5/30/14

Friday Favorites - Children's Book for May 2014

Today's Friday Favorites:
 
Children's Book for May 2014
 
 
One of my all-time favorite children's book growing up is one that isn't very popular.  In fact, I've never seen it in a regular book store or even a library.


 
by JoAnn Stover
 
 
It is a wonderful book asking the question: "What if everybody...."

5/29/14

Waiting with Arms Full

Expectant mothers are everywhere! 

If you are pregnant, want to be pregnant, or were just pregnant - you see expecting mothers around every corner.

If you are pregnant, you smile and nod to one another, sharing a common bond.  You feel excited to know that you are not alone in your heartburn, headaches, backaches, and swollen ankles.

If you were just pregnant, you might be jealous - missing those tiny movements. Yet, you glance down at your sleeping infant and are truly glad that the delivery is behind you.

If you are waiting to be pregnant (especially if this waiting has been years), you look away.  You feel ashamed, sad, hurt, and maybe even angry because that is not you and you wish with all your heart that it could be you.

Jason and I have started telling people that we are expecting, 

5/26/14

You Have Your Hands Full

You have your hands full!

The baby was crying crocodile tears because she couldn't stand up in the grocery cart.  My three-year-old was trying to throw the box of mac 'n cheese out of the back while sitting on the bag of grapes.  My five-year-old had brought me a candy bar with begging eyes and I was trying to check out.

You have your hands full!  I wanted to look at the woman and say, "DUH!?!" 

5/23/14

Friday Favorites - Best Reads for May 2014

Today's Friday Favorites is:

 Best Reads for May 2014
 
For Fiction:




Set in the 1950s, this book follows the life of Abra Matthews, a women abandoned as an infant.  She struggles to fit in and find a family.  Although raised in a loving home, she turns her back and runs away to Hollywood.  Thinking she has burned all of her bridges back home, she stays away from those who love her.  Francine Rivers is one of my favorite fiction authors.  Anything you read by her will be excellent.  She weaves truths from scripture into the plot and characters.  For this story, she drew from Ezekiel 16, where God compares Israel to an abandoned newborn, whom He nourishes and trains, only to have the child turn her back on Him in the end.  We see this in Abra's story, but also in our own.  Bridge to Haven is a story that reminds us no matter how far we run away, God is always waiting to bring us home, giving us love and forgiveness.

For Nonfiction:


Adopted-for-life

Most of Russell Moore's other books are focused on theology and doctrine. This book is completely different.  Although I did not read it this month, Adopted for Life is always on my mind.  It was this book that God used to draw both Jason and I torward adoption.  Moore does an excellent job of bringing together the idea that Christians are adopted in God's family, and that should motivate us to be a part of the earthly adoption of children.  He deals with issues such as racial identity, navigating the red tape, and what is really at stake when we talk about adoption.  You cannot read this book without being convicted to join the adoption movement.  Although not written to explain policies or procedures for adoption it is still a must-read for all Christians.  For those who are considering or might know someone adopting, this book is a great resource! 
*You can also check out more adoption books at my Adoption Page.

5/20/14

Perfectionism Destroys Peace

I love to plan and I'm really good at it!
I plan meals.
I plan trips to the store.
I plan vacations.
I plan my days.
I plan things at church.

I love to organize as well!
I organize the shelves in my pantry.
I organize the sheets (by size) in my closet.
Of course all of my family’s clothes are organized!
I organize all of my school supplies.
I have all my books organized.


My perfectionist habits have one major stumbling block:
People. (Ok, realistically it is mainly my children.)


As a mom, perfectionism is torture.


Having everything perfect is impossible with children. Any mom can tell you that. Whether you have one child or ten, perfectionism seems harder and harder to grasp. As we added each child I felt control slipping slowly through my fingers.


My meals no longer included rare and different ingredients. Most of the time, four o'clock rolled around and you could see me staring into the fridge wondering what I could make with the sparse ingredients inside. My household chores were done haphazardly with no amount of routine. I did laundry almost every day. I had to rewash it several times because I would forget it in the washer. My floors looked like someone had crushed every type of cookie and sprinkled the floor with the crumbs. I went to bed late. I got up early. I felt tired and worn down. I was worried, anxious, and very irritable.

Life was a mess! I prayed for peace and got nowhere.


I decided to plan my way out of the craziness! I got a three-ring binder. I filled it with recipes, organized by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I added fun, educational, and seasonally appropriate kid activities. I wrote out a very detailed cleaning plan to make sure my house was clean every week (Monday was laundry, Tuesday was floors, etc.)

A few weeks and months went by. I used the binder. I did the activities. We stuck to the routine. I made the meals that I had planned. My chores fell into a schedule. Yet, I still felt tired. I felt even more irritable and still felt peace was missing.

It finally occurred to me:






A JJ Heller song helped to change my outlook:

Control

Perfection has a price
But I cannot afford to live that life
It always ends the same; a fight I never win
Oh, control
It's time, time to let you go

I'm letting go of the illusion
I'm letting go of the confusion
I can't carry it another step
I close my eyes and take a breath
I'm letting go, letting go

There were scars before my scars
Love written on the hands that hung the stars
Hope living in the blood that was spilled for me


Then God began to speak to my heart.

He said:
Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Being perfect and controlling everything around me was an illusion. Control was fight I would never win. Every time I swept, not even ten seconds later, a pile of crumbs from who-knows-where would appear! The clothes never stayed clean! My family needed three meals a day: everyday! No matter how many times I would wipe a mouth, it would still be caked with food as we walked out the door.

Peace is more than a feeling...it is a settled calm. I wanted that. I knew life was going to be crazy and messy. No one’s life is without complications.

In Judges 6:23, Gideon is afraid of the task God has called him to do. God sends the Angel of the Lord and says: “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” Judges 6:24 says, “So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it Jehovah-Shalom (The-Lord-Is-Peace).” Gideon trusted those words. He believed that God would protect Him. His heart was content with God and confident in His promises.
 
We can have peace when we are content with God and confident in His promises.

 God has called all of us to do a task. For me, it is mothering. God tells me: “Peace is with you; do not fear.” I need to build a little altar in my heart and allow God to be my Jehovah-Shalom. I need to be content with God's promises and confident that He will keep His promises.
 Peace comes from knowing God. I have found great peace in resting in the assurance that I am not perfect and that is OK.  Peace is one of the Fruits of the Spirit. God’s Holy Spirit is there to provide peace – that settled calm. I have found peace in believing God will do what He says He will do and is who He says He is.


He is faithful.


He is merciful.


He will save.


He will comfort.

 I am learning to trust and rest in the fact that it isn’t my peace that holds me together: it is God’s peace. Jesus said in John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

My life is still crazy. My kids still scream over everything. My house looks like a warehouse for broken toys and stacks of paper. My kitchen pantry is an explosion of opened cracker boxes and cans of cream of chicken soup. Please do NOT look in my junk drawers (yes, that’s plural).

I still love to organize and plan. I still use my meal-planning guide (found here). I keep recipes on Pinterest. My schedule for cleaning has loosened, although Mondays seem to be the best for laundry. My binder is sitting on a shelf in my pantry looking lonely. I haven’t opened it in months.

When perfectionism sometimes steals my peace, I must remember:
I can have peace when I am content with God and confident in His promises.


5/19/14

BlogLovin'


I recently joined BlogLovn' - Follow me there - search for www.abidingingraceblog.com!

Summer Activity List

Last week, I hosted a Summer Activities Party with 7 other bloggers. It was so much fun seeing all of the great activities linked up over the week. I am very excited to try these out this summer with my little ones. Below is a list of all the ideas that were linked up over the week. Thank you all who linked up with us! We loved having you at the party. Make sure and check out these links to read more about these great activities.
PicMonkey Collage
 
I have a Summer in the Sun Pinterest board where I will be adding ideas as I come across them, so make sure to check it out!
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Meal-Planning Guide

I wanted to share a quick meal-planning guide I made.
 
It isn't complicated, but I find it helpful.
CLICK HERE to view it in Google Docs

 
Also helpful is a grocery list that is organized by aisles at the store. 
Mine looks something like this:
 
 
I keep both by my refrigerator and add to them during the week.
 
 
What kind of tips do you have for planning your meals?

5/14/14

Adoption and Red Tape


I was trying to get organized today. I had thrown all my papers for the adoption into various folders and stuffed everything in a box. We have been watching documentaries, webinars, and reading books. If we keep track of everything, we can get "educational credit."

We were provided with a sheet of paper on which to write everything we had read or watched to get credit. When I misplace something, it gets me organizing. After shuffling through papers, and throwing a stack away, I still couldn't find it.

I let it go, knowing it would turn up later. It did. As I was showing my husband the new folders I had created, I saw it stuck behind our Dossier Packet. Every time I've looked at that packet for the dossier I just give a huge sigh. One word comes to mind: WAIT! We have had that packet for over a month and not been able to do anything about it.

Until today.

My social worker had mailed our home studies to us on Monday. I've been faithfully watching for the mail truck around 1:30 every afternoon since then. Today, while getting ready for naptime, we heard the doorbell ring. I had to sign for a package! Without even looking, I knew it was the home study.

I couldn't wait to tuck everyone into bed and go upstairs to look through the paperwork. Everything looked great! We can send in our I-800A now and start on our dossier!

Here is a shortened version of what goes into our dossier (which is sent to China):

Application Letter
Birth Certificates
Marriage Certificates
Employer Verification Letter
Financial Statement
Medical Suitability Certificate
Police Clearance Letters
Home Study
Copy of USCIS Approval (I-797)
Reference Letters
Copy of Passports
Passport Photos
Recent Photographs of Home and Family
Copy of ALP Training Certificates

All of the paperwork for the dossier is time-sensitive. Nothing can be over six months old. We need to get birth certificates, marriage certificates, and passport photos that must all be issued in the past six months. We will also need to get more fingerprinting and verifications. There a few other documents that our agency will provide for us. We have a dossier specialist we will be working with us to help guide us the entire way and review it all before we send it in.

Although still a little daunting, I am ready to tackle this beast! I am feeling confident and positive that everything seems doable. After our home study - I am trying to prepare myself for hiccups and hangups.  We will still be doing a lot of waiting. 

I am sure, if you are not in the process of adopting, this list seems overwhelming and exhausting. The amount of red tape is unbelievable. Even though we knew it was a lot of paperwork, we are still floored by everything we must do to adopt this child. For example, we have to send in our I-800A form, which is a huge ordeal, in order to get ONE piece of paper back for our dossier (the I-797).

We recently watched the documentary "Stuck" - it can be found on Netflix. Although not necessarily from a Christian point of view, it paints a pretty good picture of how much red tape it takes to bring a child home. The policies that were created to protect against child trafficking - although noble and were done with correct motives - have made adoption so very difficult. Children all over the world are forever stuck because of these policies.

It is sad and heartbreaking to know that some children will spend the rest of their lives in orphanages or foster care, not because no one wants them, but because no one can take them home.

I am hoping that our adoption story will encourage those around us to considering joining the adoption movement. We know that not everyone can adopt, or even wants to adopt. We do know that everyone should want to help. I was a little discouraged with the end of the movie "Stuck." The only answer the world can offer is to change policy and governments. The answer the Christian has is so different: changed hearts. Although we should be interested and proactive when it comes to policy – the real issue is a heart issue.


I am currently reading a book called, "In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence." I have not read very much, so I cannot say whether I agree or can recommend this book. In the beginning, the authors concede the fact that not all orphans will be able to adopted. As Christians, that does not change commands from scripture:

James 1:27 – “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble.”

Christians are to care for orphans. We are to care for the poor. Our family wants to encourage others to join in the adoption movement. I do not know what that looks like.  I do not know what God will do in your heart.  I do know that there are lots of places and organizations that help orphans. If you need direction, I can point you to a couple of places.

More than anything, we want to encourage others to pray:
Pray about how to be involved.
Pray for those already involved.
Pray for the children who are waiting for a family.

We do not need a change of red tape. We need a change of heart. Christians have that: the Gospel. It changes hearts and lives. The Gospel is the key to helping the orphans around the world.

As I have said before and I will continue to say throughout the entire process:  no amount of red tape will keep us from getting our daughter.

 

5/12/14

Summer Link-Up Party - Birthday Party Ideas!

Happy Summertime Mommas!

About this time every year I start to flip through Pintrest looking for fun activities for my kids.  It is hard because I see lots of ideas, but have no idea if they actually work or are even worth all of the effort to get them ready! 

This year, no worries!  We have made it easy for you!

In my family, birthdays were always a big deal. We had cake, balloons, streamers, and lots of family and friends! With all three having their birhdays in the summer, my biggest summer-time activities include planning and pulling off their birthdays!

I usually start out by scanning pinterest for ideas. I copy and paste the pictures of the things I want to do (food, decorations, cake) into a Word document. Then, I start planning and executing the ideas! Usually I have to make a lot of the things myself. To save you time and energy, I have include a few ideas via google documents.

Titus had a Seasame Street birthday when he turned two.




Here is a link for the Door Sign I made to look like the Sesame Street sign. You can print it on green and yellow paper.  Here is a link for samples of the Food Signs I made. I printed off these characters on card stock, cut them out, and hung them around the room.

When Jack turned five he had a construction birthday


Here is a sample of the invitation. I also made some yield and caution signs. We printed those on bright orange paper. I decorated with cheap caution tape bought at a local hardware shop!



His cake was super easy! We found the cool candles at Birthday Express. They also have a lot of awesome decorations!



This year, Jack wanted a pirate birthday. The food signs were found at How to Nest for Less. She had a lot of other free printable things there as well.



 
The invitation I designed myself. You can see it here in pdf form: Pirate Invitation. We kept it simple by decorating in black and red balloons.  I recreated this sign from an idea off of pinterest.



I found a very cool cupcake design at Its Always Autumn. They were super easy to do and everyone loved them!

 
 

He told us that it was his "best birthday ever!"


Yes, this momma cried a few little tears thinking about her "baby" turning six!






All Kinds of Things
 
Check out what my co-hosts are sharing about on their blogs! They each are such great mommas with wonderful ideas I know you will be inspired by!
 

 
 
 
Easy to Prepare Activities by Elizabeth @ All Kinds of Things
Facebook - Instagram - Pinterest
 
Summer Activities Jar by Katie @ The Lane Above
Facebook - Instagram - Pinterest
 
Summer Birthday Parties by Sarah @ Abiding In Grace
Facebook - Pinterest - Instagram
 
 
Summer Activity Binder by Keri @ Living In This Season
Facebook - Google+ - Instagram - Pinterest

5/11/14

Mother's Day 2014

Dear Mothers,
I see you.
I see your heart-ache....
...the good ache from all the love that you hold.
...the bad ache from all the guilt that you carry.
I see your tears of joy.
I see your tears of pain.
I see your smile, tired but sweet.
I see your tired eyes and wrinkles.
I see your gentle, maybe calloused hands.

I see the mothers sitting alone in the waiting room waiting to hear the heartbeat.
I see the mothers sitting alone in the waiting room knowing there will be no heartbeat.

I see the first-time mother in the hospital, learning her life has changed forever.
I see the last-time mother, nursing her child, knowing it is her last.

I see the mothers laying on the operating table, wishing that labor had gone different.
I see the mothers smiling because the face of the child washes away the labor pains.

I see the mothers who weep quiet tears of babies gone and never known.
I see the mothers who gently sob for children gone too soon and never forgotten.

I see mothers who carried, loved, and then gave away this gift of life.
I see mothers who cried, waited, and then took in that life that was a gift.

I see a mother who is an aunt, a cousin, a grandmother.
I see a mother who is a friend, a neighbor, or co-worker.
 
I see mothers whose arms are waiting.
I see mothers whose hearts are wishing.

I see the daughters weeping for their mothers.
The mother that was never there.
The mother that was gone too soon.
The mother who will forever be missed.

We are all mothers, whether you come to motherhood through the pain of childbirth or the pain of waiting. 
 
My mother means so much to me. She taught me about love, sacrifice, and family.  She worked hard, gave up a lot, and loved us all so unconditionally.  I hope to be like her one day.
 


My Grandmother Delma - My Mom (pregnant with me) - My Grandmother Margaret
 
 
My Mother and Me

5/7/14

Summer Link-Up Party Starting May 12th

Link Party
**Coming May 12th**
Link up your Summer Activities for Kids
 
Summertime is such a fun time of the year with little ones. It also can become overwhelming as there is so much free time you wonder what exactly to do to fill it. This summer, let’s prepare ahead of time. This way we can plan out some fun and educational activities for our little ones before the moments of boredom hit.

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Join us on Monday, May 12th, and link up your posts of summer activities (past or present). The link party will be going on for the entire week and the following Monday (May 19) we will post a list of all the activities everyone has shared! So let us join together and share some ideas and inspiration!

These are the host sites:
Becky with  http://bybmg.blogspot.com
Denise with http://www.gratefullyinspired.com

Looking forward to you joining us next week!

5/5/14

Moving Forward with the I-800A

More paperwork is coming our way!  I am excited (sort of) because for the past few weeks I  have had nothing to do for the adoption and I felt like we were at a standstill!

Our home study has been on hold for a few weeks, as it needed to be reviewed and approved. There were a few hiccups - as should have been expected.  The major hiccup concerned guardianship.  We needed to have documented who would take care of our children (including the adoptive child) if something were to happen to both Jason and I.  China has strict guidelines for who they allow to be guardians.  The person has to make a certain amount of money and be under the age of 50.  We had to change it twice.  After the third time filling out the same form, we think we have it!

We have gotten the go ahead to start the i-800A form.  It is long and complicated.  I would try to explain it, but I do not fully understand what it is.  It has something to do with US Citizenship and Immigration.  I think we have to prove that we are from the United States before we can adopt.  I do know that this i-800A packet is sent to a federal office in Texas to be reviewed.  We have to include photocopies of our birth certificates, marriage license, and other forms.  This can take at least three months to be processed.  We have to wait and include our home study with it, so we really cannot send it in until we have the physical copy of our home study in hand.

After the i-800A forms are sent in, we can start on our dossier.  You can read more about that here.  In the meantime we will be getting fingerprinted (again), even though we were just fingerprinted for our home study. 

The first is the i-800A, then after we receive a referral (which is after our dossier is submited), we will need to fill out the i-800. If this sounds super confusing - it is! I am
learning as I go.  Most of the home study information and forms were very straight forward and easy to fill out.  This i-800A amd i-800 form, cover letter, and additional forms has me a little overwhelmed.  I am glad we are going through an agency.  Our agency has been very helpful.  Everytime I email someone, they are so prompt to email me back!

Although I am excited to be moving forward, the amount of paperwork is quite overwhelming!  I know that I was warned - everything you read about adoption tells you there is a lot of paperwork, but BOY were they right!  I have a feeling that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

It crosses my mind, I will be honest: "Why are we doing this?"  The paperwork.  The time.  The energy.  The emotions.  The money.  I am quickly reminded of a faceless little girl that belongs with us.  My heart is heavy with the weight of 20 million (or more!) orphans all around the world.  Is one little girl worth all of this hassel?  I can look into the faces of my three children and say YES - a thousand times yes!  A child is worth this hassel - and more.  A fatherless child is especially precious in the eyes of our Heavenly Father.

Please pray:
1. That the home study will be approved quickly! - This is done as of May 5, 2014!!!
2. That we can figure out this i-800A form and get it together to send in quickly.

Thank you for praying!

Here is a picture of our "adopiton box" -  I think I'm going to need a bigger box...

5/1/14

Second Generation Homeschool

There are several ways to educate your children.
Public Education
Christian Education
Home School

I've been involved either directly or indirectly with all three methods.
I was trained to teach and taught for two years in the public school setting.
During college, I worked in a Christian school.
Through grades Kindergarten-12th Grade I was home schooled.

When it comes to education, I am very passionate. My career before kids was teaching. My career after all the kids are gone will be teaching.  Education is important to both Jason and I; therefore, we were very thoughtful when it came to our own children's education. I will not go into the entire thought-process, but our choice was home schooling.

Some may think I chose it because that was what I did.
No.
Some may think I chose it because I don't like public or Christian education.
No.

I chose it because I wanted my children to be home with me.
I chose it because I love to teach!
I chose it because we believe God wants this for our family.

So many people ask if we will do it "all the way" - meaning all the way through high school. Since we are just finishing our first kindergarten year I cannot answer that question!

We have no idea what our lives will look like ten years down the road. After the crazy year we have had so far, I cannot tell you what our life will look like two years from now! We will be having a major change with our adoption, so that could direct our course as well. We will take it one year at a time!

Kindergarten has gone well. I will be honest, it was a rocky start. I had my doubts. But God kept reassuring me that it was the right path. We have decided to do it again next year. Titus will be in pre-school and Jack will be in 1st grade.

If you have home schooled, you know all the benefits. If you haven't, here are a few:

1. Your child gets to be with you all day.

2. You pick the pace at which your child learns.

3. You pick the material (although looking at content standards and objectives is wise).

4. You have freedom to go and do things during the day.

5. You are able to be the one to form your child's mind and heart.

Once again, I am not advocating home schooling as the *only* viable option for education. I encourage every family to look at their lifestyle, background, and family goals to see what type of education would best fit them. For us, for now, it is home schooling.

I am so thankful to be a part of this community. The fact that there is a strong community with all the support groups here in West Virginia (KPHE and CHEWV) is a testament to my mother and all of her contemporaries. The home schooling parents in the 1980s and 1990s were some of the pioneers!  I owe it to their hard work in paving the way to be able to say we are second generation home schoolers!