Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Welcome Home...

There are so many people (many of you reading this post!) who walked closely beside us during our adoption process.  SO MANY PEOPLE played an integral part in helping us bring our son home, and we will never forget your outpouring of love and excitement and involvement.  You allowed God to use you to fulfill His plan for our family...it still overwhelms me when I think of how the Lord worked to ensure that Gabriel could be our son, and I never want to take it for granted.  One of those families not only walked alongside us though--they were able to walk alongside us on our road while they were walking a very similar yet very different road themselves.

We pretty much started the adoption process at the same time as our friends Kendon, Kursten and their two children, Ian and Kinzlee, only they were doing an international adoption.  Kursten is actually the person who told us about Christian Homes and Family Services (the agency we used.)  I'll never forget sitting at a table with her in the fellowship hall at our church on New Year's Eve, excitedly discussing what the Lord was calling our families to do.  Over the next several months, we would share many conversations--some filled with excitement at completing a new step in our journeys, and others filled with discouragement at another hurdle along the path.  

As I struggled through emotions during the adoption process, Kursten allowed me to cry and vent, and when we arrived home with Gabriel, Kursten helped welcome home our family of four, even as she was waiting to be able to welcome home her own child. This entire family blessed us in so many ways, and The Lord truly blessed both our families by allowing us to experience such an amazing journey alongside one another...both that ended with two very precious boys: Gabriel and Parker. 

Sweet Parker is just 6 months older than Gabriel, but it was just 6 weeks ago that he finally got to come home to his family.  It was a VERY long process for them.  The night before they flew home, I found this book and just sobbed in the store as I read it pages. 
"Did you ever think that your wish might not come true?...Oh yes...I wished for you through many phone calls...and through mountains of paperwork.  I wished for you while I waited and waited...and waited.  Sometimes, I didn't hear any news about you for weeks or months.  But I held onto my wish tightly, like the string on a balloon." 

Here we are at the airport waiting to greet Parker and his family onto American soil! 

We went from welcoming Gabriel home, to waiting for Parker to get to come home, to getting to have Gabriel and Parker together! 
Our move from our last church to here was particularly difficult, because we had envisioned our boys getting to grow up together.  It may not look the way we had all envisioned it, (things rarely do though, right?) but in spite of a little bit of distance, I still am hopeful our boys will get to have a special relationship.  We recently got to have a play date together, and it was so sweet to see them playing together, and to get to visit with my precious friend as we are now both on the other end of our journeys. 

Parker--you are SO loved and so very wanted!  How thankful we are to have been a part of the start of God's amazing plan for your life!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Being intentional...

People often suggest you make time to have a date with your hubby before a baby arrives, since dates will be hard to come by afterwards.  DH and I were able to slip away recently for dinner together which was so nice, but he also suggested it might be good for Lucy and me to have a special "date" together, too.  Even though I often get special time with my kiddos in the afternoon when Lucy gets home from school, it's rare for her to have my undivided attention.  She doesn't really ask for it, but I know my daughter's primary love language seems to be quality time.  So, DH and I made it a priority to find a day that he could hang out with GP and I could spend just with Lucy, and I'm so thankful we did that!  It was such a special time to just spend with my precious baby girl!

I told her we could eat ANYwhere that she wanted to for lunch, and guess where she chose??  SUBWAY!  
(When we lived in our former town, we would eat there just about every Sunday after church.  There weren't a lot of options in our small town, but besides that, we knew the owners and it was an awesome Subway!)

The AWANA pinewood derby was coming up at church, so on our agenda for the day was a trip to Hobby Lobby to select paint colors, decals, etc. Lucy also had seen a commercial the night before for a "fun loom" and decided she really wanted to get one, so we went to THREE different craft stores that day in search of which one we thought was the best.  We decided you can't beat the original, so we opted for a rainbow loom.  She had been so excited about decorating her deby car, but after getting the rainbow loom, all she could talk about was getting home to make her first bracelet! 

So, the rainbow loom won out for that day's craft project, and we postponed the derby car decorating for another day.  It was so much fun working on it together!  She wanted a Hello Kitty car, so we went all out with a pink base coat, some sparkly paint details, and of course, Hello Kitty stickers.
We ended up with some space on the top and I asked her if she wanted to put a number in that spot, since race cars typically have numbers on them.  She enthusiastically told me she wanted the number 36 on there.  I was a bit puzzled and asked her why, and she said, "Because that's how old my Daddy is going to be this week."  Sweet girl--she loves her Daddy:)  And he did some final touches to the car and turned it in with her the day before the race.  She ended up winning 3rd prize for her design--she was so excited about it!
But back to our "mommy-daughter day"...

After our trip to the craft store, we went for one of Lucy's favorites--ICE CREAM!  Again, she wanted to include her Daddy and chose Spiderman ice cream:)  (She wouldn't have been in danger of having to share it with her Daddy though, because it had chocolate in it!;-)

When the day was said and done, we had been to NINE different places, including a trip to Wal-mart where Lucy's very pregnant momma ended up frozen in the middle of the shoe aisle with some sort of weird pain--literally thought for a good 10 minutes we were going to have to call DH to carry me out of the store.  I ended up in tears right there in the middle of Wal-Mart, while people walked by and just STARED at me!  Poor Lucy wasn't sure what to do either and told me later how she didn't like it when I cried because it made her feel like crying, too:(  She is such a sweet and sensitive soul.  She told me later how she didn't like crying in front of other people because sometimes they make fun of her and it hurts her feelings, so when she sees other people crying, she likes to find ways to make them feel better.  Seriously melted my heart!  We had many sweet moments that day together discussing various things and just getting to connect with each other.  I had recently been discussing with a friend how sometimes I feel like I'm losing that deep connection with her, because life is just so busy.  She encouraged me to be intentional with my time with my daughter, so that's what I've been trying to do.  It's really been amazing to have these sort of deep conversations with this little 6 year old girl that I have the blessing to call my daughter.  That mommy-daughter day was such a blessing and has spurred on many more intentional moments to connect with her, like this one pictured here...
If you have children, you have probably been the blessed recipient of a weed bouquet.  While often a gardener's biggest annoyance, weeds take on a whole new meaning when proudly handed to you by your child.  As Lucy excitedly presented her treasures to me, she said, "I picked these just for you, Mommy," and my heart melted.  But then she looked deeply into my eyes and asked, "Are they good enough?" and my heart SANK.  My eyes stared deeply back into hers and then I pulled her closely, "Oh baby, yes!  Of course they are!  Anything you do for Mommy is always SO much more than just 'good enough'." Her desire for approval has stuck closely to my heart ever since that day though...I'm reminded of my own insecurities, and how doesn't it seem that we are all constantly striving for approval?  We all want to know that we're good enough--that what we do is of some sort of value and that our life counts...that we are LOVED--don't we?  As a mother, I struggle so much with this--am I doing enough for my kids?  Is it good enough?  But Lucy's words reminded me that I'm not the only one seeking approval in this relationship--my children so desire to know that they matter and they are loved.  And oh, how very very much they matter, and how very loved they are, but how very much I need to be intentional in making sure that they know it!  Because when I take the time to stare deeply into their eyes and listen to them and love on them, my hope is that they will not only see how very much they matter to me, but that they will see how very much they matter to their Heavenly Father...  My greatest intentions as a mother never will measure up to be "good enough," because on my own, I can't be good enough.  But the recipient of these actions--Jesus--takes our offerings and receives them as a sacrifice of praise to Him, and it becomes something beautiful and so much more than enough.  He takes those weeds and makes them into the most fragrant and treasured of bouquets.  He stares deeply back into my questioning eyes and says, "Yes, my child, I love you."

And yes, Lucy, how much your mommy loves YOU!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy "14th" Birthday, DH!

It is a very special day in our household.

Without who this day signifies, my life as I know it would not exist in the same way.  I wouldn't be the wife I am or the momma I am, but even more than that, I wouldn't be the person that I am today.  But because of April 10, 1978, I would become exactly who God intended me to be at this stage in my life.  

Have you figured it out yet?  Yes, today is DH's birthday!!

I obviously didn't know him as this amazingly adorable little boy

but there's certainly still a hint of that hero-loving boy left in my handsome man I have the privilege to call husband.
And I'm always telling him it was a good thing that I DIDN'T meet him when he was a high schooler or early in his college days, because I would have fallen hopelessly head over heels for him, and he would have found me an incredibly annoying little girl!

(Truth be known, I think he may have had those thoughts anyway when we did meet one another on a fall September day in 2000, but thankfully he got over it eventually;-)

I have gotten to celebrate fourteen of this amazing man's birthdays with him, and since this year's happens to fall on "throwback thursday," I thought I would post 14 various pictures of this handsome hubby of mine from "back in the day":)

Since meeting DH, we have lived in Arkansas, Illinois, and Texas.  We have traveled to Oklahoma, Alabama, Indiana,  Missouri, California, Poland, England, and Canada.  (I'm probably leaving some places out, too...)

We've had the privilege of serving in five different churches together working in student ministry--from children, youth, to college students--and music ministry.

We've experienced so many joys and sorrows together, and through it all, God has reminded us of His faithfulness.  On days when I was about the lose my grip on Hope, DH has been there to remind me Who to look to and grab a hold of...and when I didn't have the strength to grab a hold of Him myself, he was right there beside me helping me to do so.

He has laughed with me, cried with me, held me close, but most importantly, always pointed me to our Heavenly Father.  He has shown JESUS to me!

I was only 20 years old when we got married, and I remember getting lots of questions about why I was getting married so young.  I truly believe with all my heart that while God has an amazing plan for each of us individually, He is able to more fully accomplish that plan for DH and me by placing us together.  We are a TEAM.

I love this man with all of my heart, not just because of the incredible love he shows to me, but because of the incredible love He shows to others, and even more, the ultimate love that He's committed his life to sharing with others--Jesus.

He is not only an amazing husband and my very best friend, but he is also the most incredible Daddy!  My daddy wasn't around a whole lot when I was growing up, and I feel the Lord has blessed me so much in getting to experience seeing a man who is truly involved in his children's lives.  The way our kids' faces light up when they see their Daddy says it all.
Any day now, we will be celebrating the arrival of our newest blessing, but for today, DH, we celebrate YOU! And we thank our Heavenly Father for you.  

Happy Birthday, DH!  You are LOVED!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Children are a BLESSING...

Today is March 26th, 2014.  On this day, 21 months ago, I was a ball of emotions as we headed to the hospital for Gabriel's birth.  I will never forget the moment he was born, and Gabriel's birthmom's sister sent me a text from the OR with his picture...my very first glimpse of this precious baby boy:
...and then the moment when his birthmom was wheeled back into the hospital room with a huge smile on her face, holding him close, but quickly looking at me and saying, "Congratulations" as she handed him over to me.  There was so much love in that room for this little boy, and there was so much strength in that room.  The strength in that room had absolutely nothing to do with Michael or me though; it was all displayed in Rachel's big, beautiful, and inviting smile...the same smile she had greeted us with just three weeks before then when we met her.  I will never forget the moment I got to meet my son for the first time as I looked into his precious rolly face, as I touched his beautiful, soft skin, and as I cried tears of pride and joy...and probably some filled with a bit of sadness, knowing that me getting to hold him and me possibly getting to take him home meant that Rachel would not.  I will never take for granted the sacrifice of love she made for her son that in turn gave me the opportunity to be Gabriel's mommy.

But what is so significant about 21 months that causes me to take this trip down memory lane?  Well, I realized today that it is during this 21st month of Gabriel's life that he will go from being the baby of our family, to being the big brother of our family.  I haven't blogged a whole lot about this, because it's actually been a hard topic for me.  But I've always been pretty transparent on this blog, so I want to be real with you today...  I've struggled so much with feeling guilty over this next step in our family's life...Guilty that Gabriel will not be the only baby in the family (he will ALWAYS be my baby boy--nothing could change that!:), and worried that maybe his birthmom would regret placing him with us now...and then I see Lucy and Gabriel together, and my heart melts.
I see this incredible bond they share as brother and sister.  I see this intense love and pride and admiration they have for one another.  You see, when Rachel placed Gabriel in my arms this day 21 months ago, she was not just allowing me the opportunity to be a mommy again, but she was also allowing Lucy the privilege of being a big sister, and this is a role that my daughter has truly thrived in.  Does she get frustrated when he tears down a project she's working on or messes with a game she's playing with?  Yes.  But does she love him and play with him and giggle with him and help him and tell everyone she knows special stories about him?  YES!  I know not all siblings share an extremely close bond, but there is just something about those two that just makes me sit back and say WOW...Not only do I know with all my heart that Gabriel was meant to be my son--he was the child I prayed and longed for for longer than anyone but DH and I really know--but I also know with all my heart that Gabriel was meant to
be Lucy's baby brother, and when I remember that, I know that Gabriel was also meant to be Baby Mustard Seed's BIG brother, too. No other baby boy will be able to fill that roll in this baby girl's life quite like Gabriel will be capable of.  No other little boy will be able to look over her and protect her and play with her and love her like her big brother Gabriel will be able to.  No other baby boy in the world could ever have filled this important role in our family that Gabriel does, because God has ordered his steps, and He has ordered the steps of our family...

The Lord knew we needed a miracle to have a family, so He gave us one in the form of Lucy, and through her, He brought "light" back into our family during such a dark time.

The Lord knew He would need to move mountains for us to have a son, so He placed Rachel in our lives who displayed such strength as she placed Gabriel in our arms and reminded us that Yes, God can move mountains and "HE is our might."

And then The Lord knew that only He could answer the faithful prayers of a little girl who wanted to see her family expand even more, so He surprised all of us (well, no surprise to Lucy, actually!) with this Baby Mustard Seed, who is a reminder to us of the power of prayer, and the favor and grace God so desires to place upon His children.
What I'm getting at, is that the LORD knew what our family needed.  We knew what we wanted, but HE knew what we really needed and when we really needed it.  So, as I anxiously await the birth of our daughter, as I worry about what being the momma to three will look like and how everyone will adjust, I'm reminded that while God cares deeply for all of these emotions flooding my mind, He also knows exactly what our family needs, and he has NEVER failed to provide for that or prepare us for that.  Why would I doubt Him?  So, today, I choose to trust Him--trust Him that my Lucy-bug will continue to thrive as the oldest child, and that she won't lose sight of her important role in this family; trust Him with Gabriel's transition, and that he won't lose sight of his amazing and special role in this family; trust Him with Rachel, and that she won't lose sight of our great love for her and the son she has blessed us with.  I trust Him...and oh, how I thank Him!  
I am so humbled by how lavishly The Lord has poured His blessings upon our family.  All of those years with empty arms and a broken heart have now found me with not just a baby in my arms, but a child in both arms and one filling my lap.  Yes, children are a blessing, and I am truly so very, very, VERY blessed!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A "Beary" Special Weekend...

We spent a LOT of time in prayer over where to send Lucy to school this school year.  I was homeschooled for most of my schooling, and I had always planned on homeschooling our children, but we just didn't have a peace that was what would be best for Lucy given her personality and how she seems to thrive in a group setting.  The home that we purchased when we moved this summer has an excellent elementary school, but our church also has a Christian school afiliated with it, and as we prayed about where to send Lucy, we really felt led to send her there.  And every day when I send her off to school and get her back home, the Lord affirms that calling.  I have such a peace each day when she heads out the door, and such a joy each afternoon when I check her folder.  I know without a doubt that God hand-picked her teacher for her this year,  As we sat on the couch tonight and Lucy READ one of her library books to me, I coulnd't help but smile and be so thankful at how she is learning.  This isn't to say she wouldn't have learned anything in a public school setting or that she wouldn't have thrived being home, BUT, I just have such an assurance and peace that where she currently is at is exactly where she needs to be, and I am so thankful she has the opportunity to be there. 

There are many things her teacher does to make each student feel special (each child gets to be the "star student of the week" and work on a special posterboard to share with the class; on their birthdays they get to pick a book as a gift from their teacher and they go around the room and each child shares what they think is special about the birthday boy or girl) one of them being getting to take "Beary" home for the weekend.  This was Lucy's weekend to bring Beary home, and boy, did I have an excited six year old on my hands when she came home!  Beary arrived in a totebag that says "I AM BEARY SPECIAL" that houses a cute little girl bear (there's a boy bear for the boys I think:)

and a notebook with photos of all of beary's past weekend adventures with other students.

Lucy studied the notebook intently several times throughout the weekend to see exactly how she wanted to present her special weekend with Beary

Here are the close-ups of the photos we took with Beary this past weekend and the wording Lucy used to explain their adeventures:

"Me and Beary got in the car after I got my haircut."

"Beary helped us put together the baby bed and decorate my room for my baby sissy to come."

"Beary helped me nail one of my pictures to the wall."  (Notice the hammer in Beary's paw;-)  Also, this particular painting is made up of Lucy's thumb prints.  The lady who decoated Gabiel's nursery worked on this project with Lucy a few summers ago.)

"Beary was at the baby shower" (more on that in an upcoming post, but isn't this diaper cake adorable?! My sister-in-law made it!)

"and met a new bear friend there."  (A very sweet friend MADE this bear for baby mustard seed!)

"Me and my Daddy played skylanders with Beary.  I had fun with Beary.  She was the best bear friend I could ever have!"  (Lucy's very favorite thing to do right now is play skylnders with her Daddy!  When we were at Target a few weeks ago, there was a display of alarm clocks--lots of pink ones, princess ones, and hello kitty ones.  But which one did my girly daughter ask for?  The SKYLANDERS one! LOL It's totally not my thing at all, but I love that it's something her and her Daddy share together, and I love that she has a Daddy who spends time doing fun things with her.)

So, Beary's weekend was full of adventures with Lucy.  Unfortunately, Beary didn't get to head back to school on Monday to share those adventures with Lucy's classmates because Lucy got sick with a tummy bug:(  BUT, Beary and Lucy are all better now and will head back to Kindergarten on Wednesday, and this Momma will have a smile on her face as she sends them both off to a place filled with learning and lots of love--not just from the teachers, but also from our Heavenly Father displayed through the love shown through these precious teachers pouring their lives into the students.