Archive - 2018

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» Chattanooga Fun in the 2018 Mazda CX-9
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» It’s hard to wait: Pride and parenting
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» My Current Amazon Obsessions
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» DIY: $100 Modern Farmhouse Table
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» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro
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» How to host a clothing swap
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» Lead me to the Rock
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Double Digits: Lola’s 10th Birthday

» Chattanooga Fun in the 2018 Mazda CX-9

Winter has really felt never-ending. Although it didn’t get super cold this year the Spring has still taken its time to come around, we’ve even had strange little snow days pop up here and there. The rainy and cold weather was really getting to us and we felt that a family weekend getaway was in order. Thankfully we live in the Nashville area and places like Chattanooga are just a quick two-hour drive away. The Mazda CX-9 was our road trip companion for this trip and it was an exciting departure from our usual eight-passenger minivan.


Here are a few things we especially liked about the car followed by a rundown of our Chattanooga visit:

Seats Seven – Outside of minivans and overly large SUVs, there aren’t many vehicles that can fit our family of six. With the deceivingly compact CX-9, we can even fit an extra family member or friend. Some mommas can’t succumb to the idea of minivan life and this vehicle would be a great alternative.

Interior – The interior of the CX-9 is just as sleek and sophisticated as the outside. Every detail is well thought out, down to the very placement of the cup holders. Everything you need is within arms reach allowing you to control the temperature, radio, etc. without distracting you from the most important thing, keeping your eyes on the road. 

GPS and Advanced Heads-Up Display – For many years we’ve utilized the phone GPS over the built-in car GPS systems. In the past they’ve tended to be hard, clunky to use and often give inaccurate directions. This built-in GPS is in another category! I love the addition of features like including the distance to the nearest gas stations and restaurants. 

The Advanced Heads-Up Display magically displays the speed limit, your current speed, blind spot warnings and more right onto your windshield. This eliminates the need to look away or down as you are driving. 


The CX-9 made the drive to Chattanooga smooth and fun, and of course the kids requested Kidz Bop radio on Sirius XM. As parents, we really appreciated the comfortable, adjustable seats. A comfy seat always makes the trip seem shorter!

Chattanooga Highlights and Destinations:

Westin – Downtown Chattanooga

  • Hotel Room window

The Westin is a new addition to the downtown Chattanooga scene (less than a year old at the time of writing this). It is located only a couple of blocks away from the free shuttle that runs along Broad Street. If you’re familiar with downtown, it’s near the Tivoli Theatre. In addition to the hotel, the area referred to as West Village is in the process of being renovated with new restaurants, shops, and office space. On Saturday nights, the block is closed off to car traffic and an amazing laser light party takes place outside with street vendors, live music and other fun surprises. The kid-focused light show starts at 6:45 and there’s another one geared more for adults at 7:45. This is REALLY fun, in fact we were pleasantly surprised with how much free fun we had during show. The kids absolutely lost it when MASSIVE balloons came raining down from the sky. We could tell how much thought and effort was put into making this a unique experience.

The renovated hotel (which used to be the BlueCross headquarters) has luxurious, clean and spacious rooms. The floor-to-ceiling windows create the illusion of an even bigger room. The outdoor pool is open year long with the water set at 80 degrees. Additionally the hotel is fully equipped with a coffee shop, quick service food area, restaurant and comfortable lounge areas. The staff and service were excellent as well. The bellhop who assisted us showed so much enthusiasm for his work and even shared interesting facts such as the preservation of the original elevators and circular stairwell in the building.

High Point Climbing

Anytime we spy a Mellow Mushroom, we just have to eat there. It’s a good thing High Point Climbing is right next door. The climbing and physical exertion made us feel a little better after the heavy meal. We visited the downtown location of High Point Climbing. The beautiful facility allows climbing both inside and outside of the building. There is 30,000 sq. feet of climbing surface to enjoy including the best kids zone we’ve ever experienced in a climbing gym. The kids area empowered them to hook up and climb on their own without having to wait on us for assistance. As you all know, our daughter Lola is blind. This is probably her fourth climbing experience and she has grown to love it. High Point is an excellent place for expert climbers and those who are putting on climbing shoes for the very first time. Their friendly staff is great at giving guidance and encouraging families to get moving together.

Creative Discovery Museum – This is by far one of our favorite children’s museums. The museum boasts everything from an excavation area to a riverplay area. We found that our kids were able to engage in several sensory enriched activities while learning new things about Tennessee and surrounding areas. The museum is currently hosting America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far. The cultural exhibit explores the diversity of Muslim cultures in our community, country and around the world! The exhibit represents 52 different countries around the world. It will be at the Museum through May 13th. Our kids loved learning more about the Muslim and Middle Eastern culture. Kudos to the museum for facilitating activities that help overcome fear-based perceptions regarding Muslim cultures.  Some of our highlights were getting henna tattoos (from Indian culture), baking Middle Eastern treats, and watching a science presentation in the auditorium.

Chattanooga Football ClubIf your household is anything like ours, soccer is becoming a big deal. If you visit Chattanooga in the Spring or Summer, Chattanooga FC might be playing a home game at Finley Stadium. The free shuttle will land you about four blocks away from the stadium. You can show up early and tailgate with the Chattahooligans (family friendly) and enjoy general admission seating. So come early and enjoy front row seating. After the game, we took advantage of walking down to the field and meeting the home team for autographs.

Chattanooga ZooThe zoo is a bit smaller than our home Nashville Zoo. We visited on Sunday morning before our drive back home. The crowds were low so it ended up being nice for us. We were able to take our time and read about each exhibit and engage the kids. Several of the animals were playful and the kids enjoyed interacting with them. During our visit the trainers showed the crowd how the chimpanzees get their wellness checks and train to keep them safe and healthy. The kids enjoyed seeing how the zoo cared for the animals in this way. The zoo is also very reasonably priced, under $10 for admission. 

Bonus: There’s a nice outdoor playground complex next door to the zoo you can make sure to visit if your kids need to get a little extra energy out at the end of your zoo visit. This playground is an inclusive playground and offers something for children of all abilities.

Conclusion about the Mazda CX-9

The daily commute with the CX-9 in Nashville was enjoyable and I already miss driving the car every day. The comfort and the handling of the car was very enjoyable. The back storage area was enough for groceries but offered a challenge when it came to our weekend trip. When driving to Chattanooga, our family of six had to fold one seat down to fit all of the suitcases. Fortunately, we were still able to fit three kids in the middle row with the fourth child in the back. We did notice we turned a lot of heads when driving and parking the vehicle which is a testament to the sleek new look and vibrant candy-apple red color! This vehicle could work for a family of six but would be ideal for a family of four or five. The extra room on a daily basis would be nice and comfortable with margin to add visitors or extra luggage for the longer trips.

 

 

 

Special thanks to Mazda USA for allowing us to test drive the 2018 CX-9 Grand Touring. As always, these opinions are my own.

» It’s hard to wait: Pride and parenting

If you will allow me a moment to be vulnerable I’d like to share a bit of my story. I’m a classic, type-A firstborn. I’m a three on the Enneagram and it’s sometimes embarrassing to read my Myers-Briggs results out loud. Growing up I could learn anything I needed from a book, I could self-teach, research and therefore ignore my teachers. I was prideful. And although I knew and loved Jesus, I did not see the need to eradicate pride because honestly my ability to accomplish things through my own power was hailed as a great thing. But those around me couldn’t see my heart and how pride was wrecking it in quiet ways. It wasn’t until later in college, when I hit my knees in total dependance on the Lord, that I realized how hurt I really was by allowing the not so great parts of my personality to lead the way. Compassion is also extremely present in my make-up and thankfully, through daily and unrelenting sanctification, compassion became the flag I loved to wave.

Today, I still struggle to keep pride at bay. (remember daily and constant sanctification) Just yesterday evening Calvin and I attended Bible study with other parents in our community. I went to drop off one of our children and came back to learn that Calvin had chosen a parenting Bible study to attend. Internally I rolled my eyes, because I know everything about parenting… of course. I have studied trauma, and children and TBRI and ALL THE THINGS. I walked into the room and spied several faces I am growing to love and immediately God spoke to my heart, knocking me down a few notches, reminding me that every person in the room was also an expert parent but chose to take time to worship, intentionally share with others and look to God’s word to become even better in this category. I was unusually quiet as I listened and waited and watched for whatever I needed to glean during the evening. And it finally came. I needed to hear that exhaustion is always part of parenting. The mornings have been hard for one of our littles lately and I’ve come to dread that part of the day. I’ve looked for ways to get through it as quickly as possible and ignore the nonstop protests from this particular child. I was coping in my own strength and venting to Calvin later.

But this morning, because I was listening last night, I was reminded to take the time, even in the midst of exhaustion and look for the connection point. Liam slipped into our bed around 5am this morning and woke up for good around 6:30am. He immediately let me know that he didn’t want to go to school and wondered how many days were left until Spring Break. His attitude soured as I reminded him how many days remained. My mind immediately went to the song It’s hard to Wait from the Rain for Roots album. I pulled up the song and pulled him close and he began to sing it with me. After our time of togetherness and even worship we printed a calendar and talked about the days God gives us. I asked the kids… will there ever be another March 22, 2018? After thinking, they responded that no, there would not be. This gave us a moment to reflect on each day as a gift. A gift that allows us to either love each and honor God or choose to be prideful, impatient and angry. I watched as their eyes opened to this concept; no day is to be wasted.

This morning, a ten-minute detour changed the trajectory of our entire day. I’m so thankful that God broke through the barriers of my pride years ago. I’m so thankful that I can walk with other parents who are all looking up as we parent. We cannot look down to guide our children without first looking up to learn from our Father.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2

» My Current Amazon Obsessions

There’s a t-shirt that says something like “I run on coffee and Amazon prime.” I don’t wear many word shirts but if I did mine would probably say something similar. Amazon doesn’t always have the BEST prices on everything but most often, if I utilize subscribe and save, they have the best prices for supplements and personal products that my family uses. Today I thought it would be fun to share what’s on my current rotation of subscribe and save amazon favorites.

1. Gaia Herbs Golden Milk Tea blend : I use this blend daily with the following recipe, which is slightly different from the instructions that come on the canister. 1-2 tsp. of the blend combined with a splash of half and half and a Chai Rooibos tea bag… and water of course. Read up on the anti-inflammatory benefits of Turmeric here. 

2. Acure Brightening Scrub: This is hands down my current favorite beauty product. I use it 2-3 times per week and my   skin absolutely glows. As a HUGE bonus Acure has very strict standards for what they allow in their products, this is just about as clean as it comes and outperforms even top shelf brands.

3. Amazing Grass Green Superfoods: I’ve been using this powder for a couple of years now. I originally added it to my international travels as a way to keep greens in and help the detox process. I now use this several times a week added to a glass of water. It’s a great source of probiotics and green superfoods. I rotate out the flavors. Bonus tip: order the $2 sample pack (free shipping) to try and receive a $2 coupon back through amazon for a future purchase of Amazing Grass. You can find the sample pack by clicking over on the options using the link above. I also love this little shaker set of 7 on the go sizes of varying amazing grass flavors for $9.99.

4. Grass-fed Gelatin Collagen Protein: I realize this might be a weird one for ya’ll. We use this to make gummy bears and jello jigglers. Grass-fed Gelatin is a superfood and can help heal the gut and restore joint health. Read up on that here. We use gummy bear molds and turn out some awesome, firm little treats. The link above contains a great recipe.

5. THIS short-sleeve maxi dress: My search for the perfect summer essential stopped right here. And at $22 the price was right. The material is slightly stretchy and very soft. I chose to grab this dress in black as I plan to accessorize it in different ways and wear it as least twice per week. It ALSO has pockets. I’m 5 foot 4 and this goes all the way to the ground but is fine with a pair of shoes. It’s incredibly flattering and fits true to size.

 

» DIY: $100 Modern Farmhouse Table

I confess, I’ve had 3 dining sets over the course of the last year. It started with the sturdy, classic farmhouse set I acquired from World Market. It was a display sale model and I got a great price. I paired it with chairs I had on hand and we enjoyed it immensely. When it came time to move last Fall I didn’t feel like the table had the right vibe for the new house and we were attempting to move as little furniture as possible. I sold the table to a dear friend and once we were moved in I scored a great deal on a mid-century set. It was in great condition but not the sturdiest, and once I realized that I could turn it for a profit I listed it on craigslist and said goodbye to it the next day. And here we are today with our $100 table! This is a Saturday afternoon project start to finish! Just make sure you order your Ikea trestle legs beforehand! It takes about a week and a half to ship and arrive, I missed the timing on that and had to stare at my pretty tabletop for days as I waited on Fedex to arrive. Let’s get started on the how-to!

This project is so easy, it’s a great way to get the kids involved measuring, sawing and drilling. Elliott helped me out with this while the rest of the family was out for the day. He still had a fever from the flu but was ready to get moving a bit.

Step 1:

Acquire the needed supplies and determine how long the table will be. I feel that you could safely take this table up to 7 feet long. We chose to go for 6 feet after planning the space in our dining area. Luckily Lowes offers several good choices for wood already cut at 6 feet long. I carefully selected four 6 foot by 9 inch pieces that had tons of character and then two more pieces of cheaper wood to serve as cross sections.

Supplies needed:

  • Four 6 foot long, by 9(or 10) in wide boards
  • Three Slats or boards wide enough to cover the width of the tabletop
  • 8×1 1/4 inch screws
  • Wood Glue
  • Stain or Danish Oil in Medium Walnut
  • Cloth or sponge to apply
  • Ikea trestle legs ($15 each, plus $9 shipping… I added a few other items and ship was still $9!)

Step 2:

Lay out the tabletop as shown, applying beads of wood glue between the boards. I am impatient, and did not see the need for clamping etc. Instead, Elliott helped me quickly hold the boards tight and screw in the cross pieces to complete the tabletop. We then allowed everything to dry and an hour later moved the tabletop outside for the sanding and staining process.

Step 3:

Sand the surface and round out the corners of the table, be sure to sand well on the underside as well. Once the sanding is complete go forth with the staining process! I opted to use Danish Wood oil for this project. My hope was to keep it as natural as possible and the Danish wood oil warmed up the tone of the wood and sealed it nicely. I did two coats and then finished it all out with sealing wax for an extra measure of protection. I was incredibly happy with the results!

Step 4:

Assemble the IKEA trestle legs. This is actually the most annoying part because… IKEA. We all know their stuff is awesome but sometimes cumbersome to put together when the holes don’t line up. We persevered and after 30 minutes had the two legs put together. I chose the trestle leg route because I wanted the table to be as sleek as possible with the focus on the tabletop and simplicity rather than bulky wooden legs. And… $15 ya’ll. Can’t beat it.

Step 5:

Stand trestle legs up in the designated area of the room. Place the tabletop on the legs. Then, using two pieces of extra wood, as shown, create a sandwich to hold the trestle legs in place. This will keep the table from shifting, but still give you the freedom to lift off the tabletop and move it easily if you want to temporarily use the space for another purpose or move the table easily.

Step 6:

Enjoy the table! We chose to order simple metal chairs from Amazon. I ordered a set of four for around $100. And then miraculously as I was browsing through boxed furniture at our local Bargain Hunt I found 2 more for the amazing price of $13 for the set of two. I mean… what!?! It always pays to go digging at local bargain places.

Here’s my budget run down on the entire table swap scenario. I sold my table set for $250 and purchased the mid-century set for $220. I then sold the mid-century set for $350. The table cost $100 in materials and I spent $115 on chairs. This put me at changing out our table, simplifying things and ending up $165 positive in the end!

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have in the comments below! If you build a table please share a picture! There are so many creative ways to make this design your own!

» REVIEW: Ring Video Doorbell Pro

A little over a year ago, we had the opportunity to review and install a Ring Video Doorbell and loved it.

When we moved last September, we knew a Ring Doorbell was a must have security device. When Ring asked us to test out the Pro version, we were looking forward to the narrower, sleeker look compared to the original Ring doorbell. In addition, the higher resolution video footage (1080p vs 720p) is one of the other main differences that set the Pro apart. Just like our older model, the unit came with interchangeable face plates to match our wall color/preferences (white in our case), and customized alert zones in the app help a ton. Without setting up the zones, the Ring Pro picked up lots of unwanted (for us at least) car traffic, but the customized alert zones and motion sensitivity were able to correct false notifications. The Ring Pro can only be hardwired to the existing doorbell wiring but we knew that wouldn’t be an issue for us.

Even with the smaller profile, we had to cut out a piece of our door trim, which added about 10 minutes to the installation. Without having do to that, it took about 15 minutes to connect the necessary wires and mount the doorbell. Just like the original Ring, the Pro uses our home’s wifi to alert us and record a video anytime there is motion detected or someone rings the doorbell. The 160-degree range of view helps catch most activity that happens in the front yard and for us, even the street.
The videos are good quality, include sound, and are generally about 30 seconds long (from the beginning of the detected motion until the motion ends, which is usually about 30 seconds for someone crossing our yard or approaching our front door). We now know exactly when our mail or packages are delivered each day! The videos are stored via Ring’s cloud servers for $30 per year.
Some of the other existing features from the original Ring Doorbell are not lost. The Ring Pro still has doorbell functionality and rings our existing doorbell in the house, as well as alerting us on our iPhones that someone has rung the doorbell. From our iPhones, we have the capability to “answer” the doorbell by seeing a live view of the person on our porch and the option to speak to them if we choose to. This allows us to answer the doorbell whether we are in our house (and just don’t want to open the front door / get out off the couch) or away from home.

Conclusion

With four kiddos and a dog running around, a few more eyes and ears outside never hurts. We saw this peace of mind as a huge benefit in our last house so getting another was a no brainer. I have found the Pro to be a little more reliable than the first version and definitely notice the better video quality. The cloud video recording is optional but anyone should just plan on adding that service. We love the additional security of knowing who is entering our yard or approaching our house and when packages are delivered. If you don’t have the wiring infrastructure, I would still recommend the original Ring Doorbell (or Doorbell 2) but if you do have wiring, splurge for the Ring Video Doorbell Pro.

Ring website

Buy Ring Video Doorbell Pro on Amazon

» How to host a clothing swap

It’s still winter in the Nashville area and we are all getting a little stir crazy! Cue some mom time that costs nothing but time and maybe a few dollars on snacks. This weekend I hosted a clothing swap and invited moms from the school my children attend. We all have a desire to know each other better and an active event like a clothing swap is a perfect way to accomplish that!

Today I want to share a basic structure so that you can organize your own clothing swap! There is no better way to make use of what you already have and enjoy a great ladies night out.

  • 3 weeks out: Choose a date, or provide date options, and create a FB event page to send out invitations, guidelines and reminders.
  • 2 weeks out: Remind participants of date and time with a message and ask them to start dropping off items at your house for organization. It’s best to ask your friends to hang their items on metal or throw away hangers to make the process more streamlined.
  • 1 week out: Send a second reminder for friends to drop off clothes and remind them of parameters again in case it’s not still fresh in their mind.
  • 2 days out: Send one last reminder if items still need to be dropped off and give tips for making the night a smooth experience.

Before the swap:

Prepare your guests for what they should expect. Encourage them to dress in layers that include a tank and leggings so that they can easily try on clothing without doing a full change. Prepare your home to accommodate movement, try-ons and peeks in the mirror. I suggest having all bathrooms accessible and at least somewhat clean. Additionally, it’s a nice touch to put out a full-length mirror to allow your guests a place to glance at their choices in full view. As a host you will be in charge of collecting all the items and displaying them for the big night. If you can get your hands on a couple of clothing racks that’s awesome! But if not, simply using two chairs and a broom stick to set up clothing racks will work just fine! Accessories, purses and scarves can easily be displayed on a dining tables and chairs. The more you organize the sizes and styles, the smoother the selection process will be the night of the event.

During the swap:

Welcome each guest and invite them to grab a drink, let them know you will be drawing numbers to determine the order of “shopping.” Once the majority have arrived allow each guest to choose a number from a bowl and begin the shopping process. Example, if you have 15 attendees you will place numbers 1-15 in the bowl. The general flow looks like this: Guests 1, 2 and 3 begin to shop, each choosing two pieces. Once they have chosen their 2 pieces they tag the next person/number in line. As a host it’s a good idea to moderate this process or choose another friend to do this. The goal is to keep the process rotating without lag time. Why the number system? Put simply, it keeps everything fair and gives everyone equal time and opportunity to browse items without feeling pressured.

  • Getting started!
  • Browsing the items
  • 2 borrowed round clothing racks made this event so smooth!

During the swap part 2: 

Don’t forget to encourage each other and shop with each other during the event. Don’t fight the natural inclination to share opinions (That color looks awesome on you!) and give advice on a top that would suit one your guests well. Once you start doing this your guests will follow your example. This makes the experience fun, interactive and uplifting for all of your friends.

Guidelines used for clothing:

10 items per guest in good used condition
tops/shirts/sweaters of any kind
dresses
skirts
accessories such as cute jewelry, bags/purses, scarves, vests… the list goes on
workout clothing
Leggings or yoga pants/workout pants
jackets

NO jeans. Why? Think of the last time your shopped for jeans. It’s an extensive process and jeans do not have potential for universal fit. It’s best to keep jeans and fitted pants out of the mix completely.

Why is it important for guests to drop clothing BEFORE the event? 

My goal with this event was to keep it judgement free, positive and uplifting. Keeping the clothing anonymous and reminding guests NOT to comment on the clothing in a negative way keeps things on the up. Additionally, you don’t want to place additional pressure on someone worrying that they might not like or pick a friends clothing. Put simply: it keeps things uncomplicated by human emotions.

What do we do with leftover clothing?

After four to five rounds the evening will begin to slow down. At that point open the floor up for a “free for all.” Encourage your guests to all run through the racks one more time, taking anything they might like or even think another friend might enjoy. Give guests the opportunity to take back anything they might have brought. This continues to keep the selections anonymous because the free for all period is coupled with the retrieval period. Anything that is left from the night should be donated to a charity or other beneficiary of your choosing.

Have fun! Let me know if you host a clothing swap with your girlfriends! I would love to hear how it goes!

 

Bonus tip:

Door prizes are a fun addition! If you have friends attending that have small businesses (Monat, Rodan and Fields, Doterra… etc. etc.) ask them if they want to throw in a door prize. This gives them a chance to share a product and your guests to receive a fun bonus! My friend Anna from Lightshine Candles provided a delicious candle for our event.

 

» Lead me to the Rock

I do not claim to be dealing with active grief in my life at the present time. Sadness at times, worry at times and a constant urge to control my situation… always. My husband can attest to my “take control of the situation” personality. I’m great in a crisis and I’m annoying when it comes to vitamins and greens consumption. We recently discovered the world of MTHFR gene mutation and how that affects our family, we all have some variation of it. You can get a crash course here and consider adding it to your next blood draw at your yearly check up. Thankfully this knowledge is helping our family make better choices about foods and supplements but I do see its ability to take too much space in daily thoughts and actions.

Worry, sadness and fear for the future. There are constant openings for these enemies to creep in. For me personally my energy is spent less on actual fear and more on consistent, aggressive steps to control the thing that threatens me. Action becomes a place to stumble when I fail to root my anchor in the One who already knows the number of my days.

In the past few weeks I’ve noted several internal struggles that I had to make an internal, spiritual effort to redirect: sadness over my community that I’ve moved farther from, efforts to redirect my family’s health and a natural inclination to cynicism about the condition of our world. As I reflected on how much I had allowed these things to take space in my mind and heart an old hymn came to mind.

Then near to the Rock let me keep
If blessings or sorrows prevail,
Or climbing the mountain way steep,
Or walking the shadowy vale.

Near to the Rock let me keep. Friends, my bones cry out this phrase! I’m desperate to keep my eyes on Jesus. Anything else just drives me batty. B12 vitamins might help my body function better but Jesus healed my heart for good.

Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
 from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!

    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Psalm 61: 1-5

My heart is often faint. I’ve seen the hurt of our country and the world. I’ve lost those close to me and I’ve witnessed the aftermath of tragedy but I can still stand and say God is good. He offers a safe place, a shelter and He is unchanging in a world that shakes. He knows the story from beginning to end and with knowledge of that, I can rest.

Double Digits: Lola’s 10th Birthday

Today we celebrate ten whole years of Lola. That’s a lot of life when you’re less than four feet tall. I’ve been Lola’s mom for four years now and it almost seems unfair to celebrate ten when I’m missing six of them.

Four years ago, in January, she was a picture on a screen. I saw her just before her 5th birthday. A beautiful little girl with eyes the color of the sea. Our paperwork was approved for a child no more than four and so we set about the task of completing more training and more addendums because of all the children in the whole wide world God spoke her name into my heart. It would be awhile before she would come home to us, approaching six years old and carrying an entire life we didn’t know or understand.

The first couple of years were more than our hands and hearts could carry and our family stretched and grew and even crumbled at times. Thankfully there are greater and bigger hands that held us and continue to hold us as we learn day by day to say goodbye to “normal” and yes to being the family God created us to be.

As we suspected, blindness, although unfamiliar to us, was not a disability but rather a different way of doing life. Lola has accomplished a tremendous amount in the time she’s been home. She is on-grade level in her third grade studies and has mastered braille and is working steadily on grade level Nemeth, which is the code she uses for math. Her social skills are growing daily and she’s becoming more self-aware. She delights in sharing the scripture passages she’s memorized and listens at least 75% of the time when we have family Bible time.

  • Lola celebrating her 5th birthday in China. We were able to send a cake and a new outfit.
  • Daddy and Lola meeting for the first time.
  • Finalizing in China.
  • Lola dominating.
  • Lola taking on a massive, high level ropes course.
  • Lola's 9th birthday.

Taking a step back is immensely important in our journey with Lola. In the thick of it there are times I despair over difficult days but with a bird’s eye view I see the flower blossoming. On paper, when we look at Lola’s background and experiences, there is a lot to fear for the future. But our hope for Lola isn’t in scientific or psychiatric journals and studies… our hope is in the Lord and in his word that says:

Psalm 103:2-5

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Lola,
Daughter of my heart… we have loss between us. At times that loss seeks to divide us and turn our hearts against each other. But we also have promises that tell us nothing is beyond the hand of God. I promise to seek him even more in this 10th year of your life. I promise to look beyond your actions and watch for motivations behind them so that I can bind up your wounds. I promise to watch for your successes so that I can give you praise and remind you of your triumphs. May this be the year we call the year of fastening… the year of connection… and a time we rejoice over because it was the year our hearts were entwined in deep commitment to walk as mother and daughter.

I loved you before I knew you,

Mommy

All Content © Erica Ho, Goodbye Normal