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

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Whole New Decade. . . (My Thoughts on Turning 40!)

One of my birthday wishes was for a picture of these six.  I am most thankful to say that it along with all my other birthday wishes were granted this year.  

I realize I am in the minority, but I was thrilled to turn 40.  A fresh new decade sounds wonderful to me.

My 30's were filled with both the best of times and the worst of times.  In many ways, I feel as though I found myself during my 30's.  

"Finding yourself" is hard work.

It is costly and heartbreaking and exhausting.
It is exhilarating and empowering and comforting.

During my 30's we built 2 homes.  We grew our business and moved it 3 times.  We added 2 children to our family.  We traveled internationally many times.  God changed our hearts forever in many areas - mission, service, adoption, following at all costs.  Our oldest "flew the coop."  I tried out a couple of full time jobs. 

It has been a decade of huge changes.

Those changes have been hard, gut-wrenching, scary, and AWESOME!

As I begin this new decade I feel as though I have come full circle in some ways.  I am once again mothering full time.  Sure I work for Chad, but my number one responsibility is to care for our family.  To me that is freedom.  That is who God created me to be.  It feels good to be doing what I was made to do.  It also feels good to know who I am with certainty.  There may come a day when I need to work full time again.  If that is the case, I will be OK with it.  However, I now know that those jobs will be only for a season.  Home is where I am called to be.  It is where I am the very best me.

On the flip side, in other areas I feel a bit lost.

In the last year, God has made it clear to Chad and I that we should leave our church of 20+ years.  That was HARD and scary and lonely.  Although we feel spiritually free, we miss the feeling of comfort and security that worshiping with our long-time friends created.  A huge part of my identity was tied up in that building.  Leaving it has made me realize just how important it is that my identity is in Christ, not in a building, a group of friends, or tradition.  We are not 100% sure where God is leading with all of this, but we are 100% sure that He is leading.  Submitting to His leadership has been so freeing.

Leaving both my job and my life-long church has caused me to find out just who my friends are.  My circle of support has changed.  I am in awe at just how God has connected me with people.  The friendships that He has supplied have steadied me, encouraged me, and challenged me during a very difficult season.

God has called me to mission.  A part of my heart resides in Ethiopia, but leaving our church has changed the involvement I can have to a program that had been a dream of mine.  Though He gave that dream wings, He also asked me to trust Him with it.  While I DO trust Him completely, I miss being involved in the thick of it.  While my involvement has not completely ended it, it has changed.  That change has left a void.  I am peaceful that if it is His will, He will open doors for me to serve in Ethiopia again.  I also long to see His will - waiting is not my strong suit!

While I have (almost) always felt like a competent mother, mothering an adult child has been challenging.  It has caused doubts, confusion, and worry unlike I have experienced during other stages of parenting.  This next season will be an incredible season of learning and growth for me as I navigate parenting adult children, teens, elementary-age Joshua, and baby Mataya.  I will have every age and stage imaginable!  That is both exciting and terrifying!  Proms, potty training, graduations, grandchildren, weddings, and t-ball will more than likely all meld together to create my daily schedule!  What an amazing time it will be!

40. . . 
it feels like a fresh start,
a new beginning,
and homecoming all rolled into one.

I look forward to the lessons and directions God has in store for me and my family during this next decade!

I am thankful for the knowledge that He is always faithful, always in control, and He always has a plan.  He is enough.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

Because I spent basically all of December and half of November feeling crummy, not much blogging took place.  It took all of my energy to do the basics, and I even skipped several of them.  Bedtime came the moment I got Joshua and Mataya tucked in, and I napped as often as possible.

Despite the lack of photos, and in spite of feeling crummy, it was a very special Christmas.

Peace and love prevailed in ways I prayed for, but I did not expect to see occur.

Much time was spent together, simply and quietly.

I am so incredibly thankful.

We had Christmas with our kids on the evening of December 23.  Sierra was feeling crummy, and I was only about 70% - but the evening was sweet non the less.

 Mataya LOVED our family gift opening.  She was surrounded by PAPER and ALL of her favorite people, what was not to love?
 One tradition we have is of exchanging names.  We give each of the kids $20, and they buy a gift for the person whose name they draw.  I was SO proud of Joshua this year.  Where last year he struggled to buy a gift that was for anyone BUT himself.  (In the end he bought his dad a nerf gun because he just knew his dad would love playing with it with him.)  This year he shopped diligently for Sierra wishing to buy everything on her wish list and NEVER asking for anything for himself.  He wrapped the gift all by himself and carefully wrote Sierra's name on the tag.  (This is huge.  Joshua hates writing!)  He was so excited to deliver the gift with a hug.

I am so proud of how he has grown!
 OK, so not the best photo, but the only one I have of these two!

We had a "significant other" join our family for the first time for Christmas this year.  Times are a changing!  It was fun to have Krissy and Devin home for Christmas!
 This is BY FAR, Mataya's favorite new toy.  Krissy and Devin bought it for her.  When she saw it, she yelled "WOW!"  (Not even joking) and clapped with glee.

We spent a very quiet Christmas Eve at home as a family.  Krissy surprised us and hung out at our home until Devin got done working!  We relaxed and played with the little kids until we went to church at 3:00.  Mataya clapped and "sang" sweetly all through church.  (She is hurt-my-heart precious.)  We had supper at Chad's Uncle Jim's house and enjoyed time with many of his cousins, all of his aunts and uncles, and his grandparents.  We had our annual belly laughs during our white elephant gift exchange.  And we went home full, happy, and exhausted. It was fun - and I forgot my camera.

Also on Christmas Eve. . . Miss Mataya Hope learned to crawl at last!

Christmas morning began with opening our stockings.
 Joshua actually allowed a photo!

 These will have to serve as her 9 month photos.  I did not take our regular photo shoot this month.


 Don't let the straight face fool you, this girl ADORES her daddy!
 I asked for a photo with Sierra because she bought my scarf.

And because I adore her.
 Christmas morning snuggles with the love of my life.

I am so blessed by this guy.
 And mommy and Mataya on her first Christmas.

Such a precious morning!

As soon as we got everyone up and dressed we headed to Grandma and Grandpa Flach's house!
 I LOVE this shot of my dad and Mataya.

These two have gotten so close this last year.
I am so thankful!
 I joke that Mataya will be a dentist or an orthodontist.  She is forever examining people's teeth!
 Krissy is so sweet and attentive with Mataya.

I love to watch them together these past weeks.  Krissy's beauty when holding her sister takes my breath away.
This might be my favorite picture of the year.
Krissy rarely allows photos, so this is a treasure for sure.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of food, laughter, conversation, gifts, food, games, teasing, and naps!  Once again I failed on the photos - but I guess that means I was fully present in the moment.  

I am so thankful for those moments.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

He Is Just 17!

At 17, Jamison is simply delightful.

He is funny,
a good sport (He posed for these silly pics to make Joshua giggle),

His intelligence amazes us lately.  As he explains his course work, I rarely know what he is talking about.  Precalc, anatomy, AP English . . .  in almost every conversation about his classes this year I have to ask him to define what he just told me.

He is fun. 

I love that boys always remember how to play.  He and Joshua wrestle, shoot hoops, and  have nerf gun wars.  When Joshua gets out of hand, Jamison throws him over his shoulder and tells him it is "shower time."  Then he carries a thrashing and screaming (with delight) JG into the nearest bathroom, turns on the shower, and pretends to throw him in fully dressed.  He drops him at the last second.  And then Joshua runs to hide behind me.  They make me laugh.  Jamison says it is his job yo make sure Joshua is tough.  He says he was "soft"  in elementary school because he needed a big brother.  He will make sure JG is not!  This whole conversation is hilarious because Jamison is the kindest 17 year old boy ever.

He uses his time wisely - completing most of his homework in his off hour - and also wisely makes time for the things he enjoys like video games.

He is no longer "soft!"  He recently played outdoor football with his buddies in -15* for four hours.  When he got home his feet were frost bitten.  They were numb for days.

He loves to hunt, play his stereo LOUD, hang with his friends, sleep, and run and run and run.

He carries a water bottle everywhere and never drinks soda.

He is lucky enough to have found a group of friends that is NOT into drugs or drinking.

He likes to have several days worth of stubble on his face.  And I love it on him.

He tolerates me hugging him every morning.

He remembers to say thank you.

When he doesn't have something nice to say, he keeps his mouth shut.

He has an amazing and admirable way of ignoring drama.

He is fiercely competitive.

He is also a great encourager and team mate.
 In staying true to form, he chose pie as his birthday dessert.
Mataya is pretty sure pie is the yummiest thing she has ever eaten!  No one likes berries as much as Mataya, so when she tasted sweetened berries in pie filling, her joy was complete.  And incredibly messy!

Jamison Chad,  I could not be more proud of the man-in-the-making you are at 17.  I pray God's continued protection and direction over you as you grow into adulthood.  You are a blessing, my son.

Happy Birthday!

I love you so.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Wonder of Christmas

I adore decorating for Christmas - but truth be told, I do not adore setting up the tree.  

But to my kids, the tree defines Christmas.  Our home does not look or feel like Christmas until the tree is lit, thankfully, Brenna enjoys decorating it!  She hung all of the ornaments, and did a wonderful job, too!

Though it is not typically my favorite, the scene this afternoon will forever reside in my heart.

Sweet baby Mataya looking up at the tree with awe and glee.

Joshua proudly handing me my Grandma's angle tree topper.

Brenna carefully placing the ornaments of her choice just so while Christmas music played and I cooked dinner.

And at last turning off all the lights and admiring the beauty of the season with my baby girl held close.


The wonder of Christmas never gets old.

Giving Thanks for Today

Something wonderful happened this morning, my son's truck did not start! It was -17* this morning.  After the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, our cupboards are getting bare.  I had a long list of errands that I had planned to run.  It was supposed to be a busy day.

And with one simple turn of events that all changed.  Jamison needed my vehicle, which means Mataya and I are "stuck" at home today!

While I could have panicked about all my plans being ruined, I instead decided to rejoice in the fact that I did not have to go anywhere.  I have the ability to be home this year, and I am savoring every minute.  So instead of running errands in the freezing cold with poor Mataya bundled up, we spent the morning playing.

And vacuuming.  (I love vacuuming! Truly!)

And catching up on emails.

And paying personal bills.

And dancing to Christmas music.

Mataya loves music.  She is so cute dancing on her rump, clapping along to songs.

It was a morning I simply savored.

I walked around my festively decorated home and soaked in the view from each window.  Fingered various Christmas decorations remembering how they became treasures.  (My favorite thing about Christmas decorations is that each and every one comes with a story.  My kids have been testing me on this.  In the process they are learning just how sappy their mom is!)

I sat on the floor entering bills into my computer while Mataya played nearby.  I was choked up anew by the fact that my nearness makes her so happy.  She plays and plays as long as I am within reach.  She has no desire to be far from me.  Experience has taught me that this phase is short-lived, thus I am enjoying her adoration so very much.

I had a chance to edit the few photos I took over the holiday.  That didn't take long!  These days my arms and heart are too full to snap many photos.

 The first snow of the season was sticky - perfect for making the "biggest snowball ever!"
 Snuggly sisters with matching bedhead.  Oh - how I love them.
 Daddy making our favorite, cinnamon roll pancakes.  He really could open up a B & B.
 Our home ready for 28 Thanksgiving dinner guests.  It has taken me too long to fully embrace this house - but at long last I love every inch.
 Brenna and her cousin Ainsley.

There were many moments worthy of photography on Thursday, but this is the only one I captured!
 Brenna and Mataya. I think Brenna may be growing faster than Mataya right now.  She is changing daily, becoming a beautiful young lady rather than the little girl of yesterday.  It is such an honor to witness my kids grow.
 Mataya Hopey girl played so long with her cousins Ben and Lincoln.  She would take short naps and awaken quickly so as not to miss a moment.  Her preciousness makes me all mushy inside.  And don't get me started on those silver leggings!  It is sooooo fun to have a little girl to dress!!!
 My tall son gave me THE BEST gift this holiday season!
He put lights up on the outside of our house!!!

I married a near perfect man.  His one flaw is that he hates hanging Christmas lights.  This year I begged our son to hang a few, and he did!  He did such a great job making sure they were centered and the cords were as hidden as possible.  I had no idea he would pay as much attention to the small details as he did.  I am beyond thrilled!

Sometimes the small stuff means so much - I am "5-year-old giddy" over my 23 feet of Christmas lights.  (For real!)

Not pictured:
Brenna playing with Mataya in the family room, helping her feel comfortable with Grammy and Adrianna.   Mataya tends to be all about me when I'm near.  I love that Brenna was willing to help her sister connect with family members that adore her.

Joshua playing with remote control cars for hours.

Joshua and Ainsley being fun and crazy together.  They are kindred spirits.

My nephews. Love them so much and so enjoyed time with them.

28 family members happily eating Grandma Great's turkey, gravy, and stuffing.

A movie with Krissy and Brenna.

Decorating for Christmas with Brenna while listening to Jamison's Christmas music.

Mataya imitating every giggle and expression - especially Sierra's.

Jay pulling an all nighter shopping with friends on Black Friday.

God speaking to me tenderly during a Thanksgiving Day run.

Chad and the kids prepping meat for sausage in the garage.

Laughter.  Lots of noisy laughter.

Grandpa Great giving Krissy a tender hug.

So many blessings.  I am thankful for the time today to reflect upon each of them.

Before long Brenna and Joshua will run from the bus through the frosty cold into my kitchen.  Bickering and laughter and stories about their day will fill my ears.  We will share a cup of hot cocoa before we set up the Christmas tree.

These days are precious.

They are fleeting.

I cherish them.  Today and always.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

7 Years Old

Joshua Gebeyehu Chad turned 7 on Thanksgiving Day.


Since the menu for Thanksgiving Day is pretty much non-negotiable, we celebrated Joshua the night before - with pizza, of course.  Pepperoni pizza.  He chose peanut butter, oatmeal, M & M cookies in lieu of birthday cake.  

And for the first time since he joined our family, he had a BLAST on his birthday!

He was funny and enthusiastic and joyful the entire day.

He wore a Birthday crown at school and loved it.

He went with his Dad after school to pick out his gift - a .22 rifle.  He can hardly wait for spring so he can try gofer hunting.

He enjoyed every minute of his party.

And best of all. . . he slept peacefully the entire night after his big day.

We celebrate the healing that has gone on in his heart and soul with deep gratitude.

At 7, Joshua is in Kindergarten.  He tolerates rather than loves school.   He loves working with his dad.  He insists on sleeping on the floor rather than on his bed, every night.  He likes to have his head sticking out his door - but as long as we allow him to sleep that way, he sleeps great.  He does a wonderful job getting ready each morning.  He has stopped sucking his thumb!  He still wets the bed though.  (Sigh.)  His favorite toys all have wheels.  He loves to wrestle with Jamison. He is the best big brother in the universe.  He misses Krissy like crazy.  He is as addicted to TV and IPad games as we allow.  He is funny.  Really funny.  He has the exact same sense of humor as his dad.  It is crazy really.  He talks. . . a lot!  He notices and remembers every detail.  He still gives killer hugs, but snuggles less and less every day.  He hates to have his hair brushed, so we keep it very short.  He is increasingly reasonable.  Cause and effect make sense to him.  For instance if we let him stay up an hour later than usual, he understands why we expect him to stay in bed an hour longer in the morning.  He is a kind and caring friend.

I am so thankful for the "sweet spot" he is in right now.  I plan to savor every minute! 

Joshua Gubs - happy birthday!  I am so thankful that God chose me to be your momma.  I am also so thankful for the momma you have in heaven.  I can not wait to meet her someday and hear all about the day you entered this world.  You are a gift my sweet son.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

15 Years and 8 Months

 Sierra Faith turned 15 today.


At 15 she is simply amazing.  She is beautiful inside and out.  She exemplifies her name in all things.  Sierra Faith means "beautiful majestic mountains of faith."  That is my girl.  She loves big and deep and loud.  She stands up for what and who she believes in.  She shares her heart and hopes.  She inspires me daily to be bold, kind, and faithful.  We have a very special relationship this year as we have had extra time together (thanks to PT) and have bonded deeply over coffee and shopping and heart to heart talks.

Sierra loves coffee.

She loves Jesus.

She loves Africa and still dreams of being a missionary some day.

She loves real - which is a struggle when you are in high school.  Fake is much easier to find.

She loves music and singing and leading worship.

She thinks deeply about how to encourage others.  She is a true cheerleader at heart.

She does not like to be the center of attention.

She loves time with friends - but has an absolute need for time locked up alone in her room as well.

Her room is a MESS.

Brenna and I call her "Cinderella" because if the shoe is cute enough it fits no matter the size!  The three of us have a lot of fun sharing shoes these days.

She longs for deep relationships, justice and more sleep.

We call her "Rah Rah" lately because that is easy for Mataya to say.  (And she does try to mimic it already!)

She is an incredible, patient, gentle and thoughtful sister.

She has a bit of a temper yet knows how and when to apologize.

I am so, so , so thankful for this incredible girl.  Being her mom and becoming her friend is an amazing privilege.

I adore you Berra-girl. 

Totally adore you.
 And this little peanut turned 8 months today!

 (nope.  not crawling. just practicing.)
At 8 mo. Mataya Hope has 3 teeth, all on the bottom. She loves table food - baby food is a thing of the past.  Her favorites are blueberries, yogurt, grilled cheese, pancakes, mango, peas, and pasta with red sauce.  She claps her hands.  Mataya loves to copy sounds.  She likes to read books.  She loves to snuggle.  She adores bath time. She loves music. . . especially LOUD rock music.  (Daddy and the teens love that.)  She is a great dancer already, bouncing on her butt and clapping to the tunes.  She takes 2 naps a day.  She sleeps 12 hours at night, waking once to eat.  Her hair gets thicker, longer, and straighter every day.  She has just started wearing 12 mo clothes. She says: Mama, Da, done, and ba (bath).  She does not crawl or roll.  She is happy sitting surrounded by toys or jumping in the baby circus or snuggled on my hip.  She is starting to push herself backwards when placed on her tummy - which only causes frustration as her toys get farther away rather than closer, but it is also the first step toward movement! She still loves the ring sling and her pacifier.  She is almost always happy.

Miss Mataya, you are precious.  We all enjoy you so very much.  Your sweet, silly, relaxed little self is exactly what this crazy family needed.  We thank God for the gift of YOU daily.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lessons I am (working toward) Learning as I (struggle through) Parenting Teens

I have been reading this (above) book, and to be honest, every time I sit down to read it I feel frustrated!  While I am really enjoying the book. . . I HATE that I sought it out.  You see, I wish everything went according to my plan.

I like my plan.

(I know, really mature. . . )

For many, many reasons parenting young adults is the hardest thing I have ever done.  My kids ARE struggling.  (Who isn't? Right?) There is constant conversation in our home about things like peer pressure, failed or troubled friendships, drugs, alcohol, sex, "nudes", injuries, lies, dating relationships, curfew, etc. . .  Some conversations cause me much pride.  Others cause me to feel so hopeful.  And others are just plain old alarming, disheartening, disappointing, or frustrating.

At this point in the oldest kids' development I have battled fear to a greater degree than I have ever battled fear.  I fear for them in so many ways.

And if I am totally honest, I also fear for me.  In my deepest darkest recesses of honest thought I fear that if they do not "perform" as I would wish that I have failed. . . failed at what I have wanted to do well more than anything I have ever wanted to do well. . . parenting.

I have realized these last weeks that I have made a bit of an idol out of parenting well.

OK. . . so maybe, just maybe. . . I have turned something wonderful (parenting) into a big ole huge idol that I want to hang proudly above my mantle in a frame (the perfect family.)


Parenting teens is so different than parenting little kids.  For me the biggest difference is that when kids are little mommas are honest.  You see FB posts all the time that say, "I am so tired.  Baby was up all night teething."  After which you see 7 comments saying things like "Hang in there!" and "Praying for you!  So thankful baby has a wonderful momma like you."

When moms of little kids talk they say things like, "My son has been so hard to potty train.  Do you have any suggestions?"  And they receive (too many) suggestions of things to try.

Somewhere along the line we as moms stop being real.  Now I fully realize some of this is necessary!  It is not appropriate to blast the issues of our teens all over the place.  We must respect them and their privacy.  A FB post stating "I am so tired, my teenager was 2 hours late for curfew. . . again!" is not appropriate at all.  At the same time, when we stop being real, life gets really lonely!  And problems can seem much larger (or much smaller) than they really are.

I am so very thankful for the moms in my life with whom I can be fully honest.  They bring perspective and hope when my head is stuck in the sand. They give clarity through their fresh, honest, and less emotional vantage point.  They pour love and grace over me when I am doubting myself and my abilities.

God used one "mom talk" this week to deeply speak to my heart. (He also used one blog post.)

I was visiting with a young mom.  She was telling me how terrible she felt because one of her kids had gotten in a bit of trouble at school.  She confided that she was feeling terribly guilty and embarrassed.

I then asked her, "Have you ever told your child that the behavior she did at school was acceptable?  If she did that same thing at home, how would you respond?"

The mom sort of gasped and responded, "Well, no!  I would never tell her that was OK!  If she behaved like that at home there would be immediate consequences!"

I then kindly lectured, "Well then, why do you feel responsible?  If you have taught your child NOT to behave this way, then let it go!  It is not about you!  She makes her own decisions and chooses her own behaviors.  Keep loving her and guiding her - but let go of the idea that you are personally responsible for each of her decisions."

If you had ANY idea of the guilt and self-doubt battle that has been going on in my own head and heart these last months you would laugh out loud at my advice!

I have always claimed to LOVE natural consequences.  When Jamison was sent to detention for oversleeping and missing a day of Middle School, I was thrilled.  When Joshua's teacher explained that she was working hard with him at focusing on the task at hand, I giggled with glee.  (And thought - GOOD LUCK!)  I could go on. . .

But - somewhere along the line I started to fear natural consequences for my oldest children.  They seemed to big and too scary. Adult consequences are not quite as cute and funny as pre-school ones.  Sure I could laugh when Joshua snuck out his window when he was 4 - but it is just not as funny at 16. . .  At 16 it is a sign of parental failure. . . right?!?

I have been stuck in this cycle of believing that if my children do not perform just as I had hoped and dreamed when they were "grown" I had failed.

I am beginning to realize just how unfair that is to both myself and my kids.

I have not raised my kids to be mindless clones.  I have raised them to be free-thinking adults.  I have always given my kids permission to think for themselves, to try things, and failure has been an option. (If you can not fail, you can not try - in my estimation.)

I have raised my kids to know my values and beliefs.  They know how I feel about modesty, sex, drugs, alcohol, friendship, speeding, lies, cheating, and most importantly, Jesus.  We talk about everything around here, and the kids know my heart inside and out.  They know my expectations, hopes and dreams for them.  They know right from wrong.

BUT - what they do with all of that information is up to them.

That is a major break through for me.

How my kids. . . little or big. . . decide to behave is UP TO THEM.  (Caps for my benefit.)  I never have been and never will be responsible of their actions.  Their "misbehavior" is not about me.

Now hear me here - what I do and how I parent matters.  Always and forever.  How I respond to my kids matters.  How I advise my kids matters.  How I discipline my kids matters.  I need to do well all that I can do well.  At the same time, I need to only claim guilt or blame or shame or pride for that which I can control - my own behavior.

That is really hard people.

Really, really hard.

It is ripping my heart out.

It is also the most beautiful news ever.  For me and for my kids.

To my amazing children - I love you!  I am so thankful for each of you.  You are a huge chunk of my heart.  I am so sorry for the times I hold on too tight.  I am sorry for the times I expect too much, push too hard, and over-control.  I am learning.

To my momma friends - Thank you for providing a safe place to be real.  I need each of you so very much.

And Jesus, precious Jesus - Thank you for the gift of my children.  Thank you for entrusting them to me.  Thank you for speaking to my heart and teaching me through them day after day.  Thank you for reminding me, this week, that they are Yours.  I entrust each of them to You.  You will lead them and guide them and discipline them as only a perfect Father can.  Thank you for being The Source of strength, wisdom, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness. . . The Source of ALL we need.  Your plan is the only plan that matters.

***My kids are struggling. Growing up is a struggle!  #thestruggleisreal  They are also soaring in many, many ways.  Please do not feel alarmed as you read this!  It is really much more about me and what God is teaching me than it is about them!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Sometimes words are just not necessary.

Halloween was precious.

The end.