Category Archives: Faith

First Grade & Mama Fears

Last night, I wasn’t quite sure we would be getting any sleep at all. Ella was far too excited for her first day of first grade. She laid out her clothes for the morning, set out her new pink pony lunch bag, was tucked in by 8pm. Sleep, however, didn’t come for another two hours. Eventually, I cuddled in next to her to rub her back and sing in the hopes she would drift to sleep. At last, she did. And so did I.

Ella First Grade

This morning we were up bright and early, long before we needed to be. The two of us made breakfast together while Sam played at the table. I would like to say we had something lovely and maybe a bit fancy. Whole wheat pancakes with fresh blueberries perhaps, or fluffy Belgian waffles drowned in maple syrup. But no, we reheated a cinnamon roll from yesterday’s batch. Not homemade, mind you. They came from a can. But hey, we completely enjoyed that cinnamon roll together. I packed her lunch, put Sam in the stroller, and walked to the end of the street to wait for the bus. As we waited, she proudly posed for the first-day-of-school photos and then she was off! Her first day of first grade.

I do find it a bit hard to believe I have a first grader. Part of it is that I have very clear memories of first grade. My teacher Mrs Anderson, my first crush who definitely didn’t share my sentiments, playing for hours on end with my best friend Chanda. The fact that I can still remember such vivid details of the year I was six makes me realize that my girl is old enough to store away her own, as well. Memories that will last her entire life. She’ll remember how it feels to be invited to a friend’s birthday party, learn fascinating new things in school, and, heaven forbid, have her first crush. Sweet memories. But along with the sweet memories, she will inevitably have the not-so-sweet memories. Like being embarrassed by someone in her class or making a choice she wishes she hadn’t. My mama heart so dearly wants to protect her from those hard memories. I want to be shield her from the twinge of hurt that accompanies them for years after they initially took place. But that wouldn’t be fair, would it. Not when I consider how much I grew from those moments. How I learned who I was and who I didn’t want to be. And how I became stronger and smarter and kinder. Those are the qualities I want for my Ella. So I will let her grow and I will let her make her memories. Because mixed in with all those harder memories are really, really good ones. And those are the beautiful pieces she will place together when she remembers what it was like to be my little girl.

For those hard moments when I feel my mama heart truly worrying, I remember this verse from Isaiah. There is no reason to fear. He is with me and He is with my darling girl.

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What are some of your favorite memories from your first years of school?


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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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Simplicity: Six Months & a New Perspective

Today marks the end of our six months of intentional, financial simplicity. We began on January 12, jumping in to a commitment of six months of very little spending, meaning we were basically not going to spend any money outside of what was really necessary for our family. That included selling Pete’s Jeep and becoming a one car family. I was pretty nervous about this journey before we began. I just didn’t know what to expect. We were opening our hands and asking God to show us what changes we needed to make as a family. I knew I had some habits that needed changing, some material stuff that had sort of wrapped itself around my heart. As a family, we wanted to make space for God to speak to us about how we were spending our money and whether or not it was bringing him glory. Reflecting back on these last six months, I am realizing my heart has truly been changed in some really good ways.

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Leading up to January 12, Pete and I spent a good amount of time combing through our budget to see what we could cut out or seriously cut back. We canceled a few subscriptions, evaluated our food budget, and greatly reduced the amount we allowed for clothing, coffee, gifts, and other line items that were not necessities. We spent the first three or four months of this six-month journey very strictly sticking to the guidelines we set. At that time, after we felt we had broken the spending habits we knew weren’t healthy or what God wanted for us, we started to explore the areas we did feel were okay for spending. That doesn’t mean we started freely spending in those areas, but we did allow for some leeway. After watching for six months, I can pretty happily say that these are actually areas that line up with what we’ve listed for years as values for our family: relationship with each other and with friends, education, health and fitness, and adventure.

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1. Relationship with each other. I’ve mentioned a bunch of times that Pete and I have a weekly date night. We adore our dates and look forward to them all week. Before starting our six months of financial simplicity, we decided that we would definitely keep our babysitter budget so we could still go out regularly. We did, however, cut the spending for our nights out. That’s one thing that changed about three months in. We started seeing movies on $5 movie nights and going for inexpensive dinners. We know that our marriage is so much stronger because of the time we devote to each other one-on-one each week, and it’s so, so great to find fun things to do together. Pete has done the same thing with Ella on their weekly dates. They find lots of free things to do together but they’ve also started rock climbing at an indoor wall nearby and having other sweet adventures.

2. Relationship with friends. So many people mean a whole lot to us. We’ve realized even more since January that it’s super important to us to be able to love on our friends and family by giving them our time and by sharing meaningful gifts with them.

3. Education. We love books. Love love love. I am a reading teacher, after all. Way back in December, I felt like God was going to be opening a time for me to enjoy them more then I have in the past, which was actually the same time I discovered audio books. I listen to books while cleaning, folding clothes, driving, doing stuff on the computer. I get most of them online through the library, but I have found my newer reads on Audible. Pete also likes buying books, especially medical texts. And now Ella is diving into reading, though most of her books come from the library. I’ve also begun attending online classes and webinars as a way to keep up my learning after the kids are in bed. Some classes are free, but most cost a little something.

4. Health & fitness. We realized pretty early on that our food budget was so small we weren’t able to buy all the fresh food we feel is best for our family. It won’t be the case in Kenya, but for now, we have to pay more for the healthy stuff. So we ended up expanding our food budget about a month in. As for fitness, we want to be okay with attending a class or buying a workout program if it’s something we’re really going to use. Good health will allow us to keep going for a long time, so it’s worth the room in the budget.

5. Adventure. We would be so bored without adventure! It’s such a part of who we are as a family. This also kind of goes with our relationships with each other, since we usually have our adventures as a family. This is what gets our hearts pumping and minds racing. Definitely an place we feel okay spending money.

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Like I said, I’m pretty happy with those categories that came to the surface as being important for our family’s spending. But what about all the other places I was spending money before starting this journey? Honestly, most of them have almost completely melted away. I was making a list a couple days ago of things I want to buy tomorrow, and I honestly could only think of a few items. I would like a set of wine glasses and a couple new shirts for Sam. We are also in great need of new bar stools as ours are falling a part. (Seriously, if you visit, I will warn you before you sit down. Pieces are for real falling off.) There really isn’t much more than that. I just don’t feel the need to buy little things for my home or extra things for the kids. My heart has changed. I would much rather spend our money on the categories I listed above and not fill space around me. Experiences fill me with such happiness, far beyond what I could feel from a new shirt or a cute little ice cream bowl. (Though I certainly still like looking at these things! Just a few days ago, I oohed over an adorable set of cone-shaped ceramic bowls that would make ice cream treats such fun! But did I feel a need to have my own set? Not at all. Just noticing their cuteness was enough. That’s a good change for me.)

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These six months weren’t all about depriving ourselves of material things or experiences, which is really what I thought it would be. I was sure I was going to miss shopping and that I’d probably really struggle through the months. But I didn’t! Instead, I discovered God was showing us who we are as a family and how our finances and habits fit into that picture. This morning at church I was not at all surprised to learn the message was on finances. How fitting! It allowed me to think through the changes my heart has made and to ask if they really do line up with what the Bible says. I was reminded of a few verses I’ve heard a hundred times. “Do not store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. Your heart will always be where your treasure is.” (Matthew 6:19-21, italics mine) I love that last verse, and I truly want my heart to be focused right where God wants it. In order to keep it focused right there, I know I need to continue this journey.

So, where do we go from here? We plan to basically stick to the habits that have been created in the last six months. We’ll keep our overall spending to a minimum, and we’ll always talk to each other about purchases before making them. By doing so, we’ll able to continue our momentum toward paying off Pete’s medical school loans by Christmas!! We are confident that we would not be anywhere close to having them paid without our changes in the last six months. In many ways, we’re incredible thankful that God made it so clear to us last December that we should take this plunge. The freedom we’re feeling is pretty wonderful!

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us!

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{inspired} She Reads Truth

I have been inspired by so many amazing resources in the last few months, and I keep thinking, maybe a few of you in my blog family would like these as much as I do! So I’m going to try to get a handful of {inspired} posts put together for you over the next few weeks. Let’s start with one I use nearly every day.
Do you know about She Reads Truth? It’s a super encouraging website consisting of many different devotional collections and Bible reading plans for women. Each day, SRT posts a new devotional to their current series, but you can access old collections for free on their website. A few recent plans include Esther, Hosea, Hebrews, The Risen Christ, and Hospitality.

In addition to their website, SRT has apps for both iPhone and Android. I love the convenience of their free iPhone app, which includes the complete Bible in a few versions and artistic lock screens and photos with inspiring verses and quotes. The actual devotionals do cost money, but they are only a couple dollars for each series and you can then get them right on your phone. Since we’re not spending anything extra right now, I added a link to their website on my home screen where I can access the devotionals for free. Both options are great!

If you’re looking for a beautifully written, encouraging devotion to help you get in the Word every day, I definitely recommend She Reads Truth.

Do you have a favorite devotional book or resource?

 

Discolsure: I have not been compensated in any way for my thoughts in this post. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 


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