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,

August 14, 2014

the farmhouse renovation. {another little peek}.

When everyday feels like groundhog day and the laundry and the dishes and the meals {seriously - why do these wee ones need to eat so often -- can't we just have a bowl of cereal and call it dinner for goodness sake?!?} are never-ending and the four walls start closing in... what do you do?

You revamp the four walls.

Finally refinishing the old chairs from Grandma Marrs has made me feel more productive than about anything else I've done in the past three months. It's amazing what a little paint and sweaty equity can do for your soul.


I love that our sweet Bailey-bear is in this photo... I started painting this table months ago and just never finished the whole project. We lost Bailey last month, the weekend before Sylvie came home. We miss him so much...


I painted the table with chalk paint {Country White} and the chairs with a mix of Country White and French Linen.

I knew I wouldn't have time to get to the store to buy fabric to recover the chairs, so I dug through what I already had on hand and found some old coffee sacks that served as decor for the boys' barnyard birthday party. On a whim, I decided to cut them up and see how they would work as seat covers. I think they turned out unique and fun.

As you can see, we had to put up new posts on the porch that need to be painted. And, we need to paint the wood floor on the front porch {thinking a dark grey}.

You guys. This farmhouse is a renovation project for the rest of my days. It never, ever ends.

Simply because we can't stand to not have a thousand things going on at once, we decided to start a couple more new projects before we finished the list of 50 billion things that we already have ongoing {can you sense my sarcasm here?}.

Currently underway: a new garage with an apartment upstairs for guests + an office for Dave {hurray! my kitchen table will no longer be covered in piles of bills and house-plans and files...} and a new back porch that we will screen in so we can actually eat dinner outside without being swarmed by an army of flies.

The start of the garage...

Today, the garage is up, and the porch construction has began.

Inside the space above the garage {including an actual mudroom as you enter the house through the garage} is not even close to being finished and we still need to repaint the entire house. We're going to paint it a nice, clean white. Very farmhouse-y. I originally liked the creamy white color but changed my mind as soon as the house was painted. Dave loves me and my inability to make a decision on paint colors. :)

I'm excited to decorate these new spaces. Just a little sneak peek of something that we are going to incorporate into an idea I have for the patio...{yet another project for Dave}...

Unfortunately, my carefree days of browsing endless "junk" stores to find the perfect pieces of furniture are gone. Well, unless I want to unleash four littles on some poor, unsuspecting store owner. So, I'm not entirely sure how I'll get these spaces furnished but we'll figure it out. It may take a few years but I'm not in a hurry. Decorating a space takes time... I never want to have a cookie-cutter fresh- from- a- Pottery- Barn- catalog room in my home. I want the choices of furniture and decor to reflect our family and our passions.

One of my favorite nooks in our home. Full of little details that make me smile.

Happy Thursday, friends! The boys start pre-school tomorrow {praise the Lord!} so we are all anxious and excited around here today!!!

August 7, 2014

the transition.

We are just rounding out the one month mark of finally having all of our littles under one roof. It still feels somewhat surreal.

Everyone wants to know how Sylvie is adjusting to this new life of hers. She is doing really well. Surprisingly well, actually. Based on behaviors we {and other traveling families} witnessed from her when we visited, we expected a much tougher transition for her little heart.

But, {there's always a but, isn't there?!} that doesn't mean that things are easy or it's smooth sailing around here. We are stumbling our way through trying to find our new normal.

Remember, we had recently moved far, far away from civilization {okay, it's only fifteen minutes away from our old house but it feels like we are in the middle of nowhere most days}. Our little family was already shaky adjusting to life with a newborn before we threw in the extra dynamic of a toddler who is adjusting to everything being different and doesn't have the ability to verbalize emotions or needs.

Days are long. Loooonnnnggg. There are sibling fights to referee, meltdown minefields to very carefully navigate, diapers to change {oh, the diapers... I want to crawl under the table and cry thinking about the diapers...}, medicines to dispense and littles to entertain {who, might I add, happen to have boundless energy}. The moment daddy pulls in the driveway in the evening, I yell, "daddy's home!" and everyone runs outside. Those tires on the gravel are music to my ears most days.

Once bedtime rolls around, if one more person climbs on my lap or pulls on my arm or asks me to hold him/her, I am at the point of losing it. I just want to sit in silence. {I literally just told Dave not to touch me for at least another fifteen minutes}.

I realize that I sound like I'm complaining. I don't want it to sound that way...I just want to be honest with where we are in this season. Because I know, this too shall pass. 

And you know what? The sweet moments of laughter and snuggles will continue to carry us through until we are on the other side of the transition. Because, y'all. Those sweet moments? They are so very sweet. They literally pull me back up and help me to carry on.

Like today...

When a game of peek-a-boo turned into full-on belly laughter from us all.

When Nathan asked for three snacks to be sure Sylvie was included {this is progress, people}.

When the boys were napping {mercy upon mercy} and the girls were giggly and loving and posing for photos.

When the afternoon latte was hand-delivered by a real-live adult friend {oh, how I've missed you friends!}....accompanied by blessed adult conversation while the littles played all around us.

Or the quiet moments on the front porch swing with my man after the mad-dash of bedtime. Laughing about how crazy this life is and how ridiculously blessed we are by it all.

So, yes. This transition is not quite what I thought it would be. It's busy. It's exhausting. It's overwhelming at times. But the abundance of joy outweighs it all. {And, the secret stash of ice cream and chocolate cookies helps}.

August 4, 2014

Benjamin Chase Dillow. {in loving memory}.

Just this morning, I wrote about miracles. Specifically, the miracles that have unfolded in the life of our daughter, Sylvie.

Shortly after hitting publish, I was scrolling through Facebook while feeding Charlotte and read the devastating news that a dear friend's son had passed away in the DRC. 

Sweet, sweet Ben was five years old. His photo has hung in our entry way for months as we prayed over his precious face. 
Four children were recently granted medically fragile exit permits of the fifty-three that qualified. Four. All four, including our Sylvie, were granted prior to the Department of State's submission last month. Ben was one of the medically fragile cases presented by the State Department and he was denied an exit permit. 

This is not acceptable!! He has a family who has been fighting for him for years. Loving him across the miles for years. Aching to hold him and show him the love of a family. 

What I can't wrap my head around tonight {and all day today as I cried angry tears}, is why. Why did Sylvie get her miracle and Ben didn't? 

My anger and confusion have given way to the deep knowledge that God's ways are not our ways. He cannot be understood and I cannot try to wrap everything that happens here on this earth into my neat little box with a bow and a perfect explanation. Sometimes, we just have to face the harsh reality that this world is NOT our home. It is broken and painful and tattered. 

Words feel hollow when trying to provide any comfort to Ben's aching family. Please join me in asking the One who intercedes on our behalf to hold them close tonight and in the coming days, weeks, months...years. The time that they have lost with their precious son. They fought so hard for this boy. They kept the faith. They were valiant examples of unwavering love. 

Praising God that this precious child is no longer in pain. He is in the arms of his Abba Father tonight. Loved. Wanted. Treasured. 

If you would like to contribute to rebuilding the orphanage where Ben had lived {it burnt down last year} in Ben's honor, you can do so HERE

Benjamin Dillow ... you have made an impact here on this earth. You have changed lives and hearts and you are so very loved, precious boy. Rest in peace.

miracles still happen.

Yesterday, as I rocked Charlotte on the dock and watched my other three littles splashing and giggling in the lake with daddy, I couldn't help but thank God for the beautiful way He authors redemption stories.

I know there are {many} critics of international adoption. I understand the reasons. I firmly believe in restoring first families. I grasp the reality that adoption is not the sole response to orphan care. Adoption is not the ideal situation for children. It is borne out of loss. I mourn all that my sweet girl has lost in her short life. I know the questions will come from her confused little heart someday...the longing for answers - answers that I do not have to give. 

Yet, to those critics, I would argue that I know these moments of laughter and joy are gifts from a loving Father who has held Sylvie in the palm of His hand from her first breath on this globe. She, like every precious child on this earth, deserves the love of a family. 

Her doctors continually use the word "miracle" to describe our girl. We look at the conditions where she lived for the first year and a half of her life and we whisper "miracle." We marvel at the path God orchestrated for her to come home when it seemed impossible and we praise Him for yet another miracle.

I have had a front row seat to modern-day miracles. 

I have also sat in the tumultuous storm and felt the waves pounding. 

The path was not easy. The journey was not comfortable. Our lives were turned upside down. Our perspectives were changed, our hearts were transformed, our comfort was removed. We stepped out in faith and were given the awesome privilege of an adventure that exceeded our wildest imaginations. 

The transition isn't perfect. I won't pretend we are sitting around singing songs and giggling and hugging all day long. But, the beauty is rising above the ashes. The joy of the morning is breaking through in glorious light on the horizon. 

July 25, 2014

our littlest love.

It is hard to believe that this precious little one entered the world only ten short weeks ago. I can't even remember our lives without her.

I never really shared her "birth story" here. As Dave and I were reflecting on her arrival last night, we realized that her birth was similar to her personality - laid-back and calm. I ended up having a scheduled c-section instead of the VBAC that I had hoped for because my doctor feared she had stopped growing and my fluid levels were low. 

It turned out that she was just small and my fluid was fine. Yet, I'm grateful for the scheduled c-section because it truly was a joyful and stress free day. I was still traumatized from the boys' loooonnnnggg labor and dramatic {aka- very scary} delivery. My doctor was even ready about an hour early so we started earlier than planned - when does that ever happen in a hospital?! 

All that to say, we are so grateful for this little beauty. She is such a joy and I have treasured the privilege of being a momma to a newborn again. I never thought I would have this opportunity and it threw me for a loop when I first found out I was pregnant. Now, I can see God's miraculous hand and perfect timing at work. 

It does feel like we have twin newborns again with Sylvie coming home when Charlotte was just shy of 8 weeks old. Yet, we are managing and Dave and I are back in the season of complete chaos and exhaustion...but we are also so very grateful and full. 

Thank you all for praying for our family during this time of transition. We can feel the prayers...some days are messy and long but there are moments full of such intense joy that I feel like may heart may explode with gratitude. I'm trying my best to live in the moment and soak up these crazy times with so many littles...I know this is just a season and it will all pass too quickly!