Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Change of Heart

Yesterday I started talking about planning for our kids clothing needs as fall approaches.

For myself, the same task is a little more complicated.
I'm actually working on streamlining my relationship with clothing.
More like, God is working on that relationship and it's more like my relationship between my heart and my body image.
I've pretty much always felt insecure about myself, my weight in particular thinking I could make people think I'm taller, slimmer, prettier by visually manipulating them with my clothing.
I watched way too much What Not To Wear as a preteen.

But God is doing a new thing in me.
He is challenging my beliefs.
He is showing me that I am worshiping a vain ideal instead of Him.
He is showing me how careless I've been with money.
He is showing me how ungrateful I've been for what I do have.
He is showing me that I prize something wordly over the stability and truth He has for me.
He showed me I needed to repent and turn around and let Him overhaul my beliefs about beauty, about security, about what He created my body for and about what I need to set my heart on.


You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.
Song of Solomon 4:7

SO.

I prayed about a few new rules to dress by letting God reshape my behaviors as He reshapes my heart.
1. Do not buy anything new. Even if you love it. Even if it's only 50 cents. Even if it would make you feel like a super model. It won't. So don't
2. Pick out a few clothes at the beginning of every month from what you have. Box up the rest until next month. This way the only "shopping" I'll be doing until God tells me otherwise is of that which He has already blessed me with.
3. Continue to dress well, but not with a manipulative intent.
4. Be grateful for all that you have.

By these rules, I've actually paired my clothing options WAY back.
A few lists helped me narrow down my real needs.
I picked out a handful of items I know will fill those needs for the month.
Everything else went into a cardboard box.
That box is stashed in my son's room with a blanket thrown over, cleverly disguised as side table. :)

I've followed through with this plan for a couple weeks now.
My once too tiny closet is now very roomy.
I am trusting God to complete this new work in my heart.
I'm pretty dang excited to see what it will look and feel like afterward.
The burden of hating what I see in the mirror, never feeling beautiful enough, always looking for a cheap new thing to make me feel any prettier, being a total hypocrite about what I say is important to me......it's too much and it's distracting me from Jesus.


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings
Psalm 17:8


If you struggle with a similar insecurity, trust and believe what God says about who you are.
Stop feeding ypur heart with lies.
Stop shopping in order to maybe, hopefully, possibly feel just a tiny bit better about who you are.
Nothing is better for you than what God has already blessed you with.
Especially those things that may feel more like a flaw right now.
Recognize that lie for what it is then PUT IT AWAY FROM YOU.
Embrace the freedom that God gives.



Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Not Summer Anymore, Not Quite Fall

Well we're here.
My very least favorite time of the year.
I have a hard time enjoying these weird in between weeks that happen at the end of summer but before the beginning of fall.

School is back in so summer just kind of feels....over.
This feeling would come on even before my own kids were in school.
Pools close, the daily schedule gets tighter, no one is free during the day, everyone has to go home earlier to make bedtimes....
The carefree-ness of summer is squelched.

But at the same time, the great things about fall still don't feel quite right.
Cozy decorating, corn mazes, cider scented candles, chili with peanut butter sandwiches to dunk, boots (even if it is still 80 degrees out), thinking about Halloween costumes, jackets, roaring camp fires, fall sports........

For now, I use this odd time to prepare for the season change.
One of the most necessary things to plan for is clothing.
For the past couple of years, I've been using these odd in between weeks to assess our wardrobe situation for myself and the three kids well before the thermometer plummets.
I make sure everyone has what they need, it looks good, fits well, is clean and is ready to grab.



I take a lot of inspiration and direction from these verses in Proverbs, chapter 31:

21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 

Clothing is a basic need but it can also be a lot of fun. 
I don't want to be scrambling at the last minute, spending way too much on full price items when I could have just planned a little and found what we needed at fall yard sales and end of season second hand sales. 
Also lots of times, other friends and family will bring over a load of hand me downs. 
If I have a good idea what our kids need for the coming growth spurts and season changes, I can spend almost nothing yet collect some really nice things that fit our needs and family style. 

Tomorrow I'll share about how God is not only preparing, but causing my own growth spurt and a season of change.




Friday, August 11, 2017

Off To School She Goes

It's official: we have a preschooler on our hands :)
Hahaa! I know I'm just another mom making a HUGE deal out of something very, very common.
Kids go to school. Duh.

Yea but MY kid has never gone to school.
The most common thing can become the most significant thing when it finally happens to you and yours.
Starting school is no different.

So last night, the five of us got our act together and headed down the street to check out Larissa's new school.
McKinley was just as into it because she'll be there herself in just one short year.

The first thing in the door was a sand table and the girls were completely absorbed by that while Adam and I got to talk with the teacher and her room assistant.
What a couple of sweet, kid-loving ladies.
Plus they both love the Lord.
We talked a little about academics but mostly about life stuff.
In that short discussion, I left feeling over the moon about the year I could just tell Larissa was in for.
We pushed the girls away from the sand table to take a quick look around the classroom noting the cool toys, small tables and chairs, a reading rug, and kid sized pottys in the bathroom.

We ended the night with some ice cream at Baskin Robbins with these (ahem) *special* kids....






Then it was home for baths, books, and bed!

Getting Larissa up for school will happen earlier than we normally have gotten up. 
It's rare that we all ever get up anytime before 8. 
So 7:30 came and the little scholar fought wake up time a bit. 
Once she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and remembered what today was she was up and at 'em.







 *sigh* *tear*
Sweet baby. 
She's an adventure. 
One of my favorites. 

Then it was off to school with Daddy...


I love that part!
I love living close enough to walk.
We may not always 100% of the time walk, but it's a favorite option.

Kenna and I walked together to bring Larissa home when it was time.
She was a fountain all the way home.
Then was immediately tired and ready for our lunch, cartoon, and nap routine.

All is silent as I type.
The blessings just keep flowing.
We are so thankful for this new chapter and are looking for God's leading as we meet new families and kids.
I'm so thankful for a teacher I can trust to teach my child.
I'm thankful to be able to walk with our kids there and back.
I'm thankful for Larissa's sweet heart and mind.

It's been a good day.




Wednesday, August 9, 2017

School Prep

This year the Conners will be beginning school life.
Public school life to be specific.
Larissa will have her first day of preschool in just a few days.

We are all thrilled for her!
She's a powerfully creative little girl who doesn't miss or forget much.
School will give that growing brain of hers good things (and maybe a few not so good things) to munch on.

There have been so many ways to prepare for this new and exciting time.

She picked out a new backpack with her birthday money at a local second hand store.

She also got to pick out a new dress for the first day of school.
I found a nice little lunch box in the $3 bin at Target, a set of compartment sandwich boxes, and a thermos bowl for keeping oatmeal (L's favorite) warm. 



Plus there was a short list of classroom supplies like dixie cups and hand sanitizer. 

As we collected these items here and there over the summer, I knew a new way of doing our mornings was going to be needed. 
Adam and I are AWFUL at keeping any kind of morning routine or getting up before 8.
Seeing as how our little lady has to be at school by 8.....well that's not going to work.
So a new ideal routine was scratched out on paper and tacked to the fridge.
Don't be impressed. 
I'm still not getting up before 7. 
Adam has set a higher (or rather earlier) goal for himself.
Larissa will be packing and eating breakfast at school every morning so that will eliminate one hoop for her to jump through before leaving. 

Along side these practical preparations, we've been preparing our hearts: 
Talking the experience up to Larissa and her siblings. 
Telling her how much fun she'll have but it will also be work. 
Talking about new friends and teachers and rules. 
Talking about safety issues and when she needs to tell mommy and daddy or her teacher right away when she doesn't feel safe. 
Making sure she knows her full name and her parents full names. 
Taking her to play on the playground.

Praying. 
A lot. 
Praying about Christ pulling Larissa to Him through all her experiences. 
Praying that we would have wisdom and discernment to help guide her through this out-of-home experience.
Praying that she would remain her sister's best friend. 
Praying that He would bless her as she learns with a willingness, curiosity, and joy. 
Praying that He would use Larissa to bless those around her like He does for us.
And countless other places where we desperately need Him. 


The big day will dawn soon and then fade into a new monotony of a new normal. 
But for right now, I'm just enjoying walking down this new path with this precious little one.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Homey Morning

This morning was like, great.
In a very basic, nothing going on, just room to do stuff and do NOTHING kind of way.
My family needs mornings like that.
I need mornings like that.



Usually when I wake up and before I get out of bed (sometimes even the night before) I try to pick a big goal for the day.
Our day needs a focus.
That's my trick for making sure we (my three very young children and I) stay active and productive but in a balanced way.
During colder months, my pool of choices usually include doing all the laundry, visiting the library, getting groceries, going to a fun thing like the children's museum, keeping an appointment, walking to the park, visit with friends, or going to a women's bible study.
During warmer months, I choose from many of those plus swimming, going for a hike, walking to a favorite creek to splash in, picking through yard sales, or spending the day with friends.

I pick one and only one focus to take up the bulk of our day.
While we go about doing whatever I've focused on, we do the daily little necessities and homemaking stuff as I go and as I have the energy/motivation.
Things like picking up, doing the dishes, special projects, organizing, etc.
I follow no cleaning schedule or anything.
Never could seem to stick to one.
But things get done as I notice it and it seems to work for us.



So with all those options, life is so not boring.
And I believe that staying reasonably busy is a blessing to both my kids and me.
It teaches them how to be part of our community, giving me tons of opportunities to teach them how to simply do life.
I'm comfortable taking my kids pretty much anywhere on my own because we all know what to expect from each other.
It's good for me to stay occupied whether it's inside or outside our house because I can tend towards the couch potato life......


But some days like today, it's a treat to get up slow, eat an easy breakfast, stay in pj's, and just be together.

No appointments.
No people.
No expectations.
No car.
No hustling.
No time constraints.

Thank goodness for getting stuff done but thank goodness for cozy-chill-stay-at-home days







Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Fulfilling Kind of Busy

How lame would it be for me to open this long delayed post by claiming how BUSY life can be?

Well guess what: I'm just that lame.

It is SO busy.
But like the awesome, wonderful, please-don't-ever-stop type busy.
(Just kidding. I like a coffee break now and again)



Our family and home life is incredibly fulfilling.
Adam and I continue to make a hobby out of updating our cool little house.
The kids are constant sources of fun, silliness, challenges, and joy.
And we as a couple are learning to work as a team and love each other more deeply with every passing year.



Our ministry life continues to be a source of intense blessing and challenge.
God has done much this past year or so to update many physical spaces so they can serve the congregation better.
There have been so many lives touched by intense pain and joy.
Watching God be glorified in their lives despite all circumstances is......out of this world.
Deepening relationships with those we serve alongside is sustaining and a pleasure.
Deepening relationships with those we serve is joyful.

Perfect? No.
Easy? No.
Faultless? Certainly not on my part.

But I can easily, honestly say I am a blessed woman with no complaints.

This summer did dawn though with unexpected needs for our son.
He's had a variety of issues that have just caused him to be quite a bit off the normal track of development for babies.
Given this we've done all we can to provide developmental support  and search for any information to help him including testing, an MRI, therapy, and nutritional support.
We found out that he had cataracts and have spent a large amount of time getting those removed from each eye.
That should all be wrapped up by the end of August.
From there we'll continue to provide developmental support to help our guy be all he can be.



This past month, we were able to achieve termination of parental rights from our son's birth parents.
This means that we are officially on the path towards adopting him.
I keep joking that we are paper pregnant, expecting a nearly 3 year old little boy sometime next year! ha!
Obviously we couldn't be more thrilled.

I highly doubt that this will be the end to our adoption through foster care journey.
We're excited to see what God does with the size of our family.

This fall, we'll also begin our school journey.
Our oldest girly, Larissa will start preschool at our nearby public elementary school.
We can't wait to see what the Lord teaches her there and how He uses her experience to bring Himself honor.





Kenna just turned three.
All she wanted anytime someone asked was two watches :D
I'm looking forward to some more time just with Kenna as Larissa goes off on her own adventure.




Looking forward, I'm just hopeful and excited.
I love watching our days and troubles unfold and seeing God meet our needs in unexpected, delightful ways.
He really makes life where there was none.
Every day brings new emptiness and need.
He just rushes in to meet every need, every sin, every hunger with more love, more wisdom, more truth, more beauty......more of Himself








Monday, March 20, 2017

The Penny Jar

A few weeks ago, Adam and I were talking about some parenting issues we've been having. Especially when it came to motivating the girls to follow through on normal family rules and expectations like putting away their own dirty clothes, putting on/putting away shoes and coats when coming or going, throwing away their own trash, obeying with a happy heart the first time, treating each other with kindness: the normal stuff.

Adam decided it was time to try out a system of rewards and left it to me to figure out exactly what that would look like.

After some thought, I put together what we call our penny jars....



This was a completely free project using only what we already had.

The materials:
A few jars, a handful of pennies, and some labels made out of masking tape + marker and you're in business.
The system:
Each girl has her own jar. As we go though our day and they do good works with a happy heart (obey, follow family rules and routines, do simple chores, are especially kind and considerate....) they get a penny or more in their jar. It also works the other way for times when they are less than kind, consistently disobey, whine and complain..... and they can loose pennies.



I have a written list of ways they can earn and also loose pennies and how much.
A small sample:
+1 put shoes/coat away right when we get home
+2 no time out all day
+1 put dirty clothes in basket
+3 try to make bed (at 3 and 2 yrs old, its not realistic yet to expect them to do it "right" every day)
+1 obey teacher/authority

-2 multiple timeouts
-2 hitting/hurting another person or animal
-1 fight bedtime
-3 lying/deceit

Every 3 or 4 days, they get to cash in their earned pennies for special projects, activities, or even small Dollar Tree prizes.
I have a separate list for these cash in options and each item has its own cost.
Small Sample:
3¢ extra story time
5¢ playdough time
10¢ treat for snack
15¢ pick from prize basket
20¢ trip to the library
30¢ out for ice cream or a smoothie

Their favorite option is picking out a prize from our prize basket :)



We are only a few weeks into using this system.
I've already fixed a few bugs and might still have to change it up to make it work for us.
So far though it's pretty motivational for them and an effective option for me to keep them inline with the family.

I also like that this reward system can grow with them.
We'll be able to use it to teach them how to save up pennies and delay gratification.
It can be used to teach them how to tithe and that they can use their earnings for helping others.
It can be used to teach them that things cost something and don't just magically appear. :)

Their hard work will amount to something and I like reinforcing that instead of only having threats and negative options to depend on.



















Thursday, February 16, 2017

Leo the Aussie

So this happened last weekend.....


His name is Leo. 
This picture is blurry, as are all the rest of him because like most young things he does not stop moving unless he is asleep. 
He's a 3 month old Australian Shepard. 

Adam and I knew we wanted to have a pet.....someday.
Someday when all of our kids weren't such puppies themselves.

We heard that Adam's aunt had a little Australian Shepard she was watching for a couple who decided they didn't want him back.
That was during Christmas when we first heard about him.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard they still had him and wanted him gone to a new family.

I decided I wanted to be that family.
Adam did not necessarily agree.
After promising to do the work and let him have all the fun 😉 he said yes.

So one weekend trip, a free dog, and several days later I think we are getting the hang of having this guy around.







He's a dork. 
And a spaz at times. 
But he's doin' good.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Real Life Help

Our family has been involved with the foster care system for nearly 3 years.
In that time it has become apparent that the need is great for more support for the foster system.
It can become overwhelming, especially if you already know that yet have no idea where to start.
Can I share a few ideas?

The first few are obvious:

1. Become a foster family. I especially encourage this if you are a Christian and have received the kind of love that only Christ can give. Countless kids and families are in need for that very love. If you feel any pull whatsoever in the direction of being a vein through which that love can flow, go for it and trust God to provide! He will!! I have seen it. I have lived it. I have watched as He has provided for other families who foster stepping out on a prayer, trusting God with the terrifying unknown.

2. Adopt. Make a child who belongs only to the state, belong to you. What an eternal gift for both of you.

If neither of these options will ever really be an option for you, read on....

3. Become a respite provider. In our region, this requires a background check, fingerprinting, and a caseworker coming to your home and conducting a simple interview. Foster families sometimes need to travel and aren't able to bring the foster child along. Other times, a foster family might just need a break from giving 24/7 child care. Respite could be overnight, a couple of weeks, or anything in between. It is a short term situation and often a very high need.

4. Become an approved babysitter. In our region, this requires only an annual background check. It is limited to daytime babysitting meaning the child would not be permitted to stay overnight. This too is insanely helpful. The more support a foster family has, the better chance it will have for success. In our family's case, at one point we only had our youngest child attending family visits and I could not bring our older two along to the drop off. It would have been too emotionally complicated for everyone. So I needed someone to stay with the older two. Sometimes my husband could stay home from work but often that was not possible. Thank goodness for approved babysitters.

5. Become a CASA volunteer. A CASA volunteer advocates for what is in the best interest of an abused or neglected child. They often attend family team meetings, court hearings, review documents, and check in with children placed in foster homes. Our CASA volunteer has become like a surrogate grandfather to our kids. He visits at least once a month for an hour or so. We keep each other up to date on case developments and he has offered our children so much support. He is also involved with other families and I know has been a blessing to each of them. He was at the adoption hearing for our girls to celebrate with us. By becoming a CASA, you are able to care for a specific child directly though not providing day to day care and family life.

6. Make a meal for a family who has had a knew placement. Food is a game changer. We were blessed to have family and a friend or two bring us meals each time a child was placed with us. My mother-in-law even stocked our pantry when we brought home our second daughter. Seeing as how she was a complete surprise without any time to prep, that was an incredible relief. When I brought our third home, though I didn't have to heal from giving birth, I still had two other children (ages 1 and 2) and a very busy husband who's schedule could not slow at the time. It was madness but a free dinner dropped off at our doorstep was God's love incarnate.

7. Support your local foster care agency. Volunteering time is always an option. I do not have to tell you how overworked those people are. The turn over rate is high because it is a hard, thankless job with some high points but many, many low points. You could call to see if there are any practical needs. Car seats are always needed. Diapers, clothing, and basic hygiene items. I've heard of people putting together a journey bag to give to children when they are removed and have nothing. This can look like filling a gently used backpack or duffle bag with some clothes, hygiene items, a book, and a comfort item. This small gesture could provide a world of comfort to a child who's world is spinning out of control.

I think most people are desperate to help but also desperately stuck.
Taking anyone of these steps in an effort to show the love of Christ that you've been shown is powerful.

I am endlessly grateful for the support we have received.
We have some faithful people around us.
It has made all the difference not only to me and my husband, but more importantly to the kids that came into our home needing a group like that to support them.
Not just with good intentions but foot-to-the-pavement type love.




Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Adoption! That's right. Adoption!

It is currently 12:04 am as I begin writing this post.
It's just one of those nights when I thought I'd be out as soon as my head hit the pillow but no.
Two hours later and my head is swirling.
Among the various conversations with myself, the prominent one is "Oh my gosh. We did it. We adopted our daughters. They're ours for as long as can be. "
So you can imagine.
Not a lot of peace and stillness is flowing from thoughts like that.

More like joy and plans and hopes in a way we had scarcely let ourselves indulge in before.


It was official one whole week ago on December 1st.
We met our family, a friend, our case worker, and our attorney at the court house at 8:30 in the chilly morning.
The girls wore the dresses they had each picked out for this special day.
After a short wait, our whole party was led into the judge's chambers.
Adam, I, and our girls sat in front of the judge with our support system at our back.
A short interview, an oath, the speedy consent of the judge, and it was official!
Just like that!
The friendly judge gave each of our daughters (!) a sucker and put on his roomy black robe for the photo op.
!






I was a little shell shocked.
It was done.
Adam and I are Larissa Mae's and McKinley Joy's parents forever.
They are Conners!
Praise God.
His generosity is overwhelming.

Larissa hugging our tireless case worker. 



It's too much!
So much joy!
So much rich, complex sweetness.
Countless tender looks have passed between the four of us.
And there is no end in sight.

We will continue to love and work daily for our boy.
Hopefully within the year, he will also have the Conner stamp ;)



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween 2016

This year is the first year our kids were able to get into trick-or-treating.
At ages two and three, they were STOKED about being able to dress up in special costumes (even if they weren't store bought) and getting as much candy as they could.

Girls after my own heart.

Now I've got some pictures to share but I just want it to be known that it is getting SO old that we still cannot share faces yet.
Their faces are the best part!
Little goofy smiles, apple cheeks, and shiney, smiling eyes.....
Just letting you know, you're missing out.
But soon.....very soon.....things will be changing.....

But back to it.



Thumb in mouth from the get-go


All three kids dressed up as care bears.
We went to a friend's baby shower a month ago which was care bear themed.
The girls LOVED it and have been into the cartoon ever since. 
I knew it would be so easy to whip up costumes from things they already had plus a couple inexpensive bits from a second hand shop.
The finishing touch was painting on heart shaped noses on their own noses. 
Sweetums usually led off with "Look at my nose!" at each house. 

Right after dinner, we started off walking around our neighborhood while it was still light out. 
Then we drove around to a couple friends' homes and ended with stopping by my mom's work to see her. 
By then, even though it was only a little after eight o'clock, our little baby bears were beginning to sugar crash from their steady stream of suckers and mm's. 
Pumpkin had wiped out before we even got to see my mom. 
It was time to wrap it up and head home.


Once everyone was tucked in, I took the opportunity to safety check the kids' booty and also maybe skim off my own commission (especially when it was in the form of a KitKat bar mmmmmm).

I loved seeing all my friends' kids on Instagram in their great costumes.
So fun.

I'm not going to get into what a Christian can or cannot do when it comes to Halloween. 
As Christians we are 100% free in Christ.
But not all things are God honoring or even beneficial to ourselves. 
Therefore, I believe what a family does in relation to Halloween is between the family and God. 
I read an article recently that helped me think about it anew.
And that's all I have to say about that. 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Taking a Walk

Lately I've been trying to take walks as often as possible.

Sometimes it's alone at 7 in the morning before all the sleepy heads are up.
Sometimes I take a kid or two (one on my back, one in a stroller).
Sometimes I sneak out after dinner with heavy handed hints about how much the kids need a bath like I did tonight...




It's been a nice thing to fit in here and there for a breather.
Time to think, pray, and soak in the changing air.
Sometimes I like listening to a book as I go.

So far I've listened to Give Them Grace (loved it), Steve Martin's Pure Drivel, The Blue Tattoo, Bear Gryll's auto biography Blood, Sweat and Tears (favorite!), The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God, The Lifegiving Home, several books of the bible, and right now Hands Free Mama.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears by Bear Grylls was my favorite (other than the bible, duh).
I love the adventure and hearing about the stuff he's conquered is fascinating.
He gives all the glory to God.
It's always good to hear people's testimony about what God has accomplished in their lives.
If my life was completely different and I didn't have my beloved husband and cool kids I like to think that I'd be a hiker and do big backpacking trips.
Maybe not on Grylls' level but that kind of life always looks good to me.





But in the life God has blessed me with, for now, I walk.
Usually I walk along the road and pass by the park
Then I circle around and head home the long way through our neighborhood.
I love walking in our neighborhood.
It's an old one with tons of old, original homes built in the early 1900's.
There are a lot of homes that really aren't that big but have tons of style.
I love when there's a ton of charm packed into a small, well-kept house.
Some keep it pretty classic and traditional.
A few are quirky but they make it work.
I never get tired of oogling each one of them as I pass by.



I'm starting to feel the press to get as much walking in as I can before the temps really dive.
Even then, I can see plenty of snow walks in my future.