Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Whole Lot of Jesus (& 7 Months Old)

Remember when I used to actually write on my blog? Remember when I used to think it was great that I could usually pump out a post a week? Remember when someone probably actually even read my blog?

Nowadays...I sit down to write and my brain goes numb. I can't think eloquent thoughts or type pretty words to describe life. I'm tired. By the time, I can actually take some alone time to myself, my eyes are burning and I'm just ready to tune out to an episode of Friends before falling back onto my *not-so-fluffy-anymore* pillow.

Life is wearing, isn't it? 

I'm no rocket scientist for claiming this. Anyone who has any understanding of life and the weight that it carries can grasp this concept.

I started back at work full time over a month ago now. When I walk into my workplace in the morning, I'm usually only thinking of one simple thing. Coffee.

My day doesn't start without coffee. It fills my tank. It gets my blood pumping. It kick starts my weary brain to focus and begin plowing through my emails and the surprises that the day may bring. In many ways (maybe not the healthiest), I heavily rely on coffee.

As I pour my coffee every morning, relying on it to take away the headache or rid my eyes of the sleepy sting, I feel as though the Lord's been whispering to me. "You need more of me to start your day. This is not the place to find your jumpstart."

I've brushed it off. When will I possibly have time to read my Bible? I've got a child to take care of, a job to get done, a house to clean, meals to make ... blah, blah, blah. 

It's easy for me to ignore these whisperings when life is going according to plan or when a day functions 'normally.' But then the heavy things begin to creep their way into our days and we wonder how we will deal with the weight. Life gets wearing. We get tired.

And the whispers and gentle nudges begin again: "The coffee isn't strong enough to break through the burdens. I am."

The last few weeks God's been gently placing reminders of his truth and his grace in my life. He's been instilling in my heart that, instead of coffee, I need a whole lot more of Jesus in my daily life and routine to allow me to continue to function and bring Him glory.

As the popular saying goes, "All I need is a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus." How true is this?

When I'm truly ridding myself of me and digging into Him, I'm more equipped to handle what my day brings. I can love others better. I can be a source of truth and I can speak truth to myself in moments of weakness. I can be a better wife and mom. My cup can overflow with so much more than coffee.

I'm not perfect when it comes to seeking the Lord first in my life. It's a constant commitment and goal to strive. It's a ongoing confession of "Lord I need you more and more in my life. Guide me today." However, as I continue to lay down myself and seek after Him, I can learn to rely on Him first rather than my coffee.

Okay and since I'm so awful at posting on my blog, I completely missed Madison's 6 month photo. Here's her 7 month update: 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Here's to the past 52 weeks.

2014 was a year unlike anything that I could have possibly imagined for my family. Up and downs, numerous curve balls thrown at us, and so many painful moments turned into more joy and beauty than I could ever have thought.

I ended 2013 by reflecting on the year through pictures, so it's really only fitting to do that again for 2014. I have to admit that I giggled a little when I looked at the post from 2013 because I made a comment on how little pictures I had taken. I can assure you that I've made up for that last year! Having a little one most definitely does that to you.

So here's a little recap of 2014, month-by-month:

The year began with the need to 'normalize' our adoption process - that someday I would look back on this process and being a mom and dad would just be 'normal' to us. Although I'm not totally there yet, our lives are different and it's semi-normal for me to now to wake up and take care of someone else all day. We started prep on the nursery and on our parental technique...by reading to our dogs.

Harley is not amused by this story.

We started February off by winning first place at our church's chili cook-off. We had the best all around chili - Yippee! February was also the month where we were officially licensed through the state of Illinois to adopt a baby! And the same day that we were licensed we presented to our first birth family... Immediately, our emotions were on a roller coaster of waiting and hoping. We hosted our second fundraiser in February to help us get closer to being fully-funded so that, by the time we were selected by a birth family, finances would be ready to go to bring a baby home. We ended the month by having a quiet night at home celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary.

FIRST PLACE in the chili cook off!

At our lasagna lunch fundraiser.

On our wedding anniversary in February, an incredibly generous individual treated us to lunch and informed us that they were sending Jarrod and I on an all expenses paid trip to Mexico for a week to get our minds off of everything that had been going on. A few days later, we packed our bags and flew to our "babymoon." But that trip became so much more than a getaway for us: While there, on March 11, 2014, we received news that we had been chosen by a birth mother and officially matched to a baby girl due in August 2014. When we got home, we immediately started prepping our nursery for the arrival of our little one in a few months.

Matched with a baby girl!

Our sweet little one. The first picture we ever saw.

Getting the nursery ready.

April was a month of pure madness for me. I planned my job's largest event of the year and tried to prepare to bring a baby home, while simultaneously launching my brand new design business, Manda Julaine Designs.

Jarrod and I traveled down to Florida, over Mothers' Day weekend, to meet the birth family of our sweet little girl. Although I was terrified about the trip, God continually reminds me that He makes me brave in this adoption journey. And then later in the month, we welcomed my second little nephew, Hudson, into the world!

Flying to Florida for the first time to attend an ultrasound of our baby girl and
meet our birth family for the first time.

Welcoming nephew, Hudson, into the world!

The summer of craziness began in June. Jarrod almost immediately started going on youth group trips while I kept finishing up the nursery and getting extremely anxious for the remaining weeks before our daughter was born to end. At the end of the month, my family and sweet women from church through me two baby showers. They were beautiful! Sadly, I took very few pictures this month... But don't worry, that soon changed... The night of our second baby shower, June 30, 2014, we received a phone call that our birth momma was in labor. Although she was over 6 weeks early, we hopped on a flight just a few hours after getting that call and started our many weeks of back and forth travel to Florida...
Opening gifts at a baby shower.

Packed up (within four hours) to travel to Florida (for the false alarm).

On the airplane...one of many.

We traveled back and forth to Florida three times for false alarms before our little one, Madison Jo, finally made her appearance on July 15, 2014. Although the doctors thought she may have some serious battles to fight upon being born, miraculously, Madison was as perfect and as healthy as can be. She was gorgeous!
Finally seeing that beautiful face.

My favorite moment, ever.

On July 17, 2014, the papers were signed that made us Madison's guardians. We were granted physical custody that day. We were officially a family!

Our first time in the hospital room, just the three of us, as a family.

We spent 7 days in the hospital with our little miracle girl while the doctors continued to monitor her. 

On July 22, 2014, Madi was released from the hospital and we headed to a condo to wait out our paperwork clearance to travel home with the little one. Jarrod eventually had to leave and get back to work in Illinois, so I stayed down in Florida, with the help of my mom, until I got clearance.

Leaving the hospital.

Finally, after spending over a month in Florida, on August 6, 2014, Madison and I were given clearance to travel home. We began to settle into life in our home as a family of three. Life was different. We were tired all the time but it was a change that was so incredibly welcome in our lives! And just a few days after arriving home, Madison turned one month old!

First wedding as a family of three.

Madison turns one month old!

Cheering on the Badgers!
September ended up being one of the craziest months for us. Within a period of 7 days, we packed up our entire house and moved to a new one...all while taking care of our little two month old! I spent a lot of days taking walks to the local park with Madison.

Waiting on the front porch for daddy to get home from work.

Best buds.

Madison turns two months old.

First day out, just mommy and daddy.
October welcomed Madison's first Halloween, the month that we received our adoption finalization date, our last adoption post placement visit, and a family trip to the apple orchard. I celebrated my first birthday as a momma and Madison turned three months old on October 15

Hunters with our little deer.

Mommy's birthday.

Last post placement meeting with our dear friends!

Punkin with some pumpkins.

Madison turns three months old.

Ok..I couldn't help myself. This was adorable.

Besides July, November was by far my favorite month of this year. Just a few days into the month we hopped on one last flight down to Florida to officially close our adoption case and become a 'legal' family! Our adoption case was closed and Madison was ours! Then we traveled across the state and spent a few days at a retreat for youth pastors and wives in the warm Florida sun. Then my little girl (that I swear we just brought home) turned four months old and celebrated her first Thanksgiving!

Officially a family!

Madison experiencing the ocean for the first time.

Hanging out on the beach as a family!

Madison turns four month old!

Celebrating Madison's first Thanksgiving.
As the cold weather crept in, we cozied into our new home and got ready to celebrate Madison's first Christmas. Madi tried her first food (sweet peas), turned five months old, and she celebrated her first Christmas.  Oh yeah...and I never actually got to mail out our Christmas cards in the hustle of the season.... (oops. I apologize ahead of time if these arrive in your mailbox at Valentine's Day!).

All bundled up for the cold.

Madison turns five months old.

Trying those sweet peas.

Family Christmas Photo

Opening gifts on Christmas morning with daddy.

So cute in my Christmas dress.

This year has been a year unlike anything I could have imagined. Even tonight, I reflected back on some of the things that God miraculously did in our lives and in Madison's life over this year. So many of these details, we can't even share in public out of respect for Madison's adoption story. However just because those details are only privately known between our little family, it doesn't change who our God is and how faithful he has been in guiding our path. 

As I sit back and look at the two weeks that have already happened in 2015, I can't help but wonder what God might have in store for us during these 52 weeks.  

Our God is good. 

Our God is faithful. 

Our God is ever turning what feels like the ashes of our lives in the most beautiful stories of his amazing power.

Here's to committing to letting Him guide us in 2015.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Reflection on Christmas (& 5 Months Old)

The Christmas season never ceases to amaze with the amount of business it involves. I feel as though I'm waking up one day and when I blink it's the next morning already. I've been terribly behind in my shopping and haven't even sent out my Christmas cards yet. This is rare for me. Usually I'm bursting at the seams for Christmas morning: the family time, the carols, the cookies...the joy of the season. And it's not that I've missed the joy this season but I feel like there's been so much going on that it's been easy for me to miss.

However, there have been blessed moments when I've had a chance to consider the season from an entirely new viewpoint that I've never thought of before. As a new mom, it's impossible to not look at the story of the first Christmas from Mary's point of view. I, often, compare how I feel as a mom on a daily basis with how Mary must have felt.

Particularly, one night, I was rocking a grumpy Madi to bed after a long day of tears and fussiness. I remember thinking, "Mary probably had days like this too. If Jesus was truly, fully man (which I believe He was) then, as a baby, he for sure had fussy days. Mary had to of had normal, frustrating mom days." And then I wondered if on those days she looked at Jesus and thought about his kingship and what he would grow up to be. Although the prophecies had given her some view into what her son would grow to be, you can't help but wonder what your children's lives will be like when they are grown. When I look at Madi and wonder those things in this season, I can't help but be drawn to Mary's heart as she cared for the king that would save the world.

This season, consider Mary's point of view. What would it be like to parent the child that would grow to save us all? That thought has struck me so incredibly in the last couple of weeks, even in the business that this season involves.

Speaking of business, I totally forgot to post Madi's pictures from her 5 month photo session! This kid is growing like crazy!!!

In the past month Madi has...

  • Started blowing raspberries. It's the most adorable thing I've seen.
  • Leaned to scoot in her crib and on the floor. We put her upright and she ends up sideways in her crib about five times per night. (Because of course she cries when her head ends up against the side of the crib).
  • Grown her ab muscles. Madi is almost always doing crunches and trying to sit up on her own. She's almost there too!
  • Started eating pureed foods! Madis' first food was peas. She hates them. She has since tried sweet potatoes and squash as well.
  • Still not figured out the rolling over thing. I swear, as much as we try to help this girl, she gives up every time her tummy hits the floor. She just hates it so much. Hasn't, obviously, stopped us from trying but we sure do wish she's get the hang of it so that we don't have to hear her scream anymore. :)
And to end today's long overdue post, here's some more pictures of Madi:

Merry Christmas to you and your family! May you find yourselves overwhelmed by God's goodness in 2015.