Have you ever been in a season of life when it feels like you are continually under pressure, the stresses of life literally piling up from seemingly all areas? As time has gone by these last few months, I’ve increasingly had the image of being in one of those pressure cookers building up pressure until it is about to burst. Thankfully, in our modern day, God-sends like the Instant Pot (all the praise hands for this miraculous device) don’t really have the issue of exploding anymore as the pressure cookers of yesteryear did, but in this image I keep having, I keep seeing that the pot can only handle so much pressure. The pressure valve is right there, ready to release and bring that pot down from that high pressure point, but it’s a choice to let the pressure out in that safe, desired way, before the pressure literally blows the lid off.
You know when you’re going through something that you know you are meant to, but that there is a very certain way to walk this road in a healthy way? God has reminded me again and again of some truths during this season that are essential to living this time in such a way that doesn’t end with a pressure cooker explosion.
Rick Renner’s interpretive version of 2 Thessalonians 1:7, formed from the Greek meanings of the original words in this letter, found in Sparkling Gems from the Greek, sets us up well to dive into this:
“To you who are going through difficulties right now, it’s time for you to let up, take a breather, and relax. We know what it’s like to be under pressure, but no one can stay under that kind of stress continuously. So join us in learning how to loosen up a bit. Shake off your troubles, and allow yourself a little relaxation and time for recreation…”
I found it fascinating that God lead me to Renner’s in-depth study of this verse that just happened to talk about being under pressure. Life has a way, especially in some seasons, to pile it on, and we have the responsibility of learning how to use that pressure release valve through healthy habits of recreation and relaxation.
Taking a Sabbath is a very important part of creating a habit of rest in our lives, but this verse goes beyond that to highlight the need for relaxation and recreation, which is distinctly different than the time of dedicated rest and refueling in the Lord we should take each week.
In my life, learning how to relax has looked like creating time to read again this year. I’ve hardly read these past few years, yet I once read over 100 books in a year as a teenager. Being goal-oriented, I set a goal of reading 12 books this year at the start of this year, but as I’ve walked it out I’ve recognized the most healthy way to truly relax through reading is to just structure in time to read and reflect, and not to worry about how I’m doing on schedule with reaching that goal in time (also, Audible. It’s a Godsend!).
Recreation…it’s something that takes a little more intentionality to uncover, but I think that’s on purpose. God created us to enjoy the things we do, and He enjoys seeing us having fun. When I lived overseas, I learned that there are certain things in life that different people enjoy that heavily enhance one’s ability to endure things. For some people living in third or fourth world countries that call first world countries home base, it’s hot showers. For others, it’s an occasional treat that reminds them of home (cheese, anyone?). There were little things that I and the others around me could give ourselves to enrich our enjoyment of the season we were in, something that had a huge impact in heavily decreasing burnout and enabling me and others I knew to choose simple pleasures and habits that were refueling in their own small but extremely impactful ways. There is something I learned in that time of life that is so important- God created each of us with our own set of likes, dislikes, and fuel for our tanks and fueling that tank isn’t just a good idea, but actually necessary for long-term health. I discovered that walks along the ocean did a tremendous amount for stress relief, and that’s translated to me recognizing how much parks and lakes can be pressure relieving here in the land-locked state where I now live. Learning about the fuel God gave you, those specific things that are refueling for you, is a great joy in itself and in it you discover an aspect of God’s character, because you’re made in His image and those things are a part of who He is.
It’s time to release the pressure valves. We weren’t made to live with the pressure building all the time. Yet I love that 2 Thessalonians 1:7 is specifically recognizing that there are times of high pressure that will come, as well as healthy ways to handle these times.
What about you – what are some ways you need to practice relaxing and taking time for recreation? What are some new things you can explore in your life to enrich the season you find yourself in and circumvent a pressure explosion?
Take some time to journal your thoughts today. Ask the Lord what things you need to incorporate into your life to create a natural pressure release in order to not just avoid a pressure explosion, but to build healthy pressure-relieving habits and activities into your life.
It’s the time of year when those New Year’s Resolutions start to wear off. You’ve tried and tried to get to the gym, you’ve tried to cut out sweets but then the Super Bowl happened, you’ve tried to launch your home-based business, insert fill-in-the-blank applicable situation for you.
I’m a big believer in goals for the year, but as such, I’ve also come face-to-face with reality smacking those goals over and life challenging me to give up on those goals I set out to conquer in the new year.
This year, I have a few simple goals. I’ll share a few of them:
1) Get up at six o’clock every weekday morning and have a 30 minute devotional time.
2) Listen to audiobooks at the gym and redeem that time (& make it more enjoyable).
3) Never miss a Monday at the gym to set myself up to be physically active that week.
4) Set aside work hours for my business, which I work from home, each and every day.
5) Limit foods outside of my food plan to once a week at the most.
January wasn’t the month I hoped it would be. I had a hard time being consistent with the things I set out to do – and while there are always plenty of excuses to go around, as Brian Tracy says in No Excuses, stop complaining or making excuses and take responsibility if you want to make a change. I could have lived out January better to be further ahead than I am now.
That being said, I am happy to report that I did make progress on each of these goals last month! Audible has been Godsend in helping me take in good input, like Brian Tracy‘s book, helping me get more fuel and to stop making excuses.
Here are five wins from January, one for each goal:
1) I got up at six a.m. some, and continue to pursue making this an every day habit.
2) I’ve gotten a lot out of starting to listen to audiobooks and have even started doing this some in the car!
3) I’ve missed just one Monday since getting back to the gym after the Christmas break!
4) I’ve put more time into my business and have had extra growth because of the extra intention I’ve put in!
5) I’ve said no to a lot of foods that I otherwise wouldn’t have because of my desire to limit the intake of foods I want to avoid, and I’ve stuck to 1/week all weeks but one.
In light of my goals and progress, I want to share with you some strategies I’ve embraced over the past few years to help prevent life from happening to the good intentions of New Year’s Resolution making.
Revisit your goals each and every month. Write them down (research says that you are over 1000 times more likely to achieve a goal when it is written down) and share it with someone (your chances are even higher fro success when the goal is shared).
Each month, write down where you made progress on each and every one of your goals. My phrase for this year is “Intentional Progress”. I might not win at all of my goals right out of the gate, but I’m going to make progress intentionally each and every month! By counting our monthly progress “wins”, this gives us inspiration to keep on going.
Ask yourself “why didn’t I meet my goal?”. Look at your answers & readjust!
Commit to make this month better than the last. Winning at goal setting is all about progress! Make progress over last month and you’re on your way to getting better, and better, and better, and better!
It really is as simple as that. Culture tells us that people who have goals will fail, but statistics tell us otherwise! Keep working on those goals and just see all the good, all the progress, that comes from that intentionality!
What is one of your goals for this year? What’s been a progress win so far?
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“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14 KJV
Have you heard the Christmas song, “This Christmas“? It goes, “This Christmas will be a very special Christmas for me…”
Each Christmas, we remember all that’s transpired since the last Christmas. For some, it’s a time of happiness with loved ones, and for others, they’re feeling more like “Blue Christmas”.
From Scripture, we can find several threads that connect to the kind of atmosphere we choose and the type of Christmas we can decide to have.
A Christmas of peace. When we are at peace, we choose to embrace tranquility and trust God and His hand in our lives, regardless of our circumstances. Christ’s coming is the biggest gift and reason to be at peace we could ever have. The earthly life of Jesus wasn’t marked by a lack of strife, but it was marked by peace, and ours can be the same, if we so choose. “…on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14)
A Christmas of joy. We can choose joy for the great things God has put into our lives. No one has perfect lives, and some years highlight that more than others, but when we choose a lifestyle of joy, we recognize all of the amazing blessings God has given to us. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10b-11, NIV)
A Christmas of hope. This year more than others, I’ve heard a lot of people deciding to hope for the good God has for them, and that makes my heart rejoice! Truly, when we zoom out, so to speak, and take a good look at our lives, it is so obvious that our problems aren’t that big and our reason for hope is so huge. “And his name will be the hope of all the world.” (Matthew 12:21, NLT)
A Christmas of good will. We can choose to believe the best of others- be friendly, helpful, and forgiving, never forgetting all that we’ve been forgiven of. The birth of Jesus is the first part in the salvation story, and as much as we need it, how can we not give the same? “…good will towards men.” (Luke 2:14)
May your Christmas be defined by choosing peace, joy, hope, and good will in your life. May broken relationships be restored, pride be set aside, hope be embraced, peace be chosen, and joy be overflowing.
From your friends here at Canvas & Table, may you have a very blessed and Merry Christmas.
“…I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might…” Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV
Hoping is hard work. The act of hope is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “to desire with expectation of obtainment” and “to expect with confidence”. As those whom have gone through long waiting periods know too well, waiting with expectation is a difficult thing to do.
I wrote about waiting recently, and while that in and of itself is a topic for another day, in the wait there must be hope, in order for us to grow and flourish as God intended. As I heard it once said, in painful times, you either become bitter or better, and waiting seasons are a vivid picture of a time when we make the choice to become bitter or better.
A friend recently shared that, in a time of loss, she recognized that God asked of her to give Him her hope, however small. I happened to read this on a very tough day, in a tough week, and in a tough season. Hope & loss often go hand-in-hand – the feeling that you’ve lost or given up something, and whether tangible or not, the emotional journey is deep and arduous. Pain seeks to put out the light of hope by teaching us that hoping can hurt, and if it is just too hard, we can choose to stop hoping and no longer go through the pain of disappointment and emotional suffering.
To be completely honest, it has been a week in which I don’t feel like writing and I haven’t felt a whole lot like hoping, either. Emotions have been deep and wide, but I was reminded of my friend’s words on hope as I came across this Scripture this morning- “…having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you…”. My friend did not reference this Scripture, but her testimony and this Scripture clashed together before me and reminded me, God has called us to hope.
In the original Greek of the New Testament, the word “hope” in this Scripture is the Greek word “elpis”. It comes from the word “elpo”, meaning “to anticipate, welcome” and in and of itself means the “expectation of what is sure (certain)”. (Strong’s) To anticipate and welcome the expectation of what is sure is to put all your cards on the table, so to speak. It is to say, “this is happening and I will wait here, expectantly, until it does”.
Reality is that type of waiting is hard, because it is in our flesh to not want to wait and experience discomfort and the great pain that can sometimes come with it- but it’s what God has called us to, to wait upon Him, and to hope in Him. And hoping in Him is what makes all the difference.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
Many times, when the burden just feels like too much, we’ve stopped waiting in the Lord and relying on Him for our strength to do so. Staying and abiding in the Lord, we receive the strength of the Holy Spirit that is so much greater than we could ever summon on our own. One of my favorite Scriptures is Proverbs 4:25. It says, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” (NLT). Oftentimes I’m reminded that I’ve stopped fixing my eyes on Christ when I feel like the burden is just too much.
Scripture calls the hope we have, as Christians, “the riches of His glorious inheritance…and the surpassing greatness of His power to us who believe” (BSB). Through Christ we have the hope that that thing we are waiting on and believing for breakthrough in is going to happen and come to pass, because of the power we as Christians have been given, if we only believe and hold fast to that belief.
I believe there is power in speaking the Word and calling things that aren’t as through they are. When God gave Abram his new name, Abram chose to share that with other people. In a time when the meanings of names were well-known and recognized, letting people know, “I am now Abraham” and letting new people you meet know, “I am Abraham” would have the same as saying, “I am the father of many nations”. Abraham enacted his faith in God’s calling on his life, years and years and years and decades before the meaning of his name would ever come to pass. He was likely ridiculed and his name would have at least been talked of, due to its meaning, and it was 40 years before the truth of his name became visible to everyone else. It would have been so easy for him to give up on his hope, but He believed and stood firm because He knew God is faithful to His promises.
Whatever you’re going through, God has given you the tools you need to persevere, and what’s more, He has called you to hope. Hope for the “future and a hope” God has given you and the dreams He has placed in your heart. Whatever you’re waiting on, if you’ve read this post this far through, you likely feel a depth of pain in choosing to hope, because it literally is “getting your hopes up”. I believe God has good and not evil for you, and the dreams and vision God has put in you are there for a reason. I encourage you, search Scripture for a promise you can hold on to. Find a Scripture that speaks to your situation and pray that over yourself. Believe that for your reality, not what you see.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 NLT
I want to believe with you today, whatever you’re hoping for. If you feel comfortable, leave a comment below or send us a message at our Contact page. Hoping is hard work, but we’ve been equipped, and joining together in prayer and persevering for one another truly results in such a blessing when we live in the hope we’ve been called to.
1. Spend some time meditating on the promises of God. Find your Scripture, tape it on your mirror, make it your phone lock screen, or share with someone that this is the verse you’re believing for in your life.
2. Commit to praying that verse over yourself for the next 30 days.
3. Receive the Holy Spirit’s strengthening for you in this season- and believe that good things, God’s things, are ahead.
*Begin Jingle Bells*
It’s that time of the year, folks! Christmas is just weeks away and your Christmas shopping list is awaiting your magic touch. You pile into the car, swing through the driveway for a tall PSL or peppermint mocha, wait for an hour at the mall for a parking space to free up…. and then it hits you. You have no idea what to buy that special person on your shopping list. Drat.
*Cue Magic Harp Effect*
Not to worry. We’ve put together an expansive guide to help your Christmas shopping come to a satisfying end. (Gift wrap and shipping not included.)
Monthly Box Gifts A really fun trend right now are curated boxes, created to appeal to the special interests of your special person. Many of them offer 1 month or 3 month options (or you can go ahead and gift a full year if you budget accommodates).
•Ipsy. For the gal in your life who loves to experiment with makeup, Ipsy sends a cute little bag, plus 5 trial size makeup and skin care items. ($10/mo)
•LitJoy Crate. What a fun idea for your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, or other cool kid on your list. Each monthly box consists of 2 or 3 specially chosen books (that are selected based on the age of said cool kid, starting as young as 2 years old). Also included are special learning toys, snacks, or crafts ideas that go along with the book themes. ($29/mo)
•Harry’s. Help your dude stay sharp and gift him with fresh blades and shaving products. (Starting at $3/mo)
•Happy Mail (from A Beautiful Mess). With $50 worth of stationary, paper pads, wall artprints, and more, it’s completely obvious why this monthly box is called “Happy Mail”! They also offer a similar box that majors in craft supplies. (As low as $15/mo)
•She Reads Truth Autoship. Give the gift of intentional and focused time in God’s Word. Each month your recipient will receive at least one beautiful study guide (some for topical studies and some covering solitary books of the Bible). There’s a version for men as well. ($24/mo)
•Graze. For the person whose love language is food, send them a box full of specialty snacks. Boxes are customizable for likes and dislikes; however this is probably not ideal for people with nut or wheat allergies. ($11.99/mo)
•BarkBox. This is for the dog person on your list. Each box includes a special assortment of treats, toys, and other goodies especially for Fido. (Begins at $20/mo)
•Date Box. A great couples’ gift. Each box includes an assortment of specially curated date night activities (with a new theme each month, such as travel) to help couples plan more meaningful date nights at home. (Ranges from $27-$35/mo)
•FabFitFun Box. This is the “new thing” in boxes, because it is a huge box with tons of stuff (to the tune of $200 dollar’s worth) and it comes quarterly (but we’re putting it in here, anyway). Look out for some coupons as several have been offering them for up to $10 off your first box. (Ranges from $45-$50/quarter)
Gifts of Experience There’s a growing trend that we LOVE and that is giving gifts that don’t amount to simply more “things”. This is ideal for individuals who don’t really need anything, for those who are working towards minimalism, or for young families who might not need more toys, but would love to add to the treasury of family memories. Plus, in a culture of millennials who love to experience, you can hardly go wrong with one of these.
•Movie Tickets. Because everyone enjoys a show now and again!
•Concert Tickets. Consider giving this gift “early” and making it tickets to a special Christmas concert.
•Yearly Passes. Zoo, museum, aquarium, etc. would all be wonderful places to for individuals and families alike to visit several times over the course of a year.
•Travel Cube. Earmark money for travel and gift them this cube so they can begin saving for those trips they’ve been wanting to go on!
Gifts with a Purpose Some people prefer to have donations made in their honor to carefully selected charities or causes. If you aren’t sure where to start, take a look at this shortlist of some organizations we’ve selected:
•Compassion International. With donation options beginning at less than $10, this is a creative way to give to families in need around the world, equipping them with the skills & tools they need to get out of poverty.
•KOFAEL. This non-profit operates in Haiti, giving women micro-loans to help them start a business and prevent children from unnecessarily entering orphanages due to lack of income in the family.
•Show Hope. This organization both provides medical care to orphans in China and helps funds adoption aid & grants across the globe. With a belief in family preservation and reunification before adoption, due to the large amount of children in orphanages whose families simply can’t afford them, Show Hope stewards their contributions towards doing what is best for the child & family.
•King’s Ransom Foundation. An incredibly well-planned effort in some of the most impoverished places in the world to establish villages, improve the quality of life, and empower families to live sustainably within their community. Every penny goes directly to the actual effort, not administrative costs.
•Fair Trade Gifts. While not a direct monetary donation, it’s a nice way to purchase from international artisans and insure that they are being paid fairly, instead of being taken advantage of, for cheap labor. Look up Ten Thousand Villages, Fair Indigo, or Global Goods Partners to get started. You’ll find everything from home goods, coffee, chocolate, jewelry and beyond.
Good Reads For the person in your life who loves a good book, consider these gift options: •Personal Library Kit. The perfect gift for the friend who has an extensive library and hates losing their books to friends who don’t return, this kit is a great way to make your friend laugh and set them up to start enjoying lending out books again with this fun library retention set.
•A Book Lover’s Journal. This journal is the perfect tool for the die-hard book fan, who wants to keep a record of the books they’ve read, journal their reviews, and much, more more.
•Bookworm Journal. Much like the above-mentioned journal, this is perfect for kids and their parents to enjoy together!
•Snack Kits. Have you ever been invited to a reading party? Something you’re sure to find is some snacks to enhance the experience. Give you gift-loving friend the gift of reading snacks- choose from all natural snack kits, cheese and meat samplers, fruit trays, tea sets, and more.
•Magnolia Story. Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, Texas have been a smashing success from the dynamic duo behind HGTV’s Fixer Upper. Their story of faith is hilarious, heart-warming, and may make you shed a tear or two.
•Farm Anatomy. A super fun guide to all things agriculture for families to look through.
•The Compound Effect. Have an entrepreneur on your gift list? This book from the man at the helm of SUCCESS magazine is an affordable way to help your friend or family member make the most of the coming year, with tried and true success strategies for compounding the results of your efforts.
•How to Win Friends and Influence People. Give the gift of time-honored personal development training.
•StrengthsFinder 2.0. For the person in your life who loves learning more about themselves, this nationally best-selling program gives them access to discovering their top 5 natural strengths.
•The Best Yes. This book comes from the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and is the perfect gift for the woman in your life seeking to grow in making wise decisions about what she puts her hands to.
•Daily Devotional. Want to give a gift that last all year long? Consider these choices from Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Charles Stanley, A.W. Tozer, Myles Munroe, Beth Moore, and more.
•Sacred Marriage. Perfect for the Christian couples in your life, married and unmarried, the premise of this book is, “what if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”.
•The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. Oldies but goodies, these book sets are perfect for the fantasy lover in your life.
Gag Gifts Everyone knows that person who loves to give and receive humorous gifts- and if that’s you (or the person on your list), look no further! We’ve got you covered. •Hangry Kits. That’s right; there is no better way to tell someone that sometimes they can tend to get a bit cranky when they’re hungry than with a fantastic Hangry kit, a box simply filled with plenty of packages for a snack attack. This is ideal for you not-so-health-conscious friend who regularly experiences snacking emergencies.
•Coffee Brewer + Shower Head Combo. It might seem a bit outlandish to spend nearly $7 on a box, but giving your friend or family member a coffee maker-showerhead combo (with your real gift inside this Prank Pack) and seeing all the looks you get is so worth it. Perfect for that person who loves time management or coffee a liiiittle too much.
•An Attachable Arm. iArm, another Prank Pack, gives the phone or tablet lover in your life something that pokes fun at how much they love their technology.
•Bacon Bandages. Know someone who really loves bacon? Get them the bandages to make them feel better all throughout the year.
•Muffin Tops silicone muffin molds. One word: Minions.
•Like and Dislike Stamps. Perfect for your opinionated friends with pent-up energy this election season!
•Unicorn Gold Toilet Spray. This toilet spray is for before-you-squat and great for practical use & giggles. Want to make a DIY version? Try our fabulous recipe here.
•Mermaid Tail Blanket. Oh, it’s a very real trend and some woman in your life would love to have one, too.
•Exploding Kittens. The game that has taken young adults everywhere by storm, this is perfect for the millennial crowd to have some fun staying alive to win it all.
•Pie Face. Another of the year’s most popular games, this game is great for children and adults alike who don’t care about getting their faces dirty.
•Watch Ya’ Mouth. The last of this year’s big hitters, this game is much more sanitary than you might think- it includes 10 mouth retractors (to be washed after each game, of course) and is a sure way to make the entire family roll laughing (be sure to watching the video at this link to fully understand the game).
•Battle of the Sexes. This oldie-but-goodie is great for gatherings, pitting men and women against one another in a game of gender-based common knowledge.
•Pandemic. A fun, yet very challenging cooperative board game.
•Machi Koro. Build your city by collecting cards and rolling dice in this boardless Monopoly-type concept.
•Qwixx. It’s similar to Yahtzee, but with faster game play.
•Ticket to Ride. Highly entertaining and less cut-throat alternative to Risk, your goal is to build your railroad across the country as you follow your mission cards.
•Catan Dice Game. A super light version of the classic strategy game.
•The Game of Life – Electronic Banking. It’s the classic board game – without hundreds of pieces of paper money.
For the Men •Tree Hut Handmade Wooden Watches. This is such a unique and sharp idea, using bands and watch faces made from bamboo.)
•Slow brand Watches. While this is definitely more of a splurge gift, it’s an unusual concept. Slow Watches utilize a 24 hour watch face to aid you in better pacing your day and budgeting your time.
•Watch Case. A true watch lover has more than a couple watches in his collection, and this case is everything you need to take your guy’s watch game to another level.
•Qalo Silicone Wedding Rings. These rings are perfect for the guy who loves to hike, run, or has an intense occupation that could cause damage to his “nice” wedding band. Because they are silicone, they accommodate for fingers swollen from the heat better than traditional rings. These are super affordable, providing him a way to still wear a ring, without risking an expensive replacement.
•Nice Messenger Bag. Perfect for the guy that needs his laptop available on the go, this sleek design is perfect for the student or tech guy looking to look smart and fashionable and upgrade from a backpack.
•Briefcase. The businessman in your life would appreciate this sturdy man bag, which allows plenty of space for paperwork, gadgets, a computer, and more, while providing a look of finesse at a practical price.
•Beard Balm. For that guy who rocks the beard, help him keep it groomed and soft. •Beard Oil. A favorite for all bearded men, help them take care of their hair and skin with some essential oil love. (Use our number, 1602685, in both boxes when you order)
•Nintendo Nes Classic Edition. Provide a little retro fun with this blast from the past!
•XBOX One or Playstation 4. Get the guy in your life the most up-to-date console if he enjoys current games and needs a new system.
•Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphones. You saw Michael Phelps with them at the Summer 2016 Olympics. Why? Because over-ear headphones are all the rage right now and Beats can’t be beat! If your guy loves headphones, he probably wants these. If he prefers ones better for being active, try these instead.
•Tile Key Finder. Because no one likes lost keys and it connects to your smartphone.
For the Women •Adult Coloring Books. If the woman you’re shopping for is artistic, she is likely to be all about the adult coloring book craze and would be more than happy to get some more to add to her collection.
•Little House on the Prairie Coloring Book. If she loves coloring and literature, the beautiful and quaint pictures from the well-loved Little House on the Prairie series will be just perfect for her! •Watercolor Pencils. Making water colors cool and easy for adults to use, too!
•Creative Journaling Bible. Let her color and draw in this form of artistic worship in a specially-made Bible, just for this purpose.
•Write the Word Journals. Perfect for those who aren’t artistically bent but love writing, this journal is beautiful and simple.
•A Planner. Set the planner in your life up with something they will absolutely adore all year long!
•Artistic prints. Try one of these or something on Etsy to add some color to the life of the person you’re shopping for.
•New makeup. Check out a list of some favorites here.
•Essential Oils Creme Masque. Give the lady in your life something luxurious for her skin with this fantastic creme masque from Young Living. (Use our number, 1602685, in both boxes when you order)
•Qalo Silicone Wedding Rings. These rings are also great for the athlete, nurse, hairdresser, or stay-at-home-mom-who-washes-dishes-all-day on your list- or anyone else who doesn’t want to risk snagging or dinging their nice ring during their workday.
•Bath Bombs. For any woman interested in relaxing!
•Modern Initial Canvas Tote. These totes are well rated, fabulous, and perfect for the woman who loves a bag in your life.
•Bluetooth Shower Speaker. Because singing in the shower is fun! AND, this is the best way to enjoy a bubble bath with those bath bombs.
•Himalayan Salt Lamp. These are all the rage this year, so be sure to get these for the woman who likes to keep it natural and fresh.
•She Believed She Could So She Did Socks. Perfect for the student, athlete, businesswoman, mom, or just about any woman in your life, these inspirational socks will help the lady you’re buying for feel loved, supported, and believed in. •Hipster Beanie. Help your dearest hipster stay warm this winter with these fabulous beanies.
•Travel Toiletry Hanging Case. Great for the adventurous student, traveling businesswoman, or anyone in your life that stays away from home from time to time, this bag with help her stay put together.
•Fingerless Mittens. These cute and stylish mittens are perfect for staying warm and fashionable.
•Essential Oils Diffuser. A new diffuser is a great gift for any lady- and make sure to get her some oils while you’re at it, too!
For the Kids •Noah: A Wordless Picture Book. A truly stunning visual for the Biblical story of Noah, containing only pictures. What a great way for children to follow along, as parents teach this story to them.
•Melissa and Doug Car Carrier. Many kids love this delightfully simple wooden car carrier!
•Count Your Chickens. This is a great introductory board game for youngsters- and we love the fact that it incorporates cooperative game play.
•Theo. This simple, wonderful Biblical storytelling is great for fascinating your children when they get too old for nap time but still need some rest time.
•Soccer Ball. Soccer is only becoming more popular- get a new ball for the little athlete in your life.
•Hatchimals. If you’re in the know about this year’s biggest toy craze, you know these hatching animal toys are almost completely sold out everywhere, leading to a parental craze of stalking all the nearest stores, awaiting new inventory. Due to that, prices are really high at retailers outside of your Target/Toys R Us/Walmart, but stay tuned for when these toys go back to their normal pricing.
•Art Set. The artistic child in your life would love this 131-piece art set, perfect for the budding artist.
•Melissa & Doug Stamp Set. Help them get creative with stamps!
•Melissa & Doug Beading Set. Get one of these for the young girls in your life.
•Pop-up Princess Castle. Great for napping or playing, this adorable castle is perfect for the little princess in your life.
•Pop-Up Play Tent. Let them play with two play areas and a tunnel! •Walkie Talkies. The intrigue of walkie talkies is still alive for many kids today. Help them explore and imagine with this fun short-range radio.
•Magnet Globe Set. Want to make magnets and globes cool again? Take one look at this, perfect for any child’s room!
•Essential Oils Diffuser. For the oily kids in your life, get them their very own diffuser.
•LED Touch Nightlight. Perfect for kids of any age, this touch nightlight is a great way to add ambiance and a feeling of safety to the room of any kid you know.
•Science Kit. Help the adventurous and intellectual alike learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) principles with this fun kit.
•Race Car Track. Help the real little ones have fun racing with this car track.
•Remote Control Car. Help the older ones race and improve their reaction skills with this gift we all wanted as children.
•LEGO Star Wars Kit. Let them build it with this Star Wars speeder kit.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Should you order through these links, we will receive a referral commission off your purchase from Amazon. Don’t worry- this does not affect the purchase price of the product. Thank you for helping support Canvas & Table and helping us create fresh content!
This week, we have chosen to focus our posts on adoption- in honor of National Adoption Month. During the next week, we will share the stories of five different women whose lives have each been radically impacted by adoption.
Christa and I (Ashley) met on a trip to China with Show Hope in 2010. I’ll never forget trekking the Great Wall of China with her and getting to know her over those two weeks! As Show Hope is an organization with an emphasis on orphan care, we, along with a group of other young women, got acquainted with one another’s hearts for orphan care and adoption at that time. Since then, it has been a joy to watch both of us develop, get married, and to see how Christa’s family has bloomed. Christa’s heart for children is strong and brave, and it is with joy that I present this interview, with Christa’s story of foster care and adoption. Since the time of this interview a couple weeks ago, Christa and her husband have welcomed their new baby girl!
C&T: What are the current demographics of your family? Christa: Currently, we have a 3 year old bio daughter, a 2 year old adopted son, and a baby on the way (maybe soon- contractions have started making their presence known).
C&T: What led you to consider adoption? Christa: Honestly, I’ve personally felt called to adoption since I was 4. My first career choice was to be a Batman and Joker mommy. I felt that, since Batman’s mommy had died, he needed someone to care for him, and Joker wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if he had a good mommy. After that, I got good and self-righteous. I said, “How selfish would I have to be to bring a child into the world when there are so many who are waiting for homes!”. Once God got ahold of me about my self-righteousness, I still felt called and, thus, it was a requirement for any man I perspectively might marry that he be on board with adopting. Honestly, after so many years, I was certain that God gave me that vision because I wasn’t going to be able to have biological children. Well, he’s now surprised me with two of them (whom, yes, I love just as much as my adopted son).
C&T: Did you foster before you adopted? Was it a domestic or international adoption? Closed or open? Christa: Yes, we fostered through Arkansas DCFS. We have been an open foster home for 2.5 years and fostered a few other little boys, before our current son came into our family. It is a closed adoption, due to his previous family situation. We still have pictures of them for his sake, though, and try to pray for them daily.
C&T: How did you decide the when and where of your adoption process? Christa: Honestly, before we became pregnant with our first daughter, we we planning on International adoption; though, once we had her, God brought more and more people into our lives who were foster parents. We then got introduced to an organization here in Arkansas named The CALL (Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime). The more we learned about the crisis in the foster care system and what these children had been through, the more God led us to foster.
C&T: What have been the top 3 challenges of your experience? Christa: Only 3?? With it being through DCFS, there were a lot of hoops to jump through, from making our home look like they wanted it, to all the training you have to go through. That was definitely the hardest. The second challenge was letting our other boys go, when it was their time. We loved them with every ounce of our being and watching them leave was heart wrenching. The third I guess would have to be a grief in loss of certain “social standing”. I have been judged for having African American children, judged for using WIC at the grocery store, told that I was a bad mom for how I was handling my screaming infant, who was simply screaming because he had only been with me a few days, and the list goes on.
C&T: What have been the top 3 joys of your experience? Christa: Again, only 3? Oh my, seeing a mother get her baby back is priceless. Beyond that, God has blessed us beyond measure. To see God’s family step in and help us through the hard times has been so humbling and encouraging (just today I was talking to a woman about my now adopted son, and she told me what a blessing it was to try to rock him in the nursery at church, during his 2 months of screaming constantly, because she knew I was getting a break from what I was dealing with every day). And, of course, we just finalized our adoption on October 19, 2016. The joy of holding my son, who I know God specifically brought to me after years of having that desire on my heart, cannot be put into words.
C&T: If there is one thing you would want people to know about the process of adoption, what would it be? Christa: It’s hard. There are many times you feel very alone and invisible. New moms who have their children biologically get baby showers, meals brought to them, and sweet gifts galore. Adoptive, and especially foster moms, don’t get that. They may have been up all night with newborns for months, due to strings of placements, but not many think to bring them a meal. Recently, one friend who is an awesome foster mom finally had a shower thrown for her after 4 or 5 placements. She was telling how special it was, partly because not long before, her mom bought her some things and she said, “these would normally be baby shower gifts, but since you’ve not had one I thought I’d go ahead and give them to you now.”. Also, children from hard places deal with very different issues than biological children, so many times in conversation you end up simply feeling left out or looked down upon because people simply don’t understand.
C&T: What has been the most helpful post-adoption resource for you? Christa: Well, I’m not far post-adoption, but I’d say the most helpful thing throughout fostering has been people with ears to listen and not quick to try to offer advice (since generally they don’t understand) and people who tell me how they’re going to help, rather than ask, “what do you need?”. We have one family who will occasionally simply say, “you’ve not asked us to watch the kids in awhile; when this week do you want us to watch them?”. Because, honestly, you’re so tired and stressed out, you don’t even know how to ask for help. I know some families who have had friends just show up and do lawn care and others who have had a friend show up just to do the dishes and sweep the floor. Those things are amazing after having dealt with court hearings, visitations, paperwork, and home visits.
C&T: How did you/do you want to be supported before and after the adoption took place? Christa: Since we did through foster care, monetary wasn’t important to us, but again, tangible actions have blessed us beyond measure!
C&T: What would be your advice to someone else going through the same experience? Christa: My advice: PRAY! You cannot do adoption on your own. It is too hard. You have to be relying on God to help you through. He has to be your foundation. Also, make sure you and your husband are on the same page. An adopted child is not going to help your marriage. It will put so much more stress and strain on your relationship. If you are not in sync, you cannot be what that child needs. I’ve watched many marriages fall apart due to thinking that bringing a child home will fix their problems.
Christa Adams and her husband Justin will be married 40 years on February 18, 2052 (meaning this February, they will celebrate their 5th anniversary). Justin is an audio engineer at FamilyLife, a ministry to care for marriages and families, in Little Rock, AR and Christa is now simply known as “Momma”. Christa loves serving in the children’s ministry at church and is always up for whatever adventure God may present next- the problem comes when He says it’s time to stay put for awhile.
This week, we have chosen to focus our posts on adoption- in honor of National Adoption Month. During the next week, we will share the stories of five different women whose lives have each been radically impacted by adoption.
Kathryn and I (Ashley) have known each other since 2005. We were in the same youth group at church and were on a student leadership team together in the early days of that ministry. It has always been a joy to my heart to hear Kathryn share her story. She is one of the most bold and bright people I know, empowered to do and be anything the Lord has called her to be, while embracing the uniqueness of her own journey, from her adoption story, through different seasons, to her current place in life. C&T: What is your adoption story? Kathryn: I was adopted through a closed adoption case and my adoptive parents picked me up on the day I was born. My birth mom was 16 years old and that is all that I know about her.
C&T: What led your parents to adopt and how did they handle letting you know about it? Did you always know? Kathryn: My mom was unable to have children, which is what lead them to adoption. I highly respect the way that my parents handled the communication about being adopted. I honestly don’t remember ever not knowing I was adopted, because my parents shed such a positive light on it. They would tell me that I was so special that they got to pick me out! I am so honored that my parents were open and honest with me about my story.
C&T: How did adoption impact you as a child? Kathryn: It gave me confidence that I was set apart and that I was chosen by God to be my parents child. When I had a few moments of feeling the emotions of “My birth mom didn’t want me”, I would go back to the fact that I was so blessed to have the parents that I was given and this gave me a feeling of gratitude.
C&T: What would you want people considering adoption to know? Kathryn: Adoption is a beautiful opportunity to create a family bond that is stronger than blood. It allows a child to know that they are wanted and chosen.
C&T: Based on your experience, what advice do you have for adoptive parents as their child or children have questions about being adopted? Kathryn: I would say that it is important to always be open with their children to create a sense of trust. Answer their questions and allow them to see the positive side of the story so that they are founded in truth and the confidence of who they are and the love that you have for them.
C&T: Did you ever struggle with the fact you weren’t raised by your birth parents? Kathryn: When I was in middle school, I did have some moments where identity issues would arise. What allowed me to move past these moments was knowing that I could be open with my parents about what I was feeling, because they always made me feel that my emotions were valid.
C&T: What is one thing your parents did that helped you love your own story? Kathryn: They shared with me how much of a blessing I was to them and that I was an answer to prayer. I could tell when they spoke about my adoption that God ordained their steps to lead them to me and that allowed me to feel so humbled.
C&T: How has adoption impacted you as an adult? Kathryn: Adoption has showed me that all things happen for a reason and that God turns everything around into something beautiful. It has also shown my husband and I that one day we want to do our part, if God opens the door for us to adopt.
C&T: If there is one thing you would want people to know about the process of adoption, what would it be? Kathryn: From speaking to my mom, I would advise to be open to the adoption process, as adoption may come in all different shapes and sizes. You need to trust the process and know that the end result is well worth the wait.
C&T: What has been the most helpful post-adoption resource or support source for you/your family? Kathryn: When I was dealing with the emotions I experienced as a middle school student of feeling as though I was unwanted, my church youth group was pivotal in helping me walk through this with love, support and prayer. I can honestly say that, as an adult, I don’t feel as though I am incomplete since I do not know my birth parents.
Kathryn Thompson was born and raised in Oklahoma City as an only child to an amazing family. She met her husband of going on 7 years when she was 5 years old and went on her first date with him at the age of 16. They were high school sweethearts and she is so thankful God brought him into her life. She went to college in Tulsa, Oklahoma at Oral Roberts University, where she received her BA in Organizational, Interpersonal Communications in 2010. In 2015, Kathryn’s career took her husband and her out to Los Angeles, CA, where they fell in love with the culture, weather and outdoor activities. Kathryn worked for Corporate America for 5 years and then stepped out to build her own business, KT Association, LLC as a Professional Strategist in 2016. She enjoys serving within the Non-Profit, REAL Ministries Foundation, that Kathryn and her husband built in 2010, as well as watching movies and exploring new areas in California. Her life motto that she lives by is “To be the one person that believes in someone else when no one else does.”
This week, we have chosen to focus our posts on adoption- in honor of National Adoption Month. During the next week, we will share the stories of five different women whose lives have each been radically impacted by adoption.
I (Ashley) first met Elisabeth Ream in February 2012, on my first trip back to Saint-Marc, Haiti, following my move back to the States towards the end of 2011. The Reams were partnering with the ministry I was on staff with and had moved to Saint-Marc at the beginning of 2012, from another area in Haiti. Through our acquaintance, I have grown an immense respect for her family and knew she was the perfect person to share an honest take at international adoption from someone has lived in-country during the process. Elisabeth & her family continue to serve & live in the area, where Elisabeth’s tender heart continues to be a blessing to many.
C&T: What are the current demographics of your family? Elisabeth: We are the Ream Team! There are six members on our immediate team, though we have many extended family members! Our family is colorful. We like to say we have black, brown, tan and white children- one of each color. We live on a small island in a third (borderline fourth) world country. It is actually more expensive than the U.S.A. to purchase many things because most things have to be imported across the ocean. We somehow live on half of the budget that we used to in America. I’m not sure how other than God’s grace, mercy, and sovereign arms embracing us continually.
C&T: What led you to consider adoption? Elisabeth: I’ve considered adoption for as long as I can remember considering children. In our first serious conversation, leading up to our marriage a year later, we talked about the possibility of international missions and also adoption. I asked my future husband very early on how he would feel about adopting a child who needed a family. His heart wanted the same. We remember praying together and wondering, even asking out loud, if perhaps there was already a child born into the world that would one day need our family. It is amazing to think about that conversation that took place seventeen years ago, as I look at our seventeen year old daughter! She had been born five months prior to our conversation and her biological mother passed away within that year. However, it would be another ten years before we would lay eyes on the child we had prayed for that night. During those ten years we thought and prayed about adoption many times. Year nine, we began to seriously pursue researching adoption options and praying more earnestly over where and to whom God would lead our family specifically. We had two boys born into our family by this time. God opened our oldest son’s heart to adoption during a time when we did not feel we had the energy or financial resources to begin to pursue it. Ethan’s persistence encouraged us to begin our adoption journey. Ethan believed he had a sister struggling somewhere out there and that we needed to find her. When he first saw our referral picture of our daughter, Elita Marguerite, he said, “That’s her! That’s my sister!” We believe, that if you have biological children, the decision to adopt should be their decision as well. We are thankful that our bio boys embraced adopting, even adopting internationally and out of birth order, in a way that only can only be explained by God’s Spirit speaking to them and bringing peace that surpasses understanding throughout the very difficult adoption process that was to come.
C&T: Did you foster before you adopted? Was it a domestic or international adoption? Closed or open? Elisabeth: We did not officially foster through our state of Texas, which is where we began our adoption process. However, my husband’s job for the first ten years of our marriage was in church youth ministry and I worked alongside him. We always had kids in our home and occasionally there were cases where we temporarily fostered some of the kids we had built relationships within the youth group. We have family and many friends that have fostered and fostered to adopt through state foster care. My sister has fostered several children and my children have four cousins who have been adopted out of foster care. Our family’s decision to pursue the adoption of an older child stemmed from our years working with pre-teen and teenage youth, as well as watching our cousins and my best friend adopt older children who had little hope of ever having a family otherwise. We chose to adopt internationally because of our previous experience living in other countries (Fiji and Israel) and desired to live outside the U.S. with our family as missionaries one day. We felt that because of these factors God had positioned us (with a lot of grace) to parent older children, adopted internationally. The country we adopted from does not permit open adoptions. However, after the adoptions were completed we were able to make contact with members of our girl’s biological families and learn more of their histories. Also, without going into too many details of our crazy adoption story, I will say that in a way we did foster our adopted daughters. However, this happened in a backwards way after they legally received our last name. They were able to leave the orphanage and live with us permanently after we had received legal residency to work in their country of origin, which enabled us to “foster” them for the remainder of their adoption process until they received their immigrant visas to travel with us to the United States. In this way, our adoption process was similar to those who have fostered children they have later adopted. We simply were fostering our adopted children that we could not yet bring to the United States.
C&T: How did you decide the when and where of your adoption process? Elisabeth: This was a tough one for us. We kept asking ourselves, “How can we pick a country or a specific child out of millions needing forever families?”. This question burdened us for years. Finally, we just decided we had to start somewhere. We began researching several countries to see if we met their criteria for international adoption. We looked into adoption from India, Nepal, China, Korea, Ukraine, Ethiopia, and Haiti. We are not Hindu or Muslim, so we were not permitted to adopt from India. Nepal closed international adoptions shortly after we began seriously inquiring. China had a seven years waiting list at that time. Korea was a definite option that we checked into but never strongly considered. We had strong connections to adoptions in Ukraine and had observed children who were in orphanages come on hosting trips to our hometown and later be able to be adopted by many friends to whom we are close. However, adoption from Ukraine required lengthy and costly trips to Ukraine. This was out of the question considering our job and financial situation at that time. Ethiopia was at the top of the list because we had (and still have) a sponsor child in Ethiopia and were very drawn to the country. Alas, Haiti. The very last place a person should consider adopting from unless you are a junkie for braving the hardest things. We seem to enjoy choosing the hardest thing– and then moving there. Haiti’s requirements at the time we began our adoption process were that we had to have been married for ten years, one spouse must be at least thirty five years of age, and have no more than two biological children. These stats spoke to us because they matched us and there was a great need for qualified families to pursue adoption. Many of the children in Haitian orphanages were older or would be by the time their adoptions processed. We understood the wait for a child to come “home” would be years. We read reports of between two and four years before an adoption would most likely be processed to completion. That is exactly how long our adoptions ended up taking. One took two years and the other four years. We began compiling adoption paperwork. Then, the January 12, 2010 earthquake happened. We were not yet matched with specific children at this time. We were contacted by an organization that had reps on the ground in Haiti looking for paperwork-ready families that met Haiti’s adoption requirements. Many children, already matched with families, were released on emergency humanitarian parole to their adoptive families, who were permitted to foster the children stateside while completing the adoption process. We were told there could possibly be a second wave of children, that were pre-earthquake, paperwork-ready orphans, that could also be released to qualified paperwork-ready adoptive families. Our girls’ original referral pictures came through this process. We hurried to prepare our home for their arrival as we were told they could be coming soon and that we would be able to process the Haitian adoptions stateside, instead of in Haiti. This was a huge answer to prayer for us, that the burden of the long wait (not only for us but mainly for the children spending their childhoods in an orphanage) could be lifted. I prepared for a trip to Haiti with several other adoptive families. We were preparing initially that there could be a slight chance the children we were in process to adopt might be able to return with us. However, three days before our departure, the Haitian government abruptly made the decision to cut off humanitarian parole completely. We were stunned but thankful that we had researched the adoption process from Haiti and had chosen Haiti prior to the earthquake to prepare ourselves somewhat for what we would be up against, should we chose to pursue the process further. I went ahead with my trip as planned and met the girls for the first time. I went in the knowledge that I would not be bringing anyone home and not knowing when our timeline would be able to start. Leaving them the first time was hard. Leaving them the fifteenth time was excruciating. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do knowing what we knew. We lived in Texas the first year and ½ while the adoptions were processing (or were supposed to be) in Haiti. Then we lived in Haiti for six months while the adoptions continued to progress before the girls were able to come live with us instead of the orphanage.
*The laws governing the Haitian adoption process and requirements for adoptive families has changed since we adopted. The requirements have lessened but the average wait time has tragically not.
C&T: What were the top 3 challenges of your experience? Elisabeth:
1) I think the hardest challenge in international adoption is being separated from the child, that you feel is your family, by a great distance for a long and unknown period of time. An additional hardship is when you know your child and even more so when they know you. It is like having your heart ripped out of your chest every single day. We didn’t sleep for years. We grieved as if there was a death. Yet our children were very much alive. It is how I imagine the parents of kidnapped children feel. I lost twelve pounds (unneeded at that time) in the first month alone after meeting the girls. I met our adopted children for the first time on April 17th, 2010. The girls were eight and eleven years old at that time. That is old enough to understand time and distance, but not understand why these things were forced to co-exist. When you begin an adoption process with Haiti, you basically have no timeline. The timing of the earthquake added to this challenge, because many of the offices processing adoptions were closed or barely functioning. We submitted our completed dossier anyways. An excruciatingly long year went by before it was even submitted to the first office of many that would begin to process our adoptions.
2) The second biggest challenge was the loss (whether temporary or permanent) of relationships dear to us. International adoptions, especially those that take years, take up a lot of time and energy. This is time and energy you were previously pouring into other relationships. This may be the relationship with your spouse, your children, parents, siblings, best friends, church, social circles, etc. Our adoption process hit pretty much all of our relationships hard. We had been warned by many adoptive families that have come before us that when you begin an adoption, Satan attacks where it will affect you the most. Thankfully, Satan did not win the battle. But it required the fight of our lives. There was little (if any) energy left over for one another and other vital relationships. We were going through the motions. I still feel I gave up my boys most tender childhood years. I simply did not have the energy to enjoy them. Almost all my physical and emotional stamina was being poured into surviving the adoptions. I do not recommend going about it this way. There definitely should have been more balance. But we didn’t know how and the fight was intense. I felt like I could barely breathe most days. I kept thinking about the parable of the lost sheep and how the Shepherd left all the others, just to go after that one that was lost. You know that feeling of panic when you lose something dear to you and you tear up the house and ignore whatever you were supposed to do that day in order to find it? That panic kept me going. The thought of my girls being left all alone in that terrible orphanage kept me fighting. And my Shepherd held me.
3) The third biggest challenge for our family was finances. Living on a youth pastor’s salary (equivalent to a teacher’s) was tough enough. The main reason fear had kept us from pursuing adoption sooner than we did was lack of finances. We were encouraged to not let this be the only reason not to pursue adoption and that there were many financial assistance avenues available, if we were serious and diligently sought those out. We did. We sold ourselves silly that first year. We ran in marathons for adoption, raised money selling t-shirts, coffee, bracelets, raffle tickets, restaurant fundraisers. You name it. We did it. Shamelessly- though I think some of our friends were a bit ashamed and may have thought we had completely lost it. Everyone kept asking when the girls were coming “home”. We had no answer to give them. We felt like most people seriously doubted if they would ever come home. But we just kept doing all we could do on our end. We sold stuff in five different garage sales. We begged for ransom money. We applied for grants and 0% interest loans and got them. It was intense. Friends began to only ask us about the adoptions when they passed us in the halls at church, at the grocery store or the boys’ school. The adoptions seemed to be our main identity during that time. If this question asked for a top four I would say “loss of identity” as number four. I regret that. I wish we didn’t have to push that hard for that long to acquire the finances we needed to move forward for our girls. And then again, I’m thankful we did. It was a ransom I would gladly pay again. After all, Jesus paid the highest price so that we could become His children. Although it was a heavy burden, I’m thankful we had to work long and hard and pay a high price (financially, emotionally, physically, relationally) for our girls to not only become our children, but to eventually accept the price and free gift of salvation their Heavenly Father paid for them, as well. The lessons we learned the hard way were worth it. Our girls were worth it. We learned to wait on the Lord like never before and trust His plan, even when we could not understand any of it. Mother Teresa once said, “I have found a paradox that if I love until it hurts, there is no more hurt, only more love.”
C&T: What were the top 3 joys of your experience? Elisabeth: 1) Meeting the girls for the first time. I looked into their beautiful faces and knew they were my daughters. I did not expect them to embrace me as their mother right away. I expected that this would take a long time. But they did. Right away. The first time I held them felt like the first time I held my biological boys after I gave birth to them. These are the most joyous and cherished moments I will never forget.
2) The body of Christ and God’s sovereign provision meeting our many needs in many ways reminded us that we could still keep our joy, even when we were spiritually dry and relationally distant. There were/are people that stuck closer than brothers (and sisters) and shared in our sufferings. This fellowship helped us to count it all joy.
3) Not understanding God’s plan, but trusting and walking through the doors He clearly opened as He showed us that Haiti was/is not only the country we were adopting from, but also the mission field we had been praying and seeking. The process God brought us through in moving our family to Haiti and keeping us here for the last five years has been a joy-filled journey of discovery, learning, and loving beyond our wildest dreams (though at certain times I’m not sure I would have counted that ALL joy).
C&T: If there is one thing you would want people to know about the process of adoption, what would it be? Elisabeth: If you have expectations of timelines, what your experience will be like, what your adoptive children will be like, and what your family will look like after adoption, please hold very loosely to those expectations. Be willing to let them go completely if need be. Usually “if need be” becomes the reality.
If you would have told me, when we began our adoption process with Haiti (with one of our top reasons in choosing Haiti being that we would not have to leave work, home, and family in America for a lengthy and costly period of time), that we would end up moving to Haiti and living in Haiti for the past five years, on top of spending double to process our younger daughter’s adoption completely TWICE, there is no way I would have believed you. And there is a good chance we probably never would have proceeded with adopting from Haiti had we known ahead of time. Don’t let the hard stories scare you. In hindsight, we wouldn’t change our experience for the world. We just needed to change our expectations.
C&T: What has been the most helpful post-adoption resource for you? Elisabeth: Country-specific resources, such as books about Haiti, talking to families who have adopted from Haiti, and especially those who have lived in Haiti, have helped us greatly. Moving to the country our adopted children were born and grew up in has changed almost everything we once assumed we understood. It has helped us to bond as a family in ways we never would have and altered our perspectives to better parent our children from hard places. If there is one thing I can recommend, it is to spend as much time as possible in the culture your child has come from. If at all possible (and depending on the age of the child) do this with your adopted child. If there is a language barrier and the child is older, please do your best to learn some of the language. Our most helpful post-adoption resource has been learning from and living among the people of Haiti.
C&T: How did you want to be supported before and after the adoption took place? Elisabeth: I am not sure I knew the answer to this question at the time I was going through this, before the adoption. It is difficult for anyone to hang out with grieving, desperate people who are in constant survival mode. I’m sure I was not super fun to be around. There were certain friends and family who were always just there, despite my state. I will always be thankful for them. They gave me the oxygen of encouragement when I didn’t feel I wanted any. When your children are living in a dark, rat-infested basement, cold, wet, hungry, thirsty, and scared and you know that this is not just in your nightmares but their actual daily existence that you have personally witnessed AND HAD TO LEAVE THEM THERE, it doesn’t feel right to be cheery or cheered. The surest thing to lift my spirit was each time we learned we were one step closer to getting the girls out of there. When donations of money would come in or friends and family donated their time and energy helping us with yet another fundraiser or watched the boys while I made another trip to Haiti, we truly felt supported because this helped us get one step closer to our girls.
C&T: What would be your advice to someone else going through the same experience? Elisabeth: After the adoptions, our lives had changed so much in every way I am not sure this answer is relatable to most adoptive families. But I do know that after the adoptions, I no longer wanted my identity to primarily be tied up with the adoptions that had pulled me out of healthy relationships for so long. I wanted friends to share with me about normal things like their kids’ little league or their new pet. I didn’t so much want to talk about dark and scary basements full of rats and children, the corruption that happens to you in an international adoption process, and the people who you once upon a time believed would be your biggest advocates but became your biggest enemies. No matter where you adopt from or live, after the adoption you are in yet another version of survival mode. You could call it a “transition” or “a season”. But whatever you call it, it probably is not going to be called “pleasant” or “peaceful”. Yet, pleasant and peaceful is what you will be craving after completing an adoption and no amount of chocolate or coffee is going to make up for it. The tendency then is to gravitate toward those who you feel understand what you are going through. So naturally, adoptive parents talk to other adoptive parents (whether in person or finding one another in private online adoption groups) about the hardest of things. These friendships are a lifeline. But they can also be very heavy. Lighter friendships that talk about other things besides the gravity of adoption-related issues are a needed support as much as those who are in the thick of it with you. Keep the lightweight relationships afloat and don’t let yourself believe that someone else’s issues are trivial compared to yours. You need them more than you think you do. Nevertheless, it is a difficult task. If you find it is an impossible task, at least try going somewhere light with your heavy talk friends. Talking through the hard stuff while sunbathing at the pool or beach helps lift the heavy a bit. If you cry you can blame it on the saltwater or the sight of grandma wearing a bikini and you will probably end up laughing at some point by the end of the day. The point is to go home lighter and be light to your family. The best way to do this is not to rely on your family and friends to carry this burden for you or try carrying it yourself. Just give it to Jesus in the first place. He says in Matthew 11: 28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Years after the adoptions I would say that support through awareness plays a huge role of support. There are too many things we were not aware of when we began our adoption journey. Our hope is to use those negative experiences to help other families not have to go through some of the unnecessary hurts and hardships. Awareness is key in that process. Learn and listen to others who have gone before you. Don’t let the hard things you will become aware of (one way or another) scare you away. Allow that awareness to make you stronger for the ugly task and beautiful journey ahead.
Elisabeth Ream has lived in Haiti, working as a missionary alongside her husband, Eric, and four children, Elita Marguerite, Esmée, Ethan and Evan, for the past five years, serving under Heart of God International Ministries. Leaving everything to follow and share Christ has been the most intensely rewarding experience for the Ream Team. Eric’s heart is to equip Haitian Pastors and leaders with the Biblical education they need to share God’s Word with their people well. Elisabeth’s passion is orphan prevention and family preservation. Alongside Haitian partners, she co-founded a women’s ministry and microloan business program called KOFAEL which helps to “create more options, not more orphans” in Haiti.
-The Ream Team shares about living in Haiti and ministry to the Haitian people at reamteaminternational.org. -To find out more about their mission organization, visit HeartofGodInternational.org, where you can also find links for more information on “The Ream Team”. -Visit Kofael.org to learn more about the orphan prevention and family preservation ministry the Ream Team has co-founded alongside Haitian partners. KOFAEL is a growing, successful ministry that has helped hundreds of vulnerable Haitian children be able to stay with their families. -During the adoption process, Elisabeth blogged throughout their journey on at chosenandmuchloved.blogspot.com.
I recently had the opportunity to share something that was on my heart as a devotional to a women’s ministry. Today, I wanted to share this with you. As you take the time to study the seasons of life and the purpose for each and every one, I hope this blesses you and encourages you in your walk with the Lord.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
The sunlight seems happy, shining upon the backyard. The breeze blows gently through the trees, creating the familiar sound that comes with the leaves turning. Wrapped in my sweater, the cool, crisp air seems invigorating and a feeling of satisfaction is in my heart. It’s fall. The season of pumpkin spice, sweaters, and boots has arrived and my heart is content. I find myself wishing it could feel like this every day, just to be reminded of something so important, in a soft, still voice- there are seasons for a reason.
Have you found yourself wishing away the season you’re in, pining for the moment you can metaphorically pull your boots out of the recesses of the closet? Because we don’t share spiritual seasons with everyone around us, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that the season has a purpose, and failing to tend to that purpose can create heartache in our lives and close the door to blessings God has in store for us. Let’s take a look at the reason each season exists and how this applies to our spiritual lives.
The purpose of Winter is for evaluation, reflection, and putting in the work ahead of time for the spring that is coming. Oftentimes Winter comes in the closing of a chapter, and that may result in a very full heart of emotion with seemingly nowhere to release. For the reason of Winter to be recognized, its purpose must be allowed to play out. Psalm 37:3 (ESV) says, “Trust in the Lord and do good…”. In the season of Winter, it is especially important to invest yourself in your relationship with the Lord and trust Him while tending to the seasonal purpose of what He has laid before you. Joyce Meyer says, “Just as winter prepares plants and trees for warmer weather, a spiritually dormant season is a time of preparation- when our inner character is developed and strengthened. Strong character is essential for withstanding storms that will come during seasons of growth and harvest.” How often we tend to find this season very uncomfortable and wish it away, but when this season is fully invested in, we are fully prepared for Spring to arrive.
The purpose of Spring is a time for planting. Often, this season is accompanied with the invigoration of new excitement in your relationship with God. We have a tendency to desire for God to bring us into a new season and find the purpose of it to be a bit more work than we would like. It is so important that we embrace the moment at hand and delve into the work of planting the seeds of vision, purpose, and responsibility that God has given each of us as individuals. “No discipline brings joy, but seems grevious and painful; but afterwards, it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, AMP)
The purpose of Summer is to tend the fields. This is sometimes the most easily identifiable season in our lives as we play and wait and work among the fields in our lives. It is essential that we don’t lose track of our purpose during the long, hot hours of summer fun that so easily entice us to lose focus on the purpose of this season. Without Summer, there can be no harvest, so “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” (Proverbs 4:25, NLT).
The purpose of Fall is a time for new life. The long, still hours of winter spent in planning, the toil in the new dawn of spring, and the lively hours of waiting amidst the heat have all paid off with the harvest at hand. The barns are filled and the vats full of wine, in Bible speak. The Fall is the time for reaping what we’ve sown- and the season that so evidently reminds us of what we have put in. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 ESV). The Fall is a time for being filled to overflowing, to store up for the Winter, and enjoying the fruits of the work put in for the past 9 months.
Through the spiritual seasons, we see that sometimes we don’t always have a view of the full picture of the process God is putting us through. It is a choice to recognize the season God has put before each of us and to “do good”. Recognize the good God has set before you in the season you are in, and put your hands to doing it well and purposing to maximize on the purpose of this season through faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. “…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content…” (Philippians 4:11, ESV)
According to Ecclesiastes 3:1, there is a time for every season. Spiritually, we know that not all of us go through the same seasons at the same times. What season of life are you going through right now?
What do you think is the purpose of the spiritual season you are in right now?
Scripture is filled with the exhortation to “trust God and do good”. These two go hand-in-hand and fill us with the ability to approach God-given assignments and glorify God through serving Him. What is the “good” God has placed in front of you to tend to in your season right now?
What is a blessing of the season you are in and how can you share the benefit of that to bring life to others?
Study: Spend time doing a topical study of Scripture on the season or purpose you have identified in your life. Read Ecclesiastes 3 and spend time journaling or drawing as you spend time in prayer looking to God for growth, thanking Him for His plan, and glorifying Him for all He has brought you through.
Act: Share with someone in your life what you’ve learned from your study of your season or purpose and how that is a blessing & encouragement before your next meeting. Share the good news of what God is doing in your life!
Do you have something to share about the season you’re in or one you’ve been in? We would love to hear it- please share in the comments below!
Today is finally Election Day here in the United States. We’ve all been waiting for it since campaigning heavily started a year and a half ago. We’ve all read about it. We’ve all talked about it. We’re at a fever pitch, and today the decision gets made.
This election has stood out because it has been heavily filled with negativity on all sides in a way that has truly been incomparable with past elections. I knew today was my day to write, and how could I avoid this topic? We try to keep things fairly non-political here at Canvas & Table, but to write about something else today seemed to simply be avoiding the topic. A good portion of our readership isn’t even in the U.S., so how could I share something that would be valid for all?
I thought about it. You see, I’ve lived outside of the U.S., in a very different culture in which a coup d’état is a real concern, and witnessed what it is like to live under leadership very different than that of the USA. My husband is from the other side of the world and grew up with some very large differences from the way things operate here in the U.S. I have family around the world, and I’ve been in the United Kingdom on their election day before & witnessed some of the differences even between us and other first-world countries. So, today, I’m going to remind us all of the things we have to celebrate today, no matter where we stand. As Americans- or as people supporting America from afar- we have a lot to be thankful for and to celebrate on a day like today, no matter who wins.
We have the right to vote- and the right to choose not to vote. Unlike countries in which there is no democratic process, we choose our leaders. We take part in the primaries and caucuses and have the honor of choosing our candidates. Regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, and opinions, we have the right to cast our vote and let our voice be heard- or choose not to.
We have the freedom to (loudly) protest. Recently I witnessed someone a family member cares about stand up for change in his country, only to be accused of treason. We can use our words across social media without fear of being jailed or executed.
We enjoy term limits and a change of guard throughout our lifetimes. As someone in her mid-twenties, I will be able to say that I have sat under five different presidents come this January. I have witnessed the rise and fall of politicians and seen people fade from the political scene (Bob Dole and Al Gore, anyone?), unlike people who live their entires lives under the regime of one man.
We have the right to run for office ourselves. If we deeply desire change, we can take action and run for government offices ourselves. While some limits do apply to the presidency (age and citizenship), this freedom to run extends to all, unlike countries which feign democracy and have just one name of the ballot.
We can vote as we choose without fear. Unlike days past when some groups of people had need to fear for their lives in some areas, should they choose to try to vote, we enjoy a country in which every man and woman eligible to vote can freely walk into a polling place, or even vote by absentee, without fear of someone oppressing their right to choose.
We have the honor of shaping the future of our nation. Many citizens in countries all over the world have no say in what goes on in their country. Yet we get to not only choose our presidents, senators, and representatives, we also have the right to lobby and campaign for legislature inside and outside of elections.
We are a diverse community. Just listening to some of the issues that have been raised this election season serves to remind us that we have achieved one of the basic desires the founding fathers had for this country- freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the ability to hold beliefs different than those of the government without fear of death. As a country of immigrants with beliefs and views as diverse as the people inhabiting it, we are blessed to not all be the same.
We have the blessing of American heritage. With so much negativity that floats around at election time, taking one trip to a country ruled by dictators will remind you of the incredible freedoms we have as citizens of this country- and whether you are Democrat, Republican, Independent, or other, you’ll run into other Americans around the world and feel a camaraderie with them because you share the same basic values and love for freedom.
As we wrap up this election season, be thankful for these things. Hug your neighbor, say hello to that friend you deeply disagree with on politics, thank God for the freedom to worship anywhere you please, and remember that things we take for granted – like the ability to start our own businesses and post our opinions on Facebook – aren’t held by a lot of other people. No matter what happens, God is still on the throne and we have a lot to be thankful for.