Dear Ginna,

You’re 16 years old today and, like all moms who have gone before me, I can hardly believe it. I used to roll my eyes and snicker a bit when moms said things like that. Umm, you didn’t realize that your kid was going to get older every year? Mmmmk. But, here I am and here you are, no longer the toothless, awkward 11 year old that I somehow imagined you’d always be but, instead, the loveliest of the lovely young women I’ve ever known.

I take little responsibility for the person you are and are continuing to become. Certainly, I see glimpses of me in you but you and I are so different; you are so much of who I hope to become, too.

I love you, Ginna Rose, because you are my beloved daughter and you are so very easy to love – every little piece of you, from your quirkiness, your quick wit, your sarcasm and wicked funny sense of humor. You’re beautiful and you don’t even know it and I so love that about you.

Two short years from now we’ll be planning your graduation and looking forward to your last summer before whatever comes next – college? A job? Marriage? The basement with Kevin? Whatever it is, I look forward to watching it all unfold. I pray that you’ll always seek God’s will for your life, that you’ll learn to praise Him in the good and also in the not so much.

Carry on, my funny girl. Your Mama loves you…happy birthday g dawg

 

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Cause for Celebration

One year ago today I celebrated my son’s birthday with him for the very first time. We were in Congo then, just J and me and about 15 other adoptive families at Sr. Harry’s, a Lebanese owned restaurant overlooking the Congo River. It was a fun celebration. My friends, Andy and Kenzie bought Jecoah a cake and we sang Happy Birthday to my boy.

The evening was a brief respite from the overshadowing dread that accompanied most of my days in Congo. I was lonely and homesick, scared at the not knowing when our nightmare might end. I spoke to Kara earlier in the day and told her that one of my great fears was that she would meet Jesus before my boy was able to come home to know her big love. The thought was utterly devastating to me.

When we finally received Jecoah’s exit letter in July, we jumped on the first plane home without telling anyone we were coming, fearing that it was too good to be true. Our homecoming was perfect in every way.

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So many of you “know” our Kara only through her writing – the blog, the books. But those of us who were honored to know her in real life agree that Kara’s most endearing quality may very well be her witty and irreverent sense of humor.

She ran to me at the airport with the biggest smile on her face and just before this picture was taken said, “Look! I didn’t die while you were gone!” I laughed and cried until my sides ached. That was a great, good day.

I’d planned on a BIG celebration today in honor of J’s first birthday stateside. We went to good ol’ Chick Fil A for breakfast and Jecoah stuffed himself with chicken minis before throwing up all over our booth. My best guy got strep throat for his birthday.

There will be no Chuck E Cheese (I can see grace in that, can’t you?), no trampolines, no birthday shopping trip. Instead, there will be a Z-pac, some Motrin, Gatorade, sore throat pops and a whole lot of snuggling with my people.

Thank you, Jesus.

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Save Me A Seat

My treasured Kara met Jesus yesterday. A few weeks ago, several of her nearest and dearest sat with her around the fire and asked her about heaven. She said, “I can’t wait to see Jesus’ face when he sees me.” I was awestruck at her wondering. Our Savior loves us so deeply, delights in us, rejoices when He brings us home. How beautiful.

Last night, a small group of Kara’s girlfriends gathered together to cry, to laugh, to reminisce, to laugh and cry some more. I left with swollen eyes and a still-broken heart, but one that is full and grateful. Kara left behind a group of friends, a community that holds one another up at every turn and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.

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Our beautiful and thoughtful and selfless girl was very intentional in setting us up introducing us, encouraging us to move toward one another with open and vulnerable hearts, knowing how much we would need each other in this season.

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These women are some of the most loving, selfless and open people I’ll ever know. I love them as if they were my sisters and, well – they are. Some of them I’ve only just started to get to know and some I feel like I’ve known forever.

Kara befriended me and ever so gently forced her community into my life and me into her community. Of all the beautiful gifts I’ve received in my life, these friends, this community is among my most treasured.

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All of this because this girl insisted on being my friend, loving me when I’m unloveable, speaking truth into my life, teaching me that love is always kind, that grace is always the answer, that Jesus will always, always meet me exactly where I am.

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My beautiful friend. I love you so much. I miss you like crazy. I cannot wait to dance with you in heaven, to sit at your table and eat all that heavenly food we wondered on all these months. Save me a seat, sweet mama.

Nothing But Love Between Us

As my beautiful Kara fades and eternity nears, I’ve looked to her own words in her writing and found a great deal of comfort. Her beautiful memoir, The Hardest Peace, has been such a gift to my heart from the moment I first devoured it and again on this very day. I have no doubt that I will read it again and again after Kara flies home and, in it, I will hear her voice, her wisdom, the truths she’s spoken into my life when I’m tempted to believe the lies.

The veil between here and heaven is very thin. But it’s a dreadfully painful one. We struggle to see beyond these days and look upon eternity with gladness. God gives us morsels of eternity over here, crumbs really, and we beg for them to remain when there is a fest awaiting us. We beg for scraps when the very best is promised. I look at the beautiful creations of my loved ones and say, “Jesus, You did so well – so wondrously well – can’t I stay a minute longer?”

I beg for that, really. But His peace answers my heart that it’s exactly decided and it’s beautiful. It’s nothing to be feared. That it is amazing, the story that remains on this side of the veil and the one that awaits on the other. But I need reminding – constant reminding. This, for me, is the hardest peace. I need truth tellers all around me to speak the goodness of grace that will meet me on both sides of the tender veil.

Revelation 7:16-17 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

I love my friend fiercely and my heart is as broken as it’s ever been. Still, there is peace. Inexplicable, supernatural, beautiful peace – the peace that surpasses understanding. Kara reminds me often that grace will show up, even in the moments that feel unbearable, especially in those moments. “For from Christ’s fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John 1:16

Yes, we have.

I love you, Kara Tippetts. Much of the best of my life has been spent with you and I’m so very thankful.

Kara and Shellie

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Gone In A Flash

Six months ago today, my son’s little toes touched U.S. soil for the very first time.

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His sisters, our beautiful daughters, were just a little surprised.

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Sweet family and friends were there to welcome us home.

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My sweet Jecoah is a beautiful little boy and so well loved. I can hardly remember a time when I wasn’t his.

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His favorite, though might just be Jason, my Kara’s husband, our amazing Pastor. (Thanks to Becky Kyle of Good Photo for these precious pics.)

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And, he likes Kara a little bit, too.

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Adoption matters, friends. Our beautiful boy was once an orphan.

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And, now – a cherished son, brother, and friend.

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People say “He is so very blessed to have been adopted by your family!”

Oh, no. No way… We are the fortunate ones to know the love of this incredible little boy. The Costains will never be the same. Thank. God. For. That.

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Thank you, beautiful Jen Lints of Jen Lints Photography for the homecoming and family pictures.

Dear Kara,

It didn’t take long after we first met for me to know that I wanted to be your friend.

I’d only recently ended two lifelong friendships and my heart was still broken. You came alongside me and said, “I’ve been there, too.”

We bonded over our love of thrift stores and creating pretty things. Our friendship was almost instantly comfortable, easy.

You begged harassed asked sweetly to hear my story, my testimony and I put you off as long as possible; for the pre-Jesus me isn’t someone I wanted you to know. I told you my story and you helped me to better understand my identity in Christ.

You’re my BFF, Kara Tippetts. Yes, I’m 37 years old and I’m using the term BFF, because it’s just….accurate. You are the person in my life who does friendship best.

You’ve shown me how to partner and parent with kindness with a gentle reminder that love is kind. Time and time again, you’ve pointed to grace where I otherwise would’ve never noticed it. You’ve been my ally in parenthood when our daughters needed to be guided toward repentance and a desire to seek out forgiveness from one another. You’ve shared your community with me, directed me to new and beautiful friendships. You’ve reminded me to look for Jesus during the times when I was working so hard to live in my own strength.

You let me say a lot of bad words when we first learned that you had cancer. You said there was enough grace. I stayed away at first, until I knew that you wanted me there with you. I watched you endure chemo over and over again.  You handled it all with such grace and strength.

I’ll never forget the day I gathered alongside you, your family, your community to celebrate your last radiation treatment. I just knew you were done, that we’d move away from cancer and toward all the things we’d planned: our super hip thrift shop, summer cook-outs, mom stuff. Our respite was so short.

Our text conversations are my favorite, mostly because you know that I’m better in writing and that I hate to talk on the phone. But, I sure hated the one that said that treatment was over, that Hospice would be called. I couldn’t catch my breath. I could barely contain my tears.

My heart shattered into a million pieces.

I can’t know what the days, weeks, months will look like for you, for Jason and the kids, for us. But, even today,  you continue to remind me that grace will show up. Because, it has and it will.

I don’t want to do life without you, Kara Tippetts. But, it is grace that led you into my life and if Jesus calls you home, that is grace too. Which verse is it that you so often speak? “To live is Christ; to die is gain.”

So, today I long for heaven more than ever and I’ve put in my request that our mansions be built right next door to one another. Can you believe it, friend? We get to worship the One who loves us best for eternity. Together.

 

shellandkara      Kara and Shellie

Psalm 145

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.

Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

 Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
 One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
 They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

 The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.[c]
 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

 

A Million Times…Thank You.

Friends, thank you so much for praying for me as I prepared to share my story with the MOPS group at Village 7. I’d spent the three weeks I was given to prepare writing, writing, writing nearly my entire life story. It was as emotionally draining as anything I’ve ever done and so, so humbling. In the end, I scrapped the fifty or so pages of material I’d written and, instead, wrote out a short outline so that I could speak freely, without reading, and refer to it only to keep myself on track. Turns out I can talk, talk, talk for 45 minutes pretty easily. Who knew? Turns out, also, that I use my hands quite a lot when I speak. I had no idea until my new friend, Nancy shared these with me:

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It was an honor to be able to stand in front of a group of young mamas and share with them. An absolute privilege. I’ve received some really encouraging and kind feedback from that day and am happy to have been offered the possibility of more opportunities to share my story. It’s humbling and I’m grateful.

I’m also grateful for all of you who’d followed the blog during the time when I was living in Congo with Jecoah and have written to welcome us home, to tell us how you prayed and prayed for us. We just can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done. Thank you for continuing to help us pay down our adoption debt. We left Congo owing the owner of the guesthouse where we lived over $12,000. He was kind to allow us to wire money to him as we’re able until he is paid in full. Credit card companies aren’t as generous with their payment options and plane tickets to and from Africa are stinking expensive.

We currently have two fundraisers going on and would love to offer you the opportunity to participate. Here’s the first:

Sheet sets, ANY size, ANY color for $35 per set (+ $5 shipping per set if you are not in the Colorado Springs area.) I’d ordered a set of these sheets from another friend’s fundraiser and we love them! They are brushed microfiber and wash beautifully. I’ve gotten feedback from several people who are thrilled with the quality. Thirty five bucks is a great price for high quality sheets!

To order, simply send an email to: costainpartyofsix@hotmail.com with your email address, physical address if you’re not in Colorado Springs, and quantities/colors/sizes of sheets you’d like.

The order will be placed on October 31st and you will receive your sheets by mid-November.

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Our second fundraiser is one that I’m so, so excited about because our family loves superheroes and these capes make great Christmas presents!

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Super Hero Capes! $20 each, flat rate shipping $5 (Colorado Springs friends, you will need to add the shipping fee to your order as these capes will be shipped directly to you.), no matter how many you buy. Fits children up to age 10
These are double lined satin capes, with a velcro closure.

Shipping takes 1-2 weeks.

The superheros and colors we have available are listed below:

1 = Superman (Red on top & Blue underneath)
2= Superman (Blue on top & red underneath)
3 = Batman (black on top & yellow underneath)
4 = Robin (red on top & green underneath)
5 = Flash (red on top & yellow underneath)
6 = Captain America (blue on top & red underneath)
7 = Spiderman (red on top & black underneath)
8 = Green Lantern (Green on top & Silver underneath)
9 = Batgirl (black on top & fuschia underneath)
10 = Wonder Woman (red on top & blue underneath)
11 = Spidergirl (Purple on top & pink underneath)
12 = Supergirl (pink on top & silver underneath)
13 = Iron Man (Red on top & Yellow underneath)
14 = Thor (Red on top & Black underneath)
15 = Hulk (Green on top & Purple underneath)

To order, simply send an email to: costainpartyofsix@hotmail.com with your email address, physical address and the quantities and styles you’d like to order.

You will receive an invoice after your order is received. Payment is due upon receipt.

Already, we’ve raised enough in the few, short months since we’ve been home to pay off some of our plane tickets. So awesome.

For some reason, the idea of families fundraising to pay adoption expenses is offensive to the sensibility of some people who read my blog and the blogs of many other adoptive families. I’ve tried to make sense of why that is, but I don’t understand it. What really baffles me, though, is why these folks feel the need to send me hate mail about our fundraising, about our adoption in general. My point here is that I’ve gotten quite a lot of venomous emails from people who really don’t like my family. I’ve heard it all. So, if you still insist on sending those nasty letters, please use my shellcos@hotmail.com address – that’s the one I never check.

To all of you other lovely folks, who’ve sent beautiful, prayerful, insightful letters of loving support… Thank you. So much. Your love overshadowed the hate by a long shot.

He Makes All Things Beautiful…In His Time

Beautiful, dear friends,

Nearly three months have passed since Brad and I returned from the Congo with our boy. These three months have most certainly passed much faster than any three since we sent our application and our first few thousand dollars to the adoption agency. I still wake up most mornings in total disbelief that we are really, truly home. To say that Brad and I are grateful is, without a doubt, the understatement of the century.

Our daughters had no idea that Jecoah and I were coming home with Brad when he returned from his “visit” with us. Take a look at the picture my beautiful, talented Jen Lints captured of the moment they saw us at the airport:

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I think we succeeded in surprising them, yes? Our homecoming was beautiful; many of our nearest and dearest were at the airport to welcome us back. It was overwhelming and humbling and amazing.

The paparazzi showed up:

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This happened:

 

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And, so did this:

 

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These four beauties, the best life has to offer in friendship – they were there:

 

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And, our precious family – part of our precious family:

 

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The months have been hard, even harder than I’d expected and in ways that we couldn’t have prepared for. Adoptive parents everywhere will tell you that we spend much of the time we’re given in waiting to bring our children home preparing for the homecoming and the likelihood that it will be…challenging.

I tell people often, when they ask how the transition is going, that Jecoah is doing remarkably well. That is the grace I see in my living with him for five months without any distractions or bonus family members to bond with. By the time we left for home, he knew that I was his person, that I belonged to him and he to me. Such grace!

The transition has been much more difficult for our daughters, especially our oldest, not necessarily because of Jecoah but because I was gone for so long. Brad and I have spent many a night praying that God will draw our family nearer and nearer to one another, even when it feels easier to pull away. He’s answered abundantly, but the rough edges of hurt are still present.

While I was in Africa, I had something that I’d never had before and will likely never have again: an over-abundance of time. I must have read 20 books while I was there and was able to spend more time in prayer and intense study of the Word than ever before. God grew me in ways I didn’t know He would, in ways that forced me to examine the ugliest corners of my heart. I spent more time listening to God during prayer than I ever had and came away from this experience knowing that my story, not only the story of Jecoah’s adoption, but my story, my testimony, the story that my Creator authored, the ugly that he redeemed in me is to be shared.

And, so I began to pray that He would present me with opportunity after opportunity to share Jesus, share my story with whomever might benefit to hear it. Soon after my return, I was presented with the possibility of speaking to a large group of MOPS moms, young mamas of pre-school aged children.

With less than a week before my talk, I’ve spent a great deal of time preparing and, oh my dear soul, has it been a difficult week. To revisit, painful detail by painful detail, an ugly past like my own is hard. It’s embarrassing, humbling and yes, sanctifying. I’ve cried some tears of regret over the ugly sin that ruled my world throughout those years, but I’ve cried far more tears of thanksgiving, of overwhelming joy that I belong to Jesus.

I can’t wait to share Jesus and what He’s done in my life with anyone who will listen. Will you pray for me as I continue to prepare? I enjoy public speaking but, still, I’m nervous.

Dear Ginna

Not long after your dad and I were married we discovered that you would be joining our family. For as long as I could remember I’d wanted to be a mom and, oh my soul, did I long for a little girl.
My pregnancy was easy, uneventful throughout; it was what felt like the longest nine months of my life. I wanted badly to know if you’d be a boy or a girl but at each ultrasound appointment you were uncooperative. We’d have to wait until your arrival to discover your gender.
Early in the morning of May 4th, 2000 your dad and I made our way to the hospital so that my labor could be induced. I’d gained 65 lbs. over the course of my pregnancy. I was uncomfortable, large, and so ready to meet you.
My Dr. broke my water just before 9:00 am and within minutes, my labor was in full swing. By 10:00 am I was sure that I was dying; I’d spent the last hour screaming, very literally screaming like a crazy person. Just as the anesthesiologist was administering my epidural I discovered that you were ready to make your entrance.
At 10:11 you took your first breath, the Dr. announced that you were a girl and I saw your precious face for the first time.
Sweet Ginna Rose, I can hardly believe that 14 years have passed since that day. One of my greatest joys in this life is the privilege of being your mama, watching you grow from a precious baby to an adorable toddler, a little girl and now to the smart and hilarious, witty and beautiful young lady you are today.
I thank The Lord everyday that you know Him and I pray constantly that He would continue to draw you near to Him, that you would look for and recognize the graces, big and small, that surround you. I pray that high school will be a time of positive and fruitful spiritual growth and that God will surround you with friends and teachers who love Him and, in turn, love you well.
And, finally, I pray that you are celebrated BIG this weekend by your dad, your sisters and the rest of our family. Have fun, eat cake, laugh and love.
Your Mama loves you always.

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New Swag!

We’ve added another Bring Jecoah Home item to our swag! We now have bags available and they are super cute and super handy. Bags are $18 each (please add $5 for shipping if you’re not in the Colorado Springs area).

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Bags are 18 1/2″w x 16 1/2″h x 5″d with a zippered top closure.

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Men’s Shirt available in sizes Small through 4XL

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Women’s Shirt available in sizes Small through 3XL

Children’s Shirt available in sizes XS through XL

To order, simply click on the Donate button below. Indicate your selections, quantities and sizes in the Purpose section of Pay Pal.

Thank you for your continued support.

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Thanks again to my friend, Linda of Tees With A Purpose for making this fundraiser happen for our family.