Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Our" Agency

After interviewing several adoption agencies, Small World Adoption is the agency we have decided is the best fit for us right now.  There are a lot of great agencies out there but many we do not qualify for (because they do not work with expats) so that narrowed down our search.  There were still several great agencies remaining, however after interacting with them and praying over it we feel best about pursuing Small World Adoption.  There are a lot of things we like about them but one of the things we like best is that they are small.  Small means we get quick, personal responses and that they seem to work closely with their "customers."  We also like their vision and passion, as well as the reviews we have heard on them.  I'm posting a video below that they created this past Christmas.  It is a little bit dated (since it was created for Christmas) but it allows you to get a feel for who they are and why they exist.  If you want to know more, I would encourage you to check it out!

"Small World Adoption Story" on "Loving Life" with Jim Savley from Jim Savley on Vimeo.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Helicopter Tours

We have some good friends from church (Tyler, Catlin and their daughter Abigail) who fly helicopters and offered to take us on a tour after work one day.  Since Caleb is all about Thomas the tank Engine right now (and Thomas' friend is Herold the Helicopter) and since he loved flying this summer, we thought Caleb would especially enjoy it. And truth be told, we were curious too!  We went this week and had a great time on our "field trip."

Caleb is going through that awkward stage of not liking the camera and not looking at the camera and smiling at the same time (too busy for pics and somewhat self conscious for the first time too) so we were having trouble getting him to look at the camera and sit still. We decided to take a "Caleb picture" where we all were goofy like him.  Of course he chose that picture to look right at the camera with a big grin. Of course.

We enjoyed learning more than we thought possible about Tyler's job, all he does and the helicopter (which is an incredible mystery as to how it actually flies)!  Caleb's favorite part of the day?  The golf cart.

Of Course.

Thanks, Freemans, for a fun (and informative) evening!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

In Love

Family Date

After being away from my men for three days, there was some much needed "family time" to be had!  This week there was a new coffee shop down the road from us that opened up ("Tom n Toms"). It has coffee, smoothies and made fresh to order pretzels (!!!!!).  Songtan is moving up in the world, people!  Really excited about this new "spot" in town and only a few blocks from our house, conveniently located right on the way to church. We had a family date to check it out on Saturday and I thoroughly enjoyed time catching up with my men!

Two births in one week!

I started the week supporting Jeanine's labor, with the birth of Zamanta Elha and I ended the week supporting Corrie's labor, with the birth of Nathaniel Julius Christopher!  It was a blessed (and busy) week.  Corrie went into labor on Tuesday, we transferred up to her birthing center around 2am Wednesday morning and I supported her for just over 60 hours, with Gail coming in to additionally support Thursday morning.  Baby Nathaniel (or "Flip" as we affectionately dubbed him in labor) was born at 3:30 Friday afternoon. Talk about a mom working hard for her baby!  I couldn't have been more proud or impressed by her hard work and determination.

Welcome to this world Nathaniel Julius Christopher Kolbe (aka "Flip").  You are one loved little boy and absolutely adorable too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Prayer Request for the week

Will you pray for us this week, that the Lord would provide a second job for Steve?

When we arrived last year, Steve was able to quickly find someone to private tutor as a second job that provided some additional income for us but this past November the person no longer needed to continue with his lessons.  We have not been able to find a replacement job since November and this has been really difficult for us.  This week Steve will be sending out flyers at the Church's school that he teaches at, offering to do a private class for students and we are really praying for a group of students interested in private lessons once a week.  Could you join us this week in praying, as the flyers go out? 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A new look!

I've done some long-awaited and overdue blog spring cleaning!

While the same little old blog still exists (with all the same posts and the same purpose) I've given it a little make over and a new look.  In addition to the new layout and design, I've updated the About Us section and will continue to add to the Prayer Requests page occasionally (so check back every now and then - we need and value your prayers!).   

We can not express to you, Dear Readers, how much your friendships, responses, support and prayers mean to us.  Thank you for all the little and big ways you are a part of our lives!

New Baby!

Welcome to the world, {yet unnamed} Baby Girl!


Yesterday I had the joy of helping to support some good friends bring this sweet baby girl into the world.

Making it extra-sweet, my friend Gail who I convinced to join me as a doula in the "crazy baby lady" club was able to attend for her very first birth! It was fun to have someone else there to enjoy it with and to watch her experience the joy of assisting at a birth for the first time.

And making it extra-memorable, this birth included 2 doulas + an hour long public transportation bus ride into Seoul + a woman in active labor.....Let's just say this mama is right up there with Super Woman.

Welcome to the world sweet Baby Girl! You are already so very loved.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A word from March 1971

While I washed the dishes today, I listened to this sermon from Pastor John in March 1971 (while he was still in seminary)!  It was so good and is still so applicable. "Praise is the thing for which we were created! For some of us our stance of life is just not such as overflowing in gratitude and praise to God (but this ought not to be so!) we ought not be satisfied until we praise." When we don't praise, it isn't our new self, it is our old man so weak and beggarly we can't even make a joyful noise..the only thing our old man selves are good for is to go off in the corner and grumble. We need to put our eyes on Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to smother our hearts with the Love of God until the fruit of praise pours out (paraphrase).  Check it out here!

Recent Conversations

I love this age, I love this age, I love this age (most of the time).

In the past two months Caleb has started imagination games (beyond play cooking, which feels more like imitation than imagination in my opinion).  He woke up on morning, insisting that his name was "Lightening McQueen" and wouldn't answer to Caleb. Or he pretends he has a brother that he asks questions for and talks to.  Or he pretends to be a puppy.  It's been fun, I've enjoyed it and I can't get over the way the human brain makes connections without ever being taught!  I don't think we've ever pretended we were Lightening McQueen  (or any other such character) or played like there was an imaginary person in our house....yet he does it, just like most every other toddler in this world.  It's just cool.

We also continually find amusement on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis with the conversations we have. It's so fun when they start conversing with you (other than the never-ending "why?" conversation, of course, which is way too frequent!).

Some recent fun conversations:

C: Why are you going to Heaven, Mama?
After which I stop everything I am doing to sit down and explain to him just why I am going to Heaven
To which he responds: "I don't want to go to Heaven."
Me: Why?
C:  "Well mom, I really wanted to go on the bus to Seoul today."


C: Do you have a baby in your tummy, mom?
Me:  No, no baby in mama's tummy.
C: Why not?
Me: God hasn't given us one.
C:  Can God give ME a baby in MY tummy? I really want a baby


At dinner tonight (Steve is working with some students tonight but had taken Caleb along with him to a student soccer game this afternoon while I went with a mom to her 42 week prenatal appointment in Seoul):

Me: What did you do today?
C: Went to a soccer ball game with daddy.
Me: Who played?
Caleb: ICS and I said, "go ICS"
Me: Who won?
C:  Son Min 
(Son Min is a player on the team)

And in the conversation:

C: Let's pray for Baby Mathaniel (he means Nathaniel, whose mom I went with to the appointment).
Me: Praying for Baby Nathaniel
C:  Victoria's mom has baby in her tummy? His name is Mathaniel?
Me: Yup
C: Auntie Jeni has a baby in her tummy? What's his name?
Me: Don't know yet. We'll call him Baby for now.
C: Jeanine has a baby in her tummy? 
(Jeanine is a friend who is due the end of March and has been staying with us)
Me:  Yep.
C: Her baby is a girl?
Me; Yep
C: Do you have a baby in your tummy mom?
Me: Nope
C:  When is it your turn? Your turn next?

C: Mom, what's your parents name?
Me: MY parents names?
C: Who their names?
Me: You mean Oma and Opa?
C: Their other names!
Me:  David and Faith?
C: Yeah those names.


C: My name is Caleb Russell Houser Boo.  
Daddy's name is Daddy Russell Houser and your name is Mama Russell Houser!


C: I need to read to my Xylophone and then I'm ready for a bath!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Are We Blind?

I think I mentioned I am doing a Beth Moore Esther study in Sunday School right now.  This past week we were in Esther chapter 3 where Haman, out of anger and bitterness, births a plan to rid the kingdom of all the Jews.  He goes before King Ahasuerus and uses several tactics to bring his plan to fruition.  One of his tactics is to keep the Jews impersonal, anonymous, abstract.  He tells the King, "There is a certain people...."

Beth Moore writes the following, "The phrase 'a certain people' in Esther 3:8 can also be translated 'one people.' Haman's phraseology insinuates:  'Your empire embraces many peoples. One of them (just ONE, no big deal) is peculiar and different....Haman alludes to the Jews in vague terms, making them anonymous, indefinite and depersonalized.  It is easier to kill an abstraction than a person.  God calls us by name. Satan and his hordes see us as numbers, illustrated chillingly by the identification tattoos of Jews in Hitler's death camps."

I think Beth Moore makes a good and valid point:  it is much easier to allow tragedy to occur when it is abstract.  I see this in my own life and in present day.  When I hear of a war or of a natural disaster, it is harder to feel the empathy and compassion because it is just a number, just a statistic.  It doesn't devastate my life, it is just a piece of information.  Why?  Not because it wasn't a huge catastrophe but because it is impersonal. I didn't experience it. I don't know anyone affected by it.  I don't see the pictures or know the stories or names of people hurt and killed.

One personal example is that of Korea.  Before we moved here, I (of course) knew a little bit about North and South Korea but not a lot. I knew of the separation, I knew of the  communist rule and that the people there were living in tragic conditions. But I didn't think of it often and wasn't very affected by it. It was impersonal to me. I could find Korea on a map if I studied for a while (I knew it was somewhere in Asia, near China, right?) but I couldn't go right to it and I knew little about it.  I for sure never planned to live there!  But since moving here, I have started to learn more and more about the situation here:  the war, the poverty, the leaders, juche, the personality cult etc.  And you better believe every time the war here in Korea is in the news, we are interested! Why? Because it is personal now. We live here.  If we are attacked or go to war, it is going to impact us!  The impersonal has become personal.

And I see this same ploy at work today.  I think satan is influencing us and our world in the same way he used Haman to influence the King. He is at work making our eyes (and hearts) blind by keeping things impersonal. It's easy for many of us to live our lives, concerned with ourselves.  Not that there is anything wrong with living the life we have, with caring for our own families, our own kids and husbands, our own grandkids or our own pets.  There is nothing wrong with this (these are our God-given roles!) and the Bible mandates it (1 Tim. 5:8).  It is the life the Lord has given us.  But I think when we get entirely wrapped up in our own life and our individual "bubble," it is easy to become blind to the needs of the world.  It is easy to turn it all off because it is impersonal and it doesn't directly impact us.  I can go on living my life, caring for my son, planning my weekly play dates and meal plans, going to church every Sunday and small group and I can be blind to the tragedy around me, to the broken world "out there."

I hear about orphans, I know there are an estimated 163,000,000 orphans living without families or the care they need, I know there are needs.  But it is so often impersonal. It's just a number. It's just a statistic.  It's just a fact of life:  there are children without families.  I hear about poverty, I know there are people around the world suffering without food, shelter, clothes, clean water. I know there are needs. But it is so impersonal. It's just a statistic, a fact of life.  I hear about abortion.  I know there are millions of abortions done each year. But it is hard to make it real, to make it personal.  I hear all of these things yet I go on living my life.  I pray for them when I remember.  We sponsor a Compassion child, we talk about the tragedies of these realities, but how much does it really affect us?  How do we live a life changed because of theses horrors?

What do we do about it?

This third chapter of Esther has stuck with me in a personal, real-life way as I think of the many ways our eyes and hearts are kept blind from the realities of the world.  How Satan likes to keep it impersonal and at a distance. The many easy ways to turn it off, to turn our backs and to continue living "our" life.  I feel this is a huge tactic in his grand scheme.  It's so easy to look at King Ahasuerus and think how dumb was he?!?  But then I look at my own life and can see the same forces at work still today.

Keeping things nondescript, faceless and depersonalized makes it a lot easier to deal with and a lot easier to NOT deal with.  It makes the idea of adoption an easy word to throw around and a "nice thing" to do. It makes it an "option to consider" and a "someday I'll think about it." But as Steve and I have continued to think about it, talk about it and pray over it, we've also been researching and reading!  The more pictures we see, the more blogs we read, the more stories we cry over, the harder it is to stay in the "considering it" phase and the harder it is not to take action.  As I start to pour over image after image of children and see the personal face of one after another left to sit in a crib or left to cry and not be comforted or left to go without another meal it has become a lot more real and a lot more personal.  When you look at lists of "waiting" children, with faces and names and birth dates, all of a sudden it isn't abstract or anonymous.  

And as it has moved from an abstract word - "adoption" "orphan" "poverty" - to reality - with names and faces and stories - it becomes harder to let go of.  It's harder to stop thinking about.  It's easier to pray, often.  It's right before our eyes, daily, instead of an annual sermon on Orphan Sunday. 

I don't know where the Lord is leading with all of this. I know He isn't allowing this topic to go away. I know He is slowly overcoming all my fears and selfish reasons for not opening our home.  I know He has given me a husband who has been praying for almost 4 years that I would be ready to adopt. I know He is gripping my heart with a desire for another child and with the possibility of adoption.

I do not think adoption is something that everyone should do. I'm not saying that or even thinking it. It isn't for everyone.  But I do believe that caring for the orphans is something every single Believer is called to do (James 1:27).  I would encourage you to join us in putting it before yourself on a regular basis, in personal terms.  Don't allow these big "issues" drive you to turn your back in defeat.  Let's not allow the lie "we are only one person, what can we really do?"  Let's not allow the lies of anonymity to blind us.  Help us not to be so full of "our own lives" that we are blind to those around us and miss our opportunities to make a difference in someone else's life. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday's Sermon

Our head pastor has been preaching through Genesis off and on this past year and half and this Sunday he preached from Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestles with God.  It was a great sermon and I plan to re-listen to it sometime this week.  I would highly recommend it - totally worth the 30 or 40 minutes out of your day (and if you are like me and enjoy listening to things while you wash your dishes and fold your laundry, it is sure to make the mundane much more thought-provoking!).

He talked about how we can see throughout the story of Jacob how he tries repeatedly to do things his own way. Again and again Jacob takes matters into his own hands, instead of trusting God.  In his sermon Pastor Nelson talks about how God strips away our own self-reliance and makes us depend increasingly on Him, emptying us of ourselves and filling us with Himself.  In Genesis 32 we see how Jacob is broken and thus forced to literally cling to God.

This (prideful) sin of self-reliance is so characteristic in humankind.  It is something that repeats again and again. I see it in my own life.  I can see how in moving out here to Korea (and time and again while living here!) the Lord strips away my own self-reliance.  I look back to the life I lived before we left the States and can now see areas that I trusted in myself and not in the Lord. It's a lot easier to do when your bank account is full and you can access everything you need!

God intends to see us come to fully depend on him.  Some times he allows circumstances in our lives (and sometimes He brings people into our lives) to strip us of ourselves and push us to fully depend and rely on Him Alone. When we are weak and dependent on God, that is when we are truly strong.

This message really spoke to me - it spoke to me in light of moving to Korea and current life circumstances. It spoke to me in light of this topic of adoption that the Lord won't allow me to ignore. It spoke to me in light of people in my life who I am praying for on a daily and hourly basis.  If you have the time this week, check it out!  I pray the Lord is tender with me, as He brings me ever closer to utter dependence on Himself. I pray He is tender with you too, Dear Reader, as He works in your life to bring you nearer.

Just to Lighten the Mood...

Any guesses?

No, it isn't a cockroach! That'd just be gross.

Steamed silk worm.

After church on Sunday some of the ladies went out to the market.  There is an awful-smelling stand that sells these by the cupfuls (I walk passed it frequently on my market trips but never stop).  It's a snack here in Korea. We tried them and I can testify they taste even worse than they smell.  But if you don't try it, you can't knock it, right?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Quick Update

This whole blogging thing is getting fairly pathetic!  I keep telling Steve I think I should just give it up but he keeps wanting me to continue....I do see the value in it, if I ever find time to actually do it!

This morning Caleb and I left the house around 8am to drive with Michelle up to Seoul and go to Costco.  We haven't had many opportunities to go to Costco and it is always good when we get the chance.  Food is cheaper there (especially meat and dairy!) and that helps a lot.  It's between an hour and hour and half to drive to Seoul one way and I've been told this Costco is one of the busiest in the world. Busy, crazy, and frenzied are good descriptive words. 

We arrived home around noon, unpacked all our groceries, re-arranged our fridge and freezer to squeeze it all in and thanked the Lord for a kitchen full of food! Next up I did the dishes and some laundry, laid Caleb down for nap and checked in with Steve.  He had been in the office all morning and then went to AK Plaza (a nearby mall) to do a scavenger hunt with a group of students who had the day off from school.  

I finished tidying up, got some reading in and had a friend over for some "couch time."  Steve got home, Caleb woke up and C and I headed over to Michelle's house for a dinner with the ICS Senior class while Steve went out for a Small Group Leader's meeting.  It's 8:20pm and I just finished laying Caleb down for bed and am doing some email, blog, facebook catching up.

And that was our day.  Trade in different activities and you can see what many of our days are composed of....which is why blogging has been put on the back burner and my emails go unanswered.

All in all we are doing well.  There are a lot of posts I keep writing in my head or things I mean to share or thoughts I want to further explore but they are still rattling around in my brain somewhere. I'll probably think of them when I wake up at 2am this morning.  Steve is still enjoying his work here and has been encouraged by some great conversations recently.  He is still looking for a part time second job teaching English and if you could be praying for him to find something that pays well, we would really appreciate it.  We need to find something soon.  

Caleb has been growing taller the past few days and is now in 3T everything (or looking nerdy in 2T since that's what he's got!).  He adds to his vocabulary daily and it's fun to watch and listen to.  He woke up the other morning telling daddy that "he bumped his tummy and needed a new one because it hurt" and another time he "needs a new butt because he went down the Orangie Park slide and it was wet and his butt is wet so he needs a new one."  He has discovered that (said in a very serious tone) "mama's name is really Sarah and daddy's name is actually Steve" and is learning that he needs to call us Mama and Daddy, regardless.  We transitioned him to a big boy bed and I thought we would have Bed Wars but he actually shocked me and did quite well.  He rarely gets out of bed at all.  He lays there and calls for us when he wakes up and he tells us how much he is "excited 'bout my big boy bed! I really like it a lot!"

I took a few things off my plate in January and although I am still fairly busy, have been able to slow down and prioritize a little bit.  My main objective in life right now is Steve (and supporting him) and teaching Caleb and keeping our house home-like.  If I allow my schedule to be too full, I find these top areas suffer.  My time at home is too valuable to do that and I'm glad I was able to re-prioritize.  I am realizing our schedule will always be full but am also learning to keep my priorities straight.  I have two births coming up this month and I am really excited about them.  I'm starting to look more into a work visa (would love prayer on finding a way to obtain one!) but for now am enjoying just doing it for fun and as a ministry to moms here in our community. It is so needed.  The Lord has been close these past few months and I have been learning a lot.  It hasn't been fun or easy but it has been good.  I would love your prayers for grace towards others and a right heart and attitude regardless of circumstances or feelings. 

We are waiting to hear back from Small World Adoption to see if we can go ahead and move forward with them. We really like them as an agency and have been really encouraged by and impressed with them so far.  Before having us do the formal application process (which includes a non-refundable initial payment) they are checking for us to see if we even qualify.  As of right now because of our income level (technically far below "poverty level" apparently) they are not sure we qualify to adopt.  They are looking into it further for us and we will be sure to update you as we hear more.  If you could keep that in your prayers as well, we would appreciate it. It is hard to hear "you (possibly) don't make enough to add to your family."

Steve just walked in from his meeting (they finished before 9pm tonight!) so I'm off to bed. He has some emails to write and needs the computer and I've been trying to get to bed before 9:30 these days. Key word being TRYING.

Thank you for being a part of our lives and keeping us in your prayers. It really means so much!