Thursday, April 28, 2011


The boys and I were so blessed to get to have a playdate today with another adoptive family. The VanCleave family lives here in the Bay Area, also adopted from Ethiopia through America World, are also in full-time church ministry, and also have one biological child about the same age as Caedmon. Pretty crazy how similar our lives are!

Kathy and I have been through a lot of similar emotions and struggles as we've journeyed through this adoption. I was so good to talk with her and share stories, ideas, and perspective.

Sammy & Amryn were actually in the same room at the Transition Home in Ethiopia. I was able to meet Amryn and take some photos of her for the VanCleave's while I was in Ethiopia to bring Sammy home. Pretty sure they don't remember each other, but it's neat to think that they had already met before today.

Sammy loved Amryn's hair and couldn't keep his hands off of it!

Did anyone else have the thought, "Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match..." while viewing these pictures? I'm just could work! :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter (Behind the Scenes)

Easter was an amazing day. Truly astounding to see all that God did. Check out this post from yesterday to celebrate with us His work at South Bay. This post in no way is intended to take anything away from that. I just thought I'd share with you a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like personally for this pastor's wife...

Saturday afternoon I ironed and laid out all four sets of our clothes for the next day. I prepared everything I could ahead of time so that there would be no hiccups on Easter Sunday morning. We all got to bed early and were up and at 'em early the next morning (Andy- 4:30 AM, me- 5:30 AM, boys- 6:30 AM).

Things were going really smoothly that morning until it was time for me to get the boys dressed. It was one of the last things I needed to do before walking out the door. I got Caedmon dressed head to toe. Check! I got Sammy dressed...but wait, where's his other shoe? I knew I just had it because it was a new pair of shoes that were tied together that morning. I had just cut them apart. I looked EVERY WHERE for that shoe, and of course never found it. That was a double whammy for me because 1- I had gotten him the most adorable outfit with matching shoes for his first Easter and now he had to wear shoes that didn't match, and 2- the search put me ten minutes behind schedule.

I kept telling myself over and over, "It's no big deal. Easter is not about shoes. There are much more important things to think about today. And he still looks adorable." But, alas, I was disappointed and now stressed.

As we walked outside, there was a small bag of trash that needed to be thrown out. Sammy LOVES that job for some reason and picked it up as I locked the front door. Sudden screaming made me jerk around to see Caedmon snatch the bag out of Sammy's hands. "Caedmon, give the bag back to Sammy. Caedmon! CAEDMON!" He ran and threw it in the trash himself. Now Sammy's screaming and I have to discipline Caedmon on the way to church, for which we are already a few minutes behind schedule.

We almost made it to the car when Sammy attempted to jump down from one step to the next.  Unfortunately, his head was under the hand rail. He nailed his head which was followed by more tears and a goose egg. 

Andy had called on my way out the door and asked me to bring him something so I practically threw my kids at the BayKids workers (oh, how I love our BayKids team!) and scurried over to the service 15 minutes until "kickoff".

Andy & I were scheduled to do the welcome together in the first three services. I was excited to be included in the service. The problem was that we never had a chance to talk through what we were going to say. There's no such thing as "winging it" on Easter Sunday. The production team had gone over and over every single detail of the service and Andy was, of course, part of those run throughs. Andy & I had just failed to communicate thoroughly and so I didn't find out what I was doing until I was standing on the front row as the service began! The whole worship set for that first service I was planning out in my head what I was going to say!

As Andy was preaching his heart out (wasn't his sermon amazing?!), I began feeling sick, literally. My body was achy, my head was swimmy, and the pressure in my sinuses was giving me a headache. I thought to myself, "Seriously? I'm going to get sick now?" I popped a couple Advil and tried to forget about it.

The services were absolutely amazing and I was blessed by every one of them that I attended.

When I went to pick my boys up from BayKids, I thought I'd try to get a couple snapshots of them in their new spring outfits. Well, that was not going to happen unless I was willing to go toe-to-toe with some rather grumpy and uncooperative kiddos. So, much to my dismay, I do not have a single family photo for Easter this year. Sniff, sniff.

Without going into all the details, we had another "incident" on the way home which required additional discipline upon arrival at home. Discipline on the way to church; discipline when we get home from church. Really helps one maintain that heart of worship that we're all going for!

All day long I kept telling myself, "Don't worry about that. Don't let it get you down or off focus. Jesus is ALIVE! Think about that!" I kept singing in my head that old song, "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down!"

I was so emotionally frazzled by the end of the day on Sunday. I think part of the reason the "burden" felt so heavy was because I was trying to protect Andy from it. On Saturday nights and Sundays, I try diligently not to bring any problems to Andy's attention. I try to create a hedge of protection around him so that he can totally focus on bringing the Word. So knowing that he was unavailable made the problems seem all the greater.

Andy (and our staff and several hundred volunteers) absolutely gave it their all this weekend. Andy attended both Easter egg hunts on Saturday, worked on his sermon, and then went by to encourage the volunteers who were setting things up for Sunday. He was up at 4:30 AM on Sunday morning and did not get home from church until 4:30 PM. There were so many people who put in so many hours to make Easter weekend all that it was. I certainly realize that our family is not the only ones who worked hard or sacrificed. But I think it's easy to forget (if you're more on the receiving end than the serving end) that there is sacrifice involved in every great movement of the Gospel. It's not easy. It doesn't just happen. There are spiritual attacks and emotional drains that take their toll. But, is it worth it? Absolutely. And even more than that, it is a privilege to get to be apart of.

Recovery from Easter took about two days around here. A friend stopped by our apartment on Monday and I said, "This is what the pastor's house looks like the day after Easter!" A huge mound of dirty clothes by the washer, a house in desperate need of a good scrub, and 4 individuals in need of some catch-up sleep and emotional refueling. We are finding our rhythm again now and we're still rejoicing over all that God did.

To all of you who served your hearts out this Easter (at South Bay or another church) THANK YOU for the sacrifices you made on behalf of the Kingdom of God. We don't serve a church or a particular leader; we serve Jesus. And any sacrifice that we make personally pales in comparison to the sacrifice He made for us. He is worth everything we have to offer Him!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Rewind

Wow. What an amazing day of celebration! Sunday felt like one big party. Isn't that what Easter should feel like?! I'm sure if (for example) one of my children was tragically killed but then was brought back to life 3 days later, there would be some major partying going on...along with moments of awe and deep gratitude. Partying, awe, and deep gratitude...That sounds like a pretty good Easter to me!

The South Bay team put together an amazing experience where people were able to celebrate and experience (many for the first time) the Risen Savior. This year, I was really struck by two things: the leadership of our staff and the servanthearted nature of our volunteers.

While we may still have the feel of a church plant (since we meet in a school), we definitely no longer have the feel of a small church. Pulling off 2 Easter egg hunts on Saturday and 4 services on Sunday was no small undertaking for our staff and volunteers. I was blown away by the leadership, precision, excellence, and organization of our team.
  • Over 200 volunteers served at 2 Easter Egg Hunt sites with 3-5 thousand people attending each of those sites with over 22,000 eggs total in the sites. 
  • 1099 people attended our 4 Easter Services on Sunday with dozens committing to follow Jesus for the 1st time.  We had over 200 kids come and over 90 first time guests who filled out a Connection Card (including kids).  More than 150 people served to make the 4 services happen with extreme excellence and creativity!
God is so good! This was a huge win for South Bay Church and more importantly, for the Kingdom of God. Andy & I spent time on Saturday praying for various pastor friends of ours around the Bay Area and all over this country who would be lifting high the name of Jesus on Easter. It is not about one church or one pastor. It is all about Jesus, His Kingdom, and His glory!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

8 month review

There's a beautiful little boy fast asleep in his bedroom right down the hallway from where I'm laying on this couch. A little boy who I'm still getting to know. A little boy I'd never even seen a picture of this time last year.

He feels safe tonight snuggled up in his bed because he knows his big brother is sleeping right above him in the top bunk...and his big brother is strong, like a super-hero. And he also knows that his mom and dad, his real mom and dad, are not far away. They can be there in an instant to remind him that all is well in his life. His chest will rhythmically rise and fall all night with no more night terrors haunting him. Perfect love (or at least our best effort at it) is casting out all fear for this little boy. (1 John 4:18)

This beautiful little boy, the same one who didn't know how to receive love, comfort, and affection 8 months ago, held me tight tonight as I kissed him goodnight. This same child that would push me away now feels deep comfort when I press my face firmly against his. This same child that would scream to get out of my arms will now snuggle in my lap for stories and movies. Whereas touching his skin used to cause too much stimulation, today I was able to rub his back as he fell asleep for his nap. And although he used to tell me to, "Shhhh. Quiet!" if I sang for him, now he begs for one more song. It fills up my heart to know that my lullabies now quiet his.

I haven't written much about our adoption lately because, honestly, I think about it less and less. The love that Sammy and I share now is no longer forced or by choice. It feels so normal, so natural, to love him now. 8 months ago, this day felt like a long way away. But tonight, it feels so right.

We received our first photo of Sammy on May 7, 2010. Andy & I were both overwhelmed with emotion and excitement over that picture. We COULD NOT STOP looking at it. But I remember thinking to myself, "Today, this little boy just looks like any other beautiful little Ethiopian boy whose picture we could have pulled off the internet." We didn't know him. But now we do. And he is not just a face on a photograph. He is OUR beautiful little boy.

A visit from Uncle Dalton

Andy's brother, Dalton, is in town visiting us this week over his Spring Break. Our two boys adore their Uncle Dalton and are loving their time with him. I'm quite confident that Andy & I have been out-awesomed!

Dinner @ Chipotle

 Video Games at the arcade on the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz

Dalton's first time to see the Pacific

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Do You Feel Today?

Any other P90X fans out there? Andy and I did the whole 90-day program (very strictly) about a year and a half ago. I only missed a handful of workouts the entire 90 days and I got great results. Although we're not being nearly as strict about it now, we still use the DVDs to work out and I must say, I love Tony Horton (the trainer, for all you non-P90X fans). Wish he lived in NorCal because I would totally invite him to South Bay for Easter!

Anyway, Tony says a phrase on one of the DVDs that has become somewhat of a motto for me. He says, "How do you feel today? Do what you can." The point is that you're not going to feel 100% every single day. You're not always going to be in the mood to 'give it your all' when you work out, but you do what you can and you just "keep pushing play." On those days, you may not get the best work out of your life, but it's better than nothing and it's slow, steady progress in the right direction.

I feel like that is true about all aspects of life. There will be days that I don't feel like studying the Bible or spending time in prayer. But I'm committed to "keep pushing play" and trying to read/pray as much as I can.

There will be days that I don't feel like a very creative or energetic mom. But I just keep pushing play and do what I can.

Here's what I know about myself...even though I may not feel like 100% on a particular day (or week), I'm a pretty motivated person overall. It'll come back. I have to give myself the grace to just plod along making slow and steady progress on those days, knowing that I'll feel like sprinting on others.

So, if you feel like you've lost your rhythm today (or this week or this month), give yourself a little grace. Just keep pushing play. Do what you can. Don't give up on working out or time alone with God or investing in your kids or etc... just because your not feeling it today.

Do what you can, and trust in a God who is BIGGER than the whims of our hearts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Matrimony

While at Catalyst West a couple months ago, Andy Stanley gave an awesome message (what message by Andy Stanley isn't awesome?!) about the need for Christians to take courage. He closed his message with a powerful charge, specifically focused at wives. So this week's Monday Matrimony comes to you via Andy Stanley.

And now, for your weekly bit of [unsolicited] advice...

Tip of the Week: Wives, you do not want to be the reason that your husband has to say, "No" to God.

I've heard more than a couple of painful stories where a family will move to some region of the US to start a church, only to move back home a couple years later because the transition was too difficult on the wife. For whatever reason (difficulty living without extended family close by, difficulty making new friends, difficulty with the start-up phase of a church, etc...) the wife was unable to continue so they returned home.

At least that wife had the courage to give it a try. There are many untold stories of wives who shoot down the idea before ever really considering the option.

There are countless of examples as to ways this might play out...
  • Your husband feels like your family should contribute more money to the church than you're comfortable with. 
  • Your husband feels your family should take on more responsibility in a certain area of church but you're hesitant because of the sacrifice that will be required. 
  • Your husband wants to go on a mission trip but you don't want to be left at home alone with all the kids. 
  • Fill in your own story here: __________________________.
The point is that there are moments in life when God will lead our husbands to do something that seems scary or too risky. I'm not saying that your point-of-view isn't valuable. God can use the wisdom of wife to provide balance and perspective to a man. But there will be times that you need to TAKE COURAGE.

In those moments, you will have to figure out how to strengthen yourself in the Lord. Get on your knees. Find a godly woman to encourage and challenge you. Don't allow fear to hold your family back from being everything God intends for it be.

As wives we can either be a solid, steady wind driving our husbands towards courage and godliness. Or we can be an anchor stuck in the sand slowing him down.

So my challenge to you today, Dear Wife, is to TAKE COURAGE. Do not be the reason that your husband has to say, "No" to God.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Caedmon Wood gets "The Gimmies"

 I'm not sure exactly what set it off, but Caedmon Wood has come down with a bad case of the "gimmies".

I suppose it's pretty normal for kids, especially kids this age. But it is oh so exhausting to have a child constantly asking for things, even if he does preface every request with "...for my birthday" (which is in September).

The other day I made him sit down and write a birthday list. This is what he came up with:

For those of you who are not fluent in "4-year old", this is what the list says:
  • Star Wars legos
  • light sabers
  • kitchen with food
  • dry erase markers
  • super hero toys
  • robot costume
  • Robin costume
  • Ironman costume
Since that point we could have filled up a whole journal with all of his additional requests. So, Andy had a good talk with him last night about contentment and gratitude. Today, every time he has asked me for something new, I have asked him to tell me two things that he currently has for which he is thankful. Although I'm not sure that the number of requests has slowed down, at least the gratitude has sped up.

Do any parents out there have additional suggestions for how to fight off the gimmies when they attack your home?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Once upon a personality...

Kids have such unique and distinct personalities. We all do, I guess, but it's more surprising to me in kids because it makes me realize that their personalities have so little to do with the shaping influences of their lives. Their character develops as a result of their shaping influences, but their personalities are gifts from God.

Take my two kiddos for example...

Caedmon's motto:
Life is one big competition.

Sammy's motto:
Life is one big party.

Caedmon can make a competition out of ANYTHING...who got to the door the fastest, who buckled their seatbelt the fastest, who got the most Cheerios & raisins at snack time, whose artwork is more beautiful, and (my personal favorite which he just came up with on Friday) who has the most poop.

Sammy couldn't care less about winning the race and the only thing he's concerned about when it comes to food is if there's more where that came from! That child laughs, spins, and jumps his way through life.

My role as their mom is to celebrate their unique personalities and draw out the strengths I see in them.

Caedmon is full of courage, determination, and opinions. His memory is astounding and he is able to communicate with amazing precision exactly what he wants to say.

One thing I love about Sammy is that he can't stay angry long. It only takes a little tickle or a flip upside down to get him laughing again. He brings joy to everyone who sees him...even total strangers are mesmerized by his long eyelashes, contagious grin, and friendly waves. 

I will be the first to admit that I am quick to lose sight of these wonderful virtues that my children possess. But each morning and evening as I pray for them, my Father reminds me of how much HE loves them and that they are two of His most precious gifts to me.

Today, let's all commit to remind our children of the things about them that make us marvel.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday Matrimony

My dad celebrated a birthday yesterday, so this edition of Monday Matrimony is in honor of him! My dad officiated my wedding, which was so special. One of the things he said directly to me during his charge to us as a couple has stayed with me these past 8 years of marriage. That's what I want to share with you today.

So without further adieu, here's your weekly bit of [unsolicited] advice...

Tip of the Week: Bring out the lion in him. 

In our wedding ceremony, my dad shared a brief sketch of the story line from the movie The Lion King, specifically the part about Simba throwing off his responsibilities as king and just having a "Hakuna Matata" mentality. It wasn't until Nala found him and spoke truth into his life that Simba began to reengage with all that he was supposed to be.

Although I can't remember the exact words my dad used, in essence he said, "Stacie, there will be times when Andy will feel discouraged or overwhelmed or even useless and defeated. God has given you the role as his wife to speak courage into him. Bring out the lion in Andy."

I love the picture those words paint in my mind. We put courage in our husbands as we EN-COURAGE them.

Be his biggest cheerleader. Tell him all the wonderful things you see in him. Celebrate his ideas, dreams, and visions. Believe in him more than anyone else, even more than he believes in himself sometimes. There should never be any other person (especially any other woman) who believes in and encourages your husband more than you do!

Bring out the lion in your man!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

You Gotta Fight Back!

Last Thursday, Andy hosted a "Church Planter Think Tank", which was in essence a one day conference to share some of his lessons learned/best practices with other church planters and leaders. When he first came up with this idea, he set a goal of having 50 people attend. I thought it was a rather ambitious goal, not because I didn't think the content would be golden, I just didn't know where the people would come from. As the day approached, more and more people kept registering and we ended up with over 120 church leaders! It was an amazing day and the content was so rich and helpful.

Leading up to this day, I feel like our family was under some spiritual attack. It didn't surprise me because it seems like every time there is a "Big Day", Satan likes to go to work on our family or our staff's families. Why would he just passively sit by as we seek to train and equip 120 leaders committed to advancing the Kingdom?

So, last week we got to enjoy not one, but two trips to Urgent Care. In my four and a half years of parenting, I have never had to make a trip to Urgent Care or the ER. On Tuesday, Caedmon busted his forehead on the handle bars of a scooter. Wednesday, we made another trip because Caedmon busted his chin on the bathroom counter. The forehead did not require stitches. The chin did. Same doctor both visits.

Caedmon also had a round of diarrhea, a slight fever, and the initial stages of a cold which sent his asthma back into motion. So it was back on Albuterol and steroids of him. (Not the Barry Bonds kind!)

Then, on Thursday morning as I was trying to get everyone out the door for the Think Tank, Sammy busted his lip while pushing around a little dump truck in our house. I heard screaming and saw blood and my first thought was, "Seriously? I cannot go back to Urgent Care for the third day in a row! DSS will meet me there!" But, alas, it was just a small cut. Whew!

I checked the mirror one last time before heading out for the Think Tank and said, "What is that on my neck?" Oh, it's my child's blood. Nice.

I grabbed my tea in my travel mug and got the kiddos strapped in their carseats. As we were pulling out of the garage I heard a loud thud and realized that I had left my tea on top of the van. Mug shattered.

I totally understand if you think all those things happen to be coincidences. I realize that all moms go through that from time to time. But, if you are a pastor's wife, I know you are nodding your head in agreement that it was part of a spiritual attack. The precise timing of it was too impeccable.

Andy told me when I got home from Urgent Care on Wednesday night with Caedmon that he had just spent 45 minutes on his face praying. He wanted Satan to know that if he was going to throw sucker punches at our family, we were going to fight back!

South Bay Church continues to have record breaking attendance. Last Sunday we had 628 people with four people indicating a first time commitment to follow Christ. Our church has baptized 16 people in the past few weeks. God is moving in the Bay Area and Satan does not like it.

I tell you all of this because Easter is coming up. We can expect there to be some spiritual attacks over the next few weeks. Sicknesses. Accidents. Conflicts. They can come in any form. But if you are living your life on mission for the King, and especially if you are in leadership in the church, then you need to get your dukes up! Get ready for the fight and be prepared to fight back.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against 
the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this 
dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly 
realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God.
Ephesians 6:12-13

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On 
the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 
2 Corinthians 10:4

Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Matrimony

Wow. I feel like I have been through a whirlwind the past 7 days. Maybe tomorrow I'll give you a glimpse at my week, but for today it's your weekly bit of [unsolicited] advice...

Tip of the week: Attack the problem, not the person.

Isn't it so easy to get sucked in to hurt feelings, emotional comments, and personal digs when in a conflict with your spouse? Everything that drives us crazy about our "Beloved" suddenly comes to the forefront of our minds and this seems like the perfect moment to share it with them.

Well, before we board that train (which is headed toward disaster) let's consider another option.

Whenever you notice frustration building in your heart over an issue, big or small, take note of it. Use a little self-control to stop and think it over before just verbally throwing up on your spouse. Try to identify exactly what the source of your frustration is, and isolate that one problem.

Then, get it on the table. Imagine yourself sitting on one side of your kitchen table and your spouse at the other. Set the problem right in the center of the table so that you can both look at it from all angles. When you put the problem in the center of the table, the issue is suddenly not your fault or your spouses fault. The focus of the conversation is not casting the blame. The focus becomes attacking the problem (and finding a workable solution).

Let me share an personal example where I totally blew it...

Last fall I really wanted to get some professional pictures taken of the boys but we didn't have money budgeted to do that. When I told Andy I was planning on getting some pictures made he asked which line item in our budget we were going to take the money from. I said, "I don't know." And he said, "Well then I don't think we should get professional pictures taken."

That's the point in the conversation where I should have thought, "How can we fix this problem in a way that we could both accomplish our goal?"

Instead, I got totally emotional and started saying that clearly Andy doesn't value capturing our boys' childhood the way that I do and virtually inferred that he doesn't love and value our family! Wow. Ridiculous. But that's how you get in a fight.

If I had had enough self-control to analyze the problem instead of attacking Andy, we would have found our solution a lot faster and saved a lot of hurt feelings in the process.

So, get your problem to the center of the table and attack the problem, not the person!