Memorial Day Murph

Memorial Day is always a special time to us, and we annually seek out a ceremony to attend in order to show honor to all those who have lost their lives for our country.  Yesterday, Rob and I participated in a new (for us) Memorial Day event that I was introduced to through my Crossfit box called Memorial Day Murph.  We may have a new family tradition!

Many Crossfit workouts are named after heroes – various people who have lost their lives in the line of duty.  “The Murph” was named after a Navy SEAL named Lt. Michael Murphy.  The story has it that this particular workout was one of his favorite crossfit workouts and he performed it multiple times a week.  Unfortunately, on June 28, 2005 he was killed in action in Afghanistan.  Now each year on Memorial Day, Crossfitters from all over gather together to complete this workout in his honor, and also to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

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Oh, and to make it even more challenging….to truly do this workout Rx style (“as prescribed”), you also wear a 20-pound vest!  We didn’t do that this time, but many people did.

My local box made this into a huge event! So many people came – from our own box, and other boxes in the area.  There was food and a bounce house for kids, and so many people bringing donations for the Wounded Warrior Foundation!  The workout was split up into heats of around 10 people each that were staggered to start every 30 minutes.

Rob and I were part of the first heat and I think we did great!  My amazing hubby agreed to do the workout with me and was by my side the entire time.  Running is still really hard for me (but I’m getting better!), so my runs were super slow – but he was right there pacing himself with me! He could have easily lapped me since he’s an experienced runner, but instead he was right there beside me cheering me on (and even singing to me when I asked for music) as I jogged my way through that first…and then the last…mile.  That meant the world to me!  I was so proud!! I managed to run the 1st mile COMPLETELY without walking at all!  That was a milestone for me. When I first started Crossfit, I could barely run 200m (1/8 mile) without stopping.  I might have been slow, but it wasn’t a race.  It was all about each person doing their own workout competing only against themselves.

When I went into this, I told myself I would be proud of myself if I even completed 1/4 or 1/2 of “The Murph”.  I’ve never done it before, and I’m still working on my very-scaled pull-ups.  In Crossfit, scaling an exercise means adapting it to your ability.  I can’t do strict pull-ups yet, so I use a resistance band on the bar that I put one foot in to help provide some assistance in pulling myself up.  The bands are like giant rubber bands in various strengths each providing a different amount of help.  I use the biggest one that gives the most help….for now.  My goal is to be on a much smaller band, or not at all, by next year!

Anyway, I was shooting for completing 1/4 – 1/2 of the workout, but when I hit the 1/4 mark I knew I could keep going!  Then I got to the 1/2 mark, and I knew I still had some life left in me so I kept going some more.  Just past the halfway mark, my muscles started to fail so I set my sights on doing 3/4 and I did it!!!

I did 75 pull-ups, 150 push-ups, and 225 squats!  Then, I completed the last full mile run again with Rob by my side.  I did stop and walk a little bit a few times, but I ran most of it.  So so proud of my accomplishment!

1 mile run + 75 pull-ups + 150 pushups + 225 squats + 1 mile run = 1 hour 3 minutes!!

Rob did the FULL Murph in the same amount of time, but his time would have been much faster if he ran on his own.  He was more interested in doing it WITH me than in getting a fast time though.  I love you, Babe!!!

 

I want to share with you the story behind Lt. Michael Murphy.  I found this posted online and it’s a great read as a reminder of why we have Memorial Day, and why we were willing to go through a little physical suffering in honor of all those men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

Why Memorial Day Murph was started:

On June 28, 2005, deep behind enemy lines east of Asadabad in the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, a very committed four-man Navy SEAL team was conducting a reconnaissance mission at the unforgiving altitude of approximately 10,000 feet. The SEALs, Lt. Michael Murphy, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class (SEAL) Danny Dietz, Sonar Technician 2nd Class (SEAL) Matthew Axelson and Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SEAL) Marcus Luttrell had a vital task. The four SEALs were scouting Ahmad Shah – a terrorist in his mid-30s who grew up in the adjacent mountains just to the south.

Under the assumed name Muhammad Ismail, Shah led a guerrilla group known to locals as the “Mountain Tigers” that had aligned with the Taliban and other militant groups close to the Pakistani border. The SEAL mission was compromised when the team was spotted by local nationals, who presumably reported its presence and location to the Taliban.

A fierce firefight erupted between the four SEALs and a much larger enemy force of more than 50 anti-coalition militia. The enemy had the SEALs outnumbered. They also had terrain advantage. They launched a well-organized, three-sided attack on the SEALs. The firefight continued relentlessly as the overwhelming militia forced the team deeper into a ravine.

Trying to reach safety, the four men, now each wounded, began bounding down the mountain’s steep sides, making leaps of 20 to 30 feet. Approximately 45 minutes into the fight, pinned down by overwhelming forces, Dietz, the communications petty officer, sought open air to place a distress call back to the base. But before he could, he was shot in the hand, the blast shattering his thumb.

Despite the intensity of the firefight and suffering grave gunshot wounds himself, Murphy is credited with risking his own life to save the lives of his teammates. Murphy, intent on making contact with headquarters, but realizing this would be impossible in the extreme terrain where they were fighting, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own life moved into the open, where he could gain a better position to transmit a call to get help for his men.

Moving away from the protective mountain rocks, he knowingly exposed himself to increased enemy gunfire. This deliberate and heroic act deprived him of cover and made him a target for the enemy. While continuing to be fired upon, Murphy made contact with the SOF Quick Reaction Force at Bagram Air Base and requested assistance. He calmly provided his unit’s location and the size of the enemy force while requesting immediate support for his team. At one point he was shot in the back causing him to drop the transmitter. Murphy picked it back up, completed the call and continued firing at the enemy who was closing in. Severely wounded, Lt. Murphy returned to his cover position with his men and continued the battle.

An MH-47 Chinook helicopter, with eight additional SEALs and eight Army Night Stalkers aboard, was sent is as part of an extraction mission to pull out the four embattled SEALs. The MH-47 was escorted by heavily-armored, Army attack helicopters. Entering a hot combat zone, attack helicopters are used initially to neutralize the enemy and make it safer for the lightly-armored, personnel-transport helicopter to insert.

The heavy weight of the attack helicopters slowed the formation’s advance prompting the MH-47 to outrun their armored escort. They knew the tremendous risk going into an active enemy area in daylight, without their attack support, and without the cover of night. Risk would, of course, be minimized if they put the helicopter down in a safe zone. But knowing that their warrior brothers were shot, surrounded and severely wounded, the rescue team opted to directly enter the oncoming battle in hopes of landing on brutally hazardous terrain.

As the Chinook raced to the battle, a rocket-propelled grenade struck the helicopter, killing all 16 men aboard.
On the ground and nearly out of ammunition, the four SEALs, Murphy, Luttrell, Dietz and Axelson, continued the fight. By the end of the two-hour gunfight that careened through the hills and over cliffs, Murphy, Axelson and Dietz had been killed. An estimated 35 Taliban were also dead.

The fourth SEAL, Luttrell, was blasted over a ridge by a rocket propelled grenade and was knocked unconscious. Regaining consciousness some time later, Luttrell managed to escape – badly injured – and slowly crawl away down the side of a cliff. Dehydrated, with a bullet wound to one leg, shrapnel embedded in both legs, three vertebrae cracked; the situation for Luttrell was grim. Rescue helicopters were sent in, but he was too weak and injured to make contact. Traveling seven miles on foot he evaded the enemy for nearly a day. Gratefully, local nationals came to his aid, carrying him to a nearby village where they kept him for three days. The Taliban came to the village several times demanding that Luttrell be turned over to them. The villagers refused. One of the villagers made his way to a Marine outpost with a note from Luttrell, and U.S. forces launched a massive operation that rescued him from enemy territory on July 2.

By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit and inspirational devotion to his men in the face of certain death, Lt. Murphy was able to relay the position of his unit, an act that ultimately led to the rescue of Luttrell and the recovery of the remains of the three who were killed in the battle.

This was the second worst single-day U.S. Forces death toll since Operation Enduring Freedom began nearly six years ago. It was the single largest loss of life for Naval Special Warfare since World War II.

Mommy Daughter Day

Today I had a much needed date day with my daughter, Emily!  As a homeschooling mom, I am with her 24/7, but we are usually focused on making sure chores, schoolwork & errands are done.  We don’t always make the time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

Today was just a day to do that.  No chores.  No errands.  Just fun. 

We started the day meeting our Friday playgroup at the park for some fun in the sun.  Emily got a few hours with her friends, and I enjoyed my time with the other mommies.  After lunch, we headed off on our date.

 

First stop – Starbucks!  We needed a potty break and I thought a couple drinks were in order.  Tea for Mommy, juice for Emily.

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We then headed to Hobby Lobby where Emily had requested time to just wander around and look to her heart’s content.  She is such a crafty girl at heart!  Usually when we go in Hobby Lobby we are picking up supplies of some sort and in a bit of a hurry.  She has been asking for some time to just be able to browse and really look at all the fun goodness in that store.  We spent 3 hours in there today, and she had an absolute blast. 

New hair clips, anyone?

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I think she could have spent a couple extra hours just on the row with all the hard animals.  So many to choose from!

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Next stop was Petsmart.  We don’t have a zoo close to us, but that’s ok because Emily loves the free trip to Petsmart.  She loves to see the kitties, birds, lizards, hamsters, and all the dogs people bring in. 

After we had exhausted the animal entertainment, we headed to one of our favorite local used bookstores where we found a few deals we couldn’t live without. 

After the bookstore, we were both running out of steam.  It had been a long, but fun day.  We stopped at the grocery store for some cheese, crackers & pepperoni to make a snack tray for dinner and also grabbed some ice cream for a treat.  Normally we just make our own at home, but this was a splurge.  She had requested frozen yogurt, so we stopped in a new place to check it out.  I requested to see their ingredients to make sure it was safe for us to eat, but after looking at the list of chemicals on the ingredient label and realizing how few real ingredients were in this “frozen yogurt”, we decided to skip the Fro-Yo place, and just grab a good brand of store bought ice cream instead. 

We set up our snack tray, grabbed some ice cream (topped with melted chocolate and fresh strawberries), and enjoyed our dinner while watching Andy Griffith. 

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What a blessed day!  I’m so thankful for these special times with my girl.

Earth Day Green Cookies! (Grain/gluten/egg/nut/dye FREE)

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I am always looking for fun science experiments to incorporate into our homeschooling, and this one did not disappoint us.  What a great experiment for Earth Day, St. Patrick’s Day, or just anytime for a tasty science lesson.  Not only is this recipe FUN, the results are extra yummy!

If you are a nut-free family, you may have already tried this or even accidentally stumbled across it in your kitchen.  If so, I’d love to hear what you made.  If not, you must try this!  The kids will love it. 

All you have to do is make a batch of cookies (recipe link at end of post).  On first glance, they will look like any other batch of cookies.  As they cool, you will notice the result of a chemical reaction.  The cookies will turn GREEN inside! 

The trick is that you have to use sunflower seed butter.  It’s like peanut butter, but made with sunflower seeds.  I have a Vitamix, so I made my own using organic, shelled, sunflower seeds.  If you don’t want to make your own, Sunbutter is found in most grocery stores and is commonly used as a substitute for nut butters.

Why sunflower butter?  Because it reacts with the baking soda in the recipe and that is what makes the cookies turn GREEN!

All plants contain chlorogenic acid, mostly in the stems and leaves, but sunflowers also have it in the seeds.  This acid reacts with the baking soda in the recipe, and causes the cookies to turn a bright green color inside as they cool.  The longer they cool, the more green they get. 

 

Our cookies looked pretty normal when we put them in and took them out of the oven, but with a little patience we were rewarded with a fun result.

 

The dough (and my favorite sous chef)

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Going in the oven

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Fresh out of the oven (notice the inside is still brown…..do NOT eat all the cookies yet!)

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After cooling for 2 hours

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After 6 hours – now we’re talking!  Isn’t that cool?

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The Cinnamon ‘Oat’meal Raisin Cookies recipe we used came from the Against All Grain website.  Notice “oat” is in quotes because there are no oats in the cookie.  The “oat” texture comes from shredded coconut so these cookies are completely nut-free, egg-free, gluten-free and grain-free.  Most of the sweetness is from applesauce and dates with only 2 TB of honey for a dozen cookies.  YUM.

Or you can make green waffles instead using one of our absolute favorite waffle recipes.  We make extra and keep them in the freezer.  Or we try to.  We’ve always made them with almond butter, but I might have to try some green ones next time.

 

Enjoy!

Homeschooling makes me happy!

Easter Weekend

Happy Easter! 

This year our family celebrated Easter a little different – no egg hunts, no baskets full of candy & gifts.  We decided to just keep it simple and instead just enjoyed a full weekend of fun family time.   I don’t have anything against baskets & egg hunts, but Emily hasn’t believed in the Easter bunny in years so we just decided to do it different this time. 

We spent the day Friday venturing out to the “big city” of Raleigh.  It’s only an hour and a half away, but we haven’t had a chance to go in a few months so it felt like a treat.  We enjoyed the road trip, spent a few hours at Whole Foods (there isn’t one near us), then let Emily play on a playground before heading home.

Saturday we spent the first half of the day at my local Crossfit box.  Rob and Emily came along to watch me during my workout class, and then we hung out to watch a competition known as The Open.  A couple of my friends were participating so we wanted to cheer them on.  Next year, I hope to join them!   We also ran some necessary errands to prepare for Easter dinner.

Sunday morning we celebrated Easter at church, and then we spent the rest of the day celebrating with some dear friends.  We hung out at their house, ate lots of food, let the kids play, went for a nice walk, and enjoyed lots of great fellowship.  We also made a homemade ice cream sundae bar!  We took our Vitamix to their house and Rob made 4 flavors of ice cream – all natural, no dye, no sugar – just frozen fruit & a tiny bit of coconut milk!  We had banana/mango, banana/blackberry, banana/cocoa, and banana/strawberry.  We had an assortment of toppings to choose from to make our healthy ice cream not-as-healthy, and it was so fun!  Rob even made some banana-only “ice cream” for our friend’s baby!

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In case you are wondering, Emily didn’t even miss the egg hunt or candy basket.  She was perfectly content to pick out a few treats at Whole Foods on Friday, and was more excited to spend Easter playing with friends and eating homemade ice cream than hunting eggs. 

Here are some pictures from our after-church photo shoot.  Considering it had been dark and rainy all morning, these turned out pretty good.  So thankful the sun decided to come out!

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(We can’t have a photo shoot without a silly picture!)

 

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My sweet girl, growing up!

 

As I talk about Easter, one of my favorite songs makes me think about my grandmother.  She went to be with our Lord a few years ago, but this song was one of her absolute favorites.  It’s called “Because He Lives” – Enjoy!

 

I hope you had a blessed weekend with your family as well!

My talented husband!

10 years ago if someone asked me or Hubby what our favorite hobby was we would have answered in unison, “SCUBA diving!”.  These days, we are more land-locked so we had to find some new hobbies for this season of life.  I’ve started sewing and embroidering again, and Hubby has entered the world of woodworking.  We are having so much fun!  Family business in the making, maybe? 

Rob got a router for Christmas, and shortly after we added a scroll saw.  The latter came after Emily and I found a book at the library about making natural wood toys using a scroll saw and we were filled with ideas.  Rob and Emily have had a great time picking out toys to make and we are getting quite the collection of little wooden animals.  Bunnies, squirrels, hedgehogs, a tiger, a kitty cat, and many more to come! 

I just have to show you a few of the things Rob has been making.  Isn’t he awesome?  I know, I’m biased.

A cross Rob made me for our anniversary

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A plaque for a guy at work (it was a joke because the weapon was broken while being cleaned…thus the rope sticking out of it)

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A wind-chime for Emily for Valentine’s Day

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A jewelry holder for Emily  (Rob cut out the stars and made the board.  Emily & I did the painting)

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An Easter decoration set for my parents – All stained NATURALLY using coffee, cocoa, berries, & spices!

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A plaque for some dear friends  (We made 3 for families of our House Church who have moved / are moving away)

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A tiger & kitty cat – Emily designed them using a stencil as a guide and making a few changes.  Rob cut them out, then Emily stained them with cocoa powder & paprika, and Rob burned the stripes on with a wood burning tool.  So cool!

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Our squirrels & hedgehogs still need to be sanded before we photograph them.  I have another of his awesome creations I can’t wait to share, but I have to wait until the recipient of the gift receives it so I don’t spoil the surprise!  So, stay tuned for more!

Why we won’t be adopting…a revelation

A post of a thousand words begins with a single keystroke.

I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting my blog.  I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time.  I’ve been desperate to sit down and share so many things with you.  The problem is that I have so many words swimming around in my head and I just can’t seem to get them from my brain to the computer screen in a coherent fashion.  I have so much to tell you and I’m afraid that the words just won’t come across the right way, that I’ll leave something out or my words will be misunderstood.

I have started this post a thousand times in my head, and now it’s time to get it out. I will just pray that the Lord gives me the words to explain this to you and that he gives you the heart to understand.  Or maybe you won’t understand, and he will make me ok with that too.  Either way, I’m going to start at the end of the journey – at the revelation God has made clear to me.  Then, in future posts, I will fill you in on parts of the journey God has taken me on to get me to the point where I am now.

The revelation?  We are no longer pursuing foster care or adoption, and we are instead fully embracing our family of three.  We are listening to what the Lord has planned for us and how He wants to use our family, rather than pursuing our own goals.

Some of you are reading this and have no idea we were even currently pursuing adoption.  I haven’t talked about it lately because there wasn’t any progress to speak of.  I debated writing about the struggles we were having, but kept hoping I would be able to tie up the loose ends with a pretty bow before I shared them with you.

That never happened.

Others of you – the VERY few with whom we shared our plans – are wondering why the sudden switch?  Didn’t we just tell you we were starting the process?

Yes, we did just say we thought it was time to start the process again.  Again, I say, because we’ve been here before – without success.  This time, God has once again made it clear to us that this is not the path he has laid out for us.  This time, we are choosing to accept it for good.  Sometimes, God has to tell me things more than once.  Maybe even 3 times because I’m a little hard-headed.  Thankfully, my Heavenly Father made me so he already knows that about me and loves me anyway.

10 years ago, Rob and I first discussed adoption when we found out we were infertile.  When we were told we could not get pregnant.  Before God gave us our miracle.   After having Emily, I just assumed we would have more kids either biologically or through adoption.  We tried for years to have another child on our own first, but growing our family through adoption was always on my heart.   I never meant to view it as a “backup” plan, but rather something I thought would be a great thing to do in its own right.  I knew many families who had adopted and I thought it would be a great way to help a child in need, while also fulfilling my desire to have more children.

Over the years, the adoption issue has taken us on an emotional roller coaster.  After having my hysterectomy in 2007, adoption became the only option for growing our family.  I began to put all my hope into “one day” adopting.  I’m a planner and it gave me something to look forward to.  After all, I had just lost all hope in ever having another miracle child by birth, so my hope now clung to this idea of adopting.  Oh, the lessons I’ve learned about contentment and where to put my hope…but that’s another post for another day.

In 2008, Rob and I became foster parents.  We thought it would be a great way to help kids and possibly grow our family through the foster-to-adopt program.  2 sets of siblings came and went, and then in 2010 we brought home a 7 day old baby boy.  I’ve told his story before, but for those that don’t know, let me recap quickly.  I won’t go into all the details, but we were told from almost day one that we would get to adopt this precious child.  10 months, many court dates, and a whirlwind of events later – we were unable to adopt him.   Heartbroken doesn’t even begin to describe the pain.

A few months later, we moved to North Carolina with the Army.  We assumed we would pick up our shattered hearts off the floor and try again with foster care once we got here, even though part of me wanted to swear off dealing with “the state system” ever again after being lied to, manipulated, and mistreated.   However, the door to being foster parents in NC was slammed shut when we found out Rob was deploying shortly after arriving.  They wouldn’t let me do the foster training classes without him, and said we would have to wait until he returned from deployment.

Ok, fine.  I’ll wait.

At this point in the story I’m still assuming we are going to be foster parents and adopt.  I knew we were called by God to become foster parents when we did it the first time.  Rob and I both felt that was clear.   I naturally just assumed that He wanted us to continue that once we moved.  I heard God’s “NO” when he shut this door, but I interpreted it as “Wait till Rob gets back” because that’s what I wanted to hear.  I’ve had to learn the hard way (and more than once!) that God often calls us to do something for a while, but not forever.  He puts us through seasons.  I also want to talk more soon about my journey to a place called Surrender, but for now, let me keep moving forward with this part of the story.

Once Rob returned from deployment, it took a while for us to settle back in and it seemed like one change after another kept coming up (moving to a new house, work schedules, etc.).  Anytime I would bring up adoption, I felt like Rob and I just weren’t on the same page about it yet.  One way I’ve learned to know if we are hearing from God on something is when we are both on the same page.  If we aren’t on the same page, then it’s best we don’t move forward because it means God isn’t leading us.  If he’s leading us somewhere, he always takes us hand-in-hand, on the same sheet of music.

I kept thinking we just needed to get to the right time.  I even talked about how God’s timing is perfect and it would happen at the right time.  Again, I was assuming it would happen.  That it was just a matter of time.  I just needed to wait until Rob was willing and then we’d make a run for it.

(Or so I foolishly thought)

Then, one day Rob made a comment about wanting a baby.  It was an innocent comment made because he got to hold a friend’s baby and got all mushy, but I took that and ran with it.  I asked him if he was wanting to really grow our family and move forward with adoption.  He agreed that he was (guys get baby fever too!) and the timing seemed to look ok since he wasn’t scheduled to deploy soon (he still isn’t – don’t worry, Mom!)

At this point, I did what I thought was the right thing to do, and I asked Rob to take the lead on the adoption research.  I told him that I wanted to make sure we were going on the right path, so I wanted him to do the research and let me know where he felt led.  Domestic or International?  Which agency?  Which country?  So many questions and paths to take.  I wanted God to tell Rob which way we were to go, and for Rob to tell me.  I was trying to do the Biblical thing and let Rob lead the family while I submitted to his leadership.  I was trying to control my instinct to take the plan and run with it full speed ahead while dragging everyone else behind me hoping they wanted on the ride in the first place.

I knew which way I thought I wanted to go, and when Rob mentioned the same I got excited thinking that must be the path!  Nope….God took us down that path only to show us the closed door.  A door boarded up like it was prepared for a hurricane with a “Do Not Enter” sign on it.

Again, I didn’t accept the “NO” God was giving me, and simply chose another path to take.  “He must be narrowing down our choices for us.”, I (foolishly) thought.

Again, God put us on the same page only to shut another door.  This door hit me in the face when it slammed shut.

This time, after crying out to the Lord, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  All this time we had been praying as a family about the adoption, but we’d been praying the wrong prayer.  We were asking God to show us which agency to use, which country to adopt from, and HOW to do this thing.

What we failed to ask was IF we were supposed to do this thing at all. 

I was telling God MY plan for MY life and then asking him to help me make it come true.  I wanted him to tell me exactly how to make it happen, but that’s not how God works.  He wants to be in charge.

It finally occurred to me that *I* had asked Rob to lead, so he was taking the lead, but I also realized that I had not specifically heard from the Lord that we were to adopt.  I can look back over my life and pinpoint very specific times when I knew what God was calling me to do and this was not one of them.  I wondered (hoped) if maybe God had just told Rob and not me (yet), so I asked him.  I said, “Are you taking the lead on this because I asked you to, or because God asked you to?”.  When my husband replied with, “That’s a great question.”  – I knew.  Suddenly, clear as the morning sun, I could see the answer.  This is not the path we were supposed to be traveling.

Oh, I can be so hard-headed…..and God is so patient! He just repeats himself over and over until we get it.  Until we really listen.

So, we prayed.  We prayed that if we were wrong about this revelation that God would make it clear so we didn’t miss something.  He can do that, you know.  He can protect us from ourselves when we ask.  I also prayed for peace, but I almost didn’t need to.  As soon as I acknowledged this revelation I felt his peace.  I could feel him pulling me into his arms and telling me that this is where he wanted me all along – in that place called Surrender.

 

I have to tell you that writing this post has been hard for a couple reasons…

1) One of the reasons that I’ve had a hard time writing this post is because I’m human and I’m afraid of what some people will say.  I have friends who have known for years that I’ve dreamed of a large family, and who have a large family themselves.  What will they think?  I hope they will see that I’m surrendering to the One who knows best for my life.  I hope they will know that even though we will never have family size in common, that their friendship is so dear to me.

Fear of what people think about you can keep you from accepting God’s plan for you.  For a long time, I’ve worried that if I accept this life as a parent of an only child, my friends with multiple children and I won’t relate to each other any more.  At least when we were planning to have more kids, I felt like I was still in the “club”.  But having an only child really stands out in social settings.  People make assumptions about your child and about you when they find out you only have one.  Especially when your child is past the toddler age.  When I would tell people we hoped to adopt, they would accept us and stop pressuring me to give our daughter a sibling.  When they find out you consider children a blessing and hope to have a big family one day, they stop asking as many questions.  Oh, the painful questions!

 

2) The other reason it has been hard for me to write this is because as a Christian, it has been hard to understand and accept that God would say no to us adopting, or that he would have closed my womb to more children.  After all, he loves children!  The Bible says the man with a quiver full of children is blessed.  Indeed, they are.  I’m learning though, that it doesn’t mean I am not blessed if I do not have a quiver full of children.  It simply means that children are indeed a blessing – a gift from God – a reminder that many people today need.

Yes, I know the Bible commands all followers of Christ to care for the orphans.  I’ve clung to those verses for years as my own “evidence” that we should adopt, but I also know that there are many ways we can care for the orphans.  Some will be absolutely called to adopt them.  Some will be called to pray for them.  Some will be called to go on mission trips and volunteer hands-on time with them.  Some will be called to give money and support others’ efforts.  There are many ways to care for them without doing it ALL.

It IS hard to understand why God would say no to something so good.  However, it’s not meant for me to understand.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

It’s not for me to understand why a good friend of mine is still single when she wants to be married.  Why a beautiful, Christian couple I know can’t have any kids at all.  Why parents I know have to spend countless days in the hospital with their young daughter, not ever knowing exactly what it wrong with her – for years.  There are so many “whys” I could ask about so many things in life, but ultimately what matters is that I surrender my will to HIS will and remember that his ways are not my ways.  He sees the big picture.  He plans my life.

I must recognize and ACCEPT that I am not failing my Heavenly Father by not having more children if that is not his will for me.  I must accept that God is in control of my life and that He knows best.  That whatever he has planned for us is better than anything I could ever imagine.

I must simply surrender and say, “Here I am, Lord.  Use my life as you please.” 

Secret Keeper Girl Mother-Daughter Time

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A couple of nights ago, I had the privilege of attending an incredible event called Secret Keeper Girl Pajama Party with my daughter, Emily.  We even wore PJ’s that I made myself!  I made matching ones for Emily and her sabertooth tiger, and a different set for myself. 

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The 3-hour event was an evening for moms & daughters (ages 8-12) to have fun together while learning about modesty and inner beauty.  The focus was on teaching the girls (and moms!) that they are children of the King of Kings and are absolutely precious and loved – just the way they are.  They were taught that they are PRINCESSES with a Heavenly Father who is madly in love with them – whether they prefer being a “girly-girl” or a “tomboy”. 

“The King is enthralled with your beauty; all glorious is the princess within her chamber.” (Psalm 45:11a, 13a)

There was a lesson on labels and how we often label ourselves with things like “ugly”, “stupid” (the “S” word!) or “unloveable”, but those labels are LIES and God’s word tells us otherwise.  God made each of us to be different on purpose, so we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and feeling inferior.  Instead, we should take those labels OFF and replace them with God’s Word!

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We had time to talk with our daughters about any labels that they are carrying and then to pray with them.  We also had a giant “popcorn” fight with huge inflatable balls, and even did the chicken dance!

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We got to watch a fashion show – modesty style – with some cute, fun style ideas for the girls.  They even gave some great modesty tips like wearing a men’s or boy’s ribbed tank top under too-short shirts (the boy’s tanks are longer!), or putting leggings/pants under those cute (but too short) miniskirts or dresses (that look more like shirts).   They also taught some tests you can do to see if your clothes are modest enough before wearing them out.  Those tests can be found on the SKG website.  It’s all about keeping our "secret parts” – still a secret!  Let’s let our little girls stay little as long as possible, please.

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SO MUCH FUN!  Check and see if there is a tour coming to your area and if so, take your daughter!  I think next year, I’ll make a full date of it and take her to a hotel for the night for some extended mommy-daughter time.

I’m back!

Did you think I neglected my blog?  I didn’t mean to, but it’s been over a month since my last post.  I’m recommitting myself to writing, so you should expect to see a lot more of me.  The problem isn’t that I don’t have anything to write about.  Rather, I have too many things I want to write about and don’t know where to start.  At any given time, I have a long list of topics or family events I want to blog about.  The problem is that once I get a few minutes to sit down and write, I spend too much time trying to figure out which one to write about instead of just jumping in. 

I have to do better.  I want to do better.  I want this blog to be a place for our friends and family to keep in touch with our lives.  I also want to use this to share our adventures in Army life, homeschooling, cooking gluten-free, and working with sensory processing disorder.  I want this blog to be a tool that I use to show others what God is doing in our lives.  He is so good to us and he is using us in some amazing ways that I can’t wait to share with you.

So, I’m back! 

Here’s a little review of what’s been going on around here:

 

* My parents came to visit us for Christmas and we had a wonderful time!  It was hard to say goodbye when they had to leave.  We played games, did a lot of sewing, saw Christmas lights, enjoyed a outdoor fire (burned the Christmas tree!), ate way too much, and just had a lot of fun!

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* We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a quiet night at home.  We all actually managed to stay up until midnight!  We let Emily watch the ball drop through streaming video on my phone, and then we welcomed the new year with glow-in-the-dark silly string and party horns! On New Year’s Day, we had our traditional New Year Ice Cream Sundaes (completely paleo!) and played family games.

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* This month, Hubby and I celebrated 11 years of marriage!  I am so blessed to be married to my best friend.  We didn’t do anything big this year, but we did get an afternoon to ourselves the next day while Emily played at a friend’s house.  We treated ourselves to Starbucks, and it was nice to just have time relaxing time with my man.

 

* A few days ago, I attended my first ever Crossfit class!  It’s a new adventure for me this year and I am looking forward to seeing some big changes.  I could not walk (at least not without looking quite silly) for 2 days after the class, yet I’ve never been so excited to go back to a gym (they call it a “box”)!  The people there were so encouraging and friendly.  It’s definitely a different environment than a typical gym.

 

* Hubby and I have new hobbies!  Our main hobby “back in the day” used to be SCUBA diving.  However, life changes and we are not in a season to enjoy that hobby at this time, nor will we be for a while.  One day we will again, but not like before.  We accepted that and decided to embrace some new hobbies that we can enjoy individually and as a family that fit our current season of life and where we are heading. 

Rob is taking up woodworking.  He got a couple tools for Christmas and has been having a great time learning how to use them.   So far he has made shelves for Emily’s room, a plaque for a co-worker, and a beautiful cross for my anniversary present! 

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As for me – I’m sewing & embroidering!  In the past, I had a time that I was doing this frequently, but I got away from it when other things in life took priority.  I’m having so much fun now that I’m doing it again.  It’s so nice to have the creative outlet and to create new things!  I’ve embroidered some kitchen towels, made PJ pants for Emily (and matching ones for her Build A Bear!), and pillowcases.  I already have a long list of projects to work on, and Emily is having a blast learning how to sew, serge, and embroider!  She’s a natural! I’m going to have her making stacks of cloth napkins soon because we need some more, and she’s a pro using that serger thanks to my mom teaching her over Christmas.

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* Emily is growing like a weed and it is so amazing to watch her grow and learn.  I love that she’s young at heart enough to love being silly, playing with little kids, watching cartoons, playing with cardboard boxes, doing arts & crafts, and getting elephant back rides from her Daddy!  At the same time, she’s old enough to be a big help around the house, have meaningful (& deep) conversations, and also enjoy cooking, sewing, and woodworking with Mommy & Daddy.  We are so incredibly blessed to be her parents!!

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We got a package in the mail and she couldn’t WAIT to play with the packing peanuts.  I told her she could play with them, but she had to clean them up.  She decided sitting in them was the easiest way to keep them contained.  Until she stood up, of course! She enjoyed them and them cleaned them up without a single fuss!

A beautiful mess

Be careful what you ask for!  A couple days ago, I was thinking about how nice it would be to have an entire day to spend in bed.  A whole day to read books, write, pray and talk to God, and just rest & be lazy with no scheduled appointments, errands to run or places to be.

Today I DO have an entire day to spend in bed, but it’s not quite the way I pictured it.  Last night I woke up around 1:00 AM with the start of what I hope is just a 24 hour bug.  Cramping, chills, and all sorts of nasty things that come with a gastrointestinal virus.  You know what those are so I won’t spell them out for you. (You’re welcome!)  I’d been up and down from the bed to the bathroom so many times that I finally decided to go lay on the sofa so my Hubby could rest better.  A couple hours later, he must have noticed I was gone because he came looking for me and scolded me for not waking him up so he could help me. 

Sweet man, but I was definitely not at my best and was trying to protect him from my mess.  He was not easily detoured.  At one point this morning, I was laying on the cold tile bathroom floor trying to will myself not to pass out while my husband wiped my neck and face with a wet washcloth.  For better or for worse, indeed.  Even during all of this, my husband refers to me as “Beautiful”.  I feel so blessed that he can see past my mess and still call me Beautiful.  He is truly a godly man!

That is such a picture of Christ, isn’t it?  My Jesus sees past my mess every single day and still calls me Beautiful, too.  He loves me as I am, no matter what mess I am in the middle of.  He wants to hold me, comfort me, and wipe away my tears.   He loves you like that too, you know.  No matter what you’ve done, what’s been done to you, what your outside looks like or what mess you are in the middle of….God thinks you are beautiful because he made you and wants a relationship with you.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

 

I’m also so thankful that God’s timing is always perfect!  If I had been sick yesterday, or the day before, I would have been on my own because Rob’s schedule would not have allowed for a day off.  Today it just worked out that he could be here.  It’s not too hard with just Emily because she’s old enough to be able to do most things herself, but we also care for my friend’s 17 month old Monday – Friday, so that would have proved a little more challenging for me or for them if I had been unable to watch him today. 

Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who is happy to help and an even more amazing God who is in charge of all things! 

Trust in God’s timing.  He knows what he’s doing, and he knows what we need to accomplish the tasks he has planned for us.  Sometimes I am tempted to take over the reigns and run ahead of God.  I have great intentions and honestly think I’m doing the “right” thing.  Maybe I’m even doing something “for his kingdom”, but if I’m not following his directions then I need to slow down and wait for him to lead.  He will never forsake me, and his timing will never fail to be perfect.

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know I’m a few days late, but I wanted to share with you how our family celebrated Thanksgiving this year.  It was our first Thanksgiving completely on our own as a family of 3.  For most of our marriage, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving with our parents – usually with both sides of the family coming together for one wonderful celebration.  Last year, Rob was deployed so it was just me & Emily and unfortunately we were both way too sick to enjoy the day at all.  In fact, we even turned down invitations to join friends and spent the day watching movies and recovering instead.

This year we were excited to have Rob home to celebrate with us! We did extend the invitation to some friends and some of Rob’s co-workers but everyone had a place to go, so we enjoyed our small family Thanksgiving.

Operation Holiday Cookies for Soldiers

That’s the official name Emily assigned to our new family tradition!  We started the day by making 16 dozen cookies of various types and delivering them to the soldiers that were working as gate guards on post.  We spent the morning mixing, baking, cooling, sorting, & packaging the cookies.  Then, we spent almost 2 hours driving around to 11 different gates on post and to the Staff Duty desk to hand out plates of cookies and our “Happy Thanksgiving” wishes.  It was a beautiful day, a relaxing drive, and lots of quality family time!

I just have to brag on our family! We worked like clockwork in the kitchen!  We kept it simple by making “Cake Mix Cookies” – a recipe I got from a dear friend of mine years ago.  Emily took her post in front of the KitchenAid mixer and made every single batch of cookie dough herself. She was rocking!  After the dough was ready, she passed it off to Rob who scooped it out onto the cookie sheets and put them in the oven.  When they came out of the oven, I took the cookie sheets and transferred the cookies to the cooling racks.  ‘Round and ‘round we went like an efficient assembly line, with Christmas music playing in the background!  In between rounds, I worked on punching holes in the disposable plates and decorating them with ribbon.  When all the cookies were ready, we lined up again and worked together to load the plates up with cookies. 

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Emily was super fast handing them out, so I didn’t get a great picture – but you can see from the soldier’s smile that they were well received!

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Emily even made all those cookies without licking the beater once since they were not gluten-free!  Don’t worry, we did make a GF batch of cookies afterward for her to enjoy – I’m not mean! Actually, I was quite impressed that she was so into making the cookies for the soldiers that she didn’t even mind not licking the beater. 

 

Thanksgiving meal….Southern style!

For our main meal, we went completely untraditional this year.  It’s not uncommon for our family to stray from the traditional turkey & dressing.  We’ve been known to have enchiladas, lasagna, or even go out to eat on Thanksgiving in order to keep it fun and different.  This year, I guess we were feeling our Southern roots a bit because we decided to make fried chicken, biscuits & gravy!  Rob and Emily had been having some cravings and we decided it was a great day to indulge them.  Once again we utilized our excellent teamwork – Emily made the biscuits, Rob fried the chicken, and I made the gravy!

We indulged, but didn’t go crazy.  The biscuits & gravy were both gluten-free, and the fried chicken was even a Paleo Fried Chicken recipe!  It was delicious!! So much so, that we’ve already made it again but with veggies instead of biscuits this time. 

 

MMM, gravy!

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Ready to dig in!

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What would we do without timers on cameras?

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Silly family!

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She asked me to take her picture again because you couldn’t see her tongue in the first one.

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Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

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