Saturday, November 28, 2015

winning online

My mom and I braved the cold and rain early Friday morning to get some of our holiday shopping done, and I must say, we killed it. Tons of deals. (Belk for the win. No kidding...Belk! Tons of big-impact toys for small budgets.)

No children came with us, no lines at the checkouts, no fights. AND I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping. I think we can thank the rain. It poured and poured here, and most people probably chose to stay inside instead of braving the elements in search of good deals.

That said, I have a few more people for which I need to buy gifts, and I'll probably do that online. For one, it is no fun shopping with three young kids. ("Can I put this on my Christmas list?" is only cute for so long.)

Secondly, Ebates is knocking my socks off.

Let me tell you why it's so great:

1. Ebates has a registry of coupon codes, and in one click it will run every one of them through the code box at your checkout. If one coupon works, great! You've saved money! If two work, even better! If one works better than another and you can only apply one code, Ebates does the math for you and applies the best code to maximize saved cash money. So easy.

2. Ebates offers you cash back when you purchase items from online retailers (Old Navy, Target, Etsy, Walmart, Kohls, Tom's, etc.). All you have to do is choose your retailer through the Ebates app, the Ebates site, or through the installed and activated browser button. (All you have to do is click on the browser button to activate your Ebates account when you get to a page where you'll be doing some shopping. The button even changes colors to indicate when cash back and/or coupons are available.

3. Black Friday/Cyber Monday cash back percentages are HUGE this time of year, as well as at other random times of the year. 12% at Nike, 4% at Walmart, 6% at Kohl's, 10% at Groupon. It's kind of outrageous. I don't do a ton of online shopping, but when I do I try to use Ebates so that I get a percentage of the price of stuff I would already be buying comes right back to me via an actual check in the mail. Neat, huh? (Carter's is killing me with cuteness for Oaklee clothes, so if I order something I automatically get a small fraction back. Of course, I don't use this to legitimize my Carter's purchases or anything...)

4. There's even an Ebates app. Yep. It's easy.

Most people are probably already using Ebates, but if you're not I highly encourage you to try it. It can earn you lots of money. I have gotten checks for over $80 in the course of a year or so, and I don't even shop online that much. I am on a low-frills budget (Carter's makes this oh-so hard), so that amount of money came back to me from purchases I would be making even if I didn't have Ebates.

Full disclosure: You can earn $100 by referring 3 friends. Of course, I'd love to get $100 straight to my pocket because three people reading this used the links provided to sign up, BUT mostly I am sharing this because it's so free and easy and automatically earns money for things I'd be buying anyway.

Happy Cyber Monday-shopping!! Let's all get all of the shopping done early so we can enjoy the season, mmmkay?

As we say in our house, it's a win-win-win.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving thanks

This time of year is particularly bittersweet for me as we surpass family get-togethers, special events, and holidays I never thought we'd see before having Clementine home with us. Last Thanksgiving, I said to myself, "Surely she will be home for this next year."

Surely she would get to wear the clothes I unwrapped for her from her MeMaw and PaPaw two years ago at Christmas. Surely we'd be celebrating her first Christmas with us in 2014. When that didn't happen, SURELY I thought it would be in 2015. Surely she'd get to hang her own stocking this year.

I silently scoffed at my husband when he prayed, on January 1, 2015, that she would be home "this year." Why not pray big and ask for her to be home in January 2015I thought. A 2015 homecoming should be an easy prayer for God to answer. God will have a whole year to answer that prayer! (And I literally thought I wouldn't be able to handle it if we were still waiting now. I thought I would surely implode.)

Yet, here we are. I haven't imploded, but there have been times when my emotions have exploded. I haven't died, but there have been times I've been enslaved by my my anxiety and stress in the wait. I haven't lost it, but I have lost my temper due to a combo of more bad news and tiny missteps of my kids who are at home.

Yet, here I am, and there she is, WAY OVER THERE on the other side of the world. And I'm still standing, often lacking in grace and abundant in hopelessness.

But He remains. I don't understand any of this...why He called us to adopt and then not said a simple word that would let Clementine join our family; why He would allow children to die while waiting; why we are waiting so long when I think I know what's best. 

But He remains. He is constant. He adores us as we wait, and He adores her, too. He is teaching us. He is pouring out His grace over us. He is not surprised by anything here, nor is this situation out of his grasp. He is refining us. He is allowing us to be thankful, despite the trial. He is faithful. He is good. 

So while my heart may ache a bit when I thank God for family, I have plenty of things to count as blessings. (Here, a general list:)

Family--Bradlee, Brody, Brecken, Clementine, and Oaklee. Parents. Grandparents (all still living). Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. All are special to me for so many reasons.

Friends, who are also amazing prayer warriors.

Clean water--Because we will never forget those two precious children we lost due to contaminated water.

My new community of Congo mamas--We understand and encourage one another in ways others simply cannot.

Chocolate--my constant companion

This wait--It has not always been pretty, nor has it been fun, but it has taught me SO MUCH. It has strengthened my faith in our great God, helped me decipher between "important" and "trivial" and "need" and "want." I truly am thankful for it; I'm just ready for it to end.

God's Word--His continual reminder of his goodness and grace.

I could go on and on about God's goodness and the ways He displays it, but I think this sums it up: 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I'm working a few post for today, but I've got a short thought or two to write about (between my obsessive email-checking and prayers for Clementine).

We got a baby girl cow last week. We are so dumb. But she's cute right now so that helps us feel slightly good about the decision.

And doesn't my husband look handsome in his dress shirt and overalls? Like a farmer who dabbles in manly man modeling.

We finally convinced the boys to name the poor heifer. You know what they chose? JOANNA. YOu want to know where that came from? Here's a hint:

Image from
Image from
ARE THEY NOT THE CUTEST? That is Chip and Joanna Gaines from Fixer Upper. I might be slightly obsessed with the show, and I might have watched back-to-back episodes on Netflix like it was my job as a coping mechanism while waiting for important adoption info last week. (Chocolate has failed me. I think I have eaten so much it has lost its effect. I did not even know that was possible.)

So, yes, I believe my kids have named our heifer after Joanna. Sorry, Joanna. It's really a compliment. It proves that (A) I have watched the show nonstop for quite some time, and (B) my four-year-old likely thinks you're "beautiful."

Let me tell you, thought, Fixer Upper is the very best house show ever, and Chip and Joanna are the cutest couple ever. (And they are just good, genuine, Christ-following people, too.)

Furthermore, I have convinced Brad that we need to be more like them (even though he says they're probably faking their sweetness for TV...I think not). We are trying out the nickname "baby" to see if it'll stick. So far, it's extremely awkward, like calling your dog "Daisy" when her real name is "Pat." But we'll get there, right?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

my husband's boyfriend

It's hunting season. You know what that means...husbands across the nation got tons of stuff checked off of their honey-do lists in September to "earn" themselves the right to leave their families for a while. That shelf you wanted hung in September? He might be more likely to do it now. That basement stench you wanted him to check into in May? He's on it. That loose spindle on the stairs? It's now solidly in place.

In the past, I have struggled to be happy for my husband's hunting trips because OY VEY, I was at home by myself with two wild boys after being at work all day while he enjoyed himself and slept. (Insert feelings of anger, jealousy, bewilderment, resentment, etc. All of which were wrong, by the way.)

This year and last, hunting season hasn't been as taxing because my volleyball season hadn't just ended (leaving me exhausted in every way) and I haven't had to go and be "on" at work while also being overwhelmed and tired at home. Not to mention the fact that we have a new baby in the house and she keeps me swooning over her cuteness. Cuteness covers a multitude of sins. (Not that she has many, as you may have read yesterday.)

That said, this year I was jealous of something else that I never would have suspected: Brad's boyfriend. 

You heard me. I have used the term "boyfriend" to (ah-hem) affectionately refer to Brad's hunting buddy. 

Please allow me to explain the term before also explaining that I have toned it down a bit on my terminology for his friend. Here's why this situation is VERY SIMILAR to two dating teenagers:

1. When he calls, several things happen. First of all, immediate smile the size of a 12-pointer. Then he gets a shiny, sparkling glint in his eye, as if he is already anticipating the punch line to a joke or a harrowing hunting story. It's similar to the sparkle you might find in the eyes of a 17-year-old girl who looks down at her ringing phone to see that "Blue Eyes and Dimples" or "Bae" (I'm gagging over this terminology) is calling. He also starts moving around to work off the excited energy, and the volume of his voice increases while talking about plots and ruts and moon phases. (It's an entirely different language, I tell you.)

2. Nightly phone calls and hourly texts.

3. Their relationship seems to be built on a profuse amount of inside jokes, sarcasm and an irrational love of something that's irrelevant to most people. (In this case, it's bowhunting.)

His boyfriend's wife also noticed these weird relationship quirks, so I don't think I was WAAAY off base in joking about their relationship. 

However, beneath all my jokes was also a bit of hurt and jealousy. Does he get that glint in his eye when I call him? No. Because I'm calling to tell him that so-and-so has just peed the bed AGAIN or that such-and-such is broken. Do we talk this much about hobbies and fun stuff? No. Because newborn exhaustion is in full effect and we had to talk about real stuff like, "Let's pay that hospital bill. YAY!" and "What do we have going on tonight?" (We sometimes could not even think about what was happening tomorrow night because we couldn't keep up with today.) Do we have any jokes? No. Nothing is funny when you have a newborn in the house, two crazies jumping on the couch while you're trying to talk, and a daughter who is not allowed to join your family.

I was jealous, feeling hurt and left out because I was at home with three kids while he was going to breakfasts and lunches with his buddy (a few buddies, really). This also happened to take place at one of the busiest times in the life of a church, which was extremely unfortunate, because I just missed my husband. Period.

But then I went to a meeting at church and learned two things that took the sting out of his relationship.  

1. Most men are struggling to be authentic with other men. It's hard for men (all of us, really) to admit when they're having problems with their kids, their marriages, and their jobs. 

2. Most men do not have other men in their lives to "spur one another on toward love and good works." (Hebrews 10:24). 

Lucky for him--and for me--Brad had the sort of relationship with this hunting buddy/buddies in which he could share his struggles as a dad, husband (I am often hard to love. Shocking, I know.), church leader and Christ follower. His buddies could listen and understand his struggles in ways I never could, and in turn they could help him through them. He could even say, "My wife is a crazy person," and his buddies would understand, nod their heads and say, "I'm sorry, man." I am certain that his buddy/buddies would also point out areas where Brad is lacking grace, wisdom, humility, and discipline (or a myriad of other things) in order to spur him on to love and good works. 

So after getting over my own jealousy of his great relationship with someone else and realizing the hidden perks of my husband having a "boyfriend," I dropped the terminology like a bad habit and thanked God that Brad has people who will listen and understand, then speak up because Christ's love compels them to do so.

In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, our marriage is probably even stronger and better because of their relationship. Because, really, Brad is a pretty cool guy and I love being married to him, and I'm not as crazy as I may seem on the blog and I think he's not mad about being married to me, either. 

(But seriously, back off my man, Travis.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

she's so dreamy

(We are praying huge prayers these days. I'm going to pretend to distract myself between those prayers by writing some of the posts I've had in my head for a long time but haven't had time to write.)

First up for the week, please excuse me while I absolutely GUSH about this girl. She is the sweetest, dreamiest, happiest baby ever.

I have to admit it was touch-and-go there for a little while around weeks 5-6. Everything was seriously awesome about her except for bedtime, which is when it is so important for things to be awesome. By 9 or 10 PM I was exhausted and ready to be sleeping and Oaklee would be like, "Hey, time to play!" or "I'm grumpy," or "Feed me." I really never knew which of those it was, so I tried a variety of remedies for all of the above and she still wasn't thrilled about life and at that point neither was I.

Then two amazing things happened:

1 -- She found her thumb, which is oh-so cute right now. (I realize it will not be so cute when she is four or five. We will cross that bridge when we get to it, but we need it right now.) That thumb changed our lives. Before the thumb, she acted repulsed by pacifiers, which meant I spent a most of my evenings nursing to comfort her because I thought that's what she wanted. After she found the thumb, I found that I could put her down in her bassinet and she would take a little while to find it BUT THEN SHE WAS GOLDEN.

 2 -- I figured out that she just likes to be put down when she's tired. I'm sure the thumb-sucking helped with this situation, but it's also possible I was trying too hard to get her to sleep at night. When I held her, she seemed to want to nurse, BUT I think if I would have just put her down in most instances she would have been happy to go to sleep. It's mildly depressing to think about how much sleep I lost because of this, but this scenario is rocking my face off now. Now when she starts looking tired or overstimulated I put her in bed and leave her alone. (I think this is the way people should deal with me.) She sometimes likes to snuggle and I do so gladly, but when I know she's tired the very best way to make her happy is to leave her and let her cute little thumb do its thing.

"Make the world go away." - Oaklee (and myself)

I know I'm not supposed to compare kids, but Brecken was not like this. He needed to be touched and moving ALWAYS, and he could tell the altitude difference between sitting and standing. (Brecken has many fine qualities. His sleep habits from age 0-1 were not among them. Sometimes his sleep habits at age 3 are not among them.) And we pretty much snuggled Brody any chance we got because we weren't sure until several months into his life that he would be ours forever. He is still quite a little snuggle-bug.

I should also mention that her cry is the daintiest little thing you'll ever hear. When she's tired or hungry, she usually lets us know with a little whimper-squeal. I am not joking. It's the cutest. She doesn't even cry in the middle of the night when she's hungry. In the past few weeks, I would just wake up to her cute little ambitious sucking noises and feed her, then put her back in bed, where she'd continue to sleep. She is so DREAMY! Last night, I didn't get her up for a feeding; she slept from 8:30-6:30. 10 hours!! (Try Babywise, people. We used it with Brody and Brecken, but I didn't have a ton of control over what happened when I was working.)

Some people say we deserved an easy baby with all the crazy baby stuff we've endured (and are currently enduring waiting for Clementine). I'm not sure if I could have handled a high-stress baby and a high-stress adoption at the same time, but God has always poured out his grace for us in circumstances we thought would be overwhelming, so I'm sure he would have done so again.

I just hope and pray that all of this current laid-back awesomeness doesn't come back as drama-drama-drama and bite us in the rear when she enters the tween years. If that's the case, we will require plenty of grace. Lord, help us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

worth the wait

First, an apology: For last week, when I was definitely not sober-minded. Crying in my kitchen floor was clearly not an indicator that I trust God with all of the details of Clementine's life. (But I do!) It was just that one day, but it was a rough one.

So thankful that He knows. (Image from this amazing shop!)

Here is what you need to know about the current situation in DRC:

Fourteen legal Exit Letters were awarded to Americans out of nearly 300 waiting cases. That's a very small fraction of waiting children who will be joining their families in America. (FYI: 72 of around 1,000 total international cases will receive Exit Letters.) It's small win, so we celebrate it. It's a HUGE win for those families who have waited so long to be together, so we celebrate their togetherness even more. In fact, one family that will receive an Exit Letter lives in Missouri, and we plan to meet them at the airport to celebrate their forever family unification! That will be SO FUN!!! We don't even know them, but when you travel down the same road of waiting together for so long, you really do grow to love people as family. We are so happy their family is together at last.

We still don't know much about what the future holds for the rest of us who wait to bring kids home, but we know it will be worth it. Clementine--and every one of these kids for which we are waiting--is worth it! They all deserve families; it's just so hard to wait!

(PS--I bought her a shirt this summer that says, "Worth the Wait." (It's similar to the onesies pictured below.) It's a size 2T. I hope it still fits her when she comes home!!!

From this cute Etsy shop.
For now, we pray that none of us have to wait for new laws in DRC before we get Exit Letters. We pray for wisdom. We pray for discernment regarding decisions surrounding Clementine's medical status (more on this later). We pray for doctors who will see her and review her medical files. We pray for favor. We pray that families are united before Christmas. These are all HUGE prayers. We know we have HUGE prayer warriors out there and an even HUGER (not a word...whatev) God who is ABLE.

Thank you all for your prayers. I believe they lifted me out of the pit last week. I see hope again. There's just more waiting...

ALSO, check out the blog we--parents who are waiting for children from DRC--have created to display our love for our children and their birth country: Love for Congo! We will be talking about adoption, birth family love, DRC love, culture, Congolese recipes, and supporting DRC and/or DRC adoptive parents.

You can even buy this sweet shirt here. It's a fundraiser for an organization that works with vulnerable orphans in DRC.

Available in all styles.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

hope to cope

I mentioned yesterday that we got some crummy news Monday evening. The day took me for a loop because early Monday morning there were indications that the DRC adoption crisis was coming to an end. We had hopes up, then they were dashed. 

So I wallowed in self-pity for a bit on Tuesday then pulled myself together with the help of songs, God's Word, good friends, and even a Facebook post or two. 

I'm back to share some of the things that kept me out of a full-on self-pity fest. Hopefully these can help someone who is traveling on a difficult road like we are now. 

First, this quote, which happened upon my Facebook feed as I was losing it: 

"If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can understand what God is after in his dealings with us. Are we prepared for God to stamp out our personal ambitions? Are we prepared for God to destroy our individual decisions by supernaturally transforming them? It will mean not knowing why God is taking us that way, because knowing would make us spiritually proud. Then suddenly we come to a place of enlightenment, and realize — God has strengthened me and I didn't even know it!" ~ Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)

As things continue to unfold badly, my temptation is to ask, "Why, God? Why have you called us into this?" We may never know why this has been such a hard (LONG) journey, but we don't need to know. We are on it, and He will use us because of it. 

God's Word: 
Zephaniah 3:17 -- 

"The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

**This has become an absolute favorite. I never understood this verse until I had kids and knew what it meant to rejoice over them with gladness, quiet them with my love, and rejoice over them with singing. So reassuring to know God does this over his children and over our children near and far. He is in our midst with the power to save!

Psalm 3 -- So good. (Thanks Shannon!) Full chapter here.

I feel you, verses 3 & 4...
"But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill."

Psalm 27:14 -- "Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord."
From Etsy 

From here
From Etsy

(Many of these images are from my dedicated waiting-for-Clementine Pinterest board, which keeps me sane in these times of waiting.)

Songs (Titles are linked to YouTube videos): 
"If You Want Me To" (Ginny Owens)
**Relevant lyrics (Um, they are all relevant): "The pathway is broken, and the signs are unclear. I don't know the reason why you've brought me here. But just because you love me the way that you do, I'm gonna walk through the valley if you want me to. Cause I'm not who I was when I took my first step, and I'm clinging to the promise that you're not through with me yet. So if all of these trials bring me closer to you, then I will go through the fire, if you want me to."

"Where You Are" (Mandi Mapes)
**"I love you more than you can say. When you're sleeping I'm awake, tears on my pillow. Only one thing matters in this life. Will you make it to the other side? And do you believe in bridges?" 
**"I've been there myself, put my faith in a manmade god." (umm, DRC and US governments)
**"When the waters rise and the stars fall from the skies, I will not be alone."

"Oceans" (Hillsong United)
**"You've never failed, and you won't start now." (And this whole song...a reminder that we ASKED for this. We asked to be led to a place where we couldn't understand it all and where we'd have to truly trust God with everything. Here we are, learning to fully trust. Be careful what you sing you really mean it?)

Hallelujah (Bethany Dillon)

And there you have it. These truths are helping to keep me together in peace. Hope some of them helped you if you are weary. (Of course there are dozens more...)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tuesday--true to form

Yesterday was one for the books.

Let me try to situate this story. Saturday brought with it hope that it was the beginning of the end of the Exit Letter Suspension. Our Embassy reported that DGM had called them Saturday morning to request information for medically fragile adopted children. Our Embassy needed that info by 11 am our time. I scrambled to send an email for Clementine, since she had TB that was untreated for some time along with a few other issues since being brought into care as an infant. (I took the opinions and situations of others into consideration when submitting her info and was given the green light. I did not want to take time and consideration away from children who were deathly ill.)

We hoped this request from DGM was the beginning of a turnaround to get children home in some way. We hoped the medically fragile children would be considered and brought home, then the next batch of homecomings would occur.

Monday came, and with it came AMAZING news. 72 children from around the world will be granted Exit Letters, thus allowing them to join their families very soon. We rejoiced. This was great news. (Article here.)

But the article in which we read the amazing news also contained some concerning news: Around 1,000 children will remain stuck in DRC until new adoption laws are drafted, approved and implemented.

We have been told for over a year that they are working on new adoption laws. We have also been told that those new laws will not be retroactive, meaning they will not affect adoptions that have already been finalized. It can take YEARS to created and implement new laws. YEARS. And we have already waited two years. (Some have known of and been waiting for their children for 3-4 years.)

Senator Blunt's amazing staffer held an informal conference call with us Monday evening. Brad and I listened while driving to Arkansas. The news was not good. DRC does not want to hear about adoption anymore. They have dissolved the commission that was supposed to be reviewing over 1,000 dossiers of finalized adoptions (after only reviewing 99 and telling us since June that they were working on it and then telling us later that they had reviewed all of them).

They are shutting the door on us and sending the problem to Parliament, where they will supposedly vote on new adoption laws.

We hopped off the conference call to attend a meeting in Arkansas. The timing could not have been better (or worse) for our reeling emotions. We stuffed those aside to be present with this huge community of people is coming together to serve DRC well. Our new friends are banding with others as a tribe to do BIG AMAZING THINGS for Congolese people. (I hope to return soon to describe this in greater detail.) We placed our concerns behind us as we learned about everything these people are doing to help others in DRC. It was a healing salve over our hurting hearts.

Tuesday morning came, and with it, a conference call with our State Department. I didn't listen to the call because those calls often feel futile, but I watched as comments flew onto a Facebook wall of the group of parents who are working to get our kids home. It wasn't good.

NO HOPE. There was no hope.

Our Department of State basically feels as if it has been sucker punched. They didn't answer our questions well. They are going to work with DRC's Parliament to create the new laws, which tells me we have a VERY LONG TIME to wait for our children. At times, it seems possible that we will not be bringing Clementine home--EVER--despite the fact that she is our daughter, legally and otherwise.

Needless to say, I spent much of yesterday crying (in true Tuesday form). Bawling, really. My despair was palpable in our home. My kids felt it. They were difficult to handle. They were emotional. They were on edge. (All three of these also described me.) We were all out of sorts, including Oaklee who has been, until yesterday, the easiest Lotz baby ever.

I listened to music that reminded me of God's promises for His people. Of His love for His people. Of the beauty in the mess. Of hurts that are part of His greater plan. Friends and family rallied to send encouragement my way, reminding me of God's love for orphans and His promises to set the lonely in families and His ability to turn impossible situations around in mere moments. (I am SO incredibly thankful for these people--MY PEOPLE--who, at one point, I didn't even think I needed. I used to think I could be the only person on Earth who could be an island.)

He has a plan. I don't necessarily love what He's doing right now, but I love how He loves us. He has us in this valley for a reason and He is teaching us moment by moment to trust Him. (I'll be back tomorrow with some of the verses, songs and reminders that are helping to turn my broken heart around.)

Later in the evening, as I was thinking it was time to give up on the day and turn in for the night (at 7:30 PM because of the horrendous day), God literally brought a teenaged orphan of another sort to my doorstep.

(Oh, Lord, your timing...)

Oh sure, he has family members in the area, but they are not FOR him the way a family should be supporting a member. Brad brought him into our home to meet me and tell him he was welcome here any time he needed help, an escape from his situation, a clean and comfy bed, or a warm meal. (I don't cook well. We would order him a nice hot pizza.) I won't tell you his whole situation, but suffice it to say he has it much worse than we do and he isn't crying in his kitchen floor about it.

He needs a family just badly as Clementine needs a family. Just as Clementine needs a family to fight for her and cry over her and lavish her with love, he needs a family to fight for him, cry over him, and lavish him with love.

I'm not certain what will happen with him in the future, nor am I certain how long it will be before Clementine can physically join our family. However, we will approach the throne on his behalf, just as many are doing for our daughter across the world. They are both worth it, and today that seems like all we can do.