6/23/16

Summer Survival

Our summer has been off to a crazy start!!! Are you bipolar with your summertime mindset like me?? You love no schedule, but you hate no schedule. You love your kids home, but then you feel like you aren't going to make it. You don't want them in camps, but then you do need them in camps. You dream about family vacations, but then wonder what going alone looks like?! You have more time in your day, but where did all our time go? You tell the children all day they will have an earlier bedtime tonight, but then you realize its 9pm and still sunny outside. You went swimming in the pool so that cancels out bathtime. Your kids bathing suits just stay on. Summer is like an eat fest and you have now decided to order all groceries through Shipt because you are not taking your wet and dirty children into the store. Yall. Kids and summertime is magical, but terrifying and exhausting. It's so hard to balance and also find time for yourself to catch a break. I, like you, am keeping mine close but praying desperately for the energy to do it!!

 It is our busiest season of the year for our heating and air company! Summit has been all hands on deck and we are constantly amazed at the success and growth we've had. Tim has hired 2 people and has 2 trucks and a trailer and we cannot wait to watch it grow more. It has been fun to dream and watch God use his company in ways we didn't expect. If you've followed our blog for a while you know that my heart is bursting with gratitude and also joy for Tim that he is doing his deal. I couldn't be more supportive and on board and helping in all the ways I can!!

I was asked to share our story of my sweet friend, Sarah Bragg's "Surviving Sarah" Podcast. Sarah will be your new best friend, she has such a great way of connecting with people and is a really inspiring person to know. Please check out her show and you can tune in here to hear my episode!



We surprised the kids on Memorial Day weekend with a trip to Captiva Island. It was honestly the best kick off to the summer! We woke them up at 4am and told them they were about to get on an airplane.... they have never flown before!!! (Well, David with me at 9 months old but he has no memory of it :) They lost their minds. So excited. They did incredible. I will never forget their faces when the plane took off......




Arriving in Captiva, we stayed in the South Seas Resort!
Sea life everywhere, Mackenzie rescued this starfish! We saw dolphins, manatees, and they brought home 50 sand dollars!







Our room overlooked the marina and the kids loved to watch the boats come and go!

We rented a boat one day and literally went island hopping. We were right next to Cabbage Key and went to check out where Jimmy Buffett allegedly wrote, "Cheeseburger in Paradise"


South Seas has nature checkpoints all over the island. The kids completed the whole course and got 15 bands for all 15 checkpoints and went on the Wall of Fame!!! Their favorite stop was the Key Lime trees.



We are surviving summer! Kids just picked 2 camps and we are home a good bit. I found myself having some staples this summer, so here's what's in my summer bag:
First, my H&M waterproof magnetic closure bag. I'm obsessed and its my bag the whole summer.
I always have a magazine. I will rip out a recipe or read about ways to try and organize my house.
Wet Brush- If you have a daughter, enough said.
Skin So Soft Sunscreen and Bugspray all in one, and it actually works. Amazon link
Zinc Oxide for faces, works better than suncreen. Amazon link
Palmers Cocoa Butter spf lip balm, it smells amazing and stays on Amazon link
I have a mix of Young Living oils I keep on hand and this combo is cedarwood and vetiver
At the pool I keep a sun hat so I don't get raccoon eyes from my sunglasses and when I've had too much sun I just put on a super thin long sleeve cover up and I can stay out a little longer!

That is what I'm loving this summer!!!

4/20/16

Cannonballs and Chihuahuas

Leave it to my three children to dig up a cannonball in the backyard and cause a viral interest and news crews stalking us down! Actually, Mackenzie was the finder. She is the queen of mud pies in the backyard and I had no idea she had even found it until she brought it inside and put it in the bathtub to start washing it. When it hit the tub and about cracked it in half, I came rushing in and called Tim!! He came home and we confirmed with a friend that it was indeed a piece of history! I posted my fun picture of the cannonball, below, on our city facebook page thinking a few neighbors might think it was interesting, and low and behold everyone lost their mind. We had people sending us messages, local diggers wanting to come excavate my yard, and then our local news station calling, emailing, texting, and hunting us down. We decided to let them come and Mackenzie got to share her news story on camera, ha!! It was a really special find. We live about 1 mile from Sherman's Headquarters in Downtown Marietta and it was a great opportunity to talk to our kids about the Civil War. Here is a link to the news story: http://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/109018922-story

A few weeks later, we went down to Savannah for Spring Break! We are really into kayaking as a family and we decided to camp on Skidaway Island for 5 days (now that I'm typing it I sit in the gravity of how simple it sounded in my head versus in writing). And actually, I made it 4 days, not 5. After the 4th day, I called it done and we drove home that night :) It was definitely a memorable trip, our kids had a blast. *I will add my parents came along and were next door with a huge 50ft. RV. So, don't feel like I was roughing it too bad!! Although my children are older now, traveling is still so much work. We push through, but the amount of planning, packing, and patience is really unbelievable. I don't know why we just don't stay home. But we don't. So, following our Civil War lesson, Sherman's March to the Sea ended in Savannah. I love kayaking with our kids because it's exercise, everyone is contained to their own boat, and we are all moving in the same direction (physically and quite often with our attitudes ;) We researched a historical river that boasts some of the most amazing scenery.  We kayaked down the Ebenezer River, known for The Betrayal at Ebenezer Creek, a sad story to tell our kids also from the Civil War. 

Under the order of General Davis, the Union army reached the Ebenezer River with hundreds of freed slaves that had joined in the quest for freedom. They were allowed to come along, but had to help along the way. When troops reached the river they built a bridge to cross, but plotting how they were planning on leaving the slaves behind.  After troops were crossed, the bridge was severed. Hundreds of freed slaves were drowned, killed, and those that lived and stayed behind went back into slavery.

I hate that story exists and is apart of our history. How I hope and pray there were survivors. There were people that fought and made it and victory was won. It was a dark and heavy feeling, but also one of awe, knowing that both sides of these groups were now buried. I would much rather be a slave in this story than a soldier, to die fighting instead of the one that chose myself.
 The water down this river is full of the most beautiful cypress trees, swamp life, and has black waters.  It is the most beautiful, peaceful, humbling, and holy water I have ever been down. It was sobering to go through these waters and think about history and the actions of others that came before us. Mackenzie was so moved when we put our boats in and asked a lot of questions. She said, "Im so mad at those people. That's so mean, it's just not fair." I told her those slaves were in a far better place and I asked her how she thought it would feel to live if you were one of those people who made that decision to cut the bridge. And that every day they had to live with the choices they made and ultimately be held accountable to their actions. It is better to live a holy life and it be ended quick than to better yourself and live into an old age.
 If you ever get the chance, take your family down this river. It is a truly amazing experience. They have guided tours and times of the year that are best because trust me...... swamp life is real and we had a few close calls!! Mom's boat hit what we thought was a tree, but actually a black snake that my kids now swear was the Loch Ness. Wrong story, kiddos!!


This was a good verse to follow up with my kids, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" Micah 6:8

To end on a light note, I'll share a happy pet story.
The last exciting thing that happened this month was my parent's 16 year old Chihuahua "Paco" went on a little Milo and Otis adventure. Okay, not really, but that is what my mom keeps telling herself.  Paco was taken out of their yard in Kennesaw and then found 48 hours later completely across town at a Target in Alpharetta (roughly an hour away).
We turned to social media. We blew up the internet with pictures of Paco and everyone was on the hunt. We stayed up until wee hours with flashlights in the woods and became the psycho pet owners. About 48 hours in, a animal rescue volunteer matched up our photo with an animal shelters photo across town!!! Would you believe 5 other black chihuahuas had been found and texted to me over the course of 2 days?? How many black chihuahuas were lost exactly?! As soon as this photo was sent below, I was losing hope, but zoomed in, and we were 100% sure it was him!! The caption above the photo says, "HarleyStray.jpg" and our little Paco wears a Harely Davidson collar.


Yay for lost dogs being found, yay for social media being useful sometimes, and shame on whoever picked him up out of my parents yard.  No one likes a pet snatcher, I will hunt you down :)

More excitement to come...

3/7/16

Why We Are a Mess

This has been a crazy month.
Tim's company won New Dealer of the Year. We somehow in our mess of a life ended up on the cover of our community magazine. (Article under family tab)
We've had a lot of opportunities to serve, lead, and give.
Zach is doing well, but I get panicky when I hear people mention he has healed or they have done all they can do. He is so close, yet still has such glaring difficulties and differences. We push harder than ever because we have seen him overcome everything presented, so we are always upping the ante.
Tims business is doing better than I could have dreamed, yet I still find myself asking questions I did even when we were at the bottom. Are we going to be okay? Is this really going to work? Should I work more? Or work less? Am I available enough to my children or am I so spread thin I don't give enough to them? Why is parenting so hard? Why is laundry so hard? Why do I feel like a crazy mess some days paralyzed by which chore to do first, which email to respond to next, and why is there dinner every. single. night. I can get really overwhelmed by the order in which things need to be done. Then, in my do it all mentality, I find something more important to give my time to and then end up stressed out about why I can't get it done.
I need timers. I need goals. I need books. I need regular self care. I need hard lines. I need to say no more.
But, then what? If I become this well oiled machine who can just make it all happen flawlessly, then what? We look for opportunities to be involved in messy situations.
My youngest this weekend was exposed to homelessness up close. Tim was driving home from work and literally saw a family sitting on the side of the road. The mother crying and sitting on black trash bags, holding her 2 small children, and a half empty gallon of milk next to them. The husband sat with his face buried and held one hand in the air for help. Tim said it was like something out of a movie and told me everything inside of him just pulled over and gravitated towards this family. They were out of everything. Out of money. Out of work. Out of a car that was impounded. And kicked out of where they were staying. Mainly, they were out of hope. I could go on and tell you all about this family, why you should feel sorry for them and make a case for them, but it doesn't matter. We have always felt called to help and apparently so are others.....
Would you believe within 8 hours from one social media post asking for the community to lend some help..... that enough money was raised to put them in a week long hotel, get them food, clothes, and toiletries, and buy their family of 4 bus tickets to take them straight back to their home town in Houston to re-join a community and family that could help them?? Tim dropped them off on their bus last Tuesday at midnight and they made it back home. I just can't get them out of my head.
Amazing, right? Most of these donors over the past few days have families, jobs, many things grabbing their time, but so many people in the moment ditched their plans and brought food, a temporary phone, luggage, money, toilet paper.... whatever was needed to get this family back home. My youngest shed tears for them when she realized the gravity of what she had and others had to live without basic things.
If you are a planner, plan away. If you draw hard lines, draw them. If you have a cleaning schedule (I hate all you cleaning schedule people and your highlighted days and chores), clean away. But, what can change the way we love people is our adaptability. Wreck your plans, wreck your schedule, and embrace the crazy from time to time saying yes to helping someone out. You see, those people we think that we are helping and see them as "God ordained" opportunities are really being used on us. They quickly change our "Ugh! Dinnertime again, what are we going to eat!?", "These kids are driving me crazy!" "This house is so messy, I'll never catch up!" to a different tune. To no tune actually. Walking with a family through this will silence your heart. It will silence it and bring you back. You will not re-bound by hanging up your thankful list or feeling good about yourself. You will simply realize that the world is bigger than you. Than what problems you perceive that you have. That these gestures of help and living in actual community, will teach your children more about life and Jesus that you try and do within your 4 walls.
So, here's to messy life. It reminds me of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19 that could not give his wealth away. I think the same principle applies. Don't make your life so busy you feel you can't help. Go against the grain and invite people into the mess. It starts by having people over and not cleaning and making it perfect. Next time people come over, leave all your laundry in a pile to fold. Leave dirty dishes in the sink. Don't wipe off the counter. If you can learn to expose your mess and embrace people anyway, you will embrace them no matter what you have going on.

xoxo

11/3/15

The Story of Zach.

Happy 9th Birthday, Zach!

I have been working on writing Zach's adoption story for a long time. I have had a writing block. I haven't had the words. I can't really describe why, but I know now that I can begin to process and share what exactly our family has been through. His own story will be one he writes someday so I still will not disclose traumatic things that happened to him early in life.

Many have walked this daily with me and for that I am eternally grateful. You have been the hands and feet of Christ to me. Others have made our path more difficult. And to that, I say, I harbor no anger. In fact, all it did was motivate me more to help my son and find answers and blaze a path for him. So, I actually thank you, in a way, for helping me channel my passion to something greater. 

What people may not know about me is that I was a Criminal Justice major and have extreme passion for children. Maybe that has to do with my struggle in having my own family, but either way, I fight for kids. And I fight because it's how I was born.

My first experience in justice is kind of funny, but will let you know the intensity I have. My identity was stolen 7 years ago. Most people might cancel cards and move on. But, I was mad. And wanted to stop the person who was doing it. I called, researched, and investigated my own identity theft case. Because of a phone number that was on an application I found where someone tried to open an account, I traced them down. I found their address. I made contact. I worked with police and they were able to actually make 2 arrests in one of the largest criminal identity theft cases. It was a couple where the wife stole patients social security numbers at the hospital while they were having a baby. And the husband was stealing the social security numbers of deceased people at his place of employment. I was happy to be apart of finding them, ending this, and restoring peoples documents. So, don't steal with my purse, and after reading this, maybe don't mess with my kid :)

Here is the Story of Zach. Happy 9th Birthday, buddy. You sure are special.
 We love you and you have taught us to love as a verb.


We prayerful­­ly went down the road of adoption because we wanted to grow our family. We we­­r­­­e a family that experienced a lot of loss having children. We have 2 biological that are currently 9 and 6.  Today, had our other pregnancies worked out, we would have also had two 8 year old twins, the fraternal twin of my 6 year old, a 5 year old, and a 4 year old.  Many ­­families experience these types of losses, and for us, it is part of our story that we like to share. It is the journey which led us to adoption.
After taking some time to really decide this was what we were going to do, we decided we would probably go through the state to find local older children that were in need of a family. We began about a one year process of training, meetings, paperwork, home studies, interviews, and preparation to be matched with a child. Upon completion, we were receiving calls about children in need. It was during this time we saw Zach on the Wednesday’s Child website. We were immediately drawn to him because he looked very much like our own biological son and was only 6 weeks apart in age.  We submitted our home study for him because we were not able to stop thinking about him.
Two months later, we got the phone call that we matched with him and we would be able to meet him! We were so excited and also very nervous. This was also the time that we started to learn about Zach’s child life history. I don’t think any amount of training can prepare you for reading some of these files about where a child has been that’s in the system. He had an unthinkable past full of neglect and abuse. He had been placed in a group home and we really weren’t sure what that even meant. He had a box full of things that we were told were wrong with him and too many diagnoses to count.  We decided to step out in faith and meet this child in person. The one statement that I clung to was that it didn’t seem fair to diagnosis or predict where a child was when they had never had a family or been in a stable environment. We had to meet him.
We were shocked to discover where he was living. It was a medically fragile group home, yet to our discovery, Zach had no medical needs. It was full of about 7 children with a rotation of staff and Zach had been there for 4 years. We immediately knew after seeing where he had been, that we were right. There was no shot at Zach ever having a normal life ahead of him if he stayed there, we had to get him out.  Many would think our process would have been easier getting him quickly placed into our home since he was technically a legal orphan. But, that was not the case. We found that Zach had 5 case workers and locating files and contacting someone felt like a goose chase. The lady running this group home in North Georgia lived nowhere near it. She resided in her older age in Atlanta, over an hour away from the group home she was running.  We had little cooperation communicating and setting up a timeline on moving Zach out and found this disturbing. We made reports to our local DFCS and later found out the home was closed and the remaining children were placed into foster homes.
The day finally came, December 4, when we brought him home. It was clear that we needed to hunker down and get ready for the ride. We quickly saw Zach was almost like an international adoption, in the sense he had no idea about social norms and what was going on. Other things we noticed were that he had not been taken out into public much, did not attend a general education classroom style classroom, didn’t know his birthday, had no basic self care skills or training, would have fell into the classification of “non verbal”, did not have a concept of family life or schedule. His diet was very limited so every food was new to him.  He had no idea we were a family unit so going places I was a nervous wreck because he would constantly walk off. Overwhelmed was the best word to describe this phase.
We quickly were amazed at the rapid change in him. From just moving him into a house and a family we saw a little bit of life come into him. Then, as we established nutrition, sleep, exercise, and a schedule, we were able to start teaching him independent self care skills. He quickly did all of these.  His language started immerging and as it did, the behaviors started going away since he could express what he needed. Month to month, the changes were unbelievable. Every day that passed, we witnessed more glimpses of the child inside him that just needed love, stability, and a home.
Our biggest challenge was sending our special needs child to our home school. After enrolling him, we started this new journey of experiencing what IEP meetings were like. We were quickly not welcomed in and experienced a lot of resistance from our administration at the time and even parents at the school. Fear is the only word I can think of to describe it. No one seemed to want to learn or provide the resources our new son needed to go to his home school. We were told that there weren’t kids like him at our school and the kept recommending we place him somewhere else. It was during this time we decided we would fight for Zach. He had never had anyone do that for him before. We were going to put an end to him being a product of the system. It had failed him. We recognized our son had needs and was different, but we also saw his speed of recovery and improvement and believed in him. We knew he could do it and be in general education with the right people and supports.  Soon after us deciding to stay, we experienced very poor treatment from our home school.  Zach was treated unfairly and harmed at school. We were never shocked by any actions from Zach, but constantly shocked at the behavior of the adults involved. We again, dug our heels in and threw our anchor out. We weren’t going anywhere. We hired an advocate and educational attorney to intervene and help our son with his rights.

Because of our outside help, our dedication to Zach, and mostly Zach’s strength and spirit that is overcoming every label he has ever had, we are in a triumphant position. We now have inclusion classrooms in our home school with full time special education teachers co-teaching and para professional help. We have people and administration now on board with inclusion and how to help students be educated in their home school instead of sending them somewhere else. We have friends. We have found loving parents and a loving community of people who value their children being around those a little different from them.  We no longer feel worried to send him to school, but confident in the people that are there because they are educated and equipped to service our child. Zach’s life here has not just helped him, but helped others. Zach’s story of what he went through also made it all the way up to the Georgia Department of Education. They, of course, sided with him and ordered policies locally to  prevent this from happening to other students that require behavior plans inside their individual education plan. Our story began with us just wanting to have more kids. Our story then became so much more. God had a plan for Zach. What constantly brings me to my knees is the meaning of his name, Zachariah “The Lord has Remembered.” Our hope is that one day, after everything Zach had to live through for 7 years, is that he will see people who loved him and fought for him. That said ‘enough is enough’ and fought aggressively for his healing and education.  We are just lucky in that process that making it right for Zach, has now made it right for so many more that may come through.  We owe it all to God who had this plan for us.

9/30/15

Fully Present

My prayers started something like this today,

I can't. I can't figure out how to keep our house clean, I can't figure out how to balance the needs of each child in our family. And I can't always be on top of it with each kiddo and you know Lord, I can't come close to filling the endless pit of needs that our adopted son has because his wounds go deeper than my understanding.....

Im pretty sure He was like, Well good morning to you too ;)

Sometimes I feel disappointed in my relationship with God. I pray and I don't get an answer. Or, I pray and I find myself disappointed in the way He has answered my prayers, which then also adds another layer of guilt. Or I'm just flat out disappointed in myself that I just can't quite pull it together.

I can feel shackled by the weight of the perceived load I feel I have to carry every day. The roles of being a wife and motherhood constantly humble me and it gets overwhelming to wake up and do it all again and again. As we move into a new life stage with our kids being a little older, my energy is not spent on chasing them around as littles and balancing naps and feeding. It is now more complex with really molding world views, attitudes, self discipline, and how we treat people. And I have 6 little eyeballs watching if I practice what I preach. The best way I can teach them is to live it in front of them. We can't hold our children to a higher standard than we ourselves don't live by.

I was once on staff with a college ministry and was involved with it for 6 years. I would hear people say this during some of our staff meetings, "I'm gonna do big things for God. Big things. I'm want to go move to a foreign country and just die there for my faith."
At all of 20 years old, I remember listening carefully, yet not understanding the words that would come from my boss in response to these statements. Similar statements came a few times a year from someone passionately wanting to do something they perceived as "big" for God.  He was so gracious and never crushing anyone's dream, but gently would say, "You know, sometimes God calls you to live the life He has given you and be faithful to it. Sometimes the hardest thing is to just keep walking down the path in front of you." Now in my life, that reasonates. Tim and I call it our season right now of, Dwelling in the land and cultivating faithfulness.

To stay married. To love my kids and engage every day. To reach out and be a neighbor to my neighbors. To work hard at a job and not quit. To clean your house. To be a family member to your family. To struggle with those relationships and let them refine you. To be apart of a body of believers. And to serve your church. To wrestle with the balance of doing all of those things. To do these things well and faithfully and leave room for white space where God can speak and work in those areas. And when you wrap your head around doing all of those things, some days it feels like a lot easier to want God to call me to pack it up and go move to a foreign country and die there :) Sign me up!!!

If I can just sit. Just sit with Him. For a few minutes a day, I'm reminded that He didn't just rescue my soul from eternity, but is here to rescue me from myself every day. This passage resonates with me,

Colossians 1:13-20

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Praying that no matter how deep our sin goes, that we are reminded of how much greater His grace is. The greatest life you can live is to live fully present and walk in the life God has given you, and by His grace, do it well.

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