April Showers Bring May Flowers

April is becoming a favorite month of mine in the desert.  We don’t have the thunderstorms that my Iowa friends are “blessed” with right now and I do miss that, but I love this desert weather. The nights and mornings are still cool and the days are warm enough for a tank top and jeans. Today might be a little too hot though! 100 degrees is not spring weather for this Iowa girl!

As I thumbed through my calendar this morning reviewing our activities this month, I was amazed by all of our activities! It was an emotionally challenging month, but filled with many evidences of God’s grace in my life.

1)   At the beginning of April, our adoption process took a turn we weren’t anticipating. Through the pain and confusion came a deeper trust in God and a growing faith that God does works all things for the good of His children, even when it doesn’t make sense to my human brain.

2)   On April 6th, we had the World’s Biggest Rummage Sale! Hundreds of people came out and supported us. We were thrilled to bring in over $3,000 in that one day! God confirmed to us that He would provide for us during this faith journey!

Still amazed at God's provision!

Still amazed at God’s provision!

3)   Whole30! Jason and I are completing our Whole30 challenge today! It was one of the hardest things I have done and it shed a lot of light into the way that I view food. I will delve into that tomorrow!

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4)   We had dinner dates with lots of new and old friends this month! Meals and coffee shared with friends are my favorite. I’m about to start a book that speaks to the importance of creating memories with others over shared meals. Can’t wait to start! A favorite dinner this month was with a family who adopted two children from the same country as us! Jason and I loved listening to their stories and are very excited about the friendship that is budding!

5)   I posted blogs more frequently this month than any previous month! My goal is to blog 3-5 times a week. I have loved learning more about blogging and writing this month. Soon I plan on changing a few things up on this site, which is very exciting! Be on the look out!

6)   Baby-sitting was a part-time “job” for me this month! I love having the flexibility in my schedule to serve the moms of our church in this way. This past weekend, Jason and I watched adorable toddlers for 24 hours straight. That was a lesson in parenting and patience! I now have a greater respect for all of you moms out there who function on a daily basis with interrupted sleep! I’ll be honest, I’m a little nervous about this upcoming change in my life.

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That was only a sneak peek into our month! I’m looking forward to May because I think that there will be even more memories created over dinners and trips that Jason and I are taking! My birthday kicks off the month right 🙂 and I think  Jason is already making it one of my favorite with a sweet card he gave me yesterday.

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And then I am traveling back to Iowa for a week to help my mom prepare the house for my brother’s high school graduation. AND my baby brother graduates from high school??? What?!?

Isn't he handsome?

Isn’t he handsome?

What were your highlights from April? What are you looking forward to in May?

The Final Post of “So, there’s this guy…”

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Yesterday marked three years since Jason and I had our first date. I’ve been chronicling the story here and here as a way to remember and rejoice in what God did and continues to do in our lives.

This last post on our first date is a sweet one for me to write. I don’t remember all of the things we talked about, but I do remember feeling comfortable with a man who I had just met…and how odd yet familiar it was. I remember he wore a blue-plaid button-down shirt with khaki shorts and I was wearing my North Face jacket and a black Gap t-shirt (barely took the jacket off because I was so cold the entire time). I remember laughing at the numerous stories Jason had to tell and shaking my head at how crazy this guy seemed.

That first date lasted till mid-night. We closed out the coffee shop and walked up and down Main Street. We never ran out of things to talk about, but I was getting tired so we decided to call it a night. As he walked me to my car, I asked him how he actually heard of me. I had a hard time believing that he had just seen me at a coffee shop and wanted to take me out. I was right, Scott had found a way to get us connected and through a lot of  high school shenanigans we ended up together on this night. I think we were both surprised at how well the night went. Jason would tell you that he walked away from that date knowing that he had just met his wife…it took me a little longer to come to that conclusion.

I hugged him good night and we set up another coffee date for Friday morning at the same place. Then our relationship started to moved fast! I met his parents that weekend and the following weekend he met my family (including my three crazy siblings!). About 6 weeks after our first date, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We were engaged August 7, 2010 and married January 1, 2011. I look back on those 8 months and my eyes fill with tears as I think about the way that God moved in our lives and how He provided.

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God gave me a beautiful gift in my husband. He once again revealed to me that His plans for my life are far better than my own. I thought  my plan was good (see part 1), but during those 8 months of dating & engagement, God continued to whisper confirmations in my ear…”Sarah, I know the plans that I have for you and they are very good. They are much better than yours, so trust me. Jason may not be where you thought you were going, but life with him will bring ME so much more glory than life without him. I will use you two together to be a light to your neighbors and to the nations. Just not the way you thought.”

Since then Jason and I have been on a wild journey that just keeps getting crazier! I think back to what life may have been like if I held onto my plans with tightly-gripped fists and I am thankful that He gave me the grace to trust and be obedient. Life without Jason would be so boring! I wouldn’t trade this life  I have with him for anything.

Are there plans that you hold on to so tightly that you may be missing the joy of walking in faith with our loving and all-knowing God?

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Thanks to Mandy Blair Photography for all of these pictures!

“So, there’s this guy…” Part Two

I don’t remember how many days had passed after that day at the store, but one sunny afternoon I was training on the Cedar River trails for my marathon. I had passed Scott, the running store-owner, on the trail and did the runner appropriate wave and continued as he moved on at his gazelle-like pace (professional runner). It was only minutes later that I hear what sounded like a heavy-footed sprinter fast approaching so I moved over and when I turned my head-it was Scott! He was running me down!

He had decided that this would be a proper time to ask me about my initial thoughts of “Woody” and if I’d consider going on a date with him. (On a side note-he thought he had slowed down enough to be running my pace, but after 1.5 miles of his “slow” pace, I about passed out!) I told him that I thought he seemed like a good guy, but I only had five minutes of conversation with him. I wanted to know from Scott what would make him dateable and not some creepy stalker. I trusted Scott’s opinion because I knew him to be a committed follower of Jesus and that he would have my best interest in mind.

Scott proceeded to run with me telling me all about Jason (I finally learned his real name). He shared with me about how Jason loved people, was computer smart, was “green”, was funny, etc. When Scott told me that Jason was the kind of guy you could share any of your problems with and know that he would pray for you and help you through them, I knew that I could go out on a date. So I told Scott that if Jason asked me on a date, I would say yes. But only for coffee…I didn’t have time to eat a full dinner on a blind date J.

Scott told me that he would encourage Jason to get in touch with me via Facebook, but it might be a little bit. Jason was in Madison taking classes on solar energy installation (because he’s green). I hesitated that our first connection would be on Facebook, but I didn’t fight it… (I should have)

About a two days had passed and Jason had “friended” me on the good ol’ Facebook.  And then it was nothing…for two whole weeks…

I had figured that he decided that he didn’t really want to take me out for coffee, so I didn’t worry about it too much. I was way too busy working, leading a Perspectives class, and raising my support so I could go on staff with The Navigators to add another stressor in my life!

After two weeks passed, I was training Ron on a Thursday afternoon (the husband of my 5 am client who first told me of Jason). I mentioned to Ron that I hadn’t heard from Jason at all and was curious as to why. Ron said that he would look into it.

On Monday, I was at the gym waiting for my next client, so of course I was on Facebook. It was then the little red dot appeared on my page, indicating that I had a new message. It was Jason asking if I’d like to go to coffee with him!  As any girl would do, I squealed and told the closest girl that I had just been asked out! After I calmed myself, I gave him a few days and times that worked that week. Within the hour, we had decided on coffee at Cup of Joe on Wednesday night at 7 pm.

I had two days until April 28th. I also had no idea how much my life would change after that date…

The spot of our first date!

The spot of our first date!

To be continued…

A Letter to my 20 year-old Self

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This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Amanda from A Royal Daughter has a series this week addressing different heart issues of infertility. She asked me if I would send her a note of encouragement to women who are still in the midst of the hurt of infertility (that will be up on the 27th, I believe). When I opened Amanda’s letter, my initial thoughts were “I’m in no place to be an encouragement to someone! I’m not sure how I feel!” But God (it’s always but God…isn’t He good) reminded me of where I was just a year ago and the countless tears I shed as the months continued to pile on with no positive pregnancy.

I often feel like the emotional roller coaster I rode last year was in large part because of the expectations I had of how my life would play out. If I could go back 8 years to the quiet, yet budding college Junior, I think I would have a few words to share with her. These are those words:

Dear 20 year-old Self,

At this point in your life, you’re pretty infatuated by a boy. Sister-he’s got nothing on the man of your dreams! Be careful with that heart of yours and how quickly you give it away!

The reason I’m writing is to share something with you that may rock your world….you will have a REALLY hard time getting pregnant. The year after you get married will be one of the hardest years because you had placed your identity into becoming a mother. Being a mother is a blessing, but you will take it too far and it will almost destroy your heart. BUT God will step in and He will graciously reveal your sin of idolatry and also His unfathomable mercy and grace. He changes your heart in a way you never expected. In fact, after a year of trying to conceive, you and your husband will decide to adopt two children internationally. I know that made you nervous and anxious about finances, but don’t worry-God will provide. I can just hear you start asking me questions about the logistics of how this works and what our plan will be to raise “adopted” children (you were quite naive back then…)  But what I want to tell you is to focus on today and to release your plans to God, you are trying to control way too much of your life. All of your planning about how you will marry this guy and what you will do and where you will live and how you will raise your future kids…it’s futile, Sarah. Believe me, it doesn’t matter how hard you try to make things work, God is the One who is making the calls. It will be so much easier for you if you trust the in the sovereignty and love of our Creator and stop worrying! Your battle with anxiety will only increase if you keep up like this.

Here’s another piece of advice…listen to the wise counsel around you. Truly take to heart the spirit-led wisdom from Emily and accept the amazing truth that you are loved and accepted by our almighty God. I know how hard it is for you to believe in the goodness of God, but start praying to see His goodness in your life and TRUST God.  Your struggle with infertility will be one of the hardest seasons of your 28 years, but out of that pain and darkness will come a peace that passes all of your understanding. Out of that trial, you will see how God has truly written a unique story for your life and it is GOOD!

So, my 20 year-old self, take a deep breath, relax, smile more, laugh more, say yes to friends more and enjoy the gift of life God has given you. Don’t worry about tomorrow; God knows what tomorrow will bring. And I can guarantee that what God brings to you in your tomorrows will be so much better than what you could have asked or imagined…you’ll just have to walk through some fire to get there. But no need to fret about those fires because God will bless you with a husband who will do his very best to protect you from those fires and when you do get burnt, he will be there to comfort you and hold you as you heal. Trust God with your tomorrow’s, Sarah, because you can’t control them either way.

Love,

Your 28 year-old self

When Mundane Tasks make Adoption a Reality

There haven’t been many posts directly regarding our adoption as of late. Mainly because most of the work we are doing is behind the scenes and not too exciting for the by-stander. Even though my blog life doesn’t reflect the amount of work we are putting into our adoption, it’s there! I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into what we are up to over here on the adoption front.

Education, Education, Education! In the past four weeks, Jason and I have taken five on-line classes regarding different aspects of adoption and orphans. We are on information overload at the moment trying to fit in all of our required classes before May hits and Jason gets bombarded with work for TMC’s go-live in the new surgery tower (techy stuff).  Along with the classes we have taken quizzes and in the process of writing a cultural exploration of our children’s home country. What a doozy! But my nerdy, history-buff self loves the research and exploration that we are doing! As my high school English teacher said on my Facebook page, who would have thought that as an adult you research, read, and write! 🙂 Thanks Mrs. Matt & Dad for teaching me how to write a research paper!

We have one more required class tomorrow and then I can focus the rest of my attention on other education requirements. We have learned so much through the classes regarding preparing ourselves for children who have had many challenges in their short little lives. Our favorite class has been the vulnerable children class. It broke down stereotypes that I didn’t even know I had regarding what it would be like to parent a child who lived part of their short life as an orphan and how that completely changes their worldview. All in all, we love our adoption education and feel more intellectually prepared than we were before (not prepared in other ways…but who’s really prepared for parenthood).

Today we walked into the sub office for the USCIS (immigration office) and were able to get our fingerprints two weeks before our scheduled date! I left the office in tears. The reality of what we are doing hits during the most mundane tasks. The stress that I carry during each step was very prevalent in my response and another reminder that I need to daily surrender my burdens to my Heavenly Father.

When we receive our next document from the government we will officially be able to accept a referral! It’s so close! My prayer is that we can make an announcement in late May or early June letting y’all know whom God may be bringing to our home, making us parents! We would greatly appreciate your prayers!

Lastly, we are always brainstorming ways to fundraise and save for our adoption.  When we accept our referral we will be expected to make a significant payment to pay for their interim care and foreign fees (thankfully we have about 1/3 of that already!). We have a few fun events and parties in the works for the next few months. One is a Thirty-One party that an adoptive parent is graciously throwing for us in June! Stay tuned…

There’s a little look into what life looks like as we pursue adoption! Thank you for following us on this journey!

Hi, My Name is Sarah and I’ve been Ice Cream Free for 24 days…

My absolute favorite ice cream (I may have eating a tub in one setting a few years ago...)

My absolute favorite ice cream (I may have eating a tub in one setting a few years ago…)

This week was HARRRD!! I confess that I even cheated a few times these past few days. I hate that I did and I’ve been feeling guilty over my weaknesses. Thankfully I have a husband who reminded me that there’s grace and I’m not getting graded on this challenge. He even encouraged me through telling me that this was the longest I have gone without cheating on a diet since he has known me.

He’s pretty great 🙂

It’s so easy to focus on the failures and not remember the wins that I have had over the past 24 days, check out my other updates here and here. And if you’re wondering what my failures were, you can ask. In the grand scheme of things, they weren’t bad, but I still am disappointed that I “gave in”.

There’s my confession for the day! Instead of focusing on how I failed with only one week left, I wanted to share the wins that I’ve noticed this week.

  • I’m still waking up very easily and feeling refreshed! I think that it has a lot to do with my sugar intake…or lack thereof.
  • Speaking of sugar…I haven’t indulged in a bowl of ice cream for 24 days!!! That is a miracle in and of itself!
  • I consistently enjoy three solid meals a day. I was notorious for having coffee for breakfast and skipping lunch. That has changed because I am so hungry and need to eat something good so that I don’t cheat (some of my cheats were because I did skip a meal)
  • I’m losing more weight…or maybe just losing the bloated feeling. We will see what the scale says next week.
  • My awesome hubby has definitely lost weight and hasn’t cheated at all! He is an example of determination for me in this process. He even turned down delicious nachos last night with a buddy!

Am I ready for this challenge to be over? MOST DEFINITELY!!! At the same time, I don’t think that a lot of my habits will change. I have enjoyed feeling pretty good most of the time (definitely have a FODMAPS issue though) and I LOVE waking up easily and feeling ready to take on the day.

I am declaring May 4th a big ol’ cheat day though! My birthday isn’t right unless I have ice cream and my mama’s recipe of “coffee pie” (hint, hint Jason :)).

I leave you with this question…do you focus too much on your failures rather than celebrating the wins in your life? How can you reverse that thought pattern?

“So, there’s this guy…”

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Next Sunday will be the third anniversary of my first date with Jason. I look back onto that Wednesday night three years ago and I can’t believe all that has changed! Who knew how one blind date could change the course of one’s entire life.

I remember that night so clearly. I also recall the youthful events that led up to that coffee date at Cup of Joes with a smile. If you haven’t heard our story, lean in and be ready to roll your eyes at the high school antics. If you have heard our story, sorry…not sorry 🙂

It was mid-March of 2010 and I was working as a personal trainer and also fundraising to go on staff with a college ministry. I had no desire to pursue a relationship with anyone because I had a plan. I was going to go on staff with The Navigators at the University of Northern Iowa for two years and then head overseas. I had plans of spending the rest of my life in the Middle East. It was there, in the Middle East, where I would fall madly in love with a missionary and live happily ever after with him, serving and loving on a people group that had never heard of Jesus.

Unbeknownst to me, one personal training session would wreck those dreams… I was training one of my lovely ladies at 5 am when she approached me with an odd question…more like a statement. “There’s this new guy at Scott’s shop that wants to take you out for coffee.” I’m sorry what?? Hundreds of questions came to mind, but she wouldn’t answer any of them. She just directed me to Scott (local owner of a running shop).  I was skeptical, but still curious as to how this guy found out about me and why he would want to meet me.

The next day, I needed to buy some new shoes and I thought it would also be a good excuse to stop by Scott’s shop to see what this was all about. When I stepped in the small, quaint shop I stopped in my tracks and blood rushed to my face. There was a new guy working the shop. I knew all of the employees at The Runner’s Flat, so I instantly knew that this was “Woody” (my client only knew him by his classy nickname).

Instantly I knew that I could either be really awkward or play it cool. I chose to play it cool and repeated to myself the entire time “Don’t be weird. Just breathe. Don’t be awkward, Sarah.” Thankfully, it worked. I introduced myself to him and proceeded to buy a pair of shoes. I didn’t get a chance to chat with Scott, but I did walk out of the shop with a new pair of shoes and the thought that “Woody” wasn’t quite as weird as I first thought….

Stayed tuned next week as I share about how I was run down on the trails, had mixed messages on Facebook and ultimately had our date that changed our lives forever!

The spot of our first coffee date!

The spot of our first coffee date!