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Knocking Down Sand Castles

Last night–we had a teachable moment. It was one where I felt the Lord got my attention, and He was speaking trying to tell me something in a way that only He can.

In the midst of parenting 6 children stages toddler to teen, there are so many different decisions from cutting up grapes to which sports club is the best environment. There’s also different disappointments in juggling so much ranging from skinned knees to advocating through learning challenges. We have the gamut of all things.

Vacation.

Well, we needed one. We could use ten but one will do.

Last night while daddy watched the big boys jump waves, my oldest daughter joined me taking our two youngest on a sunset beach walk. It wasn’t long into our walk when we came across a couple of families and a lot of kids finishing a pretty amazing sand castle creation. In my big girl’s words–it was MAJESTIC!

The kids put on their finishing touches.

The parents grabbed their iPhones and snapped a million pictures.

We passed by smiling at the scene as group pictures with their sand creation continued. My daughter had to jump in and grab a picture too.

We continued our walk and as I pushed the toddler in a stroller my oldest entertained her jumping in the sand and twirling on the beach. Can we all say, “Almost bed time?!” As my oldest jumped in a big hole no doubt made earlier in the day to bury a beach goer, two older ladies carrying rakes approached us.

“Sweetheart–you didn’t dig or leave that big hole did you?”

“No ma’am.”

“Well–do you know why you should never leave ditches or holes like this in the sand…or really even dig holes this big at all?”

My girl looked unsure so I jumped in to take a guess…

“I think I read something about holes collapsing on people?”

The older lady went on to share with us about the sea turtles and how they get trapped in the holes and ditches. She shared this is the time of year they come on the beaches at high tide in the middle of the night and lay their eggs. Often they get stuck in the holes, lay their eggs and then their eggs get damaged as they struggle to get out.

Another lady wearing a blue vest with a turtle on it came up with a rake and they worked together to fill the hole. Instead of leaving them, I saw this as a teachable moment and asked my kids if they wanted to help. It was really a sweet time talking about the island, what brought them there and how they got involved with volunteering their time every night to assist the beach patrol making their job easier in caring for His creation–the sea turtles.

They asked us if we had seen any castles or holes, and we couldn’t help but laugh shaking the scene we had just passed. There was NO WAY these two women could smooth out the sand behind the majestic castle scene we had passed earlier. I told them they might want to wait because they were rather proud of their creation.

We helped them for awhile filled smaller holes. Then we walked down and saw the coast was clear (no pun intended;)–and just behind the castle creation the ladies showed us not one but THREE roped off squares just feet behind the castle where mother turtles had laid their eggs and they had nights earlier put in these safety stakes to protect the eggs. They shared this was coincidentally one of the most popular places for the turtles to lay their eggs.

There was no way these two ladies could flatten this out without us. In fact, there was no way they could even do it WITH us before dark. Just as I had that thought, three teenagers walked up to take pictures. We asked them if they wanted to join us in helping these ladies save the turtles that might come on the beach tonight and they jumped right in. It was a sweet moment of community–people working together for a common good. We got the toddler out of the stroller and she even jumped in to help!

One of the ladies looked at me and said, “I had an aunt that always said–It’s some times the unplanned for moments where the best memories are made. Tonight–you just created an unforgettable memory WITH and FOR your children!”

We both stood there for a moment taking it in. God was speaking. Something beautiful was happening. Strangers. Together. Laughing. In a hurry before it was completely dark. It was something special.

Just as we were ready for the rakes–I looked up to see a mom and her son RUNNING toward us from one of the homes behind us. They must know about the sea turtles! Just in time to help us!

But it wasn’t. We didn’t have time to ask before she started. Defensive. Upset. Even hurt.

“What are y’all doing? Do you know how long this took!? Do you know how HARD my son here and his friends worked to make this happen?!”

Compassion. Those sweet turtle volunteers once had 10 year old children too. They had grandkids. But I had also heard their stories of loss and even the ones they saved. They saw the bigger picture, and I decided being a mom myself I’d jump in and invite them to JOIN US after we explained.

I shared what we had just learned. I told them how beautiful their creation indeed was. I told them how the girls jumped in to help us. Did they want to join in before it’s too dark?!

No.

No.

No.

“I heard about you. As we built they said to beware of the turtle ladies. My son did this. He worked so hard. I guess we will just have to wake up earlier–and build ANOTHER…bigger and better one with deeper trenches and bigger castles. Yes son–that is what we can do!”

I stood there looking at that mom–and something in her…I saw ME.

The momma bear.

Wanting to be behind my kids.

Wanting to defend them always.

Jumping before I really listen.

Forgetting to step back.

Missing the bigger picture.

Missing an opportunity to be a part of something bigger…

Or even worse–something BETTER.

Then the lady with the turtle vest–so kindly smiled. She understood, but we all could see what she too saw.

She told her to do what she felt she had to do–and she would do the same. Being dark at this point we needed to get back so I kindly interrupted and apologized to the mom upset about the sand castle and thanked the sea turtle volunteer for everything she does and letting us be a part of it tonight. The other girls went on their way–and I watched as the mom and her son walked toward their home. I listened as my big girl talked about all she learned–her shoulders back…so proud.

She looked a little bit different to me. Passionate. More joyful. Every time we join Him in something bigger–no matter how small to the world–we are indeed changed. We GOT to be a part of something bigger.

The moment of sweet community stood still in mind, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better it could have been had that mom made a different decision as she ran down.

What would it have been like had she stepped back to LISTEN?

What would it have been like had she jumped in to help?

What did her son see instead?

What would he have seen had she chosen differently?

And I thought about this…

A new school year is just around the corner.

My job as their mom is to look for their gifts and champion them. I want to get behind them, support them and help them as much as I can.

But.

There will be moments this year where it feels like someone or something is tearing down their sand castles. Instead of getting defensive and insisting we keep trying–start over–never give up, I want to learn to LISTEN. I want to be still in moments of disappointment and try to see the BIGGER picture. I want to look to see what God might be doing and invite my child to join me…to join HIM…to join others…in it–TOGETHER.

I don’t want to miss a miracle because I’m too busy building something that was never supposed to be. I want to trust that He loves me so much to send others to redirect and to be sensitive enough to REALLY see.

Praying for the year ahead and all it will bring. Give us eyes to see and courage to follow in Your footsteps Jesus as you lead in big and some times unexpected ways.

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Wiphan – Parker’s first trip❤️

While their trip didn’t start off easy (we didn’t double check P’s expiration passport date!), the Lord worked out a miracle and they were on the plane to go in no time! (Thankful we live near a national passport office!)

Finally Zambia bound!

It really is crazy to think we started volunteering with Wiphan when this soon-to-be 14 year old was just 2 years old! But finally he got to go over himself and see what he has been a part of almost his entire life from this side of the world. A night in South Africa after a 15 hour flight then another 3 hour leg to Zambia! Finally…he saw our heart…

Parker with Wiphan’s Pastor Aaron

Parker and the Zambia founder’s daughter who now works for Wiphan – We Love Abby!

Listening to his joy as he arrived home today melted my momma heart. He was so precious asking for things he could do around the farm to earn monthly so he could return next summer and love the people at Wiphan.

This. To have your children embrace the ministry your family has poured into for so long feels like heaven to me. So many treasured stories. He and his siblings have been writing to Beatrice our sponsored daughter for almost 9 years. Finally they also got to meet on this trip…

Parker finally meets our sponsored daughter Beatrice

Parker is bothered here while Beatrice thinks it’s hilarious. Richard informed every male in the compound to stay 5 feet from his Beatrice or he would brea their face😂😂😂😂 Ministry is Love. But don’t mess with daddy’s girl![/ca[/ca[/ca[/ca

This was a flood of memories for me to just 3 years ago when Laney met her for the first time. She’s changed so much from these pictures with Laney…

Loo bear meeting Beatrice
Loo, Beatrice and B’s school friend…COMPLETE JOY!

A day I will NEVER forget. If you ever have a way to go meet your sponsored child…DO IT!

Then he found our Harmony–and he couldn’t wait to begin sponsoring him also…because always room to love more. Isn’t he a doll…

The moment P found our Harmony ❤️[[
Harmony and P at Wiphan’s Westbourne School

They got updates for many of our sponsors–and advocated for many waiting on families to sponsor them. God was so good bringing several families to make big decisions to add Wiphan children to their families fold through sponsorship. We rejoice!

They spent their last few days at Victoria Falls and on a Zimbabwe safari. They also bunjee jumped off the Falls😳 No pics to prove it because they locked their things up to jump😂🙌🏻 Richard said he will NEVER do that again, and he is just thankful to be alive!

7th Natural Wonder of the World – Victoria Falls

Zambezi River

Richard said I’m due to go…it’s just SO HARD for me to leave my babies. But. Maybe next summer I’ll go! It’s Frank and Isaac’s turn–and Isaac also wants to go to Ethiopia so we definitely have some planning and lots of praying to do in God’s best timing for that trip!

The boys are now safely home battling jet lag–they crashed at 8pm long enough for me to jot down their journey because someone in this house needed to while it was still fresh! Putting down the others and off to join them in dreamland dreaming of seeing our Wiphan friends again❤️ Until next time!!!

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The Lent Tree {walking toward Jesus as a family}

*Be sure to look under the SEASONAL DEVOTIONAL link up top if you ever need to find this post again to print more ornaments OR if you want to incorporate other traditional devotional things that invite more of Christ into your home. Blessings sweet mommas! My gift to you!  

Lent.

It is one of the most JOYOUS and SACRED times for our family–and we use the Lent tree to huddle in close…await with expectation…and fill our hearts with a new sense of hope as we look through the crowds in a busy culture for the risen King.

For those of you wanting to join me in creating a Lent tradition, I have created downloadable ornaments with scripture references so that you can walk your children through Lent year after year. We have 6 children in our home—different ages, different learning styles, different histories whether they came to our family biologically or adoption—and this has brought us together as a family year after year. Our children hear the word “Lent” and they know what this season brings for us as family…devotionals by the rocking chair upstairs, each child taking turns putting an ornament on the tree and that quiet Saturday—where there is no ornament as we wait and wonder after Good Friday. But Sunday comes—and if there is anything sweeter in our home than Christmas morning—it is this!

We have celebrated Lent in our family for over a decade now, and I’m so thankful we started when they were little. If your have teens, let me encourage you—this is just as sweet for the teen years too. You can dig into the stories deeper together—ask them to read the scriptures before gathering as a family—and let them take turns sharing how that scripture on the ornament shines Jesus, foreshadows what is to come and how we can all apply this in our own lives.

To begin…

For this activity you can simply use the predesigned paper ornaments at first (or always if you love them!) We actually started with real ornaments, and I spent several weeks gathering miniature treasures to represent each Bible story. This took a lot of energy and time—and something I would recommend you doing over the years if and when you need to add a little something different or change things up for your Lent devotional time. God might even speak you as you read a particular scripture and bring a different treasure to make into an ornament to mind.

I have a simple PDF file you can print off, laminate if you wish, add a little string to and you will quickly have ornaments for the Lent season.

EACH day you will have a scripture reading with each ornament. When your children are little–I encourage you to read the scripture before hand and then retell it so they can grasp it according to their age level. As they grow older, they will be able to sit through the entire chapter (or chapters) of reading, and each year you will be amazed at the nuggets the Holy Spirit gives them through each day’s reading.

This year I am putting my “ornaments” on a wooden board (I bought at Walmart in the craft section)–but in the past I’ve put string on them and hung them on branches in a vase for our Lent Tree. I’m just going for something that can be on the wall far from littles pulling it down this year;)

If you decide to use real ornaments and treasures you find one day instead of these printed ones, I have created tags for shipping labels to go on zip lock bags to help you organize, store and easily find the one you need each day through the seasons. All the work has been done FOR YOU as far as the labels go! 10 per sheet 2 in x 4 in. (I bought Office Max’s offbrand and it matches the download template of Avery 8163). But as long as you purchase the 2″x4″ with 10 on a sheet—this should work! Lent-Day 1-10 Labels, Lent-Day 11-20 Labels, Lent-Day 21-30 Labels, Lent-Day 31-40 Labels, HEisALIVE Day 41-42 Labels

Many years I just put sticks in a planter. I would have the kids pick up sticks and we would make a “tree” with them–and talk about how this Lent journey together would be about bringing dead things to life…giving new life and finding the One who gives us the abundant life…

I followed the instructions found in Carol Brazo’s book “No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking” which by the way is a must have in any mommy’s library! Carol Brazo walks you through how to beautifully celebrate the final week of Lent leading up to Holy Week with your children—and this is SURE to be a memory they will forever hold dear in their hearts as they encounter the Savior this powerful week in an amazing way. My favorite is one of her explanations of how she celebrates Easter Sunday…

“Every Easter Sunday I am the first one up. Mark, like the disciples before him, hears those magical words, “He is risen” from the mouth of a woman. The little girls are awakened by their mama’s cries of joy, “He is risen!” and they in turn wake up their brother. Those first words belong to women. They are our gift and our heritage. And every year, as I hear women cry out their joy, a place deep inside me, inside the female part of me, is resurrected and brought to nerve-tingling life. He is risen! He is risen! Wake up and rejoice!”

And so it begins…

On the FIRST day of Lent–you will read the Bible story to your children and your littles will take turns putting the ornaments up on the tree each night. The first ornament: a teeny, tiny mustard seed. Your first scripture reading is short–Matthew 17:20. Short, but not simple. It is about faith. And faith we will need on this journey to the cross.

Matthew 17:20 says, “And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Oh Lord, will you give my little ones faith for this journey with us. Oh that Your Holy Spirit would teach us and do a miracle in our hearts this Lent as we travel the Lent Tree journey together…

LentTreeOrnaments. Just print, cut out, laminate and string for your own tree!

IMPORTANT to read if you are doing the Lent Tree too! DO NOT do an ornament on Sundays during Lent! There are 40 ornaments—and there are 40 days of fasting between Ash Wednesday and Lent *IF* you don’t count Sundays! SO—you will do ornaments Monday through Saturday only following Biblical Lent tradition. “When observing fasting or abstinence during Lent, regard must be paid to the fact that Sundays are Feast Days, so there is no fast or abstinence. The days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter Sunday, excluding the Sundays, are forty, corresponding to the number of days Christ spent in the wilderness.” So…technically you fast for 6 days and then Sunday is a Feast day where you get to have what you fasted. Lent is a custom not a Biblical requirement–and traditionally you fast for 6 days and on the 7th day you celebrate the resurrection with a Feast day.

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February family activities to draw you close…

“Valentine BLESSING Cookies”

(The blog on the pictures is no long active. If you lose this and ever need another copy—you can find on www.theyoungfamilyfarm.com Just search “Valentine’s or Valentine’s Cookies”)

This is a craft to do with your little ones for the month of February to remind them WHO they are and WHOSE they are. The “cookies” are made out of felt, wire and glue. And guess what is inside each one? There are Bible verses proclaiming the Lord’s truth and LOVE, AND THEN there are statements of love and affirmation from us as parents. Beginning on February 1st, each day each child in our home will get to choose one from our “cookie jar” to start off their day leading up to Valentine’s! I make a different color “cookie” for each child so each gets a perfect mix of love from scripture and from us. If you have a lot of children like we do—your can print off the verses and encouragement sheets and use the same words and verses to encourage each child. You can make your own too if you prefer!

  1. You will need approximately 5 pieces of 8×11 felt per child (each piece will make 3 4-inch circles) Also–use the SOFT felt. I tried everything from the thicker felt to foam–and the softer felt folds into cookies best.
  2. Draw 4-inch circles on felt and cut out.

  1. Cut florist wire the diameter/length of your circle. Apply hot glue in a straight line down the center and carefully press wire in hot glue…

(You can also use pipe cleaners and Elmer’s glue if you don’t have florist wire or hot glue BUT florist wire and hot glue work BEST)

  1. Cut 4 x 1/2 inch strips of felt to hot glue OVER the wire…(this keeps the wire from showing when you fold your cookies as you will be able to slightly see the center)

  1. Print and fold up your “fortunes” or use mine. You can click on this link: valentines cookies which is in PDF format so you can print right off!

  1. Fold the circle in half (wire in center) and carefully bend the wire sideways to create a fortune cookie! If you have older children then you can probably get away with displaying them on your coffee table in a really fun way…

(AND you can use this year after year! How fun would this also be to do when you travel and you have to be away from your kiddos for them to get “love notes” from you each day while you are away!)

Unfortunately…that display would last 10 minutes in my house! So…until they are bigger—we’ll display our cookies appropriately in a cookie jar!

This activity I think is perfect to begin on February 1st to Valentine’s on the 14th! This year Lent begins on February 15th–so I’ll go ahead and post the links for the LENT TREE in a bit so you can print that off and have it ready to follow this if you would like too!

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2018…a quick update!

My blogging days as a mom in her 30’s seem to be past–and this mom now in her 40’s is feeling pretty proud of herself for stealing a moment to just update this blog should all my pictures be lost–I still have this blog full of documented miracles and sweet stories from our past 14 years as a family together:) So 2018 has snuck up on us–and it’s a new year once again!

The holiday brought such sweetness with by far my favorite being our yearly worship night at the farm. This year we had about 250 or so join us–and it’s always such a sweet organic night of worship under the stars. If you live close by…oh please come join us and the little angels and shepherds one year! And if you have a little one they are most welcome to join in!!

The children had the sweetness making gingerbread houses, seeing Santa and baking lots throughout the holiday. We are just delighting in Janie Claire, and I feel so blessed to get to do this baby thing all over again!! We got to see family–we gained a new cousin this year (which Isaac LOVES having a boy cousin his age…they are new VBFFs!) and of course we saw Princess T (Tetiana) and her precious family!!!

Here are some of my favorite moments from our holiday…

We love our Santa who loves Jesus and tells the children the story of Christmas as they see him again. I’m sure there are some coocoobirds that would say we are confusing our littles…but ya’ll–I’m 40. I got this. My kids are amazing and we all love Santa and the fun of Christmas!!! This Santa is a rockstar who donates his service fee to foster care. JUST pretty amazing if you ask me! Janie Claire didn’t love Santa–but she was fine as long as big sister was holding her!

Richard and I jumped in a picture too…

Mommy’s little helper in the kitchen all December long!! Isn’t she just yummy?!

I couldn’t survive all the crazy fun without my 3 girls. We’ve been together long before any of us were married–and together in between all the crazy is so fun always. Love these 3. They also make having a Christmas birthday more fun too. I brought in 41 with them–and we got wild at Target shopping for stocking stuffers:)

December also brought new animals like Ferdinand the bull. Yes he is a bull. He is a Texas Long-horn. I might have lost my mind. The story he is couldn’t stay at his farm so we bought him. We might have to sell him back when he gets big enough to hurt things with his big horns–which means he would also be big enough for the farm to he came from to keep him again. He was being bullied by all the long-horns and his mom rejected him so he had no chance of survival and needed to be raised on a small farm for now. We adore him! He also came with 2 pigs–Mia Hamm and Kevin Bacon because they were already farm friends. We adore the pigs too!

Isaac and his cousin looking all spiffy for a holiday party…

Christmas Eve together…the candlelight service at church…

I just can’t even stand when I take in moments of my oldest and youngest together. Just the sweetest!!!

Before we open gifts on Christmas morning we give our first gifts to Jesus–sharing with each person who we see them becoming…characteristics of Jesus in them. This is SUCH a sweet time I never, ever want to forget…

The pigs…let’s not forget the pigs…

Tetiana with her mom Andra and the boys! She is about to graduate and will soon be working all kind of fun hours at a salon! So proud of her!!! I need her to give me some highlights:)

That’s just some of our crazy in a nutshell!! Merry Christmas and happy new year from our family to yours!!!

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