"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.