Monday, November 30, 2015

Because Christmas Isn't Always The Happiest Season Of All

I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time the Christmas season rang in and everything around me smelled like fresh cut pine trees, tasted like candy canes and brought with it the giddy excitement of ornament exchanges and white elephant gifts.  Ok, so maybe the smells and tastes have always found a warm place in my heart, but the circumstances surrounding the Christmas tree and candy canes haven't always been the most joyous of occasions.

My memories of the "un-perfect Christmas" track back to nearly a decade ago.

The Christmas seasons since have been sprinkled with loss.

Loss of...
physical health
loved ones
financial security
sweet babies I will never see face-to-face until heaven
spiritual desert
family crisis...

The thing about Christmas is that it makes us not only see all that we have to be thankful for...

the birth of our savior who came to dwell among us,
to love us,
to speak to us,
to teach us,
to exemplify how we ought to live...

but it also brings with it a mirror into the deepest depravity that exists around us.

The failing health of those closest to us,
the emptiness from relationships gone astray,
the insecurity of even the most secure jobs,
financial instability,
incomprehensible loss,
ended or strained friendships,
longing for a touch of the Savior when He has chosen to be silent,
the foolish choices of loved ones,
all the failures of the past year.

All these things tend to turn this joyous season into a dark hole of hopelessness and despair.

I remember coming back from Uganda 4 years ago WITHOUT my little girl and trying to rationalize the cancelation of Christmas.

But the thing is...
the season is a celebration of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Not the circumstances that surround the season that particular year.

God sent His only Son into the world.
Jesus came to the world to save us.
To love us.
To give us GRACE.
Even in our mess.
BECAUSE of our mess.
And offer a forever, unconditional friendship.
No matter what we are going through in any particular season.

Jesus...the Son of our Heavenly Father, came to bring us Hope.

Hope through the dark season, even if it is during the same time we celebrate His birth.

My friend Travis just tweeted tonight:
"One of the most dangerous and isolating perspectives is 
when you think you are the only one in the world who is going through something."

I can almost guarantee that you are not the only one going through a difficult time this holiday season.
Don't isolate yourself, and don't you dare begin believing the lie that you are all alone.
You don't have to pretend like everything is okay just because it is Christmas.

For most of us it isn't the hap-happiest time of year.

So how do we get through the Christmas season when it seems to be surrounded by so much loss and heartache?

By remembering what the season is truly about.
The joy and hope the birth of Jesus Christ brings.

He is the reason we celebrate this season.
He is the reason we can be motivated to keep breathing that next breathe.
He is the reason we can let go of the past.
He is the reason we can rest assured that the hurt we are currently facing, it isn't in vain.  
The promise that our hurt is NEVER wasted.

Remember who He is and why He came.
He will pull you out of the pit.

I promise.

And if you will let Him, He will refine you and make you a new creation when He pulls you out!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

When You Are Living Shoulder-To-Shoulder

Several weeks ago someone asked Josh and I if our relationship/marriage was more face-to-face or shoulder-to-shoulder.

After thinking a lot about that question we both agreed that it depends on the season.

Of course we want face-to-face interaction all the time.
We want it to be the norm.
But that's just not realistic 100% of the time.

When you have a family with children tugging on your pant legs or another one needing uninterrupted help with homework.  
When there is a very demanding season at work.  
When life is life and won't slow down.  
When the necessary to-do's continue to pile up.  
When friends and family are in crisis.  
When your teenager is in the far country.
When sleep is short and days are long.

All of these things interrupt the face-to-face time that is necessary for a healthy marriage.

After Josh and I woke up from a difficult night of taxing responsibilities we finished another typical morning marathon of packing lunches, feeding a Colony a dozen and a half eggs (and two boxes of cereal...and oatmeal and toast and...these little humans would NEVER stop eating if we didn't make them!) for breakfast, and making sure all of these Colony kids were properly dressed in cold weather attire (because we WILL get notes home from teachers), Josh wearily looked at me and said, "Babe, we're in a shoulder-to-shoulder season."  Then he kissed me gently while saying his 'I love you's' and smiled as he grabbed his keys and walked out the door to go to work.

Our shoulder-to-shoulder looks something like this lately:
Josh is knee deep in his doctorate program, we have begun the holiday season, the kids are about to track out (which means end of quarter and holiday activities at school),  not to mention the holiday scurry at Journey as we prepare for Christmas services and activities.  Oh yeah, and we have 5 kids...and 6 chickens...and extended family...and friends who we love...all dealing with their own things...

But just because we are in a shoulder-to-shoulder season doesn't mean that it has to be spent doing things separately.  

Here are a few things that keep Josh and I on the same page, even when we are tag-teaming life, activities, projects, kids and even discipline.
  1. Keep Communicating - Sit down and go over a busy week (or day, or season) ahead of time.  I know for me, if Josh is going to have late meetings, rehearsals or school work, I am much more respectful of his demanding schedule if I know what to expect.  If I am going to need extra help with the kid's school activities, or homework I need to let Josh know what I am expecting of him.  How are we ever going to know what each other needs unless we communicate our expectations to each other.  Reminding each other that we are on the same team, all along the way.
  2. Stay Connected - this means exactly what you think it does;)  Make sure you are intentionally still being intimate.  Don't allow a busy, hectic, or stressful season keep you from being with each other. There is something irreplaceable about this kind of connection.  Schedule it in if you need to, but make it happen!
  3. Find Time To Laugh (or at least smile) - It's completely okay to laugh about the dinner that got burned because you forgot the sweet potato fries baking in the oven (which has NEVER happened to me) or browning ground beef on the burner (nope, not spoken from experience) or boiling rice on the stove (ok, so maybe I have a problem being distracted multitasking while cooking)...lighten up a little bit and get those endorphins pumping.  Sometimes the only way to make it through a stressful time is to try not to make the not-so-important things...not so important. Because there will be plenty of time for seriousness during a shoulder-to-shoulder season without you crying over spilled milk (literally).
  4. Parent Together - Keep each other up to speed on the kids so consequences will be consistent, highlights will be praised and so the kids know that mom and dad are in this together. Don't allow them to play you against each other during this season.
  5. BONUS:  For goodness sakes, grab each other's butts every once in a while!  A simple little squeeze goes a long ways.  Oh, and make sure your kids see it, because if they can see that mom and dad are still okay, then they know that life is going to be okay, even when they can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Plus it'll initiate the long-awaited eye contact you've been waiting for and maybe even a smile or giggle.
Shoulder-to-shoulder seasons aren't the most fun to be in the middle of, but make the most of them and remind each other that you are in fact, in this together, even if you don't get to do each part of it together.  And that "this too shall pass."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Words Worth Remembering

Cai:"Zeke, wouldn't that be so funny if somebody screamed so loud that their head popped off?!"


Me:"Jude, are you okay?"
Jude:"Yeah. I just had mac-n-cheese all the way down in my choking spot."


Jude:"Mom, are you putting your earwax in?"
translation:"Mom, are you putting your contacts in?"


Jude:"I can't find any hard workin' shirts!"

ie: work out shirts


Jude:"That's adarious"
translation - "That's hilarious!"


Jude:"I'm gonna call you a 'sweatie bubble"
Jude:"You know that chocolate stuff you like?"
Me:"Ohhhhh, a butterfinger?"
Jude:"Oh yeah. a butterfinger!"


Jude:"Look mom, it's yummy skittles!"
Me:"Mmmmm, are you gonna share with mommy?"


Jude:"Daddy let me have a huffy puppy."
huffy puppy = hush puppy


Zeke, looking at the ground beef thawing on the counter for dinner: "Mom, what IS that?!"
Me: "It's meat for tacos for dinner tonight."
Zeke: "Ooooh.  I thought it was some kind of penguin meat."
Me: "What?  We have never even mentioned ever eating penguin.  I'm not sure if people even eat penguin mean."
Zeke:"Yeah they do.  Like Coyote meat or something."



Jude:"I have sharp teeth to bite dinosaurs."


Jude:"Mom, I think squirrels like us.  They like our yard.  Squirrels like our yard, but not dinosaurs."


Cai:"Hey mom, you know those bathrooms at school?"
Cai:"I wish we had THOSE here because you can put all the toilet paper you want in there and it just flushes down.  They NEVER overfloat!"



Jude:"Sorry for throwing my food on the floor that one time."
Me:"It's okay buddy.  I forgive you."
Jude:"Thanks.  I forgive you too."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This Day, Present and Past

Today is a big day!

Today is the day we remember Alethia's denial at the Embassy.  We remember standing in that little room, "Shabby" propped up on the counter, our other kids huddled up close, and the Embassy worker giving us the very cold, indifferent "nope, she can't get a VISA to go home".  No explanation.  No options.  Just "no".  As if the daughter that had been grafted into our family could simply be cut off again.  We remember those following few seconds that felt like years, as our bodies froze in place while our minds raced all over trying to make sense of what had just happened.

We remember.  We, ahem...I, cry.  I cry a lot during this time every year (I can't help it, don't judge).  Because those feelings are still inside of me.  They awaken every year just as fresh as the day they happened.

But I have the full picture now and the crying is coupled with the shadows of grace and love that sustained us, and brought us through to the soon-to-come season of firsts that Alethia got to experience once we got her home.

We know SO MUCH MORE about the process now than we did then, and PTL we know that there are options.  You just have to keep working the system...and that is exactly what my brother and sister-in-law have done.  Over the past 4 years they have been working on bringing their daughter home, after getting a denial at the Embassy shortly after ours.  And now it's time for them to go back to court to fully adopt Chloe in Uganda and apply for a different VISA that will FINALLY bring them all back home to America.

And you can help them get here!

They are doing an auction over at @bringchloehomeauction on Instagram to raise (hopefully) their last big chunk of funds for their legal fees in court.  Kelly has found local artisans who have made the items being sold for the auction.  (Their stories are on the site.  I love getting to meet where the items have originated!)

Here are the rules that are posted on the auction site:

1 - The auction begins at 9am EST on Tuesday Nov. 17.  It will be open for bidding until it closes at 5pm EST on Wed. Nov. 18.

2 - To bid on an item:  comment with your bid (in full dollar increments) on the item you wish to bid on and your email address.  If you are outbidding a previous bidder, please tag them in your comment so they can see you have been outbid.

3 - When bidding has closed, I will comment "closed" on each item and no bids afterward will be accepted on that item.

4 - If you have the winning bid, I will email ASAP (within 48 hours) with your invoice and direct you in paying for your item(s).

5 - If you fail to pay your invoice within 24 hours of receiving it, I have the right to give the item(s) to the second place bidder.

6 - A small shipping fee will be added to your winning bid(s).  Total fees are as follows:

  • 1-3 items: $4
  • 4-6 items: $6
  • 7-9 items: $9

Thank you for understanding.

7 - All winning bids will be paid online through our sending agency, World Reach Partnerships.  If you win, all billing instructions will be included in your email.  (It's super easy!)

So make sure you share this fundraiser with your friends and start shopping.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Stopping The Drama Train In Its Tracks ~ KITW

We, as women, are way more prone to drama. We just are. God has made us with super big hearts, with super big feelings, that read into relationships…and conversations and actions and looks and body language…am I right or am I right?
As much as I pride myself on trying to stay drama-free, I must admit that I fall prey to these exact same actions.
I used to be a pro at adding hidden agendas into conversations that I would have with other women/friends. I would make up alternate realities about how they really felt about me and my family, or my parenting techniques, or why my daughter didn’t get invited to their daughter’s party, or why nobody ever wanted to meet at my house. I had it ALL figured out.
But in all honesty, they had NEVER communicated ANY of the things that I was hypothetically conjuring up in my mind as fact. Sure, some of my suspicions may have been spot on, but was that solid truth I was relying on, or insecure feelings of rejection and hurt?
Josh, my husband, is absolutely baffled by the way women (and little girls) handle situations.
Here is just one example: ... [Read More]

Thursday, November 12, 2015


The boys are supposed to be sleeping.


But I'm too tired...actually, I'm just too lazy to get my jammy-covered butt off of the couch to go do anything about their "supposed to be's".

At least tonight they are just giggling and telling each other ridiculous stories.  I can handle that!

The track record from the past couple of weeks has been littered with so much sibling bickering that I've wanted to just throw in the towel and call it quits. (okay, maybe it was already quits when I locked myself in my room and told the kids to "go away and leave me alone". And maybe that night I informed Josh that I needed SOMETHING at the store, I'd figure out what it is as soon as I got there, so could you please just keep the kids from killing each other. Stellar mom moments.)

And I'm not even going to mention Jude's elbow that he threw out of socket last week while being a boy...
and Rainy's 1" gash on her knee (I saw the "fatty tissue" ya'll!) from hide-n-seeking in the dark with a bunch of friends, which led to falling in a stone-encased ditch...
and then Zeke's broken arm he got while...being a boy, yesterday.

And then throw in a birthday party and I'm done.

Done I tell ya.

You canNOT call me mom ANY more.


But we all know a mama can't just up and call it quits.
And I'm okay with that.
I really am.
I just need a night to just be.

So here I am, on a Thursday night.
Josh is at rehearsal.
The girls are having birthday cuddles for Alethia's birthday (yeah, I haven't even written her birthday post for her special day of birth today!)
The boys are "supposed-to-be"ing
and I'm just here, writing a blog about nothing...or lots of things...but really nothing at all...

because it's been a day.
Not a bad day.
Maybe a sad day.
But at least a sunny day.

And it's just a night.
A regular ol' get-the-kids-to-bed-on-time kind of night so that tomorrow can be all that God wants it to be for this Colony.

So, here's to the fight.
The every day fight.
The fight to be.
To be exactly who we are supposed to be.
Not just to exist, but to thrive.

God wants that from us.
So just take tonight.
And wait for the fresh new mercies that He has promised for the morning.
Praise the Lord they come in fresh every.single.morning.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Being A Friend To A Friend In Crisis

This year has almost come and gone and is leaving a trail of heartache, trials, broken hearts and sickness behind.  Hearts are aching all around me, but this time it isn't my own heart.  It is the hearts of many of those close to me.

But just because the circumstances don't directly relate to me and my family, we have felt every one of them.

And through it all I have been stretched and humbled in ways I could not have ever imagined.

I am a work in progress as I learn to walk with friends and family through the valley that the Lord is sifting them through, realizing that I will be sifted, in a different way of course, right along with them.

Here are some things I am learning as I try to be the best friend I can be for my friend(s) going through a crisis.

1 - Learn to be a good listener - these are obviously in no particular order, but listening is always going to be at the top of the list!  If a friend has chosen you to walk with them through something I can guarantee they haven't signed you up to "fix" the problem.  For us "fixers" this step is torture, but will solidify our intentions.  Are we in this with them to try and "fix" the problem or are we in it to pray for them and be a listening board for them as they wade these new, difficult waters and make the tough decisions they have to make.

2 - Speak truth in love - this one is tricky.  There is a time and place to speak truth.  Hard truth.  But you better make sure your heart is right and that your intentions are pure.  And furthermore, that the Holy Spirit is softening their heart to hear what He wants you to say to them.  Have you earned a right to speak this truth?  And if you speak this truth is it because you simply can't keep quiet anymore (in my own case, this typically means there is selfish or prideful intentions in my own heart) or because it is a prodding of the Holy Spirit?

3 - Keep Silent - I am learning that many times the place for me, as a friend, is just BEING with and for your friend, not TALKING TO them.  Not to be passive, but to allow the Holy Spirit to do His thing in your friend's heart.

4 - Hold Their Hand - don't try to carry them through it.  There is a very fine line between walking WITH someone through something and carrying it on your own shoulders.  This is by far the most difficult thing for me.  I feel so deeply for people, so when they hurt I physically hurt with them.  I am learning that this is not a healthy place for me to be.  Not only does is bring unneeded stress to me physically and make me a not-so-fun mama and wife, it diminishes the help I can tangibly be to my friend who has no choice in carrying the burden.

5 - Allow the Holy Spirit to be the Holy Spirit - Okay, so maybe ALL of these are difficult for me, ha!  I told you I'm still learning!  Realizing that ultimately it doesn't matter what I think they should do to get through this season, but releasing my agenda to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to take over, that can be so freeing as a friend.  And this, in turn, will allow for the quiet that needs to occur so the Holy Spirit can be heard, not only in your own heart, but in theirs.

6 - Grace upon grace - This one is for you as the friend walking with a friend AND the friend going through the pain.  Know that each one of you is most likely going to say hurtful things or words that get miscommunicated.  When emotions are raw and hurt is running so deep you can almost expect some rocky roads in your relationship.  You are both new to this and it is going to take some communication on both parts to get your friendship to the other side of this crisis, even when the crisis isn't related directly to the friendship.

7 - Let them make their own choices - a lot of times a friend will make choices that you don't agree with.  I keep thinking that this is going to be how it is when my teenager is old enough to make their own decisions.  It is hard to let go.  It isn't always going to go the way I think it should.  But I have to trust the Lord to take care of it, because no matter how much I want something for someone, THEY have to want it.  THEY are the one making the choice.

8 - Move On - maybe the decision-making is over or the grieving is coming to a close, helping your friend to know that it's okay to move on to the next season is crucial in their healing.  You may still have questions and/or things you want to say, but revert back to numbers 1 and 3.  Now is the time to let them move on.  And having the support from a friend to feel happy again is a huge step in that.

9 - Pray - this is last but certainly not least!  Prayer is your lifeline.  The very act that reaches deep down to the desires of our own heart directly to the one who created us.  He knows every fiber of our being, and every tear being shed.  He knows. Thank God He KNOWS!  So pray that you will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as He leads you to keep quiet, and speak truth, and search your own heart, while being sensitive and supportive while holding the hand of your sweet friend who is in a place they never thought they'd be.

10 - Because you can't end a list on a 9!

I realize that I am speaking boldly here, but these are just personal things I've learned, sensed and heard people tell me when walking through a valley.

Please feel free to add to the list.  It isn't easy, no matter what side of the valley you are walking on.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Memory Monday ~ Not MY Understanding

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
and do not lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him
and he will make straight your paths."

Proverbs 3:516

When your circumstances and situation seems grim.
And the options of "fixing" it appear to be no better.

Trust in Him.

Not on your own understanding.
Not on the way it was done in the past.
Not on what has always been.

But on Him and WHO HE IS.

His understanding is far better than our finite minds can ever fathom.

Even in the darkest of valleys
Trust in him.

Trust that he can bring beauty from ashes.
And then release the darkness to him and ALLOW him to make it beautiful.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween Candy: Keeping The Monster On A Leash

I've written a lot about the evil monsters that take over our children when candy inhabits the Colony home.

The greed.
The bickering.
The fighting.
The constant begging for the sugary substances that have a hold on their very souls.  

(Have you seen the Zombies on the Walking Dead scratching and reaching for the humans just inches away from reach through a closed gate or car door?  Yeah, that's what happens to me these kids!)

And then there's the Colony mom who can't handle having the sugary sweet goodness in the Colony house so she feels the need to eat every. last. bit. of. it. with little to no self-control because "we do NOT waste food in this house!" (see how I rationalize?!)

It's just not a pretty sight!

So last year we began to implement a new rule for the massive amounts of this sugary monster-infested stuff that overtakes a Colony of kids on a Halloween.

1 - You may eat as much candy as you want while we are out trick-or-treating.  No strings attached.  Eat away! (because we all know that it is impossible to keep track of all the kids and all the candy, especially when you are just trying to keep track of ALL THE KIDS!)

2 - You must be willing to succumb to the mom and dad tax at any time during the duration of trick-or-treating. (If you are a parent and have children you MUST begin implementing mom and dad tax.  That means you get sips and nibbles, bites and snippets of yummy goodness whenever they are had by the littles.  It is just part of being in the family.  And it teaches sharing and generosity, of course, ha!)

3 - When we get home you may pick 5 pieces of candy that you may eat during the following week for snacks or treats.

4 - The additional candy will be made into gifts for friends, family, and homeless kids/families.  And whatever is left over will be donated to programs that ship it overseas for soldiers serving our country.

5 - I give them each $1 for giving their candy up with a happy heart.

Since last year was the first year of implementing this rule it didn't go over as happily easily as we had wished.  There were tears.  Lots of tears.  The monster had seeped into their very pores without even being consumed!

But this year was an entirely different story.  Before we even made it home 2 out of our 5 kids had picked out their 5 favorite pieces and then handed out all the rest of their candy to their friends who had gone trick-or-treating with us.  And the other three went straight to the kitchen table, upon arriving home, to sift through their stash and gladly brought me the rest.  It was SO easy.

All that makes me so happy inside.
But here is what made me the most proud...

...the past couple of years has been spent focusing on our bodies and the effects that food (and life choices in general) have on our bodies.  The "temple", the "tent" that God has given us.  We talk about how our bodies are supposed to be used to glorify God.  We talk about things that HELP our bodies reach that potential, and things that HINDER our bodies.  What makes our bodies strong and our minds focused and sharp?

We would be naive to think that we could shelter our kids from all the candy and soda and UN-natural things that come along with being a kid (and the birthday parties they go to and the school friends that bring them stuff, or the special things we do as a family...and HALLOWEEN!).  And I kind of appreciate the learning moments when my 9-year-old wakes up at 2am throwing up bright orange Cheetos from over consumption and a lack of self-control (or because he snuck 3 too many bags...ahem...).

So we embrace the teaching moments of poor eating choices and explain WHY the eczema has flared up, and the emotions become unruly and the "freak outs" begin to rear their ugly heads and why the tummy aches until late into the night.  Moderation is key.

And that is why Zeke, my sweet 9-year-old who struggles in a huge way with compulsive behavior and self control, only consumed 5 pieces of candy last night.  FIVE.  (That's less than the lady who calls herself his mama!)  And was the first to hand over his leftovers after picking his five to keep as he told me, "I'm just really seeing what this kind of stuff does to me and I don't like it."

He is learning.
And that makes this whole journey (of keeping our bodies healthy) worth fighting.