"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our Little Cowboy is 5!

It was a sweet, lazy, low-key birthday.
Daddy made pizza for supper and Grammy, Grandma Donna, and Grandpa Scott joined us.
Joshua had a really, really good time.
Enjoy some super cute photos of our birthday boy courtesy of Grammy!

 After all that work blowing out the candles, he was too busy playing with new toys to eat his brownie!

I'm off to tuck in a very sweet and equally tired cowboy.
It has been a positively precious day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Birthday Blues

I didn't really expect it this year. (although I should have)

He has been so solid for so long.

He has been so excited for his birthday.

But, today was hard.  He was super needy.  Climbed in our bed before 2am. Controlled conversations.  Wanted to be carried.  Insisted on lots and lots of cuddles and reassurance.

And that is OK.  I wish it were different.  I wish his birthday was filled with only happy memories.

But it is not.

His "birthday" was one of the most difficult days of his life, and his heart remembers.

It probably always will.

As it should.

So tomorrow, he will skip school.  He has no interest in sharing the day with curious classmates.  Mom is "suppose to" come to school.  Share photos of every year of his life.  And he wants NO part of that.  Talking about Ethiopia to his classmates is "too special."  It is "only for my family."

And that is OK.

We love him, his past, Ethiopia, and his family there.  He knows that.  He does too.  He simply does not want to share that preciousness with his teachers and playmates that have no clue how rich and private and special his past is to him.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate.  It may be a celebration of snuggles and it may be a rip-roaring party - that will be up to him.  But no matter what we will celebrate.  Because his past, present, and future are way too special to ignore.

Thank you Jesus for saving our son.  On so many levels. Thank you that You did not create him with a spirit of fear - but with a spirit of Sonship.  Thank you for the miracle of healing and the preciousness of remembering.  Help us to weave the two gifts together with grace, gratitude, and love.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Inspired Shopping

The fact that I am writing a post about shopping is really, really funny!  I DO NOT like to shop.  I did not head out on Black Friday, and I probably never will.  However there is one kind of shopping I am passionate about.  I am passionate about making purchases in which the funds will benefit real people.  I love to be able to tell people the story behind their gift.  I have purchased gifts from adoptive families raising funds, from a little girl trying to earn money to travel on a mission trip, from Katie Davis' widows in Uganda, and from our local boy scouts, to name a few. . . In my experience knowing that a gift also benefitted the seller makes the gift that much more special to the person receiving it.

My new favorite place to buy gifts is The Story Company.  The Story Company markets quality, hand-made items for artisans in many struggling situations.  The items are beautiful as are the stories behind the product.

I have recently purchased some of the baskets highlighted in the video above.  They are beautiful.  And everytime I touch them I think of the atrisans that spent hours crafting them a world away.  They make my heart happy, and my home beautiful.

One thing that to me sets The Story Company one notch ahead of many of the other organizations that I have ordered products from in the past is in their presentation.

Each item comes wrapped like this.
Who does not want to receive a beautifully wrapped package in the mail?
Each package includes some bit of information about the artisan that created the product.
These stories make the item feel so personal.
I also love that if I ship an item directly to someone the presentation is special AND the reason I chose the gift (the story behind it) is easy to discover.
 This is one of the baskets from the video above.
It is so soft and beautiful.
I can not imagine weaving it from grass!
 This is a close up of a  basket woven from banana leaves.
I planned to give it as a gift, but I am loving it so much that time will tell. . .
 This is a super cute little Christmas ornament.
It is hand carved from wood.
It is so smooth and super light weight.
I am going to give them as teacher and neighbor gifts.
 This is a scarf hand stamped by a woman in India.
She chose the verse that she stamps on each scarf in Hindi because it celebrates all God has helped her overcome.  What woman would not love to wear her story?  And be reminded each time she touches it of how God redeems and loves?
 This purse is really cool.
It is made from coffee sacks.
It has a lot of fun features and zipper compartments.
Sierra and Krissy are begging for it.

And the story of the women behind the product is even more beautiful then the purse itself.

Does that not make you smile?

So, this Christmas join me in buying gifts that will bring hope and joy to both the maker and the receiver!

If you choose to make purchases throught Ths Story Comapny, please use coupon code Jemo.  When you do the kids at the site in Ethiopia that my church partner's with will receive some of the proceeds.  Which means, you get a fabulous product.  "My" kids in Jemo will receive some very much needed funds.  AND the artisans who made your gift are able to support their families!

That sure beats any Black Friday deal I have seen!

Check out The Story Company today!  Believe it or not, I did not buy all their products.  There are many more to choose from!  Happy shopping!  Be inspired!

PS - If you have links to great products that benefit real people, please pass them my way.  I am not done shopping yet!  And I am really hoping to not go near a store!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

First Thanksgiving at Fox Meadow

Today we hosted our first holiday in the new house.
It was nice to do something here other than WORK.
 This is Chad's sweet Grandma.
She and I have a deal.
I host.  She does most of the cooking.
We both enjoy that arrangement!
So does everyone else.  She cooks WAY better than I do!
 Here is proof that I do cook once in a while!
Mashed potatoes are my Thanksgiving specialty.
 We had a small group this year, only 15.
My favorite part of this picture is the camper parked right outside the window!
We are all very thankful we were NOT inside of it!
 My treasures!
They have changed so much since last Thanksgiving.
One year ago Krissy was still our tallest child. 
I am thankful for my true love.
I have laughed all day because this morning as we lay in bed whispering before all the kids woke up Chad said to me, "I love you.  You know we really drive each other crazy sometimes, but I still really love you."  My first response was, "Thanks. . . I guess!"  But as I think about it, that is what 18 years of marriage is all about.  We love each other, period.  We do not always agree, and we sometimes drive each other crazy.  But no matter what, we choose to love.  At first his comment may not have felt romantic; however, that kind of real, honest, forever love IS the most romantic thing I could ask for.  (Although a few roses would not be bad either.  Ha!)

Choosing to Be Deeply Thankful

This may the oddest Thanksgiving post ever.  Hang with me, I will get to the thankful part. . . I promise.

One thing I have long wished for is to work less.  I was once a stay at home mom, and that continues to be my dream job.  That does not mean I hate my jobs.  I do not.  I am very thankful for the work God has provided me, and I see Him using me in the jobs He has placed me into. 

In June of 2011, I (key word there) came up with a plan.  I wanted to be home, rather than working.  I wanted to adopt more kids, and I could not stomach the idea of sending them to day care.  So, I suggested we sell our home and downsize.  I also chose to trade my SUV and downsize my vehicle.  I was quite sure this was THE plan.  In order to sell this plan to my husband, I agreed to look for a home in the country.  He had long wanted to live out of town, so my "bribe" was enticing.

By July 2011 our home was on the market.

Then we began looking for homes.  We found NOTHING that would fit the needs of our family.  Either the location was wrong.  The size was wrong.  Or the price was wrong.

By Christmas 2011, I was convinced that God had closed all doors to my plan.  I had offered up my home, and He had left it in my hands.  I was eagerly anticipating pulling it off the market in January.  I thought Chad agreed.

I thought wrong.

He wanted to leave the house on the market.  Even though there was NOTHING to buy.  Even though it was winter and there was NOTHING to rent.  We could live in our camper in his shop, he reasoned.

I did everything in my power to talk him out of keeping our house on the market.  In the end, I decided to submit to the wishes of my husband.

A few weeks later, we found out lot.

Then we started drawing our home.  We did not downsize.  In fact, the home plan includes a larger garage and equal square feet to the home we were leaving.  It gave me a stomach ache.

Then our home sold, and we needed to be out sooner than I wished.  We would need to move into campers.  My stomach ache increased.  I did not want to live in campers.  At! All!  EVER!

During all this I held out hope that somehow( because of the work we were doing ourselves), my dream of a downsized mortgage would happen.

In the last weeks, amid the chaos and heartbreak of the flood, it has become clear to me that the downsize dream will not happen.  And I am honestly really, really heartbroken.  To me, all the chaos and work has been for naught.  I know how odd that may seem.  I have received a beautiful home.  It was designed byChad and I for our family, and quite honestly, it functions beautifully.  It is perfect for our crew.

But, it will require many, many years of me working just as much as I am right now.  And that is NOT what I wanted.

This full circle has brought me to a mini-midlife crisis.  I am not sure if this home is what God wanted for us OR if it is the desire of our hearts alone.  However, I do know that whether it was God's plan or not, He can and will work it for His good, because misguided or not, we do long to follow Him.  I know that He has a plan for me.  A plan to prosper NOT to harm me.  A plan to give me a hope and a future.

I am at a loss right now as to what that future should be.  There are so many loose ends.  I have an absolute passion for mothering.  I feel like God has given me a heart that sees the needs of kids from hard places. I do not see how we could pursue another adoption any time soon. I am very competent at bookkeeping for Chad.  I see God using me at my desk at our church. However, I am longing for more. . . My brain is full of possibilities, questions, and grief as I consider where He may be leading me.  I realize that HIs plans are not always my plans, at least to start, and I desperately want to know what His pans are.  I want to serve Him with confidence, joy,  and a peaceful heart.

So, although I could list all kinds of blessings I am thankful for this Thanksgiving,  I will list just one.  I am thankful that God has a plan.  I am thankful that through prayer God will "fill me with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9).

I heard this song today, and it both challenged me and ministered to my soul.

I have certainly not lost it all, but the plans I held in my heart have failed. 

I confess that I have not responded with my hands lifted.  My heart and my hands have drooped rather than clinging to the One who holds my very life in His hands.

So this Thanksgiving, I choose to lift my hands.  I choose to be deeply thankful for all that He has given.  I choose to trust that He has a glorious plan for me.  And that in time, that plan will be fully revealed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm Trying

I'm blogging because writing helps my heart to rest.  And I long for rest.

It feels as though I have not been at rest in a very long time.  I have reached the end of my ability to roll with the punches and go with the flow.  I feel totally incapable of tolerating any more change, any more stress, any more inconvenience.

Ever since school started and we moved the campers to the house, the work I do for Chad has become a HUGE burden.  Officing with unreliable internet and no printer made the work I do for him very difficult.  Moving to the house lot, then into the house, then into the hotel, and finally back into the house - yet never being fully settled anywhere has made trying to organize my schedule and carve out time to work for him nearly impossible.  The pressure to get bills paid and organized has nearly crumbled me.  I typically run 3 days ahead.  Payroll is always done by Wednesday since guys are paid on Friday.  Bills are entered when they arrive in the mail.  Checks are posted a few days before they are due.  In the last months, I have accomplished these tasks within minutes of when they are due.  Payroll is delivered hot off the press.  For my structured, organized, ritualized brain running "late" created constant pressure. 

Yesterday afternoon, I arrived home hopeful.  Ready to set up my desk so that I could once again work from home. I could see light at the end of the tunnel.  Just another day or so of catch-up and I would be able to work on "my schedule" and feel a sense of peace and control once again.

Peace and control were quickly thrown out the window.  I failed at setting up the printer.  The internet was not working.  And I lost it.  I griped to Chad, but more than anything else, my spirit snapped.  I felt totally completely hopeless.  I felt like I would never again thrive.

As the night went on things did not get better.  As Chad asked me simple questions about where this or that paper was and I had no idea, I sunk deeper and deeper into failure mode.  I finally went to bed, not as much because I was tired as that my brain craved relief from the stress of my life.

I woke up this morning cognitively aware that things will improve soon.  Barring another disaster my house will be complete before Christmas.  My office should be ready for use today.  My kids are healthy.  My husband loves me.  He even has made breakfast every day this week to help take pressure off me in the morning.  I know I am blessed.  I know there are so much greater problems in the world.

Yet my heart continues to be heavy.  My reaction to stress heightened.  I need your prayers to get through the next few weeks, because even though the end is near (or maybe because the end is near) I am at my personal breaking point.

Admitting your problem is always the first step in healing, right?

God blessed me with this verse on my daily Bible ap this morning.

"Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord."
Psalm 27:14

And my honest response is, "I'm trying Lord.  I'm trying."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Construction Update: Home again.

We officially moved back home last Tuesday. 
While it was good to be home, it was weird as well. The first time we moved in and got everything settled, it was so exciting.  Redoing that same event only 6 weeks later, was not.  It was just hard work.  And dirty, really really dirty.  Reconstruction makes twice as much mess as construction.  And I hate mess.  It was not a good comination.
After being home for a week, I have gotten some areas settled that were not settled before.  That feels good.
 This is positioned in our back entry.  It has the big family calendar, lunch menus, school reminders, etc... organized and displayed.  Becoming organized again feels really good.
 This is our family room.  When the house flooded, it was not completed.  Chad, Sandy Telehey, and I worked hard to get it done by the time we moved back in.  It is a really cozy space.  The mantle on the fireplace is my favorite feature.  Chad made it from pallet materials that his metal building materials are shipped on.  Because he loves me so much, he left the wood rough and uneven.  I just love it.
 This is our sitting room.  (Notice the campers parked right outside the window.  Oh the memories!)  I found these red "leather" chairs for a steal.  I have always wanted red leather, so they were an unexpected blessing.
The sitting room from above.  This is my favorite area to snuggle up and drink coffee before the sun comes up.
(I am still undecided as to what I want to put in the corner between the chairs.)
Evidence that we are officially home:
 Chad's fish has been hauled home and hung up.
 I bought an alarming amount of groceries and filled the pantry . . . just in case we get snowed in.  Buying staples - like flour and sugar - felt so good.  The bill was not quite as thrilling!
 Supper is simmering on the stove.
Cooking is not my passion, but it sure feels good to cook in a real kitchen.  I actually have lists of things I am looking forward to making in the next month or so.
Signs that construction continues:
Unfortunately, the work is not yet complete.  The largest remaining project is the master bathroom.
Chad has been working half to three-quarter time so that he can complete things as quickly as possible.  We delayed closing a bit, but we still hope to close by the December 6.  Closing will be such a relief.  SUCH A RELIEF!
We continue to wait on a settlement from the insurance company. 
When both of those items are settled I will feel 100 lbs lighter.
Praying that day will soon be here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Teenager!

Time flies when you are a momma.
 This little beauty turned 13 today.
I am so stinkin' happy for her.
She is the sweetest 13 ever.
She oozes sweetness.
Talks constantly.
Dances rather than walks.
Loves Jesus.
And her family.
And her friends.
And most everything else.
Including, footy pajamas!
I think she asked for these just to make me smile.
We are now parenting more teenagers than any other age group!
I have been giggling about that fact all week.  When we announced we were expecting Sierra all those years ago, my brother told us we were nuts!  According to him, having more than 2 kids was pure craziness!  We would be outnumbered and all chaos would break loose.  We laughed and laughed at his joking.  We were thrilled to be having our third baby.  Our first three kids were born in 3.5 years.  Many thought we were nuts, but I truly loved it. (Ask my mom!)  Being a mom is without a doubt the biggest source of (earthly) joy in my life.
Even now!
Even when we have more teenagers than parents here, I am having the time of my life.
Happy Birthday Berra-girl!
I am so thankful God chose me to be your mom!
(House update coming soon.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Snowed In an the Inn

This weekend we experienced our first snow storm of the season.  Since it did not really snow AT ALL last winter it seemed extra dramatic!

I had many things I wanted to get done this weekend.  Some projects at the house, but most of all I wanted to get to Carrington to babysit my nephew.  That did not happen.  BOO! 

I grumped for a bit Saturday morning about not being able to go anywhere or get anything done, but eventually I embraced the adventure!  (Plus I got hours and hours of book work done for Chad's business.  I always feel better when I am a bit productive!)

Here are a few pictures of our snow storm adventure!
 Brenna loves some TV time, and the hotel has cable!
 Tickle torture!
(As you can see, he love it!)
 Joshua LOVES the pool!
Inventing new ways to jump in is his favorite.
" Going for the gold!"
Krissy getting wild.
After a long morning of swimming, we were HUNGRY!  Roads were too bad to drive on
so. . .

 Krissy, Brenna, Joshua, and I walked across the street to Olive Garden for lunch.  It was snowing and blowing like crazy!  It was also cooooold!  About half way there Joshua stopped and yelled, "Mom, you have to help me.  My forehead is freezing!"  So I scooped him up and ran with him on my hip the rest of the way. 
You have to love ND.  Even in a big old snow storm Olive Garden stays open!
Jamison, Sierra, and Chad were off on an adventure of their own.  It was the first weekend of deer hunting, and Jamison had his first buck tag.  They travel about 2 hours to hunt.  It was not snowing there, instead they were "gifted" with freezing rain.  Jamison had decided that his minimum requirement in a buck would be a 4 by 4.  It will surprise no one to hear that was exactly what he shot.  He got it in one clean shot through the neck.  His dad was very impressed with the shot!
After they harvested the buck, they drove home.  Roads were BAD!  Chad was freaked, and he does not scare easily!  He was kind enough to have the kids text me every 20 miles or so to let me know they were OK.  I appreciated that so much.  I am not much of a road worrier, but when you are driving on roads listed as "no travel advised" even I get a little tense!  Thankfully, they made it home  safe and sound.
This weekend I am thankful for:
  • Technology!  I loved hearing from my travelers and watching the road map that ND updates every few minutes on days like yesterday! 
  • My kindle!  I can always locate a good book even when it is too yucky to go to the store.
  • Laughter!
  • Swimming pools!
  • Cleaning products!  I have spent much time trying to get all the sheetrock dust our of our new home.
  • A new 4-Wheel Drive vehicle purchased before the storm.
  • Warm clothes, coats, hats, boots, and gloves
  • Restaurants and their workers.  Popcorn 3 meals in a row would not have killed us, but pasta was WAY better!
  • A new book that is inspiring me.
  • Work completed.
  • Sleeping in, 2 mornings in a row.  That is unprecedented!
  • A husband who works until the job is done, even when his employees let him down.
  • The hope of moving home again this week.
  • Photos, they just make my heart smile.
Please pray for us this week.  We hope to settle with the insurance company.  Pray that the settlement is stress free and just for all involved.  Also pray for much work to get done in little time.  We are set to close in 10 days.  I am more than a little worried about how it will all get done!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grumpy and Grieving - but Working Toward Grateful

November is usually my favorite month.

I typically pride myself in living with a grateful heart.

This November, I am failing.  While I can cognitively count my blessings my heart is heavy.  I know I have much for which to be thankful, but my thankfulness is hollow. 

It is driving me crazy.

I want to list all the reasons that I have to feel disappointed, stressed, angry, hopeless.  I want to write a poor me post. 

(In all honesty, I did write my long list of gripes right here in this spot.  Just because I wanted to.  Then I deleted that list.)

The truth is I have had some major disappointments in this last year.  It is not turning out as I had hoped.  However, God never tells us we will not face disappointments, frustrations, failures, trials, temptations, heartache. . .

Instead He commands us "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you." (1 Thes 5:18)

I have decided to focus on that verse this month.  I have decided to choose gratitude, because in the center of God's will is exactly where I want to be.

So here is my list of things I am thankful for today:
  • Dinner with Chad and the kids all around one table tonight.
  • The news "she speaks!"
  • Brenna playing the same song over, and over, and over on a recorder with joy and delight.
  • Chad hugging me like I am someone really precious.
  • Reading books with Joshua and Brenna.  Then snuggling them as they fall asleep.
  • Jamison's practical jokes.
  • Sierra's stories about her friends.  I am so thankful she shares her heart.
  • Tea and pumpkin bread
  • The promise that there is more.  The troubles of this world will end one day.
  • Clean bath towels that I do not fold or launder.
***In case you are wondering, we are still in a hotel.  Carpet is supposed to be relaid tomorrow in certain areas of the house.  It sounds like we should be able to move back into the house by the middle or end of next week.  We are scheduled to close on Nov. 21.  Before closing, we need to insulate, firetape and sheet the garage.  Lay new tile in Jay and Sierra's bathroom.  Lay flooring in the master bath.  Also the master bath needs a full tile shower, toilet set, and tile surround to the tub.  All plumbing in that room will need to be completed.  The room also needs baseboard.  And the backsplash in the kitchen will need to be grouted.  Chad, Jamison, and Sierra will be off deer hunting this weekend.  So we have much work in short time, but Chad says it will be OK.  I'm honestly not sure how, but I do know that when Chad says he will figure it out - he will figure it out.  SO, I am praying that we will have a cozy Thanksgiving in a completed home.

Would you please join me? 

I am totally, completely longing for home.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Some Fun Firsts this Fall

This blog has been silent because I believe that if you do not have anything nice to say, keep your mouth shut.  So, since I have been the grumpiest person in the universe, my blog has been silent.
I decided that grumpy or not, I did not want to forget some of the fun moments of this fall.
 I had the honor of buying my tall son his first tie.
He knew exactly what he wanted - pink.
Even in sweats, Jay is one handsome guy.  A tie put him right over the top.
I thought the girls would never stop texting after he wore this outfit to school!
There is just something about a guy in a tie.
 Krissy is taking a speech class, and she is required to dress up on the days she gives speeches.
On this day she was to give a speech about Ethiopia.
Joshua thought he should be in the picture with her since he "knows the most about Ethiopia in this family!"
The fact that Krissy allowed me to take a picture of her is an event in and of itself though!
 Sierra went to her first Middle School dance.
She loved it.
 Jamison went to the State Cross Country Meet as an alternate.
We were so thrilled for him.  His team took their top13 guys (the full team is bout 40).  10 ran.  At the beginning of the season it never, ever occurred to him that State was even possible for him this year.  By the time State came around he was itching to run, rather than be an alternate!  We are all so proud of his progress this season.
CHS finished 4th at State.  They were ranked 5th,
Congrats boys on a great season!
I am already excited for next year!
Last night our whole family dressed up for our church's first ever "Trunk or Treat" event.
(OK so all of us were only dressed up long enough for the photo.  And I bribed Krissy into this one.  But we were all dressed for about 3 minutes!)
Many weeks ago, Sierra suggested that Chad bring his payloader for our "trunk."  We would wear hard hats and high visibility vests.  I loved it!  I am a Halloween scrooge, so simple and cheap makes me happy on Halloween!
Then our home flooded.
Construction has become much less exciting and joyful.
I was no longer very thrilled about dressing up as a family of construction workers!
But, since it remained cheap and easy, the plan remained unchanged.
I guess, like it or not, construction just defines this season so we may as well celebrate it?