eleven

Today is our eleventh wedding anniversary.  I try to remember the people that we were eleven years ago, and I can’t.  From here, we look like babies who had no idea what we were getting into.  I know that we thought we had things pretty well figured out.  I know we had a lot of big plans and dreams.  I know that we were crazy about each other.

We had some hard years at the beginning, but I can say, without question, that this bittersweet eleventh year has been the hardest.  It has been a different kind of hard than those early years.  Those we spent battling each other, while this year, we’ve usually been on the same team.  The uncertainty, stress, and grief of this year further put into perspective the things we thought were worth fighting about a decade ago.

I’m so thankful to be married to this imperfect, rough-around-the-edges man, who loves me at my most unlovable, thinks I’m beautiful no matter how much I weigh, can always make me laugh, and quickly forgives me no matter how much I don’t deserve it.

The request I present to God most often is, “please let me grow old with him,” and I am more aware than ever that we aren’t guaranteed eleven more years or eleven more minutes.  He and I have recommitted in the last few months to make the most of the time we’re given to be together – to love each other like crazy, always point our kids to Jesus, be open and eager to hear God’s direction for our lives, and seek out friendships with people who encourage us to do those things.  Marriage is probably my favorite of God’s gifts, after salvation.  I feel such a sense of urgency not to waste it or take it for granted.  Eleven years from now, if it is God’s will, we’ll be turning 45 and will have adult and teenage children.  I’m sure I’ll look back at our eleventh anniversary and think we were babies who thought we had things figured out.

That’s okay with me. PhotoGrid_1437056845459

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so much better than hawaii.

We recently had our 10th anniversary. Over the years, when we thought we’d have “more money” by our 10th anniversary (whatever that even means), we imagined we might go to Hawaii for our 10th, or drive up the California coastline, which I really want to do someday.

But, here we are, with a toddler who has hardly ever been away from her mama, and in the middle of an international adoption. We’re living on a very strict budget day-to-day, and have just enough in our adoption account for our next payment and the postage to get it there.

I asked my husband to just be in charge of it. I was overwhelmed and didn’t even know what I wanted to do.

He found a guest house at an amazing ranch, driving distance (and close to grandparents!), for really cheap. We hiked, swam, read, explored, tubed the Guadalupe, window shopped, ate great food, lounged in the hot tub, and just enjoyed three solid days and nights of each other.  It was wonderful. It was totally not what I would have planned, and probably about 200x better because of it.

I looked up at him at some point during the trip and said,
“This is so much better than Hawaii.”

Living life with him is the greatest gift I could ever want.
anniversary pizap

“Love’s flames are fiery flames – the fiercest of all. Mighty waters cannot extinguish love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7

getting real about the special needs request

Can we get real about the special needs request?

I had read on blogs that it’s the hardest part.  I didn’t really believe them.  You just think/pray about what you want to be open to, write it down, and you’re done.  Right?

Well, no.  Because then, you wonder if your request is too narrow.  So you add to it.  And then you wonder if your request is too broad.  And then you lie awake at night trying to figure out if the anxiety you’re feeling is because God wants to stretch your faith, or if the anxiety means you’re not on the right track.  And how do you find a balance between wanting a baby sooner, which means a broader request; or trying to make yourself feel comfortable with things you don’t really feel comfortable with because you are pretty much ready to fly to China (or where ever) to pick up that baby right this minute?  Or find the balance between knowing that God is sovereign, so it doesn’t really matter what you wrote down; but then He also lets us make mistakes and we have free will, so could it really be possible to totally mess this up?  And there is an actual little human sitting in a crib in an orphanage somewhere whose life literally depends on this decision.

It’s intense, y’all.

A few months ago, at a time when I was in total turmoil, I prayed and fasted, and had immediate peace about a very difficult decision – switching programs from Ethiopia to China.  I was depressed and frantic for maybe 2 months prior to making the decision, because everywhere I looked felt hopeless.  I was scrambling to try to make things fit that didn’t fit, and emailing our very patient social worker at all hours of the night.  My sweet husband felt comfortable about switching programs before I did, and had been praying with me for some clarity and direction.  Finally, all of the sudden: TOTAL PEACE.  It was crazy.  My husband was shocked.  I’ve never experienced anything like it before.

The last few days/weeks, it happened again.  We felt uneasy about our special needs request.  I was getting a little obsessed with it, (did y’all notice that I sometimes do that?), so I made myself stop, breathe, and have some intense prayer time.  A few days later, my husband came to me and said he felt comfortable adding some things to our request that he hadn’t felt comfortable adding before.**  It was not an all-of-a sudden change of our hearts like before, but it was definitely a sense of peace, when just a week or so prior, there had only been turmoil.

I was just talking online with a friend last night who is praying with her husband about their special needs request. One of the things I told her that I think is important, so I’m going to also say it here, is that you can change your request.  If, at the beginning, you feel scared and you haven’t had time to do a ton of research, then just start with what you feel comfortable with.  Once your dossier is ready and you have some time and emotional space to breathe and pray intensely about it, maybe the Holy Spirit will nudge you to add things to (or remove things from) your list.  For my agency, that process is as simple as emailing our social worker about it, then forwarding her answer to our family coordinator.

In summary –

Q:  So, how in the world do you wrap your brain around such a huge, scary decision?

A:  You don’t.  It’s not written in stone.  Pray about it, write something down, and move on.  Then, later, when you feel ready to, pray about it some more.  And, ultimately, God IS sovereign, and He will direct your paths, and if you’re seeking His will, then you can find peace in that.

**Note: I need to note here that I know this process can be even more difficult because it’s TWO people making it.  I feel comfortable with things my husband does not, and he feels comfortable with things that stress me out practically-speaking.  Wives reading this, my guy gave me some wise insight that I want to share with you.  He said that as women, we look at all hurting children and just purely love them and want to rescue them.  This is good, and how God designed us.  He explained that as a Dad, he wants to FIX it.  It grieves him to think about adopting a child with a special need that he will not be able to FIX.  Would he adore a child (born to us or adopted) whose special need could not be “fixed?”  Of course, in a heartbeat, without hesitation; and we both know that all children are fearfully and wonderfully made and do not need to be “fixed.”  But, his primary instinct as a man and a Daddy is to want to be able to make them whole.  This is good, and how God designed him.  He also knows it would break my heart to turn down a referral, so he wants to make absolutely certain that what is on the list is what we are really prepared to accept.  Like so many other things in marriage, we are looking at it in different ways; and God has made us different so that we can work together to figure out a balance.  I ultimately deferred to him about our special needs request, and I am praying hard already that I will be able to ultimately defer to him about accepting the referral(s) that we get.  He’s prepared to carry the burden of the heavy weight of that decision, like he has other hard decisions in our lives, and I respect and admire him so much for that.

i’m so crazy about him.

i'm so crazy about him.

This handsome guy was on a business trip all last week. My daughter “helped” me pack for him, and insisted that we include her finger puppets in his shave kit. As soon as he got to his hotel room and started unpacking, he sent her this picture.

Some people don’t get him specifically, or generally don’t get men who are leaders of their households and think they must be chauvinistic jerks. This man is decisive, strong, authoritative, brave, opinionated, hard-working…and a great big, sweet, funny, teddy bear who loves Jesus and loves his family with his whole heart.

Fifteen years ago today, we had our first real date.  I couldn’t have imagined then what an amazing man of God he would be now.

What’s not to be crazy about?!

Trip Packing for my Husband – the fun stuff

I usually pack for my husband.  It’s just easier since I’m at home and I’m the one who does most of the laundry.  I have been known to forget things, though, like socks AND church clothes on our most recent weekend out of town.  Oops.

He will be leaving soon for an international mission trip, and I was going to write a post about the more practical side of packing him for that.  Then I found plenty of good info about that on pinterest (search, “packing for a mission trip”), so I decided to skip straight for the fun part!

Gifts and Words of Affirmation are my primary love languages.  That means care packages, cards, and things like that are pretty much my favorite things on earth.  He’s going to be gone 11 days, so I started gathering little things for him here and there several weeks (read: pay checks) before his trip.  One day during nap time, I spread everything out on the kitchen table and started brainstorming.  I tried to mix up light-hearted and sentimental, plus mixed things from the kids in here and there.  I included little gifts or photos on some days and not others.  Some days I wrote out a long-ish letter, and other days just a quick note.  Here are examples of a couple of the more elaborate days, including a travel day:
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Then I put everything into an envelope, labelled it, and got it organized in something that won’t take up too much space.DSC_1595 DSC_1596

Also because he’s using a carry on, I had to be careful not to include anything that won’t get through the check points, and to just close those manila envelopes with the brad, so if they need to open them, it won’t tear them all up.  You can see in the top pic that several of the days are just an envelope or even a folded piece of printer paper.  Not every day is fancy!

Seriously, I love doing this for him.  I might enjoy it more than he does.  He’s sort of the King of Understatement, so it’s hard to gauge how he actually feels about things like this.  But, hey, he doesn’t wonder whether or not I’m proud of him and crazy about him!

Okay, here are some other ideas for what’s in the envelopes:
-scripture cards with the verses written out
-activities for the plane, like a deck of cards, puzzle book and pencil, etc.
-snacks/candy/gum
-a short note w/ a list of relevant scripture for him to look up
-travel sunscreen packet and lip balm for a day he’ll be outside a lot
-photographs of our family
-list of reasons why I respect/admire him
-notes/pictures/hand prints from the kids
-cards: miss you, sappy, funny, a little spicy, etc.
-notes encouraging his leadership on the trip, etc.
-mini photo album

Here are pics of a few pages of the little photo album I made.  These are at Dollar Tree, Target, or Walmart, and are really cheap.  I just used stickers and paper I already had, so it wasn’t an expensive project!  It was probably my favorite thing, and I kept it light and funny, so I think he’ll get a kick out of it.
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(And even left my scribbled out spelling error because I know he’ll laugh about what a terrible speller I am.  Ha.)

Here’s another fun thing.  I read on one of the blogs I found on pinterest that it might be a good idea to take your own pillow case.  I wrote a note, prayer, and Psalm 116:7-11 on a plain pillowcase that I had lying around.  I’m sure most of you reading are much craftier than I am and could do a cuter job with this:

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Okay!  I think that’s all I’ve got!  What do you do when your husband/wife is traveling, especially when communication is going to be minimal?  I think some of these ideas could be modified for a deployment or longer-term mission trip, and I’m hoping to do something like this for my kids when we travel to Ethiopia.  I’d love to hear your ideas!

If you’re really just here to hear about our adoption, don’t fret!  I know I haven’t updated in a little while, but we have been working hard on our dossier, and will hopefully be posting an exciting update soon!

getaway!

getaway!

This weekend, my husband and I had our first getaway in 2.5 years! That is way too long – don’t follow our example!

It was wonderful, though, and we had so much fun eating at fancy restaurants (with gift cards), window shopping, seeing a movie in the theater, swimming, and just being us. I was really not quite ready to come home.

Of course, this is the only picture we got. But, hey, the food at that place was REALLY good. Their Goat Cheese Tater Tots made my Official Top Ten Favorite Foods of All Time list. Really. Yum.

just life, and some adoption thoughts

just life, and some adoption thoughts

We’ve had a rough couple of weeks. Nothing major in the big scheme of things, but just lots of little things that are adding up and wearing us out. It was nice tonight, just hanging out with my favorite guy in the garage while he changed the oil.

None of it is adoption-related. We’re in a bit of a lull with that right now, but have been collecting some documents and writing some letters. We did prayerfully decide to bump up our age range to 18 months. It’s hard to think about a child our daughter’s age being plunked into a whole new world with new people, a new language, etc. She’s so attached to us, so aware of the world around her, and has so much language already. But it was weighing on my heart, so I asked my husband to pray about it. He did for a few days and said we should go for it. I’m probably the one who would be more inclined to desire an infant, anyway, and do feel sad about the likelihood of us never having a little baby again.

Then I was reading Kristin Swick Wong’s book, Carried Safely Home, which was one of the required books for our home study, and she mentioned that when they adopted their second son, she really wanted an infant, and they got referred to a baby who was about to celebrate his first birthday. They wanted to do something to observe his birthday, even though they didn’t have him home yet, so they were planning a little party, but she was having a hard time getting in the mood to celebrate. She said some things on pages 111-113 that brought me such peace about the decision:

“It strikes me that this boy not being home for his first birthday is only one small part of a broader tragedy. He was conceived and born in such a place that his birth mother felt the need to leave him. He will probably never know her, his father, or his whole story. We will participate in mending what is broken, but will not be able to restore those painful beginnings or fill in the missing pieces of his life. Our losing the first year is only one manifestation of a little life begun with loss. I am sad for this baby.

Still, driving home in the balloon-filled car, it strikes me that we are following in the footsteps of Jesus. My instinct is to move away from pain. But Jesus does not turn from our tragedies; he joins us in them, entering willingly into our messy lives. To walk with us, he left perfection and was born into the world, naked and cold. He spent years living and walking and talking with people shattered by grief and shame. He did not remove himself from earthly afflictions but chose to feel thirst, exhaustion, homelessness. He welcomed those who came to him for comfort and help, even when others thought he should send them away. He cried at the death of his friend. His heart went out to a widow whose only son had died. He decided to love and spend his life with a group of men he knew would betray, deny, and abandon him…

What if I gave up my goals for a picture-perfect family with cooing baby in arms? What if I believed that I do not need to erase all the hurts? What if I entered this child’s life, with Jesus, looked for how to apply his ointment to the wounds, then watched for him to create beauty from the ashes? How freeing this could be.

We are following in the footsteps of the Man of Sorrows. I feel released from the anxiety about this child’s beginnings, and I am willing to lose his infancy. I am sad for him but am more willing to live with that sadness, heartened to think that by choosing to enter this child’s broken life we are choosing to follow Jesus. Home with balloons, I am able to celebrate the first birthday of a dear little boy. My dear little boy.”

some days are like that, even in Australia

I loved the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day as a child.  It was one of my favorites.  I actually wrote my application paper for the honors program at my college on it.  (It was perhaps a little overly gutsy, and I got wait-listed.)  Right now I’m thinking it would also be perfect for my (slightly melodramatic) first-grader.

But, today I am having one of those days!  It started off with three hours in a dentist chair.

We encourage our son to think of things he’s thankful for when he gets into a grumpy mood, so now it’s my turn:

1.  I am thankful to have easy access to good quality dental care.  (So conveniently located, in fact, that you could walk there – see #3!)

2.  I am thankful for great benefits through my husband’s company – awesome health, vision, DENTAL, and even adoption benefits!

3.  I am thankful for my sweet husband who worked from home this morning so I could go to the dentist.  AND, who, when I accidentally took my own car this morning (with all of the carseats), WALKED with all three kids to the dentist to get the car and still got our oldest to school in uniform, with lunch, and on time!  And he wasn’t even grumpy about it.  (I could take a page from his book, huh?)

4.  I am thankful for children who are usually good sleepers.  Even though they woke up at exactly imperfect intervals last night, I am usually well-rested, and I don’t want to take that for granted.

5.  I’m so thankful that God’s mercies are new every morning!  (Lamentations 3:22-23)  Tomorrow I will get a totally fresh start.  Hallelujah!

this man

this man

This man who coaches our son’s baseball team.
This man who took me out to dinner when I wrecked my car because my day had been so stressful.
This man who prays for me every day.
This man who chooses modest outfits for our one-year-old daughter.
This man who can always make me laugh.
This man who acts with integrity, no matter what the consequences.
This man who matches up all the socks because he knows it makes me crazy.
This man who thinks I’m beautiful no matter how much I weigh.
This man who works so hard to provide for us.

Oh, how I love being married to him.

Happy Love Day!

We love because He first loved us.  1 John 4:19

I love Valentine’s Day!  Do you?

It seems like there are 3 schools of thought:

1) Valentine’s Day is fun!
2)  Valentine’s Day is stupid and materialistic and I hate it.
3)  I show love to my special someone every day.

Yeah, yeah.  I know it’s a day for people to spend money on silly things that don’t matter.  I know you’re supposed to show love every day (and we do).  But, I still think it’s really fun!  I like to go all out, not with jewelry and flowers (not that I hate either!), but in fun little ways that will make my family smile.  I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day!  I remember in 4th grade, I had had strep throat that week, but my mom got special permission for me to go up for my Valentine’s party at school because it had been JUST long enough that afternoon for me to be there.

We had a special, “fancy” breakfast this morning with strawberry waffles and punch (aka strawberries in the bottom of some apple juice).  I made some eggs for the ones who like eggs, and we all spent some time chatting over breakfast.  (We aren’t really morning people, so we don’t usually do this!  Breakfast is usually more of a ‘grab a granola bar and milk” kind of thing.  Every year I say I’m going to do better about breakfast!)

The Princess was still getting her beauty sleep!

The Princess was still getting her beauty sleep!

Valentine Hunk

It was so fun!  One of my favorite family traditions.

Tonight’s plan: Papa Murphy’s Heart Baker pizza and an early bedtime for the kids.  Ravioli, steak, salad, and sparkling grape juice in the sunroom for us!

Do you have any fun Valentine traditions?

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  1 John 3:16-20