The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

I love that the beginning of Lent and the celebration of Valentine’s Day were the same day this year.

Valentine’s Day, in the traditional sense, is not my cup of tea. However, the true meaning behind Valentine’s Day in memoriam of St. Valentinus I can absolutely support. A man of God risking imprisonment and death in the name of biblical marriage raises far greater emotions than candy hearts and red roses. (Read more here.) 

Lent is really a preparation for a wedding. It is a yearly observance of Christ’s death, a celebration of His resurrection, and anticipation of His return to bring His bride to her eternal home. How beautiful that we could begin the preparation of Easter, the promise of the wedding to come, that of Christ and His Church, with a remembrance of a man committed to upholding marriage and performing marriage ceremonies as God mandated.

Easter is at the center of the greatest love story ever told–that of the love of God for His created image bearers. A story which was written before the foundations of the earth, necessitated by the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Christ came to earth and died on the cross in our place so that we could be called the sons and daughters of God. So, as it turns out, the greatest love story ever told is also an adoption story.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. ~Galatians 4:4-7, ESV

 

 

Pre-Order My New Children’s Book on Adoption on          Kickstarter

Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Side Effects of Chasing Our Dreams

Chasing our dreams can be a thrilling, and frightening, experience. Months and years of preparation go into a product and then we put it on display for any and all who will partake. It’s a little misleading actually, because our daily lives aren’t finished products–only portions of our work are. So when people see or hear your product, they only see a portion of you; it is so easy for us all to fail to see people’s work as only a part of a whole and not a whole itself.

After launching Thirty Balloons: An Adoption Tale on Kickstarter and being a guest on the Read Aloud Revival Podcast (listen here), I can most certainly attest that finished products are one thing, daily life is another. The last two weeks have been thrilling and exhausting. As my husband and I seek to encourage others to add to their family through adoption and consider the orphan and children in foster care, it is a great time for spiritual warfare. For one example, without elaborating, the last two weeks have been extremely difficult in the parenting category for one of our children. Another example, we have had one case of the flu and one of strep throat the past week as well. You may also be pleased to know that laundry and home education didn’t take a vacation either.

However, one amazing side effect of launching a Kickstarter Campaign and putting myself out there so to speak, has been the effect on our two oldest children. When our children watch us attempt something that scares us, it encourages them to do the same. 

I recently read, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance. One take away from this book was J.D.’s feeling of not having the inside information afforded to higher income families. Even after completing law school at an Ivy League School, he still felt like somewhat of a poser. He knew the hillbilly culture from which he hailed, but didn’t know what he didn’t know until embarrassment or experience taught him. For example, he didn’t know to wear nice shoes and a jacket to an interview instead of army boots and a tucked in shirt.

Sometimes, it can seem that way even if you don’t share J.D.’s cultural history nor broken family background. It may feel as if everyone else has an instruction manual that somehow you missed out on. Like there is a world-wide memo system that wasn’t afforded to you.

However, when our kids see us reaching for goals and dreams that make us uncomfortable, and for which we are on a significant learning curve, it’s like we are handing them that memo, that instruction manual—and they don’t even realize it. Our experiences while our children are in our homes becomes a continual testament to them about how life works. How trial and error, efforts and failures, all come together. Our pursuits, in ways we cannot see, inform them as to what is possible for them to attempt.

Last week, my two oldest children were working, by their own endeavors, to write books of their own. When my oldest son tells me, “I am going to publish my book. Remember how I was going to have you just type it out on the computer and print two copies off? Well now I want to publish it like your book mom.”  My oldest daughter turns to him and says, “How are you going to do that?” “Kickstarter!” he replies.

Kickstarter! That’s a word that I didn’t even know until January of this year. Now my 8-year-old son is plotting to publish his first book on Kickstarter.

Your dreams and current goals very likely look different from mine. That’s not important. The point is, that in reaching for your God-given dreams and goals, your are influencing and informing your children and your community. You are exemplifying what is possible when you push past comfort zones and fear, and that is a beautiful side effect.

 

 

Pre-Order My New Children’s Book on Kickstarter

Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Kickstarter Update: We Did It!

The entire Cooney Family would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the overwhelming support and encouragement that we received on our Thirty Balloons Kickstarter Campaign. In less than four days you enabled us to meet our goal! Way to go!

We will share news with you later this week about our stretch goals, but, for today, we celebrate! If you haven’t had a chance to preorder your physical copy of the book there is still time left. Our campaign runs until March 3rd, so please keep spreading the word. We want to share the message of adoption, hope, family, and reading aloud to children with as many people as possible. You can do that by sharing this link.

Thanks so much again,


Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Seven Books that Encouraged Me Along Our Adoption Journey

I’ve written a good deal about my booklist that highlights orphans and celebrates adoption. It all started long ago when as a young girl, I knew I wanted to adopt. My hands reach out for books daily, whether at home, the library, a used bookstore, or while looking at the bookshelves of every home I visit. It never fails to surprise me the number of books that pass my hands where the protagonist is an orphan or an adopted child.

I didn’t initially set out to make a list of books about orphans, but I recognized that over many years my pile of books with orphan and adoption themes grew. Then I considered it might be a wonderful way to encourage and inspire others who want to adopt, are adopted, or those who genuinely enjoy a good book in general. So the orphan/adoption booklist was born.

Today, I want to give you seven specific books that encouraged me along our adoption journeys: one completed and one yet to be completed. These are books which can be read aloud to your family or independently by you or your child. They are the books which encouraged us to start this journey, stay the course, and find our voice reflected articulately on a printed page. (*All links are affiliate links.)

The book that encouraged us to venture into foster waters when adoption was our end goal was Kisses from Katie. The author, Katie Davis Majors, was a recent high school graduate when she decided to move to Uganda for a year of mission work. Before the year was over, it was obvious to her that she would be staying much longer, indefinitely in fact, as she began the process of foster care and adoption of 13 Ugandan girls. Hers is a story of inspiration and hope.

Another book that prompted perserverance was Eric Metaxas’ book on William Wilberforce. Wilberforce labored over 20 years to bring about the abolition of the slave trade in the British Colonies. His is a testament of tenacity and a story that will keep you putting one foot in front of the other moving in the direction of your destiny. 

Next, Dr. Russell Moore’s book, Adopted for Life, was such an articulate read that really put into words many of the thoughts I hold on adoption and helped me to consider how we will talk about our blended family unit at present and in the future.

Two picture books that captured my heart and provided encouragement and beauty for our whole family are:

Two chapter books which encouraged me and are great read alouds for the entire family are:

 

Perhaps, or most likely, certainly, because books have been such a huge influence on my life, I have chosen to share our youngest son’s adoption story in a picture book format. I cannot wait to share it with you! Next week you can access a pdf downloadable version with information on how to get your hands, and those of your children’s, on a physical copy of the book. Real books are better books, in my humble opinion, because they lend themselves to sharing, reading and retaining across multiple senses, and rereading. Stay tuned!

Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Looking Back On Our Adoption Journey

John 1224

I know you will remember a time in your childhood when you wondered if you were adopted. Never mind that you look like your parents and laugh at your own jokes exactly like they both do; but, just the same, you will wonder if you were adopted and never told. You will naturally gravitate towards books about orphans.

This is the planting of a seed.

Next, you will have a desire to adopt. You will make this a topic of priority with your fiancé and subsequent husband. Being the Type A planner that you are, even a few months into trying to start a family, you will again give adoption consideration and state, “If we can’t conceive on our own we will adopt.”

This is the watering of a dream.

Two kids, and a few years later, you will read Kisses from Katie and determine that if a twenty-something woman from Tennessee can adopt and foster children on her own in a foreign country, then surely you can foster one child on the way to adoption.

This is sunlight upon fertile soil.

Next you will complete the nearly 10 months of work that it takes to train and paper-approve families to foster. It will be a never ending cycle to prove your family fit to parent a child not your own. You will complain and you will wonder why on earth it will take so much to do a good deed.

This is the breaking forth of a seed out of the dark soil into the sun. 

At last, when you thought the day would never come, you will get the call to pick up your foster son. You will go expectantly with his Thomas the Train backpack and snuggle animal from Target. Then you will meet a child who your heart will forever call son. He will be blonde and beautiful and wild and covered in spaghetti sauce and you will have many long days ahead of you.

This will be the stalk rising from the ground.

For 13 months you will labor, love, and advocate on this child’s behalf. You will sing to him, Jesus Loves Me, and do all the things a mother does. You will watch every single person around you love this little boy like he was your very own son—because in many ways he forever will be your son. You will train him in the way that he should go and pray on his behalf.

This will be the wheat ripe for harvest.  

Finally, at the end of 13 months, you will say good-bye to your little boy as he is reunited with his biological family. It will be one of the hardest and perhaps the most impactful goodbyes you will ever say.

This will be the kernel falling to the ground. 

Months will pass, tears will fall, a new normal will encompass your days, and you will wonder how you ever did it all. You will wonder: can I ever do that again? The answer will not come right away–it will take some years of dormancy and rest; followed by surprises of not one, but two more children through adoption. But in all the waiting, you will say: Loving another child changed my lifemaybe the world in some small way. Then you will tell his story…their stories…your story, so that other families may open their homes to make the difference in the life of a child.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

John 12:24

Stay tuned as our Kickstarter campaign commences on February 1st. Our goal is to print 100 copies for distribution of my first children’s book on adoption, Thirty Balloons: An Adoption Tale. You won’t want to miss a post! So go ahead and sign up to receive email updates. I’d love for you to join our community.

 

(post originally published 2014)

signature

2 Comments
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Standing At the Gate

Last year my family took our first trip to Bush Gardens, a local theme park full of fabulous rides and amazing animals. We met up with some friends and our children quickly ran off to ride a few of the roller coasters. After several turns on Cobra’s Curse, a few of us wanted to try out Cheetah Hunt. Cheetah Hunt is known for its speed and length.

As several of the kids, and two of us parents, raced to the entrance, the park worker stopped my oldest son and measured him.

You have to be forty-eight inches to ride this particular roller coaster. Our son was only forty-six inches. His heart fell as did his dreams, and the empathetic feelings of this mama bear soared. We encouraged him that when he grew the required height we would be back to tackle the coaster.

Imagine his excitement as month after month he longed to grow those two additional inches to return and ride Cheetah Chase. Now, fast forward one year. Not only has our son grown three inches, we additionally purchased annual passes to Bush Gardens as our children’s Christmas presents.

Last week we took our first trip to enjoy our annual passes. The weather was a beautiful, crisp fifty-five degrees. While wonderfully unexpected cold weather for southern Florida, it was apparently not the ideal conditions for theme park rides as our two favorites were shut down for most of the day.

As we were about to exit the park without having rode a single coaster, we heard Cheetah Chase running and my two oldest kids and I ran to claim our place in line.

We patiently and expectantly waited our turn. Soon enough, we were the next to board, standing at the gate moments away from his and my first time on the ride when suddenly we hear, Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you we are experiencing technical difficulties and Cheetah Chase will be closed at this time. We have no way of knowing how long a delay this will be. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Disappointment and sadness momentarily came over my son. We had to get back to my husband who was watching the two younger children, one of which most certainly needed a diaper change by now. I couldn’t wait an unknown time to be the first in line on a ride that had shut down multiple times that day. I didn’t think that would be wise of me as a mother. Let some other people be the first to try it I explained to my children after begrudgingly waiting five minutes for the problem to be fixed. All the while we waited watching a coaster full of people stuck a few feet away on the track.

As we were leaving the park, and a few times after that, I told my son how I was sorry we couldn’t ride Cheetah Chase, or even Cobra’s Curse, that day. But I was certain God was growing character in him, even as he had grown him already in height, and for that I was grateful. I explained to him that in the waiting he was developing character and patience. Delayed gratification is a good thing after all.

We as parents often pray for our children that they would grow like Christ, in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52) However, when it comes to the means that God may allow for that growth, we instead ask Him, please make a way for my child, please let this cup pass, please allow this process to speed along, please let him or her make the team Lord, please give them… xyz.

We ask for growth in wisdom and stature and we need to lean in and trust God’s processes even when it hurts. Moreover, we, you and I, emphasis on I, must learn to thank Him for those times. That’s hard! As fleshly parents we want the easy way for our kids. But the Bible tells us that God’s way is the straight and narrow road, even as His yoke is easy and His burden is light, and few find this way.  (See Matthew 11:30 and Matthew 7:13)

You see, my son has lamented his size in comparison to his peers only a few times. I’ve prayed and sympathized over it multiple times hoping he wouldn’t be burdened with comparison! He accepts who he is and leans into the gifts of determination, tenacity, grit, and encouragement that God has given him. Even if he doesn’t consciously recognize this at his young age. His size is something God is using to conform him to the image of Christ.

What about you? What are you standing at the gate of, next in line and awaiting your turn? What seems like you are forever waiting on? Now ask yourself, what lessons am I learning in this waiting? How have I changed as a person because of the delays in my life? So that, when your turn comes, when my turn comes, we will walk through the gate a changed person from the one that first approached it.

Standing at the gate with you,

Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Waiting for the Green Light

My youngest son has a Mirari OK to Wake! Alarm Clock & Night-Light* he adorably refers to as his night clock. The clock turns green when he is allowed to come out of his room in the mornings, and, before it is time, the light on the clock remains yellow. We made this purchase at the suggestion of a friend after weeks of him waking at 5:45 AM. We’ve mostly trained him to remain in his room until the light turns green and waiting on the green light has become a norm for him.

I can identify with his waiting and watching. Waiting on the green light has become a norm for me and my family as well.

I feel like we’ve been in the yellow-light stage for quite some time on many fronts. Certainly our adoption, in addition to the hopes of purchasing a different home, and the list goes on.

Maybe you’ve felt that too? Perhaps it is a long wait on an adoption, a career change, another child, a new house, relocating, treatment options for an illness, a spouse, or waiting on a loved one to make needed changes. For our family, sitting in a cautionary posture has been our normal for over two and a half years.

I like to tease we are perfecting the art of waiting. I also like to imagine we’ve improved. In fact, most days, I am assured we are perfecting waiting. Because in waiting, real life is lived and our memories are being made. Life doesn’t wait on green lights like we do.

Even this week, another yellow light situation popped up unexpectedly. My husband and I decided that the children’s book we were set to self publish, should be postponed, and a Kickstarter account started, due to the exorbitant costs of printing. The book, a children’s picture book about our youngest son’s adoption, will be available for a free download as a PDF later this month (insert elation here!), but we also hoped to have physical copies to sell. Real books lend themselves to better retention, multiple readings, and little hands to explore them frequently on their own. I’ll let you know more about the Kickstarter in the next few weeks, but for now, suffice it to say, this has provided one more area in our lives where we are waiting on the green light.

In the midst of all of the waiting our family has done, most recently in the last two and a half years, we have seen the benefits of unanswered prayer, or, rather, long-awaited answers. It should come as no surprise that the virtues are endurance, character, and hope.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. ~Romans 5:3-5, NLT

Waiting births endurance, character, and hope, and binds us to Christ in that we love Him more not for what He can offer us, nor less for what He hasn’t provided, but purer for who He is.

So you and I, like my youngest son, may awake daily postured for the appearance of the green light, and we can also learn to love Christ more purely as we wait on Him.

What else has a season of waiting taught you? I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

*Amazon affiliate link.

Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

A Darkened Christmas Tree

Earlier this week I was taking a moment to sit at the dinning room table and enjoy a cozy cup of coffee along with the lights and sights of our rotating Christmas tree. Suddenly, a little pop erupted and the lights flashed off. As the darkened tree continued to rotate without the glow of the lights, my spirit fell. How would I locate the exact bulb which had blown out of the hundreds on the tree? Where do you even start to check? I’d text my husband and wait on him to get home, that’s where I would start!

As the hours passed before it was time for my husband to be home from work, I could sense that the lights going out on the tree affected my so called Christmas Spirit. Advent, or awaiting the coming of Christ, is certainly at the forefront of our family celebrations, but the Christmas tree is the glowing center of our home throughout December.

The absence of light is how darkness is defined. Darkness isn’t an entity of itself, it is a state of deficiency, want, nothingness. Christ came as the light into our dark, deficient, sin-stained world. Apart from Christ’s incarnation, there would be no light of which to sing or celebrate at Christmas.

Praise God that Emmanuel has come! For people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (See Matthew 4:16, Isaiah 9:1-2)

Later that evening when my husband arrived, he knelt to inspect the tree. Just as he did, I remembered that the coupling for the lights was located at the base of the tree, quickly factored in the curiosity of our two toddlers, and suggested he start there. Thankfully, that one connection was the solution to our darkened Christmas tree, just as Christ is the all sufficient light that shines into the darkness we once walked in.

May your days be merry and bright,


 

Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Christmas Books to Round Out National Adoption Awareness Month

As we close the last day of National Adoption Awareness Month and turn our eyes towards Christmas, I propose a few more seasonal stories to warm your heart. Tales to remind us of great needs in the world and our abilities to make a change not for every child, but perhaps for just one.

My daughter and I have already listened to and are listening to again, The Christmas Doll. The older kids and I are nearly done with I Saw Three Ships, a new favorite from last year.  I can hardly wait to read aloud Holly and Ivy; a book that spurred me on two Christmases ago just after we met our youngest adopted son and were realizing this would be a long journey. Just how long, we had no idea! Finally, The Matchbox Girl is a beautifully illustrated, sorrowful tale that reminds me of our need to not pass people by. We must look to help in each situation as the Holy Spirit leads us and make a difference in the lives of children God puts in our path.

May you find these stories to be welcome addition to your holiday reading. If you like these, you might also like more of our Christmas favorites over here.

Happy reading and Merry Christmas!

 

 

*If you are reading this in your email head on over to the original post for the book links here.

Leave a Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!

Lasting Lessons from Hurricane Irma

I took one last look at my husband as my four children and I drove away from our home on Florida’s west coast. With his hands clasped in a prayerful pose and nervously lifted to his lips, I darted another quick prayer that we would be home again soon and find everything and everyone as we left them. I knew Ron and our family were anxious about my 500-mile evacuation to my parent’s home in Alabama. The last time I had set out on the solo parent mission was six years earlier. We didn’t make it even two hours into our journey when I  totaled our SUV and landed myself and two older children in the ER. That trip was an attempt to help victims of a devastating tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. This trip was an endeavor to escape the potentially fatal winds of the category five storm dubbed, Irma.

Irma was the largest recorded hurricane to date. Our city, thankfully, was sparred the brunt of the winds and the storm surge, but not before wrecking everyone in the state’s nerves as we braced to see what path this storm would take and how strong she would come in. Irma resulted in the largest mass exodus of people from Florida. We were among millions driving away from the storm to seek refuge in neighboring states. With gasoline scarce and roadways pregnant with fleeing evacuees, we drove out early on Wednesday morning trying to beat the traffic. We were successful in that endeavor. Finding US 19 traffic free and momentarily plentiful with gas, the kids and I successfully made the 10-hour trip in 11 hours.

As the state of Florida experienced one of the slowest weeks in history, all Floridians felt the oppressive weight of uncertainty. Regardless of our geographic location, we were all considering the possible loss of life and property. We were reevaluating priorities and esteeming relationships above material possessions. So many of us wrestled with the question of evacuating or staying to assist in the aftermath. Hunkering down, or hustling away. Many for the first time realized that the cone of uncertainty is a real threat and not an ideology to keep people glued to their local weather forecaster nor a way to sell bread and water.

Now, nearing a month after Irma, there are a few lessons we must remember even as the debris continues to be cleared away and the aftermath begin to look more like the prior glory of central and southern Florida. Granted, our area was spared the most it could have been and the more southern portions of the state are still experiencing aftermath in ways that I cannot fathom at this point. Please consider as you read these thoughts that our home suffered no damage and we weren’t left to wrestle with the total ruin that some of our fellow statesmen, along with the Caribbean Islands, are dealing with. Prior to landfall, we prepared for the worst and prayed for the best.

  1. Community continues to be the cornerstone of civilization. It was amazing to see how much humanity is highlighted in the darkest hours. The community among friends and family was fully displayed as texts were sent, storm shutters and plywood boarded, water shared, and safety plans made. It was a beautiful sight to behold. We held each other’s hands both figuratively and literally, encouraged one another, and prayed for and with one another. We braced the storm with faith in our God and His sovereignty no matter the ultimate outcome. In today’s digital era, we can falsely believe that all you need is a deserted island, Amazon Prime, and a laptop to experience all life has to offer. Rest assured, physical community cannot be replaced, merely inadequately replicated online.
  2. Debris remains long after the headlines have shifted. We continue to require cleanup locally. Most people have cleaned their yards, but piles of brown limbs and leaves accumulated on streets, as well as many large downed trees, remain. News is purposed to sensationalize every situation for a season, but the seasons for real catastrophes linger dramatically longer than the seasons of national news headlines. When our Facebook temporary profile pictures move onto the next cause, people in affected communities cannot. Like a death in the family, the world moves on, but the day to day has forever changed for the family who lost a loved one; and in the case of Irma, loss of physical needs. Therefore, our eternal perspective and our service perspective are longer term than our television screens.
  3. We are smaller and more helpless than we daily imagine. When a category five hurricane is ripping through islands and countries and seems to never slow down, it is amazing to see how big God is and how small we are. Only God can calm the storms. Man can simply brace or run. We taunt our pride in self-sufficiency, only to find in the face of natural disaster we are ultimately inadequate. We can plan, pray, prepare, and protect to the best of our abilities but the outcome is out of our hands. We are in control of far less than we daily realize.
  4. We, the Church, are known by our love for one another. Local teams of people from our church were out immediately after Irma hit, cleaning up debris and fallen trees in neighborhoods. This service of sawing and cleaning up trees cost a reported $6,000 after the hurricane. When a neighbor of one of our church members realized the team at his neighboring home was a volunteer clean up team, his mind was blown! These teams helped people both locally, and some continue to assist further south in Naples. When we help others, Christ is glorified and people begin to question the reason for the assistance being offered.
  5. The objects of earthly importance are not those which we use daily. When we crammed our car full of items we wanted to spare in the event of total devastation, we took documents and photo albums we rarely consider or use. More importantly, we placed the people we care most about in the car to carry them to safety. Things can be replaced. Little we use in the day to day is so priceless it can’t be duplicated or done away with. Irma made us consider how little we really need and how valuable people are.

Ten days after we pulled out of our driveway, we were pulling back into our parking spot. The kids and I were probably among some of the last in our area to make the return trip. We had waited to make sure there was power, gas, and open roadways. This time, as I looked through the window of the car, Ron was wearing a smile and open arms. Hands of prayer had turned to hands of welcoming praise. I hope these lasting lessons linger longer than the headlines in our state and local communities and we place the most value where eternal worth lies.

1 Comment
Share This Post With Your Friends!