One Step Closer

After four months of waiting and three more months of gathering, I had the amazing privilege of mailing a very-prayed-over stack of papers to Colorado today.

Which means that we are one step closer to bringing this beautiful girl home.

My heart is full with hope and wonder and joy and fear tonight and I’m trusting and leaning hard on Him every step of the way.

~ Sara

Trusting All Our Time to Him

On Friday we will be a month into school and I try to implement schedules and structure and in keeping with the laws of the universe, that which is in order presses hard into chaos.  I try to contain it all, fit all the necessary into the moments we have and the moments never seem to be enough.

And in a gift Ann writes words that speak from my screen; words that reach somewhere deep and touch my heart.  She writes,

“What if I woke to now and refused to hurry because I didn’t want to refuse God?  What if I didn’t discount this moment, but counted it for what it is – God here?

It is only the present moment alone that holds the possibility of coming into the presence of God.  Look around, breathe deep, enter into this one moment – now could be an altar.  This time could be a tabernacle.”

And I breathe deep.  This time, this day, it is not mine.  It belongs to Him, the One who gives all things and gives only good gifts.  And His plan for my day may not be my own and I have to learn to see the interruptions of each day as the Savior saw them, not as obstacles but as opportunities.  Opportunities to show love, live grace, extend kindness.  And it’s always easier said than done because we live in a world driven by schedules and deadlines and to do lists.

So as I leave to go out on the second trip for something that should have been done in one and as I look at our list again and see how some things are suffering because there aren’t enough moments in each day and say again this moment is an altar, time is a tabernacle and give it over to the One who made time and orders my days and has a plan for all things.

And as we enter into a new day, a day fresh with opportunities but already running not-quite-on-time, I lay myself down.  I lay down the idol of my schedule and my pride in being productive and offer it all back to Him and trust Him that what matters will be done and He knows my heart and how He made me and what is important.  And I trust Him to give good gifts even in this.  For it is all He can do.


If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ~ Matthew 7:11

~ Sara

Washed Clean

Last night we watched and we cheered and we cried as fifty-eight believers made public their faith and dying to death, rose to new life.  Young and old, new believers and those who had been walking with the Lord for decades, those who were stepping out in simple obedience and the one who gave up everything to follow Christ, led into the water by a pastor, friend, mentor.  And our youngest, led by her daddy in that first step of obedience to Christ’s commands, that first example He set for us.  Washed by the water, made new by the Spirit.

And we rejoice and give thanks for new life, eternal life, life abundant.  And for His unending grace.

1334.  bike helmets

1335.  a persevering five year old

1336.  open weekends

1337.  borrowed computer cords

1338.  allergies and puffs with lotion

1339.  fifty-eight believers proclaiming their faith

1340.  our youngest “raised to new life”

This challenge was posted by a cousin of mine on Facebook last night….

What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?

What would you be left with?  May your day, your week, your life be filled with thankfulness.

For His Glory ~

~ Sara

Make Your Own Granite Cleaning Wipes (or Baby Wipes)

Back when my girls were all in diapers, some wonderful soul introduced me to home made baby wipes.  They were fabulous and a major budget-saver.  Well, we’ve been diaper-free around here for nearly 3 years but I held on to that wonderful Rubbermaid bowl and lid because I knew it would come in handy again someday.

Today was that day.

I have been making my own granite cleaner for about a year and half and just keep it in a spray bottle.  However, one of my goals for school and life this year is to hand off as much of the house keeping as I possibly can to the girls and when it comes to cleaning, they can get a little trigger-happy and use a lot more of a spray than necessary.

Enter the home made granite cleaning wipe!

Here’s how:

  • First you have to find a lidded container that will hold the equivalent of half a roll of paper towels and about 3 cups of liquid.  This can be the hardest part.  Mine is a round, 10 cup Rubbermaid container, but use whatever works for you.
  • After that, take a large roll of paper towels and cut in half width-wise with a very sharp knife (you will end up with what looks like two giant rolls of toilet paper).  Be careful, the only stitches I’ve ever had came from doing this back in my baby wipe-making days.
  • Pull the cardboard core out of each half.  Put one half away for your next batch of wipes.
  • In your container mix this recipe:
      • 2 cups water
      • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
      • 1 tsp pure castile soap (peppermint, etc.)
      • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
      • 20 drops tea tree oil
      • 20 drops lavender or lemongrass essential oil
  • Set the half-roll of paper towels in the liquid.  Press lid on and allow to absorb for a few hours.
  • Once the towels are fully saturated, pull the first towel out from the center (where the cardboard core once was) and voila! you’ve got yourself a granite wipe!  🙂

When I posted this on Facebook earlier, I had a couple of requests for the baby wipe recipe as well.  The steps are the same as above, with the ingredients being as follows:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons baby wash
  • 2 tablespoons Avon Skin So Soft bath oil or other gentle oil (I have seen suggestions of baby oil, olive oil, vitamin E…etc.)

Both projects are super-simple and work great.  Enjoy!

***Granite recipe from TipNut.com.

What’s Been Going Down…Six Weeks (or so) In Review

I’ve said it many times in the past few months, but this was one wild and crazy summer. Honestly. Not even exaggerating. I’m not sure how long it’s actually been since I’ve done a Week in Review post, but I know it’s been quite a while, so let’s see if I can sum up the past month and a half or so.

We are nearly finished gathering the items needed for our dossier. All we are waiting on now is the completed home study, followed by some quality time at the copy center, then everything will be on its way to the adoption agency. In my perfect world, that will be by the end of this next week. Lord willing.

I also have the application ready for our I600. Again, waiting on the completed home study before I can submit that also.

We received word from the adoption agency that we could travel to Haiti as early as December for our first required visit. This is extremely exciting and news we weren’t expecting. We will probably still wait until after the first of the year for a couple of different reasons, but we’re thrilled to know things are moving faster than expected.

We have Amania’s house on the market. We are praying fervently for a buyer to come along. Hopefully we’ll have good news to that end here soon!

Matt and I celebrated our 12 anniversary in July. We got out of town for a couple days and just enjoyed being together. I am so thankful to be married to my husband. I am always amazed at how God made someone so perfectly suited for me and that He loved me enough 13 years ago to make sure we met. God’s ways truly are so much higher than our ways!

The girls and I, in the midst of everything else, tried to spend as much quality time as possible at the local pool. Summer isn’t summer, in my opinion, without significant amounts of time spent by the water. Thanks to four or five weeks of near- or above-100 degree temperatures, the water finally got warm enough that I would get in. I always enjoy how the girls gather and marvel at the sight of me going off a diving board or down a water slide. Kind of how I imagine one would gather and marvel at the sight of an unexpected space shuttle launch.

The girls spent one of the last weeks of our “official” summer at their favorite day camp. All but Ellie were old enough to go this year and a great time was had by all. I used a couple of the days to do some fun things with Ellie and a couple of the other days to do a lot of the preparation I needed to for the upcoming school year.

After debating it in my head for quite some time, we finally cancelled cable in early July. I rarely watch television and the kids need to watch it less. Plus, we are often so busy and/or trying to spend time outside during the nice months that I just didn’t see the point of paying so much money for television we weren’t watching. So, after going back and forth with the guy at the cable company, I finally got it turned off. I never thought I would miss it, but I’ll be honest….I miss it. I always figured we would get it turned back on in October or November when KU basketball starts back up. Now I’m thinking we might get it turned on sooner. As rarely as I watch television, it is nice to at least have some options when Matt and I do want to watch it. And as for the girls watching it, it really comes down to us managing their time better as parents. In the first few weeks of being without cable, when it was 110 degrees outside everyday, I found we were simply replacing television time with more movies or computer time. So, turning off the cable has been good and somewhat of a learning experience, but I’m definitely ready to turn it back on.

I think that just about gets us up to date. I love summer and the freedom it brings, but being three weeks into school already, I am also thankful for the seasons of order and routine. It is good to see the blessings in both.

Wishing you a wonderful rest of your weekend, my friends!
~ Sara

Building Confidence

Three years ago, I bought my first DSLR camera, a Nikon D60. We had a massive yard sale and I earned enough to pay cash. It’s been a love/hate relationship ever since. When I got a good picture I got an awesome picture. But when I didn’t get a good picture I got a horrible picture. And I never knew what I was going to get.

When I first got the camera a friend told me to read the manual, cover to cover. I tried, but not being versed in photo-jargon, it might as well have been written in Greek, so I quit. Another friend taught be about aperture and light and that made a huge difference in my end results. I learned about white balance to eliminate the weird yellow hue I kept getting and I learned about using filters in Photoshop. I was able to more consistently get a good shot, especially outside. And the ones that didn’t turn out great I could usually edit to make them look better. Inside, however, I still felt lost.

This summer I decided I was fed up with getting so-so pictures and checked out three books from our local library and added them to my Summer Reading List. Then, my brother-in-law approached me about needing to buy a DSLR for a class he’s taking this fall and would I be interested in selling mine and upgrading? Because I still felt clueless about so many things, I only wanted to take a small step up in cameras to one that had an internal motor that would work with my 50 mm lens, as the D60 did not have that capability. So, I stepped up to the D80 and added its manual to my reading list.

After reading the manual (all the way through this time!) and those three books, I feel so much more confident about my picture taking. I’m excited to start shooting again and to purposely try some low-light, indoor photography. I finally figured out how to shoot in manual mode and am learning when shutter speed should take priority over aperture and vise-versa.

The first book I read was Digital SLR Cameras and Photography for Dummies by David Busch. I’m not a fan of the For Dummies books, but when you’re feeling like one they do seem to help a lot! 😉 I’ll be honest….it was boring and very textbook-like (with some humor thrown in), but it was helpful and I took away some good information.

The second book was Understanding Composition by Steve Mulligan. This book was a big improvement over the first one as far as readability. It was interesting and helpful, but I most enjoyed looking at the pictures the author had of Kansas. He has some great shots of the Konza Prairie and other places I’ve never seen in my home state.

The last book was Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. This was, by far, my favorite and understandably so since getting the correct exposure has been my problem all along. I’m really excited to try some of the exercises he put in the book and this is the book that honestly gave me the courage to try shooting in manual mode.

**Update: I typed this a couple of weeks ago and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. In that time, I’ve had the privilege of shooting some candids for a friend’s high school reunion, which gave me an excellent opportunity to work on those low-light indoor elements. As I work through the pictures I can see that I still have a lot to learn, but I can also see the benefits of the time I took to learn more about my camera and how to make it do what I want it to do.

They're even excited for me! 😉

What about you?  What’s something you would like to take time to learn more about today, this week?  Go for it!  You’ll be glad you did!

~ Sara

The Gift of Structure

It starts again today.  The run-around.  The taxi-service.  The activity schedule that often has us out more than we’re in.

Strangely, I’m looking forward to it.  I’m looking forward to the structure it demands.  I’m looking forward to the hard stops, the fixed times.  I appreciate, at least to a degree, the pressure it puts on us to try a little harder, do a little better.

I don’t ever want a crazy life.  I need a lot of slow.  Our kids need a good amount too.  But I appreciate how a moderate level of busyness can force me to focus and use my time more wisely and push myself harder to fit more in to the day.

So here’s to a new year of ballet, horse back riding, gymnastics, choir, speech, and more….and that’s just the girls’ stuff.  Here’s to whatever God has planned as He stretches us, fills us, and makes us more like His Son.

And here’s to continuing to count, to celebrate the gifts He gives.

1321.  switched rooms

1322.  air conditioning

1323.  hottest days on record

1324.  first day of a new school year

1325.  eager students

1326.  Teaching Textbooks

1327.  eleven years old

1328.  more pics of our little girl

1329.  first photo shoot down

1330.  afternoon nap

1331.  Cafe Holliday chips and guac delivery

1332.  an afternoon of laughter and silliness

1333.  the return of hard stops

On Being Blind

There are days I want to crawl back into bed and hide under my covers. There are days I will excuse myself from the school table, the room, and go find quiet solace somewhere, anywhere. There are days when I bite my tongue hard to hold back the poisoned darts and still they fly free.

Today was one of those days.

I’m learning that I have a hard time being the responsible, get-stuff-done mom while still maintaining my laugh-out-loud-isn’t-life-fun persona. It seems I can only be one or the other. And I think this is why I cling so hard to summer. No school means we can go have fun and the house doesn’t have to fall apart. Warm weather and abundant sunshine mean laying by the pool, sitting on the patio, family bike rides, and just about everything else in the world that I love to do.

And I really want to be that mom year-round. But then, we would never do school or anything else hard because it would interfere with my schedule and our fun.

Unfortunately (from our fleshly perspective), God hasn’t called us to a life of fun. He hasn’t called us to bask in the sun all day every day while children frolic in the water. No, He has called us to work, and good deeds, and to count it all joy.

Joy. It can be hard to find when all you can focus on is the clock ticking down to bedtime.

Joy. It sits all around me at the school table and calls my name a billion times a day and needs my love and attention like it needs air to breathe.

Joy. It’s not always fun and easy and laughter. Sometimes it’s hard and ugly and comes with tears.

I lost my focus today and missed the joy in front of me. I admit, it would have been hard to find, even if I had been looking, but it was there.

It was there in the child who begged me time and again to play Five Crowns and who I kept saying “later” to and never did play with.

It was there in the mess of recyclables and scrapbook paper and the girls made furniture for their American Girl dolls.

It was there in their delight over tacos and bread dough and my iPhone.

It was all around me and I missed my chance to soak it in, to live in it.

**Lord, help me to focus on the joy all around me. I am living my own dream. You have blessed me beyond measure and I daily take it for granted. Forgive me, Lord, for my arrogance and my ungratefulness. Keep my eyes focused on you and your countless good gifts, even the ones that are hard to see. For your glory and for their hearts….Amen.”

Eleven

She’s strong and steady.

She’s ballet and beauty.

She’s a lot like her dad.

She’s a lot like me.

She’s the oldest child.

She’s the least eager to grow up.

She’s born to lead.

She’s growing in His grace.

She’s amazing.

And now she’s eleven.

Happy Birthday, Grace.  I’m so blessed to be your mother, so humbled to lead you on this walk into womanhood.  You, like all your sisters, truly are an “undeserved gift”.

A Household Staple

While my enjoyment of cooking is a fairly recent thing, I have long enjoyed making breads of different kinds and thanks to my husband’s ravings on Facebook, I have received a lot of requests for my whole wheat bread recipe.  This is a recipe that belonged to one family friend and was given to me by another.  I had tried many times over the years to make whole wheat bread and it always turned out dry, crumbly, and rock hard.  But this bread…this is bread is YUM!

Whole Wheat Bread (for Bosch)

(Adjusted for Kitchen Aid by Me)

Grind approximately 5 ½ to 6 cups wheat (which should yield approximately 9 to 11 cups flour).

½  cup oil
½  cup honey
3 ¼  cups warm water
4 cups wheat flour
1 Tblsp dough enhancer (vital wheat gluten-optional)
1 Tblsp. Salt
2 Tblsp. yeast

Mix flour and other dry ingredients in mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix liquid ingredients.  Slowly add to dry ingredients.

Continue to add flour to about 8 to 10 cups total until dough begins to cleanly pull away from mixing bowl.  If mixer begins to sound strained, stop and knead by hand.

Coat dough with oil and allow to rise until double in a warm place under a towel.

Punch dough down and separate into two to three portions, approximately 1 1/4 # each. Shape into loaves and place into greased bread pans.  Return to warm place and allow loaves to rise under a towel. Heat oven to 350o and bake 25-30 minutes.

As the recipe states, the original was created for Bosch.  So, if you happen to have a Bosch, you can actually double all of the ingredients and this should make up to 6 loaves of yummy, warm bread.

If you do not have a Bosch, but have a Kitchen Aid then the type of KA will be important.  I have a “Professional 600” model and it can handle this amount of flour.  A good friend of mine has started making this recipe but has a less-powerful model, so she halves this recipe, but is still very pleased with the results.

Also, as you can see in the photo at the bottom, I get two very large loaves.  I can get three normal sized loaves out of this recipe, but they seem to be a bit drier.  So, at the request of my beloved, I make what you see below.

One more note on wheat.  I have been told that at least one reason why my former attempts at wheat bread were unsatisfying was because of the type of wheat I was using.  Until recently, I always just purchased the whole wheat flour at the grocery store.  Apparently, this has no nutritional value (or at least very little) and the processing causes it to lose many of the qualities that make for good bread.

So, on our Texas Tour in May, I bought a wheat grinder from a friend who was selling hers.  Now, I will confess, I have never tried this recipe with store-bought wheat and at this point I think I would sooner just buy a store-bought loaf of bread before I go through all the effort of making home made bread and risk it not turning out, but I suppose one could try it and see how it goes.  Regardless, I am now a convert to fresh ground wheat.  It is so much better and more flavorful.  If you do not have access to fresh ground wheat or a grinder, perhaps you can beg some off a friend so you can at least try it before deciding to invest in a grinder of your own.  The grinding process itself is pretty quick and (at least with my machine) could be entrusted to a responsible, older child.

Anyway, that’s the process.  It’s really an easy recipe and totally worth the effort!  Enjoy!

~ Sara