Thursday, March 13, 2014

Our House

Seven years ago, Joel and I bought this cute little house in the city before we were married.

It had two little apartments and we had plans of living in one of the apartments and renting out the other. 

We came home from our honeymoon to a stack of gifts in the middle of an empty living room taller than us.

New beginnings are exciting in so many ways!

Since life always goes as planned, we soon found ourselves pregnant with Elijah and realizing our tiny one bedroom apartment wasn't going to fit a baby for long.

I have always dreamed of making our two unit home into one big house, as it was originally 165 years ago. But this was not the time.

So we adapted.

And by adapting I mean we cut a hole in our living room floor to make room for steps, and created a new, beautiful finished space in the basement for Elijah. 

Our cute little apartment grew by one room and our family grew by one cute little boy.

Fast forward a few years, 2 kids later and another on the way. 

After getting advice from friends who know the city well, we decided to open up the wall that separated one apartment from the other. 

And they became one. 

....ha.

But we had one big house and started using the entire space immediately.

Oh, the space! Oh, the freedom!

We have poured our blood, sweat and tears into this house. Literally.

We love this house.

But we started to feel like we should let go of this house.

For many reasons, but mostly, to stop pouring our time and money into a "thing," and pour all that time into our children.

And while both is an investment into our future, we were trusting that the equity in our house someday would pay for a house we really wanted. 

Our dream home.

While it is considered wise from a real estate perspective, we were not trusting that the Lord would provide, and that quite possibly, our dream home might also be something we were trusting should be ours someday.

So we started to pray about it.

For a year or two, we talked, prayed, talked some more, and decided to stay in the city a while longer.

But then this past fall we felt that it was time. We would start to finish the projects that were started and make it a goal to list our house this spring.

We still felt on and off about it for a while. 

We love this house.

I brought all my babies home to this house.

We had big dreams for this house. But they were our dreams. Not the Lords. And we felt it. 

So we started talking about the "where."
Where we would move? City, suburbs or the country?

We started noticing our kids when they had space to run. They soak it all in. 

They come alive

So we spent more time praying about it and processing what this would look like, but when we took our trip to New Hampshire a few weeks ago, it was confirmed in our hearts that we needed to leave the city.

It was time to sell our house.

So we discussed when we would sell it, what needed fixed up, etc.

We decided June or July sounded nice.

In the meantime, my brother and his wife told us they would be moving here. They looked at house after house, but not finding exactly what they hoped for.

{You can see where this is going}

When they heard we were officially selling, they told us they might be interested in our house!!

I didn't get my hopes up. It was too good.

But they started dreaming about making this house their own and the projects they would do

They started dreaming about this house. I love that. 

Plus... I GET TO STILL SEE MY HOUSE.

Well, their house (I promise, it will be yours!)

So it's settled. We signed all the papers this week.

We are moving out of this house and city. Sooner than planned, but that's the journey we are on, right? Trusting that His plans are better.

It's a really bittersweet move. I'll probably cry like a baby when we pull away from it. I love my neighbors, my community, this little slice of the city we call ours. I'll miss almost everything about city life.

But this is good.

I have full confidence that this is our next step. Change can be so hard sometimes. 

So with our house all but "sold," we are starting our own house search. We know we want to rent for an extended period of time to pay off debt, save, and not spend our time and money on a house.

For this season, we want to focus on our kids. On our family.

We are looking for a farm house with lots of space to run and play. Maybe some animals, maybe a dog. Maybe a garden.

(Maybe. I'm terrified of the black snakes around here. Does anything scare them away? Besides a mongoose or eagle, of course.)

So that's our journey, since so many have asked.
It's sudden to many people, but not to us. We have been processing this for a while. 

We are excited, frightened, sad and happy, but mostly excited. 

You can be praying for us during transition. We need to do a few more large projects around here, move, and find a place to live. So if you know of a farm house for rent, pass the info along to us!

You can pray for our children. They love our house and feel sad to move away from their neighbor friends. Elijah is especially fearful of stink bugs and skunks in the country. So pray for a place without those things. 

Kidding.

But do pray for his fears. I'm afraid he gets them from me.

...ha

I've been telling them that it's alright to be sad and a bit afraid of change, but that doesn't mean we don't do something we are afraid of. It's a good kind of afraid. 

We are all going to be walking through a season of change. Letting go of this house is a BIG change for us and it is a bit scary. 

I've been telling him it's alright to be scared and walk towards it in confidence that the Lord has led us to this point and He won't leave us homeless.

But we aren't alright with staying here out of fear. This is a decision of trust and surrender. 

And as scary as that sounds, we can have peace in the midst of being afraid. 

And often while I'm telling him these things, I know I need to do the same. 

So with a peaceful step forward...we are moving out of the familiar and into the unknown.

Finishing Strong

Waterproof mascara.

I made the mistake of buying regular old mascara a few months ago.

Right after one of the kids destroyed the contents of my makeup bag.

And right in the middle of adjusting to being a family of 6.

Our agency called right before Christmas with a little girl who needed a home for a while.

Joel and I have been waiting for a call since the other two girls left 10 months ago. We weren't sure why we hadn't been called, but we also weren't sure we were totally prepared to jump right in again. That season of life was extremely draining.

It brought out a lot of my ugly. My selfishness. The things that I wasn't willing to surrender.

So the moment I got the call I knew that I was about to enter into another season of surrendering the life that I had pictured in my mind to be good. Safe. Comfortable.

I just had this feeling we would get a call by Christmas. A week earlier we had a placement call, but had to turn the child down because we were in the middle of Manhattan and couldn't get home in time. But when we got the call for Hannah, it felt right.

My Christmas shopping was done, the room was ready and so we were as ready as you can be.

Bringing home your new baby is totally different than adjusting to a new foster child. The number may only increase by one, but this one little person is understood very little.

As prepared as you think you are, you still know very little about this tiny person coming to live with you. Sometimes they come with a few things, other times nothing.

Did they sleep with a blanket? A pacifier? Are they used to bottles or sippy cups? You find things that will make her feel comfortable.

Are they scared of baths? Scared to have their diaper changed? Do men scare them? Animals? Did someone rock them to sleep? Were they used to being in the dark? Nightlight? When do they go to sleep? Do they sleep? What will they eat? Do they have any allergies?

Oh, the questions that run through your brain. Questions that you don't even need to think about with biological children. You learn as you go. 

Baby steps.

I learned that she loves to eat. All. Day. Long.

She will do almost anything to try to sneak a quick snack.

She didn't talk at first, so whining was her way of communicating (and tantrums and yelling shrieking).

She's a little clumsy and falls more than the average child. She also gets into more than any of my kids ever did .

Combined. And if you know my kids at all, that means a LOT.

She keeps me busy.

But she has beautiful eyes and a sweet little smile.

She's trying so hard to learn to communicate and has learned many new words!

"Please," "More," "All done."

Those oh, so important ones.

And while she's been with us for twelve weeks, and we see the leaps and bounds she has been changing and growing, it is still a daily struggle to raise a child that isn't yours.  In addition to learning to care for 4 kids, it's strange and unfamiliar.

A lot of my ugly rears it's head daily. I've moved past feeling selfish about my time, and onto feeling so drained I can hardly bend over to pick up yet another water spill. It's those days as a mom where you need to cling to the bigger picture God has given you, or you might just curl up and watch episodes of Friends for hours.

(....ok maybe I just did that).

But in the midst of chaos, I am learning so much about myself and the Lords desire for us.

That He desires to teach me perseverance.

That "comfort" is not what He has called us to.

That loving the "least of these" is HARD work.

But always worth it. (click here for a great article that challenged me!)

I'm thankful for friends who I can share honestly with. I'm thankful for friends who pray for me on days I feel like I can't do it anymore. I'm thankful for the YMCA childcare on days I just can't do it anymore.

I'm thankful for this little face that reminds me daily that the Lords plan for our lives far exceed what the world dishes out to us.

Life can be HARD.

Sometimes we can lighten our load, and other days we are supposed to carry our load and trust that He will hold us.

This has been a season of Him holding me up.

An exhausting, challenging season. But He has held me up.

We've navigated all the unanswered questions about this little ones past, her present needs and her future needs.

She has grown SO much in the past 3 months. Learning to communicate effectively, learning a new routine with a new family, learning what the word "no," means, and that it's not a fun word to hear!

At this point, I'm not sure what the next day will hold, or the next, but for right now, I want to finish strong.

And do it well.

This little one deserves it.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

New Hampshire

We took a family trip to visit our wonderful friends in New Hampshire last weekend. They moved to a little farm, and we loved getting to see it finally!

We met this family while they lived in PA, and miss them very much.

But the north east suits them so well. 

I loved seeing them in their own environment and on their own little farm, living their dream. 

It felt like a home away from home, a safe little haven from the everyday bustle of life. 

We went ice skating, fed animals, played dress up, shot guns, played games, took tractor rides, went sledding, drank lots of coffee, ate lots of good food, played with our food (lobsters aren't supposed to be played with first?), went thrifting, laughed until we cried, sat in front of warm fires and played in the snow. 

Mostly I loved catching up on life. 

I sure do miss them.

But, we have a wonderful excuse to take short trips up to the north eastern part of our country whenever we want.

P.S. I think I'm in love with farm life.









This amazing little ice skating place. Our kids just loved it, well, our older kids did.


Amazing friend who takes care of my babies.


I love the sequence of these pictures. Ella just adores Danny. She had so much fun with him.







Where the Christmas spirit lives on all year, or until the snow melts.


Five of my most favorite people on this planet. 


This girl learned to ice skate! And could skate circles around her big brother.


Sweet friends. These two were just so adorable together. 




Celebrating Danny!




Like father like son. Seriously.









Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Vince & Katie

I'm trying to play catch up on a few photo sessions I had over the past few months. This is from our beach trip with our very dear friends, Vince & Katie! We spent the weekend with them in Ocean City, Maryland in September, and I was honored when they asked me to take a few engagement photo's. Vince has been a friend of Joel's since before I knew Joel. He was actually the first friend of Joel's I met back here in PA. His friendship has meant the world to Joel, and has become a great friend of mine as well. This past year, Vince began dating beautiful Katie. I have enjoyed getting to know her over this year, and cannot wait to continue to pursue a friendship with her as well! This post is quite timely, since we just celebrated these two get married last weekend! We love you both {and are a little jealous you are somewhere warm and sunny right now}.