You Win Some, You Lose Some

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Yesterday was the worst day of homeschooling we have experienced up to this point.  If it could go wrong, it did.  If it could be met with distraction, unwillingness, or whining– it was.  Cora was feeling especially needy, and as a result acted out in every way possible. (Think nail polish on the floor and on her head and toothpaste spread all over the bathroom, and that’s a start.) By 9:30 I had text my dearest friend and asked her to say a prayer for me……that kind of bad day.  At 10:30, I had to throw my arms up and say, “It’s not working right now. We’ll try again later.”  We ate lunch and had some “recess,” and we did recover some ground during Cora’s nap (bless her, she just doesn’t always enjoy Sissy and Bubby’s school time).  Homeschooling is a decision we made based on convictions and exciting opportunities, and even at it’s worse I don’t ever have second thoughts, but man, sometimes it is so hard.  Just. Hard.

Fast forward to today (ah, the promise of joy in the morning!)–we had barely finished breakfast and my phone rang.  It was my momma, and she wanted to know if she and my dad could come “borrow” Cora for the day while we did school.  A few things to insert here:

  1. I do not consider Cora the “problem” with our school days.  She is an active participant, but no matter what ANY other homeschool blog tells you–sometimes 2-year-olds just don’t want to do puzzles, color, “sensory boxes,” or play with toys.  Sometimes, they just want YOU to play with THEM.  She is not a problem, but at times, it does make it hard to have school.  I’m the first to admit that this can be a “con” of homeschooling, but not a end-all.
  2. Given the choice, I would assume my parents probably would not have chosen homeschooling as their top educational choice for their grandkids.  And yet, they have never alluded to that idea at all.  In fact ALL of the grandparents have been nothing but supportive in this decision.  Whether it is a late night text of encouragement from Andy’s mom or offers to watch the little ones from Granny, or watching my dad explore his pasture with the kids enhancing their “tree” study, we have felt so blessed to have their love in this area.

So, Cora got to spend a fun day with grandparents, and we got to spend an awesome day learning, reading and exploring.  Today might have been the BEST day of school we’ve had so far!  Today reminded me of all the things I LOVE about teaching my children.

We are studying trees in science.  We have been studying the nuts, seeds, fruits, pods of every tree we can find.  We have gone hiking and exploring.  We have researched questions and found the answers.  I adore the fact that we can read a science lesson about trees and then go outside and get hands on experience.  The kids can hold the pine cones and gather acorns lying on the ground.  They can match a walnut leaf to a walnut and know they come from the same tree. I love that the science book isn’t where they are getting the majority of their information, but they are hands-on figuring it out on their own…and having fun doing it!  Right now, we are studying the tree’s bark and learning about the differences in each tree.  We are learning to count the rings of a tree stump to learn it’s age.  We are exploring rotting tree roots to see what happens when they decompose.  It’s amazing.

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Today we discovered red berries on our dogwood tree!

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Learning about moss and bark

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Examining our only apple in the orchard!

And the best part?  One learning adventure often leads to another.  We came across this crazy caterpillar today, stopped what we were doing and ran for the magnifying glasses to check him out.  It is INCREDIBLE the creativity of the Creator!

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After some research we learned that this spiky guy is the White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar. We learned that his hair will cause an allergic reaction, and he will cocoon in a tree and emerge as a (pretty ugly) caterpillar 2 weeks later.

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Notice the questions running through her mind.

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After our observing and researching, the kids asked if they could go get their sketch books, and try to draw this creature.  They spread out a rug next to my tire, curled up with their new kitten, and colored for 30 minutes, carefully examining the caterpillar’s every feature.

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After school, they started acting very suspicious and working together on something .  As I finished cooking supper, they ran into the kitchen and yelled, “Surprise!”  Ah, again with the gifts from my children.  So precious.

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A bundle of “wildflowers,” 2 necklaces, and beautiful drawings. Be still my heart.

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“For giving love, I love Mommy.” After the struggles yesterday, I cherished the “forgiving love” too.

This homeschool journey has it’s share of twists and turns.  We win some, we lose some….but it is beautiful.  In the blink of an eye, Cora will be right there with us on grand adventures, and we will learn amazing things, and no doubt, they will have a thing or two to teach me too!

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Gifts From My Children

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My children aren’t perfect.  I know– you’re shocked.  But I can assure, they bicker and disobey and act hatefully and throw massive fits.  Despite the fact they are “normal” (I use the term loosely!) kids, they teach me abundantly about the Lord.  Every. Single. Day.  Lately, they have reminded me of the Lord’s gifts.

I like to give gifts.  Anytime a birthday or Christmas approaches, I painstakingly rack my brain for that “perfect” gift idea.  And I do love watching people receive the gifts, anticipating that they will somehow be blessed by them.  However, this is nothing in comparison to the way my children give gifts.  They don’t wait until a holiday to bless others with their gifts.  At times, it seems they spend every moment (before/after school and not sleeping) making gifts to bless the hearts of others.  I can no longer count the times Andy and I have come to bed to find a little envelope inscribed with “MOM” or “DAD” laying on our pillow.  At least a few times a week one of them will disappear for an hour and return with a beaded necklace or bracelet in the recipient’s favorite colors.  They color a dozen pictures for me a day and present them as a most cherished present.  They make things for each other, for me, and for other people outside our family.  They just LOVE to give gifts.

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Gift from Addy- She and Cora swinging

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This was an unused Christmas card she found. “Dear Mommy, It is going to get cold soon even though you don’t like it.”

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Cora’s first ever masterpiece…she kept drawing “eyes” until she ended up with this!

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My kids have learned that Mommy always likes flowers.

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“Dear Cora, I am sorry you are sick. I hope you feel better soon. I love you.” -From Addy

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Addy made a bracelet for Abe in all his favorite colors and then wrapped it with his favorite wrapping paper, followed by a gift bag. He wore it proudly the rest of the day.

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More precious than pearls.

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Just a few of the bracelets from THIS week!

 So these are all gifts just from the last few DAYS.  I mean, seriously, the kids love to shower people with gifts.  And the real kicker…..they never expect anything in return.  They don’t hand over the gift and then say, “Now what are you gonna give me?”  They don’t do it out of obligation, they do it out of love.  Sounds sort of like someone else I know.

God LOVES to bless His people.  Daily, if your eyes are open to His love, you can see His blessings in your life.  They come at times when you least expect it, they come often, and they come from LOVE.  Even in troubled times, flowers still bloom, the sun still rises, and hope still lives on.  God showers us with these things–more than we ever know–and He doesn’t say, “Now what are you going to do for me?”  He simply reminds that “My grace –my precious gift of grace–is enough.”

I’ve noticed that with God’s gifts and my children’s gifts I often take them for-granted.  I don’t give the thanks that is due, I may even consider in my sinful heart some of the gifts worthless–trash.  I may not see their beauty and full potential.  But the beautiful thing is these gift givers who were made by the Gift Giver, give on.

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 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

 

Daily, Hourly..By the Minute.

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One of my dearest friends asked me not long ago, how often I think about the child we will adopt.  “I know you think about adopting, but how often does it come to mind……every day?”

I found the question interesting.  When we first began praying and talking about it, it was on my mind every waking (and dreaming) moment.  For months I couldn’t even talk to Andy about it rationally without sobbing because the burden was so heavy.  I would lay in bed with tears rolling down my cheeks in a longing for a child I didn’t know, before we had even committed to adopt.

Then we did commit.  We filled out an application, and started a crazy 9 months of paperwork and doctor’s appointments and fingerprints.  A large weight of the burden was lifted, the moment we said, “Okay, let’s do this thing!”  Many of the tears had dried up and were replaced with excitement and purpose.  I worked diligently at organizing appointments and ordering documents, arranging our schedules to meet deadlines.  Every paper, every signature, every appointment was a reminder that the end result would be our son or daughter.  Then, we finished it.  All of it.  We sent our paperwork off, it was accepted by Bulgaria and we were placed on the wait list.  I thought that since everything had settled down, my thoughts would return to (mostly) normal.

I was wrong.

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As I prepared to answer my friend’s question, I realized that I not only think of the child (or children) that will come home to us daily, I’m not sure even a waking moment has passed in the past year and a half that they weren’t in my thoughts.  At breakfast, I check emails and Facebook groups and read the excited chatter of families travelling to bring home their children, or getting that important “call” and think about what that will be like for us.   As I begin school with Addy and the little ones, I imagine what our school table will look like with four students sitting around it. At nap times I daydream about who this child will be, and which room they will call their own.  As the kids run around the yard, I imagine one more barefooted baby joining in the mix.  I sit at church on Sunday morning, and I think about my baby preparing for supper and bed.  As I snuggle up with Addy and Abe to read a book, or rock with Cora and softly sing “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” I wonder if anyone has ever snuggled up with my baby.  I wonder if anyone has ever rocked them and sung them a lullaby.  I wonder if they must lay awake and rock themselves to sleep in a room of a dozen or more other babies who are missing another night without the touch of a mother.  When I see Cora playing with other babies, I long for the day that she gets to play the part of big sister.  When we go out in public and I do a head count to make sure all my precious ones are accounted for, I find myself time and time again, panicking when I only find 3. (I’m not yet sure if this is my sub-conscience way of realizing we aren’t complete, or that after having three kids I have lost my mind.)  When we find ourselves awake in the middle of the night with a puking child, I wonder if anyone is there to clean them up and reassure them that they will be taken care.  Is there anyone there to gently stroke their hair, and hold a cold washcloth on their forehead until they fall back to sleep?  As I’ve prepared for rummage sales, I’ve held up tiny items of clothing and wondering which ones will be worn by this child.  On good days, I’ve felt moments of grief that this child isn’t already home with us to share and add to these memories.  On bad days, when things feel like they are falling apart and the children are driving me nuts, I wonder why I ever thought I could handle another child to add to the madness.  Yesterday, as I updated my children’s pictures in the frame, I yearned for the necessity to  buy and fill another frame.  I bought different colored water bottles for each of my children to put in the camper, and bought an extra in the anticipation of our first camping trip together after we are all together.  I find myself saying things like this to Andy, “The next time we are on a flight together, I think it will be to Bulgaria,” or “I’ll bet the next time with see the ocean, we will have ALL of our children with us.”

The thing that I have found the most bizarre in this whole journey so far (and trust me, there have been a lot of bizarre things) is that I believe there is a newborn baby laying in an orphanage crib right now,  and that baby is mine.  I can not wrap my mind around this phenomenon.  I have a child halfway around the world at the very moment your eyes are reading these words, and I don’t know them.  They will be fully our child and I can not know them for possibly 2 more years. How can this make sense?  It is impossible to imagine where or what that sweet baby is doing right now.  I am able to trust that God is holding them gently in the dark places, and I pray daily that He will place hope in their hearts, even now, that we are coming to bring them home.

I long for them to know that they were always wanted, and their home was prepared for them much in advance, in the same way our Heavenly Father promises that He has prepared us a home.  I want them to know there wasn’t ever a time that they weren’t thought about and loved….daily, hourly, by the minute.

Throwback Thursday: A Look back at God’s Faithfulness

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To the outsider, I don’t have a very exciting testimony.  “I was lost, and now I’m found,” may not necessarily put people on the edge of their seat.  That’s okay, it changed my world.

I didn’t have an overnight conversion.  I look back now and see God’s slow steady hand pulling me nearer to Him.  My first memories of God include a little girl, barely old enough to read and write, hiding in my downstairs closet writing a song of praise song.  (I can vaguely remember some of the lyrics going something like this, “Even in a car wreck, He’s still there.” Hey, you gotta start somewhere.)

I can remember riding home from VBS with my best friend form elementary school asking her what I had to do to be saved. Another year or so, and I can remember swiping a brochure off a church table at the state fair about how to know Jesus.

A few years later, right before starting high school, my best friend invited me to church camp with her.  This was when God truly began to reveal His realness to me.  It was no longer about religion, it was about Jesus–a man.  Church camp gave me older mentors and teachers who showed me what a beautiful life of Christ could look like.  They made me realize I wasn’t alone in this.  But, aside from God drawing me to Him during these years, He also always had other blessings in store during these summers….

 

 

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After my senior year, God sent me to Bulgaria.  Before I left I told that guy in the picture that I did not love him and did not want to date him.  But then to ease the blow of those words, I added, “But I’m sure God could change my heart.” (Oh, the irony.)  I proceeded to go to Bulgaria, and here is what I would tell that girl sitting on the highest building in Varna:

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“You know all those things you thought you knew about the world and about other people?  You have no idea…..you don’t know everything and you are not any less of a sinner than them.  Remember that guy you just told you didn’t love?  You are going to fall madly in love with him in a few weeks and know you could never live life without him.  The two of you are going to have adventures unlike any other, and then three precious babies are going to become the adventure.  Then, someday (before you know it) God is going to send you on the craziest adventure yet, and He is going to bring you back to the very soil you are standing on to find your next baby.  Here in this beautiful land, with it’s beautiful children, delicious food, and breathtaking coast–here is where one of your children will be born.”

So my “throwback Thursday” is a reflection on God’s faithfulness in my life.  THAT is my testimony…..and it keeps ME on the edge of my seat!

Remember the marvels He has done….He is the Lord our God!

Psalm 105:5,7

…And your night will be like the noonday!

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Oh, I don’t even know where to begin with this blog post.  I suppose I’ll start with the background information.   Some of you may remember me talking about My New Favorite Book I Hate a few months ago, and then (again) mentioning Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven: An Exerimental Mutiny Against Excess as one of my favorite books ever in this past blog post. And although I loved reading the book, I was having a frustrating time figuring out how to apply what I learned into my life.  I knew God had more for me than just reading the book, and (as He usually does) He opened a door to show me what that “more” would be.  A fellow friend saw my blog post and contacted me, saying, “Would you believe a group of girls in the next town are just starting a bible study on this book?!”  (Why should I be surprised?)

So I (sort of) invited myself to join this group of women that I knew almost nothing about.  For those of you who know me–this is a bit out of my character (and comfort zone).  They gladly included me, and I found deep encouragement and inspiration from these ladies who are dealing with the same struggles, desires, and hopes for doing this one life well.  We have, sometimes painfully, trudged our way through these area of excess and sin in our lives, shining light into places we didn’t realize were dark.  It has been enlightening and somewhat shocking, as we’ve brought awareness to the ways we actually support injustice in the world.  We’ve combatted (and it truly felt like battle at times) our American dream…aka “entitlement” to food, clothing, spending, waste, stress, media, and possessions.

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I tell you that to get to my main point–I don’t want to add to the darkness in this world.  I want my whole life to be a beacon of light, shining hope into a despairing world.  I don’t want my life’s goal to be being as comfortable, wealthy, and aquiring as much “stuff” as possible so I can impress people.  I want to be intentional with this thing.  I want to be active. I want to combat injustice, advocate for the orphan, satisfy the desires of the afflicted, feed the hungry, love without borders, be blind to social status.  I want to care.  That is why this bible study is becoming such a catalyst for me.  You have to be aware before you can act.

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Through this study a new light was shone on 6 verses in Isaiah 58.  I have read these verses probably 300 times in last few weeks, and each time they have more value, more purpose in my life.  These verses are becoming my life’s song….the goal to which I am striving to attain with the rest of my days.  I am trying with all my might to inscript these verses on my heart, so they will live there permanently and remind me of who I am and whom I serve.

I share these with you hoping they will restore light as they did to me.  As a short background, this is God speaking to the Israelites.  They had become wealthy, living comfortable lives, doing “religious” things, and justifying themselves to God.  They thought life was going just perfectly, but in reality they were selfish, only serving themselves and neglecting the suffering around them (sound familiar?).

Please read these verses slowly, let them sink in, imagine how our lives would be transformed if we lived like this:

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Isaiah 58 6-12

I desperately want my light to break forth like the dawn, I want to hear Him say “Here I am,” I want to pour myself out to those in need.  For my light to rise in the darkness, for the night to be like the noonday, to be a well watered garden, a spring of life in a dry and weary land.  I long to live my life in a way to raise up the foundations of many generations to come.  I want God’s light in my life to repair brokenness, and to restore the sacred places.  I won’t accomplish all these things; I’ll return to selfishness and apathy many times, but my spirit tells me these things matter enough to try.

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6 Month Mark

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On August 3rd, we hit our 6 month mark for our paperwork sitting in Bulgaria waiting for the divine moment when our file gets pulled and matched.  This means we’ve been doing this thing for a total of 16 months so far.  When we started, I thought it would be unbearable.  I thought every moment of every day I would find myself wringing my hands and wondering what was taking so long.  However (thankfully) I have not.  Rather than getting weighed down by it all, I have actually found myself embracing it and feeling liberated to action.  I realize that we potentially have years of waiting still ahead of us, but for this time, I can be thankful that God called me to action and got my mind on higher things.

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It wasn’t much after we got officially registered that Courtney asked me about working together to raise funds for the Maria Luisa Orphanage, and we have worked efficiently at planning fundraisers for the past 5 months. This left little time to sit and wallow in self-pity, but rather lit a spark to move.  The past 6 “adoption” months of waiting have not only gone quickly with little thought of “the call,” but they have passed joyfully, being filled with richer blessings than at any other time in my faith.

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Makes me sorta wonder if God wanted to teach me this lesson all along, huh?  When we take our eyes off of ourselves, and work towards HIS Kingdom, He gives joy and peace where doubt and anxiety might have otherwise dwelt.

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I know this emotional journey will ebb and flow, and there will be moments that I forget God already knows this story, moments when doubt creeps in, but right now–today–we are 6 months closer to our baby!

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