12 January 2017

today

We have a poster-sized frame near our front door.  Its right above the very first piece of furniture Brad and I bought - an oak phone stand.  On the phone stand sits a typewriter that belonged to my Grandpa Lewis, he was a collector.  I scribbled "write your story" on a piece of paper and put it on that typewriter.  I had received a poster in a Causebox awhile back and that frame fit will in the space so it worked.  Last Christmas I wanted to letter something Christmas-y for the it so I did.


 I feel like its a bit amateur-ish but I love that song and I believe those words, so it came back out this Christmas too.  Last week, I decided I wanted to put something else in the frame as we started the new year.  I wanted a message for the boys as they went out the door.  {And maybe a message for me as well.}  I did what I always do when I am on the hunt for a new idea.  I went to Pinterest.  I searched "entry way signs."  I couldn't find anything with the right words though.

That night I couldn't sleep.  I found out the hard way that frozen coke has almost the same amount of caffeine as unfrozen coke.  Sleep is often elusive for me, and it takes very little to nudge me toward the wide-awake side of the spectrum.  I thought through my Facebook feed and wondered if I had forgotten to pray for anyone, so I prayed again for all the things I could remember that I said I would pray for.  Then I started thinking about that entryway sign.  I knew I didn't want it to be cutesy, but didn't necessarily want it to be dramatic either.  Sometime in the wide-awake-middle-of-the-night God reminded me that I could just write my own words for our boys.

So Wednesday morning, the last day of our glorious Christmas break, I started writing some words out after Brad left for work.  I prayed for guidance, but it wasn't a long or elaborate prayer.  I settled on something I thought might be just right + began sketching out how I might space it on the paper.

As the boys voices grew louder outside my bedroom, I knew my lettering time was ending for now. I left my papers and pencils and pens on my table and wandered into the house to see what the boys were doing.  I don't remember many details, normal stuff, I guess. When Brad came home around lunch time, he didn't feel well.  He had chest pain, and didn't feel right.  He mentioned that the flu was going around in Georgia + Alabama. He had chest pain the day before too, so it was a bit concerning.  I thought he had a respiratory infection or something.  He couldn't get an appointment at our clinic so they told him to go to the ER.

Sometime later, after the text that said he was done with triage came a text that said his EKG was fine. I was relieved, and also grateful that perhaps the chest pain complaint would get him in and out of the ER quicker.  Eventually the texts told me about the labs they were running and what not.  In a round about way he mentioned that he had an IV and that they had given him nitro and aspirin as a precaution as soon as he arrived.  The next text said, "they are admitting me".  And then there is a whole string of back and forth texts. Brad confessed that he thought it was going to be heartburn and I replied that I surely would have gone with him if I had known.  I wondered what to do.

Its now late afternoon on the day before the boys return to school after 20 days off.  I decide nobody would go to bed on time if I left right then. I sent some messages out to framily.  I called my parents, each phone call a new opportunity for me to burst into tears, while my mom + dad had to endure awkward silence until I could get a word out. I told Wilson, as chill as possible, and asked him not to tell his brothers just yet.  I tried to take deep breaths and prayed for Brad.  And then I saw my papers and pencils and pens all laying out on my table.

I read the words I had written that morning.

"Today, you'll walk out that door and it might be amazing, or it might be horrible, quite possibly something inbetween, we can't know for sure.  But we know the Maker of every day.  He is Good, He is Kind. He is True. And He has prepared YOU for this very day.  He goes before you.  He is with you.  Seek Him. Love well. Give grace. Spread hope.  He will lead you home."

I would have never guessed that Brad would be in the hospital later that day.

But God knew what this day would hold.  He knew it when I looked on Pinterest for an entryway sign.  He knew it when I was wide awake the night before.  He knew it when I sat down to write some words that morning.  I saw those words.  And peace rushed over.  Of course, by this time, we had a lot of people praying for us too.  I knew I didn't need to panic.  I knew He was with me. I texted this picture to Brad.

By the time I was able to get to the hospital to see Brad that night, we were pretty sure that all was well.  They continued labs overnight and every test indicated that his heart was fine.  He was released the next day. This week he followed up with his primary care manager and he is starting some meds to help lower both cholesterol and blood pressure.

We've all eased back into our daytime schedules and I was able to finish up this print.  I had to wait longer than I wanted to have it printed, but I think it was worth it. I was so excited to get it up on the wall.  I was hoping it would match with the colors in our living room -- bonus points because it looks pretty good with my Grandpa's typewriter.


And while I liked the words that morning when I wrote them, they are even more special to me now.  I am grateful for the way God revealed His faithfulness through this hard day, and the reminder that He will carry us through each day.  Amazing or horrible or something inbetween.

P.S. I will likely add this to my etsy shop in the next week.  I am finishing up a custom order before I do any other etsy work.

15 December 2016

welcoming

"is wishing I could give my husband a hug."

That was my facebook status 8 years ago today...back when you updated your status in some sort of first-person sentence or some such. It pops up in my timehop each year now, reminding me of the day that Brad's Aunt Linda passed away. He was deployed, we were in Oklahoma and our family was in Michigan.  I wished more than anything that I could give him a hug that evening.

It has become a habit to spend some time thinking about her on this day, remembering the moments I had with her.  We didn't have a long history and we didn't spend many occasions together.  But the time with her lodged deep within and I carry it with me.

I admired that she was a creative; how she embraced her art and shared it well.  I felt I could have asked her a billion questions about all of it, but I never did.  I hope I told her that I adored her work.

a lampshade Aunt Linda painted, it brightens my workspace
Beyond her creativity though, was an inner warmth that drew you in.  I will never forget a particular time when she encouraged me so deeply.  We were at a family wedding, Brad was deployed.  I was there in all my social awkwardness. As we entered the reception after a few family photos, I felt alone and on edge.  The immediate family was all in the bridal party so they were all seated together on stage. My in-laws were occupied with parents-of-the-groom things and I didn't even know where to sit with my boys.  I sat nervously at a table by myself with Wilson - The Non-eater; and Walker - The Unpredictable. Aunt Linda and Uncle David came up, and Aunt Linda graciously asked if anyone was sitting there. The way she phrased the question allowed me to invite them to join me without it seeming like I was a loner. When they sat with me, others joined us soon after. As the meal got under way, I wondered if somehow Wilson's lack of appetite or Walker's lack of table manners would be off-putting to Aunt Linda and Uncle David.  I was a bit of a sweaty-wreck over it.  They had five well-behaved children and I was feeling all sorts of insecurities.  As we ate, Aunt Linda told a story about when her kids were younger, about how Uncle David had been travelling a lot; and someone did something absurd in public.  I wish I could remember the whole story, I can't.  All I remember is that as she shared with me, I felt welcomed and accepted and loved. My insecurity melted away and the tension in my shoulders faded. She simply shared a story and in doing so, she touched my heart in a profound way that I will never forget.

When December 15 rolls around and I think about her, I pray God would make me a bit like Aunt Linda, that He would weave a welcoming spirit into my soul, that I would be one that makes those around me feel accepted and loved.


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.