Adoption Update

It has been a summer to remember and I don’t say that lightly. This past summer we went to Africa and met our 4th daughter for the first time ever. We spent a joy filled week with her and then we had to take her back to the orphanage, get on a plane and fly home. Heartache.

When the Lord called us to adopt we thought the hardest part would be coming up with the money that it costs to go through an international adoption. We had done our research and picked an agency and country to adopt from that we felt would be as ethical as possible. People were praying and eyes were watching as we took a step of faith and said yes to a  just turned 2 year old little girl from the DRC. Now that just turned 2 year old is 4 and she is still not home.

I don’t have an answer.

What I know to be true is that the Lord is good. He is faithful. He is just. He grants mercy. He is trustworthy. He is our provider. He is our healer. He is good.

We can’t trust in a country, an agency, a lawyer or even ourselves. We have to trust in the one whose heart breaks more than ours at the injustice of power being more important than children’s lives. The Lord who is near to the brokenhearted, to our little ones without mammas and papas. The God who gives peace while all around you have every right to be angry, frustrated, depressed and justified.

“Get up LORD; get angry! Stand up against the fury of my foes! Wake up, my God, YOU command that justice be done!” 

Psalm 7:6

We are ready for the Lord to stand up and get angry. For him to demand justice be done.

“But I will thank the LORD for his righteousness; I will sing praises to the name of the LORD most high.”

Psalm 7:17

We thank the Lord because he is the lord most high. He is righteous. He have seen him working in bringing our daughter to a safe home to live until she can be here. Her bright smile, her laugh and the English that she says when we skype feels like the Lord is smiling upon us. We feel blessed.

Lord, 

Be near to the hearts of the children who are waiting for their families to be allowed to come and bring them home. Comfort these children and help them to know that their families are FIGHTING for them to come home. FIGHTING.God, lift our weary arms when we are too tired to fight. Send in friends and family who will fight for us. Thank you for those who encourage, love and stand strong beside us. Thank you Lord. You are our provider. Move mountains. Bring Justice. 

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Less is More Part 2: the Playroom

less is more part 2 playroom

A few months ago, I shared with you all my struggle to deal with the excessive amount of stuff that we have accumulated.

I shared how I started with my girls’ bedrooms. They literally spent all day (9-4) cleaning and organizing their room. By the end of the day they LOVED their room.

The next day we started on their playroom. Here is a picture of the before:

There was SO MUCH STUFF.  It was once again… overwhelming.

I started by having the girls help me sort. By lunch time, though I had decided this was a job I needed to do myself. So I gave them the “gift” of watching a movie while mommy cleaned their playroom. They were thrilled. So was I.

I decided my plan of action was going to change. I needed to just get everything OUT OF THE ROOM.

I needed a blank slate.

Needed to be ALLOWED to only put back in what we wanted.

So I went through their toys, put them in bins, baskets, tubs. Threw away the broken things and trash.

At this point I did not even really even sort their toys. I just wanted it all out of the room.

Here is the after:

Whoah. Headache gone. It was at this moment that I realized how much the “stuff” in our house adds to my stress level.

I invited my girls upstairs to see what mommy had done. I was REALLY nervous and not quite sure I was ready to deal with the whining or tears that would start once they saw all of their toys gone.

You know what?

There were no tears. No questions. No whining.

They smiled.  They danced. They spun around and around in the empty room.

My oldest said, “Mom, this is the BEST playroom ever! It’s like when we just moved in!”

I almost fell on the floor. Were they really smiling? YUP! Not what I expected AT ALL!

 

So you may be wondering… is she going to take away all their toys and leave them with an empty playroom?

That night and over the next few days, I slowly added in a few SELECT things. I started by adding back some (but not all) of their kitchen food, dishes, pots and pans.

I added a basket of chalk for their chalkboard wall.

I added a basket of wooden blocks.

I put a small basket of hot wheel cars on their car rug.

That was it for a few days.

I had put all of the “extra” toys in our guest (aka storage) room while I decided what to keep and what I was going to get rid of. I set a rule that NO ONE could go into that room and take any toys out or exchange toys. So far I have had no problems with this!

Every night before bed I have been asking my girls one by one…

“So what specific toys are you missing that I took out of your playroom that you wished you had to play with today?”

9 times out of 10 they say… “Nothing mom!”

It’s working. It’s amazing. My kids have enough with only a few things.

Not only does their playroom take about 10 minutes to clean up. The rest of the house is cleaner too! They are not dragging all of their toys downstairs to play with because there are not a lot of toys to bring downstairs anymore!

I still haven’t decided what I am doing with every single thing I have stored away right now. Some will donate, some we will sell and some we will put in the closet to pull out on a “rotation” basis (if one set of toys comes out, another set of toys goes in the closet).

I just want to encourage all you momma’s out there that it is worth it to minimize your kids toys.

It is worth it.

For YOU and for THEM.

Try it… Just do it. Stop wishing that your kids didn’t have so many toys. Stop trying to “Reorganize” and find the best solution to deal with the amount of toys in your home and minimalize. This may look different for you. Your kids may have more or less toys out than mine. Your kids have different “Favorite” toys than mine do… but trust me, it’s worth it.Totally and completely.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Sort trash from toys, Throw trash away and put toys in bins, baskets and tubs. (Don’t worry about sorting specific toys (keep-donate etc.) at this point. Your goal is to get the toys out of the room and have a clean slate.)

2. Take everything that you physically have space for and can OUT of the play space. (Large furniture items stayed in their play room- like their play kitchen, play market, bookshelf, rug etc.)

3. Now do a little SPIN in your EMPTY playroom. Imagine all the possibilities now that you can START OVER!

4. Invite your kids up to dance, spin and laugh with you.

5. Tell your kids the “plan” – have them brainstorm NEW ideas with you for the playroom. Really talk this up with your kids and it will help them to get excited about their REINVENTED play space! (“Now that your playroom is empty what would YOU like to put back in it?” “What are some NEW ideas that YOU have for your playroom?” Focus in on your child’s interests at this particular stage.. is it Legos? Maybe you want to invest in a Lego table or re-purpose an old table for this purpose. Do they like crafts/art? Create an art space in their playroom. Think BEYOND toys.)

6. Remind your kids that they are not to take toys out of the closet, basement or wherever you have stashed the toys taken from the play space.

7. For one day enjoy the room as a Blank Space.

8. The next day YOU, as mom, decide on a few select toys to bring back into the room.

9. That night start asking your kids what “specific” toys they miss. Discuss whether you want to put that back into the play space now or later.

10. When you feel up to it… start going through all those toys you have stored away and decide if you are going to KEEP and put BACK in the play room, KEEP but put in a tub for “rotation” basis in the playroom (one toy in, one toy out), KEEP but put in storage for a garage sale or DONATE.

 

I am finding SO much more freedom now in being able to chuck toys into the “garage sale” pile. My goal was to sell the toys we are done with and use that money to buy one or two REALLY NICE, quality items. We ended up purchasing MagnaTiles and my kids LOVE them! They play with them all the time and they are wonderfully creative!

Just know that sorting and going through stuff one time will not be enough, sorry!  I am a few months down the road from having done this project and it’s time to do it again! The stuff just accumulates. Just know that every few months it will be time to do it again and hopefully it will get easier and easier!

Less is More Attitude

  
After opening almost every window and blind in the house (sorry, husband- I will turn the air back on before you get home!) I walked through my home this morning, coffee cup in hand, sunshine and breeze coming through the windows and I continued to walk straight outside to sit in one my favorite spots in our house… the front porch. One of my favorite spots because of the sunshine? The fresh air? The breeze and birds chirping? Yes… But…

In actuality… I was escaping the mess in my house. Couldn’t deal with it. It overwhelms me. Too much stuff. I wanted to just BE on the porch, unlike when I am inside and I am stepping over the piles, and seeing the “to-do” list grow right before my eyes. The porch is usually not messy. There are no piles of papers to go through. No trash, toys, dirty dishes or things left undone. On the porch I can just “BE.”

Have you ever wanted to DO less so that you could BE more? I’m not talking about BEING in the sense of becoming more successful or achieving more. I’m talking about BEING as in present tense living. Savoring the moment.

I have read many minimalist e-books and blog posts. There have been many conversations with friends laced with frustration over not having an answer, only the encouragement from one mom to another to keep on keepin’ on and forcing ourselves to be present while mentally going through our list of things to do.

But is that how God wants us to live?

We have so much stuff that we suffer for the time it takes to manage it all, we lose joy, we lose the moment and sometimes we even lose ourselves.

How can we DO less so we can BE more?

Just BE.

BE with our shepherd.

BE with our family.

BE with our friends.

BE with our friends.

BE with those who are in need.

BE with those who are lonely

BE…. ENJOY… SAVOR… LIVE FULLY…LIVE PRESENTLY.

JUST BE.

I am on a journey, my friends. I have been on this same journey for some time and at each dead end I am forced with the question of “Do I give up on this road or do I take a different fork?”

I Choose a different fork in the road. One of accountability. Of acceptance. Of grace.

Here is what I would like to accomplish:

THE YEAR OF LESS IS MORE

Less stuff (What are we saving “in case” that someone else may need now?)

Less space (Could we live in less space?)

Less time wasted (Organizing and re-organizing our “stuff”)

Less perfectionism (Just do it already!)

Less complaining

Less ignorance

Less Worry

Less Stress

Less Busy

Less Over Commitment

Less Guilt

Less “Should dos” and “To Dos” (Gotta let go sometimes…)

Less Fear

Less Regret

Less Negativity

Less Time Inside

Less Cleaning (If we have less stuff we will have less to clean…)

Less Money Spent (If our goal is less stuff, then we don’t need to spend that $ anyway!)

Less Insecurity

More Creativity

More Gratitude

More Awareness

More Writing (yay!)

More Relationship Building (I’m talkin’ about with YOU!)

More Time on People (Messy house? Come on in anyway!)

More Reflecting

More Praying

More Peace

More Joy

More Sabbath (Setting a rhythm of rest to our week)

More Freedom

More Nature

More Time Outside

More Serving

More Community

More Spontaneity

More Saying “No” to the “Shoulds”

More Saying “Yes” to Embracing the Moment (When little eyes look up at you asking you to play…)

Because More STARTS with LESS.

But How?

For starters here are a few books that I resonated with that spoke to this part of my soul:

hands free mama one thousand gifts sabbath seven the best yes radical

 

Each of these books can be found on Amazon… or if you are a local friend of mine- on my book shelf for you to borrow!

I would like to go deeper into each of the things I want “Less of” in the next year and the things I want to replace with “More of”, my journey through each of these things, sources I find helpful and words of encouragement.

For today… I am starting with my girls’ bedroom.

messy room

We had a conversation… it went something like this:

me: “When you look at your room, all the stuff on the floor, does it make you say ‘yay! this room looks so fun!’ or do you want to say ‘grrrr… this room is so messy!’?

girls: “GRRRR…THIS ROOM IS SO MESSY!” – it was unanimous.

So that is where we start.

Too much stuff= A mess we can’t keep clean=  A GRUMPY FAMILY

Our plan for the day…. Each girl has a box. They were asked to put things in the box they would like to sell at our upcoming garage sale, where they will receive the $ they earn. $ can be a motivator for kids (and adults!) to get rid of excess stuff.

The rest of what is left on the floor… It will either hit the trash or donation bin.

I am also trying to show my girls the value of time… is it worth a WHOLE day to clean up “stuff” vs. spending that WHOLE day outside playing, hiking or learning to bake something new? They said they didn’t think so! They would rather be outside swinging or downstairs baking than upstairs cleaning.

THIS is a motivator as well! I asked them to consider the “collections” of toys they have. They have a rock collection, shell collection, lego collection, books, barbies, ponies, cars, stuffed animals… the list goes on. Their job this week is to pare down and choose only their “favorites” to keep.

Now I have done this before many times. We always seem to come back to this wall where we, once again, have accumulated too much stuff! So I am realizing I need to show myself grace (and my kids!) We accumulate stuff naturally through gift giving, going to garage sales/thrift shops, prizes given and creations made. Every once in awhile we will have to stop- take inventory- and get out the donation bin!

One step at a time towards a Less is More attitude!

What do you do in your home to create a “Less is More Attitude?”

Roots

Jeremiah 17

“The LORD proclaims:

Cursed are those who trust in mere humans, who depend on human strength and turn their hearts from the LORD.

They will be like a desert shrub that doesn’t know when relief comes.

They will live in the parched places of the wilderness, in a barren land where no one survives.

Happy are those who trust in the LORD, who rely on the LORD.

They will be like trees planted by the streams, whose roots reach down to the water.

They won’t fear drought when it comes;their leaves will remain green.

They won’t be stressed in the time of drought or fail to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17: 5-8

I am beginning to see a theme in my life… Identity. Often looking to experiences, people, personal convictions, accomplishments to make up who I am. In doing this I have picked myself up by the roots from the living water and moved myself to the desert where there are no springs of life.

My identity is lost. It’s confusing. I search, but can’t find any “one” thing to quench my thirst. I can claim my IDENTITY in Christ, but if I am not living DAILY with him, the source that feeds and nourishes my soul… that lifts me back up to the streams of living water… that brings me out of the desert… that fulfills… I can feel like my identity in Christ is gone.

One cannot search and find an identity on their own, not one that will last anyway. Our identity flows from time spent with the one who CREATED.

Just like an artist and his masterpiece. We can fumble around trying to understand the context, meaning and emotion behind each of the great works of art, but unless the Artist themselves gives the piece of work it’s “story”, we are all just guessing at his or her intent. The identity of the art flows from the one who created.

Our creator was so inspired when he made us… when he made YOU. Inspired to create a work of Beauty-Goodness-ART… a masterpiece- In HIS IMAGE.

Lord,

Help us to remember it is your image we are called to reflect. When we are floundering and unsure of our identity- help us realize we only need to spend time in your presence to know who We are- Who created Us and Why. Our Creator, as we sit before you- let your living water strengthen our roots and bring us back to the stream- firmly planted as we find ourselves in you.

Adoption Update

It has been awhile since I have posted about our adoption journey. I have stayed away from the topic partly because I just haven’t had time to sit and really form my words, but mostly because it is hard to post an update that is “not really an update.”

We are still in court. We wait for good news. We check our email every other minute waiting for the one email that will change our lives FOREVER… you have made it through court!

So what does that mean, exactly?

Right now a huge stack of paperwork is sitting on a judge’s desk somewhere in the DRC. He is reviewing our applications, looking at our medical documents, reading our testimony, looking at our pictures and trying to decide if he will grant us Act of Adoption. He has interviewed our lawyer, met with the orphanage mom and the social worker on our case. He is trying to investigate to make sure that our sweet little girl is truly an orphan in need of a home. This is all good. This needs to happen.

We were told court could take anywhere from 1-3 (plus) months. It has been just at 3 months since we have been submitted to court and still we wait.

Last week we skyped with our agency and heard that only one thing is holding up our case right now. One thing that we have no control over and that we can do nothing about… short of flying over to the DRC and pleading with this person to do the right thing. Trust me… we are close to doing that exact thing if it is needed.

For now we wait and trust our lawyer, our agency and the judge. We pray for them to be given wisdom and discernment as they decide the next right step for our case. Please pray with us for the judge to grant us Act of Adoption.

For now, we now our Phoebe is safe, healthy and getting some food. We also know that she is incredibly tiny, malnourished and recently had malaria. Please pray with us for her health and protection against disease.

For now we stay put. Our hearts want to go be in the DRC with our daughter. We want to hold her. Take care of her. Provide food, love and security. We want to convince those that are holding up our case to do the right thing. Please pray with us for wisdom to know if and when the right time is to travel to the DRC.

We have been so blessed on this journey to see God’s hand in so many unexpected ways. We continue to be thankful for those surrounding us in prayer. Loving on our family and expectantly STILL asking when Phoebe will be home.

I hope to have a new post soon with exciting news. Stay tuned… it could just be tomorrow.

Life’s Current

MuirWoods067

Birthdays are a funny thing as you get older. Presents are still exciting. Cake is still delicious. Time spent with friends and family is meaningful.

Today I turn 34. 10 years ago I was newly married, no kids and our whole future in front of us. Now, 10 years later… we have 3 kids, have had 1 dog, 1 cat, 3 chickens, many fish and snails, 1 hamster, 3 bunnies 1 apartment, 2 houses and a multitude of jobs. I am all about living life with intentionality, so as I look back I naturally ask myself- “Have my choices been intentional? Am I where I want to be at 34?”

I am amazed at the life we have built. 3 amazing kids and 1 coming home soon from Africa. I have chosen to stay home and homeschool my girls. This is a major life choice. It affects me daily, but I am also blessed by it daily. My husband and I relocated to Decatur, IL in the past 10 years to be close to family while we raised our family. This, also a major life choice, has been amazing. I can’t imagine my girls not being able to see their nana and papa weekly and grow up with their cousins. Huge blessing.

We have moved two times. One starter house with a phenomenal purple bathroom and finished basement. We brought home all three baby girls to that house and have so many family memories between the doors and walls. We outgrew those walls and moved to a more family friendly neighborhood into a 100 year old house with a front porch that called my name.

Then we decided to adopt. We are still in process of adopting… 3 years later. It has been a struggle of a journey and the end is still out of sight. I dream of the day I have to count kids for fear of leaving my 4th daughter behind as she wanders off to explore.

Blessed.

Life is moving forward, even though some days can feel like a standstill. Thinking about the way life progresses brings to mind a small creek. Growing up, one of the most magical places to play was in my grandparents backyard. They lived on the edge of the woods with a small creek running alongside their house. As kids, we were drawn to the creek. We would cross the creek on logs, skip rocks and wade in the creek.

Now 25 years later, the creek is still there and you can see the well worn path of its ebb and flow. There are times when the creek is so low that the water doesn’t move and it seems to stand still.  There is no current. After a good several days of rain, the creek would be fast moving and full of life.

A creek has different seasons just like life. Some years are full of life, exciting and moving at a fast pace. Then there are years where you wonder what has happened to the current. Life seems to come to a stand still and you yearn for the fast paced current of years before. In reflection, you look back and realize that each day adds up to make years and you see that life is still moving, choices are made and blessings received.

I am thankful for another year. My heart is so grateful for all my family and friends that have encouraged, supported, loved, listened and have lived life alongside of me through life’s current.

Here is to another year… praying for an exciting and fast past current, but trusting the Lord as he guides the daily, constant current!

Blessings!

#Sparkle

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing”

Anticipate.

Wait.

Hope.

Advent.

We wait for our Savior’s second coming.

We rejoice in his first.

We cling to hope.

We practice love.

We live in joy.

        A couple of months ago, my kids and I studied Van Gogh’s, A Starry Night. We were intentional about noticing the colors, lines, counting how many stars there were, the big image and the tiny details. After silently observing for 5 minutes we turned the picture over and each shared what we remembered from our mind’s eye. Ruby, my 5 year old, recalled that there was a clock factory (“Was that a clock factory, mom?”), there were lots of suns, a moon, a big tree and hills. Sophie, the 6 year old, said she saw lots of yellow dots, a moon in front of the sun, lots of houses, a big tree, hay bales (this must have been left over from just studying Monet’s Haystacks), the wind, and that the colors were bright and dark. Addie, my oldest shared that there were 11 stars, a moon, a tall tree, a church, a tiny town, lots of blue and yellow and many lines. I love starting from the youngest and going to the oldest and hearing the details they remember from a painting. It amazes me what they can recall! When it was my turn, I was able to share my impression of the painting and of how large Van Gogh made the sky in comparison to the rest of the tiny town. Many of the houses were lit up and we wondered “What were the people doing in there?” The tiny church was proudly standing amidst the tiny houses. But the vastness and brightness of the starry sky was not to be missed. It was the focal point and the rest was in the distance. I shared with the girls how tiny we really are in comparison to the sky. We are but a speck of dust compared to the sky. “Like glitter, mom?”, asked Addie. Yes, well I suppose glitter is more beautiful than dust. We can be glitter.

I was at a point where I was feeling very distant from all that is me. Distant from my calling to be a stay at home, homeschooling momma. Distant from my calling to bring home our daughter from Africa. Distant from my God who created the vast sky and starry nights. Like a tiny speck of glitter who was not shining so brightly but would rather crawl in bed on that dark and dreary day.

Van Gogh’s past is curious. He didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. He couldn’t find the right fit. He tried first to sell art at a gallery, then went on to be a teacher, then a bookshop owner, a preacher and finally an artist. As a preacher he helped many of the poor in his community. The plight of the poor impacted him so dearly that when he became an artist the images of the poor stuck with him. He began painting what he had experienced. The paintings were all made with dark, dreary colors to give the onlooker the impression that for these people, their days were dark, dreary and oppressive. The paintings depicted them hard at work or eating a meager offering of what potatoes they could scrounge up. A few years later, Van Gogh found bright colors and from them on his art reflected his new mood.

Many days I wish a change of mood would be as easy as a new color palette. Change from the dark dreary colors into the light, bright and whimsical.

In this world you will have trouble…
(dark, dreary colors) “but take heart, for I have overcome the world!” (bright, light and whimsical)

I envision what I would like my days to look like, what my passions should be, my goals, focus and the beat of my heart. The beat seems to of gotten off kilter somewhere along the way. Right now the distance from where I used to be to where I am now seems like a canyon. How do I get back on beat? I need a bridge.

Lord, I am feeling very alone today. Very tired, sad and distant from everyone I love and the things I am passionate about. Even you. God, I’m not sure when the heartbeat of my life got off track, but I know that you are the only one who help me get refocused. God, what are your burdens for me? Would you help me to lean in and take refuge in your shadow and to find strength in your power? I feel so weak today and so small. Like a speck of dust not even shiny enough to be glitter. I want to do, but I know all you ask of me is to Be. So today, help me to sit and Be in your presence. Help me to be refueled by your strength and help my heart and yours to beat as one again.”

Post-holiday winter months can definitely be a lonely time for many people. A time when distance feels very large between family and heartache over a missing loved one is magnified. But there is hope. We are called to be people of joy. People who shine like glitter bridging the distance.

How do you get yourself out of the dreary mindset and turn your attention to others who are experiencing a lonely time? What is something you can do FOR others the long days of winter to remind them of the hope we have in Jesus?

                                     Don’t forget… we have HOPE.. for he has overcome the world!

Shake a little bit of sparkle in other’s lives this week.

Share HOPE.

#sparkle

sparkle