Bread and Wine

I brought my first daughter into the world on the same day of the year that my mother brought her first daughter into the world (me!).  I have loved every single aspect of sharing a birthday with my daughter…..I love the way it binds us together, I love the birthday outings together, the party planning together, the fun, and …..the gifts.  I’ll be honest, no 32-year-old woman should receive as many birthday cards and gifts as I do.  I give Addy Rose the credit for it.  People naturally enjoying celebrating a child’s birthday with extra love, attention, cards and gifts, so when they think about her, it is a natural progression to remember my birthday too.  We just celebrated another birthday, and we were both showered with love and thoughts and gifts.

That said, my husband is becoming a really great gift-giver, and truly outdid himself this year with thoughtful presents to bestow upon me.  Ugandan-made Sseko T-strap sandals….be still my heart.  He also got me 2 books by Shauna Niequist for my birthday.  I hadn’t heard of her previously, and didn’t know anything about the books, but he knew I would love them.  He knows me well.  I have only read the introduction and first chapter of Bread and Wine, and I am already in love.lindsay-letters-breadwine_1024x1024

You know a book is going to be great when it has you at, “Introduction.”

I just can’t get past this paragraph:

“My friend Nancy is a nature person. To know her is to know that the created world–mountains, wildflowers, sunshine–is the tie that binds her to God, that demonstrates his presence to her in the deepest ways. For my dad, it’s the water. The sounds and smells and rituals of life on the water bind him to God in ways that nothing else does. For my husband, Aaron, it’s music. And for me it’s the table—it makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit…creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table.”

It’s so interesting to think that God reveals Himself to people through different ways of beauty. It made me think…..how does God communicate with me deeply?

I have to say the times I have felt “in communion” with the Maker, have been in the deep, untouched stillness of His creation AND in creating food in love for others.  Two very different things, but definitely the things that resonate with me the most.  To be sure, God speaks and moves in the day to day of our lives, but there are absolutely moments where your soul is stirred more than usual.  I’ve been thinking of those moments today–the times where distractions are stripped away, and beauty and mountains and yeast and berries are what speak love loudly.

These moments have been when I understand Him the most, see Him the most clearly.  I am so thankful we get to experience such beauty and grace in this life.

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The rugged Oregon coast

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The base of Multnomah Falls

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The grandeur of the Redwoods

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Hiking around Cathedral Rock

 

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Sunset over the Grand Canyon

 

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Hiking the Grand Canyon

 

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Red Rocks of Sedona

 

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Hiking out of the Grand Canyon

 

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Sharing a special family recipe with those I love

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Preserving fruit

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Harvesting our garden and sharing the abundance with others

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Turning yeast and flour and water into daily bread

Now, I’m so curious, how does God speak to you? <3

Life on the Doormat

People often use the terms “God will open or close doors” in certain situations in life, revealing more of His will or purpose for you.  However, we have been living for 3 weeks now on the doormat.  Standing at the door, patiently waiting and seeking– longing to see if God is going to open the door or shut it in our face.  It’s this “doormat” that is so difficult.  This not knowing how a certain situation is going to end up.  Limbo.

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Life is easier when it is black and white.  Gray can seem so foggy, and it’s sometimes hard to make sense of.  It’s easy to lose patience and want to do things yourself instead of letting God make the situation beautiful in His time.  Or it’s easier to just give in to fear instead of trusting that He is in control.

It’s as if I think He doesn’t know I am at the door, and so I just keep knocking harder and harder, trying to figure out how to get in on my own.  I’m so very thankful that He doesn’t get annoyed by the pounding, and leave.  Rather,  He knows the waiting is for my own good, and he’s simply, quietly saying through the door,

“I’m coming.”

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.  Worry not……

Snow Days

In theory, I love snow days.  I like the idea of no school, Andy getting snowed in with us, baking and crafting all day, sledding and hot chocolate.  However, the reality looks more like Andy  going to work no matter what the roads are like, the kids and I still doing school, and as for the baking and crafting–just making more messes to clean up.  Add that to be cooped up days on end and it ends up looking more like a psych ward than a snow globe.

And yet, there is something to be said about the way everything slows down.  When I stop to appreciate not being able to run ourselves to death, and see the messes for the fun that was had, I can be thankful.  This has been true the last 2 weeks.  God has placed some pretty monumental possibilities in our path right now, and I have used the slow, quiet, cold to prepare my heart.  I have been able to seek Him more and loosen my grip on some overwhelming fears.  I have been reminded that I am so deeply loved by my Savior.

As we have “weathered” the (snow)storm, I find myself singing the lyrics of this beautiful song over and over.  They have provided peace and joy.  What comfort to know He knows the names of my fears and sorrows!

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Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him
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He knows the names of my sorrows
He knows the names of my fears
Why should I let them bother me
For I know he is near

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Oh to be loved by Jesus
Oh to be loved by Him
Oh to have joy and peace within
Oh to be loved by Him

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And if no other will love me
In this life I own
There’d be no love I would long for
I know I am His own

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Oh to Be Loved By Jesus- Thad Cockrell

 

Guarding Your Heart

I have been told many times since we decided to adopt to “guard my heart.”  I’ve even told myself that a few times.  Guard your heart when you look at small faces with great needs, lest you fall in love, give into hope, and have your heart shattered.  I’ve tried to be diligent in this task– this protecting my heart from pain.  The scriptures even say,

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Psalm 4:23

And yet, God is making it quite clear to me that this “guarding of my heart”–this act of protecting myself–is not the context He meant for adoption.  God is a God of love, of hope, of second chances, of families.  There are real little children, real stories and faces and names and hurts and heartbreaks, and they deserve to be loved.  They don’t need someone to say, “I’m guarding my heart against the pain of loving you.”  They need someone to say, “This could end in sorrow, but the potential for joy and love far outweigh any pain.   You are worth loving at any expense.”

Jesus didn’t come into our broken world and guard His heart against the things that could cause him pain…..the people who might hurt Him.  Rather He poured Himself into them.  He met them where they were–in all their pain and brokenness and disease–and He loved them.  This was done without the thought of whether they might love Him back in return.

In the adoption world, we sometimes become afraid of loving a child we may not have a future with.  Almost as though that love could ever be in vain.

It’s so very clear to me now that this “guarding of our heart” isn’t a call to keep our love to ourselves…this isn’t the context at all.  Rather, I believe He would want us pour all of ourselves out to those who need it the most.

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My favorite singer/ songwriter, Jill Phillips, recently came out with an album called Mortar and Stone.  On it is a song called “Broken Heart” and she expounds upon this abandoned heart so beautifully:

There are other ways that Jesus could’ve saved the world
Ones that wouldn’t end up with him dead
He could have done it with an order from the throne of God
But he did it with a broken heart instead

So I’ll take a broken heart …
Cause a broken heart is better than one that doesn’t feel

In the Wait

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Adoption is the truest roller coaster.  Some days pass with gentle joy and anticipation, a sweet longing for a child you do not yet know.

And then, there are days–like today– where the wait is excruciating.  Where the physical weight of it seems too much to bear.  Days where you cry to God, “I don’t NEED a lesson in patience, Lord.  Please answer swiftly! Move mountains!” (Clearly this rant at God proves otherwise.)  Days like today pass by with knots in stomachs and prayers for guidance.  Nights are spent sorting through thoughts and desires of a vulnerable heart, prayers that He would hold it gently in His palms.

And He hears each prayer.  He catches each tear.  In His Fatherly love, He also catches each tear of a little girl across the ocean crying for someone to hold her, or a little boy longing for a warm bed and a full belly, and a kiss goodnight.

I am thankful for more days of patience and peace than of turmoil.  I am grateful to a God who has this–who already knows the outcome.  A gracious God who works all things for good and makes all things beautiful…..in its time. I won’t choose fear.   I will choose to rest in His embrace, and rejoice in the hope of what is to come.  A peace that He already knows what is around the corner….He already knows what is in store for me, regardless of what I think I want it to look like.  And rest assured, it will be more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed it to be.

Lent from a Former Catholic

Today is the first Sunday of the Lenten season.  It’s cold and icy here, and church was cancelled this morning.   Andy is at  work, the kids are busy building a fort, and I am having “church” in my pajamas on the couch.  I have read Matthew this week– saturating my heart with the Words of Life, and I can’t help but think about the beauty of Lent and the coming Easter season.

You see, I grew up in a wonderful home where my father is Catholic and my mother is Baptist.  After marrying, the decided not to “convert” or “go to their own churches,” but rather to interweave their denominations.  My entire life, we went to the Catholic church at 8:00 AM as a family then straight to the Baptist church at 10:30 AM–together.  Granted as a ranting teenager, I threw more than a handful of fits about having to go to two churches every Sunday, but looking back I wouldn’t have changed my upbringing for the world.  I feel like I have been able to glean the best of both worlds.  My ultimate decision was to attend a Protestant church–not so much because I held firm to the details and doctrines, but more because it was where I attended while courting my husband, and it became a family to me.  I was able to worship with other believers each week, and grow in my love and knowledge of the Word.  I haven’t ever really considered myself someone who “left the Catholic church”–although of course, I did; rather, I view it as bringing the reverence and love of liturgy and unity with me as I worship elsewhere.

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That said, I’ve often noticed that there seems to be a confusion, even a judgement, of the practices of Lent outside of the Catholic church.  A sort, “Oh, how cute, they are giving up chocolate for a few weeks.  Or, I don’t understand what the big deal is with not eating meat on Fridays.”  I believe these small sacrifices are often viewed as simply “ritual” or tradition.  But fasting, in all capacities, is biblical.  In Matthew 6:16, Jesus says,

When you fast……..

Not IF, but WHEN.  It is a calling of the believer.  I am just growing into a place in my faith where I am trying to work this out, but I find it fascinating.  I always sort of considered fasting a thing for people who were in deep grief or mourning, but I am just learning about the depth of fasting.  For instance, there are many reasons to fast.  The biblical reasons for fasting are:

  1. Mourning
  2. Inquiry of God
  3. Repentance
  4. Preparation
  5. Crisis
  6. Worship

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The idea behind fasting during Lent is mostly preparation–preparing our hearts for the death and resurrection we celebrate at Easter.  Preparing our hearts to receive Him, to worship Him.  From the outside it looks like not eating a little chocolate, or eating a little more fish, or skipping a meal, or not having a Coke, but it is so so much more.  In my own life, the times I have realized how “weak” I am or how little “control” I actually have, have been in seemingly insignificant things–like giving up my favorite drink or comfort food or media device.  It is incredibly humbling to realize that  I can’t even easily take away a few “luxuries”  or “distractions” for a few weeks.  that my flesh is indeed weak, but my Savior is strong.

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The flip side of the sacrifice, or fast, is that in taking away some of the distractions around us, we become more spiritually sensitive.   We remove the fog around us to see Christ more clearly.  We take away the things we cling too and we are drawn to cling more closely to Christ.  When this is done as a community of believers, imagine the possibilities of being used and in tune with Christ!

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Lent also isn’t just a time of giving things up, but also adding to.  Adding to the gifts you give, time in the Word, time spent in fellowship with others, time spent serving.  I’m so excited this year because my church has plunged into a 40 Days in the Word, and I long to see what God does to move the hearts of His church.

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Lent is such a beautiful time.  A time of preparation and seeking.  A time of worship and repentance.  A time to be moved and used by the One who sacrificed ALL for the ones he loves.  Lent is a time for ALL believers to seek the face of the Savior, and long for the promise of His return!

Planning An Adventure

So there’s not been much to report lately.  It’s been cold, life has progressed as normal.  I don’t know if it’s just this time of year that makes me long for a getaway or the fact that I’ve been snowed in with the kids almost 4 days straight…..either way, Andy and I have got the itch to plan our next big adventure.  We are pretty sure it is going to be epic.

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We stripped and cleaned the exterior for that Airstream shine!

We bought our 1972 Airstream Land Yacht 2 years ago.  It was the fulfillment of a dream of sorts–before we were ever married we saw one, and vowed to have one someday.  I forgot the “vow” a few minutes after we made it, but Andy didn’t.  When the opportunity arose to buy an Airstream, we saw decades of unforgettable memories on the horizon.  Ironically, our “silver bullet” is the same one my mother-in-law’s father owned.  She spent most of the summers of her childhood in our (her family’s) camper.  I love being able to ask her about all the places it has been!

Some vintage Airstreams you come across are a nightmare (or a “project” depending on your artistic outlook), but ours was in great condition…..out-dated to be sure, but everything worked great.  We have spent the last few springs and summers slowly working on little updates as time allows.

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A little “mustard-y,” but oh-so-much potential!

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Thus far, we’ve yet to embark on any major updates on the interior…..mostly just some cheap accessories from the Dollar Store!

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The project I couldn’t wait to do—re-cover the stinky tweed cushion!

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We gave all the logos a fresh paint of the classic “royal blue” paint.

We will have some major projects before this so-called adventure.  Andy is going to custom design and build bunk beds, we are considering ripping out the carpet and laying laminate wood floors, we’ve been wanting to paint the interior, we’ll need to buy a spare tire, and we’ll need to work on maximizing storage space.  Overall, not an incredible amount of money, just a lot of time and work before we can go very far in it….then we’ll hope for the best!

Thus far in our camping life with kids, this has been the scenario:

Endless fun all day long. No naps.  An exhausted Addy, Abe, Andy and Bethany at the end of the day…..and a Cora who cries non-stop for 4 hours and won’t go to sleep in the camper.  Everyone up at 5:30 AM.

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So we have made beautiful family memories….and lost a lot of sleep!   It’s been worth it, and we have always known that eventually Cora would be big enough to feel comfortable in the camper.  Well, we think this is the spring.  We are in a window of time right now where Cora is getting easier (did I just say that?!?) and we don’t yet have another “little one” with us.   We have decided this is the perfect opportunity for our first major Airstream Roadtrip!!

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Because every good vacation needs a binder!

Much more to come on all this fun!

Happy Anniversary, Adoption

Today marks our 1 year anniversary of the “official” wait for our child (2 years of waiting overall).  February 2, 2014 we received word that all our hard work with paperwork and appointments had paid off and our file was registered in Bulgaria.  I thought then that we would be starting the most excruciating wait of our lives……but God proved otherwise.  We have been so tremendously blessed this past year that I wouldn’t have sped it along or wished it away for anything.

  • The adoption friends that I have made will remain a part of my family forever.

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  •  I have learned to love without abandon in a very hard adoption situation, risking it all, and feeling the pain of rejection, but the peace that comes when you’ve left it all on the table.

 

  • I’ve seen my community rally together to help put a roof on an orphanage in Bulgaria–halfway around the world from our little town, and never felt more supported in anything.

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  • I’ve watched my daughter feel called to advocate for the orphan and help meet their needs.

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  • I’ve laid in my son’s room, and listened to him lovingly voice his concern that his brother or sister wasn’t being read a bedtime story like him.

 

  • I’ve experienced my church rallying together on Orphan Sunday to present all the many ways to care for the orphan.

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  • I’ve giggled as my “baby,” when asked to count, has chosen to do so in Bulgarian, “edno, dve, tri…”

 

  • We hosted a sweet orphan-girl from India in our home for 2 days, an opportunity we may have somehow passed up before God opened our eyes and put a passion in our heart for the least of these.

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  • I’ve been blessed to share life with the McArthy family, also waiting to bring home their Bulgarian baby.  Our children have become such good friends, and we have already begun our own Bulgarian traditions that we can’t wait to carry over in life post-adoption.

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  • I’ve experience exciting, jaw-dropping phone calls of friends who just received their call, and been able to rejoice with them.

 

  • I’ve spent hours dreaming with Andy about planning trips to Bulgaria, and what our life might look like when the dust settles.

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I certainly do not want our child to have to wait any longer than necessary.  I would love to have them home with us tomorrow if it was possible, but typical adoption isn’t like that.  However, that doesn’t mean the wait is in vain.  There is great purpose in the wait– a preparation we don’t yet understand.  I hope to not have to “celebrate” many anniversaries before we come home with our child, but today I am grateful to be one year closer to growing our family and our hearts.

Our 2014-2015 Curriculum

For 5 years I sought out every homeschooling family I knew and drilled them with questions.  My questions have slowly dwindled as I’ve started figuring out what works best for my family, and trusted myself to make those decisions.  Yet, the funniest thing has happened.  I’ve stopped asking as many questions, but have started receiving them.  I’m certainly no expert (for heaven’s sake, we’ve only been doing it for 2 years), but in response to my last homeschool post, I wanted to answer a few more questions I’ve been asked lately.

1) What does your day typically look like?

Our average day “should” look like this.  The kids get up around 7:30 and eat breakfast.  Then they know to get dressed, make beds, and brush their teeth.  We typically start school around 8:30, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that it could be 9:00 or even 9:30 depending on the morning.  Addy usually plays through her piano lessons once, and then we gather at the table for calendar, “Bulgarian Word of the Week,” and a prayer by one of the kids. On Mondays, we do “world prayer day,” in which we either play a game with our world map area rug , or I will choose a country, tell the kids a few facts about it, and we’ll pray for the people who live there.  At this point, I usually give Abe a worksheet/ coloring page/ puzzle about what letter he is studying (I use K4 curriculum from www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com), Cora gets Playdough, coloring books, her “homework” (old workbook sheets that she scribbles on), or my Kindle for games (ahem).  This gives me time to work with Addy.  

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For Addy, I have been using the My Father’s World curriculum the last two years.  We love it, and it is less expensive than some of the more popular curriculums.  She starts with a Bible/ History lesson, Language Arts & Reading, and she practices writing.  I check over Abe’s work and let he and Cora go play while I start Math with Addy.  She does a lesson about the # of the day, practices some addition flashcards, and works in her Math book.  We have recently started doing some addition timed tests–mostly because she likes it, but also because I’m wanting her to keep practicing them without counting fingers. Abe, Cora and I occasionally play “restaurant” or  “grocery store” with her to apply her addition/subtraction skills.  We wrap up school in the morning by alternating a music/ art appreciation/ craft each day, and then they all join me on the couch, and I read them a chapter from a book like the Magic Tree House series, The Boxcar Children, Robin Hood, Pippi Longstockings, ect.  (This is my favorite part of school!)

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At this point they come upstairs and either start on their chore for the day or play while I get lunch.  After lunch they finish their chore (in a perfect world) and play until Cora’s nap time at 1:00.  After Cora goes down, Addy will usually do a lesson on ABCya.com, abcmouse.com, take her timed tests or do a lesson from her Explode the Code book.  We love this curriculum and it has helped Addy with her reading tremendously!  When Cora wakes up, they watch a show, then go play for a few hours.  Around 4:30 they’ll sit and watch Wild Kratts or Odd Squad (ugh.) while I fix supper.

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Fridays are a bit different as we don’t do as much “structured work.”  It consists of a Science lesson/ experiment, a Kiwi craft or project, puzzles.  Then we typically run errands or visit grandparents.

Again, this is an “ideal” day.  We also throw in Piano lessons, Homeschool events, visits to grandparents, ect.  Cora and Abe very rarely sit and play and entertain themselves like perfect little “students”, and it is much noisier than you are probably imagining.  Sometimes there are tantrums and gnashing of teeth….and the kids act out too.

2) How do you do school when you have babies/ toddlers that need your constant attention?

If I could have a dollar for every time I have asked someone else that question, I could have matched by beginning teacher’s salary by now.  My best answer is, “I have no idea.”  Okay, not really, it is possible to have school and give attention to other littles.  I don’t have this figured out yet (if you do, please let me know your secrets!), but I do know what has helped for me.  

Cora was 16 months old when Addy started Kindergarten.  She was a climber of all things, an eater of inedible things…..the kind of kid that would stick her fingers in an electrical outlet while playing with matches and eating a ladybug as she headed for the steep staircase leading away from the rest of the family. (Not much has changed!)  She was not a baby I could turn my back on.  Some days were easier than others, but I learned flexibility would be crucial.  Some days I taught Addy with Cora on my lap/ hip/ back;  some days we waited until her nap time to do the things that required the most concentration, some days we did school on the floor so we could be at her level while she played and therefore didn’t feel like she was being left out.  Things are slightly easier this year, and I expect they will continue to get easier….until we bring home our next child at which point we will start all over again!

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The most important thing I discovered was to take breaks often to spend with each younger child so they don’t feel left out.  As soon as I would get Addy started on something that would take a few minutes, I would immediately do a puzzle with Abe or read a book with Cora.  I let them join in on Addy’s lessons anytime I think they can enjoy what she’s doing–music, art, games.  It’s no magic trick.  Truth be told, there have been mornings where it just ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN.  In which case, I throw my hands up and say, “We’ll try again after lunch….or tomorrow.”  And I’ve decided that’s okay.  

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I’ve still got a lot to work out, but hopefully this gives you a glimpse into what we do each day.

Sweet Dreams

Last night we watched Despicable Me.  Yes, the first one.  Yes, we are a few years behind.

As I finished reading and singing to Abe before bed, he said, “Mom, remember the part of the movie where Mr. Gru wouldn’t read the girls a bedtime story?  I bet my brother or sister doesn’t get a bedtime story right now either.”

I responded, “You’re right buddy.  We will have to read them a lot of stories when they get home.  Lots of singing and snuggling and reading.”

“Yeah.  Mom, I think we will bring home a 3 year old sister with long hair, and a 2 year old brother.  (Thinking)  He will be probably be too little for me to play a lot of things with him.  I think he would probably like to sit on the ground and roll a ball back and forth though.  I’ll do that.”

As I rocked Abe, we talked about the hard stories his brother(s)/sister(s) are living right now.  We dreamed about bringing them home.

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