Sunday, August 6, 2017

Another before and after

As of  this past Friday, I'm finished with semester one of five to get my master's degree in teaching and learning!  It's exciting...but it's a lot!  I haven't been in school since 2002, so there was a bit of a learning curve in getting back to it.  I'm supremely thankful that this program started in the summer so that I could kind of get acclimated to (or not have a nervous breakdown about) doing school work again.  
Anyway, now that I'm not up to my eyeballs in school work I thought I'd give you a little peek into our house.  

From the day we bought this house, people on our street and throughout our community have showered us with kind words about all we've done to improve it.  That is after they told us how many people looked at it and thought it was just too much to take on!  
We love it- work and all!  The downtown area and the house really work well for us.  

Our dining room is such a great space!  The bay window and the builtins are just two of the highlights that make it what it is.  

When we first moved here, this is what it looked like:

The whole room was so dark and felt really closed in.  We knew we wanted to start here pretty quickly since we'd be spending a lot of time in this room and this would be an easy fix in comparison to some of the other work that had to be done.  

Here's what it looks like now:

The panoramic view gives you a better idea of what the room actually looks like.  I absolutely love how much lighter and brighter it is!  There's a great deal more to be done inside and outside the house, but I thought I'd give you a idea of how we're sprucing things up.  We're getting there!  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Peace Will Come

In my last post I said that "we" had moved.  That was sort of true, but I also kind of glossed over this one giant piece of information.
My dad, the girls, and I moved to North Carolina.
Chris still has a permanent address in McDonough...for now.
We talked this idea of moving very nearly to death and felt like this really was the right time to move, but Chris is still in school.  He's too close to the end to switch to another school.  He'll finish his program in the spring, and then be able to move here full time.
Until then that equals a lot of driving for him, and more time apart than we'd like.  If someone had asked me if we'd ever be the people to do this, I would've laughed at that foolishness.
All the same, here we are.  What that means is really soaking up our time together and being as intentional as we can with every moment.

During the months before we actually decided to go ahead and move, I'm just not sure that you can imagine the worry/doubt/freakoutishness that went on with trying to make such a big life decision (unless you've done it too). Since God knows who I am and how my brain works, he extended an amazing kindness to me.
On one of the days Chris and I had to be in court, Chris was coming from the station and I was coming from home, so we were going to have to meet there.  We were going to be a little early and decided to meet at a coffee shop across the street from the courthouse.  When I got there and found Chris, he told me that the shop wasn't actually open and that he had walked in on a prayer meeting.  He introduced me to a few of the guys he'd met and we chatted for a few minutes about the coffee shop. Before we left, this one guy said his name was Micah and he really felt like he needed to tell us something.  It was getting a little weird and I was getting a little nervous, but there was no polite way out.
He said he thought we were going through a difficult time, and maybe that's why we were in the coffee shop that day.  Chris and I looked an each other and leaned in to hear what this dude had to say.  He looked at me and said that God had given me a big, bold vision for our family and that Chris was supporting me in it; that he wasn't sure if we had kids or not, but that he thought we were going to be leading in some way...maybe leading children.  The whole conversation lasted maybe a minute or two.  Chris and I were teary-eyed and almost speechless.  We left there and just walked down the sidewalk in silence until I was like, "hey, so maybe we should talk about what just happened!?!"  It was sort of surreal.  I'm not a person who asks God to give me a sign, but man- I needed that one!
After that, it was easier to go ahead.  Make no mistake- every step has not been easy, but it has been doable.  Even when it's been difficult, there's been peace.
One night last week I was reading Audrey's Bible to her before bed and laughed out loud at what I saw.  She asked me what was funny.  I just told her that God has a sense of humor.

Even when I'm overwhelmed (which happens more than I'd like), I'm thankful.
I know that we're in exactly this season because this is where we're supposed to be.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Season of Change

Just to say that our family has been in a season of change feels like a gross understatement. 
In the last six months, the way our family looks and operates has undergone some construction. 
Between February and September we had six court dates for Christian. In each of those we continued to do as we were asked, while trying to help others see the severity of his needs. During the last of those court dates our parental rights to Christian were terminated. This was simultaneously a blow to our family and a relief to know that now he can get the services he needs through the state. It costs approximately $700 per day for Christian to remain in the program he's been in for the last year and a half. That's an astronomical amount of money, but it means 24-hour care. We are still able to see him and talk to him as we were before, and he's completely aware of what's going on. Chris and I made a decision along time ago to be as upfront as possible with him. 
Our family doesn't match the textbook definition, and we're ok with that. This has been a really difficult situation...but sometimes that's the way life goes. In the last year I listened to a sermon series titled Brand: New by Andy Stanley. Maybe it sounds silly, but I felt like my eyes were opened to this idea that our love for Jesus is authenticated in our love for other people. That felt so concrete and easy for me to understand. At the same time I started to feel ashamed that while I love Christian very much, I can't meet his needs. What does that say about my love for Jesus? I'm still wrestling with that regularly. I can only take comfort in knowing that God knew all of this before we met our boy. I believe that somehow all this will work together for our good and God's glory. 
It's our prayer that we'll be able to remain in contact with Christian and that at some point our family will be able to come back together. 
In case that wasn't enough change, we also moved out of state at the end of August and I've gone back into teaching. 
So. Much. Change. 
Some exciting, some scary, some both.

We took a page out of the Fixer Upper book, and bought the worst house on the best street. 
The first picture is from before we bought it.  There was so much growth, it was difficult to see the whole house.  The color (as lovely as it is) is more true to life in the second shot.  That one is from yesterday.  There's A LOT to be done.  It's slow-going, but getting better all the time. The painters are due out next week and I'm super excited to see the results!

I've been a classroom teacher. I've been a parent. Now I'm both…and that has proven to be pretty overwhelming. It's been six weeks, and I finally feel like that's getting better too.
Finding a balance is no joke

We prayed and talked...and prayed and talked…and then just for fun we prayed and talked some more. After almost a year of that, God shined a light to help us know we were making the right decision. 
More on that next time
For now, please continue to pray for all of us as we find our new normal. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

After a particularly difficult week last week, my sister called to say she and the kids were coming down for a quick weekend visit. I really, really needed that.  


The message series we've been in for the last month has been nothing short of amazing. It has given me a new perspective. 
One of the main takeaways is that our love for God is authenticated in our love for other people. Not a new idea, certainly, but one of which I needed reminding. 
Then, there's this pesky little question that keeps seeping in to so many of my relationships: 
What does love require of me? 
-with my husband
-with my kids
-with my family and friends 
-when I don't get my way 
-when I'm tired
-when people won't just do what I tell them!

I needed this. 
Right now. 
I need this light shining on how I'm loving my people and how my people are loving me...and what that means about our love for Jesus. 
After a couple of days with my sister and a really beautiful Sunday, I'm ready for this week.

I could not possibly do it justice, so if you are interested you should go to and watch. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Once all the issues with Christian's mental health really started to come to light, somewhere in the darkest part of me, I began to question whether or not adopting him had been the right thing. I wish that wasn't true, but it is. I questioned why God would have let our hearts be so heavy to be parents only to give us a child with problems we didn't understand. I remembered all the times we had told the miracle story of how we got our babies; of how I was so filled with happiness and pride at being given the gift of being a mother. On some level it felt like a sick joke. We had boasted over and over of God's goodness only to wind up right in the middle of a mess that we didn't make and didn't know how to fix.  I'm unspeakably thankful that God loves me in the midst of that kind of ugliness.  I've spent an embarrassing amount of time wallowing in why this is happening to our family.  To add insult to injury, my sister moved away so I just slathered on another layer of self pity and have worn it around as though it was an indispensable accessory.  Bleh.
I told Chris that I don't normally make New Year's resolutions.  I heard numerous people talking about how the start of a new year made them feel reflective, and I just thought "nah." 
On the way home from being out of town for the new year, I started to feel like I should do some fasting and praying about a few things.  While I still haven't exactly made resolutions, I feel a bit like I've come up for air.  
My devotion for today talked about the fact that when God wants to give you the confidence to complete the tasks ahead of you, he doesn't tell you how awesome you are.  Moses had been wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years, and then God tells him to go confront Pharaoh.  
He asks God, "who am I that I should go?"  
God answers, "I will be with you."  
Whoa.  I found such clarity in reading this today...and believe me when I tell you I needed it!  God's response to Moses had absolutely nothing to do with Moses and everything to do with God.  
Being chosen for this path I'm on doesn't mean that I have a list of qualifications that make me great for it.  What it means, is that God is with me.  All that I need comes from that.  
The hard times aren't over.  We're still in what feels like a very precarious position.  Just a few weeks ago, Christian's insurance started asking questions about whether or not he really needs this level of care...even though he's still displaying all the same behavior patterns.  We still don't know exactly what comes next.  
We are here.  God is with us.  I have to strive to remember this every day.  
Please continue to pray for our family.

{As an aside, if you are looking for a great devotion app you should try First5.}

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Birth Story

Even though it's easy to tell other people not to worry, it's not so easy to take that advice.  I knew our sweet baby would come at exactly the right time, but at some point my pregnant brain decided I knew what was best.  I should have been able to decide when the time was right.  I had been to my 39-week appointment that Thursday and was given the gift of an induction date!  My due date was the 10th and the induction was scheduled for the 12th...but my doctor of choice was on call the weekend before that.  I fell into the trap.  I did all the things I thought should make me go into labor.  You guessed it:  no labor.  I woke up angry at God Sunday and Monday because things weren't going my way.  Silly, but true.  God has such an interesting way of speaking into us what we need when we need it.  This is from the devotion I did that Monday morning:

"All of us are waiting on something, often wondering if God has forgotten us."
"This very minute He's working for His glory and for your good.  Though circumstances say otherwise, God is going to come through, on schedule, fulfilling His long-appointed plans for you.  Don't give up before the time is right."

It was exactly what I needed that morning.  Just a little reminder that I'm not in charge and that although my life feels pretty messy, He has plans for me.

That was Monday morning.  I had contractions all day as I had been having for weeks!  That night I was timing my contractions, but finally decided to go on to bed.  I think I had been asleep for about 20 minutes when my water broke.  Chris was still awake and watching tv, but it was pretty funny to see him jump up out of the bed!  In those moments between jumping up out of the bed and getting to the hospital, I had the shakes pretty bad just from nerves.  Chris held me close and prayed for us before we left home- he's a keeper!
When I got to the hospital, they got me into a room pretty quickly and determined that I wasn't telling jokes and was actually in labor.
They gave me an epidural at around 5:00 Tuesday morning and said I was dilated to 5 centimeters.
At about 8:00 or so I started telling them I think it's go time.  Maybe they hear lots of women say that when it's not true, or maybe I just seemed like I didn't know what I was talking about.  I don't know, but they checked me again and decided maybe I was right.
While the nurse is checking things out she says to me very calmly that she doesn't think the baby is head down...could I just hold on a moment while she gets the doctor.  Oh sure.  I'll just be here.
The doctor comes in (even though she's not the one I thought was right, undoubtedly she was) and confirms- yep, that is not the head.  Now, while I am normally a pretty rational person L&D is not a great place to showcase that!  I say, "so I guess you'll need to cut me."  Insert wide-eyed pregnant lady emoji here.  I immediately look at Andrea and tell her this is all her fault!  Just four months previous, she also had an unexpectedly breech baby!
Oh, no.  It's no problem, the doctor tells me.  The baby is very close.  Chris and Andrea would likely be able to tell the story more clearly, but I remember asking anyone that would listen if I should try to deliver or go for the C-section.  I ask if this is even ok; to deliver a baby this way??!!  There could only have been a few minutes between that and our sweet Lily coming into this world.  She did not come as I expected, but all was well.  The delivery was scary there just for a minute, but very quick and not bad at all.

This sweet baby is such an unexpected gift!
At a year, she can walk but doesn't want to most of the time.  I mean, why would she if someone will just carry her?!
She eats and sleeps very well.
It seems that either she's smiling all over herself, or she's getting down to the business with those eyebrows- not so much with the in between.
She can clap and wave.
Any cabinets or drawers that are open or unlocked are like some kind of treasure that must immediately be strewn out all over the floor.
She's beginning to climb!
She nods her head yes while making a very affirmative kind of doesn't seem like that should be happening yet and makes me laugh almost every time.

I'm so thankful that I get to be her Mama!

Monday, May 18, 2015

one foot in front of the other

The last time I posted an update about Christian was back in November.  The staff at the behavioral health hospital he was in had begun talking to us about discharging him before the end of the year.  I had a lot of mixed emotions about it.  When you have a child that is capable of what we've seen from Christian, you can't just get a sitter like you can for most kids.  I was so overwhelmed by the possibility of him being home before I had the baby and not knowing where he and Audrey would be while we were in the hospital.  Add to that, I didn't feel like he was ready to come home.  I shared my concerns with his therapist, and she assured me that he was doing very well.  She told us to just continue reinforcing all the coping skills he had learned and make sure he was attending his therapy appointments once he was back home.
He was discharged December 19th and the first rumblings came Christmas Day.  He wasn't ready and I knew it.  A lot of kids throw temper tantrums when they are toddlers, but generally as they get older those behaviors wane and with Christian we are continuing to see just the opposite.  When he doesn't get what he wants; when things don't go his way, he throws a fit.  Only since he's not a toddler and has some serious rage, that fit doesn't just mean crying or laying in the floor- it means he also hits and kicks, spits and tries to bite -just to name a few.  And now he's added in trying to get at both his sisters during these episodes.  
We had him home for 30 days before he was admitted for a short stay in a crisis unit. A couple of weeks later he had another. All total it was 60 days before he was approved to return to the hospital where he spent most of last year. 
Once he was settled back in there and we started talking about how to move forward, it was very clear pretty quickly that we needed to change paths.  A little over a month ago we moved Christian to a new facility.  So far, things are going very well there.  When I say that, I don't mean that he is all of a sudden getting better.  What I mean is that the staff there seems to have a much better grip on what is and is not acceptable behavior.  They are seeing what we've seen and are working with us and with Christian to try to move in the right direction, rather than glossing over his aggression...or pretending like taking deep breaths will make it all better.
This is still the most difficult thing we've ever done.  There are days when I try to remind God that this isn't what I signed up for.  Days when I feel like it's too much, I'm too tired, and I can't do this.  In those moments I'm not at my best, but God knows the condition of my heart.  He knows that even when I'm complaining or crying or yelling, for that matter, that I still know His word is true.  
He loves us.
He has plans for us...plans that are for our good and His glory.
For now we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

Today our boys turns 8.  
We continue to ask for your prayers for his health and healing, and prayers for wisdom for us know know how to best take care of all three of our babies.

Last year after I made all this public, someone said to me that it was difficult to believe there was anything wrong when our pictures all looked so happy.  Just know that we take pictures when things are going well.  We appreciate those pictures so that we have happy memories to look back on when things are not going so well.
Two weeks ago when we went for family therapy, Christian didn't want to discuss anything difficult.  He turned over the furniture and threatened to punch me in the face.  
Yesterday we had a really good visit.  We shared some cupcakes and loved on each other.  
Those are the days we take the pictures.

"For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."
Isaiah 43:19