4.26.2017

The Sanity Savers

Okay, listen. Jumping straight from, "I never want to be a mom" to "Hello, these are my 5 kids" has not exactly been a picnic for this introverted gal. It's been seven months since we first met the kids, six months since the adoption was finalized, and five months since we arrived home as a family of seven, but during that time I've found a few things that have helped salvage some of my pre-kid sanity.

Sneak the food you love. While we were in Central America to meet the kids and finalize the adoption, we discovered a small Peruvian restaurant within the same compound as our condominium (and right next door to a pizza place). The Lord was definitely smiling on two very tired, very frazzled new parents! While our picky children ate their body weight in cheese pizza, we would sneak to go orders of ceviche, lomo saltado, and ají de gallina through the bedroom window (true story) and polish it off with a couple of cold Inca Kolas (made with real sugar, bottled in Peru). It seems like a small thing, but those were the closest we got to dates during our first two months as parents of 5, and scarfing down food we loved behind a locked bedroom door after the kids were all in bed was about as good as it got.
Sanity Saver Lesson: Go ahead, buy the brie, order the take-out for you and your significant other while the kids eat what they like (even if it's plain hotdogs, like ours), and leave the guilt at the door.
Treat yourself to the occasional indulgence. The reason we've been able to pay our house off, personally finance a good chunk of the adoption, pay cash for cars and home additions, and shop at Fresh Market over the years has been because of our frugality in other areas of life. However, when we found ourselves thousands of miles from home during our favorite season, we were sucked in by the promise of #PSLs (you know, Pumpkin Spice Lattes) from the local Starbucks (yes, they did have one!), and made a few trips out of our way to go indulge. Since our return to the States, we have continued to budget for this splurge, loading money on a gift card and swinging by after a school run to pick up a caramel macchiato or a white chocolate mocha to share or surprise each other with.
Sanity Saver Lesson: Sometimes you just need to buy the $4 mocha and save money in other areas instead.
Make time for what makes you smile. Can a wart make you smile? Turns out that yes, it can! Earlier this year, I discovered that I had one on the bottom of one toe, and as suggested on the box of wart remover, I began soaking my foot in the bathtub every other night for several minutes. Those several minutes for one foot quickly turned into 20-30 minutes for both feet, with a book in hand, and became one of the rituals that I look forward to the most. #ThisRelaxingTimeUnofficiallyBroughtToYouByDrSchollsWartRemover Meanwhile, the Hubs has found relaxation - of all things - in putting together the equivalent of adult Legos. With smooth jazz playing on the radio, we munch on locally made Thai chili hummus and sip on cups of tea while enjoying the silence of bedtime.
Sanity Saver Lesson: Make time for things you enjoyed before the kids - or maybe even discovered after the kids!
Don't stop dreaming, growing, and doing. Set a goal. Listen to podcasts. Start writing again. Keep your passport active. Take a day trip. Being a mom of five is just one facet of who I am at the moment. God called me to adoption, but He also gifted me in other ways, and gave me interests and talents beyond what I do with the kids. As life has calmed down from the initial chaos, I have begun to invest time in developing as an individual again through creative writing, working on my business, creating capacity for personal development, and keeping dreams alive as long-term goals. It's a balancing act of learning how to live in the moment - to be present for the kids, answering their questions, helping them grow - and to plan for the future.

What I have observed is that by keeping my interests active, the kids begin to develop their own. For example, they all know that I love France, and as they hear me talk about my long-term dreams, I now hear them suggest countries they would like to visit someday. When they catch me reading in the school car line, they start to ask if they can bring books in the car. And when education is viewed as an ongoing event, dinnertime talk starts to include career options beyond high school, and shared dreams of attending university and teaching school or becoming a policewoman. The sky's the limit, I tell them. Dream big.
Sanity Savor Lesson: When you take time to invest in your own dreams, you end up inspiring those who are watching to find their own.   
 

4.10.2017

Finding a New Rhythm

Hello there, friends. From my calendar reckoning, I wrote my last post on this site just 6 days before starting out on the adventure of a lifetime last September. A lot has happened, so pull up a cup of your favorite beverage (perhaps stored in the cup holder of a booster seat, like mine was this past weekend - hey, necessity is the mother of invention, right?), and let's catch up!



In 2012, God started prodding the Hubs and I towards adoption. And like everything else God has ever asked us to do, it was go big or go home - and we went big! In November 2016, the adoption of 5 biologically-related siblings from Costa Rica was finalized, and after spending two months in the Central American country, we boarded an airplane in the middle of a hurricane on Thanksgiving day and flew home. It wasn't the end to months and years of planning for, fighting against, praying about, and finally submitting to the will of God, it was just the beginning.

We just completed our first 6-month report for the adoption agency, and life is starting to find it's own rhythm. It's not always in tune, and it often leaves us feeling a bit queasy, but it's where God has taken us, and after years of praying that God would allow us to make an eternal impact, the final calling leaves us exhausted, but thankful... most days.

While LIFE was happening, things like work, this blog, and a thing I remember calling, "free time" all went by the wayside. As we are slowly finding our footing as parents of five, we are also learning how to squeeze in time to do the things that we want and need to do - work on the cars, get caught up on laundry, sneak in a movie, write the occasional blog post. People keep telling me that I need to write a book about our adoption adventure - and maybe I will, when we're 20 years out and can see light at the end of the tunnel. For now, I'm hoping to kick start the blogging work again and see where it takes me.

When I'm not busy learning how to be a mom (and taxi driver) to five ESL kids, I'm still dreaming of Paris, sneaking in trips through the Starbuck's drive-thru, and adding books to my nightstand for nights when I can keep my eyes open long enough to read a page or two. I'm also still soft-selling my work as a writer and editor (you can find that side of my life at my professional site), taking the occasional freelance job to help out with the myriad of expenses that pop up these days.

So that's where the rhythm has left me for the moment - wanting to make time for one piece of my former, child-free self, to be able to share my "busy nothings" and offer encouragement to those who might still be hanging around this cobwebbed old blog. If you're here, feel free to say hello. It's been a while...

Until next time,
Carrie

9.22.2016

All The Children of The World

I don't normally go political or controversial online. In my mind, it's not the correct venue. However, watching everything that is going on in our country, I feel compelled to say something. When you look at everything that is going on around us, it puts what I am dealing with (all basically good things, just stressful) in perspective. People point the finger at race, hatred, and a lack of respect, but the truth is that those are just the outward signs.
  

These issues didn't start 2 years ago, or 200 years ago... this started the day that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sin entered the world. Sin - and it's consequences - are evil, destructive, and point out why - red, yellow, black, or white - we are ALL in need of a Savior.

One needs only to read a page or two of a history book to realize that people have always found and created reasons to hate each other, to fear other races, to consider themselves superior to one another. This isn't unique to the United States or even unique to black/white relations, because prejudice crosses all boarders and races. Having lived outside of the U.S. I have been the minority before, and I can empathize with how it feels to have assumptions made about me because of my skin color. I know how frustrating it was, and how angry I felt to be unfairly judged by people who didn't even know me. I still feel that way.

Singing Kumbaya and "sitting down to talk" is a nice idea and it doesn't hurt, but it isn't going to fix the core problem. Protesting usually leads to rioting, which only causes the divide to widen as people are given more reasons for distrust to grow. The ONLY answer to this heart issue is the hope and love of Jesus, lived out through our lives, shared freely.

Here's the deal: I was born a pasty, Scotch-Irish white - it wasn't a choice. I have dear friends who were born with deep chocolate brown skin. We're adopting 5 beautiful, forever tan, children. We have lived, worked, and worshiped in countries and with people of all nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds. BOTTOM LINE: people are PEOPLE - not skin colors - because I serve a God who created us all, who sent His Son to die for us all, and who offers the free gift of salvation to us all.

As a country, we are incredibly divided - politically, racially, morally - but for those of us who follow Christ, now more than ever, we must stand as a united front, offering the ONLY solution, our Hope. Jesus Christ. No politician can save this country. No one race is always right or always wrong. Academics and news anchors can't tell us how to fix this problem. But, my brothers and sisters in Christ - we have the Answer, and we can make a difference, but it means getting way outside of our comfortable Sunday pew. This world is not our home - it's time we started acting that way. 


"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." 
John 3:16

8.05.2016

What Kind of Impression Are You Making?

Today's Food For Thought: What are you thinking about? What are you talking about? What are you impressing on your children?




Last month our perspective changed. It happened subtly and then suddenly, and the outcome (purging more than 3/4 of our extensive DVD collection) ended up being far less painful - liberating, in fact - than either of us anticipated. True, the adjustment hasn't been without hiccups - like the first post-purge weekend when we walked around, looking lost and asking, "what do you want to do?" - but the conversations that have taken place in the 2+ hour time slots that were formerly filled with movies or TV shows have been far more fulfilling and challenging.

As I have tried to make clear in past posts, this isn't about looking super spiritual, pointing fingers of blame at those who don't do the same, or securing our salvation. However, my hope is that by sharing what God has been teaching us as we strive to become more like Christ, you will have something to chew on as you seek God's will for your own life. And while you may not feel conviction about how you spend time relaxing (I'm not the Holy Spirit!), I challenge you to look at your life and see what God may be asking you to give up or change as you pursue a life devoted to His will, rather than yours.

As Believers, we are to become more like Christ as we grow up in our faith, not more accepting of what the world deems "normal." As parents, our job is to model for our kids the living and active role of Christ in our everyday life, to help them understand how His attributes are what we strive to imitate, and that the lens of Scripture is how we view the world.

One of the reasons for our big purge was our growing sensitivity to one particular issue: Jesus is the Name of my Savior, not a word to be used to casually express frustration. And though I hadn't stooped to the level of taking God's Name in vain, other crass phrases had definitely crept into my vocabulary... unless my mother was around, and then I found myself paying attention to what I said. So - the million dollar question - if I wouldn't say it in front of my mother, why would I say it when Jesus hears my innermost thoughts?

For the record: I do not expect the world to act like Christ (Philippians 3:18-19). Additionally, our goal is not to protect our children from the world (we couldn't do that, even if we wanted to), but rather, not to elevate the world's actions as approved behavior through our entertainment choices in the surroundings of our home. There is - in my opinion - a major difference between overhearing someone take the Lord's Name in vain while out in the world, and comfortably sitting on our couch, essentially approving the action by choosing to watch a film where it's casually thrown around.

And it's not just the language. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it's the accepted lifestyles and actions that we no longer wish to passively condone through our choice of films and shows. Over the years, there have been times when I have found myself blushing when someone has asked to borrow one of our DVDs. I've been uncomfortable when loaning out our James Bond collection because casual sex with new acquaintances wasn't something I'd encourage in life, but apparently if it's "just pretend" and on the screen, it's okay.

For years I told myself that it wasn't a big deal for us to watch films with sex, violence, and R-rated language because we were both married, mature Christians, and we could separate those things from the possible positive undertones in the film. It didn't bother or affect us (or so I told myself) and I came up with plenty of reasons why it was okay for us, despite the fact that I would have wished for a hole to open up and swallow me if Jesus had physically walked into the room while I was watching 007 bed the women he just met. What changed this summer was finally seeing the disconnect between what we believed and would want our kids to learn, and what we watched.

BUT...

"We still live in the world, and you can't bury your head in the sand! If you don't expose your children to it, they will just learn about it without you." I can hear you saying this, muttering it under your breath, rolling your eyes, or even shouting it at your screen right now. And you're absolutely right! We're not naively thinking, "If we don't show our children films with cursing in them, they will never hear it." TRUE STORY: I learned my first curse words (really good ones, too!) in the toddler's Sunday school at our church. I was living 3-year-old proof that you can be in a "holy huddle," surrounded by Christians, and still experience the world in it's midst.

Instructing, not exposing - this is the switch that flipped for us. Do we want to impress upon our children the glory and awesomeness of God, or the depravity of man? Do we want Hollywood to teach our children about the world, or do we want to help them view the world with discernment by sharing with them God's perfect plan and man's fallen state? These are the kinds of questions we started asking ourselves that have led us to this point, and though the HOW is still being figured out, the WHY has become clear.

The Gospels are explicit that our role in this world is to shine our Light on the hill, not hide it in the safety of our Christian circles (Matthew 5:14-16). Jesus actively modeled for us how we are to behave in this world. He knew the histories and actions of those who surrounded Him, yet showed them love, cared about their pain, befriended, ate with, and talked to those that the "holy huddle" of the day, scorned (Luke 7). Jesus was in the world, but not to blend in - He was there to show a better way. 

Jesus was perfect, coming to save the world that He was engaging. I know this might come as a surprise (that's sarcasm!), but we are not perfect like Jesus. It's easy for us to try to be in the world, and find ourselves getting swept up by the world. No longer just acknowledging the actions of the world, but joining in because we don't want them to think we're some sort of goody two-shoes. In our desire to be accepted - often with the good intention of "developing a relationship" that would, ideally, lead to sharing our faith - we tend to get swallowed up, no longer seeing things as black and white.

Bottom Line: I am very much a work-in-progress. I'm 34 years old, and I've been a Christian for 31 of those years, and yet here I am, still trying to figure out how to get out of my own way, to follow after God with my whole life, and die to self so that I may live for Him. Jesus is still working on me, and #iamthankful for His patience and mercy. 

7.28.2016

And So, To Clarify...

PERSONAL NOTE: Okay, look. A.W. Tozer was a human, just like you and me, and no, he wasn't perfect and no, he doesn't have all the answers, but... he sure gives one a lot of food for thought! 


Last week I shared about a God-led decision to remove films and shows that we previously considered "family friendly" from our home movie collection - sacrificing the sacred cow of entertainment, if you will. This personal upheaval in "life as usual" is more complex than I have time - or desire - to unpack in a single blog post, but the simple version is that God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, has caused us to rethink our standards. {There's another post in the works that digs a little bit deeper into that aspect. Look for it soon, if you're interested.}

And while that is the Bottom Line (obeying God by not ignoring the conviction we feel), based on some of the comments I received after the last post, I realized that I needed to clarify a few things.

For example, at this time we're not purging ALL films and shows (Andy Griffith and Fiddler on the Roof are still very much in our home DVD collection), nor are we ripping down the screen and projector to sell on eBay. In fact, you will still find us on the occasional weekend with a bowl of popcorn, snuggled down in blankets and pillows, watching one of our Pixar favorites, like The Incredibles. But even that may change in the future if God nudges - we're open to wherever He takes us on this journey.

What changed for the present was our perspective on the films that we previously accepted without batting an eye, taking a different view of them now based on the subtle undertones (premarital living arrangements, casually taking the Lord's Name in vain, or the prevalence of sexual innuendos) compared to the Biblical model of becoming more like Christ. It looks less like, "TV is a tool of the devil, right up there with drums" and more like the old cliché, "if Christ joined us on the couch, would we still be comfortable laughing at this?"


In fact, this whole change in perspective isn't really about the medium. I can already tell that this train of thought is going to end up overflowing into books {Collective Bookworm GASP!} and social media. God's working on me, reminding me to play an active role in assessing what I see and hear when I'm watching a show, listening to a song, reading for pleasure, or even what I'm passively viewing while I kill time on Facebook. Facebook. That's a whole other post. But I'm a grateful work-in-progress... so stay tuned. You never know what's next!

A.W. Tozer posed a good question for all Believers: What are we laughing at? Are we laughing at sin? Trust me... it creeps in so easily! For almost 20 years the Hubs and I have laughingly quoted a line from a well-known 90's chick-flick. It starts with a word we wouldn't say in front of our mothers, but we clean it up - of course - by substituting "beep" for the word. If you're reading this thinking, "How does that make it better?" then you now realize that we're not as smart as you might have previously thought. It seems obvious now, but for almost two decades (that's embarrassing!) it hasn't been something we've thought about when we say it, because it made us laugh. What are you laughing AT?

Moving on... I also realize that some people may have read our decision and seen it as legalistic. Make no mistake: this decision to purge various entertainment items has nothing to do with our salvation (Ephesians 2:8 & 9). Our eternal security does not rest on our entertainment choices (thank the Lord!), but our growth as Believers does. It's time for us to listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit as He guides us in our walk with Christ, even when He moves in previously "off limit" areas, like what we do to relax and unwind.

Finally, yes, God is working in each one of our lives in different ways, and as Believers we are each at different stages of the Christian journey. However, don't use that as an excuse. If you read about our choices last week and it made you uncomfortable (or even angry - hey, I've been there reading about the decisions of others!), maybe you should ask yourself, "why?" My point, last week and today, is this: look at the areas in your own life that are, even unknowingly, off limits to God. Ask yourself why it's off limits, and what scares you about offering it to Christ if it means growing to become more like Him.

If someone told me 6 months ago that I would eventually purge two-thirds of our DVD collection, I would have snorted. Relaxing with a movie (or two or three) was my idea of a great Friday night. To give that up would be painful, and (Heaven forbid) I would be bored. Yet here's what I've discovered in the last month: when you start opening previously closed off areas of your life to God, relinquishing ownership gives freedom rather than feeling like a sacrifice. (Romans 8:5 & 6) Gray turns to black and white.

What's in YOUR off limits area? 


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