30 November 2016

Project Greene Light 5K + Fun Run

It the last day of National Adoption Month and I know I didn't say much about it this year. It goes without saying that we are pro-adoption around here.  We are also pro-family preservation; and pro- foster care; and pro-reunification.  There are so many variables to adoption and the internet has turned into a somewhat ugly place at times, so I stay quiet occasionally when maybe I shouldn't. I feel like I haven't shared enough about Brad's organization this fall as they gear up for their 5k, so I wanted to spend a little time on that today.

There is nothing easy about foster care.  Even the stories that seem neat + tidy began with loss + heartbreak. There are so many facets to it that I would do an injustice if I were to try and explain it all right this minute.  I really just want to explain a bit about what Project Greene Light is doing and help you understand why it is important.  I would love for you to sign-up for the 5k & Fun Run this month.  You can join us locally, or register for a virtual 5K {and then whether you actually run a 5k or not is completely up to you and you still get a cool shirt out of the deal}

PGL {Project Greene Light} is going to open an Emergency Placement Home for children coming into foster care in Russell County.  Currently, when children are brought into foster care they go to the county office or the sheriff's department.  And they wait until a placement can be found. This involves phone calls to open foster homes, and if none are available in-county then the search widens to out-of-county homes.

PGL believes their Emergency Placement Home will be an excellent alternative to the current situation.  Children will come directly to the home.  Hopefully, caseworkers will be able to complete their interviews with the children right in the home, then go back to their office to begin finding the just-right placement.  Meanwhile, the children will be able to play with age appropriate toys, change into clean clothes if they want to, and relax in the family room.  The staff will be able to give the kids as much attention as they need because someone else is making the phone calls to find their placement.

Children will be able to stay in the PGL Emergency Placement Home for up to 30 days.  The home will house 7-10 children.

To illustrate the need, here is a story about sibling boys. Initially, these two little guys were placed with a grandmotherly foster momma.  She loved them well, but they were just "too much" for her.  Within weeks of the placement they needed to move.  A foster momma was called on vacation and asked if she would consider taking them.  She cut her vacation short, hopped in her car to drive home, and called the caseworker to say "don't you dare separate those babies."

I don't doubt for a second that the caseworkers would have done everything in their power to keep those boys together.  Every caseworker that I have met cares deeply about every child in their care.  But the resources are limited, the number of open foster homes is limited, and time is limited.

Sometimes, the foster momma can't cut her vacation short.  Sometimes they just need a few days and then they will be available to receive the placement. Having a safe place like PGL's Emergency Placement Home means more siblings can stay together.  It means more local foster children can stay in-county and attend their same schools.  It means willing foster parents can take a few hours or few days to ready themselves for their coming placement - and in doing so be better able to meet the needs of the kiddos they are welcoming into their homes.

It won't solve every problem and it won't make foster care easy.  But it will serve well as a necessary support for those that are doing the hard work.  Consider being a part of it with us?

Click this link to register here.
Feel free to share this far and wide, registration rates go up tomorrow.

23 November 2016

A to Z Lettering & Lovelies

When my sister and I were in elementary school we played little league softball.  It was evident early on that she was good at softball and I was terrible.  She could hit and throw and catch.  When I was up to bat I prayed the pitcher would throw balls so I could walk.  I almost always struck out.  One year when we chose what we wanted on the back of our jerseys my sister chose "hot dog"  and I chose "A to Z."  I think that was my favorite thing about softball that summer.  I loved that my name started with an A and ended with the letter Z.  {My maiden name is Rosencrantz.}



Fast forward 30+ years and I was trying to decide what to call my hand-lettering business.  I was out for a run weighing things over with God and He reminded me of that little girl that was a terrible softball player.  I smiled, because I felt a bit of God's delight in that moment.  My eyes got teary as acknowledged that my name still starts with an A and stills ends with a Z.


Honestly. I have never really dreamed of being a small business owner.  I am terrible with details and deadlines and fine print. However, over the last year I have been steadily taking orders for custom hand-lettered items.  The most difficult part of the process for me has been setting prices for my pieces so I thought perhaps this etsy store would help solve that problem for me.  I had been cautioned about selling in the state of Alabama without a business license so I applied for one of those.

I continued to drag my feet though.  I started setting things up on etsy, completing all the steps except for one.  Finally, last month I was a day late in reporting my business income for the prior month {which was $0.00 -- in Alabama you report your income monthly, whether you made any sales or not.}  As I filled out the online form I got sick to my stomach when I realized I had to pay a late fee of $50.00.  It was my fault and I didn't have any excuses other than fear.  I felt a little bit like that little girl up to bat, praying for the pitcher to throw a ball.  But it was a strike and I didn't even try to swing the bat.  I knew then that it was time to let this thing fly.



So its out there now.  I am still terrible with details and deadlines and fine print.  But I am going to trust God to grow me and stretch me.  I love to sit down and write, words that inspire or words that challenge, or words that make me giggle.  I love to create a special piece that will be treasured by the recipient.  I will keep carrying around my sketch pads and my pencil pouch and doodle in waiting rooms. I will ask God to guide me and give myself grace when I make mistakes.  I will be giddy when I make a sale and be so grateful for those of you that delight in my art.

You can check out my shop here.  When I add new items, I will share them on social media.



03 September 2016

Preparing a Table

"You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever." Psalm 23:5-6


A new school year is always a time of reflection for me.  And this year, the time for reflecting has been unfolding slowly.  I have felt rushed and stretched more than ever, which has been surprising because its the first time that all four boys are in school all day.  I've been hustling and reaching my goals for each day, but its felt pretty hallow and instead of feeling accomplished I have been left feeling frantic.  My soul was not made to make lists and crush goals.  I crave quiet and creativity.  If I forget to leave space for those things, it doesn't matter how many things I mark off of my to-do-list, I will still feel incredibly empty at the end of the day.  I know this about myself, yet I forget.   Or I think "its a new season, maybe it'll be different."  But no matter the season, my wiring remains true.  

So this week, I didn't go to any group fitness classes.  I went for long walks with a few soul-feeding podcasts, and I made time to sit and read.  I let myself doodle without an end-product in mind.  

Not surprisingly, I felt less frantic, less stretched.  God meets me in those quiet, creative places and I miss Him when I don't remember to slow down.  I had this vision of sorts, of Him setting a table before me.  With the boys all in school, its as if the table has been completely cleared.  And everyone has asked me "what will you do now that they are all in school?"  So I kept trying to figure out what to pile up on this table.  I felt an urgency to have a satisfactory answer for how I fill my time.   

And, finally, this week God said, "Let me set the table.  Trust me to put what is best before you.  Just stay at your seat, don't grasp, don't hustle.  Just wait for me."  



If I am honest, the things He is setting before me aren't necessarily the things I expected.  It reminds me of when the boys come in before dinner to set the table and they ask, "plates or bowls?"  My answer will give them a hint about what we are going to eat but they don't know fully yet.  

I don't know fully yet either.  So I am trying to just sit before the table and allow Him to set it before me.  I need to trust Him to prepare this table before me -- in the presence of my enemies.  And I realized sometimes, "my enemies" are inside my own head. This week I have felt a clear call to find my voice again, to write down my words; and that sends me to a familiar place of self-doubt.  A place where questions begin with "why would you think your words matter?"  "what do you have to say that hasn't been said?" 

I also began a part-time job at our church in the spring.  This is certainly not something I sought out for myself.  I have all kinds of doubts about whether I am able to do this job well and take care of the needs of my family everyday.  My inner dialogue continually berates me for not being more organized and more driven.  Yet, when I look back on how this job came to me its obvious that God chose it for me.  So I need to trust that He has a plan for me in this position for this time.  I need to trust that He has prepared this table before me and I can tell those inner enemy-voices to shush it. 

I certainly do not have it all figured out after a week with less hustle.  I do have a renewed hope that God is able to accomplish what He desires in my life and that He is able to do it in ways that I can't predict. I feel less pressure to get it all done and more peace to trust that He can make a way.  I have less guilt about building quiet and creative time into my day.

06 May 2016

on turning forty

It's true, I am turning 40.  And I am surprisingly OK with that.  Although its taken some time to get here.

When I was younger, I thought 40 was so old.  {Didn't we all think that when we were younger?}  I thought by the time you turn 40 you have your whole life figured out.  And as I got closer and closer, year by year, I thought "Dang! I do not have my life figured out, I cannot be approaching 40."

But over the last few years there has been a subtle relenting of that idea of a "figured-out life."  I am more at peace now with what I don't know.

My understanding of God and the sovereignty of His ways has dwindled.  I have accepted that He is so far beyond me that it is lunacy to ever believe I could have him figured out.  And this acceptance has brought floods of peace in the midst of dark days + swirling questions.  I don't have to figure Him out, I don't have to explain away His motives, I only need to walk with Him.  I only need His presence, not His reasons. I've come to Him angry and broken and disillusioned and every time He has met me in that place and His presence has been enough.  When He hasn't given answers, or changed circumstances; He has proven faithful anyway and it is enough.  More often than not, I lay down my questions and sit quietly with Him.  It is a tender place to be, and my younger self wasn't quite humble enough to be comfortable there.


Mothering has been a place of challenge and joy and laughter and tears.  I gained three more boys in this last decade of life.  I think for sure, I thought 40-year-old mothers had the gig all nailed down.  Turns out, I am still learning.  And I recognize that I will continue learning how to mother my whole life long.  I use to think that mothering should look a certain way, but now I know every mother emerges differently.  We are a spicy family and I have let go of the dream of "precious" ever being a descriptor for the way I mother.  I love who my boys are growing into.  I appreciate the gift it is to see them grow.  I try to savor the moments, I really do. If I am being honest, certain moments are harder to savor than others.  For example, some nights I sit and watch "Dr Who" with The Biggest simply because I know someday he won't want to sit and watch anything with me. {Full disclosure, some nights I sew instead because I can't even with all the alien things on that show.}

In many ways I feel a contentment with 40 that I didn't anticipate.  Sure, I am still a little mad that my metabolism has finally made it obvious that I cannot eat junk all day and get away with it.  And yes, there are gray hairs here and there that refuse to be hidden. [I don't mind really though, because my much younger husband still has a few more grays than I do.]  {Thank you, Jesus, for your tender gifts.} I love this life that God has granted me.  I like the way He has made me, and the intentional way in which He calls me to Himself.  I am confident that He will continue to lead me in the way that He has designed for me and I no longer feel responsible to map things out for Him.  Its much more relaxed this way.  He has blessed me with a husband that loves well and listens long.  He has given me these four amazing boys that are such a crucial part of His redemptive work in my life.  I have friends that pour Truth into me. And sisters that have accepted that I am the worst when it comes to phone calls. I am so loved, by God, by my family; and I know it -- which is a treasure in itself.   It would be madness to not be content here.  So bring it 40, I'm mostly ready.

26 February 2016

birthday boys!

Once upon a time I was pretty good at math.  But right now, I can't for the life of me figure out how it's possible that y'all are FIVE.  I mean, really.

You continue to be some of the most absurdly adorable kids around.  And I am not even close to the only person that thinks that - although I might think it the most because I am your momma.  Just today, the lady at the front desk at the YMCA gave me bubbles to bring home for y'all.  She was so disappointed that you weren't with me. We never go to the commissary without someone wanting to catch up with y'all. I am not saying y'all are perfect, because we know that is not true.  But you sure do bring some delight with you wherever you go, and you spread it around to anyone that is looking for some. 


 Franklin you are a mastermind.  You are constantly thinking.  Sometimes you are trying to figure out wht is for dessert so you know how to approach dinner.  Other times you are wondering about why the wisemen brought Jesus "Franklincense."  You ask a lot of questions about how things work and why things happen the way they do.

You love to help.  Recently you've shown interest in wiping off the table after dinner, and I know Walker is hoping you'll end up taking the job over for him.  You are usually the first to volunteer if Daddy or I ask for help with something, and you generally like to finish a job once you've started -- unless its picking up your own bedroom.

You love your brothers quite fiercely and you'd take their side over anyone else's almost every time.  You really love spending time with your big brothers in their bedrooms.  Its a rare treat for you and its adorable how much you like it.   You like to win, but you don't want to work for it.  We are hoping maybe the feeling of winning will eventually be a motivator for you.








You still love the sweets better than just about anybody else in our family {possibly the world.}  You can still eat them faster than anybody else too.










Lincoln, son you are so sensitive.  And not sensitive in the "oh that hurt my feelings" sort of way, but in the way that means you feel things down deep.  And not only do you feel them, you think about them -- for a long time.  You ask hard questions and you are patient with me when I struggle to give you an answer that satisfies you.  When I had some sad, sad days you would sit close to me to make sure I was OK.  You love your family, and not just the ones that live here.  You love your WHOLE family and you make big plans about us getting ALL together.  You often ask if we are going to "meme's house" or "yaya's house" or "grandma's house" and you never seem quite happy with the answer when we tell you its far far away. 

You are a defender of justice, in big and small ways.  If Franklin doesn't get a treat, you'll split yours in half.  If Wilson shoves Walker you'll run at him full-steam ahead to retaliate.  You like things fair and predictable; which isn't always practical here on earth.  You are pretty fearless most of the time.  You try new things and meet new people.  You are especially brave when Daddy is by your side. 

 You two are absolutely unique in the way God made you.  People still occasionally ask me "which is the bad one?"  This question always makes me wonder What On Earth?  But I almost always answer "depends on the day."  {And honestly, some days my answer should be "me."}


 Occasionaly you "trade" personality traits.  Like in the pictures above, Franklin is being silly in the first one and Lincoln is in the 2nd.  You refuse to be labeled and we don't mind a bit.  We love you both so very much.  Its fun to see you get bigger even when we tell you to stop growing so fast.  You are stuck with us forever and always no matter what.


24 February 2016

honor your pace

So I have carried this post around in my head for weeks.  And I have hesitated to type it up because I didn't want to write another post about running.  Truthfully, its not r-e-a-l-l-y about running, but the half-marathon is the backdrop.  I hope you'll hang with me even if running is the last thing on your agenda.  Ever.  Because I learned something humbling from this half-marathon + I think it might encourage you with whatever goals you set.  

As you know I set out to run a half-marathon in November, I printed a 12 week training plan and followed it pretty closely.  Then 10 weeks in to the training, I got weird + panicky and felt like I should set a finish-time-goal.  As if somehow running 13.1 miles all at once, for the first time ever was not a clear enough goal for myself.  

On race day, I completed my 13.1 miles.  Honestly, it was mostly magical.  Brad snapped this picture as I crossed the finish line.  You can see I was happy.


But this really weird thing happened when I found out my time.  I was a 1 minute 34 seconds behind my goal of finishing in 2 hours + 30 minutes.  And it really bothered me.  So much so that I told nearly everyone that asked me about the half.  This disappointment colored the whole experience.

Its weird to think that I ran 13.1 miles and ended up mad about a minute and thirty-four seconds.  Its like it wasn't good enough.  It got pretty awkward inside my head.  When I reflected on my run, it was so great, lots of joy.  Yet when I thought about my finish time, there was discontent.  I wanted to just move on from it, but God kept urging me to explore this space between the joy + the discontent.

As I prayed, this phrase about 'running well' kept coming to mind.  I knew it was a verse but didn't know where, and I wanted to find the context.

"You were running well.  Who prevented you from obeying the Truth?  This persuasion did not come from the One who calls you."  Galatians 5:7-8 HCSB

In reality, my novice half-marathon training plan didn't have any goal times or speed work. All along I just ran at a pace that was comfortable for me.  My goal was to run a half-marathon, but as race day approached I decided the goal should be to run a half-marathon in under 2 hours + 30 minutes.  It was a mistake.  I only added to the original goal because I thought "all the other runners" had finish-goal-times, and I should too.

As I reflected on this, I realized that we do this kind of thing ALL THE TIME in all different sorts of ways. We add to our goals to somehow make them more measurable -- a way to make ourselves measure up. At times, we even allow the enemy to influence these decisions.

Perhaps we set the goal that we want to eat dinner at home more frequently, so we make the meal plan and the grocery list and we cook three nights in a row.  Maybe the fourth night the brown rice is crunchy and kind of gross.  Rather than celebrate the first three nights, we focus on that dumb rice.  The goal was eating at home more frequently, but then we decide after-the-fact that the goal should've been to cook perfect meals every night.  And our joy withers.

Or maybe we branch out and launch a crafting group.  We plan the activity, we gather supplies, we invite some friends, we set the time.  And two people come.  Rather than celebrate that we took a brave step to host a craft group we feel badly that there were only two people.  The goal was the crafting group, but after-the-fact we decided that goal should've been 7 people showing up.  And we feel a little embarrassed.

We decide that we'll get all caught up on laundry Friday.  As each load finishes, we fold and put away, all day we are ON IT.  Then the littles wake up early from their naps.  So the last load stays in piles all over your bed until you are ready to fall into it at 10 pm.  {Look, 10 pm is late for me!} Rather than celebrate that the hamper is empty we fuss because we should've remembered to finish that load before 10pm.  And we get crabby.

Here's the thing, there isn't anything wrong with setting goals.  And its even OK to set specific, measurable goals.  The problem is when we should ourselves. We edit our goals in a way that leads to discontent even if we accomplish our original goal.  Perhaps the edits would be excellent in shaping our goals for the future, but setting that bar too high, too late can cause us to be hesitant to try again.

So let's stop.


Let's honor our own pace.  Let's accomplish the goals God has set before us, and not be distracted by the goals of those around us. Let's consider what He has called us to, and ask Him how we can bring Him the most glory in getting it done.  Let's stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and look at what He has done.  Let's celebrate the goals we reach as we adjust to reach further. Let's stop shoulding ourselves into places of discontent. Let's kick the joy-stealers to the curb and keep on running well.

17 January 2016

Raising Grateful Kids



Today I am participating in a "blog hop."  Truthfully, I am not exactly sure what that means, but I do know that I am writing about Raising Grateful Kids In An Entitled World by Kristen Welch.  I have had the privilege of reading this book as part of the launch team.  And y'all are going to love this book.  For real.

Because, you know what?  It is hard to raise grateful kids in an entitled world.  And sometimes it feels awkward and lonely and unattainable.  Am I right?

This book has been such a good read; it has challenged me, encouraged me, and reminded me that we are not in this alone.  {You can go pre-order it here.}


While I feel that our boys are a pretty grateful bunch, I can see how it has been a hard fight to get here at times.  And I know without a doubt that it is an ongoing battle.

Beyond question, I feel our family has an advantage when it comes to being grateful because of our time as a military family.  Its hard to take simple things for granted when you go without them for long stretches of time.  A daddy reading bedtime stories before bed is priceless.  Visiting with extended family after being far away for so long cannot be undervalued.  Realizing God has brought you lifelong friends in a short period of time is a gift beyond measure.  Truly, our family gained so much perspective while living that life. I pray that the gratitude we learned there will always be woven into our family story.


Obviously, our involvement with the foster care community has given us a perspective that helps guide our boys toward gratitude as well.  Our older boys have been able to volunteer in the clothing closet and at Brad's work sorting donations for foster kiddos.  This has opened the door for so many conversations about children in difficult situtions. {And about why people donate junk, but that will be a separate blog post.} Being aware that there are kiddos in our own community that wish for nothing more than a family is a reality check for any child. While we do our best to not lay anything too heavy on our boys, and we try to keep our conversations age-approriate, we do not sugar coat the truth.


Even with these built-in perspective boosters, gratefulness is sometimes elusive.  We have to work for it.  And the work starts with Brad and I.   If we aren't grateful, our children won't be either. I love this quote from Kristen's book:



Through the book, at the end of each chapter, Kristen provides a "Going Against the Flow" list broken down by age group: parents, toddlers/preschoolers, elementary, tweens/teens.  I appreciate this because it helps me take inventory of how we are doing and gives me ideas for what we could try.  It is written in a way that gives guidance without condemnation.  I think these segments will be a blessing to each person that reads the book.  I have already found some suggestions that I would like to add in to our routine.

Here are a few practical things we do as a family to intentionally build gratitude and fight entitlement.

  1. We talk about God's goodness to us. A lot. Especially this past year as we bore witness to heavy grief.
  2. Our kids get an allowance each pay-period.  Sometimes when we are out + about they will ask for a treat, and I reply, "did you bring your wallet?"  This doesn't mean we don't get occasional treats, but it provides an instant check for the older boys to determine if they want to spend their own money on that milkshake.
  3. We sponsor a child through Compassion International. This is an easy way to inform your children about what life is like for kiddos around the world, and make a difference for a child in Jesus' name. 
  4. We have scaled back on gifts.  Our kids know they get three presents from us at Christmas and the older boys know our budget for gifts too {they've overheard me talk about it before.} This takes the pressure off of us as parents and lowers their expectations too.  A lot of these types of decisions bloomed during our journey to become debt-free.
  5. We read a chapter from Proverbs together every morning at breakfast.  We re-read it every month.  Its a simple way to remind us daily that Scripture holds truth for our daily lives. We each pick which verse we 'like' best each morning. This is a simple ritual that has become so dear.
Do not be fooled, we get this wrong all the time.  That's part of why I like this book so much.  Every stage of parenting holds new challenges and our culture is constantly changing.  Its important to remember that Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World isn't something we have to do alone.  We have a faithful Father that guides us toward gratitude. Its not hard to find a verse in scripture reminding us to be grateful.
 "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1 {NIV}

I think it is certainly something that gets easier with practice and with prayer.  If we continually seek His word, seek His guidance, and follow Him; we will find Him trustworthy and we'll be ever grateful.  Our gratitude will spill over to our children and Lord-willing they will be grateful too.

Click on these links to read more about what gratitude looks like in other families too!

Inspiring an Attitude of Gratitude - by Alison Rasisng Grateful Kids - by amanda Why You Can't Buy Gratitude At The Dollar Store - by Andrea Missing - Gratefulness in our home - by Ange Choosing Gratitude - by Angela Gratefullness - by chaley 5 Steps to Gratitude-Fille Family - by Christa Practicing Grateful Parenting - by Dana Sing a Song - by Hannah Cultivating gratitude in our family - by Jamie Gratefulness In Our Home - by Jana Gratefulness In Our Home - by Jana Let It Begin With Me - by Jen Choosing Gratefulness - by Jennifer Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World - The Book - by jeri Eradicating Entitlement - What are you rooted in? - by Jessica Gratefulness in our home - by Kate The Problem With Entitlement is that it begins with us - by Katelyn 7 Unusual Ways I Know How to Be Grateful - by Kathryn Raising Grateful Kids - by Keri How My Children Remind Me to Pray with Gratitude - by Kishona Grateful - by Kristy Entitlement: The Ugly Truth of a Beautiful Lie - by Leigha The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Raise Grateful Kids - by Lindsey Dear Son: How Do I Teach You To Be Grateful Without Guilt? - by Marie Osborne Gratitude, A Practical Definition - by Mia Cultivating Gratitude in Our Home - by Nancy Learning Gratitude through Chronic Illness - by Rachel Being Grateful - by Rebecca I've Found Something I Can't Live Without - by Sarah The Power of Naming our Gifts - by Sarah Outfitted - by Sarah Jo Growing Gratitude in our Family - by Sondra Teaching Gratefulness - by Stephanie How Grateful Looks From Here - by Alison Fighting Entitlement in Children and All of us - by Leah Entitlement Problem - by Karrie Grateful Today - by Krystal