We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Reviewed

As promised, here is my review of the recipes I used for Thanksgiving dinner:

Brined Roast Turkey - THE best way to fix a turkey. The saltiness of the brine soaks into the flesh of the bird. The light herbs give it a perfect scent. And the sugar of the brine gives a perfectly crisped and browned skin.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes - Oh, my gosh these were so good! I was a little unsure when I pulled them out of the fridge yesterday, but after they warmed up and the butter was added they fluffed right up. They were really, really delicious. I will use this recipe again!! Oh, by the way, I warmed mine covered in a 400 degree oven (with other dishes cooking). Just took them out a few times to stir them up a bit.

Pepperidge Farm Stuffing - how can you go wrong? :)

Holiday Waldorf Salad - Very, very good. I would recommend doubling the dressing recipe, though. I thought my salad needed more dressing, but I hadn't made enough. (It might have also been because I made a slightly larger salad than called for in the recipe.) The sweet with the crunchy, slightly bitter romaine was delicious.

Lighter Green Bean Casserole - Ok - this was WAY better than the stuff made with canned soup! I doubled my recipe, but I think I didn't double the salt...so mine needed a bit more salt on the plate. I also used a short cut and just purchased the French's Fried Onions rather than making them. (Although, the recipe for making them didn't seem too hard.) I found that I needed to keep this in the oven longer than it called for and then the onion-topping needed to be covered as it was browning up a bit. So, keep that in mind if you try this recipe.

Sweet Potatoes with Mini-marshmallows. - Delicious, of course. How can you mess this up? We mashed the sweet potatoes the day before and had them all ready to go in the baking dish, so that cut down on the time in the kitchen.

Orange-Cranberry Relish - Wonderful, Yummy, Scrumptious! This recipe calls for "grinding" - I used my CuisineArt and really chopped them up finely. This made for an almost paste like consistency, which became wonderfully jelly-like when I added the sugar and macerated. This dish was beautiful on the table, too - bright, ruby red!

Now, about the pies (Pecan-topped Pumpkin Pie and Black Walnut Custard Pie)...I didn't get to make them. My mom-in-law had offered to bring pies, but hubby forgot to tell me that before I planned out my dinner. So, instead we had MIL's homemade Apple-Cranberry, Pumpkin, and Black Walnut pies. (She even makes homemade crust.) They were wonderful!

But I still want to try these pies out. We are going to her house for Christmas, so I will see if I can make them for her and then I'll let you know how they are!

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Anglican Advent Traditions Carnival - 2008

UPDATE: Enjoy the links below and then come on over to this year's Carnival!

Welcome! I'm so glad you've found our Advent carnival. (A special "Hello" to our visitors from Stand Firm and Anglicans Online!)

Are you interested in learning how to keep Advent - or maybe you want some new ideas for keeping Advent? Grab a cup of coffee and join us!

First, a little history:

"What is Advent?
Advent marks the beginning of the Christmas season and the Church year for most Western churches. The word "Advent" means "arrival" or "coming" in Latin and represents the approach of Christ's birth (and fulfillment of the prophecies about that event) and the awaiting of Christ's second coming. It is composed of the four Sundays before Christmas day, starting on the Sunday closest to November 30th, which is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and ending on Christmas. Because Christmas is on a different day from year to year, Advent may last anywhere from 22 to 28 days.

In the 4th and 5th centuries, Advent was the preparation for the "Epiphany" rather than Christmas. (Epiphany is celebrated in early January and focuses on various events in Jesus' life such as the visits of the magi, His baptism and miracles.) It was also a time for new Christians to be baptized and welcomed into the church, while members of the church examined their hearts and focused on penance. Religious leaders exhorted the people to prepare for the feast of Christmas by fasting. Some say that early documents show that those leaders treated Advent as a second Lent.

Sometime in 6th century Rome, the focus of Advent shifted to the second coming of Christ. In the 9th century, Pope St. Nicholas reduced the duration of Advent from six weeks to the four weeks we currently observe. And finally, sometime in the middle ages--approximately the 1500's--an additional focus on the anticipation before Christ's birth was added to that of His second coming. "
From The Teaching Mom: History of Advent

Advent continues today to be a season of preparation, of our hearts and homes, for the celebration of the Birth of Christ. It can also be a perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of society's "Holiday Season".

So, are you interested to see how some of my Anglican friends are celebrating Advent this year? Me, too! Let's read on...

Jessica, from Homemaking Through the Church Year, has posted a lovely post with so many wonderful ideas for Advent (with a great list for fun activities) and some food for thought, too.

Two Square Meals - is waiting on two births: that of Christ and that of her next child. I've always thought it was very special to be at the end of a pregnancy during Advent and Christmas. She's enjoying a number of Advent traditions as she counts down the days to both these births.

Jamie at Oh, Be Careful! - has two posts: one about the Advent Wreath and one about the Jesse Tree. With her usual wonderful sense of humor and a little seriousness, she shares these two family traditions.

Karen at Lent & Beyond is really the "go-to-girl" for all things Anglican Prayer. She has a fantastic page devoted entirely to Anglican Advent links for 2008. A wonderful resource!

Amy has posted an Advent message from the Archbishop of Canterbury on her blog On a Joyful Journey.

And my own reflections on the Advent That Almost Wasn't...and some simple ideas for celebrating Advent during busy or stressful times.

Want more? Me, too! Last year's Carnival had a number of excellent posts and resources, so don't miss that...but I've got an idea that might make this Carnival grow over Advent.

Below is a Mr. Linky. I encourage anyone to post their Advent links over the course of Advent. You can submit as many links as you like - just keep to the theme: Advent.

Have a blessed Advent!

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Advent that almost wasn't

Advent almost got put by the wayside this year for my family. Me, a die-hard devotee of all things liturgical, almost said, "Advent is just too much for me this year."

I almost let it slip away....

It has been a very wild year for our family - but especially so this Fall. The thought of pulling out all the Advent items, thoughtfully planning our Advent activities, and keeping up with our various Advent celebrations...well, it all just seemed too much. We needed low-key, we needed normalcy, we needed quiet. Advent was too much work - or so I thought.

What our December would look like - would it be devoid of all things Christmas, sort of a non-Advent Advent? Or would it, as so often happens when something is removed, just fill up with what our pop-culture considers an appropriate pre-Christams hysteria? That doesn't sound too low-key, or normal, or quiet.

Then, it hit me...Advent is low-key, it is normal, and it is quiet. It is exactly what we need.

That is one thing I adore about the Liturgical year - when it becomes a part of your family culture, it can have a stabilizing affect. As life swirls around us, we have the familiarity of the same activities, traditions, smells, sounds, words to keep us anchored. And what better to be anchored to than the Church - the Bride of Christ and, as the Bride of Christ, Christ himself?

We will have a beautiful, low-key, normal and quiet Advent this year - with it's bright spots of St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Gaudete Sunday, and other pre-Christmas planning. It will probably be a little less planned out than previous Advents in our family, but that is one of the joys of the liturgical year in the home - the more you do it, the less pre-planning it takes!

I encourage you - if you think Advent is just too much, reconsider! If you've never celebrated or kept Advent before, start simply. If you've done it for many years, scale down if you must. But don't miss it. It is a season of quiet joy and expectation. You'll find that it properly places Christmas at the pinnacle of the season, rather than on a precipice.

Need some ideas for keeping a simple Advent (whether it is your first or fortieth?) Read on.

How do you plan a simple Advent? What are the essentials? Well, there are as many different traditions of Christian worship as there are "essentials" of Advent. But, since you are here, I'll share my family's essentials.

  • Using an Advent Wreath - Some families are diligent to use their Advent Wreath every day, we are not so diligent...and to be honest, even some Sundays we find ourselves a bit worn out from a full day with our Church family. But pick a night of the week, Wednesdays or Fridays might be logical, to do your Advent Wreath lighting and devotional. There are many suggested devotionals online.

  • Celebrating St. Nicholas Day - If you have children, I highly encourage you to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Even if you still have "Santa" on Christmas Eve, you can have a celebration on his feast day and let St. Nick come fill up stockings or shoes with some little treats. Come back on Monday and I'll share our celebration ideas for this upcoming feast day (Dec 6th).

  • Limiting Christmas decorations - There are many schools of thought about decorating for Christmas, but if you are going to truly put Christmas at the absolute pinnacle of the season rather than the precipice, I recommend finding some way to limit your decorations. The goal being to save the most flamboyant decorations for Christmas Eve, Day, and the Twelve Days. Some people hold off on any decorations until Christmas Eve, while others bring out certain items on certain days slowly decorating the home over the Advent Season. (We bring out St. Nick decorations, the Scandinavian ones on St. Lucia Day, we light the tree on St. Lucia Day - but no ornaments, and then on Christmas Eve we decorate the tree and put out the rest of our fun decorations.)

  • Special Advent Family Reading - Find a lovely story or devotional that you might read together as a family during Advent. There are some nice devotional stories that you might use...or even something classic like "A Christmas Carol", "The Gift of the Magi", or books with wonderful Christmas scenes in them like "Little House on the Prairie", "Wind in the Willows", "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew", or "Little Women". What I love about these types of books is that the story can be timed to reach the Christmas scene just before Christmas arrives - or just after.

However you choose to celebrate or keep Advent, I pray it will be a truly blessed one for you and your family! Come back in the following days, for more ideas - including St. Thomas Day, St. Nick's Day, St. Lucia, and more.

Be sure to read more of this year's Anglican Advent Traditions Carnival ! Want more, check out my series of posts from last year's carnival!

Still want more? See my book suggestions for Advent reading and ideas.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving...yum! Are you ready? Need a little help or just some distraction (if you are like me you want to postpone all the dusting that needs to be done).

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Pre-Thanksgiving

Easy meals are the name of the game this week....

Monday - Taco Night
Tuesday - Pasta e Fagioli (to be eaten as leftovers for lunch Wednesday, too)
Wednesday - Brussels Sprouts, Sausage and Corn Bread
Thursday - Thanksgiving Meal!
Friday - Turkey-Barley Soup, bread (scroll down a bit for the recipe)
Saturday - Pizza (in or out)
Sunday - Chicken and biscuits (with any leftover turkey thrown in, too)

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Repost: Transracial adoption and the Christian Family

Looking over the archives of posts tonight and saw this one posted way back in May...funny, never thought we'd be doing a transracial adoption. So, here it is:

My blogger friend at Two Square Meals pointed me to this fantastic article on adoption from Touchstone Magazine's blog. Here's a little snippet:

I'm not surprised that a group of secular social workers believe racial identity is more important than familial love. The Scripture tells us we always, if left to ourselves, want to categorize ourselves "according to the flesh." Whether it is the Athenians clinging to their myth of superior origins or Judaizers insisting on circumcision or Peter refusing to eat with pig-devouring Gentiles, we love to see ourselves first and foremost in fleshly categories -- because it keeps us from seeing ourselves in Christ.

The gospel, though, drives us away from our identity in the flesh, and toward a new identity, indeed a new family, defined by the Spirit. This new family solidarity is much less visibly obvious; it's not based on marks in the flesh or skin color or carefully kept genealogies. It's based on a Spirit that blows invisibly where he wills, showing up in less visible characteristics such as peace, joy, love, righteousness, gentleness, kindness, self-control.

That's why my heart is broken about the transracial adoption debate. It's not just because some white kids could miss out on some godly black parents, or vice-versa. It's because we're, in part, to blame.

The family, after all, is constructed around another, deeper reality. It points to the church -- that household of God in which Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers. I wonder what kind of witness we could have in this kind of racially polarized culture if our churches demonstrated the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal Plans

So, has Thanksgiving sneaked up on you like it has me?

I was at the grocery store yesterday marveling at how early they had the turkeys out for sale...then I did some quick mental calendar work and realized - it isn't early at all!!! I went ahead and bought my frozen turkey, because I don't want to take a chance with the slimpickings that will be left by Saturday - my usual shopping day.

Brought home a 14-pound Butterball. I debated over the nice organic turkeys and almost bought one...but I just couldn't justify the extra expense. The Butterball is a great turkey and it was on sale...and that price was about 1/3 the cost of the organic bird. I hate not to support the organic farmer, but this year it just is what it is.

Then when I got home I was DELIGHTED to find that my local newspaper had a very useful "Guide to Thanksgiving". Usually, I eschew these mass-produced meal plans, but with speed of life around here recently (adoption is really in full steam!) I'm taking full advantage of someone else doing some of the hard "thinking" work for me. Of course, I can't use it entirely as is...so, let the tweaking begin! (Interested in this menu plan with day-by-day plan ahead countdown?) Of course, I'm already behind because I didn't clean out my freezer, fridge or pantry today...but I'll catch up tomorrow!

Here is my Thanksgiving Menu plan - as adapted from the Charlotte Observer:

Brined Roast Turkey
(A brine recipe I've been using for about a year and a half now and love it!)

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
(Not the same recipe listed in the newspaper)

Pepperidge Farm Stuffing
(I'm sure homemade is better, but I grew up on this stuff and I just LOVE it. Somethings you just can't change. And they way we make this is so - anti-gourmet. I'll have to take a picture - you'll laugh! We make big "balls" of stuffing and cook them on a cookie sheet. They get crunchy on the outside, but soft and bread-like inside.)

Holiday Waldorf Salad
(From the paper: A bit lighter and crunchier than a traditional Waldorf Salad)

Lighter Green Bean Casserole
(From the paper: Doesn't use canned soup - thank goodness!)

Sweet Potatoes with Mini-marshmallows.
(Oh, why do I give in to this? My kids just love those mini-marshmallows and it just isn't thanksgiving for them without that!)

Orange-Cranberry Relish
(My Mother-in-Law introduced me to this fresh cranberry relish and it is now an absolute must-have. I also keep the canned jellied cranberries around for sandwiches after.)

Pecan-topped Pumpkin Pie
(From the paper: This is the same recipe as listed in the paper, but I hated the name, so I changed it. The idea is that you need not choose between pecan or pumpkin pie...well, you'll see that this still doesn't get me out of making two pies...and I'm Ok with that!)

Black Walnut Custard Pie
(I've used a pecan pie and just substituted Black Walnuts with good results, but this pie recipe sounds just delicious! Hubby is a big black walnut fan, so I try to make a black walnut pie or cake for him every holiday season. Never had black walnuts? They are amazingly different than regular walnuts-very strongly scented, almost like a liquer. Don't try to substitute one for the other. If you can't find black walnuts at your grocery store, skip this recipe!)

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Pecan-topped Pumpkin Pie

Wow - love it. If this tastes as good as it looks, this will be a new tradition around here.

As listed in the Charlotte Observer:
We struggle every year to decide between pecan or pumpkin pie. Author Dorie Greenspan came up with an ingenious solution in “Baking: From My Home to Yours” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). It's got pumpkin on the bottom and pecans on top. It's so easy to put together, it's as simple as just making a pumpkin pie.

1 (9-inch) single pie crust, partially baked and cooled

Pumpkin filling:
1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons dark rum (or rum flavoring)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pecan filling:
1/2 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (about 7 ounces) pecan halves or pieces

POSITION rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the pie plate with the prepared crust on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon baking mat.

COMBINE all the pumpkin filling ingredients in a food processor and process, stopping to scrape down sides as needed, for 2 minutes. Leave the filling in the processor for a minute.

PLACE all the pecan filling ingredients except pecans in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.

GIVE the pumpkin filling a final pulse in the food processor, then rap the bowl on the counter a few times to release any bubbles. Pour into the crust. Spread the nuts evenly over the pumpkin layer. Pour the pecan filling over the top, pushing any nuts that float back down.

BAKE 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake 35 to 40 minutes longer, until top is puffy and a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer pie to a cooling rack and let stand until it is just warm. Serve chilled or warm.

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Lighter Green Bean Casserole

We've never had the "green bean casserole" tradition at our Thanksgiving - I often fix broccoli or something. I've thought about fixing lima beans (this will sound crazy, but my kids adore limas...adore them). But this recipe has me taking a second look - mostly because it doesn't use canned soup.

As listed in the Charlotte Observer:
This is almost as easy as the can-opener classic, and much tastier. Adapted from “Eating Well: Comfort Food Made Healthy,” by Jessie Price and the editors of Eating Well magazine (Countryman Press, 2009).

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion, half diced and half thinly sliced, divided
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup low-fat or fat-free milk
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen French-cut green beans (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder (see note)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

COAT a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

HEAT 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the juice has mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.

SPRINKLE 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables, stirring to coat. Stir in milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often, until sauce starts to thicken. Stir in frozen green beans and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. (Can be made to this point about 3 hours ahead and refrigerated.)

WHISK remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion, breaking it apart into strands, and toss to completely coat with flour.

HEAT remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and any remaining flour mixture and cook, stirring often, until golden and flour bits are crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread over the casserole.

BAKE in a 400-degree oven until bubbling, about 15 minutes.

NOTE: Look for buttermilk powder, such as Saco brand, in the supermarket with the canned milk. After opening the canister, store it in the refrigerator. It will keep indefinitely.

Yield: 6 servings.

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Holiday Waldorf Salad

I love waldorf salad, but sometimes find it a bit to heavy (it tends to be too creamy for me - I need more crunch). This looks like a recipe we'll all love, so I'll let you know if it passed "muster" after Thanksgiving.

As listed in the Charlotte Observer
From “The Healthiest Meals On Earth,” by Jonny Bowden (Fairwinds, 2008)

1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 small crisp apples, cored and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup seedless grapes, preferably purple, halved
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
8 cups romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-size pieces

WHISK together yogurt, honey, orange juice and ginger in a small bowl.

COMBINE apples, celery, grapes, cranberries, walnuts and romaine in a salad bowl or large serving bowl. Just before serving, pour the yogurt dressing over the salad and toss to combine well.

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Carrot and Potato Soup

Been on a bit of a blogging break. Didn't announce it here, but did at my other blog: http://www.theten0clockscholar.blogspot.com/. While I haven't been posting menus and recipes, we have been eating! HAHA! Trying to get back to blogging a bit more, probably a bit more casually on this blog. I still am trying some great seasonal recipes...in fact I've got a great one I'm going to share now:

Carrot and Potato Soup - really, really good! Hearty with a touch of sweetness from the carrots...creamy with just enough chunks. Tastes like you cooked it all day - excellent flavor!

2 T butter
2 large shallots or a medium onion (I used the shallots)
3 C chopped carrots
6 C diced potatoes
8 cups broth
salt & pepper
1-2 T Herbes de Provence (or any of your favorite herb blends)
2 bay leaves

Melt butter in soup pot. Saute shallots or onions until transluscent. Add carrots and saute for a few minutes - season with some salt and pepper. Add potatoes, broth, and herbs. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Fish out the bay leaves and puree with a wand mixer just to give some creaminess to the broth, but leaving some small chunks (or scoop out about 2/3 of the vegetables and mash by hand then return to the pot and stir well). Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with a nice caraway-seeded pumpernickel or cheddar cheese bread.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dossier Delivered!

Yesterday was interesting - we had many little "glitches" as we tried to get our paperwork finalized.
  • I had the wrong version of our financial statement for the notary. Had to run home for that
  • On our way back to the notary, realized the statement hadn't printed properly. Returned home again to correct.
  • The financial statement file was having "issues", but we finally got the right one printed.
  • Forgot to get Erik to sign the letter detailing our Ghana connections. Had to run home to get that signed.
  • Forgot to include the copy of all the documents with the original in my Fed Ex package, had to mail seperately.

But we got the last pages finished, notarized, and on their way!

This morning Fed Ex is delivering our dossier to our adoption agency in High Point. The contact in Africa is anxious to get it so that a December court date can be set. We'll know soon what that date is and if we need to appear before the judge. Hopefully, a letter outlining our contacts with Ghana through Archbishop Akrofi will be a help to this whole process. We are told he's a pretty important figure (besides just being an Archbishop in the Anglican Church) in Ghana.

Pray for everything to arrive safely!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Art Resources for Homeschoolers - November 2008

While the Newark Museum does not have the entire collection online for this exhibit (Paths to Impressionism), they still have some good examples and they have a series of short essays on the themes of Impressionism in America, particularly the precursor, The Barbizon School of painting.

Museum of Modern Art offers an online, searchable database of their collection. An excellent resource when you are looking for examples of modern era artworks.

J. Paul Getty Museum is presenting an exhibition of Les Belles Heures of the Duke of Berry, a fantanstic medieval illuminated manuscript. Online you can find nine images from Les Belles Heures with enlargements, zoom capability, and audio discussion, as well as 2 educational videos. If you are in the area (Los Angelos) there are a number of lectures, talks and performances that you can attend (oh how I wish I was there!). Want to learn more? Check out the suggested booklist.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Why we are doing all this...

among the many personal reasons...there is also the biblical mandate to care for orphans. While this can be accomplished in many people's lives by providing care and donations to orphanages and orphan-care ministries, some of us are called to a deeper level of care - taking the orphan into our homes and lives and thus making her no longer an orphan. Because they need more than just better staffed and supplied orphanages...they need mommies and daddies.

"Adopting children, regarding and treating them as one’s own children, means recognizing that the relationship between parents and children is not measured only by genetic standards. Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of ‘procreation’ which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion. The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection. When this is also juridically protected, as it is in adoption, in a family united by the stable bond of marriage, it assures the child that peaceful atmosphere and that paternal and maternal love which he needs for his full human development.” - John Paul II, Letter to Adoptive Families (Sept 5, 2000)

Tomorrow we submit our dossier!

Tomorrow is the day we get our final documents notarized and submit our entire dossier to our adoption agency! Pray for it to arrive safely and quickly at our agency's office and then in Ghana once it is sent on.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

He Gives and Takes Away

Whew - what a whirlwind week. My blogging break came at just the right time...but as you can see, I can't seem to keep away. :)

Last Saturday, a dear Christian sister passed away after a two-year battle with lung cancer (never a smoker - not that that makes lung cancer ok). She was originally given 6 months to live, but kept on kicking on sheer humor and hope for an extra 18 months! She leaves behind a loving husband and two children: 10 and 13. I was able to make it to Hospice before she passed away - unfortunately she was not conscious, but we hope she was able to hear us. She passed into the arms of her Savior peacefully and surrounded by family and friends - literally. Sunday's church service was so emotional and heart-wrenching. But today we had a wonderful funeral service and reception to celebrate her life...and while we grieve her loss in our lives, we are joyous for her passage into eternal life!

Then as we were making plans for the reception fast and furious yesterday, we got a phone call from our adoption agency - WE HAVE A DAUGHTER! She is a baby and that is about all we know right now. We are waiting on further info (medical info, birth info, etc), but she looks really plump and healthy! Her Ghanaian name would be Adjoa (they base names on the birth day of the week - she was born on a Monday), so that is what I'll call her on the blog. I wish I could post photos, but I can't do that until the adoption is final. Trust me when I say she is really, really precious...so says her proud Forever Mama.

My Dear Neighbor noted earlier this week (Sunday was it?) that she wouldn't be at all surprised if in the midst of this grief of losing our friend, we'd get our referral...the Lord takes away with one hand and gives with the other. And so He has.

By the way - Peter Piper's Picks will probably be taking a break this week, too. With the busy-ness of preparing for the funeral and getting the paperwork together and in the mail yesterday for this referral...just haven't been keeping up with much blog reading.

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What is your Ghanaian name?

Yesterday, I mentioned that Ghanaian traditional names are based on the day of the week on which the baby is born. Would you like to know your Ghanaian name? You'll need to know on what day of the week you were born.

This website is a little funky, but it will calculate your birth day of the week.

From Wikipedia, here is a good list of names and variants:

Male - Kwadwo (variants: Kodjo, Kojo, Jojo)
Female - Adwoa (variants: Adjua, Adjoa, Ajwoba)

Male - Kwabena (var: Komla, Kobby, Ebo, Kobi, Kobina)
Female - Abenaa (var: Araba, Abla, Ablena, Abrema)

Male - Kwaku (var: Koku, Kweko, Kaku, Kuuku)
Female - Akua, Akuba (var: Aku, Ekua)

Male- Yaw (var: Yao, Yaba, Yawo, Ekow, Kow, Kwaw)
Female -Yaa (var: Ayawa, Baaba, Yaaba, Aba)

Male - Kofi (var: Koffi, Fiifi, Yoofi)
Female - Afua (var: Afi, Afia, Efia, Efua)

Male - Kwame, Kwamena (var: Ato, Kwami, Komi)
Female - Amma (var: Ame, Ama, Amba, Ameyo)

Male -Kwasi (var: Kwesi, Siisi, Akwasi, Kosi)
Female - Akosua (Var: Akosi, Akosiwa, Asi, Esi, Kwasiba)

So, what are your Ghanaian names? Ours are: Erik- Kofi, Kerry- Akua, S-: Kwabena, H- Kwaku, E- Aku

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a funny thing happened...

You know how in yesterday's post I mentioned that I had some fun stuff to share - no big news, just fun stuff? Yeah? Well....

I was WRONG!

Today we received a referral of a 2 month-old baby girl! I wish I could share photos on the blog, but even though it is private I really can't until the adoption is final. (We are able to share the photo with friends and family, though.) I can share a little bit of a photo, though.

So, here are her eyes:

We do not have her full medical and social history. She was born on September 1st. The rest of her information should be coming soon. Getting a little glimpse of her today was wonderful - and she looks plump and healthy. That is a prayer answered!

And now that this is private, I can share her name with you - Lydia Grace. Her Ghanaian name would be Adjoa, Adwoa, Ajuba, Ewo - all names that mean "born on Monday". In Ghana, it is traditional to name your child after the day they were born. I guess the middle name would help distinguish between children should there be more than one child born on a given day of the week. I like Adjoa - maybe we will incorporate that into her name. What do you think?

We hope to travel in December for our court date. Then we go home and return 2-3 months later to bring her home.

Amazingly, this all comes at pretty sad time. A friend from church has been battling cancer for the past 2 years. She was originally given 6 months, but kept on kicking much longer than that. This past Saturday evening, she passed away. While we grieve her passing from us, we celebrate her passing into the arms of Jesus! My dear neighbor (who isn't my neighbor anymore, but still must be known as "Dear Neighbor") said to me recently that she wouldn't be at all surprised if in the middle of all this saddness and loss, we'd get our referral. The Lord takes away with one hand and gives with the other.

So, today, we are in the middle of planning for two opposite ends of life - a funeral for a sister in Christ and an adoption of a new daughter!

There is a lot of paperwork to finish up, get changed (from Armenia to Ghana), and submit. Pray for any roadblocks to be removed! Oh, and I do still have some fun stuff to share with you, but I'll save that for later this week!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Upcoming Advent Carnival

Last year, a group of Anglican "family" bloggers got together for the first Anglican Advent Traditions Carnival and it was a huge hit! What a wonderful way to find other Anglican and liturgical-minded bloggers - and I think we all enjoyed swapping ideas.

I'm ready to do it again! Want to join in?

Here's what you need to know...time is short (Advent starts on Nov 30th!), so let's get ready...

* All posts will need to be submitted by Sunday, November 23rd via email to kerrysblogs@gmail.com - include name (yours), post link, and a synopsis of your post(s).

*If you are considering submitting a post, please leave me a comment. This will help me gauge the participation.

* The Carnival will open on Friday, November 28th. Please be sure to spread the word on your blog that day and include a direct link to the Carnival.

* While this carnival has an "Anglican" heart, it is not limited to Anglicans. If you are of the liturgical mind, please participate! Just remember - this is not about Christmas...it is about Advent. :)

* Whether you are participating or not - will you help me spread the word? Feel free to grab the graphic and post on your blog - please use it only to advertise this event. Would you post about it now (with a link to this page) and also on the day the Carnival opens? Thanks!!!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today's Daily Office Reading

I love it when the Daily Office readings coincide amazingly well with what is going on in the world. Today's reading seems awfully prophetic on election day:

Luke 13:1-9 (NRSV)

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, 'Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them-do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.'

6 Then he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, "See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?" 8He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down."'

The other readings are from Revelations and Ecclesiasticus.

Back to my blog break....

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Monday, November 3, 2008

An unexpected change

Well, it has been quite some time since our last post. While we have spent most of the time waiting on our federal government to tell us we can again become parents (and we still expected our i800A approval to take several more weeks at least), we have had an interesting and unanticipated development.

On Friday, October 17, 2008, we learned our adoption agency would begin adoption services in Ghana. While this may not seem significant, as we had generally not felt called to adopt from Africa, nor equipped and excited to take on the additional challenges the transracial part of transracial adoption brings, there is more to the story. The email we received that day (baring something unforeseen) will change our family history forever. Pretty heady stuff...I know!

I spent the next week in prayer and discernment, not knowing what direction to take in our adoption plans. (While our plans are good, God's plans are always better. Correlation: we plan, and God laughs.) As a side note, I think Kerry reached her decision much quicker, if not more easily. I wasn't sure I'd be able to make a decision. Should we change our adoption country from Armenia to Ghana? I couldn't even describe to Kerry the swirl going on inside of me - it was worse than contemplating becoming a parent the first time!! And there was a newborn baby girl awaiting our decision.... I couldn't sleep that night.

Here's my journal post, which describes the conundrum of emotions/thoughts/fears/tugs I was trying to sort out, why Ghana was attractive, and how I came to peace about it:

[begin journal entry for 10/23/08]

Late last week, we received an email from our adoption agency stating they have started an adoption program in Ghana. Wow. Should we adopt from Ghana instead of Armenia? Our church has been involved with Ghana for more than a decade, and this relationship is growing. Not only has Fr. Filmore been connected with Ghana Archbishop (West Africa province) Justice Akrofi for many years, but our church has been increasing it’s financial aid and mission trips (twice annually) over the past few years, and come under Akrofi’s spiritual headship as we sought orthodox oversight and refuge from ECUSA. [As of this writing, our church is the only US church under his purview.] This development, previously not on our radar, is from God, and requires serious prayer and consideration.

I’ve been praying about this daily since. International (and domestic) adoption has many challenges and places new demands, considerations and skills development requirements on parents. I have accepted these challenges and am preparing myself slowly for them. (Like parenthood in general, are you ever really prepared?) However, transracial adoption is not something for which I’ve mentally and spiritually prepared. It’s like a multiplier – adoption is something like 3x harder (?) than becoming a biological parent, and transracial adoption is 10x harder than that (taking the long view.)

I’m still learning and growing as a parent of my biological children. I’ve accepted my parental inexperience in bringing an adoptive child into our family, and the learning process therewith (I guess I know what I don’t know, and for what I need to watch.)

But this opportunity gives me great pause. The last few days, I’ve been conflicted, trying to sort out how I feel and God’s will in this situation. Is it the right thing for our family and the child? Can I effectively parent a child of color? How shall I handle becoming a minority after always growing up in the majority white world? How will our parents/family members respond? How do we cultivate our daughter’s sense of racial culture and belonging? How do we handle racism? How do we develop the new relationships and “support group” needed for transracial adoptive parents and adoptees? I feel totally unprepared for this new development, and inadequately equipped.

Certainly, we feel our greater church body will be supportive. We have many African Americans in our congregation, quite a few who are from Africa. Also, there’s a white family who adopted an African American boy domestically, and will be adopting his biological brother (when he’s born) in the near future. This is a good starting point.

In talking about this with Kerry, I’ve had a difficult time putting all these feelings into words. I’ve been trying to determine if my reservations are a cause to say this opportunity is not for me/our family, or if I might be resisting God’s will out of fear; fear of change, fear of a lifetime of unsolicited questions and explanations, of dealing with other people’s judgments and ignorance, fear of not having grace in new and difficult situations with which I’ve never dealt and rarely considered, fear of my parenting skills and Christian witness not being up to the task.

Tonight, I’ve been reading some articles on the subject, and they have made me feel more at ease. Really, it was the Holy Spirit which overtook me while reading, and opened my eyes to the tremendous blessing this could be (on many levels), how the Lord could use this to further mold me in His image and advance His kingdom. He showed me it would be difficult, my witness to my children and others would come under more intense scrutiny, I wouldn’t have all the answers and grace required, and I still have much to learn about His tremendous love for us, and sharing it. Most importantly, and most comforting, He showed me I (we) wouldn’t be doing it alone – He would be there guiding me (us).

[end journal entry]

Within hours of thinking it would be a very long time before I could make this decision, not knowing how/when I would get there, realizing uncertainty would mean I had to turn down an available orphan, and keenly aware a "yes" would change everything, I had perfect peace. All things are possible with Him, and the Lord showed me He would bless us and lead us in this.

And thus, we decided to adopt a girl from Ghana!!

She was born a few weeks ago, and we're still awaiting pictures and medical history (and our federal government). We'll have to make some changes to our homestudy, and navigate the federal waters again (although hopefully only a tributary) to change our country of adoption, but we expect it to go pretty quickly.

We thank you all for your prayers, support and interest. Please continue to pray for "the process," our adoption funding (although the $ need just got lowered, in God's provision) and for our little girl's wellbeing. We're very excited!!