Christmas is All About _______

Last week, right after Thanksgiving, we started decorating the family room for Christmas. As I thought about what I had already placed around the house and what we had planned for Christmas in terms of the elves, activities, letters to Santa, etc., I thought, we need to balance this out a little bit more. We need a lit-tle more Jesus around here. Then, I did it. I added some advent readings, nativity viewing and more Christian-focused decorations around our home. I felt good about this. I took a pic and thought, “this is good.”

The next day as I was exercising in front of our mantle (with my little guy playing behind me) I fixated on a little block that said, “Christmas is All About Jesus.” Always looking for a teachable moment, I said to my 5-year old, “hun, can you fill in the blank for me — Christmas is All About What?” He said, “ah, Santa.” When he realized that wasn’t it, he said, “Elves.” Sorry son, try again. This time he said family. When I told him family wasn’t right either, he was beside himself. I said, “No son, Christmas is all about Jesus.” Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth — like his birthday. He was like oh, Jesus’ birthday. (I promise you we have this talk with the kids every year but he’s the youngest so we’ll cut him a little slack.) This was not a first time conversation but it made me think about how easy it is for kids and adults to lose sight of what Christmas is all about. Nothing wrong with Santa (in my opinion), or elves (we love the shenanigans of our little Bubbles and Blitz), or any of the other traditions that we all have at Christmas, but we have to remember with each day that those things are side items, accompaniments and it is really All about Jesus.

While we are for the fan fare of Santa, the elf scenes and shenanigans, Hallmark Christmas movies, Olaf Paint n Sips with the kids, building gingerbread houses and decorating gingerbread people, we have to remember that this thing is all about Jesus. These things are all just mini celebrations leading up to the biggest birthday party of the year. Celebrate Jesus all month. Celebrate him big. Celebrate his heart, his giving nature, his love, and the joy he brings to the world. Celebrate with fun, giving, laughter, parties (virtually this year), but just remember who we celebrate and why. Remember that Christmas is All About Jesus. The more our actions and heart align to what’s really important, the less likely we are to forget.

How will your family celebrate Jesus this advent season? How will you keep him first?

Be Blessed!

Giving Tuesday

Today is a day when you will see ads and tweets about donating to worth charities, giving toys to tots, donating to coat drives and even pleas to give to food banks. All worth while and great places to donate but lately I have been thinking a lot about all the children that go into this season, not just without fresh coats or toys, but kids that enter the season without a home, a good home, a solid family. Of all the ads I saw today for Giving Tuesday, I didn’t see anything about Giving a Home to a Child.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As a foster parent, believe me, I know more than many how difficult it is to take a child into your home that is not your own, love the child and try to love away the bad, the tragic, and hurtful times. It’s hard and it’s also thankless, but there is such a need out there for loving families to all kinds of kids. When I think of all the needs out there, this one touches my heart most. This Tuesday, consider giving of yourself to a child in need. Consider giving a temporary or even a permanent home to a child in foster care. Consider being just a weekend respite provider for families that need support as they foster. Today, as I thought of Giving Tuesday, I thought of God’s command to us to care for the orphans. There are so many out there — going in the wrong direction — not because they are bad kids but because they are kids void of love. Love can cover a multitude of hurt in a young one’s life.

I pray that you will consider pouring love into these little vessels. I pray that you would consider giving a warm hug full of family meals and tuck-ins to a child that has felt nothing but the cold chill of trauma.

This is not a choice to be made lightly, but as you go through the advent season, just maybe you consider shining a light into the lives of these little ones. #GivingTuesday #GivingSeason #ShephardingHearts

If you take the plunge, I hope you will come back and share your experience.

From Thankful to Thoughtful

This weekend is the time when many really get geared up for holiday shopping and that’s ok — but let’s keep the right heart. Be thoughtful as you shop. Don’t just scratch off people’s gifts like items on a grocery list. Select thoughtful gifts. Gifts that speak to your loved ones truest selves. If you have a friend that loves to craft, buy gifts to nurture that. One of my favs is Paint Yourself Positive. It uses watercolor to work through challenging feelings. Perfect for one who loves to paint but has been through a lot this year (like many of us). I have also really been enjoying purchasing journals for friends that want to go deeper like Soul Therapy and Believe Bigger.

If you have a friend that lost a loved one, perhaps a personalized memoriam gift or even an ornament to commemorate a milestone, accomplishment or just a memory.

Give (gift) from your heart ❤ as Christ gave from his. Christmas is about love and love is kind and thoughtful.

Sometimes through our gifting, we can give someone what they never had on their list. We can show them that we know them, we love them, and that we are really present…and that’s the real gift.

Already Beautiful

This morning within the first 3 notes of the intro to “My Worship” (Phil Thomson), first scripture that came to mind were the words of Ecc. 3:11, He has made everything beautiful in its (his) time (depending on the translation).   I usually think of it as meaning that everything will be beautiful when God is ready for it to be.  This morning I woke up with a realization that God just makes everything beautiful.  God’s time is every second of every day.  There is beauty in everything and all the moments.  We are not waiting for God to make it beautiful. Even in the struggles and challenges, even in this space and season.  Yesterday, my sweet boy, had his first birthday surrounded by a multitude of family.  It was of course virtually but it was the first time ever where he had family across the nation there to see him on his birthday, to interact with him, to love him, to sing with him and to enjoy his birthday with him.  He received videos of friends and our sweet neighbors singing to him (kids and adults).  He said it was the best birthday ever.  I agree.  He was happy, but my heart was warmed all day long.  You can probably tell that it still is. I thank God for the beautiful things in this season in spite of the rest.  I thank God for each of you.  I pray you all find the things God has already made beautiful — even now — whether it be time with loved ones that you have never had time to enjoy, time to not only pray but also time to be still enough to hear God speak back, time to rediscover yourself, time to read, to appreciate the sound of the birds, to pour into our kids daily, or to actually have unrushed family dinners. God will make the globe pandemic free at some point but in the meantime in spite of the sadness, concerns, and inconvenience, he has given us so much beauty to enjoy – right now.   For that, here’s my worship.  Be well, be safe.  Hugs.

Photo by Roshan Kumar Ray on Pexels.com

What Gift Will You Share?

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Saturday nights are a little bit different now. Seriously, every day is a little bit different now. This is definitely the most challenging time that I have ever lived through. It can be scary. It can also be frustrating and enraging when I see some of the activities of others. But thankfully, it has also been so encouraging. In such a time as this, I have seen people coming together. I have seen people giving things away. I have experienced us living life differently, but still living and doing it with laughter, joy, and most of all (in spite of being physically distant), we have been doing it TOGETHER. Last night, people all over the nation were posting about the good time they had last night – in their own homes, yet together. People are being brought together in ways we hadn’t really thought to do before. People are coming together to use their gifts to encourage, inspire, uplift, protect, energize, motivate, educate, feed, and teach others. Some can give out of their abundance fiscally. Some can offer the arts or technology support. Pastors and ministers are bringing the encouragement of faith and peace. DJs are bringing the MOST needed party many of us have ever needed. The really cool thing is that we ALL have gifts. Not one of us was born without a gift to give the world. What is your gift? What gift will you share with world during this time? As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10.) Use this time not to complain, bicker, hoard, or fight over groceries, but to use your gift (whatever that may be) for the good of others. Be well and be blessed!

2019 Recap

It’s 2:03 p.m. and I find myself at my kitchen table sipping a cup of Starbucks 2x (Double shot) coffee absolutely exhausted. As I sip on the toasty warm coffee, I look around at the scene of the Christmas tree in the dining room that I see through a small hall, and the mess of toys still around the family room Christmas tree, and I see not the mess but the beauty — the beauty of 2019. Right before I stopped for 60 seconds and had that first sip, I could only think about how drained I have been from 2019 but I neglected to see the beauty until I paused. (Interestly, I once read during the season that hurry is a blessing blocker. I just experienced why.) If I hadn’t slowed down for that moment to sip, I wouldn’t have realized and appreciated all that unfolded in my heart at that moment. When I stopped, I fully owned that I was drained from the year but I also realized the beauty in my exhaustion and the blessings of this year. I am drained because I went beyond myself this year. I went beyond my selfish nature to bless others, to give outside of myself, and to change lives. I am so thankful this year to have been able to change the life of our new teenager, our temporary house guest, and others. While it has been a process (and still is) I look back to the teenager that I had lunch with in April and I am amazed at how she has grown just since then. This year, everyone in my home has evolved as people. We have all learned to go harder, love deeper, and pray more. While I admit that I am ending this year a bit more tired than usual, I am proud that I have been a lot more selfless than usual this year too. I am not just looking forward to all the greatness to come in 2020, but being thankful for all the greatness that I have experienced in 2019.

Take a moment as we close out 2019 to not only plan for 2020, but to appreciate who you have grown into or helped others grow into this year. We are always looking at the next but sometimes forget to appreciate the now. Have a sip of something and just appreciate the year that is about to pass. What are you appreciative and thankful for in 2019?

Taking Time to Remember

Lately I have been writing about my journey as a mom of a teenage daughter but today as I wanted to take a little time to remember my first two daughters — Madisyn and Sariyah — who I loved but really never knew. Today mark’s the start of Pregnancy Loss Month. On September 23, 2013, I had the hardest day of my life. I gave life knowing it would last just a few moments, if that. That was the day I gave birth to Madisyn and Sariyah at 16 weeks. It was a real labor with pushing and breathing. Madisyn was stillborn and Sariyah breathed a few short minutes before leaving this earth. I still have the matching onesies and headbands I brought for them years ago. At some point I am sure I will be able to part with them….but not yet. As I parent my teen daughter, I can’t help but imagine how my little twin girls would be. While we had a very little time with them, they are forever in my heart. For any that have lost their little angel, my heart and prayers are with you this month.

Be blessed!

My Favorite

Since I was fairly young, my favorite scripture has always been 1 Cor. 13 – Love is. Maybe it is because I have always loved love. Love as I used to know it was sweet, romantic, gave you butterflies and came with poems and sweet nothings. As I grew a little older love started to take on some more other more serious meanings and definitely once I crossed into marriage, but as my understanding and actualization about love matured and grew, nothing could prepare me for the reality of what love is through the eyes of being a foster to adopt parent. At least every other day I have a self actualization of this scripture played out before. Love, unconditional, Godly love for someone you have not had any connection to, you don’t know well, you haven’t had euphoric love for, but that you are preparing to sign up to love for ever can be challenging. The is no love walk that I have ever taken that reminds me of Christ almost daily. (I wonder if that is the point.) I never really thought much of it, but a fair majority of the foster parents I have met believe in God. Maybe because you really need to understand the love God has for his children to truly love and parent as a foster or adoptive parent in this situation. It’s hard, like really hard, I just want to cry sometimes hard, but I am reminded of God’s love for me. How before he knew me, he loved me with no expectation that I return it but just because. As a foster parent, you definitely want to do good in the world but you may not have children and want that bond, or you may not have a son and want a son to do father / son things with, but it may not work out that you get a son that wants to hang out with you, or likes similar things to you. Just as God loves us unconditionally, no matter what we do for him, is how we as fostering and adoptive parents have to love. Even though we may not be getting out of it any of the dreams we had, we just have to love unconditionally as God does. My prayer this week is to try to love with out any expectations. If you have been on this love journey, I invite you to share your tips and words of encouragement. Be blessed.

Up for Air

If you have ever had a new baby or know someone who has, you know that it takes some time to adjust to a new baby. Having a new child…even if it is a teen is no different. My last post was in May. In June our newest child arrived as a blessing to our home. For the past few months, I have been trying to navigate new schedules, organizing our life, her life, learning her ques and needs and trying to body amidst caring for two other young boys. It has indeed been hectic and like any other new mom, some days I am exhausted, overwhelmed and even feeling inept for the task but when I look at all of my kids together and my husband with them, it is all worth it. Whether bringing home a 4-day old newborn, or welcoming a 14-year old teenager, that adjustment time is still there. The time is needed to nurture, love, bond, attach and figure it out. I am learning her unsaid needs, what startles her, how she likes to sleep and even her expressions. In just these past 2 months, we have watched A grow and mature. We have watched our boys fall in love with their new sister and we have grown connected to our new “edition” as well.

This week begins the new school year and with that activities for all three kids, homework, tests, etc. But we are up for the challenge. We have started down a path to something far beyond ourselves and we are thankful for the journey.

If you have never considered adopting a teenager, may our story encourage you to consider it. If you have already, we would love your advice.

Be blessed!

Congrats! It’s a Teenage Girl!

It has been about a month or so since my last post. We have been pretty busy. Last time I posted, I talked about purpose over preference. If you don’t remember, we have been wanting to adopt a 4-10 year old and God brought the possibility of a 14-year old into our life. That is not what we were planning for but we are excited for what it to come. Come June we will be fostering a 14-year old teen girl with the plan to adopt. We are excited. She is excited. We are all excited.

In January, I felt like I was in this “nesting” space. I had this overwhelming need to clean and organize everything. I felt like it was time to get the room that we would use for a new child ready. I personally painted it and decorated it and prepared furniture. It is the only room in our home that I have actually painted. As a mom on bedrest, for each of my children, I have never been physically able to prepare the nursery, so I took so much joy to prepare this room for a child I had yet to know existed. But I felt a tug that something, someone was coming. I was pregnant with anticipation of an unknown.

I am a mom of boys or at least I always have been, but as I admitted before, I have a tutu in my closet that I purchased when I first got engaged about 7 years ago. My desire for a daughter has lingered in the back of my heart’s closet just like that red Christmas tutu. I have no idea what the future holds as we start this day-to-day journey but I am looking forward to the chance to finally be mom to a daughter. God’s blessings are so cool in that they are not one sided but mutually beneficial. When we bless, we are blessed in return. She gets a mom but I also get a long awaited daughter. Together, over time, with God’s grace and help, we will both grow into the missing puzzle pieces, have longed for.

Sometimes God takes us to the destination the “long” way or so we think, but God’s way and timing is always perfect. We just have to be willing to follow His directions. I am not expecting this easy, no more than I thought months of nursing or long nights with no sleep were easy. I expect to put in the time to grow with her, to learn her needs and see her personality. I look forward to sharing this journey with you all and appreciate your prayers and support.