Wednesday, December 31, 2014

party pants in 2015

My friend sent me this quote a few days ago on Pinterest. I'm praying it's true in 2015.


As you know, we prayed fervently that children would come home from DRC for Christmas. Except for a few medical cases whose homecomings that we rejoiced in, that didn't happen for the other children.

Does that mean God didn't answer our prayers? Does it mean He wasn't listening or that He doesn't care for us or for the children?

No. It means the timing is not right. It means He has another plan. He has something better in mind. We wish with everything in us the time was NOW. We wish we knew what His plans involved and WHY we are all waiting so long. We wish we knew WHEN things would turn around.

But we do know that God has great plans in store for all of us. We trust his plans with our aching arms and hurting hearts and waiting children. We know He loves us. We know He loves our kids. So we will continue to rest in Him. There is no other way. He is in control and, as the children's song tells us, He has "the whole world in His hands." That includes us. That includes our kids. That includes DRC officials who make laws and decide to keep children in DRC for longer than we believe they should keep them. That includes the judges who are taking longer to sign Acts of Adoption. That includes us all.

Last Friday, I wrote that DRC's Parliament was holding a special session the next day to vote on new family code, which could help expedite the lifting of the Exit Letter Suspension. We later found out the special session would last until late January, and they probably wouldn't vote on family codes during that whole month. The issue is now slated for their March meetings, and after its passing the President of DRC will still have to sign off on the new codes. Who knows how long all of that could take.

We could choose to see this as a setback, but it's not a huge one. It's disappointing, but again, we know that anything can happen and the Exit Letter Suspension can be lifted at any time God wants to do it.

We continue to have hope because we know God has our best in mind.

We have all waited so long (some have hit the three-year waiting mark by now), we have endured patiently, and we are praying to realize and obtain the goal of getting our children home VERY SOON.

Please pray we can all put on our party pants in 2015.

Monday, December 29, 2014

but who will make them breakfast?

As we were getting ready for bed Christmas night, we reviewed the great day we'd had with our boys. We talked about the presents the boys got and the baby Jesus and how thankful we should all be for what we have been given.

Then Brad brought up the fact that some kids don't get presents on Christmas. Some kids don't even have parents or families to give them anything.

This was baffling to Brody. "Why do they not get presents? Can they not buy presents with money?"

We explained that some parents couldn't afford to buy presents and that some kids didn't even have Mommies and Daddies to buy them anything.

"But who will make them breakfast?"

It was a good question. We tried to help him understand that caretakers or foster parents make some children breakfast, but some kids may not even get breakfast (an all-too real situation).

(Our poor kids. When we waste food in our house and tell the boys that there are starving kids in Africa who would have eaten that food, it will not be a flippant remark of frustration about their eating habits. We have seen too much about sick kids in Africa, and we haven't even been there.)

Earlier tonight we found out that a couple from our church has accepted an emergency placement for three new foster children. (This foster family already has four children, three of whom they recently officially adopted.)

Can you imagine what Christmas was like for those three kids? I don't want to. Losing custody of your biological kids (temporarily or permanently) requires some pretty outrageous familial misbehavior.

And can you imagine what it's like to bring those kids into your home? Those kids who are hurting and aching and confused. They may be ready to start over in a new family, emotionally shut off because of their past one, or full of anger and emotions they can't even identify.

But here's what I bet will happen in their new foster home: Those foster parents will welcome them into their home, they will find them beds and warm clothes, and they will love them in the way that Christ loves His church.

They will be broken and poured out for those kids, who may hurt them and whose situations may rip their hearts into a million pieces.

It would be hard to know where to start when welcoming three new kids into your home for the first time. Too hard to help them heal. Many people turn their heads, making the excuse that's it's too hard, that they would love the kids too much and get too attached. Too hard to pour into kids who may hurt you, run away, or be taken back to their biological families. Too hard to love kids who may never be your own.

I have no doubt that it's hard. It's hard enough for us to watch our girl grow up in pictures. We are getting attached to her and we haven't even hugged her yet.

It's only natural that foster parents become attached to children they hold and feed and comfort. And I have no doubt it's incredibly hard to think about the fact that those kids may only be in their  life for a short time.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth it.

I don't know exactly what will happen when these three kids join their new foster parents. But I bet the foster parents will make them breakfast. Because that' seems like a good place to start.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tomorrow in DRC

The DRC Parliament is supposed to hold a special session to vote on new family codes tomorrow. 

The law supposedly relates to international adoption and may, if it passes, help to clarify adoption. This would, hopefully, help to lift the Exit Letter suspension. If it passes in Parliament, it would then be passed to DRC President Joseph Kabila to (hopefully) sign. 

On a semi-related note, DRC recently released new restrictions regarding who may escort children home from DRC with an Exit Letter (no attorney escorts, basically). I, personally feel that this is a step in the right direction because it shows that some thought is being given to the process of bringing children home (and why would they be thinking about that unless they were planning to allow children to come home soon?). That is my hope and prayer, anyway.

Please pray BIG for tomorrow and for a very near future when children are allowed to come home to families. (And please pray we get our court documents SOON!) 

Thank you, thank you for your continued support and encouragement. We have amazing friends and family!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

the gift


Photo via Pinterest

I can't help but wonder what is was like awaiting the birth of the Savior who was sent to change the world, a child with names like "Wonderful," "Counselor," "the mighty God," "everlasting Father," and "Prince of Peace."

I'm so thankful Jesus continues to be all of those things, and more, as we wait for a different child that will change our own world. Counselor...We've needed great counsel. Mighty God...We still need Him to fight for us in DRC. Everlasting Father...We are SO THANKFUL He is a loving Father to the fatherless. Prince of Peace...We are grateful for the Peace that only He can provide. 

Wonderful. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas in awe of the One who was sent for you. 

I pray it truly is full of wonder and joy. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

a gentle spirit

The Today Show--well, technically Hoda and Kathie Lee's show, but I'd rather not admit that it was on in our house--shared the story of a little girl who was abandoned at birth and later adopted from an orphanage in China. 

(Link to KL and H story here: http://m.today.com/klgandhoda/jessica-carscadden-abandoned-birth-devotes-her-life-others-1D80377991)

At twelve years old, she is now dedicating her life to helping others. Someone from a show on Broadway (I missed this detail) wrote a song for her, which was then performed for her and her parents live on the KL and Hoda Show. 

And that's when I started crying. Because her life is precious, and it made me think of precious C, how she is still WAITING for the chance to join a family like the girl on the show, and how we are still WAITING to make her our official daughter and give her a permanent home. 

Brody looked up and saw my tears. 

"Mom, are you sick?"

"No, I'm not sick," I said, trying not to make a big deal of it. Yes, my heart breaks with the ache of arms that are waiting, but I also want my kids who are here to know that they are enough. 

"What's making you sad?"

"I just miss your sister," I said. "I wish she could be home with us."

And with that, he was up in my lap, hugging my neck and rubbing my back and kissing my wet cheek, saying, "I'm sorry, Mom. It's okay."

I hugged him and let him hug me and rub my back, like we were reversing roles for a bit and he was the comforter after I'd just fallen and skinned a knee.

Then I got up to wipe my face. He followed me to the tissues and said he wanted to wipe my face, which I allowed him to do because his gentle little heart probably really did want to help make it all better, and this was his way to doing so.

He wiped my eyes with the tenderness of  an 80-year-old grandmother who is holding a newborn baby. With little blotting motions, he was careful not to poke my eyes or wipe too hard. 

Today I'm thanking God for his precious little sweet and tender heart, the sweet and sassy heart that is his brother, and the sister for whom we continue to wait. 

And I'm asking God to help me be a more gentle spirit like Brody.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

this is my confession

Here I am, writing on a Wednesday to keep it real for you. I have a confession. (Cue Usher's 10-year-old [[GASP!]] hit song "Confessions," which is somewhat inappropriate and does not apply to this topic at all, as an intro to this post.)

I do not like baking cookies with my kids. Don't get me wrong, I REALLY love baking cookies. However, I do not find baking cookies with my boys enjoyable. 

Send in the troops. This is some sort of failure mother-load. Baking with her kids is something all mothers are supposed to enjoy doing. (Right?!) 

And I did enjoy it, until my boys gained opinions, functional opposable thumbs and arms that could "stir." (That is, if you can even call it "stirring." Judging from the piles of flour on my counters, I think "shovel" is more accurate.)

As mothers, we are supposed to enjoy seeing our kids become competent in stirring the batter or rolling the dough. We should take joy in watching them sneak bites between ingredient additions. We should love sharing the joys of baking and the magic of the oven with our kids.

I think this is some sort of Mom-rule somewhere behind feeding our children at least three times a day, making young ones take naps, or providing adequate amounts of vegetables in their diets (which I also do not enjoy, nor am I any good at doing).

However, I have not learned the art of enjoying this time with my kids. It always starts off really well, with both kids taking turns stirring and adding ingredients. It's always really cute.

And really short-lived.

Then there's usually some sort of slip-up. Flour on the counter, egg shell in the batter, or a random extra unidentified object in the dough. That first slip-up begins it all, and from there--while I am cleaning the mess or stopping the fight over the wooden spoon or identifying the extra ingredient--all heck breaks loose and we all end up whirling around in complete madness. 

You may not know me well, so let me just tell you: I don't like madness. I like order. There is a certain type of madness I can handle, and that is the type of madness that takes place outside of my house, or at least on my own terms.

In my house, though, I need some sort of order. (Yes, this is the sign of a control freak. I am aware of this character flaw and working on it, mostly because I am forced to do so in this house of boys.)

Anyhow, I am writing to tell you that we decorated cookies last week (which took 45 minutes for ONE cookie and ended in a bowl filled to the rim with sprinkles, crumbs and icing that had been licked inside and out) and we baked cookies together today. 

And we will not be doing either again until next Christmas. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

With singing

Brecken was croupy last week, and when he woke up full of Grinch on Sunday I knew it wouldn't go well for us to try to leave him to his Sunday School class. I took him into "big church" and was able to actually HOLD him almost the entire time.


If you know Brecken, you know this is a feat of gigantic proportions. He is a busy-body with a mind of his own, so I thoroughly enjoyed the extra snuggles.

And I got to sing over him. I'm not really a "singing" mom who sings over her child at night. I might have done it a little when they were babies, but--if I'm honest--I really didn't ever have much time for that when they were small. It stinks, but it is what it is.

My voice stinks, too, so the cracks and flat notes kind of take the charm right out of the moment.

Anyway, I got to sing praises to the King over Brecken at church. He snuggled me and laid his little head on me while holding his tiny stuffed monkey. (And again, it's not like him to bring a stuffed animal anywhere, so we know he wasn't feeling quite like himself.)

And I rejoiced in the moments of snuggles and singing.

Then the words of Zephaniah 3:17 jumped out at me. I have loved this verse for a while now, ever since one of my friends pointed out its awesomeness at an event a year ago. Since then it has, thankfully, been etched into my mind from our Seeds CDs.


"The Lord your God in your midst,

The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

I find it crazy-awesome that God, Creator of our universe, rejoices over each one of His children with singing! As a mother and father rejoice over their kids with singing and swaying and whispering and kissing, and as they quiet their baby's sadness or frightened tears with their love and presence, so does God for His children. 

I relished the moments of rejoicing over Brecken with singing, and I was grateful for yet another picture of God's love for me, even when I feel unloveable, sick, tired, and weary. He is still rejoicing, singing over me, and quieting my ever-questioning, -worrying, -anxious heart. 

Not only that, but he is "in my midst" and He, The Mighty One, promises to save. 

Furthermore, I believe God has placed someone in C's life in DRC to sing over her while we wait to do so ourselves. Although I wish it were me, I am thankful for that someone, and I can't wait to thank her when I go visit. 

Being a Mom has taught me so much, and I am thankful for the lessons. We love our children no matter what. We rejoice over them and dry their tears and calm their anxious hearts. We carry them when they're tired and we take joy in their joy.

And God does all of this--and more--for us, His children. And He is mighty to save. (And that is what we continue to pray for the stuck children of DRC.)

Being a Mom has taught me so much, and I'm thankful for the lessons. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

fight club

I mentioned my Bible study yesterday, using my affectionate term for it: Fight Club.

This Bible study is pretty intense. It requires thoughtful reading of Scripture line-by-line, application, discussion, and wisdom (for which I continue to ask God).

I have LOVED it for many reasons. For one, my boys get to go learn about the Bible in their own little classes. This means Brody will randomly pull out something like, "And then Moses went up the mountain and pooped on the rock. Hahahahahaha!!" and Brecken will simply repeat "God loves me SO MUCH." Both scenarios nearly nearly bring me to tears each time, but for different reasons. But at least they are learning something, and I firmly believe they learn a lot in class, as I have seen it with my own eyes. The boys just don't want me to know they are paying attention.

I'm going to be honest about my reasons for joining Fight Club. Yes, I wanted a better understanding of the detailed events of the Bible so I could apply it to my own life. (Because my Sunday School lessons of yesteryear only go so far: "Jonah was swallowed by a whale and then the whale spit him out," and "Moses brought the people out of Egypt," stop short of advanced edification, application, and creation of a steadfast heart that is set on Jesus.)

However, I also wanted a better understanding so that I could do a better job of teaching my kids, along with an organized structure in which my boys could be with other kids their age and learn about Jesus while also learning how to interact with others. (And clearly they are interacting well with others, because Brody has learned that kids love to hear him talk about poop. Sorry Mrs. S.)

And, boy, has it been awesome. Seriously, I have LOVED learning more about Moses and the ways in which God was in EVERY SINGLE DETAIL of his and the Israelites' journey.

I have read about people crying out to God, waiting on God, worshipping idols, eating the dust of idols, then praying to God some more and complaining to God. I have read of God hearing their prayers and remembering his promises. I have read about his provision, his mercy, his glory, and his goodness, his compassion, his justice, even his jealousy. And I have learned A TON. I am so thankful to have this experience of learning in this time of my life, and I would not change a thing about it. God is doing a number on me, and I'm thankful.

However, here's the thing about Fight Club: I don't think I can tell you any more about it. As in the movie, Fight Club (which I never saw, by the way), there are some rules and secrecy involved.

For example, when I went to my first event at Fight Club (a "Welcome"), the first thing I was asked was who had told me about it. It was almost like it was a huge secret about which very few people know, like secret churches in China or the Underground Railroad.

I may have imagined it, but the person who asked me the question seemed to even whisper to keep it a secret. I am pretty sure I even whispered my response that my mom had gone to one and I wanted to try it out. I didn't know I had to have an invite to Fight Club, but it seemed as though I did.

And there are these rules. Rules I didn't know existed until I had broken 12 of them and my mom asked me, "So, do you know about the rules?" When I said no, she said she couldn't tell me what they were. Or maybe she told me one of them. "What?! I didn't know I couldn't talk about that!"

Some rules I still don't know to this day. It is so Fight Club-ish that I don't even know if we are supposed to talk about the rules or even the Bible study outside of the building in which we meet, which I don't believe I can describe to you, either.

Yet here I am, broadcasting this all over the internet. (If I go missing or get kicked out of Fight Club, you will know what happened to me.)

I do know one rule: We can't discuss what church we attend. I totally understand the spirit of this rule, but I am pretty sure I broke it in my first nine minutes of attendance. My husband's new role as a pastor kind of makes it tricky to keep things like that a secret, don't you think?

And, actually, as I sit here trying to come up with more examples of rules, I think I really do know only one rule. Yet people keep asking me if I know all of the--clearly unwritten--rules.

And I don't. I just hope I don't break any of them. Because I really do love Fight Club.

**One final only-semi-relavent comment: Individual churches must to do a better job of equipping their members with biblical truths and in-depth Bible study (not simply book study) opportunities. That is my opinion, but I think I'm right. :o)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

bag o' tricks

Bradlee has been out of town since Sunday. (Actually, he has been out of the country--in Italy--but that's a post for another day because I am mildly jealous and it will take a full post to process it.)

He will be home in a few days and, despite their belief that he is the way-more-awesome parent, the boys have--so far--done really well while he's been away.

I think it's because of their extreme lack of understanding of time. Toddlers seem to think "tonight" is in 7 minutes and "tomorrow" is after naptime, along with a slew of other fallacies. Therefore, the amount of time Brad has been gone, to them, has been approximately 5 hours.

That said, I kept a bag o' tricks close by while he's been away to alleviate or possibly even prevent any foreseen complete emotional breakdowns.

Usually when Brad is away, I paint something. Last time, in November, I painted our kitchen cabinets. This time, though, I actually had a few little special things planned for the boys in advance. (No need to paint anything when your house is a wreck already.)

Sunday -- We left Brad at church in order to catch a ride with MeMaw and PaPaw (my parents) to meet my extended family for some old time photos and a show. (Experience described here.) If anyone can make my boys forget that their dad is gone, it's MeMaw and PaPaw.

After a long car ride and lunch, Sunday was entirely full of picture-taking and watching a show at Main Street Opry, a live show I've been watching since I was the boys' age.

I didn't realize I was breaking an old time photo rule when I took this pic, but I don't regret it. That's my Granny and Grandpa in the background. They weren't necessarily thrilled about getting their pics taken, but we are happy to have the pics to treasure.


Monday -- "Elfie" made his first appearance in the Lotz household.


Yes, it may be a little late in the season, but this whole Elf on the Shelf thing seems like a huge commitment of time, energy and creativity. You have seen the Pinterest pics of cute little stagings of Elf on the Shelf antics and cute little displays, right? I am not that mom. (Images from here.)




I am the mom who wakes up after midnight and remembers that I haven't moved the thing, and I think two weeks of desperate scrambles to place it somewhere new is enough. Plus, I am unwilling to make a mess that I will have to clean up in 24 hours.

As long as the boys don't know everyone else's Elf is more awesome than ours, I guess we'll be okay.

I also took the boys to my fitness center on Monday. This doesn't sound like much fun, but they love it and I don't take them often because it's all the way "in town." (I won a membership to the center that's about 30 minutes away so I usually go to a closer gym instead.) Ms. Jo, the fitness center childcare worker, is great with the boys, and they have an indoor jungle gym-type thing the boys like playing on, along with plenty of other toys and movies. It's like going to a McDonald's without the trans-fats and the need to supervise in the midst of stinky feet and 25 other kids who have been stuck inside for six straight days.

Plus, I got to work out and take a shower and get dressed by myself; both of which help my psyche more than you'll ever know.

Tuesday -- Amongst a range of regular activities and making gingerbread men, we got our Little People nativity set in the mail. Brody LOVES opening boxes and goes over the top with enthusiasm and gratitude when he gets a present. (I am SO excited for Christmas this year because of this very fact.) The boys have played with that nativity set several hours already, and it's focus on Jesus helps me reconcile my use of the Elf on the Shelf to shame my kids to behave well. :o)

After playing at Chik-Fil-A, where I met with a friend who is pursuing adoption (yay!), we spent Tuesday night at MeMaw and PaPaw's. The timing of our stay was the result of some strategic planning in the timing of Brad's absence because the boys will, at the end of all this, get to see MeMaw and PaPaw every other day until Brad comes home.

This isn't our first rodeo in Brad's absence--although usually when he's gone it's for deer hunting or helping with a bear hunt. Seeing MeMaw and PaPaw helps to break up the monotony of bedtimes by ourselves and Mom-only activities. And it even offered me a kid-free bed most of the night until a sick Brecken joined me. (Croup!!) (Unfortunately it offered my dad a night on the couch and my mom a Brody-Brecken sandwich in their bed.)


Wednesday -- I went to Fight Club (my affectionate term for the Bible study in which I'm involved...I'll have to explain that one later). Normally the boys would go with me to "school," which is what I call the Bible study's children's program, because Brody SO BADLY wanted to go to preschool this year and we didn't send him. However, since Brecken had a fever the night before, the boys stayed home with MeMaw and PaPaw and made gingerbread houses.

Wednesday evening I picked out a present from under the tree and allowed the boys to open it. Just a little stamp/art set, but it helped us pass some time and, conveniently, resembled the address stamp I used on my Christmas card envelopes that Brody wanted to use.

Thursday -- I believe Brecken gave me his sickness, as I am feeling slightly "icky" in general, but we are taking it easy at home today with plans to go to Silver Dollar City tonight to see some Christmas lights with--you guessed it--MeMaw and PaPaw. (My parents are the GREATEST.) If it gets crazy (extra sad, cantankerous, angry, etc.) today I'll break out a Koala Crate (which I ordered at 60% off!). I've never ordered one before, but they look really fun and great for uncreative and uninspired parents like myself.

Friday -- We will spend the morning with some friends and cute college gals, then we may go visit Ms. Jo again. And then we will wait for Daddy to return.

And how do I cope with his absence? Ice cream. Lots and lots of Chocolate Bunny Tracks or Moose Tracks, to be exact. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Oh so joyful

It's a great time of year for a cute family picture. Unless you are a Lotz.

I LOVE getting all of the cute Christmas photos in the mail and seeing them all over Facebook. So adorable, with perfect smiling children, matching clothes, and cute couples.

But we don't play that way. Don't get me wrong...I would LOVE to get a cute family photo or two so we can document our family as it is right now (as we WAIT to bring a daughter home while enjoying the two sons we already have). However, we don't do well in pictures.

Take this past Sunday...my whole family gathered for an old-time photo with my grandparents. A fun, cute idea, right? We enjoyed dressing up and the boys REALLY enjoying being cowboys and wielding fake guns.

But when it came time to take the picture...pure craziness. With 18-ish people in the photo, it was going to be difficult to get a great pic of everyone. Throw in my two little napless crazies and you have yourself a mission impossible. 

Brecken refused to sit where he was told. He refused to sit anywhere, actually. 

Brody was so enamored with his fake pistols he kept putting them in front of his cute little face to look closely and show them off. Then Brecken would put the end of the gun in his mouth...a great display of how I sometimes feel about trying to get a great family picture with two little yahoos (whom I love dearly, but whose faces I wish I could capture in all of their cuteness). 

The photographer might have been sweating by the end of our session, and she may never forget the names Brody an Brecken, as she had to yell them every 3 seconds to get the boys' attention. The proofs came back and in the 3,000 or so pics she took about 7 of them contained only mildly awkward faces or poses from my boys. (Unfortunately, those were the pics where I looked like was I chewing cud or something. Oh well, I took one for the team.) I guess, thinking positively, their crazy poses helped with the picture choosing process, if nothing else.

And then there was last Thursday's picture attempts. The boys were all dressed up in sweaters, ties and even a suit jacket. Brad sported a tie for the THIRD time this year, which is more times than he has worn a tie in his whole life prior to 2014.

I thought it was the perfect time for a quick picture before we headed to The Vine's (college ministry's) winter dance.

We sent the kids to stand by the tree to pretend they were looking at something cool. (They have to pretend because our tree isn't that cool, as most ornaments have already been broken.) They didn't play our little pretend game, so I asked them to go look at the train ornament, which is also broken but the train still circles around the base of the ornament. That lasted about two seconds, not enough to get a great picture, because it takes me 267 tries to get a picture right.

I needed something to keep them busy longer. "Brody, will you get that ornament off the tree for me?" At that moment, I crossed a line. If I have said it once, I have said it one thousand times, "Don't touch the tree ornaments." And now, for the sake of cute Christmas picture perfection, I took 3,000 steps back and opened the door to all sorts of Christmas ornament-breaking mayhem.

He grabbed the ornament, and for a few moments it looked like the boys were sharing ornaments and hanging them together. I snapped pictures while lying on the ground, running around the side of the tree, standing on chairs...anything to get a good angle. 

(Please note here that Brody insisted on wearing cowboy boots. I cannot be held responsible for some fashion choices in this family. My own fashion is bad enough.) 


That pic above is as good as it got. 

I finally gave up on the cute picture idea and settled with a few awkward pics of the boys rolling their eyes and making awkward faces at the camera. If you get a Christmas card from us, be prepared. It won't be your ordinary, cute kid Christmas picture. It will, however, be a very "real" picture, so at least I can appreciate that fact.

And to top off my point, for kicks, here is this year's Santa pic, which looks identical to last year's pic, except for the boys' larger sizes. 


That would be Brody fake-smiling and Brecken stonewalling, which is what they both do best in pictures. 

Cheers and joy to you all, just don't expect to see it in our faces.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Velma

We haven't seen Velma in a while. After numerous trips to her house to check on her and a few phone calls, we haven't been able to catch her at home. Her house is dark, like she is away visiting family or friends. I hope she is.

However, despite her absence, we went ahead and trimmed her overgrown bushes and raked her leaves, hoping it's not illegal to do so since she requested some help in those specific areas. And also hoping that she doesn't forget that she requested the help, and thus, hate us for doing so.

Her gutters are full of leaves and her back yard is full of several large brush piles that need to be removed or burned. Her front yard, from which we have already bagged 20 bags of leaves, could easily fill at least 20 more bags. Her hand rail is loose, her driveway covered in yard debris. So much to be done if we had her blessing to do it.

(But we do have good help. Cue the pictures of cute kids in overalls...)


But, for now, we wait for her return, hoping all is well.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

the older woman

My heart broke a little bit the other day when I heard a woman tell a story about the time she--an older woman--played an important role in someone's salvation.

It was a valuable story about how she had taken a mission trip and wasn't sure about her role there. She assumed she wouldn't be of much value on the trip because of her age. However, she and her husband found themselves in the company of a young man and his dad, who had big questions about Jesus.

"Do you really believe in this stuff the way these young kids do?" he had asked her.

She was able to tell him she did believe it, and then she was able to help lead him to Christ!

But that's not the heartbreaking part. The heartbreaking part, to me, was the part where she wasn't sure what value she brought to the table in the first place.

Maybe it was so heartbreaking because those are often my thoughts and the lies I often believe. What can I do? I am nobody. I don't have a huge impressive story. I have two kids and zero specialized skills. And I am shy on top of everything else. So seriously, what can I do? 

For her, the little lie that she had believed was "I am too old."

The truth is, God created us all differently, with different talents and skills, backgrounds, experiences and likes. He then uses whomever He wants to do whatever tasks He chooses, and it's no accident we experience certain things (heartaches, joys, sorrows, or failures). And it's not accident we are placed in specific situations.

I wish that woman knew all along that she is valued, that she is NEEDED daily, not just on that mission trip. That one time on a mission trip wasn't a fluke, like God had forgotten and accidentally gotten her and her white hair involved. Who would have shared with that broken man unless she had said "Yes" to that trip?

And who will impart knowledge to younger generations of women unless older women step up to do so? Who will walk a young woman through divorce unless there is also someone who has experienced it or something like it? Who will speak hards truths into someone's life with mercy and grace, allowing her to cast off bad habits and attitudes? Who will teach new moms how to show their children Jesus every day? Who will help them apply the Bible to all situations, not just where it's convenient?

Older women. That's who. But we need more women who aren't afraid that their best days are behind them. Women who are open to new challenges as well as new people to serve and love. Women who won't bottle up their hurts and joys, and who will instead use them to share their hope and the Truth they've learned with others who will need it soon, if they don't already--sometimes unknowingly--need it now.

Women who will sit across a table with an open Bible, a head full of wisdom, and years and years of experience following the heart of Jesus.

Because we ("younger" women) need you, you are valued, and you have a purpose.

(PS...Along these same lines, if you have never read The Noticer you might want to give it a try. My heart BROKE for the older woman in that story who thoughts she no longer had a purpose.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

covered in prayer

There have been some rumors rumbling around DRC and those who have been affected by the Exit Letter suspension.

I usually don't care much for rumors, but in THIS case, they point to hope.

I can't share much, as I don't have any facts, dates, quotes or names. I just have hope.

BUT we ask that you please, PLEASE pray with us that this suspension is lifted VERY SOON.

An official US delegation has traveled to DRC to discuss the Exit Letter suspension with officials in DRC. Specifically, they are meeting with DGM (the specific office that issues Exit Letters) today and tomorrow. We are praying for wisdom, discretion, open ears, softened hearts, and good news.

Also, an agency rep is headed to DRC soon to check on specific cases and to hand-deliver gifts to the children associated with our agency. We are praying that the rep is also able to get C's adoption paperwork (with her Act of Adoption completed!) and get it back to us ASAP so we/I can go file it in DRC. (I am also hoping for a pic of C with something from her package from us...maybe in her sweet PJ's!!!)

Please cover this in prayer. We are so thankful for all of you who are following this story and interceding for us and others in our position.

"The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin..." --Exodus 34:6-7 


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

recounting his deeds


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and in the spirit of thankfulness I will tell you this: We have plenty for which to be thankful. In a year of excruciating waiting and uncertainty, the fact that God is with us, has a plan for us, has a plan for Sweet C, and has given us everything we need to fulfill our purpose for him is not lost on me. I acknowledge and am thankful that "from him and through him and to him are all things. To Him be glory forever."

I am so incredibly thankful for the people God has placed in my life. Until now, I have not fully recognized the true value of being surrounded by and in community with amazing people--friends, family, husband, kids--who are REAL about struggles and full of grace, who love the Bible, and who are learning to be more like Christ daily.

And I am incredibly thankful for people has placed in my life from a distance. One person for whom I am thankful is Sarah, my friend in Cali (it sounds so cool to say it that way), who sends me Bible verses EVERY MORNING to remind me of God's promises.

And she sent me this one this morning: "I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds." (Psalm 9:1)

And since that's the case, here's a quick (not inclusive) recounting of his wonderful deeds for us lately:

- Christ's intercession for us at the right hand of God.

- This difficult journey that has stripped away things that I once thought were important and replaced them with things that really ARE important.

- Sweet C's wonderful life


- provision

- Brody's adoption journey and the amazingly sweet personality of his


- Brecken's crazy-early birth journey and his awesome individuality


- movement in DRC (Yes, movement!!!)

- great friends and family

- God's calling in Brad's life and the fact that he uses his amazing leadership skills to equip and train others for leadership, including our own children.


The list could go on for miles, but I'll stop there.

My heart is thankful. I hope you have plenty for which to be thankful, too.

Reminder: Please continue to pray with us for the families and children affected by the DRC suspension of Exit Letters. PLEASE keep praying specifically that the suspension will be lifted, that we will finally receive C's paperwork, and that the stuck children will be home for Christmas!!!

(PS -- I've collected an assortment of biblical promises and truths about the heart of God for the orphan on Pinterest here, if you're interested. When pleading on behalf of his [stiffnecked] people, Moses reminded God of his promises for their future inheritance, and God changed his mind about destroying them [Exodus 32]. This might mean, then, that we can (should?) remind God of his promises for the orphan in our prayers asking him for help in "setting the lonely in families." We need not remind him because he has forgotten, but because a Father likes to know his children remember his words.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the hands and feet

The next time I saw her she was wearing her jacket again, only this time she was inside her own home.

The weather was turning very chilly for a day in early November, and neither her house nor her body looked like it had insulation to spare.

Although her house looked dark and lonely, the TV was on and I heard her come my way as I rang her doorbell.

I hardly ever answer the door when I'm home alone and not expecting someone I know--or the UPS truck--to come by. I am just a weenie like that. But she came to the door immediately with a curious look on her face.

I introduced myself again in case she had forgotten, and she nodded as though she remembered me.

"I just came to check in and make sure you're doing ok," I said as Brody made his way up the stairs to us. He had finagled his way out of his seatbelt and the car door because he cannot resist a social situation. That is where he and I are very different.

Brody had also asked about her in the days that followed our first meeting. "What's Velma doing? Where's her family?" I was a little worried about the questions he might ask of her today.

"Do you need anything?" I asked. This is one of those situations where you hope you're not insulting someone by assuming they need help, but it was also pretty clear that she couldn't do things on her own.

"Yes, actually," she said. "Do you see that bush over there? It gets bogged down by snow every winter and pushes into the house. It's way too big but I can't do anything about it by myself."

I exhaled a silent prayer of thanks for God's hand in giving me an easy task first. "I see that bush. It does look like it could cause some problems. My husband is out of town but when he gets back I'll bring him over here and we will try to take care of it for you. Would that be ok?"

"Oh yes," she said. "I would appreciate that."

At this point, Brody began ambushing the conversation with questions and suggestions about how we might fix that bush. I smiled at him and looked back at her, hoping she could remember a time when she had a young child who asked too many questions.

"Ok, good. Do you need anything else?" Time to leave before Brody asked her all of the personal questions he loves to ask strangers.

"No, I think I'm doing ok. Thank you for your help. That's really kind of you."

So my family will be back at her house tomorrow--possibly with some strong and helpful young men--to take care of that pesky bush, and to bring her a blanket and bread, with hopes that we can do even more.

I don't share this experience to try to show you how great of a person I am or even how great of a Christian I am. I actually hesitated to share this whole experience because I often fear that people will think that I think I'm pretty awesome for caring--for obeying God.

I'm not awesome. My heart is quite cold, actually, and I've made a thousand mistakes that sometimes keep me up at night, a fact that I acknowledge as sinful in and of itself. (Because who do I think I am to try and bear burdens of mistakes that Christ has already carried and removed for me?)

However, God has been doing a work in me, breaking me for widows in addition to orphans. He has been showing me what I've been missing in my busy-ness, in my selfishness disguised as introversion, in my insecurity, and in this weight of adoption waiting.

So please be encouraged. I am a shy nobody, but because of God's great power in me there is now a widow who will hopefully see the Gospel in motion, in the hands and feet of His people.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

waiting with the widow

{A continuation from yesterday's post.)

I watched her struggle to cross the bridge through the winds that beat across the side of her face, rippling her jacket away from her frail body.

Surely, I thought, her car is nearby and she's walking a short distance to get to it.

But I didn't see anything nearby except for the throngs of cars speeding past her, seeming not to notice that she was well into her 80s or 90s and struggling through the wind.

Should I help this woman, God? Is this a woman I can help? 

I have been praying that He would open my eyes and heart to widows, who are often harder to identify--yet often as lonely and in need--as orphans.

Because maybe it's possible to be a family to a widow while--and after--we wait to be a family to an orphan.

I drove past this woman, still looking for a car that might belong to her while hoping another car would stop for her. I saw neither, and as I continued to drive I prayed that God would show me what to do.

Is this her? Why is no one else stopping for her? 

Clearly, Jenny, you are supposed to go help that woman. 

It was almost as if I needed a hundred affirmations that this was God's design, although my heart identified it as such from the first moment. Five hundred yards past where I drove past her, I finally turned around using side roads and parking lots. I'm embarrassed to say it took me that long to obey, but it did.

When we finally arrived back at the intersection where she was starting to enter the Walmart parking lot, I opened my door enough to show her I was harmless--a woman with two crazy kids in the back--and called out, "Can I help you? Do you need a ride?"

She seemed surprised but thankful.

"Yes," she said. "I'm going to have my phone fixed because I need to use it before the storm comes tomorrow."

"I'll take you."

She hobbled over and in, somewhat hesitantly, and thanked me humbly. She looked cold and relieved to be inside a moving vehicle. I introduced myself and my boys in the backseat, then asked her name.

"Velma," she said.

We made our way to Walmart while I figured out how to best help her. I wouldn't be much help with two toddlers to slow us all down, so I dropped her off at the front door and the boys and I waited and watched for her while eating a bag of trail mix in the car. She was in there a very long time, and I began to wonder if she had come out a different door without me seeing her.

I drove closer to the door and waited, making sure to get out of the car when I finally saw her tiny body emerge from the store.

They had fixed her phone and we were now off to take her home to her tiny house almost a mile away with overgrown shrubs and unraked yard. It was clear she couldn't keep up with the work herself; I didn't even know how she'd walked all that distance to get to the store.

When I asked her for her phone number, I watched her nervously fumble to find her address book and calendar, then her phone because she didn't know her phone number. She finally gave me a slip of paper with her number on it, except it wasn't her phone number. It was her address, which I already knew because I was sitting in her driveway.

I asked again if she could find her phone so I could type my number in for her. When she finally found it, it was clear she had forgotten why she was looking. She apologized. "I had a stroke a year ago and I can't do some things I used to do. It's embarrassing."

I smiled while wanting to cry for her. I asked if she had family nearby. It seemed as though some lived a county away, but it was pretty clear she was on her own.

Finally, I wrote my number down for her and used her flip phone to call my own so I could save her number in mine. I told her to call any time she needed anything; I'd be glad to help.

As I rolled out of her driveway, I watched her fumble for keys at the door, thinking about how hard it must be to live alone, for one thing, and to struggle with the daily tasks of living, too.

I wondered if her neighbors helped her at all, if they even knew she needed it. I wondered about her family. I wondered how she would have made it home from Walmart.

Then I drove away, thanking God for opening my eyes to this widow, praying for her, and knowing I would return in a few days to check on her. She wouldn't remember my name or number, but she'd know someone cared.

Monday, November 17, 2014

waiting and the widow

Yes, another blog post about waiting. We have heard nothing new. An agency rep who was supposed to go to DRC got her passport stolen while on the plane and spent several days on planes or in holding, waiting to come back home. Therefore, there are no feet from our specific agency on the ground to check on C's case and let us know WHY we are still in the court process 13 months later.

(I realize that others have waited much longer...and it breaks my heart to the core. PLEASE watch this video from Both Ends Burning to see what that waiting is all about.)

I could let the waiting drive me crazy (and don't get me wrong...I sometimes do, often at 3 am, which might explain the cold sore overtaking my nose and the dark under-eye circles). However, that's not helpful or beneficial, especially for my kids or husband at home with me. (And I don't think it's necessary when I choose to rest in God's perfect peace.)

Orphans remain heavy on my heart, but I feel more powerless now than ever to help them. I haven't written much about them in a while, and I think it's because I have shut myself off from it for a bit, feeling powerless and frustrated and burdened all at the same time.

However much I'd like to do something more, we are in a bit of a holding pattern.

It wouldn't be wise to start another adoption (from anywhere) right now. DRC's laws state that only two children can be at home to adopt from their country, and although the judges have often overridden that rule in the past to get children into families, there has been talk that they are becoming more strict in that law. We have heard DRC's parliament is rewriting the adoption laws, so we must wait for those to be approved by vote to see what they say. That said, if we were to add to our family while we wait for her to come home, it might put her future with us in jeopardy.

We have discussed foster care. However, we have decided that it wouldn't be fair to a foster child who gets placed with us, only to have to go somewhere else while we travel to get C (which has taken several weeks of traveling in the past).

We aren't in a place where we can give any extra significant financial amount to charities who serve orphans, foster families or biological families who are getting their acts together to get their children back from the State. And honestly, our time is full of other events and ministries and commitments in such a way that we can't even volunteer much of it to help serve.

So what do we do when we want to live by James 1:27 but can't help an orphan through adoption or foster care?

As it turns out, James 1:27 isn't just about orphans. It says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

There are widows, too. They may not be as cute and cuddly as small children, but they are just as in need of a helping hand or a warm smile, and most are probably more lonely than the orphans. 

So I've been praying for God to open my eyes to the widows. Turns out, they are everywhere, just not as noticeable as orphans. 

Some are young with three children and a half-million things to get done themselves by the end of the day. Some are old with children who live across the country without the opportunity to visit. Some are wives and mothers who live as widows until the return of their husbands serving abroad. Some have lost their husbands to other women or other interests. 

Some are old and frail, walking a mile over a narrow bridge in the crippling wind to get to the store. 

And just like that, I saw her...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

the hidden benefit

After a few months of staying home with the boys, we are finally getting into a certain rhythm of life. This rhythm is only slightly slower than the rhythm we had when I was working, but it is different nonetheless.

Yes, I am able to spend more time with our boys, which I love. However, I'm slowly discovering an amazing hidden benefit of staying home: deepening friendships.

Let's be clear for fear that you will think I am a loser: I had friends when I was working. I saw many of them often in the halls of my school building, I talked to others occasionally (via text, of course), and even spent time with a few of them on Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes even Sunday afternoons if I was feeling ambitious.

But those friendships often lacked a few vital pieces of relational currency: Time & energy. Quite simply, I had no time for friends, nor did I feel like putting extra energy into anything that didn't involve getting my mile-high laundry done, grocery shopping, or scrubbing the dirt off of my boys after a day outside.

And since I didn't have time or energy for friends, my friendships weren't particularly deep. They often--not always, but often--consisted of some pretty empty "How are you's" and "Have a good day's," along with some "Everything is greats" for good measure.

Other people who are more extroverted and amazing than myself are much better at navigating this no-time, no-energy conundrum. They can probably ask genuine questions like "How can I help you today?" and be honest in their answers by saying, "Glad you asked. I'm going to be honest: I'm really struggling today."

But that was not me when I was working. Yes, I had great friends at work and loved seeing them every day and enjoying an occasional deep conversation, but I also couldn't muster up the energy to go past much of the everyday smalltalk we all experience. I had usually used up all of my emotional and social capital by the end of each day, and at 3 PM, I wanted to go see my kids and get on with the 15 errands we needed to run together.

And don't even get me started on nights out with friends. Weekdays were basically out of the question because the next day of school and the connected 5 am wakeup loomed in front of me, telling me to shut it down at 8 PM.

Weekends were often off-limits, as we had a gazillion to-dos to accomplish before the next Monday rolled around, not to mention the fact that I wanted to see my kids because I had just handed them off to someone else for 45 hours the week before.

I will admit here that I was probably wrong in not putting more effort into creating bonds. I was probably selfish in not offering more of myself--"my" conversation, "my" time, "my" attention--to others. Often, however, I suspected they were feeling just like me. And often, I wondered--and still wonder, at times--what I had to offer anyone anyway.

But now, with some extra time and--really, most importantly--extra social energy, I am experiencing the hidden gem of deepening friendships that move beyond the "Hello's" and "How are ya's" and into the "How has your day been's" and "How's it going with that discipline thing with the boys?"

This has been a season of friendships with real talk, joy, struggle-sharing, increased vulnerability, and encouragement.

It's been a season of texted prayers for my family and for Sweet C, just at the right time (namely, when I was increasing my walking pace while walking by the little girlie clothes at the store, because sometime it hurts to look).

It's been a season of receiving unexpected gifts in the mail from a dear-but-far-away awesome-sauce friend.


And it's been a season of deepening relationships with my boys, learning how to be a better wife and mom from an older woman of God, community-building at church, and truly enjoying some girl time on the weekends or on Monday mornings.

I am ever so thankful for this season, and I am learning to enjoy it without worry.

((And working-moms-who-don't-want-to-be-working-moms and who aren't in this season...please know that I feel your pain. I know what it's like to have the energy tank on low or empty and to feel that you are failing everyone all at the same time. (Please tell me it wasn't just me who felt that way.) I don't know what it's like to do all of that well, as many of you probably do. You all are probably WAY better at managing friendships and social energy than I am, and I assure you, you are failing no one. I fail my kids DAILY from home, and I fail on budgeting our one-income, minister-paycheck budget almost hourly. So just because I'm now parenting from home doesn't make my parenting any better AT ALL. Please understand this. Hugs to you, and know that I miss seeing many of you in the halls.))

Monday, November 10, 2014

groans

Last week we began praying big for specific results.

First, that we would get Sweet C's paperwork by last Friday so that I could finally go file paperwork in DRC and, most importantly, meet her in person.

Second, that the stuck children of DRC would be allowed to come home to their forever (legal adoptive) families by Christmas 2014. What a great Christmas present that would be!

We did not receive C's paperwork by Saturday of last week, so I guess you could say God's answer was "not yet."

This is always an answer that's hard to take. "Not yet." "Be patient." "In time." "Wait patiently."

It stinks, but our self-induced end-of-the-week deadline was rather arbitrary. So I continue to pray, but sometimes I lack the words. I've been writing down verses about God's character and promises--his promise to fight for his people, his defense of the fatherly, his compassion for the fatherless-- to pray back to God. (I shared some of them here and here.)

But sometimes I just say, "Lord, you know what I really want. I want her home. I want to get through this court process, meet her, hug her, smother her in love and bring her home with us forever. And I really want it soon."

And sometimes I think that's ok.

My dad had some major heart problems beginning the summer before my freshman year of college. He had several surgeries, stints, and--finally--a new heart valve. At one point, my family was brought back to the private room with the chaplain--never good--because my dad's heart was able to pump on its own after taking him off of the pump used during surgery.

You know how I prayed during this time? Uttering groans. Cries. Tears. Moans.

And I think that's ok.

God heard, no matter how it sounded. 

Romans (8:26) says that "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."

My mom shared that verse with me when my dad was experiencing all of his heart troubles, and I have never forgotten it. (My dad is healthy and as awesome as ever today, by the way.) 

I feel like I've had plenty of experience allowing the Spirit to intercede for me when all I can do is groan or--essentially--say, "Remember my prayer from earlier today? Here I am to repeat it."

So often, I am not sure what to even say to God. It's not that I'm mad...I'm just at a loss for words.

This court process is taking "forever." I have no idea why, but I can only gather that our agency is having difficulty obtaining our paperwork (like her Judgment, Supletiff Judgment, etc....and no, I don't really even know what all of those are).

There's a lot to be said for specific prayers, but maybe putting my own arbitrary timeline on C's case isn't in the best interest of any of us. It may, in fact, inhibit the work God is doing in us, in DRC, even in our church or family.

I have no way of knowing, but right before the verse mentioned above, there's this one: "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." --Romans 8:25

So, I will keep praying--and I ask that you do, too--that we get her paperwork SOON. ASAP. ANY SECOND.

Sometimes I believe my groans translate like this: "Bring her home in a time frame that absolutely blows our minds and reveals your power and brings you glory."

And for the stuck children of DRC, my prayers--along with literally thousands and thousands of others--are that they are home with their families for Christmas. Because I still believe in the power of prayer, and mostly, in the power of our great God.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

fervent prayers

Consider this your daily reminder to pray big (and pray fervently/passionately) with us.

Specifically...

We are praying for the stuck children of DRC to come home to their adoptive families for Christmas.

We are praying to receive Sweet C's paperwork in our hands this week!

Consider:

"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them."  - Psalm 145:18-19

"Confess your faults to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." - James 5:16 (If you feel as though you are not a "righteous man" who is capable of praying effectually, read on into James 5:17 to learn what it says about Elijah.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

praying big

We continue to Dream Big, but now we are praying even bigger.

Today is Orphan Sunday, and our hearts ache for children who live as orphans all around the world--and often next door without us realizing it. It's so hard to imagine what it's like to live as an orphan, yet our eyes are being opened more every day to the specific trials they face.

Please join us to day in praying for orphans across the globe, and specifically in praying for the children of DRC who are not orphans but continue to live as such. They have been legally adopted and have all paperwork complete except for the Exit Letter they need from DR Congo's DGM office.

We are praying to have them home for Christmas, which might seem like a large task but we know that it's not too large for God. Nothing is too hard for Him; no dream is too big. With His Word He spoke the Earth into existence, so bringing these children home isn't too much for Him. In fact, I think we often ask too little of God.

We tend to think we have everything under control ourselves and don't need Him to work daily in our lives. We have bought into such a sham. The truth is, God is in complete and absolute control, and no matter how many human efforts we make to bring these kids home, nothing happens unless the Lord ALMIGHTY--author and creator--allows it.

So, yes, our prayers that the stuck children of DRC are home for Christmas are big prayers. But we can't just dream big anymore--if we have believed that in the past we have been wrong. We must pray big, too.

On top of that, we are praying specifically that Sweet C's final adoption paperwork gets into our hands THIS WEEK so that we can declare her as our daughter--an orphan no more! This would mean we could finally go meet her and file paperwork at the Embassy.

I am begging God for these things daily and nightly. I am begging you to join in praying big for these precious children and their families daily.

Consider:

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." - Hebrews 4:16 (C's name means mercy...kind of changes the meaning of this verse for me sometimes!)

"You in your mercy have led forth the people which you has redeemed: you have guided them in your strength unto thy holy habitation." - Exodus 15:13

"The Lord thy God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over you with singing." - Zeph 3:17

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:17

(And thank you, Dear Friends. While I am lifting prayers, I am also praising God for those of you who have been so encouraging and generous, who have remembered our hurts and who continue to lift up prayers up on our behalf. I am also praising God for teaching me so much.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

crafting imperfection


Let me start off by telling you that this is not a how-to blog, nor is it a how-to post for that matter. This is more of an "If I can make this, even your four-year-old son can do it" post.

It's also more of a "good enough/better than nothing" than a "I'm Martha Stewart" sort of post.

Now that we've gotten that all out of the way, I made some things. I am not crafty but I sometimes pretend to be. 

First, this paper leaf wreath, which may look familiar from this overly ambitious post. I found the tutorial here, and it was super easy. The link has templates for leaves, but you can create and use use whatever type of leaf you want. I ended up creating some oak leaves on my own. Also, this tutorial used only wire to create the wreath. I used doubled-up cardboard circles that I cut from an Amazon box.


I also learned--the hard way--that you want to be able to manipulate the leaves a bit after they're attached to the circle, so I didn't tighten the wire so tight that I couldn't move them.



Boom boom. Easy peasy. (Well, if I'm honest, it's time consuming. But not difficult.)

As a side note, please do not judge me for my photography skills. They are junk, EXCEPT that I finally learned how to white balance this stinker of a camera. Consider this original picture, without my newfound white balancing skills...:


Compared to this picture, with white balance in effect:


This might mean I need to retake the pics from this post yesterday. Truly terrible photography. 
Next I created a faux chalkboard to place in the formerly empty space in the salvaged door (same one pictured above) where a window used to be. I've had that door on the wall for about a year now with this idea in mind, but due to a fear of ruining something or not doing it perfectly, I hadn't done anything. Forget that. This isn't perfect, but it's better than nothing. 


I used Pages and a chalkboard background to create the lyrical "art." The lyrics are from Need to Breathe's Something Beautiful, which I absolutely LOVE. I had it printed at a shop nearby, then Brad Mod Podged it onto a piece of paint plywood (because the edges show) to place it on the wall behind the door. For the record, Mod Podge doesn't agree with me, nor does it agree with Brad. This is something I will never understand.

Again, neither of these projects are perfect, but they're better than what was there. And here's some free, healthy advice for you: Don't let the fear of not doing something perfectly (or not BEING perfect) prohibit you from doing something. Trust me. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

paint me pretty

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the fact that I hadn't done much crafting or Pinterest pin realization in the months since I've become a stay-at-home mom. I fully intended to get tons of crafting done while also recognizing the fact that I would probably finish one project in half a year.

After acknowledging my lack of crafting, I finally realized I wanted to get some things done around this house. So I broke out the ol' paintbrush, which has become one of my dearest friends throughout the years.

First, I finally finished painting some side tables and mirrors I'd been planning to paint and sell for a while (READ: two years!).

CHECK. SOLD. DONE. (Most importantly, gone from the garage and shed.)

     

Next, I tackled the TV console I bought three years ago with the intention of painting it immediately. (I was busy with other things, okay?)

I took these pics with my phone, so the colors and quality may be lacking, but you get the idea. This is a greeny-beigy-creamy color. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't awesome either.


We have cans of paint in virtually every shade of blue, because I am obsessed and I buy them on clearance when people make mixing mistakes. I also had a little container of green chalk paint, and after seeing that my blue paint was a bit too bright, I mixed some green in to tone it down. (The chalk paint made the painting process much simpler...only two coats instead of sanding+paint+paint+paint.

The LR before: 


And after. I luurrrve it. (Again, apologies for bad iPhone photography. This picture makes it look a bit more blue than it really is. Maybe photography is a skill I will choose to work on at some point...but not today. Toddlers do not allow me to focus on such skills.)



Here's a pic from our nice camera, which I clearly do not know how to use because all pictures were a bit yellowy. (Photography peeps: White balance problem, maybe? Haste? Camera user is dumb?)


And yes, I realize that painting doesn't necessarily mean I am crafty. I have a few other craft projects in mind, and I already made a printed paper leaf wreath and filled in my salvaged door with chalkboard-esque lyrics (which I will share tomorrow), so I think I'm probably ahead of the Lotz craft game for a while. (I average one craft a year, people. It's not very hard to exceed that expectation.)

Cheerio. Enjoy your Thursday!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

stitch fixed (#2)

After some heavy posts last week about this hard adoption process, our long wait, and battles worth fighting, it's time to lighten things up a bit.

I got another Box of Happy at my doorstep a few weeks ago, and it was just about the perfect time for it. I'm not saying that clothes are my sole source of joy and peace or anything, but when you're waiting--and waiting, and waiting--on something big to happen and the timeline is questionable, it sure is nice to get something small and cute right at your door on the precise day you're expecting it to be there.

It also helps to break up the monotony of waiting in expectation without seeing results. (But you'd better believe I fully understand and believe that this wait will be worth it when we get this sweet girl in our arms forever!)

Anyway, I had some credit with Stitch Fix from a few referrals I'd made to friends, so I decided to cash some in for the chance that a Stitch Fix stylist could wow me again.

This was my second fix, and I bought two really cute and fun items from my first fix (details here).

Here's a rundown of the items in my box this time:

Augustus Abstract Print Blouse ($58...I think)

I thought this blouse was so ugly and "not me" when I first saw it in the box. Then I pulled it out and thought, "Huh, not as bad as I thought." I loved the aztec print but was not a huge fan of the black and beigy-brown colors. (I'm a fan of solid neutrals and girlie colors.) However, I put it on and it grew on me again. It was comfortable and very different for me, which I liked. The neckline was cute with a ruced, cuff-type cut at the side and back of my neck and a deep v-neck. I loved those details, but in the end that v-neck was where I decided to pass on this shirt. The deep neck just doesn't work for me, as I knew I would spend an entire day pulling the neck up in discomfort. On top of that, if I had kept this shirt, I would have been out of referral credit and, therefore, lost my excuse to order another Stitch Fix in January. (See...always thinking ahead.) I am glad, however, that this shirt opened my eyes to some new possibilities in blouses. And now I kind of like the black beigy-brownness of it.



Hazel Metallic Striped Knit Top ($48)

I think this was --at least initially--my least favorite pick in the box, but my husband liked it the most. Go figure. To me, it was kind of boring and boxy...something my already boring and boxy body doesn't need to have accentuated. It was a smidge itchy, too. However, I must admit that after I put it on and walked around for a while, it began to grow on me like the blouse above. It would be easy to throw on with anything, which I like. I didn't keep it, but in the end I also didn't hate it.



Abrianna Longsleeve Knit Cardigan ($28)

Allow me to refer you back to the minivan post, in which I admit my affinity for cardigans and all things elderly. I have a cardigan problem, people; they rock my face off and make me feel unapologetically comfortable. Of course I loved this one, and this pretty blue color had me struggling to make a decision. However, I already have a blue cardigan in my closet, and although it is shorter, older and a lighter shade of blue, I had to return this cardigan with hopes that someone who needs it more than I do will get it in the mail and love it. Because I loved it; I just couldn't keep it. 



Duboce Straight Leg (Green) Jean ($58)

I LOVE THESE PANTS! I had some serious doubts that Stitch Fix could find me some pants that would fit well and be comfortable at the same time. After all, I can search FOR DAYS in stores to find a pair of pants that fit well and still go home empty-handed and angry. However, these pants were exceptionally comfy and fit me like a glove. They were even long enough for my lanky legs! I thought it was an impossibility for a company that has never seen me to find pants that fit my awkward combination of width and length, but Stitch Fix did it, and they did it well! I even love the green color; perfect for fall and winter. In my opinion, finding a great pair of pants that fit well is worth the effort and a little bit of extra money. I kept these babies, and I'm thrilled about it.



Blake Tiered Triangle Drop Earrings ($28)

Like a few of the other items in this fix, I did not like these earrings at all when I first saw them in the box. Black and gold were my college colors but not the type of colors I choose to wear on a daily basis. However, once I took these out of the packaging and tried them on, they grew on me. They were pretty cute,  bold while also being delicate. I didn't keep them because I just don't have much to wear with them, but they surprised me and, again, opened my eyes to new pieces of fashion I would have otherwise ignored.


Stitch Fix is a great way to do that because you can control many decision about the kind of clothes you want while also allowing yourself to be open to something the stylists think will work well for you.

After this Fix, I went back to my Stitch Fix settings and changed a few of my style selections and preferences, just to mix it up a bit. Most selections I changed went from conservative/safe to adventurous. I also noted--because I have realized through my experience with Stitch Fix--that I like details...little dainty extras, cutouts, or little lace extras that make clothes unique. I even requested a dress in my next box, so I am excited to see what they select. That's really why I chose to try Stitch Fix in the first place; for a little adventure and new eyes in my wardrobe. And they are definitely doing a good job of expanding my horizons.

So there you have it. Long story short, don't be afraid to try new things. I didn't like much about this Fix box before I tried things on, but by the time I tried everything on I liked everything in the box.

Thus proving my mom's wise reminders to me as we shopped together when I was growing up: "You'll never know until you try it on."

If you'd like to try things on from Stitch Fix, please use my code so I can earn $25 credit. (I am not too proud to ask, just in case you want to try it!) You can go directly to the website with my referral link here. (And for future reference for you, each person you refer to Stitch Fix who receives a "fix" earns you $25 in credit!) 

Stitch Fix basics: The fix costs $20, but that money can be applied toward anything you keep. For example, I got the jeans from this order, which cost $58, but since $20 was already coming out of my pocket no matter what, I see it as though I paid $38 for that pair of sweet jeans. (I recognize that is not Dave Ramsey's way of thinking, but the $20 for the box is kind of for entertainment purposes, anyway.) And really, I paid nothing due to referrals!! There is a discount if you keep everything from you box, and you can even send them a link to your Pinterest boards to give them an idea of your style.