Friday, June 27, 2014

Time Multiplied

      Things are both chaotic and more efficient than ever around here.  Each day, for the past week or so, has felt like 5 days in one, and things are getting done that have been on my list for months.  Yesterday I stopped and tried to figure out what on earth was going on.  Nesting maybe?  The girls closet was painted, door on, painted, cleaned up.......laundry closet finished, wood that's been laying in the hall for months finally being used for it's purpose.  Air conditioners cleaned and put in, school papers finally organized and added to memory books...piles...oh the piles....of papers and random things sorted out and put where they belong.  Levi registered for school officially, in-case-we're-not-here-for-camp folder together, necklaces finished and shipped out, videos and pictures organized and camera ready to be filled with new members of our family!

      All this and still.....quality time to be together......time for the zoo, strawberry picking, friends......time for making paper airplanes and paper boats (thank goodness for you tube!).............

              Hours to watch the machines digging up our yard (sewer connection woohoo)......he literally watched for hours....from one window to the next, watching their every move.

Time to stop and notice the bunny and woodpecker, eating the straw in our yard side by side......

       And each time I started to feel crazy with how much needs to be done, and tempted to say "later" to requests to play and demands for attention, I so much more easily just stopped and enjoyed the time with them.  I've said countless times this past week as we've planned our days..."I just want to make sure we spend good quality time with them before we leave."  You'd think we were never coming back.  But when you're leaving, for who knows how long, two of the most precious people in your changes things.  You savor the moments leading up to your temporary goodbyes.  And when you're getting ready to bring home two more precious ones, it motivates get things have things that when they do come home, you can just be....together.  

      Don't let me mislead.....the house is a mess, projects are being done everywhere so closet doors are in the living room, the last air conditioner is left in pieces on the floor.....we haven't packed one.single.thing. and we leave in just a few days.  I've lost my patience, expressed my frustration and complained too many times.  But as I stopped yesterday and wondered what had changed.....why time seemed to slow down and multiply....I really wasn't sure.  And then I realized....nothing has really changed.....I'm still the easily overwhelmed and stressed out person, often too task oriented and focused on all there is to get done, I still have two busy boys, a house to clean, meals to cook, a list that keeps growing.....but maybe I'm just being more thankful for the time I'm given, and as a result I've been more purposeful.  I always want everything done yesterday, but because of what I know is coming so very soon in our lives, I've decided to be more in the moment than ever.....decided to work more efficiently at getting done what needs to be done, and spending more purposeful time with my boys because....well, I guess because, it's limited?  

      And again I feel like the slowesttttt learner ever.  Because how many times have I posted about gratitude, about being fully in each moment.....everything being a gift.  And yet, it continues to (slowly) hit me in different ways.  I don't want to experience this, to savor our time, just when something big is about to happen....just when we know our time together is limited (temporarily).  I want to live each day with gratitude and the fullest.  And the days that I've spent having my doubts about how we'll manage with even more to do, more lives to pour into....seem to drift further away.  The to-do-lists will always be here, the projects will never end, there will always be needs to meet.  But I've seen my time multiply when I've truly appreciated it, truly used it to the fullest.......and I see answers to prayer.  I see God teaching me and changing my heart, transforming my thinking and reminding me of where my focus should be in all things.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps. 118:24

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gardening 101....sort of

          So last year we tried our first very small garden....made up of store bought plants that were practically producing vegetables as soon as they hit the ground.  So this year, I decided to be a bit more ambitious and start from seeds.  I should add that I have no idea what I'm doing and the only house plant we have ever had went through a constant cycle of.....dying, put out in sun and water.....dying, put out in sun and water.  I finally threw it away.  But I was determined, found a great deal on 50 varieties of seeds (price has since gone up) and followed the RI guide....we started in March....and the guide doesn't account for crazy weather, so I lost a few plants, but surprisingly most survived!

           Caleb was excited to watch them grow and water least in the beginning.  He still refuses to allow a vegetable near him, never mind in his mouth......

            I have come to realize, however, that there is more to planting a garden than buying the seeds, discovering which are compatible/incompatible, mapping out which plant will go where, and watering them.  A couple of minor details that I hadn't even considered....maybe because I hadn't expected much when I started.  You have to know when to harvest them.  So my broccoli was growing huge and I started to see some great crowns....and then they turned into all these flowers.

           My thought was, great they're going to multiply into more broccoli crowns! Nope.  I finally decided to research that today and apparently it's not the case.  The same goes for the spinach I grew which was pretty much beyond use, although I managed to salvage a little today.  

            I've definitely learned a lot for next year....including to leave more space than the suggested inches given between each plant because clearly that has to do more with the roots than the enormous plants that are now all growing together.  Oh and carrots....when you plant the seeds, you're planting one carrot.  So I planted two.  Two whole carrots.  But it's been such a fun rewarding to watch.  And I also hadn't considered that growing our own vegetables would mean more flavor....better flavor.  But this broccoli was addicting....and I'm more of a chocolate fan......

          I think what was most exciting today is that I now have a bonus of fresh salad from the garden to go with our dinner....totally unexpected....from the backyard!  Lettuce, spinach leaves, broccoli and radishes.  I've never even bought a radish.  Can you tell?  I had no idea how to cut it, but it added some fun color so who cares!      

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The End of The Yard Sales

        Phew!  We certainly have had our share of yard sales these past few years, and we really cannot thank everyone enough for making these possible!!  To all who have donated items (many of you over and over again), donated your time to come and help, and to those who have come and purchased items or just added in donations so generously, THANK YOU!  I've tried to send out thank you's as things have come in, but I've been much less organized this year, so if we somehow forgot to send you one, please know that we appreciate you so very much and did not mean to overlook you!!

       Today was our final yard sale, and with all of the leftover items and some new things added in we made $485.70!!  This is such a blessing, and while we do not know exactly how much we will need altogether, we know that we have more than enough for the step we're on, and most likely for the rest of the process.

        Thank you so much to my Auntie Sharon who came yet again today (alllll day) to help, even when I told her time and time again that it was not necessary.  She is always there, without ever even having to ask, and works tirelessly.  We are so blessed with people like you in our lives Auntie!  And to my mom and dad who have taken our boys overnight every.single.yard sale.....we really couldn't have done it with them here, no matter how much we adore them!  And thank you so much to a few very generous friends who stopped by and paid 20x what their items cost, or just gave us a donation without buying anything.....we don't take it lightly how generous you all are and we are so thankful!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Growing Up

         It's official....our little boy is growing up.  I went to an IEP meeting for him this morning, as Luke and I have agreed to two mornings a week of preschool for him this fall.  I really went into the whole process of transitioning from EI to the school department just knowing that we would refuse a classroom and push for out patient services.  Of course I should have known that my "knowing" something was going to go one way was actually a key sign that the outcome would be much different.  We came to realize that these two mornings a week of integrated services within a classroom would actually leave more time for him to be home with us than would driving four children around to various out patient appointments throughout the week.  And so, six days after he turns three years old, he will begin school.  Just a baby really...  We really do think he'll enjoy it, and I feel we'll both benefit as I'm able to bring what he's doing at school into our home school lessons, geared just towards him.  The goals we discussed today reminded me both of how far he has come and how much more we need to work on.....but throughout whatever we discussed I really couldn't help but smile each time they shared something about him.  He just has developed so much personality, and as they'd share an observation, a weakness or a strength, I'd smile and think yup, that's Levi!

       In just a few days we'll reach our tipping point.....Levi will be home 17 months+, just more than the amount of time he spent in Russia.  It really seems like he's always been here, and when I think only 17 months, I marvel at all he's accomplished.  It's always been slow but steady.  He watches, studies, watches, studies and then attempts, often when there's the least pressure, when no one is looking.  But oh the Caleb calls me again and again in the car to share every detail that he sees, Levi now competes..."Mama, MAMA!" And when I respond, "ohoiuagaoil" with pointing.  Caleb's just begun trying to put his own sneakers on.....Levi's right there trying along with him.  The big tunnel slide in our yard?  Caleb won't dare go down that big scary thing.  Levi climbs up all on his own and comes thumping down with delight.  He's now back to the stage of spitting out his food (which drives me crazy!) but this time it's pretty clear that he just has a preference!  Food is still incredibly important and can't come fast enough, but...hey....Caleb's eating that, why on earth am I eating this?!  He's becoming his own little individual, with personality and preferences, and an understanding that he has a voice and it is heard (oh is it heard!).  One of Caleb's main goals in life is to be silly and make people laugh.  And so Levi has begun to attempt the same....only at first, his attempts were…well…not funny.  It would be at the most inappropriate times, or you know…throwing his food on the floor.  But the other day, he had Caleb going….belly laughs…..and “Levi you’re so funny!”  I could see how proud he was.

      Watching your children learn, grow, develop.....make's fascinating.  And that each child is so unique makes it even more of a miracle to be a part of.  It's such a different journey with Levi than with Caleb, and I'm so so thankful for the differences......for two miracles so very different but both so very incredible.

      A couple weeks ago in pool group Levi was shivering as usual.....someone commented (as it's basically a sauna in there) and I said something like "Yeah, he gets cold so easily, especially when swimming after just a short time....I was always the same way as a kid."  I then proceeded to finish it up in my head with "and I guess that's totally irrelevant."  Because you know, you just associate similarities as something you've passed on.  Sometimes it just seems like a story....trips to meet our son, baby home, court, gotcha day....because he's just our son.  God has the BEST ideas.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Moving Forward!!!

      Woohoo!! We have received approval and have travel dates! I had really hoped we would hear today and as a result did not sleep well last night.  Sure enough when I woke early this morning the email we had been waiting for had arrived!  We leave soon to meet our daugthers.....amazing!  No, we still do not know who exactly we are adopting, but God does, and we can't wait to find out!

      Please keep us in your prayers as we prepare to these girls prepare to have their lives changed our boys remain here while we travel and as their lives are about to change forever.  While I have really been at peace about all of the unknowns and uncertainties of this process, I know that the morning of our appointment, waiting to enter....and then being presented with a choice of this magnitude...will be difficult.  We trust that God will make it abundantly clear to us, and cannot wait to share the news with all of you!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Celebrating....and a little reminiscing

      This weekend we are celebrating!  Today is Luke's birthday and in just a few days we will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.  More milestones that remind me how quickly time goes by....more reasons to live fully right where we are.....

       I am truly blessed with an amazing husband, who is also an amazing father to our boys.  He works incredibly hard to provide for us, allowing me the privilege of staying home, and still manages to spend a great deal of time with us.  He is one invested dad.

      He's the kind of dad who sees this old homemade sand box in our yard and before fully filling it in, disappears into the basement to cut out dinosaur bones, strategically hides them under the dirt, and watches with delight as the boys find such incredible treasures.  Who thinks to do that?!

He's the kind of dad who looses track of time as he puts the boys down to bed.....but only because he's read them one more story....played dinosaurs.....hidden under the covers.....cuddled and prayed with them.  He's a dad who remains consistent in disciplining, even when we're running late or it's beyond inconvenient.  You'll find him stooped low at their level, ensuring eye contact, and remaining calm but stern.  And then, there's almost always giggles......and sometimes my eyes fill up at the sound of him restoring their relationship, making certain they know what's expected of them, but even more so that he still loves them, no.matter.what.

He's the dad who has disappeared again moments before we have to be somewhere.  And when we come outside, there's large, pink, chalk-drawn footprints leading to the car.  More excitement....."Wow!....Where could they have come from?!.....I can't believe my eyes!!"  

       He's the dad that jumps out of bed as if the house is on fire when one little boy is crying out over a bad dream.  He's one who is creative and gifted beyond my imagination and will often say, "let's go make our own!" and lead the boys into the basement to construct something.  Or the one who takes the time to allow them to help him with a project.....even if it's more difficult and takes much longer to do so.

       He's the kind of dad that gets just as excited as me about the little things....the faces they make, words they mis-pronounce, silly things they do......and who really wants to be a part of everything.

      The kind of dad who says "why not?" to adopting.....not once, but twice.  Who is excited about two more little bundles of energy that require so much care, time, sacrifice......but he is without hesitation.  And even as I type this, I know I so often take this for granted.  My children have one incredible dad.

                                               *                              *                           *

             They're not the only ones who are so very blessed.  This day feels like it was maybe a couple years ago.  And the day we met, just a couple more before that.  And as I reflect on my gratitude, I can't help but be brought back to that first day.  Because really, his impact on my life started then.

     The camp I attended with my youth group each summer was pretty much the highlight of my year....for many reasons, but a primary one being that I was able to see friends I'd grown close to over the years that lived too far to see on a regular basis.  This particular year (the summer after sophomore year of high school) most of my close friends weren't going.....and I actually was almost miserable about going.  It just wouldn't be the same....and change, to me, meant the end of the world.
     To add to my misery, we broke down on the way (a customary routine with our ancient should-not-have-been-on-the-road bus), sat on the side of the road in what felt like 100 degree weather for hours, and then arrived late to camp.  You're divided up with others your age from youth groups across New England, but groups had already met and dispersed across the campus when we arrived.  I finally found mine.....a group of people I didn't know, with the exception of one student from my youth group.  I reluctantly tagged along with him and soon learned his friends from prior years were our nice for him!
      He and his friends made jokes (which I thought were as far from humorous as you can get) and I lingered behind.....we all walked slowly to the chapel.  Well not all.....the student from my youth group and the tall lanky blond boy half walked half wrestled their way just ahead of me.  As I picked up my pace, trying to walk past their antics, they also "picked up the pace" and with one swift movement I was on the ground.....crushed by tall lanky blond boy.  It really made right in with the day I felt I was having.  I jumped up, brushed myself off and started to speed walk ahead, assuming I would now be the brunt of their next joke.  Instead they caught up, overly apologetic and now trying to include me......I supposed they pitied me, but they were being nice so I walked with them....softening a little.  I can remember as if it were yesterday the attitude I had, and apparently I hadn't made any attempt to conceal my feelings.  Our later shared first impressions: Mine that he was not the nicest person ever.....not said quite so nicely.  His that I was a snob......I guess I deserved that, but I didn't really care what impression I was giving off at the time.
       On day two, I decided that since I was at one of my favorite places, I may as well make the most if it.  Within just a couple of days, I found myself actually enjoying "tagging along" with these guys, and honestly by mid-week I felt that I was having more fun than I could remember having in a long time.  I can not remember ever having laughed so much in one week......or ever having been so relaxed and myself with people I had just met.  I was shocked at how devastated I was when the week came to an end.....and as I realized that this actually may have been my favorite year at camp.....ever.
      While I had a blast and was really sad to leave, I honestly did not think I would see or talk to Luke again....until maybe the next event.  Apparently I had even said something about how ridiculous long distance relationships were during the week (in reference to another conversation I guess....and rather oblivious to the fact that Luke was dismayed by this news).  As I was home unpacking that day the phone rang.  To my shock it was him.  And so it began.....we talked often on the phone and aim (totally dating myself here).  He kept mentioning coming to visit, and I kept humoring him with "yeah that'd be great!"  I really didn't think he was serious, nor did I want to have that conversation with my parents.  Once again I was shocked as he persisted, and then again when my parents agreed to allow him to visit for a weekend.  His dad drove him the 2 1/2 hours to our house that Friday evening in October 2001 and it would be the first of many treks back and forth for the next six years.

        I could go on for days, but some of the things I love most about this husband of mine are things that were so evident from day one.  He is so much fun!  Yes he's crazy, sometimes overboard, and often the center of attention which makes me cringe, but he's so much fun.  He never worried what anyone else thought (even me).  He was just himself and I felt that I really knew him after that first week.  He's been that way as long as I have known him, and it was something that I really learned from him.  He taught me how to be be comfortable with who I was, what I believed, and to own it.  I admired these traits in him and over the years saw them rubbing off on me.  If we'd disagree about something, he was able to move on two seconds later.  This blew my mind, and although I tried, it just felt fake and was exhausting.  He was patient with me and gave me the time I needed.....and in time I've learned to just move on, and it's genuine.  His car broke down on his way to visit me early on in our relationship.  I had a pit in my stomach and knew the whole weekend was now ruined.  Isn't that how it works?  There's a problem, it's the end of the world, you must worry, stress and fixate on it until it's resolved.  No?  I'll never forget getting the car to my house and his next question.  "So what do you want to do?"  Turns out you can have a wonderful weekend, and when it's over, tow the car back to where you live!  I'm not sure I ever considered this when I thought about the benefits or by products of marriage - That the positive qualities of the other would slowly be learned and taken on as your own.  But what an amazing unexpected blessing.  

        As I look back over the past decade and see the way God has orchestrated everything, I continually find myself thinking that I never would have believed that this would be my life.  If you told me then, what is now....disbelief.  And then, when I think of what my plans were....what I wanted the outcome to look like, I can't help but be forever grateful that God is in control.  There's just no comparison between my plans and His.  We truly have so much to celebrate. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

So that in ALL things, at ALL times, having ALL you need.....

     You know the times when there are really just no words to describe how you're feeling, no words to truly express your gratitude, no words to express how much God just completely and utterly blows your mind?  That's now.  It's like Christmas as a child 5 million times over.  

    Just look a bit to the the thermometer that was at 0 only 5 months ago.  It doesn't know what to do since we've surpassed our goal.  Well not we in any sense, but you know what I mean.  I hadn't even thought to check our Lifesong account.  I'd only given the information to three families.  I'd checked it once.  I've said it so many times, but this adoption is so not about anything we're doing.....we could do none of this apart from God's provision, apart from so many who have come on board alongside us.  Again.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts....we know and understand this is not your resources, but God's.....but still........thank you.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;

    their righteousness endures forever.”[a]
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

                                 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

When the only thing you can call your own is this.....

         He had a crib, with his name attached.....he was clothed and his basic needs were met to the best of their ability.  But ultimately, he had nothing to calls his own.....except for this.....

       One binky....with slits on each side.....  We handed over the clothes we brought and they swiftly took him away.  He came back in his new....his own.....outfit.  And before we left, they gave us this one belonging of his.  I had honestly assumed it would be passed on, and had been surprised all along that on each trip he still had this same pacifier.  We replaced it with a new one when we arrived at the took great effort to keep it in.....the strain in his face evident.  But I carefully put this one aside, placed it in his memory box when we arrived home.  And just came across it the other day as I rummaged through his box......

      For some reason I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  Imagining what it would be like....for this to be the only thing to call your own...... For others to go on about their lives, with so very much and think they don't have, time, support from others, whatever it may share.  It's really not even about the number of possessions to one's it is about our hearts, our perspective, our priorities.  Sometimes I pride myself in living simply, or at least in my efforts to save and not be frivolous.  And then there are always these few more things we need to save up for and then we'll be all set.  Then we can save even more....give more.  Somehow when those things are scratched off the list, they're always replaced.  And I wonder sometimes, how much I'm really much of this we are ultimately deciding is more important than helping another.....

     The beginning of a second adoption process brought about the end of a relationship.  We had been meeting regularly with a financial adviser for a couple of years...setting up college funds, adjusting our budget to save for Levi's adoption, making little changes here and there, asking advice, taking advice in setting up a will etc.  It was really helpful in many ways, but it was time to part ways.  While our adviser really was wonderful, and he always reminded us that he had to speak with his head, not his heart, we began to see more and more through this relationship that God's ways just are NOT our ways.  We could see on paper that what he said made sense, but that just wasn't what we felt God was asking of us.  We could see what the world says we need.....what the world claims is of most importance, is smartest, is most advisable.....and we know that we need to be wise with the finances God has entrusted to us, but it has become increasingly evident that sometimes we are going to have to do the seemingly radical, less advisable things.  Even the things that people may say are crazy.....people close to us......

      Do you know that one of Levi's words....of about a dozen that he has the name of one who really just didn't get it.  Didn't understand why on earth we would adopt....from Russia of all places.  It never bothered us too much that some didn't get's to be expected really.  But it does blow us away how much Levi loves this person...and you know, the love is mutual.  When this person is around, Levi can often be found in their lap.

    After reading Ann Voskamp's "One Thousand Gifts" I decided to go on my own search through the bible for examples of giving thanks....of thanksgiving preceding a miracle.  As I read, in a more intentional way than I can ever remember before, I kept notes.  On one side of the page were cases of this thanks, but I soon started another side.....of things that really stuck out to me.  Although I'd read them before, I hadn't really paid much attention to them.  And this one replays in my mind's in the gospels when Jesus sends out his disciples.  In Mark 6 it says this:

  These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.    

 These men were not only going to out to preach the gospel "as lambs among wolves," but they were told to take nothing with them.  Nothing?  No food.  No money.  No extra clothes.  Not to mention, no hotel room booked in advance.  Crazy.  Radical.  I'm sure not advised by most.  But, worth it?  These people may have had possessions, but without Jesus does it really matter?  I'm sure the disciples didn't feel qualified....I'm sure they didn't feel they had the resources to support themselves while living this lifestyle....I'm sure people close to them thought they were crazy.....but God called them.  He equipped them.  He was faithful, and look at the incredible ways He used them.

     Life without hearing about with just a binky to your without real hope or a future.  Isn't that enough to move us to action?  God's already shown that He can figure out the details....He can equip us for what He's called us to do.  Sometimes it may call for the end of relationships....the end of the relentless pull for more earthly possessions.....the end of people thinking you're sane, or smart.  But what He makes of it is beyond beautiful......blessings beyond measure.