Thursday, May 1, 2014

Divine, Messy Gifts are the Best! December 2013

Let's get to it!

We went on a Christmas Tree Hunt with Grandma and Grandpa Wager as soon as we could!
A day at Apple Hill ended with a warm meal and cute kiddos in Jammies.

Advent popped up quickly this year since Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday in November.

I wanted to do something hands on, fun, and educational for Ethan to help explain what Christmas is all about.

I found Truth in the Tinsel when Ethan wasn't quite 2-years-old yet.
My little busy body wasn't ready for it until this year.

It's packed with scripture, crafts, and lots of Mommy & Me time.
We would do this during Grace's nap time and I loved the conversations and creativity that took place.
I think each year will bring a new depth with a deeper understanding of the joy and anticipation of Jesus that Advent brings.

A few random photos of December…
Dancing in the kitchen with my babes.
Ethan makes her belly laugh :D

Small Group Revisited!
Dan & Gina invited our small group… a group of peeps waaaaay back when… for a night of sights and Christmas lights! Below is a picture of the men (plus, Kona. Minus Josh).

Then some cuteness mixed with some crazy hair.

You know how there are some days when you wake up and you're just grateful to God that He gifted you with perfect timing?

One glorious December morning I opened my eyes to the sight of Ethan holding my hair in one hand and holding scissors in the other.

Luckily, the hair was still attached to my head.

You know… like that kind of perfect timing.

NO? Maybe it's just me…

I did find out later that day that my makeup brushes were not given such grace.

Ooooh Ethan!
That's enough Tangled for you!

Speaking of the source… we made a very bad decision to visit Disneyland.
We had planned to go the first weekend in December but Friday night, Grace threw up… multiple times.
Sweet, sad Squish smiled in between episodes.

She slept through the night and woke up happy keeping several bottles down…
We honestly thought she had what I had the day before Thanksgiving… a 12-24 hour sickness.

So what do we do?
Resume plans to Disneyland!

As we pull into the Grapevine for dinner… Grace threw up all over herself and her car set.
The rest of the weekend followed suit.

One morning Mark got up with her and she screamed at him for 3 hours straight.
The only comfort to her was laying in the bath tub under running water.
Below is a picture of that ;)

Ethan was super sick the first day at the park too but then perked up to his normal self the next day after some Tylenol.

She really is a sweet smiley little thing!
Smiling through sickness.

Marvel Comic Fun!
You can't tell, but Ethan was stoked to see "Four".
Maybe he was star struck.


We discovered that Disneyland has a "Disney Nurse" that will come to you if you have a need/emergency.

At the Rainforest Cafe, Grace threw up her bottle. 
Not super alarming, except that she slept for near 24 hours without drinking anything and we were worried she was dehydrated (with the lack of total liquid she'd had that trip)… so, when our waiter asked if we wanted to see a nurse, we said yes.

The nurse advised us to go to the children's hospital and have her checked out.
Mark had me call Dr. Grandpa who advised us to stop with the bottles and give pedialyte instead.
My dad didn't see a need to go to the hospital and thought it would be fine to drive home in her condition.

Mark, being afraid to stay any longer, packed up the family and headed straight home… we arrived in our driveway somewhere around 4am. 

AND THAT is why going to Disneyland was a very bad decision!

Here is a picture at the Rainforest Cafe before Grace lost it.
To this day Ethan will say, "Grace frew up in the Rainforest!"

It was while we were at Disneyland that we got the call from our lawyer that Grace got a court date to legalize her adoption.

The earliest Grace could be adopted was after living in our home for 6 months.
We brought her home at 2-weeks-old so 6.5 months was the very soonest she could legally be a Young.

I cannot tell you how much I prayed for her to officially be ours before Christmas.
It didn't really matter… she was already our daughter… but for anyone who has been through the process, you would understand.

At this time I was involved in a women's bible study by Beth Moore called Believing God. The study challenged us to either "just believe in God or believe God".

The 5 points she emphasized were:

*God is who He says He is
*God can do what He says He can do
*I am who God says I am
*I can do all things through Christ
*God's word is active and alive in me

Through this study, my faith was strengthened and I believed that God would give me what I asked for.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Luke 11:9

So I asked, unashamedly and often, that Grace would legally be our daughter before Christmas in the name of Jesus Christ.

God was, after all, the one who put the desire to adopt in our hearts after all!
I was simply asking Him to finish what He started.

Nearing her 6 month birthday, we were tossed a few variables and our circumstances were discouraging.
But I believed GOD > our circumstances.

Once I got the call, nothing by praise left my lips and filled my heart!
Our souls rejoiced!!

God's signature was revealed when we learned this:

There was only one court date in all of December for adoptions in El Dorado County. 
That day was the 3rd Monday in December… the 16th. 
Grace was born the first Monday in June… the 3rd.

Her age? 6.5 months!!!
The exact, earliest date we could have possibly adopted her.
Also, we were the first family.
8am on December 16th.

Divine Christmas gifts are the best!

Now it was actually a pretty non-glamorous experience.
Grace was still sick and… blew out through her pretty little outfit and into her car seat.
She yelled at the TOP of her lungs (echoes of yells bouncing off the courthouse walls) when I changed her out of her… mess… 
and once it was all said and done, we looked at the paperwork and saw that her name was written "Grace Elizabeth Young" and not "Grace Elizabeth Kyleigh Young" as we had decided.

Somewhere in the translation her second middle name was dropped.
So… she's Grace Elizabeth.

At the time, we were so over paperwork and legal stuff that we just said "we'll worry about that later. Let's take our daughter and go!"

Now, 4 months later… we still are not motivated to change it.
If one day she wants to add it, we'll be happy to revisit it and make the proper changes.
But for now… we are just happy she's {officially} ours!

Our friend, Mindy, made us this beautiful cake to celebrate with our small group.
Our friends are the absolute best!!!

Christmas morning!
Mark and Ethan using the wood burning fireplace for the first time!
Also, a picture of Mark with his 2 cuties climbing on him...

Ethan's gift to his daddy.
A homemade card with…. Legos!
JUST what Daddy wanted :D

Ethan got shaving cream in his stocking.
He couldn't have been happier! 
Shaving cream = hours of fun in the shower!

Ethan got me 3 sparkly headbands so that I "could look like Emma."

She's clearly the pre-school fashionista in these parts.

This is what it's like to take Christmas Morning Pictures in Jammies.
A little commentary as well...

We had Christmas Dinner at Mark's parent's.
Ethan made Jesus a birthday cake.

Sprinkle dump. 
I'm sure our savior was delighted ;)

And Ethan did the honors of blowing out the candles.

December was many things. It was action packed with little time to rest on the weekends.

December wasn't pretty - it was messy, actually. 
Messy with sickness, breathing treatments, glue and glitter on the floor.
Messy {and scary} like scissors in your preschooler's hands after watching Tangled!
Messy running around town for last minute adoption stuff.
Messy details… like our daughter's name!… not working out like we planned.

Come to think of it, December was a straight up mess!

But it was all a gift.

Our hearts swelled, raced and skipped a beat… depending on the day, but God's thread of grace ran through it all.

He gifted us with 2 children… sick as they might be… He {legally} gave us our little girl before the traditional day of ripping open gifts wrapped neat and pretty under the tree.

He's gifted us with time. 
Time together to shake glitter onto ornaments and read all about His son… the priceless gift. 
Time to answer Ethan's "Why" questions.
Time to wake up each morning to one smiley face by my bedside, the other smiley face in her crib.
Time to read, dance in the kitchen, and bake together.
Time to make memories and invest in my children's hearts.

He gifts us with free will and choices, too.

Some of our choices were a total fail ---> Disneyland this December being one.

But the everyday choice we make to follow Him. To believe Him over our messes and our circumstances… that leads to the best and most beautiful gifts only He can give.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Thankful November {2013}

Yeah yeah… I know. But I'm back… and I'm going to finish 2013 if it takes all of 2014 to do it!

…. or not.

I just can't forget the reason why I blog to begin with: 
To have a grateful heart for where God has me and my family.

Also! to freeze time... best I know how: Pictures and journaling.

And juuuust in case there is a great disaster and all our things are destroyed, I'll still have these precious memories to fall back on.

Internet: Don't die on me.


November is a time of thanks and thanksgiving. I like to practice having a thankful heart always.
Some days, it's truly a mindful practice while others, a natural heart posture.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
- 1 Thessalonians 5:18

This year, Ethan was thankful for many things and we documented this by creating a Thankful Tree.
He did the water coloring and I did the dictating (no editing… another practice of mine!)

My favorites of his were:
* Humans (and mermaids)
* Cookies and Steak
*Andrew and our cousins

He's pretty rockstar rollin' with his cuzzos... eating cookies and steak ;)

November Decorations Around the House

Here are some pics of E with his cousins and the rest of the Young family Thanksgiving 2013.

Oh! And it was on this day that he tasted his first orange soda.
BAM! A new leaf on Ethan's Thankful Tree.

Mark's Mom actually had us do a Thankful Tree this year at her house.
We each wrote what we were thankful for on a leaf.

I can't remember exactly what Ethan wrote… I think it was "Apples"
Mark wrote, "My Family"
I wrote, "God's Faithfulness"

Here's a visual of that faithfulness:

Grandma & Grandpa Young also did something very different this year.
They had the grandkids perform a play about the history of Thanksgiving.

Can you tell there is a history buff/teacher in the house?

Grandma Young always has something fun and educational for our kids.
I'm super thankful for her and what she does for our family!

Here are some pics of the play!

Our little Squanto… I mean, "Cocoum"...

I can now honestly say that I better understand the usefulness of the stage hook.
The main "actor's" age averaged 4-years-old (or so) and the silliness got a bit out of control at times.

They sure were cute though and I loved the ending ballad of "Thank You Jesus" with all 5 of them holding hands.

Some family snaps
(Ethan's forced smile stage has arrived!)

This is (sadly) the best picture we have with the Grandparents...

… and this is a more accurate picture of our little photo shoot!

Trinity having some fun with her littlest cousin.
T's thankful leaf said, "For Grace's Headbands" by the way ;)

Time with Grace's namesake… Auntie Christie (Elizabeth)

Jammie Time!
Our Little Turkey and Beautiful Butterball :P

Other noteworthy events in November:

I got deathly sick within a 24 hour period the day before Thanksgiving.
My parents came to my rescue despite hosting a feast at their place the next day! 
My wonderful, merciful Dad drove out to pick up the kids and kept them until Mark could pick them up after work.

I will never be able to express the thankful heart I have for my parents in words or actions.
Their love for me and my family is a cup overflowing.
Thank you Mom.
Thank you Daddy.

Additional faith in humanity was restored on this awful day as a woman who was buying 3 chairs from us on craigslist brought me tea and bread after she saw that I was terribly sick.

Care Package + Well Wishes = Thankful Heart (also, breakfast for Ethan).

Grandma and Grandpa Young came over one night in November to watch Grace so that Mark and I could take Ethan to see his very first play, Peter Pan!

Noodle Night, Live Play, and Ice Cream.
He loved it!

2 random pics:
Ethan incognito drinking juice.
Grace's squish preventing her zipper from going up all the way.

I was able to go to the Harvest Festival with my Mom, 2 Aunties and Gracie. 
Here is a pic of Grace with Auntie JoJo after we shopped!


I escaped everyone in my house for a quiet meal alone and some Brene Brown.

I'm on a mission to read all her books!

Also newsworthy...
Mark performed a root canal treatment on himself.

Yup, it actually happened.

 Finally, we took pictures for Christmas Cards.

Thank you Annie @ His Grace Photography for capturing us at the end of 2013!

Thankful for our Grace Elizabeth

Thankful for both our beautiful, joyful, and sweet kids.
Especially grateful for the love they have for each other which is possibly my greatest joy to watch.

Thankful to have my best friend to journey through this crazy life together.
We have faced great challenges but have been richly blessed because… God.

Thankful He set Mark a part from the rest for me.
Thankful He is the Krazy Glue to this Crazy Girl and all my brokenness.
Above all, thankful for His grace and faithfulness.

I see it and I'm reminded of it every time I look at our family.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Calling Complete*

Stop the chronological blogging!

I was just asked to write an article for our church in regards to a ministry they offer called "The Call".

The Call ministry was how we found out about Grace so we were happy to write something for it.

Now I don't know if they'll actually use this… and even if they do, I think a total of  ? people read my blog anyway {enter cricket sounds}… so, it's fine.

Let me know what you think!

Almost 3 years ago, God called our family to adopt an orphan. We didn't know how that would look, but we knew God was calling us to it because my husband, Mark, and I always said that if we could have children of our own, we wouldn’t adopt. 

Our son had just turned a year old when the adoption seed started to sprout. We took a good 3 months to pray about this, knowing the seriousness of the decision we were about to make, to confirm that this was what God wanted us to do. 

It was.

We spent the next 2 years prayerfully searching to fulfill that calling. One way we did so was by joining the group at Lakeside called “The Call Ministry”. 

There, we were touched and humbled by people’s journeys. No two stories were alike and we loved how open and informative everyone was about the topic of “Adoption”. Mainly, we liked that we were part of a bigger group of Christ followers who had the same calling. 

We weren’t alone.

Together we explored the options: international, domestic, private, foster care, fost-adopt, and being a safe family through the Safe Families Ministry.

After a roller coaster of events and seemingly failed attempts to adopt a child, God provided and did so in His own timing and a way that would show us that this was clearly all Him and His doing.

Two scriptures really stood out to me in our calling: 
James 1:27 and Matthew 25:40

"Religion that God our Father finds pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." 
- James 1:27

Out of this, I felt God calling me to reach out to love and protect a child - as one of my own - regardless of what the world would think about it. Why? Because it's pure goodness in a broken world and regardless of what "religion" you choose to follow, all would agree that taking in an orphan and raising him or her as your own is good. It is right. It is pure.

I hope everyone knows that Mark and I are not pure
Do not make the mistake of looking at us and giving us the credit for such "pure goodness".
We do not belong on such a pedestal but proudly point to the One who does:

"Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows." 
- James 1:17

God put the seeds of adoption in our hearts. God is at work to redeem brokenness. It's how He rolls. I personally like to stay away from brokenness... (That's how pure selfish I am) but God called us to dive head first into it. 

Matthew 25:40 says, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" This was in response to "...For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked out for me, I was in prison and you visited me..." 
(Matthew 25:35-36)

What I got out of this was God point blank asking me, "Do you love me? Really? Then do something about it... every person that you FEED, QUINCH, WELCOME, CLOTHE, CARE FOR, and VISIT, you do for me.

I truly thought the only way we could do that was by adopting internationally. I remembered thinking that we could do all the above but "visit" a child if we adopted through the foster system or domestically.


We got an email from one of the leaders of The Call asking if we would be open to adopting a little girl due to arrive in a week or so.

The teenage birth mom had contacted Lakeside looking for help as she had made the decision to place her baby in a loving home.

That baby is our Grace Elizabeth.
We got the call. We responded as God had asked us to.

Before Gracie was born, I went to her doctor's appointment and heard her heart beat in utero.

I went with her birth Mom to get a pedicure when she was due any day.

Mark and I took her, her boyfriend, and friend out to dinner to get to know each other.

We met and visited our daughter the day she was born at the hospital.

We visited again at the hospital and got to meet Grace's biological grandma too.

We visited... but we didn't just visit with Gracie. We visited with people who have a connection to her and started to build relationships with people who may (or may not) be important to her.

We agreed to an open adoption.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that God is using us not only to visit but to share.

And this, my friends, is the difference between a short term missions trip and living out your faith over a lifetime.

Relationships... that is what Jesus is all about.

I'm not saying God isn't present in short term missions trips... He is present all the time!... its the difference between listening to a sermon one weekend versus sharing life with a person in love with Christ. One has a longer lasting and deeper effect.

God didn't put His son on this earth the day he went to the cross...
God sent His son as a baby... and gave the world 30 years of personal, tangible, human relationship with us. 

He cared to share.
And He asked so much of me as well.

Not just to feed, quinch, welcome, clothe, care for, and visit like I thought. 

Nope, He later reminded me I was only completing half of what He really asks.

The greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." 
- Mark 12:30-31

Love God? Of course! That's easy... not always, especially when you're asked to "feed, clothe, visit... etc." But really, it's the least I can do for what He has done for me.

But love your neighbor?
To love my neighbor as myself???

To continue to love on another mother who longs for your child because she feels the pain of her loss/your gain?
To stay connected to a group of strangers who love your daughter because it helps them heal and possibly your daughter to heal down the road of her journey?

To love on those neighbors? As I would like to be loved on if it were me?


To love means to love. No matter what the cost of my own heart (not the cost of anyone's safety... I'm referring to dying to self).

On one hand, I "completed a calling" but on the other hand, it was the tip of the iceberg.

So this is where the * comes in...

*Adoption wasn't a "category" that I could check off the bucket list of "Things I want to do for God". It was a calling that God incorporated into the umbrella of the greatest calling.

Which, according to Jesus, matters more.
"...there is no greater commandment".

It started with a calling.

The journey was anything but glamorous or smooth.
But we are blessed because we believed God and stuck with Him until He proved His faithfulness.

We are grateful for The Call ministry at Lakeside.
The love and support we received through them was Christ with us working as His body to fulfill His calling.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

October Funny Bones

October was filled with all things pumpkin, cider, and apples. We did an excellent job visiting pumpkin patches this year, I must say. Some years are better than others… this year (2013) was fantastic!

We bought lots of fresh apple cider from Apple Hill and a few boxes of apples to make my infamous Double Crumble Apple Pie! I even tried making apple chips this year… another success!

What's not to love about October? 

Starting with October 1st… my Hubby's Birthday!
He turned 31 this year :)
His Mama made and sent over his absolute favorite cake pie!
Banana Cream :)

October Lovin'

Pumpkin Patch Fun!

We visited Bishop's Pumpkin Farm for the first time with our very favorite family friends, 
the Jarvis Family <3

3 cuties jumping in soft hay

Love those neighbors!
We (hopefully) started a fun tradition in our new neighborhood!

Included was an invitation to the Fall Festival we hosted for the first time in our backyard!
The festival was a collection of many DIY kid-friendly fun stations… carnival style :)
Lots and lots of Mommies were to blame for the amazing turn out!

Below is a picture of part of the fun!
I'll be sure to take more pics next time ;)

Random cuteness/sightings of our October

Extremely blessed by these 2 women.
Grandma time!

Talk about random… a few random things to remember about October:
1) Grace sleeping through dinner at the Cheesecake factory = AMAZING!
2) Spent over an hour with Gymboree trying to track down a package they sent to the wrong house = RIDICULOUS!
3 & 4) An afternoon at the pumpkin patch with Grace's birth mom = Amazingly Blessed!

Time to carve some pumpkins!
Ethan making the same face as his jack-o-lantern.
He thought the pulp and seeds were "yucky!"

Decorating the porch!
Ethan had it all figured out ;) Line 'em all up!
Makes for a great barricade ;)

Cute pics with Daddy

Ethan breakin' it down for us on the porch :D

Sweetness in a Bumbo

Halloween Day!
This was the most happening our kiddos were that day/night!
I tried SO HARD to keep them awake!

This was in the early afternoon…
Watch the sweet interactions between Grace and Ethan.

Mr. Funny Bones, himself!

…aaaaand this is what we looked like when Mark got home from work.
"Who's ready for trick-or-treating?"

We changed him into his Captain Hook costume thinking he'd be more in the mood once he woke up...

… only, he was in such a deep sleep that he accidentally wet through his costume :(
No problem! 
We had a back-up in the car ;)
Thor it is!

We were supposed to be a theme:
Ethan: Captain Hook
Daddy: Fellow Pirate
Mommy: Tiger Lily
Grace: Tinker Bell

Grace never got out of her "funny bones" jammies as she was still snoozing while we went door to door.

We went back to our old neighborhood to trick-or-treat… we loved seeing all the familiar friendly faces!

So that was our October… quick and sweet!
Kinda makes me miss it on this rainy February day...