throw-away” people of this world.

Do unto others as you would have them do for you.

(Luke 6:31, Matthew 7:12, Leviticus 19:18, James 2:8, Galatians 5:14, Romans 13:9-10, )

Grandma Mary

Grandma Mary (or Gigi as her great grandchildren called her) was a second mother to me. Growing up she lived right around the corner from me, and if I wasn’t at home I was at Grandma’s. I was always walking around the corner to her house to get some good food and spoiling like only a Grandma can give.

When I think of Grandma Mary, I think about selfless love. She loved EVERYONE and was always happy to help anyone out. She didn’t have a mean bone in her entire 4 foot 8 inch body. I can honestly say that I do not have one memory of my grandmother raising her voice…ever! Even when all seven of us grandchildren had to have been driving her crazy!

She was always happy to serve others, especially her family, in a selfless act of love. It made her genuinely happy to cook and bake for others, and that was her true gift. She was always up late at night, waiting for her pie to cook, or her bread to finish baking, sitting in her favorite rocking recliner, saying her rosary, which she faithfully said three times per day. She was never one to go to sleep early as there was always something for her to do! She was a self-professed night owl, and the grandkids loved that about Grandma. We never had to go to bed early when we slept at grandma’s house, and we always knew Grandma would order us pizza and let us eat candy into the night.

Sundays were the most special day for Grandma, as she carried on her Italian mother’s tradition of Sunday spaghetti dinner. I remember these family gathering times vividly as a child, as they are some of the fondest memories of Grandma’s. Walking into her house to find my cousins, the smell of spaghetti sauce and fresh baked apple pie, wondering who was already at the house and who was yet to come, the sounds of kids playing, adults laughing and talking, and inevitably the piano being played. Kool-aid and lemonade were the drinks of choice and dinner was spaghetti, meatballs, pork and salad. Sometimes, when we were really lucky, homemade raviolis or gnocchi (gnoches as Grandma called them) took the place of the spaghetti. We would hardly finish our dinner when Grandma would be telling us to eat more, or trying to get us to eat multiple desserts. Everyone was always too skinny for Grandma and no one ever ate enough to satisfy her.

Grandma liked traditions and she carried on other traditions from her mother as well. Who could forget the Easter dolls? Even the older grandchildren would beg for them, and then as adults we would gobble up the ones Gram would give to our own kids that were too young to enjoy them. Or how about her famous crustells, or “crystals” as the grandkids called them, an Italian potato dumpling fried and rolled in sugar. I remember her making those many late nights, on a random request, for anyone. Or pizzelles, an Italian waffle cookie that Grandma called “chumbells”. She would make those chumbells on an old cast iron set that was her mothers.  She could barely lift it to turn it over on the stove! And of course, the other request from her grandchildren – homemade french fries. I blame Grandma for my deep affinity for homemade french fries! Again, it didn’t matter what time it was, midnight or later, all you had to do was ask.

That was pretty much true for anything with Grandma…all you had to do was ask and she would always give whatever she had to anyone. She may have been short in stature, but she towered over with Love. Her example of unconditional love is one we can all follow.

I believe that anyone who knew Grandma Mary would only have lovely things to say about her. She was truly an amazing woman. She always wore a dress, she never drank, never smoked, never swore, she never even raised her voice. She was a peacemaker. She had one photo of herself in her gym shorts and said that was on a dare from her younger sister, and this was probably the most racy thing from her past.  She was the sweetest, kindest person, who was loving towards everyone! She served others selflessly. She loved with action!

I can think of so many ways that she touched the hearts of those around her, and I cherish these memories. She will always remain close in my heart. Forever. I always think of Grandma’s Love when I read 1 Corinthians 13, because this is the type of love that she exemplified…

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Grandma Mary didn’t have much money, she never worked outside her home, she never even left the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but what she DID have was faith, hope, and an overabundance of Love that she gave freely to anyone and everyone.

We can all learn a little from Grandma on how to love the way God asks us to. This was Grandma’s greatest gift of all, one that keeps on giving, LOVE…