Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Finding Splendor in the Noise

I know it's been forever since I've sat down and blogged.

It's not that I haven't meant to, it's just that every opportunity I've had the chance, I've instead chosen to sleep, collapse on the couch with a bowl of cereal and netflix, sit and stare at an empty wall, etc.

It hasn't been that the words to this post haven't been floating around in my head, it's just the clarity of mind I've needed to actually put together a post that makes any semblance of sense to any one else, isn't usually available after bedtime.

Things have been so amazingly good.

Like really, really, really GOOD.

It seems like Vienna has always been with us. She is such a laid back baby and is usually content just watching the action that's always going on around her. She smiles, coos, and giggles at her siblings. She never complains about Emma constantly wiping her face, giving her slobbery open mouth kisses, or even sitting on her when she's in her bouncer (we're working on putting a stop to the last one). She is SO loved and adored!!

Now that Summer is officially upon us and school is out, we are trying to find our new routines. I'm trying to figure out how to manage therapies, appointments, house work, and phone calls while at the same time ENJOYING my 5 greatest blessings.

It's so easy to just want to "get through" our busy days.

I've really been trying to challenge myself to seek out and create meaningful moments in the chaos of this crazy Summer.

When your sanity seems to be hanging in the balance, it's so tempting to want to wish away the hard season of caring for multiple littles.

I live in a small house that is always echoing with the audacious laughter of preschool boys. It's completely normal to hear the pounding of little feet running on creaky wood floors and a wheelchair being raced around the kitchen/dining room loop while the child in the wheelchair screams with half delight and half terror that at any moment he'll crash into a wall.

There is usually at least one child screaming or crying at any given point of my day.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to get kids to put away their toys, wear socks in their shoes, and drink out of any cup that isn't the beloved "pink kitty cup" (which is actually a bear, but I've learned to choose my battles ;)

I'm stressed out from fighting Medicaid and a school system that might not have my child's best interest in mind.

It's hard... 

Sometimes I feel like I need a room with padded white walls to just go and have a moment of silence to decompress. Heck, I would settle for an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom...

It's crazy... like... all. the. time.

It's easy to let the stress, the never ending to do list, the medical bills, the fear of the future, and just the constant noise, get to you.

One day when I was still big and pregnant with Vienna, I was taking a quick (the only kind when you have little ones) shower, trying not to let the fact that Emma was unraveling a whole roll of toilet paper and the boys were having world war 3 outside the locked door, bother me, but it wasn't working. I was overwhelmed with worry of what having 5 kids would mean for us and felt like I would never have a normal life ever again.

It's just too loud and crazy God... I feel like it's too much... I can't hear You anymore and I can't do this without You.

That's when God spoke directly to my heart... Life will always be loud Natalie. You have to learn to praise me in the noise before you can ever hear me in the quiet.

I can't explain it, but that epiphany (or whatever you want to call it) was a game changer for me.

Since then I've tried to not be constantly trying to change my circumstances. I'm trying to remind myself I don't need to quiet the noise, and instead I've been seeking God's still small voice in the chaos.

I've learned that even if everything feels like it's falling apart and is going crazy around you, you can still find peace and joy in the refuge of Christ.

We've probably all heard the saying, "Don't miss the forest for the trees". This saying is meant to encourage you to not lose sight of the bigger picture, but I've been thinking of it backwards lately.

I believe that when we follow God's will for our lives, a lot of times, He'll lead us into some really huge, scary forests, they may even seem pretty dark and lonely at times.

I'm realizing that the crazy forest I find myself in, is made up of some really beautiful trees.

 I cherish the moments when my heart stops to take a deep breath, when my sleep deprived eyes focus for a moment and I can see the beauty that God is making with our crazy mess; the trees that are sprouting redemption and beauty everyday!

"They will be called Oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

Now for a long overdue update on our crew...

Ivan graduated from Kindergarten last week. It was an emotional day for this mama and his teachers as he will be going to a different school next year and leaving behind the school I grew to love and trust. He was so loved there! At every one of the meetings we had to discuss him, every one went around the table and said what a "joy" he is. How he lights up every room he enters, genuinely loves others, and works so hard to learn new things. I cried tears of joy after every visit to his school because I am so humbled to be this kiddos mama. To know that if we wouldn't of adopted him 2 1/2 years ago he likely would not be alive today and here he is inspiring others and spreading the joy God has given him, on a daily basis...

There are no words...

Ivan means "gracious gift" and that is exactly what this child is.

I don't know what the future holds for Ivan and that's really scary at times, but if God taught me anything by sending Ivan to school this past year, it's that God loves this boy more than I ever could and He has an amazing plan for his life.


This kid turned 4 in April!! Having my first baby turn 4 while at the same time having a newborn definitely reminded me how quickly life goes by. Sometimes when I'm holding Vienna I see Landon's expressions in her face and I can barely take the beauty and relentlessness of passing time.  Oh Landon, how can the sweetest heart, strongest will, and the most hilarious personality all be wrapped up into one little body? All I can say is, thank you Lord and God help us all haha
#this kid

 I have so much to say about this little one, who first brought some pink into our home of all blue. We can hardly think of milestones fast enough for this girl. She's now cruising up and down the stairs, taking steps with support, and walking alongside furniture all on her own. It wont surprise me if she's walking by the end of Summer. She'll be attending preschool next year with Gresham which is crazy when I remember where she was at just 10 months ago, when we brought her and Gresh home. She was a baby in every way except her age, but now she is looking and acting like the toddler she should be. She brings so much spunk and laughter into our lives.

No doubt she will continue to astound us and spread joy wherever she goes!!

 Then there's my little Gresh. This kid keeps us on our toes, for sure! In less than 7 days he bent a bone in his arm (fell off his bunk bed) and had surgery to correct his droopy right eye lid. He looked pretty rough, but he didn't miss a beat.

All smiles before surgery

After surgery

The night after surgery we couldn't keep him from racing around with the new scooters grandpa got them. On your mark...
Get set... and there's Landon cheating... typical haha
Last week of school. Gresham really enjoyed going to preschool and is excited to go again next year. He will be in kindergarten with Landon the following year which they are both really excited about.

 He brought me home a mothers day card he made for me at school. He was so excited to give it to me. I was struck by the realization that this may not have been my first Mothers Day, but it was HIS first Mother's Day.

It has been a tough road, but this little boy has experienced so much healing. The transformation of his heart, mind, and life has been incredible to watch.

God is so good!! We are so grateful for our Gresham.

Lastly, our precious little bundle of joy.

Our #5

The biggest shock and greatest surprise of our life!

My sweet Vienna Faith, I spent so many months filled with you and filled with so much anxiety about what life would be like with you. I feel so silly now for fearing you. You are a little piece of Heaven in this crazy season of life we're in. When everything is overwhelming, I close my bedroom door and escape in your smell, the sound of your breathing, the curve of your little nose, the soft perfection of your skin. I am reminded of God's goodness and unconditional love when you reach up to touch my face.
These moments feel too holy sometimes.
You are a miracle.
On really hard days, I find myself telling you that "I will do better with you." I joke with your daddy that "at least we haven't messed you up yet.", but I'm only partly joking. I want so badly to never let you down. I never want you to lose the look of complete contentment and adoration you have when our eyes lock. Sometimes I catch myself raising my voice at your brothers, when I realize that you are right there, I hope to myself that you didn't notice. I never want to disappoint you my love and yet I know that I must.
I know you will grow and take all the natural steps towards independence. I know I must disappoint you and remind you that the world does not indeed revolve around you (although right now, I love that a piece of our little world does). You are my baby, you will always be my baby, but I will make mistakes with you. I will raise my voice when I shouldn't. I will let things go when I should be firm. I'll walk away when I should stay and make things right and I'll stay and say things I will regret when I should walk away. I will discipline when I should give grace, and I will unknowingly put conditions on my love when that isn't what Love is at all.
I will drop the ball with you as well my child. I hate that inevitable truth, but there's one thing I'm certain of. I can not love you perfectly, but I can point you to the One who is the perfect embodiment of Love. I cannot give you everything you will want in Life, but I will do whatever I can to make sure you know the Giver of Life. Yes, I will make mistakes, but I pray you never doubt my love for you and that you always know Who loves you more.
You were His before you were mine and I promise I'll do my best to trust Him with you every day of your life.

Vienna Faith 3 months old.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Vienna Faith

Well this post is long overdue.

Our precious little bundle is three weeks old today!!

After a very quick and intense labor Vienna Faith Maxwell was born on February 12th at 4:57pm weighing 7Ibs 7oz.

Absolute perfection.

We are so in love with our little Via.

Adjusting to a family of 7 has gone smoother than I could of hoped for. It hasn't been without it's overwhelming moments, but she has already blessed our lives beyond measure and, I know I've said this after our adoptions as well, but we seriously can't imagine our family without her now.

She just fits with us... so perfectly.

She is such a happy and laid back baby

She can sleep through absolutely anything. Probably because she is used to all the craziness that she could hear happening outside the womb.

I tried to get a picture of my matching daughters, but well, you can tell how that went ;)

Emma's still not quite sure what to make of her baby sissy.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for my pregnancy, delivery, and the adjustment of our family. We have been amazed by how well the kids have handled all the change and we know we have the power of prayer to thank for that.

Also, thank you to everyone who has blessed us with meals, encouragement, gifts, and groceries while I was on bed rest and since we brought our precious blessing home. I am brought to tears when I think of how blessed we are by our community.

You guys love us so well, thank you will never be enough. Please know we love you and couldn't do our life well without you.

Most importantly, thank you Jesus for seeing fit to bless us with our fifth baby. I am overwhelmed with a mixture of sorrow and gratitude when I remember how scared, and angry I was at times, of this perfect miracle. Does she make our life harder? Yes, but I've come to realize that every eternal blessing will cause us to give up some easy in one form or another.

Unconditional love will always cost us something.

It's when we open our clenched hands...

It's when we surrender our easy...

or even surrender our hard for something even harder...

that we find a meaningful life.

I came across this post on facebook a while back and what Jim Gaffigan said really struck me.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has 5 children; here's how he answers the "Why so many?!" question:

“Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy."  

Each of our kids have a very unique story about how they came to be in our family. I can tell you that we don't consider any of our kids "planned" by us. Each of them has changed our lives dramatically, but they've changed our hearts even more dramatically.

It's not the perfect family photo I was hoping for. Life with 5 kids never really goes the way we plan, but we have found so much joy and beauty in the craziness. So although we may never get another picture with everyone smiling at the camera (or even looking at it), we wouldn't trade this crazy life for picture perfect for anything.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Bed Rest and Bringing in the New Year.

Ryan and I have brought in 5 New Years together as a family, but none quite like last night's...

The first one I was pregnant with Landon and had just found out about his heart defect. Our world was spinning and yet we still took the time to play games, reflect on our blessings, and make yummy food.

The second we had just accepted God's calling on our lives to adopt and would announce it to the world the first day of 2013. Our adoption journey was not without it's trials and tears, but in Nov. 2013 we would welcome home our beautiful eldest son and our world would never be the same.

We call 2014 "our year off" because it's the only year we have not welcomed another child into our family, but truth be told, 2014 was far from easy. A miscarriage, change of jobs for Ryan, I went back to work part time, we bought our house, and then we ended the year by beginning yet another adoption process...

Yes, I can look back on each year and recall the beautiful blessings, the challenging moments, and the transformation and change that every trial and heart breaking experience has brought about, but 2015 may take the cake for years of transformation for our family, especially for this mama.

I would title 2015 as my year of "letting go". It has been a theme that has showed up pretty consistently throughout my calendar year and sometimes even came as a reminder from my amazing man, with Disney song lyrics and all..

It's not been an easy concept for this mama to grasp.

My default is perfectionism.

My default is trying to do things on my own.

I hide behind my introversion, my goals, my schedules and God has taken me to places this past year that my soul wouldn't have survived in isolation, although at first, you better believe I tried.

With four littles all under the developmental age of 4, 2 newly adopted kiddos (one with significant trauma to heal from and one with a major heart surgery to survive), and ANOTHER baby on the way, it became pretty clear that 2015 was either going to make or break me physically, emotionally, mentally, and I would even say spiritually.

In all the years passed I have struggled at times with bouts of anger and doubt towards God and the plan He continues to reveal for my life, but in 2015 God brought me to really a breaking point of my faith where I was either going to resent Him for where all of our trusting and all of our "yeses" had brought us or I was going to accept His plan no matter how difficult it may be and trust that even in the midst of the "daily hard", the stress, and occasional devastating news and seemingly impossible decisions, He is still good and this life He has built for us, although hard, is miraculously beautiful.

I feel like I'm entering this New Year as a new person, and yet I'm almost ashamed to admit I still struggle with this concept of letting go and trusting God. Just when I think I've got a handle on it and I'm finally okay with the imperfections, the unplanned, the hard moments that are so inevitable in this life, God will bring yet another challenge into our lives and just like that I feel the pull to behave like my tantrumming toddler.

I stomp my feet at my good Father and tell Him "NO!"

I sulk and whine and come up with every possible reason why He is wrong, why I can't do what He is asking of me.

Raising a 3 and 4 year old boy I run into this scenario on a daily basis. The struggle of teaching them obediance and trust when it goes against what they may think is right or fun in that moment. I want so badly for them to realize that mama and daddy have their best interest in mind, that we love them, and that truly what we are asking of them (for example, to put away the crayons they were playing with 10 min ago or to wait on getting juice so we can all have a special treat at dinner time just 30 min in the future) truly is not that hard, but in their minds it seems catastrophic at times and it's our job as parents to help them navigate those emotions in a healthy manner and obey even when they may not understand why. As Christians we want to instill obedience in our children because we know that in their lives they will have to abide by rules, whether it be at school, a job, and most importantly, in their personal spiritual walk with God.

It's so easy for me to get frustrated with our boys. It's tempting to scream, "because I told you so" and leave it at that, but I've learned this past year that is not how God parents us and that is not how I want to reflect His tender love to my children. Yes, there are times when direct and immediate obedience is a must, but in most cases my children are fighting the very same struggle their mama is.

I struggle with truly accepting and believing with my whole heart and being that God has my best interest always in mind. I have different plans for my day (my life) than God may ask of me and whether it's something small like not making the perfect Christmas breakfast or something major like having another baby or giving up my dream of homeschooling all my children, it's my job to trust that God is still good and will work everything out for my good in His perfect time.

I let go of a lot of things in 2015, some small expectations that I didn't even realize I had for myself and some major dreams and fears that I've clung to for a very long time, but as I entered 2016 last night it was very obvious to me that I still have a long way to go when it comes to letting go and trusting God... it's a never ending journey I think that wont end until we take our last breath, but with each "yes", with each victory, we come closer to the freedom Jesus died for us to have.

Because maybe God never meant for us to live our lives through the filters of instagram.

Maybe we're supposed to admit that we are all just messes that only God could do anything good or worth while with.

Maybe it's okay to see yourself in the eyes of your devastated three year old who had his heart set on the green cup and received a blue one instead...

I'm not trying to undermine what we go through, believe me, I know this life is hard and God knows it too, in fact, He's more aware of the evil and pain of this life than our minds could ever concieve, but He calls us to one thing and that is faith.

Faith that He loves us and will never let us go.

Faith that He can redeem any tragedy, loss, and wound that we have endured.

Faith that if we get up each day and trust Him with whatever may come, He will lift our burdens and make us overcomers.

It's kind of fitting that my year of "letting go" would end with me being on bed rest. Just when I feel like I'm getting a handle on things, have a plan, and I'm feeling prepared for what's coming next, God throws me yet another curve ball to challenge my faith and prepare my heart and soul for what I don't even know I will need.

At my 32 week appointment this past Wednesday I brought up how I've been feeling lately and that I don't remember feeling this way when I was pregnant with Landon. My doctor checked me and confirmed that I was indeed experiencing early signs of labor and my body and baby were gearing up for an early entrance into this world.

She then put me on bed rest for a week and will check me again next week to see if things are still progressing or if baby has slowed down and everything looks fine.

At first I have to say, I didn't really take her seriously...

Bed rest, so that's like laying on the couch and letting the kids watch more tv than normal right Lord?" I think I can handle that... I'll do my best.

"So how does one do bed rest with 4 little kids, I asked my doctor."

I instantly regretted asking this question as soon as I saw the serious look in her face.

"They get help."

She must of noticed the concerned look in my face because she went on to tell me that I'm allowed to get up to go to the bathroom and get myself food, but besides that she wants me laying on my side in my bed.

"Do you have anyone who can come help you or take your kids?"

I think my deer in the headlights expression said it all so she just wrapped up our visit and told me to wait for the nurse to come in to administer the first round of steroid shots that baby girls lungs will need if she was to come very soon.

I left the clinic with a limp (those shots are not pleasant) and a little in shock as to what just took place. "bed rest" and my life don't go together.

What are you thinking Lord!!

These are my last weeks to prepare, to nest, to work before maternity leave... bed rest.

We have the most amazing friends and community and almost as soon as I shared the news, I was getting texts and messages from people offering to watch our kids and bring us meals.

God never ceases to amaze me with the generosity of His body here on this earth. It's easy to watch the news and think the whole world has gone down the tubes, but there is still so many people walking around and taking up oxygen on this planet who demonstrate the sacrificial love of God on a daily basis.

We are so grateful to share life with some of those people.

I wish I could leave it at just being grateful and accepting the blessings that God so generously gives, but it's still so hard for me to accept help. We have had to rely on others during so many seasons of our  lives. I still have absolutely no idea how we paid for two 30k adoptions in two years. I know it wasn't us, it was God using His body to prove to us that He will never call us to something only to leave us hanging by ourselves, even though that is exactly what it may feel like at times. There have been months where we have paid our bills with money that has come in the mail from almost strangers.

It's so humbling and so mind blowing how God provides for His children...

and yet I still cling to my need for independence.

I don't want you to come over and see my sink full of dirty dishes, unshowered messy bun, or unfolded laundry strewn across my living room, but this is exactly what God has been working for 4 years to break in me. Even more so than what the external eye can see, I don't want you to see my fears, the anger I spew at my kids sometimes, the ugliness that I have in me that I try so desperately to cover up with confidence and a completed to do list.

Life is so much more beautiful without the constant fear that our true reality will show, our makeup will rub off, or that mask we're hiding behind will start to slip off our faces.

So this is my New Years challenge to you...

You can take it for all it's worth or leave it here and dismiss it as the mindless ramblings of a prego woman stuck in bed, that's entirely up to you.

Would you make 2016 your year of letting go?

This doesn't mean you have to stop using instagram or pinterest, but it does mean we have to continually check ourselves to make sure the lie of perfectionism isn't sinking into our hearts.

Jesus was all the perfect this world needed.

We lie to ourselves when we think we can reach perfect without His grace.

We are striving and striving and striving to be these people that have it all together, when what I've found is that God just wants us to admit that we are falling apart so He can break us even more and then create something so much more beautiful than we could imagine... something real.

I hope and pray you don't have to be summoned to bed to learn this lesson, but maybe a spiritual bed rest wouldn't be a bad place to start.

I encourage you to pray about it and seek out what that may look like for you.

Besides birthing a baby this coming year and finding a new normal as a family of 7, my goal is to continue this journey of letting go and resting in God's love and perfect plan for my life.

I know it gives false promises of security and beauty, but I can tell you that a filtered, perfect, life is really just a trap of loneliness that satan uses to keep us away from real freedom... real community... real life.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it Matthew 16:25

So I tried for over an hour to make a video slideshow on imovie, but it wasn't working for me so I had to just let it go. So instead you get a video off of youtube and a boatload of unfiltered pictures that showcase some of the big and small moments we experienced in 2015.

This was us bringing in the New Year last night. About as unfiltered as it comes :) Wouldn't trade that man and all the memories 2015 holds for us for anything.

So here's to a New Year...

To letting go...


and looking a little more like Jesus this time next year!!