Who knew, the best teachers are two?!

My miracles, my boys, my babies, my toddlers?!

I cannot believe you are two years old today!

SO much life has happened in the past 365 times 2 days.  (Way too emotional to try to calculate that in my head right now).

You both have taught me so much about life, faith and love.  God must be fully aware that I am slow learner and often need to hear things over and over until it really clicks so He sent me two daily reminders of how good and perfect His love is through you two.  And who knew reminders could be so stinkin’ cute?!

I always say I can’t do you boys justice with words, but that never seems to stop my hands from typing and giving it my best effort.

So here it goes.  Thank you Luke and Lincoln for teaching me about life, faith, and love.

LIFE:

You have reminded me of the important things in life.  You have helped me focus less on the doing and more on the being.  Reminded me to slow down, be present instead of trying to make things perfect, and focus on the things that never make their way on a checklist.  You have taught me that life isn’t looking forward to the next milestone, but enjoying the little things each and every day.  You remind me that I don’t want to live on autopilot during this one precious life, but fully live in each moment.

 

Faith: Through fertility, pregnancy, and now raising two two year olds, you boys have reminded me of what little control I have in life and that surrendering to God is not a sign of weakness, but a vessel for freedom.  Motherhood is great but let’s be real.  It tests our limits.  It’s those moments where I reached my limits that I have felt and seen the strength of my Creator.

Love:

(Deep breath)

I thought I knew love, and then you two were born.  And cue the Celine Dion song, but you have shown the me the power of loooooooooove.  I live a lot of my life in my head, analyzing and questioning things, but you boys have helped me get out of my head and live more from my heart. You have reminded me that when things don’t turn out as planned, when life disappoints me, or when I make mistakes, love is there to pick up the pieces and keep us going.  You have taught me that life isn’t all about making the right choices and perfect plans, it’s about learning through the unexpected and loving each other hard through this thing we call life. I am going to get a lot of things wrong in life, but you have motivated me to not let love be one of them.

 

Lincoln,

lincoln1

you don’t let people pass by without waving and smiling.  And if there is a bird or a plane in the sky, you are pointing it out and telling me about it.  Keep paying attention to the little things, because I have been learning that the BIG happens in the little things.  And I have no doubt you will do big things.  And don’t get me started on your giggle, that proves time and time again that laughter really is the best medicine.

Luke,

luke1

you are the most resilient little boy I know.  I hate seeing you in pain, but I love watching you rise above it.  Not only do you push through things, but you make everyone smile along the way.  Your desire to constantly cuddle has helped me to slow down at times, and remember my most important job and greatest privilege right now is raising you and your brother.  You fight hard, but you love harder and you inspire the heck out of me.

From the second I saw your tiny bodies on the ultrasound, I knew you were my miracles.  I didn’t know you would also be my teachers!   Happy Birthday boys!

(I really thought my husband was on a run right now, but he must be cutting onions downstairs because my eyes are running like faucets…;))

Blog post on the first birthday:  https://iamsavannahgrace.wordpress.com/2016/06/23/i-thought-a-year-ago-today-would-be-the-best-day-of-my-life/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little,Wonderful Things

 

This weekend was full of little things.
Wonderful, little things.
And yet as the sun started to go down, I found myself wanting to grumble about the laundry to be put away, the grades that needed to be inputted, and my plans to just veg out tonight not happening.
How easily I forget those wonderful, little things.
How easily I turn to grumbles, which really are invitations to places I don’t want to go to.
But I caught myself.
Focused on those little things, and realized how much I have to be thankful for.
A weekend full of two little boys calling me “mama”, a fantastic night with girl friends around the dinner table staying up way past my bed time laughing, and a day today to worship my Creator and enjoy the sun with family and one of my best friends.  Oh and a text message with a friend that made us both laugh so hard that we couldn’t breathe.
My next door neighbor/friend passed away a couple weeks ago in her fight against cancer. Ask ANYONE who knew her and they will all tell you the same thing. She was the sweetest woman who saw the positive in EVERYTHING.  She walked her dog daily and often I would see her even skip a little. It’s like she couldn’t contain her happiness. Last summer, I knew she was fighting cancer. She stopped over one day and we chatted and when she left I felt horrible. I realized that I had complained during our conversation about how tired I was. My twins were 11 months at the time and still not sleeping through the night. But she was in chemo and facing a major surgery, and here I am boo hooing about not getting my desired 8 hours of sleep. I felt bad, but the truth is…That conversation was more of a reflection of how amazing she was, not so much of me. Here she was in a struggle for her life with cancer and all that comes with that, and she asked me how I was doing and really cared to hear the answer. When I would bring her family over a meal, I would text and offer to drop it off on the porch so I wouldn’t bother her. Never happened. She invited me in every time and offered me a drink, and there we would sit on her couch with her smiling and talking about her life in the most positive way.  I walked away feeling happier than I did when I walked in, and she was losing the fight to cancer.  I knew it, but I didn’t feel it.
Her life was taken way too quickly, but what what a life she had with a constant smile on her face and a literal skip in her step.
And what a life we all have.
So here’s to the little things, and the big gift of life.
Have a great week full of wonderful, little things 🙂
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Something about that G word…

I am absolutely my own worst critic.  Sometimes I tell myself I am a bad friend, a bad wife, a bad teacher, a bad daughter, and today it was I am a bad mom.  I got impatient, raised my voice, and had many, many thoughts of things I would rather be doing than pulling the boys off the wall they shouldn’t be climbing for the gazallionth time!!!  My husband has been out of town and with my new teaching job, new online shop, and 20 month new twins 😉 I found myself running on empty.

I think we have all found ourselves at this point.  It’s not a good feeling.  I count down until it’s the boys bedtime just waiting for that silence, chance to sit, and just take a break, and after five minutes of just that, I want to wake them up and do the day over.  I feel like I failed them.  And honestly I just feel like a bad mom.  But I’m not a bad mom, I just had a bad day.  And honestly my day altogether wasn’t even that bad.  I just had bad moments. And for some reason, I am letting those bad moments define my day and my quality as a mom.  Bad day versus a bad mom is an important clarification to make.

The boys are sleeping and I sat on the couch and just kind of ran through the day in my head.  And the bad moments just flashed in my head and I started to feel horrible. I even realized I forgot to feed the dog dinner.   I had a friend visiting for most of the day and loved every minute catching up with her, but after she left and I found out my husbands flight was cancelled I went downhill fast!  So I decided instead of doing the dishes in the sink, or putting all the toys away I would sit and crack open a book I have been waiting to read, but just never make the time for.

HOPE

Hope Unfolding Grace-Filled Truth for the momma’s heart.  Guys, I didn’t even make it past the cover and I felt myself wanting to cry.  There’s just something about that G word that touched my soul tonight.

Grace:

undeserved

unmerited

unearned

There’s NOTHING I did today that got me any closer or any further from God’s grace and love.  In my best moment and in my worst moment there God’s grace was.  And that my friends is the truth.  That grace-filled truth I needed to be reminded of tonight. I want to reflect on Him and not on me.  I want to live on truths and not my name calling lies I tell myself. I don’t want to run on empty but on grace that meets me where I am at and not where I should be,  so that I can extend grace to those I encounter tomorrow.  How can I extend grace to others, if I myself have not tasted it?

Thank you Lord for not giving me a second chance, but giving me grace. You give me chance after chance after chance after chance…Not to earn grace but to accept it.  Tonight, I open both hands and humbly accept.  And I thank you for giving me a new day tomorrow with my boys and a chance to make it a good day, but even if I have bad moments…Thanks for offering me grace in every one one of those moments.  May I always remember Your grace is free, but it isn’t cheap.  

 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Deep breath…

Now onto page 1 after I feed the dog! 🙂

This tank pictured is available in our shop in which 50% of the profit goes to Feeding Children and Funding adoptions of children with special needs around the world! https://www.facebook.com/faith.family.fabulous/

The Hardest Part of Motherhood

Sure, there is the sleep deprivation.  You know the complete lack of sleep that leaves you wondering if you really should be in charge of life in my case (two lives) when you try opening your front house door with your car key fab, and put the cereal in the fridge for the tenth time.  But I knew about this.  I was warned about this.  Nobody told me motherhood was going to be easy, but nobody ever told me what the hardest part of motherhood is.

I got a job teaching for the last three months of school.  I am taking over for someone on their maternity leave.  I am teaching English as a second (or third or fourth) language which is exactly what I love to teach.  I was so excited when I got the call that I got the job.  It’s not easy getting teaching jobs around here, especially in my field.  After I accepted the job and called my husband to tell him I got it, the next thing to do was figure out childcare. I have twenty month old twins and they are used to being home with me.  I did something similar last year, but for some reason this year I was beyond emotional about it.

Decisions needed to be made and they needed to be made soon because my new job started in a week.  With decisions comes a million choose your own adventure scenarios you try to figure out in your head but you aren’t just turning pages, you are affecting your kids.  And for me sometimes the guilt sets in before I even pull the trigger on anything.  The land of what ifs isn’t fun!

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of ambiguity and it is something I am intentionally working on warming up to.  I might as well since ambiguity and uncertainty aren’t going away anytime soon or well EVER.
So I think about what I think would be best for my boys.  Then I talk to my husband and he has different ideas.  I wasn’t even 100% confident with my ideas and then when my husband says something different, I am even more conflicted.
How do we know what’s best for our kids?!
There’s no manual for these choices!
And if there was one, I’d throw it out!
Every kid is so different!
Motherhood really has taught me how illogical comparison is, because in some ways we are all apples and oranges.
So I’ve been stressing.  Not wanting to do wrong by my kids.  And I know this is just one of many decisions I have to make on behalf of my kids and family.   Whenever I was asked what superpower I would want I said flying….Well I changed my mind.  I want to know if I am making the right decision.
But here’s the thing.  I’m not perfect. My husband isn’t perfect.  We are not going to give our kids the perfect life.  This is not to say I should eenie meenie miney mo decisions and not care, it just helps me recognize what I should put my effort into.  Motherhood/parenthood isn’t about making all the right decisions.  And if it is to you, than please do yourself a favor and change that way of thinking.  I am not asking you to lower your expectations for yourself, but to change your job description! Our job isn’t to give our kids a perfect life.  It’s just not.
Our job is to love them.  Our job is to love our kids.  So that’s what I am going to do…Love them, pray for them, let them in on the secret that mommy isn’t perfect.  I am going to give them a front row seat on that mythbuster real fast!  But I am going to show them not only that mom makes mistakes, but also how mom works through them.  Maybe that’s apologizing, maybe that’s making changes, maybe that’s having a hard discussion,  maybe that’s saying I messed up!  I am going to show my kids that I fall…and that I rise. I am going to live out the advice I would give my kids or friends if they were struggling.  I am going to extend myself grace when I mess up just like I will to my family and friends.  And hopefully the little eyes watching me will see through mistakes and struggles, I am loved by a God that created me imperfectly, perfect and that they are too.
So let’s take perfection off the table, and replace it with love and resilience.  The times I have felt the most loved and learned how to be resilient is through the tough times.  Our kids are not going to have a perfect life even if we did have the super power and made all the right decisions. We cannot and do not control everything in their life.  (So if you are trying that too, again change your job description!)
The other day I put the boys in these outfits I had bought them and tried to get a picture of them sitting side by side with them both smiling.  I pulled out all my tricks to try to get them to stay still and smile.  Well it didn’t happen and I was completely out of breath!  They would not stay still for a second, fussed with the outfits, and well just refused to put a pause on our circus life!  I was somewhat bummed to not get one single good picture but was looking through what I got.  As I am going through pictures I hear giggling.  I turn around and the boys are hugging and spinning together just giggling away.  And when Mamarazzi pulled the phone out they kept doing it allowing me to get some precious pictures of them loving on each other.  I hear their giggles when I look at the picture.
I know the disappointment of not getting a good picture is very very small on the scale of things to be worried/upset about.  But I felt like this little insignificant moment was a much needed reminder that somethings aren’t going to go our way, I can pull out all my tricks and make plans and try to control the results, and some things just aren’t going to happen the way I see or want them too.
But sometimes the love is going to get us through it.  That love that we show everyday to our kids is going to get us through
the decisions,
the disappointments,
and the days.
I am going to get a lot of things wrong, but love isn’t going to be one of them.
So Mamas, yeah I am talking to you!  Take a deep breath and think about the love you have for your child/children.
You are doing something right.  And that something…is everything.
Don’t let your #momguilt jade your #momlife.
You got this!
And just for cuteness sake!
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Birthdays and Boys That Steal My Heart

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I am struggling to put it into words what I felt last night, but that won’t stop me from trying.  When I was in my early 20’s, I quit my first job out of college to go back to school.  I knew I was on the hook for paying for this second degree and I was trying to find a job that would pay enough to support my living and tuition expenses and would work with my student schedule.

I applied to for a nannying position.  I was told many, many people applied for this job. The pay was posted and it was very good.  Fortunately, the mom was reading my email aloud and someone I went to college with was there and he heard her say my name. He recommended me and that got me the interview and the job was mine!  I remember feeling embarrassed that I was going to have to tell people that I was babysitting for a job. My friends were beginning their careers, utilizing their degrees, and getting paid way more than our jobs in college paid us and I was…babysitting.  I was a broke college student. (again)

The the job started.  I was taking care of four boys from after school to bed time.  I made them dinner, ran them around to sports, helped with homework, and read the youngest stories before bed.  The first day I babysat, after I left, the mom asked the boys what they thought of me.  These boys had had a few babysitters before me.  The mom told me the youngest exclaimed, “Finally mom, you got me a babysitter that understands me!”

John and I had a special bond from the first day we met.  This is a kid who has everything.  He goes to a nice school, has a nice house, goes on nice trips.  I was a college student (again) with little money, going to school full time and working full time, and I just did not have that much to give.  But what I had, I gladly gave to him.  That was my attention and love.  John and I could laugh for hours about things.  I find him hilarious and for some reason he finds me pretty funny too.  But beyond our humor, John has this ability to just say the perfect things to me in times that I needed to hear it.  I remember sometimes telling my sister that she wouldn’t believe what he said because it sounded like out of a movie.  He is always defensive of me.  I could tell a million different stories of the things he said or the ways he would defend me, but I will share my most favorite.  His brothers were making fun of my old car and my old flip phone.  I thought it was a good teaching opportunity so I was explaining (trying to at least) that material things were not that important to me.  I told them my phone and car do what I need them to do, and so I am OK with them being old.  I said “I just don’t really care about things like that”  John sensing that I was defending myself a little bit chimes in with a definitive tone and looks his brothers in their faces and says “Yeah, she cares about BEING TAN!!!”  I appreciated the back up, and also the really good laugh!

Bedtime was a special time because with three brothers he didn’t always get one on one time.  So it was a time to spend some quality time, just the two of of us.  He would pick a book or five for us to read together. 🙂  Although we had a special bond, sometimes as most kids would, he would wish it was his mom or dad tucking him in.  I would try to comfort him. I would rub his back and tell him that I loved him.

Yesterday John, the boy I used to refer to as my favorite seven year old, turned 14.  If we have been Facebook friends for awhile, you might remember weekly I would post hilarious quotes from my favorite 7, 8, 9 year old boy.  For his birthday,  he wanted to spend the night with my boys and I.  I never knew what present to get a kid who has everything, so again I gave him what I had, my attention and love.  We picked him up let him pick where we got dinner from and choose the activities of the night.  To no surprise he picked Wii and I gave him a fair warning that just because it was his birthday I wasn’t going to let him win.  I told John I would be back after I went upstairs to put my boys to bed.  He said he wanted to come with. I put each boy in their crib.  I put Luke in his crib first and as I was putting Lincoln in his crib, I see from the corner of my eye John rubbing Luke’s back and tell him that he loves him.  And then he walked over to Lincoln and did the same thing.

I had to fight the tears back hard.  Something about seeing  a boy I once would tuck in and say goodnight and I love you to, doing the same with my boys was almost too much for my heart.  Something about thinking back about taking a job that I was embarrassed about at first, and realizing now it was more than a “job.”  Something about recognizing I didn’t have that much to give, but what I had, I gave, and that was enough.  Something about reflecting reminds me that God knows what He is doing and encourages me to trust Him even in ambiguity.

Happiest of birthdays to my NOW favorite 14 year old boy!

Let’s leave the filter off this time…

Lately I have felt so thankful for the gift of friendship.  I am a pretty sensitive person, not in the sense that my feelings are often hurt but just that I am constantly feeling.   I like how one of my favorite authors responded when someone asked her why she cries so often.  She said this, “For the same reason I laugh so often.  Because I’m paying attention.” I’m paying attention, sometimes more than other times, but I am tuned in intentionally.  I’m not just paying attention to what’s going on out there in the big, scary world but I am paying attention to what’s going on right in front of me. And sometime’s if I am being honest, paying attention makes me feel a little crazy.

Around me there’s death and there is life.  I know people who are right now losing their battle with cancer, and last night I meet a friend’s newborn, adorable baby.  Around me there is a friend trying to process her last miscarriage and then there is a friend who was surprised to find out she will be welcoming baby 3 and 4 to her family this year.  I could go on and on, but you see where I am getting at right.  In a world where there is such joy but also such pain how does one live when we are paying attention?  Do we live in the joy?  Do we live in the pain?
I believe we live in both even though it can get messy, really messy.  But I truly believe that in the mess is where the good stuff happens.  I believe every season of life has fertile soil.
Every season of life has fertile soil.
Potential for growth,
potential for beauty,
potential for life.  
And so I don’t want to live my life on autopilot and just get through the days.  I want to pay attention in this season.
I was discussing vulnerability with a friend and she told me to blog about it.  I don’t normally take this particular friend’s advice but I thought I would take a walk on the wild side 😉 Love you Amy.
My friend and I were talking about how being completely vulnerable is the only way to truly make changes in your life.  I was explaining that at times I felt like I had some friends who would invite me over and they would clean their house a bit, but when I walk in they would still apologize for their house being a mess.  Almost playing it off and hiding that they did in fact clean.  It was like they were only OK with me seeing some of their mess, or that they wanted me to believe this was the extent of their mess..Now, I wasn’t really talking about physical houses and messes. And I had to wonder how many times I cleaned up my mess before letting friends in.
I am so grateful to have friends that I can open my doors to and not feel like I need to hide my mess or clean up my mess and then present my room with a few things out as my mess.  If we are paying attention, if we are living life operated out of love, if we are living authentically…It is going to get messy at times.  Some might argue that is proof you are really living.
I had a friend talk about how someone at her church offended some of her family during the elections this year and then they later apologized.   Her response was something that I didn’t expect and it was so wise.  She said “I was OK with it.  I would rather talk about these issues and be real and offend each other than to not talk about these things and just think bad thoughts in our heads.”  She preferred things to be real over being mess-free. 
My sister and and I once had dinner knowing we were going to have a tough conversation.  We ordered our food and then held hands and cried almost the whole time and didn’t touch our food once.  Our server was really confused as she would come by to ask us the obligatory question if we were doing alright…The conversation didn’t feel great, but we both felt comfortable to speak our truths.  Just like my friend, we  chose real over mess-free and in this case pain-free.  And we might all think that we all want real no matter the cost, but do we really?  Do I really?
Do I skirt the truth in order to avoid conflict?  Do I tell someone something is OK and then tell my spouse and friends something different?  Do I not say something or do something because I just don’t want to get involved in case it gets messy?  Do I hold things in because I don’t want to confront the truth?  Do I look the other way because I don’t want to feel?  Do I just turn the news off because I don’t want to know anymore? Do I filter my life so that people don’t see my flaws?
I am working on my doors being open and not feeling the need to hide or apologize for my mess.  And I am really hoping you will do the same.  The friendships I have in which we invite each other in, share our mess as is, are the friendships that remind me that every season of my life has fertile soil, a loving, purposeful Creator working behind the scenes, and people to help me carry burdens that I try  too often to carry by myself.  Those are the friendships that have loved me in my mess and those are the ones I am reflecting on and feeling most grateful for today.
This blog is messy.  I write about real feelings.  I write about a real faith.  And I write about my real life.  I’m not perfect, but who could relate to me if I was?  But everytime I hit post, I am beyond nervous…because I have always written but I used to never share in fear of things getting real/messy.  And I get that some people don’t understand the whole blog thing, just like I don’t understand running for enjoyment =)  To each their own.  My friend posted this quote and it really resonated with why I read other people’s words and started to share my own.
“It is not your job to convert people to your way of thinking.  It is your job to speak your truth so that other people may find theirs.”
 So thank you, truth tellers and messy friends for speaking your truth and welcoming mein your mess, and in turn making me comfortable to do the same.  Thank you for not making me feel like I have to be the best, but encouraging me to give my best.  Thank you for making my mess, your mess so that I never feel alone.  And as the saying in Spanish goes, Tu messo es mi messo…or something like that.  😉
What if pain – like love – is just a place brave people visit?”–Glennon Doyle Melton
 
Let’s live bravely friends, mess and all…And let’s leave off a filter this time…(Even though that chrome filter makes you look so much better and you might get more likes)

A craft, for the non-crafters

Alright soooo I am not crafty.  Let’s just get that out on the table.  It’s not open for discussion.  It’s just the cold hard facts.

I am creative, and I do love to make and cherish memories.  This is why I love Facebook and often why I am guilty of overposting, but I love to look back on pictures and commentary of wonderful moments and relive them over and over again.  And hey all I did was click and tap on the keyboard.  I didn’t have to cut, glue, decorate, and create a whole scrapbook.

If crafts have over five steps, I will surely mess it up, or honestly pin it and then NEVER do it.  So if you want easy crafts that will help you cherish this crazy journey we call life, then maybe, hopefully you will want to craft with me.

Full disclosure I thought I saw this idea on Pinterest once but when I searched for it, nothing came up.  So I’m not sure if I made this up.

So many people buy their kids an ornament each year for Christmas.  The ornament usually represents a milestone or something special about that year.  And when the child grows up (because unfortunately that’s what kids do) you give your kids their ornaments to put on their Christmas tree.

I wanted to take it a step further.  My boys are 18 months and it’s been a whirlwind.  I want to remember moments, cherish moments, and share those moments with my boys and their future families.  So I started Ornament Books for them where I take a picture of the ornament and write a little note to them explaining why that ornament was chosen for them.

So here is what I did.

  1.  Bought scrapbook materials and got the hot glue gun warmed up…KIDDING.  I was just seeing if you were paying attention.  I ordered a personalized notebook for Luke and Lincoln with a couple of clicks and the good ole credit card.
  2. Had my friend take pictures of the ornaments with her fancy camera.  You could easily do this yourself but why not involve your photographer friend
  3. Developed the pictures
  4. Taped pictures and wrote a little note to my boys for each ornament bought each year.

That’s it.  Four whopping steps.  The hardest part of this “craft” was to pick out a picture of the boys that I wanted to put in the front of their Ornament book.  If you’re like me…a completely biased mom that truly believes you have the cutest kids who are are the cutest in every picture, picking a picture can be challenging.  After much deliberation and a realization that I really wanted to eat a snack, I picked a picture for each boy.

I loved writing the notes to my boys and taking the opportunity to tell them things that I may just assume they know.  It warmed my heart imagining them putting these ornaments up on their own trees knowing the memories and love behind each one.  I know my boys are only 18 months and there is some time before they are adults decorating their adult trees, but if the last year is any indication….life flies when you have kids!

Also don’t feel like you have to spend money on ornaments every year.  My non-crafty self made the boys their ornaments this year.  We had such a great time on the Polar Express where Santa gave them bells, so I used those bells and found Polar Express tickets on Pinterest.  Printed, laminated and put some twine on it.  BOOM! Under five steps again so it is Molly-proo I mean fool proof.

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Here are some pics!  I didn’t share all the pages, but just wanted to give you an idea.

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I realize there are no artistic skills here that are going to wow you.  I debated on even sharing this. This isn’t to impress you, but to give you an idea of a way to let moments become memories that will make your Christmas that much more special.

This is for my non-crafters that are intimidated by the world of scrapbooking like me, but jump at the chance to tell their kids how special the moments you have with them.

Let me know if you try this, or if you already do something like this =)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Aboard!!!

My mother in law Barb, hosts Second Sunday at her house every month.  It is a time to spend with family sitting around the table.  Lately it resembles a circus, but we love our monkeys.    I love it because growing up I did not live by family and I love that my children get the opportunity to grow up with two of their cousins.  Every Second Sunday has been amazing.  My mother and father in law just get it when it comes to hosting.  The second you walk in you feel so welcome and when you leave you feel missed and in the time inbetween you just feel loved.  Hostessing is a gift and we are so thankful for Second Sundays when we get to embrace it.

Second Sunday this month actually took place on the first Sunday. We went to New Hope, PA and went on the Polar Express. I have been waiting to do this!  Most of us wore our Christmas jammies and hopped on board to sing Christmas carols, sip hot coco, and do what we do on Second Sundays…make memories with the people we are blessed to call family.

For those that know me well, you know I LOVE Christmas, and the Polar Express encompasses so much of what makes me love celebrating this holiday every.single.year.

My boys are almost 18 months old.  And although having two babies to care for has me spinning in circles most of the time, my boys have reminded me so much of what really matters in life and the importance of slowing down and being present in the moment.  There is not a moment in the last 18 months I could tell you Doug and I are all caught up with everything that needs to be done. That feeling is STRESSFUL.  I like things crossed off the list.  But there is no way we can be caught up.  It’s just our reality.  So I have had to change gears, and accept it and focus less on the doing and more on the being.  In all honesty, some days I do much better with this than others.  But I have found when I let go of the doing or let’s be honest when I let go of the frustration of the NOT doing, and have a day where I really focus on the being…it is more rewarding than anything I could cross off a to do list.

As the Christmas season approaches, the temptation to do do do comes about.  The hustle and the bustle often wraps itself up in a sparkly, big box with a ribbon perfectly tied around it.  But the reminder to focus on the being more than the doing comes to me as I am holding my sick son on my birthday this year and feel his heartbeat and admire his long eye lashes.  And there it is, that gentle reminder to not think about the overflowing laundry basket or the legos that somehow are procreating all over my house. Just be. Just comfort. Just love.

So as we approach closer to Christmas I think about the story of the Polar Express and how the boy who once celebrated Christmas with complete adoration no longer believed. A bell was ringing but he could no longer hear it.

How many of us aren’t hearing the bell?  Some of us are trying to create the magic ourselves.  We try to ring the bell all day everyday and some of us can for awhile… but eventually our hands get tired.  We think:

How much longer can I ring this bell?

Is anyone even listening to the bell?

Is anyone else going to offer to ring the bell?

Some of us are too busy and fill our lives with so much noise, we can’t possibly hear the bell.

 

Exhaustion, resentment, disappointment, and apathy take over and Christmas becomes something to do and another item to be crossed of the list.

But, it’s not your job to ring the bell.  And it’s not mine.  On Christmas, the day Jesus was born it became our gift to hear the bell.  Immanuel (which means God is with us) was here in the flesh to give us joy, hope and peace and bring us the Good News.

As I sit on the train with my sons and nieces and see the way their eyes light up and their bodies can’t help but dance to the music, I know they are hearing the bell.  And I hold them tight, and pray they never stop hearing the bell. I pray, just as the boys have helped me in the last 18 months, to hear the bell, I can do the same for them through out their life.

Friends, family, anyone reading I hope I can encourage you to be this season.  You read that right, to be, just be. Being must come before believing, so don’t try to take a shortcut. I hope you choose to silence all the noise that is creating the soundtrack of your life for a moment and give yourself a chance to hear the bell. This season and every season. And I would like to thank the friends and family that have encouraged me to do the same, especially my two sweet boys and adorable nieces.

So here is my hand extended out to you to get on the Polar Express with me and remember  “The bell still rings for one, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Thanks to Amy Petrilla for taking pictures so we can make memories.  If you are local to me, hire her!  She got FOUR kids to look AND smile at the camera.  Christmas Miracle!!!  https://amypetrilla.wordpress.com/

1,208,600 seconds…

2 weeks.  14 days. 336 hours.   That’s not too long.

Well did you know 14 days is 20,160 minutes.  Don’t bother grabbing a calculator.  I will just go ahead and tell you.  That means two weeks is made up of 1,209,600 seconds.

So after years of failed fertility treatments I tried invitro.  I have a couple of conditions that makes getting pregnant complicated and one that that can only be confirmed through surgery.  I thought about doing the surgery but my doctor told me Invitro trumps it, so I trusted her. I had given myself the shots daily (well I made Doug), drank some weird stuff to help the quality of my eggs, changed my diet a bit and then I was told to wait.  There was nothing left I could do.  I was either pregnant or I wasn’t.  It was completely out of my control, but completely consuming my thoughts.  1, 209,600 seconds made up those two weeks and I honestly wonder how many of those seconds were spent on thinking about the past and the unfair cards I felt God was dealing Doug and I.  And I wonder how many of those 1,209,600 seconds were spent on freaking out about if I was pregnant or not and how I was going to react to the results.  I spent so much time doing both those things, and none of it changed my past, present or future, nor provided any comfort.

But I do know that NOT all of those seconds were spent worrying and regretting. I would describe my emotional state in those two weeks as equivalent to being on autopilot.   I just was trying to not get emotionally invested in anything because I just didn’t want to feel.   Thanksgiving took place in those two weeks, and I was working at a college teaching students from other countries English.  Most of the students were going to experience their first Thanksgiving in the United States, but for many their first Thanksgiving ever.  There were a handful of students who did not live with host families and lived on campus.  The campus would be closed but they were allowed to stay there and told me they would be microwaving something for dinner as places wouldn’t be open and had they had no form of transportation.  As they were telling me this, my heart whispered (but a loud whisper) cancel your plans and invite them to your home.  I pictured us around my dining room table.  I felt happiness, I felt excitement, I felt emotion.  I felt alive.  I told my students you are not doing that.  You are coming to my house.  And then I was scared that I was going to be fired for inviting students to my house.  So I ran up to tell my boss and clear it with her, and as I entered her office a coworker of mine (Director of Activities) said she was just about to send an email out to me asking if there is any way I would be willing to host one student for Thanksgiving.  And she looked hesitant to say it, like she anticipated I was going to turn her down harshly.   I said yes, I just invited invited them all!  (It was six students).

As most things go, I called and let my husband know…last.  He heard the excitement in my voice and he gave me no hesitation.  We cancelled our plans with his family and prepared a feast for two South Korean girls, one man from China, and one man from Colombia.  The two Saudi Arabian men spent it with their friends.  In the preparation, the prayer before the meal, the meal, and the conversation around the table I felt so much gratitude.  That gratitude left no room for worry or regret, but room for genuine happiness.  I was just so thankful for what I had in that moment.  This man who chose to be my husband, this house we were making our home, this job I loved, these students who were now guests in my home and friends, and this opportunity to share a meal with them.  A feeling of no matter what happens it is going to be alright took over.  A reminder that God is good ALL the time.  Those seconds that were spent on being thankful is what made a difference and provided a comfort I so appreciated at that time.  I must have been on cloud nine because when my student I lovingly referred to as  Gustavo the Grouch asked if we could go to Walmart so he could get a Black Friday deal on a play station game I said yes.  Way out of character for me to partake in Black Friday and I made them all promise they would be super kind to all employees working.  But I digress…

I know I have brought up my infertility a lot, and I am sorry for those who are sick of hearing about it.  I write about it because it was a challenging time for me but also because some of the other struggles I have I don’t feel comfortable sharing in a public forum.  Not because I don’t want to be open, but because when they involve other people then it’s not just my story to tell.  So it gets tricky.

But this isn’t really another post about  infertility.  And it’s not really even about me.

It’s about two weeks.  14 days.  336 hours.  20,160 minutes.  1,209,600 seconds.

I want you to think about your last two weeks.  How much time did you spend worrying, regretting, fearing?  How much time did you spend giving thanks?

“No amount of regret changes the past. No amount of anxiety changes the future. Any amount of gratitude changes the present.”–Ann Voscamp

There is no time travel machine to go back in time and no crystal ball to see the future. But there is always the choice to give thanks no matter your circumstance, and with that choice comes the power of changing the here and the now.

Don’t deprive yourself of that.

Not on Thanksgiving.

Not ever.

Let’s Carry Heavy Things

It’s Orphan Sunday.
This excerpt from Stacey Jackson Gagnon‘s blog has not left my mind since I read it.
“So many days, I struggle with the knowledge of children that go to live out their days in institutions, babies that go without medical care and infants that learn not to cry, laugh or smile. Kids caged in cribs, banging their heads on the bars to self-soothe, biting fingers until they bleed, rocking endlessly, and fed a convenient, liquid diet. I shoulder this burden of knowledge and when I try to unpack it with friends, family and church, they smile and change the subject to something “not so heavy”.”
What might surprise is you is that it’s not the part about children living their life out in institutions or that babies go without medical care, or even that kids are caged in cribs that hasn’t left my mind.  Well that’s not entirely true.  It hasn’t left my mind (and I don’t believe it ever will) but it’s not what stuck with me the most.
What stuck with me and made my heart literally ache and also feel a twinge of anger was the last line.  “I shoulder this burden of knowledge and when I try to unpack it with friends, family and church, they smile and change the subject to something “not so heavy”.”
Friends, we are meant to carry heavy things.   And we are meant to carry heavy things together.
So maybe when someone brings up the orphan crisis and the harsh reality many are facing we shouldn’t smile.  Maybe we shouldn’t change the subject.  And maybe we shouldn’t turn away from heavy things.  Maybe we should listen, sit in the pain and discomfort some of the statistics/facts will make us feel (but don’t stay there), and then turn and face the heavy things.
It’s orphan Sunday.  And while there are children dying right now due to neglect and a lack of recognized value, there are also families waiting to adopt.  I recognize the first part and it is heavy.  So heavy that if I only thought about the first part, it would weigh me down and paralyze me.  So I choose to also recognize that there are families who want to adopt.  Those families are doing everything they can to prepare a home and a life for a child with special needs.  It’s not a an easy thing and there is nothing light about it.
Let’s stop praying that this load will lighten and instead pray for our arms to strengthen , and then let’s use that strength and carry this together.
Let’s unpack this.  Let’s see these children. Let’s heart these children.  Let’s value these children.  Let’s love these children.  Let’s carry these children together.  Some of you have been doing this for weeks, months and years, and maybe some of you will start today.
Why not?  It’s Orphan Sunday.
  James 1:27
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
If you would like to help fundraise with me please let me know, or if you would like to shop and have 100 percent of the proceeds go to fundraising families adopting please check out my shop.  https://iamsavannahgrace.wordpress.com/my-shop/