Posted in Hope, life thoughts, my heart, Overwhelmingly Thankful

The Gift of Another Moment

Settling back in after a trip to South Africa finds me sitting in a quiet napping house with newly mopped floors. The week’s homeschool lessons are complete on this freeing Friday and the new trampoline is all set up to the squealing delight of four little girls.

Today our neighbor’s chicken decided to begin hatching her seven or eight eggs under our little “garden of Eden” tree. Little did mother hen know that we would be returning home with a pouncing seven month old puppy when she laid her happy little eggs under that quiet tree. You know mother hen was thankful I packed the toddler play pen gate in the crate so she and her little chirpers can live to see another day behind their fence of protection.

After completing week four of homeschooling things are starting to feel a little less crazy. We’re still working out the dynamics of six rambunctious girls in our home (with the addition of our two friends to our school day), but we are enjoying learning together. Patterns are sinking in so I no longer have to be everywhere at once. That right there is lovely, friends. Now I only need to multi-task two to three of these ladies at a time. That’s much more manageable. 😉

I’ve found myself in a state of quiet lately. We have been working through news of dear colleagues going on to see Jesus face to face after a bad car wreck in the Congo. They already are and will continue to be sorely missed, especially here on Sub-Sahara African soil. We held our breath and sent out continual prayers as we awaited news of another couple that we hold dear who were also among the wreckage. We reached out to ‘hold hands’ with our precious friends in Uganda as we all waited to find out when the dear couple would make it to hospital care. And as God answered our prayers in them arriving safely, they have begun to navigate through the shock and the trauma of all that unfolded in the horrible accident. In the quiet, we too begin to sift through it all.

I wish our arms could really reach across countries. Just to hold your friends and sit in the quiet together. And just pray. Just so they’re not alone.

We are just so thankful that while we are far, our prayers cover great distances in a mere second. God is not limited by time and space. He has proven Himself to be Enough. In all circumstances.

These past forty-eight hours have been more quiet in heart. Prayers continually going up. And between the giggles of bounding little girls’ education, I just find myself stepping back for a minute here and there and saying “Thank You, Lord. … Thank You for the gift of another moment.”

Thank You for the gift of another hug from one of these wonderful little girls.

Thank You for the gift of hearing my husband share an encouraging conversation with his accountability partner. I can hear the joy bouncing in his voice as he shares of what You have been teaching him lately.

Thank You for the gift of colleagues that are there to support us, even researching and sharing tricks on how to get rid of ants for a friend.

Thank You for the gift of friends in our city that help teach our kids responsibility and share in deep conversations about life.

Thank You for the gift of a well-trained, tongue-bouncing dog trotting beside my preschooler as they run in the wind.

Thank You for community and the feeling of home.

Thank You for friends at church and encouraging each other through life struggles.

Thank You for long car drives to just hold Matt’s hand and laugh about old stories while the girls sleep in the back.

And yes, thank You for even those little chirpers in the backyard that arouse such curiosity and delight as we feed them over the fense before retunring them to the neighbors.

Thank You, Lord.

I don’t deserve it.

It really is a gift.

This very moment You have given.

Posted in honesty, life thoughts, Mozambique, that's just life, willing hands

Goodbyes Again

We stood there laughing as we dripped oil from our fingers. We laughed at how horrendously I attempted to roll the slippery dough before I got the hang of it. We joked about being overly emotional when the onions were cut. We marveled words of encouragement as we learned how to make chamusas together (a meat-pocket of goodness here in Mozambique).  And there standing over the burner stirring the meat, I had a moment.  “This will never happen again. This will only live on as a treasured memory.”


I guess after almost a year of seeing someone Mondays through Fridays you just get used to the normal. Oh the normal can feel crazy and out of control and stretch you in ways you never even had a file for back in the States, but still the faces are your normal. The conversations, the shared stories, the depth.

A part of my normal is leaving and it hurts…


Someone once said that you know the friendship was real when it hurts to say goodbye.


That day I said goodbye to my language teachers. But they were so much more than teachers, they’re dear friends. My sweet sisters in Christ. And while neither of us is dying, Lord willing, fifteen hours south is quite a distance to behold (especially in a developing country).


I was talking with my dear friend in Senegal, cause she’s a dear sister. You know, we were just talking one day about real things, deep things… cause she’s a safe place to process depth. And it hit me, “I think sometimes we process saying goodbye when we have to say goodbye again in a new place.”

It’s the quiet underlying that I don’t really know how to put words to. It’s a mixture of excitement and fear of “being on our own” for the first time without dear supervisors to “bail us out” in our city. And yet there is this confidence that I cannot possibly explain that in all my insufficiency, He is and will continue to prove Himself more than Sufficient.

It’s a jumbling of butterflies that make you both thrilled and feel a bit sick to your stomach. It’s a great and very raw new stress. And it’s all coming to a head as they begin to hand over details about our new home in our job city. As we get our new car and trade in our old one (thanks again, Taylor, for the reliable transportation). As we pack away what we will bring with us and give away what we thought we would need when we moved here, but didn’t. As we learn how to settle into just being us again, without schedules and rushing the girls to school and hurrying to get homework done in time for baths and we just find ourselves… embracing us again. It’s the days that we have prayed for, cried over and longed to hold in our hands that are now being handed to us. And it’s just a lot to think about sometimes. A lot to hold in these hands. A lot to pray about.

Life is life, with it’s curves and twists and hilltops. And we are continuing to learn how to lift each day as an offering to the Father who so graciously gives us each day.

Each step forward.

Each butterfly.

Each tear, both good and hard.

Each anxiety that we lay at His feet.

Each moment.

Lord, help us to embrace each part and say goodbye well.

Before we get to say our next good-hello.

Posted in God's heart, JOY, life thoughts, my heart, willing hands


Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability!

How REFRESHING to know you don’t need me!

How AMAZING to find that you want me!


I am completely insufficient of a warrior in this battle. This battle is beyond me in immeasurable ways. The wisdom needed, the grace offered, the endurance, and so much more … I am completely insufficient! I am absolutely nothing on my own!

But the power of CHRIST in me makes me strong

This completely blows me away! How He does not need me. Not even in the slightest! He’s completely and entirely All-Sufficient!

And yet how utterly amazing to find that He still wants me.

I am completely humbled that He would choose to use me as His mouthpiece. ME?!! Oh how HE must be the One bringing the victory through these lips, through these hands…

And how He so willingly receives this offering that I lay at His glorious throne…

I am brought to tears at His utter grace.

How He takes the incapable, breathes the life in them, gives them the words and the boldness, orchestrates the listeners, touches the hearts, and then receives it gladly as an offering unto Himself.

It was all Him!

All Him all along!

Oh thank you, Lord, that You would bless me so to be a tool in Your hands.

How humbly amazing indeed!




Posted in celebrating life, home decor, honesty, life thoughts, Project Satisfaction, thankful and grateful, that's just life

Project Satisfaction: The Dining Room Table

She has a gimp leg bandaged in metal bandages. I remember sliding her over, the beastly thing. She’s sure solid wood that’s for sure! And then I looked down at the crack. Her leg was splintering off. Hmmm, pretty sure that’s a problem. I thought. I remember Daddy coming to the rescue one time when they were in town. A trip down to the hardware store, a few L brackets, wood glue, and some piping fasteners later and she was strong again. Not gorgeous. Not increased in monetary delight. But back to being fully functional.

She has bubbles in her polyurethane finish. And usually some playdough in her cracks. Sometimes I’ll sit there with a butter knife and clean out the sand and glitter from kid projects. She has a little piece of magnet superglued to one area. Oops. I’ve got to scrape that off some day.


Her chairs are mismatched. I love how it’s a combination of the old and the new. I remember those chairs with the knobs from our first apartment together. Just you and me, Love. And Cheddar. My fat orange and white baby. Remember how the chairs were nice wood and the table …not so much? Wasn’t it funny how big that four seater table felt in our one bedroom apartment? And we had such high hopes of sliding that extension in to bust out a whopping six chairs.

Now we have ten. And we fill six of them. And the four empty remind us to invite someone over for dinner regularly. The empty ones remind us to keep our table open for family, widows, and orphans coming through the foster system. It reminds us to be on the lookout for those needing a friend. Even just for a season. Someone to share a meal with. To remind them of their value. It reminds us to be ready. And open.

I love how there’s those big captain’s chairs for the ends. Only one is replaced by the littlest’s highchair booster on a regular chair. That highchair doesn’t really fit up as close as I ever want it to fit. Maybe it’s that the table sags low. Maybe it’s that extra 1 by 4 that hangs under the edges of the table on the ends. Still not sure why that’s there. Or maybe it’s just that the chairs are too tall. But I love that she can sit there with us. No one is too small to be a part of the family meal. Even when you can’t quite hold your head up.

She has some marks on her. Most are washable. Straying markers imagining artwork. The occasional crayon jetting off the Math mazes. The occasional pencil scratches or pen mark from immature overly-concentrated penmanship of beginning letters and numbers. Homeschooling evidence gives her such character. And love.

Sometimes there are grease spots from time-out foreheads. Spilled milk still in her crevasses from toddlers learning from “big girl cups”. Worn sections on her chairs where this Mommy sat to nurse her baby while balancing eating lunch or correcting a pattern worksheet… or both. Chair rungs reglued in from rocked chairs while learning to read. Motion can help so much when the brain is focusing so, so hard. Or sometimes it’s just hard to sit there and wait. And wait. And wait to be dismissed from dinner. It can feel like an eternity those five minutes! Just ask the toddler with an empty bowl of ice cream and a full belly. Not everyone is served at the same time. Patience training wears on her chairs.And oh those hard chairs. They give no support to the tired bones. Fulfilling their purpose of keeping a tired Mommy awake after long nights of broken sleep because the open Bible is more important than napping so many times.

It feels like a lifetime of memories is stored up in that loved piece of wood.


Someday I’d like to refinish it. I’d like to wash away the old stain. Maybe sand some of the needed places. And sit with my older girls and restain our beloved table. Teach them the value of hard work. And the delight of the end project while we recall old memories at that very table.

She’s simple. A wonderful hand-me-down to us. A hodgepodge of two tables’ worth of chairs. Some faded stains. Some scratches and scuffs. One gimp leg.

But she’s wonderful. And she’s treasured. Even with those ridiculously heavy chairs that tend to smash preschooler toes when used as prep chef stepstools. And those crevasse that hoard all things sticky, glittery and grainy, refusing to release them from her clutches.

She’s still wonderful.

And we are thankful, grateful and blessed.

God is so good to us.

Posted in adoption, being a stay-at-home mom, being pregnant, celebrating life, everyday schooling, fostering, God's heart, honesty, life thoughts, living in their world, my heart, orphan care, sisterhood, thankful and grateful, the Middlest, the Oldest, willing hands

The Continuation of the Back-Story

(Insert the pre-read of: The Beginning of the Back-Story)

… And there in that daily environment, God blessed us with our first child.

The tomboy in my popped out, I wanted a boy. A son to play in the dirt with, run around outside with and bring to soccer or baseball practice. Cute little polo shirts and striped navy pants. Easy button, comfy clothes. SURPRISE! We caught the eyes of our sweet little Rachael Elizabeth on the ultrasound screen. I still remember taking a walk with a dear friend and just crying. I was so disappointed. What am I going to do with a girl? I don’t know the least thing about how to raise a girl. A girl was my lowest level of confidence… with the hairdos and the pink…. and fluffiness. And then there was the whole make-up and self-esteem issues. I was overwhelmed.

I started to get used to the idea as the pregnancy went on. Something about pregnancy sacrifices that bonded me to this little person inside. And then I met her one January 5th. Her beautiful browns. The way she turned into my neck when I sang to her. She knew my voice. She needed me. And I found a world of girl clothes that didn’t have to be pink. And the frills started to grow on me a bit.

3 weeks old 021


I was happy to see my dreams come true as Rachael neared 11 months. I was finally going to get to come home just to be with her. I wouldn’t carry the heartache of raising any more children before I got the chance to raise my own. And the hope of meeting our next one 6 months later, despite the 4.5 months of morning/afternoon/evening and night nausea and sickness, hit me with such joy as I drove away from the office for the last time. The pendulum was swinging back to investing in those God was giving us, instead of asking for their sacrifice alone.  (This is not to imply that working Moms are somehow bad Moms, this is just God’s life journey for Matt and I).

And we learned again that I was having another girl. This time it wasn’t too horrible of a shock. I didn’t need a counseling session walk with a friend. Hehe   I had grown in my confidence, especially since we hadn’t royally screwed up Rachael…yet.

Abi Grace joined us on a wonderful June 16th evening. And while her pregnancy left me wondering if we’d have any more…. EVER, her blond curls and baby blues stole my heart. Two girls… for this tomboy to raise. God sure had a sense of humor.



God further opened Matt and my eyes to His beloved orphans a handful of months after Abi started sleeping through the night.. you know when we could actually start thinking again, as opposed to the basic survival mode of a newborn. While Abi was more clingy and more “Mommy only” than Rachael had ever been, God opened our eyes to those all over the world that didn’t have that opportunity to attach so strongly or consistently to anyone. Those forgotten. The ones that didn’t cry because they knew no one would come.

I remember calling my Mother after a session at the orphan summit weekend. “Hold Abi close for me, Mom,” I asked her. “There are so many that don’t live to be a year old in this world.” My little eleven month old Abi. I couldn’t get her out of my mind as I filled bags full of life-sustaining food for weak and perishing children’s mouths. Somebody’s baby. …. somebody’s baby…


Shortly after that conference and the continued praying we had done through that time in our lives, God opened our eyes to fostering. I honestly can tell you that I never once thought I’d be a foster mom. I saw the other side of the system. How little you can sometimes know about a kid placed in your home. The frustrations and the challenges and the strains. And Matt was not stained, but not naive to the hurts and the challenges and the trials of having a foster sibling. Matt had never pushed. We are a family. Our own family. So we would make decisions about what was best for our family, under God’s will’s umbrella.

Hannah Joy was added to our family shortly after we had finally jumped through all the foster care pre-trainings and the homestudy process hoops. We were certified… and had a newborn. A girl, naturally, because God knows what I need. And God knows what He is doing.






The boys came to us one Friday, four hours after a phone call we had our two new responsibilities. Two little strangers to get to know and learn to love. I finally got some boys. Only these ones were different. They weren’t mine. … Or maybe they would be in the future. … Or maybe not. The challenges were great: lice off/on for 8 weeks, hospitalization of our unfamiliar 3 month old struggler and a 30 day illness following the hospital stay which would untrain our night-sleeper Hannah and send us all into a sleep-needing coma for 6 weeks of coughing, phlegm sucking and respirators. We were figuring out twins, Hannah and Little Man being 6 weeks apart. And working through the pains of growing from a family of 2 kids to a  family of 5 kids within a 5 month time frame. Our “middlest” Abi was now a SUPER middlest child, adding some new behaviors. Our oldest, Big Guy, was now adding some interesting habits to the mix. And somewhere along the 11 month journey we figured out how to operate as a team. There were beautiful peeks and forging valleys as the boys went through family confusion. And while we wanted “just our three back” in the really hard moments, we also didn’t want the boys to go home to anything but the best home possible. It was a weekly roller coaster at some points of the 11 months and I can tell you now that it was the most stress to date that we have had to figure out. My Matthew showed up with flying teamwork colors. I have never seen us work together so well. We were a well oiled machine of diapers, formula, kid schedules, diaper bags…. people, we could get out of the house in 30 minutes flat going from 5 undressed kids to all ready to go for an afternoon. We were constantly running schedules, play by plays and walkie-talkie like communications by each other to get everyone’s needs met from  medicines to wiped noses to clipped finger and toe nails. It was like an assembly line.

And while I wouldn’t give that time back for the world, Matt and I realized in that time that while we were able to live like that… it wasn’t our desire to always live like that. 5 kids age 5 and under was too much to sustain for years on end. So there was much joy and some hurt empty space when the boys went home the week of Christmas. An odd void in wondering how quickly our investment would deteriorate, and old, bad habits would return. And yet how much their hearts were full going back to Mom’s arms. And how proud we were and still are of how far Mom came to make healthy adjustments and sacrifices for her babies.

And we settled back into 3… almost in shock at how easy 3 was. Our house was so quiet. And orderly. And our #4 crept quietly into the end of our chaos and just grew…. and grew in the newfound normal.

Eden Rose. Girl #4 will be joining us this summer. And you know what? I prayed that we’d have another girl. I’ve seen how our Abi and Rachael are dear friends. How they’ve blessed my ears in their giggles over the baby monitor. Their little imaginary worlds exploding with fairy princess tales and rescue missions down the hallway. They are such dear friends, the two of them. And they will be bunk mates for who knows how long.


And then there came our busy little Hannah, flocking to Rachael’s nurturing and butting heads with our drama queen, Abi, while following her around the house in awe. Hannah doesn’t quite understand that her bunk mate is coming soon, but she’ll figure it out that Mommy’s still going to call her baby and rock her even when little Eden shows up on the scene.  They each have moved over and shared with the next one in line. Some taking longer than others. But each learning a new level of kindness, compassion and nurturing.


Our orphan care dreams still find their ways into conversations. Funny how you can’t hide your heart. And every Saturday morning Matt and I pray for how our family will be involved in adoption. We continue to do research and await God’s next whisper of direction. International, domestic, fostering to adopt…. we’re just waiting to hear what He’d have for us next.


– – – – – – – – – – – – –


So that brings us all the way to tonight. And the little story I wanted to share. See knowing the back-story helps to fully understand how far God can grow a Mom…. this Mom. How He knows us far better than we ever thought we knew ourselves.  And how His love changes us… changes me.

Hannah was down to bed. Littlest goes down earlier than everyone else since she needs more sleep. Rachael and Abi snuggled their little almost four (in a few weeks) and five year old selves into our family reading time on the couch. Teeth freshly brushed. Pottying finished. Hair being taken out of the day’s hairdos (see, I have gotten better… slowly). Abi’s little hand came over to feel Eden move. Poor Abi’s too impatient to really get a good kick but she seems content regardless.

Rachael joined in the fun, partially to stall out bedtime and the other half of her nurturing kicking in. I played along… bonding starts before they meet face to face. This late in the pregnancy game my shirts don’t fit quite so great
(can I get a witness?!). It’s easy to see my belly hanging out. But when it’s just family I don’t care.

See… my girls are learning to define beauty. I already know the media’s message they will have to struggle with in due time. But I want them to remember me as different than the culture. Real. And unashamed. God defines beauty. I want them to wonder why we defined beauty in such a different way than Hollywood ever did. I want it to point them to Jesus.

Abi commented on my belly being fat. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I carry big and low. And she’s not criticizing. Just observing.

“Yep, Abi, Eden’s getting bigger,” I usually answer back with no shame. We want her to get big. And continue to be so healthy – even if she’s already a  pound over the average weight for her gestation week.

Abi poked my stretch marks.

“Do those hurt?” Rachael’s compassion kicked in.

“Sometimes they’re uncomfortable,” I was honest as I exposed my baby bump, “but lotion helps them feel more comfortable. It’s just my skin growing and stretching to fit Eden as she grows bigger. Some were from Hannah,” they touched a few. “And some were from you, Abi.” Abi shot an excited smile.

“And some,” I pointed to the really deep ones, “were from you, Rachael. All the way back when you were a baby,” since my five year old is ‘so big’ now.

And then we chit-chatted about the blue veins on my stomach and how they bring blood to Eden so she can keep growing big and strong. And how veins help bring blood all the way down to my toes and all the way up to my head. Abi enjoyed poking my veins and I smirked at being a living science experiment.

“Did you know blood is blue?!” I asked my blondie.

“What?!” said Rachael.

“Yep, it’s blue, but when it comes out of our bodies it turns red. That’s why my veins are blue.”

Abi jumped off the couch and pointed to my spider veins. “Here’s some more!”  came her innocence.

“Yep, those are spider veins, don’t they look like spider legs?” I asked her as she poked me again.

“I like these ones,” she said with a smile.

“And here’s my huge long vein,” I pointed to my varicose vein as Rachael helped trace it down my leg.

“This one has a LOT of blood traveling inside.” I explained.

Eden began moving again and we giggled about what part of her body she could be moving.

“How is she laying in there?” Rachael asked. “Is this her head?” She patted an Eden bulge.

Eden squirmed a bit.

“I don’t know, I can’t see in. But when we got to see in with the pictures two weeks ago her bottom was here and her head pointing down with her feet up by her head.”

They giggled at how silly that sounded.

“Is this her bottom?” Abi lost it in hysterics poking at some hard section of Eden.

“Maybe.” We giggled.

“Did you know Daddy used to lay his head on my belly with each and every one of you and try to get kicked in the head?!” I shared.

Then of course after the giggles swept through Abi and Rachael had to try it.

“Now this is the only time it’s okay to let Eden kick you in the head,” I laughed, “Only when she’s inside my belly.”

It was getting late and they were getting a little overly silly. But before they scampered off to their beds, Rachael and Abi both gave Eden a goodnight hug… loving on my belly. And Abi gave my road-map of stretch marks a little kiss. “Goodnight Eden,” came their sweet little voices.



I have tried to make it a point to be honest with my girls. I don’t want to share too much for their little worlds to grasp, but I do want to filter to them real beauty. Beauty not defined by concealer, dieting, or a constant desire to physically look better.  Beauty not disguised as idolatry or wrapped in manipulation or a power status. A beauty that strives to be healthy, but embraces motherhood and being a wife in its raw and vulnerable moments. A beauty defined in God’s definition of worth, love and grace.

I see curiosity in their young eyes, but know that self-worth doubt will most likely fumble in through the awkward Jr. High years. And desire to be like everyone else, a carbon copy of culture’s definition of beauty, even if it’s defined in the Christian culture community. may very well be a High School challenge. Outward appearance will drive a message of highest importance, leaving many ladies struggling with self-image for the rest of their lives.

But I want to outwardly embrace my laughing lines… it’s evidence that I laughed. When I’m old I want to have gray hair. It’s evidence that I have been gifted a long life. I want to have crows feet on the sides of my eyes…. fruit of smiling at others. And I am so blessed to have a husband who treasures my “honor marks” left by my wonderful girls. And my stomach will probably never have a six-pack of abs…. my skin will probably never go completely back to what it once was before my big, healthy girls… but I wouldn’t exchange it for the world. Sure I’m going to strive to be healthy and maintain a level of fitness to be able to play with my kids at the park, and chase grandkids eventually, if we are so blessed. I want to be fit enough to walk some flights of stairs without dying for breath and encourage my family through self-sacrifice and self-determination to overcome future 5k’s on a decently regular basis. My body is a temple of the Living God and I want to be healthy and fit enough to do His work that He has for us. But I am not ashamed of my love handles. They are a reminder of carrying little kickers and being a part of the miracle of new life.

I want my girls to learn about that kind of beauty. A beauty defined in My Father’s eyes.


… and maybe that’s why He keeps on giving us girls to raise.



– Thankful, grateful and overwhelmingly blessed.