Sunday, September 20, 2015

One Year as a Family of Six!

 Yesterday we celebrated the 1 year anniversary of Haylee, Taylah, and JJ joining our family. But since I picked them up in Etown at 11:30pm on that day, they arrived at our house at midnight, and we didn't get in bed until 1am, a year ago today was our actual first day together.

Since there are few things I love more than then/now or progression pictures, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the first pictures I took of them compared to more recent pictures, especially since I couldn't share those first pictures back then. These aren't all from the very first day (although the one of JJ with the guitar is), but they are at least from our first week together.

Then (our very first family picture)

One year later (not the best picture of the boys, but it was the best of about 20 that I made our poor friend take)

Then (short hair, BANGS, and baby faces)

One year later (big girls who now help push the grocery cart instead of ride, grown-out bangs, and a lot fewer baby teeth)

Then (sweet baby with a shaved head that I could barely understand what he said)

One year later (big boy with wild curls and such a hilarious and clear talker)
I can't get over how much all of our kids have changed in the last year. I really regret not weighing and measuring them soon after they came to our house, because they have all grown SO MUCH. Oh Haylee, Taylah, and JJ, we are so thankful that God has given you to us as children. We love you so much.

Friday, August 14, 2015

First Day of Home School 2015!

We officially kicked off our first day of home school yesterday! Just like last year when Jude cried through his whole first day of school, every single person in my house cried at least once yesterday. A couple of children, who will go unidentified, cried a considerable amount.

So we can only go up from here, right? At least I got some cute pictures. Note that this will probably be the only day all year that the girls do school in something other than their nightgowns, because they live in them when we are just at home all day.

We are doing Classical Conversations with the girls, plus a hodge-podge of other language arts, math, and thinking skills workbooks. Our main goals for our kids are that they love God, are competent communicators, and can think for themselves. We already do a lot outside of school toward the first goal, so I didn't feel the need to make Bible a subject for school. Maybe I'll do a separate post about that soon. For the other goals, I'm probably going to err on the side of over emphasizing the language arts and thinking or logic as they get older. Not sorry at all about that.

Jude's curriculum is his ABA therapy program (you can follow that link if you want to know more about what ABA is), and we have a new gal who is coming to our house 6.5 hours per day to work with him on it. I can't tell you how thankful we are for her, and that God sent her to us at just the right time!

JJ's "preschool" will be daily workboxes. Those are primarily for the purpose of giving him something to do while I am doing school with the girls, but he will hopefully learn a bit in the meantime.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Beginning Running When You're Really Out of Shape

Let me just give a little disclaimer at the beginning of this: I know I don't look really out of shape; I'm a pretty healthy weight. But that doesn't mean I'm in good shape, it just means that I was blessed with a good metabolism. Also, I'm clearly not a medical professional, and this is not medical advice.

My husband decided to start running, and went out and ran a mile non-stop on the first day. One of my best friends runs marathons. If you're like either of them, you can just click on to something else. This is for those of us who struggle.

When I first decided I wanted to start running, I thought a couch to 5k program sounded perfect. I downloaded the free Runkeeper app and took off. But this is how out of shape I was: even it was way too hard for me. Talk about discouraging!

So I made up my own program, and slowly but surely I am improving. On my run this morning, I wrote this post in my head to hopefully encourage others who want to start running, but are really out of shape. Here is what is working for me:

  1. I got the Runkeeper app and just started doing what they call free runs. It shows you your time and distance and a few other fun things as you run. I started out doing a mile, running for 30 seconds and then walking for 1.5 minutes. And that was really hard for me! I'm serious! Do whatever interval pushes you just enough that you feel challenged, but not so much that you can't sustain it.
  2. Once I was doing that okay, I kept at the same interval, but increased to 2 miles. 
  3. Once I was doing that okay, I have kept at 2 miles and worked on my speed. I upped to running 1 minute and walking 1.5 minutes, then running 1 minute and walking 1 minute, then running 1.5 minutes and walking 1 minute, and so on. As of this writing, I've recently started running 2 minutes and walking 30 seconds, and it feels so great! It's been fun to stay at the same distance and work on speed, because Runkeeper tells you when you set a new personal record. Boy is that satisfying.
  4. At some point, I will increase my distance, too. I haven't decided when I want to do that.

A comparison of my first ever run that I tracked with Runkeeper (top) vs this morning's run (bottom, the grey markers are where I had to pause several times to stop for traffic because it's just a little backroad). It's so fun to see my min/mi go down, down, down, and it motivates me to push myself!

That's probably really basic, but hopefully it will encourage someone. Here are a couple of other things that have really made a difference for me:
  • I have a great running partner. Running with my dog, Molly Brown, not only motivates me to get out of the house for her sake, but she is so excited when we go running that she keeps my pace significantly faster than I would run and walk on my own. She is fantastic on a leash and literally drags me along when I am struggling (in a good way). Something about running with her just makes me happy.

Running (actually I was on a walking interval when I snapped this) with Molly Brown.
  • I run on a scenic road. I think running anywhere that isn't a track or treadmill is much easier and more interesting, even with all the hills on my road. We got a treadmill last winter and use it when the weather is inclement, but it is SO much harder to go the same distance and pace on it than it is on the road where I have things to look at and distract me from what I'm doing.
  • There was a time in my life when my knees hurt so bad from arthritis that I couldn't have dreamed of running. I could hardly walk up stairs when the weather was just right. But I went gluten-free several years ago for other reasons, and one happy side effect of that is that I do not have ANY arthritis anymore. Seriously. None. If arthritis is an issue for you, please consider a gluten-free diet. Even if you aren't medically allergic or sensitive to gluten, it has been proven to cause inflammation in your body. It has been honest-to-goodness life-changing for me.
A beautiful foggy morning on the road where Molly Brown and I run.

So those are my tips from a reformed not-runner! If you are a seasoned runner and actually read this, then after you pick yourself up off the floor from laughing at how out of shape I am, please share any tips you may have for newbies, too!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hard Doesn't Mean Bad or Wrong

I've been chewing on a thought lately that I need to get out. I'm not sure how eloquently I'll get it out, but I'm going to try.

Just because something is hard, doesn't mean that it's bad or wrong.

Actually, I would argue that hard is good, and if you aren't doing anything hard, then you're probably doing something wrong.

I just thought this was a great picture for a post about doing hard things.
Because God doesn't mold us into being more like Christ through the easy stuff. Think back on the times when you grew the most in your faith. For me it has been our first move to a new city after we got married, infertility, Jude's autism, moving back from Moldova, miscarriage and more infertility, Josh struggling to find work, foster adoption... these have been the times that have been so hard that I didn't know if I could go on. The times that have left me sobbing before God and sometimes before a person or two whom I trust. The times that have made me cling to Jesus for dear life, and instead of walk away from him, say with Simon Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68)

One of Jude's first therapy sessions. Autism has brought us to our knees probably more than anything else.

But for as desperately, miserably hard as those times have been, they have also been the sweetest times of fellowship with and comfort from God that I have ever known, and I look back on them not with regret or pain, but deep fondness and thankfulness to God for drawing me nearer to him through them. Not just for getting me through them, but for bringing me into them in the first place.

Would I have chosen to go through those times? Not a chance. Does it make me uneasy to think about the times that he will bring me into and through in the future? A bit. Because if there's one thing I've learned in my 12 years of walking with God, it's that the trials that strengthen our faith and trust in God are like lifting weights--they get harder and heavier each time. But they are so worth it for the sake of a stronger faith in God, knowing and loving him more deeply, and showing his glory more clearly to those around me.

That M.Div. was worth it, but it was not an easy few years.

Think about Elisabeth Elliot, who just passed on to Heaven. Everyone who is familiar with her story looks at her in awe and wishes for just a small measure of her faith in God. But look at everything she suffered in her life, and how she clung to God through them! Our faith is small not because there was anything special about Elisabeth Elliot from a human perspective, but because we shrink away from anything that might be hard or make us uncomfortable or encroach on our American Dream, and by the grace of God she didn't. There is a reason that Paul wrote to us in Romans:
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,
because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 ESV, emphasis mine)
We REJOICE in our sufferings!

So I'm learning to lean in to the hard. Not necessarily to go looking for it, but to embrace it when it comes or when God calls us into a path that we know will be hard. Because I don't want a complacent life where I never grow more into the image of Christ. I don't want an easy life that even an unbeliever could live, where God's power, love, comfort, and eternal worth aren't put on display for his glory. I want to know him and make him known through the hard times.

Don't believe the lie that hard things are bad.

If you feel God calling you to do something that will be hard, don't shrink from it. It could be the best thing you've ever done.

And the hard thing you're going through may be really awful right now, but if you hold fast to God, someday you will look back on it with thankfulness when you remember the depth of comfort and faith that met you there.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 ESV)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

9 Years Ago

9 years ago. He was so young and skinny and shaky and unsure of himself in so many ways. But what won my heart then, and has continued to win me anew every day, was his deep, unwavering commitment to the Lord and to me. Saying yes to him was the second best decision I've ever made (second to saying yes to Jesus, of course).

For our anniversary today, we at least got to get dressed up... to go to court with our three new children. No, it wasn't an exciting court date like finally adopting them, it was just a routine 6 month check-up of sorts with the judge. After lunch, we had homemade cappuccinos, cuddled on the couch, watched an Anthony Bourdain episode from Tanzania, and dreamed of going there for maybe our 20th anniversary. Josh did finally go to his office to work for a few hours, and I played with Jude for a while (while the little two were napping and the oldest was at school) and then finally planted our little garden. Josh made bacon and egg wraps for dinner while I finished up the garden, because I'd forgotten to get any meat out of the freezer to thaw.

In most ways, it wasn't a terribly special day, but (and I know this is totally cheesy and cliche, but it's absolutely true) every day that I get to spend with this husband of mine is a special day. I could not be more thankful for him and the 9 difficult and wonderful years that God has given us together.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Finally Treading Water

Around the six-month mark of being a family of six, I started to tell people that I felt like we were finally not just completely drowning.

Because let me tell you, those first six months, Josh and I were definitely mostly drowning in life (as you could probably gather from my Four Months Post-Placement post). Going from one to four kids is a huge adjustment!

Don't get me wrong, it was still a sweet time. We reminded each other regularly that yes, this is hard, but it's also wonderful. God would give us glimpses of grace that kept us going in the middle of all of the hard stuff, like one of the girls belting out a hymn when she thought no one was listening, or the little guy actually coming to me for comfort when he got hurt instead of running away. 

I say that we reminded each other of that, but let's be honest, it was probably 75% me reminding Josh. Because God has always given me a desire for a large family and the personality to handle it reasonably well. Josh, on the other hand, really craves peace and order. That's just the personality that God gave him, and it is a wonderful thing in so very many ways. It does mean, however, that this whole four-kids-overnight thing has been a harder transition on him than on me.

So, like I mentioned at the beginning of this, I've been telling people for about a month now that I felt like we were finally starting to tread water instead of just drowning. But just a few days ago, Josh actually said (in different words) that he finally felt the same way. 

It was such a happy moment for me, because I have worried so much about this ride that we've jumped on, and whether the sweet man that God gave me, who has so very much on his plate these days, would survive it without going into cardiac arrest. Seriously.

But God is good and sustains us and grows us through the hard times.

Don't get me wrong, we still have hard days. Really hard days (most notably when our oldest gets ahold of sugary/dye-filled treats that she's not supposed to have because they make her lose all control). We've also all been sick all winter. I am in the middle of my THIRD flu in six months. That's been fun. But overall, lately we've been feeling much more settled and competent and peaceful. Thank you, Lord.

And just for the sake of a small non-update, we are still waiting on an adoption date. We were originally told that their adoption should have come and gone by now, but the kids' social worker (who is great, by the way) has been bombarded with adoption cases and it has taken her longer than expected to finish our paperwork. We are praying that it will be before Josh leaves for Malawi in June, but that is quickly approaching. Will you pray with us?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pictures of Our Kids!

Sorry, it's not exactly what you think. I was going through our pictures from my big camera this morning and realized I had several that didn't show our new kids' faces and would be good for sharing online. I hope you can enjoy these peeks into our lives the last few months, even if you still can't see their faces yet. (For the kids' safety and privacy, foster kids' faces aren't allowed to be shared online until they are adopted.)