Saturday, October 24, 2015

Baby "H" explained...

I keep getting asked questions about why we are referring to our baby as "Baby H." I think most assume that it's because the name we have picked out starts with an H, but as much as that would make total sense, you know I'm never one for really making too much sense of things;-)

Each pregnancy we've gotten to experience, we've had a nickname for our baby. Lucy appeared to be the size of a single Rice Krispy on her first sonogram photo, so she immediately became dubbed as our little Rice Krispy, or "RK" for short. (In fact, we almost considered naming her Rory Kristine so that we could keep RK as her initials because we had bonded with her that way for the entire pregnancy. A sweet friend even mailed special Rice Krispy treats to us when she was born!) She certainly does have a "snack, crackle, and POP" personality, too, so it definitely fits her well;-) 

I didn't have the privelege of carrying Gabriel in my belly for nine months, so I didn't have a pregnancy nickname for him. I do feel like I still bonded with him though, because about the time his birthmother found out she was expecting him was the time that the Lord began revealing His desire to me for our family to adopt. I spent the next several months daily praying for our future baby and his or her birth mom. I'll never forget the moment I got to lay eyes on him for the first time, this precious boy I had been talking to my Heavenly Father for so very long about. The only nickname he needed from me was being my future child. The night I got to spend in the hospital, after he was born, with him and his birthmother, tops the charts as one of the most amazing moments of my life--sitting in that room with the two people that the Lord had daily placed on my heart for so many months, and there they both were. It was a bonding moment unlike any other in my life, and unlike most mothers will ever get to experience. I cherish the unique way I got to bond with not only my newborn son, but also his birthmother. We just cannot imagine life without Gabriel as our son! He is the sweetest, most snuggly, most precious little boy! 

With Annie, she instantly became Baby Mustard Seed, because she was literally the size of a mustard seed when I found out I was expecting, and because her sister had prayed with SUCH faith that God WOULD give her a baby sister from her mommy's tummy. The rest of us were totally skeptical, but Lucy never lost faith, and while the positive pregancy test surprised Mommy and Daddy, it just affirmed a little girl's faith in a miraculous God. And when the sonogram affirmed another of Lucy's certainties, we knew that God had truly blessed the faith of our little girl in answering her prayer so specifically. No, God doesn't always answer our prayers exactly as we hope Him to, but we can rest assured that He ALWAYS answers our prayers in the perfect way, and we praise Him for allowing Annie to be His perfect will for our family. Annie Beth, our little joy baby, continues to teach us what it means to believe, to trust, and to be blessed by an amazing, miraculous God. 

And then there were four...While Annie's introduction was quite a shock, I do believe that Baby H's takes the cake many times over!  We really didn't expect to be able to conceive again, and we certainly weren't even trying, because life this past year has been pretty crazy. There were many reasons that caused this baby's announcement to throw us all for a loop, but once the dust began to settle, we couldn't help but be anything but thrilled and amazed, realizing that this baby was just one of God's major ways of reminidng us that HE is in complete and perfect control in the midst of all of life's chaos. It may seem that those in "power" are calling the shots, but the One who holds the ultimate authority will never let us down. He has a beautiful plan, and while it doesn't always make sense, it does always brings Him ultimate glory.

So, why Baby H? Well, two days before we learned of Baby H's presence, DH had resigned from our church. We were in the beginning stages of hurt, confusion, and lots of uncertainty. Just a week before the news, we had finally finished paying off our medical expenses from Annie's birth. Having a baby at such a time of uncertainly for our family's future seemed crazy. Plus, weren't we once told we would probably never be able to conceive on our own? Yet here we were, about to have our fourth child! It was easy to get completely overwhelmed by all of the what-ifs, but God gently whispered to us, "Don't you see? I am STILL on my throne and in control over your lives. I am still able to produce miracles. I am still able to bless you even when others may seek to curse you. I AM. Will you trust me?" As overwhelming as it all seemed, we then chose to be overwhelmed by God's goodness and mercy and kindness over our family. We chose to trust in His complete control, and we continue to praise Him for what He's doing through the good, the bad, and everything else in between.

This weekend, we've had the blessing to be in Arkansas with DH's parents. We got to meet their new church family and lead worship on Sunday morning, and we gave a concert on Sunday evening. It's been a true blessing to meet their new church family who just continually outpours God's love onto our loved ones. His parents, too, have recently experienced a great deal of hurt, but God is restoring that season, and it's a beautiful thing to see. 

As one fun last event with Nonnie and Opie this weekend, Larry built a big screen with the kids for us to watch a movie on last night. We'd been wanting to see the movie, "Inside Out," and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. I related a lot to the character of Joy, because I notice in my own life how I so often try to keep everything together and just focus on the happy things. But the thing that struck me so deeply in this movie is when Joy realizes that to TRULY experience joy to the fullest effect, you also have to experience sadness.  You see, it's often in the midst of our greatest hurts that our Jesus shows us our greatest Hope, and it's from our deepest wounds that we get to experience His greatest Healing. 

So, as I was praying and thinking about this new life God has given to us, I was overcome with God's message of hope and healing in our lives, and I was so humbled that He's allowed us to grow our family. Are we still working through the hurt and confusion of this last season in our lives? Absolutely. But, we are working through it with the assurance that our God is in control. So when I think of what this baby means to our family, I can't help but be humbled, feel hopeful, and be expectant of the great Healing that God desires to do in our family. Baby H is truly a gift in so many ways, and we praise God for him or her!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Glad Game...

During the Christmas season (and sometimes beyond), our kids have two movies that they probably watch just about every single day if we will let them: "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas," and "Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas." They never tire of the stories, the jokes, the animation--they just love watching them! As a child, I remember having movies that I was exactly the same way about. You would often catch me standing in front of the TV as Dorothy would sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," or you'd see the wonder in my eyes as I watched "Mary Poppins" and thought Jane and Michael Banks seemed so much bigger than I. (I'll never forget watching it for the first time when I was a bit older and thinking, "Did they shrink? They look so LITTLE now!" haha;-) While most of the movies I enjoyed fequently as a child were musicals, (surprise, surprise!;-), there was another classic that you'd find me asking to watch pretty frequently despite the actors not breaking into random song throughout. That movie was "Pollyanna." Perhaps it was that the story was about a little girl who got to wear frilly dresses and live in a huge home that attracted me to it, but I think it had more to do with the main character that was revealed in the movie: Pollyanna herself. This was a girl who had basically come from nothing that had fallen into everything. But it wasn't all those "things" that made Pollyanna so intriguing; it was her attitude. I loved her imagination, her confidence, and, yes, of course her accent, too!;-) But I think perhaps the most endearing thing about Pollyanna was her ability to look beyond what things were and see them for what they could be. Throughout the movie, she references a game that she would play called the "glad game." Basically, she would look at each circustmance thrown her way and find a way that she could be thankful for it. 

James 1:2-4 tells us this: "Consider it PURE joy when you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Do I look at every circumstance that comes my way as a positive opportunity? Is each obastacle truly an opportunity in my eyes? It's so much easier to get beaten down and focus on the negative side of things, because if we are being honest, when trials come into our lives, it feels more like we are LOSING out, rather than gaining anything. When your husband loses his job, when your children get sick, when friends betray your trust, when things keep breaking in the house, when you discover a flat tire...but God tells us to consider all of these things PURE joy.  See, our Heavenly Father accepts us just as we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay there. He desires that we be "complete, lacking NOTHING." When we think of that end result, it sounds really enticing, but the process to get to there isn't always easy. However, it's the perception we choose to have in the midst of the process that makes all of the difference.

In the movie, Pollyanna visits a man who has a bunch of crystals hanging around his house. Pollyanna is enthralled with how the prisms create rainbows against his walls when the light hits them. The man didn't think much of them, but Pollyanna talks him into stringing them up all over the house and they're astonished by the beauty that was created in the room by how the light caught the prisms and created rainbows everywhere. I think, sometimes, I feel like I have a lot of stuff just "hanging" around in my life that dosn't seem to have much use, but if I will allow God to shine His light on it, He's able to create something so beautiful from it! 

How can I choose, today, to be thankful in all circumstances? How can I choose to look beyond the muck and the mire and see the beauty God is working to ufold? Do I truly believe that God's purpose for everything in my life is to allow me to be "complete, not lacking anything"? I so often want to fight that process, but my prayer today is that I would surrender to the way HE desires to work. 

Anyone up for a game today??;-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Who's Got This?

When your child is trying to learn a new skill, you will often tell them, "You've got this!"
 Or, "I believe in you!"
 Or, "I know you can do this!"
 We express confidence in their ability, not because we want to give them false security, but because we want them to know we believe in them. It doesn't change whether or not they can do the task ahead of them, but it changes how we look at that task. 

As a child, I was never very athletic (I wasn't really anything at all that resembled being the SLIGHTEST bit athletic!) I decided to take up running though, and I can still hear the voices of some onlookers who totally made fun of my attempts. Running didn't come easily for me, I wasn't good at it, and they made sure to point that out. I felt defeated. And even though today I can say I've run in and placed in many races, and I've even done triathlons, I can still hear those girls' voices in my head, telling me I'm not good enough. It shakes my confidence. 

My husband has always said he's not very handy, but when push came to shove, he found himself in the midst of ripping up our downstairs carpet and installing beautiful, new wood laminate floors. He had some friends and a very excited wife cheering him along, affirming him and applauding him when it was completed. (Seriously, they look incredible!) But I can often catch him glaring at the floors intently, picking out little flaws he wishes he could go back and change. 

...In ministry, we've had situations where people have questioned our call to ministry. They don't like the way we play or sing or lead, so they say things like, "Maybe this isn't your calling," simply because it doesn't meet up to their personal expectations. 

Whether we place it on ourselves, or it comes from others, criticism and doubt are common occurrences that like to drag us down. 

But you know what the BIBLE says about each of us? The Bible tells us that we are more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:37); the Bible tells us that we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Philillians 4:13); the Bible tells us that "we WILL overcome" (Revalation 12:11)! The world may tell us that we aren't good enough and will never measure up, but God sees us through the lenses of His son, Jesus Christ, and in Him, we are made into an entirely new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

So, when I start listening to those negative voices, in a sense, I am telling God that HE is not good enough, strong enough, and able enough; I am telling Him I don't trust Him enough; And I'm telling Him I don't have enough confidence in Him. But that's not what the Bible tells me! The Bible says that I am to "approach the throne of grace with CONFIDENCE" (Hebrews 4:16)!

Am I confident that God is able to accomplish anything through me? Am I confident that God will fulfill His purpose for me? Am I confident that God loves me unconditionally? I do believe, but I pray daily for God to help the unbelief that my fleshly side still clings to. Because just like I want my children to believe me when I say they can do something, my Heavenly Father wants me to trust His words of assurance to me, too. And if I will place my gaze upward, I will see that He's got His arms opened wide, encouraging His child along this journey on earth. We just have to take the time to look up to see Him, and take the time to stop and listen for Him. It's not about learning to have confidence in ourselves and think that "I've got this," but it's about realizing that HE truly does. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Three Letters in the Middle...

 You may have picked up on a new social media hashtag being celebrated amongst pro-choicers: #shoutyourabortion 

Just typing the words out makes my stomach turn. It is difficult for me to understand how anyone can ever justify the act of abortion, but the thought that people find it celebratory is just sickening. In response to this hashtag, a friend of mine posted a precious picture of her son and my son together. Both were adopted from the same agency, and both are truly such a gift to our families! For her hashtag, she chose to say #shoutyourADOPTION ! I found this new caption positively brilliant and posted this comment with the picture of Knox and Gabriel: 

"THIS is what I choose to celebrate: two beautiful lives that are able to LIVE their life to its fullest because two beautiful birth mothers chose to GIVE them that life. THAT is something worth shouting out and celebrating!"

After posting it, I received a text from a concerned friend. She had not yet heard of the pro choice hashtag, and she thought I had mistakenly written the words 
#shoutyourABORTION instead of 
#shoutYourADOPTION. I was able to fill her in on this horrible new trend, but in doing so I realized how close the two words are: abort and adopt. The two words may look very similar at a quick glance, but their meanings are far from similar. One word (adopt) means to accept or to take as one's own, while the other (abort) means to terminate or bring to a premature end. Both words start the same, both in appearance and in meaning: adoption begins because of a life, and abortion is chosen because of a life. However, it's those three letters in the middle that make all the difference--and in a sense, it's those three people in the middle of these circumstances that make all of the difference, too. In adoption, there is a baby with a life to live, a birth mother with a choice to make, and a family with eager hearts and open arms to welcome this baby AND their birth mother into their forever family. With abortion, there is still a baby with a life to live and a birth mother with a choice to make, but the third party holds anything but eager hearts and open arms--it holds the ability to end not just the life of the baby, but a part of life that the birth mother would also have had the opportunity to live. Aborting a baby doesn't just hurt the precious life of that baby, but it also hurts the life of that baby's mother. Many women have been lied to about the truth of abortion, and many people even encourage the celebration of such a choice. This is nothing but a horrible coverup for a horrific tragedy though. Many women are told that their life will be over if they birth a baby they didn't want, but in all reality, abortion is doing the same thing: ending a life. The life of that baby will be over, and the life that the birth mother would have experienced will also be over. Many may see this as a positive thing, but I refuse to buy into that lie. After all, there is certainly no proof of that, because that opportunity has never been able to present itself. 

The fact that our society has come to the point of celebrating murder...I just am without words in how it grieves my heart. I grieve over these little lives that were never given a chance, I grieve over the families that so desperately wanted to parent them, and I grieve deeply over these mothers that are so very deceived. Truly, every life is BEAUTIFUL! So, this day, I celebrate the beautiful life I see in my son, and I celebrate the life his birth mother has given to our family. This day, I want to shout it out that every life is truly beautiful. Please don't be silent in this fight for life. Find a way to support the prolife cause, and if you can...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Product Review

I received this product for free from influenster to try out, and I was asked to give a review of it on my blog. Here is a picture of my review--super fun, quick, and easy to use product to get a natural looking tan in a very safe way. I can't say it made a huge difference in color, but it's certainly natural looking and gives a nice tint. Thanks @SallyHansen and @Influenster!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Adventures in (home)schooling!

This year, we are embarking upon a new journey for our family: home schooling! I imagine the reaction to this will be all across the board, and while my own emotions have certainly covered a wide range, DH and I feel an overwhelming peace about this decision.

Being home schooled myself for the majority of my schooling, I always said I wanted to home school my own children. But when it came time for Lucy to actually start school, we felt the Lord leading us in an entirely different direction. We have always stuck by the mantra that we would take it year by year though, so as each school year comes before us, we have prayed and sought God's direction for what He would have us to do, and in Lucy's few short years of education thus far, she has experienced a variety of paths: public school, private school, and now, home school.

Since DH is between jobs right now, we really feel that home schooling will give our family not only the most flexibility as we search for what God has for us to do, but it will also allow Lucy the most stability through this school year. Having already taken her out of one school here, I would hate for us to get her adjusted to a new school only to possibly have to take her out of that one, too. We are also excited about the opportunity that home schooling will allow our family to bond in a new way. I'm sure there are going to experience multiple levels of chaos going on in our house trying to teach a second grader while having one pre-schooler and one toddler under foot, not to mention a tired/nauseated pregnant mommy-teacher and soon-to-be-newborn joining our Toller troup, but overall we are excited to embrace the crazy and enjoy this new adventure!

For this year, we will be using the Sonlight curriculum. I'm so excited to dive into this Bible-based curriculum that's full of so many wonderful books! We decided to wait until after Labor Day to start (I actually remember that's about the same time I started my second grade year, too...),
so tomorrow will be our first official day of home schooling!

Our piano studio has undergone a bit of a facelift with the addition of beautiful new flooring
 (thanks to my amazing DH who installed it!) and an antique school desk that I actually used as a little girl, too! I added a corner shelf to give us some more organization options in the room, too.
 (This curriculum is VERY much literature-based/reading-intensive, so there are a TON of books to find room for!) I am hoping to add a large, magnetic chalkboard to the wall in front of her desk, too, but in the mean time we will utilize our chalkboard cross for our weekly memory verses.
 It's always interesting to me how every time I feel like we have absolutely no room left in our house, God always provides the space we need. As I prayed over how to rearrange furniture, things just fell into place. In fact, with the addition of furniture in the studio, I actually feel like the space is even more functional than it was before! I'm enjoying my somewhat-new teaching space, and I'm excited about the time we will spend in there doing school.

To make the start of school seem a bit more special, I took Lucy school supply shopping today. She doesn't need a whole lot, but it was fun letting her pick out fun colored pencils and erasers and a new pencil box. She was having a hard time deciding which one to get (poor kid has gotten my indecisive tendencies) and said, "I think we should get both of these." I said, "Lucy, we don't need two pencil boxes!" She replied, "No Momma, I think Gabriel would really like to have one, too." It totally warmed my heart to see her thinking of her brother! So, GP will awake tomorrow to an Avengers pencil box filled with brand new crayons,
 along with a preschool prep workbook. (That boy is obsessed with his letters!) and my sweet Lucy bug will have a Cinderella pencil box...filled with Avengers pencils! LOL! She truly is such a great mixture of her momma and daddy! I even picked up some new blocks and playdoh for Annie and Gabriel to be able to play (hopefully) quietly with as Lucy is doing her school work.

We also incorporated some of our previous before-school-starts traditions by taking Lucy out for cheesecake this evening. She enjoyed a HUGE piece of red velvet cheesecake with plenty left to bring home to enjoy later!
After we came home, we laid out her clothes for tomorrow (she has a new outfit that we have saved for her first day of school) and read the same book we read each year before school begins: "Petunia the Silly Goose."
I love how the moral of this book is simply stated in a quote towards the end: "It is not enough to carry wisdom under my wing. I must put it in my mind and in my heart." This so speaks my desire for Lucy's education--I want her to have knowledge always at her fingertips, and I want her to learn how to actually use it in her every day life. Even more than that, I want her to see how Jesus desires to enter every part of her life and show her how He can use that knowledge to work in and through her life if she will have a heart willing to follow Him. So not only will we study reading and writing and arithmetic, but we will also focus on God's Word and see how everything flows together so seamlessly. I'm so excited to embark upon this new journey as a family! Please pray for us as we seek to be organized and yet flexible. Pray for us to teach in a way that is exciting and clear, and pray for an eagerness in Lucy to learn and grow.

Good-bye summer, and hello second grade! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015


The language of tears is a pretty amazing one. As a momma, you learn how to interpret the various cries your children make. We had one yesterday afternoon that was an "I'm too curious to stay away from the wet tile after Mommy just mopped, so I'm gonna slip and fall on the ground..." So I scooped my baby girl up, kissed her owie, and all was right with the world once again.

Then there was the "I'm hungry and need a snack" type of cry, which was quickly resolved with a few gingerbread cookie crackers. (I've pretty much stocked up on all things ginger in my kitchen. Preggo PB is sporting that *lovely* first trimester glow which resembles that of the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz: green.)

Then, earlier this evening, we had the "I'm sleepy but I don't want to go to sleep" type of cry. So I just held my baby girl tightly, because even though she fought me on it, I knew what she really needed was rest....

And then, later this evening, I heard another cry, but this was a different kind. This was a sad cry. This was one of those, "the only thing that will make it better is if momma just holds me" kinds of cries. And so hold her, I did. I held her as she kept screaming.
I pulled her close as the tears fell harder and faster. I kissed her precious forehead as she wailed.
And then I watched her. I watched her gradually calm down and her eyelids grow heavy; I felt her snuggle in close and breathe out those melodious baby sighs; I prayed over her to be granted sweet and peaceful dreams. I simply held my baby girl... 

And as I was holding her, I was reminded of an old song by Natalie Grant. The lyrics say this: 


Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
If hope is born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our Savior
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
[Repeat Chorus]

As I held my own baby girl close tonight, I was reminded of a beautiful picture of how my heavenly Daddy holds me, too. I have days when I cry out because I'm in need, days that I cry out because I'm exhausted, and days that I cry out because I've been hurt. There are some days where I just fall limp into my daddy God's arms, because nothing else will comfort me. But there are other days where I feel like I'm kicking and screaming, fighting against what it is I really need to do: surrender. We often think of surrender as an act of doing nothing, but surrender takes a great deal of action--it requires a willingness to let go...a willingness to simply be held...

I am so humbled that I was chosen to be the mommy of these amazing kiddos that I get to call mine. I'm blessed that I have had the opportunity to learn their different cries from the time they were fresh from Heaven. I'm honored to be the one who gets to pick them up and wipe away their tears. But even though I'm THEIR mother, I'm also still HIS child, and I'm so thankful that my Daddy-God knows how to interpret the cries of His children, too. Oh what a comfort it is to be held by our Father and to be picked up by Him as He interprets each tear that falls from our face, holding every single one of them in His hands...