Monday, June 18, 2018

Our Adoption Journey Part 1 -- A Labor of Love

I know some of you might want to hear about how we got from point A with our adoption announcement last September to point B, bringing home our baby!  Well, as I mentioned before it was a crazy-whirlwind of a time but everything happened pretty swiftly and seamlessly with the adoption process.  Praise God for that.  We knew for sure that we wanted to adopt a newborn baby in a domestic adoption and we knew the home study agency we were going to use. It was a good start but this was our second time doing it so we had a better grip on what was required than the first go 'round. We really didn't expect for everything to progress as quickly as it did, but it was really a God thing that it happened that way!  So let's go back to early August and it'll probably be self-explanatory why I had to break from blogging, even when I had good intentions of taking you along with me.

Home Study

We began by renewing our home study.

The home study is basically where you begin in any adoption. It is how you are officially approved to move forward in the adoption process.  It's how you are approved to be financially, mentally, physically and emotionally "fit" to parent. That may seem overkill, but it does help to be sure there aren't any crazies looking for kids for the wrong reasons.  It can be daunting if it's your first time getting your home study completed. There's an enormous check list of documents to collect, paper to fill out, references to get, fingerprinting, background check, and finally the home visit by a social worker from the home study agency. You are basically proving you and your household capable of loving and providing for a child!  

I didn't say adoption was for the faint of heart, but when you're looking to make a way to give an orphan a home and expanding your family you will do whatever it takes!  Honestly, it's worth the work and effort involved.  My husband and I have always have made it a labor of love and that's what it is!  If we can do it, so could you!

The home study process with our first adoption took about 3 1/2 months for us to complete. Heath didn't have nearly as much time to help since he was in his medical residency at time; and while I took the job of completing if very seriously, I needed his help with much of it. Also, the first time we floundered around between international and domestic adoption, which took a little extra time.  We landed on domestic and completed the first home study just 3 weeks before getting the phone call and bringing home our oldest two! Once we did that we had to change our some study to a home investigation anyway, because we ended up having an independent adoption. (Making that change wasn't a big deal though.)

We started this adoption process the first week of August 2017 and had our home visit that very week (!!!) so I was VERY busy cleaning the house after the kids had been home for the summer and preparing it in all the ways.  This happened to be the kiddos' first week of school, too! And the week my husband and I helped to launch our branch new church service while being the worship leaders for it! 

All the things!  All at the same time!

It was a tiring week to say the least, but God helped give me the stamina and know-how for it all.  We knew we were called to all of these responsibilities and it's that purpose that push us through.

In September, we applied to a referral agency called Faithful Adoption Consultants. We have heard so many good things about them, and know a few families who have used their services to help with their adoption!  They are a good, quality referral agency.  However, a referral agency is a go between and is not required and they are a few thousand dollars to use.  At that point, quite frankly, we didn't know where all the money for this adoption was going to come from, exactly.  Domestic newborn adoptions can be the most expensive kind of adoption for a number of valid reasons, but we felt a peace about adopting a newborn this time.  We knew God said to move and get started and that's what we were doing.  Adoption is such a faith walk!

We completed our home study by mid- September and it was said and done in just 6 fast weeks.  It felt so good mailing off the big packet of forms and documents at the post office together!  We were very excited about renewing our Home Study and thankful we blew through the process.  Nobody but our closest family and friends knew we were adopting again at this point.  We wanted the Home Study to be completed and me be officially "paper pregnant", carrying a baby in my heart.

We made our fun adoption announcement in September and that's when it felt so real--God really was about to grow our family! There was a time a few years ago I thought we were probably finished after having two children.  We had our girl and boy, and it wasn't an easy transition into parenthood, but we were so fulfilled and so thankful to God be parents to our treasures.  We were content in parenthood and that was a good feeling.
But God!

Now here we were steady in our decision of pursuing another adoption.  Pursuing a child!  Becoming a mom of 3!  The stirrings began back that spring and developed into a deep desire to bring another child home.  I truly feel we were called to it.

We did get approved with Faithful Adoption Consultants, however, Heath had a quickening in his spirit to wait on moving forward with them.  We wanted to see if there was a "situation" presented that we wanted to show our profile book to through the agency we used the first time we adopted.  It's the same place who did both of our home studies.  This way we wouldn't be out the extra few thousand dollars for a referring agency, and we could put that money toward the adoption fees.  I immediately felt a peace about this decision. There are many times in our marriage when Heath and I go back and forth on an issue but this wasn't one of them.  I trusted his wisdom on this.  We decided to see if we could get matched with an expectant mom by the end of the year this way and if not, we would go through FAC to help us, after all.

Surrendering to His Plan

Throughout this time and with all these decisions in our adoption, we had other big-time decisions to make, as well.  One being to put our house on the market so we could move closer to our church and school, and downsize our mortgage in order to pay for the adoption.

You guys.  This was not easy for me.  

I LOVED our home!  I loved the property, the location, the staircase and the windows in the kitchen.  We made some precious memories in that house!  I had never loved a house like I loved that one and when we bought it we saw ourselves living there many years!  I was laying our (large to us) home on the altar, trusting God and trusting my husband. But it wasn't easy for me. There wasn't really a house for sale that we were interested in, but Heath felt strongly this was the right thing to do and he was right.  We could possibly pay for this adoption by selling our beloved home!

I wrestled with the Lord on this, if I can be perfectly honest with you. At the end of the day the sacrifice was still felt, but I understood this was what the Lord wanted for us... it became completely clear in my heart that I wanted another child --a baby-- way more than I cared to stay in that house!  If that house was standing in the way of adopting again then the house had to go. Family is more important! Jesus was so kind to open my eyes to the fact that I was actually laying down something I didn't need in order to gain something eternal, and that is a child!  He was calling us to walk this road of selling and downsizing square footage to gain a priceless treasure.  
In September on top of just starting a new church service, working on an adoption, (oh yeah, planning showers and the wedding of my sister in October whom I was the Matron of Honor!) we decided to get our house ready to be put on the market and try to sell as soon as possible!  We had handy men, painters, floor guys, you name it at our house from breakfast to dinner for a few weeks.  Our basement got a nice face lift and our whole staircase and banister was stripped down to the bare bones and redone to look gorgeous as a first impression in the entryway.  I was cleaning in every room, painting base boards and one entire bathroom floor to ceiling and purging the rooms to look lighter and brighter!  Cleaning closets, taking things to consignment and donating items galore.  We put a fresh coating of mulch out and got the outside spruced up.  All in a few weeks time. Again, a labor of love, but our home looked more beautiful than it ever had! 

To say that I was juggling a lot during that season is an understatement!!!  

I felt like my head was just above the water as I was trying to do all the things.  It felt like I wasn't doing any one thing very well.  I was forgetting homework.  I was forgetting to call people back.  I was corresponding to so many different people about important things about this adoption and the house reno and realtors and I felt fuzzy brained all the time. You know how you feel when you're so tired, and I was plain exhausted.  Our kids began to act out in school and that brought me to my knees with the Lord!  I needed extra grace for it all!  September had many fruitful blessings and seeds sown, but it was very tiring and also a hard month, in a way.  Looking back I see how things were working out for good and lining up but it the midst it felt like "just keep swimming".

This is when Mom in all her gracious hospitality invited me to come to her house one day to plan Faith's shower, but in all honesty she was giving me a needed respite.  I was mentally and physically spent and she knew it. She spoiled me with delicious homemade mochas and the best seat in the house, a cozy rocking chair she has had for years.

She made a wonderful lunch and had our favorite instrumental music on. She served me hand and foot while telling me to just enjoy.  I breathed deeper that day and the Lord used that time with Mom to give me the break and rest my body much needed! I still need my mom and I will in every season of life!  This beautiful day renewed my spirit and I carried on!

Profile Book

While all this was happening, we created our profile book!  It's a portfolio/book that tells the story of my husband and I and of our family together and extended family.  It shares about the community in which we live and explains why we are adopting.  It lets these prospective expectant mothers/parents/grandparents get to know who we are and what we're about. It requires creativity placing pictures and writing from our hearts. We enjoy making a profile book, although many people chose to get help with this process.  At the least, a good place to start is asking friends who have done this before to loan you their book before you get started or to help you.  Some couples choose to hire help with it. This is an exciting process and it should be looked at again as a labor of love and something you can look forward to putting together alongside your spouse.  While it can be a bit unnerving, we have always gone into the process believing that it will be placed in the right hands and the right person will choose us so that takes some of the pressure off from wanting it so perfect. We were really determined to get this book promptly finished so Heath got a fire under him one evening, and we completed creating a profile book in under 24 hours!  It felt like a real "win"! We like to pray over it before sending it out to the agency.  Now with the profile book finished, we were able to present to expectant mothers! 

It's the middle of September, the paper prep is all over and the adoption journey gets real! Now, it's time to present!  Get your heart steadied because the pursuing and the waiting begins!

This is when the Lord really showed off!....

Friday, June 15, 2018

It's All Grace--A Story About Answered Prayer

On February 21st, 2018 at 3:00 in the afternoon, we had been in the packed L & D waiting room for about 12 hours and we were going on just two hours of sleep. There was a full moon that night and, as they say, that's when all the babies come!  

I kept reliving the phone call at 1:00 am.  The call which became the best reason  in the world to get up in the middle of the night that we have ever had! …

our baby was on her way to meet the world!  

Heath and I were booking it to get to the hospital a few hours away through a big-time thunderstorm with torrential rain but it didn't slow us down! God made the wettest of roads safe that night, preparing a way for us as He had been doing throughout this entire adoption process.  If an obstacle was about to arise, be it financial or interpersonal or come what may, every. single. time. we went to Him about it, and He calmed that storm!  This night was no different. 

Now, there we were, sitting hopeful with the diaper bag full to the brim and a blanket under the bright fluorescent lights of the crowded waiting room.  I was full from Starbucks coffee and the breakfast Heath picked up that morning and the delicious Blaze pizza we had for lunch.  It was an extraordinary day! On extraordinary days, you either eat too much or not enough. Up until that moment I was eating to pass the time, but now as I received text after text with updates on our birth mom's progression, I was full from excitement and anxiety -- emotions were running high for me, which I expected. One of our lawyers was sitting across from us as we anxiously awaited. How do you act normal when your life is about to change?  When your prayer is being answered?  I thought my heart was going to pump out of my chest as I tried to look somewhat calm.

I look over at Heath who had been watching the Olympic games on the small tv wedged in the corner of the room, along with a couple dozen other people as they are waiting on daughters, mothers, wives and sisters to deliver.  In a room full of people, we were the only parents waiting on our child to come.  It's like you are carrying the most delightful secret you want to let everybody in on!  

This time in the waiting room, I was the new Mom!

Even as we sat there, we were still trusting and believing God for a beautiful delivery and healthy baby.  It's a faith walk till the finalization. Every step, trusting.

My phone buzzed...we received the text message!!  It came with a picture as beautiful as I have ever known in my whole life!

She's here!!!

I glanced at Heath through tears welling fast in my eyes.

Heath, our daughter is here!  Here she is!!!  I show the photo with shaky hands.  

A chubby baby girl with a round face and a perfect dark head of hair!

Thank you, Jesus!!!!!  Thank you, Lord!!! 

We stand, cry and embrace each other not as you see grandparents or aunts do in the waiting room, but our emotion came as parents whose daughter just arrived!!!

We experienced our daughter's arrival in the packed waiting room...which is so fitting since we have been in a waiting room for about 12 years with the Lord, as we've sought for a baby and surrendered ultimately to His will.

We couldn't believe the moment had finally arrived after not just a series of months, but we had waited through our entire marriage for this moment to be in the hospital at the arrival of our baby.

The next couple hours were no less a whirlwind of emotions as we waited to meet her.  I was not sure exactly how the details would pan out but I knew we would be in the room and handed a life that another beautiful woman grew and nourished and labored and delivered.  There's a feeling you can't quite explain, unless you experience it for the person who purposefully hands their baby over to you. There's a deep respect for this birth momma, this respect that feels and looks different from any I've had.

She made and bore the child I could not.

I parent and raise the child she could not.

This is when the crux of it all comes to be. This beautiful soul of a woman blesses me by literally handing over this child out of love, and I bless her by giving this child a future full of hope and love.

It's all grace. It's all by the grace of God!  Grace that an infertile woman is able to be a mom and lovingly raise children at all!  That our family can grow and that babies are born not from me but for me.  By the grace of God alone.... and I'm profoundly aware of that and thankful beyond belief!

It's grace for this birth mom, and I pray sincerely she realizes it even more each day! Grace that her child can be raised in the stability and love of a home that will never dissolve.  That she'll have siblings and cousins and grandparents who will cherish her and share the love of Jesus with her throughout her entire life.

It's grace that God gives second chances!

Rosemary Grace was born February 21st.  It's the day our hearts were burst open bigger than I ever could even imagine!  All my children have grown my heart-- don't get me wrong!!-- but I have never been handed an innocent baby from someone who chose us. That innocent life, not planned on earth but on purpose by God, handed to me was a sacred moment.

That day, I honestly fell in love with my husband all over again!  After years of getting on our knees together, receiving answered prayer together, hurting & losing together, watching the as we walked through The Refiner's fire together, we came back out with hands in surrender to God and now with our feet dancing with joy. Yes, I have never been more in love with my man since our honeymoon like I was when this babe of our was born!

Those few days in the hospital we experienced a myriad of emotion and that's what adoption will do!  It's not straight forward!  You have to go into it flexible and trusting in God because there are so many things out of your hands until it's finalized.  But adoption is a story of redemption and of second chances! It's a story that mirrors the gospel of Christ and how he has adopted me into His family.

Our Rosemary Grace is 16 weeks now, and it's been possibly the best 16 weeks of my adult life!  I'm still sleep deprived and living on coffee every day, but the thankfulness and joy that resides in my heart as a mom to my 3 is the song of my life right now.  It's the one He has written and had all along, I just finally turned that page.

It's all grace and it's all because He is a good Father!

                                              Very first time rocking her.  I'm in love!!!!!

Cheeks for days! Born 8 lbs. 15 oz.  21 1/2 in. long

First time Heath held her.  Priceless!!!

First time feeding her.  Glorious day.

First picture/selfie of the three of us!  So tired and sooo happy!

Going home!  Praise God from whom all blessing flow!!!

Our first family photo together!  She's 4 days old here, and it's our big girl's 7th birthday.

(I wanted to add here that for some reason my text turned out very wonky in this post. I am so sorry about that and will change it if I can, but I'm doing my best not to delay writing and publishing anymore -- so that's why it is what it is!  Thanks for understanding and I hope it doesn't detract from the story too much.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Story the Lord is Unfolding...

What a ride I've been on since I last wrote here in September when we made our adoption announcement!  

We have been crazy- busy with life changes and adjustments from this time last year. In all honesty, I'm just now catching my breath from all the blessings the Lord has given us, all the answers to prayer and all. the. kids. to feed.  

I've almost gotten back on this blogging horse a dozen times in the past few months but something always seems to get in the way.  One of my reasons has been that I haven't been able to download photos onto the computer so I don't have any recent pictures to share. (For now anyways.) I'm determined to fix this problem because I'm such a visual person! It's a poor excuse not to meet up with you on here after so long, but today I didn't care!  

I just decided to begin typing. :)

Also I've been thinking, in the day and age of Instagram and "Inst-sharing" everything we do and wear and eat and read and places we go and see I've almost "written off" blogging as a whole.  That sounds so sad, but I'm being honest about my thought process.  Why blog when you can just pop up in an Instastory and immediately share your mind as you experience something or as the thought is taking shape.  As interesting as those are to watch I don't know if I will ever feel comfortable at primarily sharing my life with you via video.  Call me old fashioned ( I know I am) but I want to be mindful of what it is I say and share and I tend to ramble famously when I'm in front of a camera. I love Instagram most days, but there's a depth that I appreciate when I read a curated blog that I know somebody's hands thoughtfully developed.  

Mind you, I want to be completely authentic and genuine in what I share!  I love beautiful photos and I love everyday ones.  There's no need to have another picture-perfect looking life put out there when there's so much more victory in a life that is real and messy but that God is working in for His glory!

I've decided to do my best with this blogging thing I love so much, even with 3 little mouths to feed now... yes, I said three!!!... more to come on that!....

I'm here because there's been too many praises to God not to be here and tell you about them!

I'm here because I've missed YOU. The friends I've made over the years through The Cozy Little Kitchen!  

I'm here to continue with my story the Lord is unfolding.

My story of adoption and redemption and parenting and marriage and delicious baking and homemaking and worship music and the grace of Jesus Christ!  

This journey of my ordinary and sometimes challenging yet gloriously good, good life continues here at The Cozy Little Kitchen!

I hope you will come back with a delicious drink to sip on, and join me here as I begin to share more about my year of God opening the floodgates of faithfulness and the continued tale of my home and family!!!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Our Family is GROWING!

SO when I said there was a lot of new beginnings in August, this is what was cooking in The Cozy Little Kitchen .....

Our family is growing, by adoption!!!!

(We're pretty thrilled.... just look at baby girl's face.)


And yes, there will be dark chocolate dipped potato chip cravings and ugly cries of joy have already started flowing!  I will labor and their may be pain, but it will look different than a natural birth story.  

Up to this point though, I've not felt lighter in years!  It may be partially to adrenaline, but I also know that's what the peace of God that passes all understanding feels like.  We are trusting God to provide the funding we need, the wisdom we need, the patience we need, the rest we need, and our children the security they need as we move forward.  We're putting one foot in front of the other with our eyes set on Him as he say's, "GO". 

Adoption is a leap of faith in many ways, but I believe wholeheartedly that's part of the miracle!   

God has set deep inside our heart that He has called us to build our family though adoption.  It is His plan A for our family's life!  Heath and I couldn't be more giddy-excited, overwhelmed, and a little scared as we begin this process again.  We know just enough to be both thrilled and anxious so please, we ask you pray for us as we have a number of decisions to make and as we trust the Lord to work on our behalf on all the decisions that are out of out of our control.  Your prayers are so appreciated!

There will be more to come as I'll try to keep you updated, so I hope you'll join us as we begin the journey to our 3rd child through a domestic newborn adoption!  

"He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.  Praise the LORD!"
Psalm 113: 9

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."
Ephesians 1:5-6

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths."
Proverbs. 3:5-6

"Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me."
Matthew 18:5

"Jesus said, 'Have you believed because you have not seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'  "
John 20:29

Friday, September 1, 2017

Blackberry Farms Blackberry-Oat Crumble Bars

Happy September friends!

Today is a very rainy and a cooler day outside as "hurricane Harvey" gently sweeps through our area.  Rain and a bit of wind is absolutely nothing to whine about, especially with so many people hurting deeply from the very same storm in Texas.  By the time a hurricane gets to KY of course it's just usually just a rainy day or two, but my heart is breaking for the people who are suffering from so much loss right now or just to survive at all.  

I've gathered some supplies to send with a local ministry called Healing Projects who is making the drive down in a few days to deliver lots of essentials that our community has collected.  I know love has gone into buying and putting this collection drive together, and I hope each life it touches will feel that love even though we can't change their devastation.  

Lord, surround those who are hurting and scared in your arms.  Bind up the wounded hearts, heal their bodies, and meet their needs, as only You do the very best.  That they will see restoration and redemption come out of their heart ache!  Thank you for those risking so much to help in rescue parties and for those donating money or resources. May any effort on our part only reflect Jesus.  In Jesus name I pray!  Amen.

Mom surprised me this week with a package and this beautiful devotional in the mail, Devotions From the Kitchen Table!  It's perfectly timely since I'm just a couple weeks from finishing Devotions from the Front Porch.  The basis of all these scripture based devotionals are in a kitchen setting, which will be perfect in the cozy months of fall and winter!

I love different devotionals, and so to be given a new one is a special treat!  I look forward to starting this with a hot cup of coffee in the mornings. My life doesn't always lend itself to sitting and snuggling with coffee and a devotional, I don't want to paint a perfectly picturesque morning.  I do make an effort to get up before the rest of the house does to read or pray in the quiet, but some mornings need to start really early and it's a to-go coffee kind of morning.  Those days or I will open the Bible and my devotional or journal later in the day when there's time for my mind to settle for a minute, but I try to create space whenever I can.  At the ages my kids are now is much easier than when they were toddlers... those were my survival days!  Rolling with the season of life I'm in is what I'm learning to do, and while planning is essential in some things in life, learning to not be beat up by u-turns is just as important. Got it? Good! Now lets get to the delicious stuff.

You know what really gets me excited, that I haven't shared in a while?  Baking!  

I have a new recipe for you!!

Meet my new friend, blackberry-oat crumble bars!

Blackberry. Oat. Crumble. Bars.

You're welcome!

This is a new recipe for me, and I'm so glad I found it.  Right away I knew it would be yummy!  These blackberries happened to be from a patch down the road we picked from back in July. I froze most of them so I have locally grown berries now on the first of September to enjoy.

This particular recipe comes from the famed Blackberry Farms in Walland, TN.  It's a luxury type place to stay at in the middle of nowhere--so I've heard-- just south of The Smoky Mountains.  They are known for award winning cuisine that is unpretentious and recipes that derive from that area of the country but done in a fresh way. There was a stunning spread written up in Southern Living magazine's July issue about them, and it showcased their recipes.  This beautiful blackberry-oat crumble bar recipe looked delicious as I was reading through all the divine recipes.  I knew I would make it soon.  

They said this is one of the desserts they're known for at Blackberry Farms, but they have used this base recipe and replaced blackberries with many other fruits. Whatever is in season.  I imagined it being delicious with cherries, blueberries, peaches, or apples.  Apples would be perfectly fall in there!  To add fall flare I did sprinkle a bit of cinnamon to the topping, but I'm sure it's amazing without it, too. 

These smell divine as they bake, which is always a fun thing I look forward to when baking desserts--that cozy scent wafting through your home!

Light your candle, and get your coffee with one of these bars while watching your favorite show with the hubs, or take a pan to your next family reunion. Either way, enjoy!

Blackberry-Oat Crumble Bars
Blackberry Farms
Serves 24

Note: I halved this recipe and used a 9x13 pan instead of a large sheet pan. I baked it for 30 minutes.


6 cups regular rolled oats
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups unsalted butter, melted, more for pan (Yes, it's a lot of butter!  This is a treat for a reason.)
1 tsp. kosher salt (Use whatever salt you have, but kosher gives it a nice bite.)
1 tsp. baking soda


9 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons)
1/4 cup cornstarch

1. Prepare the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together oats, brown sugar, flour, butter, salt and baking soda.  Remove 3 cups of the oat mixture, and set aside/  Press remaining oat mixture in an even layer on an aluminum foil-lined and buttered 12x17 in rimmed baking sheet.  Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

You guys, until literally just now I totally missed this baking step of the crust!!  I over looked it on accident.  So just know if you don't have time for that step or forget the bars will taste amazing, but might be a bit more crumbly.

2. Prepare the filling.  Stir together blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until syrup thickens and is bubbly, about 7-8 minutes.  This alone would be a dreamy topping for pancakes!  Pour over the prepared crust and crumble the reserved 3 cups topping mixture over the filling.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely --about 2 hours--and cut into 24 pieces.

Monday, August 21, 2017

August, Full of New Beginnings

Don't you love that little classic school song?  My mom used to sing it to us the very first morning of school every single year when I was growing up all the way to our senior year of high school!  Of course with family traditions running in my veins, I do the same thing.  The kids look forward to waking up on the first morning of the school year to a chipper,

"School Days, School Days,
Good and Golden Rule Days,
Reading and Writing, Arithmetic....."

Somehow we are already past the halfway point of August and we've managed to start the third week of school!  The kids couldn't have been more excited to start back, and although it was hard to me to give up our relaxing summer schedule and lazy pool days, I was ready to share them with their friends and teachers again!

That first morning was almost magical, because they were so happy and easy to get up and dressed.  Like many kids around the country they were excited to carry their new backpack and lunchbox to school as they entered a brand new grade.  

Everything feels so fresh and shiny new in school the month of August!  From their new teacher to the perfectly prepped classroom and crayons with the papers still on.  The white socks that haven't worn gray and the neatly packed lunches I so eagerly prepared.  (I start off as fresh as the kids do!)  Their bright smiles shined the brightest, reflecting their sheer joy.  You never have to second guess how my girl is feeling, because her face always says it all! 

This is the first year they had not even an ounce of fear or hesitation when I dropped them off for their first day.  There were no tears or lingering in my arms, and while that may seem more bitter than sweet, as an adoptive mama I knew in my heart it was a milestone that they truly feel secure at their school and in our home. 

Thank you Jesus!

The first week of school I received the most beautiful card in the mail.  Look at how exquisite this card is!  And everything about it is so very me!  Only Mom would know to get me a card with lovely antique china on the front and delicate flowers inside and how those details would make my heart skip.  Her words written on the inside were even more beautiful than the card!  God has used her dozens of times over the hand full of years to send me the perfect card or note or text message that only He could know my spirit needed right then.  I love Mom's ministry she has with cards and all the love she's always shown towards me.  I know how blessed I am to have her in my life as my mother.  I see so much of her in me and how I try to build my family and my home.  

She gave me encouragement inside this card that I needed as I was just starting to step into my new position as Worship Pastor alongside my husband this month at our church.  That is something big in my life that I don't think I've shared on here yet!  The Lord called me to worship many years ago, but just this year God brought it into complete fruition more than ever before.  God has really been doing absolutely amazing things in our community and in our church--Christian Fellowship--  over the summer! I don't know where to begin, but it has lead our church to start a brand new, casual mid-day service on Sundays called simply, The Gathering.

"Where two or three gather together in my name,
I will be in the midst of them."
Matthew 18:20

As always at our church, this service is never compromising on the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. It's a service comprised of intimate, modern worship and a Biblical, practical message from our pastor. We are called to instill a real family like atmosphere that will be rich in the love of Jesus and fellowship with others.  Heath and I are the worship leaders of the incredible team for that service.  I could talk on and on how God is bringing His word to pass in all of this!!  

In a matter of a couple days I was helping to launch this new service, leading worship in a new service and with a new team, and sending our kids off to school while praying the Lord's grace floods every one of these situations in where I may fall short.  He did just that!  His love never fails!  That week was exhilarating to see everything come together.  Beautiful, holy things happened with our church and inside my family.  New friendships are being cultivated, new songs are being sung, and God is birthing new and exciting things that are affecting my life in every aspect!  

Today is "Eclipse Day" and we live where we're going to have nearly 100% totality, which is pretty amazing!  I've got my Milky Way candy bars in the fridge getting nice and chilled, and I'm about to view the eclipse with my fashionable glasses (ha!) with my kids at their school.  A big blanket is coming along and a tall thermos of lemon water, and we will get to see the majesty of God displayed in another new way for us this afternoon.  It's pretty exciting!  Let me know if you're also in the path of eclipse totality, and if so put those fun glasses on and enjoy it!  I love a reason to celebrate!

It's been a wonderful month of August full of new beginnings.

Talk to you again soon!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Heart and Home

"Home is where the heart is" and my family holds my heart, so that is certainly true for me! 

I'm having a bit of introspective thinking while watching 'Anne with an "E" ' for the first time on Netflix in a very rare moment this summer of being home by myself!  In all my girly splendor I'm enjoying a divine piece of Reese's cheesecake and a cup of coffee as I write you all.  It was one of those days that I found myself wanting to eat my feelings..... it happens!!

I was thinking about home and thought I would snap a few "moments" in time right now, as-is, around my home.  I haven't shared much of our home in a while and because the home can say a lot about someone, I thought I'd invite you in again! 

So if you're new to my blog I welcome you in my home to let you in on our world a little bit more! 

In my world, there's a trail mix of a life the Lord has given me of mommyhood and homemaking, marriage and ministry, creativity and fun and hard work.  All amazing things but the Lord is at the center and my family is right beside me through it all.  There are moments I have to choose joy in the chaos that's out of my control and this sign is the perfect reminder that I can do that because the joy of the Lord is my strength!

You know, I'm learning so much about the Lord and I have so much yet to learn!  While it feels some days I should be a wise ole owl after what the past decade has brought about, everyday I realize a little more that I'll always be a student learning. I have so much more to learn about the places God has put me. The assignments He has given me in the now.

Learning more about my kids, about raising them in the love and admonition of God. Learning more about my husband and how to love him well.  Because if there's one thing I have learned it's that we're all changing and I've come to expect that.  Where change can scare the pants off me, I remember The One who never changes and I've come to this conclusion:

There is adventure in the growing and the changing together with your one love, your spouse, that's like no other adventure!!! 

Dive in head first together.

That truth has helped my whole outlook of marriage!  We've decided to grow together instead of apart and that's a choice we have made as a couple. A glorious decision that goes back to choosing joy in all things!

As I'm watching the "new" Anne of Green Gable, I see this movie in a totally different perspective than I have ever watched it before.  I've see this movie dozens of times, as it's one of my all-time favorite being a fellow idealist like Anne, but there's something strangely real about it this time that's made it harder for me to watch.

Because we have adopted our children, the dynamic of the underlying story line really hits home.

I can see deeper into the struggle Anne has faced in her orphan past and the flashbacks that occur because of triggers that set them off.  It can be a simple phrase or the cry of a baby that's everyday for most folks but shoots Anne's memories into the place she refuses to live... abandonment and ridicule and despair. 

Outwardly she seems to be a bit of a wild card! She has lots to say, she's a vibrant day dreamer and bosom friend on the one hand and a fiery temper covering up a porcelain hearted girl on the other. The imagination she developed is a perfect disguise to cover the hurt and insecurities she arrives with at Marilla and Mathew's door.

I'm familiar with loss. Everyone in my household has suffered from tragedy, as many people have.  Just as most of my house may look clean it took time and effort and work to get to the point of a clean house.  It doesn't just happen without a little sweat and sacrifice.

It's the same with our children.  We've been told that we have always looked like the picture perfect family from the very beginning.  That we looked happy and content as though we've always been together. The truth is that we've come such a long way as a family, but it wasn't that way in the beginning. It was a process that came with hard work, sacrifice and dedication from everyone in the family, but it didn't happen overnight.   We are not the perfect family, but we are so happy nowand our pictures do reflect the joy in our hearts!

God has been incredible to us by shaping and designing our family by way of His perfect plan!  We have come a long way from a few years ago when we were introduced to each other in a room moments before leaving with two beautiful. precious, scared children that made my heart leap and yet I've never been more afraid in my life. Yes, I was afraid, but I was up for what God called us to!  There was a unique challenge parenting bio children doesn't usually come with and that's the challenge of proving our trust and our love in a daily or hourly basis, but mostly proving our commitment to stay the long haul.  

Over and over we were tested and like Marilla I made some mistakes along the way.  I questioned in the early months if I could wake up again to start it all over with a 2 and 3 year old who I didn't always understand their personalities or the mixed up patterns of outbursts.  I wondered if I could handle another early morning after a long night with my husband away at work while I managed the children.  Slowly but surely, I was growing deeper in the secret place with the Lord and in turn I began to see my more strength, more patience, more wisdom, more resiliency. Over time. 

I remember how I would rest on the promise the Lord gave me years ago.  "He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyful mother of children."  We knew that God lead us to buy our first house.  I know He lead us to our babies. So I claimed the joyful part, because that's one of the most important parts!  Anyone can be called mother but not every mom finds joy in it, but I held on to that promise and claimed it like my life depended on it... in a way it did, because when you have joy you feel alive!

I trusted God and slowly but surely through His grace and provision our sweet ones began to really trust us!  It was a process (over time) but a miraculous process!  We still have a ways to go, and  I still run to Jesus crying some days throwing my hands up asking "am I doing this right??"  and "I need Your help more than ever!" as they're getting older.  But through it all, He has definitely fulfilled that Biblical promise that I claim all the time!

I run to Jesus with my hurts and with my fears and my struggle and put everything out there with Him!  He is my strong tower!!! He calls us to hard things sometimes and our dependency of getting though and thriving is all in the power of Jesus name!  I cry out to him and I think sometimes how He must tire of my same prayers. Another weary Leslie coming to the cross and needing help or wisdom or comfort, and lots of forgiveness and grace, but that's when I'm reminded of how sweet the Lord is... well, let me quote this movie for a moment to show you what I mean... 

Matthew and Anne are at the train station as she has run away from home out of fear from being abandoned once again because of being falsely accused at home.  She was confused and hurt so she would rather run and live poor and alone than even look Matthew in the eye and get hurt again. Matthew was old and he had traveled a long way to bring her back home. 

"I've come for you." Matthew says from across the train station's waiting room as she's asking for money. 

But Anne was running because she was broken and hurting. She wouldn't even look at him. 

When a bystander asked Anne if that man (Matthew) was bothering her she says yes.

That's when Matthew revealed his heart towards her.  

"She is my daughter."

Anne turned around in near disbelief at those words, as she has never been anyone's "daughter". No one had been proud of her in her whole life.  She drops her small money bag and goes over to him in tears for a hug to resolve it all.  

That scene pierced my soul so very deep and made me cry.  I couldn't help but think how I too have been like Anne at times.  It's my heavenly Father's loving kindness that draws me to Him!

How many times do we want to just run and thought," I'm done. Enough of this! I can do this on my own, because it's the better way.  There's got to be another way. I don't want to do this anymore"

Be it motherhood, ministry, marriage, family, past jobs or in the midst of tragedy.  There have been times I've felt that I was failing and wanted to throw up my hands run away irrationally.  

God pursues me every time and says, "You are my daughter. Come home."

Being His daughter changes everything and hearing it is what all of us at women around the world need to know and need to hear.  

Please listen to me, friend, because this is really good.  The Lord calls you daughter!

"And I will be a father to you and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
2 Corinthians 6:18 

Abide in the home and in the life, our Father has graciously given us.  We can be scared, we can be hurting, we can be broken, but we must run to Him because we belong to Him!  What comfort I find in that!  That's in part how I relate to my children in a deeper way. 

I was an orphan.  He called me daughter. 

I was barren.  He called me Mother.

I was broken.  He calls me Redeemed.  

I know these are scattered thoughts today, but I wanted to share the real me in the place I am now.  I fill my home with things that mean something to me and to my family. As I look around the house I'm reminded of the blessings I'm surrounded by.  And it fills me with, JOY!

What a blessing to have you around my house today and joining my alone time as I sit and think of the goodness of God!  What's been on your heart these days?   I would love to hear.