Thursday, December 22, 2011

2012 is calling...

Yes, I know I haven't even made it through Christmas 2011 yet. The presents are not completely done (in fact, all my "I'm gonna make that for ___ this year!!" stuff hasn't even been made you think there is still time??). But I have simplifying, decluttering, and organization on my mind...

Maybe I've spent too much time on Pinterest lately, but I am itching to get my house COMPLETELY cleaned out and organized. I have been on a quest to simplify this year. WHAT?? (I know any of you who know me are thinking "what the???"). With 6 kids who are all over the place with activities, college, school, homeschool co-ops, etc., it is virtually impossible to have a "simple" life! But (trying not to sound too proud of myself here...but hey, I am). I have made some specific changes in my schedule.

It meant dropping out of several things I enjoy (singing in praise band, book club, game group with friends, not sending Christmas cards) but man, it feels good!!! I have realized over the years that when I am not home, life gets chaotic. I will do all these things I enjoy again, and for me, I don't long for time out of the house. I am also allowing myself to "not get everything done to feel good about how I am doing as a mom." (this refers to Christmas cards - the stress of getting a good picture - not sure it's possible with 6!). I am already so much happier and less stressed.

Which brings me to my next plan...2012  will be my year to get my home simplified - decluttered and organized and clean!!! YEE HAA - I am excited...

Found some amazing ideas, free printouts, and challenges over at A Bowl Full of Lemons.
Was so excited to actually find a challenge, to "link up" - I was just feeling so "bloggery."  Here's the challenge:

Until I realized...the challenge was LAST YEAR!!!! HAHAHA!! I am a year too late!?!??


Well, I will be doing it anyway...grrr... Will have to follow her posts from a year ago but love her ideas and might even (dare I say it), join up on her new one too...gotta go off and read up...

First stop is a home management notebook (oooo love all the papers and tabs and lists!!!! I love lists soooo is accomplishing the items on lists that I often have trouble

So, be watching for my updates on getting this place in order! First plan: Target - for a totally cute notebook and a LABEL MAKER (Christmas present for moi!).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Real Christmas happens in the mall...

Woke to find this youtube video on Facebook today and was so excited. It kinda goes along with my last post (which, by the way, I reread and worry that it sounds rather preachy, sorry). I am just craving the simple message of Christmas. 

Speaking of which, we went to Bethlehem yesterday! Yes, we followed the star in the sky (a cool spotlight we could see as we approached Afton, VA's live nativity village). The kids (we took the younger four) were amazed about this oddity in the sky. They didn't know where we were going and were so concerned about the ray of light shining down from the sky. I kept thinking "Wait for it...wait for it..." I was waiting for someone to finally make the connection that it looked like the Bethlehem star. And someone did! We enjoyed our walk through the village, seeing the animals and characters of the Christmas story and some cookies and warm apple cider. It was a sweet memory...

Enjoy the video - just wish something like this would happen when I am present...ok, actually the inner actress/singer in me longs to be in one of these someday...ah, a girl can dream...

Monday, December 19, 2011


Believe...Not sure if it was with the Polar Express movie popularity, or for what reason, but the term "Believe" seems to have been so popular over the past few years, particularly at Christmas time. I have always been a bit perplexed by it...and sometimes bothered.

What is it that people "believe?" Is it that Christmas will be Merry? Is it that they will score the best gifts and make everyone happy with what they find under the tree? Is it that Santa will come? Is it the belief in Santa? Is it that all will be perfect at Christmas? That family will get along? That there is some sort of "magic" that happens at Christmas?

Seeing the word "Believe" all over in a world that has become increasingly secular, materialistic, and preoccupied with making itself happy and content, has frankly, made me squirm.

I want a happy Christmas with happy children and happy family relations, but that isn't what "believe" is for me.

I have been sick over the last week, tired, overwhelmed with all on my to-do list, having to deal with an issue that at the moment, could threaten to steal away my "believe" if it all hinged on everything being magical and good.

But that is not what I believe...

What I believe is much bigger than that. What I believe never changes, is always true, is always joy and is the same year to year, despite what is happening in my life. I believe in a savior. Jesus came in a humble way, as a little baby, to be with us on earth. He lived a humble life while fulfilling his purpose to show us what God was like and then to die to make it possible for us to be with God.

I believe...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Aslan is on the move...

As a college student taking a children's literature class, I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time. At that time, I missed the parallels to Biblical truth that this story so beautifully demonstrates. Now, years later as a Christian mom who has read the book aloud several times, heard my husband reading the book several times, seen the play and the beautiful movie, I have grown to love the series. 

I love Aslan the lion, who like our God, is there for us - behind the scenes, loving and self-sacrificing, scary and yet comforting in a world of uncertainty and sometimes, tragedy. I love His strong voice and fair justice. I love that He brings Spring and life and excitement as his followers whisper "Aslan is on the move."

Well, Aslan is on the move here. He is moving in my church, in my home, and in my heart. I can feel the Lord gently waiting and watching with his strength, truth, and power. HE is moving and I am waiting to hear how He wants us to move.

Years ago...ah, maybe about 8 or so, my husband and I had an overwhelming feeling that the Lord was  calling us to do something big for Him. We would sit at night after exhausting days of work and homeschooling our four kids, carpooling, church meetings and busy-ness and talk about how we both just had this feeling as tho' we were meant to do more yet didn't know what.

We never knew beyond that until 3+ years ago when it became increasingly clear that adoption was what we were to do. We knew we needed to be giving of ourselves so much more, sacrificing so much more, and furthering the kingdom of God in a much bigger way than just raising our four children and attending church dutifully. 

I do remember thinking, as we lived through these last three years -  during the adoption process (those of you who have adopted know what a trying time that is as you jump through endless hoops, pay huge amounts of money without guarantees, and love and pray for the little faces of children only known to your heart), and the last two years of losing the "old" family and embracing and figuring out the "new" family -  that even this process might actually be what God wanted for us to do to impact His kingdom. (Did I really just write that long run-on sentence??? Yikes...sorry, but not going to change it!). As we struggled along in our home, was God getting any glory? Was the kingdom affected in any positive way when so many days I was grumpy or wiped out from trying, or sad that we had destroyed the beautiful family "thing" we already had going?  Had our jumping-off-the-cliff-in-faith move (the adoption), been the gift to God that we had wanted it to be when we were not being the parents we wished were were, not always loving unconditionally, complaining and sad?

I realize now as I look back on the struggles of the last two years since the girls have been home, that adoption doesn't just impact the children who have finally found their forever families and the families that take them in. My girls' adoption has inspired others to adopt, to turn their hearts to the orphan, to become aware of the needs of Africa, to accept and love a child of color (sad, I know, but this is still something that many haven't mastered), and perhaps most importantly - to consider that Aslan is on the move. To consider that God is real and moving and life changing. That He can do miraculous things through His people  (even the average and broken ones like us!) when we are listening, watching for Him to "be on the move" and obedient to His stirrings in our hearts.

The last two years have changed me in ways that are too many to count. I have been broken by my need for a savior on a moment by moment basis sometimes.  I have tried to share my struggles and be transparent with my burdens and difficulties, as well as our joys and triumphs of the last two years. It has certainly not been easy. It is hard to be a family who is so "noticeable" and "on display" at times. However, I realize that I have daily been offered an opportunity to share about what the Lord is able to do - How I lean on Him and need Him and how it is ONLY through Him that we are making it. He gets the credit and He has given me a huge way to affect His kingdom through our "ministry" of adoption.

Our hearts are being stirred again.  He is calling for something big again. John and I are feeling it. We are getting comfortable and God is asking us again to step out in some big way. We are praying for His leading and guidance and we know He will give it. Just haven't heard it yet. But when we do we will obey.

Is He stirring in your heart?  

Aslan is on the move....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bye-Bye Summer...

Waaaaaaa....I am always so sad when Summer is over. Even tho' I am thrilled to put away the pool stuff and start wearing my pants (yes, I am at that stage when I much rather cover my legs with pants than to expose my "mom legs" to the world), I yearn for the feeling that I have just knowing it is summer.

Every year I tell my kids that we will be doing school throughout the summer as it seems like a good idea so that we don't lose the math skills, etc, etc. They now laugh when I start in on the merits of year round schooling. They know me too well... It is me - even more than them - that can't wait for the start of summer, to whip out the flip flops and "chill" - they know all too well who will cave in and say "eh, let's just skip it this summer..."

This summer was a bit tough in some ways, too much down time, too much heat, but we did manage to have fun...gonna post some pics of the highlights. The truth is, that some of our fun summer moments went without cameras or photos...bye-bye summer!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

School days

Ok, ok, I know what you are thinking...she has given up on her blog already....NOT SO!!! Can we talk?? These have been a crazy few weeks. The beginning of school always is - for oh, so many reasons... This year has been no exception. The last month has been emotionally difficult, financially difficult, and logistically difficult.

We are a homeschooling family. We stumbled upon it due to lots of reasons - some practical, some spiritual. I had never planned to do it, and really never thought it would be for many years. But as each year passed, it felt right and how it should be.

Hard and exhausting, exasperating and became our identity, our focus, our friendships, and our way of life. Hours of reading and snuggling on the couch, delving into whatever topics we found interesting, eating lunch together everyday, sleeping late sometimes, taking off days when we want, carschooling, etc. - what a blessing it has been -  and such wonderful memories! We have raised our kids with the knowledge that God is the center of it all and hopefully with the knowledge of the most important thing of all - beyond writing skills and perfect handwriting and mathematic ability and high test scores - is our relationship with Christ and that our lives are to be a gift back to him for all He has given us. I have loved it and would never change a thing. We have grown together and spent so much time together as a family. It was the best decision I could have ever made.
Fast forward to this summer. Twelve homeschooling years have passed us by. It has truly become our way of doing things. But this year is very different. We have three children in school this year. I can hardly believe it and struggled all throughout the last year, mostly the summer, thinking about, praying and stressing over the decision to send our two little girls to public elementary school. My hope had always been to give them what I have given the other kids - would they feel they got less of me or less love or a "raw deal" to not have been homeschooled like the others?
The Lord has given me a peace. I still don't like that they aren't at home, in fact many times I feel heart-broken, but the reality is that it was no longer working - for anyone. I was constantly stressed and feeling like I couldn't do it all - and frankly, last year I wasn't. There was too much attention given to the girls, their behavior, their interrupting, their constant needs. My others have suffered. There is healing that needs to go on here and this is the time to do it.

The girls do well with constant stimulation and movement so school is going great for them. They love all the activity, activity stations, specials (they are getting special reading and ESL help). They are flourishing and we are enjoying them more.

My boys are more relaxed. Let's be honest here - they have struggled the most these last two years. They are getting quiet time to do their work, my undivided attention during the school hours, and it is all good!

My oldest son is an eleventh grader and he is blowing me away!!! He is taking 3 classes at the local community college - three days a week. He is riding the city bus (even has to change buses) and is handling everything like a real grown up. He is doing well in his classes and makes me so very proud. He and Kate (14) both still attend our homeschool co-op all day on Tuesdays. The younger boys and I are at a new co-op (Classical Conversations) on another's a pretty crazy schedule...don't even get me started on the extra curriculars!

I am most thankful to my God for giving me peace with these difficult decisions. The most important thing (as described above - our relationship with Christ and living our life for him) is still the most important thing - whether the kids are at home, co-op, community college or public school. Happy fall!

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Monday, August 15, 2011

James 1:27

I have followed Katie's blog for some time now - found her when I first began our research on Ethiopian adoption. Her story is so amazing - she is such a testimony to truly living the Bible and living God's dream for us - not our own.

Follow her blog here.


All I ever wanted was to be a mom. Really. I didn't really care about career or travel or fancy cars or glamour. I just wanted to be a mom.

I have to smile and fall to my knees in wonder and awe of how the almighty God saw fit to let me be a mom - not just to my one, then two, then three and then, four biological children - but to two little girls from across the globe.

I was not a young mom. I went thru many years of being a bridesmaid, visiting friends with their new babies, and hearing about others who were hearing little ones call them "mommy." It wasn't always easy.

In 1990, I met the most amazing man (he will deserve his own blogpost!) and in 1994 the sweetest and most beautiful little baby was born to us - my Drew. Although he's Andrew, I'm not sure I ever have called him that!

He is handsome and smart and funny. He is athletic and musically talented and clever. He has gorgeous green eyes and an adorable, shy smile. Most importantly, he is becoming a man who is following Jesus. I couldn't love him more or be more grateful that he is my son.

I love you, my Drew.

Friday, August 12, 2011


It was a summer of cousins. Sadly, I wasn't as great with a camera as I would like as there were 7 cousins who didn't get into my photos this year - we got to see all but one this summer. My children are so blessed - they have 15 first cousins. We spent the week at the beach with my family's cousins - plus a weekend with Janie's family with us and almost a week at Jill's house. We spent the weekend of the 4th of July with John's family's cousins, plus a week of art camp at Sue's house and a visit from Kathy and kids here at home. We got to visit with Anne and kids for a while at the beach (my step-brother's wife and kids whom we haven't seen in a few years).

Growing up I had 4 cousins. My mom was an only child and my dad's siblings lived far away from us. We saw them a number of times while growing up but didn't share the relationships with them that my kids have with their cousins. My cousins were older and my kids' cousins are all around the same age.

Thank you God for our family - for John's sisters and my sisters and their families. Thank you for the blessing of cousins - for summer fun and growing up together!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Doro WHAT?

So all week I have been saying that I wanted to do something ALL together this Saturday. With kids ranging from 5 to nearly 17, it is hard to find a time when all are present, and willing to do an activity. Well, Saturday morning came and we still had no idea what to do. It started raining then and then our choices became very few .... so what did we do?? We took a drive to Harrisonburg, VA (about an hour away) and had lunch at the Ethiopian restaurant there - The Blue Nile. We have been talking about going there for two years now (since the girls came home) and this was our first time actually going. Cute place, with many Ethiopian baskets and art. Sadly, there were no Ethiopian folks there (we had hoped there would be for the girls' sakes).

The yummy Ethiopian lunch buffet looked great to half of us...I have a picky crew. John, Drew, Ben, Jemila and I enjoyed the Doro wat (a spicy chicken meal) and the injera (the "spongy" rolled bread used as your utensil to scoop the food), and the spicy peanut soup and a few other things that I am not sure what they were - but they were yummy. Kulate tried a bit of everything but in the end, turned up her nose and decided she didn't like anything but the American fare that Kate and Jack ordered. (Ben also ended up not really liking the food and mooched off the American food plates). Oh well...we tried. I think the girls enjoyed seeing the Ethiopian things and we spent the day driving around James Madison University and through the city of Staunton. Not exactly my vision for the day, but still ALL together and having an adventure.

Until the next time - Julie

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where to begin??

So here I am starting my FIFTH blog. "I didn't know you blogged??" you say? Well, I never told you - or even allowed my blogs to be public because quite frankly, they never had much on them!! (note: I have also tried journaling too many times to count only to quit the second or third day...). So the odds are against me here but I have been such a blog follower since we began our adoption journey that I just can't help but try again to keep a journal of our daily escapades here as we do this thing called life together.

We are a loud and busy bunch, trying our best to be a family that follows after Jesus. John and I have four biological children (Drew, Kate, Jack, and Ben), and we adopted two little sisters from Ethiopia in 2009 (Jemila and Kulate). The picture here is our first family picture as a family of 8 - taken on the steps of our Ethiopian guest house only a couple of days after meeting our girls and becoming the family we are now. We had finally completed the year long angst-ridden process of adoption and we were about to embark on a whole new life - one full of blessings but also challenges. We have just passed the 2 year mark of having our girls with us.

I am not much of a writer but I will make an effort to keep this, my FINAL blog, up to date! It is my prayer that this blog will be a way to share my thoughts about life, family, homeschooling, adoption, knitting, and sewing, as well as journal and remember events in our life - and in every way, glorify God. Until next time - Blessings - Julie
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