… early mornings

This past week, my husband and I sat on the patio working, enjoying the weather, and soaking up the rare Spring mornings that will be over VERY soon.

Witnessing the day “wake up” was pretty sweet.
Between the birds singing, the sky brightening, and the peacefulness of it all was nothing short of perfect.

Then typical Alaina type random thoughts begin to swirl through my head. Amongst the most normal was this one about how every bird has been given a song by God…. whether loved by all or not, still honors God.

Everyday these birds sing the songs that they are given. Loudly. Clearly. with no shame.
Not the songs they wrote or chose for themselves, but ones created and planned especially for them.
By God. The Creator of all things.

These are the songs that honor and bring glory to God – by believers and non-believers alike.

Atheist, apathetic, or someone of a different religious affiliation all delight in the creations of God.
Like the sunrise, the sunset, and the ocean’s waves.
They all attest to the majestic and detailed Creator.

These creations cause wonder. They cause people to stop in their tracks, people are taken by the beauty of the Lord’s imagination.

Each creation tells of the magnificence of God.

There’s almost nothing like it….

Except for you and I.
We are God’s creations… prioritized and loved higher than any other creation.
Even with our sin issues, mistakes, and past that makes us cringe.

We are each given a story. A life planned beautifully, no matter how difficult or tragic is has been or is currently. Our God has given us a life that is meant to honor and glorify Him.

We are each given the ability and power in Jesus to respond to life in such a way that will cause people to draw to you, to taken by you because of the love and light that radiates from you. A love and light that only comes from Christ.

Life doesn’t always turn out exactly how we want it to…. it’s not always a fairytale…. we don’t always get what we want, when we want it. Sometimes, we are honestly dealt a pretty crappy hand.

But, if we have a Christ focused perspective – even the worst of the worst times can point others to Jesus. If it just be our attitude and peace during the situation.

… here’s to trusting God enough to walk quietly beside him, holding (squeezing) his hand along the way.

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quickie

Things don’t aways turn out the way I’d prefer for them to. As a matter of fact, they rarely do.

And, if you read this post, you’ll see that’s the main reason I had so much trouble with my faith. While I was asking God for the things I wanted, my focus was those THINGS. Not God. As horrible as that sounds, I do love Jesus and I think he’s the bomb.com but the issue was – I wanted THINGS and, if not more than I wanted a relationship with him.

Once I got to a point where I wanted God more than ANYTHING….. A lot of my control issues and stressors dissipated. I was able to let things a lot easier because they didn’t matter. At all.

So, this is what I dawned on me today:

We were created to worship God.
ONLY.
That is the PURPOSE for our creation.
To praise God and bring Him glory.

The positions he puts us in, the roles we are allowed to play, and the things were are given are but temporary.

Parenting is temporal. Our professions are temporal. As are our cars, homes, clothes, and favorite wines. People are temporal (thankfully, our souls are not!).

They will not last.

But our God will. Our relationships with our God will last until forever.

Yes, I want desperately to be a mother (and do/have/experience plenty of other things), but not more than I want to worship and commune with God.
If it happens, I will for sure worship. If it doesn’t happen, I am still able to worship because my worship is no longer tied to blessings by any percent. But, 100% tied to who He is.

Oh, things are so much easier let go of this way. Issues that burden me are so much easier given to God. Disappointments and heart breaks don’t tear me away from my God. And, people are so much easier to love.

Everything doesn’t work out the way we want it to go, and we have to often endure some less than ideal circumstances, but none of what we deal with with is too much for our God to handle.

…. press on, pray on. this isn’t our circus.

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because people matter

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One thing I’ve realized over the past few weeks is that I have a crazy passion for people and their circumstances.

My heart has begun to truly break for the struggles, pains, and hurts that so many people are enduring. I know how much they need hope, support, and their desire to feel something besides disappointment and a void that doesn’t seem to be fillable. I’ve prayed for quite a while for a heart like Christ’s, a heart that feels others and I believe that that prayer is in the process of being answered.

I’m grateful for companies and people who support the issues of others and work hard to support them in any and every way they can. One company that opens their hearts and enters the hurts of others is Sevenly. Every week they focus on one cause. This shirt was last week’s cause was Down Syndrome, this week: Austism. I have shirts that supported adoptions in China, and feeding the hungry. I love that for each purchase, $7 is donated toward the week’s cause. I wear these shirts proudly – they have an amazing message, they help so many other people, annnnnnd they’re incredibly soft and wash well. Can’t beat a bit of that!

This company is literally the hands and feet of Christ. Isn’t that what’s is all about? Doing what you can with what you have to serve others in the body of Christ? Joining in and getting our hands dirty together??

This shirt is incredibly special to me as we’re on the path to adoption…. understanding that family truly is more than blood. Not only do we have friends that I know are our family, but our adopted child and their birth family will, too become our family. They are a part of us. We are all connected. Love makes and a commitment to be there makes a family. To be there when you think you want to be alone. To open your heart when you feel that no one else gets it. These are the people who will continue to trust and hope when you feel you’ve lost the ability to keep hoping  against all hope.

I almost feel as if my wardrobe is becoming adoption and cause shirts…. I’m waiting for two adoption shirts that are helping bring a couple babies home to hit my mailbox in the coming days. And, I’m okay with that. T-shirt, jeans or shorts, and sandals or Tom’s (that I also love as they give one pair of shoes for each that’s purchased!)

So GO!!!!! Check out Sevenly – I’m sure they’ll have a cause very soon that you’re into. If you’re not into t-shirts, you can definitely use your personal gifts and talents to support and love on a friend. Something we can all do to be supportive and loving in action.

… here’s to supporting people and their struggles.. after all, we’re all family, right?

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… cancer really sucks

Today, I had the most amazing day but to be honest, my heart is kinda heavy and is breaking in so many ways.

mekrystal

I have a really wonderful friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27. TWENTY FREAKIN SEVEN years old. Thankfully, THANKFULLY, thankfully, as of this past year, at 30, she is cancer free.

For that, I will forever thank God for. She is the most incredible woman who has the most positive outlook on life and is so supportive of her friends and family. This gal is  a gem.
krystal

Today, I learned that a woman whom I’m connected to in a couple of exciting ways, is battling breast cancer. My heart completely broke for her. For her young daughter. Her family.

I think about everything that we go through in this life, I consider all of my friends and their struggles and I think about how BIG we make the small stuff. How silly we behave when things don’t go our way. How easily we break away from relationships before we truly attempt to find solutions, and tough out the tough stuff. How we value things and neglect people. How we are such a self absorbed people.
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My survivor acquaintance/friend’s shirt says “A selfie (self exam) saved my life!”

Today in Houston, The Sisters Network, Inc. hosted its 5th Annual Breast Cancer Awareness 5k Walk/Run. I truly had a wonderful time and ran into women I hadn’t seen in a while, ran into a survivor acquaintance, and was in awe of the love and support shown for women who have battled this cancer.

As I thought about this post, I literally thought that it would be this sweet, fluffy post about how truly great today was. (and, it was really great.) But, I honestly can’t. My heart is aching and broken for women and families who have to endure such a difficult task before them. Such a life altering task. It changes everything. It changes how families will be expanded, it effects and challenges how women view their bodies and their femininity. It grows you up, strengthens you, and puts life into perspective.
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I’m thinking about how unfair all of these difficulties seem.
 I have friends whose children are stuck in the DRC. I have friends whose babies are waiting for them in orphanages. Women are battling infertility. I have a friend who went on a trip to Uganda with a team who removed jiggers (little mama bugs that furrow in shoeless feet and have baby bugs that just hang out causing immense pain) from the feet of little ones. There are people who are living on the street. Who don’t have clean water. Who are being abused. Who are struggling with life. People are literally fighting day in and day out for their lives.

There seems to be no justice. No consideration of how much a person has experienced and endured. No thought behind a person’s character. No peace. No rest. No relief. No break. (Ever feel that way?)

There is nothing easy about this life. It is full of disappointments, heartache, and pain.
And, yes, some people seem to have it easier than others. But, the truth of the matter is, we’re all struggling in some way. We will all struggle. We have all struggled. No one is exempt.

1 Peter 5:7
Cast all your anxiety on Him, for he cares for you.

The beautiful thing about the pain of this life is that not only is it temporary (thank God!), but we don’t endure it alone. We aren’t in it by ourselves. Yes, we are given amazing people to walk these roads with, but better than having our people with us, we have a God who is the creator of all walking with us. Leading us. Guiding us. Comforting us. And, bearing our burdens for us. I know I keep saying that, but it’s truly what keeps me sane. I can’t get past who God is.

Nothing is lost on Him.
He is righteous and always right. He is thoughtful, purposeful, and just.

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Today was beautiful. The weather was amazing and totally made liars of the meteorologists and apps that forecasted a rainy, cold day. I celebrated life. The lives of two cancer survivors and the life of a sweet, little girl who turned 4 today. A little girl we prayed pretty hard for. The life of the one we’re waiting to come home. Celebrated the lives of God’s people who are in this thing fighting with everything they have in them. Who are believing Him to be exactly who He said he is.

Today, through the difficulties of life, I was reminded of how faithful God is and how beautiful and inspiring life can be is.
How if we stay focused on God, our hope remains in tact and our perspectives positive.

… here’s to feeling your boobies & getting mammograms. Do it! Do it! Do it!

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scraps and finished products

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Oh, it’s almost Wednesday, y’all. When I say I am so ready to get to Saturday, I’m not joking. Not even a little bit.

This week is going to be so big in so many ways. I believe that this day and the ones that follow are preparing me for some pretty interesting waters. And, as much as I enjoy & desire growth, I rarely ever like the process.

One thing I struggle deeply with is my faith, and I think this is the second time I’ve realized why. lol. It’s a tough lesson for me to learn and I know I’ve been at this exact same space before – knowing and understanding this truth – but when the rubber meets the road, I completely blank.

I tend to believe God for things instead of just believing HIM. I had faith that we would get pregnant, that our fertility treatments will be successful, that our (first…. and, second) adoption will go through, or that a situation will end in my favor. So, when these things DON’T happen, I end up frustrated at God. Then, those absolutes and negative thoughts start rolling in:
Good things NEVER happen for me…I should have known that this (failure) would happen… Why did I think this would work out???

All of these thoughts make me feel so horribly about myself, my situation, and frankly about my God. Because again, God…. I’m believing You for things and you aren’t showing up. Great things are happening for others and you have left me on the sidelines. Why should I put so much faith in this when it’s not going to work out anyway?!

Until, I realized that when I believe GOD and trust His will, what happens here on this Earth is secondary. When I believe God to give me good gifts as His child, I know that what hasn’t worked out wasn’t what was best for me at the moment. I know that when I get a door slammed in my face, things are moving slowly, or I’m mistreated, I BELIEVE God when he says that all things work together for good for those who love God & who are called according to His purpose.

WHEN I BELIEVE GOD for His BEST for ME, I am able to accept the ups and downs of life with a broader, more balanced perspective of life. A perspective that grows my faith and doesn’t leave me questioning my Creator.

Tonight, I made little invitation cards for the staff. NOTHING fancy whatsoever. And, I mean that with all of the truth in all the world. lol. As I was cutting the paper, God showed me a pretty amazing lesson.

No one cares about the scraps of paper that have been cut off of this final product.
As fancy as it is NOT, what isn’t needed doesn’t stay.

Just like cutting split ends or damaged hair. Yes, it sucks because we’re attached and our hair seemed longer, but without these dead ends, our hair is able to grow healthier, longer, and it looks ten billion times better! It tangles and sheds less.

The result is all around better because of what was removed. 

I’m considering all the pruning God is doing to my character and person…. Only He knows what the final outcome will be. Only he knows what He has specifically created me to look like. Everything that is cut away and done away with is for my benefit.

It may seem as if I have less “hair” or less “paper”, but the product is much more beneficial.

Believe, beloved. 

Believe that God’s best is waiting for you. Believe God because He is God.
Trust Him and His plans not because we’ve reviwed them and given the blueprint of our life our stamp of approval.
Believe Him because of who he is. HIs character. His promises. His ability & willingness.

God is always good…. even when we’re left out, mistreated, disappointed, and didn’t get what we want. God is working on our behalf. Working in areas we would never imagine to look, working with people we couldn’t network enough to meet.

God is doing good things for us. He is. THAT is what I choose to believe. That God is on my side. That I am His, and He is mine.

So, with that….. no matter what or how much is pruned, no matter how painful the process, no matter what – I believe in my God. Of course, I pray for the things I desire because he tells me to. But, I choose not to focus so much on that THING, that I lose sight of the Provider.

Enter wail emoji…… because the scariest part is that you never, ever know what will be taken away. But, the one thing I do know is that I’m not in a position to dictate what should be kept and what should be tossed aside.

btw, have you ever read God’s response to Job’s (understandable) questioning and depression? Read Job 38 here…. It’ll put so much into perspective! And, if you’re not too convicted keep going… I stopped at 40. I’ll repent and continue to read soon. It just stung too dern much.

.. here’s to trusting God in all things.

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meet madison & nolan!

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There’re very few things about our adoption journey that I love more than meeting other adoptive mamas. Even though I’ve said it twelve thousand times, I can’t verbalize enough how important and impactful a community of God craving women are during this journey. The instant connection that is made is so encouraging, uplifting, and spiritual.  We know that all of this is about Jesus so we’re all coming from the same place. Every single one of us  desire to serve and share God to little people who we pray will grow up to do remarkable things for the sake of Christ. Although every family’s journey is different, there are God planned similarities that bind us mamas together in an incredible way.  It’s amazing to see how each friendship made serves a spectacular purpose in a very specific way.

Two major things that I believe that are very close to most adoptive mamas hearts are community and relationship. Through community, we build a network of support and real to the bone friendships. It’s also through these relationships that these friendships and connections find their value, families are formed, and often simultaneously kept together. We know that by openly sharing our experiences and convictions enables us to enjoyably share God’s love for us and encourages others to keep moving! These testimonies also remind families that this idea  that God gave you about bringing a stranger child into your home isn’t far fetched, it’s not unreasonable, and yes you too can impact and be impacted by a child in an unimaginable way by just going when God say move.

So all of that paves the way to amazing opportunities such as this one…..
I’m humbled and honored to share two things with you today.

FIRST, I want to introduce you to my friend Madison Vining who I met through  social media! She’s an amazing wife, mama, and Tulsa, Oklahoma based photographer who is here to share her family’s adoption story with you!!! We have the same love for adoption & sharing Jesus!! lol. We thought it would be neat to interview each other and share perspectives, thoughts, and  stories about our experiences!

SECOND, you have an awesome opportunity to impact another family by participating in our GIVEAWAY!!! Each entry positions you to have $100 donated to the Crisis Pregnancy Outreach in your name! The Vining’s youngest and most recent addition, Nolan, was adopted through Crisis Pregnancy Outreach based in Tulsa, so it’s a very special contribution for Madison and I am very sensitive about donating towards others’ adoptions! So, this is a neat little win-win situation for everyone involved!

Without further delay,
please meet 

Madison Vining.
 madison vining

Tell us a little bit about who Madison is…
I have lived Oklahoma all my life and have been with my hubby since the 8th grade (we got married at 19). I have 3 little ones: Cade who is 5, Story who is 2.5, and Nolan who is 4 months. We adopted Nolan the day before Valentine’s Day this year. I am a photographer and am pretty spontaneous and creative in all areas of life. “Laid back and mildly inappropriate” describes my personality ; )

 What caused you to pursue an open & domestic adoption after originally planning to adopt internationally?
We had just dipped our foot into the process of adopting internationally, looking at Columbia (which is funny… because we ended up with a child who looks like he could totally be Columbian! God is great like that.)

One night I was on Facebook and saw an acquaintance post a photo of her newly-adopted daughter. I didn’t know they had been in the process of adopting so I sent her a message congratulating her and asking questions, which she so graciously answered. Her daughter had been adopted through Crisis Pregnancy Outreach here in Tulsa, and she explained to me the opportunity they had been given to minister to their daughter’s birth mom. All I can say that is that I had a heart change during that conversation. We were pursuing adoption as our first choice for growing our family, and so all along our intentions were to help a child, but the concept of the birth mother had honestly never entered my mind. Once I started thinking in a new way and seeing how we could maybe make a bigger impact in not just a baby’s life, but a woman’s life as well, and also have background information for our child when they are ready to receive it, I was totally convinced that this was the type of adoption that we were called to. My husband wholeheartedly agreed, and so off we went!

Has adoption changed your way of thinking about life, your personal relationships, and/or your relationship with God?
To try and explain all the ways in which I have been changed seems impossible!

I guess the main theme is that, layer by layer, things have been stripped away to where it’s obvious that I am called to love relentlessly and tirelessly and without stopping to think about it. I’ve also had to let go of a lot of control, and in that, I have been molded and shaped more through this process than through any other period in my life.

As for my relationship with my husband: adoption has deepened our love infinitely. Seeing him wholeheartedly welcome another man’s child as his own… if only the world were full of more men who are capable of that kind of love. My husband, now even more so than before, is my rock and the most amazing example of Christ’s grace and compassion. 3bedS

 Can you give some hindsight wisdom about your experience with adoption?
One suggestion I have is to surround yourself with people who “get it.” People who truly want to know how you are doing and how they can be there for you. One of the biggest helps through this was for a few of our friends to call and say, “What specifically can we be praying with you about today?” Find those kinds of friends. (If you are reading this and are in need that kind of friend… I am happy to be it! : )

 How did you prepare your bio children for the adoption?
Many of our friends have adopted or are in the process, and they have several adopted friends, so it’s a topic they’ve always been somewhat familiar with. A year ago when we began the application process, we started talking more about it and made sure to use age-appropriate terms that they understood. Our 5 year old understands adoption more than most adults. He loved praying for our baby’s birth mom. And every time we’d hold a friend’s baby he’d say, “Cute baby! Did we adopt him?” : )

We also read a lot of adoption books. Our favorite one is “A Mother for Choco.” Anyone with young kiddos, whether you’re adopting or not: buy this book! It is wonderful.3bed7S

 Do you have any advice on preparing young children for the realities of bringing another child into your home?
What worked for us was talking about it regularly. By the time it actually came, the kids were fully ready and the transition was really seamless. It is never too early to begin prepping them for the change. You never know, you could receive a baby with two hours’ notice like we did! : )

 What practical advice would you give to someone preparing to begin the adoption journey?
Know that it will probably not go the way you expect it to, and know that that’s amazing. I’ve learned that God’s plans for us are always better than the plans we have for ourselves. When you can, be open to things you didn’t necessarily foresee. We were waiting for a newborn and ended up with a 3 month old, and he is totally our son! : ) SPL16S

Did you have any concerns about having an open adoption?
Oddly, no. I know the concept sounds totally terrifying to most people, but once we knew that an open adoption was what we were supposed to pursue, we educated ourselves on every possible scenario (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and we still felt at peace. One thing I wish more people knew was that open adoption is not co-parenting. An adopted child is your legal child, and you set the rules when it comes to their safety and well-being. If someone is not safe or healthy for them to be around, that is ultimately your call to make. But open adoption is such a beautiful thing if you can find common ground. We feel that the more people our kids have in their lives that love them, the better!

 What is your relationship with your birth mother?
Our relationship with Nolan’s birth mother is, of course, still very new. But the love I have for her is unlike the love I have for anyone else in my life. I may not agree with some of her decisions, but I love her heart and I love her love for Nolan. When Nolan does something adorable, my first thought is “I can’t wait to tell A.” She’s the only person who loves him as much as we do, and it’s a very special bond. I am grateful literally every single day that she gave Nolan life and that she was willing to break her own heart to do what was best for him. She is a hero.SPL14S

 Can you speak to fundraising and sharing with your community your dreams/plans of adopting?
Of course! I am pretty open, but choosing how and when and what to say about our adoption journey was a struggle for me. I wrote a blog post announcing that we were in the process of adopting and tried to kind of shed some light on open adoption in general, because a lot of our friends just had no idea about it.

To raise funds, we created a little online shop called Vine & Ever. You can check it out HERE!!! It was a fun way to stay busy, spread the word about adoption, and bring in some funds that would ultimately help to bring Nolan home. Now, our hope is to help other families fund their adoptions.

 What areas did you need to lean on God the most about during your journey?
The waiting. It’s like being pregnant with no due date. Your baby could come in 2 minutes or 2 years, and you have no idea. You also (or at least in our case) don’t know anything about the baby you are waiting on: its gender, its race, its circumstances. For someone who is usually a planner, that was a huge faith stretch for me.

But oh my gosh… was it the most amazing rush when we got that call.

 In what areas were you most challenged in? (marriage, personal concerns/thoughts of perceptions, etc.)
My lack of patience and need for control were by far the things that were most challenged! : ) I can’t say that I am “healed” of my impatience/control-freakness, but I am WAY more apt to let things go and give them to God than I used to be. I have learned that I am not in control, and when I’m not in control is when the best things happen!

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NOW, FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!! 

As I mentioned before, in honor  of  baby Nolan and  Crisis Preganncy Outreach, you have the awesome opportunity to  have $100 donated in your name!
We only ask that you do a few things:
1. Like Madison’s blog page on Facebook
2. Follow Madison on Instagram 
3. Like UnashamedGrowth’s blog page on Facebook
4. Follow me on Instagram
5. COMMENT below!!
Let us know how adoption has impacted your life in any way! We’d love to hear your experiences and  even a fav scripture you have that compels you to love with that “anyway” love of Jesus – regardless of relationship!

Our WINNER will be selected on APRIL 4th!!!!

I hope you enjoyed Madison’s story! She is definitely a wonderful woman who is eager and intentional about serving God in a way that helps funds adoptions in an insanely adorable, practical, and cost effective way! Be sure to head over to Vine & Ever (click. that. link!! :))!! I know you will love everything you come across! You won’t ever regret it!

I’m in love and encouraged with this entire concept of adoption and how it so represents Christ, his love towards us, and the absolute definition of what the action of love really looks like. If you are on the fence or feel your heart strings tugged a bit at the thought of adoption – please pray about the when, how, and where. God is faithful and will definitely answer your prayers! Let me know & I’ll be praying for you too! I’m always willing to chat if you want to talk

{{ Madison also interviewed me! You can find that post on her blog! Just click here! ENJOY!!! }}

…. here’s to community and loving one another!

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