October 21, 2014

under the stars.

Dave had recently suggested to the boys that they set up a tent and camp together in the backyard. Without fail, every day since, the boys have asked if tonight was the big night. Each day, there was a reason that the answer was "not tonight, maybe tomorrow."

Our days are full. By the end of the day, we have either been out late or dinnertime has quickly ushered into baths and bedtime. This past weekend was busier than anticipated. School nights were not an option.

Days passed. Yet, the boys kept on asking.

Yesterday, Dave decided to make it happen. Even if he had an early morning meeting and knew that sleep would be difficult on the cold, hard ground.

The evening was a bit chaotic, Charlotte and Sylvie were both sick and the normal evening tasks seemed to be taking longer than normal. It was cold and wet outside. Dave was exhausted from a long day at work. It would have been easy to scrap the idea and try again another night.

That wasn't happening.

Dave knew that the boys would have patiently waited for another night. He knew that it would have been reasonable to hold off on this seemingly small thing. Yet, more importantly, he knew that the biggest risk of waiting would be that the boys may stop asking. They may stop looking to their hero to join them in making memories. They aren't going to be four years old forever. Time passes in a blink. These moments are what this life is all about.

So, they pitched a tent. They lit a fire. They sang songs. And, they huddled together under mounds of blankets and slept under the stars.

Magical moments.

This morning, they woke up early and drank hot cocoa in the tent. They came inside laughing and ran into my room right away to tell me all about their fun night through smiles and eyes shining with joy.

I'm so thankful to be married to a man who loves his family so well.

October 18, 2014

our first harvest.

I'm typing this post on the sticky-surfaced back patio table. The honey remnants from last night's dinner have yet to be scrubbed off. I kind of like the way it still holds the tangible remains of an evening gathered around the table with friends and family enjoying the fruits of our labor {well, to be fair, I didn't actually labor... but I did enjoy the fruits...}. 

We celebrated our first ever honey harvest. There is just something about a harvest that makes you feel a new connection to this earth and the way God created every little thing to work together so beautifully. 

Our friend, Mark, led Dave through the art of bee keeping this year and he was here to initiate the harvest. Thank goodness for Mark. For two specific reasons: 1) we have no idea what we're doing and 2) Dave had an "incident" with the bees while mowing earlier this year that caused him to want to keep his distance during the actual retrieval from the hive.

We watched how he smoked the hive to calm the bees from a safe distance. See Mark and his son at work waaaaaayyyyyy over there??? :)

After the honey was loaded up into the cooler, we all moved into the barn to extract the honey from the frames. This was SO. COOL. Really. Bees are pretty awesome.

After the top of the wax {I think it is wax? I didn't ask Mark what it was exactly...}, the frames went into this spinning contraption to extract the rest of the honey so that we could pour the sweet nectar into our jars. 

Mark had quite the audience.

I don't know how else to describe the smell and the taste of freshly harvested honey other than heavenly.

Our bounty. This was all from one hive. Next time, we'll have five. And that makes me giddy.

This is the face of a baby who was just told she needs to wait seven more months before she can taste this stuff.  I imagine her saying, "WHAT?!?! NOOOOOOO!!!!"

Warm yeast rolls dipped in the fresh, sweet honey drippings = divine.

Clearly, I'm not an expert on bee-keeping. {I am, however, an expert on honey eating}. Which means, if you're interested in keeping bees, unfortunately, I'm no help to you seeing as I just swept in at the tail end to reap the rewards of Dave and Mark's hard work.

The Prairie Homesteader, however, can help. She published a great post on how to get started with Honeybees.

Have a happy Saturday friends! I'm enjoying this perfect fall day by sipping hot tea {with fresh honey, of course} outside while watching my boys split logs and chop firewood in preparation for winter. Also, reflecting on the fact that this is my life. It's all so unexpected that I sometimes have to stop to catch my breath and soak it in. Full of gratitude today...

October 16, 2014

the everyday crazy. {farmhouse renovation}.

In the spirit of being able to see the beauty in the process, as Beth Moore advised in our Bible study video session this morning {no, she was not talking about a home remodel at all but I feel the lesson is applicable across the board}, I wanted to share some of the latest craziness happening around the farmhouse. 

As anyone who has ever taken on a 100+ year-old house renovation knows, this remodel is never, ever ending. As soon as we finish one project, we have fifty others that are half-finished and needing our attention.

And, then, there are everyday needs to manage.

I thought I'd share a day-in-the-life of sorts. I snapped a few photos of what is happening this afternoon around here. This crazy is our normal. I hope everyone reading can feel a little less pressure to achieve perfection in your homes. Life happens here. It's messy but it's beautiful.

You guys. Laundry is never ending. Ever. Our kitchen table serves as laundry station + work desk + dinner table + craft table and everything in between.  {And, apparently all of of my children refuse to wear pants these days... we're picking our battles over here. Go with it...}

The living room on a normal day is crazy town. The jumper-in-the-doorway is Charlotte's absolute favorite. I took this photo while wearing her in my baby carrier...otherwise, she would be jumping and laughing in this contraption. As you can see, today it's extra special since we just had new mattresses delivered in preparation for the new bedroom addition above the new garage. My parents are thrilled to no longer be sleeping in a teeny bed in the playroom when they visits {you're welcome, mom}.

The addition of a garage brought with it a new mudroom space. The plan is to paint the entire space white {BM White Dove - my favorite white} and create a functional space for shoes/backpacks/coats before entering the house.

These stairs are off to the right of the mudroom and lead to the new apartment space above the garage. 

A new guest bedroom... which will be pretty full next month! I'm so excited because I love visitors!!

A little reading nook for the kiddos...

The painters are here working today. The entire space will be painted white to create a really cozy, cottage feel. I used to be afraid of white walls, thinking it would make the space stark and stale. I feel the opposite now. I love white walls. They are the perfect blank canvas. 

My little shadow in rain boots and no pants. It's a fashion statement. :)

A new desk to house all of our papers and computer. I'm so excited for the kitchen table to become a kitchen table again!!

In other fun, this little guy likes to jump the fence and go off exploring. The kiddos and I had to go chase him down. He is so cute that he can get away with it.

We've had a ton of rain and our little pond has filled up in the process. I'm really hoping it will stay full this time. It makes me smile to look out and see all of this water... if I can't be on the beach, and I can't be on the lake, I might as well have a full pond. Am I right?

And, this photo reminds me that we will be painting the exterior of the house soon. I'll give you one guess on the color choice. :) 

On the other side of our land, work is underway for irrigation for the new blueberry farm with a new well.

The future home of Feed Their Tummies blueberries...

I better finish the laundry and clear the table because we have new friends headed this way for dinner. I'm reading Shauna Niequist's Bread and Wine and am LOVING it. I have always loved to entertain and linger over a good meal with friends and she has rekindled that spark in me. Read this book, you won't be disappointed.

Have a great Thursday, friends!

October 13, 2014

Tour through Blogland {Mustard Seeds}

I feel like we all need a little encouragement on a Monday morning. So, I thought I would start a new series featuring some of my favorite people in "blogland."  My sweet friend, Tessy, recently hosted a Tour Through Blogland and featured this little blog of mine. She asked that I participate in the tour and I decided to change it up by featuring a guest post from each blog I am featuring. The series will run for the next five Mondays. Be sure to check in to read these posts from my friends who are literally changing the world. These gals are inspiring and authentic. My hope is that you will walk away encouraged each week.

To kick off the series, I've asked my friend Catherine to share. Her family's prayer card is front and center on our fridge and we pray for them daily. Catherine is the real deal. Her friendship is one of my favorite things about adoption.

Hey y'all! My name is Catherine and I blog over at Mustard Seeds, where I  write about mommy hood, family, adoption, ministry, and missionary life in Africa. Jenny and I were introduced through a mutual friend, who connected us, as we lived close to each other (at the time) and were both adopting from the same country. We had our first "phone date" and became instant friends! Love her heart and her honesty through her writing! A little over a year ago, both of our families ended up in Africa at the same time and were able to hang out at our hotel with all 3 of our girls in tow! Such a fun and special memory that I won't ever forget!

Since our families met up in Africa, our family has gone through many changes, one of which includes a big move for our family to Malawi, Africa!

This week marks our one year anniversary of living in Africa and I've been reflecting on the many lessons God has been teaching me over the last few years to get us here.

One such lesson, has been my trust [or lack thereof] in His Plan and especially His timing.

We home school and have been reading  The Witch of Black Bird Pond. It has been literally years since I have cracked the cover on this book. Surprisingly, my boys were really into it and we've been anticipating "real aloud" time each day. I got about half way through the book and found myself sneaking peeks at the back pages. How would it end? Was it going to turn out how I wanted? Would Kit be with Nat? Oh, the agony of waiting as we read one slow chapter a day!

Ok, so the book thing is a small example, but God has been revealing to me that, although I may say "yes" to His Story for my life, I do it with a sense of anxiousness. I want to know the when, why, where, and seriously, "how stinkin' long is it going to take"? I want to read the last chapter and see how everything pans out. "I will follow you God, but make the results pleasant and quick like, mkay?"

This lack of trusting was illuminated quite clearly through the adoption process of our girls. In March 2010, we signed on with our adoption agency and confidently anticipated that in 18 months, we would be holding our 2 children in our arms. If God had revealed the chapter in my book that showed our adoption would actually take 3.5 years, I may have never started! Through out the 3.5 year wait, God continued to write our Story, line by line, paragraph by paragraph. During this time, God began to show us that adoption wasn't necessarily the end game for us. He began to plant in our hearts that He wanted orphan care to be our life-long work. 

In August 2013, we kissed our boys good-bye and hopped on a plane to meet 2 little girls, on the other side of the world,  who shared our last name.  Six short weeks after we brought our girls home to the States, our family of 6 loaded back up on a plane and moved to Malawi, Africa!

I've been going back and documenting our journey here and am utterly amazed at God's faithfulness to our family. I am so glad that God didn't reveal to me the last chapter in the book. I may have run off in fear before we even got started! Instead He gently lead us, one small step at a time. I may have gotten frustrated, questioned Him and doubted the Story He was writing was going to be good. But,  oh, how He writes GOOD stories! I hope I never doubt that again.

Guaranteed His Story is always going to be bigger, better, and more adventurous than we could ever pen for ourselves.

October 8, 2014

never once.

As I stood in church on Sunday, singing the words to Matt Redman's Never Once, reminders of the pain and the heartache that we experienced over the past two years flashed in my mind. Memories I had partially forgotten in these three months of struggling to find our footing in this new normal of hectic schedules, doctor's appointments, healing hearts, jealous siblings, boundary setting, bedtime chaos, and pure exhaustion.

The tears began to fall as I recounted the ways God was there every single step of the way. How HE was faithful in the battle.

Now that we stand on the mountaintop, we can clearly see just how far we have come. We can see how His hand was on our family even when we didn't understand what was happening. We can see how He worked all of the pain, all of the tears and all of the uncertainty for good. Even though there were many, many scars and struggles along the way, our hearts can joyfully say that never once did we ever walk alone.

"Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us"

Tomorrow is the three month mark of Sylvie joining our family here at home and I can still hardly believe that we are all here together. As I watch her become more and more comfortable in this new place, as her vocabulary continues to expand {she is talking non-stop!}, as I watch sibling bonds grow deep and as laughter continues to replace tears, I am grateful.

The fact that we went to the pumpkin patch as a family this weekend as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world is beyond me. Every "normal" thing that we do is extraordinary these days. These four little people being here together makes it seemingly impossible to take moments like this for granted.

Just a glimpse of her sass...the hand on the hip. It's just too much.

He picked this one himself and was very proud, rightfully so. 

A family photo with all of us smiling is impossible. 

This morning, I was reading through my journal and these verses caught my eye. They were the ones that spoke to my aching heart as we waited in those final weeks for word on if Sylvie would be issued her exit permit. We knew God was moving. We knew He was in control. Yet, anxiety and fear were high. These verses were my lifeline in those weeks.

"...for I will fight those who fight you, and I will save your children. ... All the world will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel." {Isaiah 49: 25-26}

Long ago the Lord said to Israel: "I have loved you my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself. I will rebuild you, my virgin Israel. You will again be happy and dance with tambourines." {Jeremiah 31:34}

I will turn their mourning into joy. I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing. {Jeremiah 31:13}

I am counting on the Lord;
Yes, I am counting on him
I have put my hope in His word. {Psalm 130:5}

Everyone will see this miracle and understand that it is the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, who did it. {Isaiah 41:20}

Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling. {Zechariah 2:13}

Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for a child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on my hand. {Isaiah 49: 15-16}

I continue to pray these verses for all of my dear momma friends that are waiting for their babies to be under their roof. I'm praying as their arms ache to hold their little loves who wait half a world away. The battle is not over yet. It is unseen but it is very much real. Please continue to pray for justice for the precious children who wait for their families. Thank you, sweet friends.

October 4, 2014

farmhouse renovation. {front entry}

Reading The Nester's book has inspired me to finally finish the front entry gallery wall I've been waiting to start for months. Gallery walls are intimidating. I'm a perfectionist and I have a fear of nail holes. To be fair, I didn't realize I had this irrational fear until I read The Nester's book and she broke me of it. 

I decided to just go for it and start hanging frames. The worst that could happen are a few extra nail holes that can be easily filled in and painted over. 

The first step for our entry was a new coat of paint for this old table. I used Annie Sloan's French Linen chalk paint. I love chalk paint because it's so easy to use and, most importantly, it's fast. I don't have time for scraping and prepping... this entire project took me about thirty minutes. {Apparently, I don't have time to grab the candle from falling before I snap a photo either...}

After painting the table, I dug through our stored photos and snagged the ones that I wanted to include on this wall. I prefer to mix wood frames with canvas photos and unusual items to create an interesting gallery wall.

Arranging the wall layout on the floor helps me to visualize the gallery. It also serves as a starting point for hanging the frames. I measure the entire layout and then measure as we hang each item {and Dave helps because I'm too impatient for all of this measuring, if left on my own, I would have just started hanging and re-hanging and re-hanging. The simple step of measuring solves the issue of extra nail holes}.

We started with the top center photo and worked from there...

At this point, I thought we were finished. Then, I snapped a photo and realized it felt incomplete. I sat with it for a few days before adding anything else.

Hands down, my favorite item on the wall is the painting my friend, Beth, painted for me before Charlotte was born and Sylvie was home. It served as a reminder that they will both be in my arms someday. The verse Beth wrote on the painting is Hosea 12:6: Maintain love and justice and wait for your God always. 

After sitting with it for a few days, I decided to add a couple of items at the bottom of the gallery to fill in the extra space. I love the way it turned out because it is a reflection of our family and makes our entry feel like home.

We have another gallery wall in our bedroom that I adore. I love looking at these sweet faces each morning when I wake up. It's my favorite wall in our home. 

Oh, another random tip for gallery walls: Lemon Essential Oil. A friend recommended it for taking the tags off of picture frame glass and it works like a dream. And, finish it off with a quick wipe with a Norwex window cloth. Magic. You can thank me later.

Happy weekend, friends!