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

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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,


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Building Strong Families

Shared experiences. This is perhaps the number one way to build strong families. These shared experiences can be over service opportunities, spiritual disciplines, sports, nature walks, hiking, hobbies, and, one of our favorite ways, that of sharing great books.

In making the list of over 50 books highlighting orphans and celebrating adoption, I may have mistakenly thought that I was building a list of books dealing with broken families. While that is true on the one hand, it is an inaccurate assumption on the other. Families involved in orphan and foster care are typically looking to share strong family values with the children they foster or adopt.

Many of the books I recommend indeed celebrate family. In championing adoption, we are ultimately championing family. Nearly all of the picture books celebrate finding home and a place of safety and acceptance. A few of the chapter books that immediately come to mind which celebrate strong families encountered within the story, even while beginning in brokenness are:

I recently read The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, and it is such a beautiful story, for one reason among many, in that it esteems a strong family relationship. Sometimes we read books and see ourselves in them, sometimes we read them and see relationships as we wish they were. For children in the foster system, this book would fall into the later category.

That is another reason why I am so excited about my new book, Thirty Balloons: An Adoption Tale. (Did you download your free copy yet?) It is a story about adoption, but it is simultaneously a story about a family wanting to add to their number, share the blessing of family that they have, and champion not only the cause of the orphan, but the power of family. How like God that he would join passions of my husband, to build strong families through counseling and biblical teaching, with our desire to adopt, and mine to write. This is the first time that I have looked at these three life goals and see them colliding as one.

The Kickstarter Campaign for Thirty Balloons is live! Click here to back our campaign and watch our video to learn more about the project. I can’t wait for you to preorder your copy, or copies, to share.

What are some of your favorite books that have strong families threaded within? I would love to read them too.

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Special Features Included in Thirty Balloons: An Adoption Tale

My family is greatly encouraged by all the comments and interest everyone has shown in Thirty Balloons: An Adoption Tale. I wanted to highlight a few features that you will notice in the pdf downloadable copy that will be available on Friday afternoon. Can’t wait to share that with you!

The first portion I would like to highlight, is a section of the book where you record your own adoption journey. When you preorder your copies of Thirty Balloons via our Kickstarter Campaign, you will be able to buy one to keep and one to share with a friend. This book makes a great gift for adoptive and foster families! What a neat way for someone to honor their child’s journey in their own words for them to revisit as often as they like.

The next is a glossary of terms. As a speech-language pathologist and a home educator, vocabulary is very important to me. The rich vocabulary in this book is great to discuss and begin to use in your family’s everyday conversations, as well as your child’s writing assignments! The reading level of this book makes it perfect for reading aloud and not simply passing it on to your child to read alone. I would say it is best suited for children ages 6 and up. Certainly younger children who already sit through more lengthy picture books will enjoy the bright colors and rich text as well. Reading Thirty Balloons aloud, as well as expanding on some of the vocabulary naturally in conversation after reading the book, can be an added bonus of this shared reading experience..

Lastly, the final page of the book is a thank you to our Kickstarter backers. If you want to support our campaign and have your name in the book, be sure and invest in the campaign starting February 1st at 11:00AM Eastern. We would love for your name, your family’s name, or that of a loved one to be honored in our book. You could even buy a kit to donate to your local elementary school and put their name, or your child’s teacher’s name!

I am so excited about this project and the excellent work of the team behind it. Please, if you haven’t already subscribed to the blog, take a moment and do that today at the link on the right of your screen.

Until Friday,


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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!

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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)

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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,

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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.

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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,


 

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Our Christmas Offering

Recently I recorded a podcast that will air later this winter. It was an opportunity that I have been excited about for months on months. After the recording call ended I immediately felt two things. First, gratitude. I was, and remain, immensely grateful for the opportunity. Secondly, I began to worry. I second-guessed my performance and replayed in my mind what I would do differently…for days! I even worried about a portion I may have blundered. Real spiritual and mature of me right? That’s what recovering perfectionists do.

It wasn’t until the Sunday after the recording, that a thought hit me. If all I have to offer is myself, then I will always come up short. However, with God, my offering is always enough. 

I think this truth goes for more than my podcast offering. It additionally applies to our Christmas offerings as well. We want our families to remember certain things about their holiday experiences. We know that only a few gifts our children receive will make it into their long term memory, but the environment that we create for them will carryover into adulthood and last a lifetime.

I’m fairly certain that Mary and Joseph felt similarly. Most likely they questioned how they would ever live up to parenting the Messiah. How does one go about raising the Son of God? In offering themselves with God, they were offering exactly what Jesus needed as fully God and fully man. So too, in offering ourselves with God, we offer all that is necessary this Christmas season.

As we seek to provide a warm, rich, holiday experience for our children, let’s remind ourselves this one thing: No matter what our goals are the Christmas season, with God, our Christmas offerings are always enough.

Merry Memory Making,

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