Donuts and Dancing: Celebrating our newest family member

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Two weekends ago we had the opportunity to travel back to Ohio to officially welcome a sweet little princess into our extended family.  We have spent the last year loving her and enjoying her sweet, outgoing, spontaneous, vibrant and exciting personality.  She has been such a shining example of how wonderful adoption can be and has been a sweet reminder of how God uses such a process to show his loving adoption of us into His family.

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Mia and her cousin became fast friends over the last year.  They are both in kindergarten this year and love spending time together….especially for sleepovers at Grandma’s house.

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Everyone got into the festivities with party blowers, funny glasses, hats, silly string and necklaces…and of course, donuts and dancing!  And as you can see, Zane looked for every opportunity to be his silly self.

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The party was loud, fun, exciting, and endearing…perfect for the special girl we can now officially call a niece/cousin.  Welcome to the family, sweety! We love you!

*I have intentionally left her name out of this blog post…as well as any obvious pictures of her face.  Please be aware of that when leaving comments.  Thanks!

When the cat’s away…

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Mia has been in school now for a month.  We have had our ups and downs but she is currently loving it. This picture is of when she got to go to McDonald’s because she didn’t cry for a whole week when I dropped her off…yes, I resorted to bribing (don’t judge me.) But after the first week-and-half she actually became happy to go to school. Her love of school even produced such statements as, “Mommy, I don’t really miss you that much anymore when I’m at school” and “Mom, I don’t just like school, I love school.  No, wait…I SUPER LOVE school”.  And I was pleased to find out how much she actually likes her teacher when on one day last week when he had to be out she came out of the school nearly in tears when I went to pick her up. Without any words she just ran to me with an anguished look on her face and arms stretched out wanting me to pick her up…even in front of all of her school friends.  When we got to the car it all spilled out, “Lillian wasn’t there, and I couldn’t find my bagel money….and, and….I just missed Mr. Roberts so much.” And then the tears came.  Never had her sad tears produced so much joy in my heart.  She actually loved her teacher enough that missing him would create such a horrible, awful day.  She is now so distracted by talking to friends and making sure to get the attention of her teacher that she doesn’t even care if I am there or not when I drop her off.

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And then there is this guy.  He is loving the fact that he can make decisions about his day and not have to compromise or share with his sister.  We go to the mall and the zoo with  his friends.  He gets to pick what shows he watches on TV.  And on one particular day, as you can see, he chose to wear nothing but his underwear, on Mia’s bed, playing her iPod.  When Mia is away, he definitely makes the best of his independence and temporary only child status.

Fashion Friday: Fast Outfits for a Stylish School Drop-off

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I’m a stay at home mom but I have vowed never to slip into the easy unfashion of wearing pajamas to drop my child off at school. Beyond just looking sloppy, wearing sweats to start the morning makes it a lot easier to return home to my previous sleepy state…lounging around, crawling back into bed, spending all day in front of the tv. It gives me no motivation to hit the ground running and finish my perpetually extensive list of chores. So, I have come up with a few no fail outfit formulas to help me out so that stumbling in the early morning darkness does not end up producing sweatshirt and tennis shoes every single day.

1. The tank-cardigan-scarf-flats combo: Throw on a pair of jeans, a random tank top, a neutral colored cardigan, a patterned scarf and a pair of flats and you have yourself an easy, stylish look that lasts all day. Honestly, not much matching is required…as long as two out of the four pieces are somewhat neutral, you will look like you really put some thought into your clothes when really just a quick sweeping of your closet could produce this look every time.cn7035007

2.The button-up with black leggings + optional sweater: This is by far the easiest combo I can come up with. Grab a button-up, jump into some leggings, slip on the flats you left sitting by the door yesterday and you are done. If it’s cold, throw on a sweater. How simple can it get? And choosing black leggings really makes the outfit look sleek and pulled together.cn7054803cn7036865

3. Old, tired outfit + a twist=style. I have a basket full of long-sleeved t-shirts and a drawer full of jeans. It is easy for me to slip into the not so fashionable rut of pulling on one of each and running out the door. But taking one extra minute to tuck in your shirt, throw on a belt, cuff your pants and slip into some flats makes all the difference in the world. You can go from drab, frumpy mom…to the mom that is turning heads. cn6914578

4. Patterned pants + neutral top: Never underestimate how much fashion a pair of patterned pants brings to the table. Patterned pants are as easy as jeans but bring an outfit to a whole new level of style that jeans just never dreamed of doing. Make it simple by adding a chambray shirt, a gray sweater or a white button-up…all great fall staples (which I will definitely be blogging about later).

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I got a lot of my outfit ideas from Old Navy…http://oldnavy.gap.com/browse/category.do?cid=94899

JCPenney also has an amazing amount of stylish and affordable looks…http://www.jcpenney.com/dotcom/women/dept.jump?id=dept20000013&cmJCP_T=G1&cmJCP_C=D4B

And of course Anthropologie always has it together but most of the time, I can’t afford to shell out $100 for a pair of pants. But when I can…http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/index.jsp

The Evolution of the Undefined Room

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This room was a thorn in my side from day one and now it is slowly becoming my favorite room in the house.

What started as a drab empty space…

Was brought to life with a bright color…

And a few strategically placed pictures.

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Thoughts on Knowing God

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J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God has been on my reading list for the past five years and as time has crept by, I have been drawn more and more to it but never actually picked it up to read it.  But this summer I was given a book, When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James (which I will most likely be reviewing later)…she referenced Knowing God  and used the phrase “knowing God” so often that when I closed her book, I felt that it was only a natural response to open Packer’s book.  Knowing God started out simply as a series of articles meant to counteract many Christian misconceptions that had snuck in due to liberal theology. The articles were intended to cause readers to think more seriously about God and His character…a concept that so many Christians take for granted, thus becoming lazy and misguided in their pursute of a relationship with Him.  At this point in my life I had become one of those lazy misguided people and had not even realized it until I delved into the knowledge that Packer so generously and tangibly presents in his book. I had honestly thought I “knew God” until I was so graciously shown otherwise. I would like to present a few ideas that I pulled from the book that have been on my heart the last few weeks. From this book I learned why we should know God, how we can know God and I was given examples of those who knew God best and how it changed their lives.

Our lives can be meaningless and confusing if we don’t know God. We cannot know the world unless we know the one who is in charge of the world.  As Packer states it, “we are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about God whose world it is and who runs it.  The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business for those who do not know about God.” How could we even begin to understand the frustrations of life if we are not following closely to the one who is the author of our lives, who knows everything that will happen before it does because he orchestrated it.  If I commit to knowing God more intimately I begin to see his patterns, I begin to see his character, I begin to see how he acts and things aren’t as confusing as they once were.  I begin to trust Him and know Him as a friend.  Knowing God more deeply is the answer to anxiety because we cannot worry if we have trusted fully in His sovereign hand.  Knowing God better is the answer to depression because we cannot be hopeless when we know he has a plan…a plan for our good and His glory.  Knowing God helps us love our neighbors better because how could we not love when we are loved by LOVE itself. Knowing God ultimately changes everything about our lives.

But we do have to be careful of gaining knowledge of God simply for the sake of getting smarter and knowing more because this will only lead to pride. We must learn more about God and allow it to change our heart and thus change our actions.  It is so easy to use our knowledge to set us apart and put other people down…that is the opposite of what God stands for.  We are called to reach out to others through our knowledge of God. I have encountered so many Christians over the course of our ministry that in their quest for knowledge about God they get lost somewhere along the way.  They begin to gather in their own little groups, speaking about how much they know…leaving others out and making others feel bad for not knowing as much as they do.  In the beginning it is not intentional but it is brought about by losing sight of the true purpose of knowing God more…it is for His glory and to make Him known to others.  In the process of gaining knowledge we can so easily turn people away from God if we are not careful to keep this true purpose in mind.

We can know God through prayer, reading the Bible and meditation. Meditation is such a lost art in our culture.  Images flash in front of our faces all day every day giving us little time to actually concentrate on what we are seeing.  Our brains have been trained to not actually purposefully think about anything but to respond as quickly as possible to whatever comes to our attention at the moment.  Meditation is simply stopping and thinking about something…in this particular context we are talking about getting quiet, removing distractions and concentrating on who God is and what He has done.  Meditation can be a useful tool in knowing God when coupled with scripture reading.  The Bible is the written word of God…they are exhortations straight from the mouth of God himself.  Where better to begin to know God better than to read his exact words as written by His chosen messengers?  And through prayer we are given access to God in conversation.  We can actually speak to God…talk to him directly and we can hear from him through His chosen means.  We can call on the Holy Spirit to help us apply the scripture we have read and to know specifically what God is telling us through His Word.  And if we are still before Him he speaks to us through prayer.  We are given so many opportunities to know God better and through reading this book I was reminded of how I am squandering those opportunities.  

Knowing God gives examples from the Bible of those who knew God and served him faithfully.  Daniel is one such faithful servant. Through constant prayer Daniel walked closely with God.  He had a right perspective of God’s plan and had a trust in God that led him through many difficult situations.  He stood strong in his faith…refusing to eat the food the king had given him, refusing to bow to the king, and continuing to pray even when he knew the consequences could be deadly.  And never did he take the credit…it was his complete knowledge of God that lead him strongly.  He could keep the right perspective because he knew the God who had planned his course.  He could be brave in fearful times because he knew the God who controlled the mouths of lions.  He could stand strong against the king because he knew the true King.

There is so much more to learn from this book than what I have mentioned here.  There is a lifetime of application and a continuous stream of knowledge to be gained from these pages.  This was my first reading of this book but it will not be my last because though I came away with much to think about, I know there is much more information in this book than I was able to grasp through one single reading.  I encourage anyone to read this…theologically minded or not to gain a clearer perspective of the great God who made us, sustains us, loves us and guides our lives. 

Out With the Old…

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I had posted a few pictures of our house a while back on Facebook but I wanted to be able to document all of our changes and keep an updated account of all of my decorating endeavors.  So…if you will humor me with all the before pictures, I promise there will be some updated pictures next week.  I am not ready to declare any of our rooms ready for an “after” picture…but I have definitely made some progress since these bare bones shots were taken.

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Our living room has been a constant sore spot for me…I have questioned the paint color, tried 5 different curtains on the windows, changed my mind about fabric for the pillows and asked myself, “a rug or no rug?”.  And…sigh…I still have yet to make any lasting decisions.

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The sun room is the one room that I have known from the beginning 100% what I wanted to do…now to actually put that plan into action.

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Zane’s room has seen one of the biggest transformations so far but there wasn’t really anywhere to go but up from this drab and lifeless display.

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Everyone’s favorite room…the basement…is deserving of a complete makeover but right now organization is the number one thing on my mind.  There are so many toys and so far I do not have enough places to put them.

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Our bedroom, for some reason has received the least amount of my attention.  Even after all the boxes had been unpacked and put away everywhere else our bedroom still looked like a moving truck had exploded in there.

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The kids bathroom really didn’t need much work.  But of course, I had to add my personal touch to it…and absolutely get rid of those handmade curtains with ladybug and flower applique.

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Mia’s room has made be both excited and sad to decorate it. I love the color of the walls and the color scheme is very vibrant…but I can’t seem to get over how grown-up her room looks now. Princesses and butterflies have been replaced by pop music and peace signs…bubble gum pink and flowers is now gray and chevron.

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And this room currently has no identity.  What is supposed to be a dining room is now just a place to keep extra furniture. Because we have an eat in kitchen and only one table, this room has remained a little empty. Hopefully as time goes on, it will acquire its true place in our home and its identity will become more clear to me.