The day I got married, one of my closest friends looked me in the eye and said "God has many wild and wonderful things ahead for you and Jeremy."

Being called mom by 7 kids is definitely wild. Each day I look for the wonder in it all...and give thanks.

Partnering with my husband in life, parenting, work and serving is definitely wonderful. He is my favorite.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Come on in

Welcome. Come in. You may use the front door to my house the first time you come over but after that you'll know everyone comes through the side door.

When you enter my house through the side door, you see pieces of our lives all over that first room.  We call it the "front room" although I have no idea why.  It's walls include the front and back of my house.  It used to be a garage for previous owners, but it was closed into the house long before we got here.

The front room holds unorganized lockers for my kids, desks filled with papers to sign or save or just be recycled, an extra refrigerator, a wall full of artwork and projects from my young artists, recycle bins (that also hold artwork at times), and a large dining table and chairs on a beautiful rug.  The dining table and rug do not seem to fit in this cluttered room, but then again they do.

Wow look how clean that table is.  It was Christmas.
Welcome.  Come in through the side door and pass through our clutter and stay a while.  This is how we live.  We invite you in.  We give you access to our lives, our imperfect lives, and hope that by gathering we may grow more.

Grow more like Jesus.

This is not how we live just at home, but this is how we serve.  In everything we do--whether it's work or ministry or parenting.  We don't know how to do it any other way.  We are not perfect.  We are not always equipped.  We can even bumble our way through sometimes pretty bad.  But when we bumble, we ask for forgiveness and we pray and we try again.
We have recently opened our home like never before--welcoming a family to come live with us.  We are learning a lot and have only entered kindergarten in the school of "Doing Life Together."  You may be wondering how we all fit now that there are 15 (YES even 16 when Katerin comes home) of us together.  That's for another post.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Laura, Mari and Lily

"My sisters are very important to me." 

Laura is 13, the oldest among the three.  As I watch their video and look at Laura's face when she talks about her sisters, I recognize her face.  The worry, the concern, the sadness if they were separated.  

My daughter, Katerin, will tell you the first time she prayed was when she begged God to keep her and her siblings together. She prayed,

God, if you are real, keep us together...

At the same time, God was preparing us and we were asking, "Lord, where are our kids?"

He answered both of our each other.

And in doing so, He drew Katerin into relationship with Him and grew our trust in Him.

You know these girls need a family, but what you may not realize is that your family needs them.

You can know more about them here and contact All God's Children International to learn more.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jonas and Dylan

Something about these boys remind me of my Saimon and Omar...they have the same age difference between them, they entered the orphanage at the same ages my boys did. But Jonas and Dylan are still there.
I remember days before heading to Colombia to get our kids praying with Carla and Mindy because I was shaking scared. It has been 5 years now and I look at my family and echo David's prayer to God, 

Who am I and what is my family that you have brought us this far?

There are no guarantees in adoption. We risk. We make mistakes. We fail. We pray. We ask God again and again for His strength to be made perfect in our weakness. We beg God to draw us all to Himself.

I know the thought of adding teenagers to your family is scary and then layer on from another country, culture, might seem impossible. 

But what might you forfeit if you don't stop and consider? 

I have been abundantly, exceedingly blessed knowing that all of my kids have come to faith in Christ. On the hard days, when relationship is difficult and attitudes abound, I step back and consider eternity. 
My life, our lives, have been forever changed. When I consider their (&my) salvation and that God is just getting started with them (&me)--what impact they already have and will have for generations to come...
the risk is worth it.
Watch this short video to learn more about Jonas and Dylan...or message me if you want help starting the process.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Taking the first to college

Our oldest graduated High school in June.  

One wise friend told me to just enjoy it.  Don't think about August.  
Just enjoy this time.  
We have.  
We have celebrated with family and with friends. 

We have made memories this summer and we have counted our blessings.

Now it's August and we leave Tuesday night with her car packed and move her into her dorm Wednesday morning, August 16th.
August 16th....exactly 5 years from our Gotcha Day.  August 16, 2012 -- The day we picked her up from the orphanage and welcomed her into our family.

And now August 16, 2017 we are launching her to college.
Last Wednesday night I heard her share boldly with her peers at church what her prayer is for them as she leaves.  And I reflected on how God has answered our prayers.  As she was shamelessly sharing Scriptures I sat there soaking it in.  Grateful her relationship with Jesus is real and vibrant and contagious.

I have prayed for her trust to grow and replace fear.  And I have seen in my own heart how trust has grown and replaced fear.  I have prayed for her heart to heal from past hurts for her own good and for the good of others.  And I have seen my own heart heal from hurts for my own good and the good of others.
I am full of hope and full of thanks.

The verse she chose for her Graduation Recognition is Proverbs 31:25
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
As her mom, I could not be more grateful to have been given these last 5 years with her.  And I could not be more thrilled to see what God has for her next. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Simple Treasures

Christmas is not easy in my family.  For lots of reasons.  This year was not any easier but I did find some simple treasures I will hold onto from this year.  And when I say simple, I mean simple.  For most around my table, these things would not have even been noticed.

We did not have "Christmas" with my extended family until January 2nd because earlier in December, we lost my grandmother.  My mom's mom.  Many people called her Thelma or Ms. Nash and a few called her Grandma, but most in our family called her Mama Nash.
This pic was taken just a couple weeks before she passed

She was 96 and well loved and well cared for by my uncle and his family primarily.  The first treasure is not just our time together with all the Nash's to remember Mama Nash, but the things I heard for the first time.... my mom telling me what a good mom Mama Nash was, especially during my mom's teen years.  I have heard my mom talk about growing up with her brothers, not having much, not feeling pretty as a young girl, but hardly anything about her mom.  

"...especially in my teen years."
That was a gift to hear.  

And I wonder if mom thought Mama Nash was a good mom while she was still a teen...or if she realized it later.  I'll have to ask!

Treasure #2 came Christmas Eve when Jeremy's family came over after the Christmas Eve service and we sat around our living room and patio and talked, and watched the Texans, and skyped with his brother on the other side of the planet.  Gathering.  Eating. Talking and listening and laughing.  These simple things were gifts for my soul.  

Treasure #3 happened New Year's Eve.  We attempted to have a party but friends had plans already so my 4 girls ended up going elsewhere with friends for the night and Jeremy got tickets to the Rockets for the boys, which left me at home....ALONE....for FIVE HOURS.  

Five whole hours where I did not have to answer a question or help anyone or fix supper and answer the question of "what's for supper?"  So I ate chocolate cake and cheese bread for dinner and made myself sit on the couch and watch a movie.  It was lovely.  A treasure for this introvert who has had people at home 100% of the time the past 2 weeks.

Treasure #4 is my mom.  She is precious.  And hilarious.  And amazing.  And the best part is that she doesn't even know it.  So fast forward to January 2nd when we have my extended family over for Christmas and we are sitting around the kitchen table eating Chinese takeout (because that's how I make Christmas dinner) and my big brother is talking about how the veggies we get at the grocery store are covered in pesticides blah blah blah and at some point he asks, "And do you know what the first ingredient in Roundup is?"  AND MY MOM without hesitation says, "Glyphosate."

I think my brother meant it as a rhetorical question in his dissertation but my mom just casually drops "glyphosate" as if this is an everyday conversation.   I looked around the table and was probably the only one in awe but my goodness.  Who knows the first ingredient in Roundup??

I think that is amazing and hilarious and makes my mom precious.  Treasure.

These small things--gathering, eating (even Chinese takeout), quiet NYE, glyphosate--helped me get through another hard Christmas.

You may be wondering why Christmas is hard, especially when you read my previous post and see our beautiful family pics (thanks to Hannah at MHW Photography).  I can't really begin to describe the layers to it, but it has to do with loss, broken families, expectations, disappointment.

What was once my favorite time of the year, so much so that we chose to get married in December and give our daughter the middle name Noel, is (for now) a time I mostly endure and seek treasures in the midst of grief.  Even the smallest treasures.

Christmas Carol Card 2016

You may know us pretty well by now.  But in case you don’t, I thought I would give you a little description of each member of the family through Christmas Carol titles.

First you have to guess!  Draw an imaginary line from the person to the Christmas Carol and see if you get it right.
Jeremy                                                                                                                                           Away in a Manger
Vanessa                                                                                                                                         The Twelve Days of Christmas
Katerin                                                                                                                                           O Come Emmanuel
Emily                                                                                                                                               Feliz Navidad
Marian                                                                                                                                            Jolly Old St. Nicholas.
Wesley                                                                                                                                            Mary, Did You Know?
Omar                                                                                                                                               The First Noel
Saimon                                                                                                                                            Joy to the World
Savannah                                                                                                                              God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Jeremy, with his graying handsome go-tee, and how he handles work and family with wisdom, perseverance and humor….you guessed it; he gets Jolly Old St. Nicholas.  I am thankful for this guy—he loves us faithfully and humbly.  K.E.E.P.E.R.

Vanessa, wife to Jolly Old St. Nicholas, mom to 4 teenagers and 3 pre-teens (SELAH), office assistant to Mr. Jolly, and author of the Christmas letter, life is…..bountiful.  And Jesus is fully present.  O Come Emmanual!

We have a senior in the house—Katerin!  We’re proud of how hard this girl works in school and her job.  She has been accepted into UMHB where she plans to study International Business next Fall.  Don’t be fooled, Katerin is not all about work.  She has found a lively bunch of friends at school and church and spends much of her free time with this great group.   For our oldest Colombian…..Feliz Navidad!

We gave our first born daughter the name Emily Noel because we loved the name Emily and loved the Christmas season.  So you can probably guess which Christmas Carol is hers…The First Noel (in case you were still struggling).  Emily is in her junior year of High school and she has big plans for this next year—that change every other week.

Marian, a sophomore on the brink of getting her driver’s license, meets the world with enthusiasm, optimism, and excitement.  Marian works hard maintaining her grades, working as a gymnastics coach/office assistant, and keeping up her social calendar.  Whatever God has planned for Marian, she will make it fun.  Marian’s song title—Joy to the World!

Another sophomore in the house, Wesley, is growing into a huge young man.  I still can’t believe it when I look at him.  The doctor says he’s growing so much because he gets good sleep.  This kid can sleep!  He is the first in bed and is ready for the house to be quiet and dark by 8:00pm (on school nights, different story on the weekends).  He is a merry gentleman when he gets lots of rest.  Wes will also be a driver by the summer and he is a big fan—Astros, Rockets, Texans, Baylor—whoever is playing. 

Omar recently celebrated his 12th birthday.  I told you last year about how he creates things and gives it something extra for the wow factor.  Okay, he still does--and the other day he took it up a few notches.  He built a boat with Legos, no big deal, but then he took apart one of his remote control cars and wired his Lego boat so that when he connected the wires to a AA battery, the propeller spun.  He’s twelve and he can hotwire a Lego boat.  It’s Twelve Days of Christmas for this kid. 

Saimon, a.k.a the informant, wants to be a police officer, a marine, or a missionary when he grows up.  Whichever he chooses, he will be AWESOME because this kid does not miss a thing (serious FOMO) and he finds such delight in being the first to tell you about it. Song—Silent Night (JUST KIDDING)  Do You Hear What I Hear?  …Wait, it’s Go Tell it on the Mountain…or better yet Mary, Did You Know?

Savannah—the youngest arrow in our quiver.  This girl is Miss Independent.  On a typical afternoon, she heads down “Ms. Anissa’s street” (even though we are friends with about 7 other neighbors on the street that she visits, Savannah has given the entire street to Ms. Anissa) and she finds a friend or dog to hang out with for a while.  In her free time at home she is off to herself lost in a book or episodes of her favorite shows, or decorating her “peace and quiet room.” (Located just outside the gameroom door on the far side of the house).  Her carol? Away in a Manger.

How did you do?  You know us a little better than last year? If you didn’t do so hot, don’t worry because neither did some of my kids.
In closing We want to wish YOU a Merry Christmas as you Deck the Halls and remember that Silent Night, Holy Night long ago.
Love from the Evermon’s
P.S. Don’t Let Grandma Get Runover by a Reindeer!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

4 years

Tuesday is the 4th anniversary of our Colombian Gotcha Day.  As I get ready to share some things about the past 4 years with some friends, I pulled up a few blog posts and photo albums.

I looked at highlights of our life in the photo albums from each year and compared that with the lessons and experiences I shared in the handful of posts I wrote in the past 4 years and the contrast is striking.  

Yet my feelings from both are the same.  My feelings of what it was like when I wrote Wrecked and Homecoming Anniversary--feelings of being overwhelmed and inside out with a touch of faith are the same feelings I have when I look at the smiles, firsts, and memories in the album.  I remember what surrounded those pictures and yes, the feelings of being overwhelmed and inside out with a smidgen of faith were very present behind those snapshots.

What prompted the beginnings of our bigger family were compassion and love.  I loved my kids before I knew them.  When I met them, and they were in the foundation in Colombia, I wanted to go through our process as fast as we could because I needed to get MY kids out of the foundation and into my home where they belonged.

Questions like "How do you think adopting 4 kids into your family will affect your own kids?" because in my mind, four out of my seven kids were in a foundation in Colombia and how was growing up in a foundation going to affect my kids??

We did consider our three kids that already called us mom and dad and we tried to prepare them as much as we could.  Really as much as we could. 

But you just don't know what you don't know.

What compelled us to act on that compassion and love was obedience.  During our adoption process we had an opportunity to share how we felt our Father ask "Will you join Me?" in this short video.  And I wrote more about it here.

Compassion, love, obedience started this journey.  God's provision, the blessing of others along side us, and training got us through the beginning.  But we have said it many times that after getting all our kids home we felt like we were running a marathon but trained for a 5K. 

One of the things that was mentioned in our training was to know yourself and your own issues.  
Know what makes you tick 
and what gets you ticked off.  
And how are you going to deal?   
I slightly remember that part of the training
but I clearly remember thinking, "I'm good."

I thought I knew myself well.  I thought I knew how to deal.  But the peculiar thing about adoption is that my kids who are adopted have a way of revealing things about myself that my bios never had.  Adoption brings out the best and the worst in me.  And that's a good thing.

For example.....I learned that my love was conditional.  It was all along.  But I never noticed before because the people I loved loved me back.  They were affectionate and said "I love you."  We had not yet had teenagers when we adopted so pretty much when I said to do something, it was done, although sometimes with a little added motivation. :)

When we adopted (and as our kids were entering teen years at the same time), I gave love but it wasn't given back.  I tried showing love on my own for a while but then I couldn't.  Some of the behaviors got in the way and it was really hard loving someone with unlovely behaviors.  I thought it was just a problem with me and the ones adopted, but what I realized is that I loved Jeremy conditionally and all my kids--bio and adopted--with conditions.

How did I deal?  I got it wrong for a while and still sometimes do, 
but mostly I lean back into my Savior.  
He loves me when my behaviors are unlovely.  
He forgives. 
And forgives again.  
He loves even when we don't love back.  
I ask for that love to fill me and pour out.  
I can't do it on my own.

Another thing I have seen over and over again, especially as I have looked back at old posts and flipped through the photo albums, is that He is enough.  His grace sufficient.  I can't meet all the needs and I don't know how we have made it other than HE IS SUFFICIENT.  Remember I said a second ago that we adopted 4 kids and started parenting TEENAGERS at the same time?  

When we spent 5 weeks in Colombia cramming our family on the second floor of a seminary/church, 
He is enough.
When we put 3 teenage girls in one room, He is enough.
When I "homeschooled" all seven kids for a VERY short period of time, He is enough.
When we had to say everything in Spanish and English and then say it again about 10 times, 
He is enough.
When we came home to meals provided by supportive friends, He is enough.
When we attempted family photos, He is enough.
When I took too long to dry my hair just to drown out whatever was going on outside my door, 
He is enough.
When we say "I love you" and it's met with silence, He is enough.

If you have read my blog much you may have seen that last Fall I started naming gifts.  I am on number 870 now.  Eight hundred seventy different blessings named since October 26, 2015.  What has surprised me by that little exercise is how much joy and love and peace I have in the midst of circumstances that have not changed much.  And it is not only transforming me but my people around me too.

I can say "I love you" and mean it and still have joy when the words are not returned.  Because it's not my own love--my own love is shallow and ends at some point.
But His love never fails.  
His love endures forever.  

So 4 years into our new bigger family and I have much much to be thankful for.  I usually say, "Overall we are doing well."  But now I can see beautiful gifts in each one of the people I love the most.  And I am so so grateful.