07 April 2015

take heart, mamas. it gets easier.

It wasn't that long ago that I felt like I was going to lose my mind on a daily basis. I'd count the minutes until I expected my husband to be home, and then he'd walk in the door and I'd hand him a kid, or escape to my room to breathe (or cry) for five minutes. I felt overwhelmed most of the time, unable to get everything done, unable to meet every need, unable to stay bubbly and joyful and not turn into a dragon lady by 5 o'clock.

My sister just had her third sweet baby a couple of weeks ago. Her oldest is three. So, they are really in the thick of it. Wading through the adjustment to three really little littles is hard. My brother in law said to me the other day, "We think of you guys every night around bed time and wonder how you did it." The truth is, not very well. I loathed bed time, knowing it would be chaos every night. Knowing someone, if not many someones (including myself), would have a meltdown before it was all said and done. Pleading with them to stay in bed. Definitely yelling on a regular basis. Feeling defeated almost every night.

But as I sat there talking to him about those feelings, remembering feeling like you have almost no control over the situation, I realized how much has changed so quickly. Jim Gaffigan has said, "People ask what it's like having four kids. I say, 'Imagine you're drowning and someone hands you a baby.'" It's funny because it's true. But I think it's even true for one kid, two kids, three kids... adding another kid to the mix is always a huge, hard adjustment. But there are beautiful moments of grace where you step back, zoom out, and feel overwhelmingly blessed and grateful and undeserving of these precious gifts you've been given. Granted, it's usually when they're sleeping, but still.

And here is my encouragement to all of you wading through it: it gets easier. The workload isn't less, the needs don't go away, but they change. And best of all, you change. I can honestly say we are at a really sweet time in this journey of parenting. There are hard days. I still don't relish bedtime, but it's not a chore. My older kids (5, 5 and 8) have their hard moments, but I feel equipped to handle them. And when I don't feel equipped, I've learned to ask for help. My oldest has reached an age of reason, where we can hash things out in productive conversation, rather than tears and tantrums. Things rolls off my back in ways they didn't used to, probably because I just don't have the time. I won't die if they don't eat my dinner. I have come to grips with the fact that my furniture is going to be scratched and dented for the next ten years. Clothes will have irreversible stains. My kids are going to fight. But in the big scheme of things, I don't really care. I get little flashes now and then, of an empty house, tiny laundry piles, undefiled furniture, and honestly? I get a little misty eyed. My job isn't to hover over them and micromanage, my job is to encourage them in the right direction. To help them deal with (or provide) the consequences for bad decisions, celebrate their accomplishments, lift them up when they're feeling down, challenge them when they could make better choices, ask for forgiveness when I fail (daily), LOVE them. 

Every day is not blissful joy. I still get frustrated and yell and plead with them. But that's the exception, not the rule. And while it felt like those hard days, feeling like I was drowning, would never end, I blinked and everything was different. "The days are long, but the years are short." I feel like I'm beginning to get that now. I'm probably going to be that annoying lady at Target that looks at a young mom trying to wrangle three unruly kids and tells her to enjoy every minute. (I will NEVER EVER tell her she has her hands full.) But really, it does go so quickly. I know there will be new challenges ahead. Teenagers, you guys, I know. 

So, take heart, mamas. It will get better. Before you know it, you'll look back and realize you got this after all. In the meantime, pour yourself a glass of something good, give yourself a whole lot of grace, and know you are not alone. 

01 April 2015

hope spoken

(photos via)
I spent last weekend in Dallas at Hope Spoken. The night before I left, my husband told me he was glad I'd have some time away to be refreshed, encouraged and deepened in my faith. He wanted me to go, free of the guilt that often comes when leaving your family behind, fully aware of the task that lay before him with five small children and baseball games, school schedules, and social obligations. I scrambled the week before, finishing up the laundry, doing the grocery shopping, arranging babysitters, praying that my sweet baby (who is really a toddler) wouldn't think she'd been abandoned, secretly hoping this would also be known as "weaning weekend". It wasn't, of course, but so it goes.

I climbed into the taxi in the darkness of early morning, made my way through the airport, got my giant coffee and sat at my gate, waiting to board my flight to DFW. I met a friend at the gate I'd only known through social media, and talked about our anticipation for the weekend ahead and the funny goodbyes we'd had with our kids.

I flipped through magazines on my flight because I didn't have a baby on my lap and I was not going to waste this solo travel experience with sleep, let me tell you. I can't remember the last time I made it through an entire periodical in one sitting. It was weird, you guys.

Soon enough we'd arrived, the warm Texas air hugging our shoulders as we made our way from the airport to the hotel, riding in sweet Sarah's Tahoe, chatting and laughing and catching up on our 20 minute drive. And then, magic. Walking into the hotel lobby, recognizing faces of people you've never met, awkwardly introducing yourself, giddy with excitement upon hugging friends you haven't seen in ages, breathing deep, knowing you are where you are meant to be. And then, waiting to check into your hotel room and who is standing right next to you but JEN HATMAKER and you suddenly become super awkward and silent because you know if you open your mouth you're going to ask if she maybe wants to share best friends broken heart necklace and that might make everyone uncomfortable. 

I'm still processing everything I experienced this weekend, but every single detail adds up to feeling full and encouraged and truly experiencing something so lovely. From the love that was poured into every beautiful detail: backdrops and signs and centerpieces. Twinkly lights and garlands and treat tables. A beautiful devotional, a bag full of gifts, genuine care for every person in attendance. There were people there sharing their gift of music, leading us in worship. There were women there sharing their stories, being vulnerable and talking about the hard places the Lord has brought them to and through, speaking truth in love. We met in small groups to share our hearts and struggles and pray for each other. We were 250 women together for 48 hours, sharing life. We were encouraged and loved, we were challenged to dream, to remain faithful, to stay strong, to trust, to believe in His best for us. For me it wasn't a breakthrough or an "aha!", but it was a peaceful breath of life and refreshment over me, a gentle reminder of the love that God longs to lavish on each and every one of us as often as we will let Him.

And then almost as quickly as it started, it came to a close. We hugged and said our goodbyes. And there are so many wonderful women that I wished I'd been able to pull aside and grab a cup of coffee with. To hear more of their heart, more of their stories. It was like a little sampling of Heaven and the family He has established.

I was so grateful to have an extra day before I had to head home. A day to spend with my girls. To nap by the pool with, to laugh with, to help me fulfill all my taco and queso dreams (life changed, for real. tacos are my love language), to sit around a table with and take photos in front of turquoise walls with and cry and laugh some more. Another glimpse of Heaven and hope.

It was an amazing weekend, a gift. And I am so thankful for it. 

23 March 2015

let's talk television

I think it's fairly well known that I think Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows that ever was. It was so well written and the characters were relatable, and I still want to grow up to be Tami Taylor. So when I saw a preview for the new Netflix series, Bloodline, I was absolutely positive I was going to check it out because I still have a schoolgirl crush on Coach Taylor and Kyle Chandler plays the lead (cleareyesfullheartscan'tlose).

All 13 episodes of the first season began streaming last Friday and I started up the first episode while I was baking some birthday cupcakes. I am a multitasker and I admit, I feel a little guilty if I am not doing something productive while watching TV. I pressed play with a little trepidation, nervous I wouldn't like it or it would be terrible and my hopes would be dashed.

But you guys, it's good. It's uncomfortably good. There isn't much happening in the first few episodes that give you any warm fuzzies, but that's not what this show is about. The story follows four siblings in a family with dark things in their past that slowly reveal themselves over time. It's set the balmy beaches of Florida, which makes for an beautiful backdrop that is also strangely eerie. And there is an amazing cast of actors, all playing significant roles really well. I can't decide if I actually like any of them, but I am mesmerized by each of them. And if you need a selling point: my husband liked it, and we haven't watched a show together with any regularity since Lost, so he's not easily sucked in.

I mean, it's good enough that I can't do anything else while I watch it, so there goes 13 hours of my life, but I'm pretty sure it's worth it.

03 March 2015

grief and hope in a time of loss: an adoption update

It appears that our birthmother has changed her mind. We don't know all the details, other than she stopped communicating with our agency about three weeks ago. Her due date has come and gone and we suspect it will be a long time before we hear from her again. Our hearts are broken, for so many reasons, but we also know that God will work it all out for the good. We have been through this before, but this time is a bit harder since we already have a relationship established with her. We hurt for her, and we are in constant prayer for her - that she would know the height and depth and width of God's love for her, and that she would know we love her no matter what. 

We have been slowly processing all of this and what it means for our family. We've spent the last several months preparing our hearts and home, sharing with people, fundraising, planning with our kids; it's easy to ask why we've been led here. But, it's not an easy question to answer.

We trust so completely that God is the designer of our family. That no mistakes have been made in the timing of each of the little gifts in our lives. We trust that if more children are in our future, they will come at the perfect time and in the perfect way. So right now, as we process and grieve, we still rejoice in His goodness. We are praying for discernment as we move forward. Another adoption wasn't in our plans, and yet here we are. We are asking for wisdom as we decide what comes next - pursuing another placement, supporting other families as they move forward in adoption, whatever He may have us do, whatever is right.

Please know that we are humbly grateful for all who have walked alongside us in prayer, encouragement, and financial support. We will keep everyone updated as we move forward, in whatever capacity. Sometimes we feel an urgency to decide what is ahead, a responsibility to answer "so, now what?" to all those who have followed our story. But right now, we feel like the right thing to do is take time together, to pray, and to wait. Thank you so much to all of you, for being a part of our story and for caring for our family.

We know that God is always good. We know that every story can be a redemption story. It doesn't take away the sting of pain that comes with loss, but it sustains us with hope, buoys us up in His peace, and draws us ever nearer to Him.

27 February 2015

a weekend away and netflix saves the day

For the last couple of years, Nick and I have taken the kids with us on our church's youth retreat where we do some of the speaking. It's such a great weekend - we get our own little cabin at a camp by the lake, and our kids think it's the most amazing 36 hour vacation of their lives. The church provides babysitters just for us, which is like our boys dream come true (and mine, let's be honest). They get to play foosball with the big kids and eat from a buffet line, and run around on trails and jump in the mud. Basically, a little boy's dream come true.

The girls love it, too. Speed walking in the fresh air and being held by nice ladies, and eating cookies three times a day. It's a treat for the whole family.

I love it because we're away from the distractions of every day life - my phone doesn't work and there aren't any televisions or laptops in close proximity. And I get to lead alongside my husband, sharing with the high school kids about God's desire to lavish His love on them. I get to listen to Nick lead worship and share is heart, and it always reignites something within me, a fresh appreciation for the gift that he is to me and to the kids. And to the world, really, because he is just that great.

One morning while Nick and I were preparing our final session with the kids, we had all of our little people with us, and they weren't content to sit still and wait patiently while we set everything up and made some final adjustments. That's when I noticed that in the common area where we were meeting, there was a TV that probably dated back to early 90's, along with a VHS player and a couple of tapes stacked on top. I went to see what movies they had, and was excited (maybe even more than my kids) to see the 1986 version of the made for TV version of The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

I'd read that book to the boys the previous summer, and they loved hearing about all of Ralph's adventures. And here it was, made for the screen... I said a little prayer that that all the vintage technology would come together in one magical moment, and it did! All five of my kids sat quietly engrossed for the next thirty minutes, and all five were disappointed when we turned it off as the high schoolers slowly started filtering into the room.

I promised I'd try to find a copy when we got home. I searched and found out I could buy the movie... on VHS. So that wasn't super helpful, since it's 2015 and I am already nervous my DVD player is on its way to the antique shop. I soon forgot about my search, and thankfully so did the boys.

UNTIL. One beautiful day when The Mouse and the Motorcycle ended up in my Netflix recommendations. IT'S LIKE THEY KNOW ME. There it was, in all its 80's glory, ready for my kids to watch. And they were seriously so happy, it perked everyone's afternoon right up. It made dinner making stress free and pleasant. It was miraculous.

And the even better thing, which my kids aren't privy to yet, is that there are two more of Ralph's adventures in made for TV movie form right there in my queue. Ready to save me at a moment's notice. So, thank you, Netflix, for making dreams come true.