Friday, April 26, 2013

The Beauty of Being Open...

A note about this post:
We get asked lots of questions about open adoption, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts and experiences regarding it.  Please know my heart and don't take this as me saying this is what everyone is called to do or should do, or that I'm condemning any other type of adoption.  This is just what we've personally been blessed to experience...

I get lots of interesting responses (both verbal and non-verbal) when I tell people that we have an "open" adoption.  I was thinking about the term this morning and wanted to share some thoughts with y'all about it...

Here's some of the ways Merriam-Webster defines the word "open":

*Having no enclosing or confining barrier : accessible on all or nearly all sides
*Being in a position or adjustment to permit passage : not shut or locked
*Completely free from concealment : exposed to general view or knowledge
*Exposed or vulnerable to attack or question

I found the above examples pretty interesting.  An open adoption involves a an accessibility between both parties; it involves both parties being in a position to allow passage into the others' life; it involves a level of exposure, which is many times where people on the outside of the equation begin to get uncomfortable.  I mean, when something is out in the open, it's vulnerable, and our society often views vulnerability as a weakness.  It means you may not be completely in charge of something, and that scares people.  But if we allow our fears to consume us and totally shut us in, we will miss the beauty that is found in openess...

My mother has a wonderfully green thumb...which she did NOT pass on to me (I managed to kill the most hearty plants ever last summer that we had planted in my flowerbeds, being told that, "These things can take anything--they won't die!"  They obviously hadn't met me though...)  Her front and back yards are filled with beautiful flowers, plants, bushes, etc.  Last year, I took some photos of her garden, but I never got any pictures of the rose bushes.  The times that I was in visiting were not times that they were fully bloomed.  Of course, a rose is pretty no matter what, really--there's beauty from any angle--but there's something about a rose when it blooms.  It opens itself up fully, and you're able to see its beauty in its entirety.  

Isn't that true to how we are, too?  When we close ourselves off, it doesn't change who we are inside, but it keeps it all to ourselves and doesn't allow others to experience it.  That's how I feel about open adoption.  I'm not saying at ALL that semi-open adoptions or closed adoptions are bad things or are wrong, and in many circumstances it is the best situation for all involved.  But in our personal journey, we have been blessed by how beautiful an open adoption can be and truly is.  

Now, keep in mind, this is coming from someone who has a SERIOUS struggle with fear.  I have to be in constant prayer that God would help me live in faith and not fear in all of life's what-if's regarding many different areas of my life, especially when it comes to my children.  And before we were actually educated on open adoption, those fears carried into that area, too.  But I am so thankful for an agency who truly took the time to educate us on what open adoption is really about, and what incredible beauty can come from it.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Rebecca St. James who says this:

Where there are no secrets, there are no lies.

When we allow ourselves to be transparent with the world, they get to see our heart, and I pray that what is seen in my heart is a very clear picture of Jesus Christ.  Rather than closing myself off to the world, I pray I will embrace the world openly, with the ultimate hope that my life can bring God glory.  

The point I'm trying to get at is this: 
*I am who I am because of who Christ has made me, so I can't keep that to myself, because I can't help but share all He has done and all of the ways He has brought beauty from the ashes of my life.
*I am the mom that I am because of the decision that Gabriel's birthmom made.  

I get to be this (Gabriel's mom)...


...because Rachel was this (Gabriel's birthmom)

She had to allow herself to be OPEN to making the decision to place him with us; we had to be OPEN to accept that kind of position; and the result is something so very beautiful...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

9 month checkup with LOTS of pictures!

Gabriel's 9 month check-up was today (even though he's almost 10 months old.)  He has slimmed up just a smidge, but the doctor said it's more in line with what his height has been all along, and I figure the fact that he's MUCH more mobile now might have something to do with that;-)  He weighed in at 22.3 pounds, was 28.5 inches long, and his head was 17.3 inches.  Here's what our precious boy has been up to since his last checkup:

*He's crawling like crazy!  I love watching him, too (which is good, because I definitely can't turn away for a second or he's off!)--he's such a textbook crawler!  We always joked that Lucy crawled in a way that kept her from tripping over her dresses, so one leg was always hiked out.  No dresses for mister man though (and yet one of the nurses today thought he was a girl!)  He's also pulls himself up really well and has walked across the couch a few times as he holds onto it.

trying yogurt this week for the first time
*He's doing great with solid foods!  He mostly eats the typical pureed baby fruits and veggies along with some cereal and yogurt, but I've also been trying to introduce table foods to him these past few weeks.  He loves green beans with potatoes and turkey sausage and vegetable beef soup.  He's also tried a little bit of grilled chicken and seemed to like that, too.  He seems to like the veggies more than the fresh fruits so far.
*He's still got just the two bottom teeth in.  Poor baby boy has had a HORRIBLE time cutting more teeth.  I think I got about 3 or 4 hours of sleep (not all at once) last night.  We spent a lot of time just rocking in the glider in the wee hours of the morning, and I have a feeling tonight may be a repeat of that.  I love his sweet snuggles so much, but my mommy-heart sure does hurt when I hear him crying out in pain.  Why does teething have to be so hard on them?  Other than rough teeth days, he sleeps great and thrives on his schedule.

watching "Crazy Noise"
*He is currently OBSESSED with the Hillsong junior "crazy noise" DVD.  He will pay attention for about 5 minutes or so of anything else, but he is just GLUED to the hillsong DVD.  I love that he loves praise music so much:)

*I've never seen a baby love the water the way he does--he ADORES bath time!
*He still likes to sit in my lap, but instead of listening to Mommy play HE likes to be the one to tickle the ivories.  He also seems to enjoy listening to me practice my flute.  (I've been trying to get at least 3 good days of practice in each week--mostly just scales with various tonguing exercises and also some etudes, but I'm mostly just trying to get my chops back right now.)
waiting Room
*He loves going on jogs with me!  He usually falls asleep within a few minutes of when I start my run and will awaken as soon as I finish.

*He still just loves playing with toys and chasing after Annabelle.  That's how much of our time is spent each day:)

*He still goes to other people very well, although he has cried a few times and reached for Michael or me.  I won't lie--it melts my heart just a *tiny* bit!;-)

first hair cut by Cortne! 4/8/13
*Gabriel got his first haircut this past month.  I like to refer to it more as a "clipping of the wings" rather than a haircut, because I just have this thing about cutting a baby's hair before they turn a year old.  However, his sideburns were literally down below his chin, and they were really straggly, so it was time for a trim.  I wouldn't let her touch the top part though!  That's staying put for as long as possible!  But the side trim looks so handsome on him.  I'm amazed at how people have noticed it, too.

*Also, during the time between his last checkup and this one, we had the blessing of see his birthmother for the first time since we got to take him home from the hospital.  Things didn't go quite as originally planned, so DH wasn't able to be there this time, but we are certainly looking forward to seeing her and the kids again soon with DH with us!

I can't really put into words how special it was to see her with him and see the kids get to love on him, too.  He looks so much like Rachel's daughter! 

And I was so excited to get to spend time with them all, too!  The connection I feel with Rachel is unlike anything I can describe to you--she's just so very special and dear to my heart.  She is the face of selflessness and strength and beauty, inside and out.  I know without a doubt that God specifically brought her into our lives, and we thank Him daily for her!

I'm sure I'm leaving some things out (3 hours of sleep plus a 3.5 mile run today=I really should be in bed by now...) but those are the basics of what has happened these past several months with our precious baby boy.  I'll close with GP's favorite song that we sing to him that almost always calms him down when he is upset (which he is right now from his teeth hurting:(

Gabriel, Gabriel, Gabriel Paul
You might be short, you might be tall
Gabriel, Gabriel, Gabriel Paul
Loved by one and loved by all
Gabriel, Gabriel, Gabriel Paul
I'll pick you up when you fall
Gabriel, Gabriel, Gabriel Paul
I like to watch you learn to crawl
Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Paul
Your momma's little big brown-eyed doll
Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel Paul
you're loved by one and loved by all
loved by one and loved by all
loved by one and loved by al-ll-ll-ll, all-ll-ll-ll All-ll Gabriel Paul!
Lucy says, "Be VERY VERY quiet!  Baby brother is sleeping!"

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I love exam week!

If I could go back to college and work on a masters degree in music, I would...if it meant that I got to shove myself into a practice room for 3+ hours and have music lessons with amazing professors again.  (My practice time today was shared with a busy little boy dumping toys out around my feet and a little girl accompanying me on a cymbal and a spoon.)  But as far as the actual classes and exams--NO THANK YOU!  All of that stuff always made me a nervous wreck (feel free to ask me about exam days if your stomach is strong enough to handle it)  But now, speaking from the other side of what used to feel like a dark and never-ending tunnel, I can say that I absolutely LOVE exam week...because when you have a young child in school, it means they don't start until 11:30 on testing days:)  We got to spend a very relaxing morning together, and it all started with this:
What a blessing to see my two greatest blessings loving on each other the way that they do!  Lucy is such a proud big sister, and Gabriel looks up to Lucy so much.  She can make him laugh unlike anyone else--it is such a joy to watch them interact with one another!  The bond they have and the love they have for each other fills my heart in a way that words just cannot fully express. 

"Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of being Lucy and Gabriel's Mommy!"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Breakfast and Bath Time...

It takes a change a diaper! LOL

As a mother of a daughter and a son, I am about to share with you some *extremely* (not) profound insight:

Boys and girls are SO different!

I know, I know, you are marveling at my depth as a mother;-)  In all seriousness though, sometimes I'm so baffled at how different having a son is from having a daughter.  My prime example of that today being this:  Boys are SO messy!  Ready for some examples?  OK: top 5 reasons how boys are messier than girls:

Number 5:
Boys spend their first few days of life practicing their evangelism skills through baptizing you.  It literally took me weeks to wise up to combating this!
If smiles could SMELL...;-)

Number 4:

Boys give a whole new meaning to the term "blowout."  The amount of blow-out diapers we often change in one week could be compared to the all time TOTAL of blowout diapers Lucy ever had!

Number 3:
Proud of his shpae-sorter dumping skills:)
He crawled with this in tow on Sunday morning!
Boys seem capable of destroying a tidy room in a matter of seconds!  I realize Lucy probably isn't the norm, but she just doesn't really enjoy playing with toys a whole lot.  Gabriel, on the other hand, LOVES to play with toys!  It really doesn't matter what kind--he loves them all!  He typically has very specific ways he plays with certain toys though.  I was just telling DH tonight about how funny it is to play with his shape sorter with him, because he just cannot handle it when all of the shapes are inside of their box--the moment you put them inside, he grabs the toy and dumps them all out.  He has also recently started dragging his toys across the room--he will often start with several and crawl along with them, dumping them off along his way to the other part of the house.  So, by the time he's gone from the living room to the kitchen, he has a nice little Hansel and Gretal-esque trail behind him!

Number 2:
Boys, by nature, seem to be born with a desire to figure out how things work...and then rip them mercilessly to shreds!  LOL:)  Being the germaphobe that I am, I often bring those disposable stick-on plastic placemats with us to restaurants.  It just makes me feel better about him grabbing food off of the table.  You'd think my son was some sort of ravenous beast though the way he takes his two teeth and sweet little hands and literally attacks that placemat like it's some sort of evil foe!  And that poor disposable bib that he was sporting at lunch today only lasted halfway through the meal begore he literally ripped off one entire side!  (Those bibs have an absorbable backing that is VERY difficult to tear, by the way!)

And finally, the Number 1 reason boys are messier than girls:
We can't forget to state the obvious: mealtime!  I can wipe Gabriel's face off after every single bite and cover him with a sturdy bib, and he still somehow ends up with food all over his face, in his hair, and on his clothes!  He lately has gotten to where he wants to grab the spoon from us when we are feeding him, flinging food across the highchair and spreading it all over his face.  He also likes to stick his fingers in his mouth after he's taken a bite and pull his food out like he's creating some sort of home-made facial!  LOL:)  No, it's not quite the typical "spaghetti shot" you see, where marinara sauce has been spread out across the child's entire body as if they were treating themselves as a canvas, but I think Gabriel knows his momma's limits;-)

So, case in point: boys are messy!  But can I let you in on a little secret?

I LOVE it!

I love sitting in the floor making silly car sounds and explosion noises as blocks come crashing out of their box.  I love watching my Linus-like boy happily roam through the house with his toys.  And I love cleaning that sweet, beautiful face off...and then showering it with kisses, of course!  And even the blowout diapers have been known to bring a smile to my face--in a situation like that when there's no changing table and a diaper has literally exploded to every surrounding area, all you can do is laugh about it and move on...and remember that messes are cleanable, and this particular baby boy LOVES bath time!
Since becoming mobile, there are a few key places Gabriel is constantly trying to roam off to: Annabelle's bed, Sissy's room, and the bathroom.  Literally, the moment he hears the bath tub faucet turn on, he RACES towards the bathroom.  Baby boy LOVES bath time!  Every day is almost like a front row seat at the Shamu show at Sea World, because Gabriel loves to kick and splash the water everywhere!  I snapped these shots of him all snuggled up inside of his hooded towel after his bath this morning--how precious is my little froggy boy?!

It's kind of Bible reading today was in Leviticus, specifically the passage where the Lord gives instructions on what to do with someone who has leprosy and how a person was deemed as "clean" or "unclean."  If they were labeled as the latter, they had to live in solitude, and anytime they were around people they would have to proclaim, "Unclean!  Unclean!"  I'll be honest, when I was reading through the passage this morning, I was having a difficult time plowing through it, because all of the detailed instructions for all of these laws can get pretty boring to read.  And I also found myself thinking, "This is so mean!  Why would God want those people to live in solitude?" But as I thought about my messy little boy at breakfast time this morning, and then breathed in his freshly shampooed hair after bath time (seriously--there's nothing that smells sweeter than a baby's head after their bath!), I began to reflect on that passage of Scripture I had read this morning.  What a tremendous gift we have been given that Jesus truly paid our debt, once and for ALL for our sins, by dying on the cross.  Our God is so holy that He cannot be in the presence of sin, yet He still desired to be close to His children, so He created all of those laws so that His people could draw near to Him...but when His son came to die for us, that took away the need for all of that.  We no longer have to go through life shouting, "Unclean!  Unclean!" for through the blood of Jesus, we have been made clean and whole!

So as I think of my little boy's breakfast sessions and bath time scents, I smile at how my Jesus loves me with all of my messes, and how He desires to make me into something new, beautiful, and fragrant...

Psalm 51:10-12
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence, O Lord, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of my salvation, and renew a right spirit within me." 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Safe in My Arms...

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you're probably well aware that I like to take pictures...LOTS of pictures.  My current total is 140 albums and 6,044 photos.

They start with pictures from college recitals and graduation...
Bekah, April, Momma2, DH and me

Mom, me and Daddy

then journey through various life events such as pictures with friends and races...
Diamend helping me study for biology
our second 5K together!

holidays, favorite scriptures, and of course, MULTIPLE albums containing pictures of our greatest blessings: Gabriel and Lucy.

First photo as the Toller Trio!
Meeting Gabriel
  People always say you take fewer pictures of your second child than your first, but I think it's pretty safe to say that both of my children are very familiar with the words, "Cheesy doodles!" (what we always have Lucy say when we take her picture) and the multi-syllable rendition of the word, "SMILE!"  Maybe it's because my Daddy used to be a photographer, so a part of me feels a connection to him when I take photographs.  Whatever the reason, you're either familiar with my 6,044 photos...or you're familiar with avoiding the daily blitz of images...or you just check my blog for the highlights;-)
So, if you're one of the latter, I proudly present to you my cliff notes weekend edition in pictures, which if I had a title for the album, it would be Sweet Snuggles.  I couldn't really get lucy to sit still long enough for a photo to come out, so I don't have the sweet evidence of Saturday night, but she crawled up in my lap as we were watching a movie together and just let me love on her.  I can't tell you how much I cherish those times.  And then my sweet baby boy decided Sissy had a pretty good idea and he let me rock him to sleep tonight, so I soaked up those sweet snuggles.

You know, it's kind of funny, because our children come to us many times for comfort.  When they don't feel well, when they've been hurt, when they're frightened, etc...there's something about being scooped up into mommy and Daddy's arms that makes everything seem like it's going to be OK.  There's really nothing magical about mommy and Daddy's arms though.  We may be just as frightened or hurt as they are, but we're bigger and stronger, and that's reassuring to them.

 What my children didn't know this weekend was that Mommy was having her own struggles in life, too, and to be the recipient of their small arms and sweet embraces gave ME such comfort and joy.  I was reminded of how my Heavenly Father wants to scoop me up in His arms and comfort me, and how he rejoices when His children desire to spend that time with Him.  So as I kiss my babies on their foreheads tonight and head off to bed myself, I'm choosing to rest fully in my Father's promise of love and peace and direction.  I choose to rest in His arms with confidence and certainty. 

One of the CDs on Lucy's nightly rotations is by an artist called PLUMB.  Here are the lyrics to her song, In My Arms...

Your baby blues, so full of wonder Your curly cues, your contagious smile 
And as I watch, you start to grow up All I can do is hold you tight
Knowing clouds will rage And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms  

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around But you will be safe in my arms

Story books full of fairy tales Of kings and queens and the bluest skies 
 My heart is torn just in knowing You'll someday see the truth from lies

 When the clouds will rage And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms 
Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around But you will be safe in my arms

Castles they might crumble Dreams may not come true  
But you are never all alone Because I will always, always love you
When the clouds will rage And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms  

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around But you will be safe in my arms, in my arms

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Beauty from Within...

We went on a family date last night which consisted of dinner at Chickfila (gotta love Kids Eat Free on Tuesday nights with the balloon man present!), running some errands, and, of course, a trip to Wal-Mart. 

I know, I know, people think we are crazy, but we actually enjoy family wal-mart trips.  Even back when DH and I were dating (which was OVER twelve years ago!) we would go to Wal-Mart together.  I think it's really just that we enjoy being together no matter where, and for whatever reason, our outings usually involve a Wal-Mart trip.  On this particular outing, I needed to replenish my nail polish remover supply, which meant a trip down the nail polish aisle, which meant I just *had* to look at said nail polish:)  It's kind of like one of those "If you give a mouse a cookie" things.  LOL:)  In my defense, I've only recently started restocking my nail polish supply.  Up until about a year ago, I still owned bottles of polish that were purchased in HIGH SCHOOL ("Daisy the Pig" shade, may you rest in peace...)  So, Lucy helped me pick out a beautifully delicate shade of purplish-pink called "Butterfly Kisses." 

Before our homestudy interview
Before meeting GP's birthmom
I really don't know why, but something about having my nails painted makes me feel ten times better about life.  (How superficial does that sound?  ...Don't answer that!;-)  I remember before all of the major stressful points in our adoption process, my nails would get painted the night before.  Maybe it's because I'm a pianist, so I'm always aware of how my hands look, but for whatever reason, I feel more confident about things when my nails are done...

This Monday was parent observation day at Lucy's dance class.  They were supposed to get their costumes at this particular class, so I told Lucy I would pull her hair back like it would probably need to be for the recital.  She's been asking for over a year now to grow her hair out, so other than trimming her bangs, she really hasn't had a hair cut in a long time.  Still, it's not quite grown out enough to go up entirely into a ponytail, but I told her I would do my best.  I had no idea what a stir it would cause though!  As I started pulling her hair back, she gasped as her eyes
grew really big, and she said very dramatically, "Oh, Mommy!  This is my DREAM!  I mean, I didn't actually dream it when I was sleeping,'s just my DREAM, Mommy!" I knew she wanted to grow her hair out, but I just had no idea it was so IMPORTANT to her!  So, off we went to dance class on Monday, with my best attempt at a pony tail in my Lucy-bug's hair.  I couldn't help but chuckle as I watched her in-between dances staring at her hair in the mirrors of the studio as she happily and proudly flipped her pony tail with her hands.  The confidence that exuded from her really boggled me--all because her hair was up in a pony tail!  But as I type those words with my "butterfly kisses" painted nails, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that:) 

Now, I realize all of this can come across as sounding pretty shallow, and you're probably picturing me and Lucy flipping our hair out as we chant, "Like totally, for sure, I even got a manicure..." but I know that my nail polish will chip away and have to be reapplied, and Lucy's hair will grow and change and probably get cut a few more times along the way.  There's nothing wrong with expressing ourselves through those different means (that's the artsy side coming out in us;-) or with wanting to look our best (taking care of the temple God has given us) and being confident in how God wired long as we always remember what our True Source in life is.  My prayer for my daughter is not that she will seek beauty on the outside, but that she would seek to be beautiful from the INSIDE out, and I know one way for her to learn that is from seeing it displayed in her momma, because I know that a huge reason that I am who I am today is because of the life my own momma displayed before me.  Just this past weekend, I was saying how it was a rarity for me to wake up and not see my momma pouring over God's Word (but still with her mascara on, mind you!)  Oh, how I pray Lucy will see a momma who loves God and the things of God.  Rather than a woman reflecting on her own image, I pray she will see a woman who is a reflection of Jesus Christ.  I pray she would see a momma who does not seek self-assurance, but seeks GOD assurance by turning to His word daily...but if she just so happens to see some "Butterfly Kisses" on my nails as they're flipping through the pages of God's Word, I don't think that would be so bad;-)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Running the Race...

Lucy has been asking for awhile to train with me for a race, but I wanted to wait until we got into some warmer weather.  (Oddly enough, when we did start training we went from having a 90 degree day to a 40 degree day, but that's Texas for ya!)  I'm currently training for a 10K that I plan to run next month, and they also offer a 1mile kids run at the same race, so I asked Lucy if she would like to run that race.  She very excitedly agreed, so we began "training" a few weeks ago.  First, she wanted to ride her bike around for a bit, and then we used the last bit of daylight to run.  She spent the majority of the time just laughing as she ran beside me--I think she was so excited to get to run with me but also didn't really know what to expect, so she nervously laughed away:)  She kept saying, "Momma, cheer for me!" so I ran beside her yelling out,

She was quite proud of herself until the very end when we both sprinted forward and I made the mistake of making it back to the house a few steps before she did.  Completely deflated, she said, "I lost..."  I kept trying to explain to her that we weren't racing against one another--we were training TOGETHER--and besides, momma's legs are quite a bit longer than hers are.  (I have a feeling she will be out-running me before too long anyway, because goodness knows I am NOT a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination!)  Anyway, I think she enjoyed it, and I'm hoping she will want to continue with it--it was a fun activity for us to do together:) Running has never really been about speed for me, even though I do set goals for myself. It's not ever been about crossing the finish line first--it's been about crossing the finish line STRONG.  God has really taught me so many things from running and training--it's been a struggle, but a BLESSING.  I was really reminded of that a few weeks ago when I went on a run in my mother's neighborhood...

I mostly grew up in a small north Texas town.  It's not covered in mountains, but if you were to look at it right next to where I live now, you might think it was.  I live in West Texas now, and a speed bump is just about the only "hill" you'll see around here!  LOL:)  What it lacks in "rolling pavements" it certainly makes up for with windy conditions, and training through wind is pretty much the west Texan's equivalent to hill training.!  That's not to say that north Texas doesn't have its share of windy days, too, but it's just not usually as strong or as frequent.  The particular day I went running in my mother's neighborhood recently was a fairly windy one, but thankfully I was going in a direction where the wind happened to be blowing WITH me instead of AGAINST me.  As I got to the last few minutes of my run, I was struggling to finish.  I had just climbed a long, gradual hill and my legs wanted to give out, but then I felt the wind so gently and refreshingly pushing me forward.  I found myself just opening up my arms in abandon.  I immediately smiled (well, ok, it might not have looked like a smile to anyone else since I was huffing and puffing!)  Isn't that exactly what God does for His children?  As we turn the corners from those deep and difficult hills we face in life, He gently pushes us onward and refreshes us in those times of need.

Just a few days after that, I got another run in and was reminded of another great spiritual truth: We are called to persevere!  I was back in my windy west Texas town for this particular run, and not only was I pushing myself through the wind, but I was pushing Gabriel in the jogging stroller, too.  I so wanted to stop at that last 1/4th of a mile, but I was reminded that "when I am weak, then I am strong," and how we can do ANYTHING "through Christ who gives us strength."  I am not a natural-born runner.  It has never come easily to me, and I don't think it ever will.  But I know God desires to be a part of every single aspect of my day, so running has taught me how to rely on Him even in a task such as exercising.  So when I came to the point where I wanted to just give up towards the end of my run, I thought to myself, "You can't do this P-B...but God can."  When I feel like I can't move another step or breathe another breath because I'm so out of strength, I'm reminded the importance of perseverance and finishing strong, and that I will never be able to do that on my own.

Running isn't always an "uphill battle" though; sometimes it's a downhill slope...that seeks to spiral out of control.  Climbing a hill is difficult, but those of you who run know that going downhill isn't exactly a walk in the park either!  If you don't stay focused, it's easy to lose your step and tumble to the bottom of that hill.  You have to take smaller, shorter, more controlled steps to run safely down a hill.  It's like in our spiritual lives when things are going really well and seem really easy.  We can think we've got those times under control and that we can handle them on our own, so we forget to really pay attention.  We often depend less on God during those "easy downhill times," and before we know it, we've lost complete control, and we tumble down to the bottom of the hill.

Not only do I see the spiritual correlations from my running as an adult, but I also see them through my children as they learn and grow and develop.  With children, we give them incentives to help them learn to crawl and walk.  We stand with our arms open wide in front of them, welcoming them to us. We have the ability to pick them up and bring them to us, but we want them to grow and learn from the experience of making those steps towards us by themselves.  And, our Heavenly Daddy is the same way.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says this:

(The Message)
24-25 You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally.
26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.

As I guide my children as they grow and develop, I pray I can ultimately guide them in the direction of my Jesus.  Yes, we want great things for our children, but I don't crave success for them in the world's eyes.  My prayer is not that they will finish first in life, but that they will finish STRONG for the glory of God!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today is special because of YOU!

Today is a bittersweet day for our family.  Bitter because we lost DH's precious Aunt April on this day two years ago.  April was such a blessing to our family--she was kind, compassionate, always fun to be around, and most importantly, she knew the Lord and was truly a light for Him.  I found myself having a moment this morning where I just sat and cried as I thought of her, because I missed her so much.  I miss her wisdom and encouragement, and I miss all of the things that we've missed out on experiencing with her (if that makes sense.)  She loved children so much (and children loved her, too!) and was crazy about Lucy, and I know she would have just fallen in love with our little Gabriel, too.  But though I tear up even as I type these words, I also can't help but smile, because I know she is in the presence of our Lord right now, and she is worshiping Him, possibly even in song and perfect rhythm!  (If you knew April, you'll understand that last statement;-)  So even though we miss our Aunt April (and she truly wasn't just my husband's aunt--she always treated me as if I had been born into the family, too) I am comforted in knowing I will see her again, and if she were here today, I know she'd be joining in on wishing DH the happiest of birthdays.

And that's where we come to the sweet part of today...

Today is DH's 35th birthday!  I was joking the other day at the dinner table and said to Lucy, "Daddy's 'turning old' on Wednesday!" to which she replied, "Why is he doing that??!" and then a few moments later, she added, "Daddy, you're going to be older than Mommy.  Daddy's way ahead!"  LOL:)  And seeing as how I've dug my heels in at 29 (I'll celebrate my 3rd annual 29th birthday this summer;-), I will agree with my wise little 5 year old that yes, Daddy is "way ahead" of Mommy, but not just in age...

Just like his aunt, DH has so many admirable traits, and I was reminded of one of them during a phone conversation with him yesterday.  We were discussing something that has been heavy on both our hearts lately.  You know those things that come up in life that you think you have given over to God and have a good handle on, only to realize you certainly don't?  Well, that's been me this past week, but I was so convicted as I listened to what DH had to say yesterday.  He wasn't directing it towards me--he was talking about himself and how God was leading his own heart and his own attitude.  He spoke with such humility and conviction and a desire to please God and bring Him glory.  After I got off the phone, I found myself bowing before God, confessing my own attitude before Him.  My husband is not only my best friend, but he truly takes his role seriously as the spiritual leader of our household.  I am so blessed that God chose him for me and our children.  He shows Jesus us to each and every day in so many different ways--in the way he speaks to us and others, the way he loves us and others, and the way he responds to us and others.  Our world is certainly a better place because God has placed him in it:)
"Today is special because of YOU!"


This time last year, I had decorated various spots in the house with little notes for DH's birthday.  All of them were pretty much taken down the next day except for this one.  I just couldn't bring myself to take it down because I love the thought that DH sees it every morning on his way out the door to work. And, while it was meant as a birthday sign, its message rings true for every day of the year--EVERY day is special that DH is apart of:)

 So how did we celebrate DH's special day?  Since today is a church day, we decided to celebrate his birthday a day early.  He specifically told me he really just wanted to spend his birthday as a family, so I made baked ziti, homemade bread, and Lucy helped me make an apple crisp, and the four of us had dinner together.  It was a special time for us, sitting at the table with each chair filled with someone, because last year we most certainly felt that someone was missing from DH's birthday celebration, but now, he is here--our precious Gabriel Paul:)  In fact, you may remember that last year, on DH's birthday, we received an Email stating we had been approved for adoption through Christian Homes!  I had prayed specifically for the Lord to allow us to received our approval on DH's birthday and either a match or get to bring home our baby on my birthday.  It was a bold prayer, but I felt God was calling me to be bold with Him.  And today I'm reminded that He continues to want me to be bold before Him while trusting Him fully with the outcome.  Just like we read in Job 1:21, "The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD", today represents a day to us where God has given and God has taken away, but we are still called to praise His name, because we know that HE knows best.  I am so thankful for that, and thankful for a husband to me and father to our children that will remind me of that great truth and point us to our Heavenly Father.

Happy Birthday, DH.  We love you!!