September 17, 2014

to be still.

As I sipped from my steaming mug of coffee and watched the sun rise over the mist-covered fields yesterday morning, I felt grateful. Grateful that instead of turning over and pulling the covers up high, I grudgingly forced myself to get out of bed early {too early, thank you coffee}. In return for the obedience of rising early, I received the rare gift of a few quiet moments to read my Bible and soak in the beauty before me. The neighbor's cows quietly grazing, the sun's rays shining through the trees, the mist slowly lifting over the still waters of our pond.

I was reminded of Jen Hatmaker's words from the IF: Gathering Local I attended this weekend, "serving does not equal striving." At times, we need to rest. We need to be still in Him. Even if we have to steal brief moments of solitude in between diaper changes and feedings and laundry and dishes stacked high.

I have to choose to rest at His feet. 

Particularly in this season, when I am completely worn out by the end of each day. In Jen's words again, "you may be broken and poured out for the redemption of someone under your own roof. You don't have to go far." This is true for me in these days. Sylvie's heart is healing. I am stepping into her pain and I am constantly asking for a change of my heart to reflect Him. And, you guys, it's exhausting.

Which is why I am thankful for moments of rest. Moments to be still in order to be filled up again.

Reading Emily Freeman's post: Why Rest Takes Courage was a balm to my soul.

The details of soul rest may look different for each of us, but probably includes some combination of silence, solitude, nature, your people, and the willingness to come into the presence of Christ and simply be ourselves.

I encourage you to read it and to choose rest, even in the midst of your busy days. We can't all step away from the demands and needs vying for our attention. Yet, we can create margin in our lives that allows for rest and restoration, however briefly these moments may last. 

How do you carve out moments in your day for rest? I would love your ideas...

September 9, 2014

two months.

For two full months, all of my children have been under the same roof. The miracles that unfolded to make this possible are not lost on me for one second.

Getting a photo of all four together? Well, we may need another miracle to make that happen. 

{This is the kind of stuff we're working with here, folks...}

Bahahahahahahahaha!!! I may frame these. They make me smile.

This girl:

These past two months have been so very full. You guys, she is so, so smart. I love watching her little mind work as she figures out a new toy or "reads" a book or plays on my phone {seriously - she is a tech whiz. I have to hide my phone during the day because she will snag it and send emails and take photos}.

Her language is expanding daily. She understands us perfectly and has started not only repeating words, but using them in the correct context. I am in awe at how quickly she is picking up english. We have really not had any issues communicating since she has been home. I can understand her french-lingala-english-toddler speak perfectly. :)

She has made so much progress...

She is no longer afraid of grass or trees or our dog. She now gets excited when she sees daddy and wants to be near him. She no longer needs me to be in her line of sight at all times. She no longer needs me to carry her whenever we are outside of our home, she happily walks along with her brothers or is content to hold my hand. She no longer shuts down when someone new comes into our home or talks to her when we are out and about.

It's been amazing watching her full personality come out. She is hilarious and fun-loving and so very sweet.

These two:

They are adorable together. Sylvie is such a great helper with Charlotte. She loves to help care for her and is always is the first one to jump up if Charlotte starts to cry. She has several baby dolls that she will feed, burp, rock and sing to while I'm feeding Charlotte. There is typically a "baby" in the swing or rock-n-play whenever I go to lay Charlotte down. This sister-love isn't one-sided either, Charlotte loves to watch Sylvie and she giggles at her sister all day long. Sylvie lights up when she makes Charlotte laugh. I love when she yells, "mommy! baby!" to get my attention in her french accent. It's ridiculously cute.

Now, I know I haven't posted much on this blog about what our transition has looked like. I realize that if you read this blog or follow my Instagram posts, you will get the impression that life is peachy and everyone is happy-go-lucky around here.

Here's the thing: I am all about transparency. I would never, ever want anyone to jump into adoption expecting ONLY sweet airport homecoming photos and silly videos and lots of snuggles and laughter. Those things are wonderful -- incredible, actually - but they aren't the full picture.

The full picture is hard. Adoption, at it's core, is about loss. Our girl has lost everything and everyone she has ever known and loved. She has never had a chance to trust. She has learned that everyone leaves. We are working hard to build a foundation of trust and love and safety. We want her to know that we are not going anywhere. We want her to know that she will have food and water and she doesn't have to be scared that it will run out. We want her to know that she is loved.

Yet, I don't want to share all of the details here because I want to protect my girl. She is dealing with a lot of hard, hard stuff and not everyone {well anyone, really} needs to know all of the nitty gritty details.

Still, I struggle because I absolutely do not want to paint a false picture. I want y'all to know that we are seeking God's grace and wisdom each day. We are learning more in this season about His redemptive love than ever before.

We have had an incredibly intimate glimpse into God's deep love and abundant grace for us. I've been gently reminded that I too have run from His loveI too have tried to control my own life and resisted His leading {even when I know that His plans are for my good}. Yet, He has been there. Steadfast. Even when I turn away.

Undeserving, magnificent Grace.


Now, just in case you would like a little peek into our crazy, here is a photographic proof of the ridiculousness that occurred last week when I just wanted my one family photo at the beach. Is that too much to ask? Why can't everyone just get together and smile for Pete's sake?!!? 

So, I gave up on photos actually on the beach. The sunsets brought out the tears from exhausted, water-logged kiddos. We gave it one last valiant effort on the patio of the condo. It was an epic failure. 

{I stand in awe of families that are able to manage beautifully poised, smiling family photos on the sand. Complete with matching outfits and mommas with hair brushed and make-up on. Amazing. I can't even. We will clearly never be that family}.

This is classic - Nathan is throwing a liiittttlllleee fit {and, clearly, my mom doesn't realize she is in the shot and we didn't take the time to clean up the chairs behind us... details...details...}:

I'm giving him the "you better stand up and smile right now" face. Meanwhile, my nephew is trying to sneak out {nana trying to restrain him}:

I give up.

Yep. This is my life. I think I will frame this one:

Nathan's face is classic. Bottom-lip pout:

Zephaniah 3:17

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (NIV)

I hope y'all have an awesome week! We are slowly getting caught up on laundry and mail and bills and emails. It's so great to be home and I'm REALLY looking forward to fall... I'm ready! This summer was an amazing whirlwind but I am craving chilly mornings, beautiful fall colors and pumpkin spiced lattes. ;)

August 25, 2014

at the edge of the sea once more.

We have all fallen hard for this place by the sea. This is our third year staying in this same home with it's gorgeous views and steps down to the white sandy beach.

That first year here, we were in the thick of the seemingly never-ending wait for our referral...

{Before we talk about anything else, let's just stop right now and discuss how teeny tiny my boys were... I had NO idea. I thought they were so big. They were just babies. Look at Ben's curls. Oh my heart. Two years have passed in a BLINK}.

Last year, we arrived here anxious for Sylvie to come home. Hoping and praying that it would be soon.

"When we booked this vacation almost a year ago, we were certain that S would be home and this would be our first vacation together as a family of five. We were apprehensive about booking because we had no idea exactly when she would be home and if it would be too soon for a trip to the beach.

To be honest, it hasn't been easy to be here now without her. I had so many images in my mind of what this week would look like. S and the boys playing together in the sand and surf for the first time as brothers and sister. Moments of bonding and trust forming. Joy and celebration.

Yet, I'm learning to embrace the story God has written for me and my family. Learning to rest in His timing and trust His sovereignty. Knowing that my plans are never something to boast about. Instead, trusting in His plans - which are far greater than I could ever imagine."

During that week, we learned of the devastating news about the exit permit suspension.

"... I'm choosing to remember the verse He directed me to and affirmed moments later as Beth Moore read the exact verse from the stage where she spoke.

There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. 
{1 Peter 1:6}

I'm choosing to remember the One who called us to this path. He is faithful and good. S is His beloved daughter. We will continue to wait for her to be in our arms. We will continue to pray and hope."

And, just to keep things interesting, the day before we left for this vacation last year, I found out I was pregnant.  I was shocked...these plans were not my own ... they were far greater and higher than anything I could have hoped for.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Needless to say, this year, as we pulled into this familiar driveway as a family of SIX, I could not feel more blessed. Answered prayers abound in this place. The dark night has given way to the joy of the morning.

There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. 
{1 Peter 1:6}
Wonderful, wonderous joy.

August 20, 2014

the gospel of grace.

The words shared on IF:Equip yesterday were a balm to my restless soul.  In this season of nurturing little hearts and pouring into the basic needs of little ones, I am feeling weary and small.

My days are full of diaper changes, endless loads of laundry and piles of dishes, wiping noses, redirecting behavior, anticipating meltdowns, feedings, wiping tears, singing silly songs, picking up toys, sweeping floors {and turning on the robot vacuum - best purchase ever}, kissing boo boos, and a bounty of bonding and attachment work.

I have so many friends out in the world changing it for the better. Making a difference. Pouring themselves out for the oppressed. Loving on the lost. Physically making changes in the lives of others. I feel like I'm not living the life I was called to. A sense of restlessness...I should be doing more. I need to go and do.

Oh, friends. What a lie from the enemy.

As I was lamenting another friend going on an incredible trip to do life-giving work in a faraway, desperate-for-the-gospel land, my compassionate and convicting husband reminded me that, here and now,  I am doing life-giving, life-breathing, holy work. As we were talking, I was feeding our littlest love. I was holding her in my arms, she was snuggled up against me peacefully enjoying the nourishment that my body was providing {really, that is just miraculous} when Dave reminded me that this work of raising and nurturing these little lives is my life's highest calling. Time stood still in that moment. I marveled at the miracle in my arms. Tears filled my eyes. I saw the lies for what they were - the enemy desperately trying to belittle this holy work. My pride and arrogance attempting to take center stage ... my desire to do something "big" for the Kingdom, something that I tried to convince myself was for His Glory, when in fact, was only a mask for my own selfish pride.

The gospel of grace.

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ ..." {Galatians 1:6}

As Jennie Allen and Natalie Grant discuss, we have to fight to live in the gospel of grace...

"There is nothing we did to earn this grace. It was done for us and on our behalf.

That is hard for people to receive. The mindset is, nothing comes for free. In our American culture, to succeed, you have to work for it. It takes humility to say 'I'm not enough, but God is. That takes all of the glory out of my life and puts it all on the Lord.' 

This is really easy to talk about but it's very difficult to live out. It's about what Jesus did for me. It's about living in that grace and freedom."

In my own life, this is a beautiful reminder that nothing I can do changes the fact that I am redeemed and I am free. I am free to live in His grace. I am free to enjoy these good gifts He has graciously given. I am free to let go of expectations and comparisons and guilt. I am free to rest in Him.

Soaking in His grace this morning and praying that you, dear friends, can do the same.

August 15, 2014

a first day.

Dear Ben & Nate,

Last night, I was feeling nostalgic and started looking through old photos and videos. I know you're technically still little, but, oh my heart, you have grown so much lately. These past four years have been so full of laughter and joy ... you first made me a momma and that privilege is one of the greatest joys of my life. I could not be more grateful for every memory we have created together.

As we have prepared over the past several weeks for today {your first day of 4-year-old Pre-K at your new "big boy school"}, we have all felt excitement and anticipation for this new chapter in your lives. Shopping for your school supplies {you are both SO excited to have a big boy spiderman backpack}, meeting your teacher and celebrating with dinner out with just momma & daddy {little sisters stayed home}, have all built up to this morning.

Organizing their backpacks and showing off supplies to Papa :)

Dinner out after meeting their new teacher

You will now be in school three times a week for a full day. I've been so nervous about this - yet another big transition for you. We have had so much change lately and I've been so worried about how you will handle another adjustment.

But, you were both so excited this morning. You didn't want any help carrying your heavy put them on your back and marched right into your school building. Heads held high.   There were no tears or apprehension about this new place. You found your name and took a seat at your little desk next to new faces.

Nathan's expression is cracking me up... don't mess with this guy.

As I look back over "first days" of years past, I cannot help but marvel at the boys you have become. You are no longer my babies or even my have become so independent and your personalities continue to emerge.

I've prayed over this new year...over your new school, your new teacher and your new friends. I've asked God to shepherd your hearts through the new experiences and lessons you will learn in this new place. I've asked that He use this time of learning to prepare your minds and, most importantly, your hearts for what is to come on this road of life. I've asked for your hearts to be kind...for you to reach out to new friends and to make others feel loved. I've asked that you exude His light in this new place.

What an honor it is to be your momma, sweet boys. I am so very proud of you and am anxiously awaiting the news of how your day went!

With all my love,