{inspired} The Best Yes

It can be incredibly difficult as women and moms and sisters and wives to determine the best times to say yes or no to things that pop up in our lives. Sometimes we feel we need to say yes out of obligation or because we feel guilty, even if we don’t actually want to do the thing we’re saying yes to. Other times, we want to say yes to something we will truly enjoy, but it may leave us feeling drained or rushed or will take away from other important areas in our lives. Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes is a insightful look at why we feel the need to constantly say yes and the goodness of saying no. It is filled with thought-provoking questions and inspiring scripture references. After leading my small group of mamas through the book last spring, I have recommended it to so many girl friends. Guys can certainly read it, too, but it’s really a better fit for the girls. I wanted to tell you about it so you have an opportunity to read it, as well. If you want a little glimpse into who Lysa is and get a taste of her writing style, check out her blog at LysaTerKeurst.com.  She is a wonderful woman of God with wonderful words to encourage women along life’s path.

Lysa Book Collage

 

Have you read any inspiring books lately? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

 

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way for the content of this post. All opinions are my own. Images found here.


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Sara Montour Photography

My sweet friend Sara is a pretty spectacular photographer. We go all the way back to high school together. She graduated a year after me. Sara has since traveled near and far taking photos of beautiful kids and a whole lot of cool musicians. Just a few months ago, she moved into a bright, new studio space in Minneapolis. Every so often, Sara offers a 10 in 10 session for kids. They are quick, fun sessions that occasionally have a theme. When I got an email back in May announcing the next 10 in 10 session, I booked two slots for our Ella & Sam. What a fun time we had when our June date came around!

Sammy was all about the love that morning.

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Miss Ella, who loves to perform, wasn’t quite up for photos until Sara pulled out a big, beautiful blanket. First she was a lovely princess.

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And then she turned into a bride. I melted when I saw this photo. Someday we’ll pull it out for her wedding day.

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And this. Their sweet sibling love. The best of friends.

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This wasn’t the first time Sara took photos of Ella. Way back when Ella was about to celebrate her first birthday, we caught Sara near the Rose Gardens and she captured these. Such a little girl! And, again, polka dots. What can I say? I just love them.

Sara Montour Ella 1

Sara Mountour Ella 3

Sara Montour Ella 2

Sara Montour Ella 4

Sara Montour Ella 5

 

We were so young!

If you live near Minneapolis and are looking for a photographer to capture your little’s personality, I highly recommend contacting Sara. We just love working with her!

 


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Arrr! I Spy Pirates & Mermaids!

Arrr, matey! Last month we celebrated two birthdays in great style. Ella & Sam shared our long-awaited party of pirates and mermaids! We made telescopes, wore pirate patches and little tiaras, played pin the patch on the pirate, and Ella ensured everyone under the age of eight had a temporary tattoo applied on at least one arm. We held the party in our building’s community room, which fortunately opened right out onto the grass along the shore because it was a gorgeous day. Not only that, but I may have lost track of just how many invitations I sent out, so we had a whole lot of bodies in a relatively small space. Taking the party outside worked quite well, especially when it came time to break the pinata and to play pirate-pirate-mermaid (our own version of duck-duck-grey duck. Yes, grey duck, because this is Minnesota and grey duck is how we roll). By the end of the party, we had full tummies of goldfish, Jell-o ‘ocean water’ cups, oyster cookies, saltwater taffy, blue punch, and cupcakes covered in sprinkles, gummy fish, and chocolate pearls. It was quite the celebration!

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Through Pinterest, I found the perfect invitations as a free printable. I was able to select most of my own text and colors, then printed them on white card stock to mail out. Super cute and free!

Party Invitation

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Daddy with the birthday boy. Sam was a little overwhelmed with everything and spent time between cupcakes and bubbles in the quietness of our living room. Convenient, since it is right above the community room.

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A big party hit was Pin the Eye Patch on the Pirate. I found the free printable through Pinterest, which includes this pirate and a collection of colorful patches. The players ranged in age from two to nine, but everyone was able to participate. Endless giggles!

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Large piece of tag board + double-sided tape + temporary tattoos = our own tattoo parlor!

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This is the pinata! The one I told you Ella and I were working on a few weeks before the party! Once the messy part was finished, she was all about decorating it. We cut the tissue paper together, glued it on together, and she did the entire face. It’s a jellyfish! I loved seeing how proud of it she was. I’ll admit that, near the end of creating this project, I had a small moment of self-discovery. I’ve made a change in one part of my parenting. I’ve always been a little bit of a perfectionist, particularly when it comes to decorating and party planning. Not to the point of being over the top, but enough that I wouldn’t typically let Ella completely take control of a project. I’ve learned, however, that it is so worth the effort to let go if it means she gets to learn and problem solve and take pride in her own work. I didn’t make the face pieces for her or select the colors or tell her just how to place each piece. I was happy to offer my thoughts when she asked, but she did most of the work. And this is what she created! I adored watching her show it off to her friends as they arrived at the party. I’m so glad I get to learn right along side my Ella.

Notice the pictures next to the pinata? Those are the beautiful cards the kids’ friends brought in place of gifts. I’m so glad we went this route for the party. Of course the kids love gifts, which they received from their grandparents and cousins, but we were able to focus primarily on playing with friends at the party. I have a feeling this will be a trend we continue in the future.

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So, I made the pinata and filled it with great surprises, but I hadn’t quite thought about how we would actually hang it and break it. Pete to the rescue! With a broom handle and a long spool of twine we were in business. His most impressive idea, however, was to use the foam roller as the stick in place of a bat or tennis racket. Therefore, we had no broken windows! Boom! (I don’t actually use the word ‘boom’ in regular conversation, but my husband does, and he totally would have used it right there. So, BOOM!)

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Thank you to all our friends who were able to join us as pirates, princesses, and mermaids! We loved having you celebrate with us!

And, well, Ella already has next year’s party nearly planned. That’s my girl!

 

 

          Target                                                                Hobby Lobby
eye patches                                                            paper lanterns
felt pirate hat
foam sword                                                                Michael’s
tiny tiaras                                                              paper craft tubes (for telescopes)
princess tattoos                                                   foam crowns & pirate hate
princess stickers                                                  seashells

        Amazon                                                           Trader Joe’s
pirate tattoos                                                         saltwater taffy (the best!)
vinyl anchors

       Pinterest
My Pirate & Mermaid Party Board
Oyster Pearl Cookies
Tiffany Punch Recipe
Free Mermaid Printables
Free Pirate Party Printables


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Trusting Through the Disappointment

I wasn’t planning on writing this post. I don’t even know what to say, really, but after three months of these thoughts sitting in my heart, I need to get them out. Writing is how I so often process my joys and my frustrations and my sadness. And I want you to know.

I want you to know about the little girl who danced in my dreams. I saw little glimpses of her running through the grass, twirling barefoot in the dirt, placing her dark little fingers inside my cream-colored hand.

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For years and years I’ve wanted to adopt. When I met Pete and he shared the desire, I knew we would one day have a little one…or more…who would be born from another mama’s womb but who would grow up and learn to love in the arms of our family. We talked about the time and place and the ins and outs of how it might happen, until one day, not long after Sam was born, we felt the time had come. We would begin the journey of growing our family through adoption.

There was no question where our little one would be born. After all, we hope to live a good part of the rest of our days in Africa. We asked friends for recommendations of agencies and countries and plans, but when we discovered Lutheran Social Services (LSS) had a Kenya program, our hearts felt right. When I was fifteen, my parents adopted my youngest sister from Colombia through LSS. We would follow their path.

In the spring of 2014, we had our first meetings with case workers at LSS. They were very encouraging and knowledgeable about the process. They had led multiple families through the Kenya program, which isn’t a common occurrence as Kenya requires an 18-month in-country stay. That’s just not a possibility for most families. Perfect for ours, however, as our first stay will be two years. Our case worker gave us a whole lot of information and recommended we start the actual adoption process one year before our projected move to Kenya.

In the  year between our first contact with LSS and when we were told to start the paperwork process, Pete and I often spoke to each other about our future family. We decided to begin with a little girl, and planned to only request she be younger than five. We prayed a lot about whether or not we would pursue siblings, if there was a little girl with a brother or sister, and decided we would wait for God’s leading if that became a possibility. I looked all over Pinterest and Etsy for fun, unique ways to share the news with our families. We thought this fall would be good timing, as it wouldn’t be too terribly long before our sweet girl was in our arms. We were beginning to talk about photographers to help us make the announcement. So many dreams.

When we began to work through the paperwork again this past April, we were thrilled. We had shared the news of our planned adoption with just a few friends and some who would understand our early excitement and budding dreams. We also made sure WGM, our mission organization, would be okay with our plan of being matched with our little girl shortly after arriving in Kenya next summer. Multiple missionary families have adopted Kenyan children, and our coach and Kenyan team members were supportive of our plans. We completed our first packet of papers for LSS and were ready to send it off after signing our names on the lines marked adoptive father and adoptive mother. I decided to send a quick email to our case worker to let her know we were going to drop the documents in the mail the next day, but the response we got back from her was not what we had expected.

In her email, we learned that Kenya had closed its doors to all international adoptions. I read and re-read the US Department of State – Kenya Adoption webpage, praying it was a temporary mistake and would quickly be corrected. But no. The decision will likely not change for quite some time.

My heart broke. We had thought this was the right time, that God was leading us down this path as a way to grow our family. I had been dreaming of my little girl and how she would make us a family of five. I imagined her sharing a room with her big sister and learning to play alongside her big brother. I cried hard about this ending. I told Jesus my heart was hurting, that I was confused and mad. Why was this the timing? Why, when I know there are so many children all over this world who long to be loved and to be a part of a family, can we not bring them into our family? We have so much love and patience and joy, and we want to pour that all over our next little one. Or two. Or three. But for now we can’t. And I am sad.

Why would Kenya stop international adoptions? Well, it’s no secret that there is a lot of corruption in the world of adoption, especially in poor areas. Children are not always truly orphans when they are given to an orphanage. Some are taken with force from their homes, others are sold for money to support a desperate family. It is my understanding that many African countries are currently closed to international adoption until systems can be established to control and police these situations. I understand this, and I absolutely agree that families should be kept together if at all possible. But I also know that there are many motherless children who desperately want to be loved.

The opportunity to adopt in Kenya is not permanently out of the picture for us. If Kenya doesn’t open to international adoptions again in the near future, it may be possible for us to adopt as Kenyan residents once we’ve been there for a number of years. Three, I believe. It’s hard to imagine waiting that long, but we have no idea what God has for us. We are quite open to other adoption possibilities, but at this time, our options are minimal because of our hope to leave for Kenya in just twelve months. So we will continue to trust and keep our hands open to what he wants to do. We know that his eyes see the orphans of this world, and we ask for more of his heart to continue to live well on this path he has set for us.

Everyday I find myself needing to ask Jesus to comfort my heart. I am a part of a beautiful community of parents through Instagram and Facebook and blogs who are currently pursuing adoption, domestically and internationally. I love following their journeys and participating in their adoption fundraisers. I am truly, truly excited for each of them. But it hurts a bit. And when I see sweet photos on Instagram of families who have a beautiful palate of skin tones, I smile and ask God again to allow that for our family.

My heart wants to be the mother to so many. For now, I will continue to pray for the babes I have yet to hold and I will cuddle and and whisper wonderful promises to the two in my arms.

Trust

 


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