Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Transformation...

*THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK THUNK...CLANK clink clack CLANK THUNK THUNK...*
It's been a symphony of construction at our house the past few weeks. While some might find the noise annoying, it was certainly more like music to our ears as years (literally!) of prayers had been creatively answered, even down to how we found a contractor that was perfect for the job we needed done. (Remember all of those neck issues I've been having? I spent months in physical therapy trying to get some relief from the issue and my physical therapist "happened" to mention he knew of a wonderful contractor.) I still remember when the contractor originally came out to our house and stepped around all of the toys in the garage, making measurements and telling us his plans of how he could make the space into a room. He was confident of his ability to transform our space, and while I knew that he could build a room out of our garage, I just wasn't sure how it would ever truly feel like anything but a garage. But, God opened the (garage) door wide open and made it clear this is what we were supposed to do, so we trusted the contractor and embarked on the expansion just a little over three weeks ago.

They started to work on a Monday and the frame went up on Tuesday. I excitedly entered the (still to me) garage after the workers left to see how everything looked, but my heart immediately sank. It looked SO tiny! How would we ever fit any furniture in there?! The space seemed so narrow... Perhaps we made a mistake in how we had planned it out? But thankfully, DH came home and calmed me down, had me walk around other bedrooms in the house for some perspective, and he reminded me that the room wasn't finished yet. It was going to look and feel different when it was all done, but I just wasn't able to see that end result at that point.

We stayed up late that second night into the project with Lucy, covering every single piece of framework in scripture. I'll never forget her turning to me at one point and saying, "Mommy, thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me. This is so special!"

We truly made it her room. I think that's when it started to feel more like it could actually be a bedroom and not just a garage.
We planned out where we thought her bed would go and placed scriptures on the framework by it about not being afraid, since she has often struggled with sleep issues. We placed specific scriptures over the closets and doorways and by the light switch, each one having significance for her precious life. With each step, we all grew more and more excited, but I still couldn't visualize what the finished product could possibly look like.

Every day, things happened that made the room more and more complete. Sheetrock, insulation, and texture were all added...

Built in shelves were added connected to a box-like structure that hid the garage door opener so we could continue to use the door automatically for our "new" remaining garage (it made it look like a built in bookcase) and doors were placed...

Everything got a fresh coat of paint...
And then carpet was laid and all of the finishing touches were made...
It certainly was no longer a garage but truly a gorgeous room and an incredible example of God's kindness and His response to many years of praying for the creativity to make this home work for our family. I find myself just wanting to sit in Lucy's new room and just soak in the beauty within those walls--not just the physical beauty of the fresh paint and pretty decorations, but the beauty of answered prayer, God's perfect timing, and His incredible plan. So often in life, I just cannot see past the ugliness of what I'm going through; I can't make sense of the hurt I'm experiencing or come to terms with the trials I'm facing, but God is able to see past the state that I'm currently in and knows what He's capable of doing through me. He knows what beauty He can make of the ashes. I may not be able to see what He's doing in my present circumstances, and I may not feel like I'll ever be able to view it any differently, but if I'll allow Him, my Jesus has the plans necessary to renovate even the dreariest of hearts into a beautiful, wonderful masterpiece. Just three weeks ago, I was parking my minivan in the very spot that my oldest daughter is now parking her head to sleep each evening, and it's really hard for me to think of it in its previous state now, because the room has truly been transformed. Perhaps I thought we were going to have someone come in and put up a wall, slap some paint on it, and we would just call it Lucy's new bedroom, but it would still always just be an old garage underneath. That's not what happened here though. Our contractor took a dirty old garage and transformed it into something totally new and amazing, and that's exactly what God desires to do with each of us...

The process isn't typically our favorite part of the journey (I think that applies to SO many areas of our lives!)--that's why I didn't really post any pictures about it all while we were in the process of having it done. I really wanted to be able to show it to y'all from start to finish, so I'm super excited that I can now take you on a tour of Lucy's new room, which feels like a big gift straight from our Heavenly Father!
The wall to the left when you walk into the room. We added some of our headbands to this $5 find!

I made the canvas with the theme verse I chose for Lucy years ago. I chose Psalm 66:19 for the chalkboard: "But surely God has listened; He has attended to the voice of my prayer."
...When we started discussing what Lucy might want as the new theme for her bedroom, she had one request: no pink! LOL! If you've seen her old room, you'll understand why! (The walls are VERY very very very pink!) However, she did end up deciding that some pink was actually okay:)  We talked about a music theme, mermaids, and threw some other ideas around, but then she told me one of the things she really wanted to have in her room was a nightstand with a lamp on it. That instantly reminded me of how her name means bringer of light, so we tossed around the idea of doing something with Matthew 5:16 on her walls, and that's when she decided that she wanted her overall theme to be scripture everywhere in her room. I certainly didn't have any objection to that! I love that she wanted her walls filled with Truth!
This might be my favorite design spot! She wanted something with John 3:16 on her walls ($6 clearance at Hobby Lobby!) and I found the little vases on my trip to the silos in Waco the week before her room was finished. Lucy's a huge "Fixer Upper" fan, so I wanted her to have something from my trip there.
I love how when you walk into her room, you see the calm color on the walls (Sherwin Williams' "Tame Teal") mixed with the clean white lines of the built in shelves and the fun, bright colors in her bedding. Instead of a nightstand lamp like originally planned, we ended up going with this fun multi-color floor lamp that bends in different directions, so it's perfect for her to use if she wants to read in bed. We also wanted her first dance recital frame as a focal point when you walk in the room since it's such a beautiful piece and dancing is a big part of her life with her love for musical theater.

The pink felt board has already been changed out three times--Lucy is having lots of fun with it!
Looking at the room from the opposite direction you can see her closet, the hot water heater hidden behind a closet, the door going into the rest of the house, and then another closet! While this room does belong to Lucy, I did tell her that I would be taking over the second closet! LOL! DH had the idea to put Lucy's toybox bench at the foot of her bed which is the perfect place for her to pile all of her stuffed animals into after she gets up every morning.

The built in shelves are seriously amazing! They are HUGE and are the perfect size for Lucy's very own American Girl dollhouse. The bins help hide clutter on the shelves (as much as possible) and she has lots of space for books and nick-knacks.

And in this photo, you can see that Lucy's new room is definitely the place to be! Everyone has been wanting to hang out there and play. Lucy's never been one to want to be off to herself, so I don't think she minds this one bit, yet she still has the option of having somewhere to go that's a little more quiet in the house when she wants to. The photos might not show it very well, but there is plenty of open floor space in the middle of the room which is so nice! You can also see the chest of drawers and desk that I found on facebook marketplace for her at an incredible price . They "just happen" to match the nightstand and headboard almost perfectly that someone passed down to us for her. We still need to find her a desk chair and desk lamp, but she's definitely all settled in and so appreciative of this amazing gift. It really is so precious to look at everything and see how it all came together and how the Lord provided in such a beautiful and abundant way.

One definition I found for the word "transformation" is this: a complete change in the appearance or character of something so that that thing is improved." Our garage has truly undergone a major transformation. My prayer is that as Lucy grows up in this space, her heart will continue to transform into the young woman God would have her to be. Keep shining brightly my little light bringer!

Friday, May 18, 2018

No Fast Passes for Kindergarten Graduation...

I really wish I had taken a picture of the Disney-esque line that was forming on the sidewalk outside of the kids' school. I was determined not to be a herd animal in the 100 degree heat (or what felt like it at least) and follow suit as everyone slowly began to line up behind one another, assuming that surely they would open the doors soon to let us all in. Nope. The car's air conditioner and contained children seemed a much better option for me until I saw actual movement of the line. Besides, at this point, we were going to be at the back of the line anyway since we obviously missed the last of the fast passes because we didn't abide by the "have your child here no later than 5:15" note.  oops. #momfail #rushhour #Iwonderifwewerethereasoneveryonehadtowait

Seriously, wouldn't it be great if life were all magical like Disney and we were given so many fast passes to use each day?! ;-)

When the doors flew open, flocks of excited moms, dads and grandparents made there way in anxiously to get a good seat while droves of fussy toddlers immediately caught sight of the refreshment table. My eyes quickly fixed themselves on a table of framed pictures of each individual kindergarten graduate in their cap and gown. I scanned all of them, looking for my Gabriel, and then DH pointed "he's right there." I then saw a photo of the sweetest, most handsome little boy, and my eyes filled with tears and my heart just overflowed. In his big, brown eyes were so much love, and in his smile was so much sweetness. And in that cap and gown I saw the baby boy that was growing up into a precious child that I have the privilege to mother and nurture and guide and protect. It was just a simple photo, but it was a reminder of another milestone my little one has reached. He's continuing to grow up, and I continue to be the one privileged to experience it with him. With that, I feel such weight, responsibility and gratitude!

As the graduates rounded the corner, they performed several of their songs and poems from the year, Gabriel ending each one with a "kiss emoji" face that had us all in stitches! I was reminded of his sense of humor and how he loves to make us all laugh.

During the program, he looked over to his Gigi and signed the letter "I" in sign language, followed by making a heart with his hand, and then pointing to her. Gigi pretty much puddled up into the floor right then and there--it was such a precious moment, reminding me of what a sensitive, loving heart Gabriel has.


When his teacher spoke of Gabriel when he received his diploma, she talked about how Gabriel was very special to her from the start because when she first saw him, it was like one of her sons had walked into the room--Gabriel looked just like he did when he was that age! I love that they had a special bond because of that. She also said how he knew all of the Bible stories so well (apparently Jonah and the Whale is his favorite, or at least that is what he chose to draw in his picture) and how special and loved he is, and he knows it, because he has two moms! I love that those are the words she spoke to him at this special moment in his life, and I hope he will carry that with him and remember them in the days to come as he grows older. I don't ever want him to forgot how special he truly is because of this! He is SO so very loved by so many people! I think every time I see him experience a milestone, I get extra emotional because I realize what a gift it is.

I could have missed this. He could have missed this. Our lives could have been so different. But God.

God, in His wisdom, made a way to bring our family together. It is such a reminder to me in every aspect of life that I can trust God with the details, for who else could work them out so beautifully? It might be tempting to follow the crowd with their large lines forming outside the cafeteria walls, and I may be tempted to want to turn in a fast pass by rushing things along instead of waiting on His perfect timing, but my prayer is that I can keep my eyes fixed firmly on my Jesus, and I can allow my heart to wait patiently for His prompting.

 A verse I love for Gabriel is Deuteronomy 31:6 which reads,  

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes before you; He will never leave you nor forsake you." 
 Congratulations to my favorite-est little boy in the whole entire world!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Traffic Lights...

Thursdays are what DH and I refer to as "date day." Three of the four kids are in school, so we try not to plan anything during the lunch hour so that we can go out to eat together. Considering the fact that we still have Tiny T with us, it's technically nowhere near a romantic getaway, but we really enjoy our Thursday "Toller trio" dates. Last Thursday, I had a physical therapy appointment for my neck, so Evangeline got to hang out with Daddy in his office for a bit while I had needles poked through the muscles of my back and neck (I'm getting desperate, y'all!), and she ended up falling asleep watching Buck Denver in his office, so instead of waking her (by child number four, you just know better!) we decided it would be better for me to just bring some takeout up to the church and have a picnic in DH's office. (Any time spent together is a plus in our book!:)

Anyway, after I picked up our food, I pulled out onto what is possibly one of the busiest streets in our area of the city we live in, only to discover that the stoplights were blinking red. As you probably know, this means that everyone has to treat the crossroads as a four-way stop. The only problems is that there are multiple lanes, and apparently, every single car in every single lane of every single side had an agenda that was far more pressing than anyone else's. It was mass chaos! Have you ever seen those old black and white films of people driving before there were stoplights?
It's crazy trying to make sense of it all! However, even with proper guidelines set in place for these types of situations (which everyone with a current drivers license is supposed to know to have been able to pass the exam to receive a license) all bets were basically off. People are so used to the obvious laws that traffic symbols provide us that once you take those away, we don't know how to respond with the freedom to act on our own free will. A part of me wanted to just sit and give up and not even move my car at all, just out of the fear that I was going to get hit. And then at another point (because there were multiple lights that were down) I found myself wanting to be extremely aggressive and just go for it, not even knowing if it was actually my turn or not but just getting it over with and getting to my destination.

I then discovered I was chuckling at myself. I didn't know how to respond to an opportunity without the typical boundaries set in place--boundaries that are there to provide order and safety--and it appeared that no one else did either.

I immediately thought of how this so relates to our spiritual lives. God has so lovingly placed boundaries in our lives because He knows they will help guide us in the right direction. They make it clearer which direction to go and when we should go in that direction. They keep us from stumbling into things we should not, from crashing into obstacles, and from running over others hastily. Boundaries often seem confining, but they exist to keep us safe. We get frustrated when they stop us at inconvenient times, or when they slow us down before we want, but that's because we can't see beyond them, and our Heavenly Daddy can. You see, He loves us too much to not give us boundaries.  What we so often see as confinement and even punishment is actually a loving place of safety our Father has provided specifically for us to thrive within for our good and His glory.

We are currently dealing with an almost two year old who does NOT like to be confined and restricted by any means whatsoever. She refuses to stay put in her crib, fights being placed in her carseat, discovers ways to climb over any baby gate, and is not detoured by any type of child proof lid, latch or lock. To say we are exhausted is an understatement, for it has to encompass every portion of the word mentally, physically, etc. But what a picture this precious child is to me of my relationship with my Daddy-God. I am constantly having to tell her "no" and to pull her away from things that will harm her and that are not good for her, and she continually refuses to listen to me and runs back to them out of her own selfish desires, but out of my love for her, I passionately pursue her to ensure her safety with the goal that she will one day learn to follow these goals on her own will. I am relentless in my pursuit of her until that time though because I love her too much to let her harm herself.

Do we truly grasp our Daddy-God's love for us--the height and the depth and the greatness of it? He has spared nothing to show it to us, and He continually pours it out to us. Sometimes, it's with a bright green light telling us we can move ahead, often times it's with a blazing yellow light reminding us to slow down and wait for His perfect timing, or perhaps He will ask us to come to a complete stop out of His pure love for us. Will we trust that what He has for us will fulfill us far more than anything we could ever seek out on our own?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Fire Ant Beds and the Sting of Rejection...

Have you ever found yourself in the unfortunate position outside atop of a fire ant bed? It's never a choice you make purposefully, although there are fewer things that will make you move with much greater purpose! The sting of such a tiny army truly makes you feel under attack and can have you raving around the yard like a lunatic, trying everything within you to just get them off of you, and yet, at the same time, leaving you feeling powerless and paralyzed in the moment. Even long after they've physically left you, their presence is far from gone because they can leave behind large welps on your skin from their attacks. However,  sometimes their work leaves no mark at all. Regardless, the pain is still very much felt for quite some time. 

I've stood atop many fire ant beds in my day as a child and an adult, but not just in my front yard. I've also stood in them when I was in school, when I've been among a group of peers, and even at church and family gatherings. What type of fire ant beds are these, you ask? They are the type that leave behind a different type of pain: the sting of rejection. It, too, is not a situation that you purposefully place yourself in, and it feels as if you have been placed under attack by an army of evil, hurtful, words that have crippling powers, leaving you feeling the desire to run for cover but as if you cannot move at the same time. Long after your encounter, the words still scar you, maybe not visibly, but inwardly; you have been wounded.

I've faced these types of fire ant beds in many different forms throughout my life. They never sting any less, and they never get any easier to deal with. In fact, some of them hurt a whole lot more than others and are a lot more difficult to get over than others, and if I'm not careful, I find myself growing bitter towards the incident ever occurring. It's easy to feel as if I'm entitled to a reaction to it all. After all, I was wronged! I'm the victim here! But that's not at all what I preach to my children day in and day out...

If you're ever around us in our daily life, then you've likely heard us quote Ephesians 4:32. It's basically our family's life verse. The kids all
(with the exception of Tiny T, although she may just be holding out on some massive vocabulary!;-) have it memorized, and we quote it pretty much daily:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

There's no exceptions to this verse. It's a very simple command we are given to live by: be kind, compassionate, and forgiving. Those are the three things I try to ask my kids every time they get fussy with one another: Are you being kind, Gabriel and Annie Beth? Are you being compassionate, Lucy and Evangeline? And lately, I've had to ask myself this one: Are YOU being forgiving, Paula-Beth? No, not to my kids, but to some other "fire ants" in my life because it is so easy to become bitter, and when we let bitterness take root in our hearts, it's like continuously picking off those scabs from the ant bites. It just rips them open and makes them hurt worse and wounds us even more and leaves the ugliest scars imprinted upon us that we can't seem to get rid of.

The holidays can often greet us with a lot of fire ant beds if we're honest.Various gatherings can be hurtful and bring up a lot of harsh memories, hurtful words, painful realities, and difficulties. But the Truth is still in the midst of it all: The pain is very real, but so is our God. He is our ultimate Healer and restorer, and nothing that happens to us goes unnoticed by Him. He stands ever ready to allow us to crawl into His lap, to cry to Him, to be comforted by Him, and to move forward with His strength. Psalm 26:3a tells us that His love is ever before us, and that is something that I choose to cling to during this season of my life. The hurt and the pain is so very real, but so is His love, and I have a choice to make of which I will choose to place my focus on.

So as you find yourself walking outside today, beware of the fire ant beds, but remember that sometimes, they're just unavoidable, and God's love is always one more step ahead of them.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Hark the HAROLD Angels Sing...

I love Christmas music! I've reset most of my radio stations in the car to all of the stations playing it continuously since before Thanksgiving. I'm a bit sad that I've yet to hear one of my all time favorites (I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas), and I also grow tired of the constant Santa songs, (no offense, but I'm just not a big Santa fan), but I love hearing all of the Smitty classics over and over again, Manheim Steamroller, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, etc. One day, the familiar "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" was playing, and Lucy had the following conversation with me:

Lucy: "What does that line mean"

Me: "Which one?"

Lucy: "The one about the mom and dad saying that they want school to start back up."

I honestly wasn't exactly sure how to best explain it to her. I mean, I truly love having my kids home on break. I love having them home with me! I love the freedom away from the busy schedules of having to get up earlier, having to be somewhere by a certain time in the mornings, having deadlines to meet for schoolwork, etc. But, I also recognize that the routine of school is good for my kids. They tend to do better when they have a specific schedule to follow. Case in point: this week has been a bit of a disaster! With lots of rain and chilly temps, the kids have been bouncing off the walls, getting on each other's nerves, not being obedient to DH and me, fighting and being unkind to one another, etc. I really haven't had a single moment to myself, and it's been a bit difficult to regroup and stay calm and collected amidst it all. I'm not necessarily saying I "can hardly wait for school to start again," but I recognize the need for a bit more structure in my kids' lives right now than what we've had the past several days.

So, last night, we had a big family "pow wow," where we just sat the kids down and really set some expectations for them on behaviour and what we expect from them. I understand that they are just kids, but certain things are just unacceptable: taking six hours to clean your room is not acceptable, for example; hitting and biting your sister is not acceptable, for example; pushing your brother is not acceptable, for example; stomping your foot or throwing a fit when you don't get your way is not acceptable, for example...and the list goes on. I realize all of these characteristics that my children posses can actually be used in a positive light, but it's all just a matter of pointing them in the right direction, and some days it is really hard to figure out how to get the arrow to go towards the bulls eye. My vision is often blurred because I'm tired, because of physical pain I'm experiencing, because of emotional stress I'm under, and, again, list goes on. But I'm not meant to do this on my own, and when I try to, it is VERY obvious!

During the Christmas season, we have a little visitor that joins our family for a journey to find the true treasure of Christmas. He is a shepherd named "Harold" (as in "(Hark the HERALD angels sing") and he moves around each day with a different message for the kids. (It is like a Christian version of Elf on the shelf, and the kids think it is so much fun!) We've had a lot of fun trying to creatively place him in different places in the house, and coming up with different things for him to "say." Lucy calls his chalkboard we use his "thought bubble." Well, I decided last night that today's thought bubble would be a great opportunity to talk about how God's mercies are new for us every morning when we mess up. It not only is a lesson to my children after the difficult day we had yesterday, but it's a much needed reminder to myself as I struggle with all of my "mommy mishaps." Oh, how I need Jesus' grace and forgiveness in my life, and boy am I thankful that He offers it so freely! It's easy to get all 'wrapped" up in busy-ness of the Christmas season being about holiday parties and recitals and programs and gifts and get-togethers, but what it's all really about is a baby that came for you and me that we might be forgiven from our sins so we could spend eternity with our Creator. What a reason to celebrate!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Prayers of a Five-Year Old...

It's often interesting the things that appear on your timehop and how they can relate to things you are continuing to go through in a strange, unrelated, and yet similar ways. This status update pictured here was posted on my facebook five years ago. I chuckled as I read it, and can  almost be transported back to Lucy's room and hear her sweet little five year old voice praying the first of many of that same prayer. It's not that she wasn't thrilled to have a baby brother, but if you knew Lucy during the time we were in the adoption process, you might remember that she was specifically asking for a brother and a sister, so when Gabriel was born, she wanted to know where her sister was! Lucy
has always been a bit wise beyond her years, a deep thinker and feeler who marches to life in her own beat. She also tends to see life in black and white, so since she asked for a brother and a sister, it just seemed logical that she was getting a sister and that response was somehow delayed somewhat, so she decided to just continue to ask...and ask and ask and ask and ask and ask! The way I see it, the Lord figured that she was so faithful in asking, that He might as well bless her with not just one, but TWO sisters for being so faithful in her request! LOL!
So Lucy ended up with not just a brother in Gabriel (whose name means "My God is my might"), and not just a sister in Annie (whose name means "prayer"), but also a bonus sister in Evangeline (whose name means "bringer of the Good news.")

The story of answered prayer does not end there though!  God doesn't hear just the prayers of sweet little five-year old girls; he also hears the prayers of precious little five-year old boys! You see, Gabriel has been asking for a puppy for quite some time. (Truth be known, so has his momma!;-) Recently, he re-watched the movie The Secret Life of Pets, which stars a dog named Max. Gabriel then began asking, again, if he could have a dog. Gabriel really hates getting his hair cut (it's a traumatic experience for him typically, although, as a of late, he's starting to outgrow it somewhat.) One day, we had gone to lunch, and he was asking if, afterward, we could go get a puppy if he did good with getting his hair cut. (Smooth one, GP! LOL) I told him, "Honey, maybe we can go LOOK at puppies, but we can't actually GET a puppy today. I tell ya what, though. If you really really really want a puppy, then you need to pray and ask Jesus for a puppy. That doesn't mean that you're going to get a puppy, because it may not be what our family needs right now, but we can always pray about anything, okay?" He smiled, quite satisfied with that response, and agreed, saying, "OKAY!"

Well, not two minutes later, I get a text from a church friend:

"Aren't y'all looking for a maltipoo?"

At first, I was confused and not even sure what she was talking about. Then, I realized that she was talking about a dog. I was like, "Oh! Um, no, we are actually looking for a goldendoodle because we need a hypoallergenic dog."

Just a little background info on our family: You may know we used to have two cats, Cappi and Frappie--Cappucino and Frappucino--and a beagle, Annabelle....yes, I realize that's quite similar to one of our daughter's name, but the dog came with that name! LOL If you think our family is sick now, you should have known us when we had all of those animals that shed hair everywhere back then. We loved them to pieces, but we were seriously sick ALL of the time. We realized if we were ever going to be pet owners again, we would need a hypoallergenic dog, but we probably wouldn't be able to afford one. So starting last Christmas, I began to pray that if we were supposed to add a dog to our family, that someone would contact us saying that they had a puppy that they were needing a home for that would be good for a lot of children to love on. In my mind, it was a goldendoodle, because that was the only dog I really knew of that was hypoallergenic. Plus, they're ADORABLE! However, they also get kind of big, and our house is already pretty jam-packed, and they are VERY expensive, hence us needing to find someone to need a home for one.

Anyway, back to the original story. She texts me back and says, "Maltipoos are  hypoallergenic!"

As you've probably gathered by now (and if you've followed our facebook page with our "Maxx the maltipoo" album"), we are now the very proud owners of an incredibly precious 16 pound puppy dog that we are absolutely in love with! And, yes, the original owners actually named him after, you guessed it, the dog from the movie, The Secret Life of Pets! It's just yet another example of how God hears our prayers and never ceases to to answer them in the way HE sees best. I think of how I originally had prayed for a goldendoodle and how that would have actually been a horrible fit for our family considering the size that they get! God knew our family needed something different, and He provided in the perfect timing and in the perfect way.

I think the reason that yesterday's timehop status really pricked at my heart so deeply is that on the particular day that it popped up, I was really struggling with a request that didn't get answered the way that I had hoped that it would. I found myself struggling with God, once again, with how His response could possibly be what it ended up being. I, too, had gone before Him faithfully, day after day, asking Him to work a miracle. But as a dear pastor once gently told me, sometimes God tells us yes and we praise Him, but sometimes God tells us no and He asks us if we will still praise Him. How grateful I am when I am able to lift my hands up easily in praise, but oh how I pray I can be gracious when God asks me to lift my hands to Him in broken praise. It's in the times of broken praise that we often get to experience how God transforms the beauty from ashes, the dry bones into life, and the broken glass into a beautiful mosaic. To cling to the pain only hurts us, but to lift up and let it go not only frees us, but it allows God to move, and when God moves, something amazing always transpires.

As we enter into a time of year that can be filled with both wonderful and painful memories, I pray that we can all lift our hands up in praise to the One who is worthy to be celebrated and adored during this Holiday season. Rest assured, He always hears us, He always answers, and He is ever on the move.