Friday, May 20, 2016

End and Beginning

Peace comes unexpectedly sometimes. I'm thankful for that. Our family journey is a journey of hope and healing, pain and redemption, hard and beautiful, loss and joy. A mix of all of that - often on a daily basis. 


In about two weeks, our homeschool journey will come to an end - at least for now. It's bittersweet. I have been so privileged to be at home with our children every day - teaching them and being taught by them. And yet it's time for them to go elsewhere for their education and for me to focus on being just mom. In many ways, I will always be their teacher and I cherish that, but juggling the full-time teacher/Mom role has not been easy. 

Spring Break Vacation to NC!

We searched and visited schools and thought we had found the school for us only to realize it just wasn't the right fit. No peace came with that initial decision. I lost many hours of sleep and agonized. So, we searched some more and when we left the school we chose, I knew. It was right. I had tears in my eyes because I knew that this school would provide the love, support, structure, discipline, and learning environment we needed.

All four of our sweet kids did their placement testing and interviews and were accepted. And with that, a new journey begins. We have had so many confirmations along the way which have made this decision easier. The older two shadowed for a day of school and came home excited which was such a relief. We will have two in 6th grade, one in 2nd grade, and one in Kindergarten. (As an aside - WHAT?! How do we have kids all in school and that old?!)

It's funny, really...I never ever thought I would homeschool and yet it was exactly what God called us to for several years. So here I am - losing an identity and community that I have enjoyed tremendously. It's weird and surreal. I know we will create new community and find our spot, but you know how new relationships are - awkward, hesitant.

I find myself excited for the kids (and me) and yet nervous - are they prepared? Thrilled for the change and yet dreading it - I will miss them!

This summer you might find me quietly weeping in the corner while soaking up every wonderful moment of summer. The transition is going to be tough for us all, but we are family and we will do this hard and joyful thing together.

I have peace.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

We Are Family

I so want to blog more, but life feels unblogworthy. We are weary. Parenting trauma kids is HARD. Progress is there, but it's two steps forward and 1-2 steps back. We celebrate the progress, we grieve the hard, and we pray - a lot.

Education choices, parenting dilemmas, and emotional challenges are just a few of the things that are overwhelming us right now. We have a another ear surgery coming up in March. We need wisdom and patience and grace.

When I look into the sweet faces of the kids I have the privilege of calling mine, I am filled with love. They are precious to us. As they seek comfort, curl up with us for a book, talk about their hopes and dreams, accomplish new tasks, conquer fears, and make progress on tasks that come so easily to many, I just feel blessed. They are ours - we may not be the neat and tidy, fit in a box family, but we are a family - faults, challenges, and all. We are my favorite.

I have found tremendous grace and encouragement in unexpected places and I'm so grateful. There is  much joy in our lives along with the heartache. I would never, ever, ever trade my children or our way of becoming parents for the world. As we muddle through the difficult, and the ugly, and the painful, we see redemption and love and acceptance. I can never pretend to understand fully the path my children have had to walk. One of them said to me recently, "Mom, I just wish you had been there the minute I was born." And all I can say is, "Me, too, buddy, Me, too." Sometimes we cry as we acknowledge the hard and sometimes we get mad, but we are glad that the current path is ours to walk together.

We had SUCH a blast with a family fun day just after the new year - the kids have mentioned it several times and are hoping for another big family fun day!

We took selfies at each of our fun stops - a day full of adventure!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ch...ch...ch...change

How is it possible that Christmas is next week? I blinked and this year is nearly finished. As I worked on our annual holiday card, I reflected on what this year has been. It's been full of heartache, challenge, joy, and blessing. There were moments when I was pretty sure we wouldn't make it, but God... He has led us, sustained us, taught us, and encouraged us. We have come to this December full of gratitude.

We moved this year. We moved for a lot of reasons - we needed another bedroom, we had a home equity line of credit for adoption that we were ready to be done with, and we wanted a basement. And so, we moved. It was more of a lateral move - we weren't looking to increase our mortgage or our square footage, but we did want to increase our yard. We accomplished all three. We moved into the house my parents owned for 19 years in a quiet neighborhood with large lots. I lived there for a few years, but it was not my childhood home. We are working to make it our own. It's completely different from the open floor plan of our home of 12 years. We have lots of plans for it, but for now it's working and we are thankful. It's been an adjustment - mostly good, some hard. We miss aspects of our old home and neighborhood, but mainly we just feel that this is right for us.

From surgeries, to job change, to school challenges, to life challenges, it's been quite the year.

Change. Not a particularly easy thing for us. And it's been a year of change.

One constant...these four...the best thing ever.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

True Confessions: Ice, Ice, Baby

I'm not talking about the diamond kind. I'm really talking about the frozen water. It's my favorite. I'm totally obsessed with it and have been for years. And I know better. It's horrible for your teeth. Don't even talk to me about vitamin deficiencies or iron deficiencies... I LOVE ICE.



I'm convinced it's somewhat genetic - several women on my mom's side crave crunchy things. That's totally me. At least ice doesn't have calories - right?! But it's annoying and I totally know it! I have to make myself not do it when I'm with people, but I forget...lots of times...because it's a habit and I can't help it. Oh and those restaurants who are all classy and "we don't do ice in our awesome water?" Not cool.

I also love temperature extremes. One of my brother-in-laws was horrified to learn that I ordered fancy coffee drinks extra hot. I don't anymore because I had one too many that had scalded milk issues - his point precisely.  But I digress..

Ugh! Guys, this is a real thing. My husband even gives me a coupon for store-bought ice in my stocking - he totally know this makes my year! It's unnatural and a little weird and a lot awful. I've tried to break the habit, but the cold and crunch is totally my thing. I can't even explain how happy a glass of ice water makes me. And I am somewhat of an ice connoisseur if I do say so myself. All ice is NOT created equal.

Anyway, to sum up: I'm sorry if I crunch ice near you (except you, family...you're stuck with me), it takes every bit of self control for me to concentrate on not crunching it - so, it was an accident. I'm only a little sorry, though because ice and cold is awesome.

Did I mention my husband orders light ice in everything and does not like temperature extremes? We're compatible like that.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Sleeping Bag

He was there. Dirty, disheveled, dejected. Surrounded by what appeared to be all of his earthly
possessions, he sat on the median in front of the shopping center.

She parked and walked toward him with a large red object. A red sleeping bag, I soon realized. It was a brisk fall morning in October, one of the first marking the coming cool weather. I sat at the red light watching the scene before me - intrigued.

The middle aged woman in sweats and a ponytail crossed to the median and knelt in front of the man with a gentle and compassionate smile. She gave him the sleeping bag and spoke to him, looking him squarely in the eye. He received the sleeping bag, shuffled his belongings and turned back to her. To my surprise, I watched him wipe his eyes - tears evident even from a distance.

She continued to kneel at his level, kindly speaking to him, and finally joining him in tears. Tears filled my own eyes as I witnessed this humble moment. His pain so evident, her compassion so apparent.

The light changed and I reluctantly continued on my way as tears continued to roll down my cheeks. In that moment I realized, my life had been changed. It was, in fact, one of the most beautiful things I have witnessed.

This simple act profoundly impacted my thinking on mercy ministry and on seeing people. She could have rolled down her window and passed the sleeping bag out to him, she could have easily driven by without doing anything, she could  have walked over and handed it to him and walked away, but that's not what she did. She KNELT at his level, acknowledged him as a person, looked him in the eye, spoke words of kindness, listened to him, wept with him, and met a basic need he clearly had.

It was obvious she did not do this for recognition or glory. She saw him. She saw a need. I'm certain it was not convenient or even comfortable and yet she met it anyway.

The compassion that poured from her face and through her actions spoke to my heart. I haven't stopped thinking about it. The hands and feet of Jesus, the heart of the Gospel, a part of the mission of the church were all wrapped into that moment for me.

I wept. I pondered. I shared. I made a plan to be more prepared to serve people in need in my city.

Compassion. The Gospel. Mercy. Loving People.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What Does It Mean?

I'm pro-life. I've spent a lot of time considering the meaning of that statement. It's much more complicated than being anti-abortion to me. I wrote about this topic once before many years ago and stepped on some toes (which was not my intention). My heart aches for the children lost and for the great tragedy that is abortion. And I am thankful for those serving on the front-line of this important issue.

When we were first married, I became a crisis pregnancy counselor. It was hard. I learned a lot. My commitment to adoption was strengthened through that work. I also saw the absolute necessity of supporting a woman beyond her decision to parent. 

I believe being pro-life goes way past a decision to give birth. It speaks to the preservation of life throughout life. 

We can't truly be pro-life without asking ourselves some really difficult questions. How will we be involved beyond birth? How will we support women and children and families in need? How will we reduce the number of children in foster care? How will we serve the marginalized in our society? 

I'm still figuring this out myself. What does it really mean to be pro-life?

A few ways to be pro-life beyond the anti-abortion movement are:
- Be an organ donor. 
- Be swabbed for the bone marrow registry.
- Give blood.
- Support families who are fostering, involved with Safe Families, and adopting.
- Consider being one of those families. 
- Start a clothing closet for children in need. 
- Donate to your local food pantry and work there.
- Be a mentor for kids aging out of foster care. 
- Be a mentor for Safe Families.
- Volunteer as a Big Brother or Sister.
- Volunteer at your local hospital.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- Collect items for shelters.
- Love your neighbors. 

Perhaps at the heart of it all is compassion. Seeing, loving, and serving all people. It most certainly will take us out of our comfort zone, it will be hard, it will be inconvenient, and it will stretch us. But I submit that to be truly pro-life, we must support life from conception to grave. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Being Enough

I don't know about you, but I majorly struggle with mom guilt. I feel like the worst mom ever at least once a week, day, minute... I'm weary. I'm in the trenches. I feel guilty for not getting everything done in day, guilty if I sit down without laundry or something else productive, guilty if I serve cereal eggs for dinner, guilty about not being and doing enough, guilty about not enjoying every minute... The list is endless. It can be paralyzing. It can make me second guess everything. And people have lots of opinions about what moms should be doing, what educational choices we should make, how we should discipline, and what success looks like. You know what? Some of those opinions and expectations are spoken and some are really only my perceptions. I'm really bad about the latter.

I'm a people pleaser. I am definitely more sensitive than I would like to admit. I am careful about feelings - not hurting others and not expressing my own. I re-play all situations including parenting ones over and over in my head from every angle. It's exhausting.

The thing is I know I am far from perfect as a mother. Sure, sometimes I nail it (ha!) - I'm patient, kind, loving, nurturing, crafty, funny, silly, and spend lots of quality time with them. But sometimes I sin by yelling, sometimes I'm unreasonable, sometimes I'm grumpy, sometimes I'm lazy, and sometimes I don't enjoy being a parent....

Yet, God chose me to parent these kids no matter what. And He is enough. In the mundane and the dramatic and the hard, He is enough. He works through me to make me enough. I am what my kids need and they are what I need. And I DO love them, enjoy them, treasure them, care for them, learn from them, celebrate them, and feel thankful for them! They make me laugh and smile and wonder how in the world I got to be so lucky. (They also disobey, annoy, fight, argue...but that's another post. ;))

I'm here to say:

You are enough through Christ.
You are not perfect and you won't be (spoiler: your kids aren't either) - keep striving and seeking first His kingdom.
You need to take time for yourself - don't feel guilty about it - we must recharge. Whether that's a Netflix show, glass of wine, good book, fancy coffee drink, dinner with a friend or all of the above - just go for it and enjoy!
It's okay to have a bad day - tomorrow is a new one -  "I'm sorry,""I messed up," and "I forgive you" teach many lessons. We are being sanctified through our parenting.
You don't have to enjoy every second of parenting - those well-intentioned ladies who admonish this really do mean well - but the truth is that not every minute is enjoyable (I mean who ENJOYS cleaning up vomit, disciplining kids, sleep issues, scraping poop off cribs and all. the. things.?!).

It does go fast. And we will remember and laugh and forget and treasure and miss. And we will be the blue-haired little old ladies swapping stories which have been enhanced over decades of happy, selective memories. And we will probably stop young moms and tell them to enjoy every minute. And they will roll their eyes and think we just don't get it, but the good will so far outshine the previous day-to-day struggle that we won't even care or remember.

We need to stop believing the lie that we are not good enough. In this day and in this moment, you are enough. 

So in love with these cuties!

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 
Ephesians 3:14-19

Thursday, September 17, 2015

On Doing Mornings

First day of school treat!
I'm sitting here on my deck listening to the wind ripple through the trees and thoroughly enjoying the quiet. It's the 45 minutes on Thursdays that I have by myself - 3 kids are at piano lessons and one is at school. It's glorious. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and am thankful for each one of my children, but I need these moments of peace - they carry me through the chaos. And these moments mean I have a chance to write.

I'm not a morning person by nature. This is no secret. It's just not my favorite. However, I've been reflecting on ways to make our family more successful and a change in our morning routine was exactly where I felt we needed to start. (School starting always causes these ponderings.) And so, I have been purposefully rising earlier - nothing crazy - just earlier. It has been hard and it has been wonderful. I'm getting more done, having a chance to plan for the day, enjoying time in the Word, making better breakfast, and interacting with each member of the family in a more meaningful way. You better believe the coffee pot is my first stop, though. :)

We changed our school schedule so that the older boys don't start their online school until 10. This has been an amazing change for us. They start their homework earlier (7:30 or 8) and we have our Bible time all before they have to start class. It's been awesome and has made a world of difference in our school day and morning routine. Emmi still attends school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the schedule change has made her drop off easier (she attend 9-2). Titus is traditionally homeschooling with me this year and it's working well for him.

We have a child who has struggled with ADD/ADHD and we have purposed to incorporate more protein into our mornings. This requires more planning for me, but really helps him and is good for all of us. So, I've been cooking breakfast most mornings. May not seem like a big deal, but it's been a change for us. After trying to make everyone happy, it seemed prudent to just have 3-4 breakfasts that we regularly rotate through. So far, no major complaints. (Cereal is very popular at our house, but not something I want to have very often, so Sunday is cereal day.)

These are our current regulars:
Eggs, Sausage, Whole Grain Toast w/all-fruit jam
Greek Yogurt w/Granola & Fruit (we love the new recipe)
Build-Your-Own Oatmeal Bar (I provide a variety of toppings like fruit, nuts, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup and they can make it how they want - they like the control and I like that it's healthy, cheap, and no longer a battle)

Loving our new backyard.
Dinners have been a challenge and I've taken a pretty hard look at ways to make it easier. 4-6p. is zero hour at our house and I do not enjoy trying to come up with dinner then. :) Planning  in the morning, prepping ahead, and doing a crockpot meal (curried red lentils tonight) occasionally is definitely helping. I'm being more intentional with my shopping and in keeping track of what foods we have, so less goes to waste. It's been good. I also keep a few convenience items on hand like chicken sausages that can be thrown on the grill or used as a soup base. Having dinner together is a high priority for our family - it's a chance to share about our day and take some time away from the hectic. We've really enjoyed eating on our deck this summer. The mornings have been key to successful dinner for us.

So thankful for positive changes. I'm still a night person, but I'm making myself get up earlier no matter when I go to bed. It may translate in to an earlier bedtime...eventually. :) Doing mornings has made for a decent start to our school year and has helped to create a lower stress environment in our home.

Mornings...I'm starting to welcome you. Shhh...don't tell nights.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For the Love + GIVEAWAY!

For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker - release day + GIVEAWAY! 


Giveaway is now closed and the winner is according to Random Generator is... HEATHER!

 For the Love Book by Jen Hatmaker


This post is part of Jen Hatmaker's "For the Love" Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other talented and inspiring bloggers! To learn more or join us, click here.

Way back in March, on a whim, I signed up to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book...with 5,000 other people. I have long been an admirer of Jen and have very often been inspired by her words. Somehow, I was among the 500 chosen to be a part of her team, to review the book, to write an endorsement, and to promote her book. An awesome honor and a distinct privilege.

Now today is the official launch date of a book that I definitely recommend. For the Love is a collection of essays for women. Community, parenting, fashion, difficult people - she's got you covered plus so much more. The subtitle? "Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards."

Do you feel like you never measure up?


Do you feel like you have to hide the real you?


Do you struggle with feelings of imperfection?


Do you have a "spicy" family?


Do you find it challenging to have meaningful relationships with other women?


Do you have trouble finding balance?


 Do you like to laugh?


This book is for you. Whether you are single or married, young or old, childless or juggling a houseful of cherubs, working outside the home or staying at home - whatever you're calling and place in life - this book is for YOU. This book is about grace - grace for others and grace for our ourselves and knowing the grace of God - GRACE.

If you have read Hatmaker's previous books or if you follow her on Facebook, then you already know how hilarious she is. This book is no exception. From "Thank You Notes," to dolphin sandwiches, to fashion advice, to real life stories, she will entertain you while speaking truth, encouraging women everywhere, and challenging the norm.

What I didn't know way back in March was that I was about to become a member of an amazing community of women. A community that truly lives out the message of this book. We have laughed, prayed, cried, and celebrated with one another. We come from different generations, different backgrounds, different locations, and different political/religious/theological/social views - yet there is a spirit of love and grace and friendship that goes beyond shared life experience. It has blessed and comforted me and challenged me in my local relationships.

The incredible opportunity to be a part of this beautiful book and community came at an incredibly difficult time in our lives. As the storm of life encompassed and confused us, I found solace in the pages of this book and in the prayers of women who had never met me. What a tremendous blessing and just a small way this book made an impact on my own life.

I was truly sorry for the book to end. I'm also pretty sure Jen and I would be best friends in real life. She is easy to read, easy to relate to, painfully honest, likes to cook (yes, she includes some recipes!), has a dry wit...oh, and coffee ('nuf said).

So, I encourage you to go and buy this book! Even my husband laughed when I read parts of it out loud to him. :) Let it minister to your soul, challenge your relationships, encourage your heart, and make you laugh out loud.


My officially official endorsement:
This poignant, timely, and hilarious book is a must read! Truth spills from the pages providing encouragement, challenge, freedom, and restoration. It is a breath of fresh air that will make you equally laugh, cry, nod, and think. ~ Alaina; Mama of a Spicy Family, Blogger, and Chef Wannabe. Indianapolis, IN



 For the Love Book
In honor of the release of this book, I am giving away 1 copy of FOR THE LOVE by Jen Hatmaker! Just comment below with your favorite coffee (or otherwise) drink and whether you have read anything of Jen's before (1 entry/person, please!). I will randomly select a winner on Saturday, August 23!


** A special thanks to MUCH more graphically talented individuals on the launch team than myself for all the quote images in this post! **

Disclaimer: I received an early copy of the book to read and review, but received no compensation for this review. This is my honest endorsement and opinion of this book. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I do not agree with Jen Hatmaker on all things. This book is not a Bible Study, but rather a collection of essays. :)