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.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Your Ways are Higher...

There are a couple of ways that the Lord really allows me to pour my heart out. One is through blogging. I often stumble over my words when I try to speak, and feel like I am easily misunderstood, but when I write I can think through what I'm trying to say, and hopefully I come across more clearly and as I intend. If you really want to cut my heart open and see what's inside though, (although that sounds a bit graphic, doesn't it?) probably the best way to do so is to listen to me play the piano. I think that's one reason that all of these issues with my hands and the numbness and pain has been so difficult for me not just physically, but also emotionally because the unknown of how it will effect my playing has weighed heavily on me. I found myself sitting before the Lord with my fists clenched rather tightly looking up at Him with tears in my eyes, knowing that what He was asking me was a very simple, yet very difficult question, "Are you willing to let go?" Let go of what, you may be asking? Well, basically let go of my love for playing, my ability to express myself, my joy in being able to express myself so freely and creatively in worship to my Heavenly Father. Why would He possibly want to take something so good away from me? But the real question He was asking me was much simpler. What He wanted to know was this: "Would I trust Him?" And so I unclenched my fists. I opened up my hands. I laid my desires, my plans, my dreams, my ideas, and my passions at His feet, and I said, "OK God. You gave this to me, so I know you know the best thing to do with it. If that means you need to take it away from me, then I know that means You have something better for me, so yes, I WILL choose to trust You, no matter how painful it is. Help me."

I'd love to say I've gotten to experience miraculous healing from my issues, but I think maybe what I've seen instead has been much more beautiful: I've experienced grace through the journey.
My condition has basically stalled, so while it's not getting any better, it's not getting any worse. I'm still able to play, but I just experience some challenges that I didn't face before, and it's caused me to rely on the Lord in a new way, and that's a beautiful thing.

I am reminded each day to hold all things loosely (and sometimes I physically just HAVE to!) I never know if I will wake up and my hands will be number than they were the day before. The cause is basically unknown, so there isn't a way as of yet to be able to fix it. I continue to be faced with the question, "Will I trust You, Lord?" And in the mean time, I find myself sitting at the piano and just pouring my heart out in song as much as I possibly can, mostly putting Scripture to music. This week in particular, the Lord gave me a very special song that I found a bit interesting until something came up in my timehop today...

Five years ago today, we had our final home visit with our caseworker from CHFS before Gabriel's adoption would be finalized. And here I was today, dropping my son off at Kindergarten for his Thanksgiving feast at school, and then coming home to get the house cleaned up to prepare for our home group to come over tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving together, too. My son's birthmother made the most unselfish decision anyone could ever choose to ensure that this precious child could have a life filled with all she hoped for him, and I do not take that lightly at all. As we drove to school today and I prayed over the kids, we prayed for Rachel, and I thanked God for her choosing us as Gabriel's family, and I continually thank the Lord for paving the path to place Gabriel into our lives.

I think all of this must have somehow been in the back of my mind as the Lord laid this song on my heart yesterday, because the song I wrote was about our infertility journey, which is what the Lord used to open our hearts to adoption. Adoption was not our "plan B," or our "second choice," but God used our inability to conceive to make our hearts open to what He had designed for the course for our family all along. I'm so grateful that He is ever patient with us. He truly writes the best stories, and ours is filled with chapter after chapter that I could never have come up with had I been holding the pen!

I share this song with y'all today because I know so many of you have struggled or are struggling with infertility, too. My heart hurts for you, my friends. I don't pretend to know what you're feeling by any means, but please just know that I do not take your pain lightly at all. I know my story is not yours, but oh how I look forward to hearing how God makes beauty from the ashes in your lives!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Halloween 2017: Our Circus

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Not my circus, not my monkeys"? Basically, you use it when referring to situations you don't need to take ownership of. Soon after our family began to increase in number, though, I realized that the opposite was the case for us! This WAS my circus, and these were definitely MY monkeys! Our life is a constant source of laughter, suspense, thrills and probably some stinky smells wafting through the air from some unknown source! LOL! So, when DH came up with the idea that our family present itself as the greatest show on earth at our church's trunk or treat, I hopped right onto the circus wagon with
You may well remember my April-watching days earlier this year. Lucy's bestie had decided she wanted to dress up as April the giraffe for Halloween, so Lucy decided she wanted to be April's baby giraffe, Tajiri, which fit in perfectly with our circus family plan. However, figuring out to make a boy giraffe costume wasn't super easy since everything on pinteres seemed to involve a tutu of some sort. I just kept thinking something would come to us eventually though...
Annie Beth was set on being Peppa Pig for the second year in a row (I think she wanted to follow in her Daddy's footsteps. He was Indiana Jones for I'm not sure how many years in a row as a child!), but then she got the idea of being a pink kitty cat, so we went with that instead. We found a cute little accessory set on Amazon and it turned out to be the most precious thing ever...especially since it had BELLS on it, which we had no idea about until we got it in the mail! Literally, she jingled every time she moved, which was just too cute for words! This was our first time trying out little piggie tails on her hair (paying respect to not being peppa pig this year, I suppose;-) I wasn't sure if she'd really want to keep her paws on or not, but she seemed to really like them and kept them on for the most part. It really was an adorable costume! She got to wear it to preschool for the day and parade around in it that morning for their costume parade--so cute!
Gabriel also had a last-minute costume change from Batman to a puppy dog. I think once he saw everyone else's animal costumes coming in, he realized it would be fun to join in on the Toller Circus idea, too. (Although we always support the idea of "Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman, and then ALWAYS be Batman..." LOL:) Amazon, once again, came to the rescue, along with DH's awesome face painting skills. Seriously, who knew DH had such amazing face painting skills? Gabriel looked adorable and was the cutest little Dalmatian puppy EVER! One of his favorite Paw Patrol characters is Marshall, so he was excited that he got to look  like him.

Evangeline was able to fit into Gabriel's old sock monkey outfit which wasn't technically a costume, but definitely worked well for this purpose. She wouldn't keep the hat part on for most of the night, and she ended up taking a walk in the "duck pond" game so she didn't have any socks on most of the night, but she stole the show in her sock monkey ensemble! It really was the perfect costume for her, because I swear that child is trying to become a monkey! She is CONSTANTLY climbing anything and everything! We literally cannot take our eyes off of her for one second, because she just is so mischevious! She's super busy, but I think it's because she's super smart. She also really, really, really likes bananas ;-)

Thanks to a sweet church friend's mom, DH and I were able to pull the Toller Circus together with the last piece to the costume puzzle with some awesome shirts with the saying mentioned at the beginning of my post: "This is my circus and these are my monkeys."  The past few years I really had given up on trying to get everyone to dress up as a matching group, so it was fun to get to make it
happen this year--totally not on my own accord though, but all thanks to DH's brilliant idea:)

Back to the giraffe dilemma'd think after all of my April watching days that I would be full of ideas on how to concoct the perfect Tajiri costume, but I was completely stumped. I did, however, come across one pin where someone had used masking tape on a t-shirt to section off giraffe type spots and then painted the shirt and then removed the tape. The problem: it was supposed to be cold and rainy on Halloween (it hasn't been since then here!) and I couldn't find a long sleeved yellow shirt anywhere, not to mentioned that brown leggings were absolutely NOWHERE to be found in our city! After spending a good 4 hours trying to locate some, I was about to check one more store when I "happened" to drive past a store that caught my eye who "just so happened" to have an entire rack of brown leggings sitting out for $1.99 along with ONE lone yellow sweatshirt that "just happened" to be in Lucy's size for $2.99. ((((WHAT??!)))) I smiled as I handed the cashier $5 and

some change for the two items it would take to complete Lucy's costume. I know there's lots of debate on whether or not Christians should take part in Halloween or not, but regardless of that, the truth is that we serve a God who cares about every little detail of our lives. He's interested in everything that matters to us and is involved in all of it. He reminded me of that last week through a simple, affordable giraffe costume that brought the biggest smile to my little girl's face. You see, there's nothing we cannot bring to Jesus. Just as my favorite little boy's favorite show, Paw Patrol says, "No job is too big and no pup is too small," my Jesus wants to remind me that "No problem is too big and no request is too small..." And just like I could hear every single step Annie Beth took in her costume because of the bells on it, I can rest assured in the promise that my Jesus has walked ahead of every step that I am going to take, so I can trust Him fully to lead the way for me. I'm so glad that Jesus doesn't look at me and say "Nope. Not my circus; not my monkeys." Instead, he gathers us around the middle of the ring and invites us to join him for this thrilling adventure He wants us to join Him on! Just like I refuse to grow tired of chasing my little mischievous monkey around, my Jesus won't give up on me either. He loves me, He longs to meet with me and to guide me, and He has so many wonderful things in store for me if I will just wait and see!