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. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

battles worth fighting

Everyone seems to be fighting a battle of some sort. Some battles seem small, others monumental. All are equally under the command of the Lord God who reigns and who has promised to fight for us. 

It is not lost on us that there are other people fighting battles, too. We are battling to bring our daughter home soon, despite the negative circumstances. Other families have already been waiting YEARS to bring children home from DRC. Friends are battling to create permanence for at-risk children. Others are battling to end poverty in places where children search for food by digging through piles of trash in their dump-community.

One friend, in particular, is battling cancer. And she is doing it with a gracious, steadfast, unrelenting spirit. Missy is young...29 to be exact. She is an amazing young woman, a faithful Christ-follower, and a fellow adoptive mom to two young boys. She has just been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer that has spread into her lymph nodes, and she is sharing her unedited and honest story with the world for the glory of God. Please read her story here, and be encouraged and challenged by her strength. 

Also, PLEASE consider supporting her through prayer and finances by purchasing a t-shirt. All funds will go directly to Missy and her family as she battles through and out of this nasty (and costly) disease. (If you attend our church, I think we need to plan a Team Missy shirt day to show her how much we love and support her!)

Keep fighting. 

Image from http://likemorningsun.blogspot.com. Quote from Exodus 14:14

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

the wait goes on

A short adoption update...

Sweet C is probably officially our daughter by now, based on the timing of when we received word that her Adoption Decree has been completed and the fact that the Act of Adoption (the final court ruling) can take place 30 days after he Adoption Decree. 

However, we know nothing for sure. 

We have been waiting quite a while--and it can take quite a while--to get the final court paperwork in order to book an appointment to file paperwork at the Embassy. This will be the beginning of the investigation portion of the adoption, one of the biggest steps leading up to the final step, the Exit Letter. Exit Letters, as you probably know if you've been following this blog, are currently suspended for adopted children. 

We have heard that positive things are happening in DRC that may lead to a lift on the Exit Letter suspension, but we have no way of knowing when that will actually happen. This is why children who legally have families continue to wait to be joined with them. This is also why some families have moved, or are planning to move, to DRC to be with their children (which is completely legal and awesome, as the Exit Letter is the only thing holding children back from being with families in their own countries). 

Please continue to pray for wisdom and for everyone involved, steadfast hearts for adoptive parents, softened hearts in DRC, favor with judges, attorneys, rulers and leaders in DRC, the children (particularly those who are extremely sick and in need of advanced medical care now), health and safety for all, and that God would reveal His power in this situation by bringing children home to their parents very soon. (Specifically for our case, we would appreciate prayers for a speedy delivery of paperwork that will allow me to travel to meet C and file paperwork to expedite the process.)

I wish you could see those eyes. They would melt you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

one year ago

One year ago, our lives were changed forever.

We had begun our second adoption process, and we had a referral for twins in DRC, a boy and a girl named Omba and Shako. They lived in a remote jungle village in the center of DRC, a place that only received visitors via days-long journeys on roads flanked by broken-down cars that couldn't be removed--begging the question, "where did the people go?"--or flights with only a 90% survival rate (a good percentage grade in Molecular Biology but not a good survival rate).

We knew--we still know--we were called to adopt. We have done it before. Our first process, a domestic adoption, was hard. It twisted, bent and stripped our faith to bare threads, replacing the weak muscle fibers of faith with bigger faith fibers that could withstand more pressure, more uncertainty, more discomfort, even more heartache.

The first difficult adoption process gave us this child, a smiling beam of glory who knows no strangers and teaches us how to experience new levels of joy every day.


We rejoiced with hallelujahs when we got the final call: "You can finally finalize his adoption. His future with you is no longer in jeopardy."

Surely, we thought when we began our second adoption, this adoption won't be as difficult as our first adoption.

We have learned, however, that our strengthened faith fibers are helping us through a second difficult adoption. The first adoption process built them up, but they have again been used, broken down, and built back up even stronger multiple times over the last year-and-a-half of this adoption process.

Because one year ago those twins--who we were already loving and naming and envisioning running up and down our hallway--died.

They died because their village and orphanage didn't have clean water. It's so hard to understand how that is even possible when we live in a country where we can buy water in any quantity we desire in any gas station we encounter, seemingly always within approximately a quarter of a mile.

Our adoption agency jumped in to do their part to serve this desolate area in DRC by raising funds to provide clean water filtration systems to the village, clean beds for the children and cleaning supplies for the orphanage workers to use, thus insuring health and safety were priorities.

And now, one year later, despite the best efforts of our agency and hundreds of people who donated to the cause, it seems that the orphanage still isn't in great shape. According to a fellow adoptive parent who has children in the orphanage, it is understaffed, dreary, unsafe, unclean, and lacking in hope. Older children tend to young children. Children get one meal a day. None of them are getting hugs or kisses from an adult who cares deeply for them. (I should mention here that none of this is our agency's fault. I have no idea where to place blame for this, so I won't.)

And all of this is happening while children are unable to come home to their forever families. It's been 13 months and DGM in DRC still isn't issuing Exit Letters to children whose adoptions are complete. Had those twins survived, they would have lived a dreary life in their orphanage. They would have been hungry. They would have craved love and affection without even knowing it. They would been severely malnourished and closed off from the outside world. (And many children are still living in that hellish version of life...a tragedy in and of itself.)

So here we are, one year later and in the midst of this wait that sometimes seems as if it will never end. My prayers have often become stagnant repetitions of one or more of the following:
  • "Dear God, please bring C home soon. Please keep her safe and healthy. Please help her know that we love her." 
  • "Please bring our final paperwork to us this week so I can go hold her soon." 
  • "Please bring home the hundreds of children who are stuck in DRC. Please soften the hearts of those in DRC who are making decisions about these adopted children. Please be with waiting parents." 
  • Sometimes, it's this: "Lord, if you're not going to soften the hearts of leaders, then please harden them and send them plagues until they let your children go. Then they will know without a doubt that you are the God who reigns over the whole Earth!"
I have seen many DRC adoptive parents lose their heads. Sober-mindedness is scarce, and emotions run the gamut from certainty that children will come home soon to giving up the fight completely. I don't blame for being emotionally ragged; I am quite ragged myself, some days.

I have tried to stay away from negativity. I fully trust God with my everything. I know He is not surprised by any of the craziness in DRC, by the loss, by our long wait, by the human uncertainty. I know He is sovereign and in complete control. Thanks to a study of Moses and the Israelites in captivity, I know human discouragements and limitations do not discourage or limit God. Full immersion in His Truth has helped me keep my head.

But Friday...Friday hit me hard. There was disheartening discussion in a Facebook group full of DRC adoptive parents. People are discouraged. Some have been waiting two or three years to bring children home. It seems that we have hit walls on every side, and glimmers of hope are few and far between. Hope was small. And when talk turns negative, it's hard to resist the magnetic pull.

I tried not to think about the discouragement spewed out on the walls of the Facebook community. However, as I was returning home from a workout that tore up my muscles from every angle and made my head spin, my heart knew--finally acknowledged--it was torn up and weary, too.

Bethany Dillon's Hallelujah began playing on my iPod, and I bawled my eyes out while absolutely surrendering this adoption into God's hands.

"Who can hold the stars and my weary heart? Who can see everything?"

Like my torn up, beaten down, broken down muscles, my faith fibers have absolutely been torn, beaten and broken in our first adoption and in this one. But muscle fibers are strengthened only after being broken down. And focus is clearest only after experiencing a spinning head.

I must tell you now that I fully believe that God will bring Sweet C home to us, and I believe the hundreds of other children who are waiting to join their families will come home, too. I also KNOW God Almighty is, always has been, and always will be in complete control of this situation. I pray He is setting the stage for His glory to be magnified even further.

But He might not bring her home to us, and although we would be badly broken, that doesn't change His love for us or for her.

"Hallelujah! Whatever's in front of me, help me to sing hallelujah."

Hallelujah. We are changed. We will never forget those twins, who we loved from across the world and who helped us understand that God sees the good in broken things.

Omba and Shako, whom we love and will never forget.

Hallelujah. Our faith continues to be strengthened, made new and refocused daily.

Hallelujah, we are weak but strong.

Hallelujah, He is a God who loves Sweet C even more than we do.

Hallelujah. He always wins. He will always receive glory.



**Come back tomorrow for a more Sweet C-specific update and a prayer that has touched my heart and will be on my lips until these precious adopted children are home. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

when waiting isn't a game {foster care guest post}

Today, a personal story from my friend and fellow adoptive mom, Megan Ward. Megan and her husband have completed a private domestic adoption and are in the midst of fostering two precious kiddos who deserve permanence and stability in their lives. Please read her words and put yourself in her spot as you pray about how you may be able to be a part of the solution...
____________________________________________________



Having completed a private infant adoption with our son Logan in 2012, in 2013 we began our adventure into foster care. We were set to begin our STARS training (for foster parents) in June of 2013. But one Friday afternoon in May we received a life changing phone call and by 5pm that evening our family of 3 became a family of 5.

Miss B (2) and Mr. K (17.5 mo) have been in our care as a kinship placement for almost 18 months. They came into care due to failure to thrive and neglect. This is Miss B's second time in care. We brought Mr. K home from the hospital as a premie weighing 4.5lbs.

We initially thought this was a short term placement... But as the months ticked by and court dates came and went, we realized this was for the long-haul and began to realize that the process is a long one. Too long.

First, I should say that I am thankful for a system that seeks to preserve families and give second chances. I do think that a percentage of biological parents receive the help and the resources from a place of brokenness, and the chance of losing their children is a wake up call.

A large factor in the difficulty and lengthy time in finding permanency for children in care is that the team (made up of attorneys, juvenile officers, therapists, parent aides, and case workers) is constantly changing.

In our kids' case, we have had 3 different parent aides, 2 different juvenile officers and 5 (FIVE!!!) different case workers. In less than 18 months. This is largely due to the high turnover of these positions that are extremely overworked, difficult, draining, time consuming, and low-paying. Truly, we feel those on our team desire to seek the best for Miss B and Mr. K; however, every time there is a turnover, things come to a halt and then we have to take a few steps back and essentially restart with a new plan.

Unfortunately, due to the high number of children in foster care and the limited number of resources and foster homes for these children to go to, the standards for biological parents to regain custody of their children are bare minimum. Many biological parents can tread water in their case plan just enough to keep the case on hold while the team tries to figure how to proceed.

Meanwhile, the precious children in care are experiencing stability and consistency for perhaps the first time, as well as forming strong bonds and hopefully a healthy and loving parent/child relationship with a foster family.

Most foster families understand that the goal of foster care is to reunite children with a fit and willing parent. It is also part of our job to support and encourage this initial goal. And we did. And we do.

HOWEVER... in the best interest of vulnerable children, time is of the essence. States vary in their laws regarding a timeline for termination of parental rights. In Missouri, law states that a child shall not remain in care of the state for more than 15 of 22 months. This law recognizes that beyond that time frame, more damage will be done by allowing the children to remain in limbo with no permanency.

Unfortunately, there are many loopholes regarding these laws and often they are completely disregarded by the courts because they are not strongly enforced in a worn-out, overwhelmed, outdated, and understaffed system.

Back to our kids... They have been in our care for nearly 18 months of a 22 month period. As two- and one-year-olds, our home and family are all they know and remember. But there is no permanency in sight, be that with us or with a fit/willing bio parent.

It is extremely important to say that for us personally, ultimately our trust is not in laws or failed systems... regardless of the outcome in our family's situation and the kids' case, we trust fully in the Lord and His plan and purpose in our lives and in the lives of these precious children.

We cannot rely on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5). We recognize that His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9) and that He directs our steps (Prov. 16:9) and His purpose prevails (Prov. 19:21).

We also feel called to advocate as foster parents and as Christians that we do need to care for the vulnerable and needy (Psalm 82:3-4). That we need to love and care for the orphan and widow (James 1:27). That we need to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Please prayerfully consider how The Lord may be asking you to step up.

Some ideas....

1) Sign petition to require states to enforce the Adoption and Safe Families Act.  https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/encourage-timely-permanence-children-foster-care-enforcing-adoption-and-safe-families-act-1997/cxBFBpNj

2) Become a CASA worker to advocate for kids in foster care.
http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.5301295/k.BE9A/Home.htm

3) Become a foster parent. http://www.adoptuskids.org/for-families/how-to-foster



Thank you, Megan, for sharing part of your story and your heart. I have watched as Megan attends court hearing after court hearing in order for the team to come to a conclusion about these children. She is steadfast in her faith and trusts that God has a sovereign plan, but I don't think she would disagree if I told you that it is extremely taxing and emotionally draining to wait, not knowing what the future holds for these precious children she loves as her own.

If it were easy, everyone would be foster parents. However, everyone is NOT doing it. In fact, very few people are providing hands-on help for foster children. Please consider how you may help this situation. May I suggest a great, small first step? Sign the above petition (which seeks to relieve some of the unnecessary waiting time and instability) or become a trained respite provider to give foster parents a much-needed break they may not otherwise be able to take.

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on our DRC adoption

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

terrific twos

I hope I don't regret this post after putting it into circulation, but I have to tell you some things about Brecken...

He has arrived at a good place in life.

Finally.

Clearly, we have ALWAYS adored Brecken and treasured this little "diva" of a man. However, if I'm being completely honest, I must tell you that he was a bit tricky for a while there. He liked to be held every second. He did not like new people. He screamed and cried. A lot. He was impatient. (Exhibit A: He could not even wait the full 9 months in the womb.) He was often inconsolable. He hardly spoke, because he couldn't.

But he is figuring this stuff out. I think a huge part of his maturity is his growing ability to express himself. He can speak in full sentences now--a huge increase from just a few short months ago. He can express his opinion without kicking and screaming. He can choose which shoes to wear (usually cowboy boots, because he can put them on himself). He sings--so loud--just because he can. He jumps, and jumps, and jumps all over everything.

He can let go of me in the nursery at church and--finally--understand that I always come back.

I even received an unsolicited compliment about him from his Bible Study helper the other day. Hot diggity. (Surely I have received a compliment about him from a nursery leader before, but I don't recall it.) He used to cry, and cry, and cry when I left him with others. And now I'm getting compliments!

I don't mean to paint a bad picture of Brecken when he was a baby and young toddler. He was a tiny baby, with needs that needed to be met and monitoring devices to be worked around, rearranged, and reset, and then he was a small toddler with needs and wants that he couldn't express and a Mommy who was often gone and--even more often--stressed.

But now, in his "terrible twos," I would put him pretty close to terrific. He is his own man with his own way of doing things, that's for sure, but we are celebrating that and hoping it continues.

In my dad's words, after seeing the following picture, he is "unswayed by public opinion. He's his own man and not seeking the approval and acclaim of the general population. I'm so proud!"



I'm not saying he is a perfect angel. I'm not saying he still doesn't carry a blankie around our house and want to be held often. I'm not saying he doesn't cry about silly things like any two-year-old. I'm not saying he doesn't occasionally let his temper get the best of him.

In fact, people who know us in real life...please know that you will still see him acting like a true diva at times, you will still see me chasing him around asking for/demanding obedience, and you will still see him lock up around strangers! He is still a second child. (There is evidence about second children being extra tricky, right? My independent research/polling and observation of friends indicates this to be true.)

But he is beginning to enjoy his growing independence and abilities, and for that we are all grateful and excited.

To you, Brecken, we are all so proud of the little man you always have been and who you are becoming.  

And to you, mamas with tricky babies, I promise it will get better (and if not, you will get better at dealing with it). :o)

(I'm just hoping this post doesn't jinx us and guaranty a rapid turnaround for the worst!)

**More on Brecken here, here, here (explains his "diva-ness") and here (birth story).

Friday, October 10, 2014

powerless

It's not a great feeling, this powerlessness.

I suppose that's why I've attempted to distract myself with things like Pinterest projects, Stitch Fix, detailed daily plans and watching Parenthood...all to avoid this powerless feeling.

I may have hinted at this feeling before. But let me lay it out for you now.

We have been waiting months for that final court document that says, "C is your DAUGHTER." We know two important documents are complete in our case, but we don't yet have them from DRC. Because those two documents are have been complete for some time, we should have--by now--passed the 30-day waiting period called the "Certificate of Non-Appeal." This means we should have a completed Act of Adoption--a completed legal adoption--by now.

But we don't have it, at least not in our hands. We need all of those documents in order for me to travel to DRC, file paperwork for an investigation, and--most importantly--meet our little girl.

And I can't do a thing about this extended wait. I am powerless.

Two of my friends, as well as my grandpa, have recently been diagnosed with cancer, the dreaded C word that has the power to destroy bodies, even entire families.

And I can't do a thing about it.

Children in Liberia watch as EVERY PERSON in their family dies of Ebola.

Again, I can't do a thing about it.

I went to a luncheon for I Pour Life, a nonprofit that empowers people help themselves out of extreme poverty and dire circumstances. We watched a video about a huge population of lepers in Ethiopia who were forced to live outside of the city borders IN THE TRASH DUMP. I watched as children dug through trash bins to find food--crumbs of bread, old bananas, rotting vegetables--to put into their starving bellies. Then those same kids turned to the camera and smiled with the brightest eyes you'll ever see. They were just happy to be seen.

And I wanted to crawl over to the corner of that room and bawl my eyes out.

Because I feel powerless. So powerless. I have no skills, no expertise that can help anyone in any of these situations. And maybe I'm not supposed to; I really don't know.

I can't reconcile these things that are happening. WHY this long wait? WHY the stuck kids in Congo? Why cancer? Why Ebola? Why extreme poverty with no hope?

It's all so hard to understand. But maybe I'm not supposed to understand it.

When Moses felt powerless, He asked God "WHY?"

God said, "You will see what I will do...I am the Lord."

Just learning to trust that God is in charge, because I am powerless.

Monday, October 6, 2014

justice

This officially happened today. It's an alert from the US Department of State regarding adoptions in DRC. It's nothing new, just a warning against pursuing an adoption from DRC. It doesn't really apply to us, as we are already a long journey into this difficult adoption, and we won't stop until 20 doors have closed heavily in our faces. 

The alert is just telling prospective adoptive parents to steer clear of DRC for their own hearts' sakes. And I agree, despite the fact that thousands of children in DRC desperately need families. It's hard to be a complete family when there's an ocean between parents and your kids.

We are still waiting to pass court. It's been almost a year of waiting on this one step. Court processes have dramatically slowed down since the announcement of the Exit Letter Suspension on September 25, 2013. And now, over a year after that announcement, we still don't know when the suspension will be lifted.

But we are remaining strong, not because we are strong people but because we serve a strong God who spoke the world into existence and who is not the least bit surprised about this exit letter situation. I truly believe God will reveal His power in this situation.

Plenty of leaders are fighting on our behalf and on behalf of the hundreds of children who have been separated from their families for far too long. These leaders and adoptive parents will not give in, and--furthermore--I am committed to being sober-minded based on God's promises and the continual fulfillment of those promises throughout His Word.

And I came across this gem in Luke the other day:

18 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Nothing I know leads me to believe that leaders in DRC (who are stalling the homecoming of children to their legal adoptive parents) fear God. Therefore, it's reassuring to know that although I pray for them every day--specifically that their hearts would be softened for the sake of the children--it doesn't matter what they believe about God.

God brings about justice for His people "who cry out to him day and night." And there are plenty of effectual, fervent prayers going to God's ears every hour of every day and night. Certainly, He hears us, and this Scripture says He will see that we get justice.

Also, it doesn't hurt that the widow in this story wore down the judge and he finally gave her justice. If nothing else, please God, allow us to wear down the leaders who are stalling the process.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

escaping marmville

SHEW! I officially escaped marmville--aka the minivan life--last week, but only by the skin of my teeth.

Again, if you drive a minivan, please do not be offended by my dislike of them. I thoroughly enjoy riding in them, but my disdain for owning a minivan is a personal issue. I've basically been acting like a 46-year-old since the age of 17, so I feel the need to do at least one thing that will re-enter me into a youthful existence.

So we bought an SUV. No minivan for me, at least for now.

For the record, I did finally break down and admit that I was totally okay with getting a minivan if he thought it was best. We even took an in-depth look into them...apparently the Honda Odyssey is the way to go, in case you're in the market. Virtually EVERY PERSON we heard from said they LOVED their Odyssey. I had given in, and I was ready to eat my words and love a minivan. (Also, a reputable source says that girls who drive Hondas are always the cutest. So there's that.)

And then I got a glorious email that saved me from impending doom. Someone I had emailed a week earlier about an SUV wrote back for a second time. The first time, she said someone was going to look at it the next day, so I assumed it had sold. Not so. This second email said it was still available, and she asked if we still wanted to take a look.

Yes. Yes, I did want to take a look. I just had to convince Bradlee that he wanted to take a look, too. Long story short, the price was right and the SUV will hold plenty of people or things.

I even tested it out recently with my two boys, my friend's baby boy and my cousin's baby girl (who the boys refer to as "The Queen"). Everybody fits with room to spare!

Note: Brody is a GREAT helper!
So there you have it. I barely escaped Marmville...at least for now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

the plan {an update, part 2}

I'll pick up where I left off yesterday with a continuation of my update about life at home. I had all sorts of plans about how that would go, but now that I'm getting the hang of it I'm learning which plans are important enough to follow through with.

Remaining plans I did discuss yesterday include the following:

Teaching Brody to read novels: Brody is a smart kid, but boy is he disinterested in learning letters! I should probably be more persistent in teaching him or more creative in motivating him, but so far I believe he has mastered the letters "O" and "S." That's it. Fail. But I think he'll get there soon.

Teaching Brecken to speak in full sentences: SUCCESS!! Seriously, as of about a month ago, Brecken has finally begun speaking in full--sometimes hilarious--sentences. Sentences like, "I go see Emmy, 'k?" and, after jumping out from a hiding spot, "Here it is! Me!!" We still have some work to do, but for this premie kid with a mind of his own, I'd say we are doing okay. I must also say that with the improvement of his language skills has also come some reprieve from his crying fits. I get it. When you can't communicate with words (verbal or signed), what other methods do you have?

Decorating the house like a Pinterest board: Hmmm. I dyed some curtain fabric yesterday. I made a pom garland for our barnwood headboard. There are pumpkins on our front porch (better than last year). We officially have a playroom (with a rug, the extent of its decor). I painted some furniture. That is all. But none of these--or the other 174 projects--have happened yet.

great post on affordable RUGS.patterned garlands


Crafts: I have started 37 projects. None are finished. That is all.

Fun with my friend's baby: Yes. This has happened and we love playing outside. This kid is so cute and so fun! We loved him immediately; however, it took little sweet K-dawg a little while to warm up to me.




DIY lawn games and sensory activities: We got a water table (which I count as a sensory activity) and a cool bike that transforms from a tricycle to an inline bike with wide wheels to a skinnier inline bike. The boys have spent HOURS riding that bike and their trikes down the driveway in their underwear. That's good enough, right?

Packing lunches for Bradlee: I have found that this is completely unnecessary.

Family time around a fire pit: We have had some family time, but for the most part Brad and I are still trying to figure out the schedule. This is not a big deal because we have never had a set schedule anyway (as in, on Mondays we do this, on Tuesdays we do this...). We have had some way less stressful evenings and weekends, and for that we are extremely thankful. We've even spent some extra time around a bonfire. Let me tell ya, s'mores are more enjoyable on a relaxed schedule.

BSF study time: So far, so good. 

Finish reading the Bible in a year: I have fallen a bit behind on this since beginning BSF, but I still have time to get it done.

Watch Parenthood: CHECK! (I do this while blogging and folding clothes, ok? Don't judge.)

Extra things I hadn't planned to do but am now doing:
  • Watching my cousin's boys on Mondays (in addition to K-dawg's regular and planned visits in the afternoons) and watching her youngest on Thursdays. This is FUN because her boys are very close in age to my own, and the boys have a blast all day and absolutely wear themselves out. It's a win-win, but there are a few hours on Mondays when there are FIVE boys under four years old going crazy in my house. Chaotic to say the least, but fun, too. And we always sleep well on Monday nights.
  • Grocery shopping with a budget. This is hard. 
  • Sweeping the floors 12 times a day. Toddlers, people. 
Also, there is a lot of paying off the deck involved. Boys...

And there you have it. Overall, I think it's going well, but not necessarily as planned. And that's ok.