Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Fuzzy Pink Chair...

As a parent, I take such joy in seeing my kids accomplish things. You would have thought Annie had become the youngest president of the United States from the way DH and I responded to her waving for the first time just a few weeks ago...
And while it may not be hanging in a popular art gallery, Gabriel's first water color painting is certainly taking a prominent position on his mommy's fridge this week! 

Lucy even bowled her first strike recently, and the "crowd" (ummm, family;) went wild!!:-) 

But even more than being proud of my kids for their various accomplishments and activities, it's those moments--those "ah-ha!" moments--that really melt my mommy-heart.  You know, the moments where something just "clicks" with your child, and they aren't simply memorizing a fact or performing an activity out of habit and obedience, but they really "get" a situation and apply its importance to their own life...

Lucy is blessed to attend a local Christian school, and it has been such an amazing experience for her. I love that she is surrounded by teachers who not only love her, but teachers who love the LORD and bring Him into every subject and every activity. Part of Lucy's assignments this school year is a memory verse each week. I typically keep the paper in the kitchen or we write the verse out on one of our chalkboards (is anyone else obsessed with chalkboards? I have them everywhere!) and go through it every day.
 Lucy wasn't feeling well on Monday, so she had to leave school early and didn't get her verse sheet until the following day. At dinner that evening, I was going through her papers and saw her verse. "Lucy! This is one of my favorite verses! It says, 'The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.' Exodus 14:14." Lucy responded, "That's one of my favorites, too!"  She paused before continuing, "And you know, that's just like me, too! I didn't feel well yesterday, so I needed to be still, and the Lord had to fight my sickness for me." I think I almost had to pick my jaw up off of the floor! I tend to think of difficult battles I have in my adult life that cause me to need to let go of my desire to control and just let God handle it. But oh, to be able to view life through the eyes of a child! She so eagerly and quickly made that verse her own and applied it to exactly where she was in her own life--and the Lord cares just as much about her feeling poorly as He does about anything we as adults may be facing in our relationships, finances, jobs, etc.

So whether it's learning to use a spoon for the first time...
Or being engrossed in a newfound love of art...
Or celebrating an accomplishment... 
I pray that my family will learn how to actively practice being still--to carry out our everyday lives in such a way that we allow the Lord to work through us...to place the stresses of our circumstances at His feet while we wait patiently to see how He will move...to move past our hurts and move toward the arms of our loving Heavenly Father...and to look for Him and wait for Him. We never really know what's in store for us as a new year begins, but we can trust in the One who has gone before us to prepare the way, and fight the battles that are ahead...you only need to be still...and if you're like Lucy, you can enjoy it all from the comfort of a fuzzy pink chair;-) 


 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Learning to Hope Again...

This time three years ago, I was sitting on our living room couch sifting through multiple sheets of information while also trying to sift through the multiple thoughts and emotions running through my head. Three years ago today, DH and I had attended the first day of our adoption agency's orientation. That weekend literally changed our lives. We went into it apprehensive about open adoption, and came out of it completely certain and totally excited at the path God had placed us on. There were so many unknowns, but there was one very clear answer: We were called to adopt! As the status update from three years ago popped up on my timehop app today, my heart literally stopped and a smile spread across my face as I looked across the breakfast table at my precious little boy...as I studied his face, I found it unbelievable that three years ago he was just a hope in my heart. And you know what is so amazing about hope? That it "does not disappoint!"

One of the scripture passages the Lord led me to during our struggle to expand our family was Romans 5:1-5: 

"5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." 

I struggled so much with how to hope. Through the devastation of unanswered questions from my daddy's death to the heartache of being unable to conceive, it was just too painful to hope. But God was teaching me that when we place our hopes in His hands, He will never disappoint us. Rather, He takes our ashes and makes them into something beautiful.  And now, every time I look at Gabriel's precious face, every time I squeeze him tightly, every time I kiss his smooshy cheeks, every time I hear his sweet voice say "Momma..."I'm reminded of the truth that we can hope and not be disappointed, because God's path truly is perfect. It may be filled with the lowest of valleys and the trickiest of turns, but it is always accompanied by our Daddy-God who guides us to somewhere more beautiful than we could ever imagine if we will only let Him.

Three years ago, we not only began our adoption journey officially, but I also began my journey of learning to hope again. My prayer is that you, too, will discover how He's calling you this new year to hope in His perfect plan... 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My Greatest Accomplishment...

From the time I was in junior high, I had one big dream: to be Little Red Ridinghood in a production of Into the Woods. I referred to it as my "not-so-secret ambition in life." Well, being 29 (again...and again...and again...) I'm pretty sure my ship has sailed on that dream.

I remember my daddy went through a period of time where he had a "word of the day." One word/term that he shared with me that I have never forgotten was "wool-gatherer." It means someone who likes to daydream. Well, that was certainly me! I had oh so many plans and dreams for my future--dreams I would play out over and over again in my mind. Dreams I was told I could certainly accomplish...when I was older. It was a recurring theme in my life--feeling passionate and led to do things, but so often being told I was too young and there would be plenty of time for them when I was older.  Well, now I'm older...and I'm beginning to get a lot of "well, you're a bit TOO old to do that now..."

/sigh/

I shared with my husband one evening at the dinner table how I so often feel like life is just passing me by, and I'm not accomplishing "anything" I had set out to (in true dramatic flair, using that exact verbiage.) What I failed to realize at that moment were the precious, tiny ears listening in on my conversation. I looked up across the table to find my daughter staring right at me with a sad and questioning gaze in her beautiful blue eyes, as she asked with all sincerity, "Do you wish that you never would have had me?"

My heart sank.

"Oh Lucy...please come here right now." As she walked over to me, completely defeated, I grabbed her close and then pulled her face up into my hands as I locked eyes with her. "I'm sorry what I said made you think that. Don't ever ever ever think for one moment that I didn't want you. I love you more than anything in the whole world. YOU are my greatest accomplishment." 

I suddenly realized the selfishness of my earlier words. I recalled the heartache of not being able to start a family. I remembered my desire to fill the greatest role of a lifetime: Mommy.

And while it is true that there's nothing I've ever wanted so badly as to become a mother, I more often than not feel like I'm the last person who should be awarded such an honored title. The numerous blogposts that pop up amongst my feed talking about how important it is to wake up early in the morning to have our "Java with Jesus"
so we are fully prepared for the day...and here I am struggling to get out of bed before 9AM after being up late with children that won't sleep and a baby who needs her momma in the middle of the night followed by my insomnia...
 Then there's the toy closet that looks as if it might explode through the tiny crack between the door frame and the wall, that no matter how many hours I spend organizing, it just looks like the same mess within days... Then there's the pile of laundry in my closet floor that I just can.not.seem to get caught up on. And how about the crushed up veggie straws lining the inside of my minivan floor? Who am I kidding? I'm doing good getting all three kids out of the car without everyone having a major meltdown, so there's no time to clean the car out. But worst of all are the moments when Annie is screaming, Gabriel is disobeying, and Lucy is arguing with me, all while I'm trying to get clean clothes on and get everyone out the door because we are, yet again, running late. (Please don't get me started on the post running around saying that people who are late are rude and inconsiderate. Even if I were to get up an hour earlier to try to avoid the last-minute mishaps, that would just give more time for another diaper blowout or spilled drink or untied shoe on the way out the door.) I could go on, but my point is this: I feel like a failure. If someone were to watch my life play out on the stage (and let's be honest--as a minister's wife, I DO feel like people are watching my every move) they would probably write a review that was less than stellar, bidding readers to stay as far away as possible.  I find myself looking at the other mommas around me-the ones homeschooling their kids while they have babies at home, too...the ones holding down a full time job with young children at home...the ones who scrub the grout between their kitchen tile and seem to always have their house in order...I feel like I can't even get my teeth brushed by a decent time most days! 

So what do I do? I retreat. I start searching out a different role in life. One where I can pretend to be someone else-anyone else-because maybe then the world will watch that person instead of the real me. Maybe they will be distracted and not hoan in on my flaws. And maybe my children and my husband would be better off without me around so much.  If I need a break from myself, surely everyone else does, too, right? Right!

And for a split second, I believe the lies, until my Heavenly Father whispers a response in my ears: 

WRONG!

God didn't choose me to be a momma because I was so awesome at it. God chose me for this role despite my weakness, so that I could be a vessel to show HIS strength. 

I think I often feel like every day I'm waking up to audition for this role, desperately wanting a call back and ending the day defeated that I just couldn't measure up. But I'm looking at the wrong audience. The ones whose opinion matter the most are those three precious cherubs who call me their momma.

The ones who wake me up every morning with excitement for what's in store...the ones who dirty up their clothes and add to the laundry pile from living life with abandon and excitement...the ones who pull out their toys and make messes from using their sweet imaginative minds, inviting me to play with them...
the ones who leave sippy cups and crumbly snacks behind
because they're eager to be on the go with wherever Mommy wants to take them...the ones who are learning how to ask for forgiveness and also how to accept it every time they accept my apologies with, "It's okay, Momma. I forgive you." 

Yes, there are seasons where it feels like I've fallen short and am failing, but that's when I get to experience God's power in an even greater way in my life. Life isn't passing me by-life is standing right in front of me in the form of three incredible blessings who call me their momma, and who I call my great accomplishment...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Easy Peasy Pillowcase

This is not my typical blog post here, but since this is my space on the web for things about my family, this loosely has to do with that...

While everyone else is saying "only 5 shopping days left until Christmas," you're more likely to hear me say, "only 5 CRAFTING days left until Christmas." I absolutely love giving friends and family homemade gifts-I enjoy praying over them and thinking about their favorite things and how I can incorporate them into something that will make them feel loved and special. Also, since DH is a minister and I'm a SAHM, making gifts, rather than buying them, is much more doable for us financially. One of my favorite things to make for children are pillowcases, and GP is just now at the age where I feel comfortable letting him sleep with a pillow, so this Christmas, one of the things I'm making for him is a Thomas the Train pillowcase. There's nothing very difficult about making a pillowcase...although I've discovered you can make ANYthing more difficult than it has to be. There are SO many tutorials for making pillowcases, but I've yet to find one that I haven't felt the need to adapt. So, rather than continually searching for a tutorial I just love and trying to remember how I want to execute my own pillowcase projects, I figured it was time to write down the way I like to make what I call the "easy peasy pillowcase."

Easy Peasy Pillowcase

MATERIALS:
one yard fabric (I like flannel the best, but I've used cotton many times, too.)
Thread
Scissors
Sewing machine
Iron

INSTRUCTIONS:
iron your fabric (this will make it so much easier to fold and sew straight without having to pin anything.)
You want the main piece to be about 27.5" in length (and 20" in height when folded, so 40" total in height.) For my flannel, I needed to fold up about 7" to get it to that length--DON'T CUT, but just fold the WRONG SIDES together and press with your iron (seriously, don't skip this step!)

Now zig zag stitch that folded side: 
And cut the fabric as close to your stitch as possible to avoid fraying when washing. 

This is what the other side will look like at this point (see the zig zag stitch?):

Now fold your length in half, RIGHT SIDES together and iron (the zig zag piece you just sewed will show the right side):  

You can now zig zag stitch all across the top and the side (the other side-not the side you folded over.) 

I like to do a regular stitch on the inside edge and a zig zag on the outside edge: 

Now flip it right sides out and iron and there you have it! Easy peasy, right?!;-) 






Friday, December 12, 2014

Just Jesus...

It seems like we literally left for vacation amidst Halloween costumes...
(we went to trunk or treat at our church on Friday evening and then left while it was still dark outside on Saturday morning to get on our ship!)

and then came home to Santa and his elves adorning every store window.  And even though everyone has said this is going to be a super cold winter, we are currently hanging out in 70 degree weather.  I still refused to take my cowl off today though;-)  In true Texas fashion, we're experiencing all of the seasons at once: Christmas tree in our living room, leaves COVERING our driveway, short sleeve t-shirt weather, and cloudy skies.  Winter, fall, summer, spring...it would be hard to tell what season it was if it weren't for the constant stream of facebook posts regarding the Elf on the Shelf's daily shenanigans.

 No offense to those who participate in the Elf--I actually admire the creativity and the TIME people put into it.  We are doing good during the Christmas season trying to get everyone in bed before 10 'o clock though (rehearsals, programs, church Christmas parties, etc.), so no Elf here.  (Unless I count when using my "Elf" name of "Jingle-Nipper Toe Bells";-)  Instead, the main Christmas decoration we put out for the kids each year in our house are our various Nativity sets.  My mom has added many unique pieces to our collection, but the favorite has to be the one that started them all: the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set.  I love that it's something that all three kids can plan with (because, let's face it--when you have a 7 year old and a 2 year old and a BABY, you usually spend all of your time making sure your youngest isn't chewing on a small Polly Pocket that's fallen to the ground.) but I love even more the type of play and thinking it encourages.  While Gabriel tends to throw all of the pieces around in various places throughout the living room, and Annie showers them all with "kisses" (teething), Lucy is very meticulous in the positioning of each and every character. I can always tell when Lucy has been playing with the nativity set, because I will find all of the little people with their backs facing us, each one, wisemen, donkeys and all, facing into the manger. Their gaze isn't facing outward towards us.  No.  Their eyes are fixed on the tiniest, yet most important, piece of the nativity set: Jesus.
I truly just love that little girl's heart.  Maybe she doesn't realize it fully at this point, but her actions remind me so much of what I desire we keep our focus on this Christmas season--not the packages and bows, or the trees and the lights, or the treats and the characters.  Just Jesus.  And while it seems like that's a pretty simple task, keeping our focus on "just Jesus" during this season can often be quite a challenge.  I suppose Lucy learned from the very best though, because her Daddy's heart led out in this desire to bring the focus to our heavenly King this holiday season.

Back in August, DH was beginning the preparations for our choir and orchestra's Christmas program.  I'm not sure how many dozens of musicals he listened to, or how many stacks of CDs filled with Christmas songs he and the music secretary went through, but he had such a clear vision: to create a worship experience that pointed to Jesus; to allow those presenting and those listening to prepare room in their hearts for the Son of God.  This past weekend, we presented "Prepare Him Room" to our church, and it truly was such an amazing worship experience.  It really set the tone for this Christmas season.  For years, I have sung the song "Joy to the World" simply by  rote: "Let every heart, Prepare Him room," but I don't think I ever really focused on what it means to truly prepare room in my heart for Jesus' coming. Just like I was caught off guard returning from vacation to rows of stocking stuffers and brightly colored lawn decor, it's easy to get caught offguard and forget what Christmas is really about. I'm so thankful for a husband who desires to keep the main thing the main thing though.  This past weekend wasn't about a performance. No, it was about making a place--THE place--for the coming King.  Simply put, it was about Jesus.  Just Jesus. 

But DH and Lucy aren't the only ones who have reminded me of the true reason for this holiday season.  Even though still at such a young age, our precious little Gabriel has wrapped up the true meaning of this season with one simple phrase...

As I mentioned before, we like to decorate with nativity sets, and Gabriel really enjoys playing with all of them.  He is quite familiar with the "cast of characters" in the scene: the animals, the angel, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus...but Gabriel has a different name for the characters.  Whenever you point to the nativity and say, "Who is this?" his response isn't the typical name, "Jesus," but rather, he responds with, "Jesus loves me!" At first, I thought he was just being reminded of the song, but after having him do this on multiple occasions, it's become quite obvious that when Gabriel sees a nativity scene, he immediately is reminded of the love of Jesus.  And honestly, isn't that what Christmas is REALLY about--about the fact that God loved us SO much, He sent His one and only Son to this earth so that we might be able to have a relationship with Him?

And then there's my sweet little Annie Beth, 
 
just soaking in everything that is around her. She is quite taken with the Christmas tree and all of the decorations hanging within her reach, but she's also very focused on the twinkling lights. Though the wonder in her eyes, I'm reminded to soak in the wonder of my Saviour, the Light of this dark world. 

Sometimes we can get lost in the glow of the Christmas lights and the presents, but when I look at my tree, I'm reminded of the light of the world, and when I wrap up my presents, I'm reminded of the greatest gift of all. Yes, we can easily be distracted, but I hope that just like Lucy, I can fix my eyes on the manger.  And like DH, I pray that I will prepare room in my heart for my Lord.  And like my Gabriel, I don't ever want to forget that Christmas is the celebration of knowing that Jesus loves ME!  What about you? Will you fix your gaze on Him this season?  Will you prepare room in your heart to celebrate His worth?  Will you overwhelm yourself with the knowledge that He loves you so very much?  Don't worry about anything else but Jesus.  Just Jesus...


Such a tiny babe
in such a lowly place
Yet noting but greatness filled the air
And they had all been told
How the story would unfold
But still there weren't many to greet You there
But I don't want to be one of these

When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And thanked you for coming to earth
When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And let my soul fill its worth?

So many busy lives
So very little time
We've lost our focus of Who you are
And we have all been told
How the story did unfold
But still there aren't many to greet You there
But I don't want to be one of these

When was the last time 
I gazed at the manger
And thanked You for coming to earth?
When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And let my soul fill its worth?

We spend so much of our time trying to fill
The void that we feel in our souls
That we've overlooked that the answer, it lies
In the baby born so long ago

So when was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And thanked you for coming to earth
When was the last time
I gazed at the manger
And let my soul feel its worth
 And let my soul feel YOUR worth

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bonded...

It's hard to believe that my baby boy is 27 months old now.  He's growing so quickly, and he's making our hearts grow in the process for he is truly such a joy!  His sweet little voice is talking more and more each day, and if you've ever heard him say "o-kaaaaaaaaay" then you will understand the reason DH and I melt on a daily basis just from listening to him speak.  He loves poptarts (yes, I know they aren't the healthiest thing in the world, but neither is my PSL from Starbucks!) apples, bananas, and "strawberries" (which are actually grapes, but he's not convinced.  See--he does eat some healthy things, too;-) and he's recently shown interest in scrambled eggs again.  He's definitely in a picky stage of eating, but I just keep putting healthy meals in front of him, and eventually he starts trying them, slowly but surely.  He loves playing outside and finds pure JOY in the swing.

He likes playing with cars and trains, and he is slightly attached to his Pluto stuffie (who he insists on holding upside down by his tail.)

He's developed a bit of a crush on Dora and now refers to certain words by both their English and Spanish names, but hands down, I think his most favorite person in the world is his big sister, "oo-cy" (Lucy.)  He cries for her when he sees her leaving to go somewhere, and he talks about her while she's at school, and then he follows her around the house most of the time once she gets home. He is also an AMAZING big brother the Annie Beth. He constantly says "Awwww how cute!" about her and brings her toys when she is crying or just because.
 He loves playing on the "o-pad," and he's recently become more interested in books.  (He went through a period of time where he didn't want to sit still long enough to be read to.)  In fact, he's actually READING parts of his books!  He knows tons of sight words (he was pointing out "have" in Lucy's book during her reading time the other night) and loves playing with his alphabet blocks and magnetic letters.
He carries them throughout the house, so we often come across them at random points during the day, and he will pick the letter up, say its name and then what sound it makes.  The boy is SMART--probably more than he even lets us know;-)  He has THE most gorgeous eyelashes--seriously, people pay good money to have a set of eyelashes like he does!--and he will bat them at you if you ask him to show you his eyes.  (It's seriously too cute!)
He also has gorgeous dark hair...which he goes into hysterics when you try to have it cut.  However, we braved it last week, and he looks like such a big boy now with his short hair!  He's very much "2" in that he's very busy, a bit on the destructive side, and he's added the word "NO!" into his vocabulary.  However, he's still such a sweet and snuggly baby boy.  He gives the best "squeeze hugs," and if you ask for a kiss, he will typically plant one right on your lips!  We love him more than words could ever come close to saying, but that won't stop us from trying!  But not only do WE love him more than words can say--his birthmother does, too, and I was blessed to get to visit with her a few weeks ago...

Rachel shares my love for Olive Garden, so I took GP and Annie to meet her for lunch there one afternoon.  It was the first time Rachel had gotten to meet Annie, and I think it's probably the first time Gabriel remembers getting to spend time with her.

Now, GP has always been pretty good about going to other people, but he typically takes some time to really warm up to anyone other than his mommy and daddy and sissies, but from the moment Rachel picked GP up, he instantly warmed up to her.  It seriously blessed heart to see him connect with her so instantly.

 As I was reflecting on it all, I told DH how of course we know there is an obvious bond between her and Gabriel, but the fact that he is able to recognize that at such a young age shows just how strong and special that bond is between a mother and child.  I think some people might think this would bother me or make me feel uncomfortable, but it doesn't, because my son and I share such an amazing bond as well, but that bond that we share is there because of her, and there is not a day goes by that I am not thankful that God orchestrated our lives in such a way to play a part in this gorgeous symphony called life He's placed us in.

I think it's beautiful how Gabriel instantly felt safe and loved from the moment he saw his birthmother, and why wouldn't he?  Everything Rachel has done for Gabriel has been centered around him being safe and loved, and while he is only two years old, somehow he recognizes that.  I truly wish each of you could have the opportunity to sit and have lunch with this incredible woman, too.  She is one of the most inviting people I have ever known, and I treasure our texts and talks and visits...and I know that as Gabriel grows, he will begin to treasure these things as well.