Sunday, November 12, 2017

Alethia Grace Turns NINE!

The past couple of days have been super special for us.

Little did we know that it was the day before our future daughter's 2nd birthday!

Today just so happens to be Orphan Sunday,
which is wrapped around Adoption Awareness month (November).

This month also holds so many memories from 2011.
We were praying for a miracle to get our entire family on a plane on November 20th
(the last possible day for me to travel with my high-risk pregnancy),
Which we now know didn't happen.
The VISA denial was sent to Nairobi and, because we didn't know any better,
were beginning to think that we were going to lose this precious girl that had just joined our family.

But here she is...with her in America.
Turning NINE years old!

She is full of life and emotion.
She is a fiercely loyal friend.
She LOVES to read.
Purple is her long-standing favorite color.
She has her own unique sense of style;).
Her favorite thing to do, by far, is play family 
with her stuffed animals, Barbie's or siblings.
She is quick to obey,
loves to be a helper and
is sensitive to those around her.

Alethia Grace,
You have taught me so much about love. You have taught me so much about digging deeper.  You are beautiful inside and out and my prayer is that you will learn to be more and more confident in who God has made you to be as you begin your own personal journey with Him.  I am beyond blessed to call you MINE!  I love you.  Happy Birthday!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Lean Into Hope. Pray. Rejoice In The Wins. Repeat.

I was reminded today of just how SPECIAL of a job it is to raise these kids that God has entrusted to us.  Man, every day I am made aware of how imperfectly I am doing it, but God's grace carries us through, amen?!

I was hustling around the house this morning trying to get life back in order after a great weekend.  Our home had a revolving door of ins and outs as different people came and went.  We shared meals, had lots of play time with the kids, welcomed a couple new families into our life/small/MC/house church group (Oh the titles we give these things, ha!).  Just the way we like it!  I even had the laziest Saturday EVER as I sat by butt in front of my fire pit outside all day, only getting up to prepare and monitor meals when the kids couldn't hold out on food any longer...oh, and to keep the fire going.  For a moment I thought about running inside to grab a book but quickly decided against it since that would require me getting up out of my blanket bundled around me in my favorite fire pit spot.  I know, my life is so tough, ha!

White space in life.  One of my favorite things.  It allows for moments to be still and also opens up opportunities for people interruptions, which in my opinion are the best of life's interruptions.

Anyway, as I was picking up around the house and placing things back in their appropriate place (because we all know that kitchen utensils don't belong in the Barbie house and Superhero costumes shouldn't be mixed in with the dog food) I saw something that made me freeze in my tracks.

My oldest daughter, just a couple of months away from turning 13, had her Bible open on her desk, with her journal and highlighter ready to go.

We are about to enter into uncharted territory as our kids begin making more and more choices on their own as they get older.  There is nothing we can do to stop it, nor should there be, but it is sometimes going to be uncomfortable to loosen the reins I'm afraid.

But what a privilege.

I think we are so often told to "hope for the best but expect the worse" in so many situations, especially through the teenage years.  I know for sure that this was reiterated to us by so many people throughout our adoption.  And sometimes that mindset is absolutely necessary for expectation's sake.

But as we enter this new season I am reminded just how much of this HOPE is found in Jesus.  I know it sounds so cliche, but is it not the truth?

I don't for a second believe that we will get through all five kids' teenage years unscathed from heartache and sinful choices or think it is going to be easy. We aren't naive.  On the contrary!  I was "one of those kids".  My poor, poor parents.  But we have talked so much about those years together and none of us would trade them for the world because those years, though full of tears and pain, have made EACH OF US who we are today because of the HOPE we share in Christ!

So what does that look like for Josh and I?

We pray for their hearts.
We pray for OUR hearts.

We pray for their choices.
We pray for our responses.

We pray for God to keep them close.
We pray for their will to keep Him close.

We will continue to stay surrounded with godly friends who are a few steps ahead of us and allow us see their wins and loses up close and personal as we take vigorous notes and pray along with them.

And then we will rejoice in the WINS along the way,  like seeing our oldest daughter reading the Word of God all on her own that day.  There may be seasons where that desire is not so strong, but today,  today she is seeking Him and staying close.

Lean into HOPE.
Rejoice in the WINS.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Photos (includes Halloween pics)

Zeke made a pallet fort a few weeks ago and it is now the favorite hangout spot around 
Jude and Alethia are ready for their tea party

the color in the trees with the setting sun and Rainy and Jemma's infamous game of tag

I mean, come on, she is so cute

Alethia and Zeke begin basketball practice this weekend!

Rainy captured some beautiful rays while I was gone last weekend

all is right in the world

5th annual trick-or-treating buddies

This was our trick-or-treating crew.  Our apologies for cleaning out this neighborhood one house at a time, ha!

Robin, robber, Hulk, pumpkin and African princess

Happy Friday Ya'll!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Photos

Jude checked out a Curious George book about Lemonade,
so of course we had to try our hand at hand-squeezed homemade lemonade!

Rainy's baking just gets better and better!
And now her goodies come with handwritten love letters for each recipient.

A good musician always places his favorite art on his pedal board.
So when the kids come home from school with their art on stickers
 Josh knows EXACTLY where to put them!

Lazy Saturday afternoons with Legos and Jemma are the best

Our tomatoes are hanging in there.

Another day at the lake soaking in some family time

A daddy and his not-so-baby-girl, holding hands, instigated by her.
A picture we will treasure forever!!!

Happy October
Happy Friday
Happy Family Day
Happy low anxiety day for mama, PTL!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

How To Be The Martha HE Created You To Be ~ It ALWAYS Goes Back To The Heart

I've read the account of Mary and Martha from Luke 10 a million times and heard just as many sermons on this same account.

But I still can't get the Martha mentality out of my head.

Maybe because I have littles who are always asking about the next meal.
(Can I get an AMEN?!)
And if I don't make it they most likely aren't going to get it.
(At least not the good stuff!)
So I huff and I puff away in the kitchen...3 meals a day...for nearly 365 days a year.
(Because going out to eat with a family of 7...have you seen how my boys tend to act in public?!)
Ain't nobody got time to just sit around!

In this story I see a woman who knows that her LORD is outside and 100% sure that he is hungry.
She is torn.
She desperately wants to go out and sit at his feet, like her sister, and soak in all that He has to say, but knows full-well that dinner is NOT going to cook itself.

And if it doesn't get done now they aren't going to be able to eat until midnight!
(There aren't any prepared snacks or fast food restaurants right around the corner back then)
And she wants the BEST for her Savior.

So I get it!

God has made her a get-it-done kind of girl.
Who is very aware of her surroundings.

We are people who plan ahead.
We think about the full picture.
The clock is our best friend and worst enemy.

There are two things going on in this story that I think about every time I read/ hear it.

1 - I believe women (and men) like us will spend the rest of our lives fighting the get-it-done mentality when we need to work on the discipline of "being still" with the LORD (and yes, it is a discipline).  There is a time and a place for that FOR SURE (preferably every day!).

But today I want to hone in on number 2, which is:

I wonder, at the risk of taking another vantage point, if Jesus would have reprimanded Martha if she were to have been serving with a servant's heart.  Maybe it wasn't just about her stopping what she was doing to come and join them.  Maybe it was about the HEART behind her service.

If she would have been serving out of a heart of love and service like Christ commands us to serve so many times in the new testament, would she have been RIGHT WHERE SHE NEEDED TO BE?

Martha was said to be "distracted by all the preparations".  You can just see the bitterness and resentfulness flowing out of the words when she went out to Jesus and said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!"

Martha wasn't serving with the right heart.  And of course the Lord could sense that.  Actually, He didn't even have to SENSE it.  She was pretty open about it.


...what if Martha would have been in the kitchen doing the thing that God had created inside of her to do.  She was a get-it-done kind of girl because that is the way God wired her (and me).  What if she would have been serving with a servant's heart.  I believe that if her heart would have been softened to serve out of love for her guest/Savior, and even her sister (that had chosen not to help her this time), that her heart would have been in the right place.

In this story Martha's mind was completely consumed with anger and resentment toward her sister.  I can only imagine the ugly things that were whirling around in her head about her "lazy" sister that "always made HER do all the work" as she prepared this meal.  Her mind was so full of thoughts of entitlement for herself and bitterness toward her sister. (It's a good thing these are all hypothetical thoughts, ahem...)

If only she would have been in the kitchen with an open heart and mind to serve like Jesus.  She would have then been in a posture to "work as unto the LORD" (Colossians 3:23) while allowing her heart and mind to be less consumed with the negativity toward her sister. Can you imagine the freedom she would have opened up in her heart and mind to hear, at a distance of course, the wise words of her savior just around the corner.  The wisdom.  The teachings.  The laughter.  The closeness.

Here is what the LORD is teaching me about the Martha he has created inside of me.

The only way I will be able to serve the way Jesus has exemplified for us to serve is by digging in against my natural flesh to do, do, do, but to find a way to be still with Him every day.  And it is then, and only then, that I can serve out of true love, the way a true servant should.  And IN that kind of serving I will be able to hear and feel the closeness of our Father right in the middle of all the serving.

It all goes back to the HEART.
It ALWAYS goes back to the heart.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Friday Free-For-All ~ FREE Music, Eclipse, Family Gatherings, Art and More!

We have been re-growing some sweet potato slips from a sweet potato I'd been saving from the store and got to finally plant them this week!  I can't wait to see how they do in the Colony Garden!

Rainy told me that she has a special kind of love in her heart for our crippled chicken, Gimley.
I mean, look at how sweet she is cuddling with Rainy:)

Jude is our last to lose his first tooth...
in true Jude fashion he ran in from playing outside with his tooth in his hand
after pulling it out all on his own!
And then he ran off to play.
This kid needs us for NOTHING, ha!

Cai's "Mr. Bones" dabbing

Chive blossoms and Rosemary ~ the perfect fresh bouquet from the garden

Jude and his little people are my current favorite pictures these days.

Story time with Uncle Fro/Daddy.
Kaliyah loved Jude's little bed area and Josh's bedtime stories.

We had such a great time watching the eclipse.
We pulled the kids out of school early, gathered the other Via tribe and my parents
and enjoyed this experience together!

We had several different methods going because we only had 4 pairs of the glasses to pass around.
Jonathan made a pinhole projector out of paper.
We had a bucket of water that reflected the event.
We also made pinhole projectors out of cereal boxes.
Thanks for capturing some of these photos Kelly!
I covered my camera lens with foil, put a pinhole in it and covered it with the eclipse glasses.

 I've been catching Batman really digging in the word this week.
He will literally sit on our bed for HOURS reading the Bible.
But he decided to change it up and learn Ableton today, ha!
(silly Josh)

Jemma helped to keep Zeke company when he was sick with strep throat last week.

It's no secret that Jude has a difficult time respecting and submitting to authority.
We have really been cracking down on him and he has been working SO HARD this week.
So hard that he got up to PINK, the highest you can go on his color chart at school!
PTL, there is hope for him yet!

We had a fun gathering after the Uganda Via's flew in a few weeks ago.
And somehow Kelly was able to snag a photo of all of the kids!
Photo Cred: Kelly Via
 I have a few new friends who speak little to no English and this app
has been a LIFESAVER for being able to communicate with them!
I can now text them and sit next to them on the couch and carry on conversations with them.

Go get the "Speak & Translate" FREE App. to keep the translation barrier from getting in your way!

Our church just released a REMIX album of some of our original tunes.
Thanks for all your hard work on these, Eric Heflin.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Counting Eggs ~ Counting Blessings

It's the end of the month and I know for a fact that we aren't the only family who plays the what-can-we-create-from-our-remnants-in-the-pantry game to get by until the next paycheck.

(Please don't read this and rush out to get us a grocery gift card because our family is starving!  WE ARE FINE;)!  We get paid TONIGHT, woohoo!)

Ahem, back to my story.

As I was cleaning up breakfast and filling up our recycling bin with all the empty containers from finishing up many of the contents of the refrigerator and pantry, I stopped and looked in our bowl where we keep the eggs.  Empty.  Not a huge deal, but the newest ladies outside are still getting used to their new egg-laying job and the number of eggs we get are highly unpredictable.  So naturally I'm gonna pray for them to lay well this particular day.  I counted up the average daily egg requests and asked the Lord to give us 8 eggs for the following morning.

Fast forward to 3:45 when the kids walked home from school and Alethia begins telling me that her friend, Madison, told her that she loved seeing our cute chickens free-ranging in the yard on her way to school that day.  Sure enough, I look out the window and realized that FOUR of our more mature egg-layers had been out ALL.DAY.LONG.  How in the world did that happen?!  Zeke and I then spent the better part of the next 10 minutes chasing after rounding them up and grabbing them leading them back to the coop.  Egg-laying time was over so when I peeked in the coop to see how many eggs God had blessed us with I counted in anticipation.

One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.

It would have been so cool to have seen the exact 8 eggs that I had prayed for, but after realizing that 4 main egg-layers had escaped their responsibilities that day I wasn't surprised.

At breakfast this morning we began taking egg orders.  I didn't say a word about how many eggs we had in the bowl.  And wouldn't you know, we were able to fulfill all the desired egg orders!  Nobody went without their desired egg and everyone had just enough to eat to fill their bellies from breakfast.  Josh even made us adults delicious omelets with the leftover eggs.

I tell you this for a couple of reasons.

One, I prayed to a great big God about my silly request for 8 eggs.  I prayed specifically and in full faith that God could allow us to get 8 eggs.  But I also prayed in Jesus name, which means I prayed with open hands, knowing that ultimately God knows what we need more than I do.  So, regardless of the outcome, I knew that God was in control.

God wants us to bring our requests to Him, no matter how small and insignificant it seems.

Two, God answered my prayer.  Not with the 8 eggs that I asked for, but with JUST WHAT WE NEEDED for the next day...and He accomplished it with 4 of our main egg-layers out playing hooky all day!  My mind immediately went to this verse:

"...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."
Matthew 6:8

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Story In Pictures ~ Friday Night's With The Colony

Josh and I have been on a new adventure for finding family fun outside of technology.
(That is a worth a whole other post.  
Technology has taken a back burner in the Colony Casa these days,
and we couldn't be happier about this mutual decision.)

On a typical Friday night you could find us cuddled up in the family room, watching a family-friendly movie, eating our homemade pizza in the past.

But we wanted to branch out a little bit to intentionally engage with each other.

And in doing so we have found a new favorite spot...
Sandling Beach on Falls Lake.

You only have to pay for parking ($6/car, but even last week when we went it was FREE parking!)

The view is gorgeous,
the beach is big enough not to feel crowded,
picnic tables make it easy to have a picnic dinner,
and it stays open long enough to watch the sunset together before showering off and heading home.

It's the next best thing to a day trip to the beach!

Jude calls this his "dolphin jump".  He is FINALLY venturing out into the deep(er) side of the water.

creativity at its best

***The website says that dogs are allowed, hence all the photos with Jemma,
but after arriving we saw no-dog signs posted on the border of the beach area.
Needless to say, Jemma hasn't made a recurring appearance.***