Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Violin Must Go

As part of our "sell everything not bolted down" approach to fundraising, we are selling my husband's beautiful violin to help pay off the last $3000 due on the first of January 2016.

This violin is amazing. It's beauty and tone are unmatched. With the stroke of his bow, Shawn has made it sing. Our pastor, an accomplished violinist, has even borrowed it on occasion just to listen to the rich melodies that resonate from the heart of this fine instrument.



And just in case you're wondering...

Case and bow are included in this sale, husband is not.

If you are interested in purchasing this violin or learning more about it, please send me an email at margieseely@yahoo.com.

Thank you!

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

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Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Miracle

T'was the night before Christmas and peace ruled my house,
But my mind was a-stirring with grim thoughts and doubts.
My prayers had been said with faith and great care,
In the hopes they'd be answered with much time to spare.

Our newest child was snuggled all safe in her bed,
With strange English words dancing through her head.
And papa had fallen to sleep with a snore, but I,
Could not coax sleep to dim even one blue eye.

My heart was a'flutter with the money still owed
To the agency who'd brought our sweet girl home.
Our expenses were high; our income seemed low,
How could we make our payment? I didn't know.

Three thousand remained, a far cry from the start,
I knew God had already answered the prayer of my heart.
But still I worried and worried some more,
Hoping a windfall would crash through my door.

The only answer that came was the stillness of night,
And the sweetest assurance that all would be right.
I don't know when, I don't know how, and yet I believe,
My God is faithful, His promises I will receive.

Our sweet girl from Ukraine to us He did bring,
Three thousand dollars to Him is a very small thing.
As I gazed out my window to the stars up above,
I knew He would fill me with His peace and His love.

So this Christmas Eve the miracle, in part,
Came not to my door, but was the change in my heart.
And now I exclaim, with faith and not sight,
God's answer has come! Now to all a good night!

Wishing all a blessed day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's On Amazon, Baby!

Yup! My book has made it to the big time. Drum roll, please! "Marie: Woman of Beauty, Mother of Courage" can now be purchased as an Ebook on Amazon.com. (Although, while uploading, I failed to mention that I am the author. Whoops! I'm going to have to fix that little glitch.)

For those of you still making last minute gift purchases, and who isn't, this gift is sure to please. I have received so many positive comments from young and old, male and female. Here's a small sampling:

"I really enjoyed it. It was quite well written ... and I was impressed with all the research that was evident. ... It borders on the unbelievable all that some people went through." Mike from California, USA

"I cannot put it down. You are such an awesome, enthralling writer." Yonka from British Colombia, Canada

"All I [wanted] to do was sit down and read the book!" Kirrisa from Oregon, USA

"I read it cover to cover. It is a story that needed to be told." Betty from Sydney, Australia

Order your copy now by clicking HERE!

P.S. Be sure to leave your comment at Amazon.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I Said I Would Never

Never in a million years did I ever think we would be doing what we are doing now. Never in a million years did I ever think we would spend invest as much money as we are now. Never in a million years did I ever think we would sponsor a college student to live with our family for the next three plus years. Never in a million years has my faith been stretched so far out of shape that it is virtually unrecognizable.

And when I say "I will never..." you can pretty much bet your bottom dollar it is never, never, never going to happen. Not in a million years. Some might call me stubborn.

But something happens when God gets a hold of my "I will never!" proclamations. Gently, lovingly, tenderly He reshapes them into something that more closely resembles, "Yes, of course I will! Why didn't I consider this earlier?!" And then He changes my heart just as subtly so that the very thing I said I would never do is the very thing I am begging God to help me accomplish. How does He do that?!

I said I would never take a child too old to be adopted.

No way was I going to get attached to a child I could never call my own.

Nope!

Nuh-uh!

Never!

Can I just say how thankful I am that God is in charge and not me? I am so grateful for Tatiana being here. She is such a blessing to our entire family. And if I had stuck to my stubborn, willful way, I would have missed out completely. I am so glad God changed my heart, because not in a million years would I want to miss out on the blessings we are experiencing today.

Nope, NEVER!!!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Hello Ebook World! We Have Arrived!



And so my huge miracle of a book has achieved Ebook status! This little book, that God has breathed into existence is now making its way around the world sharing God's message of love and peace, in both print and ebook formats. I am thrilled to watch what God is doing. He took my childhood dream of writing a book about my grandmother's escape and made it blossom and grow. He truly is an amazing God.

Ebooks can be ordered here:


Print books can be ordered here:

http://margieseely.wix.com/marieholmstroem

It is a story like no other. You will be blessed!

Monday, November 30, 2015

T Minus 0 ... It's Go Time!

A night can stretch very long when you are awaiting news. Tatiana's appointment was scheduled for 9AM (2AM my time). I had plenty of things to occupy my hands as the minutes dragged by and kept up a steady stream of prayers as well.

I texted a quick message to Tatiana minutes before her appointment time assuring her of my prayers and my love. As the clock inched closer to the 2AM mark, the tension seemed to rise around me. At 2:13AM our coordinator messaged me to let me know Tatiana had checked in and promised to call me when the appointment was finished. "Lord...!" I pleaded.

A full-fledged battle broke out in my mind. Doubts and promises dueled for supremacy. I reviewed the events of the last 5.5 months. All I could see was how God had led us step by step to this moment in time. Was it all for nothing? Would God lead us down this path only to disappoint? As time passed, I whispered, pleaded, and begged God for VISA approval. Finally, in obedience, I humbly submitted my will to His, asking only for strength to withstand the disappointment, should it come.

Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes passed. How long do VISA interviews last? I wondered. I could no longer keep my hands busy. They were clasped too tightly in prayer.

At 3:20 the phone rang. I knew without looking who it was. "Hello?"

Was it my wild, wee-hour-of-the-morning imagination or did our coordinator sound as if she was smiling? She rattled off the preliminaries, none of which I can remember now, and then took a breath. My heart stopped. My body froze. And then I heard it, "Well, Tatiana is VISA approved!"

"Really?!"

I thought I would faint. I laughed. I cried. I danced. I clapped my hands for joy!

We had arrived at this moment and God had carried us through.

At last, my solo celebration wound down, and I finally slipped back into my bed and allowed sleep to carry me away. But, don't think for a moment that I ever stopped smiling!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

T Minus 1 - Come Monday, I will Cry



Today has been ...

hard.

Passing time ...

waiting,

wondering,

praying,

trying hard not to worry.

Busying myself with mindless tasks

While the important work remains untouched upon my desk.

There is no way I can think deeply right now!


In some ways, I feel like I'm in labor.

I have no abdominal contractions,

just the painful writhing of my heart.

And the waiting,

the endless, endless waiting.

Wondering when it will end,

And if everything will turn out okay.


I spent a little time texting Tatiana today and asked the inevitable...

"Are you nervous?"

"No," she answered simply, "God goes with me."

And so He does.

He always has.


Her embassy appointment is at 9:00 a.m. Ukrainian time/ 2:00 a.m. my time.

Do you think I will be able to force my eyelids shut?!!

Nope.

Sleep is out of the question.


I will wait up tonight for her call

To hear her voice give me their answer.

And whatever that answer is

I already know...

I will cry.

Tatiana going over paperwork in preparation for her interview tomorrow.

Friday, November 27, 2015

T Minus 3 ... Praying with Thanksgiving


Today is Friday and I stand in awe of all God has done.

When this week began I had no idea how I was going to get through it. I needed money. A lot of money. And I didn't know how to go about getting it.

On Sunday, I bundled up and stood watch over my donated goods on display at the local Flea Market. A handful of people trickled past, but no one was particularly interested. The wind bit at my nose and cheeks, numbed my hands, and threatened to chill me to the bone. Clutching the $10 I had earned for my efforts, I packed everything back into my van and headed home - fighting off the discouragement that seemed to overwhelm me. This was not a very good start to a week in which I needed so much.

Through the darkness that surrounded me, I heard a small whisper, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it..." Psalm 127:1. I hung my head. I always try so hard to do everything in my own strength. I typically strain every muscle to reach whatever goal is set before me. Sometimes that's a good thing, but other times ...

Other times I just need to step back and allow God to work. I began to get the feeling that this was one of those times.

Monday arrived with its usual laundry list of things to do, plus the extra obligations necessary to button up the case for Tatiana. I honestly didn't know how I was going to get through it - emotionally or financially. Bordering on panic, I turned to God once more. Again, the verse came to me, "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it..." Psalm 127:1. "Alright Lord," I breathed, "build that house."

As I picked up my things to leave work, a co-worker slipped an envelope into my hand. "For Tatiana" the envelope read. Inside was $100 - exactly what I needed to accomplish my errands for Tatiana that day. I nearly floated with exhilaration as the day's goals were ticked off my list one at a time.

On Tuesday, I got paid and was able to accomplish some more things for Tatiana. Late in the day I received a message from the coordinator that my bank statement needed to be stamped by the bank and overnighted to her office. I glanced at the time - 3:56. The bank closed at 4:00. I flew out the door with my heart pounding. I did, however, obey all traffic laws on my way to the bank. (A traffic ticket is NOT in my budget.) I arrived, at last, a full two minutes AFTER the bank closed.

Thankfully, the nice lady locking the door allowed me to slip inside to ask the teller to print and stamp our statement. Once completed, I dashed off to overnight it to the coordinator. Once again, God had allowed everything to work like clock-work.

On Wednesday, I dared to ask God for $500 for yet another expense needed for Tatiana's trip. As the day ticked away, I began to lose hope. But, suddenly, a message flashed across the screen of my phone. "I sent you money for Tatiana. Did you receive it yet?" Hurriedly I went to check. Opening the envelope I received, I found five crisp $100 bills inside. Exactly what I needed. Exactly what I had asked for. Exactly what God had planned for, when, on the previous Thursday, He impressed that donor to send that amount.

And so today, I stand in awe at what God has done this week. I cannot tell you what decision will be made in Tatiana's case on Monday. I only know that God has done some amazing things this week. To Him be glory and praise and honor.

Amen!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Have You Seen It?

I'm a pen lover. Always have been. There's just something magical about the feeling of a pen in hand that inspires me.

But not any pen will do. It has to be my favorite. And when those disappear, my day goes downhill ... rapidly.

As it did the other day.

I began my search in the typical fashion by searching my desk and all the logical places in the nearby vicinity. But, the problem is, I'm not always logical in the places I lay down my pens. Especially when distracted. I have found my pens in the laundry room, garage, outside porch, on top of the fridge ... practically any horizontal surface can become a dropping off point for my pens. And, with three kids, six cats, one dog, and a husband around the house, there are numerous opportunities for me to find myself distracted! Which means my pens can be found a.n.y.w.h.e.r.e.

After completing my preliminary survey without success, I began phase two of my search and recovery mission ... interrogations. Because, with three kids, nine cats, one dog, and a husband around the house there is always the possibility of someone inadvertently walking off with one of my favorites.

"Have you seen my pen?" I query each and every household member. Heads shake. Shoulders shrug. Faces look blank.

No one knows where my pen is.

No one even knows what my pen looks like.

Until I ask Alyssa -- my ever helpful eleven-year-old with photographic memory. The one I can rely on to remember anything!

She actually takes the time to stop and think about what I have asked, causing my heart to skip a beat. "Is it that purple pen you're always holding?" she asks. I nod. "The one with the black gripper-thingy on the the side?" My eyes widen at her description and I nod a little more enthusiastically. "And it has a button at one end that you can click?" I nod again. Ally picks up on my enthusiasm and her words tumble over one another as she continues. "And it has some white writing on that black clip on the side, right?"

Yes! That's the one! She described it perfectly!

She stares off into space momentarily as if envisioning the very writing utensil in question. My eyes lock onto her face, my feet prepare to race in whatever direction she will send me. My heart pounds excitedly. Like an athlete awaiting the starting gun to fire, my body is at attention.

But she only shrugs and shakes her head. "Nope. Haven't seen that one for a long time."

My face contorts slightly as opposing emotions struggle to register themselves in my expression. My shoulders droop and I shuffle off once more towards the last place I remember seeing my pen.

Sigh. Sometimes false hope is worse than having no hope at all.

Friday, November 20, 2015

He Calls Her Mama

It is a strange thing for me to witness. This toddler child who follows my daughter around the house, reaching for her so longingly, and calling after her so tenderly. This small child, whose mother is too busy partying to care for him and whose father has just been released from his most recent stint in jail and whose grandparents are so tired and sick that they have asked my daughter to care for him temporarily, has christened my daughter "Mama."

His eyes fill with tears when she leaves the room. "Mama," he cries.

His eyes light upon her return. "Mama," he giggles.

He is afraid. "Mama!" he screams.

The bond is there. I can see it.

I watch him snuggle into her arms and find the comfort and peace his little mind so desperately needs. I see the joy on her face when he reaches for her.

And my heart is conflicted. I remember...

Nineteen short years ago, when I was a young 25 and a newly certified foster parent, a two-year-old girl was placed in my home. Only recently graduated and not yet married, I was finally realizing my dream. I poured everything I had into that little girl. She called me "Mama."

She grew up. She loved me. She hated me. She rebelled and said I wasn't her "real" mother.

I hurt. I broke. I cried. She cried. She came back and is here now. We are mother and daughter again.

And now I watch a scene so familiar and simultaneously strange unfold before me.

This little one is calling her "Mama" and she is considering becoming a foster parent.

My heart is conflicted.

I know what this road looks like. I have walked it. I have rejoiced on it. I have wept buckets of tears on it. The highs and lows are so intensely polar. I know this road with its twists and turns. I live it daily.

And because I know it so well, I wonder, do I want her to walk the same road I have walked?

And then I hear him call her "Mama."

T Minus 10 and Praying for a Miracle

Can it be done?

There's a lot hanging in the balance and our case isn't looking so good right now.

We need $4000 by noon on Monday.

'Kinda sounds like a kidnapping ransom note, doesn't it?

Send $4000 cash by noon on Monday and we'll release the girl from Ukraine.
Otherwise the girl dies.


Well, okay, it's not quite that dramatic. There's no ransom note and no one's going to die on Monday,

except for a dream ...

this dream that a little girl once dared to dream,

of finally being part of a family

after growing up in an orphanage

and missing out on adoption.

This dream I don't want to see die.

We have another yard sale this weekend.

Pray with us, please!

Thank you!


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

T Minus 12 ... and Praying

We have a date! On November 30, Tatiana will step inside an interview room and answer a barrage of questions about why she wants to study in America. And, because of her orphan status, the interview will be that much more intense. What connections does she have to Ukraine? What will ensure her return? The Embassy in Kiev does not know her. They do not know how hard she works or how determined she is. They only see the label "orphan" and surmise the worst. They want to know what will prevent her from jumping ship and applying for welfare in this goldmine of a country.

Sooo...

We have spent the last few months working to make her case strong so that when the interviewer looks through Tatiana's file he/she will see past the orphan label to the truth. It has taken every prayer we've uttered and every penny we've scraped together to get to this point. But we're not finished yet.

With twelve days to go, we're still $4000 short.

Sometimes, I must confess, all I can see is what we lack and I just want to cry. But, ever so gently, God directs my tear-filled eyes to look upward into His face and be reminded of the things He has already accomplished. And what is it He has done?!

Let me remind you that originally this was an $18,000 venture that began in May of this year. In an amazingly short five-and-a-half months, God has whittled it down to only $4000 remaining. Can I get an AMEN?! Come on, y'all, who else but God can do something like this?!

We have sold everything that's not nailed down ... and ... even some of the stuff that is. My book is doing amazingly well for a first-time, self-published author like me with absolutely zero marketing experience. (Readers are even buying it as gifts for their friends! Now, that's a compliment!!!) Listeners are downloading my husband's CD of inspirational piano solos. (Side note: I listened to his CD almost exclusively while writing my book. It's thinking music.) We have sold recipes and health food items and held yard sale after yard sale. I wrote an E-book to help children focus and learn during sermons. All of this has been done outside our regular work schedule. Ohmygoodness, it's been intense!!!

(Side note #2: In the process, God has opened doors for us to begin an online business - Nuts & Twigs Naturals. But, hold to your horses, the unveiling of that project will have to wait for another post.)

And then there are the people God has sent our way. Ordinary angels who have donated $1, $10, or even $1000 to help bring our girl here. Some are people we've never even met whom God has touched with a desire to help, to serve, and to share His love. Some have taken their own time to fundraise for us. All have blessed us incredibly.

Granted, we don't know what the final answer will be on November 30. But, I do know that God has been walking this road with us. He has opened doors we thought were sealed shut. He has parted the waters and made a path for us. To Him alone goes the praise and the glory.

Can I get another AMEN?!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dear France...

Dear France,

A little over a year ago I meandered aimlessly through the maze of streets that crisscross your capital. Your charm captured me from the first and I finally grasped why Paris is the place where lovers rendezvous. The inviting cafes, the color-bursts of flowers, the tantalizing aroma beckoning from patisseries, are some of the images that will forever linger in my memory.

As I walked I marveled at the casual way modern and ancient lines intersect as though the eras of past and present still consult; each understanding its dependence upon the other. Timeless treasures intermingle seamlessly with the steel and glass of contemporary structures. A certain wisdom lends itself to your land. It is almost as though the days of yesteryear can still be touched and, if one stood still long enough, their echo faintly heard.

But it was your people that made me feel as though I was visiting my next-door neighbor. Like the diversity in architecture, your inhabitants are a fusion of Frankish ancestry and the more recent influx of immigrants warmly welcomed. Beneath the spire of the Eiffel Tower, friendships cross cultural barriers and a common understanding of humanity is embraced. I reveled in the vitality and spirit of your people as if they were my own.

But, on Friday, November 13, 2015, Terror once again struck your magnificent country and blood flowed in the streets. Hatred poured itself out upon a citizenry at leisure and the lives of innocents were cut down.

Now, as we all muddle our way through the dark aftermath, it is not enough to say we are sorry. Our sorrow can never replace your loss. But, perhaps it will bring you some solace to know that America, your old friend, mourns with you. As the tears fall, we remember the bond forged between our two countries when Washington and Lafayette embraced. And, just as those two great men prayed for each other, today, we pray for you.

May you, beautiful France, heal from your wounds and emerge stronger than you ever were before. May you look to Heaven for courage and may you find peace in knowing that God loves you.

Your friend,

Margie

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I am Mama ... Orphan Sunday

I watched as my nine-year-old climbed the steps of our church to stand beside the piano. Her gifted voice raised in praise with a handful of other singers. The smile on her face was radiant. My heart swelled with motherly pride as waves of memories washed across my mind.

"Come to Mama!" I would beckon, stretching out my hands to her. Her 18-month-old face would take on a puzzled expression. Where has Mama gone? she must have been thinking as her eyes searched the emptiness behind me. Uncertainty marked every step and every action. Her world had crashed. Again.

What she didn't understand was that I had become her new mama. After a series of mamas had come and gone in her short little life, I had signed the papers and accepted the role of "forever mama" for her and her two sisters. Our home was her home. Our family had become her family. Forever.

And now I sat in a pew marveling at the confidence that exuded from her smile. Midway through the song, she glanced in my direction. Our eyes met. Our smiles reflected the bond that has grown over the ensuing seven-and-a-half years.

When the song ended, Maya bounced down the aisle towards me, her curls swinging behind her. Snuggling into the pew next to me, she basked in the showers of praise and love that poured from my heart. "Thanks, Mom," she whispered. My voice caught in my throat. She is my daughter and I am her mama. She is secure in my love. Thank you, Jesus, for this miracle in my arms. I whispered silently.

And thank You for the miracle who will be joining our family soon from Ukraine...

I AM LOVED from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Memory Loss - Movie Found

I have been trying to figure out why my computer has been running low on memory lately. I think I've discovered the reason why. My kids are undercover film-makers. One-hundred-fifty-nine movies secretly added to my files capturing life on the sly at our house ... and then some.

Oh dear! But this one did make me laugh!


Monday, November 2, 2015

This Girl...!

Sometimes I think I should take all my child development books and child psychology books and throw them out the window. How is it possible that our Ukrainian girl has such drive, such ambition, such dedication?!

At age five, she lost her father. At age nine, she entered an orphanage. Over the next nine years, she had to figure out how to survive in an environment that was not the most loving. Not only has she survived, she has thrived. She wants to do well. She wants to succeed. And so, she does. She defies so many of the theories I was taught in college.

All I can say it that she is a princess of the King. Of that I am certain.

I am so excited to see what His plan for her life is.

Tatiana (left) takes third at a karate competition.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Ones Left Behind

"Margie! Answer me quickly!" the text lights up my phone. It's Karina. The urgency in her message is tangible. She needs to connect. She needs to be reminded that she is important ... that she is loved ... that she is human. If, for some reason, I am unable to answer immediately, the next communication I receive from her will be a wave of angry words hammering across my screen. "Why you no like me?" "Why you not my friend no more?" "Okay, I go away. I not bother you no more." "Good-bye!" "I hate you!"

But as soon as I pick up my end of the line, that self-protective facade simply melts away. "Margie! How are you! I am so HAPPY to see you."

It's not Karina's fault her emotions are so unstable. She is one of the unlucky ones. Never chosen for adoption, she remains another faceless statistic, a name on a file, a broken child left behind to try to figure life out on her own.

Being an active member of the adoptive community for more than 20 years, I never thought much about the ones who weren't adopted. Theoretically, I knew they existed ... but ... somehow, I focused mostly on the happily-ever-after stories. The ones where the lonely orphan is engulfed in the loving arms of a forever-family and they all step out wrapped in smiles to face their fairy-tale future. I liked those stories. They made me feel good. They made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But they didn't tell the whole story.

What happens deep in the hearts of those who have through the years watched in pained silence as one after another of their friends gets adopted, but no one ever comes for them? What does it do to a developing psyche to know you are not wanted ... not desired ... not valued enough to be invited into a family.

Four months ago, through the wonders of social media, Karina reached out to me across the ocean because, as she said, my profile picture "looked happy." Happiness is a mystery for her. She chases after it endlessly, but it is as elusive to her as a shadow in the sun. What she thinks will bring her happiness offers only more heartache and problems.

Bounced from home to home and from orphanage to orphanage, she now exists as an outsider in society. Legally an adult, inside she is still very much a child longing to be held and rocked and loved. There is a tremendous void in her life. Where she should have a core of security built into the very fibers of her being by stable and loving parents, there is only an aching emptiness.

Phone calls reach me from a "friend's" apartment, from beneath a stranger's house, from a psychiatric ward after yet another unsuccessful suicide attempt. I never know when or where I will hear from her next. But I do know what she will ask. "Will you pray with me?"

Somehow, in the shambles of her life and despite the predominant atheism of her country, she has met God and she knows He loves her. Despite that knowledge, hurt and loneliness sometimes overwhelm her and, without human love to lift her spirits, she slips back into the darkness of her empty world. "Why does God hate me?" she asks through her tears. Listening to her stories, it is very difficult to explain that it's not God's hate that has done this to her. It's the apathy of His people.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

From Book to Video ... Look Out Hollywood!

My friend, a marketing guru, suggested I make a video promo of my book. It can't hurt, I thought, and gave it a shot. I finished it last night, previewed it with my family, and received a smashing review of five thumbs up from some of my toughest critics (my hubby and four daughters).

Here, my friends, is the final product:



If you now feel inspired to order your copy, click the book button in the margin on the left OR go here.

Your purchase helps us bring our daughter home. For that, we thank you immensely!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Easy Peasy Chores - Is That Even Possible?

My friend AlinaJoy over at the Good Old Days Farm Blog, told me about her Easy Peasy family chore system. Needless to say, after looking through her easy-to-understand system, I was impressed. I almost wanted to say, "Now why didn't I think of that." The good part is, now I don't have to. AlinaJoy did all the thinking for me ... and you too.

What is the Easy Peasy Family Chore System?

I'm so glad you asked...


"EASY PEASY CHORES IS A PRINTABLE CHORE SYSTEM THAT INCLUDES EVERY JOB THE AVERAGE FAMILY NEEDS TO KEEP THEIR HOME IN ORDER.

IT USES THE APPEAL OF BASEBALL CARDS COUPLED WITH GAMES AND UNIQUE INCENTIVES TO PUT JOY BACK INTO FAMILY CHORES!

BEST OF ALL, IT IS EASILY CUSTOMIZABLE TO MEET THE NEEDS OF YOUR FAMILY!"


This innovative approach to household maintenance includes the following:

* 300+ color cards and also in black and white, in case your family is the artistic type and wants to color your own

* Detailed photo tutorials to help you set up, customize, and use your family's system

* 6 additional pages of ideas to make chores fun


AlinaJoy is a homeschooling mom of four kids under the age of 11 and managing director of The Good Old Times Farm. This amazing lady knows busy! Her system has received rave reviews from many, many other busy moms. You can read them here.

But there's something else I want to tell you about AlinaJoy. She donated the profits from her extremely popular e-book to me to help me fundraise for bringing our daughter to the U.S. from Ukraine. I was really touched by her generosity.

And then ...

She and her husband got matched with a set of four kids from Ukraine and jumped into their own fundraising frenzy. I began to feel really guilty about selling the ebook AlinaJoy donated and began to wonder if AlinaJoy was regretting her decision too. I hesitated. I prayed. Finally, the Lord impressed me with the truth that we all go farther when we work together.

So, although AlinaJoy doesn't know this yet, whatever sales I make from her ebook are going to be split 50-50. That way your purchase benefits TWO fundraising families and ultimately FIVE kids will receive the blessing of a family this December. And you, my dear friend, will enjoy the blessings of a clean house.

Order yours today! This $17.95 investment will save you hundreds of hours of time. Priceless!







Thursday, October 22, 2015

Homeschooling Lesson

We're dipping our toes into the homeschooling world. Not taking the full-on plunge, just testing out the waters. As a private school teacher with twenty years tucked under my belt, this is a whole new jungle gym. But, we're surviving. That, at least, has to be a good sign.

Reviewing the girls' assignments tonight, I had to laugh over a free-write assignment I had given. The question was, "Describe what it would have been like to live in Noah's time." Two paragraphs of creative prose straight from an 11-year-old's imagination was supposed to follow.

Allow me the privilege of sharing:

Living in Noah's time was pretty bad. Because no one, except Noah, believed in God. They were killing each other. It was horrible. Very horrible.

Noah and his family were made fun of. But they stayed strong. That was good. Because if they didn't, we would all be extinct.


Her facts are a little off, but her last line really hit me. How often do we think of the very long, I mean eons long, effects our obedience or lack of obedience causes. What if Noah quit his job? What if he refused? What if he didn't build the ark? Yes, God could have found another worker. But what would the consequences have been for Noah and his family?. And, let's face it, ALL of us are descended from Noah's family. The bottom line is, if Noah had disobeyed God, you and I would not be here today.

How often are we called to do something for God and hesitate? It's too hard. It's too expensive. It's too different! We worry that people will laugh at us. And we put God's plans and purposes at risk of extinction. Our fear and excuses kill the very plans and blessings God has in store for us.

I think I'm going to learn a lot from homeschooling my daughters. I just hope they learn something too!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Footsteps in the Dark

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as the sound of heavy footsteps coming up our front walk broke the early morning stillness. Who could be outside our house this early on a Sunday morning? From the safety of my bed, I stared into the blackness beyond our bedroom window, straining to see who was there. Was I imagining things? I am will aware that my imagination can, on occasion, run away with my fears like an unruly child.

But the footsteps continued. Nearer and nearer our front door they came. Finally, I heard them ascend the front steps and stop on our front porch. I held my breath and tried to quell the wave of panic I felt rising within me. Maybe if I was really quiet the stranger would leave. "Oh, please go away!" I breathed anxiously. Blissfully unaware of all the trauma I was experiencing, my sweet husband lay snoring beside me.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

I jumped up to a sitting position. That stranger was not going away! He was knocking at our front door! All pretense of bravery now completely evaporated and I dove headlong under the covers towards my husband's side of the bed. Grabbing Shawn's arm, I whispered hoarsely, "Someone's knocking at the door!"

One eye peered out at me from under his cocoon of covers.

"Am I snoring too loud?" he mumbled sleepily and rolled over.

The knocking came again with more intensity. It was obvious that our predawn visitor wanted something, I didn't know what, and I wasn't about to find out by myself.

I shook Shawn's arm once more. "Someone's knocking at the door!"

This time Shawn, finally realizing that something might possibly be amiss, opened both his eyes and took out his earplugs. "Whaaaat?"

Nearing panic mode, I opened my mouth to repeat myself, but the knocking came again. This time both of us heard it. Now it was the whites of Shawn's eyes that showed.

He leaned over to turn on our bedroom light, but I quickly pushed his hand away. Since our bedroom window is only a few steps to the left of the front door, I did not want to inadvertently draw attention towards us. What if the stranger had a gun? Which, since we live in the freedom-loving South, was a likely scenario.

Shawn felt his way across our bedroom fumbling blindly for his robe. I tiptoed towards the wall beside the window, using the cover of darkness for protection. Despite my pounding heart, a measure of sanity prevailed as I decided to check to see if the stranger we were dealing with was a friend or foe, sane human being or crazed lunatic.

Flattening my back against the wall to avoid detection, I inched my way closer to the window, finally sidling up to its frame. Once there, I peered outside, straining to pick up any clues as to why this stranger was targeting our house. The outside world appeared completely normal as it lay sleeping, wrapped in early morning gray. My eyes scanned the lawn and sidewalk, then zeroed in on a dark vehicle parked along the curb.

Strange. It hadn't been there when we had gone to bed. I noticed writing on the door of the car. Rubbing my blurry eyes, I could just make out the letters.


P - O - L - I - C - E



An extremely apologetic officer met us at the front door and informed us that a neighbor had complained about our dog barking and disturbing the neighborhood peace. We had heard nothing, but promised to do something about our dog. The friendly officer left as quickly as he had come, leaving us to scratch our heads and wonder which of our neighbors had turned us in. Maybe there was a crazed lunatic in our neighborhood after all!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The "F-Word" and the Orphan

I absolutely hate it!

When I hear the word my blood-pressure rises, my stomach ties itself into knots, and I literally feel the strength drain out of me.

It makes me want to run to the high hills...

Bury my head under a pillow...

Hide.


But, no matter how it makes me feel, I just can't seem to escape it.


FUNDRAISING!!!


Ugh!

Asking people to help fund something I believe in ... but can't produce all the necessary money for on my own.

This time around I'm trying to bring over our daughter from Ukraine on a student visa - not an easy thing to do when her former address is an orphanage.

Eight months of intense fundraising to raise $20,000+.


Well, kind of ...

I've avoided it mostly.

I've tried to pay as much out of pocket as possible...
Hoped I'd find my name attached to a hefty inheritance...
OR
Wished I'd stumble into an abandoned gold mine.

No such luck.

I've sold the book I wrote and the CD my husband created. (Thankfully, people have given rave reviews on both.)
We've done yard sales. We've started a small side-business to offset costs.


I'd so much rather sell something than ask for donations, although I have written a few letters.

Some people have helped with various sized contributions.

Some have said they are financially unable to help at this time, but have committed to praying for us. (These people are the best. They understand that prayers are so much more valuable than money.)

A few, there are always those few, have had some negative comments ("Why add another expense?").


But, the vast majority say not a word.

And, maybe, that's what gets me the most. That nothingness. That feeling of not being heard at all. That empty realization that my heartfelt request just doesn't matter to the rest of the world -- it is NOT important. I am NOT important. Our daughter is NOT important. That is the message carried across the deafening roar of silent disregard.

And, yet, our daughter is important to God.

There are too many miracles in this fundraising venture to think otherwise. The $1000 check that appeared in our mailbox before we even asked. The money that appeared out of nowhere sent by people who didn't even know us. The answered prayers. It just shows me that this isn't our fundraising project. It is God's. And it isn't even our daughter we are bringing over either. She belongs to God too. He is touching hearts on her behalf to bring her here ... one dollar at a time.

Maybe the "F-word" of working with orphans isn't really fundraising ... maybe it's faith.

And God is teaching me how to trust Him through our efforts to bring our daughter home.

He is also showing me that it's not my efforts at fundraising that are most important. While it is vital that I do my best, it is more important that I seek Him first. I cannot lose myself in a fundraising frenzy and expect to be successful. I must keep my eyes on Him constantly for it is He who has woven our daughter's life into ours through events to miraculous to deny. It is He who put the desire to bring her here in the first place. Before we even knew what our plans were, He had a plan.

So today, as the shadow of another payment deadline looms menacingly on our horizon, I quietly reflect on the verse from Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you." King James 2000. Humbly, I murmur a prayer, " Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." Mark 9:24, KJV.

Say Yes


Friday, October 2, 2015

Dramatic Cooking Ad - Must See!!!

So, my kids attend a small, private school where gardening and food preparation are required parts of their school day. I love it. Evidently, they do too. Together, they filmed and edited the following video clip advertising this area of our school. Never has cooking looked so inviting to me. Good job, kids!

Click HERE to view it! Enjoy! And happy cooking!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hope Still Lives

When Shawn Seely's fingertips touch the keyboard a hush fills the room and peace enters the hearts of all his listeners. From a very young age, this master musician has been sculpting masterpieces of tranquility. As he grew to adulthood, his passion for music ministry grew with him as he discovered his music brought peace to many listeners.

While volunteering at a hospital for children in Sacramento, California, his music echoed throughout the floors, offering a temporary solace for worried parents, sick patients, and busy personnel. The hope carried along by his melodies filled hearts and offered the hope that God still lives and loves. Now a husband and father of six talented children and foster father of a few more, Shawn's passion for music ministry is finding new outlets as he continues to share his belief in a God who cares about the smallest details in our lives.

Listen for a moment and you will find yourself swept away to a place where God still reigns supreme and calls you by name to worship Him, to commune with Him, to know Him better. Do you have trouble? Do you have turmoil? Sit for a minute and listen. Let your heart soak up the strains of comfort. Let HOPE inspire you.

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10.


And this, more or less, is what I wrote for my husband's CD description. We are using it to raise money to bring home
our daughter from Ukraine -- not through adoption, but by process of student visa. Ukraine determined she was too old to adopt when she turned 15. But, we don't think finding a family should have age limitations. We have told her she is one of our family and, even though she had previously lost all hope of ever finding a family, she is beginning to believe that there is still hope for her.

That is the main reason behind the title of the album, because every song we sell brings us one step closer to bringing her home.

Take a moment to listen. Take a moment to be inspired. Take a moment to picture her smile when she finally comes HOME.

Thank you!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Check from Heaven

Flipping through the mail my husband handed me, I noticed familiar handwriting on the return address of one of the envelopes. Pulling it out of the mix of bills and advertisements, I recognized the name of a childhood friend. A smile spread across my face as I pulled out a short note and began to read. But before I could finish the note, a check fell into my lap. The amount written on the check took my breath away.

We are a family formed by adoption and have welcomed children into our home from such faraway places as Eastern Europe, Asia, and Central America. We are not rich and sometimes pennies get pinched extra hard in order to make this happen. But, one way or another, it does happen and the miracles have been endless. More than anything, our faith has been pulled and stretched in so many different directions it isn't even recognizable anymore ... which is probably a good thing.

Forming a family by adoption makes us a little different than most. While others are vacationing in exotic places, we are fundraising like crazy and when the funds are raise, waving welcome posters at an airport anticipating the arrival of a teenager we've never met before. Hearts in our throats, stomachs in knots, we wonder, yet again, what we have gotten ourselves into. What we've gotten ourselves into is loving the fatherless. And it costs.

Truthfully, only a handful of our friends really understand what we do and why we do it. They know that to love means to give sacrificially. They realize that we are not crazy, but just trying our best to bless those whom God asks us to care for. These special friends are always the first to pitch in when we get ready to welcome another child. These friends are indeed heaven-sent.

"Use this to help the fatherless..." the note read and my jaw dropped. That they helped out with our current fundraising effort was not what surprised me. The amazement I felt came because these particular friends didn't even know we were raising money to bring over our girl on a student visa. They had no idea that I was exactly $1000 short on our payment due that day. They were clueless to the fact that I had been doubled over in prayer the previous night, pleading with God to provide a miracle to bring our girl home.

"Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear." Isaiah 65:24.

But God knew what we would need. He also knew that I would need to have my faith stretched and strengthened. In a way that only He could orchestrate, God provided both, leaving me in total awe of who He is.

"What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?" Psalm 8:4.

And so, we go forward in bringing our precious girl home. I don't know how we are going to come up with all the money needed, but God does. And I have learned that He can do some pretty amazing things. Here we go again...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Important Notice!

THANK YOU to all the early birds who reserved/ordered my book. Please note: We will be UNABLE TO PRINT NEW COPIES for an unknown period of time, so if you don't want to wait, order today. We have a limited supply and orders are coming in quickly. We have already shipped several bulk orders. Orders that come in after today will be placed on a first-come, first-served waiting list. Thank you for your understanding.

To order your copy, click on the picture of my book at the top left side of the screen. Proceeds help to bring over our T to study in America on a student visa, live with us, and experience what life is like in a family.

Thank you!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Midweek Meditation - "Let The Children Come"


I am volunteering this week at our church's VBS program. Watching the kiddos today, I have to admit there is something sincerely beautiful about the honesty of praise they offer. Children sing with gusto. They pray from the bottom of their little hearts. And they love with reckless abandon.

So what's wrong with me?

Why can't I do the same?

I know I used to.

I can still remember belting out songs at the top of my lungs and listening wide-eyed to Bible stories while perched on the edge of my seat. Coloring pages and flannel-graph stories thrilled me. And when I prayed, I felt like I was kneeling in God's white marbled throne room.

My confidence in God was unmatched.

We would take on the world together, just the two of us! And we would do great things!!!

Now, as a middle-aged matriarch, frustrations and disappointments cloud my eyes and heavy responsibilities have clipped my wings. Where my faith used to soar like an eagle, I now feel it to be more like the flight of a turkey -- clumsy and occurring only in short spurts. But why? This shouldn't be so!

Life has thrown its share of curve balls and fiery darts my way. I try to dodge them, but, I must admit, a few have knocked me flat. Of this I am not proud.

But, today...

Today, as I quietly watched the children eagerly streaming into the cafeteria, full of anticipation, something in me broke. A yearning washed over me. I WANT WHAT THEY HAVE! That sparkle. That eagerness. That JOY!!!

The good news is that I can have it. In spite of the complexities and turmoils that surround me, I can still live and breathe in the atmosphere of Heaven. I can have a peace about me that this world cannot understand.

I can have it NOW! I can have it ALWAYS!

I simply have to consciously choose it every minute of every day.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Wrote a Book ... Now What?!


I wrote a book.

The words that had been swirling through my head like leaves in an autumn wind, have been neatly ordered and tucked into pages that have been folded away between the covers of a book for posterity to read.

Nearly 200 pages of words and pictures sits quietly beside me as I write.

And ... I wonder?

What do I do with it?!

For more than one year I have nurtured it, breathed life into it, and coaxed it into existence one letter at a time.

Ideally, it should now rise up on wings of fortune and fly away, leaving a nice fat nest egg behind in gratitude.

But no.

It simply sits here in complacent silence, waiting for me to fan the flames of publicity, inviting readers to purchase it and take it home to brighten their lives with the splendor of its tale.

The only problem is...

I'm just not very good at that part.

Welp!!

I guess it's time to learn a new skill called marketing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Race to Finish

At the tender age of twelve I made myself a promise. Someday I would write a book about my grandmother's life. Thirty-two years later, that dream has blossomed into reality in such a way that I can only say, "It was God."

For thirty years this dream lay dormant, quietly sleeping in the heart of teen-age girl, then college graduate, then school teacher, then young mother, then blushing bride, and then busy wife and mom. Friends in the publishing business heard about my dream and asked a simple question, "Why not now?" Of course I had a lengthy list of excuses and produced it in my defense. But my friends didn't even do me the courtesy of glancing in its direction. "Why not now?" they asked again and the question hung in the air.

"Why not NOW?" Round and round my head the query whirled, gently at first, but soon with such intensity that I could ignore it no longer. After some time, the query morphed itself into, "Why NOT now?" It wasn't long before I found myself sitting behind my computer typing out the introductory sentence of what would be a nearly 200-page book. "Stealthily they crept like shadows through the gathering darkness, dodging Nazi soldiers and slipping between trucks bearing the swastika symbol..."

Long lost memories of stories my grandmother had shared resurfaced in stunning clarity. Sitting at my grandmother's knee as a child, listening with rapt attention, I had nearly memorized every story she told. As I began to write, questions arose. The stories I knew, but I didn't understand the reasons why the events of each story took place. I began to research Estonian history, especially during the time of World War II. What happened during that time to cause my family's life to change so dramatically?

My father had passed away in 2011, and so could not fill in the details of my family's life during that time. However, his younger sister was still alive and happy to help out, although she didn't think there was enough of a story to make into a book. We set up a once-a-week Skype schedule and for the next seven months I interviewed her about her childhood, ancestry, and what life was like during World War II. A stack of notes began to collect, but I did no writing.

In June, on my first day off from teaching, I rolled lazily over in my bed, peered out my bedroom window and wondered what I should do on that delightful summer day. A phrase flashed through my mind like lightning across the sky, "WRITE THE BOOK!" I leaped out of bed, dashed downstairs to my desk, and in the quiet of the morning, wrote Chapter 2. "The early morning sun caressed nine-year-old Marie’s dark brown braids..."

Time ticked silently by as I filled up page after page of stories interwoven with history. Finally satisfied, I attached it to an email to Aunt Ester and hit SEND. My smile widened as I imagined how pleased she would be to finally see that I was progressing with the writing portion of the book.

That afternoon I sat down for our weekly Skype session. Aunt Ester was indeed pleased with how Chapter 2 had turned out. But ...

A few days prior Aunt Ester had visited the doctor. Something hadn't felt right with her stomach for some time. She wanted it checked out. The doctors could not offer even a glimmer of hope. A rapid growing cancer would snuff out her life in less than two months. "I'm sorry I won't be able to help you finish this book," Aunt Ester apologized politely.

I was stunned. A wave of anger washed over me as I reeled from the news. Why had I waited so long to write this? Daddy was gone and now Aunt Ester was leaving too? I lamented all of this to my cousin who wisely admonished, "Never question God's timing."

So I didn't. I put my trust in Him and plunged into a writing frenzy. The following day, I churned out Chapter 3. Chapter 4 quickly followed. Then came Chapter 5... 6 ... 7 ... 8 ... and 9. I kept everyone on Facebook updated with my progress. Notes of encouragement fueled me onward as I raced towards the finish like an Olympic runner going for the gold. Aunt Ester valiantly kept pace, editing and critiquing each chapter just as fast as I could write them. Emails burned across the internet as we exchanged notes and comments ... and love.

Aunt Ester had always held a special place in my heart. Her courage under fire. Her determination in the face of adversity. Her sense of humor in spite of so many heartaches. She was my inspiration and I adored her. I was afraid of losing her and writing helped me feel closer to her, especially as her strength began to ebb.

"Adele was frantic with worry. Bruno hadn’t come home last night, and no one knew where he had gone..." The opening lines to Chapter 11 mirrored the anxiety in my heart. Aunt Ester was beginning to fade. Her daughters now read my chapters to her and emailed corrections back to me. My heart was heavy as I realized she would not see the book completed. No! That wasn't true at all. My heart was heavy because I knew I was losing her and I struggled between panic and pain as I pressed forward with Chapter 12.

"Shots volleyed back and forth around the Korpmans’ summer home in Aruk├╝la all day Sabbath, August 23. Believing the Germans were there to help liberate Estonia from Communist rule, the Forest Brothers fought alongside the Nazis to push the Soviet army back towards Tallinn. Sounds of war, both of victory and blood-curdling defeat, filled the air. Soviet soldiers ducked beneath a window of the Korpman home as they set up heavy artillery weapons in preparation for battle. The Korpman family’s concern mounted as they observed the fervor of the military preparations. Wilhelm’s wife, Anna, fluent in the Russian language, called out to one of the soldiers, “Are we safe here?”

This was the last chapter Aunt Ester read. Our Skype sessions took too much of a toll on her weakened body. She was fading fast and I knew it would not be long before she was finally gone. I began Chapter 13 with a pain in my heart, knowing this was the first chapter she would not proof.

"Her husband and mother were dead. Her house had burned to the ground. All that remained were her family and the few possessions they now carried. The harsh reality of her situation finally set in. Marie no longer had a home in Estonia." The last words of the chapter stared back at me from off the screen and for a time I could write no more.

Aunt Ester quietly passed to her rest on Thursday, August 7, 2014. Surrounded by her loving family, she quietly drifted away. Alone in a study room in The Netherlands, I received the expected, but dreaded news. My beloved Aunt Ester was gone.

Through tear-filled eyes I gazed out at the star filled sky and reviewed the recent events that had culminated into that one anguished moment. The words my cousin had spoken echoed through my thoughts, "Never question God's timing." If it weren't for the book, would I have spent the time Skyping with my aunt during the last year of her life? Would I have gotten to know her or grown as close to her as I had through this project. Another question came forward. "Why not now?" I had my excuses, but God knew the future. He knew that NOW was the only time I had left.

As I wiped the tears from my eyes I could only thank God for opening up a door to a path I never could have imagined possible. Only God!

For several weeks afterwards I could not write. I didn't want to. My heart just wasn't in it. Besides, could I even finish? Did I have enough information?

Rummaging through some old letters and files, I discovered two CDs that I had forgotten about. One was an interview with Aunt Ester that her son had recorded several years previously. The second was a recorded sermon preached by my father. Absently, I popped one into the player and began to listen.

Suddenly, I sat bolt upright. The information being given was exactly the information I needed to complete the book. The hairs on my neck stood on end as I pounded out notes onto my laptop. Exactly where I had left off in my interviews with Aunt Ester was where the CDs picked up. Nothing was skipped. Nothing was lost.

It was all too amazing to be coincidental!

Once again I plunged into a full writing frenzy. Chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, came out in quick succession. The Epilogue followed and then my pages of acknowledgments. Pictures were added. A cover was designed. And then one Spring day, I held in my hand a box of books with my name spelled out across the front cover.

It seemed surreal and I just wanted to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't a dream. But it was a dream! It was my childhood dream that had lain dormant all these years until the time was right and God breathed life into it and set it free.

To purchase your copy, click HERE!