Friday, May 31, 2013

That's My Boy

It's May 31st. It's a special day in our family. Today marked Eli's graduation from PreK. Look at him. Just beaming with his certificate. He was so proud. Proud enough to actually stand still and pose for a picture. That's my boy.

His teacher discussed his scores, showing where he started in August and where he ended up at the close of the school year. "He's ready, more than ready, for Kindergarten," she stated. Oh yes, he's headed to Kindergarten in just a few short months. That's my boy.

He's been more than ready for school to be out and his behavior has proven that over the last few weeks. He's tested lots of limits, acted up, gotten into trouble, and quite frankly he's just "done" with school. That's my boy.

I've been a little hesitant about the whole PreK graduation. Maybe I was being a little too much of a realist about the fact that he has, at minimum, 13 more years of school. I'm sure there will be a Kindergarten graduation, then an Elementary school graduation, and then a middle school one. When I was growing up, these weren't graduations. These were promotions. Promotions to the next grade, the next level, the next school. Graduation came after high school, and then college. Being most proud of my grad school.

Nevertheless, in the moment, I sat proudly on the front row, all dressed up, camera and iPhone in hand. I saw another family with balloons and a gift. I was suddenly sad I hadn't thought of that too. Regardless, he did it. That's my boy.

His last named earned him the 2nd person being called, and after posing with his certificate, he took his place back on the risers with his class and waited as the rest of his class was called. He got a certificate for participating in the reading program. And when one of his other friends received one, too, he clapped and shouted out, "Yay!!! You did it!" This happened repeatedly as he cheered on some of his classmates. I was beaming. His tender heart. His caring attitude. His awareness of others. That's my boy.


Today is May 31st and the PreK graduation was certainly a reason to celebrate. But today is a day our family already celebrates. Today is placement day. Adoption day. As we affectionately refer to it, "Gotcha Day." Today is the day I walked into a lawyer's office in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, with empty arms and an open heart, and a young 15 year old birthmother placed a tiny preemie baby boy in my arms. Today is the day, 5 years ago, when I walked in empty handed and walked out bearing a son. I didn't physically bear him in my womb, but instantaneously that baby boy became my son and I became his mother. In a moment I knew, that's my boy.

I remember being so nervous. I was so scared I wouldn't bond with him. I was so unsure of how I'd feel holding a baby that I had never even laid eyes on, let alone never felt kick or move inside me. I wasn't prepared. I hadn't had 9 months. I had only been told about him 8 days prior. But something had been stirring inside my heart long before that day. I had prayed, oh how I prayed, not only for a baby, not just to become a mother, but also to love my child. I prayed for a bond to be present, a strong bond that would be felt and sensed and lasting. God answered. All of it. He answered.

It seems fitting that on Elijah's Gotcha Day we're celebrating another milestone. This day is about answered prayers. This day is about becoming a mother. This day is about God's faithfulness even when the situation seems impossible. This day is about a precious life that God was orchestrating and planning. That's my boy!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Strawberries Galore!



GOT STRAWBERRIES?! 


It was a memorable Memorial Day weekend to say the least! Saturday morning kicked off with a trip to Yoders Farm in Rustburg to pick some of the nicest, ripest, reddest strawberries I've ever seen or tasted! We had a blast and the kids consumed almost as many strawberries as we brought home. Okay, not quite. But we had enough strawberries for mom to make homemade strawberry pie, Lindsay jammed 5 jars, and I made two batches of strawberry tea and the ooey-gooyiest strawberry cobbler you've ever eaten! There are even more strawberries left over for snackin' and morning smoothies.

For those of you who know me, you may be questioning my "Betty Crocker" skills. But something happened with the invention of Pinterest and the amazing kitchen I had in my last house. Somehow I've transformed into someone who loves to bake and cook. You're shocked, right?! I used to be pretty good at following a recipe, but now I can even improvise! Who knew?!?!

Maybe it's me getting ready to be the keeper of the home, maybe it's entertaining the picky taste buds of a 5 year old, maybe it's just me getting older and maturing (ha!)...but I enjoy finding new recipes and trying new things. Even as I'm planning the new house, I'm putting a lot of emphasis on the kitchen and eating area. Open, welcoming, inviting, warm, friendly.

I should also add while I enjoy experimenting, I like to keep things simple and use ingredients that I already have. I hate finding a recipe that I want to try, only to realize I'm missing a few ingredients and have to scrap it. In fact, I didn't have self-rising flour so I improvised with baking powder and salt added to regular flour.

These recipes were highly requested on Facebook, so here's the ingredients and step-by-step instructions. Enjoy!!!

Strawberry Tea
Ingredients: 4-5 tea bags, 1 cup sugar, 1 lemon, 3-4 cups fresh strawberries.

Brew 4-5 tea bags (I used 3 family size tea bags in a tea maker)

Stir in 1 cup of sugar to the brewed tea (while it's hot so the sugar dissolves

Puree 3-4 cups of strawberries (washed and hulled). The riper the strawberries, the less you may need. I started with 3 cups and added a few extra.

Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon into the puree.

Strain or pour the strawberry mixture into the tea and stir.

Serve chilled.

Strawberry Cobbler
Ingredients: 1 stick of butter, 3 cups fresh strawberries, 2 cups of sugar (split), 1 cup self-rising flour, 1 cup milk.
Melt 1 stick of butter in a medium pan

Add 3 cups of washed & sliced strawberries to the melted butter

Add 1 cup of sugar to the mixture and bring to a boil (this will create a syrup mixture with the strawberries) and remove from heat once mixed well.

In a separate bowl, mix 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of self-rising flour and 1 cup of milk. Stir well until all flour and sugar is blended with the milk.

Pour strawberry mixture along with flour mixture into a baking dish. I layered the mixtures back and forth, but the flour/milk mixture sinks to the bottom until cooked.

Cook for 30 minutes on 350 or until you have a golden, fluffy cobbler that has risen to the top.

Serve warm with ice cream and/or whipped cream!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Raising a Knight

He's been absolutely full of himself lately. And I can't help but document it. My little boy turned 5 just a few weeks ago. This Friday is his graduation from PreK and his "gotcha day," the day he was first placed in my arms. It's safe to say he's becoming a little man.

Last night I walked out of his room, after having constructed a tent atop his bed, to hear him call, "Mom, I have to tell you something."

I responded by reminding him he was supposed to be going to sleep but he said he had to whisper something in my ear and I caved.

"You're my pretty princess and I love you very much and you're the best cooker because I like what you made for dinner." #heartmelt

Yep, he's a sweet talker. And I'm perfectly okay with that. But what I'm more okay with is the fact that he's learning to be a gentlemen. He's learning how to treat a woman.

The other day as we were walking outside near the edge of the road, he said without a second thought, "Wait mom. Let me walk on this side so I can protect my princess."

Make no mistake, he's a boy. ALL BOY. He's absolutely fascinated with the cicada invasion, among other bugs. He's outdoors as much as possible, despite the fact I've already pulled two ticks off of him. He's constantly constructing some imaginary world with rocks, sticks, leaves and whatever else he can find. And there's more.

He's an active boy. He doesn't sit still. Ever. Before you start diagnosing or prescribing, let me remind you, he's a boy. As I watch him and my niece, the obvious male/female differences cannot be overlooked. He has one volume: loud. And when you ask him to turn it down, he lifts up his shirt and pushes the "button." Yep, not kidding. And I did NOT teach him that!

I find myself apologizing for his behavior when he crawls under the table at the restaurant, only to realize he's in his world of make believe and constructing a tent or fort. It's not that he's trying to disobey. He's just being him.

Now, let's also not neglect the discipline and firm guidelines that he needs. He requires structure. He needs to know exactly where the line is (so he can try to push it as far as he can) but he also requires consequences so he can learn to make good, obedient choices.

He's learning to open doors for girls and help carry things for mommy. He's understanding women are tender and require affection, even though he's already reaching the point of wiping other kisses off. He comes back for one from me not because he needs it, but because he knows I want to give it. I'm thankful for his tender heart. I'm also thankful he wants to mimic the example he sees and rub mommy's feet at night. Yes, he is becoming a little man.

I often feel like I could be doing so much more, or a lot better, especially if I'm really supposed to be a princess. This little Knight of mine regularly requires me to wear a plastic crown during our make believe play (it's purple and he knows it's also my favorite color). But so often I feel very unworthy of the place of honor, knowing I'm not just teaching him manners and guidelines, but I'm impacting and shaping his heart.

I'm bringing up a boy to become a man, and I pray everyday for him to grow to love Jesus. I pray all the time that I won't "miss it" - whatever it is, the thing that his heart desires to do. (Currently he wants to play drums, although I do admit to praying he'll choose the guitar instead!) we're going to try soccer this summer. Maybe Boy Scouts next year for this outdoorsman. Who knows?! All I actually know is I cherish each and everyday of being able to see his heart and have an opportunity to help him see me as the princess he thinks I am, so I can help him become the Knight I pray he becomes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Redeemed

We all battle it. It's bound to slap us in the face at one point or another - and maybe even repeatedly.

It is the impending guilt that comes from whatever we've done, whatever our struggles, whatever sin, whatever decisions; you know, the things you wish you could take back, change, do-over, fix, and completely erase from your past.

But you can't. And it's not just the memory that haunts you, it's the recurring guilt that plagues you. I've encountered conversations 3 different times this week with individuals struggling with the same thing, different circumstances, choices, and situations, but all overshadowed by the dark cloud of guilt and shame that seems to follow whatever story their past contains. At least I'm not alone.

There's a difference between conviction and guilt. Conviction brings confession, cleansing, forgiveness, and renewal. It doesn't mean it's forgotten or undone, but it is forgiven. In God's grace, it may bring growth, and hopefully somehow be used for His glory. It comes with thankfulness and gratefulness, an awareness of who we are a part from Christ and the sacrifice He's made so we can have restoration.

On the contrary, guilt comes with blame, shame, and an overwhelming feeling that leaves you paralyzed. Sometimes it brings more bad decisions. A perpetual pit that leaves you powerless to change and in a constant state of defeat.

It is a lie straight from the Enemy himself.

The next time the devil tempts you to think that you are not worthy to approach God, here is what I advise: Agree. Say, "You are right. I am not worthy to approach God. I never was worthy to approach God. I never will be worthy to approach God. My access to God's presence is not based on my worthiness, it is based on what Christ did for me on the cross." - Greg Laurie

In order to understand redemption, you must draw on the power He has promised is yours - the same power He used to raise Christ from the dead. And in order to experience forgiveness, you must remember why He died to begin with: You. Me. The salvation of our souls.

If you try to obtain "worthiness," you'll always fall short. The impending guilt will surely attack you, too. Because no matter what good is in you, it will never be good enough. He is perfection. He is the epitome of worthy. Our fallen flesh cannot attain it, no matter how hard we strive for it. So claim His gift and let the power of His forgiveness wash over you. And the moment guilt comes to call on your conscience, claim the victory you've already received as His redeemed.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Poured Out

Another rainy gray day. It seemed to be wearing on me. I just wasn't my usual "up" self. People noticed. I couldn't explain when people kept asking what was wrong or why was I down. Nothing was wrong. I even kept praying, "Lord, I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm asking for Your presence. Give me joy." But it wasn't an instantaneous change. I just felt empty. Used up. Drained. Poured out.

I spent the afternoon in solitude, which was good and bad. It was a temptation to feel alone, mixed with the peace to just sit still. A welcome reprieve I hadn't asked for, but was determined to take advantage of. I made myself productive and was proud of the work I'd gotten accomplished. Never mind the swarming chaos that surrounds life right now. I can overlook it when I remind myself it is but temporal.

I ventured out to the grocery store in what seemed to be a break from the rain. I enjoyed my time void of any distractions or disruptions. No calls, texts, visitors. I didn't so much as see one person I knew. I managed to go through the entire store without so much as uttering a word. As I entered the checkout, I didn't even attempt to investigate which lane would be the fastest. I simply chose the first one I came to and without thinking, I patiently waited my turn. I wasn't in a hurry. Plus the rain had started again. I had no where to be so it was just me and a cart full of groceries waiting to be called upon.

The cashier spoke not a word either. The awkward silence was nearly killing me. Even as I stood there, I was mad at myself, usually determined to make eye contact and exchange pleasantries. But even as I stood there searching, digging, grasping for something to say, I was coming up empty. Dumbfounded. Is this what it's like to be shy? It was truly a new experience for me.

Then it happened. A simple mishap at the checkout seemed to cause us both to speak. Now we were laughing at the silly plight. I found myself being so thankful for the broken silence. It was the first words I'd spoken in nearly 3 hours. I was still disappointed in myself for not making a point to share joy with the cashier, and being forced to rely upon an inconsequential grocery item to spark conversation. Nevertheless, I couldn't beat myself up anymore.

There are times life feels as if you're living outside yourself. Merely on the outside watching, seemingly out of control of any of your own actions. Today was one of those days for me. What I realized is its okay for me to not always be "up" or be meeting the grandiose expectations I place on myself. It's okay for me to enjoy the solitude and find peace there. I also learned I can remain completely uninvolved, unneeded, and even silent. God doesn't need me. He chooses me. It is I who need Him. And in these times that feel dreary or gloomy, He reminds me of my utter reliance upon Him as my sufficiency for everything. Like rain watering the earth, He satisfies my soul. When I seek it from nowhere and no one else but Him, He fills me to the point of overflowing, the point where I can once again be poured out.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Precious Moments

I pause today in an attitude of thanks. So much to be grateful for. This weekend has been full of celebrating. Full of memories. Full of precious moments that I cherish in my heart.

It started with Elijah's 5th birthday and friends and family joining us to celebrate the blessing of this precious boy. Watching the excitement on his face and the wonder in his eyes causes me to want to do whatever I can to make sure he knows how much he is loved. The gift he is to me is beyond anything I could ever ask for. The mere fact that I get the privilege, and answered prayer, of being a mom is still an overwhelming blessing.

Which leads to the celebration of Mother's Day. It's truly an honor to call my mom my friend and now celebrate her alongside my sister and me. The great responsibility of being a mom isn't just about the many things we must do to take care of our growing children. What I've come to understand is of utmost importance is pointing him to Jesus. It becomes the cry of my heart over and over again. To show him Christ-like love. To give him instruction and discipline and pray he chooses the right way. To offer grace when he stumbles. To teach him the way he should go. To be his valiant prayer warrior, no matter what he may face or walk through. All of this I've seen and received from my own mom. Now I'm watching my little sister aspire to be the same kind of mother to my niece. A godly mother is more precious than any gift. It is the root of life. A precious mama whose given life and love to her family, her home, to the next generation. I'm so thankful for the gift of motherhood - for my own mother and now the blessing of being one.

Topping it all off is the proud moment of seeing my Prince Charming graduate. After a host of obstacles, and lots of life challenges getting in the way, Michael received his degree. He's worked so diligently for so long and it has finally paid off. He never gave up, never quit, and he made a near perfect score in his final class. I cannot explain how my heart boasts over his accomplishment, knowing how much he had to overcome to reach this goal. We celebrated his graduation and the journey that led him here. Another precious moment none of us will forget. And I am so thankful I get to be a part of it.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention, amidst the celebrating and joy, the overwhelming heartache I feel for a dear friend whose heart is broken. After 5 months with her sweet adopted baby, he had to be handed over to a biological relative today. Mother's Day. I admit that even while we were celebrating, I couldn't get her off my mind and couldn't help but think of the five months of precious moments she is reliving and grieving as her empty arms represent the cavity in her broken heart.

Precious moments. It seems only a brief time ago when I was sorrowful on yet another Mother's Day when I was with empty arms, not aware that my baby boy had already been born and in just a few short weeks I would become his mommy. Precious moments. Not so long ago I dug out a brand new Lightning McQueen car from underneath the ash. It would be replaced days later on his 3rd birthday. It was only a short time ago when we couldn't go anywhere without his Cars, one in each hand. We've gone through phases, Toy Story to Cars, to Toy Story 3, to Monsters, and now Dinosaurs. He's gone from reciting ABC's to writing me a card in his own handwriting that said "Happy Mother's Day!" These are all precious moments I treasure and remember. Celebrations that bring joy. Moments that will never be forgotten. The figurine represents a little boy whose already outgrown his hand-held Cars. But a mama who won't forget.



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tears Like Rain

Rain, rain...and more rain! It's been pouring. Not just a little drizzle, but downpours. I awoke to the pounding rain in the middle of the night. As I listened to the sound of it drenching the earth, I was reminded of a few days ago when my tears seemed to be falling just as heavily. Before anyone starts to wonder "what's wrong," let me put your mind at ease. Nothing's wrong, per se. But have you ever just needed a good cry? I mean the really ugly cry where you just let it all out? Tears like rain that I couldn't control or stop.

Sometimes it's unpredictable. Sometimes it's without warning. And sometimes it's without cause or reason. I'll be the first one to admit there's A LOT going on. But I equally have to acknowledge the majority of the changes and transitions are good, really really good.

But the tears weren't unwarranted. It was just a compounding of things my heart was feeling coming face-to-face with my humanity and sinking underneath the weight of it all.

It's good to be in this place. To recognize my inability to truly deal with it on my own. To understand that even with the best intentions, my plans may fail. To realize that human emotions sometimes overshadow the presence of the Holy Spirit. Should they? No. Never. But in these times, it draws me back to the reality that my heart and my flesh my fail but God is my strength, my rock and my portion.

There are still things yet to be determined. Still situations that require attention. Still circumstances that must be dealt with and resolved. Decisions to be made. Plans to prepare for. Transitions taking place and even more changes to come. There are some things that seem impossible. There are others that appear indefinite. There are any number of situations that could cause me to be overwhelmed, worried, fearful, anxious, or living in a state of unrest. But I've learned that no matter what the circumstance, I can cling to the Rock that is higher than I. I can't really call it a "storm" but when the rain pours down, I can rest assured my foot will not slip from the firm foundation of God as my fortress and refuge.

No matter how big or small life's circumstance may be that seems to be pouring down around you, you can trust that tears like rain may fall but the Son is just behind the clouds. Cling to the Rock. Whether tears of joy or pain, let them wash over you as a reminder that nothing is impossible with God. No weapon formed against you will prosper. No plan of His will be foiled. No day of yours will be shortened unless it is His will. And even without cause or justification, no tear that falls will go unnoticed by your Creator. He made you flesh and blood, full of emotions, and capable of tears.