January 20, 2015

our first home.

I was recently inspired by a project Urban Compass is hosting called "starter stories." {Urban Compass is a new real estate company based in NYC looking to connect people with their best match for a home. NYC friends- you should check them out!}

As I reflect back on our own "starter" home, I can't help but smile. We had just moved to Arkansas on a whim, Dave knew he wanted to build homes and his parents had recently relocated to this little corner of the world. His dad had built homes back in Colorado so they decided to start a business here. We arrived with all of our earthly belongings in the back of a U-Haul. We had both quit our jobs and had to return our company cars when we resigned, which left us with the U-Haul truck as our only means of transportation. We scoured the want ads trying to find a place to rent and drove up to the little house that we would call home in the U-Haul. The owner met us there to show us around and then we asked if we could move in. Like, right then. We needed to move in. He looked out front, saw the U-haul in the driveway and gave us the keys.

We spent the sweetest year and a half in that little house.

Did I mention that we were broke? Completely and utterly penniless. Dave bought an old used red truck that we SHARED. You guys. I had moved from Tampa then to Nashville and then to Arkansas. And I was driving a pick-up truck. Life had taken some interesting twists and turns. It was just hilarious. We coordinated schedules and Dave would come home from work when I had a job interview so that I could take the truck to my interview. It took about a month for me to get a new job (that I really loved actually) and Dave's business started taking off that first year, as well. Things were looking up.

Looking back on photos of that time, I have two thoughts: we look about twelve years old and we had a LOT of fun.

Urban Compass had asked me to share stories of remodels and how we made that little house a home. Honestly, at that time, we were just happy to have a roof over our heads. We settled in and made it cozy but there weren't any major home improvement projects happening, especially since we were just renting. We painted old furniture and walls and filled the home with new and old friends and family at every opportunity.

Karaoke was a staple. I miss that karaoke machine now that I think of it. 

We painted the free table and chairs my parents gave us and used all of the furniture from my old apartment -- I was clearly in a red phase. Red at every turn - the walls in the kitchen, the dining chairs and the sofa. 

Isn't it interesting to look back on how our tastes and styles change through the years? 

Per his usual, Dave had visits from the local fire department on several occasions. In fact, we have lived in five houses together and we have had the fire department visit every, single one. Without a doubt, the visit to this little house was worthy of re-telling over and over. We still laugh about the time Dave cooked a turkey on "the fire chief" over an open fire in the backyard (why?!?!) and the neighbor called the fire department. We explained the situation and they called it in with the line that is likely still circulating in their break room over laughter, "sir, everything is fine here. He is just... umm... cooking a turkey.

In the meantime, we were building our first home together. It all felt like a big adventure. We were full of excitement and anticipation of this new place. 

We decided on a traditionally southern home and we lived there for three years. This was the home where we held block parties with neighbors and lived the quintessential American suburban life. We borrowed milk and eggs from friends next door, shared dinners together often, and stayed outside until well after dark talking and laughing with our neighbors. It was such a special time. 

This was also the home where we struggled silently with the loss of our first pregnancy and each subsequent month brought sorrow and grief. 

When the market crashed, we decided to move into a home Dave bought and refinished and I was ready to start fresh. Our life felt like it needed a change. I look back now and see that we moved to this new place where we didn't really talk with our neighbors and were surrounded by trees and quiet, and it was exactly what I needed. I needed to be still and quiet. I needed to seek God and rest in Him. It was the home where we finally walked through the front door with our babies. It was the home of miracles and answered prayers. 
This home had a cozy basement and we added exposed brick everywhere we could manage. There were still darker colors yet it felt right in this place. I was also still clearly obsessed with red. 

When the boys were a year old, we moved downtown to the home where we planned to stay. We were done moving. 

That lasted three years. 

Oh, I loved this house. I went away from all dark colors and wanted bright, clean, fresh rooms. We spent such a joy-filled time in this home. {Home tour photos: kitchen, bedrooms, playroom }.

When we decided to move to the farmhouse, I was ready. We were ready to start a new chapter. I was seven months pregnant and we were still waiting for Sylvie to come home. It felt like our waiting was coming to a close and we needed to get away, quiet our souls, slow down and be refreshed. We found all of that and more out here in this cozy little farmhouse. {Home tour photos HERE}.

Growing up, we lived in the same home my entire life. I loved that house. I can still close my eyes and picture every room, every memory created there in that special place. It's hard to believe that I have moved this many times in my adult life. I don't believe I would have planned it this way. But, as is always the case when God leads, I wouldn't change a thing. Each home brought about a change, a closing of a chapter as well as a fresh start- a blank slate. In decorating and in life. As I reflect back on our journey, I am grateful for these places and how they have imprinted themselves on my heart. 

I've also had the privilege of learning that a house is just four walls and a roof until you fill it with love and laughter and joy. That's the good stuff of this life.

What about you? How has your home reflected your season of life? Have you moved often or have you stayed in one place? Are you in your first home now? I would love to hear about your journey!

January 17, 2015

happy 3rd birthday, sylvie!

For the past two years, January 16th was a day that caused my heart to ache with an intensity that made it hard to get out of bed in the morning. While we waited for her to join our family, we missed Sylvie's first and second birthday. My baby girl spent her first birthday on the dirt floor of her orphanage with no one even acknowledging the magnitude of the day. She spent her second surrounded by loved ones who had taken her into their family and fostered her while we waited. Her foster momma threw a party to celebrate the day and sent me photos so that I could feel a little closer even though the ocean between us felt wider than ever before. 

January 16, 2015 was different. This was a day for celebration. She is here with her family. No more birthdays apart, ever. 

I had an entire day of momma-daughter fun planned...all things girly...BUT, as it would happen, I got mastitis and so we blew off our plans and stayed home for a sweet, quiet day together {while I felt like I had been run over by a train, mind you. But, she is HOME for her BIRTHDAY! Mastistis can't steal that joy from me!}

Last night, we had a mini-party. Family came over for a pizza party and cake. Pizza is Sylvie's absolute favorite food and it makes me smile that the boys and I celebrated her 1st birthday with pizza too!

Even though we were having a small celebration {because a big party would have been super overwhelming for our girlie}, I HAD to get a fancy cake. I am still so thankful that Dr. Laure went all out last year and got my girl a beautiful cake because she knew that it meant so much to me. I find it incredibly important that a girl has a CAKE on her birthday. It's a must. :)

Mara at Made by M.E. created the perfect girly-girl cake for our little princess. 

Sylvie LOVES to sing and sang along to the lyrics of "Happy Birthday!" Ridiculously cute.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Sylvie! What a JOY it was to spend it with you!!!!!

Oh, my girl. I am so very honored to be your momma. You are brave and kind and funny and sassy. You are so very smart, I stand amazed as I watch your little mind work to figure out something new. You are daring and you have overcome so much in your short life. What a privilege it has been to have a front row seat to God's miraculous healing power in your heart. You are going to do big things, my girl. May this new year on this earth be full of joy and laughter and silliness and wonder. We love you with an unending love!

January 12, 2015

joy. {one word}.

I haven't made any resolutions this year, and I typically do not, because I don't need another thing to strive toward. Even if it's something good and worthy. But, I do like this popular idea of choosing one word for the year. 

Up until yesterday, I hadn't been able to nail down a word. I had mulled over the idea and prayed for some sort of Divine inspiration. 

After reading Kara Tippitt's book {a must read for all mommas}, the word KIND was a forerunner.  I love the idea of filtering everything -- every thought, every action, every response -- through a kindness filter. Heaven knows that I need to do this more often. Especially with all of these impressionable ears around. 

Yet, it didn't feel like a good fit for my one word

Yesterday, as I was driving to church {late, of course}, it hit me. 


2015 will be the year of Joy

I like the way it rolls off my tongue. I like the way I can look back over pages and pages of journals and notebooks from the past few years and see this word jump off the page frequently. I like the way it takes intentional effort to live with joy. I especially like the way it is the antithesis of fear. 

As I thought through the impact of choosing JOY as my one word, I reread my notes from our church's women's retreat and they resonated deeply:

Fear is all smoke and mirrors.
God is with us. 
We go to the worst-case scenario and the result is Wasted Joy.
We sabotage joy. We cannot be present in the joy because we are afraid of what is coming.

That's it. The very essence of fear is that it seeks to hold us captive - to steal our joy. Fear creeps in silently, slowly even. Before you realize what has happened, how you have allowed the fear to invade, you find yourself up in the middle of the night unable to breathe under the weight of it. 

But, joy. Joy combats fear. It exists in the trusting, in the Hope. 

Our circumstances do not determine our joy. Joy is lasting. Happiness, which is based on life's ever-changing circumstances, is unpredictable. 

This world is scary. This world is full of sorrow and brokenness and disease. 

Yet, it's also full of beauty and love and hope. 

We have to intentionally choose JOY. We have to look above all of the hurting, all of the pain, and fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith. Joy requires action. Joy requires gratitude. 

Yesterday, as I uploaded the photos from our recent New Year's trip, I saw it. 

Because, the truth is, sometimes reality doesn't live up to your expectations and you miss the countdown and the midnight kiss {because everyone is exhausted and sick}. And, sometimes, you can't go outside because it's raining. And, sometimes, there are crying babies in the middle of the night and flu diagnosis and ER visits.

And, there is still JOY

Joy because there is a dock where the littles can fish. 

Joy because there is laughter at the big "catch."

Joy in the quiet, slow mornings where memories are made.

Joy in the shrieks of excitement that result from spying a pile of wrapped packages.

Joy in stolen moments with loved ones, tucked away from the world.

Joy in discovering what you are capable of and the gift of being present to capture the moment with photographs and applause.

Joy in the innocence and depth of a child's imagination.

Joy in babies' laughter. 

Joy in the celebration of a brand new year ahead. 365 days just waiting to unfold.

Joy in a break from real life. A break from work and school and bills and dishes and laundry. {And, yes, swimming goggles are a perfectly appropriate accessory for a cold, rainy morning in Tennessee}.

Joy in the gift of time with loved ones. As hard as the goodbyes can be, the moments together are worth it. They are worth the long hours in the car, the rearranging of schedules, the effort made to be together.

Joy in the awe of God's creation. Under layers and layers of rock and dirt...there, deep below the earth's surface, He gives us unexpected, majestic beauty. 

Joy in the abundant love in this momma's heart. A love that is fierce and strong and tender and unending.

I know the LORD is always with me. 
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is filled with joy
and my mouth shouts his praises!
{Psalm 16: 8-9, emphasis mine}

What about you? Do you have a word for 2015? I'd love to hear what it is!

January 6, 2015

2014. {what a year!}

I had declared 2014 to be the year of Hope. As I reflect on the past year, I can say with complete confidence that I have been blown away by God's faithfulness to our family. It was so full of Hope. It was so very good.

If I'm being honest, I find myself entering into 2015 with trepidation. You can only stay on top of the mountain for so long before it's time to start stepping forward and walking back down. I am praying against the lies that whisper this is all too good to be true. The lies that cause fear to rise up in my chest. I'm praying for confidence and trust in God's goodness.

I haven't had time to write this post before now since we traveled for the New Year and the flu came at us with a vengeance. But, I need to write it. I need these markers of Faithfulness. I need these stones of remembrance.

I look back to a year and a half ago, when I wrote these words:
"I forget all that God has done. He has performed some pretty amazing, powerful, supernatural miracles on our journey to our daughter. And, I'm overwhelming grateful. In awe of His goodness. Even still, the fear creeps in. The worry, the doubt. 
I need to record spiritual markers along the way. To remind myself of His faithfulness. Reminders to look back upon and rest in truth -- He is on His throne and will receive the glory from our family's story."
And, I wonder how is it that I am in this place again. This place of worry and doubt. After all that has happened. After all of the answered prayers. How could it be?

So, I will record spiritual markers. I will reflect on His goodness. I will trust. I will look forward with Hope and anticipation of the good things to come. For, He is only good.

Join me, as I look back on our family's Top 10 Moments of 2014:


When I needed it most, I was privileged to begin the new year surrounded by dear friends at the Created for Care retreat. I headed into the weekend weary and worn, yet God met me there. My heart was restored. I was reminded that God always writes the absolute best stories.


Dave traveled to Congo in February to visit our Sylvie-girl. She was once again in Daddy's arms.
"He went to remind her that we are still here fighting and waiting and praying every moment of every day for her. And, to remind her, that she is worth every ounce of energy expelled calling, emailing, letter writing and begging anyone/everyone we can think of for help; she is worth every tear; she is worth all of this heartache... she is our daughter and we will never give up fighting to get her home."


Time spent by the ocean to celebrate my brother's wedding. It was a tear-filled weekend. Joy and sorrow intermixed once again. The joy of a new marriage and the sorrow of our hearts divided across two continents.


We began a new season of life with our move to the farmhouse. We reveled in this unexpected season of slowing down, simplicity and stillness.


When I needed it most, I was gifted with silence to hear from Him.  To a place with no cell service or access to internet. Just peace and stillness. A quiet weekend to restore my hope.


God led us to launch Feed Their Tummies and then opened doors for The Bentonville Sessions. It all unfolded so naturally. God led the way and went before us. He made connections, placed people in our path, and beautifully provided for these precious children. It has been an honor and an immense privilege to step into these stories. Our prayers to be a light for Him have been answered in this work.   Feeding these little ones is our passion and our joy.


Our world was changed forever with the birth of our baby girl, Charlotte.

In my heart of hearts, I can admit that I was afraid my heart couldn't hold any more love. I have already been so blessed in this life and my heart is already so full. But, you, precious one, have multiplied the contents of my heart. My love is endless, it seems. You have taken up residence there and I am just in awe that God chose me to be your mommy.


When hope felt lost, we were overwhelmed with the truth that He is Faithful. After 602 days of waiting, our Sylvie-girl came home at last.


In the place where I wept and prayed and pleaded with the Lord for two years, in that little house by the sea, answered prayers were tangible. We finally walked along the sand as a family of six. The dark night had given way to the joy of the morning.


Christmas with the love of my life and my four little loves. An absolute highlight. So many prayers answered. Pure Christmas Joy.

Jesus, thank you for the good and perfect gifts you have given us. Our lives are an outpouring of praise to you and we boast in you alone for all of this goodness. We welcome 2015 and all that you have in store for us in this coming year. We pray that our lives be poured out for you each day. We ask that you fill our home and our hearts with your abundant love, your unimaginable peace and your unending grace. Amen.