Monday, February 13, 2012

What's not to Love?

Sometimes I think February gets a lot of flack. It's too cold. It's too warm. There's not enough snow. There's too much snow. Is it spring yet? Is it Valentine's Day again? Is he gonna remember? Do I have to hand-make my kids valentines? Do you really want Sponge-Bob valentines? Did I really just eat that entire box of little debbie heart-shaped cakes? (ok...that last one might just be me). Just the number of "ugh it's Valentine's Day - just another greeting card holiday to remind me I'm miserable" posts on FB alone can start make you feel depressed.
Unless you're which case you adore February!

Now before you get all simmer-down-Martha-Stewart on me - I assure you I am not this way about everything. Just holidays. I wish I had the creativity and energy to devote towards planning meals, housework, organization, baking, kids-crafts (see "Having it All" post if you don't believe me). But I do have kind of a *crush* on holidays. I just love them. I think they're sooo cute. And when they come with changing seasons I get really excited (i.e. Halloween brings in the fall, Christmas brings winter, Easter brings spring! Okay - I'm getting distracted). But Valentine's Day is just one of those holidays that has never brought me the drama or dismay it seems to bring others. Now again - for those of you who know I met my husband in high school and we started dating on Valentine's Day at 15 years old - don't judge. That's NOT the reason I love Valentines! Okay....not the whole reason. :) It just flat-out makes me happy for many reasons.

Exhibit A -Pink and Red.

The official colors of Valentine's Day! Seriously. You can't go wrong here in my book. Admittedly, our entire house is slightly "immersed" in red. But I love it. And had I not thought my hubby would have run away screaming - I would have done it pink. As it is we had a bedroom (before the Jet-man came along) that was delicately decorated in pink and floral and everything soft and girly. And yes he hated it. lol. But Valentine's Day, my dear, you allow me that little dose of girly that I miss in my house.

Exhibit B - Chocolate.

I'm sorry - but how can anyone NOT love a holiday that is practically founded on chocolate? If the red and pink didn't win me over - the chocolate certainly would have. I love giving myself an excuse to have a "Chocolate Party" every year - because it's February. And make chocolate covered strawberries on a weekday afternoon- because it's February.

And as if that wasn't enough -

I love what Dunkin has done with the donuts! I never thought a donut could make me happier than it already did...until these. Confession : I don't actually like to eat cream-filled-heart-shaped-donuts-with-sprinkles. I just like to look at them. I'm a "chocolate-with-chocolate-frosting" kinda gal myself. But I married a cream-filled-heart-shaped-donut-with-sprinkles man. So I can look. And he can eat. And we're both happy. It's a match made in donut-heaven.

Exhibit C - Roses.

Is there anything - ANYTHING - that brightens up a house and a day more than flowers? The answer is - no. No people! Flowers make any room look happier. Smell happier. Feel happier. It doesn't matter the season - I wish I could buy flowers on a weekly basis. These roses from my two sweeties are especially lovely. My boys bought me 2 dozen - enough to fill 2 beautiful vases! But when it comes to flowers, I'm really not picky - as long as they're fresh and bright. I love every color and every kind.
I love them when they're red. I love them by the bed.
I love them when they're pink. I love them by the sink.

And I love them when they're red and by the sink. But that just didn't rhyme as nicely. :)

But even if you don't like pink or red or chocolate or flowers (...hold on...I think I just swooned a little at that prospect.........okay...all better...phew!) when you think of what Valentine's Day is all about - or could be about, or SHOULD be about - then you really know why I'm a fan.

It's about love.

To me, Valentine's Day is about celebrating love.

It's your friendly-holiday-reminder to count your blessings.

To say "I love you" a little more and complain a little less.

It's about appreciating those in your life whom you love - who love you - who give love - who need love.

It's not hard to find someone who could use a little love. And believe me - giving love to someone who needs it will fill your heart more than a box of chocolates, 2 dozen roses or 100 valentines.

And I'm not just talking about romantic love - in fact - I'm not talking about that kind of love at all. I'm talking about selfless love. The love we feel for family and friends. The love I feel for the families and children who have touched our lives with their stories of strength and faith. The love that makes you want to help at all times - give freely of yourself - want the best for someone. This is amazing love. But it is the kind of love we can easily feel - easily give.

Even more amazing is the love we can give to strangers.

(This picture made me tear up at how much he has grown!)

The love I felt when I first saw a certain little boy and wanted to help him (and who is now celebrating his first February since being united with his forever family this past summer!) My heart still overflows with experiencing this love. The love I shared with you all as we set out to Save Shea. The love I asked you all to GIVE this time last year. And so, so many of you did.
This kind of love is a choice. It can come upon you suddenly or need time to take root. It can be hard to do and hard to explain. We might feel unsure of ourselves - of our financial position - our relationship to those we are asked to help - our ability to make a difference. But those uncertainties are only excuses. Excuses to confuse us and make us complacent. To keep us comfortable and unaccountable.
But Love is not comfortable. It isn't easy or even simple. Sometimes it's complicated and challenging and convicting. But overall - it is a wonderful thing to have. And an even more wonderful thing to give.
So this year - this February - I have a similar request. Sort of a "Give Love : Part II". I'd like for all of us to challenge ourselves. To not only enjoy and give thanks every day for the loves in our lives - as we should.
Every. Single. Day.
But to also look for ways to share this love we've been given with others. To help others obtain the love they're seeking. To help families find each other. To help children find the love they've never experienced.
You may know a way already that you feel called to give love - but if you don't - here are some people whom I'd especially love to help. All of which are seeking to give their love to a child who awaits them.

Please take a minute to visit these links and read their stories, and if you can find it in your heart to donate just $20, $10, $5 - whatever you can - towards their adoption costs there is a way to do so through the Chipin links on both websites. Ask anyone who has ever adopted a child - there is no gift too small. Every little bit helps. There is a need here, friends. A need that anyone can help to meet. A need that many families in this world are facing that we don't even know about. - but you know about these now. Don't look away. This is an opportunity for you to show love to strangers. An opportunity to give love to a child. And I can't think of a more appropriate time than right now.
After all - it's February. It's the love-month. And honestly -what's not to love?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Having it All

The weather warmed up a little the other day, long enough for Jet and I do take a walk down to the park. I love going to the park with him. I can't resist his smile and fervent "eh-kay, eh-kay" (i.e. "okay, okay") when I ask him if he wants to go. He loves it like it's Disneyland and it's never failed to bring me a sense of accomplishment, joy and peace all at once.
I do some of my best reflecting at the park.

And while he keeps me on my toes with all his climbing and running around (taking the rockiest, muddiest, root-filled route wherever he goes) I still manage to feel relaxed.

And while I watch, smile, and send a continual stream of thanksgiving prayers up to Heaven for these moments - I often stumble upon a thought...a question...that I have to think on for several days before I can sort it all out. And today was one such day.

Sometimes I find myself wishing I was better at many things. Blogging. Photography. Cooking. Housekeeping. Crafting. Teaching. Parenting. Sometimes it's just something I see on TV or someone else's blog - but usually it's the things that already mean something to me. The parts of my life that I feel make me who I am. The important stuff mixed with the things I care about. Traits I value in others and wish I had more abundantly. So when I asked myself "why? why do you want to do all that?" I found myself answering, "because I don't want to fail. I don't want to miss out. I want to do it all and while I'm at it - I want to be good at everything I do."

Wow. So...I want to be Super Mom?

Yep. That pretty much sums it up. I want to have it all. And honestly, that may sound pretty silly - not to mention self-centered - not to mention it's probably how a 2nd grade me might feel. But is it a more common issue than we'd like to admit? It's like I want to pull from every one of my friends and family members - all the talents and traits they have that I respect and admire - and add them to my own list of "can-do's." Not that I ever actually have success in mirroring all these wonderful characteristics and hobbies. I'm more realistic than that. But I sometimes just wish it were so. Am I alone? I find it hard to believe that I am. In fact, I sort of feel like we're conditioned, expected, encouraged to do just what I crave to do. Do as much as we can, as best as we can, as quick as we can. It's everywhere - calling to us - the DIY projects/books/recipes/strategies/tools/tips are integrated into every aspect of our lives. It's what we read about, "tweet" about, blog about, "pin" to our pinboards, and daydream of doing. There are so many wonderful opportunities to learn how to make your own soap/grow your own veggies/take pictures like the pros/design on a dime/teach your baby to read etc. that in the name of creativity/financial savvy/being healthy/going green/finding yourself/just flat out being a better person we all say a collective "oh wow! I'd love to do that!"
And then one of two things happens.
Either we get real (or just overwhelmed) and say "yeah right - I don't have time/money/resources for that". Or we try it - get excited about it - commit to it - maybe even have some success with it...then what? Inevitably we somehow we find ourselves discontented again. We want to do it better, we want to do something else, we want to take a break, we want....what exactly? Do we really know?

I'm not sure I have all the answers.
In fact I'm pretty sure that there are a million different answers that would suffice.
But I'll tell you the answers that came to me.
When I asked myself the question "why do I want (fill in the blank)?" - I realized I was missing the point.
The real question is "what do I really want?"
So I sat down to really answer that question.
And when I started to make my list...things got a whole lot clearer.

I want peace. I want to feel calm, happy, free from worry or fear. I want to trust.
I want to be thankful. Living in gratitude for all I've been given.
Even when I don't understand what I've been given - the blessings in disguise - oh yes...especially then.
I want to receive, embrace, and give love.
I want to appreciate the simple joys, the little moments.
I want to acknowledge the gifts God has given me.
And help others with those gifts.
I want to have purpose.
To see His purpose for me and not fear it, or question it or hide from it.
I want to understand all that I can - and rely on faith when I cannot.
I want to be who He purposed me to be - and know that no matter how much I fear
failing, messing up, letting go, missing out - it is impossible for me to mess up His plan.
And life will be sweeter if I get out of my own way, and give it to's already His...
...and I need to stop trying to perfect what's already Perfect.

This life isn't perfect.
The world we live in, the people in it, the decisions we freely make - are not perfect.
But God's plan is perfect.
And every struggle I have comes from me trying perfect things that I cannot.
The desires to control, fix, understand, achieve, master, overcome - are within me so deeply that I forget that I am not the one who is responsible or even capable of doing all those things I want to do - He is.
So after I shake my head at how once again I have lost focus
or over-complicated something that is really so beautifully simple -
I smile and thank my Father for revealing it to me once again.
I don't have to be it all.
He already is.
I don't have to do it all.
He already did.
And through Him, and in Him, I already have it all.

So while there are so many blessings on this earth He has provided for us to enjoy and thank Him for - life is not about cramming as much in a day, a week, or a lifetime, as possible. That's not what I was created for. I am His child. I exist to have a relationship with Him, to glorify Him with my life as it is here on earth, to be His light in the world and serve with Christ as an example. And when this life is over, go and live with Him for eternity. And all the hobbies and talents and past-times I did here on earth...though they were blessings from Him and though I hopefully used them to fulfill His purpose for me on earth... I can't take them with me. Nor will I want to. Because Heaven is perfect without them.

So I have to admit - it's a relief to know I'm really not up against this impossible standard I set for myself. The clock is not ticking waiting for me to win some sort of crazy game show in which "she who is and does everything" wins a lifetime supply of popsicle sticks!
(because as it turns out, I think I'm all set on popsicle sticks.)
My worth - our worth- is not, and shouldn't be, measured by how masterfully we can accomplish each task at hand - or by how talented, original or admired our earthly works are. Those things are bonuses - not the goal. And knowing that God is guiding my path - however bumpy or broken the road may be -
is what steadies my feet.

For while I intend to grow and learn each day - challenging myself with new activities and renewing my spirit with the blessings God provides - I know that I don't have to be "Super Mom"...

... just to hear God's little blessing say "Mommy" is all I need to feel pretty super inside.

So once again, God is taking care of me - one trip to the park at a time. Showing me His power and beauty in the form of my little boy. Granting me peace and perspective with gentle reminders of His love and sovereignty. Giving me everything I need...for His purpose.
And taking one day,
one task,
one goal,
one trip to the park at a time -

Is something we can do... together.

"Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father though him." Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Christmas Catchup and New Years Notables

Wow. Those last few months of 2011 flew by so fast. It seems every time I get on to blog I don't even know where to begin! But I guess I'll just do what I've been doing since the fall - rewind and reflect. And since we can't go skippin' major holidays - let's talk Christmas!

(Mr. and Mrs. Claus from my childhood. They move their arms and heads in a slow, hypnotic way and have a magical quality of being both captivating and creepy at the same time.)

The best way to describe this Christmas is "Sweet and Sour." The sweetness being how precious it was to read "The Night Before Christmas" to Jet every night, hear him point to all his ornaments on the tree and say "tree!" at least 20 times a day whenever he saw that familiar evergreen on a window display, sweatshirt or christmas card. The sweetness of dressing him in his red and green santa pj's and imagine him dreaming of sugar plums.

The sweetness of watching Rudolph more than I've ever wanted to see a Christmas movie and hearing Jet sing along to with Burl Ives song in an adorable mix of "he's spot-on!" and "now what did he just say?" The sweetness of Christmas Eve morning when got up early to celebrate "Early Christmas" - so as not to be so rushed to church on Sunday morning, and because he's 2 and doesn't know the difference. ;)

Sweet because with every holiday tradition, every song sung, every gift opened - he was as happy and excited as could be. I just love life through his eyes.

These gifts (above) I've labeled "The Magnificent Seven".

1. Magical Wand (with blue glitter stars floating inside! Seriously - I had one just like it but purple when I was little and it was the most beautiful thing I owned.)
2. Toy Story Sticker/Activity pack (and it comes with crayons for you to throw on the floor as well! Oh...that's not what you do with crayons? Um...well someone needs to have a talk with Jet then. I've tried.)
3. Playdoh! (Not just for eating!)
4. Chapstick (Santa doesn't kid around. Those kissable lips need serious protection.)
5. The World's Largest Peppermint Patty! (or...a regular sized one that when compared to the mini's that Jet is used to seems, in fact, enormous. And wonderful. And you should have seen his eyes light up. And then the drool came. And yes he ate it before breakfast.)
6. Puzzles! (that look very cool and intriguing with Mickey Mouse and Lightning McQueen and Toy Story characters on them - but are in actuality way too complicated for 2 year olds. Awesome.)
7. Buzz Lightyear (Space Ranger. Number one gift. And "the coolest toy ever.")

Though there were other various books and clothing items - this group of primarily stocking-stuffers were by far his favorites. And they say a lot about our J-man and who he is at 2 and a half years old. And of course - 7 being the perfect number - Buzz was the perfect gift. A best friend for Woody, a space-ranger for Jet. He was almost as excited about playing with him as we were about buying him. Who could as for more?

The gift-giving continued at my parents house. Where we spent a relaxing morning with family, just enjoying staying in.

And I will say Jet was apparently very good this year.

David and I? Not so much....maybe we were unknowingly naughty this year. For although we were blessed with wonderful gifts and surprises that left us in a childlike state of awe - that night we got a surprise "gift"...a horrible stomach virus. Yep. Merry Christmas to all.

(I don't have a picture of us being sick. So how about some pie? Much nicer to look at anyway.)

Thankfully Jet escaped the plague virus and got to spend Christmas Day (and the day after that) and Nina and Papi's house. Being spoiled by grandparents 3 days in a row?! Jet was once again living the good life. Playing with his new toys, grilled cheese for lunch and watching "Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas" movie every day. He didn't miss us for a second. And I was thrilled! I spent all night Christmas Eve praying he wouldn't wake up with it and not only did he feel fine - he got to have a wonderful Christmas. It was a wonderful offset to our otherwise unfortunate situation. And by the time we were all well - we still had Jet's other grandparents' house to visit! And it too full of gifts and fun. Extended Christmas!! I mean seriously - Jet will be spoiled for all Christmases to come. Nothing will ever live up. ;)

Then the New Year arrived and with it came a visit from Jet's favorite red-headed playmate -Miss Jane.

And if Jet thought 1 red-head was fun...

He was beside himself with 2! Jet's other "cousin" Eliana (who lives in Ga but is usually in Pre-K) was on vacation and got to hang out with the family!

It was 2 against 1 - just how Jet likes it. Big kids = Awesome. Big kids who are also girls = Sliding-Down-Rainbows-Awesome. Something about his big-girl, baby-doll-playing, bossy-behavin, princess-dressin, cute cousins just makes Jet's day. He loved having them around. And they put up with him just fine. ;)

We took a field trip to the "Train Museum" (which is really "The Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History" - but doesn't that sound like fun just died right in front of you) so we talked-up the train aspect and the kids had a blast! There's even a big red train caboose out front which is so cool.

Unless you are Jane who was apparently not impressed...

...or Jet who was unexplainably terrified. Go figure.
(seriously - he wouldn't get near it and cried when I did!)

And inside is a lot of neat history - but then also some very kid-friendly educational playrooms, which is of course where we spend most of our time. :)

(Not surprisingly, Jet wouldn't wear the conductor's I ask you...what choice did I have?)

And even though it was actually more like controlled-chaos than an educational-expedition -
- it was a memory.

And I love making memories with family.
Especially my littlest family members.

Speaking of which I have a new little cousin-niece! Baby Grace (Eliana's new little sister) was born to my cousins Justin and Andrea on January 5th, 2012. What a sweet start to the new year. :) I cannot wait to do her newborn portraits! And guess what...she's another red-head. Jet is going to be so excited. lol.

And so the holidays came to a close - Daddy, who had enjoyed a full 2 weeks off from school, had to go back to work today. But boy did we have fun while he was home.

I see more and more of David in Jet when they're together. They have the same silly sense of humor that cracks me up to watch. They also happen to be the most handsome boys on the planet. Just sayin.

We may not have had the Christmas we planned, or a year without hardship. We witnessed worries and anxieties of close friends and family, heartbreak and loss for those we care deeply for, and struggled with unanswered questions that we and others still face. 2011 was a mix of the incredible and unimaginable. But through it all, God was at the forefront. We were brought closer to Him than ever - through our own experiences and the experiences of others - and that is not something to be overlooked. So although I don't know what the future holds in 2012 - I don't think anyone could ask for more than we do have right now, in this moment. And with that in mind, I can say with confidence and hope - "Happy New Year."

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