Subscribe: Meant To Be
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
book  children  day  don  family  god  hard  home  kids  life  love  make  much  school  thankful  time  year  years 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Meant To Be

Living & Loving

Updated: 2018-03-13T07:51:55.489-04:00


First Day of School + A Product Review


The first day of school snuck up on us!So...this week my kids headed back to school. We were not really ready. And by that I mean, I was scrambling to get everything together, labeled etc. And by that I also mean, I did not have lunch planned (they pack 5 days/week - 4 kids - that's 20 lunches a week) and did not have breakfasts in the freezer yet which is basically a lifeline for me. Needless to say, I'm a little stressed and flying by the seat of my pants which has made it kind of a brutal week, but we will adjust and next week has to better, right?My youngest is in 1st grade and I'm not quite sure what to do with that. It seems just yesterday she was 2. The older two are both in 7th grade - I don't feel old enough for that! And our third born is a 3rd grader which is equally unbelievable. They were all nervous and excited and I was a teeny bit tearful as I prayed for them on the way to school. "Stop crying, mom. Seriously." I'm not crying, you're crying. We managed to make it on time and I didn't completely embarass them. I guess that's a win.My four on their first day of school which was actually unseasonably chilly.One thing that was awesome about my week is these amazing STEMSFX organizers. So many different sizes, so many great uses, and so many beautiful colors. They inspire organization.Think of all the uses for these organizers! I love the variety of sizes!I'm using the zipper pouches to store the encouraging love notes I write ahead and sometimes stick in lunchboxes. I have plenty of sizes of heavy duty plastic envelopes for filing my menu plans, transporting reports to school, organizing medical records, and keeping track of receipts - really the uses are endless. These products are so durable and did I mention the gorgeous colors because they make me so happy. You could easily color coordinate for different uses - by child, by type of thing organized, by priority... I'm using a pretty purple one for all of my continuing education certificates for this license cycle.They offer many other products to meet your business and home organization needs. I think they would be perfect for homeschooling, too! Check out their website. I'm curious - have you used these products before?Have your kids headed back to school yet? Hope your first week was more organized than mine! Lots of grace for all.Disclaimer: STEMSFX sent me these products free in exchange for my honest review. This review and opinions of the products are all my own. [...]



To my four beautiful, wonderful, amazing kids who work extra hard, deal with so much, and so long for healing peace, I love you. You fill me with joy, drive me to my knees, cause my heart to similtaneously ache and burst with pride, and make each day an adventure. I wouldn't want to do life with any other kids. I pray for you, I celebrate you, I hurt with you, I honor you, and I'm proud of you. We are in this together. You have my heart. 

I sat in church on Mother's Day this year with tears streaming down my face. It was unexpected. I couldn't stop. I wasn't prepared. Familiar images played across the screen as the words spoken by the woman portrayed made my heart ache. It was meant to be a testimony, a mission success, an example of grace...but for me, it released emotions I didn't even realize were so close to the surface. How could anyone know that the mother sitting towards the back was all too familiar with the sights, sounds, and emotions of this reality? How could they know that her journey of parenthood had begun in this very country with children not unlike this young woman? 

My sons. My heart. Orphans no more and yet orphans who once lived in an orphanage. They did not age out like this young woman. They were not told that their worth was only to be a prostitute like this young woman was told. But that could have been them and that is the reality of many of the children they once shared a crib with, a room with, an institution with. And I sobbed. The words and memories she openly shared and the images of her orphanage were overwhelming to me. In that moment, I could see and smell all that I know too well - the babies we met plus the older kids when I returned. The institutional hierarchy, the abuse, the was too familiar. 

My sons deal with the effects of being institutionalized for even the relatively short time they resided in their baby houses - scars and wounds and brain changes that should never be a part of any child's history. My heart couldn't handle the pain. The tears stopped, but my heart still aches. It probably always will. The reminders. The triggers. The reality. It is a pain that it is so hard to explore and yet ever present. It changed me forever. On an already complicated day one month ago, I wept. 

On Navigating Hard


I've mentioned before that we parent some pretty tough emotions and situations in our home. As much as we wish we could change our children's past, we cannot. Love does not heal and fix everything; I wish it did because if it did, we would be golden. Instead, love helps to navigate this life journey, gives room for healing, helps with maturing and growth, works through complicated feelings, and provides a safe a place to be honest. At least in our house that's the goal.

Recently we had a challenging night. A night that hurts and makes you mad - sometimes it's easy to stay with those emotions and just lecture. But this night, we stopped to listen to the heart, the hurt that motivated the breaking of trust. What we heard was not new, but that doesn't make it easier. Pain surrounding abandonment, feelings of loss, desire for knowledge...these motivated a bad decision. While those things don't excuse the wrong, it did bring a different response. We talked and slogged through a difficult conversation which involved tears and emotional vulnerability. We prayed and we acknowledged hurt. We affirmed and hugged and reassured.

In the end, he came back to us and said, "I'm really sorry I did that." And as we were beginning to forgive him, he said, "I really don't think you should forgive me. What I did was really bad." There in lies the truth - none of us deserve forgiveness, but it is given freely. We told him that we forgive him - ALWAYS - and love him unconditionally and nothing changes that. We parallaled it to the forgiveness and love that the Lord offers. There was peace, restoration, and another round of hugs. All of us the better for it.

These teachable moments don't just teach our children, they teach us, too. We learn more about God and who He is, we learn more about ourselves, and we understand our children better. While I don't wish any of the pain or hurt on my kids, I am incredibly thankful to walk this life journey with them. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I realized during our talk that it was exactly ten years ago this day that our lives were completely changed. We entered those orphanages so far away and met our first two sons. Our lives will never ever be the same...not just because we became parents, but because we can never unsee or unsmell or unknow what an orphanage life means. I'm thankful for that and I'm thankful for the kids who call me Mom. We are grateful to be their forever family.

Book Review + Giveaway!


GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED - Karen is the winner! Congrats! The book will be on it's way from the publisher. Everyone else, thanks for entering and please go pre-order! Falling Free is a must-read! Giveaway at the bottom!There are few books that I am interested in helping to launch, but when I learned that Shannan Martin was writing a book...I wanted in. Her words on her blog and social media resonate with me. Her life experience feels somewhat parallel to mine (I mean, we both have sons who came to us through adoption that we named Calvin and both of our families have gone through some hard shifting of dreams) and yet different - I wanted to know more. Falling Free is a well-written, convicting, faith-growing book. Shannan Martin carefully tells her story and the story of her family and God's incredible work in shifting their circumstances and ultimately changing their direction and dreams. Shannan's words show gentleness with unrelenting conviction that God has more for our lives than living the "American Dream." She masterfully (and with humor!) shares her experiences of moving to the "wrong side of the tracks" from their dream home in the country, to parenting a child in prison, to career changes and so much more.Her chapter on hospitality left me convicted and encouraged. It's an area God has been not so subtly nudging me to grow in. "Real hospitality is more like the widow’s mite than Solomon’s purple robes. It’s the sharing of manna—that ordinary miracle— and the faith to believe we can love big with just a little." (Falling Free, Chapter 7) How can I not be changed by her humble example and challenging words? Shannan's strong faith and gospel commitment are clear. I appreciate how she honestly shares her heart with grace.  She challenges the reader to a deeper walk with the Lord, a better understanding of community, and a real view how the Gospel is lived out.Mostly, I have an overwhelming desire to drive to Shannan's house and chat with her over chips and homemade salsa. To me, that is the sign of an excellent book. I encourage you to check out Shannan's book and blog! Both are well worth your time. Be challenged, convicted, and changed! I have two pieces of good news:1) You can pre-order this title & receive some awesome free gifts! (I ordered my copy!)2) I am GIVING AWAY a copy! The publisher has graciously offered me a copy for one of you lucky readers! TO ENTER: Please leave a comment with a way to contact you! That's it! I will close the entries on Thursday night at 10 p.m. and draw a winner. I will contact the winner and you will receive the book directly from the publisher. [...]

End and Beginning


Peace comes unexpectedly sometimes. I'm thankful for that. Our family journey is a journey of hope and healing, pain and redemption, hard and beautiful, loss and joy. A mix of all of that - often on a daily basis. In about two weeks, our homeschool journey will come to an end - at least for now. It's bittersweet. I have been so privileged to be at home with our children every day - teaching them and being taught by them. And yet it's time for them to go elsewhere for their education and for me to focus on being just mom. In many ways, I will always be their teacher and I cherish that, but juggling the full-time teacher/Mom role has not been easy. Spring Break Vacation to NC!We searched and visited schools and thought we had found the school for us only to realize it just wasn't the right fit. No peace came with that initial decision. I lost many hours of sleep and agonized. So, we searched some more and when we left the school we chose, I knew. It was right. I had tears in my eyes because I knew that this school would provide the love, support, structure, discipline, and learning environment we needed.All four of our sweet kids did their placement testing and interviews and were accepted. And with that, a new journey begins. We have had so many confirmations along the way which have made this decision easier. The older two shadowed for a day of school and came home excited which was such a relief. We will have two in 6th grade, one in 2nd grade, and one in Kindergarten. (As an aside - WHAT?! How do we have kids all in school and that old?!)It's funny, really...I never ever thought I would homeschool and yet it was exactly what God called us to for several years. So here I am - losing an identity and community that I have enjoyed tremendously. It's weird and surreal. I know we will create new community and find our spot, but you know how new relationships are - awkward, hesitant.I find myself excited for the kids (and me) and yet nervous - are they prepared? Thrilled for the change and yet dreading it - I will miss them!This summer you might find me quietly weeping in the corner while soaking up every wonderful moment of summer. The transition is going to be tough for us all, but we are family and we will do this hard and joyful thing together.I have peace.[...]

We Are Family


I so want to blog more, but life feels unblogworthy. We are weary. Parenting trauma kids is HARD. Progress is there, but it's two steps forward and 1-2 steps back. We celebrate the progress, we grieve the hard, and we pray - a lot.

Education choices, parenting dilemmas, and emotional challenges are just a few of the things that are overwhelming us right now. We have a another ear surgery coming up in March. We need wisdom and patience and grace.

When I look into the sweet faces of the kids I have the privilege of calling mine, I am filled with love. They are precious to us. As they seek comfort, curl up with us for a book, talk about their hopes and dreams, accomplish new tasks, conquer fears, and make progress on tasks that come so easily to many, I just feel blessed. They are ours - we may not be the neat and tidy, fit in a box family, but we are a family - faults, challenges, and all. We are my favorite.

I have found tremendous grace and encouragement in unexpected places and I'm so grateful. There is  much joy in our lives along with the heartache. I would never, ever, ever trade my children or our way of becoming parents for the world. As we muddle through the difficult, and the ugly, and the painful, we see redemption and love and acceptance. I can never pretend to understand fully the path my children have had to walk. One of them said to me recently, "Mom, I just wish you had been there the minute I was born." And all I can say is, "Me, too, buddy, Me, too." Sometimes we cry as we acknowledge the hard and sometimes we get mad, but we are glad that the current path is ours to walk together.

We had SUCH a blast with a family fun day just after the new year - the kids have mentioned it several times and are hoping for another big family fun day!

We took selfies at each of our fun stops - a day full of adventure!


How is it possible that Christmas is next week? I blinked and this year is nearly finished. As I worked on our annual holiday card, I reflected on what this year has been. It's been full of heartache, challenge, joy, and blessing. There were moments when I was pretty sure we wouldn't make it, but God... He has led us, sustained us, taught us, and encouraged us. We have come to this December full of gratitude.

We moved this year. We moved for a lot of reasons - we needed another bedroom, we had a home equity line of credit for adoption that we were ready to be done with, and we wanted a basement. And so, we moved. It was more of a lateral move - we weren't looking to increase our mortgage or our square footage, but we did want to increase our yard. We accomplished all three. We moved into the house my parents owned for 19 years in a quiet neighborhood with large lots. I lived there for a few years, but it was not my childhood home. We are working to make it our own. It's completely different from the open floor plan of our home of 12 years. We have lots of plans for it, but for now it's working and we are thankful. It's been an adjustment - mostly good, some hard. We miss aspects of our old home and neighborhood, but mainly we just feel that this is right for us.

From surgeries, to job change, to school challenges, to life challenges, it's been quite the year.

Change. Not a particularly easy thing for us. And it's been a year of change.

One constant...these four...the best thing ever.

True Confessions: Ice, Ice, Baby


I'm not talking about the diamond kind. I'm really talking about the frozen water. It's my favorite. I'm totally obsessed with it and have been for years. And I know better. It's horrible for your teeth. Don't even talk to me about vitamin deficiencies or iron deficiencies... I LOVE ICE.

I'm convinced it's somewhat genetic - several women on my mom's side crave crunchy things. That's totally me. At least ice doesn't have calories - right?! But it's annoying and I totally know it! I have to make myself not do it when I'm with people, but I forget...lots of times...because it's a habit and I can't help it. Oh and those restaurants who are all classy and "we don't do ice in our awesome water?" Not cool.

I also love temperature extremes. One of my brother-in-laws was horrified to learn that I ordered fancy coffee drinks extra hot. I don't anymore because I had one too many that had scalded milk issues - his point precisely.  But I digress..

Ugh! Guys, this is a real thing. My husband even gives me a coupon for store-bought ice in my stocking - he totally know this makes my year! It's unnatural and a little weird and a lot awful. I've tried to break the habit, but the cold and crunch is totally my thing. I can't even explain how happy a glass of ice water makes me. And I am somewhat of an ice connoisseur if I do say so myself. All ice is NOT created equal.

Anyway, to sum up: I'm sorry if I crunch ice near you (except you,'re stuck with me), it takes every bit of self control for me to concentrate on not crunching it - so, it was an accident. I'm only a little sorry, though because ice and cold is awesome.

Did I mention my husband orders light ice in everything and does not like temperature extremes? We're compatible like that.

The Sleeping Bag


(image) He was there. Dirty, disheveled, dejected. Surrounded by what appeared to be all of his earthly
possessions, he sat on the median in front of the shopping center.

She parked and walked toward him with a large red object. A red sleeping bag, I soon realized. It was a brisk fall morning in October, one of the first marking the coming cool weather. I sat at the red light watching the scene before me - intrigued.

The middle aged woman in sweats and a ponytail crossed to the median and knelt in front of the man with a gentle and compassionate smile. She gave him the sleeping bag and spoke to him, looking him squarely in the eye. He received the sleeping bag, shuffled his belongings and turned back to her. To my surprise, I watched him wipe his eyes - tears evident even from a distance.

She continued to kneel at his level, kindly speaking to him, and finally joining him in tears. Tears filled my own eyes as I witnessed this humble moment. His pain so evident, her compassion so apparent.

The light changed and I reluctantly continued on my way as tears continued to roll down my cheeks. In that moment I realized, my life had been changed. It was, in fact, one of the most beautiful things I have witnessed.

This simple act profoundly impacted my thinking on mercy ministry and on seeing people. She could have rolled down her window and passed the sleeping bag out to him, she could have easily driven by without doing anything, she could  have walked over and handed it to him and walked away, but that's not what she did. She KNELT at his level, acknowledged him as a person, looked him in the eye, spoke words of kindness, listened to him, wept with him, and met a basic need he clearly had.

It was obvious she did not do this for recognition or glory. She saw him. She saw a need. I'm certain it was not convenient or even comfortable and yet she met it anyway.

The compassion that poured from her face and through her actions spoke to my heart. I haven't stopped thinking about it. The hands and feet of Jesus, the heart of the Gospel, a part of the mission of the church were all wrapped into that moment for me.

I wept. I pondered. I shared. I made a plan to be more prepared to serve people in need in my city.

Compassion. The Gospel. Mercy. Loving People.  

What Does It Mean?


I'm pro-life. I've spent a lot of time considering the meaning of that statement. It's much more complicated than being anti-abortion to me. I wrote about this topic once before many years ago and stepped on some toes (which was not my intention). My heart aches for the children lost and for the great tragedy that is abortion. And I am thankful for those serving on the front-line of this important issue.

When we were first married, I became a crisis pregnancy counselor. It was hard. I learned a lot. My commitment to adoption was strengthened through that work. I also saw the absolute necessity of supporting a woman beyond her decision to parent. 

I believe being pro-life goes way past a decision to give birth. It speaks to the preservation of life throughout life. 

We can't truly be pro-life without asking ourselves some really difficult questions. How will we be involved beyond birth? How will we support women and children and families in need? How will we reduce the number of children in foster care? How will we serve the marginalized in our society? 

I'm still figuring this out myself. What does it really mean to be pro-life?

A few ways to be pro-life beyond the anti-abortion movement are:
- Be an organ donor. 
- Be swabbed for the bone marrow registry.
- Give blood.
- Support families who are fostering, involved with Safe Families, and adopting.
- Consider being one of those families. 
- Start a clothing closet for children in need. 
- Donate to your local food pantry and work there.
- Be a mentor for kids aging out of foster care. 
- Be a mentor for Safe Families.
- Volunteer as a Big Brother or Sister.
- Volunteer at your local hospital.
- Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
- Collect items for shelters.
- Love your neighbors. 

Perhaps at the heart of it all is compassion. Seeing, loving, and serving all people. It most certainly will take us out of our comfort zone, it will be hard, it will be inconvenient, and it will stretch us. But I submit that to be truly pro-life, we must support life from conception to grave. 

Being Enough


I don't know about you, but I majorly struggle with mom guilt. I feel like the worst mom ever at least once a week, day, minute... I'm weary. I'm in the trenches. I feel guilty for not getting everything done in day, guilty if I sit down without laundry or something else productive, guilty if I serve cereal eggs for dinner, guilty about not being and doing enough, guilty about not enjoying every minute... The list is endless. It can be paralyzing. It can make me second guess everything. And people have lots of opinions about what moms should be doing, what educational choices we should make, how we should discipline, and what success looks like. You know what? Some of those opinions and expectations are spoken and some are really only my perceptions. I'm really bad about the latter.I'm a people pleaser. I am definitely more sensitive than I would like to admit. I am careful about feelings - not hurting others and not expressing my own. I re-play all situations including parenting ones over and over in my head from every angle. It's exhausting.The thing is I know I am far from perfect as a mother. Sure, sometimes I nail it (ha!) - I'm patient, kind, loving, nurturing, crafty, funny, silly, and spend lots of quality time with them. But sometimes I sin by yelling, sometimes I'm unreasonable, sometimes I'm grumpy, sometimes I'm lazy, and sometimes I don't enjoy being a parent....Yet, God chose me to parent these kids no matter what. And He is enough. In the mundane and the dramatic and the hard, He is enough. He works through me to make me enough. I am what my kids need and they are what I need. And I DO love them, enjoy them, treasure them, care for them, learn from them, celebrate them, and feel thankful for them! They make me laugh and smile and wonder how in the world I got to be so lucky. (They also disobey, annoy, fight, argue...but that's another post. ;))I'm here to say:You are enough through Christ.You are not perfect and you won't be (spoiler: your kids aren't either) - keep striving and seeking first His kingdom.You need to take time for yourself - don't feel guilty about it - we must recharge. Whether that's a Netflix show, glass of wine, good book, fancy coffee drink, dinner with a friend or all of the above - just go for it and enjoy!It's okay to have a bad day - tomorrow is a new one -  "I'm sorry,""I messed up," and "I forgive you" teach many lessons. We are being sanctified through our parenting.You don't have to enjoy every second of parenting - those well-intentioned ladies who admonish this really do mean well - but the truth is that not every minute is enjoyable (I mean who ENJOYS cleaning up vomit, disciplining kids, sleep issues, scraping poop off cribs and all. the. things.?!).It does go fast. And we will remember and laugh and forget and treasure and miss. And we will be the blue-haired little old ladies swapping stories which have been enhanced over decades of happy, selective memories. And we will probably stop young moms and tell them to enjoy every minute. And they will roll their eyes and think we just don't get it, but the good will so far outshine the previous day-to-day struggle that we won't even care or remember.We need to stop believing the lie that we are not good enough. In this day and in this moment, you are enough. So in love with these cuties!For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadt[...]

On Doing Mornings


First day of school treat!I'm sitting here on my deck listening to the wind ripple through the trees and thoroughly enjoying the quiet. It's the 45 minutes on Thursdays that I have by myself - 3 kids are at piano lessons and one is at school. It's glorious. Don't get me wrong, I love my family and am thankful for each one of my children, but I need these moments of peace - they carry me through the chaos. And these moments mean I have a chance to write.I'm not a morning person by nature. This is no secret. It's just not my favorite. However, I've been reflecting on ways to make our family more successful and a change in our morning routine was exactly where I felt we needed to start. (School starting always causes these ponderings.) And so, I have been purposefully rising earlier - nothing crazy - just earlier. It has been hard and it has been wonderful. I'm getting more done, having a chance to plan for the day, enjoying time in the Word, making better breakfast, and interacting with each member of the family in a more meaningful way. You better believe the coffee pot is my first stop, though. :)We changed our school schedule so that the older boys don't start their online school until 10. This has been an amazing change for us. They start their homework earlier (7:30 or 8) and we have our Bible time all before they have to start class. It's been awesome and has made a world of difference in our school day and morning routine. Emmi still attends school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the schedule change has made her drop off easier (she attend 9-2). Titus is traditionally homeschooling with me this year and it's working well for him.We have a child who has struggled with ADD/ADHD and we have purposed to incorporate more protein into our mornings. This requires more planning for me, but really helps him and is good for all of us. So, I've been cooking breakfast most mornings. May not seem like a big deal, but it's been a change for us. After trying to make everyone happy, it seemed prudent to just have 3-4 breakfasts that we regularly rotate through. So far, no major complaints. (Cereal is very popular at our house, but not something I want to have very often, so Sunday is cereal day.)These are our current regulars:Eggs, Sausage, Whole Grain Toast w/all-fruit jamGreek Yogurt w/Granola & Fruit (we love the new recipe)Build-Your-Own Oatmeal Bar (I provide a variety of toppings like fruit, nuts, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup and they can make it how they want - they like the control and I like that it's healthy, cheap, and no longer a battle)Loving our new backyard.Dinners have been a challenge and I've taken a pretty hard look at ways to make it easier. 4-6p. is zero hour at our house and I do not enjoy trying to come up with dinner then. :) Planning  in the morning, prepping ahead, and doing a crockpot meal (curried red lentils tonight) occasionally is definitely helping. I'm being more intentional with my shopping and in keeping track of what foods we have, so less goes to waste. It's been good. I also keep a few convenience items on hand like chicken sausages that can be thrown on the grill or used as a soup base. Having dinner together is a high priority for our family - it's a chance to share about our day and take some time away from the hectic. We've really enjoyed eating on our deck this summer. The mornings have been key to successful dinner for us.So thankful for positive changes. I'm still a night person, but I'm making myself get up earlier no matter when I go to bed. It may translate in to an earlier bedtime...eventually. :) Doing mornings has made for a decent start to our school year and has helped to create a lower stress environment in our home.Mornings...I'm starting to[...]

For the Love + GIVEAWAY!


For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker - release day + GIVEAWAY! Giveaway is now closed and the winner is according to Random Generator is... HEATHER!This post is part of Jen Hatmaker's "For the Love" Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other talented and inspiring bloggers! To learn more or join us, click here.Way back in March, on a whim, I signed up to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book...with 5,000 other people. I have long been an admirer of Jen and have very often been inspired by her words. Somehow, I was among the 500 chosen to be a part of her team, to review the book, to write an endorsement, and to promote her book. An awesome honor and a distinct privilege.Now today is the official launch date of a book that I definitely recommend. For the Love is a collection of essays for women. Community, parenting, fashion, difficult people - she's got you covered plus so much more. The subtitle? "Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards."Do you feel like you never measure up?Do you feel like you have to hide the real you?Do you struggle with feelings of imperfection?Do you have a "spicy" family?Do you find it challenging to have meaningful relationships with other women?Do you have trouble finding balance? Do you like to laugh?This book is for you. Whether you are single or married, young or old, childless or juggling a houseful of cherubs, working outside the home or staying at home - whatever you're calling and place in life - this book is for YOU. This book is about grace - grace for others and grace for our ourselves and knowing the grace of God - GRACE.If you have read Hatmaker's previous books or if you follow her on Facebook, then you already know how hilarious she is. This book is no exception. From "Thank You Notes," to dolphin sandwiches, to fashion advice, to real life stories, she will entertain you while speaking truth, encouraging women everywhere, and challenging the norm.What I didn't know way back in March was that I was about to become a member of an amazing community of women. A community that truly lives out the message of this book. We have laughed, prayed, cried, and celebrated with one another. We come from different generations, different backgrounds, different locations, and different political/religious/theological/social views - yet there is a spirit of love and grace and friendship that goes beyond shared life experience. It has blessed and comforted me and challenged me in my local relationships.The incredible opportunity to be a part of this beautiful book and community came at an incredibly difficult time in our lives. As the storm of life encompassed and confused us, I found solace in the pages of this book and in the prayers of women who had never met me. What a tremendous blessing and just a small way this book made an impact on my own life.I was truly sorry for the book to end. I'm also pretty sure Jen and I would be best friends in real life. She is easy to read, easy to relate to, painfully honest, likes to cook (yes, she includes some recipes!), has a dry wit...oh, and coffee ('nuf said).So, I encourage you to go and buy this book! Even my husband laughed when I read parts of it out loud to him. :) Let it minister to your soul, challenge your relationships, encourage your heart, and make you laugh out loud.My officially official endorsement:This poignant, timely, and hilarious book is a must read! Truth spills from the pages providing encouragement, challenge, freedom, and restoration. It is a breath of fresh air that will make you equally laugh, cry, nod, and think. ~ Alaina; Mama of a Spicy Family, Blogger, and Chef Wannabe. Indianapolis, IN allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-ifram[...]



We enjoyed a fabulous trip sans kid to Montana this past weekend. It's been YEARS since we have been away for more than a night or two. Andrew had the chance to participate in a colloquium for a group out there and they invited me to join. We were treated to fabulous dinners and even a tour of a ranch. He had a great time, but I had the best time. ;)While he was in sessions, I drove to Yellowstone National Park. It was breathtakingly beautiful and it felt like a crime to enjoy it by myself! It was a delightful drive, though and I really enjoyed the alone time. What a treat to see a black wolf (rare even for those who live locally, I guess), bison, elk, longhorn sheep, and so much more. I had never been west before and it quickly became a priority for vacation in the next few years with the kids.What a welcome trip. We have had such a challenging and confusing year and feel like it will never let up (we welcome your prayers). We were so thankful for the time away in a beautiful area of the country!This ended up being a full rainbow with a partial double - gorgeous!The view from where we were staying! The Lodge - a boutique inn known for their fly fishing.Yellowstone RiverI loved the texture of these. Hot springs - so remarkable and smelled like sulphur (ick!).Bison crossed the road in front of me.Beautiful waterfall - close to where the wolf was spotted. It was too far away for me to successfully photograph, but it was awesome to see!A herd of bison roaming free in the park.Another waterfall - about a 1/2 mile hike off the road - totally worth it.On the drive back to the Lodge.[...]

On Being an Introvert


My sweet man gets me. 
There is no surer way to have your introvertedness confirmed than to be completely intimidated by a new Facebook's online for crying out loud. I have the privilege of previewing and reviewing Jen Hatmaker's newest book (coming out in August) and with that came a fb group of other reviewers - there are 500 of us. I have to laugh that even online, I want to hide in the corner. :) Not because I'm uninterested, not because I dislike the lively conversations, not because I feel left out...because it's just too much socialness. (Of note, I have now used two 'ness words that have failed to meet with spellcheck's approval. :)) But seriously, I am so THRILLED to be a apart of the Launch Team!

My tendency towards being introverted has only solidified and deepened over the years. Even with people I've known forever, I sometimes find it hard not withdraw. We had a fabulous women's retreat with my church a few weekends ago and I enjoyed it, but I was so tired afterwards because, well, it's just a lot of social. When I walk into a room, I tend to go towards someone who I know well and who feels safe to me. It's not a reflection on anyone else in the room, it's simply my coping mechanism.

I'm private, I'm easily intimidated, and I don't have a high need for social interactions. I'm working on this because I know I come off as standoffish sometimes. I'm better one on one, but even that can be challenging for me. I also despise conflict and aggressive disagreement - they make me extremely uncomfortable and I will frequently escape or shut down in those situations.

The thing is...I love people. I care deeply. I am committed.

So, if you see me quiet or alone or talking to my family, it's probably because I'm feeling insecure. Be assured, I love you, I care for you, and I will happily talk to just might need to initiate sometimes...or maybe a lot. I'm a work in progress - aren't we all? My life experience has only intensified my tendency towards privacy and silence.

The truth? My extroverted children exhaust me. By the end of the day, I need to be alone for a little while. My ears are tired and the constant interaction is exhausting. But I love them with all of my heart and I wil get up and do it all over again. My husband is also an introvert, but less so than me. He is so good at being sensitive to my need for alone time and I'm thankful!

I'm okay with being an introvert - I think it takes both introverts and extroverts for the world to go 'round. :)

New Sport


In the fall, the older boys decided to pursue Taekwondo. (We typically allow the kids to choose one sport and they have previously played soccer and flag football.) We were happy to find a great program that uses our local Y for their lessons. C & P have been participating twice a week since September. We really love that it focuses on self-discipline and self-control. Their instructor is a great remodel and someone the boys respect and appreciate.

In December, they tested for their yellow belt:

Yellow Belt Test
 They were super nervous at their first test, but they survived and we were so proud of them!

And this month they tested for their yellow and green stripe belt:

Green Stripe Belt Test
They were confident, knew what to expect, and demonstrated excellent skills as they proceeded through their forms, kicks, punches, and sparring. We were so impressed and bursting with pride! They were AWESOME!

On Moving & Laundry


I just have to note that we have had a really good end of the week. Mid-week, I thought I might end up in the loony bin (kind of for real). And then I went to bed and slept for over 10 hours - TEN HOURS. I guess I needed it. I woke up and my husband brought me breakfast - I think he was worried. Love him.

Anyway, feeling thankful as we head into the weekend. We are planning MANY home projects. We are putting our house on the market soon - it's been the plan for about 6 months, but we haven't been in a hurry. It's bittersweet - we've outgrown the layout of our home, but we still love a lot about it. We built it as fairly newlyweds and have lived in it for over 10 years. Lots of memories and every one of our children has come home here.

Seriously, as I write, I'm sitting in the midst of mountains of clothes to be sorted and folded. (Can you say procrastination?! ;)) Do I know how to spend a Friday night or what? Honestly, I can only tolerate folding when I can watch something or listen to something to distract me from the monotony.

Have you ever been tempted to just drop the kids clothes in a bin and be done with it? My kids have destroyed a couple of dressers (granted they were not high quality) and they could care less if their clothes are folded. But still I fold. It's a thing. I have to do it. I've taught them to do it, but my OCD kicks in and I have a hard time not refolding everything.

Off to deal with the mountains - strangely, they are not folding themselves. Well, I probably wouldn't approve anyway. Happy Weekend and Welcome Spring!

Our almost 10 year old, Pippi. Sweet but ornery, yappy, and opinionated. 



We are navigating grief in our home. Deep grief. It is heart-wrenching. It is a grief that must be lived with - a grief that I cannot change or take away. We are sad. Early loss and trauma often takes time to surface and when it does, it comes in a variety of forms. It is currently effecting our daily lives - frequently in the form of anger. (I should add that we do have a fabulous therapist and we see her regularly! She helps tremendously as we work through things and as we continue to focus on our relationships within our family.)

I am an adoption advocate. I believe that children should have families and if their birth family is unable to parent them, then they need another. I do also believe that whenever possible, they should remain with their birth family.

Adoption was not God's original plan - it is a result of the fall - just as illness, infertility, death and so many other things are also. Yes, there is beauty in adoption that comes out of brokenness, but that beauty does not take away the sad, the hurt, the trauma, and the pain. Those are still present.

My children did not choose to be abandoned and they did not choose to come into our family - those choices were made for them (just as we do not choose the families we belong to either).

As we wrestle with these issues and walk through painful pasts, I constantly pray for wisdom and for healing for their hearts. I will readily admit that sometimes it's hard not to take it personally - we love our children with our whole selves. We could not love them more had they been born to us. With the questions and the tears and the anger and the deep hurt at being abandoned, I am challenged to walk that path with them with sincere compassion, unconditional love, an extra measure of grace, and an open heart. The hard days don't change my love or commitment, but they do make me sad and weary.

I choose YOU!
I love my kids. I would choose adoption again and again and again. I would choose them every time. Every. Single. Time. They are amazing. They are overcomers. They are beautiful and talented individuals and I am incredibly thankful to be their mom.

Choosing Joy


I frequently find myself encouraging my children to "Choose Joy." A message as much for them as for me. :) I think joy can come naturally and there are events and things that make joy easy, but I also feel that joy (and contentment) is a choice. As I validate emotions in our home (it's okay to feel ___________, but how you handle it is the issue), it makes me introspective. What do I model? How do my children see me deal with a range of emotions? Joy is a beautiful thing. Joy in the midst of suffering is challenging. Joy is often a choice. Even in the midst of being real and honest, I desire to live a life defined by quiet joy. It's easy to focus on things that are worrying or scary or uncertain, but worrying doesn't really do us any good and it takes a toll on your health. So much easier said than done. So much easier. Anyway...I'm currently finding joy in: - a deepened relationship with God. - decluttering and simplifying life - what a process! - hearing my kindergartner learn to read.- reading an advanced copy of "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker.- anticipating a trip to Montana with my ourselves. - enjoying the start of spring.- spending time with my children playing games, reading, and watching movies.- blogging a little bit more - both here and at The Cooks Next Door.- knowing that we are in the last 2 1/2 months of the school year. - looking forward to the birth of another niece or nephew in the summer.- cooking - it has been awhile since I have enjoyed it, but I'm back to trying a few new recipes!- working with a wonderful team. There are many other things I can list, but these are a few. Speaking of joy - look at these delighted faces! We have a new cousin (niece) who was born in November. We could not be more thrilled - isn't she a doll?! These big cousins were so excited that she came to visit (she lives far away) at New Years. Emmi is especially happy to not be the only girl anymore. [...]



It's not a coincidence that the two books I've been reading lately have to do with priorities, busyness, and people... I didn't set out for it to be that way, but God fully ordained that these would be my books of late because both of them were "assigned." I use that term very loosely. :)

Making Memories at the Children's Museum at Christmas time!
What a blessing to me to take a step back and evaluate. I've felt the gentle nudge for awhile that I need to say 'yes' to my kids more and make more time to just be with them. Laundry and dishes and housework ARE important (and a clean-ish house makes me a happy lady), but they will always be there. They are endless and repeating. My children are growing up - the oldest two turn TEN (10!!!) this year. I'm feeling it. They will not always be here.

I've pondered what I want their childhood memories to be - me stressed and snappy and always too busy or us making time for one another and saying YES to the book or the walk or the movie or the cuddles. My goal is to not only say 'yes' but to create and welcome individual and family time with my sweet blessings. And while I cannot ignore the needs of our home, I can prioritize more efficiently and delegate more effectively.

Parenting has been HARD the past year or so (really a few years) - beyond the average kid drama because it is clearly compounded by early trauma and painful loss which results in actual brain change. Some days it's a challenge to want to nurture certain kiddos because I am just so over the hard and so angry and frustrated with the actions and words (and so hurt). It is in those moments that I know I need to be the most present. I'm working on this - we ALL are. Besides loving Jesus, the main thing I want to teach my children is to love people well. That starts in the home.

I need to stop making excuses of busyness/housework and show up consistently. My husband and children need it. I must refuse to accept that life is too busy and ignore the truly important things (Jesus and people). Yes, we have busy days and weeks and months and seasons, but that cannot replace our commitment to growing in grace, spending time with our children, and taking care of ourselves.

So, we are here loving one another, forgiving one another, and making time for one another. I'm feeling challenged and encouraged and renewed.

(Oh and I commend to your reading Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. It's a quick read and well worth the time.)



This season of life just feels impossibly hard. Many days I feel stressed to the breaking point. Between parenting challenges, job stress, medical appointments, and life decisions, I feel like I'm drowning. I'm weary. I feel like we've been in a few years of just hard. We've questioned our decisions, wondered about our calling, and realized afresh how much we must rely on our Savior.

To clarify, one thing we have never questioned is the place of each person in our family - we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has placed each of us together to do life.  I am thankful to be doing life with my people.

As we have entered the latest season of unrest and uncertainty, I will admit that I have floundered. But through it, I see the faithfulness of God - He has ministered to my soul through prayer, through Scripture, and through people. When I am tempted to FEAR, I am reminded to fear not. When I am tempted to DOUBT, I remember that God is on the throne.  When I am tempted to DESPAIR, I am challenged by the promise of provision. He is faithful. It may not be my plan or my timeline, but He is faithful. We are not promised a life free of hardship, but we are promised a God who carries us through. He has a plan. He is trustworthy. All things through Christ.

So my prayer on this winter night, is that you know God. I truly could not endure or run this race of life without Him. Whatever the struggle, whatever the joy, whatever the sorrow - may you know Him. I believe this challenge and these months and years of hard will pass and I believe that God is using them to refine us and to grow us. It does not make our current trials easy, but it does give me HOPE (one of my favorite words).

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, 
and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 
Psalm 18:2

Aren't they the cutest?!

They were relieved to get enough snow a couple of times so far to actually enjoy being outdoors! They clamored for snow ice cream this week and I obliged. It must also be noted that when I explained to them that our family is done growing (at least as far as we can see - we are at peace :)) and we needed to sort and donate the baby toys (I'm in the middle of a big purge), they begged for 2 more children. They make me laugh! I assured them that cousins will be like siblings and they can enjoy those babies. :)

Our Trip East


We took an awesome trip out east in September. Andrew had training and we decided to tag along. Our trip started in Washington D.C. and then moved to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The kids were excited that we visited so many states on our trip. We enjoyed seeing the White House at night and loved walking around the city after dark. (And we lost a kid - he wandered off by accident - took about 10 years off my life because it truly felt like he had vanished into thin air.)We visited two Smithsonians (Air & Space and American History) - both were fascinating. The oldest two boys saw an IMAX movie which they thought was pretty cool.The two youngest enjoyed riding the historic carousel on The Mall (truthfully, Emmi had been begging to ride any "up and down" horsey since we had embarked on the trip). Emmi was especially delighted by this part of the adventure. (She always chooses a white horse - such a girly girl.)We walked MILES and visited several monuments. They were all memorable in their own ways (it had been years since Andrew and I had been in DC). The kids favorite was probably the Lincoln Monument and mine was the new WW2 monument.Washington MonumentWW 2 MonumentWe also visited Mount Vernon and spent most of Monday at that beautiful home and property. While Emmi failed to appreciate the mansion tour (or much of anything other than the flowers), the rest of us thought it was wonderful. There was so much space for the kids to run and relax. It was so much fun! "Look, Mom, a butterfly!"Checking out the gardens while the boys played in a field.This is how she felt at the end of the day...We arrived in WV on Monday night and Andrew spent the rest of the week in classes. So, Tuesday and Wednesday, the boys had class and then the kids and I spent the afternoons exploring Harper's Ferry National Park and eating ice cream. We hiked, learned about the local history, discussed the Civil War, checked out a portion of the Appalachian Trail (my cousin through-hiked it several years ago), and just generally had a great time together!They hid their sticks on Tuesday, so they could use them again on Wednesday. Boys and their sticks. The weather was 100% perfect for these outings! We really enjoyed the great outdoors and the freedom from set plans and timelines - we just went at our own pace.Thursday was our final day of exploration and that day took us to Gettysburgh. I decided to purchase the audio cd and book and tour it on our own. It was awesome. We did the shorter of the tours (still 3+ hours). We got out at most of the locations, listened to the fascinating narration of the events of that battle, and once again appreciated the wonderful beauty surrounding us. The largest monument at Gettysburgh.The boys were pretty fascinated with the history.All in all, it was a memorable trip. We are thankful we had the chance to go and thankful for the time we had as a family. The boys had been asking to visit DC for a few years and so this was a dream come true for them. We found some great books at the library and they devoured them in preparation for the trip and on the trip. We listened to Carry On, Mr. Bowditch and that passed time in the car. Emmi at 3 1/2 was a challenge (which was expected), but she had a lot of fun, too.  We are looking forward to our next big trip - perhaps Colorado! [...]

On #4


#4 has turned our world upside down. I was a boy mom and totally unprepared for the drama, attitude, craziness, and joy that comes with girls. I love having both genders! Emmi is a spicy girl...of course, we continued our tradition of non-laid back kids. :) She is on the go, talks all the time, and is a delight. Her toys, fashion sense, and sense of responsibility are quite different than her big brothers. And my word, she has them WRAPPED. She could tell them to fly to the moon and I'm pretty sure they would try. I am loving the hair bows and dresses and shoes and accessories. She asked her dad the other day if she could "buy happy snowman bows" to match a dress - he readily agreed and she poured over the options before choosing two from Etsy. She is now anxiously awaiting their arrival in the mail.She wears me out with her energy and then gives me limitless energy with her hugs, snuggles, "I love yous," and declarations of "my mommy." She is happy, well-adjusted, and growing like a weed. She made it into 3T clothes in the late spring though she is still super skinny with very little behind. She potty trained in February and we are once again diaper free (HOORAY!). Her language acquisition has shocked me and though she still leaves the endings off many words, she talks in sentences and we understand most of what she says. Emmi makes friends easily, loves people, is a dedicated follower of Titus, and loyal defender of our family. She seems to somehow understand what family means and to embrace it. We feel like she has always been with us and yet it's just shy of 18 months. So thankful for this sweet addition who cracks us up, keeps things extra lively, and teaches me daily.  With one of her best friends ever, her cousin, Max. The doll thing is so sweet - I loved my dolls! First trip to the beach - she had the best time! Orneriness personified. She continues to be a huge water bug with little fear. Pink and purple are so cliche, but they are her favorites of her own accord. She feels amazing when she accessorizes. She loves Pippi so much. Art Projects are so much fun until you get your hands messy.The Fab Four - yep, that look is one we've seen a little more recently...yikes.[...]

Life Update


My poor neglected blog. I so often think of when I had the time and energy to write on a regular basis and miss it!

Life...good things, hard things, different things...

E has been home for almost 18 months. She is doing incredibly well, loves being the baby of the family, and always has something to say. She is sassy, sweet, stubborn, and smart. Her fashion sense is hilarious. It is so different having a girl! I'm enjoying almost every minute. :)

The big boys will be 4th graders this year which I find impossible to believe. I cannot possible be old enough to have 9 year olds, right?! (Don't answer that. :)) They will be attending an online, private, classical, Christian school this fall - it will be a quite a change and I think we are all nervous and excited about it. The boys are also getting ready for their first 4-H fair and I'm having flashbacks to judging week when I was a kid - so much to do!

T will be in kindergarten and he cannot wait. I'm looking forward to our time learning together this fall. He is super athletic, loves numbers, and still has time for cuddles with mama.

Andrew started a new job this summer - it seems like a great fit and we are so grateful for it.

I'm working one day a week and thankful for the flexibility and opportunity to stay current in my field. I enjoy my patients and really love my office.

As we continue to parent children from hard places, I'm constantly reminded of the need for flexibility, grace, patience, and endurance. It is far from a one-size-fits all parenting - our parenting is different generally and different with the needs of each child. We are incredibly grateful for our support network as we have navigated some tough stuff this year. While we may not abide by "traditional" parenting books and philosophies, we have found great resources and encouragement. We have great days and good days and really bad days. What a growing and maturing process it has been for Andrew and me as we learn more about sacrificial living, sensitivity, and just how to meet the variety of needs! We are so proud of our awesome kids - their overcoming spirit, tenacity, and growth.

We are a family. We stick together. We love each other. We have fun together. We belong together.

I would like to say I will blog more frequently, but time will tell. :) There is plenty to write about - like how we actually briefly considered yurt living, how we lost a dearly loved grandma/great-grandma, how our kids enjoyed their first ocean visit, how we are using our CSA produce, how Andrew keeps me playing fantasy football... So much to say, so little time/energy. Until next time...

Beauty in Challenge


I know I have dropped off the face of the earth. It's been quite the transition in our family. E is doing great but I'm exhausted. :)

In reality, we are always working towards healing for our children who have all experienced trauma in their young year(s). Our home feels like chaos sometimes and I sometimes wish for "normal" (whatever that is) but I am thankful that this is the journey God has called us, too.

I struggle to keep balance between wife, mom, homeschooler, dental hygienist, and whatever else. I long for organization and order and rarely have it. If you drop by my house, the dishes may or may not be done, the dining room table will likely have things on it, my pantry/laundry room will most definitely have the door pulled close, and don't even think about seeing the bedrooms. :) I remember what it was like to have it all clean at one time (I LOVE organization!) and every once in awhile it happens, but mostly we are in survival mode. Nurture is more important and so I might opt to read that story or have that cuddle or play that game or go to bed or recharge over getting every bit of housework completed every day.

So, we soldier on, we make sometimes hard choices for our family, and we constantly seek to love, understand, and care for our children better. They are a delight. We love them with all of our hearts. We are proud of the people they are becoming. Our lives and priorities have changed...for the better.

Our big boys will be doing presentations about our family at our co-op this week and I asked them what they wanted to share - P stated that he wanted to tell his class where each person in our family is from and what some of our traditions are (like celebrating the Kazakh New Year). My heart nearly burst as I blinked the tears back - he is [they are] incredibly proud of our diverse and unique family and it's his story to share.

And so, in the weariness and struggles, I grieve. And yet I so often see the progress and rejoice.

Thankful and blessed.