Saturday, December 20, 2014

Easy Peasy Pillowcase

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

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

Easy Peasy Pillowcase

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Just Jesus...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Calgon take me away...

My dishwasher has been broken for about a week.

Now, I realize this is a total first world problem, and for over half of our marriage we did not even have a dishwasher in our house, and for MANY years we didn't even have a garbage disposal. Believe me when I say I do not take this luxury for granted at all! If I ever find myself complaining about loading/unloading our dishwasher, I immediately stop myself and thank God that He's blessed us with a house with one. 

So, like I said, our dishwasher has been broken for about a week, meaning it has significantly increased the amount of time I spend cleaning up the kitchen. I found myself grumbling big time over this task this morning...

Gabriel has also entered this lovely stage where he throws everything on the ground at the dining room table. Today, it was his milk cup, and then his dry cereal. When I got him down to have him clean it up, he stepped on a bunch of the cereal, so you can imagine what my kitchen floor looks like.  I say "looks" in present tense, because while it is almost lunch time, the breakfast mess is still adorning the floor and countertops, because Annie started crying, so washing those dishes and scrubbing that floor obviously hasn't happened yet.

Next up, Annie was still crying, so while trying to rock her to sleep, Gabriel took advantage of mommy being busy and tried to unscrew the knobs off of the dresser drawers and bathroom doors,
pull the sequins off my flip flops,
 and pull the carpet up with his shovel. Then there was a round of dirty diapers, in the midst of the screaming, so I took a moment to exit the room, saying aloud, "Calgon, take me away!" While breathing in a deep breath.

And then I stopped. What does that really mean anyway? 

I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me.

If I weren't here, where would I be?

My mind immediately transported to the call center I worked at after I graduated from college. It was during those days when we were so desperately trying to get pregnant, and I would beg the Lord every day to remove me from a job that I hated. My heart was not in the work field-my heart was at home...and yet, I had no reason to stay at home at that time.

And then the Lord gave us Lucy...
and Gabriel...
and Annie.

And in that brief moment, I stopped myself like I so often do when I'm loading/unloading the dishwasher, and I thanked the Lord for the chaos--the dirty dishes in my sink, that represent a house full of precious people I get to feed; the crying babies I get to hold and soothe and devote my life to right now that represent an abundantly multiplied answer to my prayers...The days may often seem long, but the years are so short, so I refuse to take these long days for granted!

As I entered back into the battlefield (AKA my bedroom full of tears and destruction! Lol), Gabriel ran up to me and gave me a hug, I picked up Annie and placed her on the bed and she stopped crying, Gabriel climbed up next to her, and then I was able to snag these photos... a way to capture these blessings who smile and snuggle and make me smile in the process.

Now, keep in mind, Annie is back to crying again, and Gabriel is back to trying to take apart everything in our bedroom (future engineer??:) but in this moment I will choose joy and contentment and thankfulness...and a grande-decaf-nonfat-no whip-pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (because then I won't have to wash another coffee mug by hand;-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Messy beds...

Four glorious years of my childhood were spent living in Southern California amongst beautiful, sandy beaches, gorgeous year-long weather, and the most pituresque snow covered mountains creating a backdrop for our daily commutes.  While we certainly appreciated the beauty of the mountains, we preferred to stay more "grounded" and enjoyed their beauty from afar. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a family that loved the outdoors.  In fact, rather than request a typical fancy senior year trip with friends, DH chose to go camping with his family to their favorite spot in Colorado.  His parents are actually there right now, enjoying a much-needed time of rest, relaxation, and reflection, and they've posted some absolutely breathtaking photos of the scenery surrounding them.  However, while I admit that the grassy hills and mountains as far as the eye can see are quite beautiful, I can't help but think one thing every single time a picture pops up on my newsfeed:

Where are the snakes?

You see, I literally am PHOBIC of the horrible creatures, and anytime I see an open field or hiking trail or a small creek, I immediately start freaking out a little bit inside, wondering what slithering creature may decide to make itself known.  It's amazing I enjoy cycling and running outdoors, because this fear of mine is crippling, and it explains why my family (I come from a long line of women with a healthy fear of reptiles) chose to enjoy the view of the mountains, rather than stage our own versiion of the opening scene from "The Sound of Music."  It is true--I love DH so much that I would do anything that he would ask of me; but he also loves ME so much that he would never dream OF asking me to accompany him on an outdoor camping adventure!-)  Surprisingly enough though, I did spent a lot of time "camping" as a child, but just not in the traditional sense of the word...

I'm quite possibly the world's worst bed maker.  No matter how hard I try, I can never get the sheets on straight enough. So, true story, as a child, I would sleep in my sleeping bag on top of my bedspread so that I never had to fix the sheets; all I had to do was roll up my sleeping bag each morning and straighten up the bedspread a bit.  It was GENIUS!  LOL:)  What? That doesn't count as camping?  Keep in mind my opening statement of how I spent four years of my life in California, so my idea of camping was more along the lines of "Troop Beverly Hills."  Regardless of what camping is or is not though, the fact still remains that my inability to make a bed properly has followed me into adulthood, and I'm reminded of this every week when I change out the sheets. 

No, I don't have my kids sleeping in sleeping bags, but I have found a few short cuts to help me along.  For example, my kids only have fitted sheets on their mattresses.  Having three children now, you'd think I would have the hang of changing a crib sheet, but it still sends me into a tizzy every single time! No matter how carefully I attempt to remove the crib mattress, I always get the bedskirt all messed up.  Then, when I put the mattress back in place, I mess the crib skirt up once again.  I often feel like I'm playing one of those rigged carnival games as I try to straegically place the mattress so that I avoid moving anything else around.  However, that silly bedskirt just laughs at my failed attempts.  No life-size stuffed animals for me! Then there's Lucy's bed--which has about 2-3 different blankets on it, 2 different night lights, a stack of books, 4 different pillows, and I've lost count of how many dolls and stuffed animals.  Each item obviously has to be removed before I can change the sheets, and then each item obviously has to be replaced once the bed gets made again.  Her loft style bed is no picnic to change the sheets on either.  You have to climb the small pink, metal ladder to reach over to the far side, and I think I have to place my tongue just right to make the fitted sheet fit over the far edge without removing it from the front edge.  But, with just a fitted sheet, their beds stay fairly neat looking...and then there's my bed...

I'm half-surprised I don't make DH and myself sleep in sleeping bags on our bed, because I couldn't be any worse at making up our bed.  The top sheet always get shoved all the way into the footboard, the fitted sheet starts coming up over the edge, and the pillowcases don't even look right half the time.  (How can you mess a pillowcase up?)  No matter how much I pull and tug, the sheets never look pretty. So, I just do my best and then place my focus on the bed spread and the massive mound of pillows I place on top.  By the time it's all said and done, it looks pretty nice, and you would never know the crazy mess that lies underneath.  And it hit me this week--perhaps my messy bed is a pretty good reflection of my life, too...

You see, try as I may to have it all together, I.just.don't.  I can get the kids all neatly dressed, put some lipstick and some earrings on myself, and slap a smile on my face, but please don't look too closely underneath it all, because what you're sure to find is a far cry from put together. Try as I may to straighten everything out, it seems that lately it all just ends up in a big wad like the sheets at the foot of my bed. As a stay at home mom, it is SO so hard to not beat myself up over this.  You'd think I had all the time in the world to keep up on laundry and dishes, to have a homemade lunch and dinner ready every single day, to always have the pantry stocked with groceries, to have fun and educational actiities planned out for my kids each day, to make phone calls to my friends and family members to check in on them, to get my workout in, to practice my music, to volunteer for multiple activities at the church.  I mean, so and so is doing all of that, so why can't I?  Oh, the war we rage within ourselves when we give in to the enemy of comparison.  It's a dangerous road to set foot upon, and unfortunately once you set foot upon it, it's very difficult to figure out how to get turned back around.  And it may not even be about comparing yourself to someone else--for it seems that lately, I'm having a hard time fighting against comparing myself to the old PB...the PB who only had two kids and was managing to workout 5 times a week, keep a mostly clean and tidy house, go grocery shopping with the kids each week without difficulty, playing piano and rehearsing with the church orchestra, volunteering with the children's ministry, etc. etc. etc...  I have to admit it: I feel like I've failed at life.  I struggle to get in 2-3 runs a week, my house looks like a toy tornado blew threw it most days, I currently have two packets of oatmeal, some frozen burritos, and a tablespoon of jelly left in the fridge, I've yet to make it to one orchestra rehearsal in about 6 months, etc. etc. etc... And on the outside, I'm so desperately trying to act like I've got it all together, but if you take a really good look at me, it's as clear as day: I'm a mess.


I have three amazingly gorgeous, healthy, and HAPPY kids in my house, who happen to love oatmeal, burritos, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  While sometimes I'm grabbing them straight from the laundry basket, they have clean clothes to wear.  And no, it's not a performance fit for the Van Cliburn competition, but our days are filled with music--silly songs and praise songs--and reading books and playing games.  So I really am having to sit back and reevalute what's really important.  Will life always seems this crazy and hectic?  No, I don't think it will.  However, there are always going to be challenges--some of them big, and some of them small, but each one of them will be an opportunity for me to decide whether I will choose to try and survive, or to thrive.  I will admit, many days latlely I feel like I'm in survival mode.  (When the majority of your day is spent nursing a baby and keeping a curious toddler out of harm, it doesn't leave much time for anything else!)  But, I SO want to thrive through every situation life throws our way. My bed may be a mess, but perhaps it is better that way, because when I'm a mess, I realize more and more my need for my creator-God.  

(And since He's so creative, perhaps He applauds the use of sleeping bags for indoor "camp outs"!;-)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My life as a fortune cookie...

Sometimes the question arises at a church event, and sometimes at a birthday party, but on this particular day, the question popped up at Chickfila.  

"Is he your biological son?" 
Most people that see me with just Gabriel assume he has my dark hair, but when you sit his gorgeous brown skin next to his sisters', you tend to get a few questions.  I smiled at the sweet lady asking.  "Yes, he is my son, but no he isn't my biological child-we were blessed to adopt him. His birth mother is an amazing woman!"  Most often, the conversation will end there, but this particular lady continued, "Do you mind if I ask why you adopted him?"  This is the question that isn't so cut and dry.  Seeing as how we were in a noisy place and she had to get back to work soon, I gave her the simple answer: "We just really felt like the Lord called us to..." But my answer was followed up by a question I've not been asked before: "What exactly does that mean--that you were 'called' to adopt.  

Now that's a powerful question!

I didn't get to go into full detail in the limited amount of time we had to speak, but that woman's question has resonated in my head as I look back at how God has been writing our story...

You see, "once upon a time," I found myself on a very long journey.  I didn't know at the time that what I thought was the end of that road was actually a huge dip into a very long and winding path.  It's often better that way though, because perhaps if we were able to see every dark corner, every sharp turn, and every rocky terrain, we might not ever attempt the path that would ultimately lead us to where we are today.  The particular road I'm talking about is our road to becoming a family...

Years ago, on a day much like today, you could have easily found me in tears--the type of tears that come from deep within you and hurt just as much to let go of as they do to hold inside of you.  It wasn't a pretty place, and I certainly didn't always handle it as well as I should have.  But in those dark moments, the Lord was working.  He was using my pain to bring me to the place I would need to be to be able to accept what He knew my desires really were. My idea of expanding our family meant me getting pregnant, and yet, if the Lord would have allowed me my want, my plan, I would never have had my son in my arms--the child that my heart was longing for but that I had no idea would come to me in such a beautiful and unique way...but God knew, and so God worked.  He worked in Gabriel's birthmother's life to guide her to us; He worked in our family's lives to guide us to the agency that Rachel would choose; and He worked in the lives of so many dear family and friends who accompanied us on our journey in so very many different ways.  

But our journey didn't end there.  As we trusted in HIS perfect plan for our lives, God allowed a desire of our heart to come to fruition, and He revealed that to us exactly one year ago (I started this entry on August 15.)  On August 15, 2013, I found out that I was pregnant.  We were shocked, and humbled, and yes, a bit overwhelmed! But most importantly, we were reminded of God's goodness...not goodness because He did something that WE wanted.  No, goodness in a much more perfect way.  Let me try to explain...

A precious friend of mine offered to watch our kiddos one evening so that DH and I could go on a date.  We laugh at our "dates," because we usually spend them running errands for the kids, but we enjoy shopping together, and getting to sit through a nice dinner without any tantrums or interruptions and just focus on each other is so nice, and it's a needed time for us to recharge.  (As a side note, someone recently asked me if I had a job.  As I was responding, DH quickly interjected, "Oh yes!  She has a VERY full time job here at home!"  I'm so thankful for a husband who recognizes that I'm trying to accomplish what God has called me to do!) We went to one of our very favorite restaurants, and our dinner concluded with fortune cookies.  Now, I certainly don't put any stock in a fortune cookie, but I often find that the words inside that crunchy cookie resonate with me in some way, and this one did just that: 

"Good news is coming your way."

DH and I laughed about it a bit: I wonder if we will get a call that all of our recent medical debt has been forgiven?! I couldn't help but think of the fact that a year ago we certainly had received some very good news with finding out we were expecting Annie.  But the more I reflected on "good" news coming my way, the more I realized how good news is a lot like a fortune cookie--we envision it neatly packaged like a perfectly shaped cookie, but to be able to receive what's inside, we have to break that cookie, and just like you can see in the picture of my cookie, it often crumbles.  You see, when I think of the miracle of finding out we were expecting Lucy, I can't help but think of the cancer the doctors found in my husband's body just months before that "good" news, or my daddy's passing just months after learning of that "good" news.  And when I think of the incredible joy of bringing Gabriel into our home, I can't help but think of the grief his birthmother has endured.  And when I think of the "good" news of Annie being added to our family, I can't help but think of all of the stresses that were surrounding our family in the months leading up to such "good" news.  These things come to mind, because I am reminded how easily we allow trials to change our perception of God.  We say, "God is good!" when a friend is healed from cancer.  We say "God is so good!" when someone lands a new and exciting job.  We say, "God is so good!" when we get pregnant after years of trying.  Basically, we say, "God is good!" when He allows into my life what I consider to be good.  BUT, God's goodness is not measured by MY standards, and it is not based upon MY desires, and it is certainly not in need of MY approval!  

What if His goodness IS a cancer diagnosis that will draw someone closer to Christ?  

What if God's goodness IS a difficult job that leaves us dependent on Him for strength and financial provisions?

What if God's goodness IS in a couple's struggle with infertility by them not experiencing the heartbreak of a possible miscarriage, or it bringing about the ability to soften their heart towards their true calling to adopt, or in them having the time to invest in children who desperately need a mother and father figure in their lives?

Isaiah 55:8-9 says this:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts."

This means that God's ways are beyond what I can comprehend.  But just because I cannot comprehend it does not change the fact that He IS good, all the time.  No, His goodness does not rest on my approval.  However, His goodness is felt when I will surrender to His ways and lay down my own.  His goodness exists even when I cannot see it, but oh, how He desires for me to experience it!  L.B. Cowman once said that "The best things in life are the result of being wounded...And it is a broken heart that pleases God."

That long journey that I was on that was filled with so much heartache?  It taught me dependance and trust and satisfaction in the Lord my God; it allowed me to experience the comfort of my Saviour; it broadened my view of His faithfulness;  and, it now echos of the goodness of my Lord.

So when you hear me say that "God is good" when I'm referring to something exciting going on in our lives, or when I'm rejoicing with someone else in exciting news of their own, please don't confuse what I'm saying. I don't mean that He is only good by my own standards. I really do believe He is good all the time-in those happy times, and in those sad times, and yes, even when my world seems to be falling a part into pieces.  So, I'm not sure what "good news" may be coming my way this week, but I pray that I can respond with praise, even if the cookie crumbles...

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What's in YOUR backpack??

It's summertime, which means camp time for many kiddos.  I remember when I was in 4th grade, I was all set to go to my very first camp.  However, out of all of the camps in California that I was going to go to, mine found itself as the epicenter of a pretty major earthquake the night before I was supposed to leave for camp.  So, obviously, camp didn't happen that year.  I did get to experience a different camp, Camp Cherith, the following year though.  I think I probably enjoyed the idea a camp a whole lot better than the art of actually being at camp, but it was a neat experience nonetheless. 

Our kids obviously aren't old enough to attend camp (thank goodness! I am SO not ready for that!), but there are still ways to get them in on the fun. One thing our church does for the preteen campers is fill backpacks with snacks, gifts, and notes for each child. Lucy really wanted to fill a backpack, so she grabbed one on her own and proudly brought it home for us to fill. We went and did our shopping, and then Lucy worked very hard on making her own cards to place in the backpack for our camper. Now, I realize I'm a bit bias, but Lucy really does make the sweetest cards. On one of them she wrote, "I love you!" in vibrant colors, and the word "love" was replaced with a big heart. She showed me her work of art and I said, "Lucy, this is really great, but don't you think it's kind of odd for you to say 'I love you' to this girl since you don't even know her?" And that's when my precious girl's heart shined through just as vibrantly as the colors she used to draw one. She responded, "Yes...But I know if I DO meet her, that I WILL love her!"

 Wow. Such a profound statement from my little girl!  In John 13:34-35, we read this:
"A new command I give you: Love on another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

One of the things that I love so dearly about Lucy is how deep her emotions run.  When she feels something, she feels it with every ounce of her being!  Now, this can certainly present some challenges in parenting her (like dealing with how upset she gets when she gets in trouble) but it can also bring a lot of joy in watching her heart feel so deeply for others.

Am I willing to love with that kind of abandon?  Sadly, I think I'm often more worried about how the other person may respond: What if they reject me?  What if they take me the wrong way?  What if they don't love me back?  A friend on FB recently posted this quote from a movie:
"How am I supposed to show love to somebody, over and over and over, who constantly rejects me?" I was reminded of how we are not called to love because of how it makes us feel, but we are called to love because that's what God's commanded of us.  I show love to others because I love Jesus!  

I have several chalkboards throughout our home that I typically write scriptures on.  I recently changed our cross chalkboard to show the fruits of the spirit.  As a momma to 3 energetic blessings, I can easily get frazzled, so one thing I've been praying is that the Lord would help me to respond to my children with the fruits of the spirit.  Am I showing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL in my responses to them?  When Lucy spills her drinks for the second time in one afternoon, do I lovingly help her clean it up?  When Gabriel is kicking at me because he doesn't want to go down for his nap, do I speak to him in gentle words to help calm him?  When Annie cries every time I try to put her down, do I patiently tend to her?  It's my prayer that I truly show my kids these fruits of the spirit, not to gain any kind of number one mom award, but to bring glory to my Father.  My job as a mother is to show Christ's love to my children.  Am I selflessly doing that in every way possible?  I guess I have to take a look at my own "backpack" that I carry around and ask myself what I'm trying to fill it with.  Am I filling it with tools that will build me up and help me succeed in life, or am I filling it up with things that can be poured out onto others? 

As summer will soon be drawing to a close, we find ourselves shopping for a different kind of backpack--one that our kids will carry on their backs each day as they head off to school.  If you follow me on facebook, you know we've been on the hunt for a FROZEN backpack with a matching lunchbox.  (Store clerks almost have flat out laughed at us when we've asked if they have them in stock!  I have awesome FB friends though who helped us get Lucy hooked up with some sweet frozen swag;-) Even though the purpose of this backpack is to carry necessary items to and from school each day, I pray that Lucy's great ability to show love will be the main item she carries with her every single day, and that as they see her enter into her school, Frozen backpack in tow, they will recognize a disciple of Christ.

So, what about you?  When people look into your "backpack," do they see the evidence of a disciple of Christ?  Oh, how I pray that I am found putting on LOVE with everything that I do, just like my little Lucy!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Climbing my mountain...

As a child of the 80's, there are very specific things I remember: Cabbage Patch Kids, My Little Pony, and Psalty the Singing Song Book. I loved music from a very early age, and my dad's work at the time took us on several long car trips. I remember many trips sitting in the back of our Nissan stanza wagon with my favorite yellow blanket underneath me, a doll in my lap, some my little pony toys scattered in front of me, and my arms lifted high to the praise music blaring from the car stereo.  One of my very favorite Psalty albums was the Camping Adventure.  As a child, we only had the cassette tape, but after Lucy was born I learned they had put them on DVDs, and we now own this particular Psalty DVD (from 1984!) Gabriel has recently become very interested in "PSALTY!" as he excitedly voices wanting to watch the DVDs, and the camping adventure one has been played pretty frequently in our home this past week. One of the songs on the DVD refers to how climbing a mountain is done one step at a time, and when we have Jesus by our side, we can accomplish anything.
Well, we haven't been climbing any actual mountains in our house this week, but living in a two story house, we have been climbing plenty of STAIRS.
 If any of you live in a two story home, then I imagine you know the struggle of getting your children to go upstairs by themselves. Truth be known, if we've been away from our home, I don't like to go up the stairs by myself after we return either. My mind always wanders to that worst case what-if. But the Lord began speaking to my heart during my pregnancy with Lucy that I was to "Live in faith and not fear." So, I suppose it is fitting that Lucy is needing her mommy to mirror that lesson to help her face her own fears.  I often ask her to go take something up stairs, and it is always met with a fearful response: "I don't want to; I'm scared." Well, on Facebook this week, I saw that a friend of mine was having the same type of conversation with her son. Rather than argue with him that there was nothing to be afraid of, she encouraged him to face his fear, and if he would, she would make him a bravery award. I wasn't sure that this would work with Lucy, but I figured it wouldn't hurt anything to try. So when she told me last night that she was afraid to go upstairs, I said, "I tell ya what, Lucy. If you'll go upstairs and put your things away, I'll make you a certificate for being so brave!"  This really intrigued Lucy, and it got her mind on her bravery award and off the fact that she hates going upstairs by herself. She came downstairs very excited to see how we were going to create her award. She picked the paper out and instructed me that I was to use crayons.  After I finished, I placed it on the fridge and told her to go have a look.
She seemed pleased with it, but she brought it to me and said, "But mommy, why did you give this to me? What I did wasn't brave. Being brave is when you climb a really high mountain or something like that. I just went up the stairs."  I smiled at her and looked her in the eye and said, "Oh no, Lucy. Being brave means all sorts of things. It means conquering your fears, and that can be anything. And that's exactly what you did-you faced your fear! You were afraid to go up the stairs, but you did it anyway!"

You may remember a post I wrote about being "brave" the day after Gabriel was born.  The adoption process can truly find you facing all sorts of fears: What if the adoption agency won't approve you? What if the caseworker doesn't think your house is clean enough? What if a Birthmother never chooses you? What if the Birthmother changes her mind?  What if the birthfather comes back before the 30 days is up? What if your post placement visits don't go well? What if...???  Some of these fears can seem as silly to some as being scared of a monster hiding in the closet upstairs, but some of them can be very, very real. But when the Lord called us to adopt, He called us to be brave, and that meant facing every single one of our fears, big or small, realistic or not.  And while we didn't literally climb to the top of a very tall mountain through our adoption process, the end result is almost like being able to look down at all of the twists and turns we experienced to get to where we are today. In fact, I think the same could be said of any fear we face in our lives...  

Like when DH was diagnosed with cancer...

Like when we didn't know if we would ever have children...

Like when my father passed away unexpectedly...

Like when the doctor told us something was wrong with one of our children...

Like when family and friends close to us lost a child...

Some of these fears seem much bigger than others, but big or small, God asks us if we are willing to lay those fears at His feet and allow Him to give us the strength to face them, and then watch Him make something beautiful from them.

...Perhaps Lucy wasn't so far off in saying being brave is when you climb a mountain, but maybe she just didn't understand that the view isn't always portrayed as rocky terrain.  Sometimes it's seen as a leap of faith, sometimes it's seen as a fist willing to loosen its grip, and sometimes it's seen in simply climbing up the stairs...