Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Israel Pulls to Stand

It's amazing how we can work on something forever, and finally it just clicks. I can think of that in my own life spiritually, and I have seen that in effect with my son Israel. He's been in therapy for 2+ years, and last week he finally pulled up to stand on his own. No prompting from me, he did it. He even sat back down without crying, which was a first ever!


Pulling to stand October 2014 from Rebekah McGee on Vimeo.

I'm so thankful for this small victory. It proves that this is all working. The progress may be slow but it is happening. We must be faithful even when we don't see the fruit. Oh, how that speaks to my own heart. These little moments of seeing my son's brain finally click with the exercises we have been practicing for so long... they make a big impact. It gives me hope, it reminds me of my own need for grace and perseverance. God is faithful!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Easiest Birthday Party {Israel turns 3}

For Israel's third birthday party, I decided to forego cute invites, cleaning my house, and cooking anything themed. Didn't get a "3" t-shirt, didn't even make a birthday picture sign like I normally do. This year, we rented the local bounce house place and called it a day. And it was perfect! Will's mom made the cake and cupcakes, and the rental place decorated and cleaned up for us. We all had fun, we'd do it again!










It goes to show... sometimes little effort can make a big impact ;)

PS: Israel's first birthday party, Israel's second birthday party

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Night Band Practice

Almost every Sunday night we load up as a family and head to the church, where the EngageJSU band is setting up for Monday. The kids LOVE the music and getting to play around on the stage, and we love getting to see our students. These little moments have allowed us to develop deeper relationships with our students, and our kids are getting to see the college students too. Israel's favorite part is the drums! He loves watching Josh play and sometimes Josh or Taylor will hold Israel so he can play the drums too!






Israel drums September 2014 from Rebekah McGee on Vimeo.


Israel drum 2 from Rebekah McGee on Vimeo.

I'm so thankful for this Sunday night tradition. College ministry is so fun!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Surviving Long Days

I am really thankful for this season of being a stay at home mom. But some days can be really, really long! I don't know what we would do without our daily walks. Typically, after Edith wakes up from her morning nap we will load up and do a few laps around the neighborhood. Depending on if our neighbors are around to chat, we will walk for 45 minutes to an hour. I love this break in the day, and  the kids love looking around. Israel also gets a walk in the afternoon with his daddy every day.

 The other day Edith kept taking her socks off (she hates having things on her feet!) and throwing them out of the stroller. Israel thought it was hilarious. About every other house, she would throw them off. Then she would stick her feet up for me to put the sock back on her foot to play the game again, and would fuss if I didn't comply.



 These kids cracked me up - they wanted to play hide and seek with the blanket. I'm glad that the cooler weather has given them entertainment!




Little moments like this help me stay sane. It gives me time to just get out of the house and break up the monotony. I can get a little exercise, we all have some fresh air. It makes a big impact on our day! What helps you pass the day?


Friday, October 17, 2014

EngageJSU

I've been meaning to share a little about our story and our ministry, EngageJSU.

In August 2011, Will and I moved to Jacksonville, Alabama to serve the church and to begin a college ministry targeting students from Jacksonville State University, a small public school. It was the first time our church really had an intentional approach to college ministry, and we were to begin a ministry from scratch. 2011 was a tough year. Will and I were adjusting to life away from our beloved former church. We were in the thick of our adoption, waiting for Israel to come home. Will was finishing his master's and ministry was slow going. We were able to make some deep relationships with students, but it seemed that we were having to say "grace! grace!" over and over again without really making an impact. The most students we ever had to an event was 25ish, and many events were held in our living room. We often questioned ourselves, "why are we here? what are we doing?" and just trusted that God was working even though we weren't sure that we were seeing fruit. At the end of the year, Will took a team to Haiti for missions.

The second year was a little different. Israel was home. Our ministry was growing, and we had some awesome leaders that really stepped up. We saw our numbers grow and students lives change - at the end of the year, we had around 75 students attending our worship gathering. More and more small groups were needed! I had a hard time figuring out my purpose in the ministry, as holding events in our house became more complicated, and being a stay at home mom with a special needs child meant limited availability and flexibility. A lot of good things happened in this year though. Our relationships with students deepened, and we saw some amazing transformations of some students. The gospel was taking root, people were really getting the gospel! We saw the effects of prayer and saw how God was specifically answering prayers for salvation of students. Our international ministry was really happening, and at the end of the year, Will took a team to Baltimore to work with church planters.

{Video from summer 2013 after 2nd year at EngageJSU}


EngageJSU from engageJSU on Vimeo.

The third year we went in with big expectations. We hoped for 200 students to come the first night, and we were amazed when even more than 200 showed up. Our band was/is amazing. They were/are writing their own music based on what God was teaching them, and our students really bought into the vision of "at JSU as it is in heaven." Our small groups were serving missionally in the community, and our church was supporting the ministry as it grew. Students were trusting Christ and believing that Jesus is worthy to be Lord of their lives. At the end of the year, we had the "Engagies" - a banquet for our volunteers, and Will took a team to NYC to do outreach in Harlem with Muslims. We finished the year with full hearts and a sense of gratitude at what the Lord had done.

{Baptism Recap of 2013-2014 year}



Engage Baptisms from engageJSU on Vimeo.

{Summer 2014 video}


Engage 2014 from engageJSU on Vimeo.

So now, we're in year four. Leading up to the year, we had a leader's retreat that was so special to us. The year has started out with a bang - close to 400 students at our first event. We have more small groups than ever, and people keep coming back each week hungry to hear the word. It's humbling. We are thankful to have been called here, to see fruit and know that it wasn't easy and it wasn't our doing. If anything, we have seen that God works in His way and His timing. There's much more work left to be done, but we are excited to have seen transformations in college students. We're seeing relationships form that will be godly, solid marriages. There are students who pitch in each week to serve and we know that they are going to be ready to serve the local church as adults. People are choosing their college majors based on how they can be strategically placed to share the gospel according to their gifting and God's word. Will has grown as a teacher and pastor.

{EngageJSU 2014 documentary (15 min long but worth watching!) }


engageJSU Documentary from engageJSU on Vimeo.

I'm thankful for this season. I encourage you to follow along to the #EngageJSU hashtag every Monday night and see how excited our students are about the gospel. Check the vimeo page for updates on sermons.

If I could sum up our time the past 3+ years, it would be a lot of little moments that have made a big impact. The biggest impacts haven't been the nights of 400 students coming to an event, but over lunches, walks, coffee dates, dinners, meeting students where they are and hearing them. Speaking "grace! grace!" over and over until it makes sense. Speaking it over ourselves. Reading scriptures with students and seeing lightbulbs go off. What a privilege it is to have these opportunities! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's Just a Season

Phew. Some days are tough. Some weeks are long, and sometimes you know you're just in a hard season. I can look back and see seasons of my life that were easier, and some that really stretched me. I've been in a stretching season for a while. My mom worries about me, haha.

The good news is, this is just a season. There is a purpose in it. We've been studying Ecclesiastes in our college ministry, and it is a refreshing reminder that there is nothing new under the sun. I'm not the first mom to have two little ones, or a child with special needs. I'm not the first one to have my specific set of problems - God has grace perfectly portioned for me as he has for others before me. There is a time for tears, but there's also a time for laughter. It has been ordained and it is all for my good and His glory. There are little moments that are hard, but they are going to make a big impact - on my spiritual growth, on my story, for His name.

Ecclesiastes 3 English Standard Version (ESV)

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

The God-Given Task

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is,already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.[a]


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Back to Back Dates!

Two Fridays in a row Will and I got to go on dates!!! This miraculous blessing was from our parents. One weekend we visited Will's parents and they let us go out at night. They put the kids down, we went bowling. It was so fun and a great chance to just be carefree for a while. Unfortunately, we're pretty terrible bowlers.



The next Friday, my parents came to see us one last time before they moved. They wanted us to have a "day off" so Will and I drove to Gadsden and went shopping, sipped coffee, and saw a movie. It was crazy to just have time to kill and no agenda.

I'm really thankful for time alone with my husband. Little kids are exhausting in the best way. Both times we were away, we were ready to get back and find out how our kids were and to give them kisses! It's amazing how needed and refreshing it is to have time as a couple. I wish we could "date" more, but we're blessed that the kids have early bedtimes.

It's important for us to spend time together and make sure we're staying connected, having fun, and reminding each other why we're best friends and loves. Marriage is such a blessing. We need to take little moments to invest in our marriage. How often do you go out on dates?


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Small Graces (Winn Dixie)

I really hate having to take my kids to the store. If possible, I take just Edith on days that Israel is at school. Even then, she is strapped to me in the Ergo! If we go to Wal-Mart, they both have to sit in the cart and I don't really have room for groceries. At Winn Dixie, the car-shaped shopping cart only provides so much entertainment before Edith is climbing out of her seat, demanding to be held.

The other day I had to grab a few things before a dinner we were hosting with our students, and the kids were miraculously well-behaved. It helped that they got free cookies from the bakery!


Literally seconds after this picture was taken, Israel threw his cookie across the store

Little moments like these: successful, minimal tantrum outings... they are God's grace to me! My toddlers are unpredictable, and there's really no way to plan a perfect outing - even a quick trip to the store. So thank you Lord for the rare but wonderful trips when I feel like "hey, we can make it through this!"


Monday, October 13, 2014

Edith: Fourteen Months Old

Dear Edith,

Today you are a SPUNKY, dramatic, silly, feisty, snugly, sweet 14 month old! Man, this month you have turned a switch in your personality and have increase the drama so much. You can go from one extreme to another and back again in about 15 seconds. You are certainly keeping us on our toes!


You're not yet walking but you are taking several steps on your own. You can walk across the room but I think you prefer to crawl. The biggest milestone this month was weaning from breastfeeding. I'm already missing it! But you are a big girl, and you sure love whole milk!




Edith, you can be really sweet when you want to be! You love to cuddle your daddy and will watch shows on the ipad together. You have to be touching me on a very frequent basis, and you want to check in every few seconds. We've recently reunited with the Ergo, and there are nights where I have to strap you in my pouch for us to survive. I'm really thankful that you love us so much! :)



You are busy! You love to explore and make messes. You enjoy reading books, playing with dolls, and DANCING! You can draw with a crayon and put items in holes. You point to whatever you want. You copy our facial expressions, stick out your tongue to show me your food, you wave good-bye and lean in for kisses.


One of my favorite new activities is dress up! You wore my cardigan around your neck for a solid three days. You still prefer to hold your shoes rather than wear them, and you can take your socks off in .2 seconds. You are a girly girl through and through. You really know how to push your brother's buttons but I think you guys have a fun relationship. You are such a champ to be toted around and in the carseat as we drive back and forth to his appointments. I'm really proud of you! The other day Israel had a therapy appointment in the home, and you demanded that the therapist do all the exercises with you too. You also climbed in her lap while she was working with Israel so she would snuggle you instead of work with him.





Edith, although this month has really made us aware of the...um... challenges we will face as parents of a spirited child, we are so thankful for your energy, passion, and flair. I can't wait to see the woman you become!

Love,
Mama


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Israel: Three Years Old!

Dear Israel,

You are three years old buddy!!! Oh man, I am so proud of you and the little boy you are becoming. You make us so happy and we are absolutely honored to be your family.



Israel, you are so silly! You love to make us laugh, and if you hear someone else laughing, often you will copy it with a fake (or real) laughter! You still love it when your father pretends to get hurt, and you love it when he throws balls across the room. You love to shake your head really fast when we say "you're silly!"


Your favorite things are cars, trucks, balls, and currently: DJ Danny (your turntables) and you have recently re-established for love for your Laugh & Learn musical puppy. You still like reading the same books (mainly Sandra Boynton and Good Night Moon) and your same 4 DVDs (Elmo and Baby Einstein). Although we have recently introduced Daniel Tiger and you seem to tolerate it!


"What's That?" is the most common thing you say. You point at your clock, a world map, and your glasses when you've taken them off the most. If you say "what's that?" and I ask, "Do you want DJ Danny?" you will start laughing and getting really excited. Although sometimes it can get just a LITTLE repetitive answering what's that all day long, we absolutely love to hear you talking! Other words you've started to say: pup/ puppy, baby, bye, hi, mmm, cool, whoa, wow, Papa, Pop, mama, church, truck, car, go, want more. We're really pleased with how you have been picking up new words lately and we LOVE hearing you talk! You still get in really talkative moods where you will just babble away and it is so sweet. When we pick you up from daycare or church, you will tell us all about it in your own little language!



Speaking of progress, you are on the move! You can scoot across the room so fast! If we say "want to go?" you will head towards the door in two seconds. You are walking long distances in your walker, and although we have to push it for you most of the time, you can take 3-4 steps on your own if the floor is sloped. You have really strong core strength, and you are doing your exercises on the pilates ball like a champ! I can't believe that when we started therapy years ago you would just flop over, and now you are so strong. You can also stand with support for a while, and you often stand in your walker on the playground at school.


You recently started enjoying going down the slide! I'm really proud of you for being so brave. You even pushed yourself down the slide a few times the other day. You still take one good nap mid-day, and sometimes you'll nap for 45 minutes and sometimes 2 hours! If I get you up right after you wake up, sometimes you will fall back asleep on my chest laying on my bed. You are so snuggly! You are probably at your sweetest point at night after we've put Edith to bed and it's just me, you, and daddy. You will snuggle us and you can be so chatty and sweet.

You're so BIG buddy! I'm sure you're over the 30 pound mark at this point, because you're getting heavy. You are wearing 3T clothes and size 6 shoes. You just look so tall when we stand you up! You're pretty self-sufficient with feeding now, and you just need help with utensils some. You can be a picky eater but you still love yogurt and bananas! We have to watch you because if you are tired of eating dinner you will start throwing your food across the kitchen.

You and Edith have a really fun relationship. You guys can play really nicely together, and sometimes when she's standing up you will pull her down by her diaper. You both have been known to hit each other, and she likes to take your glasses off. You always get excited to see her after being separated from each other. I'm really excited to see what your relationship looks like in the future!

This is a big month of change for you. We've said good-bye to your UCP therapists, and you only have 3 more weeks of PT at Judy Benton's office. You're getting all new therapists and you're going to start preschool at Kitty Stone for a half day each week. Honestly, I'm a bit scared and nervous. We've never met anyone who hasn't fallen in love with you and done their best to help you, so my fears are unfounded.





One of your therapists called you a "charmer" and that is probably one of the best words to describe you. Israel, you have charmed us all. You are so sweet, so silly, so precious. You are a gift, my love. It is unbelievable to me that three years ago you were born in Gambella, Ethiopia, and we are celebrating your birthday here in Alabama. How do I deserve such a gift to be your mom? I will never understand why God's grace is so generous to me that I would get to know and love you. Thank you for persevering so well, for working hard and pointing me to Christ. I am so glad you are my first-born and that you have made me a mama. I learn so much from you every single day. Happy three years my boy.

Love,
Mama

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Redemption

I saw this picture on Facebook a few weeks ago, and it was so touching to me. 


This picture is another "little moment with a big impact." Many close friends are living with the same hope that we have - that redemption is coming in Christ. All the sad things will come untrue. When we hear of cancer, disabilities, death, grief... there has to be a redemption to it. And the good news, there is in Christ alone. This sweet picture is a father's depiction of his son after death. Although the son was disabled on earth, he is whole and healed in Heaven. What a hope that is for my sinful heart and for our troubles on earth. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

Post-Nap Snuggles

One of my favorite, favorite things about having little ones is the post-nap snuggles. Edie likes to nuzzle up in my neck when I get her out of her crib after her nap. It's the sweetest thing! On days where it's just me and her (Israel is at school), she will sit with me on the couch for a long time just snuggling. I love the feel of her breath on my neck, and the way she is sticky with sweat from napping. I could just sit there forever!!!



Israel and I have a special bond too. Sometimes he will wake up from his nap a little fussy, and if I grab him up and lay with him on my bed he will fall asleep for a few more minutes, or he will just get really giggly.

The best part of their post-naps is just getting a moment of one on one time with my kids. It's sometimes brief and it's not everyday... but I hope that these little moments are going to make an impact on my kids. I hope my kids know that they are loved and cherished. If anything, it has made an impact on me. My kids are precious, and there's no time that I feel more blessed than when I'm holding my sweet babies!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Barefoot Run

I would love to show you how YOU can make a big impact with just a little moment of your time! {See what I did there ;)} 


Take a look at Barefoot Run, a project from Buckner International, a ministry that serves orphans around the globe. 


"The Barefoot Run is a movement of runners across the country who are passionate about the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. You can join the movement when you sign up for the Barefoot Run Where You Live!

Join an existing team in your community or sign up yourself, your friends, your church or family. Dallas Barefoot Runners will join together Oct. 4, 2014 at Bachman Lake to raise support and RUN for the cause! Others across the country will be running during the week of Oct. 4 -11, 2014 to help raise awareness and participate in the Barefoot Run movement.

Running barefoot in the United States may be a trend, but for millions of orphans worldwide it’s a daily reality. Your support of the Barefoot Run will help provide new shoes to the world’s orphans and vulnerable children through Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®. Since 1999, Shoes for Orphan Souls has delivered almost 3 million pairs of new shoes to children in 76 countries."

How can you be a part of this awesome event?
  • Register to Run Where You Live and you’ll receive a downloadable runner’s packet – for free!
  • For just $15, you can purchase a Barefoot Run t-shirt and show off your barefoot running style! All proceeds from the Barefoot Run help provide a new pair of shoes for children in need.
  • Choose a local park or neighborhood, invite your friends, and RUN (or walk) anytime from Saturday, Oct. 4 – Saturday, Oct. 11!
  • Post photos of your run on Instagram using #BarefootRun to see them appear on BarefootRun.com! The most creative shoeless selfie post using the #BarefootRun and following @buckner_shoes will win two airline ticket vouchers from our friends at Southwest Airlines (all rules and conditions apply, see full list of contest rules here).
We were able to be a part of the "Run Where you Are" program. My husband is training for a marathon right now, so he ran on our behalf with our kids. Will said this was a great way to be active and support a good cause. It especially resonates with our family because we have adopted a child. We have seen orphans face to face and know while not everyone can adopt, nor every child be adopted, there are programs that can help alleviate the poverty and suffering that accompanies the global orphan crisis. Through organizations like Buckner International, anyone can make an impact!




Check out the hashtag #barefootrun and register here to participate by running where you are! Make a big impact!



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