Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Life That Is Changed

It's Saturday night and I take my younger teenage sisters with me to the church where I grew up. Susie Shellenberger is speaking there. She was the founding editor of Brio Magazine and also the woman who lead two of my mission trips when I was a teenager myself. I sit in the sanctuary filled with memories of my youth and suddenly, listening to Susie speak, I am transported back to those memories.

I'm 16 an on my very first plane trip by myself. I'm a bit scared but I don't want to admit it to anyone. I arrive in Miami, Florida and am greeted with a sea of bright blue and orange shirts that say Brio 2 Rio Take 2. Everyone is nervously excited for what is going to happen. Suddenly in a room, I hear a voice call out with the sort of twang only she has, "Welcome everyone to Brio 2 Rio Take 2! Tonight your life is going to change. We are having a birthday party. A celebration of what Christ has done in our lives." It's the kick off to our very first FUAGNEM (Fired Up And Going Nuts Every Minute). For the next two weeks, I would have countless other FUAGNEM's. Life changing nights that only a fellow Brio 2 Rio Take 2 participant could understand.

Dump in Brazil.

I visit the dump in Rio. I'm shocked by the amount of people who live there. I minister in schools. I play a mime in our drama. I went expecting to change lives, instead my life was changed.

With children in Venezuela

A year goes by, I'm on a plane ride to Caracas, Venezuela. All new faces, all new experiences. Completely unaware of how my life will change on this trip. I can't help but compare it to my Brazil trip. I'm disappointed it's not the same. But then, we start to minister to those around us. My life is changed. I find myself pouring everything into others. For the first time in my life, the world doesn't revolve around 17 year old me. I pray with those who hurt, I hold the hands of dying little ones in the hospital, I teach English to elementary children. With everything within me, I don't want to step on that plane for America. I cried and promised that one day, I would be back. That was 11 years ago...

Susie and I in Venezuela

I'm back in my old sanctuary, with many of the people who I grew up with. Many of them financially supported my trips to Brazil and Venezuela. Many prayed for me. It was at this church that I first felt the stirrings in my heart to do short term mission work. I'm listening to Susie speak with the same enthusiasm and love that she spoke to me all those years ago on my mission trips. I realize what an impact she had on my teen years. Not only through her magazine, but also through her speaking into my life on my mission trips. I realize that she is quite possibly one of the most influential people in my formative years. When she is done speaking, I get the chance to hug her, talk to her, and thank her. For without God working His way in her life, and her speaking that truth out, I would not be who I am today.

I leave my old church on a Saturday night. Refreshed, renewed, and determined to live that lifestyle again. I promise God that as soon as my girls are old enough, I'm back to short term missions and serving others instead of myself. Hopefully, I'll be taking them with me this time!

Has there ever been a life-changing, defining moment of your life? Has there ever been one person who impacted your life for the better?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Need You Now {Book Review & Giveaway}

I'm an avid reader, but as the girls get older, the time I have to read is short. I mainly read non-fiction parenting books (I'm real interesting huh?). :) However, I recently received the opportunity to review a book by author Beth Wiseman called Need You Now.

I was absolutely capitvated from the very start by a personal, touching, and what I consider realistic story set in contemporary times. I don't personally want to give the story away, but I'll share just a bit about what touched my heart while reading this book.

The story is about two middle aged parents who move their family from a big city to a small town. In doing so, their teenage daughter struggles in a very real way through self-injury. I appreciated that the author addressed a somewhat taboo and rarely talked about real issue in teenage girls. Furthermore, later on in the book, the author included a character who had high-functioning autism.

I quickly realize that this was a book I was not going to be able to put down. So much so that I read it in two days! Not something that happens often anymore as my time is limited. Overall, I would highly recommend this to a reader. It is not your typical boy meets girl and falls in love romance story. Rather it is real life, hard and even painful at times, one that includes a messy, non-perfect life. Perhaps that is why I liked it so much, because it was honest and real, rather than a fairy tale.

Sounds like a book you woul love? Enter below in the easy Rafflecopter entry form!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dear Mama,

Kissing Meridian. Credit: Ana Cole Photography
You are not alone.

No really, you're not. You may feel like it right now, but what you don't know is that there are hundreds, if not thousands of other mamas fighting the same battle you are fighting right now.

Struggling with those 3 a.m. nursings? Your neighbor across the street is too.

In pain, both physically and emotionally from your birth that didn't go how you wanted it to go? So is the mom sitting across from you at story time.

Worn out from trying to deal with your preschool aged son? So is your son's classmate's mom.

You are not alone.

Even when you feel as if you are the only one out there.

The only one struggling with the choice to feed your daughter formula because you couldn't get nursing to work? The only one cloth diapering in a sea of disposables? The only one not able to afford all organic food for your child? The only mama who can't fit back into her pre-pregnancy jeans?

You are not alone.

For you see, what binds us together is that we are all mamas to someone. We have all been there. At some point or another, we have. Sure the story changes, but the title of mama does not.

So mama, today realize that you are not alone. Stand with confidence in the fact that you are who you are suppose to be. Mama extraordinaire. Relish in it, for you truly are not alone.

This letter is in part inspired by Sarah Bessey, but it's just as much a letter to myself, for both the past and the future. I'm also linking up with The Mother Letters Project. You are more than welcome to write your own letter to a mom and then link up here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

She's Got Spirit!

There are some things in my life or on my blog, that I have always been careful not to talk about, blog about, etc. Part of it because it is just too raw, real, honest, and hard. Part of it because it involves my daughter. My oldest daughter. I love her with all my heart and I'm well aware that she may read these words one day. Because of that, I want to be cautious with what I share. However, I have become more aware these last few weeks, that I must share. For perhaps it can bring about a bit of healing to me and maybe even her.

Parenting Zoelle is hard. I mean plain old blood, sweat, and tears hard.

It began when she was just a baby. I'm not sure I've ever talked about it, but Zoelle had a VERY traumatic birth. To this day, it is very painful for me to talk about it. After being in labor for two days, she was finally born with 3 tiny holes in her heart. Thus forcing her to be away from me for two days with little or no contact with her dad or I during those two days. I know two days is a lifetime to small children. I did everything I could with her to attach when she was a newborn. We did skin to skin contact, we co-slept, we breastfed, we baby wore, we did not practice CIO, and I believe all of that helped immensely. However, I clearly remember as an infant, her not being able to calm down at all and she would cry for hours on end in my arms. This left me frazzled and as I was still dealing with my guilt over the birth not being what I wanted it to be, it also left me with a bit of postpartum depression.

It was around this time that I realized, that most likely I had a spirited child and possibly a child with sensory processing disorder.

As she aged, her spirit and spunk were emerging even more. Loud noises would set her off completely, certain tastes of foods would make her not eat, the feel of certain fabrics would freak her out. The birth of her little sister did not help and things became worse. For one whole year after the birth of Meridian, Zoelle cried pretty much every day. Then things seemed to get better, but now it has been tough again. And I find my weaknesses, flaws, and imperfections being tested every day.  

I'm struggling friends. Trying to find the balance between loving and thanking God for that spirit, knowing that one day it will bring about such an awesome strong woman. But also struggling with how to deal with it now.

Multiple times during the day I declare over her how much of a delight she is to me. And you know what? She really is! She truly is a little delight. When I hear Xiomara calling out for "Well", I realize the impact this tow headed little four year old has had on her. When I watch her read straight through a book without stopping, I realize how much I enjoy her company. When she crawls into bed with me just so she can snuggle and play with my hair, my heart explodes with love for her.

But that is not to say we don't have bad parts of our day. Because we do, she is spirited, remember? I'm just struggling as a mom to understand that spirit and help her. I wasn't sure I would ever share, but then, I read this blog post and felt as if I was reading about my Z on a different blog then my own. I cried buckets of tears just realizing that someone else understands how I feel. Someone else knows what I am going through. Just knowing that brought a tiny bit of relief.

So I share here, in the hopes that being open will help me understand her more, and the possibility that just maybe it will help one of you to realize you too are not alone.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Our Easter Celebration

Since we are busy preparing to move, Easter and the fact that it was here, was sort of a disconnect for me this year. It wasn't until Saturday night that I remembered I never even decorated our house with Easter decorations! That was after I spent Saturday afternoon rummaging through our tubs of clothes and shoes to make sure the girls all had outfits and shoes they could wear! Luckily, outside of a quick trip to Target for shoes, they all had a complete outfit! Normally I am ultra organized, but with moving, I feel as if my brain is in one mode.

I did however, remember to let the girls dye Easter eggs. Xiomara was napping through most of it, but managed to wake up for the last few eggs.

Sunday, I managed to get all three girls dressed up and tried my hardest to get the picture of all three of them smiling at the camera. After looking through all my options, I'm wondering how my fellow mom friends on Facebook have managed to get these adorable photos of all their children perfectly lined up, sitting still, and smiling? Our family picture is even worse! But that one I won't bother to share!

Following church we went to my parent's house. All my siblings were there except one brother, my sister Tiffanie and my niece Natasha. Auntie Genevieve even got to hold Xiomara until she fell asleep for her afternoon nap. I also got to see my darling little niece India!

We ate lots of food, had lots of laughs, and some great conversation! All in all, it was a great weekend and a wonderful distraction to the overwhelming thoughts of packing! For now, it's back to boxes!

Did you enjoy your Easter?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nominated As A Top 25 Adoption Blog {Please Vote}

I feel incredibly honored to say that someone nominated my little adoption blog to be a Top 25 Adoption Blog. I'm not sure that words can exactly express how touched I was to receive that e-mail today in my inbox.

I love writing and writing about one of my top passions of adoption is incredibly special to my heart. I don't do it for money, fame, or anything else but to often just write my heart out on "paper". Or it is to help open the eyes of those who have never been open to adoption before. Otherwise, it is even to share the little bit of knowledge I have on adoption with those who are searching for more information on it.

So thank you! If you would like, I'd love for you to vote for my blog by clicking either the logo above or to the right of this post and scrolling until you find my blog: On Our Hearts. All you need to do is click the little thumbs up and you have voted for the day! You can vote once every 24 hours until April 26, 2012 at 4 p.m. PST.

Thank you and love to you all!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We're Moving!

Yep, you just read that right! I had to take a huge breath and let it out because everything has happened so quickly!

When I first posted my change blog post, I did so because of Zoelle going to school and also some other changes possibly coming up in our lives. While in the back of my mind I did realize that the post could reference us moving, I truly never thought we would be moving this soon.

Our Very First Home

You see we came home from our honeymoon to this house and always said we would stay here only for about 5 years, or until school was finished. We both graduated from college, brought Zoelle home from the hospital, two years later brought Meridian home from the hospital, and close to two years ago brought Xiomara home from Georgia. The house we were suppose to fix up and live in for a max of five years was getting tinnier and more crowded by the day.

Thus, we have been looking pretty seriously for the last three years or so at moving. We were pretty much getting no where in our search and it honestly was becoming a bit of a joke with out realtor that we just weren't buying a house because we didn't want to lose the friendship we had with him!

Then two weeks ago, Chris showed me a house late at night on the computer. I looked at it, and was like, "Yeah I suppose we should go look at it". Again, because we have taken so much of our realtor's time, I felt a little bad asking to look at it. However, Chris insisted we did. That morning I had a tough morning with Meridian. She kept just asking to go back to bed and crying. I was in a bad mood, so by the time Chris came to pick me up, I didn't really care about the house. I went, looked at it and pretty much wrote it off. I even joked around with our realtor that this house was not screaming buy me!

However, as we left Chris told me he really wanted to look more into buying it. It was in the exact location we wanted, on a road that had a few other houses, the ability to connect to another road that I could do my walks on, the property is gorgeous, and while the house itself is definitely stuck in the 90's, all it needs is some paint and updates and it will be cute! After a little bit of convincing, I told him we should go ahead and put in an offer.

To make a long story short, we were able to buy this new house for quite a bit lower than what we had ever thought possible. Even our realtor was shocked! However, because of the current owner's job and relocation for work, it made it possible. Thankfully, we also had a buyer lined up for our house.

So, in less than a month we close on the house. Somehow in that time I have to pack, pick out paint colors for the new house, continue to do as much school as possible with Z, watch the other girls, pack some more, and try not to freak out!

An older picture of the inside of our house, but I sure do love it!

Have I mentioned how much I hate, hate, hate change? I am hyperventilating a bit as there are so many memories that we have made in this house. I'm a bit sad and I'm actually devastated to not have my porch any longer. There are a lot of memories stored up in the walls of this house after close to 9 years of living here.

I just keep trying to remind myself that we will make new memories and I will grow to love my new house as much as I love this one. Plus, I get to decorate all over again and this time with the help of Pinterest!

So in the next month be prepared for a fewer amount of posts, or if I'm super stressed more posts as I write my stress out at times! Also, please be in prayer for all of us that the transition would go well and that everything that needs to get done, will get done!