Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Great way to give

I recently learned about a blogger who host "24 days of giving".  Every day of advent, they will highlight a family in the adoption process who are in need of funds.  As christians we are called to care for the orphan and widow, perhaps you don't feel called to adoption yourself, but do feel called to support those who are adopting.  Here is a great way to do so!!!

(clicking on this should take you to their blog!)

I pray more orphans find families and families in waiting get to bring their children home soon!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving with the people I'm most Thankful for!

Last week we had a wonderful Thanksgiving at my parents house.  We are so blessed; truly, you couldn't ask for a better family.  I adore them.   It's humbling to be blessed in this awesome family.  Material possessions haven't always been bountiful, but love has overflowed; I'd take that any day!

Here is my contribution to the meal (I was let off the cooking hook somehow)- Turkey fruit centerpiece;)  The place cards each contained a fact, quote, or scripture related to Thanksgiving and then a question related to it. For example, talked about a particular Native American guide who was helpful to the Pilgrims and then asked what person in life was helped you the most.)

The Wed. before Thanksgiving Ava's class had their own "feast".  They made pilgrim and Native American hats.  Ava loved it and decided she wanted to make them for our family for Thursday.  She was crafting much of Wednesday afternoon (with a little help from me).  My family so graciously all wore their hats;) 

This is my sister youngest sister Katie and Brother-in-law, Brian. 

 Chloe didn't sleep the ride down to Chicago, so she unfortunately napped through Thanksgiving dinner, but here is the rest of my brood. 

 My younger sister, Karla,and Brother-in-law Jason (who happens to be Bro-in-law Brian's brother;), and my niece, Mia, who celebrated her FIRST Thanksgiving!

 My older sister, Kristin, (who looks far from old, I know;), and my niece Jordan.

My parents, who were "Governor Bradford and his wife" for the day. 

Mom hard at work, but still smiling...after all, Thanksgiving prospects looked grim when her oven broken on Wednesday night midway through pie baking.  Thank God my sister lives two blocks away! 

 The fam, with the exception of Karla, who is taking the picture (and Phin is hiding).

And this is why Karla wasn't seated and could take the picture.  A few years ago, she asked if we could wait to carve the turkey and bring it out to the table while everyone clapped and cheered.  That is, after all, what they do in one of her favorite movie, "Father of the Bride".  Of course, we all agreed, and decided she should bring it in and have "her moment".  She was so happy, our cheering became genuine and a tradition was born...we especially find it delightful that she brings it in but has never made it;)

This picture makes me exceedingly glad, because it catches her and all her turkey carrying joy;)

There is so much to be thankful for...few of them on my list are things.  My heart bursts with the amount of love I have in my life.  Thankful seems inadequate a word.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kids say the darndest things

Happy Thanksgiving!  We've had an absolutely wonderful day and I can't wait to share pictures, but as I am not home to upload them, it'll have to wait through the weekend.

I do, however, want to record a couple kid comments from today, because they are hilarious;)

First, Phin randomly asked my sister, "Are you and Jordan from China?"  I have no idea where this came from and when I asked him why he asked her that he said, "I was just wondering.";)

Second, Ava had mentioned a little boy in her class in passing when talking with my neice, Jordan.  Jordan said teasingly, "Oh, Carson, who is that?"  Ava, unphased, replied very matter-of-factly, "He has blond hair and blue eyes.  He's allergic to strawberries and I am going to marry him one day."

I thankful for many, many things- big things like my amazing parents and sisters and brothers in laws, husband and kids, my Savior Jesus Christ, but also for so many little things that bring such bursts of light to my life, like these little kid musings that can't help but bring smiles and laughter.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ode to a day of Snot

Three snotty kids once lived in a home
There was so much crying, it could be mistaken for a war zone.
They did not seem to be easily appeased
and their poor mama just fell to her knees.
"I surrender" she said, "just make it stop!
 My own little head feels like it could pop."
No one was happy, there seemed little she could do..
 and her poor mental status was coming unglued.

She thought she'd be fine if she could just sleep,
but when she started to doze, into her room one would creep.
They had every complaint and every excuse,
why they themselves just could not snooze.
One wanted cuddles, then all wanted them too
 and one little lap just did not seem to do.
Poor mama coddled, she rocked, and she read;
she sang and she prayed and she gave them their bread.

Though the end of the day seemed a long time coming,
it did finally arrive with a sunset so stunning.
She finally felt like she could actually breathe
and rise from her drowning in the viral seas.
The day was over and she had survived
She could hardly believe it- she was alive!

Off to bed she'll now go and pray for the best,
that she'll actually sleep and her children will rest.
Oh she's quite aware, the night may be long,
there maybe little interruptions and need for more songs.
Still she must say, no matter how grim it will seem,
that she know she'll be sustained by her Savior and King.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Poop- one of my sons favorite words.  We have not got him the Everybody Poops book.  It would just be the source of endless jokes from this little tyke.  Somedays I fear my only memories of him from this age will be of his potty humor, and just in case that fear would at all start to subside, he'll throw in a moment like this:

On Thursday as I was putting Phin to nap he said,  "I just peed in my diaper!"  I said, "Phin, if you knew you were peeing you should have told mommy or just run to the potty."  Phin, "I am going to poop now."  Me: "well, then let's sit on the potty."

I spent 45 minutes with my little guy reading books while he sat on the potty.  He got thrilled about a few "toots", which were accompanied by laughter or little phrases like, "oh!  Did you hear that one, mommy?" It is funny in retrospect, but as I am trying to teach him some resemblance to manners, I held the laughter at bay and just calmly responded with, "I am glad your body is working."

I was supposed to be on Skype with my friend from England at this time and I knew I had missed her.  It would have been okay had he actually pooped, but after 45 minutes and ring around his bum, I was convinced that he was putting off nap, so I decided to call it a day.  Just at that time, I heard my skype calling.  YAY!  I'd get to see Heather and her baby after all; I told Phin to put the books back in his room while I talked to Heather.

I was on skype for all of 2 minutes when my little guys comes waltzing into the kitchen sans Pullup and loudly declares to me and, by way of skype, Heather, "I pooped on my carpet".  REALLY?  REALLY?  For 45 minutes you can't poop and yet not two minutes later, mysteriously can't hold it for a walk back to the toilet!

Heather look immediately horrified, but then her face just showed complete pity for this mommy when he added, "don't worry, I cleaned it up"

Seems he always picks the wrong times to be helpful! One can't help but laugh and try to cherish the moments, poop and all.

Grace for the Good Girl- Ch.2 and 3

Can I just admit that it's Saturday and this book club post thing took place on Tuesday.  I am only 4 days late.  I mention it because the "good girl" in me is mortified at being late and feels the need to come up with same amazing excuse to explain this tardiness.  There is no good excuse.  I had plenty of time this week; I just didn't sit down and finish the chapters.  I was into crocheting baby hats...wait, can I start over?  I can make that excuse bigger; I can make it sound valid.  Here I go: "I am crocheting baby hats for orphans in China."  (Please read with dramatic flair.)  See, that sound impressive, doesn't it?  Could my real life, my real weaknesses possibly be a better transition into my thoughts on Ch. 2 and 3?

Ch2- Chasing Expectation: Hiding behind her good performance

If I hadn't been reading in bed with my husband sleeping next to me, the audible words I would have uttered were, "yes!"  "Right!"  "yes!" and a few "ouch, got me!s"   I think so many women, myself included, fall prey to the lie that we must perform in order to be love, worthy, and/or respected.  "We work hard, we do right, and we try not to ruffle feathers.  And even if we do all that by the strength of our own selves, we tell ourselves it's okay.  It seems to work, therefore it's acceptable."  Hello!  I don't care how old I get, I think this will always be a struggle for me.   The problem is that we expect ourselves to be good and WE usually define good as perfect.  I have fallen into this countless times.  The problem- only God is perfect and by expecting our own perfection, we are actually expecting ourselves to be like God and negating our need for a Savior.

Not surprisingly, this usually occurs when I get "too busy" and stop spending time with God.  I mean it's a no brainer, you take your eyes off God and put them on yourself- you're gonna fall.  I think it's especially dangerous because often our original motive was good.  We just start to live for that motive instead of for Christ.  We allow ourselves to be consumed by "being good/perfect" instead of seeking his leading.

As I read her section on "being a good wife", I almost laughed out loud.  I was SOO there when we first got married.  I am an avid reader and so when we were engaged I read a ton of books.  One book in particular talked about man's physical need for sex and how they had the physical NEED for sexual release ever 48-72 hours.  I took a principle and made it a rule.  I decided as a rule, we would never go more than 72 hours without sex.  A rule made by someone who had not yet been a wife, never experienced life with someone else, never had children.  Now, I believe it's a great principle to consider.  Our husbands needs ARE to be considered, but the good girl in me went beyond consideration to "I will be a perfect lover for my husband."  The result, a couple years into marriage I began to notice the sinking feeling in my stomach as 72 hours approached.  It became a "to do".  I began to resent HIM for a rule he had no part in making.

The author of this book has a melt down about painting her house perfect, in my life- I had a meltdown about sex....a complete meltdown.  My husband, of course, was completely shocked by this rule I had been living under and "freed" me from his expectations.  It took a long time for God to free me from my own.  Wouldn't you know our sex life improved dramatically when I was free instead of STRIVING to be perfect?  (AND on a side note- to prove I still struggle with what it means to be a good wife, I am fighting internally at this very moment because I KNOW authenticity is what is right, but I am not struggling with you all knowing that we don't always have sex every 72 hrs and wondering if all you readers out there in blogger space are taking pity on my husband for his less than perfect wife....still a struggle 9 years after "freedom"...bottom line freedom is a choice and your emotions won't always accompany it right away!)

I am so glad for God's grace in this area of performance.  I hope I'm not still struggling with this one at 80, but thankful that God will be gracious then as he is now, if indeed I am!

Ch.3-My Not-So-Extreme Makeover:  Hiding behind her good reputation

I am not as "good" a girl as the author.  She has never had a period of rebellion.  I have, albeit it short lived.  Still I can AGAIN relate.  Do all people follow the same path in their 20s and 30s?  Just wondering because I resonate with having gone through such similar things with the author!!

I was second born.  My sister, the first, took on the rebel role.  I proudly wore the "good girl" one.  Proudly would be the biggest problem in that sentence!  I didn't ever desire to be too bad and even my brief rebellion senior year and the summer after was pretty short lived.

"A girl with a good reputation easily makes friends...., effortlessly impresses the parents of her boyfriends, and has little trouble coasting into the role of pastor's wife.  But if she hides behind her good reputation, there is little room for correction, and the good girl is in danger of being her own compass rather than having a softened heart to the leading of God as he speaks through he Word, friends, or family members."

Here's the thing:  I always impressed boyfriend families and I knew it and in my heart I was proud about it.  I knew many of them wanted their sons to marry me and if I am honest I LOVED knowing that.  I wanted to be a pastors wife, because at one time that was, for me, the spiritual pinnacle and yes, I loved my good reputation.    This chapter points to what continues to be my greatest character flaw: self righteousness and though she doesn't mention it, I believe pride comes in holding self-righteousness' hand.

I haven't mastered this one either, so I found this chapter encouraging and admonishing.   I also, however, have to point to God's faithfulness.  It was no mistakes that my in laws rejected me.  Granted, it was through no fault of my own, but it was during that time I had to confront yet again issues with where my security lay.  I realized then that I had partly defined myself by what a "good catch" I was.  I married into a family with different values and worldviews who could careless that I was "good" in the christian realm.  I had to confront another layer of "who am I living to impress".  First God tackled the getting security in boys thing, then in friendships, and then in this area- reputation.  I was so raw.  At a time I wanted to just feel sorry for myself, for being rejected- God showed me a character flaw and his desire to free me.  He always makes beauty of ashes and something beautiful from pain.  More freedom was a result....and the feeling of freedom is incomparable.

I struggled with even marrying Marc.  He wanted to be a CEO someday.  He wasn't a missionary or pastor.  He wasn't going to be poor.  God confronted what I defined as good.  Often, it's different from his definition.  Those things CAN be good, but not if it's not where he's led.  My mom gratefully was his voice of correction on this one. think my own self righteous expectations about what a good life meant might have kept me from living the life God had for me with Marc.  WOW- am I thankful God stepped in through mama on that one!

God has stripped away a lot, but the gross truth is there is more.  YUCK!  Check out this line from the book: "Character refers to who you are.  Reputation refers to who people thing you are."  I don't know about you, but when I read that, my stomach feels sick.  Please Lord, help them not to look different!  It is a prayer of my heart that character and reputation in my life are synonymous!  Oh that what others see is also what God sees.  I want to be a woman of character.  I want to be Christ-dependent and not self-dependent.

It's always a struggle isn't it?  The thought of which leads back to this late post- I just am late.  I really was crocheting and thoroughly enjoying doing it after not really doing it for the past three years and yes, I really do get to give those hats to orphans.  But I could easily have made time to read this week and to post.  I was feeling like I didn't want to do much of anything, so I watched TV and crocheted.  The orphan thing is a wonderful idea, but I wouldn't have thought of it on my own, my friend Carla had the idea and she invited me to help.  I have no excuse, and why do I feel the need to make one?  None of you really care, do you?  It's just that old temptation to THINK I need to make you all think I'm put, but you guys already know differently and so do I!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five Question Friday

 I LOVE those emails with the questions about yourself like, "what are you wearing right now?" or "what do you eat for breakfast?"  I find the whole thing fascinating.  Knowing little tidbits about your friends is just interesting and let's face it, sometimes downright hysterical.  So...after thoroughly enjoying other peoples 5 question Friday answers, I am going to indulge and join in.  It's fun;)

1. Do you have a go to song that always puts you in a good mood?

Many, actually, but perhaps my most favorite is Francesca Battistelli's "Free to Be Me" and Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA"...yes, I bust a MEAN move to these when I am alone in my kitchen;)

2. Are you a real Christmas tree kinda person or do you go with a real fake one?
I am obsessed with a clean house....fake.  We tired a real one once.  I love the idea of it and would love to go chop one down with my kids and tie it on top of our station wagon....but I know my mental limits.  When we had one, I forgot to water it regularily and it was a mess.  Never again...

3. What are you thankful for?
So many things.  Today, I am especially thankful for a reminder that my children are a blessing.  My friend Nikki spoke at our mom's group today and it was a shot in the arm in a good way.  She reminded us of how precious these days are and to "seize the day".  I was so thankful for her and for other women whose kids are a little older than mine that remind me how quickly the days pass and give me the gift of being reminded to savor these memories AS they are happening.  I am so blessed with friends.

I am thankful for a husband who loves me like crazy.  I find him to be amazingly handsome and he still can make my tummy tingle.  He is my best friend and I feel completely safe and confident when he's near.  He is amazing.

I am thankful for my family.  I had an amazing childhood.  My parents loved us and taught us to love Jesus.  They reflected God in their actions and that spoke more than their words (which, of course, also pointed us to God).  I know I am one of the few who had a healthy childhood and I am so so grateful for it.  AND I have amazing closest friends.
My children- wow are they cool.  Sure, they have driven me crazy on more than one occasion, but they fill my life with laughter, love, and constantly remind me to stop and savor the little wonders in this world....and they are so darn cute!

God...sound pat?   Maybe, but seriously, I am so thankful for salvation and more than that for a God who so gently loves and leads me.  I am thankful that he doesn't let me stay stuck in unhealthy habits and sin, but constantly leads me and grows me to be more like him.  God is amazing, awesome, incredible...

4. Which fashion fad from the past do you wish you could wear today?

Hmmm....perhaps I should have checked to see if I had an answer to all five questions before linking up to this thing;)  Um..I don't have an answer.  I DO wish I lived when it was cool to be chubby...I'd be down with the return of that trend.

5. Do you wait until the "low fuel" light comes on before you fill up the gas tank?

Yes, and this summer I actually ran out of gas.  Our old car made a little ding when your fuel was low.  I hate getting gas, so I'd wait for the ding.  Our new car lacks the ding and forces me to rely on the tiniest yellow light.  Recently, I didn't notice the light and ran plumb out of gas.  It had never happened to me before and I was mortified because a friend was with me;)  Thank God Marc was close by and could rescue us.  My children still constantly ask "Mommy is there gas in the car?"  I think they are scarred for life.

There?  Now wasn't that fun.  Don't you want to do it too?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Through facebook, I have been able to reconnect to a friend, Michelle, I met in Chicago over 10 years ago.  When she commented on my blog, lo and behold, I realized she had a blog.  People blog for different reasons.  I so appreciate all of you who read my blog, when you comment it makes me smile;  but I have to tell you, I didn't start blogging for all of you.  I started blogging for purely selfish reasons.  I am a journaler at heart, but I was getting frustrated with the lack of time I had to journal.  For some reason, when journaling I need stillness, solitude, and perhaps a warm cup of tea.  Those moments become few and far between when you have more than one child.  I found blogging must use a different part of my brain- for I can type my thoughts with a baby on my lap and two others fighting in the background.  Granted, if you've read my blog even once, you'll find evidence of distraction in my frequent grammatical slips or typographical errors....still, imperfect as it is, it is a record of my thoughts, of our families memories.  

I can't tell you why my friend Michelle blogs, but I want to encourage you to read her blog.  I know she didn't start out blogging for me, but her blog has become a highlight of my day.  She strikes a perfect blend between humorously writing about the mundane and then throwing in the gut wrenching, can't help but cry kind of post.

I was in a small group with Michelle for a very short time.  She was experiencing a brief stint in Chicago, working in Marketing at Einsteins Bagels,and we were fortunate enough to have her in our group for that time.  Reading her blog has reminded me why I always liked her and why now I wish she lived a little closer. She is hysterical and yet deep.  She was in our first small group, actually.  Both Marc and I had been in Chicago less than a year.  It was on the floor sitting in a circle of girls that I began blubbering and crying during prayer time.  We'd just gotten engaged and the time we thought would be joyful was clouded by Marc's parents outrage.  They said he had to chose between a relationship with them and me.  It was a shockingly painful time.  The first time in my life I felt completely bulldozed by pain that was being inflicted by absolutely no wrongdoing of my own.  Those girls really blessed me that night.  Michelle had a unique blend of witty humor and heart.  She blessed me then and her blog is blessing me now.

Head on over and check her out...she's pretty cool!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time to trim the tree

You are already thinking I'm referring to Christmas, aren't you.  Alas, you are wrong and no match apparently for my witty title;)

I don't believe I ever got to write about the personal journey that I underwent a couple months ago;)  I'll keep it short.  We are finishing up a great book in my bible study called, "Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Journey to Contentment". In many ways, it's been a great book, but by far the chapter that most impacted me was the one on living a life of purpose.  I spent a great deal of time self examining and praying and came up with my life's purpose statement (based on what I believe God led me to).  Here it is (don't worry, I'll explain the tree thing momentarily):

I want to live my life purposefully.  I want to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind.  I desire him to be glorified in all I say and do (Isaiah 26:8).  

I want to love my husband.  I want to honor and respect him.  I want our marriage to be lifegiving to him.  

I desire to love and prayerfully parent my children, depending on God for wisdom, obediently following his commands and surrendering to his sovereignty in their lives.  We want to raise them to be who HE intends them to be and leave our agendas at his feet.

I want to lead a life characterized by love; I want the way I love others to be so extreme, so countercultural, that one can't help but point to Christ.  I want my kindness to help lead others to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.

I want to help women find security in Jesus, to point them to his indescribable, unending love and help them find freedom to be who he made them to be.

I want to offer hospitality to all who enter my home and hope and pray they find Jesus in our walls.  May his presence in our home be so palpable that they look past material possession to him.

I want to live a life waiting on God, listening to his voice and walking by faith.  May my life be a sweet fragrance to Christ.

Part of the chapter on living a life of purpose described one of the author's friends techniques for making sure she keeps focused on her purpose statement (which because it's arrived at through prayer, is also keeping focused on what God has called her to).  She pictured her life like a tree.  Christ was the trunk and the "essentials" were the limbs (ie. her husband, children, friends).  Off each trunk were branches (activities, ministry opportunities, etc.).  Twice a year, she would draw her tree and if the branches were covering the limbs and trunk she knew it was time to cut back.

Marc and I have been too busy since June.  It's been a lot of good things and many of the busyness has been unplanned.  Friends needed help, ministry obligations bigger than originally planned, etc, LOTS of house guests.  The end result, however, is exhaustion.  The problem, really, is our plate was too full for the unexpected.  Now that we have fulfilled obligations, we get a moment to breathe.  One of my activities is looking at and trimming my tree.  The realization is the utter need to build more margin into our lives.  There will always be seasons that are busy.  Sacrifice is necessary and biblical, so I do believe there will still be times that feel overwhelming or still times a friend needs help that aren't convenient or easy, but still the right thing to do will be to help.  I just know the seasons need to be shorter than what we've lived through.  So right now I am praying a lot- what do I need to cut back on?  Am I missing opportunities you would have me take because I am too busy?  When is it OK to say "no" and when do I still need to say, "yes"?

So yes...before Advent hits and we decorate our tree, I am doing a little internal house cleaning and trusting the Lord to show me just where he would have me be, what he would have me do, where he wants me to go...THANK GOODNESS he goes before me and speaks to me heart!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bye Bye Blues

I hate to admit it, but I really struggle with the blues this time of year.  I've never been formally diagnosed, but both Marc and I often have wondered if I have Seasonal Affect Disorder.  I am usually a pretty high energy, active person.  Once the cold, dreary, dark weather sits in, I find it very hard to keep motivated and moving.  I have a hard time with my attitude and really struggle, especially on the really dark days.  Last winter, here in Sheboygan, was very sunny and I didn't have as much trouble...I am hope this year reveals the same.

Yestererday was very dark and dreary.  I was nursing a headache and really had to force myself to take care of my take a new mom dinner, which I signed up for a week ago (I am pretty sure she needed a meal more than I needed to crawl in bed and pull the covers over my head;).  I was finishing up some brownies and I have to admit feeling a little sorry for myself, "I have children and have to take care of them and can't just take a hot bath and sip tea and hibernate until spring."  I was in the depths of my moping and hadn't even gotten to the point of trying to snap out of it; I hadn't uttered a prayer for strength or help with an attitude adjustment.  My children were supposed to be in naptime.  I was hoping to finish up the cooking and have some time for a little snooze or just a good cry (over nothing, of course, but sometimes you just need to let it out- ladies, you understand, right?;). 

My moping was interupted suddenly by loud squeals and feet bounding down the stairs.  My children, obviously, were not napping and they loudly exclaimed, 'WE HAVE SNOW!  WE HAVE SNOW!"  I was having such a pitty party that I didn't even notice the white stuff outside;)  I can't think of a better cure for the blues than being surrounded by joy.  My first instinct, I must admit, was to grumble in a nasty tone, "get back in your rooms."  Thankfully, I didn't follow through on that thought, but bit my tongue, took a deep breath and instead, took note of their joyous faces and said, "Do you want to put on your snowpants and go outside?"

Just bundling the kids up made me laugh.  It is just a ridiculous process.  We had to find snow pants and thankfully we had boots that fit.  They were so happy, they could hardly stand still for boots and mittens.  To think, I almost let my mouth get away from me and could have thrown them back in bed and missed the moment.  They were all the sunshine I needed to snap me out of my slump.  It was FREEZING and so windy outside, but they had not a care in the world but to experience the wonder of the year's first snow.  They even managed to build a tiny little snow man (or mound if I'm being accurate;). 

When they came inside, we had hot chocolate and marshmallows; even though Phin spilled his hot chocolate all over my freshly mopped floor, I was reminded, yet again, to savor these little moments.  I was reminded that sometimes God meets my needs before I've even asked him to do so.  My kids teach me so much...and wouldn't you know that a good laugh obliterated that need for a good cry.

Nope- no picture of the snow mound.  While I love a good picture, I'd like to direct your attention to the wind in the tree in the back ground?  It was brutal out there and my joy catching had it limits...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Grace for the Good Girl

grace for the good girl by emily p. freeman

My dear friend Christina recently attended the Relevant conference and had a life changing weekend.  She is exuding a light and a freedom that is amazing to witness.  As part of the conference she met the author of "Grace for the Good Girl" and decided to start a virtual book club and go through this book two chapters a week.  So here I go...jumping farther into the virtual world;)  Should you care to join me- check out Chapter One on the author's site.

Grace for the Good Girl- Chapter 1 "Are you a Good Girl in Hiding"

Emily writes very eloquently and heart felt about her own journey of "hiding" behind her good girl image.  She hid behind perfectionism and control and was paralyzed by the thought of being exposed as the imperfect person she is.  She talks about realizing there was little difference between her and the unchristian when her form of faith failed to really realize the freedom found in Christ.  She talks about accepting Christ as her way to Heaven, but failing to realize her deep need for him in her every day life.  She talks about feeling like she needed/wanted to be the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the perfect friend.

She asks what we are hiding from and proposed that the answer reveals what we most fear.  Some of us hide from  our dreams or from others really knowing who we are.  Some of us hide behind rules because it is the only way we feel we can be accepted by God.  She asks us to answer these questions, to really look at areas where we are driven by fear and partial truth, for it is in confronting the answers that we can find Freedom and let Love do the job He wants to in our lives.

My reaction:  Gratefulness for the freedom I have found in Christ.  As is obvious, I am not perfect, but I do at this point in life feel free.  Still, I often fall prey to the same habits or sin I thought I found freedom from.  I resonate with what Emily says because while I don't feel imprisoned now, I HAVE been there and I know I am not immune from returning.  I wish I could say I've conquered this....Jesus certainly has, but just like Peter walking on water, so many times I talk my eyes off the Conqueror and find myself drowning once again.

I look forward to reading more of this book.  I am passionate about authenticity, but I also know it's still a struggle for me.  There are still periods when I realize I am diggin' people's praise or approval.  When that starts happening, I often find I have fallen prey to defining myself by that praise and slowly I realize I am afraid of falling off self built pedestal.  I read this chapter and am thankful for where God has brought me and yet I also know the journey isn't over.  I don't currently feel stifled by any masks, but I know they aren't far away and the temptation to wear them is ever before me.  I know God has more to show me and I look forward to the journey!

Two songs that resonate with me EVERY time I hear them and I couldn't help but think of them with this chapter:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Selfish- (adj.) devoted or caring only for oneself

Any other parents out there feel like they never knew how selfish they were until they had children?  Parenthood required selfLESSness and at times everything in me baulks at the task.
This morning Ava asked me if she could have some tea (she likes to drink tea with me).  Because it was time to go to school, I told her, "It's time to go to school now, but when you come home, you and I can have special time.  We'll have tea and then I'll do your nails."  She, of course, was elated.

I guarantee you she did not forget my promise.  Not only did she not forget, she quite obviously looked forward to it all morning while in school.  When I picked her up, she could talk of nothing else on the way home.  This small promise was filling her love tank, making her feel special and loved.  She wanted nothing more than to spend the afternoon with her mom.

I wish I could say I felt the same.  By the time I picked her up from school and finished lunch, I was exhausted.  She wanted nothing more than to talk and hang out.  I wanted nothing more than a nap.  I had to fight with myself to do the right thing, to stay present, to listen as she talked and talked and talked and to ask her engaging questions.  I had to fight to make the afternoon as special as she had built it up in her head to be.  I had to fight to chose what was more important, what was right.

I did enjoy my afternoon with Ava, but it wasn't easy.  I wish it were different.  I would think three children and almost 6 years into this parenting thing, my struggle with selfishness were over.  It's not.  I have set times for "me"...1-3 every afternoon and 7-9 pm every evening (and the evening time is actually set aside for Marc and I, so really the only "me" time is 1-3).  Part of that time, no most of that time, is spent on laundry, vacuuming, and dishes, but it's still time I'm alone with my thoughts.  How painful it is for me to let "MY" time go.  All I can think right now is "Lord, please fill me with more of your spirit.  Give me joy in self sacrifice."  I have a five year old whose heart is overflowing because her mama simply took one on one time to paint her fingers and easy it is on one hand to minister to her heart and how hard it was on the other to let go of self.  Oh!  that I will find the choice ever easier and every more obvious to make; How thankful I am that for today, I made the right choice and was able to love my little princess as God would have me love her.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Where did that adoption thing come from?;)

Based on my friend Anna's comment a couple days ago, I am posting the link for my initial description of this whole adoption thing;)  We are VERY, VERY early in this process.  We are trying to seek God and not get ahead of ourselves, but just obediently following and pursuing his will.  I originally typed this post because I realized we are really starting down "the road" now and I want to keep a record.  I didn't publish it when I wrote it because I wanted to make sure my husband was okay with having our journey "out there".  After all, we still have more questions than answers, we haven't started any paper work, don't know a country, haven't chosen an agency, etc.  It's feels a bit vulnerable to have "the world" watching as we seek for answers and strive to be obedient.  But I also wonder if blogging from the very get go won't be helpful to someone somewhere at some point;)  When I did publish it, it filed on the date it was written, so yes it was easy to miss, Anna.  Sorry 'bout that;)
An extra hour of sleep AND this sunrise this morning....I hardly need my cup of tea;)
(imagine if I wasn't taking a picture through a screened window?)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What I am learning so far...

I was overwhelmed looking at the list of countries from where a US citizen can currently adopt.  I had all kinds of questions, the first being, "how does one decide domestic vs. international?" and the second being "if international, where?"  I knew God would lead so I just kept praying and immediate stopped and prayed if the questions went beyong wondering to anxiety.  Truly, God does lead.  First, through a series of conversations and prayer, we do believe at this point International adoption is where we are headed.  Second, it is actually very easy to start narrowing down countries when you start looking.  We simply aren't eligible in some countries.  We already have children and some countries won't let you adopt when you have three children at home.  Other countries mandate a long stay (months) to finalize adoption, which just isn't doable with a job and three children we will most likely have to leave with friends or family in order to pick up our fourth child.  Other countries won't let you adopt under age two, and at this point, we feel after praying that we want to keep our "birth order" in order.  It's been eye opening and exciting to see a long list of countries now become 6 countries.  We are pretty sure we know where God is pointing our hearts, but it's still early so we are committing it to prayer. 

I've been somewhat afraid in a lot of ways, but even really starting down the first steps on this road has calmed some fears.  All the countries we are looking at have 2-3 years laps between start of this process and bringing home our child.  It is as if God has said to me, "I know a fourth child seems like too much today, but you're not bringing you fourth child home today, you're preparing for the future."  The picture is starting to clear and excitment is setting in.  My heart anticipates what more he will show us and I'll keep ya'all posted...even on the bad days when I might be back to freaking out;)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Silly Supper- Teeny Tiny Dinner Night

Know what is becoming the most fun thing about Silly Suppers?  My kids have gotten totally into them.  I can announce, "It's silly supper day!" and they spend all day asking ?'s about what it could be, getting totally excited...and no matter how different the dinner ends up being than their guesses they are overjoyed.  From the most complicated to the simplest (like today)...they LOVE it.  These are the days....these are the days!

Today's Silly Supper was Teeny Tiny Dinner Night.  It's been a LONG few weeks.  We were overdue for a fun evening but I haven't had time and don't have much energy to do anything complicated.  Today I was reminded somethings are super cool without much fuss.  I LOVE THAT!

 We all sat at the kids table of course because it and the chairs that go with it are smaller.

 We used a dessert plate, disposable shot glasses I found at Walmart, baby silverware and I cut the napkins from regular size ones.  For food:  cocktail sausage, mini pretzels, currants, and I made mini cheese sticks.  Our center piece was a small bowl with baby bananas.  (Don't worry we not only had seconds, but thirds and fourths, and....)


 For dessert, mini oreos and milk.

My love of Oreos happens to come from MY dad, so seeing my kids eating Oreos with THEIR dad makes my heart smile:)

"Oreo eyes, Mommy!"

Baby girl was there too;)  I put her high chair on the lowest setting so she was still eye level with us at the Kiddie table;)

This was by far the easiest Silly Supper yet...took be all of 5-10 minutes to set up and everything was store bought...a good reminder that great fun is easy to come by with a little thought and plenty of love!

Phin's Third Birthday Party

Last Saturday we had Phin's 3rd birthday party.  If you've followed my blog for long at all, you know that, for me, birthday parties are one of my most favorite parts of motherhood.  I love my children and giving them a day to remember is for me and incredible way of showing them my love.

Phineas is obsessed with Toy Story; although Ava had a Toy Story birthday party in the spring, he desperately wanted his own party.  I had to oblige;)  I WAS able to use a lot of the same decorations but I did try to tailor the party to Phin and to three year olds.  I had so much fun....can't wait until next year:)

While we were decorating for the party, Ava so sweetly drew Phineas a Toy Story Scene on our white board.  I LOVE the relationship my children are developing!

When the kids arrived we colored a picture of Buzz and Woody on the rocket (from Toy Story 1) and taped them on cups so they would "go to the sky".  (Here is a link to how to make the jumping cups- my kids LOVE THEM)

 Then we were off to the basement. First, they had to find all the toy soldiers that were on a reconnaissance mission to find out what kind of new toys Phin would get for his birthday, then they got to play bean bag toss to win Toy Story fruit snacks....

 And they used the nerf gun to knock down the Prospector, Zurg, and Sid.

 Games with three year old boys don't last long, so I made Phin dress up like a chicken and he was "Al" from Toy Story 2.  He came and snatched Woody and kids had to get Woody back;)  (My husband is a GOOD Papa!!)
We had a pull string Buzz Lightyear pinata...cuz though I am crazy, I would never give 6 three year old boys large sticks and tell them to hit something;)
My favorite part...three year olds are not greedy yet.  This is the candy left after they each took like one piece;)  We had to encourage them to grab more.  I found it so precious that they are thankful and excited about just one piece.

Our birthday party guests eating pizza and waiting for cupcakes.  

Yes, I forgot to take a picture of the cupcakes.  A) because they really weren't something I put a whole lot of work into.  Phin saw alien sprinkles by the toys story party supplies and only wanted chocolate cupcakes with alien sprinkles.  I obliged.  and....
b)  because I was hobblin' around on crutches and I stepped off the bottom stair wrong the day before and sprained my ankle!  (pictures are usually so important to me, but we do what we can folks, we do what we can)

The final project?  Mr. Potato Head balloons.  I wasn't sure if these would be fun our not- but they were a hit!

Cooking for a Month in a Day

I have wanted to try this Cooking for a Month in a Day thing for quite a while.  When I found this amazing site that does all the work for you I knew I had to give it a try.  I thought, "Why not make it into a party?" so I sent an email to my mom's group to see who was interested in participating.  Thank God only 4 gals were able to make it work at this time and on this day!  We learned a ton from try number one.  We learned 1)it is exhausting, but worth it 2)cooking all day is really messy 3) having kids around, even if they are really well behaved might not be so helpful, 4)doing 4 families simultaneously is actually only easily doable in a commercial kitchen with commercial cookware;)

If you consider doing this, I would recommend doing it with one partner.  It would be tough to tackle this one along...especially since it REALLY does take all day, but too many partners makes for some confusion and just not enough space to prepare and cook everything.  We actually took longer, I think because of the mass quantity of food every recipe needed.  I would also thoroughly check everything on the grocery list with the recipes.  The site does all the work, but there were a few mistakes that necessitated a grocery store run.  (We were short two dozen eggs and 20 chicken breasts- so the mistakes weren't minor;)

This is just the dry goods....we had my kitchen table loaded with refrigerated items too...

 and coolers filled with meats...

 Laurie is an amazing baker...but after spending more than 8 hours baking one has to wonder if the "likability" factor has decreased a few notches...
Christina took great delight in grilling ham and cheese quesadillas.  

 Beef Stroganoff, however, was another matter entirely.  Perhaps one could even go so far as to claim it was the thorn in her side.

 Broccoli and Cheddar biscuits...I would never have made them on my own, but they look kind of cool.

 Does she look a bit more tired in her second photos?  That is what happens when you cook all day!

 Ashley spent almost an hour trying to figure out the labels that I had already messed with and could NOT get to print properly.  In the end, it turned out I had loaded the paper upside down...ouch!

I would complain about the paper cut I got on my knuckle, but Ashley actually took a chunk out of her finger so....
 Yes, it DID and DOES feel like a major accomplishment!

I don't care if you're interested or not;)...all that hard work gets a second look!

Thank you Ashley, Christina, and Laurie for learning with me and hangin' tough!  We certainly do have plenty of food and I actually keep laughing at the insanity of it all today;)
I loved living in Chicago, but living in Chicago was lovable for me because of the people there that I love and that love me.  I was never built for the city.  I find the congestion and concrete robs stiffling.  I often felt claustrophobic.  For some, the city and the hustle and bustle is exciting and thrilling, for me it is suffocating.

Moving to Sheboygan has restored life to my soul in many ways.  I still have struggles like asking for help and being to controlling, but I have found a whole level of stress is gone.  Sitting in my living room with sunshine literally POURING in and looking outside at nature galore speaks to me in indescribable ways.  I find such joy in watch deer run through my yard and learning firsthand why foxes are referred to as "sly" and who knew TURKEYS FLY?;)  I was built to enjoy nature and God has provided a home with beautiful views of his handiwork!!

I'll one day post the amazing sunrises I see EVERY morning from my bedroom, but for today here is my favorite fall tree- a red maple.  I has made me stop and smile more times than I can count.  October was an insane month of "to dos" and much work travel for my husband.  This simple tree often make me stop amongst the stress and just take a minute to revel in God's handiwork.