March 31, 2015

lessons from the paintbrush.

We're finally tackling one of our big renovations projects: painting the outside of the house.



I'm finding that this painting stuff has a few correlation's to actual life.

It turns out, when you paint a one-hundred year old house, you have to scrape a LOT of paint off before you can even get started with applying the new, pretty color. Reminds me that we often have to scrape off a LOT of old hurt and pain and resentment in order to apply a fresh, healing coat of grace and mercy and tenderness. 




I'm also learning that, regardless of how hard it is, you just have to make a decision. Often, the anxiety of actually making a choice paralyzes us and makes us think that it would be better if we didn't do anything at all. Change is scary. It doesn't matter if you are changing paint colors or making an actual change in your life - taking that first risky step can be frightening. You can lose sleep {y'all, I've actually lost sleep over paint colors - first world problems at their finest}, you can second guess, you can get second opinion after second opinion after second opinion. And, you know what happens? You just end up tired and more confused than ever.

Simple enough. You have to take the first step and choose the paint color (or take the new job or make the move or sign the adoption paperwork...) and then step back and watch the ripples of change turn the tides.



Of course, there will always come a time when you make a wrong decision. And, you know what? That's okay. It's part of the process.

Take our little paint project for example: I loved the way the color of the house and the trim turned out but I wasn't happy with the brick color. Without landscaping {one of these days - it's on the never-ending list}, the brick seemed too harsh against the soft, creamy new look of the house. We decided to whitewash the brick to tone it down a bit. Turns out, whitewashing red brick creates a blue hue. I now had a giant wall of blue-ish brick. Not exactly the look I was going for.

Trying to fix the mistake, we decided to paint the brick a solid color. I agreed to the color choice and went off to run a few errands and pick the boys up from school. The paint was applied while I was away and I realized the error of my decision as soon as I pulled in the driveway. The painted brick looked like dark cement and took away from the soft hues of the house, instead of accenting them. Mistake #2.



Today, we tried whitewashing the gray paint. Honestly, I don't love it but I think it will grow on me particularly once we do a little landscaping out front to cut down on the giant wall of brick.

Now, I fully realize these are ridiculous decisions. Who really cares if I paint my brick or leave it be? Well, if I'm honest, I do. I want my home to be a reflection of our style. I want it to be cozy and simple and welcoming and warm. But, this isn't a real problem. There are plenty of real problems in this world and I'm not even going to pretend to have the solution to any of them.



Yet, I do know that I'm glad I made the change even if it turned out differently than I first planned. Life tends to happen that way. Twists and turns. Plans change and new paths are forged. Suddenly, you look back and realize everything is different than you imagined it would be. Of course, different isn't necessarily bad. Different can be wonderful, fresh and exciting. With mistakes, we learn. With successes, we rejoice. With each, we create space for a beautiful dance of wisdom and gratitude.

*There is still paint to apply...  "after" photos coming soon:)



March 24, 2015

love well.

It's Spring Break week and we purposely have nothing planned.

I've become fiercely protective of my time lately. In the past, I would over-schedule our minutes so that we would run from one "fun" activity to another. The inevitable result was an overly tired, frazzled momma and exhausted littles. All of the "fun" turned sour.


I have been intentional about carving out white space on our calendar this week. Space that allows for spontaneity. Space that allows for long, slow meals on the patio - thank you, gorgeous spring weather. Space that allows for skipping rocks, building bonfires and making mud-pies. Space that creates room for memory making. Space that refreshes and restores.


The time will be filled with trips to the park, craft projects covering the kitchen table, meals shared with friends, slow mornings, building train tracks on the patio, baking muffins, and late night ice cream treats.



I'm grateful for these days where the gorgeous weather brings us outdoors. The hours slow down. We take the time to linger and lift our faces to feel the warmth of the sun on our cheeks.







I would never (ever) say that I have this whole simplicity thing figured out. It's an ongoing battle to wisely choose how to spend these moments I'm given. I have to fight the urge to be productive when I know I need to pause. This past week, I was forced to slow down when a nasty cold bug hit our house. I spent the majority of my days rocking my congested baby and not much else. Our house was a disaster, the dishes piled high and the laundry overflowed, emails went unanswered, my to-do list went unchecked. But my baby needed the comfort of her momma's arms. The end. The other stuff didn't even compare.

She was finally feeling better on Sunday, the breeze carried warmth and our afternoon schedule was free. It was a perfect day at home with my loves.





Let me be clear: I am not encouraging irresponsibly. Or laziness. Or a lackadaisical approach to commitment.

I'm suggesting an intentional commitment to loving well. I'm learning that time set aside for pouring into my loves is an investment of significant, eternal value.




The passing of Kara Tippetts this past Sunday hit me hard. I've never met Kara but I have been forever impacted by her life. Another Congo momma is a close friend of Kara's and "introduced" me to her through her blog last year. I was immediately captivated by the way she chose grace in the midst of a hard, impossibly hard, story. I read her words and continually prayed over her family. Her unwavering faith, her ability to love so very well, her honesty and her courage transfixed me. Her story reminds me that the fight for love and kindness and simple joys are worth every ounce of our energy. A life covered in grace and a home full of God's peace are the impossibly beautiful gifts amidst the messy, brokenness of this life.

 Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. {1 Peter 4:7 MSG}



March 16, 2015

spring has arrived.

Spring appears to have arrived to our little corner of the world. Windows have been opened and cool breezes fill our home, freshening the stale winter air. 

Yesterday, we hurried outside to get our hands in the dirt and place shoots of green life in the ground. Mounds of winter coats and snow boots were abandoned for short sleeves and rubber mud boots.



As I watched little hands cover new life with fresh dirt, I was reminded of the words Amber Haines shared at a women's retreat I attended last year. Her message was focused on holding onto Hope in the wait. My aching, weary heart clung to every word.


Amber said something very powerful in her message that resonated with me in that particular season, "Winter always comes before Spring. Every time." 


Don't you just love that imagery? The words Amber shared were a calming balm to my heart. At that time, I was desperately longing for the cold, lonely winter to end and for the joy of spring to arrive. 



Planting a few bulbs in the newly thawed earth may seem simple, ordinary. Yet, I saw the miracle of that beautiful moment yesterday. I saw the joy that had come. The answered prayers. Spring had indeed arrived. 



March 11, 2015

surprising.

I find this season of my life to be wonderfully surprising. It's also abundant, fun, and hectic. But, mostly, it's surprising.

I had all of these ideas of what our life would look like once Sylvie came home and we became a family with four children ages four and under. I don't even have the words to articulate these made-up ideas. They were just there on the edges, floating thoughts of how things would be. Our family would finally be complete. We would finally be able to rest, to breathe, to focus on anything other than the void in our lives while she waited on the other side of the globe. I knew we would be busy. I knew we would likely be overwhelmed and a touch crazy. But, we would be together. That would be enough.

It's funny, as I sat in the gorgeous great hall of the 21C Museum Hotel this past Sunday night and listened to the striking voices of Penny & Sparrow as they performed during our latest Bentonville Session, I was taken aback for a moment as I realized my life had taken paths that I never saw coming.

Photo Credit: Sluyter Photography

God is like that. Once you open up your palms and release all that you are to Him and for His work, He fills your life in ways that you couldn't possibly imagine on your own. You suddenly find yourself on an adventure and completely surprised, in the best possible way.

He has taught me that enough isn't really what I thought it would be. My family finally residing under the same roof made me realize that only He is enough. No other person or experience could make me whole.

There wasn't a grand finale to our story on the day she came home. We didn't stop pursuing Him or stop seeking His direction for our steps. Quite the contrary, God just kept on opening doors and placing our little family in moments that are undeniably orchestrated by His hand.

Because, if I'm being honest, when we said that first yes to adoption years ago, we had no idea where He would take us. We also had no way of knowing that the hesitant, shaky yes to those big, brown eyes would lead to a very long, very intense spiritual battle. We weren't aware that we would see Him in new ways, or that we would experience His love and grace in such abundance, and we certainly didn't understand the depth of which we would feel His presence in the midst of our great fears.

We just kept walking forward. Hesitant at times. Shaky at best. One day, one step at a time.

Now, we continue doing the same. We stand on these shaky legs. We hobble forward. We pray for discernment. We ask where to next place our feet. We walk forward into unknown territory. We feel unequipped. We question our ability. Yet, we press on.

We are amazed each month when the money is transferred across the globe that nearly 180 children will be eating three meals a day for the next month. Every month. We pray we don't grow numb to the miracles of this provision.

We are humbled and grateful as we watch our community rally around this cause of caring for the orphaned and vulnerable children of this world. We walk alongside friends as they work tirelessly planning a concert each and every month in order to keep these little tummies full.

We laugh at God's sense of humor as we work to ready the fields for planting on our soon-to-be Feed Their Tummies Blueberry Farm. Last year, we moved to the Farmhouse at His leading, not knowing that He had bigger plans for this move. We sensed He would use this space in a big way but as the plans unfolded for this new farm, we continued to be awestruck at His ability to change our lives and flip them upside down. We never saw ourselves as farmers, {well, I never did. Dave may have had this seed planted long ago} but here we are rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.


As I read Shauna Niequist's new devotional, Savor, this morning, I was struck by the powerful truth of her words:

..."Life is like that, twisty and surprising. But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we're not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard. It seeps in like smoke even when we've barred the door, and it moves us, to different countries and emotional territories and ways of living. It keeps us moving and dancing and watching. And with the surprises comes great hope."

I just love that... with the surprises comes great hope. Amen. 

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand
- Psalm 16:11



March 4, 2015

embracing the little moments.

Kindergarten registration week has arrived.

Mommas- you know what this means. I am an emotional, weepy, nostalgic, {and excited} mess.

I had planned to go the boy's new school today to submit the stack of paperwork for official enrollment, but, alas, mother nature isn't cooperating. I woke this morning feeling particularly nostalgic thinking back on how many adventures my little guys and I have shared over the past four and a half years. To be honest, when the snow day email came through from their pre-school, I was relieved. I needed a day with my boys. {My apologies to everyone else. I know the snow days are starting to get a little ridiculous this year}.

February 2011. I can't even. These two. 
Our family has changed so much in such a short time, it's hard to wrap my brain around it all sometimes. In less than a year, we have gone from two to four kiddos and from living downtown and walking everywhere (I put miles and miles and miles on our double stroller that now sits sadly in a corner of the barn) to living out in the middle of nowhere and staying home 99% of the time. When it was just the boys and I, we were always on the go. We went to the library, out to lunch (they are the best lunch dates), to friend's houses, to the movies, shopping or just out for a long walk. Sometimes, I physically ache from the missing of days chasing behind big wheels headed for the park.

December 2012. Snow day fun with little bugs.
That's not to say that our new normal isn't wonderful. It is. It's breathtakingly wonderful. But it's different. And, today, I'm letting myself grieve what was.

We don't go out very often these days {typically because Sylvie will have some sort of meltdown and, honestly, it's exhausting and often not worth the effort}. Yesterday, I decided to be brave and bring all of the littles to the library for the first time in six months. Sylvie did well until it was time to pick out books. Let's just say: the chaos began. By the time we made it to the car, I was just ready to get home safely tucked away from witnesses to the madness.

I know it's normal to miss life prior to big changes. And, most days, we are too busy living our life to notice. Yet, monumental events like KINDERGARTEN registration {deep breaths} force the nostalgia to rise abruptly to the surface.

As we move toward yet another big change on the horizon, I'm choosing to embrace the little moments.

As Kara Tippetts eloquently states in her book, The Hardest Peace, "The small moments have become enormous. The fire in the fireplace, the coffee in the mugs, the rib tickles, the learning to apply makeup, the singing out loud and off-key--those are the huge moments. Those are the milestones."

Oh, how I desire to live with intention in these days. In the small moments as well as the big ones. This morning, as I looked back on old photos and videos, I was struck by how time is often like a vapor with little ones - it moves so very fast. The belly laughter, the snuggles, the chaos, the exhaustion, the reading of the same book for the billionth time, the meltdowns, the fresh-from-the-bath baby scent, the whining, the tattling, the footie PJ's, the tripping over little people in the kitchen- all of it. These days are the ones I will look back upon wistfully in a few years and I want to purposefully embrace each and every moment.





“What day is it?"
It's today," squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day," said Pooh.” 
― A.A. Milne



February 26, 2015

a first day.

Sweet girl started school yesterday. It wasn't planned, which is the way things typically happen around here. The day prior, our neighbor came over to watch the kiddos for a couple of hours while I went to a Feed Their Tummies meeting {which was amazing, by the way - lots to share later}. Everyone had the BEST time with Ms. Mary and Sylvie did so amazingly well that it got me thinking that maybe she could attend the little daycare/pre-school Ms Mary runs out of her home. 

Sylvie has been asking to go to school for several months so I asked Mary if we could try out a couple of mornings a week to see how she does. Mary agreed and we decided to just jump right in and start the next morning. No sense in preparing her for a big life change or anything. {Sarcasm. Sorry, Karen Purvis. But, who am I kidding, Charlotte had a doctor's appointment and ONE child in a doctor's office sounded like bliss}. 


Oh my word. When she woke up and I told her that she was going to school, she was ELATED. She picked out her clothes and got dressed in record time.


I was really nervous about drop off and planned to be there a while to help her get settled. Thankfully, it was anti-climatic: she simply shouted "bye mom! love you!" and gave me a hug and a kiss before running right into that little room with no tears or apprehension. I was a crazy mix of emotions: proud and sad and excited and nervous and a little shocked.


Ms. Mary kept me updated all morning through photos and texts. Sylvie had a really great day. When I arrived to pick her up, she told me to wait "five minutes" because she was getting her baby to sleep with her new little friend. They were each rocking a baby doll tightly swaddled in a blanket. I had to wait for her "baby" to be carefully placed in her basinet before receiving my big hug.
I am constantly amazed by this little girl. Her joyful spirit and ability to laugh and love after all that she has endured and everything and everyone she has lost, is astounding. When I picked her up from this new experience, this new place, I was overwhelmed with a rush of pride and love.

By no means am I saying adoption is easy or that things are going perfectly around here. We have really hard moments. In fact, it's harder than I thought it would be. I thought I was prepared - I had taken the classes, I had read the books, I had attended the seminars - but, in reality, nothing could have prepared me for what our life would be like once our little miss stepped off that plane.

With that being said, I have experienced God's love in intimate, abundant waves over the past seven months. I consider it an immense privilege to be Sylvie's momma. Some days, I am overwhelmed with exhaustion and frustration. Other days, I step back for a moment and I see it. I see His redemption shining through. I see the healing. I see the fear fading. I see restoration. And, I stop right where I am and praise Him.

I fully realize that not all of our stories can be tied up neatly in a pretty bow. Even still, I can stand firm on the truth that He is good and His plans are for our good. And, although these plans He has for us are far from easy and the paths are far from smooth- in fact they are broken and messy- He uses that brokenness and transforms the mess in order to create something overwhelmingly beautiful.



February 21, 2015

snow soaked memories.

I was born and raised in Florida. Growing up, my family would pile in our minivan every winter and drive twelve hours to the quintessentially adorable little ski town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. We would sled and ski on the slopes regardless of the amount of snow or whether it was manmade or the real thing. We weren't picky. Snow was snow. Slush and ice didn't stop us from racing down the slopes.

Each evening we would come home from skiing to devour a piping hot bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or chili. On special nights, we would drive down to the city of Boone and eat at The Daniel Boone Inn. A place where the portions were endless, the menu was nonexistent and the fried chicken tasted divine. Every night ended the same way - with several rounds of Rumy 500, Yahtzee or Trouble. Never TV. Always, time together.

Days not spent on the slopes consisted of hours upon hours outside in the snow building forts, having snowball fights and sledding down the driveway of my grandparent's chalet.

Clearly, winter doesn't really exist in Florida. {Granted, that doesn't stop a true Floridian from donning a winter coat when the temperature drops below 65}. For that reason, these vacations were like a trip to a magical, make-believe land. The beauty and majesty of snow-laden trees and rooftops draped in white were awe-inducing to our little eyes. Snow was special. We didn't see it often and when we did it meant our family had stepped away from the world. We were all together - no work, no school - just intentional filling of our memory banks.

To this day, whenever snow starts to fall from the sky, I am the first one to run to the window to witness the miracle. There is something sacred and holy about standing beneath the majestic night sky, head turned up to the heavens, gaze fixed on the snowflakes as they fall silently to the ground. The air is crisp and it feels like things are being made new. Serving as a reminder from the Keeper of the storehouse of snow that He can cover all of our dirty, grimy, messiness with pure, white snow.


I know. I know. Anyone reading this in the Northeast or the Midwest could rightfully argue that snow is overrated on yet another cold, February day. I realize that I am absolutely spoiled by the fact that snow here in our little corner of the globe is still special and rare.

We don't see it often, and when we do, it brings our world to a halt.

Schools close. Offices close. Store shelves are emptied. We hunker down.

We find snow pants with lengths that remind us how fast our littles grow. We dig around for gloves and hats and boots. We pull the sleds down from storage. We grab the camera. We make hot chocolate and chili and invite friends over for sledding and dinner by the fire. And, most importantly, we slow down. We make memories. We laugh. Friends stay the night because the roads are covered in ice. We pop popcorn and watch movies. We bring out extra blankets and pillows. It all feels indulgent and like a sweet, unexpected gift.








Today, as the snow outside is melting and the slush and mud streak my floors, I am grateful for the memories made this past week. I'm thankful for the way our busy lives were paused, even if for the briefest of moments, to fill all of our memory banks to the brim with snow-soaked joy.