Wednesday, January 29, 2014

UFO progress

I'm so excited that I was able to make some progress on my 2014 UFO list today!

Home organization
    Spare bedroom
    Living room storage
    Clothes closet

This sink area is in our living room next to the fireplace. We don't actually use the sink so I don't have to worry about water dripping underneath into the storage area.



Before, this cupboard was a complete mess. It was basically being used as a catch-all. I still don't think it's organized all that well and I would love to buy some more storage bins someday. But at least it's much tidier now.

The containers on the right are for my knitting and quilting supplies (minus yarn and fabric). Next to that is my stack of cards and stationary, which is mainly used for our child sponsorship kiddos. Then there is a stack of remotes for the blu-ray player and cable box and Wii. AND there is a stack of office supplies like extra printer cartridges and printer paper. It's still a catch-all but at least it's now an organized catch-all.

I can't believe that I was able to throw out half a bag of recyclable papers and half a bag of non-recyclable items. Where does all of the junk come from? I have a hard time fathoming where the clutter originates when we moved to Washington with our belongings backed into 14-ish boxes of books and the contents of our car. It's amazing how much you can accumulate in a year and a half without even trying.

It feels good to be making some progress! Now what should I tackle next...?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What's on my nightstand

I can't believe I haven't participated in the Nightstand link up since August! The fall and winter months have gotten away from me...

What's On Your Nightstand

This month I have already finished a variety of books, too many to post. I'll just list the ones I'm currently reading and what's coming up.

A Lady in the Making by Susan Page Davis - I'm almost done with this book, a Christian historical fiction set in the Old West. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series but this third book isn't quite as good. It's still a pleasurable read, though. Depending on the ending, it'll earn a three star review.

The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones - I'm not uploading a cover as I think it's a bit immodest. The historical aspect of this book is interesting but the modern section is boring. The book is supposed to be about an art detective but the modern sections mostly contain narrative of the events she is investigating. I don't feel a vested interest in either of the two modern day characters and thus don't understand why the book was written from two time periods. We'll see how it ends.

Adopted for Life by Russell D. Moore - So far it's a in-depth look at what adoption means for a believer in Christ. The parallels to adopting a child seem weak, but I'm only three chapters into the book. I have high hopes!

Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft by Mary Hopkins-Best - This book was on a number of adoption book recommendation lists and a friend personally recommended it, even though we're adopting an 11 year old. I can see why people recommend it! It's packed with information! I literally feel like I'm wading through it. I think it's going to require a reread to really grasp everything that the author is sharing about adoption.

Up Next

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder - This book is for the Reading to Know Classic Book Club.

A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse - I have no idea where I first came across a mention of this one but I love books about books!

Happy Reading!!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Equipping the Called

I have a pride problem. There. I admitted it.

When I realized a week ago that we need a miracle, I started struggling.

I can do it on my own.
We are self sufficient.
Why do I have to come up with the money now?
I can't admit to the whole world that I need financial help.


Even though I'm aware that it's there, I'm still struggling with it. It's hard to admit that we need help. But then I went to church on Sabbath and heard a message.

The sermon title was "Formed for God's Family." The speaker talked about four levels of fellowship. One of the levels is friendship, learning to share. He read Acts 2:44-45, which says "now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need." He also talked about how we are to share each other's problems and quoted Galatians 6:2. "Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

I felt convicted. We are not to live life on our own, relying on ourselves. We are to first rely on God. Then, we lean on each other. We're not in this alone.

So I ask for your help. If you are a believer in God, can you pray for us? Pray that God's will be done in our adoption. Pray that we will find peace in His decision, no matter what it is. And pray for that dear girl in Taiwan who is still waiting for a baba and mama. If you feel led, will you consider helping us fund our adoption?

A friend reminded me yesterday that God does not call the equipped. He equips the called. God has called us to adoption. Now we need to rely on Him to equip us to do His will.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thai Green Curry

We make this recipe often enough that I thought I would finally post it! My husband and I both love Thai curry. There is a great vegan restaurant here that makes four different types of Thai curry and they are all fantastic. We rarely eat out, though, so I learned how to make it myself.

1 package pressed tofu
2 14 oz cans coconut milk
4 T. green curry paste
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. lime juice
2-4 Thai chilies, chopped
2 heads broccoli
1 small can chopped pineapple
fresh basil, chopped, to taste

1. Cook rice.
2. Cut tofu into bite sized cubes. Fry in a pan using just a touch of spray oil.
3. In a large saucepan, combine coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar, soy sauce, lime juice, and chilies. Bring sauce to a simmer. Add chopped broccoli. Cook for six minutes. Take the saucepan off the burner. Add chopped pineapple. Stir.
4. In a bowl, combine rice, tofu, and sauce. Sprinkle with fresh basil.
5. Eat!

This makes enough for four people. We eat half for dinner and half the following day. We store the rice and tofu in one container and the sauce in a separate container. This way, when I reheat the curry, it retains some of its sauce-ness instead of the curry being a thick glob.

Now that we've perfected the green curry recipe, I need to learn how to make red curry!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A God of miracles

We need a miracle.

This morning we had a phone conference with the Taiwan coordinator. The agency in Taiwan has expressed some concern over our negative net worth. While they want to approve our adoption, they are afraid that the judge will reject our application. The agency is asking if there is any way that we can bring our net worth up to a positive number.

We need $11,000 in order to do that. We need a miracle. I am praying for a miracle.

If we are not able to improve our net worth, we will probably have to postpone the adoption. The option of submitting our application with a negative net worth was never presented, which makes me believe that we have two options. Either we fix the negative net worth or we wait to adopt until our net worth has improved.

I am trying so hard not to be discouraged. God has already worked miracles in our lives over the past eight years. Both my husband and I made bad financial decisions right out of high school. Both of us ran up credit card debt. Both of us borrowed money to attend college. Neither of us have a bachelors degree. Between the college loans and the credit cards and financing a car, we had a combined total of $96,000 of debt.

Then we found Dave Ramsey. We put together a budget. We saved a small emergency fund. We started prioritizing our debt payments. We made progress. We paid off a very large chunk of debt.

Then we both lost our jobs due to layoffs. God worked a miracle during that six month period. Even though the budget made no sense, even though the spreadsheet shows we should have missed payments, God provided. When Jeff was hired at his current job, his salary was enough to cover what both of us had made before. Despite six months of small unemployment checks, we met all of our financial obligations. And when Jeff started his new job, we had an even greater understanding of the need to be debt free.

After several years, we had made enough progress that we started praying for God's leading to move to the northwest. Jeff asked his employer if he could be allowed to move and work 100% remotely. The employer said yes! We packed up our car, shipped a few boxes, and moved to Washington.

We spent several months saving up money, sleeping on an air mattress, so that we could pay cash for some furniture. God provided. Then we decided it was time to start eliminating the student loans. We sent several large payments but God started impressing my husband that it was time to step out in faith and adopt a child. We've seen God's hand in our adoption so far.

Now we're getting ready to submit our dossier to court and have hit a road bump. Taiwan's culture is such that people pay cash for college. It is a lot cheaper to attend college in Taiwan than in the US. Student loans are unheard of.

At this point in time, our adoption is 2/3 paid for. Part of the money has already been submitted to various agencies and fees. Part of the money is sitting in our savings account, waiting for the next step in the process. A process that has been halted. When you put our financial situation on paper, we make a good income. But we own very few "things" and thus have a very low number in the Asset column. We still owe $30,000 in student loans and thus have a big number in the Liabilities column. When you add them together, we have a negative net worth.

I truly believe God told us to step out in faith and apply to adopt a beautiful girl in Taiwan who needs a family. I've seen His hand at work in the past six months. Now we need $11,000 to continue the adoption proceedings. We need a miracle. I am praying for a miracle.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

2014: The year of UFOs

This year I didn't really make any new years resolutions, other than to finish up the myriad of half completed projects laying around my house. Today I made an inventory of every project that has been started but is incomplete. This list will keep me busy for awhile!

Quilting Projects
    Monkey quilt
    Christmas tree table runners
    Disappearing 9 patch quilt
    Hazel's Diary mystery quilt
    Rail fence quilt
    Denim quilt

Knitting Projects
    Mom's book bag
    Jeff's secret project
    Growing leaves cowl
    Baby blanket
    Winged scarf

Home organization
    Spare bedroom
    Living room storage
    Clothes closet

Digital organization
    Digital photos
    Blog redesign

I'm excited to tackle some of these projects. I need something to keep me busy while we wait for the adoption to finalize. It'll be a relief not to have half completed projects laying around when our daughter finally comes home. Then I'll be able to start new projects with her! I wonder what her interests will be...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sabbath rest

I'm so happy that it's the Sabbath! God looked through the ages and realized how many millions of people would need Sabbath rest to spend time with Him. Have a blessed Sabbath!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Grammarly says... "you're too wordy!"

Someone from Grammarly contacted me about a book review I had written and asked if I would be willing to consider reviewing the grammar program. Last year, Carrie reviewed Grammarly and I was curious to find out how it would rate my writing. I was advised to try out the program with a post that had not yet been proofread. When I wrote the Next Door Savior review, I submitted my rough draft to Grammarly to see what it thought of my grammar.

Grammarly gave me a score of 84 out of 100. Four issues were found.

1 – Use of articles. It didn’t like that I said “that book would make me cry.”
2 – Pronoun agreement. “I can rest assured that none of my feelings are foreign to Him.”
3 – Comparing two or more things. “Why is this so encouraging?” Grammarly said that my comparison is incomplete because of the word “so.”
4 – Subject and verb agreement.
The subject of your sentence, “none of my feelings”, is a singular or uncountable noun, and does not agree with the present tense verb in your sentence, “are”. Consider changing your subject to a plural noun, or writing your verb in third person singular (he/she/it).

Apparently just one of my sentences contained half of the errors found in the entire book review!

I corrected two of the errors. First, I replaced “that book” with “the book.” Then, I took the word “so” out of the comparison sentence.

When I rechecked my work, Grammarly gave me a score of 91 out of 100. It again pointed out the two errors that I didn’t correct. However, I’m not sure that the errors are actually errors.

My original sentence – “I can rest assured that none of my feelings are foreign to Him.”
My pronouns are correct and the subject and verb agree. It is proper to say both “none are…” and “feelings are…”. So I’m not sure why Grammarly was unhappy with my subject / verb agreement.

As an experiment, I replaced “Him” with “Jesus” and tried it again. Grammarly says… “0 issues found. Score: 100 of 100."

Overall, I think Grammarly is a fun resource. I agreed with two of the issues it found in my writing, as I do tend to be rather verbose. I actually blame my middle school teachers for this. “Cassandra, you need to write a 500 word paper! Your word count matters!” I thought it was ridiculous that word count was more important than content and learned to pad my writing. My favorite professor in college was the one who told us, “content is more important than the length of your paper. If you can accurately address your topic in one page, write a one page paper. If you need four pages, write a four page paper. Just don’t make me read 20 page papers.”

If you struggle with grammar, it would be beneficial to utilize Grammarly's user-friendly program. If you're like me, someone who enjoys learning and writing, you might only need the program for a short period of time. Grammarly provided me with a quick refresher on basic grammar. If you don't enjoy grammar and rely on writing as part of your career, I can see how an ongoing subscription would be a lifesaver.

Many thanks to Grammarly for letting me try their program in exchange for an Amazon gift card. The opinions are entirely my own!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Next Door Savior - A Book Review

I’ve been reading Max Lucado’s books for a long time. During my freshman year of college, I had a dog-eared copy of one of his books on the life of Christ. I don’t remember the title of the book, but I remember how powerful it was. The book would make me cry. Lucado has a way of portraying God that makes you realize just how great God really is.

Next Door Savior is just as good as the dog-eared book from college. It made me cry. It raised my awareness, once again, of how much God loves us. Each chapter in this book covers an aspect of Jesus’ life and character and talks about just how accessible God is.

One of my favorite passages:
Jesus has been there. He experienced “all the pain, all the testing” (Heb. 2:18 MSG). Jesus was angry enough to purge the temple, hungry enough to eat raw grain, distraught enough to weep in public, fun loving enough to be called a drunkard, winsome enough to attract kids, weary enough to sleep in a storm-bounced boat, poor enough to sleep on dirt and borrow a coin for a sermon illustration, radical enough to get kicked out of town, responsible enough to care for his mother, tempted enough to know the smell of Satan, and fearful enough to sweat blood. But why? Why would heaven’s finest Son endure earth’s toughest pain? So you would know that “He is able . . . to run to the cry of . . . those who are being tempted and tested and tried” (Heb. 2:18 AMP) (Next Door Savior, page 24).

Why is this book encouraging? Because Jesus understands! However I feel, no matter what is going on in my life, Jesus gets it. He’s been there. I can rest assured that none of my feelings are foreign to Jesus. Because He understands me, He can help me. Jesus can carry me through life because He experienced it Himself.

If you haven’t read any of Lucado’s books, I’d encourage you to pick up any of them and read through it. It will encourage you in your walk with God. I think this book would make a great devotional by reading a chapter each morning and pondering the message throughout the day.

Thank you to Booksneeze for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wrapping up loose ends

We are still waiting for the contracts to be returned from Taiwan so that our dossier can be notarized and authenticated. Because we're still waiting, I haven't felt an urgent need to print the last couple pages necessary for the dossier or assemble the family photographs.

Today I decided it was time. I don't want to get caught unawares when the contracts arrive only to scramble to print the last few pieces of documentation. So today I took the last two photos that were needed, our dining room/kitchen and the back side of our house. I assembled the eight photos requested and printed them. I also printed the Washington state adoption laws. Now our dossier is ready for notarization and authentication as soon as those contracts arrive!

I hope the judge doesn't look too closely at our "dining room." We've been using it as an office since we moved in! Before our daughter comes home, we plan to buy a kitchen table and chairs so that we can eat dinner together properly.

And, strangely enough, I've never stepped out the back door to take a look at the back of our house! We don't have a backyard per se, so there is no reason for me to go out the back door.

I can't wait until we've saved up all of the adoption fees so that we can start furnishing our daughter's room! It looks rather bare now but we're excited to start furnishing it later this spring.

We did receive a very minor piece of news today! The National Visa Center has kindly informed us that our I-171H has now been forwarded to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which is located in Taipei, Taiwan. The AIT is also the "visa-issuing post where the adoption interview will take place." How exciting!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Adoption Pending

It totally made my day when I logged into my agency's website and found that they just updated their waiting child list.

*Post edited - Because Z has refused adoption, I have removed her pictures to protect her privacy.

Status - Adoption Pending

That's my girl!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pilgrimage - A Book Review

Pilgrimage by Lynne Austin

When it showed up in the list of books available for review, I jumped on it. A nonfiction book by one of my favorite authors? I couldn't wait to start reading it.

Pilgrimage is subtitled: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked. I was excited to see what Ms. Austin learned while spending time in the same places Jesus lived.

The book started off a bit slow but quickly became more interesting. Austin shares a very personal experience of how God spoke to her through her Bible reading, providing her with a text that was so applicable to her current situation that it seemed as if God Himself had written it in a letter addressed to her. When trying to determine if a trip to Israel was within God's will for her life, she read the following text. "Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end" (Psalm 48, quoted on page 80).

When I read of this life experience, I felt reassured by God. When we were trying to determine if adoption is God's plan for us, God placed a text in front of me that spoke just as clearly as in Austin's prayer for direction. It was awe-inspiring to watch God work.

The book taught me a few facts that I did not know. For instance, in the chapter titled Holy Week, Austin talks about the different feasts and celebrations. She writes, "the Feast of Firstfruits is always celebrated on a Sunday, regardless of which day Passover and Unleavened Bread happen to fall. Since Passover is decided by the phases of the moon, the three feasts rarely occur on three consecutive days. But in God's perfect timing, in the year that Christ was crucified, they did. Such precision helps me trust His timing in my own life" (page 150). God's timing is always amazing!

In the chapter titled Galilee, Austin writes about the Great Commission. She writes, "we are supposed to go out into the world, not wait for the world to come to us, even if God has to turn our comfortable lives upside down to get us to do it. I'm told that in the original Greek language, the wording of Jesus' Great Commission reads: "As you are going into the world... make disciples." Jesus assumes that we will be going; His orders are to make disciples along the way" (pages 183-184). I don't know Greek, so I cannot verify her interpretation, but it's an interesting thought and one that I am still pondering.

There was one more section that really resonated with me, the chapter called Sabbath Rest. I am very honest about the fact that I am a Sabbath keeper. It's a big part of my religious beliefs and I find the Sabbath incredibly important. While in Israel, Austin also had a realization of the importance of the Sabbath. She writes:
On the Sabbath we remember to rest on God, trusting Him for all of our practical needs such as our daily bread and for strength in our trials. The Sabbath helps us to remember to trust in God, trusting Him for our salvation, knowing that none of the work we do will ever gain us entrance into heaven. And it helps us to remember to rest for God, because when we organize our lives and our work around a special day to honor Him, He is glorified. Can you imagine what a witness we would be to a restless, exhausted world if Christians set apart the Sabbath as holy, making it different from our ordinary days?

I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to read and review this book. Many thanks to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest opinion. All thoughts are my own.

An additional disclaimer - There are Amazon affiliate links in this post. Any money that I earn when you shop through my links goes toward buying things we need to prepare for our daughter's arrival. Thanks!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Knitting for Thailand!

Well, I'm not actually knitting for Thailand. I finished a knit project for a specific young lady in Thailand whom I have gotten to know through letters over the past year. I hope she likes what I've knit her.

Getting ready to start

Bruno watching over my knitting efforts

Blocking in progress

Bruno inspecting my blocking

Finished hat and scarf

Lace detail

I will be mailing these off tomorrow, along with a couple of pictures of me knitting them. I'm afraid to say that I'm too shy about being photographed and have not yet sent any pictures of myself to my sponsored kids. I do send them photos of other things, just not of me. But my Thai girl asked for a photo in her last letter so I'm sending her one. I guess it's only fair, as I look forward to her upcoming photo update!

The sponsorship trip is in just a couple of weeks. I am so, so, so grateful to the sponsor who offered to deliver my gift. If it wasn't for her, I'd never be able to send anything more than paper. And while studies have shown that the sponsored kids are most encouraged by the words we write, it's a blessing to be allowed to send something I made and prayed over especially for her.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's resolutions

I've always been a big fan of New Years because I love writing resolutions. I love the feeling of starting a new year with new goals and aspirations. Over the past year, however, I've discovered that I need something more than New Year resolutions. While they are inspirational, if I don't make a detailed plan of how I am going to accomplish each resolution, I fail. I forget. I get derailed.

This year I'm going to do something different. I'm not making any New Year's resolutions. Instead, I'm going to focus on just two things.

Bring my daughter home.

Finish all of the half completed projects around the house before we travel to Taiwan.

That's it.

I get excited about projects, work on them for awhile, and then neglect them. As a result, I have at least a half dozen projects in various states of completion. A homemaker's schedule. Several knitting projects. Two quilts. A recipe book.

There are probably a few other things as well. Over the next week, I'm going to walk around my house and poke into all of the bags and notebooks to find out what has been started but not completed. When our daughter comes home, I probably won't have time for personal projects. We will be spending all of our time and energy helping her learn what it's like to live in a family, teaching her English, and determining her education level. I'm sure we'll be busy.

Maybe, in a way, I do have a New Year's resolution - to go to Taiwan without any loose ends plaguing me. As I have no idea when we're traveling, I don't know how much time I have to complete everything. It will be at least six months but hopefully less than a year. I'd better get busy!