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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

An Unrushed Morning

This morning something awesome happened.  Every one of my kids (well all the ones that are currently living in our home, that is) sat in the living room in their pajamas. . . at the same time!

Actually, Mataya did not sit.  She jumped. She snuggled.  She tickled.  She danced.  She charmed - but she definitely did not sit!

So - more correctly, my kids all gathered in the living room.

When the oldest kids were small, I took moments like this for granted.  We were all gathered on the couch daily, hourly even!  But time, age, the ability to drive, and all sorts of other details have changed that.  These days gathering together is rare. Even more rare, this morning was unrushed.  For half an hour or so, we just sat.  We chatted.  We teased.  We laughed.

Unrushed is a rare gift.

As is a kind, gentle, and patient big brother.

These days, Miss Mataya can not get enough of her biggest brother.  Where he is, she follows.  She is often heard saying, "with you!" when he heads upstairs.  He dutifully scoops her onto his hip and allows her to tag along.

When he arrives home from school she yells, "Jaaaaay!"

When he comes down in the morning she tells him, "cute!"  And as he leaves she yells, "Bub-Bye!! Good Day!"

She loves it when he spins her, or chases her, or tickles her.

She adores watching races on YouTube over his shoulder.

She is always trying to make him laugh or notice her.

She climbs onto his lap, throws her cheek onto his shoulder, and settles in for a snuggle.

As I watched her snuggle up to him this morning, I felt so incredibly blessed.  Long before she came along, Jamison was very against Chad and I having another baby. I was unsure how he would react to the news.  His reaction surprised me, and it is a moment I will always remember.  The man he would become shone through in that moment.  He looked me in the eye and said, "Mom, I am happy for you."

He watched her baby days from afar.  He observed closely and watched with adoration - but he did not fight for his turn in baby care.  In the last few months their relationship has totally changed.  She can not get enough of him.  And he has responded with gentle joy.  He delights in our TayTay girl.

Together they totally and completely melt my heart.
Totally and completely!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Visiting First Grade

This impending trip to Ethiopia has brought up new conversations with Joshua.

While Joshua has always been comfortable with us talking about and traveling to Ethiopia, he prefers it to be impersonal.  He does not want to share with anyone (outside of our family) that is was born in Ethiopia.  He has never allowed me to talk to his class about Ethiopia -not even when they did a unit on Africa in preschool.  He does not want to talk about the fact that he has some family in Ethiopia.  All personal topics have been off limits.

But - as we have prepared for this trip, he has been willing to talk about his Ethiopian history just a tiny bit.  He has asked how old I think his Ethiopian mom would be.  We has asked to see the only photos we have of his family there.  He has asked hard questions, like "could I have stayed in Ethiopia?" , "do you think my family there has enough food?" , "mom, people die when they don't have enough food, you know."

He has also set firm boundaries.  He will ask a question or two, and then he is done!  I asked if he would like to know his Ethiopian mom's name and his response was, "No. I'm going to play now."  I love that he sets those boundaries.  He opens the door and then closes it when it becomes more information than he is ready for.

On January 19 (the day we received his referral five years ago) I began to tell him about the first time I saw his face.  He told me, "Mom, I know all this."  And my story telling ended there.

One day Joshua heard me talking to the girls about our trip.  I shared with them my desire to bring along a couple of totes of school supplies to deliver to Biniam's school.  We brainstormed about who to ask to help with the project.  Joshua said, "Mom, you should ask my teacher.  She would like to help."

I was shocked.  And happy.  He had never asked me to share anything even remotely Ethiopian with a teacher before.  So I did, of course.  She asked if she could share the project idea with the class and if I would be willing to come and talk to the kids.  I told her to ask Joshua if it would be OK with him.

Once again, Joshua set clear boundaries.  He wanted me to come and share with his class - BUT I could NOT share that he was born in Ethiopia.

I went to his classroom this morning.  I was so excited!  I was also a bit nervous.  I am totally FINE with Joshua being private - but I am NOT fine with him living crippled by fear or shame. I SO wanted today to be a positive experience.  One that would build his confidence and self-esteem.

I put together a PowerPoint presentation that told about the weather, food, homes, schools, animals, and some things children enjoy in Ethiopia.  I wanted the children to grasp the poverty, but I did not want them to get stuck there.  I wanted them to sense the beauty and pride and richness that is Ethiopia.

While I do not know what the children will remember, I do know my son was very proud.  He was thrilled to have me at school.  He chimed in the things he knows.  He stood by me and called on his classmates as they asked questions.  He was precious.

(He is tall - but not as tall as he looks in this photo.  He's standing on a platform.)

I am so thankful today for the healing that continues to occur.  I really believe that God, not Chad and I named him Joshua.  Joshua means "Jehovah Saves."  The Biblical Joshua was a mighty warrior.  One of the phrases that is often repeated in his book is "be strong and courageous."  While Joshua fought many physical battles for the Lord, he also battled fear.  I have begun praying that our Joshua would be a mighty warrior for Jesus.  That he would continue to slay fear, and choose to engage in battle for Jesus - spreading His fame wherever He calls.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


This week Krissy began school.  She is attending The Hair Academy.  I am so incredibly proud of her.  College and parenting combined is hard.  (I know!  I did it, too.)

When Krissy discovered she was expecting, I told her that when she went to school, her dad and I would do everything under our control to help care for her baby.  SO - I am back in the day care business!!  I have Wyatt all day Monday through Wednesday.  Devin and I split Thursday.  Devin cares for Wyatt on Friday.  Chad and I will also have Wyatt some Sundays while Krissy works.  Having Wyatt is a joy.  I am so thankful for the time with him.

It is also a lot of work!  I was so upset with myself for a while this week because I was feeling really overwhelmed.  I remember when Krissy and Jamison were similar in age to Mataya and Wyatt.  It did not feel nearly as difficult then as it does now.  Any you know what?  It wasn't!  When they were little, they were my only kids!  I did not have 5 other children counting on me.  My laundry pile was much smaller, my home was WAY smaller, and I was not working at all.  My life was much simpler, which means caring for them was also simpler.  I felt so much better when I realized that!

So, my question of the week was - do you REALLY need to do that?

I discovered that there were many tasks that could and should wait. (Even with my slimmed down tasking, I am totally exhausted!  Transitions are hard. we will get it figured out!)

Mataya loves, loves, loves her little nephew.  She also loves, loves, loves, loves, loves her momma.  Sharing momma is hard - especially so frequently.  Learning to walk into the store herself, rather than having mommy carry her is. . . interesting.  Mataya craves physical touch more than any other toddler I have parented, which means I spent much of the week with a baby on each hip.  Boy, am I glad for all the pushups I did in the past year!  I'm tired, but I am not sore!

So this is what our home looks like lately:

 Mataya is so tactile.  She loves to have her hands busy.  BINGO markers, pens, or playdough constantly cover my island.
 Wyatt is way chill.  He is happy to sit and watch all the crazy around him.

 Mataya's newest thrill is dressing herself.  She changes many times a day.
Below is a sampling of her outfits from one day this week:

 YEP - 7 outfits in one day!
Good thing I love my laundry room!

 Sitting on the floor and playing has always been a challenge for me as a parent.  I prefer to read to my kids, do an art project, bake, sing silly songs, but just sitting and playing causes me to fidget!  I am always tempted to go and do something "more important."  I took this photo as a reminder that THIS IS IMPORTANT.  Sitting and connecting IS the most important I do with these peanuts every day.
" Hi Daddy!  Hi Grandpa!  Hi Mommy!"

 I brought both kids to my office twice this week.

Good help is hard to find, I tell you!  These two did super!!
Mataya  LOVES the IPAD.  She calls is "PADPAD."  
I hate electronics.  I think kids need books and imaginary play.  Her begging for the PADPAD makes me cringe.  I also understand why she is so intrigued.  All the bigs in her life are on their phones, computers,or tablets often. So - she is allowed to use it for a few minutes after her nap.  She also gets to use it while I exercise.  She runs it like a boss.  I can not even imagine the skills she will have with electronics someday.  It is a whole different world than I raised Krissy in!

Toddler tales:
Mataya has learned to tattle.  Jamison was bouncing a ball off the ceiling (which I hate) and she ran up to him and yelled, "Naughty!"  (There have been many more naughty moments pointed out since then!)

Mataya no longer likes kisses.  When I kiss her she quickly wipes them off, looks at me with a teasing grin and says, "wipe it!"

Mataya loves to deliver mail to the guys at the office.  As I go through the mail she runs from office to office handing out mail.

Mataya is Wyatt's "puppy."  She eats all the food he throws off his tray.

We took Mataya to a hockey game, and she is hooked.  She begs, "hockey, please, please Hunter hockey!"

Mataya is FAST. She loves to sprint around the house.  She tells Jamison, "Racin!  Fast!"

She loves to clean.

She loves to feed the dog.  I finally explained that she can only feed him twice a day or he will get fat.  Now she tells everyone, "Riley FAT!!!"

She loves to tell people "Good day" (Have a good day!)

She has begun saying, "Love you!" because she does!  She also names other feelings - happy, crazy, silly, mad, and cry (hurt, tired, angry).

She has the craziest hair.  She has a permanent case of bedhead in the back.

She is not always kind to Wyatt (think stealing toys and pushing him out of her way) - but she can not stand it if he cries.  We drove to town this week and he cried and cried.  She was so sad for him.  She told him, "Sorry!  Sorry!  Sorry! Cry!  Sorry!"  Finally she lost all patience and said, "Stop!"

She loves to jump.  She also loves somersaults.

She loves McDonald's.  How do they do it?  She has only had McDonald's about 4 times in her life, but when we drive by she yells, "Donalds!  Yay!!! Donalds!"

Since her potty training revolt she is the happiest kid in the world.  So if a diaper makes her happy (she was seriously the moodiest toddler I had ever been around for a while) it makes me happy.  At least for now.  

When she really likes something she says "kiss it" even when it makes no sense.  This morning when she saw the sunrise she said, "Booful!  TayTay kiss it."

She always calls herself TayTay.  But once or twice I have heard her call herself "Auntie."  Can you even handle the sweetness?

She always pretends to talk to Grandma on the phone.

She feels very proud that she gets to play with her friends in the nursery at church, but she never talks while there.  It is so funny because she's a chatterbox!

She is one of my very favorite people in the universe.  Her sweetness overwhelms me.  Her thought process tickles me.  Her smarts amaze me.  Her expressions are priceless.  I am going to miss her like crazy when I'm in Ethiopia.  My heart aches already.  Good thing she has the world's best daddy.  She loves him so very much she will probably be sad to see me return!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Count it joy when. . .

For the last six months I have been praying the Prayer of Jabez.

Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory!
Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm,
so that I will be free from pain.
1 Chronicles 4: 9-10

In all honesty what drew me to that prayer was the "so that I will be free from pain."  I had been feeling done in.  Exhausted.  Unable to bear any pain.  When I found a scripture asking for protection from pain my heart rejoiced.

I continue to feel that way. . .

However in the past week the Lord has been challenging me with a new verse.  It keeps popping into my head.  It even awoke me in the middle of last night.

Count it  joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds,
for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James 1:2-3

I prayed over it and journaled about it early this morning.  I confessed my fear of trials.  I do not feel strong enough.  I just don't.  However, though I am fearful, I DO want to follow the Lord's leading - wherever and whatever that may be - even if that means trials will follow.

I told the Lord that I needed Him to empower me to approach life through this lens.  Trials are a pleasure because they remove me from the situation and leave it in His hands?!  Sigh.  It is a stretch that is only possible in and through Him.

It was a day spent practicing.  (Just typing that scares me.  I really do want the easy life.)

I had to drive Brenna to school.  We needed to leave by 7:05.  That is hard for Mataya which makes it hard for me.

Joshua was moving slower than ever.  When he moves slow, rushing him only makes it worse.  It takes every bit of self-control I possess to keep my grumpies in check.

Sierra was running late.  She "needed" my scarf. . . on the double.  She also "needed" Jamison's truck moved so she could get out of the driveway - fast.  

Joshua decided to change outfits about 1 minute before I had to leave with Brenna, and he needed my help to complete the change.  (Rushing him only results in disaster. . .)

When I got back home from dropping off Brenna, I discovered that Joshua had missed the bus.

Thankfully, the Spirit was directing my words and emotions.  I took it all in stride.  I remained peaceful and kind.  I kept saying "Lord, I need You.  I am going to lose it.  You will be kind. Let Your words and actions flow and silence mine."

In the end, no words were said that I regret.  No tears were shed.  "Bye!  I love you!  Have a good day!" was the theme.  (And Jamison volunteered to drive Joshua to school.  I did not even ask him.)

I figured the worst was behind me!

I did a quick workout, ran a bunch of errands, and made it home in time to watch Wyatt.

Both babies napped at the same time.  I was doing some work, organizing some papers, when my heart went into my throat, my pulse started racing, and I felt an enormous rush of anxiety.  In reading through a document, I thought I had made a major mistake at work.  One that would cost us stress and financial penalties.  My brain started racing. . . what would it cost?  how will I tell Chad?  how could I miss this?  on and on and on. . .

BUT the Lord whispered, "Stop!  Remember me?"

So, I took a deep breath, and replied, "You're right Lord.  You have always provided."  Then I sent an email asking for clarification.  Followed by a message to a trusted friend asking for prayer.  And I chose to train my brain, trusting that my heart would follow.

It did. . . partially anyway. . .

And then I got an email that said, "it's all fine."

Thank you, Lord.

In my past experiences the days before a mission trip are hard - filled with enemy attacks.  Please be praying that the Lord protects us.  And that if and when attacks come that we glorify Him in our response.

While I plan to continue to pray "that His hand will be with me and keep me from harm, so that I will be free from pain." I am growing less fearful and more peaceful about trials.  I LOVE watching the Lord work and it is often through trials that He shines the most beautifully.

Being a Christian is weird, isn't it?  It goes against every fiber of my natural being to hand over control and trust blindly that ANYONE other than ME might have a good plan for ME.  He asks SO much.

And yet He gave and continues to give SO MUCH MORE.

Grow me gently, Lord Jesus.  Grow me gently.  I am weak - but I trust Your strength.  You are enough. You are enough.

PS - I had planned this to be a silly Mataya post filled with toddler antics and updates - but the Lord had something else planned.  Soon, I will write something light and silly, I promise!

PPS - (If there is such a thing!) I arrived home late this evening after the most precious coffee date.  It was absolutely planned by Jesus.  Anyway, I grabbed the mail on my way into the house.  When I opened it there was a big check for an over billing from Sierra's shoulder surgery.  How like God to send me money I did not expect on a day that I wrestled with the enemy!.  I had a moment of "maybe I should cancel this trip" earlier today as I freaked out about a financial misunderstanding.  I am humbled and grateful for His hand upon my life today.  The way He said, "Oh YES! I am enough!" pretty much knocked my socks off.

You are ENOUGH, Jesus.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trip Plans

You all know that a part of my heart resides in Ethiopia.  And yet I have never been there just to be there.  Both times I have traveled I have had very specific agendas while there.  I have never been able to explore.

So when I received a letter from Biniam, the oldest child we sponsor AND the only one none of us have never met, which asked "when will you come?"  I decided to stop waiting for the "perfect" opportunity and just GO!

I had promised Sierra and Brenna I would get them there during 2016, one way or another.  I had been researching, trying to discover the perfect trip, and yet nothing seemed quite right.  So one day I called my friend Kristen and said, "Let's go!"  (I knew she had been wishing for someone to accompany her on a trip.  When we had spoken earlier our timing did not line up.  However, her plans were delayed, which worked perfectly for us.)

I am a planner by nature.  So to call Kristen in November and say, "How about we go in January!" was a bit out of character.  Yet, it has been so very refreshing.

My biggest reason to travel is to see our kids.  I just want to hug them, look into their eyes, tell them they are not forgotten, and kiss their cheeks.  I debated if this were reason enough to fly across the world.  It actually felt selfish at first, and then I realized we travel to see family all the time.  These children have become family.  Traveling to see them is not weird or selfish, but totally natural.

At first, seeing the kids was ALL we had planned.  And I was totally OK with that.  BUT since we said "let's go!" many doors have popped open and this trip will be more than I could have asked for, imagined, or planned.  God is so good AND always in the details.

The first surprise blessing is that we will not take a direct flight there.  We planned to purchase the cheapest tickets, which often is the direct flight.  This time it was not!  I dread that 16-19 hour flight, though I would certainly do it every time if it were my only option.  It is not a deal breaker, just not my favorite.  This time our longest flight will be 9 hours.  We fly from the States to Europe and then on to Addis Ababa.  The stop in Europe makes me SO happy!

While in Addis we will be able to stay at a guest house I have heard much about - Providence Guest House.  I have heard so much about the house manager that I feel like I am visiting a friend.  How great is that when traveling so far away?

The next blessing is that I feel free to explore Ethiopia for the first time ever.  I have been googling things to do and places to eat.  It is crazy to realize I have never done that before.  I have researched ministries, but never anything else.  Additionally since we will be with Kristen and her son Grant, we have our own personal tour guides.  I know there are things we will do with them that I would not be confident enough to do alone.  We will do some shopping, visit several locations that employ and thus empower women, tour two different schools, eat wherever we want, etc. . .  I feel like a kid in a candy store!

Although I did not know it when we booked the trip, we will be able to spend a day at Jemo working with all the children.  This makes me so happy.  Having a bit of time with those who became so precious to me three years ago is such a wonder.

I am hoping we will be able to visit the homes of several of our children at Jemo.  I have not met three of the children we sponsor there - although Chad and Jamison met them last year.  I have never met any of our children's families.  I am very, very excited about the possibility of spending some time with them.  Plus I can bring them gifts that I choose.   (Oh, the possibilities!!!)

I will have the opportunity to leave Addis and travel to the southern part of the country which is where Joshua was born.  We will stay in a beautiful hotel there.  The kids are very excited to see the wildlife of the area which includes monkeys and hippos.  I am very excited to breathe the fresh air and take it all in!

While in the south we will meet Biniam.  I am truly more excited about this than any other aspect of the trip.  It is rare for sponsors to travel to his area, so I think it will be extra special.  Additionally, I just feel in my heart that he needs some encouragement, someone to hug his neck and tell him to keep working hard - that he is loved and we truly believe in him.  We will get to see his school and meet his family.  Witnessing country life has been a longing of mine for years and years.  I am so thrilled that this is finally happening.

I am also excited because we have both medical and educational opportunities while we are there.  We will help with some flouride treatments while at Jemo.  We will also help a bit with wound care.  We may have the opportunity to tour a hospital.  These opportunities are a special blessing because Sierra's long term goal is to choose a career that could allow her to love and serve in a developing country.  She thinks of both education and medical.  Being able to see some of each is awesome!

We will also have coffee with a woman who is living in Addis as a missionary.  I am so excited that we will have the opportunity to hear of her experiences first hand AND in country.  How incredible will that be for my girls?

For Brenna I am just so very excited!  I will be able to share my love of Ethiopia with another of my girls.  I think it is very important for all of us to know that poverty is real, so very difficult, and yet beauty abounds in the midst of it.  Allowing her to see this in these tender years as she morphs from child to adult is important to me.  I am over the top grateful that God has opened these doors.  An added bonus for Brenna is that Grant, Kristen's son and her good friend, will be with us.  It will be so good to have him!

An added bonus to this trip - that is TOTALLY unexpected - is that all this planning has opened some doors to to Joshua's heart. (Separate post for those details coming soon.)

As you can imagine my heart is full and my brain in busy!  There is much to purchase and pack.  Preparing my three "men" to care for our baby brings mixed feelings.  We will be gone 9 days.  I have NEVER been gone that long.  My poor TayTay (not to mention her poor daddy and big brothers!)  And yet helpers have been found, all will be fine.  Chad is worried - BUT he is also totally supportive and very happy for me.  That is another HUGE blessing.  Knowing he has my back makes it all OK.

I'm not sure the moral of this post.  It is just joy and anticipation brimming from my soul needing to escape.  My cup truly overflows.

We leave in 16 days!  We would covet your prayers as we prepare and travel.

Just in case you are curious, here are some links to a few of the places we will check out:
Lewi Resort in Hawassa
Providence Guest House in Addis Ababa
Connected In Hope

Friday, January 22, 2016

My PIZZA Crisis

Last weekend Sierra had a few friends over for pizza.  They did not eat nearly as much as we expected which resulted in lots and lots of leftovers.

I have eaten leftover pizza 3 or 4 times this week.


This morning as I was planning my day a trip to the grocery store felt both necessary AND impossible.  My schedule was full - but if I didn't stop at the store we would be forced to eat leftover pizza AGAIN!  I really, really did not want to eat pizza again.

And then it occurred to me. . . most of the world eats the same thing every day of the year.  Every! Single!  Day !

Put into that perspective, my "empty" fridge looks pretty full.

In the end, Mataya and I ate that "yucky" pizza for lunch, and once I changed my attitude from greedy to grateful, it didn't taste half bad.

Only in America would eating pizza leftover for lunch become a crisis.  I am truly ashamed of my own attitude of entitlement.

Forgive me, Lord, for the times when I am not grateful for the way You have provided.  Thank You for ALL that You provide.  Create in me a grateful and content heart, Lord.  You are SO good to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Choosing Connection

Chad and I have been married for 21.5 years.  He is without a doubt my greatest earthly treasure.  He knows me better than I know myself, sometimes.  He is my bestest bestie, my wisest confidante, my biggest fan.

But you know what?

Life around here is busy!

Business is blessedly crazy.

Our house is full of activity and noise and tasks.

We have tag teaming down to a science.  I do meals.  He does bath.  I do laundry and payroll.  He designs projects and keeps the customers and employees happy.  I email teachers.  He calls clients.  I pay the bills.  He provides the funds.  And the list goes on. . .

We know how to dance the dance - but I recently realized that we rarely connect.

Truly connect.

We have quick lunch dates with Mataya in tow.  We send scheduling updates via text.  We soak in all the kids tell us during dinner.  And by the time we climb into bed at night we are just TIRED!!!!!  Our ears and brain ache from ALL that we processed during the day.

And that is NOT OKAY.

I started thinking and praying about a way to connect with Chad.  How do I speak his language?  The answer?  Oddly - TV.  

Chad loves to watch TV.  I like to read.  Many evenings I head to our bedroom with a book longing for silence.  Meanwhile, he sits in the family room and watches all his favorite shows while surfing the net on his IPAD.  I humbly realized that while I once sat in a cold shop reading while he worked on his car, just to be near him.  Twenty-one years later I was just not putting in as much effort.  That is not the wife I want to be.  I knew I did not want to watch ALL the TV he does, but I started thinking about trying to engage in one or two shows with him each week.

So - I started trying to catch up on Chicago Fire, which lead to Chicago Med, and Chicago PD.  I spent one day watching 5 episodes.  This is SOOOOOO not me.  But, he was thrilled.  I explained my motivation, and he made me popcorn.

Throughout all of last weekend we watched episodes together, and it was fun.  We snuggled up on the couch and focused on the same mindless thing.  Connecting can be simple sometimes.
(Joshua, the true TV addict of our home, pitched a big ole fit about his mom hogging the TV.  It was hilarious.)

Being mindful of simple ways to connect has been a beautiful thing.  We have both been much better at sending a text or making a call stating something a little sweeter than "what time will you be home?" or "can you pick up Brenna at 5:20"  We have both been better at listening to each others stories at the end of the day.

And he said the sweetest thing.

He watched Mataya and Wyatt for about an hour while I drove to town to run an errand.  When I returned he said, "Honey, I don't know how you do it.  These two are really sweet kids.  I love them both. But it is A LOT of work taking care of them."


Those qualities can not be over rated.
And yet they are also deliberate.

Choose wisely with me, friends.  Choose connection.  Fight for it.  Especially when you are too busy.

Because those moments will make your heart sing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

His Burden IS Light?

I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying about my task load recently.

When I am feeling over burdened, be it buried in tasks or emotionally stretched, I have been working on asking myself, "whose yoke is it?"  I have been startled at just how often I put on a yoke (claim a problem or task) that is not mine to claim.

For example, sometime between Christmas and New Years, Mataya decided she no longer wanted to be potty trained.  She had been completely potty trained for at least six weeks.  She was potty trained for real.  I was not coaching her, reminding her, or bribing her to go. She was just handling it.  And all of the sudden she just quit.  My initial reaction was guilt.  Christmas had been busy.  She had often been in new places and overly tired.  She was left with her sisters several times, and they stuck her in a diaper so she would not bother them with potty issues.  I figured I should have handled something differently.  After all if my toddler is struggling it must be my fault, right?

Or is it?

Learning to go potty is Mataya's yoke to bear.  I can not do it for her.  I can not bribe her into it.  I can not discipline her into it.  Only Mataya has the power to go potty or not go potty.  Is she capable of being completely potty trained.  Yep.  Can I facilitate potty training.  Sure.  However, facilitate is ALL I can do.  The rest is her burden to bear.

So - after a week of cleaning up puddles of pee, Miss TayTay is back in a diaper.  And I am choosing to feel no stress about it.  Because it is her issue, not mine.

I could give you at least 20 other examples of times my eyes have been open recently to my tendency to put on a yoke that is not mine to bear.  Now this does not mean that I think that the only "problems" I need to deal with are my own.  That is not true.  Scripture says "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matt 11:30  (Meaning what Jesus calls us each to do is manageable.)  It also says we are to "bear one another's burdens." Gal 6:2  Sometimes my yoke IS bearing the yoke of another.

For example, Krissy begins school January 25.  At that point I will be keeping my grandson almost daily.  I am not sure how I will get all my work done (the work I do for our business) with both babies - but because I am certain the Lord has called me to care for my daughter and her son at this time, I am also certain that He will provide a way for me to complete my book work for our business.

I tend to make a list in my mind each morning of the things I need to get done throughout the day.  I pray about it.  I run this list against the "is this my yoke" test, and proceed full force into my day.  And some days it still feels like waaaaaayyyyyy too much.

I was asking the Lord about this, and wouldn't you know it, he pointed out another bad habit I have.


When my day is going smoothly I often add a "bonus" task or 12 to my list.  Oh, Mataya is playing happily?  Better take advantage of that and run upstairs to vacuum.  That went OK, so I will sneak in cleaning a bathroom or two.  Pretty soon I notice that I am feeling frustrated because Mataya is whining "Hold you!  Hold you!  Rock!" while I am rushing through supper preparations.  Chad arrives home to a needy toddler and an exhausted wife - but the upstairs bathrooms are clean.

Was the trade off worth it?


Did my added tasks glorify God in any way?


Do you do that?  Think about it a bit next time you are totally wiped at the end of the day.  Did you take on a yoke that was not yours to bear?  Did you pray about your task list for the day, only to add multiple needless items to it?  (Sometimes interruptions are divine appointments.  We do have to be flexible. However wise and flexible are two very different things.)

I am most certainly a work in progress.  Seeking to serve Him well.  Learning that His burden is light.  He will give me rest.  I just have to be obedient.

(I am feeling great compassion for my strong willed children.  Learning obedience is hard.  Really hard.  Praying I model mercy and compassion and patience with my children as I ask for obedience from them.  I certainly receive lavish amounts of those gifts daily from my Heavenly Father.)

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Brenna's passport came today!

I think getting your first passport is such an exciting event.  It is like having a key to the whole world.

Ethiopia. . . here we come!

(P.S. She is beyond excited!!!!!)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Melkam Gena 2015

I did several things that are very unlike me today.

1. I planned a family party on the fly.

I am a planner.  If I did not have it planned when I was laying in bed praying over my day, and if it is not an emergency, it will more than likely NOT happen.  But today when I realized it was Christmas in Ethiopia, I decided a party was in order.

2. I spent all day afternoon Ethiopian food.

As to my second confession, Ethiopian food is not my favorite.  That does not mean I hate it, I enjoy it.  However, it is not my absolute favorite AND since I do not love to cook, it is not something I make very often.  (Because my Ethiopian child does not like Ethiopian food at all, I don't feel too guilty about the rarity with which we eat it.)

 I had injera in the freezer.  I made doro wat, sega wat, and shiro by myself though!

And I was SO glad I did.

 As we gathered around our table to eat all my kids were excited.  I had placed the pictures of all the children we sponsor in Ethiopia around the table.  I asked each person to pray for the child whose picture was nearest to them.  Listening to my kids pray for our Ethiopian kids was my favorite moment this entire Advent season.

The photos of each of the children that we sponsor are stuck on our back door.  We see their faces every time we enter and exit our home.  Often, I lift up a quick prayer for them as I rush out the door.  Longer prayers come as I fold laundry in the adjoining room.  I always love listening as the kids' friends ask who the kids in the pictures are.  They share often about Ethiopia and their sponsor siblings there.  

And though often gazing into their faces fills my heart with longing, right now it fills me with gratitude and excitement!  In about six weeks Sierra, Brenna, and I are heading to visit them all!  I truly can not believe it is happening.  I will finally be in Ethiopia again.  That the Lord would allow it fills me with awe and wonder, to say the least.

Brenna shared the verse she has chosen for 2016 this morning, and it could not reflect my feelings about this upcoming trip more accurately.

"Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 37:4

It has felt like a looooooong journey for me, this return to Ethiopia.  When I left there the last time I really believed that I would be able to travel to visit the project at Jemo yearly.  My heart was on fire for the project.  I felt so very happy and fulfilled.  However, yearly travel was not to happen.  Though I still LOVE this project and support it as is appropriate, when God made it clear that my family was to move onto another church, my involvement in it became very limited.  That was one of the biggest losses I have experienced.  The partnership between that church and Jemo was something I had researched for years.  It was a dream that God had firmly planted into my heart.  I just knew it was His will.  And then as it all came together, He asked me to leave.  I was totally heartbroken and beyond confused.  Though I still do not understand, the pain has dulled.  I am not sure what He has in store for us on this upcoming trip.  And I have few expectations.  I am just running through an open door, grateful that He has allowed me this opportunity.  Whether He calls me to ministry in Ethiopia beyond sending letters to my precious sponsor children once a month, or not, I delight in Him.  Whether I am able to travel to Ethiopia ever again, or not, I delight in Him.  In Him and Him alone do I delight.

This trip is happening by His grace.
May each moment of it glorify Him.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Years Aspirations 2016

Throughout December I had been asking the Lord about 2016.  In all honesty I have not been looking forward to it.

There will be some major changes in the coming year.  I was struggling as I was trying to figure out how to prepare for them.   I was stuck in a rut of duty rather than joy.

Do you ever do that?

Some days I end up with a "poor me" attitude.  Poor me - I have 10 loads of laundry, 4 bathrooms to clean, dinner to prepare, and littles to care for.  Poor me - during nap time I need to work for Chad rather than take a nap or read a book.  Poor me - I have not worked out in 3 days because ALL my time has been filled with the needs of others.  Poor me. . .

In all those scenarios, I could also choose joy.  Lucky me - my family has many clothing choices and an automatic washer and dryer with which to clean them.  Lucky me - I have running water and sanitary living conditions.  Lucky me - I have a variety of foods available to prepare a nutritious meal for my family tonight.  Lucky me - I have precious little ones to love and guide through out the day.  Lucky me - I am gainfully employed AND I can do the majority of my job from home.  Lucky me - there are people in my life than need me and love me.

So as God has been talking to me about my "heart disease" and I have been trying to prepare mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and "schedully" (with my daily schedule) for the year to come God showed me my verse.

You KNOW a verse is directed to you when it leaps from the page.  As I read this it seemed to be 3D or something, and I was like "OK?"

And as it soaked in, my "OK?" changed to "OK!!"

Yes Lord, what I want is to live a life that bears fruit.

And to do that I need YOU.

I need to ABIDE in You.

Steep in You.

Focus on You.

Relax into You.

Listen to You.

Seek You.

Trust You.

Talk to You.

Daily, Hourly, Minute-By-Minute.

So the survival guide that the Lord gave me for the year ahead is ABIDE!




Abide in Him.

So this year my aspiration is to abide in Him.  That I may bear fruit.

For His glory.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Whose Yoke Is It?

The last few days anxiety and guilt have been following me like a shadow.  They linger near, but they never overtake me.

This morning, very early, I was laying in bed praying.  Thinking through my day and the weeks to come.  I was spilling out my "worry list" to the Lord.

As I was praying, he quietly spoke these words into my heart.

"My yoke is easy and My burden in light (Matthew 11:30).  Whose yoke are you wearing?"

Long, deep, life-giving sigh.

He was so right.  My worries were ALL me taking on a yoke that was not mine to wear.

So my first lesson this year is pretty powerful and equally simple.

Now. . . if only I can remember it.

(Ever feel that way?!?)

I am so thankful for our patient, faithful, always loving God.  I'm quite sure I would have given up on me a long time ago. . .

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome 2016

New Years Eve was a quietly noisy affair.

All the kids had friends over - so it was a house full of teenagers.  We made a ton of appetizers, and though Chad and I felt slightly displaced since the teens were "taking over" all the couches and TVs, we had a great time.  I am so thankful that the kids chose to  be home, playing games, fighting nerf gun wars, watching videos, eating, and laughing.  The chaos was such a blessing!

 All Mataya needs to be happy is her daddy.  She is soooo attached to him.

She also loved watching the neighbors light off fireworks.  She kept yelling "Maaaazing!  Fooful"  (Amazing!  Beautiful!)  She was not happy when mom and dad put her to bed at 10:30.  She thought she should party with the big kids.
Getting Joshua to bed was not a problem.  He was fast asleep on the couch by 10.

I did not make it until midnight either.  I was OUT by 11.  Thankfully, my amazing husband took the late shift.  I was up with Mataya at the crack of 6, and to my delight, the kitchen was spotless.  Daddy definitely earned his late morning that day!  I so appreciate the way we split jobs and responsibilities.  We may tag team more than ever before - but even when we are not working side by side, we are most certainly a team.  I can not imagine doing life without him.