Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Plethora of Things

Rick, Lauren, and Abby just left to go shopping at the outlet mall in Castle Rock.  That should be interesting.  We talked about all of us going, but decided that it would not be fun for those who don't like to shop which would make it not fun for those that do like to shop.  

I baffle myself sometimes.  I know without a doubt that I am an extrovert, BUT I find that during school breaks(Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break), I just want to stay home and be a recluse.  I think it is because I am going SO MUCH on a daily basis, that I just need the down time.  The weather here does not help that.  It has been snowing and cold and I DO NOT want to get out in it.    If Spring Break here meant swimming and sun, I would be all over it.  I just want to keep on my jammies and read a good book.  I am getting to do some of that this week.  It is nice.

We took Cody, Lauren, and Abby to see "The Thorn" on Friday night.  It is an amazing performance that goes from creation to Jesus' Resurrection.  We saw it last year with Lauren and left there thinking we need to take the other big ones.  It did not disappoint.  I pretty much cried through the whole thing.  Easter does that to me.  It is such a time of reflection on the ugliness of humanity rivaled by the fierce, beautiful, extravagant, sacrificial love of God.  I feel like observing Lent this year has added to the sacredness of this season.  I still plan to share my thoughts on Lent when it is complete.  It was an experiment that I learned a lot from.  

There are a lot of extremes that people proclaim during this season.  It reminds me of the debates that go on at Christmas over making Jesus the center vs. the consumerism that is so prevalent in our culture.  I really am a person who believes in balance.  We have several traditions that are focused on Jesus where we embrace all that this time represents(Good Friday service, Easter Service, watching "The Passion", Family Communion, Resurrection Eggs, Making Tombs and Resurrection Cookies).  We also color Easter eggs, do an egg hunt, and have a little scavenger hunt on Easter morning.  All of these things together make this a special time of year that set it apart as a holy time.  I stopped buying Easter outfits a couple of years ago because I just couldn't justify the expense in light of all that I have seen around the world.  BUT, I don't really fault those who do.  It just seems like the right decision for our family.  Heck, clothing 8 people in Easter duds is much more expensive than 4.  Enough rambling.  I have just been thinking a lot about this and get so frustrated by the extremes in both directions especially among the Christian community.  There seems to be a lot finger pointing over the "correct" way to celebrate Christian holidays.  Why can't we just all get along?  That became way more of a soapbox than I intended for it to be.

Last week, Rick and I went to a student-led parent/teacher conference for Laila.  If you don't know this already, she is painfully shy.  That morning she was sitting on the stairs in tears anticipating the time.  She kept saying, "But, I can't read."  She was so upset and nervous.  She was afraid she would mess up.  It broke my heart, but inside I knew this would be a good challenge for her.  I also bribed her with cotton candy.

She was very solemn the whole way there, on the verge of tears.  I kept talking her through it.  We met Rick and had a chance to look through some of her classroom photo albums before we went in.  Those served as a distraction to her.  
This was her "lesson plan" as the teacher
 Mystery Box
 Sorting the animals
 Writing the number (16)
 Counting with the pointer
 Notice her expression.  The part she had been dreading
 She did beautifully and even remembered some very hard words that are not a normal part of her vocabulary. (She did not read the book, but they had memorized it as a class)
 Her presentation was showing us the picture she had made out of a square.
It was an alligator in a river.  I could see the alligator.
Guess who got herself some cotton candy?  I bought her 2 bags because I knew she would share it all with her siblings and not have any left for herself.  She is so giving.

 This is my ride for the week, a 2013 Yukon XL, while our truck gets fixed.
Not nearly as cool looking as my truck with the smooth rims, but brand new with some nice features.
My favorites are the camera in the back that comes on when I am in reverse and the XM radio.
 A rare moment where 4 of my children are getting along(something that must be captured on film)
Speaking of getting along.  I have a funny story that I don't want to forget.  Sam and Isaiah have been fighting quite a bit lately.  During one of their "double time-outs"we were talking through their feelings and making sure they had resolved everything.  Then, Sam says to me, "Don't we have to hug now?"  That is something we do with the younger ones, but not necessarily with the older ones.  Thinking he would not want to do it, I asked, "Do you want to hug?"  Sam's answer, "Kind of."  That just melted my heart. 
 That is who Sam is.  At his core, he is such a sweet, tenderhearted little man.  His smile literally does light up a room.  One day, he said to me, "I tried to smile all day today, but it started to hurt."  I don't know many 9 year old boys who attempt a day of smiling.  Even at 9, he still hugs and kisses me without prompting.  I can't even express with words how much I love him.
Rick and I got Starbucks yesterday.  When I went to put my drink in the fridge, I saw Rick's drink on the left.  So, I added my on the right.  Later, when I opened the fridge, Cody had created the Starbucks cup in the middle.  That gave me a good laugh.  I am really impressed with his artwork!
Spring break continues.  Rick is off from work.  We are staying up late and sleeping in.  Last night was a Duck Dynasty marathon.  We laughed so hard.  I love that show and love our times of laughing together.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Turn, turn, turn

The days just keep passing by.  I cannot believe it is the end of March.  I have the words of the song, "To everything turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn and a time to every purpose under Heaven" going through my head right now because it just feels like this year is going so quickly.  As I look at my pictures, our days continue to be full.  

For those of you who were following the World Water Day Raffle that Mandy did on her blog.  I just wanted to share the results with you.  At last count, she has raised $5,596.00!!  That is more than enough for a complete water system.  I am so excited for her and so excited to be able to be a part of reaching that goal!!
Sam had Native American Day at school
(He was happy with his costume.  I was relieved for it to be so simple)
 This is the damage done to my truck by the "hit and run" incident.
 It is amazing to me that this is $1,000 worth of damage.  I am so thankful that it is all being covered by the other person's insurance and that a witness was there to take down the info for us.  The kids just loved having a police officer come to our house.  I thought about asking him if I could take his picture for my blog, but wasn't sure how he would feel about that!
Isaiah wanted to be bald.  He loves it!!
 Grammy and Papa sent Starbucks cards for Valentine's Day
 I drove them in their jammies to cash those in.  
Isaiah got hot chocolate and Laila got a caramel apple spice drink.  
 Isaiah had his 100th day of school.
 He needed a shirt with 100 items on it.  We chose googly eyes
This is his "I got my eyes on you" look
 Making a necklace with 100 beads

He gave the necklace to me because "it has every color and will match everything I wear!" 
So, if you see me wearing it ALL THE TIME, you will know why (Sorry about the demon eyes)
 His "100" snack
 They walked 100 feet.  This was the shoe he decorated.
 All decked out in full 100's day attire
 I just had to capture how Isaiah sleeps every night.  
 Along with all the kids getting hair cuts this week, It was time for new braids for Laila.  I took out her braids a week ago and gave her hair a week for moisturizing and "resting".  Yesterday, we went to Ms. Marjorie's house to braid it again. While I was taking out Laila's braids, I discovered 2 different ones that she had cut off.  Lovely.  Ms. Marjorie saved the day and was able to braid those spots in so that they are not even noticeable.
Can you believe how long her hair is???
 So this braiding experience was not nearly as traumatic for all of us as they have been in the past.  I have been trying a new product on her hair, and I am very happy to say that it has worked remarkably well.  Marjorie could tell a huge difference in the health and dryness of her hair.  Also, because it was so much more moisturized, the braiding was a lot less painful for Laila.  She only cried a short bit at the beginning when Marjorie was combing it out. That is HUGE progress and made the day so much less stressful for all 3 of us!!
Our pretty girl!
You have to check out this website.  I not only love the products that I have tried, but love that they are all natural and very high quality.  I am so on board with supporting these products and the family that makes them.  Their story is truly inspiring.  Go check it out.  Really, that Hair and Body Butter is worth EVERY PENNY.  I am also in LOVE with the Lip Butter.

Friday, March 22, 2013

World Water Day!!

Today is World Water Day.  I shared with you a couple of weeks ago the raffle that is going on at my friend, Mandy's blog.  We are so close to reaching that goal of $5,000 which will fund a new water system. 

Mandy has some amazing items for raffle.  Many of them you do not have to even live here to win.  

How cool would it be to add to your list of accomplishments today to be able to say, "Oh, and I helped fund a water system in Uganda!"

This program is about so much more than just clean water.  By the way, have you thought about how much you take clean water for granted?  

It is about empowering.  It is about sustainability.  It is about taking people beyond survival.  Hmmm, catchy name.  I feel pretty passionate about doing that.

"A well system means a well for at least 250 people in a village, a job for a caretaker to collect and sell water and a trained mechanic nearby. "

Mandy has added some new items to her raffle.  Oh, how I love that Africa necklace!! 
Every donation you make gets us closer to that goal of $5,000.  Every donation you make gets YOU closer to winning something really cool.  Every donation you make will change the lives of hundreds of people.  

Now, that my friends, is a pretty big accomplishment!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Snaggle Tooth

This picture says it all!  A-Dor-A-Ble

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mixed Blessings

I have experienced some really great blessings over the last couple of weeks.

Amidst those has been some drama, some stress, and maybe a little crying.

I just love it when God provides what we need.  I REALLY love it when God provides some things that we want.

I have experienced both of those provisions over the last 2 weeks and it just strengthens and encourages my faith so much each time it happens.

I feel like I should share God's goodness right now, not just for me to remember in the future, but maybe for someone reading this.  (Someone reading it now, or one of my kids reading it when they are older.)

I think I will break it down into Drama and Blessings.

~The Drama began last week with our garage door breaking.  It was broken for over a week while we waited for the part to come in.  I realized during that time how thankful I am for a garage to park my truck in.  We are used to loading up in a semi-warm vehicle each morning and NEVER having to scrape windows.  That was not the case for the last week.  The day it was fixed, I might have done a little happy dance in the garage!

~At the beginning of this year, I began making a list of household items that I wanted to save up for and purchase throughout the year.  One of those items was cast iron cookware.  I planned to buy a piece at a time and build up my collection.  Well, God just totally blew that out of the water when a friend gifted me with her set of cookware as she upgrades to something different.  WOW! What a Blessing!  Thank you God, and thank you friend for being so generous.  Now, all I need to get is a big pan to cook on the stove with and my set will be complete!!

~The Drama continues around here with a cold that is being passed around.  So far, it has taken out Lauren, Laila, Sam, and the newest member down, is ME!  I feel icky today.  I honestly would just prefer everyone to be sick all at once and get it over with.  Someone has been sick in our house since the beginning of February!

~Cody's wrestling season is winding down.  He had his last matches this week and will end the season tomorrow with a tournament.  He was injured in the ribs a couple of weeks ago, but has still been wrestling as much as he can endure.  The highlight of the season came this Tuesday when he had his first pin!!  I was so Blessed to be there to see that big moment.

~Just moments later, we a had a dramatic moment that continues to cause me stress.  I went to get in my truck after the match and someone had hit my vehicle and fled the scene.  The Blessing in all of this is that there was a witness that got all the info needed to catch the person.  Now, I am dealing with the drama of getting estimates and getting it fixed, but that $1,000 bill is being covered by the other person's insurance.  I can't stop thanking God for protecting us in this situation!!

~I was so Blessed to be able to send the money from our Giving of Life Grant and some other donations to the ABC Ministry in Swaziland this week.  I can't even express how excited I get to support the amazing work of Robyn and Gerry Richter!!  Thank you to everyone who invested in this project!

~I am reminded how Blessed I am with amazing friends over the last 2 weeks.  I have been able to spend time with some quality women who love the Lord, challenge me, and encourage me.  I know they are good friends when I can leave my time with them refreshed and encouraged!

~Operation Hair Braiding and Haircuts begins tomorrow.  Over the next week, I need to get Laila's braids out, get her hair moisturized, get new braids, and get haircuts for the rest of the kids.  That involves lots of Drama around here!

~Last night we were Blessed with not only a fun visit with a good friend, but she brought over all kinds of amazing clothes for Lauren, Abby, and me to look through.  It is like Christmas around here!!

In my old age (smile), I feel like I am settling into the ups and downs of life.  I am seeking desperately to see God in ALL of it and to keep the perspective of eternity more.  As I shared in a previous post, being able to commune with God in the midst of all the chaos is where I want to live!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Speak Life

God really speaks to me, ministers to me, and challenges me through music.  I can look back at our adoption journey and name very specific songs that God used during that time to call us, to affirm His calling, and to encourage us through the challenges.  For the last few years, I have chosen a theme song each year that has been a huge part of my journey that year.  My kids make fun of me for this.  I think they think it's cheesy.  I don't care.  

As the new year approached, I didn't really feel like I had my song for 2013.  The last few years, the songs have been about trusting God,  the pain I have struggled through and God's work in my life through that pain.  This year feels different to me.  I feel like I have experienced a lot of closure and am ready to move forward in freedom from some of the chains that have bound me so long.  Usually, I hear my song for the year, and I just know that's it.  January came and went and I still didn't have a song for this year.  

In February, a few days before I was supposed to leave for Hawaii, our neighbor's house caught on fire.  It was devastating for them, and they will not be able to live in their home again for at least a year.  From every indication I have, they do not have a relationship with the Lord.  As we walked through that week with them, helped them gather items from their home, gave them some clothes to get them through, and listened to them as they processed, God showed me what it is to "grieve without hope."  When everything you have is in this world, there is no hope when it is all gone.  It broke my heart.  As I was talking to her, I felt like God wanted me to encourage her.  The phrase that went through my mind was "speak life to her."  Later that day, I listened to this song on my ipod:

It was at that moment that I knew this was to be my song this year.  I have spent a couple of years growing, being needy, and healing.  Now, it is time for me to give.  Give to my family.  Give to my church.  Give to those in need around me.  Continue to give to those in Swaziland.

Every day with my kids, I have an opportunity to speak life or to speak death into them.

Every day with my husband, I have the opportunity to speak life or death to him.

Every day with my friends, I have the opportunity to speak life or death to them.

Every day at the stores I shop, I have the opportunity to speak life  or death into the people I encounter.

I could go on and on.

To be completely honest I don't always speak life.  In fact, I have the gift of sarcasm.  I tend toward funny, witty, cutting statements that don't usually build people up.  I have learned to tame my tongue a bit over the years, but I have a lot more work I need to do.  I tend to err on the side of pessimism and as a perfectionist, I see the things that are wrong before I see all of the things that are right.  I am asking God to bring this song to my mind in those moments.  I am also using this phrase with my children along with the verses in James that deal with the tongue.

I have this reminder that I see on my windowsill as I do dishes:

    Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Big Opportunity

I want to share with you and opportunity to invest.  This is an opportunity to sew and reap.  I really don't feel like I need to give a strong explanation here because Mandy does it so well.

I was able to be a part of this project last year and will be going to the exclusive party on World Water Day.  Not to mention the fact that I won the enchiladas and guacamole last year.  Delicious!!

I believe in the Adventure Project.  I believe in clean water.  I believe in creating jobs.

Here is your opportunity to be involved, too!!

Check out Mandy's blog to read more about it!!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

From Chaos to Communion

I woke up today surrounded by drama.  Actually the drama began yesterday.

Cody stayed home from school sick.

We actually had a good afternoon together.  We watched some shows together that he really likes while I made strawberry jam (25 jars of strawberry jam)!  It felt so good to check that off my list.  I was trying to complete that task while strawberries were on sale this week.

I was heading out to do the school pickups when I went to open the garage door(like I do every day).  Well, that was not happening.  The door would open about 3 inches and then go back down.

I started to panic because I needed to pick up the kids, especially Laila.  Her school has a very strict pickup schedule without much grace for being late.  Also, Laila starts crying these huge, silent crocodile tears if I am not the first mom in her room at pickup time.

I called Rick.  We couldn't figure out how to fix the door while on the phone so he headed to pick up Laila.  I called my friend, Jessica, to see if she could bring home the other kids.  I just used the door earlier in the day and it worked fine.

After all of that drama, the final verdict is that the spring broke.  They have to order the part.  It will cost several hundred dollars.  Yippee!!

Our evening continued to be dramatic for so many reasons that I won't go into.  Let's just say, I was glad to see bedtime come.

Today, I woke up kind of hoping for a delayed start of school from the small snowstorm we had the night before.  No such luck.

I proceeded to be bombarded with drama all around me.

~1 sick kid.  What?  It is TCAPs(That is the CO testing).  You can't miss school.  This was more than just a child being sick.  This was an ongoing set of sickness related issues with the same child that is just wearing me thin.  I want to be compassionate.  I want to be loving.  In reality, I am just weary.

~1 kid needing to dress up for school and not being happy about it.  This then results in this kid expressing that frustration in verbal assaults on the rest of us.

~2 kids that are fighting all morning.  One is driving the other absolutely crazy.  A person can only take so much.  So, the second kid goes postal.

~1 kid that cannot find shoes.  You see, this is a frustrating thing because this happens almost every morning with this kid.  I have a system.  This kid does not use this system.  The result,  frustration for both the kid and me.

~I discover that one kid has once again hidden clean laundry in the bottom of the closet to keep from the work of hanging it up.  There is more to this story than just laundry undone.  It is about deception, hiding and lying that is an ongoing issue.

Well that pretty much covers all 6 kids.  By the time I sat down in my truck seat to leave.  Oh, I need to mention that I normally park my truck in the garage.  Since the door is broken, it was parked outside.  The temperature was 14 degrees and the windows were covered in ice.  Not an earth shattering problem, but just ONE MORE THING to deplete me.

On top of all of this, I have been battling with some drama in my own mind.  That are some ongoing battles that I struggle with.  They have been unusually strong over the last couple of weeks.  I also have some ongoing hurt and wounding that I am still processing and working through.  That has been a point of struggle for me over the last several days as well.

As part of Lent, Lauren read our next devotional from this booklet.  It has been a good little reading for us to do together each morning to put our focus where it should be for the day.  We aren't even on the right day for where we should be, but I believe God had this reading for me this day.  Here is what it said:

I am calling you to a life of constant communion with Me.  Basic training includes learning to live above your circumstances, even while interacting on that cluttered plane of life.  You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with Me can be uninterrupted.  But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world.  Accept each day just as it comes, and find Me in the midst of it all.
Talk with Me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings.  Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing withe Me.  A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with Me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.  Do not let your to-do list(written or mental) become an idol directing your life.  Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment.  He will keep you close to Me.
~40 Days with Jesus by Sarah Young

Yes sir, Jesus, sir!  (said with my hand saluting).  I miss the point so often.  I have been frustrated that all of these things are distracting me from my "time with Jesus" especially during this time of Lent.  I have been mad at times that I am not getting that "sacred time" with Him that I am so craving and desiring.  This morning the drama was consuming me and it would have been really easy to blame all of my kids for keeping me from Jesus.   You know what, He wants me to be able to seek Him in the midst of it all.  To see Him in the midst of it all.  To see Him despite of it all.  

Usually when we read our devotional, I ask them questions about how they can apply it to their day.  Not today, I had to humbly admit to them why I needed to hear this lesson and how I was going to adjust my attitude according to what it said.  

It is easy to commune with God when we are all alone and have no distractions.  That doesn't take maturity.  It takes maturity to commune with Him when everything is unraveling all around me.  It is in those moments that He has the most to say and the most to teach.

So, today I CHOOSE(and I do believe it is a choice) to commune in the chaos.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Living the "Bittersweet"

I have shared before about the book "Bittersweet" by Shauna Niequist.  It has really helped me in so many ways, but specifically with my perspective on life.  I had this view in the past, that life is an all or nothing thing.  Everything is all good or all bad.  Living with that expectation is a surefire way for discouragement.  Her argument in the book is that life really is a mixture of the bitter right along with the sweet and in every bit of the bitter, sweet can be found.  Knowing that, centers me on those days where the bitter seems to outweigh the sweet.  It challenges me to look for the sweet amongst the bitter, and to approach life with the willingness to embrace whatever comes my way.  Now, I am not always graceful about it, but I have an awareness that I didn't have in the past that tends to temper my extreme reactions a bit(a teeny bit)!

I have shared, that with 6 children, I pretty much have someone upset to deal with all the time or someone disgruntled about something in this family at any given moment throughout the day.  That can make for a very bitter taste in my mouth as I desire harmony and peace in our household.  I want my kids to take hold of this "bittersweet" concept much earlier in life than I did so that they can have a more balanced perspective.  I want them to be able to pluck out those sweet, ripe fruits that melt in your mouth hidden within the bitter, bruised, mushy fruit of life.  I want them to appreciate how God has blessed them.  I have to be the example of that to them.    

I have been back from Hawaii for over 2 weeks now.  (I am still trying to say the word "Hawaii" in as many conversations as possible just keep the reality of it alive!)  I have encountered the bittersweet A LOT and thought I would share some it with you.  

I am sitting at home right now instead of going to church after a long night of little sleep.  Isaiah has a fever and his "waist is sore".  What kind of symptoms are those?  That is the only description he can give me.  So, I made some coffee, had some garlic cheese grits, set the kids(Sam, Isaiah, and Laila)  up with a movie, and set out to watch our church service via live stream.  Well, the website isn't working so I sit here typing this post and plan on doing some of my Lent reading next.  (On a sidenote, God is teaching me some lessons through my first Lenten Season that I will share in another post.)  Cody and Lauren are on the youth retreat, Avalanche, with church, and I have been praying that God would really reach into their hearts with His love for them during this time away.  

Cody is in the midst of his second season of wrestling.  Last year, he did not win any matches.  He headed into this year determined to come out with some wins.  He has won several matches so far and has become quite the wrestler.  

I still think this sport is a bit disturbing.  The singlets that they wear are the first obstacle to overcome when watching the sport.  Even worse is sitting through a match watching your child(I say "child" because there are girls that wrestle.  Yeah, that's a tricky one for a boy.  Cody has not had to face that obstacle yet and would most likely forfeit a match if he did.  It just makes me think of the line in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."  "She's a girl.  Where do I grab?")  Man, I am getting distracted easily today.  
That is Cody in blue
Watching him do this for 3 minutes is exhausting.
When it is over, I feel like I have been wrestling.  
The winner is...
Good job, Cody!!

This is pretty much a bitter part of every day for me, dishes.  
I pretty much spend half of my life doing something related to food, shopping for it, cooking it, cleaning up after it.  I cannot let one meal go by without cleaning up or my whole main level would be covered with dirty dishes!!
Have I mentioned the 3 snowstorms we have had since I returned from HAWAII?!?!
Lauren is using the ice block maker to make a house.  The sun doesn't really hit our back yard so this will most likely stay there until April.  With each storm, she can add more blocks to her house.

Abby making a snowman
Abby's snowman
We were so excited to have friends from Swaziland visit this week.  
Isaiah and Laila were helping me get the house ready for their visit.
(Don't look at all the dirty dishes on the counter!)
It just warms my heart to see these 3 play together!
Sam had a very special friend that he met when he was just a little guy.  (I think he was 2 or 3 when he met her).  Her name is Hadley Rae.  She had some very severe disabilities and had to be in a wheelchair. She was not able to talk or play with Sam, but that didn't matter.  They had a very special bond and from the day Sam met her, he became her prayer warrior.  He literally prayed for her every day from the day he met her until the day she went to be with Jesus at the age of 12.  2 years ago, we had to say goodbye to Hadley from this earth.  Sam has grieved this loss in ways that are heartbreaking.  Last week, Hadley's family was so kind to let him come to see her room and pick out one of her blankets to have.  He has not stopped smiling about this blanket and has used it nonstop since he brought it home.  He has processed his grief at a new level since that time.  I love Sam's tender heart and the special relationship he had with this amazing little girl.  We talk a lot about what Hadley is doing in Heaven now that her body is completely healed and she is now whole.  
Someone has been losing teeth.  This picture is Isaiah, Laila, and me on a walk.
Isaiah and I went on a date this week to see "Wreck-it Ralph."  He was thrilled to have his very own bucket of popcorn!  It was as big as him!
The sweetest part of my life is this group of people.  Being blessed with them makes all of the bitter seem not so hard to handle.
Did I mention that I went to Hawaii a couple of weeks ago?
This is what I see in my head when the snow is falling outside!