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.



February 14, 2015

farmhouse renovation {the playroom}.

My parents are in town!!! HURRAY! For so many reasons, this makes my heart happy. Not the least of which -- projects.get.finished!!!!!!! The wall in the playroom has been on our "to-do" list for the past year, I knew I wanted to add old boards and paint them but we never had the time {I don't know why?!}.

Today, "we" finally tackled this project. As always, when I say "we," I mean "Dave" and, in this case, "my dad." I just took photos and ooh'd and ahh'd.

We {this was a collective decision because I do not like painting} decided against painting boards when Dave brought out the original baseboard trim and door casings from this house {yes, please!}. They were perfect for the job. No paint required...just measuring, sawing and nailing.




I can't even. This adorableness was watching it all unfold...


Meanwhile, out in the barn, this was happening:



For some reason my mom noted that we could never move back to a neighborhood. I think she was alluding to the inevitable POA blacklist we would be on front and center. Hmmm...???


The finished wall! I love how it turned out and had to move the bed to the other wall because it was covering up too much of this cuteness. 


The view coming up the stairs {next project involves some sort of shelving for that wall on the left with the TV... maybe next year}...


A nap is most definitely in order after all of that hard work. 


***** 

Local friends: my most favorite little spot for unique farmhouse finds is now on FB and IG... you have to check out Maegan's adorable stuff at Audrey Mae's Farmhouse. My mom and I stopped in this morning and found the cutest things. I will share more soon when I finally get around to taking some photos of our little apartment addition above the garage. For now, is this pillow not the cutest thing?? Happy Valentine's Day to me. 


Go, enjoy all of your loves today! All of my littles are stirring from naps and we are headed outside to enjoy this gorgeous sunshine! Happy Weekend!



February 10, 2015

full circle moment. {created for care}.

I walked away from that sacred space in Atlanta and back home to my loves with a heart full of gratitude and peace.


This year, my time at Created for Care was different than in years past mainly because this was my first year attending when not in a season of waiting. This year, I was in need of rest and community. I needed to step away from life and into a safe place to reflect on how far we've come these past seven months. Because, honestly, some days feel like we haven't come very far at all. I needed to step back in order to see how much healing has occurred. I needed to talk through emotions and reactions and behaviors with other mommas in the same season to understand why these things were occurring.

All I can say is that perspective is a beautiful gift.


My people. 

I have to share the moment where time stood still and tears filled my eyes. It occurred Sunday morning as Beth Guckengerger was wrapping up her last talk of the weekend. Because she had received so many requests to revisit her words from last year regarding Miriam's song, she decided to end our last session with the same message: Place Yourself In a Position to Praise.



My journaled words from this same reference last year:

"Take a lead from Miriam's song in Exodus 15:20. Although she was being led away from everything she had ever known. Although she didn't know where she was going or how long the journey would last. Although she had to pack up all of her belongings to leave and follow Moses out of Egypt. Amidst the unknowns, the uncertainty, and likely, the fear; she took the time to pack a tambourine.

tambourine.

I  can only imagine that I would have thrown some clothes, shoes, extra food and water into a sack ... but a tambourine? I'm not so sure that would have made the cut.

Yet, she had placed herself in a position to praise God, full of confidence that He would lead them and save them. After the Red Sea parted and made a miraculous way for the Israelites to escape, Miriam was prepared to sing a song of praise.


In Beth's words, this is reckless faith: when you don't know the when, the where, the why or the how ... only the Who.


And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him[for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! {Isaiah 30:18 AMP}

I'm packing my tambourine, friends. I want to trust so fully that the Lord will triumph gloriously in our family's story, that I am ready to burst out in songs of praise."

Oh, how I clung to those words as we waited. I was so very ready to praise, I was weary and tired of the wait. I was exhausted from the unknowns.

Something Beth said that made my hairs stand on end this year: they were ready at a moment's notice. How that was true in our own story. We received word that Sylvie's exit permit was granted on Monday morning and she was home Wednesday evening. After years of waiting, we had what felt like a moment's notice as we scrambled to prepare for her homecoming.


As Beth spoke, I decided to grab my phone to snap a photo to remember this moment. It felt significant. As I pulled my phone from my bag, I saw a text message come through from Dave. A simple moment captured, along with these words, "Thank you Lord for rare moments of siblings playing and having the time of their lives together"... he had no idea how monumental and perfectly on-time this photo update was to my heart.


She's home. They're all tucked safely under my roof. The Lord triumphed gloriously in our family's story.

And, that, my friends, is my beautiful full circle moment. 



February 6, 2015

created for care {one year later}.

I'm about to board my flight to Atlanta {I'm a ball of nerves... flying is NOT my thing} and I'm looking back on this time last year. What a difference a year makes. What a joy it has been to watch God's story unfold in our family. And, oh, what a blessing this weekend away is each year...

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February 14, 2014

Last weekend, I headed into the Created for Care retreat feeling weary, longing to hear from the Lord, aching to understand why our journey has been so hard and so full of heartache.

Going into the weekend, I journaled these words:

'This year, I am at such a place of desperation for you, Jesus. I know that I can't do anything on my own strength and I can't place my hope in what I know or what I can see. Meet me here. Fill me up. Show me where to place my feet. Each step. Each moment. Help me to focus here and on you, not ahead and what's to come.'

Beautiful print and precious letter written by Dave tucked into my registration folder. 
Such a sweet surprise and perfect start to the weekend. 

Today, I can tell you that I came away full. Full of His peace, assurance, sustenance.

Surrounded by precious friends. Friends who have carried our family over the past year and a half. Friends who have taught me so much about faith, encouragement and the power of prayer. Friends who have struggled on their own paths, shedding collective tears and shrieks of joy along the way. What a blessing these ladies have been in my life.

Showered in so much love... gifts greeted me from these sweet friends!



Our main speaker, Beth Guckenberger, spoke directly to my heart. Her words were like a soothing balm reminding me of the One in whom I can trust fully.

Three themes were impressed upon my heart during this time away.

1}. Sustenance

God will always provide. Strength. Peace. Joy. One moment, one step, one day at a time.

Like a Good Shepherd leading his sheep, we can trust that He will guide us to green pastures. We can keep our ears tilted toward Him, listening for the next place to place our feet. The next stop. The next fork in the road. Ours is meant to be a position of dependance on Him.


2}. The Story is Not Over Yet. 

God always writes the absolute best stories. And, our story is not over yet {can I get an AMEN?}! No matter what may come, I can trust in Him to write each page ... culminating in a beautiful story of Faithfulness.


3}. Place Yourself in a Position to Praise. 

Take a lead from Miriam's song in Exodus 15:20. Although she was being led away from everything she had ever known. Although she didn't know where she was going or how long the journey would last. Although she had to pack up all of her belongings to leave and follow Moses out of Egypt. Amidst the unknowns, the uncertainty, and likely, the fear; she took the time to pack a tambourine.

A tambourine.

I  can only imagine that I would have thrown some clothes, shoes, extra food and water into a sack ... but a tambourine? I'm not so sure that would have made the cut.

Yet, she had placed herself in a position to praise God, full of confidence that He would lead them and save them. After the Red Sea parted and made a miraculous way for the Israelites to escape, Miriam was prepared to sing a song of praise.


In Beth's words, this is reckless faith: when you don't know the when, the where, the why or the how ... only the Who.

And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! {Isaiah 30:18 AMP}

I'm packing my tambourine, friends. I want to trust so fully that the Lord will triumph gloriously in our family's story, that I am ready to burst out in songs of praise.

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Have a wonderful weekend, friends! 



February 5, 2015

created for care {a look back}.

Tomorrow morning, I'm headed back to Atlanta to spend the weekend with 500 other adoptive mommas. Some of my closest friends will be there...sisters who have been with me through the good, the bad and the ugly. Many of whom I met for the first time three years ago at this very same retreat. I thought it would be interesting to look back on my experiences from the past three years. Today, I am reposting my words from March 2012, after attending my very first Created for Care weekend. In some ways, this feels like just yesterday. In others, it feels like a lifetime ago. I am in awe of the story God has written between then and now. I have clung to these words over these past three years like a light post guiding my way. Rereading this today leaves me headed into this weekend with expectation and excitement.

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March 26, 2012

I went into this past weekend's Created for Care retreat open to new experiences and connections. I knew I would connect with other adoptive mamas and, most importantly, with God. I knew that He would meet me there and we would spend a weekend of rest and worship together.
Prepared with this knowledge, you would think that I was arriving with a heart open to God. Without anxiety or worry.
In reality, I was mostly concerned with the fact that I really didn’t know anyone. That, and the fact that based on photos from previous retreats, everyone seemed to be wearing adoption tees. I didn’t own any adoption t-shirts.
The Type-A planner in me kicked in about a week ago and I ordered a new t-shirt to wear the first day. And, I knew they would give us the retreat shirt so I could wear that one on Saturday.
Whew. The important stuff was out of the way.
Oh man. I was so off base. I was so focused on the wrong things: Who I would sit with at meals. What I would wear.
I can almost hear God laughing (in a sweet, “Bless Your Heart” kind of way, of course).
I had no idea. No idea that I would meet true friends that I feel like I’ve known for years. That no one would care what I was wearing, there were much bigger things to look to than my shirts (a-hem, like, God). That my soul would find rest and restoration and joy and wholeness.
I hardly know how to put my experience from this past weekend into words. It was so full and so intimate and so real. I truly felt the embrace of Jesus this weekend.
I marveled at the other women’s faith and strength and perseverance.
I listened to their stories. Their testimonies. Their words of truth.
And, I felt like a fraud.
That is the exact word I gave to what I was feeling. I didn’t even know it until I said it to my gentle and loving Jesus.
I am not holy and sweet and kind like these other women.
I am sarcastic, cynical, and scared. I’m afraid of radically changing my life for Jesus. I know he is wrestling with my heart right now and I am afraid to move. I don’t know where to step. I don’t know what to do. I feel raw and exposed to all of the hurt and suffering on this earth and I don’t know what to do.
Yes, we are adopting. Yes, we are listening and obeying with that one thing. But, there is so much more we can do.  So much more we should do.
Look at these other women. I met so many mamas who have adopted 10+ kids. Older kids. Special needs kids.
I met women who started ministries and work across the globe for justice and mercy for the oppressed. These women are making a difference. They are building the kingdom.
And, I am just spending my days going to work, doing laundry, running around, filling my days doing ordinary things. I am ordinary. I do not belong among these 450 women. They are all doing extraordinary things.
And do you know what He told me?
I heard these truths (not with my ears, but crystal clearly. I wrote them down in my journal immediately so I would not forget the exact phrasing):
“Precious, daughter, you are my treasure."
"You don’t have to do this alone.”
“You don’t have to do it all.”
“I am with you. I will guide you. You just have to trust.”
“All you need to do for me is be a light. Be My light. Bring My light into the darkness in this world.”
I stood with tears flowing down my cheeks. Soaking in His embrace. In His love. Knowing that He loves me. He treasures me. Me.  It was the one of the most profound moments in all my life. Feeling my gentle Savior showering His love and grace on me.
I am still aware of all the pain and darkness and oppression in this world. But I no longer am afraid to move. I know that the Lord will guide me. He will show me how to move. When to move. Where to move. I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not doing enough. I just have to respond to His call. I just have to keep my heart open and share His love.
I need to be a light. I need to share His beautiful, redeeming, everlasting love.
My prayer for each of you reading these words is that you too will know that you are treasured. You are loved beyond human comprehension. You can be a light in your world. In the midst of the ordinary, you can be extraordinary. I pray that you focus on Jesus's unending love for you and know the true freedom that accompanies that truth. You are unshakeable when armed with the knowledge and fullness of His love.
“We love because He first loved us”. 1 John 4:19
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Would you all mind saying a prayer for my little loves and my man as I prepare to leave for a couple of days? Pray that God will fill our home with peace, that He will give Dave energy and that there will be sweet moments of special daddy bonding this weekend while I'm away. To be honest, I'm extremely nervous about leaving - especially our little Charlotte. She isn't too keen on the bottle. As in, she gets very angry when one comes within five feet of her. So prayers for her to actually eat and sleep would be extremely appreciated. And, of course, for Sylvie's little heart. This will be my first time out of town since she's been home. I think we've prepared her to understand that momma will be back but I know these types of things can be triggers for major fear and anxiety.

Thank you, sweet friends. I'm so grateful for this loving community! I hope to see some of you this weekend in Atlanta!



February 1, 2015

my deepest prayer.

Dave's dad has an antique propeller airplane that he's owned and flown regularly for the past twenty-five years or so. He consistently offers to take the kids for a ride. Due to my own fear of flying, I've never agreed until yesterday. {I think my judgement was impaired from staying up all night with a sick baby}.

I watched from the ground as each of my three "big" littles took turns sitting in Papa's lap as they flew overhead. Full disclosure: I was a nervous wreck.



But, let me tell you, to a couple of four year-olds and a three year-old, this was a great adventure. Sweet, sweet memories were created yesterday morning. I'll be the first to admit, I held my breath the entire time they were in the air. But it was worth every second of not breathing to watch the utter joy in their eyes as they stepped out of the plane with smiles that lit up their entire face.



This morning, I stayed home from church with Charlotte since she still wasn't feeling well and I watched the live stream of Christine Caine speaking at Passion 2015. As she spoke, my mind drifted back to that airplane ride.

Although I want to protect my children from this world and keep them tucked safely away from any and all danger, I really want to teach them to have an adventurous spirit. I want them to view life with expectancy. I want them to know that if you choose to stay safely on the ground, you will miss out on the thrill of the ride.


Living a life that is counter to what this world views as safe and seeking first the Kingdom of God is where adventure awaits us. Saying yes to God can be scary and the unknowns may cause your knees to shake and your hands to be unsteady, but, the thrill that awaits makes the ride worth every dip and twist.



What I desire most for my children is not worldly success. My top priority is not where they attend college or even if they attend college. I want them, above all else, to love extravagantly. I want their lives to be marked with generosity and compassion. I want them to have a heart for the nations. I want them to live in a way that proves this world is not our home.

These possessions of ours, as nice as they can be at times, are not lasting. The striving, climbing, self-promoting that is so commonplace in our culture - it doesn't have to be that way. I want my children to work hard and to know the value of a strong work ethic. I want them to know that what we view as ordinary work, what we feel is obscurity, is what God will use to build His Kingdom.



Christine shared two questions that were on her mind while going into a major surgery this past year:

"Did I do everything you sent me here to do? 
Am I bringing home everyone you sent me to earth to bring home?"

Imagine asking yourself these questions at the end of each and every day. Powerful stuff. I cringe to think of my answers on most days.

Oh, how I desire to live a life on purpose. I want to set an example for my kids that demonstrates God's work in my life.  I want my children to grow to be mighty men and women on fire for God. I want their passion to change the course of generations.


Some days may seem ordinary and mundane. Yet, every moment, every breath we are given here on this spinning globe is pre-ordained. In order to create a holy passion in my children, I need to live out that passion in my own life. They need to see me washing the dishes and doing the laundry and changing diapers as though I truly believe that whatever I do, I need to work at it with all of my heart, as if I am working for the Lord {Colossians 3:23}.

I long to hear the words, "well done, good and faithful servant," when I cross over to the other side of eternity. My deepest prayer is that I live a life marked by good works and big love.

To be fair, this is much easier to type behind the safety of my computer's screen. Living out this love is a constant battle. I'm praying for the Holy Spirit to continually convict me of these lessons, to continually guide me in my actions, and to continually direct my hands to service.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. {1 Corinthians 15:58}

**There's still time to join in on our Valentine's Day campaign to feed orphaned children in Congo. Live generously. Share love and hope through the simple gift of food. Join us HERE