Friday, December 30, 2011

December: An Unsettled Time

I've been unexpectedly silent during the month of December. Totally surprised me. Usually, I find the Christmas season to be so full, full of promise, full of expectation, full of beauty, that I find the need to share many of my thoughts.

But not this year.

This December has been a very unsettled time for me and our whole family. Nothing bad happened; there was no tragedy, sad news, or other such event.

It is just a time of enormous uncertainty and change for us. And I don't do well with that. For the sake of situations that are on-going, I am not going into details. But trust me when I say there are major, life-changing decisions being made here.

Today I was reminded by how thankful I am for the fact that God knows my future, he is in total control of my present, he has walked me through every moment of my past. Because some days it feels like all of it is just spinning out of my hands and control.

At the front of your mind, you must be asking: Oh no, did something happen with their adoption? Well, the answer is yes and no.

At the beginning of the month we were blessed to receive a $2500 matching grant from Lifesong for Orphans. I am putting together a post on that for the next day or so. What an enormous blessing! With great anticipation we mailed out our Christmas cards/fundraising letters. We are blessed by those who have responded, but God is also teaching us great patience. He holds all things. . .

Did anything else happen? Well no. We thought there was supposed to be a pairing meeting in December, but that didn't materialize. And we have no word on when one might be. So again, we wait while we learn more about patience.

But, we have received the disheartening news that it is highly unlikely that we will receive siblings during this process. This is a painful blow to us. For Eric and I, our commitment has ALWAYS been biological siblings. But a "highly unlikely" event is not impossible one, because my God is a God of miracles. We are left to wonder what is to happen, running many "what ifs", trying to predict an unknown future, knowing we won't know anything until we do.

There is a great burden on my heart for prayer: prayer for me and Eric as we make some major decisions, prayer for our kids: the ones who are waiting, the brother and sister pair that are "highly unlikely", the ones that are already residents of our heart. Would you join me in this prayer, for a miracle beyond many's beliefs: that God has two kids age 4 and younger waiting for us in Lesotho? We are so willing to be flexible, but there are so many hoops, paperworks, uncertainty, but we want to hear God's clear voice as to how we wait.

God hears our prayers.
God answers prayers.
On this, I base my hope.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Christmas Pictures!

It's that time of year.

I love the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been favorites in my book, partly because of the way that we celebrated it as a kid, and partly because of what they have come to mean to me as an adult.

Thanksgiving has always been a warm time with good friends. This year we had to make new traditions and while it was great to welcome new friends into our home, missing the old ones made the day bittersweet. But we are still thankful: God has blessed us in incredible ways. Beyond the "expected" thank-ings, I have unexpected ones: a writing partner, a son who asked Jesus into his heart, a grant towards our adoption.

As we have moved beyond Thanksgiving into the Christmas season, I always appreciate the opportunity to think about Christ and his amazing love: that he would sacrifice so much for me, for us.

To commemorate, we take the obligatory family Christmas picture for the Christmas card. This should not be a cause for great concern, unless you are part of this family.

  • Have I ever mentioned that I do not take great pictures?
  • Did you know that my son is missing so many teeth across the front of his mouth that he can't really smile?
  • Have you ever tried to make OG sit still, even for 1 minute?
  • Luckily, I have one girl who loves the camera: any chance to pose is a golden one for her. And Eric always looks good in pictures.

Out of all the pictures we took, this one is my favorite. It is the one that I think best represents our family.

Unfortunately, I didn't win the discussion and this one is not the picture for our annual Christmas card. I bet the picture would have been better if I hadn't have been tickling J & OG.

Oh well, just wait until you see which one won!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Waiting


Our Sunday meal from The Orphan's Table. A meal similar to many eaten by orphans and impoverished people around the world. Did we like it? Not really. . .but it gives us good perspective.

Yesterday was the first time that I felt the burden of waiting for our kids. It was just a pit in the bottom of my stomach, but it was there and it was un-quietable. We are at the point in our process where we simply have to wait--wait for governments to do what they do, wait for our kids to be found, wait for them to be checked out (medically and orphan status), wait for money to be earned, set-aside, and raised.

Wait, wait, wait.

And usually I am quite okay with waiting. I don't mind being patient. I have a full life and kids and a husband and a house I can barely keep clean and school and writing.

But yesterday, for the first time, life just felt a bit emptier without them. And I don't even know who they are yet.

I am not despairing. I am just putting words to my feelings.

The feelings I naturally have toward getting these kids home have been intensified by the fact that today is Orphan Sunday. It's a day to remember and pray for the millions of children around the world without parents, homes, food, clothes, security. It's a day for Christians to stand up for the defenseless and love on the fatherless.

I spoke in front of my church today about Orphan Sunday--and I was a nervous wreck. How do I communicate the calling that God has given each of us to care for the orphan? How do I not make it about me or my family or any other family, but instead about these kids--who deserve love and homes? How do I honor God the most with my words?

Thinking about these things have kept me up at night. Let me tell you, there is very little that keeps me up at night. But orphans and their plight: well, they bother me. They bother my heart, they cause me to be uncomfortable, to itch for action, to do something. I want them to be loved, I want to love them.

But right now, I'm supposed to wait. And it makes me want to cry.

I think I'm supposed to raise awareness, to talk about uncomfortable things, to challenge people to take a step. I would much rather wrap my arms around a child and read them stories and play games and sing songs.

I want to wrap my arms around my kids. To bring them home.

But I will wait, knowing that until, and even after we bring them home, God has His great, big, all-encompassing arms around them. And me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quarter 1 Recap

So, we've finished 10 weeks of school and I thought that this would be a good time to recap the things that we've done, mostly so I can pat myself on the back and say "good job, me!" Because even though I love it, this homeschooling stuff is hard work: it gobbles up a fair bit of my time and energy, demands patience and love and a huge helping of the Holy Spirit, and my house is pretty much a disaster all of the time.

But I love it! Why? well because I get to study history and science and math and writing with my kids. I get to hear Katie getting a better grasp on reading and watch Josh understand the math concepts of carrying and borrowing. Josh & Katie have also started asking questions that have forced us to explore more deeply, try a bit harder. Why isn't there more about women in the Middle Ages? What is the code of chivalry?  Olivia is excited to learn her letters and is dying for the opportunity to read.

We have explored the crust of the earth with a pizza and started testing minerals. We have travelled with Richard the Lion-hearted, Joan of Arc, the Black Prince, Marco Polo, and St. Francis of Assissi. We have visited Scandinavia in the winter with the Tomten, sailed with the Vikings to Greenland and beyond, and marched across Europe through Asia minor for the glory of God. We've learned that sometimes priests are focused on things other than God, women had a strong presence in the Middle Ages (who do you think cared for farms when all the men went off to war), and becoming a knight was not easy. We've learned our Spanish vowels and pointed out many el camion and el autobus.

We' ve met the God of the Bible: Jehovah, El Elyon, El Kana, El Shaddai, and Elohim--and learned that he is a loving, Creator God who deserves and demands our full attention and lives. Before Him there can be no other.

In life, we've encountered some bumps, been bruised, but have used creative thinking to overcome. There are now chore charts and kid calendars and places where the kids learn from others than me. They've brought me to tears, I've made them cry. School at our house is life magnified by 1,000.

But we're looking forward: to the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, The Reformation, Shakespeare. Minerals and Rocks. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, and Division. Spanish. And most importantly, Christ Incarnate: the Son of our Living God, come to earth as baby to live life and die for all our sins.

There is so much to be thankful for, so much more to learn.

And now, for your viewing pleasure: A smilebox album on our trip to the Renaissance fair in mid-September. We had a fantastic time and I hope to use much of what we saw to bring home the lessons we are learning in the weeks to come.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Writer's Block

So, if you know anything about me, you know two very basic things:
1} I love the written word. I love the way it flows on  paper. I love the way the way words force me to consider things that I wouldn't on my own: an emotion, a question, a problem, a solution. I could spend most of my time thinking about words.
2} I love to learn new things. I love to ask questions and learn about people and places. I like going a bit deeper and asking uncomfortable questions that get at the heart of a feeling or problem or situation or person. When I meet someone who views, thinks, or knows differently from me, I want to know about it--so I ask a ton of questions. I am truly interested in what other people have to say.

Add to that the fact that I love the quirky things in life, the small details that others may notice but not pay attention to and that I love to express myself with the written word, mostly for me, but also for others.

So I ask you? Why in the world do I have writer's block?

I mean, seriously, I have ten thousand ideas in my head. Every day I think of new questions to ask, find out about, write about, explore. I've even thought of a blog post that just lists a ton of questions I have, things that I am curious about.

And every time I sit down at a computer to type or write something out, I completely freeze. The words are stilted, forced, fake. They aren't what I write in my head. It doesn't have the rhythm, force of meaning, provocativeness, or lilt that I hear when I recite them in my head.

Why are these words stuck inside my head?

Honestly, it's because I care too much about what other people will think. And isn't that true in so much of life? We are free in our heads and stilted on paper because of how others will judge us and what we look like on the outside.

In much of the way that I live my life, I have stopped depending on others approval to validate who I am. And that is what I need to do more in my writing. Oh yes, I have a ton to say. And you might not like it. But if I am truly honest about who I am and who God has created me to be and the fantastic things that are in my head--Watch out! 'Cause there is some sweet writing comin' your way.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Love that doesn't make sense

I have some dear friends who recently brought into their home a new baby. Sometimes I get lost when I am watching the mom and the dad and baby J interact: there is such intensity, such love in their expressions, my heart wants to break for it.

You see, baby J came to their home after months of prayer and waiting and has become their child through adoption. He is not their child by birth, but knowing the difficulty of the road they walked to bring him home, he is their child, a child of their hearts.

And I marvel at this. Because it is obvious they love him deeply, they enjoy having him there, they are thrilled he is a part of their wonderful family.

But what I marvel the most (and have been thinking about quite a bit lately) is the deep love they have for baby J. Their love for him is equal to their love for their other kids.

And that is what doesn't make sense, sometimes to me, sometimes to the world: how can you love a person enough to sacrifice everything if they have no ties to you except your commitment to them?

That is what I think the essence of adoption is. I think about our kids, the ones we are waiting for. And right now our waiting feels patient, it's manageable. Eric and I talk in broad terms about what our family might be like when they finally come home. But right now it is purely an academic exercise. Sure, I feel some sort of affection for whoever they are, this vague idea of a boy and girl who are coming home to us. But it surely isn't real.

It is a lot like before I ever had children. I had no idea I could love so deeply, so instantly. Kids were actually a scary idea: they ruined your marriage, took away your personal time and money, sucked away your joy and energy. Even during pregnancy, I wasn't one to wax deep loving thoughts over that little one who was growing inside me. But the minute I met my son, the love was fierce.

I know that when we get that referral, everything changes . The kids will then have names, faces, stories. They are on their way to becoming ours. Our love, concern, and care for them grows. And then the moment we meet them for the first time. Well, although those two kids might not understand what is happening, tears of joy, relief, and thankfulness will be shed. In fact, I can make myself cry just thinking about it.

And now as I look at our adding to our family, I know I will love these kids. I know I will be willing to sacrifice anything and everything for them to be safe and whole and loved. But as I read about the trials that we might face, I question this love: why would anyone want to do this? Why do I want to make it that we stick out in a crowd? Why do we want to deal with the struggles of adjusting to life in this family when (usually) we like it just the way it is? Why should we voluntarily make life harder than it is, taxing our physical, emotional, and mental resources?

See, it doesn't make sense.

Does it make sense?

Yes it does. Don't worry. I don't know how it happens or how it works, but I know it does. I will love those kids enough to break my heart.

How do I know?

I seen it in the examples of many, many families with adopted kids, both young and old. I have heard the tears and anguish of when a child chooses the wrong path, the pain of a child removed back to a birth mother, the joy felt when a child has reached a milestone. God has a way of weaving families together.

I also know because God is in the business of adoption. He adopted me. He used his Son to bring the two of us together. I did nothing to deserve a place in His family. And even though I have fought him and grieved against him and not trusted him to do what's best for me, he has always remained my Father. Nothing can remove me from his family. Not height nor depth, nor life nor death, nor things present nor things to come, nor things in heaven or on the earth or below the earth will be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It's a love that doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense that God would love me in spite of who I am and I how I fight his goodness. Just like it doesn't make sense that I will love a child who will fight me (well, sorta like I am loving children who are fighting against me now!) But it is True. It is real.

It is a love that doesn't make sense. But it will. Because it does.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And we're live!

The kids have worked hard on their potholders.

So Eric and I worked hard on creating their etsy shop. And as of last night, we are live!

You can visit their shop at For the Love of Lesotho and check out their offerings. You can email us with requests & you can just simply spread the love.

We are proud of their work and effort and pray that they will be encouraged by the outpouring of others.

Keep checking the shop to find out what other goodies they may have to offer. We have some great ideas in the works!

Blessings,
S

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Kids are Wonderful!

My Great kids!
I just wanted to take a minute to brag on my kids.

A lot of the time, I complain about their "kid-ness" wanting them to be neater, quieter, more considerate, to listen better, and give me more of what I want. Sometimes, I can admit, that I want them to be the kind of kids we imagined in some perfect fairytale world where they are neat and orderly, perfectly respectful, speak kindly when spoken to, and always on their best behavior.

But that wouldn't be very fun, would it?

Instead I have kids who are human, like I am and sometimes we clash. Sometimes they make me want to cry, sometimes I make them cry. I do believe that is part of being a family.

And then I see them do something that is completely unexpected but totally within character.

Right now they are making "stock" for an etsy shop selling. . . Potholders! Yep, they want to do their part to help--so we're working on setting up shop. They are trying to think of a clever name for their shop and finding a reasonable price for their goods (they are thinking about $2. E & I may adjust that a bit).



See aren't they beautiful?


Don't you want one?

Even if they don't sell a single one (which should be doubtful because family will buy at least one, right?) I am proud of them for their initiative, creativity, and stick-to-itiveness. Because really, I have wonderful kids!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's not about the money, right?

Well, it's not supposed to be about the money. Bringing home some kids isn't initially about money: it's about providing a home to someone who doesn't have one, it's about being obedient to God's call, it's about showing the sacrificial love of Christ to someone who needs it.

But right now, it feels like it is all about the money.

Here's an update: Our dossier is complete and has been accepted by our adoption agency. (A dossier is a compilation of papers attesting to our worthiness to adopt: financials, references, home study, criminal background checks, etc.) That dossier is on it's way to the State Department to be authenticated (meaning: the government is making sure everything checks out) and from there it travels to Lesotho. On this end, it is simply a waiting and praying game. We can do nothing to enhance the speed of this process. (And that's okay with us!)

Our kids are waiting for us and we're coming to get them.

But along with that comes our first big invoice. And we are short of the amount that we need to pay at this time.

Keep in mind that we are also concurrently finishing a bathroom and living life as simply as possible. And we have already leapt over some major financial hurdles. (And I stayed within my grocery budget today--hooray for small victories).

So we are brainstorming how to do this, how to bridge the gap. Here's what we know: we are not going to sell "adoption" wares (Trust me: there's a lot out there and it's pretty great stuff, but we're not into that). Proceeds from Eric's pen sales will benefit the fund and I am soon setting up an etsy shop to sell produce bags (not very exciting, but every bit helps). We are going to apply for some grants and get in with a 501(c)3 that will provide tax benefits to those who donate to our cause. And we're going to plan some events for later this year and into next year. But these ideas don't get the gap bridged.

Tonight, Josh, on his own initiative went to some friend's houses with the wagon to collect cans & bottles that we can return for cash. He did pretty good on his first day. He says he's going back out tomorrow. Our wonderful neighbor also gave him a bag of pennies to count. Quite literally, every penny counts.

I  can see God's hand of provision at work in the recent past, getting us as far as we have. And I know he will provide exactly what we need when we need it. But I don't know how we're going to get there.

Let me tell you, He's using a unique group of people as his tools right now. Eric is part of an online pen-turners community. And so far a few of these guys (who we have never physically met) have stepped up with some incredible gifts. I am humbled by the kindness of strangers. If any of you IAP guys read this, my heart-felt thanks. Thank you. I can barely say more without tears. Because of you, we are closer to our payment than we were yesterday.

See, it's not about the money. But it is. Because in this moment, it is how God is showing us his care, his provision, and his grace. It's reminds me that these are not my kids, but His. And truly, I do love Him for it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Remembering Today

I've decided that I need to remember how I feel this week.

The pencils are new and freshly sharpened. The textbooks are crisp and clean. Papers and notebooks are all nestled snugly in their shelves.

Curriculum has been ordered and planned and thought over and prayed over.

I am ready for this upcoming school year.

The kids are excited too--they can't wait for the stories, the projects, a Medieval festival, math (yep, they love math!)

I am excited to help them learn more about spelling and God's creation and who He is and the history and geography of this world that we live in.

I can't wait to serve alongside my kids as we practice some of God's commands.

And I need to remember this feeling in January after days of air so cold your breath freezes at the thought of going outside but you're losing your mind from being caged in all day.

And when I hear about the super sweet projects their friends are doing in their own school classrooms.

And when I see the yellow bus drive by my house. . .and my kids are sitting at the table not doing their work.

I need to remember this enthusiasm and energy and desire to teach, and learn, and be together on the days when I just want to be left alone.

Because the new feeling inevitably wears off, the books get scuffed, the pencils break and the pencil sharpener is no where to be found. Because there are days that I forget that I feel called to this path, not forced on it.

So tonight, I will focus on remembering the wonderful parts of homeschooling. Because that is what makes this life so sweet.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Foolishness to the World

I can admit I live in a sheltered world. I just don't face much faith-related opposition. Don't worry, I'm not complaining, but am just pointing out a truth.

This week I realized that Eric does not live in the same world that I do. Often we talk about how people he works with react to the different things our family does. With my good intentions, I tell him to shake it off.

Earlier this week, Eric and I were golfing with his co-workers. It was the work golf outing. This year we were paired with a couple I really like but don't know all that well. Really, we see each other for work functions, weddings, and funerals.

Throughout the course of 18 holes of golf with a sit-down dinner, we find out things about each other, which means, for the first time we shared with them about our desire to adopt siblings and where we live in the city.

And they just didn't understand. "Why don't you just have more kids?" " You don't really live in the inner city do you?"

I realized that we could explain it 'til we were blue in the face, but they just can't understand. The tugging of the Holy Spirit on our lives and choices looks like foolishness to the world. We can't really even explain it in terms that will make sense to them.

So now, I think they are baffled by us. Eric has reported to me that others are baffled by us as well. And now I understand better what it is to look like a fool, but also to know that at the end of the day, the life we lead is a response to God's call.

Maybe others will see God in the lives we lead. At least that is my prayer.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

And the results are (almost) in. . .

Tonight I write this post because I know you are eager to hear how it went, but I feel at a loss for words to describe this past weekend and all the work & result that the sale included.

Wonderful. Exhausting. Fun. Hard. Full. Blessed. Frustrating. Surprising. Exhausting. Busy. Friend-ful.

I guess I can give you a bit of an illustrated play-by-play.

Friday morning began bright, beautiful & early. As in, I woke up at 6:15 and Eric and a handful of friendswer working in my side yard. We were set-up & ready by 8:30--and away we went. We had 16 tables in the yard, stuff on the ground, boxes that weren't able to be unpacked. It was crazy.

OG was lucky enough to be invited to play at a younger friend's house (which was a huge blessing!)

J & K, with the help of our friend Karli, manned the bake sale table (until noon when they quit because it was too hot and Yoli offered to take them swimming).

Our handmade table had some lovely pens, fantastic jewelry, and really super cute hair clips. On Saturday, that table also included my handmade item: produce bags!

Grandma & Papa picked the kids up that evening--and we slept in a tent (well, sorta, for part of the night, because, well, did you see how much stuff there was? Did you think we could have possibly put that all back in our garage overnight?). We stayed in the tent late into the night when we realized that a few hours of sleep in our bed was precious to us. We also believed that the presence of the tent was good security for the area. 

Saturday was hot. And much slower. Honestly, I was ready to throw in the towel at about 12:30--but friends continued to encourage, and people kept coming and coming, until 4 p.m. We started packing up then--and after we sorted out the things that we are keeping to sell on Craig's list, ended up with a garage full of goods for a mission or ministry.

How to report the God things that happened in these two days? Well, I can't share them all, but there are some great stories. Like the many people who stopped to ask us about where Lesotho is. Or the many, many wonderful people who paid for a $1 item with $10 or $20 or more and let us keep the change. The friends who stopped by to offer hugs, gluten free treats, prayers, or to browse (even though they didn't need a thing in the world). The one family that came after hours and hung out for a bit as we found common interests in reading, writing, adoption, thrift, and life! The many, many confirmations we received.

But the best, I've saved that for last. Late yesterday afternoon, a sweet looking guy (college age) stopped by and bought some ugly duck thing (picture). After some conversation we learned that he had recently returned from three months in the South African Free State which is just north of Lesotho and that he spoke the language of the country, Sesotho (Se-su-to). He hung around for a bit and taught us a few words and phrases. We are going to see him again soon, look through his pictures and hear more about his experiences.

But what a God-thing! Things like that don't happen by chance.

So I also shouldn't be surprised that when we counted our earnings again tonight for deposit, our money multiplied. There was $150 more than when we counted and added last night!


The cicada hatched on this bag Saturday morning.
 It was beautiful to see another aspect of God's craftsmanship
While there are still some small sales pending with the possibility of more earnings, tonight we figured out two things. 1) The amount we earned is equal to the amount we had to take out of the adoption savings to pay bathroom costs. (got that?) 2) The amount we earned is about 1/3 of the amount we need for our first payment to the adoption agency

Our God is so good and abundant. I am still in awe.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Look what God has already done!

I write this post on Tuesday night, three days before our garage sale and I already stand amazed at how God has provided for us--and we haven't yet received a penny! In fact, I wanted to record how i feel at this time so that I can remember that no matter what the dollar figure for our weekend, we can remember that God provides.

I am both overwhelmed and overwhelmed by the outpouring we have received.

Overwhelmed in a good way because there has been overwhelming response (as in people I never would have expected have contacted us to offer help/goods/stuff).

And Overwhelmed in an overwhelmed kind of way because our house is full of stuff for this weekend.

Here are a couple stories that I am really holding on to right now.

One Sunday afternoon a friend dropped off a load that included three bikes left in the basement of his rental house. That afternoon a member of my small group (a bike guy) took a look at them and offered to fix them up. So he took them to his brother's bike shop and put on new tires, tuned it up, and washed it. He returned on Monday with two bikes that we can now sell for about $100/piece. They are great bikes that ride smooth.

Tuesday morning a woman from our church called. She was moving and heard we were having a sale and why and wondered if we would be interested in the stuff left in her house that she hadn't been able to give to friends. We said, "yes" and four van loads later have (among other stuff) a beautiful loveseat with a pull out bed and a chaise lounge.

A Saturday morning a dear friend and her son stopped by, unannounced, and left us with a couple bags of clothes and a brand-new, still in the box radio flyer wagon! From the store it is more than $100.


Right now, I have a huge pile of clothes in my basement, a front porch full of furniture, a garage packed with small appliances, bikes & baby goods, and rooms in my house full of sorted and priced items. And more is still coming from family members and friends. I look around and stand amazed.

Some different people Eric and I know who make hand-crafted goods have sent us some of their wares (pens & jewelry) to sell.

People have offered to bring baked goods for the kid's bake sale table. We have others who have volunteered to some and sort. I am blown away by this response. Truly. It reminds me that even though this event and fundraiser is benefiting our family by providing us with funds to bring some kids home, the community around us wants to help provide two kids a forever family.

 I have goosebumps all over as I write this. I know God is here. And I trust that just as he has provided people & goods & hands, he will also provide buyers and money. Pray for that with me, will you? Pray that there is another overwhelming response, that lots of stuff finds new homes, that others catch the vision as well. Pray that these are days that bring glory to God.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Becoming less childish and more Child-like

Sometimes I feel like such a fool. Like these past two weeks as I have been worrying about money and provision which I cannot control. And trying to hand out my ideas of what to do, how to fix, how to provide. As I listen to myself I feel like I sound a bit like a whiny teenager, maybe even childish in my plans.

It's a bit embarrassing to admit.

And then, while I was madly cleaning our house yesterday, I stumbled upon OG's book from school--the preschool one that has pictures of her family, her self portrait, her fingerprint, pictures of heaven (a blue blob), and the baby Jesus. I was paging through it, not taking much note of anything extraordinary, until I stumbled upon her last page. A picture of what her family looks like that she drew/painted at the end of the school year, about 4 weeks ago.


Notice, my 4-year-old has complete confidence in what we desire--so much so that her new brother and sister are already a part of our family. See, her new brother is hiding behond a bush (on the left) and her new sister is not shy (on the far right). This picture stops me in my tracks. It brings tears to me eyes. It reminds me to have faith like a child: a beautiful-not-doubting-not-worrying kind of faith. The faith that believes that God said there will be two more in our family.

That's my goal: to be less childish and more child-like with the hopes that as time passes I become more Christ-like. 

To end tonight, I want to give to you a gift that God gave us. A music video by Third Day. In it we see a picture of what our family could look like one day, but also a clear visual image of the fact that every single one of us has been adopted by our great God, the one true God.



We are the saints, we are the children,
we've been redeemed, we've been forgiven,
we are the sons & daughters of our God.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Continuing Journey, and God's Provision

This past week has certainly been an interesting week. If you know me, you know that I do not handle stress that well and last week was full of it. There were two ear infections, adoption education, homeschool cirriculum fairs, meetings, a quick trip to chicago, bathroom work, and the rest of life as we know it.

And the most stressful thing: Eric & I took a long, hard look at our finances as we continue to refinish our bathroom and pursue this adoption. We are working hard to pay for everything with cash. We don't want to take loans to finance any of this. Knowing this, we realized a hard truth. We will not have enough money to do both of these things.

And this, to me, is a paralyzing realization.

There are things I know about God's provision, things I trust about this call to adopt and following the heart of God. But then, right now, there are many things I don't know about how it is all going to happen. In this past week I was very discouraged. The question I kept (and still keep) asking is: HOW? How will we pay for it all? How will we have the money for our first adoption payment? How will the timing work out? How can we cut our budget to make enough room?

We still don't have answers, but we have seen bits of provision: bathroom cabinetry at a fabulous discount, the gift of swimming lessons for the kids, coming in under budget at the grocery store and farmer's market.

And we will start fundraising. Our first big payment to the adoption agency is $6,000 and we believe it will come due in about 2-3 months. So, to get there we are planning a garage sale (july 8&9--we're accepting donations of your stuff!) and we will have a backyard barbeque/pig roast. I am also working on creating something to sell--produce bags. More on that to come.

To help all of us visualize where we are in the fundraising process, I am going to add a fundraising thermometer to this site, so we can all track God's provision & faithfulness and the deep love of others.

We value your offers to help in any way, and we covet your prayers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

163,000,000-2 = 7

Today's thoughts are deeply personal, but I need to share them. I may stumble over my words and not have the right words for everything, but I ask that you read with an open heart and try to hear mine.

Right now, as I write this there are an estimated 163 million orphans in the world.

163,000,000 kids without a mom or dad to take care of them.

Think about that for a moment.

They can be found in every single country in the world. The United States, throughout the continent of Africa, in increasing numbers in Asia and the former Soviet bloc countries. In the poor slums in of South and Central America, in foster and group homes in the United States, in orphanages everywhere.

They are orphans for many different reasons. Some reasons have to do with disease: HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria. Some have to do with armed conflicts that have stolen parents from kids who need them. Some have to do with cultural norms that doom a child who is not recognized by his father. Some are because law in a country forbids multiple children. Some are because of poverty, substance abuse, and an inability to parent in the face of great difficulty.

Over the span of many years, God has been breaking my heart: for the broken, for the lonely, for the motherless. Then over this past year, I read the history books of the Old Testament in conjunction with my kid's history studies. What I found was fascinating, challenging, eye-opening. One thing: God cares deeply about the plight of the orphan and the widow. Deeply. And I began to know that it was time to act. To put movement on my feet and action to my hands and act out this love.

Now there are actually a myriad of ways to act for those 163 million orphans. That number of orphans indicates that there are huge, monumental problems that countries, the world, God's church need to address and work together to solve.

But for me and our family: our call to action is to bring two orphans into our home, our family. To be a family that is united by marriage, by birth, and by adoption.

Why? Because God loves me. He took me into his family though I was sitting in a corner dying in my sin.

Eric & I have walked separate journeys to come to this place. I have had to realize that I am called to be a mother, not resigned to it. Obviously, Eric didn't need to go to that place, but we both had to be moved by God to acknowledge his will, his provision, and then to act upon it.

Together, our family has just started a long road. It will probably be a while before we have a referral and even longer to travel to pick up our kids. We have a lot to learn between now and then: lessons about grace and provision, how we parent, how we are as a family, the importance & place each person has in our family and how to balance everything. Oh, don't worry, our eyes are wide open as to the positives and negatives associated with adoption. We have seen both the beautiful and the heart-breaking.

But you know what? We've actually started! And we're excited. And a teeny bit freaked out. Somewhere out there, there are two kids (or one if that's what God wants) that are meant for this family. Crazy to understand and even harder to imagine.

163,000,000-2.

It's not much, but it's a start.
 
"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come for you."
John 14:18






Monday, May 30, 2011

The Bathroom Update

Oh, I wish I had more to tell you. Like 'the bathroom is done.'

But alas, at this point almost 2 weeks after a drip of water fell on my head--well, we have almost finished a complete demolition of our bathroom. The only thing left to do on the demo is to remove the floor.

Highlights of the process so far:
  • On Saturday Eric took a ton of rubble to the dump. A real TON--2,000 pounds of plaster, lathe, paint, tile and mortar. From a 6 x 9 bathroom. Seriously, our house is solidly built. We marvel at the men who built our house in the 1920's--the time and materials it took, the skill needed to do a quality job.
  • Our friend Terrance came over on Friday night and helped to remove the remaining walls, closet-thing, and the tub. The best part of that night was Eric and T throwing the steel tub off the side of the house while our sweet elderly neighbor watched. There's never a dull moment at the Beuker house!

   

What's next?
Hopefully we can get the floor up quick--because we really can't do any sort of planning on the room until we talk with our plumber and see how/if we can move things and how much it will cost. I have been told a few times that moving plumbing lines is easy, moving refuse lines is not.

Between now and then?
Well, there is a layer of dust that covers my whole house. So if you're coming over, you will be able to write your name on the top of my piano, window frames, fish tank and mantle.
I'm going to try to refrain from pacing the house, muttering incoherently, and pulling my hair out remain calm. Some days are better than others. This bathroom project is already driving me nuts!

We take any and all volunteers. Anytime.
Really.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It Starts with a Drip of Water

Sunday morning I was standing in my kitchen making coffee when a couple drips of water fell onto my head.

This not a totally unexpected development in our house. Our plumber had already fixed a leak coming from the soap dish in the shower a couple of times, but had warned us that this would continue to be a problem until we redid the bathroom. Over the course of time our house has settled and caused our bathtub to become un-level. The leak will continue to worsen until we can fix it (by leveling the tub). Personally, any leak that affects two rooms is bad enough already. Add to this the fact that we have some growth on the ceiling that we haven't been able to kill, probably a good deal of rotted, wet wood behind the bathtub tile and that we just don't like the ugly tile floor.

So after a consult with our plumber about the issue, we decided it was just time.
 

And now our upstairs (and main bathroom) looks like this:



We are demolishing the bathroom all the way back to studs. We are removing the tile walls and floor, plaster walls and ceiling. This bathroom has not been renovated since it was built, so under that floor tile is a layer of cement. The tub is iron--I never knew that tubs were iron. We plan to replace the window and change the plumbing a bit. And hopefully not discover some sort of construction nightmare while doing it all.

Now we have many things to be thankful for:
  • First, and foremost, we have minimal water damage to the kitchen. In fact, if we really wanted to we could be perfectly content ignoring it. Or slapping a coat of paint on it.
  • Second, we have a second full bathroom in our house, down in the basement. Until now, Eric had been using it as a storage extension of his woodshop. But today he took the time to clean it up--so I don't feel disgusting using it.
  • Third, we have a seriously willing worker in Josh. The kid is happy to swing a hammer or a sledge hammer and break tile. He is also enthusiastic. That makes this a bit more enjoyable. But added to that, I am feeling upbeat, maybe even encouraged, despite the onslaught of a major home improvement.
  • This was not totally unexpected. We had considered doing this earlier but had decided not to because it cost too much. But at least we had thought about it. We had the beginnings of a plan of action in our heads.
  • Finally, we can and still will use our existing toilet and sink. They are pretty cool and were originally pretty costly. So we're saving those. We can save a bunch of money by doing a lot of work ourselves and we have many friends with a variety of skills.
But this comes at an interesting moment in our family's life. We are answering a call God has put upon our life. We are in the beginning stages of adopting two orphans from Africa. So right now we don't have money to spare for a project like this. We also don't have a great deal of spare time to put into this big a project and we have a deadline--5 weeks to finish major construction.

God is like that though, isn't he? He puts a call on your life and then allows obstacles. I truly believe this is just one of those obstacles, but through it God will shine. He will receive glory. Why? Because we can't do this without his intervention--in terms of time, money, encouragement, friends to help. The combination of factors is far beyond our means.

So the story begins with a drip of water.
It concludes with God receiving glory and praise for his provision, timeliness, and perfection of His plan for our lives.
I can only imagine what he's going to do in the middle.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Simple Living?

My house is in complete chaos. Our bed is on the floor, pieces of kids furniture are blocking the upstairs hallway and there are piles of books and un-put-away clothes all over.

Why? Because we are heading into a major, 1/3 of the house, home improvement project. We have finally hired someone to sand, stain, and seal the wood floors in three bedrooms, the upstairs hallway, and half of the kitchen. (For which we have to remove every single item from the floor and closets of those rooms and then not use them for 5 days--did I mention that this is going to involve my kitchen too?)

And before we finish the floor, Eric and I have decided to make our terribly ill-planned and not-at-all-suitable closet into one that could actually hold clothes. So, this weekend we're knocking a big hole in the wall of our room.

Now, do you understand why I am living in chaos? Of course you do.

But all this moving and rearranging and cleaning out and putting somewhere else has led me to think more purposefully about Living Simply. Now, I am not talking about that beautiful magazine that teaches us how to make a perfect bed or clean all our bathrooms with vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I am talking about the stuff that we accumulate, collect, hold onto, and allow to dominate our space without even thinking about it.

I don't even think I truly realize just how much stuff I/we really have in this house. And it is gratuitous. Yesterday I found boxes in our closet that we haven't touched since we moved here and on our bedside tables were easily a dozen books that are never opened nor have any meaning to us. We are surrounded by stuff.

How can one deal with this? I am not sure I have the answer, yet.

I have a hunch that the answer is found not so much in simple living, but in purposeful living. Deliberately choosing what things to have, choosing where to put them, choosing when to get rid of them. I am trusting that as I purge through our belongings, keeping all three pairs of dress pants (because I really like them) becomes less important than making sure I use well the things that I have. I am also trusting that as I cheerfully model being content in having less, I will raise up kids who are not consumed by the desire to acquire more things which truthfully, will rust away and be destroyed.

But until I figure all that out: don't come over, it's a mess. On the other hand, my chaos may just make you feel better about yours. . .

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Catchin' Up

Whew. I think that's what I have to say about the past few months.

It's done. I made it. Deep breath.

And to some out there I owe a few pictures, so here you will find a little slid show highlighting the past two months which included: OG's 4th birthday, a Star Wars Party/Training for a 7 year old boy, a scrapbooking weekend, a new sewing machine, A ballet recital by two dancing ballerinas, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge with Papa & Grandma Beuker, my birthday, lots of pens, and school.

I was thrilled to make it to spring break last week. And after a week and a day of catching up, chillin' out, reading a bit, cleaning a lot, planning ahead I am finally beginning to rid myself of the drowning feeling. I'm almost ready to face the world again.

Anyway, enjoy these pictures. They are from our home to yours with a great deal of love.

S

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Coming out of the Craft Closet

So, I just need to admit it to the world.


Although my skills are sorta lacking, I'm a crafty gal.


Meet Jan--she's my new fancy sewing machine!

And how do I know this? Well, I just got a new sewing machine yesterday which I am totally excited about. All I want to do today is cut and sew and create. By the end of the day, i will have stuff for three items cut (and hopefully even pinned). I have fabric for two more dresses for the girls behind these projects. And I am planning a Lego blanket/quilt (but I'm not really a quilter, or so I told Penny who taught me how to use my new machine) for Josh and am even contemplating making a thing or two for me. Two of the things I am making I am doing so without a purchased pattern (which is exciting and a bit nervous--I don't like failing).

Beyond this, I know that I love to layout and scrapbook.

And I love to write. And cook.

So I guess I should admit it--I have a creative piece of me.

But now I need to come to terms with some of my feelings about craftiness, creating, and the people who do it. Some of those things are:
  • Its okay for things to look handmade. In a world that values perfection and uniformity, some imperfection and quirkiness is needed and acceptable. I shouldn't feel bad about that.
  • It is okay to create and feel some pride in doing so.
  • It is okay if my desire to sew and create fills another in the list of stereotypes about homeschoolers. Not all stereotypes are wrong--but if I ever start to make myself a long denim jumper saying that it is both modest and fashionable, please shake some sense into me.
  • It is okay to instill in my kids a passion for creating, even if they are in "home-arts." K can't wait to learn to sew and I bet that one day J will be cooking quite a bit. And I am wondering who will be the first one to turn their own pen.

Christmas Pajamas
 Now that I think about it, our entire family values artistic expression in music, dance, sewing, writing, drawing, wood-turning, and creating. I can only hope that one day I get to hear my kids say: "I grew up in a family of creators. That's where I get it from."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Can we talk about this?

Really? Can we have an honest, open conversation about food? One that is free from judgement and condemnation? Please?

So here's the issue: lately there have been frequent conversations in our house about food, specifically what meals to make that everyone will eat and enjoy. The kids, well, they are just picky. One doesn't like corn or onions or sweet potatoes or eggs or. . . ( it think you get the point) while the other would eat only bread and cheese if she could.  E grew up eating a certain kind of way (let's think of roasts, hot dogs, hamburgers, hamburger helper) and I can only remember eating a lot of fast food when my dad was out of town (like, three wholesome meals a day from McD's, honestly).

So when you combine the constraints of a grocery budget with my medical food issues and people's preferences, well, there are lots of grumbles at the dining room table at dinner time.

And now I need your help. Please.

Tell me what you eat for dinner. Tell me what your family loves, what they ask for seconds of, what nourishes and satisfies you.

Please don't edit your response becuase you feel you might be judged because it's unhealthy. I'm desperate. Because right now the way that I want/need to eat isn't mixing well with what my family will eat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ordinary Time

This weekend my Dad has been in town. And it has been a nice trip from my perspective. Because he got to see us in ordinary time.

Usually, when we see my parents, it's a special event, like Christmas where all five of us travel to Utah to visit them OR it's a special trip where me and one kid fly to Utah. Other times when my Dad is here we plan all sorts of fun things to do. So we are out of routine. Things are fun and special, but not like the everyday.

But not this weekend. Because of the nature of the weekend (Eric's call schedule and OG's birthday) we've spent the weekend hanging out. Really. Just hanging out. Eric worked most of Saturday so it was just me and my Dad and all three Kids being crazy for Papa's attention all day. Books were read, legos were played with, a snow-tunnel was dug in the side yard, pizza & movie night happened.

Like life in normal time.

And today we went to E's parent's house to celebrate my youngest's 4th birthday-and again, we just hung out. Sat around the table and talked, played games, ate too much food.

You know, in everyday, ordinary time.

And it has been good to share this time with him. I hope we can do it again soon.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

God is good...All the time

This has been a hard week. I have had the privilege of walking with many different friends through unexpected struggles in their lives. Encountering sudden loss and grief is never easy and has weighed heavy on my heart this week. I struggle with how to respond as a good friend, knowing that usually all I can offer is prayers and love, but not feeling that it is enough of a response.

So I pray, I talk with my friends, and I try to rest in God's goodness for them (and I offer them food!).

But yesterday, I just had a heavy heart. For most of the day.

In the early evening, I found myself at Meijers all by myself to do our bi-weekly grocery shopping. And it was going really well. It seemed like everything on my list was on sale. Seriously. I jokingly asked God if he went before me and put sale tags on everything that I needed to buy that week.

And then I was in the spice aisle trying to figure out which Paprika to bu (Why did the Organic Paprika look so dull? Was it a different variety?)  when I was approached by a tall, dark stranger. He had a rectangular face and a long forehead. He had really white skin and very dark hair and buggy eyes. He must have been in his late teens or early 20's. I figured he was going to ask me some ingredient question (that seems to happen a bit).

Instead, he said, looking straight into my eyes, "Excuse me. I just have this pressing on my heart to tell you that the Lord loves you."

I was floored. Shocked. Incredibly surprised. Flabbergasted. Remarkably blessed.

I thanked him deeply. He had no clue that he just made my day, actually my entire week.

I wished him a great day and we both went on our way shopping. I encountered him a couple other times in other rows (as it often happens at Meijers) and we gave each other warm smiles and kind greetings.

Now, the skeptic in me would try to write this off as a really weird guy who had some radical agenda and was trying to save my soul. But I observed him and his friend and I didn't see them talking to anyone else.

And further, I have learned how to be open to God's leading in my life. And God wanted me to know something. He used this unusual and unexpected way to drill it home to me. He LOVES me. The Lord, Yaweh, Creator God, Healer, Protector, All-Sufficient One. This God, he loves me.

So now I don't really care what his agenda was or how it came to be that buggy-eyed guy actually spoke to me. But I am confident that God used that moment to wrap his arms around me and encourage me, to help me to press on and keep doing what I am doing.

Thanks buggy-eyed guy. Thanks for listening to God's voice. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Yum, food.

I am always curious about how people eat: what they have for meals and snacks, how they nourish themselves with food.

And now that I live in the food alternate universe, I find that it is bloggers who open their kitchens and show me what's cooking. And then they give me their recipes, which I change and make even tastier.

And in the past couple days I have had such great success that I wanted to share it with the whole world.

Last night, I ate a pot pie, with a buttery, flaky crust on the top and bottom. It was tasty, had a thick gravy, and was completely Gluten (and mostly dairy) free. And it was delicious!

The recipe called for simple ingredients: meat, veggies, sauce. I improved it by using some Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, sweet potatoes and green beans.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I actually had two helpings and didn't leave any bites on my plate. Astonishing.

The only problem is that I didn't take a picture. Maybe next time.

Lunch was great: oatmeal pancakes made with leftover oatmeal that were moist on the outside and a bit crunchy on the outside.

And tonight's menu is equally spectacular: veggie frittata, salad, and a fresh loaf of bread.

Remember, there is always room at the table.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's just me

Maybe there is no one else who feels this way. . .

But this weekend, Eric and I traveled to the other side of the state for his Winter work party. It's a pretty fancy shin-dig with pretty decent food (they cooked a fresh GF meal for me!), live entertainment, an open bar, and fantastic door prizes.

This year's party was 1920's themed. On the invitation, they requested 1920's costumes or formal attire.

Now i really love a chance to get dressed up. It's fun to put on fancy clothes and have a night with my husband away from the kids. To have adult conversations and adult food. But as you might imagine, in my life there isn't much need for fancy clothes, so I don't have too many formal dresses just sitting around at my disposal. Shocking, I know.

And my daughter and I were just at a museum exhibition on the late Princess Diana--where they showcased some of her beautiful (and in some cases, especially dated) formal wear.

It made me long to have something new and beautiful to wear to this party. You know, a great little black dress that was flirty and fun and sexy and beautiful. Or a shocking red one or a beautiful blue one. Two nights ago, I spent way too much time searching on-line, hoping to find the perfect dress in my size for $20 or less. I didn't find it.

So when searching in my closet, I had two appropriate dresses, neither of which are especially fancy or rich-looking. I choose the one I loved the most: a simple, vintage 1920's black silk dress I have had since before I had kids. We purchased it off ebay for a murder mystery we were part of. So, I grabbed that dress, my only pair of black heels, and 1920's felt hat. I honestly hoped that I wouldn't look completely out of place amidst the fanciness I was expecting.

Fast forward: leave the kids with Y, drive across the state, step into the elevator to head down to the party. We share the elevator with two couples who are all dressed in period costumes. The women are wearing flapper dresses with long pearls and feathers in their hair. I am beginning to feel stupid in my not-very-fancy dress. We get to the party and see many women wearing versions of the same things: black, white, red flapper dresses, lots of pearls and feathers. And lots of other beautiful dresses on beautiful women. But then I start getting comments on my dress and my hat, how they are obviously vintage & authentic, how I am the only one who could pull off the hat, how great Eric and I look together.

Later as I thought more about it, the dress was a perfect choice. Because then I was who I am to all these people I wanted to put a show on to, because I was real, I was authentic, too. Because I was simply who I am and that felt good; without a fancy costume or feathers or a sexy little black dress.

Even at my age, I find that it is still way too easy to fall into the "what-if-they-don't-like-me" trap or trying to be who others want me to be, instead of who God has created me to be.

And last night, I found great reward in being just who I am.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reflecting on 2010

Our new year is already 3 days old! Wow, time sure flies. I know that I am a person who will forget what happened yesterday unless I purposefully try to recall and remember it. Even more so with the year that just passed.

So I am a fan of purposeful reflection.

Last night, along with my small group, I engaged in some reflection on the events, moments, and things of 2010. It was wonderful, not only to spend some time thinking on last year, but also to hear how others saw their year and each of us were changed. We worked from a list of 20 guiding questions, but only got through a few. Below I am going to post some of the best questions and my responses. Maybe you should take some time to think of the answers in your own life. Knowing where we have been and what we have experienced helps us to know who we are right now.

What was the biggest think you learned this past year?
    I learned about food. More than I ever wanted to know: what is in it, how it affects me, what God intended. New ways to think about food, what it means to be nourished and contented, how to shop, prepare, plan, and cook. And there is a lot more I still am working on learning.

What was the best way you used your time this past year?
    Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the time that I spend with my kids is the best way I spend my time. Teaching, talking, playing, learning together, instructing. And even though sometimes I may complain (a bit) I wouldn't give it away or trade it for anything!
What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
   Facebook (that was an easy answer),

In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
    This one is hard for me to answer, but I would say that learning transparency and honesty in relationships, especially in my small group was a growing for me.

Pick three words to describe 2010.
   Food
   Practicing Contentment
 
What were the best books you read this year?
     I have read so many (many of which I have forgotten). But the ones that I haven't forgotten:
    Cutting for Stone (Verghese), The Odyssey (Homer, transl. Fagles) and the Old Testament (seriously, I love the OT. And I'm reading it in The Message translation. Fantastic.)

What was the single best thing that happened this past year?    This was a hard one. But if I had to choose only one,  it was hearing each of my kids saying ," I love you, Jesus."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Steady Days

Today has been one of those days.

The kids are tired. We are tired. And when we get tired, we each respond in slightly different ways.

The kids get extra hyper and loud and physical with each other.

I get extra sensitive and reactionary.

As you might imagine, the combination of these two reactions can be a bit explosive.

And tonight it was. I was frustrated beyond all, felt I had no patience in reserve, so I retreated. . .to waste some time on the Internet. And in my skimming I glanced over one of my favorite sites (and a new favorite) which encourage me: not to throw in the towel, to be intentional in my mothering, to be open the fullest so I can love to the fullest, to reflect God's love throughout my home.

Deep Breath.

After I put the kids to bed (a few minutes early, for both their sakes and mine), I was working in my new craft room (yeah, you heard me right!) and I took a minute to look over our family scrapbook. And I remembered that we, Eric and I, we chose this family life. And we choose it again and again and again. We choose the togetherness and the full contact of our lives with each other, we choose to engage in the messy, difficult, sometimes hilarious parts of being a family.

In my childhood, I didn't experience the full range of my parent's emotions at being a parent (huh, maybe I blocked that a bit). So I am surprised by how frustrated I can be, but also by the depth of my love.

And so today was rough. Tonight I will sip a warm mug of chai, sort through more pictures, and perhaps even watch a favorite movie.

And tomorrow morning, I will choose it all again.