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Our Adoption Journey: Part 2

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*The names in this part have been changed to protect the privacy of certain people*

We had two weeks to prepare! We scrambled to get the necessity items, pull the crib out of the attic, and prepare the nursery.  We finally made the announcement to all our friends and family and so many jumped at the opportunity to love, support, and help us get ready for our little girl!  Gods faithfulness and provision was overwhelming.  Everything was falling into place, and we were thrilled. Thankfully, we had time to get everything we needed to survive those first few weeks.  Then we just anxiously waited for the phone to ring…

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 – I remember we had gotten to bed late that night.  It felt like my eyes had barely been closed when the phone rang.  It was 12:30AM.  My heart skipped a beat and I scrambled for the phone.  I saw the caller ID and answered immediately. I gave Adam the look of, “This is it!” as I listened to the familiar voice on the other line, “Hey Leslie, it’s happening.  Lynn’s water just broke and she’s on her way to the hospital now.” “I’m on my way!” I said.  I hung up the phone, threw some things in a bag and called my mom.  Adam and I prayed together before I jumped in the van to start the 3-hour drive to the hospital.  We already had a plan in place for this, in case she was to go into labor in the middle of the night, I would leave immediately to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Adam would stay, get the kids up and dressed, meet up with my mom, who would keep the kids, so he could get to the hospital as quickly after as possible.

I remember being in constant conversation with God as I drove.  Like, literally out-loud talking to Him the entire way.  Prayers of praise and thanksgiving, prayers for the health and safety of Lynn and baby, prayers for safe travels for me as well as Adam and the kids and my mom, prayers that I could get there in time for the delivery. You name it, I was praying it, but mostly I just remember thinking how much everything was about to change, in just a matter of hours, and I just wanted Him to be in the center of it all.

My cell phone rang around 2:30AM, it was Kala, one of our social workers, calling to let me know that our beautiful baby girl had been delivered and everything went very smoothly.  I still had about 30 minutes left in the drive and I was pretty heartbroken that I didn’t get there in time for the actual delivery.  From the time Lynn left for the hospital, to the time of delivery, was less than 2 hours.  Our little girl was eager to get here, and I was desperate to get there to meet her! God gave me the grace and patience I needed to make it to the hospital, finally, around 3:00AM.  I remember pulling into the parking lot, so full of emotions.  Nervous, shaking with excitement, but filled with uncertainty of how things were going to play out.  I check in at the front desk and was then directed to the waiting room.  They informed me that both Baby and Birth mom are being taken care of.  They were running tests on baby and I couldn’t go back quite yet.  I sat there, studying the walls of the waiting room for what seemed like the longest 30 -40 minutes of my life.  Kala came through the doors, finally, she was so sweet and encouraging.  As we walked down the long white hallways of the hospital, she told me all about the delivery and how well things went.  She explained that she was taking me to a small holding room where a nurse would be with the baby and that’s where we would meet her, stay with her and have our bonding time.  Hopefully, depending on availability, we would be put in a regular room for the remainder of our stay in the hospital.

I didn’t know how I would feel in those first few moments. What would it be like to walk into a room and meet your child for the first time? I had played the scene out in my mind so many times, but nothing can compare to the actual moment.  I remember rounding the corner and seeing the doorway to the room she was in, I remember the nurse standing there, smiling.  I remember pausing to catch my breath before I stepped through the doorway.  I remember seeing the little portable crib with this tiny little bundle inside, swaddled up snugly. I remember it feeling like slow motion as the nurse picked that tiny bundle up, handed her to me, and said, “Here she is.” I instantly cried.  It was a familiar cry, a type of cry that I had known before.  It was that instant relief, momma cry, that pours out of you when you hear your newborn baby’s cry for the first time.  When your tense, aching body can finally relax because, she’s here….she’s here. My first response was, “She’s so beautiful.” because she was, she was perfection, wrapped in a blanket, with a little red birthmark above her nose. I remember putting her face to mine, her sweet, tiny face, and saying, “Hello baby girl, I’m your mommy. I love you so, so much!”

Adam arrived soon after.  They brought him into the room with us and I got to watch him meet his baby girl for the first time.  The instant love and joy on his face was indescribable. I got to sit back and watch him hold her, feed her, and bond with her.  It was a time that is forever etched into my heart.  God had been so faithful, through such a hard season and long journey. As Adam and I sat there in that tiny little room holding our precious baby, that God had handpicked just for our family, time stood still.

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.” 1 Samuel 1:27

Around 7:30AM we were finally moved to a regular room and within an hour the gears shifted and our seemingly fairytale story came to a sudden halt.  Kala came into our room along with a nurse and they informed us that the hospital social worker wanted to speak with us.  She joined us in the room and told us that while she was meeting with Lynn that morning, she admitted to some pretty serious drug use during the pregnancy. We had been informed in the beginning, when were matched, that she admitted to some drug and alcohol use, but once she realized she was pregnant she stopped using. Now she was admitting to regular drug use throughout the pregnancy.  Our hearts sank. Instantly fear crept in as the social worker went into detail of the situation.  She went on to tell us that a drug test would be done on our baby, she informed us of the possibility of her being drug addicted, the risks and possible side effects, and the signs and symptoms to looks for, should she experience withdrawals.  We were then told that because Lynn had not been honest with us, we did not have to follow through with this adoption plan.  We had every right to walk away, and that would be ok.  They wanted to give Adam and I time alone to talk it over, so they left the room.

Adam climbed into the hospital bed beside me, wrapped me in his arms and we wept. The fear and concern for the health of this baby was overwhelming.  Would we be able to handle a worst-case scenario and what does that look like with four other kids at home to care for as well?  But, how could we possibly walk away?  That little baby girl, she was every bit our little girl.  We had been knit together, woven and spun, it could not be undone.

“I’m still in…are you still in? I whispered. “Yes, I am still in…she is ours.” he replied.  Then let’s start getting some people to pray!  Adam called the other pastors of our church, I called my parents and some dear friends, and we just began to pray for our little girl.  We prayed, believing that God had protected her in the womb, and that He would protect her even now.  We prayed that He would heal her little body and free her from any chance of addiction.  Our emotions were high, we were on edge with nerves and fear, we were exhausted from no sleep and we were just waiting…waiting for some definitive answers. Hours passed that felt like days. We were getting so many encouraging messages and calls from close family and friends. So many people were praying for us and our baby girl.  Around 10:30AM the Pediatrician came in to see us.  He told us that baby had passed her drug test, that there were no drugs in her system!  He also said that her medical exam and all other tests looked great, that she was a very healthy little baby.  He went on tell us that she could still experience withdrawals. He told us the things to look for in case this happened, but he had very little concern of any long-term effects from the drug use.  This news was a huge answer to prayer and such an encouragement to us. We literally felt a huge weight lifted from us.  From that moment on God just covered us with an overwhelming peace in our hearts.  We knew He was in control and He just wanted us to trust Him.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

The hospital stay was very different from what I had originally expected.  In my mind I guess I envisioned that our new little one would be in the room with us the whole time, that we would be together, bonding, and everything would be happy and perfect.  The real version looks very different.  As long as the birth mom is in the hospital, she is the legal mother in charge of baby.  Which means, whatever decisions that need to be made on baby’s behalf, birth mom makes them.  If she wants the baby to be in the room with her, then they come get her and take her to the birth moms room.  We were not aware of this beforehand, and I was not prepared for how I would feel, emotionally, every time Lynn called for her.  It was our first full day in the hospital and baby spent most of the day in the room with Lynn.  Adam and I felt unsettled, I worried that Lynn might be changing her mind and I feared that my heart might not recover from the crush of it.  Kala came in to check on us routinely throughout the day. At one point she came in to tell us that Lynn wanted us to know that she was not trying to scare us or be stingy with her time with baby.  She just knew that once she left the hospital, that was it, she wouldn’t see her again, and so, she just wanted as much time as she could get, while she could get it.  My heart broke…it just broke for this young Momma that I had never met.  This Momma who, despite her mistakes, the drug use, and the poor decisions, she just wanted to soak in every minute that she could with her baby, to love her the best way she could in the little time that she had.

Our social worker, Kala was the mediator between us and Lynn.  She asked us if we had picked out a name for baby.  Adam and I had thought and prayed a lot about what her name should be. We wanted it to be special and have a significant meaning. We picked Zoe because it is the Greek word for “Life”.   We were so thankful that Lynn had chosen life, and that she then chose us to care for that life. Kay is my mom’s middle name and we felt the two names just went perfectly together.  When we told Lynn the name she really liked it, and said that’s what she would have them put on the birth certificate. That meant a lot to us, that Lynn liked the name we had chosen, so she used it too.   From the very beginning, our baby girl has been Zoe.  Lynn let her spend that second night in the room with us. It was perfect. His grace is sufficient.

Friday was a big day.  It was discharge day.  Adam and I had hoped we would get to meet Lynn at some point in this process.  We were open to it the entire time, but she had opted not to see us thus far.  She called for Zoe to be brought to her room early that morning and asked that she stay with her until time to discharge.  Soon after that, Kala came to our room to let us know that Lynn had decided she did want to meet us. Just before it was time for her to leave, she wanted us to come to her room, so she could personally give Zoe to us. I’m glad we had a little bit of time to try to mentally and emotionally prepare for this, though I don’t think I could have ever fully prepared myself for what was coming.

They led us down the hall to Lynn’s room.  Both of our social workers from the adoption agency were there as well as the hospital social worker, and a couple of nurses.  We entered the room and Lynn was sitting in the bed holding Zoe.  She didn’t make eye contact with us at first.  We walked over and stood closer to her, beside her bed. The room was silent for a moment or two.  Lynn held Zoe in her arms, she pulled her close to her face, hugged her and a kissed her cheeks.  She stared at her baby girls face for a minute, and then looked up at me. She said, “Thank you.” and then quickly looked back down at Zoe’s little face, “Thank you for being willing to take her and love her.”  I quickly wrapped my arms around her neck and hugged her, “Thank you, for loving her and for letting us love her.  Thank you for choosing us and trusting us with your little girl.”  She looked up at Adam and I both and said, “Today, she is going home.”  Then she handed her precious baby girl to me.

I could not begin to imagine the thoughts and emotions going through her heart and mind.  The heartache and hurt, the sadness, the pain of a tragic loss.  I pray she had been given a glimmer of hope.  She is the strongest women I have ever met.  We walked out of that room holding our little girl, a little piece of another woman’s heart.

“A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”   ~Jody Landers 

We were overcome with emotions.  So much gratitude and joy mixed with great sadness, it really is hard to describe.  We were discharged from the hospital that Friday afternoon.  We made the drive to my parents where our other kids had been staying.  When we arrived they all got to meet their new baby sister for the first time.  It was literally love at first site, they could not get enough of her!  I remember Karis crying when she held her for the first time, because she had prayed so long for a little sister.  And Luke boldly proclaimed that “Our baby is the cutest baby ever!” The next week was a whirlwind.  Due to Zoe being born in a different state than where we lived, we had to stay in her birth state with her until we were granted legal custody, by a judge.  Thankfully my parents lived in the same state Zoe was born in, Gods perfect plan, so we were able to stay with them.  On Saturday morning Adam and our oldest three kids drove home, so he could be at church on Sunday and they could go back to school on Monday.  Silas stayed with me and Zoe at my parents’ house.  Our court date was scheduled for that following Monday morning.  A dear friend came to our house early that morning to take the kids to school, so Adam could make the 3-hour drive and be there for the court appointment.  We went before the judge and he granted us legal custody of Zoe.  We had to wait for all the paperwork to clear before we could travel across state lines with her, so Adam made the drive back home that day, making it just in time to pick up the kids from school. Zoe had a check-up appointment at the hospital that afternoon.  The Doctor said she looked great, with no signs or symptoms of withdrawals.  God is faithful.  For the next few days, me, Silas, and Zoe just waited…by my parent’s pool, which was nice!  On Thursday evening I received word from our lawyer that we had been legally cleared to travel across state lines with Zoe. On Friday morning, September 2, we said goodbye to my parents and headed home.

It was so great for Zoe to finally be home and for all of us to be together, as a family of 7. Thankfully, things really transitioned quite smoothly.  Zoe was just meant to be a part of our family.  The kids quickly fell into the routine of our new normal.  They loved Zoe so much and she was adjusting well to our big family.  It really was amazing to see how God had perfectly woven her into our hearts and into our family.  We were overwhelmed by the love and support we received once were home.  Our families showed up from out of town and surprised us with a shower for Zoe.  Our church family showered us as well and continues to cover us with love and support.  We were incredibly blessed by Gods faithfulness and provision.  On December 8, 2016 Zoe’s adoption was finalized.  The courts made legal what our hearts already knew, she was officially a Lickey!

Our adoption journey was in no way, glamorous or picture perfect.  It was hard. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions, disappointment, and heart ache.  But, we were trusting God through it all, and believing this was His plan for us.  Sometimes God calls us to do hard things in order to receive His greatest gifts.  I recently read this quote from Priscilla Shirer, that really resonated with me, “Obedience is the key that unlocks all of the blessings God intends for us.  It also keeps the door of communication with Him clear and continually open.  We won’t always do it perfectly, but we must do it purposefully.  On the other side of obedience, there’s freedom and victory.”

Obedience is never easy, and it may lead you on a journey, much harder than you ever expected, but think of the blessings that are just waiting to be unlocked!  When I look at our sweet Zoe, I wouldn’t trade a second of our journey to her.  If given the choice, I would walk through it all again.  The gift of her made it all completely worth it and His grace was sufficient!

 

 

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Happy Mothers Day

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To The Empty Nest Mom who has poured out her blood, sweat, and tears. She has put in the countless hours. She has raised her kids. She has given them everything they need and has hesitantly “let them go” out into the world.
To The Mom to Teenagers who wonders if today they will be friends or enemies. Who struggles through the drama, the heartbreak, the sports, the friendships, the attitudes, the school projects, the messy rooms, the dates, and the college applications. Who at the end of the day is just praying she did something right.
To The Mom to Little Ones who is knee deep in toys, training pants, and tantrums. The one with jelly in her hair and a baby on her hip as she waves the other little ones off to the school bus.
To The Single Mom who fills the role of two parents every single day. The bread winner, the home maker, and everything else in between with rarely ever a moment to herself. She’s longing for a shower, but today baby wipes will just have to do!
To The Military Mom who is at home fighting for her family while her husband is away fighting for our country. Who straps on her boots and does what needs to be done until he is home with them again.
To The New Mom who nurses her little one in the wee hours of the night, overcome with such an in-explainable amount of love for such a tiny little thing that refuses to let her sleep.
To The Mom to Be who waddles around with a round tummy and swollen feet. She’s anxiously anticipating the arrival of her sweet little one as she eats pickles and peanut butter while preparing the nursery!
To The Mom at Heart who longs for the day she will hold her own child in her arms. It is a constant prayer that, for whatever reason, has yet to be answered. So she waits…
To The Grieving Mom who has lost child, at no matter what age, the hurt is beyond compare. A piece of her is missing and sometimes the grief is more than she can bear.
To The Motherless Mom who watches her family grow, she sees each milestone made, and she whispers to herself, “I wish my mother was here for this.”
To The Grand Mom who gets to relive some of the best parts of motherhood all over again as she watches her grandchildren grow.
To every Mom, in whatever stage of the journey, today and every day, I salute you!
Happy Mothers Day!happy mothers day

Holy Week: Preparing our hearts for Easter

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Last year I started a new tradition with our kiddos to help us celebrate Holy Week and to help prepare our hearts for Easter.  I wanted to teach them about some of the events that took place in the life of Jesus during his final week on this earth. I also hoped that it would help them to look forward even more to Easter and the celebration of His resurrection.

So, I did a little pinterest perusing and found several great ideas to help out with this project. ( I’m so thankful for the many other mommas out there who have come up with such great ideas and are willing to share them!) Using some of the ideas I found I was able to come up with a craft or project to do each day that went along with our scripture reading.  Of course, I am always excited anytime we can incorporate our Jesus Storybook Bible into any of these projects so I had to find ways to fit that in as well!

Here’s how our Holy Week went:

Palm Sunday -The Triumphal Entry 

We read from Mark 11:1-11 and Luke 19:28-44.  Our highlight verse was,

 “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Mark 11:9

For our craft the kids made a “palm leaf” with their hand print to add to our

banner for the week.

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Monday-  Jesus clears the Temple

We read from Mark 11:12-17 and our highlight verse was,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer.”  Mark 11:17

For our craft we drew a temple, a table, and the kids added coins

to the finished picture.

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Tuesday – Jesus teaches at the Temple

We read from Luke 19:47-48 and our highlight verse was,

“Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105

For our craft we made little scrolls and each kid got to put a special message on theirs. Then we added them to our banner.

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Wednesday –  The Lords Supper

Jesus washes the disciples feet

We read from Mark 14:22-15 and John 13:1-5 and our highlight verse was,

“What I am doing you do not understand now,  but afterward you will understand.” John 13:7

We also read “The Servant King” from our Jesus Storybook Bible

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This day, in particular, was my favorite. As I read the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet and what that meant  I also told the kids that I wanted to wash their feet.

Now the ages of my kiddos at the time were 2, 4, 6, and 8 so I expected lots of giggles and “Eww’s”  and “No way’s” but that’s not what happened.  They were actually very surprised that I wanted to wash their feet and they each sat quietly watching me as I called them over one at a time to the water bowl I had prepared.  They each let me wash their feet and when I was finished they all wanted to wash my feet…and then each others feet!

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Thursday –  Garden of Gethsemane

Betrayal and arrest of Jesus

We read from Mark 14:32-50 and our highlight verse was,

Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will. Mark 14:36

We also read “A dark night in the garden” from our Jesus Storybook Bible

For our craft the kids made praying hands to represent Jesus praying, flowers to represent the garden, and coins to represent Jesus’ betrayal.

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Friday – The Crucifixion

We read from Mark 15:16-41 and our highlight verse was,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

We also read “The sun stops shining from our Jesus Storybook Bible

For our craft the kids made a cross and a crown of thorns to add to our banner

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Saturday – Jesus is Buried

We read from Luke 23:50-56 and our highlight verse was,

“Then he took it down (Jesus body) and wrapped in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, were no one had ever been laid.”  Luke 23:53

This was another fun craft day, we made a tomb!  All you need is a tray of some sort, a tin can, some dirt, rocks, and sticks! How easy is that!  The kids loved gathering up the rocks and a few sticks. They especially loved getting to dig in the dirt to cover our “tomb” and they even picked a few flowers to decorate it with.  We picked out a special stick to represent Jesus, wrapped him up in cloth, placed him in our little tomb, and covered it with a large stone.

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Resurrection Sunday –  HE’S ALIVE!

We read from Luke 24:1-12 and our highlight verse was,

“He is not here, but has risen!” Luke 24:6a

We also read “God’s wonderful surprise” from our Jesus Storybook Bible

For our craft we made Resurrection Rolls and rolled away the stone from the tomb we made to see that it was indeed empty! Jesus is ALIVE!

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This is our finished banner from the week.

This was a fun way for us to teach our kids about Holy Week and some of the things that took place during those final days of Jesus’ life leading up to His death, burial, and resurrection.  I think each day made them look forward even more to Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

I hope some of these ideas help you to begin a little Holy Week celebration of your own!

Blessings!

Above all else, guard your heart…

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Ok, I’m just going to be real here.  These passed few days my heart has been pretty heavy; burdened to the point of nausea, anxiousness, fatigue, and just plain feeling sick.  Even though several things have happened this week to attribute to my feeling this way, I have to admit that the main cause…really is – a movie.  Yes, a movie, that I will never see, based on some books, that I will never read and yet they have my heart weeping and broken.  I have gone back and forth in my mind on what to say, how to say it, or if I should say anything at all. I am well aware of the many opinions on this topic that have very openly been expressed by many people, and I have decided that my thoughts and words would just be inadequate, so I will use His Word.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman (or man) with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her (or him) in his heart.   (Matthew 5:28)

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  (Psalm 51:10)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. (Psalm 119:37)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.  (2 Timothy 2:22)

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.  (1 John 2:16)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:1-2)

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.  (Titus 2:3-5)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)

Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  (Ephesians 5:25)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight.  (Psalm 19:14)

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  (Psalm 37:4)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.   (Philippians 4:8)

 

This Valentines Day and every other day I will choose to honor my husband, to love and cherish him, that he and our life together will be my only desire apart from the love of my Savior.

Blessings

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Her First Moments With Him: Behind The Stable Doors

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As a mother, when I read the Christmas story, I am always drawn to Mary.  I often wonder what those first few moments were like for her as a very young, new mother.  I try to imagine how it must have felt to hold the Son of God wrapped in tiny flesh, the thoughts that must have ran through her mind, the questions, the fears…the joy!

I try to imagine…here are my thoughts…will you imagine it with me…

A baby calf, searching for it’s mother, stumbles around in one of the stables nearby and Mary awakes.  The smell of dirt and hay are thick in her nostrils and she fights back her nauseous feeling.  She struggles to sit up, her body aches from the long journey to Bethlehem and her energy is drained from the hours of labor she just endured.  She sees that Joseph is asleep beside her, “he is a good man”  she thinks to herself and she is thankful.  She is tired but unable to sleep; the night air is cool and crisp and she notices how brightly the stars are shining as their light creeps through the stable doors.  She looks around at all the animals as they sleep and then her eyes are drawn to Him.  Her heart skips a beat and she gathers the strength to lift Him out of the manger.  She pulls Him close to her and breathes him in, she gently runs her hand over his head to smooth his hair and softly traces the tiny features of his face with her fingers.  She can’t stop staring at him.  “You are beautiful”, she whispers, as tears roll down her cheeks. His little fingers clasp around hers and she is overcome with an unexplainable love.  Her mind begins to fill with so many questions as she cradles her precious baby boy.

“Is it really you?” she asks, “Are you really the One that has been promised to us all….the Messiah, the Savior of the world?  Why has God chosen me to be your mother, I am no one special?  What if I make a mistake, I am sure to fail.  How can I possibly be all that you need?”

Her body trembles as she holds her baby close and begins to pray.  She is reminded of the day the angel was sent to her from God and she remembers the words he spoke to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”  A calmness comes over her spirit and her heart is filled with peace.  It is quiet, all around her the town is silent, and she wonders how anyone can sleep when such a child has been born.  Does anyone know He is here?

She whispers to her son, “Our LORD will do great things through you, Jesus, but for now, sleep sweet little one…sleep.” She found herself humming a familiar tune, the song she sang during her visit with Elizabeth, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.” She wrapped her baby in swaddling clothes and placed him in the manger.  Joseph is awake now and is close by her side as she sings to Jesus.  Just outside the stable doors, down the beaten path, a group of shepherds are making their way into Bethlehem, they are coming to see a baby…the one the angels had told them about…

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Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas

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I love the Christmas season, it’s my favorite time of year.  I love the music, the decorations, the festivities, the food, the continuing on of family traditions, and the starting of new ones.  But, it’s so easy for the true meaning of Christmas to get lost in all the hustle and bustle of this busy season.  This is the time to anticipate and celebrate the arrival of our Rescuer; the coming of our King!  What a glorious day that first Christmas was some 2,000 years ago,  when Heaven came down to earth in the form of a tiny baby, our Savior had come to live…and to die for us all!  There is no greater reason to celebrate Christmas than this!

Through the years we have started some of our own family traditions to help our kids better understand the true meaning of Christmas.  We do a daily random act of kindness during the month of December to count down the days until Christmas.  We hope to teach our kids the importance of giving and learning selflessness, that Christmas is not about what they get, but about showing the love of Christ and finding ways to be a blessing to others.  We read the Christmas story every Christmas morning before we open gifts.  We bake a cake together on Christmas day for Jesus’ birthday; complete with candles and singing.  This year, we are adding a new tradition, we will be celebrating Advent (The coming of Christ). The scripture reading plan for Advent tells the story of God’s plan for salvation, starting with creation and continuing through the Old Testament to the birth of Jesus Christ.

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I have several friends that do this already with their families and I have always been intrigued by it.  As I have read and learned more about it myself, I think it is a wonderful way to prepare our hearts for Christmas.  In the midst of all the business of this season, it is a great way to have a quiet, reflective time each evening with our kids.  Along with our reading, each night we will be making an ornament for our Jesse Tree.  The name Jesse Tree represents the genealogy of Jesus.  Jesse is the father of David, an ancestor of Jesus.  It comes from the prophecy of the coming Messiah.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 

Isaiah 11:1

We will be doing our reading using the Jesus Storybook Bible (which we love and highly recommend!)  If you have the Jesus Storybook Bible already, here is the link  to a great blog where a sweet momma has made up a free printable of the reading plan that goes along with it.  I also pinned the idea for the Jesse Tree ornaments from another sweet mommas blog, you can click here to check out the free printables she has to offer.

Our first night went well, we enjoyed our reading time and we gave the 3 older kids each a different responsibility in making the Jesse Tree ornament.  One got to color it, one got to put it together, and one got to hang it on the tree.  Each night they will rotate these responsibilities.

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If you are looking for a quiet, reflective way to prepare your hearts and the hearts of your children for Christmas, I hope these ideas are helpful.

Blessings!

 

 

 

 

Operation Christmas Child

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The world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, uses gift-filled shoeboxes

to share God’s love in a tangible way with needy children around the world.

It’s one of our favorite things to do at Christmas time and we make it a family affair.  We take our kiddos to the store and let them each pick out 5 fun things for their shoebox while mommy and daddy pick out the basic necessity items like: soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, and hand towels.  We also always try to add pencils, paper, and a bible story book.  We have fun, we play, we fill our cart, and we all take part!

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When we get home we pour out all the bags on the table and let the kids pack there boxes full of all the goodies.  My kids also like to color pictures and write notes to add to their box for a personal touch.  Then, we sit around the table and pray over each box and for the child that will be receiving it.  This is my favorite part…I love hearing the sweet prayers of my little ones for a child they do not know.  My four year olds prayer was, “Thank you God, for this day and thank you for the boy that will get my box because he is the best!” Operation Christmas Child is just a small way we can teach our kids the importance of giving, showing the love of Christ and how it can impact another child’s life in a big way!

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In case you didn’t know:

Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has collected and delivered more than 113 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in over 150 countries through Operation Christmas Child.

In 2014, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 10 million children through the Operation Christmas Child project. They will deliver the gifts to children in more than 100 countries on six continents.

During National Collection Week, Nov. 17-24, Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoeboxes at more than 4,000 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Operation Christmas Child also offers the opportunity year-round to pack personalized shoebox gifts online. Go to samaritanspurse.org and click on Operation Christmas Child to select toys and gift items, write a note of encouragement, and “pack” them in a shoebox.

10 things I’ve learned from running

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About four months ago I started a C25K training program.  I had a few friends that were doing the same program and I got inspired to try it myself. I finished the 8 week program and have since continued to run regularly. I still do not consider myself to be a “runner”…I’m more of a “wanna-be runner”, but I’m trying. Here are some things I’ve learned from running:

1. It’s Hard

No joke. It takes discipline and determination.  It’s easier to give up than keep going and if you really want to do it, you have to push yourself.  This is coming from a weenie that only runs a few miles at a time, so to my friends that are long distance runners…you have my full respect!

2. There are muscles in my legs I have never used before…apparently

This is where “it’s hard” and “I’m an weenie” go hand in hand.  Leg pain, ankle pain, and shin splints, oh my! I have become very well acquainted with my tibialis anterior muscle… we have a love-hate relationship.

3. Compression socks aren’t just for hospital patients

So, you can refer back to #2.  Yeah, I bought some, I wear them, my legs thank me!

4. I can lose weight without giving up Mexican Food!

Can I get an Amen on this one…I mean really!  Now, I have switched to smaller portion sizes, but with running I can lose weight without giving up some of my favorite foods.  Feel free to say Amen again if you need to.

5. It boosts your energy

As a momma of 4, energy is something I typically do not have a lot of.  On the days that I run, I generally feel better throughout the day.  I have more energy and I don’t feel like I need to “crash” in the middle of the day.

6. You set goals for yourself to improve

My first goal was to finish the 8 week training program.  My next goal is to run a 5k, I’ll be doing that on November 15th.  Setting goals for yourself is a good thing and I have lots of room for improvement.

7. It’s a stress reducer

Feeling stressed out?  Go for a run!  It pumps your endorphins, improves your mood, and helps distract you from daily worries.  Who doesn’t need a good worry distraction every now and then?

8. It improves self esteem

Let’s face it.  If your losing weight (while eating Mexican food), have more energy throughout the day, are achieving goals you’ve set for yourself, and are a little less stressed, naturally your self esteem will improve.

9.  It’s a great opportunity for “Me Time”

Again, as a momma of 4, if I can get some “me time” I’ll take it!

10. It gets your creative juices flowing

So , during my “me time’ runs I usually have tons of ideas running through my mind.  I’ve remodeled our house several times (in my head),  I’ve planned out several crafty projects, come up with painting ideas, planned parties, created shopping lists, and well…the list goes on!

Again, I’m no pro on running, so this is just a light- hearted list on the benefits I’ve experienced from running.

Blessings!

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God’s word in times of grief

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We will all be faced with grief at some point, and even though each situation will be different for each person, God’s promises for us remain the same.  He is our strength, our refuge, our comfort, and our very present help in time of need.  As Christians we have a hope…a peace that surpasses all understanding, so that when we are in the midst of grief, we are not driven to despair…joy comes in the morning!

His word for us in our times of grief:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

(Psalm 34:17-18)

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

(2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

(Psalm 147:3)

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

(Psalm 30:5)

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

(Psalm 55:22)

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

(Psalm 46:1)

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you

(1 Peter 5:7)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Hebrews 4:15-16)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:6-7)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

(Jeremiah 29:11)

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

(Proverbs 30:5)

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

(Psalm 94:18-19)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

(Psalm 121:1-4)

Since I am afflicted and needy, Let the Lord be mindful of me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God

(Psalm 40:17)

But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand

(Psalm 10:14a)

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Hebrews 4:16)

I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul.

(Psalm 31:7)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

(Psalm 9:9)

My soul weeps because of grief; Strengthen me according to Your word.

(Psalm 119:28)

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance.

(Psalm 32:7)

You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.

(Psalm 10:17)

But You, O God, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me; For I am afflicted and needy, And my heart is wounded within me.

(Psalm 109:21-22)

Be joyful in hope, be patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

(Romans 12:12)

I pray these verses are an encouragement to you in your time of grief.  If you have other verses that have helped you, please feel free to share them.

Blessings

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The Strong-willed Child vs. The Impatient Mom

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My first two children were so easy, they really were, honestly.  We had our little girl first and then 20 months later our first boy came.  They both had very laid back personalities. They have always gotten along wonderfully; a twin-like bond.  They played well together and easily entertained themselves.  They slept well, ate well, traveled well, were easy to discipline, easy to teach and eager to learn…they were easy!  So, when our third child came I figured he would just follow suit, right? Well, let’s just say that the word “easy” has never been used to describe L! He is our, rough, rowdy, energetic, loud, strong-willed, determined, high maintenance, full of life, 100% boy!

Needless to say, my world was rocked.  Schedules went out the window and I went into survival mode. My motto quickly became, “Just make it through today!”  Sometimes it seemed like his only mode of communication was to yell or hit.  The bad days started to outnumber the good days and I continually felt like I was failing as his mom.  I tried several different approaches to try to deal with his behavior:  time out, taking away certain toys and privileges, rewards for good behavior, I never “spared the rod”, but all of these were only temporarily effective. Eventually I’d find myself back at the beginning, struggling to not be the mom that loses her patience, yells, sends him to his room and prays that he falls asleep.  Then at night I’m praying that it will somehow get better, surely this is just a phase…right?  Oh, Lord, please let this be just a phase!

About 2 months ago, at the end of a particularly hard day, as I lay in bed, worn out, praying, wondering what to do…I got my answer.  It wasn’t what I expected.  I had been praying so much for my son to change when it was me that needed to change.  I began to pray that the Lord would change me into the mom that L needed me to be. The kind of mom that prays over her son each night and prays with him each day, the kind of mom that remains patient with him so that he too will learn patience, the kind of mom that doesn’t get angry and yell, so that he doesn’t get angry and yell. The kind of mom that gives him grace so that maybe next time he won’t choose to hit.  The kind of mom that understands that he is not the enemy.

But… there is an enemy!

I love what Brook McGlothlin says in her blog:

Sometimes, I’m tempted to let our circumstances tell me my son is the enemy — he’s the one I’m fighting. But then I remember Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” When the days of mothering grow long and make a girl weary, and when what you really want to do is lock your son in his room and throw away the key, it’s good to remember this: Your son is not your enemy. But there is an enemy. That’s right. Our sons have a real enemy, one that wants to steal, kill and destroy them (John 10:10). Thankfully that enemy, according to the Word of God, has an opponent who’s a force to be reckoned with….moms who are willing to get on their knees and cry out for the hearts of their sons. James 5:16b says, “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with” (The Message).

The Lord began to change me into a more patient, praying mom. Not a mom that prays out of desperation, but a mom that prays with intention. Because of the changes the Lord is making in me, I can see L is changing also. Instead of praying for L’s behavior to change, I am praying for his heart to change.  We are all sinful by nature and apart from Christ, “there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12b)  Any change in his behavior would only be temporary until he has a change of heart.  So, every night as he sleeps I kneel beside his bed and pray for his heart. I pray that the Lord would, even now, begin to soften and draw his little heart to the saving knowledge of Him.  I pray that he will walk after God, fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice. That he will serve Him and hold fast to Him (Deuteronomy 13:4). I pray that he will walk before God, as King David walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that He has commanded him, and keeping His statutes and rules (1 Kings 9:4).

I pray…

 

~My sweet L turns four years old tomorrow, and though he pushes and challenges me in more ways than I ever thought possible, he also brings me such joy, makes me laugh out loud, gives the best hugs, and encourages me each day to be the best mom I can be.  I love him so…more than he will ever know!

 

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