Friday, August 15, 2014

{Great} Art

Art doesn't have to be great.  It can be mediocre.  It can be just okay.  It can be downright awful.

But to be great, art has to point somewhere.  I read this quote in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (the first book about writing that I've ever read) and it's haunted my thoughts ever since.


But where?

It can point to a cause or a passion or to a technique.  Or it can point to the artist, the creator.

I was created by a Creator- the Creator.  The same One who put fuzzy stripes on bumblebees and gave anteaters that ridiculous snout gave life to me.  He fashioned me.

He put these hairs in my head and even placed the freckles on my body.  He made my hair thin and He crafted my long skinny fingers (Psalm 139:14).  He made art and He made me art.  And then He gave me art to do.

Some would say that all these things- the things that make up 'me'- came from my parents.  A little bit of him and a little bit of her mixed up together and baked for nine months to make me.

And that's not untrue.  But it's also not the whole truth.

An artist may write or compose or paint out of pain or suffering or joy- the product of circumstances in their life.

Or they could write or compose or paint out of an overflowing of something bigger- the art that is within them.  That was placed there.

Either way this quote,

To be great, art has to point somewhere.

is haunting me.  Art comes from somewhere and it has to point somewhere to be great.

Does my art point somewhere?  Where does it point?  When people read my art or see my art, where does it point?

{And just to be clear I'm not just talking about the words that I write or the pictures I paint.  Those aren't the only art that I make.  Sitting in the floor with my daughter putting a puzzle together- that's my art.  Picking flowers or listening to my friend who is hurting- that's my art.  Those are some lessons I learned from my favorite book about art A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman.}

So where do my actions, my art, point?

I want my actions to draw people closer to Jesus, the Creator.

I want my art to be great and I want it to point to the Artist.

{{Because I need this reminder daily, I created a little art to remind myself to make my art great by pointing it somewhere.  If you need a little reminder too, then make yourself some art or you can simply download mine below.}}




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Friday, August 8, 2014

ONE Month to Vacay!!!!! (and other important ramblings)

In ONE month our family will go on their first family vacation (as a family of four).  I know we spent a week in Florida just a few months ago, but we don't really consider that a vacation.  Waiting for ICPC and adjusting to having a newborn (who was totally freaked out by the sudden change in all of his surroundings) does not a family vacation make.

In ONE month we will be traveling here and staying in this huMONgous house with three of our best framilies (they're our best friends and they feel like family, yeah I know I'm totally corny!).



Anywho,  I am so excited.

This house is amazing.  It has a pool.  A hot tub.  A game room.  Seriously, I'm not sure we'll be leaving the house for anything.

I'm suddenly realizing that I have to pack for a lot of people and we will need a lot of stuff.  I'm a habitual over-packer.  I can't stand the thought of getting somewhere and wanting a shirt that I left at home because at the last minute I thought I could save a twentieth of a square foot of space and took it out of my suitcase.  <<Seriously, that gives me hives just thinking about it.>>

So I'm trying to think ahead about what I'll need.  But I'm also trying to think of some fun things for the kids.  Little things to pack for the long car ride or just to have around the pool or house to bring out when we all need a little break.  Between the four families staying in this house we have 9 kids to entertain for a week.  <<Lord, help.>> 

I'm so thankful that we get to do this with our friends.  These are the three families that really know the most about us.  The get us.  They've walked with us through some really rough patches.  In our marriage.  In our adoption journey.  In life.  They're the ones I know I can call at any hour and chat if I need to.  And I love that their kids are Alivea's friends too.  And will be Toby's friends too one day, when he can do more than just drool on them.

I'm also super grateful to Jesus that we are a family of four this year.  I dreamed of this all spring.  We reserved this house last December and somewhere deep in the recesses of my heart I dreamed that we would have another Todd joining us this year.  I really did.  I thought about it.  I day dreamed about what it would be like to have a baby at the beach.  

And still, I can't believe it actually happened.  When I think about what God did in 16 days I am still amazed.  I wonder if that will ever wear off.  I'm still amazed at Alivea when I look at her.  So I'm hopeful that I'll always be reminded of the faithfulness of the Lord to my son and to me when I look at his sweet face.

An extra added bonus is that two weeks before we travel to the beach we'll finalize Toby's adoption. That means legally Toby will be a Todd.  We can then apply for his social security number and we'll get a new birth certificate listing Denny and I as his parents.  That is always a cool thing.  I still look at Alivea's adoption decree every once in a while.  Seeing the thing that we have felt in our heart for a long time actually spelled out in black and white and stamped with a seal and signed with a judge's signature is just the icing on the cake.

We'll also be dedicating Toby in church before we head to the beach.  I am so excited about this.  This little boy has already worked his way into the hearts of all of our church family so standing before all of them and dedicating Toby to the Lord will be amazing.

Gosh, so much goodness is happening in just a short amount of time.  My heart is about to explode with excitement.

<<I know this post was totally random.  And I know I may be rambling.  It's okay.  I'm just so blessed and I am so in awe at the ways that God has blessed our tiny family this year.  Thanks for reading (even when I overuse the word Seriously.  Thanks for supporting our family and praying for us and rejoicing with us.>>

Lastly, any advice for traveling with little ones?  Any tips for toys or things to pack?  I'd like to pack all.the.things but it won't all fit in our car, so I have to be practical.  Any advice is welcomed.  Just leave a comment below.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Livi Joy {Because ONE Matters}

Today I'm going to let you all in on a little project I've been working on.  If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Intagram, you've probably already seen me talking about this project.

Today, I'm going to share the whole story.

Denny and I had this idea, back when we were raising money for our adoption.  We wanted to make our own t-shirts and sell them to raise money.  We ordered some screen printing supplies and our plan was to fundraise for our adoption and then after our adoption was complete, we would continue making shirts and give the money away to other families on the adoption journey.

Well, then God went and blew our minds and gave us Toby in 16 days and there wasn't any time to make shirts and sell them.

On the ride home from Florida I told Denny that I still wanted to make t-shirts and help another family.

The idea for Livi Joy was born.  We talked and prayed and asked lots of questions.  We're still not experts at this whole starting a business thing but we are on our way.

Special Thanks to Kerrie Williams who designed our super beautiful logo

Our desire is to create comfortable tees with inspiring messages for the whole family.  The sales of those tees will then go to help ONE family on their adoption journey.

And guess what?  We have the most awesome family as our first Partner Family.

Please meet the Ludwigs from Alabama.


They are an amazing family of six who want to add to their family through adoption.  I have gotten to know Jenn, the mom, over the past couple of months and our family is so excited to walk this adoption journey with them.  We have been praying for them and for their family and for the little ONE who will be joining their family.

Denny and I know firsthand that adoption is not easy.  It definitely is not the easy way to add to your family.  Adoption takes a lot of faith and just a little bit of craziness.  And the Ludwigs know all about that.  They are in the thick of it and our family is determined to walk along side them.

We feel that it is our responsibility to stand next to them and support them.  We want to raise boatloads of money for them but we also want to pray for them and support them in other ways.

Our approach is also a little unique because we want to walk with the Ludwigs until they bring their little ONE home.  We want to make an impact for this ONE family and their ONE child.  When their little one comes home, then we'll pick another family and start all over again.

In the coming days and weeks I'll share more as we are still finalizing designs and working on getting the site up and running.  

I am so thankful for all of the support we have received so far with this little business.  So many of you have shared about Livi Joy on facebook and instagram and we are so excited to see how excited you are to help the Ludwig Family.

If you'd like to get in on the fun and also win a family's worth of shirts then help us spread the word. Like us on Facebook or Instagram and then share the photos we have posted.  

If you have a blog or website and you'd like to help spread the word about Livi Joy and the Ludwigs, then please shoot me an email at gloryinthevalley@gmail.com.  We'd love to work with you to make a difference for ONE.




Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Pregnancy Test was Negative and I Survived {A Personal Victory in My Infertility Journey}

I've struggled with infertility for over 11 years.  Most of you already know that because I have shared extensively about that.

One part of that struggle that I've never really talked much about is every woman's favorite doctor's appointment- the yearly OB/GYN appointment.

I absolutely hate these appointments.  I am totally fine with all of the clinical stuff.  I do not mind getting almost naked or even wearing the paper thingy.  I also do not mind the actual exam.

The thing that I mind is the questions.  As soon as the doctor or nurse hears that I have not been using birth control for 11 years and I have not gotten pregnant, the questions start.  And I hate them.

I hate the shame that I feel.  I hate that I feel stupid for not pursuing infertility treatment.  I hate that I get very emotional and start crying every time.  I hate that I leave the office feeling broken.

The last time I had my yearly appointment I actually ended up in the parking lot crying uncontrollably and having a semi-panic attack.

Seriously, I wish I could handle these appointments better.  But I couldn't.  Until yesterday.

I had a huge personal victory in my OB/GYN's office yesterday.  I could have done a cartwheel down the sidewalk, I was that happy and proud of myself and so so grateful for Jesus and for what He is doing in my life and in my infertility.

Infertility


I saw a new midwife yesterday when I went for my yearly appointment and she asked the same questions but it was the first time that I just answered the questions.  I didn't feel any awkwardness or any shame.  I didn't feel broken.

She was so nice and really made me feel comfortable.  I didn't feel judged at all.

Because of the way I answered some of the questions, she actually asked me to take a pregnancy test and I almost panicked with that.

The test came back negative and my new midwife was so supportive and sweet that I actually had to reassure that it was okay.

 "It's negative, damn it!  I really wanted to give you some good news," she said.

She was actually more disappointed than I was.

That is huge guys.  For someone who has been on this train for as long as I have, that is huge.

Pregnancy tests are something we infertile people avoid.  At all costs.

We get a little panicky just going down the aisle in Wal-mart.  Seriously, I could probably pay for Alivea's first year of college with all the wasted pee sticks I've thrown away.

So for me to not get upset.  To not have a complete melt-down in the doctor's office was huge. HUGE.

I don't know what Jesus is up to.  Maybe it's this whole year of Being Brave that I've been trying to live. Maybe I'm just finally to the point that I don't really care if I get pregnant or not.  I'm not really sure. But I like it.  I like not feeling broken.  I like feeling confident in this valley (of infertility) that I'm walking.

I love my new nurse.  And I am so thankful for her kindness and her concern for me.

I think I'm going to go write her a thank-you note.





Tuesday, July 29, 2014

You Were Made For This

Today I'm sharing some thoughts over at Mercy Found about what it's like when you just don't feel like you're enough.

Life is hard and adoption is really hard.  The journey, the requirements, the expectation.

I think sometimes we think life is like a novel with a climax and then all of our dreams come true.

But things don't happen that way.  There are lots of climaxes to our lives, to our stories.

And sometimes (actually, all the time) things don't happen the way we hope.

I love my son.  I love my family but I was totally and completely unprepared for the extreme feelings of inadequacy I have been feeling since we brought him home.

And then one day, after I was so exhausted that I sent myself to bed at 7:30, I heard this voice whisper so softly to my heart.  That voice said "You Were Made For This."


Click over to Mercy Found to read more.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dear Toby


Dear Toby,
I hate to tell you, dude, but you have one sentimental mama so I'm sure I'm going to write you plenty of these letters and you'll just have to deal with it.  It's just one of the many perks of being a Todd.  Ask your sister, she can tell you all about it.

You've been in my arms almost 3 months now and I still can't believe it.  Your daddy and I waited so long.  Our adoption process, the journey that brought us to you was very long.  Your Aunt Chalice can tell you all about it.  She still can't believe you're home and that you're real.  And it's a little hard for me to believe it too.

We waited a long time.  It was like we were walking this really long hike up some hard, overgrown paths through some forest somewhere.  Some days were really hard and we could hardly see the sun. There were times we had to climb these really slippery cliffs and there were days where it was raining so hard we just had to seek shelter in some trees and we couldn't move.  Then we learned about you and it was like we came into a clearing that was well-manicured and someone had even planted some amazing flowers and had lined a little path with bright lanterns to help us find our way.  The last few steps to you were so easy.  Because you were meant to be ours all along.  Our arms, this little spot in our family, the places in all of our hearts were specially made for you.  You were meant to be a Todd all along.  God ordained you to be in our family all along.

I love this picture of us because I love that you just fit in my arms.  You are so tiny and my arms are so long.  Your Uncle Nathan jokes that I have monkey arms and it's true.  The sleeves of my sweaters are always too short.  But you in all your tininess fit into my monkey arms.  You fit here because you belong here.

Your sister.  Well, I don't have to tell you how in love with you she is.  She was hesitant at first.  She really wanted a sister (and she still does).  But she dotes on you.  It's amazing that you have any skin left on your face because she will not stop kissing you.  She wants to hold you and snuggle you and play with you and feed you and change your diaper.  She basically wants to do all.the.things for you. She loves you so much.

I'm realizing that God made her for you too.  When I see the way you are with each other.  The way you light up when she picks you up out of your crib. The way you laugh hysterically at her funny dances.  The way you grin when she walks into the room.  She was made to be your big sister, Toby. She was made to dote on you and protect you and make you laugh.  She was made to poke your belly and blow raspberries in it. She was made to help me give you a bath and make bottles for you.

I'm still in awe, Toby, of a God that did all of this.  That's another thing you better get used to.  We talk about God a lot around here.  He's a really big part of our family.  He's a really big part of our story.  He brought you to us, Toby.  There is no denying that.

And I'll spend the rest of my life telling you about this God that builds families.  This is just the beginning, baby boy.

Love,
Your Mama






Friday, July 25, 2014

Currently

It's been a while since I've written consistently.  It's always hard to come back after such a long absence.  I figure a good place to start would be to fill you in on what's been happening lately.

Currently I am...

Obsessing over: counting down the days until vacation.  We are renting a house in North Carolina with some of our best friends in September.  I can't wait.  I even have a countdown on my phone.  Yeah, it's that big of a deal.

Working on: t-shirt designs for our new family business that we are starting (I'll be sharing more on that in a few days) and tracking down Toby's medical records from Florida (which has been a huge headache)

Reading:  Orphan Justice, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Christianity's Dangerous Idea

Thinking about: orphans and adoption.  These are the things that are always on my mind.

Anticipating: the start of the school year.  We'll be homeschooling again.  Alivea will be starting first grade and we are all excited.

Listening to: This song by Kari Jobe and this song by Hillsong United

Drinking: way too much coffee and soda!

Praying for: Patience.  And for some friends of mine who are adopting and are having a rough time. And also for some medical tests that Toby has to have done soon.  


Now for some cuteness.

This little guy turned 5 months old this week.  What?

Playing with their Sara Jane Project bunnies

He seriously is this smiley all the time.

I just love the little lady that she is becoming.  I think she has aged about 6 years since we brought Toby home.  She is suddenly so grownup.

Alivea started swim lessons.  And she loves them.

We took Alivea and Toby to their first Orioles game.  It was a hot, exhausting day but we had a blast.

This little guy just loves his toes.  Look at that grin

Thanks so much for reading.  Have a great weekend!