Wednesday, April 16, 2014

He's a Fighter

There are days where all I can think about is the time Kirill spent in the orphanage. He's been with us for almost three years now. He will be 8 years old in two weeks. I often think about the years before he joined our family-especially around his birthday.

I wonder if he remembers the orphanage? Since he's nonverbal he can't tell us these things. Once, his teacher told me they were reading a story about a child in an orphanage in the library. Kirill started screaming and crying (which he almost NEVER does) out of nowhere as if he was hurt. I am sure it was just a coincidence, but it made us all wonder if he understood what the librarian was talking about and somehow made the connection. Who knows...we may never know what he remembers. I pray he doesn't remember anything before he came into our family, but I know he probably does. Even if he doesn't, the scars of spending five years in a crib with little or no outside contact with humans are obvious. They're slowly fading, but still obvious.

One thing I do know: Kirill is the strongest person I've ever met. These days when all I can do is linger on the hell of his first five years, I remember when we walked out of the orphanage after meeting him for the first time. Greg and I knew we were walking away from him for months (which would later stretch into almost a year). From our arms, we were sending him back into a cold, isolated existence. I wondered out loud to Greg if he would live until we were allowed to come back for him. Greg held my hand and said, "Tesney, he's going to be ok. He's going to make it. He's a fighter. I can tell."

I still don't know if Greg really believed that or if he was just trying to make his heartbroken wife feel more confident. I do know that it proved to be the truth. Kirill is a fighter. He doesn't give up. His persistence is amazing. Even after all he lived through, his spirit is joyful and he has the best smile you've ever seen.

I guess I'm writing this just to encourage you. I know we all have bad days; bad months, years, and lives even. However, I can promise you that if Kirill lived through his first 1, 871 days, you can find the strength to keep going. He's my daily reminder that Jesus sustains even when our world is not full of rainbows and unicorns. He's a fighter.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Story Behind the Artemis Necklace (Part 1 of Noonday Artisan Stories Series)

Happy Weekend Everyone!

I hope you've all entered the giveaway for the Artemis Necklace I'm hosting for the Noonday Blog train. If not, you can find the details HERE.

I thought you might all like to know a little more of the story behind the Artemis Necklace. Then I thought about how I never have time to tell ALL the stories behind our pieces at trunk shows. There are literally hundreds of stories. Then I thought, "why not do a series of blog posts highlighting some of my favorite artisan stories?" So here we go! I'm going to post a different story for several posts so you can see for yourself why I am so passionate about Noonday Collection

Let me introduce you to a very special man. His name is Renal and he is from Haiti. When Hurricane Sandy hit his community, his family lost their workshop that employed many Haitian artisans. They lost their jobs, but they didn't lose hope. 

 Noonday began partnering with Renal to help him build back his business. Because of Noonday's orders for the spring, Renal has been able to employ artisans again and he's bringing hope back to his community. 

In fact, our home office recently spoke with Renal and he told us his "Tap-Tap" (truck) had been broken down for a long time. Because of Noonday's spring purchases, he had enough income to repair his truck. He's been using it to transport children from his community to and from school each day so they can receive an education! The ripples of Noonday's purchases never cease to amaze me.

But it doesn't end there. One of Renal's artisans is a woman with two children who have Sickle Cell Anemia. Her children have accumulated medical bills and she couldn't pay the hospitals for their care. Because the income she's earned working with Renal, filling orders for Noonday, she has been able to not only pay off her medical debt, but she has enrolled both of her children in school full time!

So when you see Noonday's beautiful designs, please understand they're so much more than that. It's a the relief a mother feels when no longer has to worry if she can afford medical care for her chronically ill children. It's the peace of mind a shop owner has when he can pay his employees a fair wage and know that they are able to provide for their family's needs. It's the hope of a mother who can afford to send her children to school so they can grow up and have a chance to break the cycle of poverty and oppression. Each time you wear their stories, you are giving them a platform to be lifted out of poverty. You're giving them life. So please, spread the word. Share this post. Share Noonday with your friends, family, and co-workers. Wear Noonday and when someone compliments you on your gorgeous taste, tell them about the artisan that made your accessories and ask them to partner with us too!

Also, don't forget...enter the giveaway to win this necklace! It's so stinkin' fierce! I just love it. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

How I Found My Fierce Again

Hello all you blog train passengers! Welcome to my blog. If you're here for the first time my name is Tesney and I'm so happy you've stopped by! If you've been reading for a while, welcome back! I'm a little late with my post due to my crazy was actually supposed to go up yesterday. The train is not derailed though! It just had a one-day delay and there will be two posts today to catch from me and one from Elizabeth. So if you're just getting on the blog train, be sure to go to Baylor's blog from yesterday and Elizabeth's blog for today. 

If you know me in real life, you know that I'm never really at a loss for words. Yet, for a couple of years now, I've found it very difficult to blog. So much of what I used to write about was a diary of sorts of my spiritual thoughts. Can I get real with you here?

To be quite frank, since we arrived home with Kirill, those thoughts have been consumed with doubt. 

I know it makes no sense. We were a part of a modern day miracle with his adoption. I felt the Holy Spirit literally took over my body and soul during the last three months of fighting for our son in the Russian Supreme Court. Jesus through us was fierce. However, when I got back home, it was as if I couldn't go back to my previous faith. I couldn't wrap my mind about what had happened. I had never experienced that kind of indwelling of the Holy Spirit and since I couldn't explain it, I started to doubt if it was real. Sometimes the human mind is a tool of the Enemy and I think he made me question a lot of what I had experienced.

We also walked through some of the darkest days of our lives after bringing Kirill home. Satan attacked us in ways that we never could have imagined. I won't go into a lot of detail but trust me when I say, some of our worst fears (that had nothing to do with adoption) were suddenly staring us in the face and we had to deal with them while trying to adjust to life with Kirill. I seriously doubted God y'all. For the first time in my life, I just didn't know if he was real and it was scary.

Still, in the midst of all of that, I never lost my passion for justice for the poor and oppressed. I think the Holy Spirit was still stirring in me even while I questioned. That's the great thing about Jesus...his grace covers all of our times of questioning. It's ok to wrestle with God. Jacob did it-I figure he's no better than me. Anyway, like I said...I still sought to figure out ways to help bring justice to the poor even in the midst of my doubt.

One thing that I learned during our adoption: keeping families together is the best solution to the orphan crisis. Hear me out: I love adoption. I think it's necessary in our world and it's one of the only ways Jesus has shown me the depth of his love for us. It was during this time that I first heard about Noonday Collection. I was intrigued by their purpose: to provide artisans all over the world with a pathway out of poverty. They do this by giving them sustainable income and partnering with them in long-term relationships based on mutual trust. Noonday provides more than just a living wage though; they also provide medical care, no-interest loans, scholarships, and emergency care. Their goal is to provide for their artisans in such a way that they never have to make the difficult decision of whether or not to place their child for adoption due to poverty or illness. I decided to become an ambassador for them because I knew that if Kirill's mom had a Noonday in her life, she would not have had to place him for adoption.

Becoming an ambassador has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I say that because it also brought me hope in very dark times and was a catalyst for me to see Jesus at work all over the world and realize that he IS real. The heart of the Noonday founders and the heart of the women who are ambassadors are unified in our passion to work on behalf of justice for the poor. That unity has created a beautiful mess of people that I've never seen the likes of before in my life. I was able to get together with many of them in January and y' words. We had church! It wasn't a "Christian" event. There are women who are ambassadors and people who love Noonday that aren't Christians (God can use anyone...don't be deceived into thinking he isn't at work in the lives of all people...he loves us all the same). However, the heart and soul of this company, God is driving. He's doing some amazing things through regular women who have chosen to say "yes" to fighting on behalf of the marginalized citizens of humanity. I have never been a part of 400 women who are more united or more positive in my life. We are focused on Jesus. Running the race together and our eyes are not going to the right or the left. If one of us struggles, we ALL struggle. We pray for and support and love and encourage each other so we can keep our eyes focused on the end of the race where Jesus will meet us! If one of us starts to get sidetracked, we all help her get re-focused. It's an amazing group of women, I tell ya, because it's not about's all about him.

I am convinced of this: if you want to see Jesus in the land of the living, join arms and work on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Put your focus on alleviating poverty and not on self-serving ideals of our jacked-up world. Jesus will join you whether you want him to or not. He will also show you a solidarity with other people that you cannot imagine...there's no room for selfishness. That is the unexpected blessing of Noonday in my own life. It has been a pivotal part of restoring my faith in God's sovereignty and his need for us to take his love to all people. I have a renewed faith and a passion to spend my days on his behalf like never before. I get to serve our beautiful artisans and share their stories. I get to give them a platform and a voice. It's humbling that God would use me to do that. It also raises up a fierceness in me like never before. I have realized I have one life. I've got one chance to do this thing and do it for his glory. Not in a way that is "doing" just for the sake of busyness...or in a legalistic way where I have to earn Jesus' approval. But I burn in my bones to be a voice for those that cannot speak up for themselves. These verses have become personal mantras:

Luke 12:48 "When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required."

Isaiah 58:10: "and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,    and your night will become like the noonday."

I think that's why one of my favorite Noonday artisan creations is the Artemis Necklace. I feel this fierceness of Jesus inside of me and this necklace just looks so fierce. It's like a real-life reminder of the armor of God! The story behind it, I'll share tomorrow. I've probably said enough for today plus I've got to go because I've got a Dr. Suess date with my first grader sons! So come back and I'll tell you more about how the Artemis Necklace is changing lives. 

While you wait, go ahead and enter the contest to win an Artemis Necklace for yourself!!! You have three chances to win. Here's how:
1. Leave a comment.
2. Share this blog post on Twitter.
3. Share this blog post on Facebook.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Old McDonald had a Farm, Pale-E-I-E-I-O

Our fam has been eating paleo on and off for about three years. The last year, I mean for ALL of 2013, I've been off paleo. Like I haven't cared one bit about what or how much I was eating. I think I was struggling with depression last winter and that led to a lot of sedentary days and emotional eating. I've been feeling much better since the summer, but the eating habits and lack of consistent exercise were hard to overcome. I *think* I've turned the corner with that too. I'm so grateful, because it gets really heavy (literally) to feel so unmotivated to take care of your health. I gained TWENTY POUNDS this past year y'all. Twenty. I'm up two pants sizes from my "normal" (which I've maintained for years). The reason is very complicated: I've been eating too much and exercising too little. ;)

So the week after Christmas, I started eating paleo again for the first time in a long time. Paleo isn't a magic diet and I don't feel like it's the only way to be healthy. But for me, being a Type 1 diabetic, it's easy for me to prove by my blood sugar readings, cholesterol, and blood pressure that it works for me. I feel SO GOOD when I maintain a paleo lifestyle at least 80% of the time.

This holiday break, I've been experimenting with some new recipes so I won't get bored with eating paleo. In the past, I've been guilty of eating the same thing over and over just because I'm lazy and don't want to cook. This time, I feel like that will just set me up for failure (because I like the taste of food). I especially LOVE comfort food. So meatloaf is something I wanted to make but with a paleo twist. Here's what I came up with. If I do say so myself, it's pretty tasty! Your kids will probably even love it! Mine do.

Paleo Meat Loaf

1 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
3/4 c. almond flour
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 egg
1 tsp paprika
1tsp thyme
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
Sauce: 1 1/2 c reduced sugar ketchup
2 Tbs Sriracha
1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar 

Whisk ketchup, sriracha, and apple cider vinegar together to make sauce. Divide and set half aside for topping. Mix all the rest of the ingredients together very well. Press into a 9x5 loaf pan. Top with the sauce you set aside. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Let sit for ten minutes. Tip pan to one corner and drain grease. Remove from pan, slice, and serve!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Not Impressed

Rescue those unjustly sentenced to die. Don't hesitate to step in and help. If you say, "Hey, that's none of my business." Will that get you off the hook? God knows what you know. He's not impressed with weak excuses. -Proverbs 24:11-12, NLT & The Message mash-up

Since God first wrecked our lives in a most excellent (and most difficult) way through adoption, I've gone back and forth, to and from extremes. At first I was all "full throttle ahead, everyone should adopt, and why aren't they" with my approach. 

Then I felt The Lord pressing me to be a little more graceful. I felt him nudging me to be quiet for a while, to listen, offer support, and to let him change hearts. I started learning more about adoption. I visited other countries and saw first-hand how family preservation is so much better IF it's feasible. I got in touch with Kirill's birth mom, learned his birth story from her perspective, and realized that family of origin is always the best option. But it isn't always an available option. 

For Kirill, and most orphaned children with intensive special needs, adoption is probably the only solution. This is where my passion has been re-ignited over the past few months. I've felt God telling me it's time to speak up again. Maybe a little more boldly than ever on behalf of orphaned children with special needs. 

Orphaned children with special needs. Let's talk about that. Let's allow the reality of their situations to sink in for a moment. A child with special needs with a loving, nurturing family will have some obstacles to overcome. A child with special needs without a family...well, their obstacles are almost insurmountable. Depending on the country, they are turned out onto the streets, placed in mental institutions, or turned over to nursing homes...obstacles that are impossible to overcome because they don't have a voice or a family to advocate for them.

Now, think about this for a moment. God tells us repeatedly that the least of these are our responsibility as Jesus-followers. WE are the ones sentencing them to an unfair death by doing nothing. 

It is our business. 

God is not impressed with weak excuses. 

Now, let's all together say our excuses for not doing something out loud. I will start. 

Our plate is full with Kirill. (Feel free to insert your own plate-filling child's name).

Well, it is pretty full. I work. Greg works. We have two kids and one of them has intensive special needs. But the reality is I work primarily from home so I have 6 hours a day alone while my children are at school. We have an extra bedroom. We have food to spare. Honestly, there is room for more from us. Imagine telling Jesus your weak excuse. Would he be impressed? For us, it has become clear that cannot check "special needs adoption" off a list and rest on our laurels for the rest of our lives. 

Frankly speaking, it's not about us. When we shift our focus to the children who need families, and we make it about their needs, everything changes. Our excuses are LAME-O. 

So today, on Orphan Sunday, let's all do better. Let's start examining excuses. Pray your excuses to God and see how he answers. Adoption is one answer...and for many it is the only answer. But there are eleventy billion other answers he may give you. The 90-year old home bound grandmother may be moved to pray for adopting families and their children. The tween aged crowd may organize a fundraiser for sponsoring a family preservation program. The young married couple may offer respite care for tired adoptive parents. He may tell you to mentor teen moms. We can probably all think of a family in our own community who needs help staying together. Why don't we come alongside those families and support them instead of judging them? There is plenty we can all do together. Let's just do something and stop with the excuses. God isn't impressed. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Noonday Blog Train

CHOO-CHOO! Welcome to the Noonday Blog Train, September 12th Edition! If you're just jumping on the train, you can read more about it HERE. You can also see yesterday's post HERE and tomorrow's post HERE.

So Noonday...what can I say about Noonday? There's too much for one blog post. I guess the thing that I love most that it isn't so much about "selling" as it is giving oppressed people a platform from which to tell their stories. I love speaking out on behalf of our artisans and advocating for their families.

All of our pieces have a story behind them. There are literally hundreds of stories of redemption that I could tell because we have hundreds of gorgeous accessories in our collection. But the one piece that hooked me on Noonday was this sparkling beauty:

This bag is crazy awesome. It's made from recycled VHS and casette tapes (I know, can you believe it?). It's super luxe and has room inside for all your essentials for a night out. I love the clutch design and the rosettes. It goes with everything from a cocktail dress to jeans and a jacket. All that is fab, right? But here's the best part: the artisans that make this bag are from India and they all have special needs! Noonday partners with a group of Indian artisans who are from the lowest caste system because of their special needs. Noonday provides them with a dignified job, money to take care of their needs, and life skills training to help them live independently or semi-independently.

So now that you've heard the story behind the Rewind Clutch, I know you want one of your very own! I'm giving away a Rewind Clutch to one lucky winner! All you have to do is complete these TWO simple, easy-peasy, goof-proof steps:

1. Click the raffle entry below to enter your name and info.
2. Go to the Noonday Artisan Story page and read about our wonderful artisans. Then, leave a comment below with the story that speaks to you most. (I have comment moderation enabled on my blog, so comments will not appear immediately...unless you get an error message, your comment has been received and will be published after I approve them). :)

You must enter the raffle AND comment to win, as stated above. The giveaway ends on Sunday (9-15-13) at midnight CST, so be sure to share with all of your friends and family until then! I will announce the winner on Monday (9-14-13) morning.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you will make Noonday your stop for buying all of your accessories and gifts. Purchasing Noonday means you're giving twice and that, my friends, is using your purchasing power wisely!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

There's No Handbook, but Here's a Cheat Sheet!

Image via

After my last post, I got some comments that made me terribly uncomfortable. I don't want people to feel sorry for us. Admitting that life with a child like Kirill is hard doesn't mean we don't love our life. We wouldn't trade it for another life...ever. So that being said, thank you so much for the support and please understand that we have a joy-filled life even if it is HARD sometimes. I mainly just wanted to open up dialogue among other adoptive parents of children with intensive special needs in a real, honest way. I hope that we will all begin to be more honest with ourselves and with each other so that we can help each other navigate through the hard times.

So how do you have joy when you're simultaneously being challenged to your breaking point at times? I can tell you what we do and I hope it will help. After writing the "There's No Handbook" post, I did some of these things myself. I was having a challenging day when I wrote that and I needed to feel some joy. So here's what we do...I hope these will also help you.

1. Focus on the Small Stuff. Last Thursday I took Kirill to the opthamologist. These annual appointments are always a good time to think back because there's a whole year between them and I can really contrast and compare Kirill's progress. Last year, I had to take Greg with me to handle both boys in the waiting room, with eye drops, etc. Two years ago it took me, Greg, and the assistant to get eye drops in Kirill's eyes and keep Kirill contained. This year, because Kirill has learned to use an iPad with some independence, I took them alone. Kirill sat in a chair for almost the entire wait, quietly listening to books on the iPad. When it came time for drops, I didn't even hold him. He sat in the chair and I helped hold his eyes open for the nurse. That was it! It was so much easier than the past two years.

2. Hire a babysitter. We have a tight budget. But one thing we do not sacrifice is paying for a babysitter. Once a month, we try to go out alone. We also try to take individual girl trips and guy trips with our friends just to give ourselves small breaks. This doesn't happen often enough and we need to do better about making sure we do our date nights. So note to self: schedule date night for September.

3. Ask for help. Ok, I'm HORRIBLE at this. But, I am getting better. I have started just asking people for a little help when I need it. Can't carry everything across the football field at Clayton's practice AND get Kirill to walk to the sidelines? I ask random people headed in the same direction to help me carry stuff. Can't push the grocery store shopping cart to the car and get Kirill to walk out of the store and to the car? I get a store employee to help. Laundry taking over your house? Ask the babysitter to stick around and help you fold clothes. Even though it's nothing big...just asking for a little assistance sometimes makes a HUGE difference in the situation. I've never had anyone who wasn't glad to do those little things. We don't live in a world with a eleventy gabillion other people for nothing. Of course, always pay it forward too! Look for opportunities to make life a little easier for other people when you can!

4. Talk to someone. Most people have at least one person they can talk to when the going gets tough. Even if you have to pay someone to talk to them (I'm talking professional help here...there's no shame in it...I used to be a therapist and I have been to a therapist). Taking an hour out of your week or month to just sit and process your emotions can really shift your perspective. Just getting all those thoughts and feelings outside of your head is 90% of the battle.

5. When all else fails, wine and chocolate. Do I need to elaborate on this one?

I have more, but I'm really wanting to hear from you. Plus Kirill just ran in here naked so I need to go. What do YOU do to make it through the tough days? Leave a comment and let's start writing that handbook!