Monday, December 30, 2013

Judah is Four!

A week before his actual birthday, we celebrate Judah turning 4. He's been telling people, "I four" or "I five" for months now, but now it's official that he really is four.

So patient.
 He knows exactly what to do.

 When you're a kid, as long as there's cake and presents, it's a party!




 And because his birthday is so close to Christmas, he was ready to move seamlessly from birthday to Christmas presents. Luke stepped in to protect the Christmas loot.

Judah, you are passionate about life, and it is infectious! You bring joy to our household from the time you wake up with a peppy, "Good morning, Mama!" to the time you crash out at night. I've never known a four year old quicker to say, "Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!" or "Good job, Mama!" or "I love you!" You express what you feel. You're learning to use your words, even though it's sometimes tough, especially since you're not always sure how to say what you feel. You love your brothers and your sister and you are a good friend. You are not afraid of anything. You'll go anywhere, try everything, talk to anyone. You are fearless. Sometimes that doesn't end well for you, and you have lots of scrapes and bruises to show it, but that never stops you from getting back up and doing the same thing again. I can't wait to see where your passion and determination lead you in life. You are adventurous, and I know your adventures will lead you to incredible accomplishments. You love to sing worship songs and to pray at dinner. Your heart is tender toward the things of heaven. 

I love you, Judah. You please me just by being your sweet, happy, fun-loving self. Happy birthday, my four year old!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Susanna at Three Months

I'm thinking this whole first year of Susanna's life might be a blur. We are truly enjoying every single second with her. I'm even loving the early morning waking and middle of the day chaos moments. But they are happening before I can capture them and write them down. I am really trying, but her updates will just have to be as I can get to them.

I don't know if it's because she's number four and I know now how to relax and enjoy every moment, because she's my last baby or because she's a girl, but I feel such a connection with her already.
 While I am loving the bows and girly stuff, I am amazed at some of the stuff that people put on their baby girls.  I mean, really?
 Luke is such a huge help with her. He was holding her while I got a shower, and they were watching Saturday morning cartoons together.
 It got a little chilly here so she's gotten good use out of the warm blankets people have given her.
 Sweetness!
 Her brothers amuse themselves.
 The only thing I've bought her. She has so many clothes, but I wanted her to have a Christmas outfit.
 This was the morning after she slept almost twelve straight hours. I was getting ready to sneak in her room and check if she was breathing. I am relaxed, but I've never had a three month old sleep twelve hours, so it made me a little nervous. She felt good, and I was pretty darn happy too!
Oh, Susie Q! I love you!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Move, Part 4

In my mind, I was trying to determine what the next step would be. In my spirit, I knew God was unfolding the plan at His usual pace - not in a hurry - and I might as well relax. We had let go of the Bent Oaks house, and I was still pondering my dream. Did it mean to go forward with the townhouse? But that was in Victoria Commons, and my dream involved Victoria Hills. There weren't any listings in the Hills. Confusion!

Kris called me for us to decide our next step. I felt we needed to call the Realtor we had left a message with about the unlisted Victoria Hills house one more time. He called and finally got her. She said that the house had been taken off Zillow because it wasn't ready yet, but if we could meet her there on Friday, the 8th (it was Monday, the 4th), she would show it to us. The current renters were moving out the 8th, and if we put our application in online right away we could have first dibs on the house. There were two other people inquiring about it, but we had contacted her first. I raced to the computer, filled out the application and started counting down the minutes until Friday.

Friday rolled around, and we met the Realtor at the house. (Another side note is that she did a walk-through at 9:00 with the renters moving out and wanted us to meet her there at 9:30. If she had given me the option of any time in the whole day, I would have chosen 9:30, as that is right after I've dropped Judah off and have an almost child-free moment.) Kris had taken the morning off so we could look at the house together. We walked in the house, went from one room to the next with wide eyes and big smiles on our faces. The house was perfect for us! We looked at each other and said, "Oh yes, this is our house!"

We told the Realtor we for sure wanted it and wanted to know how quickly we could get in it. Our closing date was a week away, and we were eager to only move once without having to bunk with Kris' parents in between. We have a great relationship with them and felt that not moving our four children into their home for even a few days would be the best way to keep things happy. She said she needed to get people in there to touch up paint, clean and shampoo carpets. We told her we didn't need the walls touched up (we have three boys and figured that would be a waste) but would wait for the house and carpet cleaning. She said she would try to get it done by our closing date. About an hour later she called and said she had the cleaner coming the next day and the carpet cleaner coming Monday and that we could start moving things into the garage starting Sunday with our lease starting Tuesday. That was three days before our closing date on Friday.

Through this whole process, Kris and I kept looking at each other and saying, "For real?!" We have seen God again and again show us how much He wants to show us His care for us. Every detail.

This house that we're in, I'm not sure why, but the people who originally owned it painted every single room a different color. Some of the rooms even have more than one color. Seriously, when you sit at our kitchen table, you can see nine different colors. Nine. You know what? Almost every single color matches our furniture and needs perfectly. A pretty pink room for Susanna. A tan room for the big boys. Red, green and yellow rooms to go with our couches and chairs and even kitchen dishes. Only poor Judah has a lavender room, but he doesn't know the difference.

I'm sure there are details I am forgetting, but here is what I know: God has invited me and my family on a journey. A journey to experience a fuller measure of His goodness. He wants us to know how limitless His kindness, goodness and generosity are towards us. But for us to see and recognize it we have to quit expecting less.

I am beginning to see how we limit God's ability to bless by grasping for security and the first thing we see that will satisfy whatever we feel we are lacking. Sometimes, in our ability to see the next step we assume God hasn't yet prepared it. We doubt His tender attention to our care. We think we have to figure it all out rather than trusting that He already has it all figured out. So we go with what looks good, what feels safe, what fills a need or a longing...and we sacrifice what we've been asking God for and what He's been standing ready to do all along, just because we are impatient, afraid and insecure. We sacrifice our desires on the alter of security.

But for my family, I declare Isaiah 25:9 and 26:3: "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him. We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." and "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."

This is our moving journey. Stay tuned for our building journey, coming this spring!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sweet Olive by Judy Christie

I had the pleasure of reading Sweet Olive by Judy Christie for my most recent Booksneeze review. And now I have a new author to follow. I love it when that happens!

Camille Gardner heads to Samford, Louisiana to close an oil deal. She knows the oil business and feels confident she can get the job done - and then get out of Samford as quickly as possible. What she doesn't count on is falling in love with the people of the art community in Samford called Sweet Olive. She also never expected how returning to this tiny town, a place that holds painful memories for her, could do anything to heal her heart.

Judy Christie's writing is straight forward, easy to follow and fun. Her characters are believable, loveable, hateable and everything I generally hope to find in this type of fiction. This isn't a mystery, but there were enough twists to make it interesting and keep me guessing. I also learned a few things about the world of big oil.


I have always enjoyed reading new authors, especially ones who focus on a particular area. Christie’s focus in several of her works is in Louisiana, an area with which I am not familiar. I’m looking forward to reading more by Judy Christie.

I was given a copy of this book by Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinion. My opinions are all mine. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Move, Part 3

Before Kris and I ever built our first house, we talked about the Victoria Park neighborhood here in town. It is a community with a pool, park, tons of bike and walking paths, community activities, shops and cute homes. There are several different sections of it - Victoria Commons with the community pool, Victoria Hills with the golf course and Victoria Gardens that is the 55 and older section. You don't get nearly as much house for your money, though, so we moved on. But when it came time to rent, the boys were begging to live in Victoria Park, and we thought it would be fun to try for a temporary thing. So, the search began.

Right away we saw that there were not only no listings in Victoria Park, but there were very few rentals available that would meet our needs, period. I wondered how this was going to work out, but I kept going back to the word God spoke to my heart that we would be blessed whatever way we turned. I didn't get anxious. I was really just excited to see what God was going to do.

Every day we checked rental listings while the closing date for our house inched closer. About three weeks before closing we found a listing in Victoria Park for a townhouse and one in a different, nice neighborhood, Bent Oaks, for a three bedroom smaller home. We looked at the townhouse, and while the boys begged and Kris made a case for it, I could feel my chest constricting every time I thought about living in 1600 square feet and no yard with our three boys and a newborn. After looking at that, the 1800 square foot three bedroom home in the Bent Oaks with at least a postage stamp yard looked heavenly. I said, "Let's do it!" We had to pick something and that was the lesser of the two evils. We told the rental agent to sign us up and we made application.

About a week later, I got up in the night to feed Susanna and was thinking about the dream I had just woken up from. In my dream, I was wrestling with the steering wheel of the van, trying to turn into the Victoria Hills neighborhood. As I drove past it, I said, "Okay, God, if you want us to let go of the Bent Oaks house, we will. I just need you to make it clear to me." I couldn't make sense of it, but I knew it was a dream with a word. Kris was tossing around next to me, so I said, "Can't sleep?" He said no, he was thinking about the house. I wasn't ready to talk about my dream, so I went back to sleep. The next morning I said, "Okay, I don't want to muddy the waters, and I don't know what to make of it, but here's what I dreamed last night." After I told him he looked at me and said, "Okay, what do we do?"  I didn't know. There still weren't any listings in Victoria Commons, there had never been one in Victoria Hills and the Realtor for the Bent Oaks house was holding the house off the market for us until we signed the lease.

Back up three days before. I hear Kris at the computer saying, "What?! How did this get away from me? There's a listing in Victoria Hills that's been on here for three days. I've checked every day. How did I miss this?" He called on the listing, left a message with the Realtor, and talked to the receptionist who said the listing wasn't really available yet and wouldn't be ready until the 20th. We were closing on the 15th. The next day he looked again, and the listing wasn't listed anymore.

The morning of November 4th, eleven days before closing, after getting everyone to school, I sat down on the couch and through my tears said, "God! I know You have a plan. I know You're speaking. Help me to understand what I know You're saying to me. We need a house. We need to get this worked out. I don't doubt that You're active in this. I'm not afraid. But I would like this settled." Exhaustion with new baby and my need for security were tag teaming me, and I was spent. I felt the Lord saying, "What did you ask me for?" and taking me to Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Victoria Park. I asked Him for Victoria Park. But there were no listings in Victoria Park!?

So, I texted Kris what I had a few days before read on my counter calendar:

"It's never a question of whether or not God will bless you - it's a matter of having your faith stretched out enough to receive the incredible measure of goodness God wants to pour into your life!" 

and then: "Sitting here stretching out my faith net to capture God's goodness for us. He's been showing off for us all along and I'm anticipating another show for this house."
K: "What should we do, what are you leaning towards?"
Me: "I keep thinking that we've asked for Victoria Park so we need to give Him room to drop that blessing in our laps. Every time I start to think maybe He's got a different plan for us I have the thought, 'Yes, but we asked for Victoria Park.'"
K: I know and the boys really want it too. Should you call (the Bent Oaks Realtor) and tell her we need some time to think about this?
Me: "Honestly, I feel chicken about calling her. Would you do it this time? :)))"

Because he loves me so well, he called the Bent Oaks Realtor and told her we were going to pass on the house. She was ticked, just as we knew she would be, which is why I asked him to call her. :)

So, now we are down to only the townhouse as an option. My eye started twitching just thinking about it.

To be continued...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Move, Part 2

Listing the house was easy. We took some pictures and put it on Zillow. We thought we might get a few calls on it, but honestly, we never thought anyone would look at it with serious intentions. I thought I had great faith when we listed it, but looking back, I was totally winging it. Imagine our surprise when almost immediately we had three calls on it.

Like I said, Susanna was coming any day, so Mama had already decided to come into town so she would definitely be there in time for the birth. Blessing #1. Have you ever tried to get a house in showing condition with three boys living in it while 9 months pregnant? Just remembering makes me want to cry. Our house hadn't looked that good in a very long time. It quivered with gratitude by the time she was finished with it. Or maybe that was just me.

We showed it to two different couples, and a Realtor showed it once. The day I was going into the hospital to have Susanna, the second couple called and made a verbal offer. Blessing #2. Have you ever had someone make an offer to buy your house when you're walking into the hospital to have your fourth child? You're far too occupied to worry about how the heck you're going to pull it off.

The people who wanted our house were a dream from beginning to end.  They were understanding about the fact that we had three children and a newborn and were flexible on closing dates and move out dates. (Yet another blessing since it took us FOREVER to get all our things out. Just a side note, we have entirely too much junk.) When we did the inspection, there was a small leak found. They were flexible about the repairman used to fix it. They fell in love with the house and committed to it and to us. A fact that gave us huge peace, since packing up and finding a rental with the possibility of the buyers backing out looming over your head would be nerve wracking.

Kris handled all the showing phone calls and dealings with the buyers. His observation: after the couple made an offer, we never had another call on the house. No unnecessary preparation and showings. Huge blessing!

Next hurdle, finding a rental.

To be continued...

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Move, Part 1

Since having a fourth child is not exciting enough, we sold our house and moved. The story is much bigger than that, so full of God's goodness and grace. To tell it well, I have to go back to August.

When Luke and Eli finished school last year, we had been told that they would be in the same class together the following school year.  The program they are in has a combined first and second grade class.  While Eli was thrilled, Luke was unsure about having his brother with him 24/7.  Right before the school year started I got a call from the teacher saying they were going to move some of the second graders in with the third grade class, and would I be okay with Luke moving up. Luke was thrilled, I was unsure because I didn't know the third grade teacher and absolutely loved the second grade teacher.

"Meet the Teacher" happened without me because that was the day I was going with Kris to make the size of our family permanent. :) Kris' mom took the boys for me. So, about two weeks into the beginning of the school year I made an appointment with Luke's teacher to meet her for the first time. The morning of the meeting Judah and I walked Eli to his class, where we stopped to chat with Eli's teacher (Luke's teacher from the year before).  She spent five minutes telling me what all she was doing to help Eli with his handwriting (which I was almost completely unable to decipher - he's a lefty) and also how proud she was of what a hard worker he was and how glad she was to have him in her class. She had a room full of students, but she gave me that gift because that's the kind of teacher she is. (By the way, Eli's handwriting is so good now, I sometimes have to ask who's is who's when looking at his and Luke's papers!) I went from there to meet Luke's teacher. I knew within fifteen seconds of meeting her that she was something special and that having her as Luke's teacher would be a gift.

I left the school overwhelmed. My boys are my heart, and it is challenging for me to leave them in someone else's care for seven hours a day.  When I sat down for some quiet time I wept in gratitude at God's goodness for giving my boys teachers who I knew would love them and recognize their needs, as well as draw their strengths out of them.  I said, "God, look what You've done!"  So sweetly and clearly, I saw a mental picture of God shrugging His shoulder and saying, "What do you expect? You are blessed. Homeschool or public school, you will be blessed. Your children will be blessed. Your family will be blessed. You are blessed. The blessings of Abraham are yours."

Moments like that are so profound.  They change us because they are ours alone. We can hear someone else's word from the Lord or read the Word, but when we hear Him speak a word directly to us, that word has power to change us. I walked away from that moment with the beginning of a new journey of powerful peace and trust.

A month later, Kris and I were talking about our house and our dream to build a new house on a lot that we purchased earlier in the year.  While we were happy in our home and with our location, we had lots of equity in our house but not the resources to do the things to our house that were sorely needing to be done. Three boys can be rough on carpet, walls, furniture, etc. With God's word to me freshly ringing in my heart, I said to Kris, "Why don't we just put our house on the market for way more than we think we can get for it and just see what happens?" He reminded me that we were about to have a baby any day and didn't really have a plan past selling the house.  To which I replied, "God told me we would be blessed, so let's give him an opportunity to show us how good He wants to be to us."

To Be Continued...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

November?

Did November happen? I'm sure it did.  I have pictures and tons of life changes to prove it, but good grief, it was a blur!  Until I can catch my breath, here are some moments...

Susanna is learning all about "boy fun".  She's been a good sport so far.
video


This was our first family meal with everyone in attendance.
These boys love their sister.
You know Eli loves her if he'll let her do this!
video
Little girl clothes are so fun!
We spent Thanksgiving week in Georgia playing with cousins.  Rae is great with Susanna.
Judah and Micah having fun together.  
Susanna and Grandma Clair having some snuggle time.
November has come and gone, and we do have some sweet memories from it.  We also have a new house.  That is another story...