Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Costume Cuteness

Minnie Mouse and her Hippie Sister

Super Jack

Flower Child

Minnie Mouse and Daddy

Ring Toss

Peace Out, Baby

Super Sweet and Sparkly

Ready to Save the World

Heading Home

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Life Lately

So lately, the words just aren't coming. And it's certainly not because I don't have anything to say. I am fairly certain that I always have something to say! Yet, I sit down to write and the words don't come tumbling out as they usually do. Just as the world around me is beginning to turn inward as the weather cools, my thoughts seem to be turning inward as well. So I remain quiet, letting the thoughts soak within. And I think that maybe sometimes, the sitting quiet can be a good thing. Even when there is much to be said.

Life is good here on Fieldcrest Lane. I have so very much to be thankful for. I see tragedy all around on a daily basis, and the thankfulness for the life I lead multiplies. I have a husband who works harder than anyone else that I know. He loves me in spite of my imperfections. He still wants to take me on dates and he never leaves in the morning without kissing each of us goodbye. I lie in bed and listen as he makes his rounds and my heart feels happy. I have an older daughter who is brilliantly smart and witty. I enjoy the person she is becoming, growing every day before my very eyes. She is a wonderful, helpful, servant to her siblings. I am blessed that she loves and enjoys serving our family. My younger daughter has twinkly eyes and a contagious laugh. She makes our home happy and cheerful! She is a snuggler and is always good for a hug. And my son, oh my goodness, has he ever stolen my heart! He is such a funny little guy! Yet he still needs to hold a hand to fall sleep, just like his mama did at his age. And now I have a fourth little pumpkin who is never far from my heart or my prayers. We are now in our ninth week, one week farther along than we made it in my pregnancy at the beginning of this year. And I am starting to allow myself to hope that just maybe I will be holding this little one in my arms next May! And add to the blessing of my family a warm house, food on the table, and good friends, and life on this earth just doesn't get much better than that. But it can still be tricky.

To be honest, I feel a bit lost. When I entered my thirties three months ago (it gets easier to say all of the time!), I held a different plan for my life in my head and in my heart. We had said goodbye to the dream of more babies grown in my womb, and we were ready to say hello to the dream of serving foster babies. And while I am UNBELIEVABLY thankful for this new life... now what? What is our family supposed to look like now? Can I possibly do both, mothering my four as well as those who are in need of a mother? Does God want me to step forward in faith? Or is this new little pumpkin pulling me back in for another season? I don't have the answers, so I wrestle with the thoughts. And that is where I struggle. With releasing my life to God no matter which direction he takes it, yet still humanly clinging to the hope that he chooses a direction I like. But I suppose that's not really releasing then, is it?

Last week my children visited a corn maze with their grandparents, a favorite fall activity in our family. I was feeling a bit nauseous that afternoon, so I sat on a bench where I could feel the breeze while the rest of my family ventured inside. But it got me to thinking. In a corn maze there are many twists and turns. So many different directions one can choose to head off in! Sometimes you get it right and find yourself someplace new, yet other times you look up only to discover you have backtracked and you are in the exact same place that you just came from. So you have a choice.You can sit there, refusing to move forward in case you get it wrong, or you can get up and try again. Working with the turns, putting one foot in front of the other, never giving up until you reach your goal.

After about an hour had passed I began to hear my children's voices, so I began to call out to them, to urge them forward.

This way, kids!

Mama is waiting for you!

You can do it!

I am so proud of you for all of your efforts and for never giving up!

I kept calling to them until they began to stumble out of the maze red faced, stained knees, yet still smiling. They had not given up, even when things had seemed difficult, confusing, and unclear. They pressed forward until they reached their goal.

And isn't it that way with life? So many different directions we can head in. So many dreams, different ways of doing things. And sometimes life can get confusing. We think we are heading in one direction, only to look up half way through our journey to see that we are right back where we started. Or perhaps we aren't back where we started, but we are in a different place all together than we thought we would be. And we find ourselves with the same choice. Sit down and quit... or keep going? So tonight I choose to keep going, even though I have no clue the direction I am headed. But I picture my Father's voice cheering me on, so I step forward in faith, trusting he will clear a pathway through this crazy thing called life.

This way, Kendra!

I am waiting for you!

You can do it!

I am so proud of you for all of your efforts and for never giving up!

Can you hear him shouting the very same to you? I bet if you listen closely enough you can hear him calling you a step forward each day of your journey, too. Carefully guiding us all along the pathway home. So don't give up! And don't give in. Just look up, and keep pressing forward.

Well lookee there. Turns out I did find a few words, after all.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Life Story: The Early Years

I don't remember much about life before the age of seven, but my memories of those early years are happy ones. I was born to a dad, a mom, and an older brother of nearly four years. I was also born four weeks early, which seems funny (and a little bit ironic), because as it turns out, I have never arrived early for anything since! I am a perpetually late person (a fact which drives Boss crazy), but I suppose that I just couldn't wait to get a jump start on life. I also know that I was very much wanted. My parents were a bit older when they married and it took them a few years to get their family started. My mother had a miscarriage shortly before she conceived me, and I have often wondered at the thought that if she hadn't miscarried that particular child, then I would not exist.

My parents named me Kendra after my father, Ken. Kendra Leigh Ellis. The truth? I have never liked my name. And even to this day, I dislike introducing myself to others. My favorite name as a child was Tasula, and I spent many an hour dreaming about what it would have been like to have had a beautiful name like Tasula. Or Leslie. I was a fan of Leslie, too. My mothers other name choice for me was Summer, but she finally concluded that Summer Ellis sounded more like the name of a terrible disease, rather than the name of a little girl, so Kendra eventually won out.

When I was two months old my family moved over seas to Saudi Arabia. My dad was in oil, and when the opportunity arose for the transfer, my parents decided to take it. I admire that about my parents. They weren't afraid to take a risk, to leave behind everything that was comfortable and familiar, to chase opportunity and the life that they desired. They just packed up our family and we went. Or maybe they were scared. But they didn't let fear stop them, and that is what I admire the most. (I can't tell you how many times I have allowed fear to stop me from chasing my dreams.)

My mom likes to remind me that I spent my very first Christmas, December of 1982, in a double wide trailer, our Christmas tree a piece of green and brown felt that she attached to the wall. And you know what? Even though I don't remember that Christmas (obviously), that is one of my very favorite stories from my childhood. Because it speaks of simplicity and creativity. Two things I think every heart longs for, whether that heart belongs to a one year old, or someone who is thirty. We may not have had much that first Christmas we spent in the desert, but together, it sure did seem like we had it all.

My other preschool memories include typical childhood activities. Swimming, eating pizza at the snack bar, eating Popsicles (a lady sold them in ANY flavor you could desire in those little paper water cups that were shaped like a cone), playing with little friends who lived down the street, Daisy Troop, and holidays. Holidays were a BIG deal when I was small. Halloween, especially. We would plan our costumes weeks in advance (my mom would dress up, too!), and then the whole elementary school would have a huge parade. Holidays have always held a happy place in my heart.

Apparently, we took AMAZING trips during the early years of my life. Pity that I don't remember a thing about them. We visited Egypt, Africa, Amsterdam, Switzerland, Hawaii (twice), New Zealand, Singapore, and I am sure many others that my brain is having trouble recalling now that I am thirty. Want to know what I do remember about those trips? Souvenirs.That's right. Apparently, I was a souvenir junkie. And my most treasured trip souvenir? A hot pink fanny pack with black palm trees from Hawaii. Yes, please. And every year we would come back for a re pat to the United States where we would visit extended family and shop for things we could not buy in the desert.

Other random things I recall from my early childhood in the 1980's? Tee ties, those large plastic ties you could wear on the end of your shirt. Slap bracelets, Keds, neon colored striped socks, our tiny church that was made up of other believers. And I can't forget the homemade birthday parties! My mom would do it all. The cake, the games (duck duck goose, pin the tail on the donkey, jelly bean toss), and we ALWAYS had a pinata. My mom rocked it in the birthday department.

We moved back to the States in 1989 right after I had finished Kindergarten. I was seven years old. My family took one of the last flights out before the fighting in Desert Storm began.  People in the compound where we lived were beginning to practice drills that involved gas masks, so I believe my parents decided that it was time for us to go. My mom and dad wanted to live anywhere but in Texas, so we headed to Atlanta Georgia, where the next part of my story picks up. Although that is another story for another day.

I once read somewhere that childhood is the most beautiful of all life's seasons, and for me, I can honestly say that was true. I may not remember much, but when I close my eyes and travel back in my mind, I can feel the comfort, protection, belonging, and innocence. Everything that a young child should feel. So I thank my parents for that. For my strong, happy, carefree beginning in this world. Because foundations are important. They set the tone for the entire structure that is being built. My parents gave me the right footing on which to build my life, and I now strive daily to do the same for my own precious children. I want to give my children the best of the very best. I want to give them this great, big, amazing world right at the tips of their fingers. I want to cook them delicious homemade meals, to surround them with rich books, meaningful music, wise conversation. I want to lead them on adventures, to inspire creativity in their souls. I want their months to be filled with memory making, each season of their lives steeped in tradition. I want to serve them the good life on a silver platter, complete with a bright red cherry on top. Except for the fact that I don't like cherries. So at our house, life would simply be topped with hot fudge. But whatever. You get my point. I want to make this season of my children's lives beautiful. Just like my parents did for me.

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy at Home: In an Instant

It's funny how your life can change in an instant.
One week ago I was the proud mama of three beautiful children. And even more importantly, I was content with that number. The Z Three was beginning to roll comfortably off the tip of my tongue, without the familiar ache of wanting 'more' that had been known to follow in previous months. I was happy. I had made peace with the family that God had blessed me with.
One week ago I was dreaming of tiny little foster babies. We were in the process of switching foster care agencies (the transfer to be completed this very week), and I was counting down the days until we would receive 'the call'. The call that would change our lives for a few months, days, or maybe years. Or possibly even forever. And I was excited to feel called to the ministry. I felt as though God had been preparing me for that calling for years and I was ready to serve. We all were.
One week ago Boss and I were planning a ten year wedding anniversary cruise for next May. Sans children. We went on a cruise for our honeymoon and we thought it would make for a nice ten year tradition. We were excited to reach such a big milestone in our marriage (a whole decade!) and we somewhat felt as if we were approaching that next stage in life. The stage with more sleep and less diapers. And we were content.
One week ago I was practicing the art of learning to be happy at home. It might seem sad that one would have to practice something like that. But it's where I was. Because the truth is, even though it was exhausting me, I enjoyed all of the running around. Running around, being out in the world, it was exciting! So much more exciting than cooking, and cleaning, and laundry, and wiping little noses. So I made it a habit to keep myself busy. To keep myself distracted from the mundane. But slowly, over the past few months, God's Word had been nudging me back towards home. But one week ago I was still fighting it. So I was planning trips and prepping for foster care. I was doing all of this from home, but in my mind I was still running. I was home in body, but I was not home in spirit. My heart and wants were still elsewhere.
And then six days ago, my life changed in a single instant.
We had not been trying to conceive, so I had not been paying attention to the signs. But once the thought crossed my mind? I knew. I just knew. And when the test read positive? It was pure joy. Automatic pure joy! I remember crying and saying thank you God. Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God. And my life has not been the same since.
Today I am the proud mama of FOUR beautiful children. Today I am so thankful that there will be the 'more' that I didn't even realize that I still wanted. Today I am happy and at peace. Today I am so very thankful that God's ways, and God's timing, far surpass my own.
Today I don't know where we stand with foster care. Today I am okay with the fact that I don't know.
Today I am not sad that there will not be a ten year anniversary cruise in May. Because now, Lord willing, I have better plans.
Today, in this very moment, my heart is happy at home.  I realized tonight, as my son did 'shows' for us after dinner and I laughed so hard until I cried, that there is no where else on earth that is better suited for me. All five of us were piled on the couch snuggling, with Jack pouting about not having enough room, when Emma said, just wait until next year! Because next year our couch will be even more full. But as Boss quickly pointed out, there will ALWAYS be enough room for one more. And you know what? To me, that's exactly what home is. All of us piling inside of these walls. Sharing laughter and tears. Joys and sorrows. All of us learning, and growing, and extending grace. Knowing in our hearts that there is always room for one more. There is always enough love to go around.
Today my body is alive with this tiny one that is growing inside of me. My whole body feels it, a constant reminder that God is still at work. A reminder that God is always there, even in the seasons where we cannot seem to find him. He is the master weaver, weaving the intricate strands of our lives together in his own timing. And when we get a small glimpse of the work he is doing?
Our lives change in an instant. And we find the encouragement and hope needed to continue pressing on.