Adoption Day & Celebration

Finally, finally…after months and months of waiting…

it happened!

We are officially, legally a family.

I’d like to introduce you to my daughters,

Akeisha Sofie Grace Freeman

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                                                                     &

Alexa Anna Joy Freeman

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Could they possibly be any more beautiful? 🙂

On Oct. 16, 2015 we had our day in court and received the official documents needed to finalize our adoption of Akeisha & Alexa.  It was a rather boring, anticlimactic ceremony that took a grand total of about 10 min to perform, but it was a satisfying, victorious day for the 4 of us nonetheless!  The court presented the girls each with their own stuffed dog as a congratulatory gift and we all went to DQ afterwards with the family and friends who joined us to celebrate with ice cream.

My sister in law gave us a thoughtful gift of helium balloons, note paper and tape so we could write our happy news and send it to the skies for someone somewhere to find 🙂  It was a fun, sweet way to mark our day.

Our big celebration took place 2 weeks prior to our official day in court.  We were running out of time to plan a big party before the arrival of our baby so we decided court date or not we were going to celebrate the fact that we were a forever family!

So…we threw a party!  I couldn’t possibly have pulled off something like this on my own, but with the help of some incredible friends we were able to celebrate with close to 100 people who have been important in the lives of our daughters and us in the past year and a half.  It was an amazing evening and one that we will look back on with joy and gratitude for a very long time.  It was so special to have the people closest to us all together in one place and be able to thank them for walking this journey with us and loving us!

My husband and I really wanted to do a ceremony where we could publicly acknowledge the fact that we had chosen to bring our daughters into our family and love them, care for them and provide for them no matter what.  We wanted Akeisha & Alexa to know that just like our marriage, this was a vow we were making to them for better or for worse, no matter the cost and that we were serious about it.  We wanted them to have a moment to look back on to physically mark the beginning of our family, to solidify in their minds that this was different than every other home they’ve been in before.  Why?  Because this is permanent!

These were our vows to our daughters:

Akeisha Sofie Grace Freeman

We are so proud of the beautiful girl you are growing up to be. We are so blessed to have you as our daughter, and we want you to know that we will always be your mom and dad. We will never leave you.

We promise to take care of you and make you feel safe.

We promise to love you, no matter where you go or what you do.

We promise to make Jesus Christ the centre of our home and to show you what He is like by our actions and words.

We promise to pray for you and ask for God’s help to be the best parents we can be.

We promise to have grace for the times you will fail and to celebrate your achievements with you.

We promise to be patient with you as you learn, listen to you and to be gentle with your heart.

We love you so much!

From now on we will always be a family, no matter what.

Alexa Anna Joy Freeman

We are so blessed to have you as our daughter. You bring so much fun and laughter to our family and we want you to know that we will always be your Mommy & Daddy. We will never leave you.

We promise to keep you safe.

We promise to take care of you the best that we can and to give you the things that you need.

We promise to love you forever, no matter where you go or what you do.

We promise to make Jesus Christ the centre of our home and to show you what He is like by our actions and words.

We promise to pray for you and ask for God’s help to be the best Mom & Dad we can be.

We promise to be patient as you learn, forgive you when you make bad decisions and to laugh with you lots.

We love you so much.

From now on we will always be a family, no matter what!

It was a beautiful moment to be able to look into my daughters’ eyes and promise them all we had to offer.

I cannot change the past, but I can offer hope for the future and the promise that they will never be alone.

At the ceremony a friend of ours beautifully described the link between our adoption into Christ’s family and the adoption of our two daughters.  We also sang the song “Cornerstone.”  Standing beside my husband with my daughters at my side and our baby stirring inside my womb my heart was incredibly full singing these words.  With Christ as our cornerstone I know our family’s foundation is strong enough to withhold the changing seasons, no matter how difficult.

“Cornerstone”

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly trust in Jesus name

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all

When Darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil

Christ alone; cornerstone
Weak made strong; in the Saviour’s love
Through the storm, He is Lord
Lord of all
He is Lord
Lord of all

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless stand before the throne.

AF

 

 

All of Me

It was such a lucky encounter.

There we were, at the library once again for our tutoring session on a perfectly normal Tuesday of the summer.  As usual my daughters headed straight for the back corner for the games and toys.  By the time I caught up to them, there they were sitting on the floor watching a little boy as he raced his cars and trucks around on the floor making appropriate loud vrooming noises.

As I approached, smiling at the man sitting on a chair watching the little boy, my daughter looked at me and said,

“Mommy, who is this?”

She’s very curious about people, especially little people, and since we often run into people I know that she hasn’t been acquainted with yet it’s a somewhat common question.

I responded with a grin toward the man,

“I don’t know!”

Halfway through my answer the man cut in and said the little boy’s name.  My daughters both glanced at me with wide eyes and I stumbled for words, finally blurting out,

“Did you say _______?”

I knelt down on the floor and took a closer look at the little boy my girls were so intrigued with.

Sure enough.

My breath caught in my throat as I stared in disbelief.  Just the right age, just the right eyes and complexion.

Last time I had seen this little boy I was kissing his soft cheeks, caressing that dark hair and fighting back the tears as I buckled him securely into his infant car seat.  I had loved him with a passion I had never known before.  He was the very first child that made me a mother.  The very first child that turned my world upside down.  The only child I’ve ever grieved quite that hard for…simply because I had no former experience to brace me for the goodbye.

For the next hour I watched him play, studying his sturdy toddler movements, his joyful little personality bursting at the seams.  I talked to him, handed him toys and smiled at the sight of my beautiful little girl playing at his side.  The irony was so intriguing…here we were two and a half years later and our lives had traveled such a distance from each other, despite living in the same small town.  When I was able to catch his eyes I saw in them only the reflection of a stranger.  I was a complete stranger to him, and he to me.  Yet at the same time I knew watching him run and laugh and play that I would do absolutely anything in the world for this little boy.  The moment he entered my life, my heart claimed him as my own.  Our time was so short…only 5 weeks…but it was more than enough time to establish a bond strong enough to last eternity.  Every child I have ever cared for has claimed a piece of my heart and in return I have offered each one a vow.

I will love you.

Unconditionally.

For as long as I can,

As well as I can,

No matter the cost to my own heart.

I will fight for you,

And protect you.

I will claim you as my own, and love you without boundaries.

A piece of me will always be yours to keep.

Because I have been so loved,

I will love you.

This is the beat of my heart, and the passion that God has placed within me.  When He called me to serve the least of these, He called me to do it with all of me.  I have struggled at times to keep this vow.

It is hard.

It is messy.

It is scary and vulnerable.

It means holding tight and then surrendering with abandon, believing that God goes with each one even when I can’t.

It means facing the truth, even when the common cliches would be much more comforting.

It means asking hard questions and committing to heavy burdens…but not letting them pull you down.

It means taking one day at a time and believing that now is as important as forever.

It means giving more than you think you have, regardless of the consequences.

My biggest prayer every day that I have been a foster parent has been that I will love every child God places in my care this way.  Why?

Because they deserve it.

Because it is right.

Everything I believe about fostering and adoption has it’s roots in my belief that God is our Creator, and that He delights in each and every person that He creates.  Every little person that has entered my home or ever will has unimaginable value in His eyes.  For me to treat them as any less is horribly wrong.  He loves us regardless of our performance, and gave the greatest He could possibly offer us even though we had done nothing to deserve it.  He takes us as His own and gives us a future and a hope.  He puts everything He has on the line so that we might experience redemption and relationship with Him.  When I realize that He has died for each of these little ones…what else can I possibly consider than to give everything I possibly can for them as well.

Too many children are living in the foster care system believing that somehow they are second rate.  Despite the fact that they have been so wronged in so many ways, most of them believe it is them that are somehow to blame.  Even more horrifying is the fact that the general consensus in society is the same!

Too many foster parents survive the constant change over in kids by holding back pieces of their heart.  Don’t get too attached.  Brace yourself for the goodbye.  Put your own needs and family first.

I get it.

It can be hard and the lines can get pretty gray.

But I also know that a child can absolutely sense those attitudes and they do more damage than you can imagine.  We have a whole generation of teenagers emerging from the foster care system who have never once in their life felt like someone would do whatever it takes.  They know better than anyone that when push comes to shove, foster families will protect their own backs.  They’ve heard all the reasonings and they know what they are…excuses.  The words they hear are:

“You’re too much.”

“It’s too hard.”

“Our own children are more important than you.”

This doesn’t mean that the answers are always the same.  Sometimes loving does mean letting go.  Sometimes loving means drawing some hard lines.  Sometimes loving means realizing this child needs more than I can give.  But too often those kinds of ‘love’ have little to do with what’s best for the child and much to do with what’s best for me.

So I am begging you.

Dare to invest as much in these kids as you’d invest in your biological children…because they are every bit as valuable and every bit as important.

Join me in starting a revolution in the foster care system.  A revolution of Christian families stepping forward to say,

“Yes!  I will love these children with all of me.

My littlest A loves this song by John Legend…it’s a song that takes her back to a familiar place that felt safe, happy, warm…and every time she hears this song on the radio her blue eyes light up with joy.  So I’ve started singing this song to her.  It’s a connection point that reaches her heart.

ALL OF ME

What would I do without your smart mouth
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind
I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright

My head’s underwater
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh
Give me all of you, oh oh

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing in my head for you
My head’s underwater
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh
Give me all of you, oh oh

Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
Risking it all though it’s hard

Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

It’s not the song I would have chosen in my sentimental mind to be the anthem for my baby girl, but she chose it…and really…it’s perfect.  I will always love you, babe.  All the imperfections, in all your mess.  I am so bad at this, and I have no idea how to be everything you need me to be.  But I love you, and I will do my best to give you all of me as you, in all your vulnerability, choose to put your trust in me.  And to all the rest of the kids out there who have taken pieces of my heart…I hope that you grow up to know that at least one person in your life loved you with everything she had!

Walking home that day after our encounter at the library with my baby…yes, my baby…I felt so blessed.  Even though it can be hard to see kids later and face the facts of their life, it’s still an experience that is very meaningful.  Even though this little one I gave everything to just a few short years ago looked at me with no recognition or attachment, it made my day to see him smile.  I delighted in his chubby cheeks that once lay on my chest, the little legs running around that once kicked in distress in his hospital bassinet.  Memories came flooding back, and it was beautiful to relive them.

Thankyou, Jesus, for the gift of that little moment.

Was it a lucky meeting on an ordinary day?

Maybe.

Or maybe it was just a little reminder from my Jesus that He’s right here with me.  His is the passionate heart beating inside of me for these little ones.  His is the vision of a future and hope.  His is the pouring out of all that I am.

It is because I was first loved by Him that I love.

AF

I Am Loved

I look up and there she is.

Positioned just like me on the couch, at my side with pen in hand, pretending to do Sudoku like Mommy as she makes little markings and scribblings in her Activity Book.

She wants to be just like me.

I am so blessed.

I look up and there she is.

Smiling at me with those sparkling brown eyes…no filter, no block.  I’m looking straight into her soul and she trusts me implicitly with all that is there.

I am her everything.

I am so blessed.

I fall down exhausted and disgruntled at the end of a long, hot day.  I close my eyes and soon I hear footsteps pattering toward my place on the couch.  I sigh inwardly, wishing for a moment alone and expecting her constant chatter to start any minute.  Instead I feel gentle hands caress my hair and rub my back…soothing, loving, tender little motions.  A soft kiss lands on my cheek and a blanket falls gently on my shoulders.  I smile and stay very still.

She adores me.

I am so blessed.

I open my eyes after a nap and see two little girl bodies huddled at my kitchen sink before my pile of dirty dishes.  I had left them there to do later.  The dishwasher was full and it was too hot to stand with my hands in hot, soapy water.  But there they are and I hear;

“We should do these dishes for Mommy ’cause she’s really tired and she had a rough day!”

“She did?”

“Well yeah, it was really hot and I usually get frustrated when it’s so hot so she probably does too!”

“Oh!  Okay.”

And there they are; scrubbing, brushing, rinsing and drying.  One too small to reach the sink so she stands on a stool by her big sister’s side.

They are loving me with every stroke of that brush.

I am so blessed.

I roll over in bed at the sound of the door as he creeps in to kiss me goodbye.  There’s a glass of chocolate milk in his hands.  He smiles at me and my heart fills up in an instant.  I savor his kiss, his unshaven face against mine, the firm muscles of his back under my hands and the chocolate milk, filling my stomach so I won’t be nauseous later.

I am the love of his life.

He’d do anything for me.

I am so blessed.

Every time I am caught in these moments I feel so incredibly humbled.  I am far from the perfect…or even ideal wife or mother.  I fail miserably on a daily basis.  They hear my sharp tones, they see my angry eyes, they feel my rough hands pushing them away.  They watch me choose myself over them so many times.

Yet they love me so unconditionally and forgive me so completely, even when I am so undeserving.

In their eyes, their touch, their voices of love I see glimpses of my Heavenly Father.

A love that covers a multitude of wrongdoings and places them as far as the east is from the west.

A grace that washes me clean and keeps no record of my wrongs.

They offer me hope for my humanity.

Thank you for loving me.

I love you more than life itself.

XOXO

AF

Backyard Adventures

So I wish I could post some more photos for you of some of this stuff but until our adoption is finalized I can’t legally do that.  So…you’ll just have to be satisfied with my descriptions 🙂

I love to see kids using their imaginations and playing outdoors.  It is so healthy for all of us and it’s the sort of activity they don’t get to enjoy as much during the school year.  Recently I feel like the girls have really found their groove with the long summer days and are coming up with all kinds of things to do!

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, my husband has been working on building a tree house the past week.  He was actually pretty stoked about this since he’s always wanted a good reason to build a tree house apparently!  🙂  The girls were so excited about this and loved helping him.  I cringed as they wielded hammers, winced as they helped him saw and covered my eyes when it was finally complete enough for them to clamber up there…WAY up there!  Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea…but spending the last few years providing daycare for other people’s kids and being a foster parent for the Children’s Aid Society has sharpened my ‘safety first’ instincts!  I tried not to let my nervous squeaks ruin their excitement and pushed away the jelly feeling in my stomach when I climbed up with them the first time.  Is it safe?  Barely.  But is it fun?  You bet it is!  This is why Akeisha and Alexa need a Daddy.  I encourage and applaud them when they are adventurous and brave…but I’m not as good at providing opportunities for them to practise those characteristics.

It really has been tons of fun, though, this tree house thing.  It can become a pirate ship, a secret clubhouse or a cool place to have lunch!  Yes, that was today.  Tuna sandwiches, carrots and apples are so much better when devoured with grimy little fingers as we gaze around at green, leafy walls.  Even the chipmunks, who have been feasting on peanuts right out of our hands, managed to crawl up there and try to steal a few crumbs!  It makes me feel like a child again…climbing trees, brushing the dirt off my sandwich, feeling rough wood on my feet and going out of the way to make each little moment extraordinary.  There’s even a trap door, which makes you feel like you’re entering a secret hideaway!  Akeisha tied a rope to a bucket so that they could transport all kinds of treasures up and down.  She also tried ‘fishing’ for chipmunks from her leafy hideaway which resulted in one clever little chipmunk getting quite the surprise when his peanut wouldn’t come free!

 

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There is also still a little fort in the bushes that gets some attention, a bear trap that was created ‘just in case’ and a new favourite hobby…picking apples from the wild apple trees beside our house!  Every now and then we still catch caterpillars and put them in our bug buckets…though they rarely get attention after that so they have a rather unfortunate end.  Akeisha is usually the ring leader of all these activities and the past few days working alongside Daddy she became enthralled with the idea of ‘working.’  So yesterday all day I was her boss and she drove to work in her workboat, just like Daddy.  She was so cute all dressed up in Daddy’s big work boots, a Rockscape Design hat and a big sweater that covered most of her body.  She took lunch breaks and even did a bunch of jobs for me as my ’employee.’  Hey, if she’s into working and having fun I’ve got all kinds of jobs that can be done! 🙂  After making the beds, doing dishes and sweeping the floor she was ready to go back to pretending to work like Daddy, not me!  Lol.

Our poor little doll babies who got such devoted attention a month ago have been rather neglected, but every now and then they still get a few cuddles, a walk to the park or a diaper change.  Crafts have been a big hobby lately and this mother has had to grin and bear all the glue, string, little paper pieces and wasted tape that goes with that!  Most of the crafts have been things for the fort or tree house.

I am so grateful for the little haven we have here up at the top of a quiet dead end street.  We have a perfect backyard for kids to be able to explore, play and create despite it’s small size.

So much to be thankful for.

Alongside all these backyard adventures I am just celebrating every little sign of attachment I see in our daughters.  Today Alexa, mimicking the words I’ve said to her so many times, told her doll “I’ll love you always and for ever NO MATTER WHAT!”  She also played shy and stuck right by my side the whole time a woman selling books dropped by this morning, which is a great improvement.  The last phone conversations we had with the girls foster parents were remarkably different than a few weeks ago.  Instead of the girls needing to know all about their former homes and what they were missing, they were able to excitedly share about the fun things that have been going on here!  We are hearing mostly Mommy and Daddy again, after a few weeks of reverting back to our names, and they are even able to have conversations about their new last names without feeling quite so threatened.  Alexa has a habit of coming up to me any random time and saying, “Mommy, I love you.”  No reason at all.  No particular emotion to provoke it.  Simply I love you 🙂  She loves when I call her my baby.  A favourite bonding activity is to be wrapped in a big towel after her bath and carried back to her room.

Daddy still gets greeted with huge shrieks of joy each and every evening…and he deserves every ounce of adoration the girls give him.  He’s amazing.  Day after day he comes home from work and pours a truckload of energy into the girls.  Alexa loves her snuggles from Daddy, climbing into his lap after supper just like I used to do with my Dad every night.  My favourite quote of hers was one Saturday morning as she crawled into bed to snuggle beside him.  “You’re my warm and fuzzy Daddy,” she said as she rubbed his whiskers affectionately. 🙂  She has been a Daddy’s girl since day #1 and there is just a bond there that I love to watch.

Akeisha likes to get quality time and attention, like helping him build the tree house or sitting on his lap chatting.  She got to stay up late a few nights just chatting with Daddy and it was so eye opening to hear her questions and comments.  They talked about everything from house fires to school to her day.  She was amazed to hear that Daddy would come back in the fire to find her if he knew she was still inside, and once again I was reminded how much we need to voice those things.  When trust is just being built, those things are not simply taken for granted as obvious facts like they were for me when I was a child.  They love to hear us say adamantly how much we would miss them if they left us and how we would follow them!  They’ve decided once they’re big enough to be moms themselves they will live next door to us in the house that is for sale so that they will not be far away, and talk about saving up their money for that.  🙂  Right now I am listening to them play house.  Akeisha is the mom and Alexa is the child.  Alexa has just been put on a ‘time-out’ by her sister and Akeisha is carefully explaining why exactly she is there and what will happen.  Wow.  Sponges.  It is incredible to hear your voice being parroted back at you.  The other day Akeisha said to me, “Mommy, I wish I would have been in your tummy.”  We’ve had this conversation a few times.  When I smiled, hugged her and said “Me too,” I could see her beautiful brown eyes glow.  We have so much yet to cover about the life they’ve already lived without us, but in those little moments we understand who we are.  We are a family.

I have no idea why God has allowed me to parent these girls.  I feel so unworthy some days.  But it really is the little things that matter so much.  It’s the way I speak, the way I go about my day and the things I place at the top of the list.  Through two pairs of young, searching eyes I get the chance to portray a tiny piece of what Jesus looks like.  When I stand before Him some day, I know what I am doing today is going to matter.  They are golden opportunities.  That can feel overwhelming, but I also know that it does not all depend on me.  God chooses to use me, but He doesn’t need me.  He will bring the increase.

AF

 

 

 

I want to be ALONE!

Ok.

So this is me being honest and letting you all know that even though we’re pretty excited about our new family of 4…we’re normal.  Not every day is rainbows and shimmer.

Right now I am hiding downstairs in my jammies while my husband builds a tree house with the girls and let me tell you I am just drinking in the quietness here!  Some days I am full of energy and happiness and amazement…and other days I’m just plain old tired.  Also…my personal bubble is nonexistent these days which sometimes makes this Mama Queen of the Grumps!  Wiry little arms hugging, pulling, yanking and poking at me all day long.  Affectionate?  Yes…but Mommy is not always in the mood for affection.  Mommy is not always in the mood for silly, nonsensical chatter and stinky morning breath in my face.  Mommy is not always in the mood for bony little bodies jumping on me.  Mommy is not always in the mood for whiny little voices following me all over the kitchen as I try to get everything done that needs to be done between 5 and 6pm.  Mommy is not always in the mood for markers all over the floor, glue on the table and macaroni bracelets in the bathroom sink.  Mommy is not always in the mood for little bodies climbing up on the countertops and sending a zillion cups crashing to the floor while clumsy hands search for that perfectly pink favourite.  Mommy is not always in the mood for an out of control garden hose spraying my basket of dry laundry.  Mommy is not always in the mood for little voices calling “Watch me!”

Sigh.

Yup.

Pretty normal.

My husband is awesome about this.  He helps chase away the “Mom guilties” that want to come in and just bash me to pieces when I just need to be ALONE!  The other night after the girls were in bed I went out for like 5 minutes to pick something up and I could’ve just laughed out loud!  I felt like a FREE WOMAN!  Of course when I got back 5 minutes later two little faces were peering out the window at me calling…”Mommy!  Where did you go?!”  Like it was the most insane thing ever that I would go somewhere without them!  After all, we are pretty much inseparable…and to bring some balance to this post…I am SO thankful that I am in the position where I am able to be a stay-at-home Mom to my daughters.  I truly am grateful for that, and would not change it for the world.

However…that doesn’t mean my patience level is any higher than yours and I just wanted you to know that it’s real life around here, too!  Bedtime is usually one of my favourite times of the day.  I love to be able to tuck them in, read stories, hear them pray and just feel connected at the end of the day.  But there are some days all I want is to give a quick kiss and then BE ALONE!  Days like this one can make me feel incredibly guilty, because I know there is a Mom somewhere who would love to be able to have just one more exasperating, annoying Monday!  Some days I am that Mom…there are two little faces etched forever on my memory that make me ache with loneliness some days.  I love my girls…but I’ve learned that nobody can be replaced.  Each new little person finds their own place in my heart…a place I didn’t even know existed until they came.  The one left empty will always be just that…empty…except for the memories.  So I understand we need to treasure every second.  Just writing that made me cry.  There is a little buzz cut that used to come lay softly on my cheek every single morning and make all kinds of happy, endearing noises…and every single morning I miss that little buzz cut.  There is a pair of vivid, joyful brown eyes that used to make me smile every single day as they danced to the sound of belly giggles…even on the worst days…and I miss those brown eyes every day.  I did not think it would hurt this bad for so long.  But I’m getting off topic.  The annoyance is already starting to fade!  Lol.  Count your blessings, right?

But I’m not supermom.

And some days I am just plain old selfish…or didn’t get enough sleep…or it’s that time of the month.  Some days I am overwhelmed by the intensity of life with two little girls who need to be loved so well.

Being a mother means you get to see the worst and best of yourself almost daily.  It’s really quite the rollercoaster.  I never knew how selfish I was until I got married.  Then I knew.  Two years later, I became a ‘mom’ for the first time and I learned my selfishness ran much deeper than I’d realized.  These little people in our lives teach us so much more than we could ever imagine we didn’t know!  I like to think, though, that with so much opportunity for messiness and absolute failure there is so much potential for growth!  Every moment I choose to force a smile instead of a scowl, every time I choose to soften my tone…I get a zillion opportunities every day to be like Jesus!  And if I fail…well…at least there are still many more chances to make it right.  And the little people we learn from?  They are so quick to bounce back with a smile and a hug.  They will forgive every time.  They will love you no matter what.  After the worst day, they will still want goodnight hugs and kisses.  After the fiercest tantrum they will smile and say I’m sorry before you’ve even sorted through your own mass of feelings.  That is beautiful.

I’d like to think it’s ok to fail sometimes.

I like to remind myself we all get grumpy every now and then.

This is where abundant grace comes in…for my children and for ME.

Akeisha and Alexa love to hear us say we will love them no matter what.  Always and forever.  Some days I need to hear that from my heavenly Father, too.  He will love me no matter what.  Always and forever.  It isn’t my acts of service or my moments of graciousness or my stunning successes that earn me His love.  He loves me simply because that is who He is.

Thank you, Father

Ps. On a lighter note, the girls have been playing pirates the past few days!  LOL  It’s hilarious!  “Arty AR AR” is apparently pirate lingo.  Outfits are complete with paper eye patches, stick swords in a fabric sheath and paper hats.  So adorable 🙂

 

This Little Life of Mine…

This week has been so good 🙂

I am just so enjoying each day I have with my girls and it feels like we’re hitting a nice little groove…which I will try not to expect to last too long!  Last week felt a bit bumpy and I just felt the Grumpy Mama Syndrome setting in, which is the last thing any of us need these days.  So this week I was determined to be positive, say yes when I can, keep things light and just enjoy my daughters.  The pay off has been awesome! 🙂

Monday we just enjoyed being together after a busy weekend.  Hung out at home, cleaned up the house a bit so we felt sane again and ran a few errands.

Tuesday we went strawberry picking with some great friends of ours.  It rained a bit on us, but that was ok.  It was wonderful to spend time with friends again, and since these particular friends include kids ages 4 and 6, the girls had a great time.  By the time we made it home it was pouring rain and the house felt cool and damp, so we all ended up in jammies making strawberry pie for dinner.  On my way home from our friends I had noticed Pizza Hut’s sign…Tuesdays kids eat free…and we couldn’t quite pass that up on a rainy day 🙂  So we ate pizza for dinner and even managed to squeeze in biking up and down the street with Alexis from across the street.  Akeisha and Alexa love to bike, especially with Alexis, and I am so proud of how well they’re doing!  Akeisha loves to zoom up and down the street, showing off her tricks to us.  Alexa is gaining confidence each day and making lots of progress, despite the hard work it is for her little legs to pump those pedals.  She’s so proud that she can now bike down our big hill!  The girls also had fun watching Alexis try out her four wheeler-turned-two wheeler on Tuesday night.  She had been saying for about a week to Kirby, me and her Mommy and Daddy that she was ready for her training wheels to come off!  So Tuesday night ended up being the big night, and off she went!  The first few rides were rough, but in no time she got the hang of it and by today she’s a pro 🙂  This is what I love about our neighbourhood…the whole street felt like it was lit up as the kids zoomed up and down shouting out “Look at me!” and parents and neighbours waved and smiled and clapped.

Wednesday was the day for grocery shopping, making strawberry jam, and some laundry since it was nice and my dryer is broken 😦  I just have to insert here that I LOVE strawberry jam!  I love it on toast, muffins and icecream 🙂  My girls now love it, too, and even though it is super unhealthy because it’s loaded with sugar we eat it almost every day.  Alexa loves PB+J…on toast or a wrap, especially with this jam!  It is the recipe off the Certo package, which my Mom used when I was a kid.  I just can’t quite imagine anything better!  Yesterday I realized there is also a recipe on their for Strawberry-Banana Jam, and since I had bananas I tried a bit of that too.  Thinking that is going to be super yummy as well, though I haven’t actually tried it yet.  Anyway, back to Wednesday.

Early afternoon Alexis wandered over, as she does most days, and she and Akeisha got creative making a fort in the bushes!  Copying Franklin’s Secret Clubhouse, I agreed to sacrifice an old sheet and they strung it up over their little house.  All afternoon they blazed trails, collected treasures and cared for their worms and caterpillars in their little fort.  I love seeing kids use their imaginations to play this way, so I was delighted 🙂  They had hot chocolate…yes, in July…made signs and got covered in mud and sand.  Alexa joined in the fun a bit, but was a little less enthralled with tromping through the bushes.  Akeisha was so excited, it was all she could talk about all evening.

Today we are enjoying the beautiful sunshine and scheming about our camping trip this weekend.  As long as the weather cooperates we plan to spend the weekend roughing it on one of the many crown land islands on beautiful Georgian Bay.  If it rains…well…I guess we can always head out early, since it’s so close.  FREE, FUN and CLOSE BY!  Love living here in the summertime 🙂  We’ll see how tenting treats us and what kind of adventures we can come home with on Sunday.  This morning Akeisha woke up early and went straight out to her fort, bundled up in her housecoat and two coats over top of her pajamas!  LOL.  So far she has eaten breakfast (her toast, milk and banana) and lunch (KD) out there.  Alexa cautiously joined the fun a bit later, but was a little worried there would be bears!  She came in sniffling to tell me that Akeisha was out bear hunting with her water gun but she was afraid she would get “attackled!”  I reassured her that, though there are bears around here, they would stay far away from noisy children 🙂  She still has not ventured back there much, however.  I guess the mud, sticks and mosquitoes don’t draw her quite as much.

It is all the wonderfully ordinary moments that I am just loving this week.  Dirty feet, sticky hands and messy faces.  My bathroom floor covered in bubbles from a little girl’s messy bath; what feels like thousands of ketchup stained purple and pink shirts in my laundry; tousled auburn hair against my cheek every morning on top of a sleepy smile.  I guess it’s because that’s what motherhood looks like.  KD on the floor, caterpillars on the deck, little arms and legs covered with scabs and bruises, shoes inside the door and markers and stickers everywhere.  Right now there’s a little girl sitting in my lap with hair that smells like mosquito repellent.  There’s another little girl dashing in the door giggling about something.  It’s time for me to go and give them some attention, but I hope this gives you a peek into our lives these days 🙂

The other night the girls were dancing around the living room and snuggling with Daddy while I played the piano.  Since we’d just been biking I thought of the song “You Can Let Go.”  I started singing it, but even though I’d sung it a thousand times before I only got a few phrases in and felt my throat closing up.  For the first time I thought about these two little girls someday growing up and walking down the isle beside my husband.  Because of that, I want to treasure every moment.  Too soon they won’t be little girls anymore tugging at my hands and holding up their treasures for me to see.  There is so much to do, and so little time…so one day, one moment at a time we will treasure this little life we have.

YOU CAN LET GO

By Crystal Shawanda

Wind blowing on my face
Sidewalk flying beneath my bike
A five year old’s first taste
Of what freedom’s really like

He was running right beside me
His hand holding on the seat
I took a deep breath and hollered
As I headed for the street

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

I was standing at the altar
Between the two loves of my life
To one, I’ve been a daughter
To one, I soon would be a wife

When the preacher asked
“Who gives this woman?”
Daddy’s eyes filled up with tears
He kept holding tightly to my arm
‘Til I whispered in his ear

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Oh I think I’m ready to do this on my own
It’s still feels a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

It was killing me to see the strongest man I ever knew
Wasting away to nothing in that hospital room
You know he’s only hanging on for you

That’s what the night nurse said
My voice and heart were breaking
As I crawled up in his bed and said

You can let go now, Daddy, you can let go
Your little girl is ready to do this on my own
It’s gonna be a little bit scary but I want you to know
I’ll be okay now, Daddy, you can let go

Hope you all have a super weekend!  I’ll let you know how the camping goes 🙂

AF

 

Our Beautiful, Diverse Family

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the different spiritual gifts and talents possessed by my brothers and sisters in Christ.

About valuing other people’s passions.

About seeing truth in another’s experience and validating that, even if I don’t understand it.

About having confidence in other people’s spiritual lives…choosing to lay aside my own perspective of situations and dwelling on the characteristics of that person that I know to be true, noble and lovely.

About letting my own experience, not another’s, influence my relationships.

I know that true love is not blind.

I know that trusting does not mean ignoring our bent toward sinfulness as humans.

I know that love and truth are sometimes painful.

But still…

What if I just chose to be less cynical?

What if I were humble enough to realize there is much I don’t yet understand; much I have never experienced.

What if I were willing to listen and speak honestly, and to say “I don’t know,” sometimes?

What if I chose to only allow thoughts inside my mind that I could in good conscience voice aloud to the ones they include?

How much less would I struggle with anger, bitterness and insecurity?

I am a firm believer that God does not have the same spiritual journey laid out in the same sequential order for each and every one of His children.  We do not all learn the same lessons.  We do not all learn them in the same way.  We do not all learn them in the same timing.  Our differing experiences both past and present play a large role in shaping where God takes us and how He chooses to take us there.  We do not all share the same sins…or as we prefer to call them…weaknesses.  I struggle with pride and anger.  You struggle with envy and cynicism.  I fight daily against immorality and lust.  You battle dishonesty and materialism.  In God’s eyes…our sins are not on the levels we’ve conjured up here on earth.  My lies are as black as your murder.  My pornography and your overindulgence are equally in need of repentence, cleansing and forgiveness.

Some of us have walked some very dark and lonely paths, with memories and experiences others don’t like to see held to the glaring light. They are much too hard to explain.  We feel alone in the chaotic aftermath of realities such as sexual abuse, betrayed marriages, homosexuality, mental illness or addictions.  It is uncomfortable for others to see our questions.  It is unnerving to face the truth of our existence and have nowhere to run or hide.  It is frightening to have to face the fact that as Christians, we are not spared from Satan’s destructive work and that indeed…innocents suffer at the hands of the sinful.  That God works in ways that seem very wrong at first glance.  It is hard for us to trust, and just surviving each day is a minefield experience.  Our faith is so fragile we can almost see it beginning to whither and die at the first sense of a breeze.

Some of us have spent much time in the light.  We’ve been sheltered and protected from the darker side of our adversary, but he comes to us in the form of an angel.  Subtle.  Soft.  Seductive.  Deadly.  We are fearfully self righteous and staunch in our convictions.  We see it all in black and white, while we cover our sins with masks of a thousand layers and colours.  We are so far from authenticity that even we cannot see past the first three layers.  It is so easy to look down one day and find, to our dismay, that our hands are caked with mud.  We are devastated at the maze we find ourselves in.  Clothed in all the right armour, we find we have no idea how to use it!  It is such a cruel awakening to fall into the reality of our own sinful existence.  Materialism, greed, anger, pride, selfishness.

Obviously, these are both very bleak pictures…and I have no intention of even attempting to cover all the bases.  Please do not read these as labels or as reprimands.  They are simply meant to illustrate how vastly different we can be, in this diverse family of ours.  It is beautifully colourful, yet frustratingly complex.  Our own experiences and perspectives are so large.  It is very hard to see through another’s eyes…especially when we cannot even comprehend what it might feel like to be in their shoes.

Some of us thrive on ministering outside of the church walls; reaching out to the lost and pouring out our time and resources for the ones we love who are outside the fold.  We see daily the intensity of the needs around us, and ache with the weight of their burdens.  We are intuitive, passionate, creative and motivated.  Some days we feel all alone and wonder why others seem not to notice or care that the harvest is so great and the workers are so few.  Our lives are filled with people of many shapes and colours.  They are children in our arms with skinned knees and broken hearts.  They are bruised and dark eyed women on the other side of our smiles.  Our houses are filled with sounds and smells not our own.  Our grocery money disappears and we can’t quite remember whom it fed.  This is a rich and blessed existence.

Others of us are focused on being the hands and feet of Christ to our brothers and sisters inside the body we love.  We are keenly sensitive to the glint of a tear, the stooped shoulders and the tight budget.  We have been so blessed by the family we love, and we pour out our energy to bless in return.  We are arms holding the grieving and letting their sobs become our own.  We are eager, smiling hands to the weary Mommy of 4.  We are the card, the email, the phone call…just because we can and we care.  We are the diligent, faithful Sunday School teacher…willing to say yes the third year in a row.  We are zealous in God’s Word and marvelling at the awesomeness of His presence.  We are consistently present and available to maintain and strengthen the Kingdom of God.

So tell me…which is more important?

Which is most needed?

I think we all know that we need this diversity.  We need this differing of gifts and experiences.  We need each other!  But the resulting reality of these differences is confusing.  It is misunderstanding, conflict and pain.  It is a crazy cycle of hurt, disappointment, disrespect and resentment.

Why? 

Is it really so hard to extend grace to each other?

Is it really so hard to understand that we are meant to be this way?  Meant to be different?  Meant to serve in different ways?  Meant to experience our Saviour’s love and grace in different ways?  Meant to be healed, restored and sanctified in varying methods planned carefully by our Creator.

I don’t know.

I don’t know why we insist on chasing others down our own spiritual pathway, determined to see them understand what God has taught us long ago, while ignoring the progress of their own journey.  I don’t understand what makes us so arrogantly sure that we are right, that we see things from our Father’s perspective…therefore concluding that the other person does not.  I don’t know how we can claim love and yet lack any confidence when differences arise that God can and will do His work in others’ hearts…very likely in a much different way than I would plan and very often without my assistance.

I am not talking about issues that are clearly laid out in scripture…but please be careful what you say is clearly laid out in scripture!  There may be more gray areas than you’ve thought.  I challenge you to constantly question…is this an issue that makes a difference in salvation?  And be ok with admitting that sometimes we don’t know and we need the Holy Spirit to guide us.

I know as I write this that this is a hard issue.

I know, but I don’t understand.

I am unwilling to believe we cannot be better than this as God’s people.

We have been offered so much grace.

Please insert here that I am the chief of sinners! 

I criticize.

I analyze.

I hurt, I cut, I kick down and destroy.

I am ashamed of the ways I have spoken and the thoughts that I have entertained.

I am proud, self righteous and selfish.

But I want to do better.  I need to be more than this!

I want to fully understand that Jesus came to me before I was all cleaned up and continues to come to me in my dirty, repulsive state so that I can understand that my fellow soldiers are experiencing the same daily surrender.  It is not my job to clean them up!  It is not my job to point out all that has not been done yet…lest Jesus Christ would reject me for all the lessons I have not yet learned!  What a stench I still am to my perfect Saviour!  Yet He loves me, He chooses to use me in His kingdom and He gently leads me along on the path He’s planned.  I can walk with them on the journey, and dare to enter into their struggles.  I can be honest about my own state of wretchedness.  I can bring them to Jesus and bring them to Truth, but I cannot be their Holy Spirit.

Sometimes it will hurt, and it will mean leaving myself vulnerable so that I can understand their pain.  It will mean ferociously tearing down the walls guarding my heart, despite Satan’s screaming, to open myself to pure, honest relationships.  Am I willing to do this?

I don’t know.

But I know that I am tired of pretending to be perfect.

I know I am tired of holding inside the words I know are true, honest, pure…tired of refraining from fighting for what is right, though others may misunderstand.

I am tired of having my defenses so high I cannot simply rejoice with those that rejoice and grieve with those that grieve.

I am tired of feeling like I need to figure it all out, when it’s obvious it’s beyond what I can possibly understand.

I am tired of teaching my little ones to share, to be kind, to be gentle…while I devastate, cut down and drown others in doubt.

What happened to doing to others as I would have them do to me?

What happened to seeing the best in people?

What happened to saying I’m sorry?

It sure gets harder as you get older, doesn’t it?  Or maybe it’s just that we’ve forgotten that it’s just that SIMPLE.

Smiling.

Forgiving.

Talking nicely.

Apologizing.

Sharing.

Maybe they’re right after all…everything you really need to know you learn in Kindergarten 🙂

I’m sorry if this post ruffles your spirit.  It kind of does mine, too.  Admittedly I am frustrated often, which really makes me so ill equipped to even speak to this issue.  And who knows…I may be way off, right?  There’s a lot I don’t know.  There’s a lot I’ve never experienced.

One thing I am thankful for is that God never changes, and His Word is powerful.  He holds all the answers to all my questions, and with His Presence and power in my heart I CAN make daily, wise choices to be like Him every single day.

AF

 

 

 

 

 

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