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Preparing for Lent {Inviting More of Christ in your home…}

Lent.

The sweetest of all seasons around the corner. Where we remember the journey to the cross and the risen Savior as it ends. This is how we walk through Lent with our children…and I just couldn’t help but share again.

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It is one of the most JOYOUS and SACRED times for our family–and we use the Lent tree to make it come to life.

For those of you wanting to join me in creating a Lent tradition, I have created 5 word documents for you to download and print so that you can walk your children through Lent growing in the knowledge and understanding of God and the Passion of Christ. This activity requires you to find 41 treasures for the 40 days of Lent (a few after to celebrate the resurrections!). EACH day you will have a scripture reading and an ornament that accompanies it. PRIOR to beginning this journey–you will need to go on a mommy scavenger hunt all over town (dollar stores, craft stores, etc) to locate an item for each day. This will be not only an amazing journey for your children BUT ALSO FOR YOU!

OR you can just draw them or let your children draw them! Keep it simple! You can make the ornament together after the reading too! I just gather old sticks to use for our tree–some years we spray paint them some year’s we just use plain old sticks…bringing new life to what is no longer.

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.

The list that I used is in each document download. I found these 41 treasures (one day is a “nothing day” as you wait on the resurrection) at Dollar Trees, Hobby Lobby, ebay and some I made myself out of felt when I couldn’t find the ornament recommended. These word documents were created to be printed on shipping labels—so you can easily print them on 2″x4″ labels and stick each label on a ziplock bag to store your ornaments in to remind you the story and verse—as well as to store safely from year to year.

All the work has been done FOR YOU as far as the labels go! Now…you just need to run to the store and buy white shipping labels – 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!

My friend Laura Kirkland made these ornaments to go along with the scripture I pulled out for each day…
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POST UPDATE!!! I’m SO EXCITED that my friend Laura who also volunteers at our retreats just gave us this download link to share on my blog so any momma can download it for FREE! DOWNLOAD HER ORNAMENT LINK HERE. You can print off on card stock, hole punch and tie ribbon and bring in sticks to put in a vase for a quick tree!! OR you can get really crafty and buy special fabric printer transfer paper at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby print and iron on white fabric…and then hot glue or sew on felt!

DOWNLOAD EACH SET HERE BY CLICKING ON AND OPENING THE FILE. Then…just print!

Lent Days 1-10
Lent Days 11-20
Lent Days 21-30
Lent Days 31-40
He Is Risen Days 41-42

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, 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 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!”
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 preschoolers faith for this journey with us. Oh that Your Holy Spirit would teach them and do a miracle in their great big hearts the Lent as we travel the Lent Tree journey together…

Now it sits empty…but in a few hours it will have a mustard seed. If we have faith the size of an itty, bitty mustard seed…then nothing will be impossible for us.

OUR LENT TREE
Simple twigs.

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Mine are artificial twigs from Hobby Lobby because I use this year round for different things. Some times we add twigs or just use a twig tree…and as we find twigs for our tree–we talk about how these twigs no longer have life–essentially they are dead. But throughout the season, we will add ornaments to them bringing life to our tree just as Jesus Christ offers life to us through the cross.

For those of you without little ones at home or with wee ones too young to understand, consider doing this with your spouse! This is a worshipful way to walk through Lent together, and what fun it could be to treasure hunt each day for that day’s ornament. At the end, you’ll have a precious set to keep in a Hope Chest for that baby you have hoped for or even as a gift to a grandchild. Either way, the Lent Tree isn’t just for families with children. I think adults enjoy it just as much…if not more!

IMPORTANT to read if you are doing the Lent Tree with us! 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! SOOO—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. Did ya know that??? 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.

Here are some examples of some of the ornaments we found and use year and after year:

The story of Adam and Eve…how sin was brought into the world and how Jesus would cover our sin

The story of Abraham and Sarah…Abraham having to work the land

The story of Isaac…God providing a new sacrifice

It will take some time to find all your ornaments but it will be a fun, interactive way for you to study God’s Word together! It is SO worth the mommy scavenger hunt! I am about to teach 17 sweet ladies in my Sunday school class how to do this–so we’re making it a PJ Party night and I’m dividing up the ornaments so each mom will only need to find 3 each. They will just buy 17 of 3 each and then we’ll come together and share the wealth…and have a really fun girls night that will bless our families for years to come!

Hope this inspires some of you in ways you can invest Eternity into the hearts of your children!!!

Blessings to you!

Andrea

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May Our 2016 Make a Mark on Eternity {Not Living for the Dot}

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to hard you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

As I reflect on 2015–I’m overwhelmed again. With thanksgiving. Because–again it was hard. A GOOD HARD. It was hard because once again–as believers–as we do every year–Richard and I as a couple and as a family we wrestled with our flesh. Yet we listened and followed Jesus.

I’m not going to lie…I struggled wanting some “good” but selfish things. I can argue like no man’s business how we deserve them, need them…how having them would strengthen our bond as a family–how God wants us to have good things and we should live richly in His bountiful blessing. But again this year…He led us away from some things that (you my sweet friend) might laugh at me for struggling with wanting or wanting to justify. Only–having some of these things or choosing them instead…would have been saying no to some pretty crazy things Jesus WAS calling us to.

In 2015–I wanted to go to Disney with the kids. We went once 2 years ago. But this year…again…we didn’t. I wanted to go on a family vacation. Even just a quick weekend to the beach. But it wasn’t in the cards–because saying yes to that would have meant saying no to some other things. I wanted to get away with Richard–to just breath. Some times at night I would get on Groupon just to see if that was a steal of a deal getaway that we could go on the fly on. But none of these wants were in the cards for us this year. And–I am thankful. (Please hear me there is absolutely no judgement at all for anyone doing any of these things…because golly–I was DYING to say yes to these…and there have been times in the past where Jesus made a way and DID lead us to do these things to connect us as a couple or as a family! They are GOOD things!! But in the light of eternity–what God was calling us to really look at this year–we had to say no…and silly ole me–struggled with not having these 1st World luxuries that we have often had in the past.)

Then. I watch Francis Chan talk about living for eternity. And I realize that we did live big in 2015. We lived beyond our means in following God in some pretty crazy ways and HE provided ways for us to say no to those other okay, cool experiences because He had much bigger plans for us. And as hard as it is I want 2016 to be the same. This is a must watch as you start 2016…

I’m so thankful that 2015 brought 2 foster and adoptive mom’s retreats with Created for Care in February and March…and a Fabulous Forty Retreat in April. Saying no to the things my flesh struggled with meant Richard could go to Africa in May–and we spent June watching our 9 year old daughter paint and fundraise to go with me to Africa in July. I returned with an awful parasite and mono…and a month later in September we found out after 7 years of not being able to have a baby–we were expecting. There were things we said yes to this year that I can’t share here–but they were not easy to say yes to…and they left us on our knees, in tears and starting over in some pretty hard ways for our kids and family…YET–we are certain we said yes to Jesus. Saying no to all of these would have made for a pretty comfortable year…and some days–I just want that. This is not for YOU…but for ME–to remember that next year…I will struggled again. I will struggled with wanting to step back, to have/want/pursue “normal” things, and to some times not serve when serving means being uncomfortable…like some times sacrificing in ways that leave my heart torn in two. I will (and you will probably too) struggle with saying yes to Jesus–or comfortable in 2016.

COMFORT. Easy. To go with the flow instead of against the grain. Saying yes to Jesus often has led us to walking through some pretty difficult waters–yet He has been with us and we have sensed His presence and guidance every step of the way. 2016 will be no different if we ask Him to use our hands and feet. Yet–I want to start 2016 and say that I am ready.

I have already told my husband that I *do* really want to go to Disney with the kids in 2016 after the baby comes. (Just being honest–and I also think it’s okay to want these things.) I also want to open my hands and say that if He says no again to these little wants of this momma’s heart–to follow Him in different places–for the sake of eternity…that I DO want that MORE.

In 2016, I want to put EVERY SINGLE THING before Him and ask Him if it IS His will–and only follow again what He is telling me to walk forward and do for His glory and not my own. I confess–that I don’t want to be uncomfortable…but I want to tell Jesus that more than comfort in 2016–I want His will to be done in my life and in the life of my family. I want to be intentional with relationships…less friendships online–and more across the table. I want to put down the squares (anything technology) in my life more often and pour out in “real” life more and more. I want to focus more on what HE THINKS rather than what people of this world think–and live for the audience of One. I want to breath life into others–encouragement, peace and truth–after I first let HIM be the one that fills my cup.

What if…what if we had said YES to the things we wanted? All good things–but we could have missed AMAZING. Because His stories–what He has for us…really–is SO MUCH BETTER than what we could have wanted for ourselves!

May 2016 be a year that leaves me typing the same reflection…where I didn’t get everything *I* wanted but received everything I needed–and saw Him do miracles as leaps of faith were taken over and over again. I think our flesh deep down always begins wanting the year ahead to bring us good things…dreaming of the things we may not have received in the last year that our flesh still wants…yet also deep down–we want nothing more as believers to have the decrement, self control, desire and passion to want even MORE whatever He wants for us–believing that He truly is for us…and has great big plans for us in 2016…to prosper us in ways we can’t imagine and to bring us much hope and an unimaginable, beautifully written future.

Standing with you–excited for what is to come–and trusting BIG for great things in the year ahead! A look at 2015 here…so thankful for these memories and the story each picture holds!

 

 

May He be with you this year ahead every step of the way!

Blessings,

Andrea

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The sweetest gift… {pregnancy after loss}

This morning I turned 39. Never ever did I expect to be expecting at 39. Never ever did I ever think we would have six children. Yet–this…THIS is the sweet gift of all.

We always dreamed of a big family. But to me, a big family in our culture meant 3 MAYBE 4 kids. But there are some things you just don’t plan when you put them in God’s hands. Even growing by adoption, as planned as that may seem–when you know in your heart and you are walking with Jesus–you just know the next steps for your family no matter how crazy or big or uncertain it may feel.

In August of 2009 we shared here–my first post ever–about the Lord calling us to grow to 4 through adoption. At the time, we thought, “Wow. We are completing our family in such a sweet, unexpected way.” What a journey it was bringing home our Isaac. At 8 months, he weighed less than all my newborns and when we picked him up at 1 year he was just 10 pounds. We were told he may never sit, walk and would certainly have many delays–yet therapy after therapy we saw God’s healing, miraculous hand and this past Fall I stood on the sidelines watching this child jump airborne over and over to stop goals for his soccer team and cheer his teammates on. We were prepared for anything, and received over and over the unexpected—such a sweet gift each milestone and achievement.

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I had no idea what I was missing as I had raised typical kids with the biggest challenge being something like dyslexia and had no idea how sweet the physical milestones would be after years of physical therapy…to find us where we are now.

Then we received an unexpected surprise a few years later that we were expecting. I’ll never forget the day I found out. We were hosting a precious teenager, and I raced to a baby store to buy Richard a gift to surprise him. I found it–a sweet simple frame with a bow with the words “Love at first sight”. I put a little note in it and took it to his office. Our hosted teenager was with me–but not able to speak or read English she just thought that delivery was a simple errand in our day. We set that frame on Richard’s dresser and for weeks I prayed about our sweet baby while focusing on the daily of caring for our 4 children and a precious teenager we were also praying for.

Then in September–I shared our news. Our loss. It was also unexpected…as losses always are–especially for our hearts. Traumatic is the only word that I can describe it best as we chose to try and let nature take it’s course after the heartbeat stopped. But unfortunately I still needed surgery, so it felt so drawn out…both the loss and the grief. I look back and read through some of those posts that follow, and oh my GRACIOUS…to see now what God was doing.

Then I never thought I’d say it–but our loss was a baby…a sweet angel…who led us to our next baby. Just one month after that September 2012 post on our loss–on October 18th we shared we had been matched with a baby boy. We didn’t have a completed home study. We had no plans to adopt again. But as I sat rocking in my chair one night I told Richard I was going to spend the time thinking of my loss praying for children who also had loss. I prayed for children who had lost their parents and I stumbled across a picture of my son–who was waiting on a “Special Focus” list–which meant he had been on a wait-list for so long and also had a special need that was considered immediate–and we didn’t even need a home study to be matched. We only had to complete one and our dossier within 6 months–which we did in just a few;) Seven months later we found ourselves HERE–in the airport returning home…just a couple months after our due date for our little one that I’m quite sure was on the cheering committee helping the process speed up a bit;)

Our loss helped me see loss differently for my boys. I knew how much they had lost…their birth families, their cultures, their birth countries, familiar language, caregivers who had watched over them like mothers in their orphanages…just so much. But I didn’t grasp their loss until I experienced loss too. Their tears at night took on deeper meaning. Instead of wanting to be immediately accepted as mommy and hugged back, I understood they needed time and I’d wait by their bedsides until they were ready to let another mommy love them. When they finally folded into me as mom, I knew healing was happening–and after our loss…it took my breath away in ways I hadn’t experienced in our adoptive parenting before until this personal journey of loss ourselves. I felt we had a different, deeper bond–and this loss…this precious angel that awaits us in heaven…had given us the sweetest gift–to both us and our boys…connecting deeper that I knew possible as I understood their hearts in a way there are no words for.

While I’d give anything in the world to have gotten to hold our baby girl–if asked to rewrite the script–I know that part where she goes to be with Jesus is one of the most beautiful, sacred, ordained parts. If asked to type it out–I’d do it with tears. And it’d be very, very slow and probably erased a few times and then rewritten. Because I know that’s part of His story for us. A part that I see NOW needed to be written. But she will always be longed for and I can’t wait to see Jesus and then race to twirl that little bug around!

God uses loss to write a more beautiful story, but it doesn’t mean He replaces or fills that loss. Some losses can never and will never and should never be filled or replaced. Yet that picture frame…remained. Empty–on Richard’s dresser. There were times I wanted to give it away. But I couldn’t. I felt the Lord had a newborn for us still…maybe adoption–certainly I was getting too old to have another. Good grief…how would one chase 5 kids and have another as she approached 40? More power to the Duggars–but that ain’t happening over here y’all.

I held onto that frame–and decided to keep it and pray that while God doesn’t replace loss–I prayed He would one day bring us a baby’s picture to put in it. That felt like a crazy prayer. Very few knew I was praying for that…and I didn’t expect the feelings and emotions when we found out we were expecting last Fall.

This has truly been one of the most holy, sacred pregnancies. In my 20’s and early 30’s I was very naive. I thought a pregnancy meant you had a baby. Since then, I’ve seen so much. I’ve sat beside more friends who had the holy privilege of holding their babies for a few hours before they sent them to be with Jesus and countless friends like me who had miscarriages.

Pregnancy after loss–and even after adoption–has take on holy ground. For the first trimester, each day was a praise. Each day I expected or thought, “What if today is the day?” This is something every mom goes through in her pregnancy after a loss. Each night when everything still seemed okay, I dropped to my knees and just thanked Him for another day. With every moment of sickness their was rejoicing. And now with flutters–and feeling baby kicks–even more rejoicing. Each day is such a gift–and I’m trying my best to just enjoy each day without worry–knowing that He is the author of our story…of our baby’s story…and He can be trusted no matter what.

I moved that frame on Richard’s bed beside mine…right after I filled it. Nothing had ever been there. Looking back I know He knew. He knew I did buy it for my baby girl…that one…and this one too. I had no idea. I’m thankful I didn’t at the time. And I’m so thankful for the story He has written between then and now. I’m thankful I clung close to Jesus during our loss…and followed His prompting to pray for children who had also experienced loss. I’m thankful how He used that to lead us to our son in China. I’m so thankful how He used our loss to lead us deeper to connecting to the hearts of our boys…and that He gave us several years to do that before writing more to our beautiful story. I’m thankful for the picture that sits in this frame and for that baby girl whose heart is still beating and little feet are kicking on this mom’s 39th birthday today. Truly–this is the sweetest gift.

So while I woke this morning to super heroes shouting…and I made my own birthday breakfast to have those super heroes ask for it. I scooted over in my robe and shared with my boys whose hearts are so tender and dear to me. I got to sit and write and remember His faithfulness and how beautifully He writes our stories today…and reflect on the sweetest gift of how He uses our loss to write beauty from ashes. Our baby in heaven is such a sweet part of our story–just as pivotal and important as the others…and that once grief as turned to the sweetest aroma of joy and future hope–something to really look forward to one day in heaven. I can’t believe the Lord gave me another baby—a picture to put in this frame…and the gift to know each day really is a miracle. Never will I take these gifts for granted…and I sit here today with a full, happy heart…thankful I asked Him to be the author of my story.

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May your days be sweet as you follow Him.

Love,

Andrea

 

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It’s a…

Oh what a sweet day!! And I’m so thankful that 2 of my precious friends helped me pull off sharing with the kids in such a sweet way! I love to have a moment documented–so to have these pictures (and also video) of the kids finding out what we are having…just so sweet!! Tammy came to grab pictures and Angie grabbed the video–and Angie put together the basket full of balloons for our reveal that I could never have pulled off with 5 kids at home, a hubby just getting in from out-of-town this morning and homeschool with kids always right here;). Such a fun morning!!!

Eyes all closed! Even Oreo is waiting patiently to know if it’s another prince and Laney will remain the only princess OR if she will share her role…

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Laney’s face!! PRICELESS JOY!

Oh happy day!!!!

This is me asking my girl if she’s just BESIDE HERSELF!

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If you only knew how badly this girl has wanted a SISTER!!! It can be really confusing or hard when your parents say yes to adoption–and then you think you can say you want a sister. I’ll NEVER forget sitting Laney down to talk with her after we saw her 4th brother’s picture. We had been in the process a year earlier to adopt a little girl from China when we had to put in on hold. In between I had gotten Lyme disease and then after getting well hosted a teenage princess from Ukraine…and Laney was still LONGING for a sister. Then we saw Zeke’s picture after our miscarriage–and we were in love. I’ll never forget showing HER his picture and asking for her blessing in adopting ANOTHER brother. She didn’t hesitate. She wasn’t sad. She just said he was amazing–and we needed to do anything and everything as fast as we could to bring him home.

She would have been happy again with a little brother…but I know in her heart—because she’s confessed…deep down she would love a sister but she’s happy with what God chooses. I’m over the moon that the Lord would give her a little sister and us another little girl. JOY overflowed as we shared what we are having this morning…

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We are so excited to add another princess to our team!!!

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SO thankful and praying for a sweet healthy little girl!!! The Young crew can’t wait to meet our next little princess!!

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With hearts that overflow today!!!

The Young Family!

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Merry Christmas…

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We are SO excited to share that the Young family is growing!!! (I told the boys to give their best Home Alone faces…and I think Zeke pulled that off well! HA!) We have waited to share this news when we were well into the 2nd trimester–and we are thrilled to share the Lord has showered us with blessings beyond our wildest imagination!!! I can’t believe I get to be a mommy to a wee-one AGAIN…and this timing is just beyond perfect!!! Truly God writes THE best stories!!!

We get to find out this week (WEDNESDAY!) whether we will be adding another boy to this crew…or just maybe Laney has a princess sidekick. The children are so excited and have been so prayerful about the health of the baby and can’t wait for May to get here!!

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There are seasons when we wonder if God hears our prayers…and then there are seasons like this–where He is shining down so brightly saying over and over He has heard our hearts and we just need to rest and trust Him for the story that HE wants to write! Oh my. I could have never imagined such a beautiful story. Not easy. But so worth it!!! And now…here I sit seeing His sweet grace and love poured out on our family. We are so thankful this holiday and feel we have received the sweetest gift ever!!!

With full hearts and sweet celebration…we wish you and yours a very sweet holiday together as a family!

Love you all!

Andrea

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