Friday, April 27, 2012

Sunny yellow

There is not even the slightest breeze.
The leaves on the tall trees are utterly and perfectly still.
Katie and Gracie's voices drift through the kitchen from the back porch.
Paintbrushes in hand, they are inspired.
Great big strokes fill the canvases with the brightest yellow in the box,
the box of old Acrylics that I have not used in forever.
They make up for the neglect with boldness, comparing results and commenting on one another's skill.

Or the lack thereof.

Ah, sisters.
Best of friends, most honest of critics.
A butterfly lands on the pink geranium and I smile at these girls.
I thank Him for the memories they are making and the sweet bond of their hearts.
I thank Him that I am their mother and get to witness these moments.
My camera clicks and I preserve the sweetness.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Feelin' Yucky

Late spring colds have invaded my littles, beginning with Drew, then Katie, and now Gracie.  Stuffy noses, coughs, and disastrous sneezes abound.  So do extra cuddles.  :)

We just arrived home from a night out at our favorite pizza joint.  Gracie started going downhill quickly just after the food was placed on the table so she didn't eat much.  We got home she went straight upstairs to don her most comfy Hello Kitty pajamas, then came back down to cuddle.  I nuzzled the top of her head and she said, "I hope you don't get this cold."

"You're sweet,"  I replied.  "But if I do it's ok."

"Well, if you do then I will snuggle you."

Love my girl so much.

Happy sigh.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Slow it down

I am nearing the one thousandth gift in my gratitude journal.  Each day my heart blooms a little more.  On the days I don't count, I sink.  I lose focus.  I complain.  I pout.  But when I count the gifts from His hand, my heart is watered and the blossoms push up into the light.

Busyness drains me, makes me feel like I am being pressed from all sides.  It makes me impatient and grouchy. I must stop and let Him fill me.  I must be still and know...and know that He is God.  He is good.  He has it all under control and I can let Him handle it...because I cannot handle it even if I try.

All the activities that add such fun to our weekends had worn me out.  I mean, worn me plum out.   T-ball, 5 basketball games, and a house neglected were weighing.  By Sunday afternoon, I was a ball of selfish wanting...intimidated by the piles of laundry, the dirty floors, the clutter, the papers that needed to be graded and filed away, and the demands of just maintaining the household without it all just falling completely apart.

Then word came...the afternoon ballgame was cancelled.  I immediately knew it was for me.  God knew my heart. He knew I had hit the wall and needed quiet recharging.  I have never been so happy to fold laundry.  Music played in the background, 5 year olds napped, and the older children played with friends.  I had two hours to catch up.  And I did.  I took a deep breath and I thanked Him.

I entered today, Monday, renewed.  We had a good school day.  Hearts were happy, giggles escaped despite attempts at all seriousness, and all the work was completed.  Ballet lessons, orthodontist appointments, and basketball practice did not wear me down because I was renewed.

In the quiet of time with Him, my focus sharpens and I truly enjoy these days.  Starting my day with gratitude helps me look for more reasons to thank Him.  It is miraculous.  It is freedom.

The parent must always self-parent first, self-preach before child-teach, because who can bring peace unless they've held their own peace? 
 Ann Voskamp-One Thousand Gifts

And another...

In our rushing, bulls in china shops, we break our own lives.

Yes, we must slow it down if we want to live well and be fully in the moment, in the lives of those we love.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


It's been a while since I stopped and reflected on the current stage of parenting.  I often write about one child or another or maybe just wax philosophical :) but today I was thinking about my babies...
who are not babies anymore.


We are past diapers and coos and toddling.  We are past learning to talk and adjusting and, at least for the time being, adding to our family.  The kids, they are a'growing and we are looking the teen years square in the face, with more preteens and elementary years quickly on their heels.

Time really does fly.

I don't want to forget these days.
I cherish the stories of when my children were little and life was so, so simple.  Time is not kind, and I want to be all here right now...treasuring each moment in my heart and thanking Him, always thanking Him.

So today I ponder this season.  My oldest, now 12, is in that stage of confusion that exists in those fuzzy man/boy years.  He grows and reaches for the man he wants to be, yet still retreats into my arm and onto my lap when he just needs to "be."  And I eat those moments with a spoon.  He loves well, in between relentlessly tormenting the girls and reminding Drew that he is not "old enough" for whatever it is he doesn't want him to do...which just infuriates sweet Drew.  He babies Mari when she cries, invites Drew into his room to sleep at night because they really do love being together, and sits side-by-side with Katie to watch a good movie when his friends aren't around to see it.  He helps Gracie with her math...feeds her the answers, actually, until I catch him.  Ahem.  He drums like a budding rock star and our house is filled with his beats.
And he smiles.  Oh, how his smile lights up a room.  In this age of being "cool" and not coming across as "emotional" or "girly" his smiles are a gift to my days.  He is a study in contrasts right now, which I guess is typical of overtly-manly mama's boy who follows his dad around like a puppy, just wanting to be grown yet resisting it when the sun goes down...
"Mom, will you lie down with me for a minute?"
Yes, my sweet boy.  Yes, I will.  Always.  Those late night talks when the lights are dim and all is quiet in the house and Jesus feels very, very near are priceless.

Katie.  My growing up girl at ten going on twenty.  Beautiful, strong, and the life of any gathering.  My water-baby, gliding through the water and loving the intensity of swim meets.  She laughs from deep in her gut and cries hard when she has to.  She loves fiercely and is often overcome with the need just to be near.  She is my constant companion, the ears that appear out of nowhere to eavesdrop on every.single.conversation.  She is the arms always around my waist, the head on my shoulder when I read, the giggle when my clothing choices are not up to her very fashionable standards, and the little mama that I can count on to hold things together and keep the routine when I am away.  She is growing deep faith-roots, learning to trust Him for the details.  She is my front-seat sitter, my voracious book-reader, and my night owl.  She helps me meet my word quota for the day because we talk and talk and talk each and every day.  Oh, how I love the relationship we have now.
She is going to camp this summer.
For a month.
Because she begged to.
I'm not sure I'm ready...but she is convinced this is the year.
She will live in God's creation, learning to hear Him in the quiet, to worship on the rocks and look to the cross standing the the woods when she feels homesick.  She will experience Him on her own, without me telling her how, and I pray her relationship with Him will become that real and vital thing that I long for her to have.  She will be in the Word and journal and sing and she will be gone for a MONTH.
Oh my word.

Gracie.  My ballerina girl.  Sweet and happy and creative and musical and busy and a temper that never fails to surprise me.  She is always making art, out of everything.  She is always dressed to the nines, because we must always sparkle.  She laughs and dances and twirls and swings and loves her some Jesus, oh yes she does.  She endears everyone to her within 30 seconds of meeting them and has nicknames for all of her friends.  She makes lions out of spoons and paper plates and creates masterpieces from play-dough.  She mothers Mari a bit, but they have grown to be such sweet friends.  These sisters giggle in the night and wake up with plans.  Gracie helps Mari when she can't reach, picks out clothes for her that match, and even lets Drew participate when he promises to cooperate.  She is maturing to the point that she and Katie have a fun, sisterly relationship.  They can almost share clothes, and they both LOVE to shop at Justice (when we have a coupon...Mom's rule!) and they are even beginning to share friends.  My sweet Gracie blesses me with her tight hugs and face-smothering kisses.  And she thrills me with her prayers, her faith, and her heavenly focus. How many 7 year-olds talk about "when I get to Heaven?"  She does.

Drew.  Tall, muscular, meaty boy-hands that still seek to rub that skin on the back of my arm when he is tired.  He is either intensely happy or intensely not.  He lives for sports of any kind and is really good at all of them!
I can say that objectively because I did not contribute a single gene to his incredible athletic abilities.  He is amazing, truly.
He shoots hoops, kicks the soccer ball, swings the baseball bat, flips on the trampoline, and thinks everything his big brother does is A.W.E.S.O.M.E.  He watches DJ's coach give him drills, and then he goes out there on his own and does them.
He wants to do everything his big brother does, and won't stop until he figures it out.
School?  Well, I'm having to be creative there, to be really flexible.  He wants to learn, but is easily frustrated.  He needs to move and wiggle so lessons have to be short, sweet, and to the point.  I am so glad he is home with me where I can teach him how he learns best, where his need to run and jump is understood and phonics can start after he jumps on the trampoline for a few minutes.  He adores his Daddy, wanting to go everywhere Daddy goes, but I am happy to say he is a total mama's boy.
TOTAL mama's boy.
How I love his cuddles and sweet I-love-you's.  He thinks I am beautiful and tells me so.  He thinks my singing is wonderful and begs for just one more song.  He relaxes during story time and breathes so deeply that I am almost lulled to sleep mid-sentence.
He is just inches away from Jesus.  Any moment now he is going to give his life to Him.  It is coming soon, clearly, and I hold my breath in anticipation.

Mari.  My Ethiopian princess.  When did the change occur?  Was it the trip to Disney when she saw her Ethiopian friends and realized they really were all in America and growing and happy?  When did she learn to trust?
Because she has.
My husband and I went away for a couple of days alone last week.  A much needed break in a busy season.  I always have concern in my heart for her, because either one of us being gone in the past has caused setbacks in her attachment.  We would return to a wall, a coldness, a silent signal telling us "I've made it without you for the past few days, so why would I need you now?"
But not anymore.
We returned on Monday to squeals of happiness, legs running and arms extended and happy cries of "Mommy!  Daddy!  I've MISSED you!'
Oh, thank you Jesus.
A boo-boo that needs to be kissed instead of brushed off.  Cries that are no longer just for attention but genuine, truly reaching out for comfort instead of trying to pull attention away from someone else.
She is settled and happy and her accent is gone.
I miss it.
But her grammar is still often hilarious, thankfully.  :)
She is learning to read and so proud.  She loves to learn, loves to ask questions, loves to laugh and run and be part of her family.
She loves to talk about Ethiopia and remember the good.  She has forgotten the hard.  She proudly tells new friends "I'm from Africa!" and smiles when I use an Amharic word.
I refuse to let her forget them all.
She is a ray of sunshine, a sweet bundle of love and smiles.
And I am in awe of what God has done.
She and Drew are like twins...the best of friends.  They are always together and think the other is just a ball of fun.
Again, I am in awe of what God has done.

These days are so sweet.  I fight the busyness so we don't lose sight of those important moments that God places throughout our days.  We must intentionally focus and keep our eyes on Jesus so that we can love each other well.  Our little nest is sacred in my eyes, and I believe that protecting these sibling relationships is one of the most important gifts I can give my children.

I am so thankful for the five little hearts that God has given me.  Lord, may I walk worthy of their trust.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Following is another post I wrote for our local orphan care ministry.  Oh...and the grandparents are in town, thus the blogging lag!  Be back soon, friends!

My husband and I sponsor children through a couple of different ministries.  I love receiving their letters and writing back to them, hoping to encourage give them hope.

Recently I received a letter from one of "our girls," Bethelehem in Ethiopia.  She had received her birthday money, and with it she had purchased a blanket.  She even included a photo, which completely shocked me.

I didn't recognize her.

The change in "our girl" was indescribable.  Until now, the only picture we had of her was one of her standing alone, wearing ill-fitting clothes, belly distended from malnutrition, hair thin and dull, and no smile on her ten year old face that had obviously suffered much.

Now?  Now she is radiant.  Her eyes shine with joy.  Her skin is beautiful and her hair thick and braided.  Her clothes and sandals fit and she holds the blanket she purchased so proudly.  She stands tall and elegant.  She is healthy.  We had only been sponsoring her (at the rate of $35 per month) for about 9 months.

I was speechless.  I wanted to jump for joy!  Oh, friends, if you only knew how God could use you!  So many people think that, because they are not called to adopt, there is little they can do to make real change.
Well, let me assure you, it does not take much to make real change in the lives of these children!  Bethelehem has HOPE.  She has been able to stay in her native country and speak her native tongue and live with her mother and sister despite the death of her father.  She has been given stability and encouragement from a family she has never met.  She knows that somewhere, in America, there is someone who cares about her and is providing for her.  And, in her case, we get to be the ones blessed by God to be the agents of change in her life.

The change in Bethelehem is no less remarkable than the change that occurred in my Ethiopian daughter.  There are easily accessible ways to help these kids...and I am a firm believer that sponsorship is one of the easiest!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A sweet boy who needs a family

Thanks to my friend, Mary Leigh, my prayers tonight will be wrecked!  Please jump over to her blog and read about Harrison, a beautiful 12 year old Ethiopian boy.  Pray for him and share his story with everyone you just might lead his mama and daddy to their son!
Go here for his story...
and bring a hankie, I'm just sayin'.

Sunny and Monday and the important stuff :)

It took almost two years of homeschooling for me to realize something important.
My kids need to sleep in on Mondays.
Oh yes, I know I could wake them and get started "on time"...
I know the theories about early to bed and early to rise...
blah blah blah
I also know that it is almost dinnertime and I am hearing laughter as the sun shines through the new green leaves and dances across my living room.  My kids are running and laughing and filthy, and they got all their school done even though we didn't start until...
well, it doesn't matter.
It all got done and somehow we still have plenty of time to run and dance and laugh.

Yes, structure is important to have an efficient homeschooling day.  But I guess I have learned that if we start the week off rested (because our weekends are SO full!) then the rest of the week will be much more likely to be "on schedule."  The important stuff will all get done.  The rest is just stuff...optional, there if needed to fill an afternoon, but optional.

I am thankful.  Thankful for this freedom, thankful for this call the Lord put on our family.
I am thankful that we get to have slower mornings and I got a second cup of coffee after reading another chapter of Nehemiah before little feet began padding downstairs.
I am thankful that we did school together, made lunch together, ate together and got the house ready for Ami and Papa's arrival together.
Oh, and my five year olds took nice long naps, even after sleeping in today!
I am thankful for children who are best friends and squeals of excitement over who-knows-what amidst the sudden explosion of blooming roses and azaleas.  Oh, it is just so beautiful!
Caterpillars and sticks in the hands of the boys and little girls playing "camp" all afternoon...these days are priceless.

I look out my window and bursts forth and I feel Him smiling.  This is the important stuff.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He is Risen!

Hallelujah!  The day has come when the women arrived and He was not there.
When he looked into her face and said her name..."Mary."
What love must have glowed in His beautiful eyes.
When they ran and the told the disciples, who were dumbfouned.
When He walked right through a wall and revealed Himself and they took a step back, eyes wide, hearts racing, spirits soaring.
Yes, indeed, He is Risen!
Rejoice and worship the only Risen One!
He is worthy...he is so very worthy.

Happy, happy Easter to you all!

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I took an old black jar and five squares of paper.

We read the account of the death of Jesus and we talked again about the woman who came to him in her sin, knowing that only He could make her clean.

We talked about the suffering,
the nails,
the blood,
and how, as He hung on that cross, our names were playing over and over in His mind.
It was all for us.

I handed the papers to  my children, hoping this would help them see the completeness and finality and eternity of God's forgiveness.

"Whatever you struggle with...and we all struggle with something...write it down.  We will seal it in the black jar and throw it in the dumpster outside."

"What?  You're going to throw the jar away, too?"

"Yes, the jar goes, too.  God tells us He casts our sins as far as the East is From the West and He remembers them no more."

They look at the papers quizzically.  Mari and Drew take great delight in what they decide is an art project, writing their names and then writing each others name.  It makes me laugh inside.

Katie grabs a pen and begins to write in earnest.  I am thrilled to see her own this.  I have no idea what she wrote.  Gracie begins and then asks me,
"How do you spell sorry?"
I tell her quietly and inwardly praise Him for her sweet heart.
DJ frowns.  "I don't know what to write."
"I can't tell you what to write.  This is totally up to you.  There is no right or wrong here.  Just write what is on your heart."
He frowns again and hesitates then finally hunches over the paper and begins to write quickly, in tiny letters, and finishes by folding the paper as small as possible before placing it in the jar.
I seal the jar and I look at my children.
"Jesus said, to everyone who came to Him with their sin..."
I wipe tears that escape my eyes.
"He looked at them with love and He said...'You are forgiven.  Your faith has made you whole.'"

We walk outside and place the black jar full of black sin in the dumpster and leave it.

Leave it behind.

We blow out the candles, all but one.
The one in the cross we leave lit until 9am, when He left His earthly body.  At 9 we all blow that last candle out together and we wait.
We wait.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

I took my coffee black this morning.
I wanted, in some miniscule way, to identify with the bitterness...

to connect with the reality of what He did, what He endured, the eternal trade of exquisite value that took place...

for me.

The Light of the World was snuffed out, on purpose.
By sin.  By Love.
But just for a moment.

He journeyed forward, ever closer to the torture and the agony of the Cross, and love drove Him onward.  He hung and bled and breathed his last.
"It is finished," he declared.

Jesus, Messiah, Name above all names.  Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel.  The rescue for sinners, the ransom from Heaven.
Jesus,'re the Lord of all.

Now we wait and we hope, because we know how this Story ends...and begins.  Sunday morning is coming, and it will be glorious!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Washed clean despite ourselves...

We read from Luke this morning, about the woman with the alabaster jar.

How she walked right into a room of men who looked down upon her...saw her as trash... and fell upon her knees at the feet of Jesus.

How she was riddled with sin, yet she came.  She wept and flooded his feet with her tears.
She wiped the tears away with her long hair, no doubt leaving streaks in the dirt that clung to his skin.
She broke the jar of perfume and poured it all over his feet, not sparing a drop.  Not caring how much it cost.
She only knew that He could see through the sin.  He saw who she really was, who He intended her to be all along.  Her pride was gone.  Her fear was gone.  She had eyes and a heart completely fixated on Him.  He was worth all she could give.

No sin could keep her away.  No amount of shame could stop her anymore.  She was utterly broken and in need and she knew it.
Oh, how she knew it.

He looked at her and loved her and instantly pronounced her clean.

I told my children this story and they looked at me with eyes clear, with simple understanding.

The Word of God filled the room with a holy peace and we marveled at how hard it is for the proud to approach him, how those who have been forgiven of much love much, how realizing we can never be worthy of his love is the key...that his grace is unexplainable, irrational, ridiculous, unable to be earned by our most earnest attempts,

He loves us.  Oh, how he loves us.

Happy Holy Week, my friends.  May we all look upon Him with eyes clear and bask in the extravagant love He pours out upon us.

Because He is worthy.