Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Small Group

Each week on Monday nights, I am blessed, encouraged, challenged, and chiseled. I am reminded of God's plan for our lives and understand more fully His plan for us to live in community. Our current small group is only the second one we have been in at Southside Church, and so far we have loved every minute. God is already doing amazing things in and through these fantastic couples. We love our group like family, and more often than not, our group knows things about us even our family doesn't. (sorry fam...but it's true!)

This Sunday, after a terrible week for me personally, we forced ourselves out of bed, drug (dragged?) two exhausted and sick kiddos out of their beds, and actually got to church ON TIME. We then had the honor of watching two amazing women in our group be baptized for the first time. I cried through the whole thing. But...I'm naturally a crier.

If you don't cry watching this video of it though, you're heartless. Just kidding. Sort of.
(you can fast forward bc the first bulk of it is our worship service...unless you wanna have a little personal worship on the comp, then watch it!)

So proud of your boldness and faith Kacy and Kim!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Struggling...but Thankful

Ugh....I'm in a rut. This week has been awful. I threw my back out and could hardly move for 2 days, and then both the girls woke up with fevers Wednesday morning and have been sick and fussy since then. As soon as we get over one thing, something else happens. I feel like Satan is attacking us every way he can.

So today, I'm deciding to be thankful instead of resentful. To be content instead of restless. To find joy in simple moments and pleasures....

Like Lucy being "too tired to play", and pulling out a book and a chair on her own to have some peaceful reading time outside.....

And a precious friend bringing us dinner tonight, including homemade bread that looked and smelled so tempting I couldn't stand waiting to eat it....

Even in the daily monotony, I can choose to be grateful for the blessings around me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Waiting.....on what?

It's been hard for me to blog lately.....partly because I feel like nothing significant or out of the ordinary is happening in our lives, and partly because I feel.....restless.

Spiritually restless.

So often my spiritual life is connected to how things are going in our family, which is fine, I think. But now, for the first time in a LONG time, probably in the history of our marriage, we aren't wanting, waiting, or adjusting. There is nothing we NEED or are waiting for. There is no big change about to happen or that has previously happened. We are happy, content, thriving, and I should be praising God for these blessings. Instead I'm asking Him, Ok God, what next??

A good friend came over on Sunday and we were talking about how hard it is to go from a period of clearly being in God's will, to just....being. Not that we are out of God's will right now, but both of us had experiences very recently where we KNEW we were right smack in the middle of the will of God. For us, that was hosting Laura. I knew the Lord was calling us to her, and it was so clear that His voice was almost audible. So we did it. Now it's over, we're getting back into being a family of four, she's back in the orphanage, and there is no clear direction on where to go from here.

I know that God doesn't always speak so clearly. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that He has spoken to me, and without a SINGLE doubt in my mind, I have known what He was calling me to. So, is that what I'm waiting for? Another voice? Another calling?

I have already been called. To be HIS child. To this life of motherhood and homemaking. Sometimes the daily life feels insignificant. Sometimes I forget why I am here. But I am reminded that if I draw near to Him, HE will draw near to me. If I am daily seeking His will, His heart, then He will lead me. And when I have moments/days/weeks of weakness, of doubt and insecurity, I know that I am the one who has drifted, not My God.

He is the one waiting on me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Saying Goodbye

Thursday was such a difficult day. Lucy and Laura were clueless as to how close the departure really was, but Mark and I were pretty emotional. Fortunately we didn't have to be at the airport until 5:30 Thursday evening, so we had all day to soak up every last minute. Laura helped me pack her suitcase and I let her pick out all of her favorite clothes/shoes/toys to bring back with her. We couldn't fit everything because she really racked up while she was here! I do have all of the things she left behind still, and I'm hoping to give them to her one day when she comes back for good.

Laura talked about her sister a lot in the last few days, I know she missed her a lot. The chaperone talked to Laura on Tuesday to let her know she would be leaving soon, so she knew she was going to see her sister and I think that helped her cope.

Hanging out in the airport

Carry on child, anyone?

Waiting on all the kiddos to arrive to be checked in

Last few moments before the kids had to head to security, where we said our goodbyes

The whole group (there were 3 chaperones and probably over 20 kids....I didn't count) headed to security, as we all watched and waved one last time. Laura turned around to wave to us several times. She actually did really well saying good bye and wasn't emotional at all. She's not a very emotional or expressive person though.

Lucy has been asking about her and asking when she is coming back to sleep in her bed (we still have Laura's bed in Lucy's room). It's so hard to explain to her....

We have hope for Laura's future. We know that we will be involved in her life (and Inese's) one way or another....whether we adopt them, someone else adopts them, or whether they never come back permanently. We are invested in her, and I hope we impacted her as greatly as she has impacted us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What a difference a month makes

This is the girl we picked up at the airport only a month ago....

This is the girl we have to take back to the airport tomorrow...

She is not the same, and neither are we! I don't know how we will let her go.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Goals for 2012

So I'm a little late on the whole "Resolution" post, but I'm notoriously late everywhere I go....so why should blogging be any different?

I'm definitely a goal oriented person, and I've learned that instead of having a new thing to do just because I need to make a New Year's Resolution, I need to make attainable goals that are worth my time and effort. But ones that can be life changing when applied correctly.

We have some financial goals, like canceling cable tv, increasing our percentage giving/savings, sponsoring a child, and living on less in general...but these aren't really NEW goals, and are more goals for Mark as the provider and for us as a family to accomplish together. But I need goals for myself, that I can accomplish on my own, with Mark's encouragement and support.

Thus....my personal list for 2012:

- Start a money making blog: Ok this is kind of a big task, but one that I have wanted to do for quite some time. I still want to keep this our family blog, but want to start an additional blog, probably about something really cliche like parenting, homeschooling, cooking, or the other million things that I do in this whole "wife/mom" gig that I signed up for. Suggestions and comments greatly appreciated :)

- Begin the process of expanding our family, either through adoption or pregnancy: so I sort of need Mark's help on this one....but we both know we are ready for more children and we feel like the Lord is calling us to have more. The confusing part is figuring out how that will come about....do we pursue adoption? Do we try to get pregnant? (especially considering my miscarriage history, this seems daunting) Or do we wait until we have clear direction either way? I DON'T mean that I want us to have another child in 2012, I just mean that I want the discussion/action steps to begin in 2012. Pray for us on this one....

- Have more GIRL time: I need women/mothers/wives who are pouring into me on a regular basis. I have amazing girls in my small group, the world's greatest mom, and many friends and family who I look up to and respect as mothers and wives. But I don't have time planned in my schedule to meet with them and receive input and encouragement from them. So a personal goal for me is to plan a regularly scheduled time, whether its weekly or monthly, to receive encouragement, advice, prayer, and support from these amazing women in my life.

- Simplify our home: this one is ALL on me. I want to simplify my cleaning, cooking, and organization in every aspect of the word. I want to simplify my cleaning by decreasing the amount of products/chemicals I use; simplify my cooking by eating whole foods and not as much junk; simplify my home and organize it so that it is clutter free and peaceful. We don't need HALF the junk we have in this house....I just need the time, energy, and motivation to do something about it.

- Wake. Up. Earlier. This is my last, and most difficult goal to strive toward. I am NOT a morning person. No seriously....don't speak to me before 9 am, and don't come to my house or expect me to BE anywhere before 10 am. It's bad....I know it is. On mornings that I rise earlier than my girls (which really isn't even all that early...) and I can drink my coffee, have some prayer and Bible reading time, and get a head start on my day, I am a much happier mom. I also get a LOT more done on those days. The problem is getting out of my warm bed. I don't like to do it. So this is a goal I'm going to take slowly, because I truly want it to be a life change for me, and not something that I do for a month and then quit.

So those are my goals for 2012. I realize you didn't ask, but that's why I love this whole blogging thing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

So....what are we thinking???

This whole hosting process has brought up a lot of questions from people....

What's the point of hosting?

Are we going to adopt Laura (and Inese)?

What happens if no one decides to adopt her?

How do we feel about her?

These are all questions I struggle to answer, mainly because there are a lot of unknowns and the answers to these questions sometimes change on a daily basis. The reason WE decided to host, is because we felt the Lord was calling us to step out in faith and make a difference in Laura's life by showing her love, showing her that she is worth more than she has experienced, and hopefully, one day, to find her a family (and her sister of course). As our hosting coordinator wrote in an email to everyone regarding hosting,

The bottom line is that people who host take risks... with their money and with their hearts. There are no guarantees. But the gift that you have given your host child in taking those risks for her cannot be measured. You have said... "You are worth risking for". You have given her an opportunity to be loved, accepted, and to see something other than the (mostly ugly?) view of the world she has previously seen.
These children often don't have much that is solid in their lives... dependable people, stable homes that will always be that way, "love" that isn't based on their behavior/performance. In giving her a different view of family, I believe you have made a permanent imprint on her heart.

Legally, Laura and Inese are not available to adopt right now. Since their parents are still alive, the process to get them completely denied custody is a long one. The next court hearing to completely deny their parental rights is this May, then the Orphan Courts will decide if they are available to adopt or not. Apparently the girls' Orphanage Director and Social Worker are both very positive and hopeful about the girls being available for adoption soon. Probably this summer or fall, but there are no guarantees. Latvian adoption rules are very strict, and currently it is very difficult to adopt a child or sibling group under the age of 9. I have been told that Laura and Inese are an exception to this rule, which is why they were chosen for this host program, but again, there are no guarantees and it's just a waiting game at this point.

We do love Laura. I am very protective of her and am forever invested in her life. However, I don't feel like we are supposed to adopt her and Inese right now. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't pursue them yet anyway. There is an amazing family from our church (you know who you are if you are reading this :)) who is possibly going to pursue adoption of these precious girls. Because of adoption rules in Latvia, we are all unsure and on edge about the future of these girls and if adoption will even be possible, should someone decide to take those steps. We do rejoice in the fact that we have two families who will make sure Laura is taken care of, whether she is adopted or not.

ALL the children that are a part of this hosting program must return to Latvia. The ones flying out of Atlanta leave this Thursday. The children do not believe they are here to be adopted (although I'm sure the older ones aren't naive enough to believe that). They are here on "vacation", to live with a family and have a good time. We are not to mention the word adoption to Laura while she is here.....and we haven't. After this program, I assume Laura, and Inese if she cooperates, will be hosted again this summer. This summer we will have a better idea of when/if they can be adopted.

For now, pray for us as we send Laura back on Thursday. Pray for the unknowns. We know our God is Sovereign over orphan courts, adoption laws, financial situations, and any other barrier to giving these girls a forever home. Pray for Laura's heart. Pray that it is the Lord's will for Laura and Inese to be adopted.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

9 months

WHAT?! 9 months already? This little booger just keeps growing! I wish I could make her stop. Annie is just as sweet as ever....

I mean seriously...is it just me, or do you want to EAT her?!!

At 9 months:

- she still loves her sister! She is loving Laura these days too :)

- she is crawling on her hands and knees, but still crawls on her stomach sometimes too

- she wears size 9 mo, 12 mo, or 6-12 mo clothes and size 3 diapers

- I have no idea what weight/height percentiles are because I haven't taken her for a check up since she was 4 months old!!! I know....I'm a bad nurse....I promise it's not because I'm anti vaccines or anything, I just have been busy....and I sort of hate making phone calls to make appointments....so I procrastinate...

- she got Mark's stomach bug last week, so she still isn't back to her old appetite, but before she got sick, she had pretty much given up on baby food and wants whatever we are eating...

which leaves a lot of clean up for mommy!

- she has been on the same schedule for a while now, and takes about a 1 - 1 1/2 hr nap in the morning, and a 2 1/2 - 3 hour nap in the afternoon with Lucy. She still sleeps 12 hours at night. She used to wake up every morning around 7:30 but lately I have to wake her up at 8. I think its the winter...it has us all in hibernation mode :)

- she said "mama" a few days ago! (while she was whining and crawling towards me...so I know she meant it!)

- she does not want to be contained!!

Annie is beautiful and healthy and growing, and such a blessing and answer to prayer. She is my daily reminder of the Lord's blessing on our lives.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Part 2 &3: Christmas Day

I'm consolidating the Christmas posts.....they really aren't all that interesting and the pictures are all the same...

For the first time EVER, we stayed home on Christmas morning and opened presents at our house. I know it was hard for our families to give that tradition up but we SO enjoyed waking up in our beds and spending Christmas morning together, just us. It was wonderful and I look forward to our children remembering Christmas morning at our house, just as Mark and I grew up remembering Christmas mornings at home with our parents.

Since we were home, the "Santa" and gifting responsibilities fell on us! Although we don't really talk about Santa or make a big deal out of it, we did set out one big gift for the girls and of course filled their stockings (stockings are my favorite part!!)

Annie checkin out the new wagon...she loves it and will just sit in it and play

Lucy's favorite part about her stocking....the candy cane!

Playing with their new jump ropes

After stockings, we ate a big, yummy breakfast (made by yours truly) and then dove right into the presents!

Lucy has a musical jewelry box with a ballerina in it that Laura just adores, so for Christmas she got her very own! We filled it with hair bows and jewelry.


After morning naps, clean up, and getting ready for the day, my dad, stepmom, and her family came over for more Christmas day festivities!

The whole crew

Lucy's new Princess Castle Tent! She LOVES it.

After more naps, more clean up, and Mark and I wondering what the heck we got ourselves into doing Christmas at our house....we headed over to my mom's for Christmas evening. Her house is always so relaxing and calm, it's a good end to our Christmas chaos :)

These are the outfits I PLANNED on getting a good Christmas card pic in, but of course things never happen as planned and the pictures from Christmas Eve were better....still cute outfits though :)

I'll spare you more opening presents pictures and suffice it to say, our kids seriously racked up this year. So much so that I'm thinking next year we will have to have some sort of gift limit because my kids are now officially spoiled rotten. Even Laura seemed overwhelmed by all of the new stuff. We are VERY grateful, but I'm thinking we need to focus more on giving next year than receiving.

All in all, it was a fabulous Christmas spent with family that we are so blessed to have. I love the chaos and the mess and the noise....but at the end of the day it's so nice to reflect, in silence, on the greatest gift we were given on Christmas Day, the birth of our Savior and Lord. The fact that God willingly sent his "only begotten son", and that Jesus willingly came, so that we could be saved and "become sons and daughters", and literally be ADOPTED into His family, is a humbling realization for us this Christmas.