A Year In: Grit and Glory

This has been a year of grit. Of going to battle for our boys. Of clutching onto grace and walking one step at a time on water all the while fervently praying we don’t sink. It’s been one of the most challenging years and also one of the most awe-inspiring. We’ve been carried by the prayers of many and helped by saints near and far in more ways than we could have ever imagined. God has never led us to something and not made a way.

July 10, 2017. The day we met our boys for the very first time. We were so excited and so very nervous. It was the kind of nervous excitement that makes you puke. We were about to meet two boys we’d signed up to parent for the long haul.

We were met that day with two very different boys. One was bouncing off the walls with excitement and belting “we will, we will rock you” at the top of his lungs.Meeting HudsonThe other was pasty pale. Nauseous from his journey to us and his body, so much smaller than we ever imagined, hinted of trauma. He walked to us that day through crystal clear doors, cane in hand, barely able to stand. He made it through and into our arms before my husband scooped him up and carried him over to the couches to rest. We wondered how long it would take for him to trust us. For him to know he was safe. For him to know he has a place and is so very loved. We wondered how long it would take to see the boy inside, not just the smile he flashed everyone. He had no idea how to even hug. Eight years in an institution will do that.DSC01042The next day we stamped our thumbs red and signed all the documents, we swore these boys would be our sons.So began the journey of getting to know our boys. This first year we’ve been navigating waters we’ve never been in before. From various therapies to learning how to get around town with gear to learning the ins and outs of each boys’ personalities and needs, it’s been a year of learning for all of us.

It’s been gritty as we’ve worked through various behaviors associated with trauma and institutionalization and gone to doctors visit after doctor’s visit hearing wonderful news at times, hearing devastating news other times. It’s been glorious as we’ve watched the boys learn to trust us, open up and settle into being a part of our family- To watch the boys’ walk, ride bikes and laugh deep belly laughs.

It’s been filled with soaring highs and the darkest lows. Sometimes all in one day. All in one hour. Some days hour after hour. This awkward dance has brought us to our knees time and again. But God is faithful. Over. And. Over. And. Over. Again. And so we dance. We spin and waltz and see beauty emerging from hard places.

These are our sons and they are loved. Mightily. They’ve begun the hard process of learning to trust. Of knowing what it is to be in a family. The changes we’ve seen in their lives are nothing short of miraculous. Family will do that. God will do that.

Both boys are a tremendous gift. They’ve brought us to the one who holds their future time and again and we’ve found him faithful. In all things. Faithful.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Joshua and Hudson 2018

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Making Beautiful

This weekend we fell into a project, as is the norm in our house. There is a section in one of our gardens that is filled with ground cover. Completely covered. There are no flowers. No shrubs. No vegetables. Just flat ground cover. In my mind, if it’s on our property, it needs to be edible, useful or pretty. Like everything else in life, it’s a work in progress. I digress.

We’ve been meaning to clear out that bed ever since we bought the house, but we weren’t really sure what to put in it so we delayed. Flat ground cover was better than an empty bed so there it sat until one day we decided we need to venture into the world of roses. We’ve done peonies (my favorite), hydrangea, lilacs, various shrubs and all sorts of bulb flowers, but never roses. I thought they may look lovely under the giant oak that graces our front lawn and so we got a single white rose-bush on our anniversary to see how it would do under the tree.

This weekend, I stumbled across a jaw-dropping, turn the car around clearance on rose bushes and so I shot off a “please don’t kill me” text to Ryan and bought several rose bushes for the not-so-pretty garden bed. I insisted, of course, he come out in complete darkness to see my steal of a deal when I got home. He was impressed. I felt a bit guilty because my steal dramatically increased the amount of things he had to do this weekend. Roses that die because they never made it into the ground aren’t really that much of a steal after all. The pesky bed was laughing at me. I’m rather short on uninterrupted time these days, as is Ryan. However, it was time. The plain ground cover had to go.

I eventually found a pocket of time this weekend and set out to get it done. The ground cover’s roots went into the ground and into each other. The whole thing was one giant web and I was mildly worried there’d be a snake hiding under all of it. As I was pulling out fistfuls of roots, woven to and fro around the entire bed, it reminded me of sin and what a mess it makes of my heart. I wanted to plant beautiful roses in this bed but the reality was it was filled with thick, gross gunk. Rotting leaves and sticks were hiding under the ground cover. White spiders were roaming around under there. I have no idea if this is accurate or not, but my imagination kept telling me they were white because they’d never seen the light of day. Albino spiders. Ew.

Sin. So often when I purpose to do something beautiful, it is overtaken by sin – or maybe it just exposes what’s been there all along. Kinda like how when we bought the rose bushes, all the sudden we saw how much we needed to get that ground cover out.

I often think of sin as the things on surface- the ones that are evident. Lying. Stealing. Gossiping. Similar to the leaves on top of the ground cover. But, really, I think it’s more like what’s underneath. The twisty-interconnected roots that run deep and I could pull and pull, but it just keeps going and going and going. I often don’t see or choose to ignore so many of these things. Indeed I need a Gardener to come alongside and expose them and somehow extract them out of my life without pulling out the good- the things He’s planted.

I was nearly done pulling everything out when I noticed that some of the ground cover had started to grow right in the bark of the mighty oak. The nerve. So like sin. It may start out so very small – a cute, tiny plant at a garden shop- and then before we know it burrows and multiplies in the mighty strongholds and foundations of our faith.

Ryan and I are the only ones really who care what is in our garden bed. We are tearing it apart and making it beautiful because we want to. After my mini-life lesson while pulling out weed (ahem, ground cover) after weed, I stood up covered in mud and mosquito bites, so thankful I’m not the master gardener of my heart. I may never look beneath those outer leaves if left to my own devices. My own heart is a disaster at times (okay, most of the time) and how tenderly he cares for it. How graciously he prunes and pulls, shapes and stakes those plants that need a little more help to stand strong and turn towards the sun. I may cringe a bit when those leaves are pulled back and He begins to work, but in the end, he is making beautiful.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11a)

Running to Joshua

Two years ago to the date we sent a letter to China declaring our intent to adopt Joshua. The journey to Joshua was not an easy one but God was faithful to guide and direct our paths to Joshua in his perfect timing. During our adoption journey, I blogged on our fundraising website. So, in honor of hitting the two year mark, I’m stealing and reposting here our original post where we share the news about deciding to adopt Joshua. We are so thankful he is home.

An Open Hands Story – July 1, 2016

How do we even begin to tell this story? How can we explain the ways the Lord changed our hearts these past few months? How do we explain how all the roadblocks and delays turned into a divine appointment to see just the right picture at the exact right moment in time? There are so many details and so many things that have happened these past few months. We are sure we’ve left something out, but alas, let us begin our story. This is a story about open hands, tear-streaked faces and a God who so faithfully guides our path.

A few months ago our adoption doctor told us that some families just see a picture of a waiting child and know that it is their child. His words stuck in our minds. We must not be one of those families, we thought. We had scrolled through many children during our waiting while waiting season. That’s why we are adopting from Uganda we rationalized. We don’t get to choose. Our agency calls us with a child/ren they’ve identified for our family and then we run with it.

In March, the Parliament of Uganda passed a bill that would make international adoption from Uganda much more difficult, if not impossible. The bill would become law if the President decided to sign it, but no one knew at that point what would happen. He may sign it. He may not. He may send it back for revisions. So we began the waiting (to hear about the law) while waiting (to be matched with a child/ren in Uganda) phase. Our adoption agency recommended we look at other country’s adoption programs and identify a back up. We opted for Poland since it was one of the only other programs our agency had for which we met all the requirements. At our agency’s urging, we signed up to get notifications for waiting children in Poland since we had not yet been matched with any children in Uganda. Somehow we also ended up getting notifications for waiting children in China as well. Strange, we thought, we don’t want to adopt from China. We don’t even qualify for the China program.

While we were in our season of waiting while waiting (March to end of May), our hearts slowly began to change. Before then, we’d been set on Uganda. When Ryan and I first met in 2003, we both had a burden for orphans in Uganda because of the poverty and unrest there. We’d heard devastating stories of children and it broke our hearts. In 2014, when we felt led to start our adoption journey, we decided to pursue adopting from Uganda. However, after we started to see all the children who were sitting on lists around the world just waiting to be adopted, our hearts began to break for them as well. Some of the children had been waiting for years. Most of the children had pretty major special needs. We thought back to when our social worker was sitting at our dining room table in New York and asked us what special needs we were open to. We took a look around at our three little ladies under age six and replied back, “Um. Minor ones.” In our minds, we would be adopting two toddlers from Uganda suffering from malnourishment. We wanted to adopt from Uganda. We wanted mostly healthy children. We want. We want…we had it all worked it all out in our minds…

The conversations we had with our social worker about special needs replayed in our minds as we saw the waiting children. When we’d started this process, we didn’t want it to be about us. In the “about us” section on our application to adopt we’d written: “It’s a joy to open our hearts and home and serve the Lord wherever He guides.” This entire journey we’d wanted to have open hands with whatever God had for us, but we were in limbo, waiting. We started to wonder if maybe God had a different plan than the one we had imagined in our minds, but we hadn’t felt led to leave Uganda. There was no clear closed door yet and no clear direction to leave.

We had a lot of discussions during this time in limbo, and, kept coming back to the basics of the reasons why we wanted to adopt. We wanted to provide a loving home and family to a child who had none. Why did we feel led to adopt a child internationally? We wanted to bring a child to America who may not have access to things, such as medical care, in their own country. Because of our experience nearly losing our middle daughter when she was a baby, hospitals are not as terrifying for us. We know God carries us through the hard moments and so we knew if God led us to a child with special needs, he would be right there with us. Our hearts were shifting…Maybe Uganda was just our jumping off point and all the roadblocks and setbacks during this process was to lead us to a child at just the right time. We kept telling ourselves, “open hands”. Open hands. Open hands. We still had no clear direction. We were just waiting to see what God was going to do.

April 14, the most beautiful smile we had ever seen came across the China waiting child page. We don’t qualify for China we thought to ourselves and this child is major special needs. We can’t do major special needs right now. We wrote it off. All day that day, people who had met this child when they had traveled to China to adopt their own children kept commenting on the listing. A waiting child listing may get one or two comments about how cute a child is and requests for more information, but that’s usually about it. Lots of comments on a post are pretty rare. Seven days later, more comments on the child’s listing. Our interest was piqued. Who was this child? Nine days after the original listing, even more comments showed up, “I couldn’t help thinking about J. For anyone who is open to adopting an older child, this little J is a gem. I hope a family finds J soon.” And “I completely agree. I pray daily that this child’s family sees J”. We had never seen a listing get so many comments. Crazy, we thought. Surely, J’s forever family would see the listing soon. And, we went back to waiting.

May came. The President hadn’t signed the bill. We still had no clear direction one way or another. So, we stayed put, waiting. May 18, we saw J’s picture again. This time it was featured on a write up about a particular special need. The write up was on our agency’s page and then on another larger adoption site too. “What is up with this child?” we thought to ourselves. Why do we keep seeing J everywhere? Why can’t we get J out of our minds? Curious about J’s need, we clicked on the article. We were surprised. The article shared a lot of information about J’s need and it didn’t overwhelm us at all. In fact, we could see it working out pretty well. The next day our hearts were in pieces as we read, “Oh, how I hope the right mama sees this precious child!” in the comments section and “J’s smile lights up the room”. Yes, that smile, we thought. It does light up the room.

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First picture we ever saw of Joshua.

Two weeks later, we piled all of our kiddos in the car and headed back East to visit family. First stop was a water park. The kiddos loved it. It was noisy and bright and had all sorts of excitement for our little ones and, in all the chaos, we got word that the Ugandan President signed the bill. It would become law. Our hearts sank. It was done. We mourned the entire fifteen hours back to Illinois in between the many potty and Starbucks stops. We saw J’s face again on the way home. We re-read all about J’s special need, and dared to talk about maybe, just maybe J could join our family. There was only one glaring large obstacle. We didn’t know if we qualified for China. When we started the process, we didn’t think so, but maybe, just maybe we did now. The next day we called our agency. We filled out more paperwork and sent it in to find out if it was even possible for us to switch. We found out later that day, we qualified. We were ecstatic. Did we want to see J’s file? Did we want to talk to someone who has met J? Yes. Yes. We were nervous. Excited, but also terrified to know more, lest it turn into yet another closed door.

That evening we talked to a Momma who had met J a year before and had been praying for him ever since. For a solid year, she’d asked everyone she knew if they wanted to adopt J. She had convinced our agency to put J on their waiting child list and in April they did. She had been praying the right family would see it. This Momma had just gotten back from a second trip to China to adopt their second kiddo and had gotten to see J again while she was there. She excitedly told us all about J. The smile. The personality. The story. J wants a family. J wants to come to America. J wants to walk. No other family has even asked for J’s files. The people at the orphanage are telling J, if J wants to be adopted, J must walk. So, J practiced. And practiced. And practiced. J just started using a cane. J is nervous and wobbly, but determined to walk. We wanted to know more about this happy child she described and anxiously awaited J’s files.

The day after we talked on the phone with this momma who had been praying and praying for J, we found out Uganda may not be a closed door after all. There was a chance we could still continue there if we wanted. We were stumped. That evening, on Wed., June 1, we got J’s files. We sat at our computer and cried huge tears. J was beautiful. All the waiting, all the setbacks, all the delays brought us to this place- staring at the picture and videos of this breathtaking child with a smile that melted our hearts and courage- oh, my. Courage, resilience and such perseverance radiated from J. We knew. We were going after J. 

We didn’t know how it was all going to work out. We still didn’t have clear direction to leave Uganda. If Uganda was still a possibility should we leave? All our paperwork for Uganda was done. Since there was a chance we could travel quickly to Uganda, should we adopt from Uganda first and then go after J? We had no answers. We had discussion after discussion with each other and with our agency as we prayed for direction. We sent J’s file to our adoption doctor, thinking maybe there was another special need that maybe they didn’t include in J’s file. Maybe the doctor would advise against adopting J. He seemed like a grouch when we’d talked to him in March. He probably only recommends adopting healthy kids, we thought to ourselves. Instead, on Father’s Day morning, we read, “…I love J’s smile. J seems like a survivor, who strives to overcome, and that is also good…J looks like a child you can help grow into a great adult.” We were shocked. Amazed. Overjoyed.

A week and a half later, we got the clear direction we’d been so desperately praying for. Crystal clear direction. Leave Uganda. Go after J. We called our agency the next day. On June 24, 2016 we made the switch to China. China. Wow. We are going to CHINA!!!! Our minds were blown and peace, such precious peace, flooded our hearts and minds. There just aren’t words to describe how crazy excited we are to be adopting J. We are beyond thrilled, completely blown away, and we cannot wait for you to meet this little person.

Since we made the call to switch, God has been opening such doors for J. A day after making the switch, were able to talk to a specialist who came up with a treatment plan for J. We wrote our letter of intent to adopt J and sent it off to China. IMG_4338We were able to update all our documents for our home study in a week (that’s a huge pile of paperwork and five doctors visits in case you are wondering)! We have to have another visit with our social worker and then our agency will be able to update the home study for China. We are still around nine months away from being able to travel, but we are hoping and praying doors continue to open for us to go to China sooner. J has been waiting for several years and will wait a few more months until we are actually able to bring J home.

We started out in Uganda, because we thought that’s where the greatest need was, but two delays, one roadblock and much soul-searching later, we realized that our heart is not to adopt from Uganda. It’s not to adopt from Poland. It’s not to adopt from China. It’s to adopt wherever God makes a way and to adopt who ever it is God leads us to. And, on June 1, 2016 God led us right there. All the road blocks, all the setbacks and delays all orchestrated by divine hands to lead us to see the face of a beautiful child in a land we didn’t even think we could adopt from. A face that is older than we would have ever searched for if we had started out in or switched to China. This story unfolded just the right way and in just the right timing for us to see J. We are so thankful we did not switch countries any sooner or any later. It all happened at just the right time. Open hands. Open hearts. Here we go.

 So, with tear-streaked faces, but overjoyed hearts, we must write:

Dear Uganda. Thank you for being our jumping off point. Thank you for helping us see just how desperate the plight is for so many children around the world. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to grow in patience and trust. Thank you for teaching us to leap.

The time has come for us to part ways and take another huge step of faith in a different direction. There is a little child in China who desperately wants to come to America. J is asking for a family. So sweet Uganda, it is finally time in our journey for us to run. J is not able to run to us, so we choose to run to J. Arms open to whatever the future may hold. To run confidently and boldly where we have been led.

Dearest Uganda our paths are going a different way. Your amendment bill is a wonderful thing for the children of Uganda in so many ways, but we have been led on a different path away from your red soil. Maybe one day we will finally be able to meet, but this is not the season for us. Take care of those precious little ones. Put agencies and laws and people in place to protect them. We cheer for you. We cry for you. As we part ways, we know you were our inspiration on this journey and though the finish line will not be on your soil, it will still make a difference. It will still forever alter the life of at least one little child, for it was this journey towards your soil that God used to ultimately lead us to J.

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Gotcha day July 11, 2017

“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)

If you’re interested in the behind the scenes story from Joshua’s other momma – the one who prayed and prayed for a family for him – you can read about it here:

Not Alone

It was a crazy, fun day. We had Buddy Break in the morning, one of our family favorites. Buddy Break is a ministry at our church for families with kids with special needs. The kids love it because they get to spend three hours one on one with a buddy doing awesome things like making crafts or exploring a police car. Us parents love it because we get a bit of rest for three hours and it’s free. The first time we participated in Buddy Break, we walked out of the building after dropping our five kids off, sat in the car and cried happy tears. We’d just found out we were pregnant with twins and had only gotten home with our sons just a few short months before. It all seemed so very overwhelming.

We felt incredibly loved when we walked through the doors at Buddy Break the first time. The director knew our family as soon as we came through the door and knew each of our kids’ names without ever having met them before. Admittedly we are our own crowd when we go anywhere all together so it’s not too hard to figure out who we are, but knowing each of our kids names having never met them before?! How cool is that?!!! Also, since it’s a ministry specifically for families with special needs we knew no one would be freaked out by any of special-ness of our kiddos. In short, they get it. All the families there get it. They’re living it right alongside us and there is just something about seeing, in person, that you aren’t the only ones.

That very first Buddy Break, we went out for breakfast. It was the first time since China that we’d had a date and I was so nauseous from being pregnant that I could barely eat anything. Which I was rather upset about because the food looked uh-mazing. We found out our waitress had also had twins and she assured us that we’d survive. I was skeptical, particularly since the nauseousness I experienced while pregnant with the twins was significantly worse than anything I had ever experienced with our singletons. We left the restaurant and went home for a bit. The house was eerily quiet without any kids. Silent. My husband and I rushed around doing some deep cleaning before leaving to pick up

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Look at those smiles after their first time at Buddy Break!

our kids. When we picked them up, they were glowing. Radiating. The girls all had their hair done fancy. The boys’ faces were painted. They were bursting with excitement to tell us all about what they did and show us their crafts.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The twins in hand, we went to breakfast again after dropping off the other kiddos at Buddy Break. This time around we were celebrating our anniversary. Breakfast was delicious. The twins slept through the entire thing, which was nothing short of a miracle. We left refreshed and went to get our other kiddos. The rest of the afternoon we played outside in the sprinkler and then followed it up with a movie date with Dad for a few of the big kids and an at home movie date with mom for the other kiddos.

I decided to make popcorn right before starting the movie. I went into the kitchen and started to pull out the supplies. Popcorn. Popcorn maker. Butter. Salt. Large bowl.

Esther and Hudson marched into the room. “Mom we are going to help you so you don’t do it all alone,” Esther announced. They worked on lining up all the small bowls in a neat little row, all the while giggling in anticipation of the very first “pop”. As the popcorn began to pour out of the popcorn maker and into the big bowl, their giggles turned to outright belly laughs. The afternoon went on and the laughter continued during the silly movie we watched together.

One of my favorite things about having a large family is there is always someone. Always someone to play with. Always someone to talk to. Always someone to do life with. We are a tribe. Ryan, I and all these littles. I was so blessed by Esther’s comment. We tell our kids over and over “We are a team. We help each other. We stick together.” and it was so encouraging to see it clicking in her little mind. Of all the lessons to learn in life, this is a pretty good one.

The Leap

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It’s amazing how the smallest of steps can change the very course of our lives. Five years ago when we first started this blog, we started our quest to eat healthier foods by making two decisions. First, we wanted to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from our diet. Second, we wanted to reduce the amount of processed foods we ate and try to eat more “real” food. We had no idea how those two decisions would snowball into a complete lifestyle change for our family.

As I type this we are now living in a completely new state. Three months ago, thanks to a promotion for Ryan, we relocated to the Midwest and bought a home that has a small bit of land. We are getting in chickens in less than three weeks and bees in less than six. If you had told us what our life would be like now when we first started our blog, we probably would have laughed.

Our new zip code, thanks to a promotion for Ryan, is in Saint Charles, IL, about forty-five minutes outside of Chicago. GMO corn and soybean fields surround this area and we turned some heads when we started asking people where the farmer’s markets are and where the best place was to buy organic.

Way back at the beginning, the changes we made started as switching to healthier products and experimenting with making things from scratch. Slowly but surely it’s grown to trying to be more self-sufficient and trying to do things ourselves instead of purchasing them. When we got the news about the promotion and needing to move, we had one week to travel to IL, find a house and put an offer on it. The number one desire in our hearts: land. Land to grow. Land to roam. Land to play. Land to work. Land to be. Just be. Space to sit and dream and be.

We were incredibly blessed to find nearly three acres of land that is bordered on three sides by giant, evergreen and pine trees, standing guard around our home and our lovely flat, usable land. Twenty minutes away from Ryan’s work, ten minutes away from a grocery store and modern conveniences. Perfect. Offer in. Closed. Packed. Moved. We are here. We. Are. Here.

In this home that is older than us, functional, freshly painted and updated on the inside, dated on the outside, has the gentlest of sunrises, stuns us with beauty in snow and ends each and every day with the most breathtaking of sunsets, we find ourselves on a whole new adventure. We are thankful and blessed beyond measure.

For four years or so we have been itching for chickens. Called our town back in NY. No chickens allowed. Sigh. Bought our new house. It has a chicken plot. Doesn’t it just tickle your senses how God just blesses his children with such knowing gifts. How he knows the desires of our heart and when we least expect it, he just wows us. Incredible.

Two dollars and eighty-nine cents- that is the cost of a baby chick. Seriously. We bought ten. We go to pick them up in a few weeks and the air around here is brimming with excitement. Supposedly chickens can live ten to twelve years. We have our doubts. But, if they do, what value for a mere two dollars and eighty-nine cents! Yes, we know we have to buy their feed (but we’ve been told they do quite well on garden and kitchen scraps during the summer too) and such, but two dollars and eight-nine cents! For a live animal that gives you food! Who knew?

Eight dollars and twenty-nine cents. Turkeys. When he found out we could buy a live baby turkey, Ryan was all for it. His enthusiasm waned a bit when he was reminded of three little ladies who would be heartbroken when it came time to feast on Mr. Turkey who we would have raised from a hatchling. Let’s start with chickens, I suggested. Yes, he agreed. Let’s start with chickens.

We don’t really have any idea what we are doing. It’s not like we were raised on a farm or with innate chicken rearing skills. But, we like chickens. We LOVE eggs. We don’t mind work. We like to learn. Perfect.

The other lovely experiment we’ve undertaken is bee keeping. There were bees here when we put an offer in on this property and Ryan thinks it will be stellar to have bees to help our little grove of fruit trees. I think it will be grand to have large quantities of honey around. Win. Win. We have no idea what we are doing with beekeeping either. Ryan is reading “Beekeeping for Dummies” so I sure hope that helps. The previous owners of this property have been wonderful and are giving us tips along the way and letting us use some of their beekeeping equipment.

One thing is for sure; we are most definitely on a whole new path than we ever thought we would be. Life is like that sometimes. It surprises you with the most fascinating adventures you had never imagined or dared dream for yourself, but one baby step at a time, you all the sudden find yourself there. Right there. And somehow you have found the courage to leap into whatever it is that God has led you to. And so, we did.

 

Smart phone. A Year In.

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It has been one year since I got an iPhone. Several years ago, prior to my stay-at-home mom days, when I was working in the advertising industry, I swore I would be one of the first in line whenever Apple decided to enter the phone industry. I have always been a lover of all things Apple. The company has mastered the art of ease of use, top-of-the line functionality, dependability, and outstanding customer service.

The iPhone came out after I became I stay-at-home mom and I simply could not justify spending the money on the phone (my current phone worked just fine) and subsequent data plan. A year or two later when my phone (of three+ years) died, I went back and forth about whether or not to get the iPhone. Finally, after looking at the quality of the other (non-smart) phones on the market, I decided to get the iPhone since I knew it would last. Additionally, my husband was going to be traveling extensively during the next year and we liked the ability to do Facetime.Over the past year, I have started to write a post about iPhones (or smart phones in general), but I decided to hold off till I had at least tried mine out for a while.

Despite working in the advertising industry, I am not a lover of all technology and mass media. I have serious concerns about the social ramifications many technologies pose to our society. I admit, technology is handy and has brought about many positive changes to our world. Yet, as with anything, it also has the potential for serious adverse effects as well.

Having thoroughly studied media effects in graduate school, I frequently find myself in a mental tug of war between technology and ideology. Most of us have heard rants about technology ruining our sense of community and creating a strong desire for instant gratification so I will spare you the discourse here. Similarly most of us know that having a phone in hand can be quite useful in a pinch and invaluable if you are someone who needs to have quick access to information, as is the case for many on-the-go persons. Still, others have substituted using a smart phone instead of a computer/camera/iphone, etc. thus potentially saving a fair amount of money.

Now, as a one-year iPhone veteran, I admit, I still find myself stuck in the middle of a mental tug of war. I am constantly evaluating whether I am on my phone too much versus having enough information about whatever topic to make an informed decision. Last week, I got tired of the battle and stopped by Verizon to see when I could get out of our smart phone contract.

Apple simply has done too good of a job with the iPhone. It is incredibly handy, but I find myself (a research fanatic even before having an iPhone) constantly wanting to look something up, check social networking sites or shop online. There is always something to do on an iPhone. Therein lies the crux of the matter, at least for me. I already have enough to do. I already have enough distractions. I desperately need moments of quiet and solitude to settle my mind and rest my spirit.

Perhaps I should be more disciplined instead of just giving up the phone, but why fight a battle that does not need to be fought? There are enough other battles that require my concentration and discipline without adding an unnecessary one.

Even more important, in my mind, is continuing to hone the ability to think for oneself. Yes, this means I may make a wrong decision here and there, but that is where we all grow. Beautiful things happen when we think for ourselves. We are able to simply “be” and rest in knowing we have a capable brain that can reason and decide what to do without needing to poll friends or consult with Google. We do not need second by second updates on our favorite games; instead we can find delight in anticipation and curiosity. We do not need to share everything with everyone, but can find peace and rest in keeping some things between just ourself and the Lord for this is where trust in the Lord blossoms.

Verizon told me I have another year to go before I can surrender my iPhone without paying an exorbitant fee. It does not make financial sense to break our contract a year early, so I will be keeping my iPhone for another year. I will savor the features I enjoy most about the iPhone over the next year, like its fabulous video recording abilities and being able to facetime with family. Yet, I know, at the end of the year, I will be thankful to return to a non-smart phone.

This post is shared on Raising Mighty Arrows.

Thrive

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Thrive. Do we thrive wherever it is God has planted us? “To everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven,” Solomon wrote in Ecc. 3:1. Seasons. Our lives are comprised of season after season. Some times it is frigid, frosty and gray. Other times it is warm, sunny and delightful. During those sunny times all we want to do is sit in the sunshine and enjoy the delightful rays of God’s goodness towards us. During winter, we often question, ponder and pray. Each season serves a purpose. In nature each season brings forth different fruits much like the seasons of our lives bring forth their own unique fruits: Love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, faithfulness and so forth. God is always there, always with a purpose for each season of life, whether it be in nature or our hearts.

When we first started looking into eating more wholesome foods, it was primarily because we had a child. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew eating vegetables was a good thing, but I never liked vegetables. Ever. At times I could choke down a salad, but usually I was hungry twenty minutes later and ended up eating more food than if I had skipped the salad. My parents can attest to this. My parents would sit with me at the dinner table for hours some nights trying to get me to eat just a few bites of broccoli. As a child, I mastered the art of discreetly hiding my vegetables anywhere I could (napkin, in my shirt sleeve, and so the list goes) just to make it look like I had eaten something and could be excused. As I got older and could decide whether or not to make or order vegetables, I opted to skip them more times than not.

Growing up and entering the workforce, I heard rumors of people who went to farmer’s markets instead of buying mass grown vegetables. I thought they were nuts. I could understand maybe having a vegetable garden since I assumed it would be cheaper to grown one’s own vegetables (like my mom did), but I could not wrap my brain around why someone would go to a farmer’s market to pay more money for vegetables, fruit, meat and dairy.

One blustery winter night our daughter decided to make her grand appearance. Soon thereafter, I realized, I would somehow have to get her to eat vegetables. I could not feed a child what I had been eating. I already had a few digestion issues from our diet back then. How could expect to raise a healthy child on what we were used to eating? Simply put, we could not.

Since my husband and I both worked full-time at jobs we loved (e.g. had no problem working extra), dinners for us had always been quick, heavily processed foods if we decided to “cook” at home. Sure, we would make the occasional homemade feast, but even those were mainly a few processed sides (instant mashed potatoes, etc.) paired with decently cooked meat (bought as cheaply as possible at the grocery store).

After our daughter arrived, I realized we would need to make some changes. It did not take a rocket scientist to realize our eating habits were not the greatest. So, we started to look into what types of foods to eat and the healthiest way to prepare them. There is an incredible amount of information out there about food. My inbox was and is continuously bombarded with articles on diet and health, most of which try to motivate us with fear in order to get us to eat or behave a certain way. Fear is a powerful and often highly effective motivator. However, fear stunts any ability for a person’s self to truly thrive. It forces people to do something not because they truly intrinsically believe they should, but because they are afraid of what will happen if they do not do something a certain way.

After doing months of research and trying to sift through an inordinate amount of information on food and health, we initially made several resolutions for our family, such as no food in our house containing HFCS or MSG.

Now, three years later, looking back at all the things we have “resolved”, we have realized for the most part our wholesome eating practices come down to eating food most closely resembling how God made it (e.g. in its natural form). For instance, our meat is grass-fed because cows were created to eat grass. We found that avoiding HFCS and MSG (along with all the other bad chemicals put into our food for flavor or as preservatives) means avoiding nearly all processed foods. Eating food that does not contain pesticides means buying local (where we know our farmer) or organic. If we want more affordable food, we buy seasonally because it is cheaper.

It is easy to get caught up in the “fear-factor” so many, hopefully, well-intentioned groups and doctors utilize to motivate people to a healthier lifestyle. I am constantly astounded by the atrocities found in the American food industry. It’s interesting and terrifying. For most of us, we are so far removed from the food industry that we are both fascinated by it, since we do not understand how it all works and fits together, and terrified by it since we most of us buy our foods from the supermarket where we have no idea where it came from or whether our food will recalled because it was a part of a major food catastrophe.

When my husband and I started to peel back the layers of meaning behind all the food directives sent out by large and small entities who attempt to motivate people by fear (do not eat X because it causes cancer or high blood pressure), we realized, at least for us, most of the recommendations we decided to adopt in our own home can be summarized into the following: Eat “real” food and eat food most closely resembling its natural form (unaltered by chemicals or processing). Do not misunderstand me. I have a healthy respect for people and organizations who are trying to raise awareness in our culture of the link between diet and health. I am guilty of this myself here at Wholesome Living. However, even entities who are disseminating accurate health and diet information can do so in such a way that we can find ourselves being motivated by fear (fear of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.).

At some point in our own lives, the choices we have made motivated only by fear will stall out because they are not authentic choices. Yes, our family initially made our choice to avoid HFCS because of its negative health effects, but today we continue to avoid it because we no longer prefer its flavor. HFCS is counterfeit for the real thing. We have come to appreciate the natural sweetness of a raspberry or a peach.

Eating seasonally has taught us a lot of things. I am always reminded of the parallel between God’s outstanding creation and our own lives. I have found eating seasonally helps us not to “stall out” or grow bored of a certain food. We only eat certain foods for a few weeks or months out of every year. In the case of my beloved fiddleheads, we only get the luxury of eating those once or twice per year. Yet, we look forward to the foods associated with each season. It’s like a passionate love relationship, only with food. It is the same with Christ. If we have only come to Christ because we fear hell and do not develop a relationship with Christ, it too will stall out or we will drift. The seasons He brings us through help us to thrive and grow in relationship with Him. If we were always in summer, we would grow tired, even of the sunshine. It would cease to delight and amaze us because we would always be in it. If we were always in winter, we would grow utterly despondent and never understand the joy and goodness of the Lord. Seasons help us each to grow spiritual fruit in due season.

I hope today, no matter the season you find yourself in, you are able to grow and thrive in the Lord; and I pray if you are in a difficult season, you courageously continue on and learn to thrive even now knowing He will bring forth fruit in His time. “For we are His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10).

*This post is shared on Raising Homemakers.