Category Archives: This is Our Life

Just Like His Daddy

Nine. 

Seriously, how could he be nine?

Our sweet Levi Sebastian was born in Penang, Malaysia, and welcomed home at two days old to a dorm full of international students and two very young siblings (Alaina had just turned three and Caleb was not yet two).

It’s hard to put into words this little guy. He has been amazing from the moment he was born. He is sweet, funny, sensitive, loves to laugh, goofy, and full of sweet cuddles. He has never gone through a hard stage (in fact, a few years ago, we were at the zoo and he disobeyed me and I told Jason we should take him to the doctor because it was that far out of character for him).

I think the reason I am so smitten with him is he is just like his daddy. He is Jason in a little boy’s body. They are so similar that I can fully imagine what Jason was like as a child. The two were cut from the same cloth.

I am so thankful for his tender heart. I love the way he loves to play with his younger siblings. I love to watch him love to cook and take pictures (so I guess he got a few things from me!)  He loves to play any and all sports and he loves to joke around. He likes games of any kind and he loves puzzles (just like his dad).

To my sweet Levi Sebastian..I love you far more than words could ever express. You are such a joy in our lives and I look forward to seeing the man you will become. If you really are like your dad, I know you’ll be an amazing man and an incredible husband and father.

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Our Beppy Girl

 

Our sweet Beppy girl is FOUR! She has been waiting so long. The last eleven days (since Katie’s birthday) have been especially difficult. “Your birthday is next” meant “the very next day” in her little heart, and we had a lot of tears to wipe the morning after Katie’s birthday when we informed her that she still had ten more days to wait.

I love this girl. There is a love that is so deep, so fierce. Of course I love all of my kids, but this girl has a special place in my heart. First, she is the only of my children to make an appearance early (six days early, bless her heart!) That in and of itself awards her favorite child status. But more than that, we share a love language. We both speak and listen in words of affirmation.

I have never met a child like this girl. Ever since she was about ten months old and could sign, she has been saying please and thank you without being prompted. She hasn’t changed since. She is quick to offer affirming words at any and all occasions. Regularly she throws her arms around me and says, “I so very love you.” When dad brought her to see the toy kitchen we gave her this morning, she ran to him and said, “You’re the best dad ever!” This morning when I was making her cake, she said with all seriousness, “I’m so sorry.” “For what?” I asked. “For not being able to stay three forever.” (She knows I LOVE THREE).

Bethany Noelle is such a blessing to our family. I can’t wait to see what God does with her amazing personality. I know it’s going to be huge!

 

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Seven

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Our sweet Katie is seven. SEVEN.

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Most of the time, time passes and I wonder where it all went. It usually seems as if it goes so fast. But with Katie, I can’t say that. The beginning of her life marked the beginning of so much of mine that I find it hard to believe all that has happened in seven short years.

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When Katie was three weeks old, we found out that we were unexpectedly leaving our job in Florida. We had no idea where we were going to go. The next month was filled with a lot of anxiety as we wondered about life with four kids age five and under with no job, no house, no insurance, no ideas.  But God…I love that most of my stories have a “but God” phrase where His amazing power gets all the glory.

But God had plans for us, plans we knew nothing of, plans that would give us breath and life. This post is about Katie, though, so I won’t go into all that moving to Indonesia did for me, for our family, or about how the grief of missing it is so thick right now.

I can’t help think of Indonesia, though, when I think of our sweet Katie. At four months, we moved to the island of Java, and while there we have watched her grow into this sweet, crazy, selfie-obsessed freckle-faced girl. She keeps us laughing, she keeps us guessing, and she keeps us in awe of God’s creativity in creating her.

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The Everglades, Part Two

Other than my time in the Word, I feel closest to God when I am in nature. I absolutely cannot look at the incredible beauty that surrounds me and at the same time question God’s great love. He created everything in nature for us to enjoy and for Him to receive glory. I love what it says in Genesis 2:

“Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food…” (verse 9, emphasis mine).

He made nature for us to enjoy. When I am outside, and I see the tiny details He paid attention to…the way a spider weaves its web, the order of a leaf’s veins, the tiniest critters most people miss, I am overwhelmed. I stand in awe. Often, I walk and I giggle as I see God’s creation before me. He loves us that much!

We love to walk. We love to open our eyes and LOOK. When we were in the Everglades, I tried to get out and walk as much as I could. The mosquitos were really bad, so it was hard to do many of the trails, but I still got out every day. I filled my soul. I watched the birds and the bugs and I let my heart feel God’s great love.

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The Everglades, Part One

Back in December, when I first started struggling, I knew that the cold and lack of sunlight were a huge problem for me. After living so many years near the equator, we’re used to year ’round sun and year ’round warm temps. Being stuck inside the last few months has been very difficult for me, and even though I’ve been taking my vitamin D and have been using a sunlamp, I knew I needed more. Plus, I know that for our family, getting away is our means of pressing the reset button. We needed it.

We have some family in Tampa and some friends in Orlando and with the need for sun and fresh air, we headed south. After a few days in Tampa we headed down to Everglades National Park. This is the best time of the year to go and so I knew it was now or never. We voted for now.

We spent four days in the part completely unplugged. We camped in our tent, we had no electricity, and we had no cell service or internet connection. It was bliss. If it weren’t for the killer mosquitos (which apparently were in their “bearable” season), it would have been perfection.

I LOVE camping. It’s not that I really love roughing it or being without electricity. It’s not that eight people in a tent is always easy or fun. But what I love about camping is that it strips all the extra stuff away. I don’t worry about doing laundry. I don’t worry about cleaning up. I don’t worry about checking email. I don’t put on makeup and I often don’t even bother changing clothes. When all of those little tasks are taken away, you are just left with time. Time to read, time to play, time to sleep, and time to talk. We did all of those things.

I read five books. We played a lot of football. We went to ranger talks. We stared at the stars. We ate s’mores and chatted with new friends. We earned five new junior ranger badges. We went on a backwater tour and we watched lots of birds. It was a beautiful time together and I kept saying one morning, “I finally feel like I can breathe.”

Here is the first installment of our photos…life around the campsite. Tomorrow I’ll share photos of my walks and birdwatching times and then on Wednesday I’ll share photos of the most popular trail in the park. Lots of gators!

It feels good to play with my camera again!

Kite flying

Kite flying

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First family football game. The girls and dad huddle up.

First family football game. The girls and dad huddle up.

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Snoozing and snuggles in the tent.

Snoozing and snuggles in the tent.

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Zachary thinks washing dishes is overrated. Why not use the tub as a pool instead?

Zachary thinks washing dishes is overrated. Why not use the tub as a pool instead?

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Love these goofy kids!

Love these goofy kids!

Mom can be goofy too.

Mom can be goofy too.

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Hot french toast

Hot french toast

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Catching butterflies

Catching butterflies

There were butterflies EVERYWHERE. It was so fun to run trough fields and be surrounded.

There were butterflies EVERYWHERE. It was so fun to run trough fields and be surrounded.

Working on her Junior Ranger badge.

Working on her Junior Ranger badge.

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A Merry Little Christmas

Although I wasn’t feeling well, it was very important to me that I be present for Christmas. I spent a lot of time praying that I would be well enough to be with the kids and have fun. I didn’t want this to be “the year mom ruined Christmas.” Even in my struggles, I am very careful with my words and attitudes toward the kids. They are precious to me and every time I speak to them, even in discipline or training, I want them to know deeply that they are loved and valued. So much is communicated through tone of voice! When mothers are fighting their own struggles, it’s easy to let the kids take the brunt of it. But their little hearts are just too precious for that. I promised myself that if I couldn’t be kind and gentle in my words, I excused myself and went to my room.

Thankfully, the Lord answered my prayers and although physically I wasn’t doing well, I was able to be mentally present enough to enjoy our Christmas traditions such as decorating cookies, making our spaghetti Christmas Eve dinner, making Thai Mango Sticky Rice for Christmas breakfast, and getting through a long day of opening and enjoying gifts. We had a wonderful turkey dinner in there too. I am thankful that I don’t think the kids will have any memories of me being sick this year. Instead, they will remember happy times as a family and with grandparents and what is probably the biggest Christmas they have ever (or will ever) have.

And just a note on the gifts. There were a lot this year. Part of it is simply having six kids. Part of it is that for the first time in many years, Jason and I exchanged gifts. We have spent the last three years in transition and therefore say  no to the kids (and ourselves) all the time. We don’t want to buy stuff that we can’t take with us. And while that is still true, we expect to be in one place for a bit longer this time and so this was the year we said yes. Our kids are the most grateful and loving kids and they have never complained when we didn’t have money to buy much or when we don’t purchase things through the year. Christmas and their birthdays are the only time we buy them things. It was fun to indulge them a bit this year. When they have grateful hearts, it is so fun to surprise them with abundance.  I wonder if this is how God feels too.

And now for the pictures.

CHRISTMAS EVE

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CHRISTMAS DAY

Launching the water bottle rocket

Launching the water bottle rocket

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Real live baby dolls

Real live baby dolls

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They are trying to wait patiently.

They are trying to wait patiently.

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These two were up earlier than everyone else.

These two were up earlier than everyone else.

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Someone isn't happy to have to wait to open gifts.

Someone isn’t happy to have to wait to open gifts.

Sticky Rice!

Sticky Rice!

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New airplanes

New airplanes

A taste of the chaos

A taste of the chaos

Grandpa helping Zach with his trains

Grandpa helping Zach with his trains

Through Their Eyes

Last week, as I watched the weather forecast predict plummeting temperatures in the near future, I decided to take the kids out for what might be one of the last nice days of fall. I had just done a senior shoot the day before and the senior’s mom had recommended visiting Duke Gardens as a potential photo location in the future. I decided I should check it out before I go into hibernation.

One of my old cameras is still in fairly decent shape and I love to let the kids use it. We affectionately call it the “kid camera.” It’s a DSLR, and I love that the individual kids can use it on a setting they are comfortable with. Some use it an auto, some on a semi-auto mode and Alaina, my oldest, loves to practice shooting in manual. It’s fun for me to see them get excited about something I love so much. Even more so, however, I love to see the world through their eyes. Photography has done amazing things in my life. Primarily, it has taught me to be thankful. When you look at the world in front of you and stop long enough to see the beauty, gratitude grows. And gratitude is something I want to pass on to my kids. The world is filled with so much goodness, so much beauty, so many gifts from the Lord. Unfortunately, most people are too busy to even notice. Seeing, stopping, clicking: It makes the heart swell.

As I downloaded their images, I couldn’t help but smile at how they see the world. It was even more fun to try to guess who took each photo (they took turns for the afternoon). When I see the things that excite them enough to capture it on the camera, it gives me insight into who they are and what they find beautiful. And I hope when they look through my photos of their childhood, they will learn about what I find beautiful.

All images taken by Alaina (11), Caleb (10), Levi (8) and Katie (6) and edited by me.

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I Don’t Know How You Do It

I Don't Know How You Do It

I hear it often: “I don’t know how you do it.”

I hear it almost as often as “Oh, you’ve got your hands full.”

In this 28 minute audio post, I share my thoughts on the comment and what I share with those who make it.

Please excuse my still-raspy voice and the occasional sniffle. I think my body is revolting against the temperatures that drop below 50˚. Living near the equator for years will do that to you.

 

As always, you can listen to it here or download below.


To Be Your Mama

To Be Your Mama

“I’m so glad I get to be your mama.”

It’s a phrase I use often. It’s true. It’s intentional.

Of the things I want most for my children, nearing the top of the list is a feeling — a knowledge — that they are delighted in. That they loved, that they are cherished.

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“Preparing the Soil” wasn’t a name pulled out of nowhere. When I read the parable of the sower with fresh eyes and realized that the seed thrown (the Word) was the same in each of the four stories, I sat staring…realizing even more the incredible power in parenting.

We can throw the Word at our children. We can bring them to church, put them in Christian schools or teach Christian curriculum at home, we can buy them Christian books, send them to Christian camps, and pray for Christian friends.

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But if their hearts (the soil) has not been tended to and is not ready to receive the truth of the gospel’s great love and freedom, our attempts at growing our children up in the Lord will be in vain.

A farmer tends his soil. He waters it. He plows it. He prepares it. Before the first seed is planted, the ground is made ready to receive.

In the same way, we must tend to our children’s hearts.

“I’m so glad I get to be your mama.”

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I say it with words. I say it with actions. I say it with the things I say yes to and the things I say no to. I say it with the food I make, the trips we take, the choices we make. I say it with the tone of my voice and the feel of my touch.

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“You are loved. You are delighted in. You are a blessing in my life. You are not a distraction or a hindrance to my life. You are part of the abundant life God has given me and I’m so glad I get to be your mama.”

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Our Week in Photos (Sept 27 – Oct 4)

Life around here is busy. We’re in a state of transition (and will be for a long time) and there are a lot of issues to sort out and decisions to make. I’ll admit, it’s tough. The stress builds up. The emotions run high. I’ll even have an audio post on it tomorrow. But in the midst of the stress and decisions, we are aiming for a sense of routine. Of normal. Of us.

“US” means school, and baking, and playing, and reading, and resting. I want to remember these little moments because I know that one day when I look back on this time in our life, the little moments will be what matters.

She follows directions well

She follows directions well

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Some extra sight word practice for the boys...terms they find in math and get stuck on.

Some extra sight word practice for the boys…terms they find in math and get stuck on.

Almond Joy pancakes. One of my faves!

Almond Joy pancakes. One of my faves!

A family favorite...pizza rolls.

A family favorite…pizza rolls.

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Big brother and little brother, playing with cars.

Big brother and little brother, playing with cars.

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Happy homeschooler (at least for this week...usually she doesn't like doing school.)

Happy homeschooler (at least for this week…usually she doesn’t like doing school.)

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She trying a new method of curling.

She tried a new method of curling.

Off to their monthly Home Depot Saturday!

Off to their monthly Home Depot Saturday!

Alaina's beautiful cake

The beautiful cake Alaina made

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My newest little baker

My newest little baker

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Apple cider cupcakes...mmmm!

Apple cider cupcakes…mmmm!

Bethany loves doing what she calls 'gool.

Bethany loves doing what she calls ‘gool.

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