7.20.2014

Tell Us What You Think!

July has been a busy and productive month for us. Three days before we left for Texas, Steven got word that he was promoted to District Operations Manager for Home Depot in our region. With little notice they asked him to do a week's worth of training in Dallas, turning our one week planned time away into two weeks. It was great getting to spend time with friends and family, but man we were glad to get home! 



While we were away, we had time to talk with many of you about our adoption process, the personal struggles we are having with it, and our plans for the future. We received layer upon layer of encouragement and support. I thought I would give an update on where we are at this point. 

We announced our plan to adopt on May 21, just a short two months ago, and in that time YOU GUYS have been amazing. Our goal is to reach $1750.00 so we can move on to get our home study done and begin applying for adoption grants. I'm so excited to say that we only need another $251.00 to reach this goal! Through general donations and birthday blessings YOU GUYS, friends, family, friends of friends, family of friends, have donated $1,110.00 to our cause! Through the Apparent Project jewelry fundraiser YOU GUYS bought $778.00 worth of jewelry! Half of that amount goes to our cause and the other half goes straight to the men and women working with the Apparent Project in Haiti. 

In two months you guys. Steven and I are so thankful to have the support we do, and are planning ahead to other fundraising options. Which brings me to my next topic. We are currently working on getting a T-shirt fundraiser going. We all love a good T-shirt, right? So we need your help. We have found two shirts that we really like. We thought about coming up with our own design, but came across two on Pinterest that we fell in love with. We would like your opinions on the shirts. Leave a comment and vote on your favorite and whichever one gets the most votes wins! Keep in mind we are just looking for opinions on the design, and not the style/color/fabric. So here are the two choices:






The gray one is specific to domestic adoption, which is why the United States is featured. The saying on the blue shirt is one that Steven and I and our besties back in Texas used to always say to each other in regards to helping each other raise our children so it has a special place in my heart. Although Steven doesn't care for the font or size of the design on the blue shirt we love the saying and would probably just change it up a bit. Let us know what you think!

Tomorrow starts a new week, and I'm anxious to get settled into a new normal with the kids and with Steven's new schedule at work after so many days of vacation. Routine is my homey. Make Monday beautiful friends. :)

6.09.2014

What I Want You to Know



I am writing this out of a heavy heart and with complete humility. I want to address some issues we are having so far with our adoption process. I know that if we are facing certain struggles others are too. Or will one day. What I want you to know. 

I want you to know that this fundraising stuff is hard. Yes, it is extremely hard for us, and most people, to ask for financial help. Most people don't have $26,000 or more laying around to adopt a child. We knew this going into it. The majority of families who feel led to adopt have to ask for help, and all the fundraisers we are doing or have planned for the future come from ideas that those who have gone before us have been successful with. We aren't tricking people, being manipulative or being dishonest. We are asking people to consider, just consider, giving to a cause we deem honorable, just the same as charities do. If you don't feel led to contribute to our cause then that is okay. And I mean that. It really is okay. We are using our own money too, and as soon as our home study is approved we will be applying for adoption grants. This adoption is not happening on donations alone. God led us to this path, and it will work out. I honestly believe that. I wish the adoption world was less of  a "business" and easier. I wish it wasn't so expensive. I wish we didn't have to market ourselves. But this is just how it works. Regardless, there are millions of children that need loving homes. And each one is worth every dollar spent. 

I want you to know that your prayers, encouragement and emotional support mean just as much to us as your monetary support. Adoption isn't for everyone, but that doesn't mean you can't walk beside someone else who feels a connection to adopt. It's a worthy cause! It is so worthy that Jesus adopted us into His family!

I want you to know that yes I'm tired. Parenthood is exhausting work, and sometimes I need a break from my children. This doesn't mean I'm not capable of adding another child to our home. Steven gets tired form working too, but that doesn't mean he can just quit his job and rest leisurely on the couch for the rest of his days. Instead, he has days off or takes a vacation. Motherhood is a hard job too. Mothers deserve days off and vacations too. There is nothing wrong with that. In the grand scheme of things, twenty years from now, when my children (however many that may be) come home for Christmas vacation to occupy their bedrooms once more and sit around the Christmas tree, these days of sweeping Cheerios and wiping butts will be but a distant memory. From what I hear, memories that I will miss and hold dear to my heart. I will never regret another child around my Christmas tree. 

I want you know that Steven and I have thought and prayed about adoption for years. We have spent time researching adoption and speaking with people we know who are experienced with adoption. It is not something we woke up to one day and started blindly. We have tried for the past year to conceive a child with no pregnancy. We decided that was a clear sign from God that now is finally the right time for us to adopt, and we are excited about it! We love talking about it! We love that we feel so clearly this is what we should be investing our time, money and efforts into right now. We want you to be excited too!

I want you to know that if you have already contributed to our fundraisers that we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We have our little wad of money folded neatly into the envelope of our first birthday blessing (along with others), and that envelope is tucked neatly into our adoption folder that holds all of our paperwork. It will stay tucked inside that envelope until our first goal is reached and it is sent to our agency. I have loved raising money for us and the Apparent Project in Haiti by our jewelry sales. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing each and everyone of you a thank you note and sending them via snail mail for the birthday blessings. It's almost sacred to place a stamp on each envelope and clip them to my mailbox to watch the mailman take them away. A secret message of gratitude from us to you. 

I want you to know that even though we are still in the beginning of this journey, God has opened up the doors for us regarding our spirituality. It has forced Steven and I to sit down and have hard conversations. It has forced us to pray more. It has forced us to depend on other people more. It has forced us to shift our priorities. And for that, I am already thankful.

An Update:
We initially thought our first payment due was the amount of $550.00, but realized when we received our contract fee paperwork that it is actually $1750.00, due to them needing our first installment of our home study fee as well. To this day, we have gathered and saved $480!! In less than a month! Thank you thank you for walking beside us! If you would like to read previous adoption posts, and learn more about the two fundraisers we have going on right now, please click the links below.

An Announcement

Worthy Consumerism -- Partnering with the Apparent Project


6.05.2014

Consumerism at its Finest -- The Apparent Project {Adoption Update}

As my birthday is drawing near and the Birthday Blessings come in, we are still in the thick of fundraising for our adoption. (and will be for a long time :)) I am excited to announce to you a fun way you cannot only contribute to our adoption, but also provide an income for men and women in Haiti. We have partnered with the Apparent Project to bring to you a tangible way to contribute to our lives, our future baby's life and lives across seas.

The Apparent Project is a non profit organization that empowers the poor in Haiti by creating jobs and teaching the skills Haitians need to be successful in order to keep their families together. You can read more about their mission HERE. Below is a video that shows the Apparent Project at work.


Men and women working with the Apparent Project make beautiful jewelry out of trash. That's right, trash. But can I just tell you how amazing their work is? I cried when I opened my box full of jewelry. Each bracelet has a tag with a picture of one of the Haitian women on it that tells their story. Stories of redemption. 


"We never want people to purchase their goods out of pity or as a "charity purchase" and for that reason we maintain the highest standard of quality and creative, original craftsmanship for our artisans.  While the products sell themselves, we are committed to telling our artisans stories well.  We want to present an alternative to the materialist cultural norms that dehumanize trade for both producers and consumers by hiding unfair profit margins and detaching us from the sources of the things we buy.  We see trade as a kind of dialogue within a global community.  We want you to know our artisans' stories, and know the deeper purposes and impacts of this trade." -- from Apparent Project
All bracelets and earrings are one of a kind, varying in color. The necklaces' leather chains vary from tan, blue, red and black along with either the word faith, love, joy or peace on the metal pendant. 



So how does it work? Purchase either a bracelet, a necklace, earrings or a set of all three from me. The Apparent Project and I split the earnings 50/50. So half of your purchase goes towards the Gandy Adoption and the other half goes to men and women in Haiti who are working to keep their families together. What could be better than that?

"The Apparent Project was birthed out of a desire to see impoverished Haitian men and women be able to raise their children with dignity and not have to consider giving their children to orphanages because of poverty.  It can cost as little as $50 a month to keep a family intact. 
-- from Apparent Project

Costs for contributing to two wonderful God honoring causes?

Necklace $12.00


Bracelet $8.00


Earrings $6.00


Set of all three $26.00

There are a few ways purchases can be made. If you have a specific color/word you would like for your necklace please specify. 

1) Either leave your Paypal email on the comment section of this blog or Facebook or email it to me at egandy8@gmail.com, and I will invoice you and ship your order to you once I have received payment.

2) Send your payment of cash/check directly to me and once I receive it I can ship out your order.

3) Show up at my front door and personally choose your jewelry and take it home. :)

Please prayerfully consider watching the above video, reaching out to me and making a purchase that will go on to shape the lives of many. 

Consumerism at its finest. 

6.02.2014

Ephesians




Ephesians has always been one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. For no particular reason except for that it has been good to me over the years. A good place to land for encouragement and some truth. Our church is currently going through the book of Ephesians, and last Sunday our pastor preached on a particular set of Scriptures that hold heavy meaning to me. And really they should. The are the meat of the Gospel.

Last year when Steven and I decided to come clean to each other about some skeletons we had been keeping from each other we had our pastor come over one night to talk things through with us. (something I recommend doing if you find yourself in a situation needing biblical guidance) Those skeletons will never be published here because they are too personal, but I do want to share a part of that experience. 

We sat around the table and opened up to the book of Ephesians. To the same Scriptures we sat and listened to at church last weekend. Ephesians 2 - 1:10.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 
I can't remember the exact words our pastor spoke to us that night at our table. I can't recall the entire sermon from last Sunday (and I forgot my pen so no notes). But I do know what this passage means to me. 

It means that whatever happened because of me or to me before I knew Jesus doesn't define me. My spirit was dead then. But God found me and I found Him. Not because I was good (because I certainty was not). Not because I did good things. But because he is full of mercy, grace and love. Because he wants me to know Him even with all my mess. Because he wants to graciously give me this saving relationship with Him that I am unworthy of. I have been forgiven through my repentance and I am able to offer (or work towards offering) that same grace and forgiveness to others. Even to my husband and him to me. 



This passage always makes my eyes swell up and makes my stomach turn a bit. In a good way. I believe it is because when I look back on my twenties I can see that one day where everything in my life as I knew it changed. It all changed because a God who is rich in mercy saw fit to lead me to Himself. It all changed again last year because a God rich in grace saw fit to let Steven and I practice that very same grace, in return, strengthening our faith and our marriage. And it still changes things today because a God so rich in love continues to pursue me and He continues to use me to bring Himself glory.

Jesus and Ephesians are good things my friends.

5.25.2014

Camping & Six Years


Can I admit something right quick? I love the idea of camping. Everything from being out in nature to the cooking over an open fire to the sleeping in a tent. But, this weekend was the first time, I myself, have ever been camping. Except for when I was a wee tot to which I don't remember. And that one time I slept in a tent next to the Guadalupe River, but I don't really count that. I know. It's a shame. Closing in on 30 and I just had my first real camping experience. 



These two crazy kiddos acted like they camp every weekend. Here they are guzzling down a carton of strawberries in 0.24 seconds. They were in absolute heaven out in the backwoods of good ole Missouri. We got rained on a little here and there and hid under our tarp (while eating snacks of course) that our super sweet Daddy set up for us, but by mid-afternoon the sun was shining and we were all headed to the river.







If you go camping with toddlers remember to bring three things: 1) Snacks. If you think you've packed enough add more. And then add a little more. 2) A potty. Mine prefer one that makes Lightning McQueen race car noises. Be prepared to have them using said potty in the middle of the campsite with no shame. 3) A nature bucket to hold all your tadpoles, crawdads and minnows. You might have to wipe a tear away from your child's face the next morning when all of their nature is belly up. Just call it a good life lesson. 



After swimming we sat around and prepared more food of course. Smoked ham, corn on the cob, homemade french fries and potato salad. If I ever thought camping meant not eating well, I obviously didn't know what camping with my brother was like. He fed us good with an equally amazing breakfast the next morning. The women sat around while the men cooked. It was a little slice of heaven. 

Looking to the future I hope to make camping a regular thing for us. It is an invaluable way to let the children cut loose and make wonderful memories with each other. Same holds true for the adults too. A perfect way to pause and just thank God for creating so much beauty. 

You should be proud of me. I only screamed three times. Once when a spider crawled across my toes, once when minnows were sucking on my ankles in the river and once when I got too close to the lantern and a june bug flew into my face. Overall, I think I did rather well. 






Oh, and how could I not mention that our six year wedding anniversary was this weekend. As Kinley and Harper were getting ready for bed, Steven was carrying their potty out to the woods, to dump the dump if you will, when he looked over my way and let out a, "Happy Anniversary, Babe!" If anyone would have told me on my wedding day that exactly six years from then Steven would be hauling our child's poop out into the woods I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been able to believe that. It may not be a glamorous life, but it's ours... and I wouldn't change anything about it.  

Here's to first time campers and six years of being married to my best friend.  

5.21.2014

An Announcement



Hey there friends and family! It comes to no surprise to you, if you have been following this blog over the years, that Steven and I have always had a love for adoption. And it's not so much that we need more kids. Really, more kids need families. We are at a place in our lives where we feel we can be that family. The one that opens their arms and welcomes in a family-less child as a valued and loved part of ours. 

This is a rather impersonal way to share, but it's also efficient. 

We are teaming up with Bethany Christian Services at their St. Louis, Missouri branch to embark on our domestic adoption journey. As with anything new, starting this process leaves us with a variety of things to figure out and work through. From the financial aspect, to the emotional aspect, to meeting the requirements of the many steps involved. We would like to use this blog to share those things with you. Not only in the hopes of having you support us with all that's mentioned above, but to also shine light on adoption and make it less of a scary unknown thing "other people" do and more of a tangible thing someone you know or even you yourself can do.

We have completed the first two steps of the process which were to fill out a preliminary application and participate in a webinar with our agency. Just in these first two steps we have wrestled with hard questions like why we want to adopt and if we are prepared to handle the ups and downs and waiting. 

Our next step is to send in our formal application. Once it is approved we will need to pay our first payment in the amount of $550 to continue on. Hopefully this will happen in the next few weeks. Which brings us to another avenue. The road of fundraising and ultimately asking you for your money. No one likes to ask people to hand over their cash and believe me, this is the most uncomfortable part of adoption for us. I will not choose to be embarrassed about this. We can afford the month to month costs of having another child in our home, but we do not have the $26,500 needed to complete this process from start to finish. We have been researching fundraising ideas, and I'm actually excited about some of the things we have planned! We want to feel involved in the process from doing things like selling T-Shirts to selling bracelets hand made from Haiti. I can't wait to share these tangible acts of service with you. Applying for grants will be on our list of things to get done also. 

Of course those things take time, so for now I am asking you to bless us and our child that is out there for my birthday. Instead of sending texts, Facebook comments, presents or birthday cards would you consider donating to our adoption fund for my birthday? Any amount will help! I turn 29 on June 12th and already have everything I could ever want or need. To be able to make our first payment in our adoption journey and move on to the next step for my birthday would move me to tears. I look forward to sending each and everyone of you a personal thank you! We are praying that through everything money will not be what holds up our adoption. We are also partnering with a non profit fundraising organization where your donations will be tax deductible, and once we are approved for our profile to go live we will share that on the blog, but for now you can send my birthday blessings to: 

The Gandy's
528 Sycamore St.
Carthage, MO 64836 

I will plan on removing our address after June 12th and from there we will provide more information on how you can play an important role in helping a child be placed with their forever family. We also ask that if you are the praying type, you consider praying regularly for us as we believe that is something we need to get us prepared for what is ahead.  

We trust in the path God has led us to and are looking forward to the growing pains this adventure brings us in our walk with Christ. We hope that you walk with us every step of the way.

5.19.2014

A Parent's Prayer {Monday Magic}


Last week after confessing to a few of my girlfriends that I was having a hard week where loving my children well seemed to be slipping through my fingers, one of them shared this prayer with me. Of course it made me cry, and since then I have written it down in my journal and meditate over it daily. It has been an invaluable tool used to soften my heart towards my two littles. I like to plug in my children's names where applicable and I'm currently working on memorizing it one section at a time. 
I figured if I benefited so much from it some of you guys would too.

A Parent's Prayer
"Oh heavenly Father, make me a better parent. Teach me to understand my children, to listen patiently to what they have to say and to answer all their questions kindly. Keep me from interrupting them, talking back to them and contradicting them. Make me as courteous to them as I would have them be to me. Give me the courage to confess my sins against my children and ask them forgiveness, when I know that I have done wrong.

May I not vainly hurt the feelings of my children. Forbid that I should laugh at their mistakes, or resort to shame and ridicule as punishment. May I never punish them for my own selfish satisfaction or to show my power. Let me not tempt my child to lie and steal. So guide me hour by hour that I may demonstrate by all I say and do that honesty produces happiness.

Reduce, I pray, the meanness in me. May I cease to nag; and when I am out of sorts, help me, Oh Lord, to hold my tongue. Blind me to the little errors of my children and help me to see the good things that they do. Give me a ready word for honest praise.

Help me to treat my children as those of their own age, but let me not exact of them the judgments and conventions of adults. Allow me not to rob them of the opportunity to wait upon themselves, to think, to choose and to make their own decisions.

May I grant them all their wishes that are reasonable and have the courage always to withhold a privilege that I know will do them harm.

Make me so fair and just, so considerate and companionable to my children that they will have genuine esteem for me. Fit me to be loved and imitated by my children. Oh God, do give me calm and poise and self-control."

Amen

Written by Abigail Van Buren 

5.12.2014

And Just Like That She's Four

As it goes, the precious little girl that made me a mommy turned four a couple weeks ago. She officially zoomed through the toddler years and is now a preschooler. Come August I'll be dropping her off at a local elementary school a couple days a week for her days of learning and making lots of friends I'm sure.

She wants to ride the bus, but this mama ain't going there yet. She is so adamant about spreading her little wings and flying into the world that exists without me by her side. A social butterfly this girl is. Once when we were downtown getting coffee at a local coffee shop, Steven and I turned around after ordering her smoothie to find her sitting at a table with a random man just chatting it up. When I walked over he was telling her all about his grandchildren. 

Kinley at four years old I love that you love people, but it also sends a pang of worry through my mama heart. You don't know a stranger and I'm learning how to teach you boundaries without making you fearful of life. I admit I feel inadequate and unprepared. 

You are a ball of spunk and energy. You never slow down and continually  spin, twirl and dance about the days. You love playing slap jack, memory match games, hide and seek, puzzles and drawing.

You constantly want to eat. You even told your Sunday school teachers that you needed extra snack because your mommy doesn't feed you at home. Good one sister. I do, of course, feed you but when you ask me for food approximately 482 times a day I have to say no every once in a while.  

You are Harper's biggest fan. You always help him when he needs help. From getting his favorite shirt off of the hanger to helping him use his potty to picking up his room, you are there. After being in the same classroom at church for nearly a year, you cried when it was time for you guys to be in separate rooms. I surely thought that Harper was going to have a hard time, but he strutted right into his new room, and there you were in the hallway with big crocodile tears saying you just wanted to be with him.

Lately you have been scared to sleep in your room because of shadows and strange noises so me and your daddy have let you tip toe down the stairs well after the sun goes down and snuggle up between us. 

I decided to do a little interview with you so I could catch this fleeting moment of four for forever. 

Kinley at age 4:

What is your favorite color? pink (No surprise there!)

What is your favorite food? carrots, broccoli and potatoes (I think she meant tomatoes. She gets those two mixed up.)

Favorite movie? Frozen (She'll sing you every song.)

Best friend? Abigail and Gracelyn

Favorite song? Bless the Lord oh my Soul (meaning 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman)

Favorite activity? Thomas the Train flashcards 

Favorite toy? Kitty (she has slept with it for years)

Favorite dessert? pie 

Why do you love Daddy? He kisses me and loves me.

Why do you love Mommy? You love me and hug me.

Why do you love Jesus? He helps us be safe. He heals our boo boos. He loves me and cares about me. He loves us even when we do bad things. (I was impressed by this long answer.)




Watching you grow up over the past four years has been such a joy!


























4.18.2014

Good Friday {for the kids}

We decided to make a playdough mountain on Good Friday this year as a way to draw messy-hands-on toddlers into the meaning of this weekend. It was such a success, and not too stressful so it's a tradition we will be keeping. I love it so much that I had to share with y'all!

Ingredients for the playdough

4 c. of flour
1.5 c. salt
1.5 c. water
1 Tbs. oil
mix and knead together
Other supplies you may need
empty can, washed and dried

craft stick (or some other way to symbolize Jesus).  
paint
large baking pan
pipe cleaner (or sticks or something else) to make a cross

Steven did the playdough making this morning while I was out grocery shopping (love him) which made me adore this craft even more. I mean I really do love hands on stuff but with a 3 year old and a 2 year old things can go from good to cray cray in a matter of seconds.




Also, my kids do get dressed. Promise. But they are also on a pajama kick lately so even though they put real clothes on they change into their pajamas exactly 3 minutes later. Especially Harper. I've been trying to wash his Spiderman pajamas for over a week. Each time he acts like his life is over as he knows it. Last night I thought I had succeeded only to wake up to him on my bed....in the Spiderman pajamas...that he pulled out of the dirty clothes basket. Pick your battles right?


Shape the dough around the can leaving enough to make a large stone to cover the tomb. While the dough is soft, form a hole in the dough (for the cross that goes on top). Bake on 350 for about 2 hours. Once the tomb has cooled off, it's fun to paint it. We didn't really have "tomb colored" paint but whatevs. That doesn't take away from the story, ya know? Once the painting is done, place your cross in the hole on top.





Next, make a craft stick Jesus, or use something you already have to symbolize Jesus. Wrap him in fine linen aka Kleenex. Put Jesus in the tomb and cover the opening with your stone. When the kids check the tomb on Easter Sunday Jesus will be gone as he has already ascended into heaven!


We followed up the activity by reading the corresponding chapter in the Jesus Storybook Bible. I highly recommend this Bible for the littles in your life. It is inexpensive and the writing is brilliant. My kiddos are still young to completely comprehend some of it, but they soak in enough and can grow into it. I keep the Bible put away, so they don't destroy it with their toddler hands, and pull it out when we do Bible stories some mornings.



Happy Easter!