*Intentional Living

Summer – Our Plans and a Blogging Break

Summer

It’s heeeeeeeere.

Not necessarily weather-wise (this month has been so dreary and cold in IL), but my kids are now home from school. It’s summer break.

AHHHHHHHH.

Ok. Now that I have that out of my system, I thought I’d share what we’re doing this summer.

Traveling

Summer is our busy season with Lifegate in Africa. We use church camps and Vacation Bible School programs to share the mission with children and their families. We want kids to learn about the people in Sierra Leone, but we also want to expose them to the vocation of full-time missionaries as well.

Because of this desire to educate the children, our family spends much of our summer where the children are! We’re spending five or six weeks on the road this year! We have three weeks of church camp and at least two weeks (one more is still a maybe) of Vacation Bible Schools planned. At each of these, we show photos and videos of life in Sierra Leone. We help the children understand the differences and the similarities between us and the people who live on the other side of the world. We teach them games and useful language phrases (ex. “my brother is a monkey”). We attempt to bridge the gap and build empathy so that the next generation will care about those who are living, suffering, surviving, and experiencing oppression.

During a few of the weeks we are gone, we are actually able to give another missionary a retreat by allowing her to use our home and drive our vehicle. We’re honored to be serving God with ALL we have this summer.

Education

Because I believe learning happens every day, summer break does not mean the learning stops at our house.

I still have all of my homeschool curriculums in addition to a new workbook for each of the boys. Yesterday we started practicing writing, tracing, cutting, and coloring. We’re also going to focus on fun learning – like playing games. There’s so many great turn-taking and sportsmanship skills to be learned (especially for competitive boys!) by just playing a board game. Board games are great for taking along on all our travels too.

Interestingly enough (and because God knows what he is doing) my boys are developmentally about the same level. Recently we have fielded even more questions about whether or not they are twins. Most days, it totally feels like they are. This makes teaching them a little easier over the summer.

Reading

I still have a goal of at least reading 75 books by the end of the year. I’m more on track with reading 100 at this point, and I don’t see that slowing down too much. Reading is one of the best ways for me to relax, and with having the boys home every day, well, I see the need for relaxing even more…

The boys are already diving into their summer reading as well. When we are home, we plan to visit the library at least weekly. As we travel, we hope to tour and visit a few new libraries as well!

The boys’ attention spans are lengthening, so we’ve been reading up to four longer books in one sitting. I’d love to start reading chapter books to them this summer. (I’m looking for suggestions on what to read to them!)

Don’t forget to check out my summer reading suggestions here.

Writing

This is our last summer before both my boys are in school every day (what? when did this happen?!). I had a million great goals for my own writing and blogging this year, but then I looked at my boys and realized those goals could wait until they aren’t home. This summer, my focus is my boys.

And for this reason, I plan to take a small break from blogging. It’s not that I won’t be publishing posts occasionally, but we’re busy and you’re busy… It’s ok for me to step back for a few months.

I plan to focus the summer on writing for myself. I have dreams of a book (and an idea for one) that I hope will flow from me this fall. Before then though, I want to journal. I want to refine my voice and give space to my internal feelings. I want to fill up my creativity bucket before pouring from it.

I decided to have my boys journal this summer as well. They’re each getting a blank notebook and have to write and draw reflections about each day. I’m sure these journals will be comical as yesterday’s entry from Edward was all about eating hash browns for breakfast. Livin’ it up in the summer of 2017 with the Newinghams!

So, in short, we have big summer plans.

I’d also like to lose ten pounds, maintain a spotless house, and take up running (ha). But, you know, one thing at a time.

And just because you know I cannot remain silent, be sure to follow me on social media. My favorite place to hang out these days in on Instagram stories. You can find me on Facebook as well.

From the Newinghams, “Have a happy summer!”

Chance’s Trip to Sierra Leone, Africa

In March, my husband, Chance led a missions team of four to Sierra Leone to serve. You may remember that Chance and I work full time as representatives of Lifegate in Africa.
After teaching my man how to use his iPhone camera (hello, focus?!), the team was off! Once they returned, Chance had taken hundreds of pictures, and some of them were actually pretty good! 
While there, the team helped with craft projects at schools, played games and hung out with kiddos at Lifegate’s orphanage, co-led revival services at churches, and learned tie dying from the ladies at the ministry’s trade school.
They. Had. A. Blast.
Below you will find a photo dump from the trip – with the captions written by Chance!
Here’s Ginger and I right before I left the farm. Isn’t she beautiful?!

Travel

Mickey, Julia, Fred, and I were bound and determined to not let the rainy weather bring us down as we left Peoria, IL!

As we traveled, our suitcases were not only full of our personal items, but they also included tools for the ministry (chalk lines, masonry hammer, pliers, etc.). Musa, our head of construction, was very excited to have such nice equipment. Not only will he use it for Lifegate projects, but he’ll also use it to teach trades to others!

 

Mickey is like a grandma to me and my boys. I love her dearly, and it is because of my great love for her that I pretended to kiss her while she was sleeping on the plane and took a picture to capture the moment!

Schools

Sarah, one of Lifegate’s in-country missionaries, told the story of Daniel and the Lion’s Den at each of our schools. Then, the team helped students decorate paper plates to look like lion masks. It was fun!
The students at Kassie School had prepared some songs for our arrival. They were adorable as they sang and swayed in their cute uniforms!
While visiting one of our schools, we witnessed this man working on the side of the road. He spends all day long creating a machete from old vehicle leaf springs; he heats the metal up in a small fire, and pounds and scrapes until it’s razor sharp. He only sells them for about $2 each. I’m always blown away at the ingenuity displayed in Sierra Leone!

Children’s Home

This is Mabinty, one of the older girls at the orphanage. She taught me how to play a jacks-like game using only rocks. She’s sweet AND competitive!
This is Lahai, one of the older boys at the orphanage. He’s a ham, to say the least. He loves to be the center of attention.
Lahai also loves to share God’s Word with his peers. While there, we got to observe his passion!
This is Alpha, another one of the older boys at the orphanage. He’s a quiet kid who loves the Lord.
Fatmata, the youngest girl from the orphanage, is always up for a picture. She’s such a cutie in her school uniform!
This is Matha, another one of the older girls at the orphanage. Ginger, the boys, and I have supported her financially for several years. It was so good to see her beautiful smile and talk about her future dreams of being a nurse. I was very proud the day I watched her help the Lifegate nurse do checkups on all the children; Matha was right there by her side.

Churches

When we visited each church, not only did we bring the Word of God, we also brought food! We considered it a privilege to hire local people to cook the food for the revival services.

 

This picture was snapped right after church in Brigitte Village. Can you believe all those people fit in that little building?!
This is Tommy, one of the members at Lifegate Church in Brigitte Village. One year ago Tommy was living in sin (belonged to a gang, demonstrated violence, promiscuous life), but he’s taken a turn for the better. He gave his life to Christ, and he’s a new man. I even got to see him teach a Bible story to the people of the church in Sunday School!

Trade School

Fatmata is one of the ladies who has been learning God’s Word and trades (sewing and tie-dying) since January. It was so cool to watch her work. We’re so proud of the progress that she and the other students have demonstrated in the past few months!
One day on our trip, the students became the teachers. The gals learning to tie-dye were given the opportunity to teach our missions team the trade!
Once the fabric was folded properly, Mickey learned how to tie and knot the cloth.
Julia was taught how to create specific designs by properly folding the fabric.
Of course, I was given the most complex design to create! They even trusted me with a huge needle! It was not easy work!
Julia mixed the dye and chemicals so that the fabric could be stained.
Ladies at the trade school tie-dyed 10 shirts that the team eventually brought back to the US. Ginger and I are excited to give them away this summer at VBS programs and church camps.
Since January, Lifegate has been teaching literacy classes at our trade school in Brigitte Village. Three days a week, nearly 25 students gather to learn how to read and write. This mama sees the value of education; because she loves herself and her son, she’s made learning this life skill a priority (even if it means attending with a baby on her back!).

Daily Life In Sierra Leone

 

How does one keep a chicken close by in Sierra Leone, you ask? Simply tie a sandal to the chicken’s leg, that’s how!
As for shaving cream, it’s about $5 a can in Sierra Leone, even though in the states you’ll pay about a dollar.
American-style food can be pretty expensive in Sierra Leone. A single pack of Ramen noodles was about 60 cents. In the US, they are about a dime each.
It’s much cheaper to eat African; their diet consists of mostly rice and fish.

Fundraiser

 

Lifegate is planning a banquet fundraiser on November 2 (mark your calendars!)  where items will be auctioned off.
A few of the hand-carved items include:
A chess set.
A nativity set.
And a mask.

Heading Home

 

This picture was taken the day before we left! I had a blast talking with Tyler, one of Lifegate’s missionaries (and one of my best friends) as we spent time on the beach.

Mickey, Julia, Fred, and I had just packed up and were making our way to the airport. It was so hard to say goodbye, but we knew that we had to come home and tell as many people as possible what God is doing in Sierra Leone.

Thank You

To those who prayed and supported me during my trip: thank you. Simply saying it or writing it doesn’t seem like enough, but I must express my gratitude.
Thank you for helping me go on this trip.
I was able to see people I love.
I was able to serve people who needed help.
I was able to see things that I wouldn’t have been able to see if it wasn’t for your generosity.
Thank you for your kindness.
A missions trip is currently being planned for 2018. If you are interested in traveling to Sierra Leone with Lifegate in Africa, please contact me here.

Five Things I Want You to Know on Mother’s Day – To the Women who had Miscarriages

I was so happy. I sat in church and locked eyes with my husband. We exchanged a smile over a secret only the two of us shared.

But then, the next Sunday, tears sprung to my eyes before the first notes of worship even began. I hugged a few close friends but shied away from everyone else.

As the singing of our church service began, I sank into my seat. I was broken hearted.

I had experienced loss. I had miscarried a baby.

I’ve been through this experience five different times over the span of eight years now. I am more in-tune to the emotional signs of loss than the average member of our congregation, but even with my watchful eye, I know many other women slip through my radar and suffer their losses in silence.

Maybe you’ve been there too.

Sweet girl at church, maybe you have experienced a miscarriage as well. Whether you’ve shared your loss or kept it silent, I have some things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day. Whether you sit in my pew, attend my congregation, or live miles away, this message is for you:

1. You are not alone.

Even if you’ve kept your loss private, you are not suffering alone. You may look around the room and see babies in seemingly everyone’s arms, but even the church is not free of heartache.

The most recent statistics state that 15-20% of all pregnancies end in loss.

Our scars are not visible, but many of the women sharing your pew have felt the heartbreak of infant loss as well.

2. Others want to love you.

If you choose to share your losses — and I recommend you eventually do — let the church body surround you with love. Let us bring you meals or bake you cookies. Accept our gifts – even if you don’t believe you need them. These gifts are a physical representation of God’s love for you.

After one of my miscarriages, a friend brought me a pair of fleece pajamas. Every time I slid my legs into those fuzzy pants, I felt the love and support of my friend.

Do not isolate completely, as the whispers of Satan can become shouts in our times of solitude.

3. Grief takes time.

Grieving the loss of an infant is not the same as grieving the passing of your grandfather. He was given the opportunity to live a full life. You have memories with him.

Grieving a baby you never met is unique. You lack the memories and shared experiences, but still posses the pain. You mourn what could have been as opposed to what was.

It’s ok to seem fine one day and struggle again the next.

After my second miscarriage, I took a few days to grieve and then returned back to work. One of my clients announced her due date that next week – it was the same date as the baby I had just lost. Following the announcement, I took a couple more days off of work. My heart was not ready; I wanted to be happy at the announcement of new life, but my wound was too fresh.

Trust your body and your heart as you mourn. Take a day. Take a month. Take what you need. Your grief is as unique as the baby you cry over.

4. God does love you, but Satan hates your family.

You chose to create a family and bring a child into this world. You planned to raise this baby in the church and according to God’s Word. God is not punishing you for any unfaithfulness in your past or anything you have done wrong. God loves you. He desires to give you good things.

But.

But Satan is present and powerful. He hates the idea of a family grounded in truth. He stops at nothing to harm and destroy.

These are facts of the world we live in, but dear friends, don’t allow Satan to win.

Do not allow this trial to breed bitterness or anger against God. Seek wise counsel and help if you need someone to preach and re-preach God’s promises and goodness over you.

Soak up the truth of how God loves you as you continue to read your bible during your grief. Remind yourself of the hope of heaven as you grieve for what sin has taken from you.

5. You were the best mama for your baby.

My babies typically perished between six and ten weeks gestation. For every one of those weeks, I was a good mama for my babies. I kept them safe. I nourished them. I loved them unconditionally.

These losses are not something I wanted. Quite the opposite. I would have done anything to keep them alive.

This is true for you as well, Mama. I don’t doubt your devotion to your children — no matter how long they lived on this earth. You were such a good mama.

If God grants you another babe, you will be a good mama again, no doubt. You will be the best mama for that baby. God made that specific child with you in mind.

 

These are the five things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day – whether you attend my congregation or not, whether your loss is recent or long ago.

Sister, even if your children are not still with us here on this earth, this Mother’s Day is for you. I’m sorry for your loss, but your baby was blessed by your love – no matter how short or how long s/he lived. Sweet girl, sweet mama, Happy Mother’s Day.

photo credit: Darrin Ralph

To the Girl at Church who has Suffered Loss – A Mother’s Day Message for Women who have Miscarried Babies

I was so happy. I sat in church and locked eyes with my husband. We exchanged smiles over a secret only the two of us shared.

But then, the next Sunday, tears sprung to my eyes before the first notes of worship even began. I hugged a few close friends but shied away from everyone else.

As the singing of our church service began, I sank into my seat. I was broken hearted.

I had experienced loss. I had miscarried a baby.

Maybe you’ve been there too.

Sweet girl at church, maybe you have experienced a miscarriage as well. Whether you’ve shared your loss or kept it silent, I have some things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day Sunday. Whether you sit in my pew, attend my congregation, or live miles away, this message is for you:

photo credit: Darrin Ralph

1. You are not alone.

Even if you’ve kept your loss private, you are not suffering alone. You may look around the room and see babies in seemingly everyone’s arms, but even the church is not free of heartache.

The most recent statistics state that 15-20% of all pregnancies end in loss.

Our scars are not visible, but many of the women sharing your pew have felt the heartbreak of infant loss as well.

 

2. Others want to love you.

If you choose to share your losses — and I recommend you eventually do — let the church body surround you with love. Let us bring you meals or bake you cookies. Accept our gifts – even if you don’t believe you need them. These gifts are a physical representation of God’s love for you.

After one of my miscarriages, a friend brought me a pair of fleece pajamas. Every time I slid my legs into those fuzzy pants, I felt the love and support of a friend.

Do not isolate completely, as the whispers of Satan can become shouts in our times of solitude.

 

3. Grief takes time.

Grieving the loss of an infant is not the same as grieving the passing of your grandfather. He was given the opportunity to live a full life. You have memories with him.

Grieving a baby you never met is unique. You lack the memories and shared experiences, but still posses the pain. You mourn what could have been as opposed to what was.

It’s ok to seem fine one day and struggle again the next.

After my second miscarriage, I took a few days to grieve and then returned back to work. One of my clients announced her due date that next week – it was the same date as the baby I had just lost. Following the announcement, I took a couple more days off of work. My heart was not ready; I wanted to be happy at the announcement of new life, but my wound was too fresh.

Trust your body and your heart as you mourn. Take a day. Take a month. Take what you need. Your grief is as unique as the baby you cry over.

 

4. God does love you, but Satan hates your family.

You chose to create a family and bring a child into this world. You planned to raise this baby in the church and according to God’s Word. God is not punishing you for any unfaithfulness in your past or anything you have done wrong. God loves you. He desires to give you good things.

But.

But Satan is present and powerful. He hates the idea of a family grounded in truth. He stops at nothing to harm and destroy.

These are facts of the world we live in, but dear friends, don’t allow Satan to win.

Do not allow this trial to breed bitterness or anger against God. Seek wise counsel and help if you need someone to preach and re-preach God’s promises and goodness over you.

Soak up the truth of how God loves you as you continue to read your bible during your grief. Remind yourself of the hope of heaven as you grieve for what sin has taken from you.

 

5. You were the best mama for your baby.

My babies typically perished between six and ten weeks gestation. For every one of those weeks, I was a good mama for my babies. I kept them safe. I nourished them. I loved them unconditionally.

These losses are not something I wanted. Quite the opposite. I would have done anything to keep them alive.

This is true for you as well, Mama. I don’t doubt your devotion to your children — no matter how long they lived on this earth. You were such a good mama.

If God grants you another babe, you will be a good mama again, no doubt. You will be the best mama for that baby. God made that specific child with you in mind. 

 

These are the things I want you to know on this Mother’s Day – whether you attend my congregation or not, whether your loss was recent or long ago.

Sister, even if your children are not still with us on this earth, this Mother’s Day is for you. I’m sorry for your loss, but your baby was blessed by your love – no matter how short or how long your child lived.

Sweet girl, sweet mama, Happy Mother’s Day.

[Many mamas of infant loss suffer in silence; please pass this along to a mama who needs to hear it on this Mother’s Day.]

Five Friday Faves – The Mother’s Day Edition

I am SO ready to share five things that I’m loving this week. In fact, I had to work hard to narrow my list down to just five things.

And this week, I am sharing five things that could all be acceptable as gifts for Mother’s Day.

Ahem.

If you are reading this and you are a man, let’s just stop for one moment.

Did your wife send you this link?

Lean in close. I have a secret for you.

SHE WANTS YOU TO BUY HER SOMETHING FROM THIS LIST.

Also, Mother’s Day is May 14. All day. FYI.

Get to shopping.

 

So here’s my Mother’s Day suggestions this year (remember, my links don’t cost you anything extra, but they help support me. I made a whopping $3.87 last month. I promise not to forget the little people):

Amope Foot File

Don’t be scared. Don’t run away. Our feet need loving too.

My husband bought me this right before he went on a missions trip to Africa this spring. He knew I would need some pampering, so he purchased this wet-dry foot file for me to use.

Oh, my heavens. My feet have never been more smooth.

It’s almost sandal weather. It’s time to love your feet again, ladies.

 

Along those same lines of pampering…

Surpahs Bath Pillow

I like to read in the bathtub, but seriously. Whoever designed tubs was thinking about dunking our filthy children, not leaning back with a novel.

This pillow though, it’s only $11.00 and it saves my back!

 

If you give a mouse a cookie… If you give a mama a bath pillow, she’s gonna need a new book to go with it!

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

I rarely read physical books, as I prefer ebooks. Friends told me I HAD to get the physical copy of this one though, and I’m so glad I did. The design and the layout are beautiful and inspiring.

Erin’s story was encouraging as well. She has traveled through many seasons that women can relate to. She is a great story-teller with an appropriate view of God’s involvement in her hard times. She has made it her message and platform to chase a slower pace of life – don’t we all need that?

 

After all the pampering, I suppose there might need to be something a bit more practical…

External Battery Charger

I have attended two different women’s conferences this month; one thing I shared with mamas at both conferences was my external battery charger.

We moms are on our phones quite a bit. We need to check in and keep up. But if we’re away from the house for too long, our phone batteries go dead.

I love having an external battery pack. I just plug into it and stick the charger and my phone into my purse. I still have my phone with me, but it’s not going dead!

This is a super practical gift for moms!

 

And finally, a gift that might not even cost you a dollar!

Bible Promises for Parents of Children with Special Needs

My friend Kathy McClelland is having a giveaway on her blog this week for a book called “Bible Promises for Parents of Children with Special Needs.” If you are the mama of a special needs kiddo, this book sounds so encouraging. It’s indexed and laid out as a reference guide, rather than a coherent story.

The book includes biblical promises for situations such as:

When you’re having trouble accepting your situation…

When you blame yourself for what has happened…

When you start to doubt that progress is possible…

When your heart breaks for your child…

Click here to enter to win one of the books Kathy is giving away (giveaway ends Sunday) or head over here to just purchase the book for five dollars!

 

Happy Shopping, men. I just gave you some stellar ideas for the mothers in your life. And ladies, there’s nothing saying you can’t just buy your own presents just in case… ahem.

 

Business Launch – For Salone Earrings

All last winter, I planned and prepared. I had an idea. Not just any idea, but an idea to benefit brothers and sisters on the other side of the globe.

This past January, For Salone was born.

It all started when I received compliments on a pair of earrings I made. I cut leather scraps in the shape of feathers and dangled them from my earlobes.

Strangers would ask me where I purchased them and how much they were. Fashionable friends wanted some of their own.

All the while, my heart remembered some of the people I love the most – the people who daily live and survive in the country which has been named the most desperate place on earth – Sierra Leone.

And so, I put together the pieces the Lord had given me. I merged my passion, my creativity, and my giftings.

For Salone.

For Salone is a creative party with a purpose.

You Create.

Gather your friends and learn how to create multiple designs of genuine leather earrings.

We Sell.

Choose to purchase the earrings you created or donate them, and we will sell them.

They Flourish.

Profits are used to tell bible stories and teach life skills in Sierra Leone, Africa.

 

A party looks like this:

I bring all the supplies to your home, church, winery, library, or restaurant.

The supplies include beads from Sierra Leone.

I briefly share stories and pictures about Lifegate in Africa and the work being done in Sierra Leone.

Party-goers choose a style of earrings and get creating. Between the provided tools, the step-by-step directions, and my know-how, everyone in attendance completes at least one pair of earrings.

Then, guests decide whether or not to purchase the earrings ($15) or to donate them back to our ministry to be sold at a later date (no cost for the attendee AT ALL!).

It costs nothing to host a party, but by doing so, awareness is spread and funds are raised.

And a good time is had by all.

Please follow For Salone on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with what’s going on. Also, support our ministry by purchasing a pair from either of those social media sites.

Friends and readers in Illinois, contact me to host a party for your friends or your women’s ministry at church.

For Salone. It’s what happens when we all come together for the people of Sierra Leone.

 

Shop for earrings here and here.

 

[Thanks to Ariel of photosbyariel.com for her BEAUTIFUL pictures. People local to Lincoln, IL – check her out!]

This Is Attachment

My son, Edward, comes from a place of trauma. For the first three years of his life, he attempted to attach to caregivers who rotated in and out of his life on 8-hour shifts. He endured countless surgeries and hospital stays, not knowing who would be present to support him when he awoke from anesthesia.

He used charm and his adorable eyelashes to gain attention and acceptance. Being cute has gained him more love and attention than his peers.

Until he nervously toddled into my arms the first day we met, he had not known the stability of unconditional, ever-present love.

Edward has a few behavioral issues he confines to our home. He’s comfortable here, so it’s where he can truly let his guard down.

In our home is where he’s the most frustrating and disobedient. But it’s also where he requires the most reassurance.

You see, Edward is waiting for my 8-hour shift to end. He cannot possibly understand staffing and schedules and rotating shifts. He is not privy to the knowledge of labor laws and vacation time.

All he knows is caregivers always leave.

Did he upset them? Were they mad at him? Where did they go? And, most importantly, are they coming back?

This week, Edward’s behavior frustrated me. He blatantly disobeyed me and committed a repeat offense. He’s five, so it’s expected, but I’ve also employed every parenting technique I know on this offense. None are working.

So, I got angry. I yelled and took away privileges.

He cried. And screamed. He threw a forty-five-minute fit repeatedly announcing the injustice of it all.

But near the end of his tirade, he choked back a sob, stood at the top of our stairs, and declared, “Mama, I want you.”

Yes, his behavior was disappointing. Yes, I lost my cool and let him know exactly how this made me feel. He cried injustice and pushed me away.

Until he needed me.

To an outsider, his request might seem backward. Wouldn’t he want to remain far from the source of his discipline?

But not my boy who lived a thousand injustices before he could even walk.

Not my boy who has never known love to continue, to fight, and to remain.

My boy wants to lay his head on me. He wants to feel my chest rise and fall. He wants to know I’m not leaving. He wants me to kiss his thick hair as he cries. He wants my legs to intertwine with his as we sit together on the floor.

Edward wants the reassurance my 8-hour shift isn’t ending, just because he is imperfect. He needs to know I’m not walking out, even when I get upset with him.

You see, this is attachment. Children who have survived the 8-hour shift changes or multiple foster homes live in constant fear of abandonment and loss. They push love away and then pull it close.

This is attachment. This is the reality that adoptive and foster families live every day. Even infants who are separated from their first parents at birth experience loss. They too struggle to attach.

My Edward is further along in his attachment journey than many trauma survivors ever will be. He can verbalize when he’s done pushing me away and when he’s ready to pull me close. Not all kids can do so.

Do you know an adoptive or foster family? Will you pray for them right now as they work to love their children even as they are being pushed away?

And adoptive/foster families, I see you. I understand. You’re not alone. Keep fighting the good fight. Keep pulling them close even when they try to push you away.

This is attachment.

Five Friday Faves

Forget the Frock

While many people rush out to buy their children button-down shirts and frilly dresses for Easter Sunday, that idea never settled well with me.

Forget the Frock is a movement I became aware of a few years ago. Forget the Frock (#forgetthefrock) is all about putting our money to a better use. Instead of purchasing those frilly clothes our kids hate, you donate the money to a charity or organization. You can have your children wear hand-me-downs or clothes from the resale shop, or you can purchase t-shirts for your whole family to support a cause.

My family usually wears our clothing from Sierra Leone, Africa and donates money towards a specific project taking place there. Other options might be donating to an adoptive family (I have friends needing support here) and wearing jeans and old t-shirts.

Yes, the “frock”, the fancy clothes, look great in photos (well, other people’s photos as is evidenced below), but the donations have the possibility of changing lives.

Our family loves the movement and would love for you to join us. Learn more about Forget the Frock.

Create Hope Cuffs

An online friend of mine has started a business of designing and creating unique bracelet cuffs. She offered me one and asked what I would want on it, as personalization is part of her business.

I knew instantly.

When Nasko was at home, I would grow frustrated with his seeming lack of progress. His behaviors would revert and I would feel hopeless. One night, I decided to add up the number of days our sweet boy lived before he came into our safe and nurturing home.

One thousand nine hundred and ninety-five.

That’s what we were undoing with every act of discipline or unconditional love. When he rejected our hugs or ignored our rules, I trained my mind to return to that number.

1,995 days.

That’s how long he was treated poorly and did not know the love of a mother. Those are the days we are redeeming.

Danielle wants to honor all of those who have children who spent time in orphanages or foster care. Check out Create Hope Cuffs and use MOMENTS20 code for 20% percent off and order a cuff to remind you of the days you are redeeming. (You can also use the coupon for ANY phrase or cuff!)

P.S. This would make a great adoption gift for a mama!

P.P.S. Your purchase helps bring literacy to the people of rural Swaziland, Africa. LOVE.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey

I first learned of Jamie Ivey seven or eight years ago as we were deep in the adoption process. I was searching for blogs to follow and mamas to learn from.

I’ve continued to follow Jamie through a variety of life stages, but she seems to have found her calling these days — podcasting!

Her podcast is called, “The Happy Hour,” and the premise is simple; Jamie brings on guests and shares their stories to encourage other women.

I look forward to her program every week as I love to learn what other women are doing with their God-given talents. I also get so many book recommendations from this podcast!

Fish in a Tree


Oh, my goodness. This book. It’s a Young Adult book, but it shares a message of differences and inclusion that every adult needs to learn and relearn.

The main character, Ally, is a sixth grader who doesn’t fit in at all. She has moved frequently, and on top of that, she can’t read. The book follows her school-year journey to a diagnosis of dyslexia, but bigger yet, a discovery that we all have things that make us different.

The author, Lynda Hunt, without labeling or giving diagnoses, creates characters with signs of autism and ADHD. She also includes victims of abuse and racism.

I fell in love with Ally’s substitute teacher and his unique ways of bringing a class of difference together. Every educator could learn from his example.

Fitness Blender

Chance and I decided we probably need to start working out… We’ve both gained a little weight through our stressful changes with Nasko, so, you know, it was time.

A couple years ago (probably when I should have started working out) my friend Sarah turned me onto a couple on YouTube. They have a channel where they share high-quality fitness videos. The couple is honestly adorable (especially as they bicker) and they seem so real.

They make working out not so awful.

I still feel like I’m dying though.

But check them out. Misery loves company.

 

So, how about you? What are your favorite things in your life right now?

When my child drew a family portrait that didn’t include his brother

When my child drew a family portrait that didn’t include his brother:

It’s cute. There are heads and bodies and even arms and legs. My preschooler drew a picture of our family.

But this darling expression of his creativity hurt my heart in ways a family portrait never should — it didn’t include his oldest brother.

Edward loves to draw pictures. He usually sticks to horses and unicorns (he draws a mean Princess Luna), but a month or so ago, he changed his focus to drawing people.

One day, he stood at our art easel for a long time with his medium of choice — a black erasable marker.

I watched his creative process without giving suggestions or input. I allowed him freedom of expression without critique.

But his finished product was not without sorrow in my heart.

Edward, in his five-year-old innocence, drew a portrait of the people who live in our home. He looked for a typical family unit and created that on paper. He didn’t draw his brother because his brother does not live in our home.

———

Our oldest son moved into a group home over six months ago.

He was adopted from a country that is famous for its abuse and torture towards orphans. He is of Roma descent and is believed to be incapable of learning or developing.

Nasko’s past trauma coupled with his autism and Tourette’s diagnoses caused him to be unsafe in our home. For his safety, and the safety of his brothers, we chose to place him in a group home for children with special needs.

———

Last night as I was cooking dinner, Nasko FaceTimed us from his iPad. He calls us frequently (97 times one Saturday) and just wants to know what we are up to. He regularly requests to see different things around our farm – from the cats to the playroom to our van key fob.

As I was chopping and preparing to cook supper, I decided not to answer Nasko’s phone call; I would call him back after we ate. Louis heard the phone buzzing though, and said, “Is that Nasko? I want to talk to Nasko!”

I answered the call and handed Louis the phone.

As I turned back to supper preparations, I became engrossed in what I was doing. At least ten minutes went by and I realized I needed my phone to double-check a recipe. Now, where was my phone?

I remembered Nasko’s phone call and wiped my hands on the towel. I needed to find Louis.

I followed the sound of his sweet voice and found him in the middle of our playroom. He wore a smile that lit up his entire face. He was holding the phone and telling Nasko all about the train track he built that afternoon.
When I got closer, I could see that Nasko was leaning in, listening and observing.

My sons were having a conversation.

——

Our family doesn’t look like the average family on your block. From skin color to traumatic backgrounds to special needs, we aren’t easily captured in a preschooler’s family portrait.

But I would not trade the value of raising a typically-developing son who can hold a ten-minute, give-and-take conversation with his brother – a boy who was said to be incapable of learning or developing.

The family portrait hanging in my kitchen has four people, but my heart – and the hearts of all my sons – do include all five members of our nontraditional family.

Five Friday Faves

I started something new last week and decided to share some of my favorite things with you all on Fridays.

This week’s edition is a little heavy on relaxation though as my family is currently vacationing in Florida.

(Some of these links are affiliate links because, while I do love you all, it would also be nice to get paid once in a while. I only recommend things I TRULY love though. No worries.)

Vacation

My family is having a blast visiting my parents in Naples, Florida. We’ve already eaten too much, swam too hard, and slept… well… can one ever sleep enough?

One of my favorite things right now is most certainly Florida with my family!

GAP shorts

I snagged these adorable shorts from my favorite shopping app: ThredUp. It’s a second-hand store, entirely online!

I had purchased a similar pair of shorts at GAP last year and decided I needed another pair for our vacation. I got these babies for $9.99!

Because ThredUp loves me, AND because they love you, they have a code for anything GAP on their site! It’s an amazing deal of 50% off anything GAP, up to $50. (The code only works for first-time ThredUp shoppers.)

Use code GAP50 and search all the GAP merchandise by clicking here.

I’m going to hurry up and go shop again…

Tinkle

This may be the weirdest product I ever recommend… The Tinkle.

This little gadget is marketed as an eyebrow shaper, but a friend turned me onto it as a facial hair trimmer a while back.

Thaaaaaat’s right.

Facial hair.

It’s amazing though. You just run this baby over your problem areas, put a little facial lotion on, and BOOM – baby-smooth face.

I gave one to my mom, and she ordered twelve more. If you know my mom, that’s a big deal. No one messes with her beauty routine…

Hillbilly Elegy


People have been telling me to read this book for a while, but when I requested the e-book from the library, I was number 36.

So, two years later (kidding) it was finally my turn. It has been a great read!

Over on my Goodreads page, I wrote the following:

“J.D.’s book is written as a memoir – a peek inside the hillbillies’ lives. I see it as covering much of the low-income problems throughout our whole country though. Excellent writing with an optimistic voice.”

The book taught me a lot about the lower socio-economic class and the struggles being faced daily. My husband has a similar story of overcoming and achieving, so the author’s words had extra meaning for me.

I loved it.

Art

Since life has been a bit slower on vacation, I’ve had time to appreciate art and creativity. I stopped and took this photo of a cool mosaic today. Just because.

Also, while at the beach yesterday, I decided to create something in the sand. I knew my creation would wash away in a matter of hours, but I really enjoyed the process and the art of it.

I imagine my creation made at least one person smile; the work was worth it.

 

How about you? What are you loving this week?

Do you have anything you think I would love (especially items you sell or create yourself? Contact me!)