Courageous Living

Today I am headed to Texas for a rather impromptu girl’s weekend with some of the women who are dearest and sweetest to me. We are going to attend dotMom together and spend an entire weekend laughing, maybe crying a bit, and all around encouraging one another in this thing called life.

I’m learning new things every day right now. New things about who God is – His character and nature and innate longing for us to love Him. I’m seeking and watching and praying and I finally feel a true sense of…dare I say – HOPE?!

There’s a next step for us in this journey to defend the orphan. I’m probably not finished crying or mourning the end of my dream, though I do think/hope I had my final ugly cry over it this past weekend. And as I once again soaked the sleeve of my husband’s shirt, he reminded me of that thing that is so often easy to forget.

We have been called to live courageously.

Our adoption was not a failure. We are in this place because this is where God wants us to be. This place, this fire, is where we will learn more what is means to be a free lover of Him who created us to live without fear. He has called us – our family – to courageous living. And He’s given us a passion for adoption and orphan care. Oh the excitement that comes from trusting Him. The power that comes when you know that where you are is right where you should be…even if it hurts.

We aren’t done in this pursuit of defending the orphan. We are most certainly not done. Every day we release the fears a little more (at least I do. Apparently I had a lot more fear than I let myself believe). Each day I feel a renewed sense of awe at my husband and his willingness to seek what God would have for our family. I’m so grateful for his support in this time. He hasn’t once asked me to shove these feelings under a carpet. He’s listened, encouraged and pushed me – us – toward greater courage.

There is no real clarity yet and I don’t feel certainty in this path we’re on. But I feel hopeful and even a little excited for the future. God’s not done with us yet.

What a thrill.

Have a blessed and courageous weekend everyone!

Onward and Forward

We did it.


Yesterday we mailed out a package filled with every detail of our lives to the capital building in Tallahassee for apostilling. From there (and barring any major mistakes on my part) the package will head to our adoption agency, most likely by the end of next week. I have one piece of paper that needs to be apostilled in the State of Arkansas and I’m waiting on one more document that will need apostilling in the State of California.

And then?

Then our dossier is complete.


As in done.


Into the hands of Russia. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

And now we don’t know what will happen. Will Russia close? Possibly. If that happens we will take a little time to breathe and are open to exploring other adoption options. But they might remain open. This whole political stand off may pass on by and if that happens, then we are that much closer to seeing this thing through.

So we wait and you know what? Waiting isn’t a lot of fun. It just isn’t. I want to know. I want to know now! I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to see what kind of blessing might be at the end of the unknown.

I’m so human and so impatient.

A friend reposted this video the other day and it’s served as a good reminder for me. This was made a few years ago and yes, that’s Sloan you see in the video. He was around 6 when they shot this at our church in St. Louis. Besides being an awesome and adorable look back at him and all the other kids I love so much, it’s been a good reminder that even when waiting is hard, there are rewards to patience.

I want my cookie now. I don’t want to wait for two cookies.

But I will wait. I will wait and I will work on patience and grace and love and peace until we are presented with the next step. I will wait for the blessings.


What are you waiting for? Can I be praying for you in the wait?

Thanksgiving was for…

























Flirting (ahem…boys!)



























How was your Thanksgiving?

50 Years

Fifty years ago today, the course of our family history stepped onto a new and exciting path. Really, the journey toward this future began some time before June 10, 1962, but it is today that we remember and commemorate my grandfather, grandmother and the legacy that they left behind. Today is the anniversary of the church they started so many years ago.

It was scary. It was hard. It was beautiful and ugly and delicious all rolled together.


Lee and I have thought a lot about the legacy we want to leave to our children. Walking across the plains of Africa has shifted the course of that vision a bit, though, and once again we find ourselves reestablishing this idea of legacy. What are we doing now that will shape the futures of our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren?

We must not take lightly this responsibility we have to create a legacy for our kids. It’s daunting, really, to think that how we guide them doesn’t impact the short term. I don’t know if my grandparents realized the ultimate and forever impact they would have on future generations when they stepped onto the white sands of South Caicos in 1961 with their four young children. Did they know that fifty years later the Carribbean would still remember the family name?

Did they know that fifty years after that first dedication on June 10, 1962 there would be a service at Calvary Baptist Church to honor and remember their faithfulness and sacrifice?

Did they know that fifty years after leaving the United States their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have traveled the world with the Gospel?

Did they understand the legacy they were creating by the faithful acting of leaving?

My grandfather did not get to see the long-term fruits of his labor. He died in 1973 at the age of 44. But his legacy did not end and it will not because his hands, his feet and his love continues to spread through the Carribbean and the world.

My grandfather wasn’t trying to be faithful to a future he would never see when he left with his family and established a lasting ministry in the Turks and Caicos islands and in the Bahamas. He was being faithful to the present he lived in and he took his family on the journey with him.

Is this how we create legacy? Is it as simple as being faithful to those things that stand before us – the messy, the beautiful, the ugly and the delicious? Is it living fully in the present that allows us to create a legacy for the future?

My grandparent’s journey wasn’t without trial or hardship and not every memory from those years is met with fondness and yearning. But the seed that was planted all those years ago continues to grow and I am so, so grateful and honored to be a part of that heritage – that legacy. I’m proud of my family and the legacy in which we all share.

Messy. Beautiful. Ugly and Delicious. It is our legacy and it continues to grow, not to our glory but to His.

All to His.


The steeple and bell at Calvary Baptist Church, South Caicos


So what about you? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave for your children and the generations that follow?

*Three years ago this month, I had the privilege of traveling to the Caicos islands with my mom to see and feel the legacy that was left for us first hand. Here are a couple of the posts from that trip:

Why I’m in Turks and Caicos 

Another Story from the Mission Field

I’m Coming Home Soon!

A Journey through the Sands of Time

Island Gallery

Sing it out with Nicole Nordeman’s Legacy…

On schooling

“So, Kelli, how’s that home schooling thing going for you?”

Oh, how sweet of you to ask!

This is our last official week of home schooling (homeschooling? is it one word or two because I’ve seen it both ways and I can’t figure it out…). Honestly?

This has been the hardest year of my life.

Selling a house, saying goodbye to friends who were more like family, paying for our own move cross country, starting a new job, buying a new house, home schooling, visiting countless churches over the course of ten months, struggling to find our place, living under strain and stress…

This year has exhausted me.

I noticed something interesting in Africa. The women there are tough. Despite life’s adversities, they know how to dig in their heels and keep the home at any cost. Remember how the Maasai women actually build their family homes? It’s interesting, isn’t it? God has equipped us as women to know when it’s time to dig in, clench our teeth and do what needs to be done to keep life moving forward. He has created us with an inate ability to survive, not for ourselves, but for everyone around us.

In some regard, this past year has been something like that for me. I’ve been in survival mode, heels dug in, holding up the walls of the home. Because life was bumpy there for awhile. I just needed my family to be okay – I needed us to be safe and together and whole.

Home schooling provided that safety in a way. I’m so glad I had the kids home with me because I needed them near me and I think they needed each other. But as the dust settles and the light at the end of the tunnel widens just slightly, we’re evaluating and praying and trying to decide what’s best for next year.

Tools of survival...

I will be totally honest and tell you I’m really proud of what I accomplished with my kids this year. I didn’t really know if I could do this home schooling thing. In fact, I never ever wanted to do it. Ever. Ever, ever. Like most people I assumed that I wasn’t cut out to teach my kids at home.

But it’s not true. We are all fully equipped to do whatever needs to be done when it comes to our children. So if you’re thinking about home schooling, or wondering about it and you fear you can’t do it, just know that you can. I’m not saying you should. But I am saying you shouldn’t sell yourself short.

We women are tougher than we think.

Now that we are on the other side of the year, we are looking at different options. Home schooling isn’t out of the mix by any means, but neither is public school. Those are pretty much the two options we have at this point and it’s kind of scary, this decision to be made.

Part of me is hopping from foot to foot, Rocky style, trying to pep talk my way back in to the arena. I saw the benefits of what the kids and I accomplished this past year. I completely back the educational positives of home schooling. There is, by far, nothing like it. There are so many things I’ve loved about having the kids home with me.


I also see the benefits of a school setting and there are things I haven’t enjoyed about having them home. There are pros and cons to both choices and it all comes down to what we think works best for the kids AND for me. So we pray and wait and prepare for whatever comes next, because after this year I’ve kind of decided there isn’t anything I can’t do.

Except maybe build a mud hut out of cow dung. I’m not sure I could handle that.

So what are you doing for school next year? How did you come to your decision?

The Need to be Known

We sat in a circle, the porch lit up by a string of lights and the air around filled with youthful squeals and the unabashed laughter of little ones filled with delight. For three hours we sat and when we finally rose, my cheeks ached from the smile stretched wide.

It felt good to be known.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this move has been the feeling of having to put on airs. When you walk into a room full of strangers, the natural reaction is to put on a smile and those people aren’t going to know if my smile is fake or not because they don’t know me. It’s not their fault. It just takes time to get to know someone.

But this golden lit circle of people was not a group of strangers. They were family. My aunt and uncle and cousins. The people we vacationed with growing up. We’ve watched one another get married, rejoiced in babies born, mourned in loss.

There is just something comforting and familiar about family. Though I haven’t lived in the same state as my cousins since we were all in diapers, we still hold fast to the bond of family that seals us together. We know each other. We’ve traveled roads together that no one can understand. We experienced heartache and joy that binds us tight and holds us fast.

On the 21st anniversary of one of the deepest hurts our family experienced, we gathered. We didn’t plan the gathering on this specific day – it just happened. And we laughed and loved and relished in one another. Many were missing, and how I wished they all could have been there, but for Lee and I the meeting was perfect. We needed to laugh. We needed family.

Sitting with them late into the night, Lee and I didn’t have to pretend and my family didn’t expect a mediocre answer. When they asked how we were doing, we told them. This is hard. Moving is stressful in a lot of ways and the last six months have been the most trying of our entire married life.

It was cathartic to share – to be able to open up and be honest. The rest of the evening was spent laughing…hard.

Our kids ran around, screaming and shrieking, delighting in one another the way my cousins and I did when we were little. It was so good and so sweet to be known. Like walking through a fountain after traveling the desert. Refreshing and cool, Lee and I came home rejoicing.

And tonight, as two teams I didn’t care about played for a title that meant nothing to me (I just broke some hearts…I’m sorry), we talked and laughed with friends. New friends who, over the last few weeks, have allowed us to open our hearts and share and laugh and cry, and old friends who not only know us from back home, but who also know well the path we’re on right now.

They’re on it too.

I have asthma and on the days when breathing in is just a little more difficult, I always relish in that one moment when I’m finally able to fill my lungs fully. My head spins a little and the panic that has begun to well up dissolves as I can finally take a much needed deep breath and I can actually feel the oxygen circulating through my body.

This weekend was a deep breath. It was needed and we drew it in deep.

My head is still spinning a little.

He Is Dad: A Repost

Today is my Dad’s birthday and while I’d like to write up a lovely tribute in his honor, I’m not sure I can top what I wrote last year.  So I am going to repost it with a great big, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD attached to it.

Many of you already read this, so don’t feel like you need to read it again.  But, if you’d like to leave my Dad a Happy Birthday comment, I’m sure it would make his day…and maybe embarrass him just a little bit.  Which given the fact that he thrived on embarrassing me in high school, I’d say that would  be a fitting gift.

I love you, Dad.

Originally posted October 10, 2010


I am two or three years old*. I’m on stage at our church singing my first solo – Away in a Manger. My hair is curled and I have on a lacy dress. Is it blue? I can’t remember. I am standing in front of the mic singing and he is below, at the bottom of the steps, with a camera in his hand. He is skinny and has thick brown hair that sits atop his head like a football helmet. He has a mustache that looks like it needs to be combed every day.

He is Daddy.

I am six year old. I am wobbling down our Wisconsin driveway on two wheels. He is running along beside me. “Pedal faster!” “You’re doing great!” “Keep your head up!” “You can do it!” He lets go and I take off, thrilled at my accomplishment.

He is encourager.

I am seven years old. We are driving in the car and the tape deck is blaring Paul Simon. He is singing loudly, drumming the steering wheel. “I can call you Betty and Betty when you call me, you can caaaallll meee Al. Call me Al.” He laughs and I laugh too. And together we sing.

He is fun.

I am nine years old. It’s Christmas morning and my brother and I are sitting at the top of the steps waiting for our parents to let us come down to open presents. It’s 4:00 am. I hear mom stumbling through the kitchen making coffee. She comments about the ungodly hour of our awaking and I hear him laugh. The he comes around the corner singing “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and we know it’s safe to come down. We tear into the living room to see the tree lit and him dancing around it.

He loves Christmas morning.

I am ten years old and we are at Busch Gardens water park in Tampa. I want to go down the big, plunging water slide but I’m nervous. He tells me that if I do it he will do it. Never one to back down from a challenge, I go down the water slide and he follows suit, shaking his head the whole time. “I didn’t think you’d do it,” he admits sheepishly as he climbs the stairs.

He keeps his promises.

I am eleven. He brings us into the living room and sits us down. He tells us that he got a new job and we’re going to move to a place I’ve never heard of – St. Louis. I cry and react with prepubescent flair. “I don’t care if it’s a neat city. I don’t know anyone there. I don’t waaannnna go.” He is probably hurt by my reaction, but he doesn’t let on.

He is understanding.

I am twelve years old. The neighbor boy is taunting and pushing me so I take a swing at him. He swings back and a full blown fight breaks loose. I land a punch and he takes off running. Later that night his mom calls to inform us that I gave her son a black eye. After I get the obligatory “you can’t get into fist fights” lecture he looks at me and grins, winks and says, “Way to go, slugger.”

He is awesome.

I am twelve years old. My mom received a call in the middle of the night that her sister was in a coma after having a severe reaction to a surgery. I get home from school and he is there, standing in the kitchen – waiting. “Where’s mom?” I ask. “She left on a flight to South Carolina,” he answered softly. “How’s Aunt Joy?” I ask, dread settling in. He pulls me close. “She passed away,” he whispered. This is my first encounter with death. And he holds me.

He is comforting.

I’m in eighth grade. My parents have temporary custody of my three cousins. The house is filled with emotionally confused children. We fight incessantly. He is in the middle of Washington University’s MBA program. Life is hard. I walk into his room one night to see him sitting at the desk staring blankly at the wall. I give him a hug.

He is stressed.

I’m a high school sophomore and I play saxophone for my high school Jazz Band. We are in Columbia for the All State competition. We are playing a difficult piece that I struggled to learn. We win first place. As a former Jazz Bander I know he is excited. I see him clapping his hands raw.

He is proud.

I am sixteen and I’ve had my driver’s license for all of 48 hours when I go to a school football game. While pulling into a parking space I hit another car, denting my car all the way down the side. Let me say that again for effect…I hit a parked car! I call him from a post-game party at a friend’s house after deciding that I shouldn’t let my guy friends try to bang out the dents with a hammer.

He is angry.

I’m a high school junior and I’m sitting on the floor of my room trying for the life of me to figure out the sum of x divided by y multiplied by 4,899. Algebra…the bane of my existence. He comes in and sits beside me. He takes a halting breath and tells me he lost his job. Then he cries and apologizes. He is out of work for several months before getting a pretty interesting and lucrative offer in Seattle. It would be a great career move. But he ultimately declines and accepts a job here in St. Louis that is a 25% pay decrease so he doesn’t have to uproot us.

He is self sacrificing.

It’s the summer before my senior year and he takes me on a trip to Colorado for a week. We challenge each other to climb mountains, we white water raft and we spend a week exploring. He lets me vent and complain about all my teenagery problems. I am angsty and hormonal and not always pleasant, but he pushes forward and we make memories – just the two of us.

He is involved.

I’m a senior in high school and preparing to graduate. Our church has a Sunday morning dedication to graduating seniors and he blubbers in the microphone about how I “better not bring home some snot nosed little Texas boy asking to marry me.”

He is a softie.

I am a sophomore in college performing in my first dinner theater. He stands in the back and video tapes the whole thing. I can hear him whistling and shouting on the tape.

He is supportive.

It’s 1998 and I’m studying in Ukraine for a semester. He calls and says he’ll be in London over Thanksgiving and asks if I’d like to meet him there. He picks me up from the airport on Thanksgiving night and we go to a Pizza Hut in London for dinner.

He is a great date.

I’m a junior in college and the family comes for a long weekend. I introduce them to a “friend” named Lee who spends an odd amount of time talking with them. Later when they drive home he tells mom that “that boy was awfully interested for someone who is just a friend.”

He is discerning.

I am twenty two and we are preparing to walk down the aisle. I have tears in my eyes as I look at him. He looks back with tear filled eyes. I am grateful for him and I know our relationship is going to change….I didn’t know it would change for the better. In that moment I was so flooded with love for him that I turned into a weepy, blubbery mess.

He is Father of the Bride.

I’m twenty five, lying in a hospital bed, and I hand him a squirming little bundle. He picks up his first grandchild and smiles gently. Even though I know that hospitals make him uncomfortable and he’s worried about how I’m doing, I see his face light up.

He is Grandpa Boss.

I am thirty *ahem* and I need business advice. I call him and he spends time he doesn’t have talking with me, giving me guidance, editing contracts and developing my professionalism. I call, email, text him multiple times and despite the fact that he is wicked busy, he takes the time to help me out.

He is advisor.

He is wise, discerning, strong, tender-hearted and giving. He loses his temper easily but is even quicker to ask for forgiveness. He is humble and I can almost guarantee he’ll tell me I’m giving him much more credit than he deserves. He is gracious and funny and has a wicked sense of humor. He works hard (too hard) but also knows how to relax.

He is Dad.

And who am I? I am that proud and grateful daughter who kind of adores him.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you!

*There is a great likelihood that I did not get all of the details of the early memories exactly right. They often appear to me as small snippets, like a technicolor film (never black and white…I’m not that old). I did the best I could to list accurate details. 🙂

For Bebe

Today is my wonderful Mother-in-Law’s birthday.  This is the part where I reveal yet another flaw…I stink at putting cards in the mail.  Seriously stink at it.  I always forget, often times even buying, signing and addressing the card then forgetting to actually mail it.  It is a design flaw in my character, I’m sure.

How’s that for deferring blame, huh?

What I lack in planning and forward thinking, though, I try to make up for in creativity…and a well timed phone call.  The kids are speaking with their Bebe right now.  I told them to sing to her…that’s better than a card, right?  I also combined our handwriting and grammar lesson today with a little birthday surprise for Bebe.  So, without further ado, I give you Sloan’s journal entry:

“I Love my Bebe because, she is very beuteful.”  She lives in areKensaew, and she has 6 grandchildren.  Cade is the oldest one.  Cade has two brothers, Eli and Sam.  I like when Bebe does creepee crolee.  Bebe is a wonderful grama.  When I see Bebe I am happy, so I run up to her.

His instructions were to write 7-8 sentences, with at least one of them a compound sentence.  He started learning dialogue yesterday and I adore his random use of quotations.  It just makes me smile.

Tia and Landon were interviewed separately on what they love about Bebe.  Landon’s answers are so random I had to scratch my head.  But I wrote exactly what he said.

I love it when Bebe:

Tia: “Goes somewhere with me.”

Landon: “Goes to da store and buys tennis shoes for me.”

I like to go:

Tia: “To the store and buy new shoes and clothes with Bebe.”

Landon: “To California with Bebe.” No – they have never been to California together…

Bebe makes me laugh when she:

Tia: “Talks funny wif her accent.”

Landon: “When she plays Crazy 8’s.”

My favorite time with Bebe is:

Tia: “Going out somewhere and going on a date together.”

Landon: “When we can go to Chuck E Cheese.”

When I see Bebe I like to:

Tia: “Run up to her and kiss her.”

Landon: “Go eat cotton candy.”

I think Bebe is:

Tia: “A great Grandma.  And beautiful.”

Landon: “Pwetty and nice.”

I wish I could:

Tia: “Do stuff with Bebe.”

Landon: “Go on da boat wif Bebe.”

Bebe always likes:

Tia: “To make dinner for us and I like that.”

Landon: “Go to da store.” Both of these answers made me laugh out loud.  Bebe knows why…

I always think of Bebe when I see:

Tia: “Her.  Whenever she goes somewhere I ask to go with her.”

Landon: “A ghost.” HA!


Happy Birthday, Bebe.  We love you and are always blessed by you.

I laughed until I cried

I am eight years old and riding in the backseat of our silver Cougar on the way home from church.  It’s cold but we live in Wisconsin so that’s just par for the course.  My brother stares out the window memorizing every street sign and landmark we pass, as he was known for his astute observations when riding in cars.

I am watching my parents.  I’m seeing their interaction.  I don’t remember what they were talking about on this day – I’m not even sure I could hear them.  But I know they’re happy.  I know this because my dad laughs.

Clearly I, too, am astute in observation, yes?

The sound of my dad’s laugh always made my heart soar.  It was so delightful, so spontaneous.  When Dad laughed, I swore that two more stars popped up in the atmosphere.  It just seemed magical to hear him laugh out loud.

Mom followed suit, adding in her own cackle.  As we drove down the road, they laughed hysterically.  Though Brett and I didn’t have a clue what was funny, we joined in the merriment, because who can sit stoney faced when a delightful joke has been told?  We laughed all the way home, not because anything was spectacularly funny, but because the joy had spread and we bubbled over.

Last night, we went with the kids to a Family Night at the Magic House for Tia’s preschool.  As we drove home, Tia blessed us all with a meltdown of epic proportions.  Her name hadn’t been drawn in the raffle and the world as she knew it was coming to an end.  Couple that with the fact that she hadn’t had a nap that day and she was wickedly overstimulated and it seemed that life as this almost five year old knew it was devastated permanently.

For those who have been trapped in a car with a melting down four year old, you know the insanity that ensues.  It is as if the car will implode with every tear shed, every moan, every groan, every kick of the feet.  In perfect rhythm, Tia moaned.  A deep, gutteral sound that seemed to resonate from her toes and work it’s way out of her mouth like the rumble of motorboat that comes up on you from behind, then roars past.

And I was losing my mind.

I turned and in my sternest mom voice commanded her to stop crying.  Which, in case you’re wondering, commanding someone who’s crying out of control to stop is not effective.  That piece of parenting advice comes to you free of charge.

You’re welcome.

So I tried the next tactic.  I told her to keep crying, but just cry without making sound.

“Aaaaahhhhhhh.”  “Aaaaaaahhhhhh.”  “Aaaaaahhhhh…” came the reply.  Like a sonic wave it repeated over and over and I felt my brain begin the painful process of implosion.  So I resorted to what can only be reffered to as Stellar Parenting 101.

“Tia,” I said, my voice sharp – but loving…of course.  “Stop crying. Now.  Stop making sounds.”  And then, as the next words flowed from my mouth I tried to make them stop.  “Stop making sounds…from your throat.”

As soon as I said that, I heard how ridiculous it sounded.  Lee snorted, I buried my face in my coat and we both lost it.  Painful laughter.  The kind that makes your stomach hurt.  Tears flowing down our cheeks leaving a trail of joy and relief behind.  We laughed out loud, doubled over, clutching our sides.

And then…

Her crying stopped.  “Why are you laughing?” she demanded.  We couldn’t answer.  We were laughing too hard.  And anyway, it was only funny to us – she wouldn’t understand.

Stop making sounds from your throat?

We howled and cackled and every synonym for laughter that you can think of, we did it.  Before long, all three kids joined in.  They didn’t understand.  They didn’t know what was funny.  They just knew that laughter and joy were present.  My brain resolidified into a coherent, usable mass and once again the world was right.  Tia forgot why she was crying and chose laughter instead.

And that was the day we saved the world…one cackle at a time.


I had a wonderful experience at Blissdom this year.  I hope to tell you about it in bits and pieces through my posts.  I was challenged in my writing, in thinking outside the box in business and in expanding my use of multimedia.  Hopefully you will see the results of my time at Blissdom rather than have to read about them.

Wrestling with Daddy

It’s just too much fun…