Saddle up!

This possibly is one of the most eventful weekends for the Graham family ever. Or at least in a long time. It’s been quite a ride and I’ve decided it’s blog worthy.

Our church pretty frequently offers what they’ve titled as “Date Night”. It’s babysitting at a flat rate of 15 dollars for I believe up to 5 children per family. Obviously this is a complete steal for us. Since moving to Georgia our date nights were dramatically decreased with out having two sets of grandparents, youth we know and trust, or a big pool of friends to tap into for babysitting. Now with the addition of foster children we are even more limited because of the specifications required for a person to babysit or respite. Fortunately church child care meets all those requirements. I am so thankful for Westridge and whoever the individual is that came up with Date Night and each person that took 4 hours, probably more, out of their Friday to play with a TON of kids. God bless you! This ministry (and yes it is absolutely a ministry, ministering to husbands and wives, we need time together! Not to mention our kids, safe and loved by our family in Christ) it has blessed Jason and I in ways that are too many to list in this post. THANK YOU!!!

There’s more to that story though. I registered well in advance for our 4 children to ensure they got their spot. The night before date night I got a call from Faithbridge asking if we could respite this weekend for another foster family. *Side note: This seems like a great opportunity to inject, if you have thought about getting involved in foster care but don’t think your gifting is in giving full time care you should definitely consider being a respite family.* Now not that we minded at all providing our friends a break so they could have some time alone together as a couple and rest and rejuvenate themselves and just enjoy each other. We totally get it and are so thrilled to provide that. Seriously, you get excited for other people when they get to have that time together because you know how important it is. But it’s probably hard for Faithbridge to have to call another foster family, because the regulations for where a child can stay over night are as such that at this point only other foster families are qualified to respite. Do you see where I’m going with this?? We need you! The kids need you! As foster families it can be tough fighting the feelings of guilt when dropping off your children with someone who already has a few as well. We don’t mind, being the one watching, we always convey that to each other. It’s a ministry and we are honored to take part in each aspect of it. But there is a flip side. And who knows, respite might be a passion you haven’t tapped into 😉

Okay so obviously we said yes to that call. What’s one more right? So I got in touch with the church to see if we could add one more and they of course did. You’re a life saver Westridge!!

Ok let’s pick this pace up. Date night didn’t go as planned (does it ever?) BUT it wasn’t a loss at all. One thing that I am finally learning after years and tears of mourning the “perfect date night that was a bust” is you gotta roll with it. Life happens. Nothing was my fault or Jays fault and we just have to enjoy what we got. We did have this great plan but it ended up being I waited, for reasons out of our control, till 8 for Jay to get home and by that time he just needed to decompress. We enjoyed 2 hours of just talking which for a woman is like a gold mine! I mean seriously, when do men ever talk? 2 hours. Complete miracle if you ask me. We talked, we listened to music, we hugged and kissed, and then we picked up our 5 kids. Nothing magical, but certainly valuable.

Saturday. 5 kids. Ages, 1,2,3,5&6. Whew. Hey, lets go to the rodeo?!? Sure getting everyone fed and dressed is no small task but go big or go home right? Plus, they’re gonna probably push us to our limits anywhere so why not take them to one of the few places that its completely acceptable to act like an unruly animal? :teehee ;-): seriously I do love our kids!! Don’t we all need to act a little crazy sometimes?
2 adults, 5 kids, 1 stroller, 1 sit and stand= Max capacity in my vehicle. But we made it! And once again God can only be credited to smoothing over this girls edges and relaxing me a bit. Not that I was out bull riding or anything but all in all it went pretty well. The fact that we MADE it is major points for this family. We just usually avoid scenes when control might be lost. Especially me. And I know that’s not always a good thing, to just avoid places because it won’t go my way or it could be stressful. I know its good to “know my limits” but its even more important for me to let God give me strength and patience for stuff I may feel ill equipped for. All part of parenting! I don’t want my kids to miss opportunities because basically it would’ve too hard or too much work on my part. And I admit, I’ve already let that happen in the past. Last night reminded me that it’s worth it.

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20130825-155450.jpgLast night also reminded me that it’s not always going to be as bad as it is in your “lets play this out” scene. Yes we had a few tears shed but over all it was fun. Brought back my own fond memories of going to the Cheyenne Rodeo with my cousin Megan. Y’all may not know this but deep down there is a part of me that wants to be a country girl. Since I was little and I spent a few summers out west with my mom, visiting her sister and my cousin Megan, I have loved horses, Chris Ledoux and George Strait, line dancing and rodeos. Gosh I need some old photos to back this up.Mom comes through with a few but I promise she has the real gems stashed away.

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20130825-203301.jpgWe also have a few home made music videos of Megan and I lip singing around their house and barn to Shania Twain. Oh and none of us will forget the time I rode one of the “baby” bulls they had. It not only rode me into the barn as I hung on for dear life being smushed alongside the aluminum/metal wall, but of course it landed me smack in a pile of manure! And I was loving every dirty adventurous minute. Jason does not believe this girl ever existed but I’m telling you, I was meant to be a cowgirl. Born in Texas and smothered by Florida lol!!! Not to worry, Jason has some uncovered country boy in him as well and he’s bound and determined to make this right. More on that later.

I know this blog post has gotten quite long. I just love a good recap. One last observation of the weekend.

My standard of “clean” and “organized” lowers with every additional child.

I am constantly telling myself get.real. I laugh now at my feeble attempts to clean up. My little groups of water cups by the fridge. It’s keeps growing. Pointless to keep washing and putting away. Piles of shoes- just get them by a door, they don’t even have to be in a line, Caleb will just end up chucking them somewhere. My keeping room, my safe haven that represented peace and quiet with Jesus. It occupies a small kitchen, fully equipped with a weeks worth of wooden groceries and an entire stainless steel set of pots and pans. Recently accompanying the kitchen is a teepee tent, among other tiny little toys that never seem to get put away anymore. Honestly if I can’t see them I consider it cleaned up. There is no hope for the upstairs the majority of the week. I’ve essentially given up. On the day that I do clean it all its a great feeling, but it’s short lived and I’m starting to be okay with that. My goals essentially are as followed:

1.) Keep the kitchen clean and the fridge stocked. We gotta eat.
2.) Laundry. Doesn’t necessarily have to be folded just have a clean pile of it somewhere, preferably so the kids can access it to attempt dressing themselves.
3.) Trash empty, toilets cleaned. This is an odd bullet point, I know. I just don’t want my house smelling like poo. I told you, standards are pretty low these days.
4.) Fresh wax melt at all times. This makes me at least feel like my house is fresh and clean. If I close my eyes. (Just like those febreze commercials! That’s the brand I use too) 😉

Truth be told Jason doesn’t let us go to long acting like pigs in a sty. If he can manage it he will grace me with a couple of his A Clean Sweep gals and for that I just can’t praise him enough.

On to Monday y’all! It was a good weekend 🙂

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Just a good ol’ regular day

There was nothing particularly special about today. I kept Ryann home from school because she had a well visit that was early enough to seem silly to send her off and pull her out, but late enough to where it also seemed pointless to drop her off late. So I just said, “what the heck, she can stay home.” She also was getting shots so I knew there was going to be some anxiety before and maybe some needed rest and relaxing after. Going to the Doctor can not only be emotionally taxing on children but also us adults (moms imparticular!) I’ve learned a few things over the years that I firmly believe help.

1.) I’ve decided to always be honest with my kids about what’s gonna happen.

They may get worked up and cry when I tell them “yes you are getting shots” but what I’m finding is that honesty breeds trust (it’s kind of how honesty and trust work. I know what you are thinking “thank you captain obvious” lol) when I tell them what will happen and that “mommy and daddy and the doctors want your best and to help you stay healthy” and explain things like “the nurse will be careful and quick” they are hearing what I tell them, seeing that it’s indeed what happens and in turn, we build trust. Believe me it’s worth the tears for your kids to trust your word and know you aren’t with holding information. Tears are temporary but trust or distrust is always present. In being honest about why things need to happen, they can grow and begin to anticipate what life brings and we can help them handle their responses properly. I am learning even the smallest non-truth produces an insecurity in a child’s heart. As in one little lie even if you dont recognize it as a lie, can make a child feel anxious and unsure of what will happen next because that complete trust and truth isnt there. Have you ever noticed how children, babies even, are very sensitive and aware when things are wrong. I’m telling you, my kids have a “spider sense” to dishonesty. We have to have courage as parents, not to shelter our kids from the “unknown” but to be honest. Even in things that seem silly, simple, irrelevant even because our kids are so “young”. Yes, there are some matters that you can explain are not for their ears but I highly recommend honesty at all times 🙂 Our courage to face life and be truthful about some of the scary things will produce confidence and courage in our kids. And boy are they going to need it!

2.) Reward their courage.

Most of us parents do the whole treat thing. I know we have always done something special after the “trauma inducing” shot experience. I have changed my approach a bit over the years. I encourage you, after your honesty going into it 😉 to reward the courage they had after it. Don’t offer pity or let them sulk too long. Build up their bravery. It can easily be skewed, encouragement and enabling. Don’t enable your child to stay a baby. Evidence of growth both physically and emotionally is healthy. We enjoy each phase of life but we should cultivate growth and maturity. Life is tough. They need us to build their courage and strength and confidence so that they can overcome difficulties, pain, and challenges.

We should begin breeding and building these qualities now 🙂 Some great verses on bravery, courage and trust.

Deuteronomy 31:6
English Standard Version (ESV)
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
(NIV)

To add to all that, I am seeing a new view from my kids OF those scary unknown things. For one they don’t begrudge me for allowing “it” to happen. They trust that it was for their benefit and see that they can “overcome” it. They aren’t scared out of their minds every time we go to the doctor or an unfamiliar place and if they do have some anxiety they move beyond it quite quickly because they see that mommy is not scared and they have learned over the years that mommy can be trusted. Mommy and daddy have never misled us and have always done their best to protect us physically and emotionally. Our children may not be able to verbalize all those things, but it is clear when they feel them or when they don’t.

So after we did the whole doctor visit, we cruised on over to Chickfila for a milk shake. Ryann was the only one who earned the privilege of getting a shake. Not me, not Caleb, not little miss happy girl. I don’t know what to code name her but she is a very happy girl 🙂 This was important to me to show. It was hard too because I really wanted a chicken sandwhich! But I wanted both girls to know that for the person who chose braveness she reaps a blessing. Or milkshake in this case which if you ask me is certainly a blessing.

1 Peter 3:13-14
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.”
(NIV)

We get home and enjoyed some lunch and it was time for the littles to nap. So here we were, me and Ryann, in the quiet of our house.

Getting to the best part of this day, when I sat down to fold laundry and Ryann offered to help. However it wasn’t her willingness to help that filled my heart at that moment, though I certainly welcomed it. It was her company. I looked at her and realized how I miss her. I sat there with this wonderful feeling of gratefulness over this moment together folding laundry. just her and I. 🙂 I told her “I’m so glad you got to stay home with me today, mommy misses you!” And she gave me a great big gummy toothy Ryann smile. And I just feel so full right now.

And THAT comes from God and I love him for it.

1 John 4:19 We love, because he first loved us.

Words

My friend Kaitlyn shared this John Piper teaching with me a week or so ago and I got to sit down yesterday and listen to it. To say it was good is putting it mildly. It was awesome. It was convicting and encouraging and I just admire how John Piper just calls it like it is. I needed this. Worth every single minute of your time.

And lets face it sometimes as mothers we have to be creative and intentional (my favorite word!) with our time. Heres an example of what I mean.

The girls are in school now which does relieve me of 2 children for quite a few hours but I still have baby boy and little girl. We still have laundry to wash (more now with an additional child and you can’t repeatedly wear your favorite jammie’s or jumper to school. You actually have to bathe and change clothes. I know, madness! 😉 ) I still have a house to keep up, a hubby to care for, we all have our lists ya know. And I am honored and blessed to have been given these lives and responsibilities to care for.

I’m sitting here 3 days later from when I started this blog. I have 5 little ones in my presence and I’m overwhelmed at the thought that I am investing in a future generation. Seriously, God has entrusted me with so much, and that is something to smile over.

So I started this teaching during nap time and was actually privileged to a moment on the couch but we had to be in Court for our little girl that afternoon so I had to get ready. So as awkward as this sounds I brought John with me while I showered and dressed. I actually wondered “why haven’t I done this before?” I listen to music when I shower but I never thought to listen to biblical teachings during that time.

Anyway, that’s just to encourage y’all to think outside the box when it comes to your Spiritual food. Too often I’m stuck in the “morning/couch/journal/bible/coffee” box. Who’s with me?? Well I’m busting out of the box y’all and in the shower I go!

I love when my only intention is to post a link and then bam, hows that story for ya? And if the “tenses” get confusing, (past tense, pretense, what day is it tense?!?) it’s because I rarely write a post in one sitting. I probably attempted this 15 times before it was finished so bottom line, it might not make sense/tense. Feel me? :-/

If the Spirit is tugging on your heart and you are thinking “what on earth would be so good to continue listening to while she showers?” I say check it out! It’s God that is that good and he will not disappoint you. 🙂

John Piper: Make your mouth a means of grace

And to go along with that teaching is a song. Maybe you’ve heard it. But it took on new meaning for me after I heard that sermon.

Hawk Nelson: Words

Freeeeedoooom ;-)

The girls started school! What a big change that has brought in our normal day. I’m so excited for them and confident this was the right thing to do for our family. Homeschooling Micaila last year was a good thing and fit that time in our life, but we needed to do things differently this year. With fostering and the age Caleb is at, I feel like I can be more effective in my roles while they get taught during the day. I feel this amount of time will enable me to focus on serving. Serving our family, foster children, friends, and whoever the Lord places in my life. I’m excited about the freedom but I want to use the time wisely.

Did I put this in a previous blog, a visiting pastor a few weeks ago said “You are never more like Jesus then when you are serving.” How I long to be like Jesus. 🙂 Jesus loved others and was completely filled with peace, joy, contentment, among other things. What more could we want? Love, joy, peace,…. I know it’s all true because in the throws of serving I am not preoccupied with self which is what tends to rob me of all those good things like love and peace.

Speaking of serving I have been blessed to BE served. My cousin Nicole, who is so thoughtful and I admire that about her so much, orchestrated friends to bring us a few meals. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Can I announce that the honeymoon is over? Not that it’s horrible now but we definitely have a 2 year old in the house. Things that alerted me of this: I feel an urge to carry a paint brush and magic eraser around at all times. Hiney wiping is back at a high for me. 😉

So we have been blessed this week and last with some yummy meals and I am beyond grateful and feel quite spoiled. Isn’t that amazing? How one meal can seriously change your life that day. And that is something I want to strive for during the day when the girls are at school. Who could use that life changing meal today? It may be someone who recently brought me one! Or it may be a total stranger.

Something else I was struck by when receiving these wonderful gifts of food. I have a very difficult time accepting service. It just feels weird to me for some reason. Like I feel so undeserving or that maybe it’s too much trouble for the server. (This is all part of my melancholy over thinking temperament) I want to just gladly and guiltlessly accept the blessing. Why do we feel this way? (I’m not the only one who feels this way, right?) This is why we HAVE the body of Christ, so we can support and encourage each other. My own struggle of being served reminds me (a well as my mother reminding me) of the attitude I should ALWAYS have as a servant.
2 Corinthians 9:7b God loves a cheerful giver.
I admit that there have been times when I have given, wether it was time, money, food, ect. and I just want someone, anyone, to know it was sacrificial on my part and “please just pat me on the back, and tell me I am doing a good thing.” I know this comes from my own insecurity and desire to equate my worth from humans. Instead I need to be confident and content with my worth coming from Him alone.

I pray that during the day not only will I be aware and seek opportunities to serve but that I will do so with a pure heart, pure motives, and purely for my Father in Heaven. I know this will come from spending time with him, so I just pray I will be careful with my days and spend each moment wisely.

So, time to get off this blog and be intentional with the rest of my day HIS day.

Interactive question time. Don’t all the good bloggers do this?

What’s a good way for stay at home moms to minister to others? Give me all you got! 😉