Thursday, May 14, 2009

catching up

Chelsea baking cookies with her best friend

Chelsea raised money to buy toys for kids fighing cancer

So proud of her beautiful heart (her friend helped package the gifts!)

Zoo trip with Dad

Learning to use scissors (cutting paper into tiny, tiny bits)

Sara loves to spell our names (especially her new brother's name!)

Dancing & singing before bedtime :-)

Sometimes Sara surprises me with her photographic memory!

Playing Star Wars (I think) with her big sis and bro

At the park with good friends

Waiting for Geoff at the pizza place - we call this car insanity ;-)

First time skating and she went solo!

Note the imaginary puck (she was happy)

Just because she's so cute (and standing on skates!)

Girl Time (celebrating Chelsea's 11th birthday skating)

Men & Boy's Campout with our church

Just because I love the man (& heart) behind the camera

Guy Time (at Fort Stevens)

Liam was in boy heaven!

Playing on the beach at sunset

Weekend with Chelsea (shopping at Cannon Beach)

I love the beach

Shoppin' with my cowgirl (we saw Hannah Montana, thus the boots!)

Our condo for the weekend (headed out for Girl's Day)

Working on our first session of Passport2Purity (she loved it!)

Gorgeous sunset at dance class

A preview of Chelsea's ballet costume

Shoppin' with my little one
(our "date" night while Chelsea dances & Liam swims with Geoff)

I spent my afternoon listening to the sweet sounds of my three kiddos playing together and felt nostalgic. We've made so many memories in the past couple of years as a family of five.

I can't wait to see how our new son will fit into this already amazing mix. I know our lives will be that much richer and more full. Can't wait. Until then, we're filling out more paperwork and praying for our handsome "M" waiting in Ethiopia. God is SO good.

Laughter, adventure, smiles and fun...these are all essential parts of LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Sweetest blessings,
Amy Jo


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

could it be?

For the past too many years, I have been struggling with an area of my life that I have been trying drastically to change. (How and when I start my day.)

I had this image in my mind of what a perfect schedule must be like. Aside from a glorious 2-3 weeks of enjoying it last year, I have been completely unsuccessful at living it out every single day.

You see, I've had a goal of waking up at 5:00, having my coffee and prayer time (alone!), followed by an intense workout and a (quiet) shower.

Guess what?!? I am not a morning person.

And so, every day that I've woken up a couple of hours late, I have been so frustrated with myself for "failing." Everyday that I've missed my goal, I've felt miserable.

My impatience with myself soon began to affect my level of patience with my beautiful (and mostly patient) kiddos. :-(

It was in this spirit of feeling like an absolute failure that I met with my mentor this week. We spent most of our time together talking about this as well as possible solutions to my apparent "problem." It was a fabulous conversation, especially because it was all bathed in hope!

Wouldn't you know, the first question she asked me was, "Amy, who exactly says that this is the type of schedule you need to keep? And, is there someone in your life who is actually living it out?"

She can be so gentle and full of grace, even when I can't answer her questions with more than a weak sniffle. :-)

"Well, you know," I stammered. "They. As in the same people who set the standard for everything we do. Like when we can wear white shoes and when we can't."

Yup. It sounded really pathetic to my own ears and I started to get really worried with where our conversation was going.

Ah, but I should have known better. God always shows up during our meetings. And He always uses His light, love and truth to help me make sense of my life and the things He is trying to teach me.

Lo and behold, by the end of our time together, I realized that the reason I have been so unsuccessful with my schedule wasn't because I was a failure. Nor was God trying to punish me because I can never seem to "get it right."

With God and my mentor's help, I was able to see that the brick wall I kept hitting was actually a gift. God was purposefully boxing me in so that He could show me that I was trying to live up to a standard that He never gave me. He's been patiently waiting for me to turn around and look at Him.

When I finally did, He showed me who I am. Who He created me to be. Man, His love can be so bright that it's almost blinding, and yet so sweet I can never get enough. (Kinda like Dove chocolate...but that's another story!)

So, I haven't exactly figured out what my days will look like, but I am slowly learning to put down the hammer of chastisement that I've been using on myself in order to actually hear what God has to say to me.

Those desires I have for my day are all good, but would be even better if they fit into my schedule sometime when I was actually awake. ;-)

Is there an area in your life that you are struggling with, my Friend? If so, have you talked to a trusted friend or mentor yet? Sometimes we get so stuck in our unhealthy patterns that we are unable to see (or think) clearly. When we share our struggles with another, sometimes it's all we need to get a clearer picture of what is really going on.

I'm excited to see the changes that God will bring to my days as I learn to press further into Him and His will for my life.

As I learn more about the person God created me to be, I am more able to enjoy LIVING A BLESSED LIFE! Praying you are, too!

Sweet blessings,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

nauseated

No, this has nothing to do with the virus I had last week. That, thankfully, miraculously left me in time to help my beautiful eleven year-old celebrate her special day. (Thank you, Lord!)

I'm feeling nauseated today for two diverse but sadly related illnesses. Materialism and poverty.

Last month I took my daughter for a check-up at her orthodontist. Our dentist was concerned about some crowding going on in Chelsea's mouth and asked us to consult with an ortho. And so, once a year, we visit for a check-up and see how things are progressing as she matures and looses her baby teeth. Normal stuff, right?

I've had braces myself, twice. My husband, three times. While braces can be necessary and help prevent all kinds of problems, they aren't necessarily a matter of life and death.

Our youngest was born cleft-affected and will most likely need braces. The fact that she has a tooth growing out of the roof of her mouth makes braces seem like a really good idea. She could probably survive without them, but will most likely struggle with ongoing dental problems and pain. While she is too young to really notice the scar on her lip or be bothered by the gap in her gum, at some point, braces will most likely be a benefit for her self-esteem.

We originally thought that our oldest would need braces for similar, but not as serious reasons. And while the expense will hit our budget hard, we're happy to do whatever we can to bless and care for all of our children.

These were the thoughts circulating around my brain as the orthodontist examined Chelsea's teeth. She then went on to ask Chelsea if anything was bothering about her teeth, mouth or smile. Good question, right?

Indeed, my daughter was having some pain in her bite because of loose teeth, but no other issues. The dentist gave me unexpected good news. It looks like things had drastically changed since her last appointment and braces were no longer a necessity at this point.

She then went on to ask my daughter how she felt about that. My daughter, who had just been fitted for new glasses that morning, had been hoping for braces. Seems she really has been envying other kids with multi-colored bands. She had been secretly hoping for braces. Kinda like another fashion accessory, but for a whole lot of money and facial pain.

I understand that this is a normal thought-process for pre-teens and it actually made me smile.

The smile quickly faded from my face when our orthodontist went on to explain to me that "If Chelsea really wanted braces, we could go ahead and put on braces (although not needed) about eighteen months early." We would then wait for her mouth structure to catch up before doing some highly cosmetic work on her smile.

I just about fell out of my chair. Me, the girl who can't seem to write a short blog post for the life of me, couldn't spare a single word to speak. It was impossible for me to fathom that this medical professional actually thought that we would willingly hand over several thousand dollars and several years of our lives because a ten-year-old thought braces were cool. Like a new silver bangle for her wrist.

It was the same nausea I had today at the mall as I outfitted my three kiddos with new shoes. The lady at the Crocs store asked my three year old how many little Dora pins she wanted on her shoes. My sweet girl answered FIVE. The sale clerk then told her, "OK, we'll just add those to your mom's bill." NO THANK YOU, Ma'am.

Why did she "need" five Dora's? Well, because Mom didn't want to buy her the adorable (and yet shockingly close to neon) lime green shoes. Huh? Even my suddenly mature eleven-year-old understood how inappropriate it was for this line of conversation to even take place. She later agreed that it was to any child's best interest for their parents to give into their every whim.

Crazy world, indeed. I'm still rubbing my head and feeling extremely nauseated by the "must haves" that have so sadly drowned out the quiet cries of those around the world who are so hungry because their essential needs are not being met.

Without any type of food available to eat, my Friends, our brothers and sisters in countries such as Uganda are eating cow dung in order to survive one more day. Nauseated yet? Sorry, but it is a reality. A very, very sad reality.

And, for the record, my kids aren't the only ones who have fallen prey to the world's deception that says we need all of this "stuff." Sadly, they've learned it from their mother, who also happens to be their school teacher. We've got a lot of unlearning to do, I'm afraid. :-(

Learning that truly LIVING A BLESSED LIFE means living with less and giving more.

Monday, May 11, 2009

not my usual post

Oh, Friends. My brain is in a knot today. I've been trying for over an hour to somehow get my thoughts out in a post, but it's just NOT happening today.

The best I can give you is this humorous sign I saw down at the coast a couple of weekends ago. It made me laugh at the time, but given what's on my heart today, I actually think that it's a good reminder for all of us.

How many times do I, as a human, leave behind my..."mess" for other people to deal with? Too often, I'm afraid.

When I find myself getting frustrated by other people's "messes," I need to remember to first deal with the log in my own eye before trying to pull out the splinter in anothers. Humbling. ;-)

Today I am especially grateful for the Lord's patience with me. I pray that He will help me to be patient with others.

Messes and all, I am thankful to be LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

Grace and faith,