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The Quake That Shook Wine Country: Heartbreak for My Hometown

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If you’ve never experienced an earthquake, let me tell you it is incredibly hard to describe what it’s like. The first word that comes to mind for me is “disorienting.” The quakes that I have been through were minor but still unsettling. For days after I felt sort of on-edge and disoriented.

It’s an incredibly unnerving feeling when, without warning, the earth beneath you becomes unsteady. Incredibly.

Well, just a little over a week ago, my little hometown of Napa was shaken by a 6.1 earthquake. It was big enough to do major damage to infrastructure and paved roads. Not to mention big enough to scare the wits out of most of those who were brutally awakened by it at 3am. I’ve heard story after story of sentimental items being lost and of damage to homes. No one really has earthquake insurance because it’s RIDICULOUSLY expensive and has like a $30,000 deductible. So most of the damage will just have to be absorbed by the home owners.

I just had to write something about all of this because I feel so helpless being far away. I wish that I was there to help pick-up the broken pieces. The shocking images of beautiful historic buildings crumbling and glass strewn about homes of loved ones… it’s just so heartbreaking. Not to mention that the aftershocks are STILL continuing. Talk about feeling on edge, ugh.

If you pray, please pray for my hometown. Pray for the residents, that they will not suffer from fear or injuries. Pray a blessing of peace and healing.

God, please give them strength and fill them with joy as they celebrate what was not lost.

Here are some photos to help us understand what it has been like there:

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Some images of hope and healing:

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Please Pray With Me Today

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Today at noon some of us will be praying for the situation in Iraq. There are many people being persecuted and even murdered for their unwillingness to align with the ISIS group. Will you please pray with us?

Pray:

- That the people in the ISIS group will discontinue the violence and will turn to Christ and know His love.
– That those who are being deployed into the area will be protected.
– For the protection and provision of those who are being persecuted.
– That those who are suffering will feel God’s peace and love.
– That the Christians who are being persecuted will remain strong in the faith.

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Did I miss anything? Please add other prayers in the comments section.

The Problem with Miracles

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What a stellar way to title a post. I’m pretty sure no one is going to read a post entitled, “The Problem with Miracles.” I might as well have said, “Why Ice Cream is Too Cold.” (That’s a total snag from Friends by the way, *sigh* Ross…) Anyway, I don’t think there really is a problem with miracles but I do want to say something about our desire for them.

I can think of the very first one I prayed for as a believer…. My great-uncle died so I prayed that God would bring him back. It didn’t happen. Regardless, anytime something really bad happens or I want something that I think is impossible, I pray for a miracle. I never really thought of it before but I’ve also been praying for miracles that have to do with my character. I don’t think we realize it, but asking God to change something about our hearts is asking for a miracle.

Sharing time. I really really REALLY don’t like it when I get angry about another driver’s stupid *ahem* less-than-stellar driving tactics. I get so mad. I seriously want to honk my horn like mad and cut them off and yell things that my toddler has no business hearing. Usually, I just end-up gritting my teeth and hoping they notice when I pass them because I get to use the carpool lane. That’s what we call passive-aggressive. I don’t know why I let it bother me so much. Who cares?? They’re doing what they’re doing, I’m doing what I’m doing, no big. But I CAN’T. LET. IT. GO. It crawls under my skin and itches until I do something to get some sort of revenge.

The thing is, if I’m really honest: those drivers scare me. Their reckless behavior reminds me that I’m not in control. I can drive as safe as I want but if another driver crashes into me well, there’s not a whole lot I can do about that. That’s why I get so mad. I’m scared.

So, in cases like that, when I’m praying for God to help me not get so mad, I’m basically praying for Him to remove my fear which would seriously be a miracle.

Yeah, I’m kind of a fearful person. I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty drama of why I am the way that I am but let’s just say this didn’t happen overnight. It’s a seed that has been planted into a very fertile soil of this world’s crap and then nurtured lovingly by Satan and his minions. Seriously, this isn’t something I can just will away. I want control over my life. I want to control my safety and the safety of those I love. It’s hard to relinquish that control to God because I don’t always get what He’s doing. But I know that He knows best and I hate feeling anxious and I hate the behaviors that seep out of my heart as a result so I pray that He will change my heart.

Now this is the part where I talk about the problem with miracles.

God could absolutely take that part right out of my heart like it was nothing. He could have brought my uncle back from the dead. There are so many things that He could do but He chooses not to. I could get into a whole thing about free will and God’s intervention and all that, but I won’t…. mostly because I’m no expert on that. What I can say, from my own experience is that if God performed a miracle by changing my character then I would be robbed of so much more. 

What I am realizing time and time again is that God wants us to become more like Him through the process of relationship with Him. How easy would it be if He were to simply make us all Christ-like the minute we became believers? It would be easy but it wold lack the gift of grace. Something that astounds me about our Heavenly Father is that he is RELENTLESS. He pursues and pursues even when I fall short. It’s mind-boggling. If you have ever experienced a relationship in which your inner ugliness was exposed and you were loved in SPITE of that, you know what I’m talking about. This is what God does. He doesn’t change us immediately. He pursues us in grace and insists that we return to Him again and again. This is love.

Have you seen the ugly parts of your heart? They’re really ugly. At least mine are. God hasn’t removed them but we are working on it. He loves me in my ugliness. He loves me in the ugliness that I DON’T EVEN REALIZE I HAVE YET. This is why He doesn’t miraculously transform me. I need to see those parts. I need to willingly give them to Him. He respects that I should have the choice to surrender those parts. That is love.

 So here’s the problem with our desire for miracles: if God doesn’t fix it then we have to work through it and that’s hard. We generally steer away from hard. Hard is exhausting and frustrating. It’s also scary to see the ugly parts of ourselves. Most of us would rather notice the ugly parts in others and pretend like we don’t have ugly parts like that. To admit our faults is to be rooted in humility and rested in grace, both of which are not easy to achieve.

So what do we do with all of this? Do we not ask God to perform miracles in our hearts? I don’t think so. I think we should always be real with God about the desire of our hearts. The trick will be to ask God, “Father, is there something in my heart that I need to be aware of?” Sit with God in that question. Don’t be afraid. He is so loving and gracious. He will help you remove it. He may lead you to a therapist or other relationship that will be used for refining purposes. Through that relationship you may discover where this all began. The light will shine in the darkness and God will use this insight to bring healing.

You may find yourself praying that God perform a miracle in someone else’s heart. I don’t know what to say about that other than this is very tricky business. Often, the darkness we see in another is the darkness that we have in ourselves and cannot forgive. That person who is always late? Do they drive you crazy? I’m curious, how do you feel when you are late? Do you have a hard time accepting that you are human and can be late sometimes? Maybe it’s time to sit with God about that.

Do we stop praying for others? No. But… it’s very important that we became aware of our own issues before fixating on the issues that others struggle with. Usually, it takes someone outside of us to show us our own issues. We often don’t even realize that we  struggle with something until it manifests through friction in a relationship. In theses cases we will be tempted to notice the fault in the other person. We must always ask, “Father, is there something in my heart that I am not aware of?” 

If you are interested into delving into this process, also known as “sanctification,” or becoming more like Christ, I highly recommend you find a trusted Spiritual Director or therapist. Here are some books that may help you on your journey:

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You Know You’re the Mom of a(n Almost) 2 Year-Old When

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10. You can finish this lyric: “They’re 2 they’re 4 they’re 6 and 8…”

9. You’re starting to learn of diseases that you didn’t even know existed… and contracting them. (Hand Foot…. what the wha?!)

8. You’ve been scratched, punched, pummeled, bitten, and smacked by various thrown objects, all of which actions were accompanied by high-pitched giggles or a mischievous smile.

7. The things that you once held so tightly to… NO PLASTIC TOYS!!…. NO TV!!… NO ANYTHING THAT COULD POSSIBLY CAUSE ANY HARM!!… have fallen by the wayside somewhere along with the aspirations to make all of your own baby food from your home grown vegetables.

6. You start to day dream about having number 2….

5. You start to have nightmares about having number 2…

4. People consistently ask you about number 2…

3. You begin to realize that ALL of your friends who have siblings that are 2 years apart meant that they were 2 and their sibling was a newborn. Then you start to question the sanity of all of these mothers. Then the consistent increase of anxiety disorders start to make sense…

2. You’re starting to sleep more.

1. You’re starting to sleep more and so you think, “I could SO do this again!”

And who wouldn’t want to?? Look at this…

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Happy Friday Everyone!

Parenting in the Spirit: Understanding the Stages of Spiritual Development in Your Child

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I have two passions in life, child development and my faith. That being said, you can see how this post is long overdue. I’ve been itching to write about the theories of child development and spiritual development. I’m hoping to write in such a way that parents can find this information useful. I want to take this knowledge beyond theory and into reality. Such knowledge will help us determine how we want to parent and I think it will also help us to enjoy our children even more than we already do.

I want to acknowledge parenting will always require intuition. We can’t look towards theories and textbooks to calm every tantrum and wipe every tear. Yet, there are times that we are misinformed by our “intuition.” Usually, we are

Touch isn't just good for them, it releases endorphins for us too.

Touch isn’t just good for them, it releases endorphins for us too.

misinformed by our fears. For example, it was once feared that by holding a baby too often, the baby would become “spoiled” and always long to be held. To nurture independence, it was advised to not hold a baby “too much.” Now, we know that babies need to be held often. Touch strengthens their immune system and helps them to feel safe. We know that a lack of touch is serious. So serious that it can lead to death by “failure to thrive.” So you see, what makes “sense,” isn’t always correct. On the same note, if you’ve given your baby the recommended amount of food but they still seem hungry, it would be foolish to deny your intuition and let your baby cry with hunger. Intuition and knowledge are meant to work together in order to make the best parenting decisions possible for each scenario. We just take both in hand and do the best we can.

All that being said, I’m now going to share with you some of the most interesting information that I’ve ever encountered! Ok, maybe I’m geeking-out on you a little bit but I’m so excited about this! I think it will change your life. It has greatly changed the way I live and now helps me parent.

First, I need you to stop and think about what kind of adults you want your children to be. Do you want them to be free thinkers? Sounds a little scary, I know. However, the alternative is that they go with the flow and do what they’re told. That’s even more scary, in my opinion. If we want our children to independently choose Jesus (as adults) then we need to foster their spiritual development in healthy ways now. Understanding the way that children think and how that effects their spiritual development will help us to foster and not hinder their relationship with God.

So without further ado, I introduce to you: Fowler’s Stages of Faith Development. Take a read and let me know what you think. This is one post of a new series. The next post will address how we can apply this theory in our parenting although I think you’ll see that this chart does touch on that. I hope you find it helpful!

Stages of Faith Development

Pre-Stage: Undifferentiated Faith
Generally children from birth through about 2 years of age.

Have the potential for faith but lack the ability to act on that potential.

Through loving care from parents and other adults in their life young children start to build a lived experience of trust, courage, hope and love.

At this stage, children experience faith as a connection between themselves and their caregiver.Stage 1: Intuitive-projective FaithGenerally pre-school aged children.

The cognitive development of children of this age is such that they are unable to think abstractly and are generally unable to see the world from anyone else’s perspective. As Robert Keeley writes: “These children cannot think like a scientist, consider logical arguments, or think through complex ideas.”

Faith is not a thought-out set of ideas, but instead a set of impressions that are largely gained from their parents or other significant adults in their lives. In this way children become involved with the rituals of their religious community by experiencing them and learning from those around them.Stage 2: Mythic-literal FaithGenerally ages 6 to 12.

Children at this age are able to start to work out the difference between verified facts and things that might be more fantasy or speculation.

At this age children’s source of religious authority starts to expand past parents and trusted adults to others in their community like teachers and friends.

Like the previous stage, faith is something to be experienced. At this stage it is because children think in concrete and literal ways. Faith becomes the stories told and the rituals practiced.

Later in this stage children begin to have the capacity to understand that others might have different beliefs than them.Stage 3: Synthetic-conventional FaithGenerally starts about the age of 13 and goes until around 18. However, some people stay at this stage for their entire life.

Unlike previous stages, people at this stage are able to think abstractly. What were once simple unrelated stories and rituals can now be seen as a more cohesive narrative about values and morals. With abstract thinking comes the ability to see layers of meaning in the stories, rituals and symbols of their faith.

At this stage people start to have the ability to see things from someone else’s perspective. This means that they can also imagine what others think about them and their faith.

People at this stage claim their faith as their own instead of just being what their family does. However, the faith that is claimed is usually still the faith of their family.

Issues of religious authority are important to people at this stage. For younger adolescents, that authority still resides mostly with their parents and important adults. For older adolescents and adults in this stage, authority resides with friends and religious community. For all people in this stage, religious authority resides mostly outside of them personally.

Stage 4: Individuative-reflective Faith

This stage usually starts in late adolescence (18 to 22 years old). However Robert Keeley points out that “people of many generations experience the kind of dissonance that comes with the real questions of faith that one begins to address at this stage of development.”

People in this stage start to question their own assumptions around the faith tradition.

Along with questioning their own assumptions about their faith, people at this stage start to question the authority structures of their faith.

This is often the time that someone will leave their religious community if the answers to the questions they are asking are not to their liking.

Greater maturity is gained by rejecting some parts of their faith while affirming other parts. In the end, the person starts to take greater ownership of their own faith journey.

Stage 5: Conjunctive Faith

People do not usually get to this stage until their early thirties.

This stage is when the struggles and questioning of stage four give way to a more comfortable place. Some answers have been found and the person at this stage is comfortable knowing that all the answers might not be easily found.

In this stage, the strong need for individual self-reflection gives way to a sense of the importance of community in faith development.

People at this stage are also much more open to other people’s faith perspectives. This is not because they are moving away from their faith but because they have a realization that other people’s faiths might inform and deepen their own.

Stage 6: Universalizing Faith

It is a rare person who reaches this stage of faith.

James Fowler describes people at this stage as having “a special grace that makes them seem more lucid, more simple, and yet somehow more fully human than the rest of us.”

People at this stage can become important religious teachers because they have the ability to relate to anyone at any stage and from any faith. They are able to relate without condescension but at the same time are able to challenge the assumptions that those of other stages might have.

People at this stage cherish life but also do not hold on to life too tightly. They put their faith in action, challenging the status quo and working to create justice in the world.

Robert Keeley points to people like Gandhi and Mother Teresa as examples of people who have reached this stage.

*I’m indebted to The Unitarian Universalist Association for this thorough chart!

The Time Luca Almost Had a Little Brother

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I’ve been avoiding this. I knew when I publicly announced our desire to adopt that this could happen but of course I hoped it wouldn’t. I pride myself in being a very open and honest person but sometimes I need to protect my heart. So, I’ve waited to share this. I think, I hope, you’ll understand why.

Two weeks ago, in the midst of painting every last square inch of every nook and cranny of our new home, I got a call. At first I thought I had accidentally called CCAI. I saw my phone trying to connect to our Chinese adoption agency and thought, “Oops,” then promptly hung-up. Back to painting. Thirty seconds later, CCAI showed-up on my phone screen again.

“Great,” I thought, “They’re checking-in because we haven’t done much for our home study since we bought the house.”

“Hello, this is Jaclyn” I answered hesitantly.

“Hello!” The voice on the other end rang with the most joyous of tones, “Jaclyn, I am calling with CCAI’s waiting child program! Is this a good time?”

My heart took a leap. Could this be it?? THE call?? No way. It’s way too early.

“Um, sure” I said while putting down a dripping roller of paint.

“Well, Jaclyn, I have some very exciting news for you! We think we have found a match for your family!”

Heart is leaping, tears are coming, anxiety is through the roof, confusion spinning, joy abounding.

“Wha..?! Wow! Oh my gosh! Really??” I sit down.

“Yes. His name is (can’t share for security reasons) which means (something lovely like peace and wisdom) and get this… He is EXACTLY two days younger than Luca!”

Ok, now I’m freaking-out. Ok, so it’s a boy. Oh man, he’s only two days younger?? Is that good? Is that crazy? What a wonderful coincidence! Is it??

“Wow!” Is all I can reply.

“Yes, now I know you wanted someone younger than him but you also said you’d be open to someone the same age so I thought we’d see what you think.”

“Yes, yes, ok.” My head is still spinning.

She gives me more information about where he is residing. She says he is in a foster home and seems to be very happy there. Then she gives me the diagnosis. There are multiple.

My heart sinks.

I had totally forgotten for a moment that our precious one would have a medical issue. That’s what we signed-up for.

“Now,” she instructs,”We highly recommend that you share his medical file, which I will send you shortly, with a cardiologist. I will also send you all of his updates, photos, and videos. We have to return his file to China in 7 days so please let me know as soon as you can what you have decided.”

We hang-up. My hands are shaking. I immediately call Caleb and he is super freaked-out. The timing seems all wrong. We’re knee-deep in renovations. We JUST bought a house.

I call CCAI back and ask what a realistic travel date would be, given that we haven’t even finished our home study. It seems that we would have about 8-12 months of waiting before we could go get our little boy. A mixture of disappointment and relief wash over me.

I let Caleb know and we think, ok, maybe we can do this! I was still nervous about the “twinning” thing but you better believe I was googling and reaching-out to other parents like mad! That night, I asked Caleb right before bed, “Do you think he is our son?” “Probably, ” he responded happily. I smiled and fell asleep with dreams of bunk-beds, twin Halloween costumes, and matching lunch pails in my head.

While we were contemplating and dreaming, a cardiologist- a friend of a friend- was looking over our little guy’s file. He called us two days after we received the referral but it felt like weeks had passed.

He started by asking us what our expectations were. We responded that we willingly signed-up for the special needs program and we expected that our lives would be changed somewhat by this decision. I jokingly said that I was perfectly fine with having a son who couldn’t play football. The doctor was kind. He informed us that this situation was beyond a life style change, this situation was dire.

I can’t quite remember all of the terms he used, but I can tell you that as he spoke, a dark cloud surrounded me. I became increasingly aware that we weren’t looking at an adoption, we were looking at being hospice. We both felt completely blind-sighted.

It turns out, adoption agencies aren’t always aware of the level of medical severity that a child may be facing. In addition, when we said we’d be willing to take on a child with a “major heart condition” we didn’t realize that we could be looking at a fatal condition. This was so unexpected, so agonizing.

That is the perfect word, we sat in agony for days. We wrestled with our conscience and our expectations. We cried out to God and lamented. Was this our calling? Was this for us?

We received more opinions and they were still dire. It seemed there was a chance that this little guy wouldn’t even make it by the time we could get him. Even if he did, I struggled with the thought of taking him from his foster family, whom he seems so happy with, to bring him here with only a short time to live. It seemed cruel in so many ways.

Ultimately, with broken-hearts, we told CCAI that we would not accept the referral. They were incredibly gracious and understanding. They thanked us for all of the hard work that we had put into the process of making this decision. Their kindness didn’t make either of us feel any better about the situation.

*     *     *

Now, weeks later, it still hurts. God has given me a peace that we made the right decision for that little boy and for our family but I’m still sad. It’s funny how we think that sadness must mean something is wrong. Well, something is wrong, there’s a little boy in China who is going to die from a congenital heart condition and there’s nothing anyone can do. That’s what I’m sad about.

I’m also sad about the loss of a dream. I had gotten so excited, admittedly nervous too, about having “twins.” I had fallen in love with his little photo and watched his videos multiple times a day. I was preparing to be his Mama. My heart broke when I realized this would never happen.

We’re contemplating where to go from here. This experience has made an international special needs adoption much more real to us. We don’t feel specifically called to international adoption, I just felt passionately about what was happening in China. We do however, feel called to adoption. Specifically, as Caleb puts it, we feel called to help “the least of these.” (Matt 25:40) We want to help a child in need and we want to grow our family. It would be nice if this was relatively soon so that we could still have another biological child later if we wanted to. China’s non-special needs program has a 7 year wait time currently. Obviously, that won’t work.

So, we’ve been exploring other options. Like: FosAdopt. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that we’d have to be willing to adopt out of birth order for us to adopt a child who has already been through reunification efforts with their birth parents. In other words, if we want to adopt from foster care without being foster parents first (which we do because the reunification efforts can be extremely long and stressful) then we would get a child older than Luca. We feel very strongly about maintaining the birth order in our family so that option is out.

At this point, I’m feeling frustrated and somewhat hopeless. The dark cloud that emerged a couple of weeks ago while talking with the cardiologist is still lingering. It’s not as dark but it’s still there. I know cognitively that when God calls us to something, He will see it through in HIS time. I just need my heart to trust that. I am praying for patience and peace on a daily basis. He certainly has been providing. I have been enjoying Luca now more than ever. I am so thankful for our son.

Thank you all for your support. Unkind comments will be deleted, my heart can’t take that right now. Prayers much appreciated as always.

In Him,

Jaclyn

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The Journey to Our Own Home

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I haven’t written in a looooong time. That’s not like me. I need writing. It’s cathartic, healing and just plain fun. But let me tell you, the last 3-4 weeks have been MADNESS up in here. I haven’t blogged because we didn’t have internet for most of that time and because I’ve just been crazy busy.

Well, things have settled a bit so it’s time to share what we’ve been up to! Let’s start from the beginning…

It all started with some major purging, which felt AH-MAZING! Here’s Luca posing on top of Caleb’s glorified sound system back from his college years. It’s time to let it go. Like yesterday was time to let it go. But that the great thing about moving, it gives you incentive to get rid of the stuff that’s been clinging on for way too long.

IMG_0045 Next, we had to prep the rental house for moving. This meant removing our beloved “Praise Tree” that we used to hang photos of things that we are thankful for. It’s made from old fence boards from our backyard. It’s so sad to see it go!

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So, our new house is a fixer-upper. That’s an understatement. It’s like the mother of all fixer-uppers. Off to Home Depot we went to load-up on all our supplies. We laughed/cried about the fact that we NO JOKE could have bought something from EVERY AISLE in that store.

 

IMG_0048Finally, escrow closed and we were able to get in the house and get to work! The home was built in 1955 and we bought it from the original owners (well, technically we bought it from their children who inherited the house) and so there was a lot of mid-dentury charm. Some of it we decided to keep- some of it not-so-much….

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I’m super stoked on the classic 1950’s pink bathroom but the wallpaper made me nauseous, it had to go!

Next was painting…

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Painting….

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Shout-out to Caleb’s dad, Scott, who flew out from Texas for a whole week to help us!!

And more painting….

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One of the cool things about purchasing an old home is that we are finding cool memorabilia around, like this beautiful flag. It was found just in time, on July 2nd! It was rolled-up in the garage but we let it fly proud again on Independence Day.

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Then, guess what?? MORE PAINTING! Check-out that awesome wood-paneled wall. Gag me.

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Thank you Ash!

I love that we found the perfect gray... "Iced Cube Silver" by Benjamin Moore.

I love that we found the perfect gray… “Iced Cube Silver” by Benjamin Moore.

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The Cerioni’s ROCK!

Look how much better that wood paneling looks!!

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Gotta love my silly hubby!!

Underneath the wall-paper in the guest bathroom, the walls were, you guessed it: PINK! So, yay, more painting!!

Thank you Mom and Ed for coming down to help us out!!

Thank you Mom and Ed for coming down to help us out!!

In the midst of all this madness, Fourth of July (and our 5th wedding anniversary) happened. We took a break to go to a BBQ with our Life Group. Which, by the way, is now only THREE blocks away!!! Hooray!

American Cutie

American Cutie

Remember the Pink Bathroom? Well, it also was rocking carpet AND linoleum flooring. Yep, half and half. Epic. Well that had to go but we wanted to keep a retro look. We found this beautiful tile at went for it!

IMG_0059Next up… Re-finishing the original Red Oak floors. Holy Moly, did we bite off more than we could chew on that endeavor. Caleb wanted to hire someone to do it but my dad, who had just flown into town, assured us that we could do it. Me, being the penny pincher that I am, agreed with my dad and a very *skeptical* but *encouraging* Caleb gave the green light.

If you ever need to sand your floors, DO NOT use this kind of sander!!!!

If you ever need to sand your floors, DO NOT use this kind of sander!!!!

Well, we did our best but we accidentally got the wrong kind of sander and it left some dips in the floor. We had to find the right kind of sander and re-do the entire house. It took 3 hours to sand the floor of just one bedroom so you can imagine how this was unpleasant news.

Caleb is repairing some damaged floor boards that needed love before we even moved in.

Caleb is repairing some damaged floor boards that needed love before we even moved in.

After all of that, Caleb refinished the floors with a beautiful Satin polyurethane and we just had to wait for it to dry. We were under a deadline to get out of our rental and into the new house. The floor wasn’t going to dry in time so we just moved all of our stuff into the garage at the new house. We did put beds in the rooms. One for us and one for my stepmom, Sharon, so she could stay in the guest room.

Sharon was amazing! She helped me pack, clean, shop, and move! After all of that we decided we needed a break and headed-over to the Magic Kingdom.

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Finally, I got to do some fun stuff! We had been wanting to paint the door yellow. I did some research and tests of course. This is what we found. It’s called “Hawaiian Pineapple,” it makes me happy!

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Now we’re in the midst of MORE painting. All of the cabinet doors, closet doors and bedroom doors needed a little spiffing-up in order to match the freshly painted walls.

I’m really loving the way everything is turning-out but I must say that this is WAY more work than I anticipated. I’m tired people. There’s just so much that goes into buying an older home that you just don’t think about. For example, we re-painted the cabinet doors for the hallway closets and when we went to hang them back-up, they just looked crummy because the hinges had been painted *literally* three times. They also just didn’t work very well. So, here’s what I did yesterday…

I boiled all of the hinges in a big pot with baking soda. (I’m going to take this moment for thanking the internet for telling me how I can fix things all on my own.) This took a while. (Now I’d like to say, “Thanks A Lot” Internet, if you didn’t exist I would be *forced* to call someone to fix my problem while I lounged around drinking iced tea. You suck Internet.) Anyway, they actually did turn out really great and I’m pretty proud of us!

Gross hinges getting a baking soda bath.

Gross hinges getting a baking soda bath.

Pretty Hinge! I love that it adds a retro flair =)

Pretty Hinge! I love that it adds a retro flair =)

So, like a turtle or something else really slow, the house is coming along. My patience is being tried and my character strengthened. Caleb and I have been trying to have a sense of humor about it all and I’ve been trying to not get sucked into the Vortex of New House Fixing. I want to keep my relationships the number one priority. It hasn’t been easy. But, with lots of communication, good music (oh yeah, we set-up our audio system as soon as we could!) and a positive attitude (provided mostly by my husband), we’re making it through!

 

 

Carrying an Aching Heart

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The moment Caleb and I began the adoption process, my heart began to grow. It feels just like it did when I was pregnant, although without the nausea. My heart feels as if it’s making room. Every day, my love for Luca grows, my love for Caleb grows but nothing can enter or fill the space in my heart that is meant for our new child. It’s just there. Waiting. It’s filled with light and soft pillows and the scent of baking. It’s home. Home for our little one who is miles and miles and miles away.

How do you miss someone you’ve never even met? I remember feeling this way when I was pregnant. I felt so close to my baby yet so far. All I wanted was to hold him. I could hardly wait! This is no different, except there is an ocean both literally and figuratively, between us. I don’t have the comfort of my child being “with” me but honestly I still felt scared and uncertain when my child was growing inside of me. There was the constant, “Is this normal?”… “Is this ok?”…. “What if something goes wrong?” There are no guarantees in life.

I’m not meaning to compare my current heartache to that of the anxious pregnant mother. There are similarities and there are differences. I had somewhat of a difficult pregnancy and postpartum recovery so I have my biases. I think that the endless paperwork and ridiculous waiting period may be just as difficult as when I had a biological child. But let’s talk about the heartache that comes with adoption.

You see, at some point, I fell in love with a person. Before I fell in love with this person, before my heart began it’s renovation, I was in love with an idea. I have always wanted to adopt a child, truly, as long as I can remember I have had a heart for orphans. It must be in my blood because my sister is the same way. We rescued countless animals to my parents’ dismay. That was just practice though. Now, I’m ready to adopt an actual child! What an adventure this will be!

And what an adventure it is. I anticipated the frustrating paperwork, the difficult waiting period once we were matched and the excitement of traveling to a foreign country. I couldn’t wait to learn more about Chinese culture! I just didn’t realize how hard this part of the process would be emotionally. We haven’t been matched yet, I shouldn’t be sad, right?

I guess the only thing I can relate this to is pregnancy again. I loved my baby before I knew if we were having a boy or a girl. I didn’t care. I just knew that I was going to be a mama and a little baby was going to be mine to love. My heart grew to make room for this precious one that would enter our lives. This feels the same. I haven’t seen a photo yet, but I know our child is out there.

This is heartbreaking. Every day it feels like there is a little part of my heart is aching. Maybe a better word is empty. Or longing. It is longing to be filled. Not only because we’re not together, but because our child could be living in dire circumstances. I just don’t know. I choose to believe that he/she is in a happy, loving foster home. I PRAY that this is the case.

I mean, think about it, this child is going to be a part of our family FOREVER and most likely we will miss the first two years of their life.  That’s right, we have no say over those delicate first 2 years. If you have a child, think of all the joy, the pain, the lessons, the bonding, the adventure that you have had in those first 2 years. If you don’t have children, imagine the last two years without a significant other in your life. Think of all the memories you have shared. Two years seem like quite a long time to me right now.

The classes we have taken have informed us that our child will always have to reconcile the fact that they were abandoned. Their past cannot be erased. That is so hard for me to hear because all I want to do is protect my children. I just wish I could go over there right now! There’s a little child within me that is throwing quite an elaborate tantrum over this. Feet are stomping, I assure you.

But…we can’t change the past.  But we will change his/her future. That is what I’m trying to focus on. I have to focus on the good. Yet, again, it’s just like pregnancy. I would try my best to stay positive and then out would someone come with a blurted-out horror story of birth or pregnancy and hence my worries would return. The same is true of adoption. I need to stay focused on the success stories but inevitably I collide with stories of children who “still only give stiff hugs after being home for two years.” Attachment issues, sensory issues,  developmental delays… these things are all very real in the adoption world. They are more common than not. We need to be prepared for them and we will be. We just have to find that delicate balance between being prepared for reality and becoming hopeless. We must stay positive.

I read a sermon a few days ago by John Piper. His words brought me hope and encouragement. Jesus promises that His grace is sufficient for us. In tough times, the times such as this I am reminded: when I am weak, He. is. strong.

I have become more dependent upon God because He is my advocate. He can bring comfort and love and protection to my child while I cannot. I implore Him daily to do this. I beg. My humanity makes my abilities limited, I am powerless over this situation. I am weak but He is strong. In my weakness I am finding His strength within me. It’s beautiful. Free. Light.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

This adoption process, like marriage, pregnancy, parenthood… is just another tool for the sanctification process. It is an opportunity to worship when I feel like screaming. To release to God instead of anxiously trying to control that which I cannot. I am humbled. I am fostering patience. I am shedding pride. My trust in Him is growing astronomically and He’s gently revealing when I don’t trust Him. I am feeling more connected to Him than I have in so long. For this I am grateful.

If your heart is aching from something that has happened or is happening to you, how do you mend it? 

Just Clearing Something Up About Natural Childbirth

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I just read an article that was forwarded to me by my cousin who knows me too well. She knew when she sent me this article, titled, “The Cult of Natural Childbirth Has Gone Too Far” that I would have something to say about it… and she was right. The article was inspired by the release of a new child-birth tv show named, “Born Into the Wild.” It’s a show that captures women having unassisted births in nature. I will admit, that seems a little extreme to me, but hey, to each his (or her) own.

The article was written by Elissa Strauss, a Brooklyn resident who is feeling way to much pressure from the natural birthing movement. She chose to have an epidural and seems to be ok with that. I have no problem with her opinion on the upcoming tv show or her own birth decisions, I DO have a problem with this…

Elissa makes a huge assumption that I feel very compelled to correct: Women choose to have a natural child-birth to prove something. 

Now, I can’t speak for all natural birthing women, but I can speak for myself. I’m going to speak loudly, hope you don’t mind…

I DID NOT HAVE A NATURAL CHILD BIRTH TO PROVE ANYTHING TO ANYONE.

Nor do I think less of women who choose to not have a natural child-birth.

In case you’re curious, here’s why I chose to go the way I did: I wanted my birth to be in a relaxing comfortable environment that I could fully control. Oh and …. I didn’t really feel like sharing one of the most vulnerable moments of my ENTIRE LIFE with a random rotating staff of people. And….I knew I was in good health and that I didn’t NEED to be at a hospital.

Yes, I was also influenced by different studies that show there CAN be a correlation between an epidural and difficulties in breast-feeding. I also heard stories of some women who had more difficulty pushing once they had an epidural and then that led to a c-section. I mean, you can find all kinds of research to support the epidural or not. One thing that is strikingly undebatable though, is that your chances of  a c-section are higher when giving birth in a hospital and considering that c-sections are, in fact, MAJOR abdominal surgery, I was happy to avoid that possibility as much as possible.

Now let me address this quote:

“As extreme as it may sound, the show is, believe it or not, a natural extension of a culture that has turned labor into a defining moment in women’s lives, their first chance to prove just how devoted a mother they truly are.”

Um, ouch. If you were convicted that something really was the best for your child, would you not want to do that for them? NOT to “prove” anything, but simply for the well-being of your child? This seems like a strikingly unfair statement. I do believe that there are less attachment-related risks involved with having a natural childbirth, I wasn’t trying to prove my devotion to anyone, I was simply trying to start my journey into motherhood with my best foot forward. I know many people who had “unnatural” child births and have a very healthy attachments with their children so in no way am I presuming that a natural child-birth is necessary to achieve that. Studies seem to show it facilitates it and that was just one reason to point me in the direction of an unmedicated birth. (Which I’d like to note, with no shame whatsoever, my birth was NOT completely unmedicated, for details you can read the story here.)

Now, I’m guessing that Elissa wrote this article because she is annoyed by the unnecessary guilt that she assumes others are trying to place on her. I don’t know what to tell you Elissa, I wish women didn’t make you feel that way. I don’t think you did anything wrong. I’m hoping that you can see however, that just because some of us chose to have a natural birth, we know it doesn’t make us better moms than you. You’re right when you said it’s only one day, but I think we can agree that it’s also a very big deal. Please don’t judge my decision to make that day as special as I wanted to in my own way. I won’t judge you either.

** You may notice that I didn’t put any links to my claims about studies saying this or studies saying that. I omitted those purposefully because this article isn’t meant to pump-up natural child-birth, which would only cause further divide.  This post is meant to clear the air, so to speak. I just want it to be known that not all natural child-birthers see themselves as “super moms” just because of their birthing choice. Birth is a big deal but, in my opinion, all of the days of motherhood that follow are a much bigger deal.**

 

Delicate Decisions: Adopting a Chinese Boy

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I may or may not have mentioned that we always figured we would adopt a girl from China. It’s kind of a no-brainer right? Girls are abandoned over there all of the time so clearly that is where the need is.

Clearly.

What I’m about to share may offend you. It may repulse you. You might see me as ugly and selfish and shallow. That’s ok. I’m going to be really vulnerable right now in the hopes that it might do some good for someone somewhere. I’m following in the footsteps of one of my new favorite blog authors Stefanie of “Ni Hao, Y’all” (Best Blog name EVER) who wrote this compelling post: My Chinese Son.

It seems that there are more boys in Chinese orphanages than girls. This may not be true for the Non-Special Needs route, but it is most certainly true for the Waiting Child Program (special needs). Truly, undoubtedly, there are more people in line to adopt girls than boys. This isn’t just true of China. This is true GLOBALLY. A couple of days ago, it was true of us.

Changing_Face

Click above to see the short video “Adopting a Boy.” It will warm your heart!

I wanted to adopt a Chinese girl. It’s what I had my heart set on. They’re really cute, right? Wow, I just came on out and said it didn’t I? Ok, but that’s not the only reason. I also wanted a daughter because we already have a son and it’s every couple’s goal in life to have one of each right? And come on, there are so many abandoned girls over there, it’s like a stand for all of woman kind for us to adopt a girl. Well, now I know that isn’t necessarily the case…

See, I thought there were many good reasons for wanting to adopt a girl.

Digging deeper, I see that these are ugly reasons. You ready for it? Here are the totally unfounded “reasons” followed by the voice of actual logic:

Unfounded Reason #1 Our son won’t be as intimidated by a female sibling.

Actual Logic: My son is nearly 2 and doesn’t know the difference between boys and girls. If anything, he has more consistent play with other boys and enjoys it immensely. If anything, later on he’ll be more apt to see a brother as a buddy.

Unfounded Reason #2 Boys aren’t as cute.

Actual Logic: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen ADORABLE boys on photo listings. Plus, let’s be honest, there’s no guarantee that your children, biological or adopted, will be cute by the world’s standards. I will LOVE without abandon, ANY child that is placed in my arms regardless. It’s just who I am. If we’re honest, we all grieve things about our children because they aren’t EXACTLY how we had secretly dreamed they would be but we get over it. It’s part of what makes parental love so unshakably beautiful.

Unfounded Reason #3 I originally thought we were adopting a girl, my heart was set on it.

Actual Logic:  I did have to grieve the fact that we are not 100% definitely getting a girl. I think it’s really important to allow grief. Once I allowed the grief, I started to imagine Luca playing with a little brother. I imagined people calling them, “The Snyder Boys.” I imagined a house full of Legos and trains and super-heroes. And you know what? I got really giddy about it.

Unfounded Reason #4 This could be my only chance to get a daughter.

Actual Logic: Well, this is true. We could decide we’re done having children after this. But, as Caleb said, if we were having a biological child we wouldn’t get a say in the matter, why should this be any different? I would sure love something to control but just as I learned in my pregnancy (we didn’t learn of the gender until birth) any opportunity to relinquish control to God is actually quite freeing.

And guys, let me tell you, after making this decision, I feel so free. I feel like this is totally in God’s hands and that I have submitted to His will. That nagging feeling has vanished. We could still very well get matched with a girl but I love feeling like I didn’t orchestrate that match. When we receive our match from our agency we will diligently pray over whether this is who God wants to add to our family and make the decision accordingly. I can’t wait for that day! Eeee!!!

Until then, I have a major favor to ask of you. Can you please take a moment to pray for us? We have a lot of requests, feel free to pick one and go for it, it’s SO appreciated!!

- Please pray that the first referral we get is indeed our match. 

- Pray for protection over our little one, that he/she is being regularly attended to as needed.

- Pray that he/she is feeling LOVED.

- Pray for his/her birth mother, that she will be consoled by God knowing that her child will be lavishly loved. 

- Pray that Luca will not feel less loved but only more love as we add-on to our family.

Thank you again!

For more information about Chinese Adoption, check-out this amazing website: Love Without Boundaries.

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