Oh Eli

Four years ago today we met this little wonder.
Today is her birthday! She shares it with Grandma Mickey and it just happens to be the day of the week they have tea together on Facetime. So they’ll celebrate their birthday’s together on Facetime over tea. I just think that’s amazing.

As I put Eli to bed last night, tucking her in and getting her all settled, I felt like I just had to share some of the story of how she came to us. To a 4 year old, I’m not sure it meant much or even made sense, but to us, it brings tears to our eyes every time and we get somewhat emotional about the thought of how she came to be an Elworth.

On her birthday, we had been notified about 3 weeks prior that we had been chosen to be her adoptive parents. We were told that it could be any day when they would call and we’d had to get on a plane as soon as possible to get there.

So we worked really hard to lay out the plans. That’s a big ordeal considering we were a family of 6 at the time. We had to split the kids among friends and each of them had a bag packed by the door along with ours.

I remember this morning so clear. I had gotten up early and gone to have my annual blood draw for my cholesterol. On the way back, I stopped by Starbucks to grab coffee and while I was standing at the mobile pick up counter around 7AM, my phone rang. I silenced the call, not thinking anything of it, grabbed my coffee and out the door.

When I got to my truck, the phone pinged telling me I had a voicemail and as I began driving out of the parking lot, I heard our caseworker from our agency in Florida tell me the exciting news.

Her birth name her biological momma gave her was Miracle Love, so they told us that Miracle had been born and it was go time!
You can imagine the emotions rushing through me as I drove home that morning!
I had a thousand things to do now today because we had a plane to catch.

I got home to find the house slowly moving around. Crystal was upstairs getting ready for the day and the rest of our crew was slowly moving, getting breakfast. I made my way upstairs and just casually mentioned to Crystal that I had gotten the phone call. She was as clueless as I was when I silenced the call. Like we had totally forgotten that we were expecting the phone call of our lives!
Within a minute, it made sense and now it was go time.

I had been checking airfare from three airports into Tampa, Florida everyday for the last three weeks, so I knew exactly how this was going to go down.
I took care of all the bookings that had to be done right away while Crystal made the final preps on all the kids needs and letting those who were going to watch them while we were gone know that we were coming.
It was all so exciting and moving so fast!

By 9AM, we were rolling out of the driveway in our big GMC Denali headed to two different stops to leave behind our 4. By 11AM, we were pulling into Regan National for our flight that would leave in just 20 minutes. I’ve never felt like I was going to miss a flight until that one. One of our stops to drop kids was in Martinsburg, WV and as soon as that stop was done, we were race car drivers and I prayed intently that we’d be able to go as fast as possible to get to the airport on time.

We were the last people on the plane, racing up pushing an empty stroller that drew a few strange glances. The smiles on our faces while pushing an empty stroller needed explanation for some reason, but we couldn’t contain ourselves! This was all so thrilling!

The plane was so full that Crystal and I didn’t get to sit together on the flight. She was one row in front of me and kept peaking through the space between the seats trying to find my reaction to all this.

Two hours later, we landed in Tampa and rushed to get our rental car and luggage underway. While we handled all that, we also contacted our agency and told them we were in town and would soon be on our way to the hospital.

One more hour and we finally arrived at the hospital, met our agent for the first time and started our way to maternity. This was so surreal, strange, and exciting at the same time. The emotions running through our minds and bodies were lightening fast and all over the map. We just didn’t know what to think or how to react to any of it!

There she was, for the very first time.

Just 7 hours after we had received that phone call, we were sitting in the hospital holding this promise, this gift the Lord has led us to wait on for years.
I get quite emotional when I think about it. You don’t know all the heart-aching moments we spent in prayer asking the Lord for the blessing of a babygirl. To see that moment, to have lived it, to be able to remember it is simply a testament to the faithfulness of a God who is and Is able to go so far beyond our understanding.

Moment of honesty here, first time I saw her, I thought she looked funny. She was all grey and had that fuzzy forehead. It makes me laugh as I look back on it today.

The days following that surreal event were tough. Eli was positive for coke and another substance. Don’t judge for it, though. Her momma didn’t know any different. Eli spent 4 days or so in the NICU to cope with the effects of withdrawal. She would shake and get really cold. She didn’t want to eat well and needed a lot of skin-to-skin content to know she was safe. We had all of that to give, so no issues there.

But she came through it!

She grew, she ate, she recovered and finally, after about two weeks, she came home!

What a day it was when we were all finally connected as a family together! Another story for another post.

Here’s to you, Eliana Kyleen. You’re an amazing joy and our family wouldn’t be complete without your smile.


Back to School

Today was the day that fathers everywhere have been dreaming about and mothers have been dreading—Back to School!
Maybe that’s not the way that scenario plays out for you and momma is dreaming and daddy is dreading. Maybe your both dreading or your both dreaming. Goodness, I need a whole other post just about that!
Either way, it’s time to get back at it.

How can you make this back to school season a success for your whole family?

Experience, Family, Marriage, Random

Meager Beginnings

Sixteen years ago this summer, Crystal and I began our lives together. Neither of us can believe it’s been that long since we met and married.

This summer for our vacation we passed through the city of our first home. It’s been years since we’ve been here! We used to pass this way frequently when we were missionaries, but those days are long since passed.

As we entered Jacksonville, FL a wave of emotions began to pass over us and a flood of memories from our early years began build. There were so many experiences that took place in this town.

So to get a bit nostalgic with our crew of 5, we took them past our first apartment and the part of town we used to live in.
To them, it was a unwelcomed distraction from their current Disney movie selection. They sort of rubbed their blood shot eyes as they looked up and grunted with a half-hearted acknowledgement as Crystal and I revisited a thousand memories that took place on College Street in Jacksonville. We were excited to see that the area has improved since the days when it was a drug-infested hotbed of illegal activity! It’s actually a descent place to call home now! Let me just say, we lived in the hood and it was sketchy at best.

Oh those were the days! We’d get home from our classes at Trinity Baptist College and have about 3 hours before our work schedules began. We’d throw together some Tuna because that’s all we could afford in those days, and take a short walk to the banks of the St. Johns River where we’d enjoy a picnic. We did this so often that memory is coterized in our minds and tuna takes us on a journey down memory lane even at its smell.

We had next to nothing during that season of life, but for some reason we look back with such fondness at the time we spent in that very small, one-bedroom apartment. It was ours and we were each others and there was just nothing better in the world.

Those days make me grateful for the Lord has brought us now. I always get a little fearful when I hear young couples talking about getting more. More stuff, more space, more…everything. We were that way too at a time, but the most important thing we learned over the years since was the reality that life was more about purpose than pleasure. She and I had nothing, but we had an intense purpose that fill our minds and hearts with a pleasure that we’d never before known.

How did your story begin? Where were the days of our meager beginnings?

More than that, what’s your purpose? The God-given purpose of your heart is more than everything and if you struggle to define that purpose, no physical thing will ever fill its void.

Biblical Living, Family, Random

Boyz II Men —Faith

There is no substitute for faith being built into life. I’m not sure faith is something you just “have”. I think it’s something you learn. Hebrews 11:1- “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.”

Faith is built through experience.

As I look at my life I have come to realize that my faith has been built forged through the experiences that I allowed. But even larger than that, my faith was built through the experiences that my parents allowed me to be involved in or lead our family in.

Think about the largeness of that statement…the decisions you make as a parent are either leading your children to or away from greater faith in the Lord.

This is why it’s so incredibly important that faith be built into our children’s lives when they are young. It’s so much easier to accept the largeness of life when everything in life is large. When they are so innocent to realize that everything is bigger than their ability. That also speaks to the faith they build from you just being their parents. You are demonstrating faith to your children by being faithful to the commitments and promises you are leading through in their lives.

Could it be the reason they are struggling being faithful as a teen is because they didn’t watch you be faithful as a toddler?

Please don’t hear me coming down on you, I struggle with this as much as anyone else and the most important thing I have realized is the best time to start teaching anything is today, so make it a determination to be intentional about teaching faith…today.

Faith is fleshed out in so many ways. Namely and most importantly faith in Jesus for salvation.

After faith in salvation, they are learning sustaining faith; the faith that helps through our lives. Sometimes this is even more specific than faith in salvation. For some reason it’s takes more faith to live than it does to trust God for eternal life. I want my kids to learn that we can trust God with every part of our lives including our eternal life and they need to see that fleshed out.

Family, Purpose

Boyz II Men

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Recently while I was away at a cabin for a few days, I spent a lot of time praying.
I’ve always loved these periodic times away that my wife makes me do yearly. I love that she values me that much. It’s such a refreshing time that usually fuels me for months to come.

During this time away, God really spoke to me about my fathering. I believe that fathering (or parenting for that matter) is something to be faced with a lot of intentionality. It’s not something that we can be super passive about but needs to be something that is really guarded with specificity.

God took me to this particular verse that I’ve read a thousand times before, but this time gave a sense of parenting that I felt I really needed. Proverbs 1:8 NIV, “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mothers teaching.”

The very nature of this one verse tells me loads about what I should be doing as a parent. 1) my kids are looking at me for instruction. 2) They are looking at momma too. 3) They are looking at the way I back up momma. 4) I’m either teaching my kids out of wise words or foolish ones.

Before I left my time at the cabin I made a few enormous realizations.

I realized that my time a lot at the cabin is now finished. The next time I go to this cabin a few of my boys (or kids) need to make that journey with me. I need to teach them how to wrestle with the word of God and make it come alive in their hearts and lives.

They need to experience life in the woods and the thrill of being alone in a forest.

I also realized all of my kids needs some very intentional leading in their lives so I put a list together of things I feel I need to strive to teach my kids over the coming years. We’ll explore those over the coming days.