Praying, Believing and Trusting

Thursday afternoon update: Andrew is fever-free!!! We are so thankful to Jesus for His healing and to you all for your prayers!! His temp was 98.8 at the Dr's office. Everything looked and sounded good, so they cleared him for take-off tomorrow. It was not strep so we're hoping to get Tamiflu for all of us to take for prevention. So excited I can't stand it. Now it's time to finish packing!

Thursday morning update: According to my ear scan thermometer Andrew has fever of 100 still so we're going to the Dr. at 12:15pm. Seems like every time my kids are sick and we go to the Dr. they don't have a fever when the nurse checks them. That is what I'm hoping for! He's in good spirits so we are believing God is healing him and we're packing today as though we're leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow.

Wednesday's Post
Andrew came home yesterday from school not feeling well. He ended up with 102.4 fever, cough, sore throat, aches. I took him to Urgent Care last night just before 8pm. As soon as I explained his symptoms they asked him to put on a mask.

Bless his heart! He teared up and told me later it's because he thought they'd take him to the hospital. I offered to wear one with him but he didn't want me to.

They did a flu test and a strepp test. Both were negative but much to my disappointment, the doctor was not ready to shout hooray with me. He was still very concerned and explained that the flu test is only 50% accurate. He was especially concerned when I told him about our trip to Ethiopia Friday.

He flat out said, "You cannot go to Africa if you have the flu and with what I am seeing, it's likely you are all going to get this."

Andrew looked at me with big, sad, tear-filled eyes. Quickly I explained to him and the doctor, "We have tons of people praying and we are going to take it one day at a time, do what we can and trust that God's going to take care of us."

The good news is that we all had flu shots along with our other immunizations for our trip to Africa. So, if it is the flu it may be short lived and we may not all get it. Also, the Dr. prescribed Tamiflu, an anti-viral medication.

While I was at Urgent Care I had twittered, updated my last post and FaceBooked about it and prayers were already in action. I dropped Andrew off at home around 8:45pm and when I got home from running around getting medicine and masks at 10pm, Andrew's fever had dropped to 100.5!

I know the flu is going around and almost everybody is being affected by this, but with our Ethiopia trip Friday this is really bad timing. From the beginning we have said we are all going. If Andrew has H1N1 flu, we have been exposed and do not want to end up quarantined in Ethiopia when we get there.

So, PLEASE FRIENDS PRAY for healing quick and that we all will not get whatever he's got. I'll post updates here, on Twitter and facebook throughout the day. This is all part of our journey and we are looking forward to seeing how God will work all these things together for good because we love Him and are called according to HIS purposes (Romans 8:28)!!!

Praying, believing and trusting the ONE who brought us this far!

My Heart is in Ethiopia and So is My Little Girl
My heart has only one BIG thing to focus on this week - getting ready for Ethiopia and our little girl who waits for us there! We are just a few days away from our trip to Africa to meet Aster!! If you are new to my blog, you can click here, here and here to read more about our journey to adopt her.

This is Aster wearing an outfit we sent and holding a little elephant blankie we bought for her. In her left hand she's holding a soft photo album we sent with pictures of us - her forever family. So cute! I just want to kiss those toes!

We would treasure your prayers for our travel, meeting Aster and bonding with her over the time we'll be there next week, our Embassy appointments, the hopes and plans that we may get to meet Aster's birth mother and many, many details.

Our flights will be long and there are all kinds of things we are trying to plan for and bring. I just found out Sunday that we will be bringing a backpack filled with gifts to a little boy from his soon-to-be family in Indiana! I love that we get to be part of his story too.

We are also going to visit Compassion International and spend time with Meseret, our Compassion sponsored child, who also lives in Addis and attends the Compassion project there. We have sponsored Meseret for 13 years so we are very, very excited that we are going to get to meet and spend time with her, too! She is fifteen years old so we are also praying about a special gift to bring and give to her while we're there.

Here is our itinerary if you want to follow our journey in prayer as JJ, Joshua, Andrew and I travel to bring our little girl home. We can't wait to see our daughter/sister... it's been such a long time coming!

Friday, 10/2
Leave: Charlotte @ 2:46pm
Arrive: Wash-DC @ 4:10pm
Leave: Wash-DC @ 5:45pm

Saturday, 10/3
Arrive: Frankfurt, Germany @ 7:35am
Leave: Frankfurt, Germany @ 10:25am
Arrive: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia @ 6:20pm
Check into Hotel in Addis

Sunday, 10/4
- Meet Aster at the orphanage for the first time!!
- Rest and spend time together as a new family.

Monday, 10/5
- Love on and spend time with Aster
- Play with the kids at the orphanage
- Spend time in Addis

Tuesday, 10/6
- Travel to Debre Zeit (45km south of Addis) to spend the day with Meseret Fiseha - we have sponsored her for 14 years through Compassion International
- Spend more time with Aster

Wednesday, 10/7
- Appointment with US Embassy in Addis to complete Visa paperwork for Aster
- Time with Aster
- Sightseeing/shopping in Addis

Thursday, 10/8
- Meet and visit with Aster's birth mother in Addis (we hope)
- Spend time with Aster and the kids at the orphanage

Friday, 10/9
- Time with Aster
- Pick-up Aster's Visa paperwork
- Prepare for travel back to US

Saturday, 10/10
Leave: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia @ 1:35am
Arrive: Frankfurt, Germany @ 7:35am
Leave: Frankfurt, Germany @ 1:15pm
Arrive: Wash-DC @ 3:45pm
Leave: Wash-DC @ 5:05pm
Arrive: Charlotte @ 6:48pm (Lufthansa FLT 5534)

Thank you so much for your prayers, excitement and encouragement. I'll try to post again before we leave.

PRAYER REQUEST: Andrew came home from school today with 102.4 fever, cough, sore throat, aches. Please pray for him to get well and for us to stay well. THANKS!

He has done great things and I am filled with joy!
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:3

THANK YOU FOR your prayers for me and the D6 Conference!! It was incredible and Jesus' name was lifted high!
Over 1500 pastors, ministry leaders and parents were challenged, encouraged and equipped to strengthen the family and help other parents become the primary disciplers of their children.

The impact of this conference on the kingdom was huge! I sense it was also a big threat to the enemy as I consider the opposition I faced every time I prepared as the event drew near.

We attended several sessions and hung out in the P31 booth until lunch time on Thursday. I got to hear Angela Thomas and talk some with her and her manager, David, which was a treat! Although I planned to attend more sessions, I sensed God wanted me to go back to my room to rest, prepare and pray. So I took a nap and then soaked in His Word and His presence all day.

The fun continued downstairs
at the Proverbs 31 booth where Susanne, Vern and Leah welcomed lots of visitors. Both days were packed with great music, laughter with Tim Hawkinds and great messages taught by Fred Stoeker, Dr. Richard Ross, John Trent, Jim Daly, Dave Ramsey, Kurt Bruner, George Barna, and the list goes on and on!

My keynote message was Friday at 11:30am. I was so thankful for a great night's rest Thursday especially when God woke me up 5am on Friday. Now you all know I am not a morning person! But this was a morning I will never forget!

As soon as I woke up, I sensed God leading me to go downstairs to the conference auditorium to pray. I knew it was locked but decided to go to the front desk and ask for permission to go in. I even carried the event program so I could prove I was a speaker not a thief. Much to my joy, the hotel/convention manager let me in without question.

I had not stood on stage yet nor had I taken it all in - all 1500+ chairs. But that morning God made a way for me to have the whole auditorium to myself! JJ and I walked the aisles and prayed over the room for 30 minutes and I could feel God's power and peace fill the room.

Then I stepped up on the stage and prayed over every inch of it, claiming it as Holy ground. I prayed for each person who would lead us in worship through music and the Word. I stood where I would speak and rehearsed some of my message with my audience of empty chairs. As I prayed and practiced God's message, any nervousness I was feeling, melted away.

JJ and I then went for a morning run and had breakfast. Afterwards, I went back to the room to read over and print out my message notes. My heart started racing with nervousness. It continued off and on up to the time of my session. Leah started texting close friends to pray and when I stepped onto the stage the Holy Spirit took over.

Every nervous butterfly flew away and God's peace, power and joy filled my heart. I had prayed that I would enjoy sharing my message, and I did! God was so sweet to give me the desires of my heart!

My favorite part was when they asked me to stay on stage and pray over the women in the audience. They had all of them stand up and I asked them to hold hands. Then I just listened to the Holy Spirit. Two friends, who don't even know each other had emailed me Psalm 81:10., "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things" last Wednesday before I left.

And that is exactly what happened.
I opened my mouth and God filled it. I could hear women crying as His love and grace washed over them. Then we asked the pastors and men to pray over the women next. As Leah later described, it sounded like Holy thunder throughout the room. It was POWERFUL!!! God's Spirit was profoundly present!!

I'm so thankful Proverbs 31 Ministries got to be there! We met hundreds of pastors and leaders and women and our booth was right outside the main doors between the D6 Ministry booths and Focus on the Family! I sense that God expanded our borders in ways that we may not ever know on this side of Heaven but I can't wait to see what lives He will impact as a result.

Being part of the D6 Conference was an incredible honor! But I have to admit it left me feeling a bit intimidated at times and nervous which was hard, but it also created an opportunity for complete dependence on God. I spent a year praying and and preparing but never imagined it would culminate during one of the most stretching seasons of my life.

Yet it was worth every drop of sweat and tears! The Kingdom is worth it. Families are worth it. Jesus is worth it!! My hope and prayer is that those who heard His message through me will be drawn to HIM in new and life-changing ways!

He has done great things and I am filled with joy!

The Not-So Glamorous but Oh-So Glorious Life
Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living...Ephesians 1:12 (The Message)

I love that Jesus thought about us way before we even knew about Him. He had an eye on me and a purpose in the making when He was planning my life. Wow, to think that His plans for me and my days are designed with "glorious living."

Those are just some really cool thoughts! But tonight, as I read this verse, I laughed (and almost cried just a little)!! Jesus promised a glorious life not a glamorous life, and they are quite often very different.

Leah mentioned to me today how it's easy to look at speakers or authors and all the traveling they do and think that it would be so glamorous. We chuckled about how not-so-glamorous our day was going as we traveled to Dallas for the D6 conference.

Honestly, I thought Leah was going to fire me or beg me to relieve her of the misery before it was all over!

First, I was late getting to the airport. My bathroom clock battery is dying so it was 20mins behind. Hence, I was too! When I finally got there, Leah was parked and waiting in the lobby. I needed to check my bags before the cut-off time so Leah met me at curbside ticketing where I jumped out and she jumped into my van and drove off to find a parking space and shuttle bus.

I checked my bag and a big pull-up banner thingy we were taking with us for the P31 booth display at the D6 conference. Then I waited inside for Leah so we could go through security together.

A few minutes later, Leah called to say the daily parking lot was closed and she was going to have to drive waaay out to long term parking. Our flight was leaving in 35mins so I started saying panic prayers. Fifteen minutes later Leah met me and we darted towards security.

We scrambled to take off our shoes, unload our laptops, strip off our jackets, watches and remove our belts. They even made me take off my scarf. But no problems. I got through without incident. Then Leah walked through and all kinds of buzzers started sounding.

Her watch had set off the alarms so she needed to go back through and put it all in a small container. In the meantime, I'm taking her stuff off the conveyor belt, placing her shoes on the floor for her to jump into, putting her camera back in her purse, and holding her laptop since her computer bag hadn't come through.

As soon as she was cleared we started running. Picture me holding her laptop in one arm, a tote bag with a small printer hanging over my shoulder and rolling my computer bag down the corridor while she is shouting out to see if I have her laptop.

Of course, our gate was at the end of Concourse B so we had to sprint the whole way. We got there 5 mins before take off and I was shocked to see that the door was still opened. We both couldn't talk or breathe, and we were sweating! Such a sight to see two women gasping for air while trying to find their seats on row 29! Another story for another day but we ended up sitting in row 8.

Much to our delight, about 15 people boarded the plane after us so we weren't quiet as humiliated as we had been. All in all a good flight. Great conversation with my sweet friend and lots of catching up accomplished.

Two hours later we landed in Dallas. Found a bathroom and ordered lunch to-go at Varsity Grill. Made our way to baggage claim and waited. And waited. And waited.

Leah's suitcase arrived. The larger banner thingy arrived. My suitcase? Never arrived.

I visited the baggage services glassed-in office and filed a report. Then we met our wonderful D6 driver, Edwin, who took us to the hotel/convention center. We were greeted by an amazing team of D6 staff who got us checked in.

We set up our P31 booth. Visited with lots of nice people and hung out with Susanne Scheppmann for a couple of hours. Started getting tired. Stopped by hotel cafe to get a chicken wrap and yogurt parfait for dinner. Went up to the room.

Just as I was opening the door I told Leah and Susanne, "I can't wait to get into my jammies."

Once we got into the room, they got their stuff and headed over to another hotel since JJ is going to be staying here with me tomorrow night and this hotel is sold out. I was here alone and that is when it hit me. I have no jammies. I have no suitcase. I have no clothes for tomorrow. I have no toothbrush. Face wash. No hairdryer. Oh my.

I decided to call USAir to see how things are going. They said the suitcase arrived at DFW tonight and a courier picked it up to bring to Frisco, TX. But that was over 4 hours ago and I am really sleepy. So I am going to go to bed now. I guess I'll sleep in the shirt I wore today.

This is not the glamorous life, and my heart is beginning to wonder how this fits into the scheme of the "glorious" life as well. My heart is tempted to be sad and frazzled, but I know that I belong to Jesus. And that is why this is the glorious life. My prayer is that somehow He'll be glorified in it.

It helps me to remember that Jesus never had jammies. He didn't even have a pillow. He couldn't brush his teeth or flat iron his hair. But His Father always provided a place to rest and just what He needed when He needed it.

Tonight I am thankful for God's provision of a very comfortable bed and the promise that I will have what I need tomorrow. Thank goodness I don't speak until Friday!

So, now I lay me down to sleep holding onto a promise I know that He will keep! Because long before I first heard of HIM and got my hopes up, He had His eye on me and had designs on me for oh so glorious but not so glamorous living!

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. "
(Matthew 6:34
, The Message)

My friend Melissa sent this verse to me a few weeks ago. I cannot even tell you how much I have come to depend on these words of encouragement and wisdom. As you may know, there have been a bunch of things my heart and mind have wanted to get worked up about...
  • A little girl in Africa who is waiting for her forever family.
  • Trying to remember what stage a 10 month old baby is at and what she might need when she gets home.
  • Searching online for a suggested list of baby items for said stage that I have no memory of so I won't feel so um, unprepared.
  • Registering for said items so friends can find an answer when they ask what I need and I look clueless.
There have also been many times recently when I've wondered what I should do that day or the next day, or a few days down the road. So many days I've questioned how I could get it all done in time or at the same time...
  • A gazillion details like shots, airline tickets, school work, pet care, house sitting, work deadlines, job tasks delegated, etc, that need to be taken care of before we travel to Ethiopia to get Aster.
  • Several dates on our fall calendar that needed major changes and decisions about canceling some big commitments we had made.
  • Getting all the details in place for carpools and meals and kids while JJ and I travel to the D6 conference in Dallas for a couple days this week.
And I've had lots of opportunities to depend on God to help me deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes like ...
  • Getting food poisoning last Sunday night and then getting 5 immunizations Monday afternoon.
  • Feeling nauseas almost all week and wondering if it wasn't food poisoning after all but possibly I was pregnant. (Yes, two friends suggest such a thing!)
  • Preparing to speak in front of 1500 pastors, youth leaders and parents with best-selling authors like Angela Thomas, George Barna, Jim Daly, John Trent and more, and wondering what God was thinking when He gave me this assignment.
  • Wondering why God timed the D6 conference during the week He knew we'd be making final preparations to go to Ethiopia.
When Melissa sent that verse, she included a sweet note telling me that "in the midst of our "Aster" celebration and new book blessings, she knows I may be a little anxious about how this is all going to work out. Aster. Speaking. Writing. Working. Life."

A little anxious? How about a lot anxious. There were days I had chest pains from all of it. I have to admit it was way too much for me to handle all at once. And in the midst of it all, Kim was hospitalized and died so quickly.

But before it got to that point, I had been crying out for God's help. And this verse was God's reply. "Renee, give your entire attention to what I am doing right now."

Each day I have learned to look in front of me for His "right now" and walk in it.
I have not been able to get ahead of myself or ahead of my current circumstances because many times the answers weren't there yet. Now that was hard for me because I don't like it when life is so unpredictable but it was good for me, too.

I have learned to depend on God moment-by-monent in a way I don't think I ever have before. I have come to trust His unseen hand in unknown places. I have had to accept that I am in a season of many unknowns and that is exactly what God has planned.

In the midst of it all, I have found the courage to make hard choices that my heart didn't want to make. And I have discovered that confidence comes not in the absence of fear but in the face of it, when I walk towards what I am afraid of knowing God is waiting for me on the other side.

What color are your eyes today?
Recently a friend gave me a compliment about my eyes being green and how they matched the shirt I was wearing. The funny thing is, my eyes aren't always green. My eyes are actually hazel, so they change colors depending on what I'm wearing. If I wear brown my eyes look brown, but if I wear green they look green.

I wish my clothes were the only things that turn my eyes green. Unfortunately, some days my eyes turn green with envy. The other day my friend bought new furniture and suddenly I wanted some too. Then a neighbor got a new SUV. Now my minivan with over 100K miles seems old fashioned, dented and dirty.

There are so many other areas where I struggle with comparison and envy. Wishing I was a better mom, more patient wife, more organized homemaker and better cook. Wishing I had the gifts I admire in others or the ability to handle life the way they do. This list goes on and on...

The Bibles tells me to guard my eyes from turning green with envy and it just so happens that what I'm wearing is actually part of it! God says we are to "clothe ourselves with humility and patience" (Colossians 3:12b).

When I wear humility, I give up my right to get more stuff. Humility helps me recognize God as the gracious provider of all things and enables me to celebrate others' blessings. When I put on patience, I position my heart to wait on God’s provision without doubting His love for me.

There is so much more I could share about this struggle, but I have a friend who has covered this topic much better than my brain has the capacity to do these days! And I'm not a bit envious. I love her giftedness and insights that challenge and encourage me.

So if you've ever struggled with eyes of envy, be sure to read my friend Lysa's P31 devotion today about how we want what others have. And then read her powerful blog post that really impacted my heart on this envy issue.

Be sure to leave a comment on her blog to qualify for her give-away, and if you have a minute share your thoughts below, I'd love to pray for you!

Alternate Routes and Unexpected Blessings
Life took an alternate route today and my kids ended up not having school. Their little Christian school had to evacuate all the kids and staff yesterday when the A/C fan motor burned out and filled the building with smoke and fumes. Thankfully it happened at the end of the day and God protected them from any harm.

As much as I was really looking forward to my normal route - a day of getting things done while they were in school - I have to say that this alternate route lead to some big blessings.

First, I heard Andrew telling Joshua last night that he was so sad they weren't going to have have school today. He then went on to say that he loves his new school and all his new friends. That just made my night!

Also, this afternoon Joshua is part of a caravan of 45 students from his new school who are on a mountain adventure and white water rafting weekend at a Christian Retreat center. He has never gone away like this before and he was really looking forward to it. In fact, I didn't even get a good-bye hug because he just up and left me in the parking lot with the other moms. I know now that I should have grabbed that before we got there :-).

The neatest thing happened on the way to the school this afternoon which wouldn't have happened if they'd had school today. I had to take Joshua to the school later today instead of dropping him off in our normal morning rush and them just leaving after school. On our way we were talking about the trip and about the guys he was going with. Out of the blue he said, "I can't imagine any of them doing or saying anything that would upset me."

Now I know theses kids aren't perfect but to hear my son say that was huge after all that we have been through in sending him to a new school. Such a gift to me as I prepared to send him off with people he barely knows. But I can see why he feels that way. The students (and the teachers) have incredible hearts and have welcomed him in a way that truly reflects the unconditional love and acceptance of Christ.

Isn't it so "God" that in less than two weeks at his new school, which he really didn't want to go to, my 14 year-old son is piled in a van with six new friends and looking forward to a great weekend? Once again, my heart is so grateful for the way He lead our family into unknown places that have already brought unexpected blessings.

I feel the Holy Spirit reminding me today of the doubt and fear we felt when God called us to "do the hard thing" and make this big change. I want to remember what it took to get here because it reminds me that it is my relationship with Christ, the power of His promises and His Spirit working in me to transform my fear to faith, my doubt to courage. I want to look back and see where I was and remember where I end up each time I trust God's heart and follow His lead.

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them." Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)

Making a Difference

I'm sorry I have been missing from my blog for several days. I wanted so much to be able share here what I was going through in saying good-bye to Kim. But each day I just found myself collapsing in bed or on the couch when I got home. I felt pulled and needed in so many places.

I didn't want to just get through it. I wanted to make a difference and look back knowing that I had been fully present physically, emotionally and mentally with Jesus, with my kids and with Kim's family as we tried to process our heart break.

As time allows, I plan to write here about some of the things we went through and are learning.

For those of you who said you wished you could be here to hug me and comfort me, you were! I can't begin to describe the difference you made, the difference your prayers made in my life and in Kim's family's as well. I could literally feel God's strength and peace come over me in a tangible way.

People who talked to me on Sunday and Monday saw me on Tuesday and kept saying how much better I seemed to be doing. It was directly related to the timing of me sharing here, on Facebook and Twitter what was going on. Your words and prayers were truly God's arms around me.

Your prayers also made a difference and helped us discern God's plans and make some big decisions about our travel to Ethiopia. Although we hoped we could go in late September, with Kim being so sick and us not even having our shots yet, we knew we couldn't realistically get it all together that fast. So we'll be going to get Aster in the first part of October. More details on that this week.

That means JJ and I will be going to Dallas Sept 23-25th for the D6 conference to learn how we can make a difference in our kids lives, and in our church as we minister to families. We are excited that we'll get to meet some of you!!! And if you have not registered yet and want to go, I be sure to register today so you can get the late registration discount! Here are some details:

Register TODAY, September 8th, and you can save an additional $25-30 per person!

To make it even easier on those who have missed the early bird registration opportunities, the D6 team is offering a last minute promotion to save. In order to take advantage of this last time offer, simply register by Tuesday September 8th. While registering, use the discount code SEPTD6. Individuals will save $30, groups of 2 - 9 will save $25 per person and groups of 10+ will save $15 per person.Register now using the SEPTD6 discount code at!

I'll be back tomorrow to share some things God has really be teaching me about trusting Him (and not myself) to make all things possible! Especially those things that seem totally impossible to me!