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Saying Goodbye to Our First Foster Baby

Friday, April 27, 2018



**I first want to say that we are overjoyed that Miguelito is finally in his forever home! He is with his biological brother, his adoptive mother, and adoptive father, and we know without a doubt that he is HOME! He is where he should be and we are praising God for it! And while this has been a tough time for us we have had great peace knowing that he is with such a loving and wonderful family who also loves the Lord!! With that said, I want to continue to shine a light on foster care. I want to continue to share what our experience has been through this broken and beautiful process, so I will share both the joy and the pain of saying "goodbye.''

We knew it would be hard. We planned on it being hard. We expected it to be hard. But unfortunately no matter how much we knew, planned, expected, or prepared for it, it was still harder than we thought it would be.

The Lord brought Miguelito into our home at 4 pm on March 14th 2017 and we said goodbye to him at 2 am on February 26th 2018. That is 348 days and 10 hrs...but whose counting? He was eight months old with the sweetest gummy grin when he came to us, and he was 19 months old and walking, talking, and laughing when he left.



We were blessed to share one of the most important years of his life with him. We got to enjoy a lot of  his "firsts." His first tooth came two days after his arrival. The first time he crawled was in the living room to a handful of toys. His first signs. His first words. His first steps. The first time he gave a kiss. His first tantrum. His first hug. His First Birthday party.

One thing we didn't realize when bringing a baby into our home to foster was the deep connection that experiencing all these firsts with him would make, even though while all a long we knew he would eventually move on to his forever home. Our goal was simply to love this baby fully while he was in our home, and I can proudly say we did do that. Our boys without skipping a beat welcomed little Miguelito into their space and claimed him as their own. They played with him, annoyed him, and loved on him just as they do with one another. A lump forms in my throat and my pride begins to swell when I think of how exquisitely my boys loved, and the sacrifice they've made so that little Miguelito could feel safe, secure, and loved while he was here.

I remember the first time I was told "it's official" "he will be leaving soon." I knew this was what we wanted, what we had been praying for. I knew this was not only a good thing, but a great thing. I knew this was what was best for him. And I felt so bad for not feeling "happy" especially when others around me rightfully felt joy over the news. My brain understood the joy, but my heart felt the loss. I wanted to feel happy but all I could think of was an empty high chair, and it broke me. The days leading up to his departure were bittersweet. With God's help I got better at focusing on the joy rather than the loss. Packing up his stuff was difficult, some items I put notes on so that his new family would know the stories behind some of the items we decided to send. Mike and I had hundreds of conversations with the boys to prepare them. And we had hundreds of conversations between the two of us, to prepare ourselves.

Sunday was our last full day with him and it was a sweet day. No plans. Just us. We hung out at the house, played games, read books, and he took a nap like usual. That evening after Migueltio's bath, the boys cuddled around him for their final hugs and kisses before bed. We put him to bed just like every other night, which felt weird, because we knew it wasn't like every other night. At 1:30 am we had to wake him up, put a fresh diaper on him, and load him into the car seat for the last time. Mike said his goodbyes at the house, giving him extra kisses, telling him how much he will be missed, and saying a prayer over him. One of us had to stay home with our other sleeping children, so I drove.

My stomach fills with knots now just typing up how I felt on the drive to CYFD. My stomach churned. I wanted to cry, but more than that I didn't want to worry Miguelito, so only by the grace of God I held my tears back on the way there, fighting even harder against them as I pulled into the parking lot. I kept my voice high and happy as I told Migueltio he was going to have such an exciting day. I helped his sweet caseworker get the diaper bag loaded into the car and then began to buckle him into the car seat in her car. He began to cry as I buckled him in and I just remember telling him, "Don't cry Baby, don't cry Baby." I told him over and over that I loved him, and will miss him, gave him kisses and stepped aside so that his case worker could leave. With a swift hug from her, she got in the car, and then they were...

gone.

All that effort, everything I had been doing to keep all of the pieces of my heart together gave way. My body shivered as the waves of sobs came over me. 11 months. 348 days. 8362 hours. And now, in one swift moment he was gone, our baby was gone. The drive to CYFD was tough, but it didn't compare to the drive back home. Not once did I look in the rear view mirror, just knowing that the car seat was empty was painful enough. I didn't want to see it. I made it back home around 3 am. Mike had waited up. I climbed into his arms and sobbed again. We laid in bed talking and processing what had just happened until close to 4 am when finally we could no longer keep our eyes open.

The next morning came all too quickly and it started out just like any other school day morning, except for the knot in my stomach. The boys don't usually see Miguelito in the mornings, as he was typically still asleep, so I was grateful when they didn't ask about him. I didn't want for his departure to be what they were thinking about as they headed off to school. I emailed their teachers informing them of what had happened and asked that they call me if the boys showed any signs of sadness so I could be there for them. Fortunately, their day went very well and their teachers didn't pick up on any need for my presence.



Mike and I were on pins and needles that day wondering how Miguelito was doing as he traveled to the east coast. We were grateful for the updates from both his caseworker and his adoptive mother. It was a long day for Miguelito and his case worker with almost no sleep and flight delays, but they got there safely. Miguelito's adoptive parents have graciously been so sweet to keep us updated with short stories and photos of how he is doing and we have treasured them all!! It's been so hard wondering what he is doing? What is he thinking? Does he think about us? Or miss us? Is he happy? Is he wondering where I am? It's been so hard to not be able to hug him, and kiss him, and reassure him. The stories and pictures from his family have helped immensely and it's been such a blessing to see his smiling face while he's with his brother and parents. We know he's well taken care of, loved, and right where God intended him to be. We couldn't ask for more.

Mike, the boys, and I are doing really well. We all miss Migueltio very much. The boys ask about him periodically and we reminiscence often. Mike and I have asked the boys if they would like to invite another child into our home or if they'd rather we stopped, and they've without hesitation expressed that they would like to have another child. We took a short breather from fostering during the month of March, and have just received another child. We would appreciate your prayers for God to continue to direct us as we began another chapter in foster care. Our goal is to be ready to obey and move forward in faith when He calls us to do so.

I wrestled with whether or not to write how raw and real our emotions were over these couple of days. One of my hopes as our family wades through this journey of foster care is to show others that this is doable. We do not possess any super powers, we are no more qualified than the next family, we simply seek to obey God's calling.  We didn't do it because we could on our own strength, we sought God's strength and He and only He came through. We also have an amazing network of family and friends, God used so many of them to encourage us through words, prayers, meals, babysitting, rides, etc. We are so so grateful for each and everyone of them.

**Bringing a child into your home for long term is not the only option if you are considering foster care or looking for a way to get involved!! There is a great need for respite families, families who are willing to take in foster children for a couple of days. This is typically used to help the families who are fostering long term placements, it is very helpful to those who are fostering and need a quick break. If you are thinking about getting involved in any way I'd be more than happy to answer any questions that I could!






















For the Weary Soul

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


"Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'' 
Matthew 11:28

Most of us know what it is like to feel weary. At one time or another we've felt the weight of weary. Some of us feel weary due to our jobs, maybe it's the work, maybe it's the people. Others feel weary because we are parents, the mundane, the constant stretching of our patience, being needed around the clock. Some of us feel weary due to relationships, people have hurt or betrayed us, some feel stuck in an unhealthy relationship. Others have had catastrophe after catastrophe, wondering when that string of terrible luck will stop. And some of us have felt weary due to a physical ailment, some are battling cancer, or have survived cancer, some are wrestling with chronic pain or illnesses. Whatever the reason, most of us have felt the burdensome weight of weary. 

Spent. Over-worked. Burned out. Consumed. Exasperated. Worn. Stuck. And maybe a little bit alone.

 Not alone because you have no one there for you (although some feel this is true), but perhaps alone because when someone asks, "How are you doing?" you want to be able to honestly answer them with a "Much better! Thank you!" It's a lonely place to be when you feel afraid to be honest about the fact that you are still feeling weary. No one wants to be a downer. I especially. When I feel weary I struggle with being honest about how I feel when the weariness has overstayed it's welcome, worried that I might bring someone else down. I don't want the weight of my weary on someone else's shoulders. 

I, not long ago, was feeling quite weary. Physically I was spent. Emotionally I was worn. Frustratingly enough, all because of chronic migraines. Not a severe diagnosis, but an exasperatingly painful one. It was every. single. day. Add in the church meeting Monday night, bible study Tuesday night, Awanas and youth group Wednesday night, Mission Team meeting Thursday, doctor's appointments, school, and multiply that by four boys, one husband, and a couple of caseworkers for your foster baby. I know I am not alone in this, I know we are not the only busy family out there. It is unfortunately all too common for us to over-work and over-book ourselves.  And I know I am not the only one with a nagging something else in the background of it all. Whether it be work, relationships, illnesses...etc.

Fortunately, I could not have conjured up a better husband for myself if I tried. Mike had been every bit of understanding, helpful, caring, and strong for my sake and the boys' sake during that time. He came home from work and immediately did the dishes then made dinner, when I could not. He knows me well enough to know that if I can, I do. He comforted me when I cried over the fact that he was come home to a hurting wife instead of a happy wife. He prayed over me, and reassured me that one day we'd look back on this, grateful it was all over with.

I decided it was time to seek some comfort through scripture. Scripture for the weary. The tired. The burdened. One of my favorite resources is the SHE READS TRUTH app on my phone. There are a multitude of reading plans, many different versions of the bible, and each reading plan has a short and powerful devotional along with it. While reading their reading plan for the Fruit of the Spirit I was reading the day's Scripture and devotional for patience, and ran across a passage in the devotional that struck me. I love it when I can read new perspectives on scripture that I felt I already knew. In this particular devotional Andrea Lucado gave me new perspective on patience:     

"The Greek word often used for patience in Scripture is makrothyemia, which means...well, it means words that make me feel uncomfortable, such as: 

Longsuffering

Slowness in avenging wrongs

Steadfastness

Forbearance

Patience is much deeper than something you practice when someone is hogging the bathroom. Patience-the longsuffering kind of patience-is something that arises when real trial strikes."

Wow. For me, this was exactly what I needed. This and the reminder that "this kind of patience is a fruit of the Spirit, not a fruit of my own efforts." (author unknown) I have to rely on God's strength, not my own if I'm going to seek out the Stefani that can remain patient through trials. Especially if I am to try to "delight" in them. 

"That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10  

Ever tried to delight in your insults? Hardships? Persecutions or difficulties? Not easy!! The good news is that we do not have to do this all on our own strength, in fact in Isaiah we are reassured that "that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength."

Typically, I tend to do the opposite. I cry, I feel a little sorry for myself, and try to fight through on my own strength. It's taken a while for me to learn to seek God first through out the trials of life. But if I want to be an example to my children, a light for others, and an obedient servant of God's, I am going to need to check my feeble, fragile strength at the door and welcome in with open arms the unfailing, steadfast strength of my Lord.

If we are to bear patiently the kind of longsuffering trials that require a divine strength from above, then we are going to need to remain constant in our Lord, to dwell in Him.

And what will we reap from remaining in Him? 

"Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the end of the earth. 

He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. 

They will soar on wings like eagles; 

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:28-31

I know what it's like to feel like you are lighting your last match, but I also know the comfort and warmth you receive when you abide in the Holy Spirit and find His strength there.



**For anyone wondering, or may also be suffering from Chronic Migraines or headaches. I turned to acupuncture (per a doctor's recommendation), and it's been life changing! The headaches are 95% better, and when they do occur they are much, much more mild. Praise God!! Prayers answered!!






















MomTastic! Photograph Organization

Thursday, February 15, 2018



Hey there! Today I am excited to share one of the many ways you can organize your photographs. I realize most people keep their photos digitally. We like to have pictures to hold and flip through. It reminds me of being at my Honey and Granddad's house. One of our favorite things to do at Honey and Granddad's house is flip through all the hundreds of photographs. Typically it starts with one person, then gradually more and more family members end up reaching for an envelope filled with photographic evidence of our memories together. Before you know it everyone is sitting together, laughing, talking, and sharing stories, creating a memory in and of itself. My heart feels full just thinking about it.

This is something I would love for my boys (and future grandchildren) to be able to experience, hence the reason I've decided to print nearly all of our digital photographs. Not all at once, but little by little. I keep all of our digital photos on Shutterfly. Everyone has their preferences, and I find Shutterfly to be easy to utilize. I like that they have an App for your phone, which makes for very easy uploading which also helps keep from overloading my cell phone storage with photos. 

I try to delete blurry or duplicate photos before uploading, and only editing photos that I know I will be using in my scrapbooks. When it's time to upload I keep to a very simple monthly folder system (Ex: January 2016, February 2016, etc.) unless I have a very large amount of photos dedicated to a vacation or trip. Then I add a folder specifically for that vacation or trip. 

Shutterfly has coupons and sales often, when they have a good sale on prints I stock up. Their last sale was "unlimited" FREE 4x6 prints. You could order up to 250 prints at a time, repeatedly. So....I ordered 1,000 photos! 😏

Then I ordered this photo organizer from Amazon, for only $20. Each organizer holds 16 little boxes that hold up to 100 photo per box. That is 1,600 photographs!! Update: The one I ordered is now much more expensive, so the one I linked is the same...except for the handle is white not purple, and (bonus!!) comes in a 2 pack. I use this organizer for 4x6 photos.


Once my photo organizer arrived I was quick to label it. #nerd Using one of my favorite Martha Stewart Avery sticker labels and my label maker I created the "Photographs" label for the top. Don't you just love a colorful clean label?! It's so pretty! 


Using my Shutterfly App to determine the date of each photograph, I organized all the photos by date and then wrote the date on the back of each photo. This is probably a step most people would skip, but my OCD wouldn't allow for that. Don't judge. UPDATE: Shutterfly will now print the date on the back of your photos!!! (Insert Happy Dance!) I plan to scrapbook each year using the ProjectLife scrapbooks so I really want to know when each photo was taken.


Once they were all dated, I separated them into groups that would fit into each photograph case, without wasting too much space. If I took very few photos one month, I combined those photos with the following or previous month. 


After the photos were in their case I used my trusty label maker to label each photo case with the coordinating dates. The nice part about using these labels is I can change them if necessary. So there you have it!!! One very simple way to keep all of your photos together and organized and safe!!


Do you keep photographs at home or are they all kept digitally? How do you keep your photos organized?

2018 Word of the Year

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


It has become increasingly popular for people to choose a "Word of the Year" in place of, or in addition to their New Year's Resolutions. I personally love New Year's Resolutions and like the idea of choosing a "Word of the Year" in addition to my resolutions. I am a little bit of a self help fanatic,  and often self evaluate and look for ways to improve. (This can also be a fault of mine, we can all be our harshest critics.)

I first would like to say that I have found great freedom in acknowledging my imperfections especially knowing that I have freedom through Christ to be so! I was intentionally made this way imperfections and all, and I have great joy knowing that my Lord loves me just the way that I am and I look forward to the changes He chooses to make in me. My prayer is that my God is Lord over my heart and molds it to His liking. So, I look forward to change and growth, knowing that God is in control.

There has been a particular word ringing in my ears since I read this article from a blogger whom I've come to love following. (If you haven't already stumbled across Meg Wallace's blog, it's wonderful! I am a fan!) Even so, I have been waiting, praying, and seeking to find the right word for 2018. So before choosing my word I decided to sit down, and write out my goals or "resolutions" for this coming year.

This is what I came up with:

1. I want to not just spend more time, but dwell in the Lord's presence this year through reading the Bible more consistently, passionate prayers, and purposeful intent.

2. I want to be so absorbed in the Lord's presence that it stays with me in all that I do, transforming me as a believer, wife, mother, family member, friend, and neighbor. (Colossians 3:17)

3. I want to be a brave believer. Stepping out in faithful obedience has proven to be difficult in a multitude of ways. (In 2017, we took a giant leap of faith and became foster parents, and just as the Bible warns us that following Christ will be difficult, we've had hard moments in unsuspecting ways.)

4. I want for all that I do this year to been done through a filter of faith. I want to everything that I do be influenced and guided by the Lord and His Will. 

After writing my goals on paper, I feel more and more certain there was a reason that word has been lingering in my mind since reading that blog post, and reading the following scriptures only solidified my decision. 


"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5 ESV




"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1 ESV



"And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming." 1 John 2:28  ESV



Abide.






I love the way Meg Wallace paints a word picture here: 

"Webster defines the word “abide” in this way:


  1. to bear patiently, to endure without yielding
  2. to wait for
  3. to accept without objection
  4. to remain stable or fixed in a state
  5. to continue in a place
I originally thought abide was a gentle reminder to stay close to the Lord and not get overly distracted with things like blogging, homeschooling, fitness, the kids, or just life in general. I imagined “abide” being similar to a word picture of a baby bird tucked safely right by its mama watching a huge storm all around. But wow, when I actually looked up in Webster’s Dictionary the definition itself makes it that much more clear just how fitting (and practical) it is."
I believe that if I not only seek the Lord's presence but stay there, dwell there, abide there, that all other facets of life will mesh in a harmonious way. Not meaning that all will be "good" or "easy" but meaning that while I abide in the Lord and seek His Will for my life, that slowly the goals I have as a wife, mom, etc., will come together in a way that furthers His Kingdom. And that is my ultimate goal.
As a parent and a foster parent, every bit of that definition of "abide" seems so relevant. "Continue in a place," "to remain stable," "accept without objection," "to wait for," and "to endure without yielding." I can only imagine that no matter where you are in life, you find them relevant as well. Parenting, foster parenting, and life in general lends to so many moments where I find myself lacking in the "abide" department. All too often I am impatient, not wanting to wait, I struggle to accept the hard without objection, and if a place starts to get messy, I leave it. 
So this is my goal. I want to abide in the Lord this year. I want to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.(Psalm 91:1) I want to bear patience when times are trying. I want to wait on the Lord and His perfect timing. I want to accept that the hard moments are for growth and perseverance. (James 1:2-4) I want to remain in His presence in a stable and consistent manner. I want to continue to seek Him always and first.(Matthew 6:33) I want to abide.

Thank you for reading!

















How I Lost the Ability to Have an Adult Conversation

Monday, September 11, 2017



My oldest son is nine years old. This means, I've spent the last nine years regressing in my ability to have an adult conversation. It was a slow regression, so I didn't notice it happening. I blame all the adults in my life that saw it happening and did nothing to stop it. So during a recent self evaluation I decided find out how it happened. Here's what I came up with:

1. I haven't seen the news in eight years. My husband can attest to this. During the first year of my oldest son's life I would watch the news while nursing or feeding him. I had it on in the background, so I had some small clue as to what was going on in the world. Then he turned one and all of the sudden, he had an opinion on what was on the television. So, for the last eight years I have learned the words to the Elmo theme song, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song, Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme song, and can name a multitude of super heroes and super villains. And know the backstory of said super villains and heroes. I have also learned to stay away from gigantic vats full of glowing radioactive goo, in the unlikely event that I should fall into it, turning me into a super stretchy villain like the reformed thief, Plastic Man. #betyoudidntknowthat Most of my current knowledge lends me very little to work with in the adult conversation arena. (Unless I find myself at one of those Comic-con Events, but don't ask me who the Vice President is.)

2. I have 4th grade homework. Now that some of my children are school age, I have homework. Somehow I thought by graduating high school I would have the right to no homework, but apparently when you decide to procreate you relinquish such rights. So now I am surrounded by 4th grade, 1st grade, and preschool vocabulary lists, spelling lists, and math problems. I'll be honest, a refresher on 4th grade math is probably not a bad idea.

3. Parenting Books. That's right! I partially blame parenting books. While learning how to be a better parent (and crap like that), I've learned to talk in a way that my children understand and can relate to. Ok, this is pretty good advice when you are in fact talking to your children. But my girlfriends didn't appreciate it when I asked, "Would you like to come over for coffee before you make your bed or after you make your bed?" Nor did my husband find it amusing when I asked him, "Would you like to put away your folded laundry before dinner or after dinner?" Again, great when talking to your children. I wouldn't recommend it when talking to your spouse or friends....or boss. "Would you like me to do some work before I nap at my desk or after I nap at my desk?"

4. I have boys. I'm married to one so I should have seen this coming, but boy vocabulary is very different from girl vocabulary. I now refrain from trying to have an adult conversation with a stranger for fear that I might blurt out, "I FARTED! Can you smell it? It's a stinky one!" I would like to add, this is a direct quote...and not my own. Also, I'd like to apologize in advance if I accidentally yell that I am faster or bigger than you. I'm sure I don't mean it.

5. I am a stay at home mom. Which means?? I am either at home, driving, at church, at school, or at the grocery store, but mostly at home. Fortunately, with Preschoolers you have "play dates,'' which  is actually code for a gathering of people with small children in order to have another adult to practice the art of adult conversation with.  We just tell other people its for our children's benefit, that they are learning to communicate, share, blah, blah, blah. Don't lie! We do it for us! We do it so that we don't forget how to spell the words like MISSIPPIPPI, I mean MISSISSIPPI or SUPPOSEDLY. And while you would think I could listen to the news in my car while spending endless hours driving my children from point A to point B, you'd be wrong. One, my children now have an opinion on the music as well (Don't get me started). Two, because I can't. Radio is for singing, not talking. Asking me to listen to talk radio is kiiiinda like asking me to voluntarily allow an uneducated person to pull my teeth. I'd rather listen to my boys' playlists than talk radio.

This also means I have been surrounded by developing talkers for a while now. You can only hear preschool referred to as "Spre-cool" only so many times with out beginning to say it yourself. I now refer to police cars as "wee-ooo cars", a small wound is an "ouchie," "owie," or "boo-boo." The restroom has become the "potty," and vitamins are "bitamins.'' The list goes on, I feel like I am literally involuntarily dumbing down my vocabulary a little bit each day. #dumbingisaword This also means that if I can touch it, see it, want it, or think it it's referred to as "mine.'' I don't make the rules.

6. I work with the youth group. In my free time...😆😆😆😆 I mean...On Wednesday evenings I work with the youth group at our church. I love working with the youth group, but let's be honest. This means I spend my Wednesday evenings talking to the backside of everyone's cell phones. Clearly what Peter said to Paul is not as enthralling as what Steven said to Stacey...three years ago.

So, while I might be in search of a protective headband that will prevent the brilliant yet evil Gorilla Grodd from gaining control over my mind. It's not all bad. I know how Curious George is. I know how to give my children chores with choices, I'm almost smarter than a 4th Grader, and my kids do know how to share, sort of.

So let's face it, if Mickey doesn't say it to Donald Duck, I probably won't hear about it for another eight years. I'll wait and brush up on my current events after my children graduate.

Thank you for reading!!
Stefani


If I Only Do One Thing Right...

Saturday, September 9, 2017



As a foster family, we have committed to showing up at the CYFD office twice a week so that our foster son can continue in his relationships with his biological family.  One day, on our way to the CYFD office, my eldest son was sitting in the front passenger seat while we were waiting in the left turning lane for the street light to turn green. Being that we were in the left turning lane meant we were nearest the center median. On the center median there was a man, a young man dressed in dirty tattered clothing holding up a cardboard sign that read:

 HUNGRY 
ANYTHING HELPS.

Now, God has somehow tied my heartstrings to the hungry, those in need, orphans, and the downtrodden, so instantly my heart broke. I quickly reached for my wallet, pulled out what little cash I had left, rolled down my window and handed the young man my money. "I will be praying for you," I tell him. "Thank you," was his response. I rolled up my window and fought back tears, for I had seen this same young, hungry man a couple of times before. 

I know that as a parent I mess up daily. I am constantly failing to meet my own standards as a parent and a mother. There are days I do great, and days I fail to meet reasonable expectations. Some evenings I lay my head on my pillow a little proud and others I meet my pillow with tears of disappointment in myself. But if I do only one thing right, God, please let it be that my sons see the connection between Love and You, through Mike and myself. Please Lord, let it be that You are in the forefront of their minds. Please Lord, let it be that they desire what You desire, that they love what You love, and that what breaks Your heart breaks their hearts. Let it be that they see this lived out firsthand through their parents.

I don't know what that young man's story is. I don't know how he fell into hard times. Maybe he made some bad decisions, or perhaps he just had bad luck after bad luck. I do know it is not my job to judge how he got there, it is simply my job to show God's Love through kindness, regardless of how he ended up there.

I would rather make the mistake of helping someone who perhaps didn't need it, than make the mistake of not helping someone who truly needed it.



John 13:34-35 says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." I think often of the story Jesus tells in Matthew chapter 25 of the sheep and goats:

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For 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, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“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.’

If I only do one thing right as a parent, I hope it's being a doer of the Word. James 1:22 says, "But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." There is definitely room for me to improve my knowledge of the Bible, and part of being a doer includes seeking that knowledge. I can't be a doer of the Word if I don't know the Word, right? 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." I want my children to know that I am a disciple of the Lord's because they have seen me model the love for others. I know I need to do a better job of being in the Word so that I am "equipped" to do so.

I don't just want to read the Word, I want it to transform me. I want my children to be able to make the connection between Mom reading God's Word, and Mom living God's Word. I want to keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) If I am reading and absorbing God's Word like I should and being a doer of the Word, I feel confident that other areas of my life will improve. If I am living out God's Word, I will be a better wife. If I am living out God's Word, I will be a better mother. If I am living out God's Word, I will be a better friend, neighbor, etc.

I know that I won't always do this right, I know that there will be plenty of times I fail to set the example that I hope to be. But my goal will always be that my children see me continually striving to align myself with God's good and perfect Will. I also know that my actions alone do not save me, but that my actions will be an outpouring of my heart. Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." God willing, my children will be able to see my heart through my actions and know that I've given it to God. 

Back to that day in the car, Bode, still sitting there in the front passenger seat quietly says, "Mom?" "Yeah, Bud." "It seems like every time we come here there are people who need help, and every time you help them. It's like God put your heart on them." "You are right Bud. God did put them on my heart."

Thank you for reading!!!
Stefani




Family Vacay: Organized Packing

Monday, July 10, 2017



Hello there!! I hope your summer is going smoothly!! We have been enjoying the longer days, sunshine, and warm evenings on the back porch. But I think I can honestly say our favorite part of summer is our family vacations!! We've been so blessed with lots of family which means lots of traveling! We've gone to Yellowstone; cruising to Belize, Honduras, and Mexico; and to the east coast all with family. After going on a few vacations I have found that I have learned a few ways to help us stay a little more organized on our trips.

Matching Outfits for Crowded Places
When it comes time to pack, I am a pretty particular person. I like to be methodical and organized. One of my biggest pet peeves is living out of a messy and disorganized suitcase. So I typically spend quite a bit of time when packing for the whole family. One thing I did when we went on a cruise was buy matching swim suits for all three boys. This was so that we could easily spot our children when on the boat or beach. It worked!! It worked so well that for this years trip I packed all matching (or closely matching) outfits for each day.

We had some kind of a general idea of what we'd be doing each day on our trip. We also knew that we'd be visiting a lot of busy crowded places, so again, the matching outfits were extremely helpful! I know this sounds expensive, but with some careful planning it really wasn't. I used what we already had for the boys, and only bought what I needed to plan the outfits. I was very lucky that Old Navy was having a 40% off sale with free shipping! YAY!





Packing in Laundry Mesh Bags
Once I had picked out their outfits, I packed by the outfit for each boy. I purchased a bunch a very cheap laundry mesh bags from the dollar store. They turned out to be the perfect size for packing an entire day's outfit. For each boy I packed their shirt, shorts, socks, and undies per day per laundry bag. Then I packed each boy one laundry mesh bag with a "nice" outfit, just in case. Finally, I packed "extras" for each boy. I put a few extra socks, undies, a couple of long sleeved shirts, one pair of pants in a mesh bag. Boys can get so dirty I was careful to pack extras but I tried to not over do it. Mike likes to pack for himself, and he also likes to use the mesh bags to pack his clothes.




Personal Water-packs for the Kids
It's common for summer vacation destinations to be filled with amusement parks, a lot of outdoor activities, beach days, etc. One of our favorite travels tricks is a personal water pack for each boy. We found these on amazon for only $25 at the time we purchased them. They are great!!! These enable the boys to stay well hydrated while hiking, playing, and adventuring. They also have a few small pockets, perfect for storing a pair of sunglasses and a few snack packs per boy. BONUS: Mom and Dad don't have to carry EVERYTHING, and they LOVE have their very own packs to carry. There is even a little extra room for special treasures like the rocks or sea shells they pick up. 

For this particular trip, we were traveling far and gone for 9 days so I packed three suitcases that were to be checked in at the airport. One for the older two boys to share, one for my youngest and his Daddy, and one smaller one for me. 

 


 Sticker Books instead of Crayons
 In the picture below, the boys are sporting their "airport day outfits." They also each had one backpack for the day of flights. Each backpack had one sticker book, and enough snacks for the flights. The older two had their tablets, and Benjamin had a story book. We kept the contents simple and light. I felt like if they had too many choices they wouldn't know what to pick. The sticker books were GREAT! They were full color pages of fun things like pirates, pets, or dinosaurs with blank faces awaiting sticker eyes, noses, mouths, etc.  I linked a similar book here. I liked them because while they kept the boys well entertained, they were not at all messy nor were there a million parts or pieces like some travel toys have. I didn't have to worry about Benjamin drawing on a stranger or chasing after a roll away crayon on the crowded airplanes.



 Suitcase Organizing Pouches
One of my all time favorite items I use to help stay organized while packing are these travel pouches. I LOVE these travel pouches. They helped organize my suitcase and it stayed that way the entire trip! I used the largest cube pouch for my shorts and two pairs of pants. I used the medium size cube for all of my shirts. The smallest cube held my panties, bras, and fashion tape. I used the largest laundry pouch for my pajama set, the medium sized pouch held my swim suit, and the smallest pouch I kept empty just in case it was needed. I used the shoe pockets for my shoes, and rolled up two dresses to set on top of the travel pouches. I used another small pouch for jewelry and one for hygiene products. I like to keep my makeup pouch with me, so I kept that in my purse for the majority of the trip. If interested, I can show you the contents of my purse and how I keep it organized for travel and for day to day use. Although, I typically carry a diaper with me these days.



 So there you have it! Some of my favorite tips for traveling organized with a family. I hope this has been helpful in some way. Enjoy the rest of your summer vacation!


Thank you for reading!
Stefani



The Adventures of the Fichtel Five © // QUINN CREATIVEs