Saturday, February 28, 2015

Six Year Anniversary!

Happy anniversary to my best friend! Today is our 6th wedding anniversary, and I just have to say that I am so thankful to be in the lifelong journey with Will. Every year I am more and more thankful to be married to him. He is a man of integrity who loves the Lord, has passion for discipling others, and wants to see people's lives changed for the gospel. He weeps at moving art, giggles at Buzzfeed articles, and reads more books in a year than I could count. He's smart, good-looking, talented and silly. I'm just the luckiest person and so thankful that our paths crossed seven years ago and that he chose ME to be his wife!

This past year was one of compromises and dreams. We both made huge steps in our academic goals- me finishing my MSW, him finishing his PhD courses and passing his comprehensive exams. We saw the Lord do amazing things in our ministry, and we made some fun memories. We went to an Auburn game, a Pentatonix concert, a Carnival cruise! This past year had some definite low points: burying three grandparents, getting the CP diagnosis for Israel, facing unknowns, and dealing with stress over schedules and day-to-day life. We've fought, we've repented, we've clung to the gospel. This last year chipped away at our sinful shells as we are being renewed each day to be made into Christ's likeness.

I love you Will McGee! I'm so thankful for 6 amazing years, here's to many more!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Enjoying Work

As I mentioned before, the last few months I have wrestled with my calling in this particular season. I'm happy to report that the Lord has been so faithful in reminding me of His purpose and His faithfulness to me in this place.

Of course, the day-to-day is not always glamorous, but I'm really loving being a stay at home mom and seeing my kids grow up and learn new things. Of course, I could not do this at all without my "village"!!!

We have a pretty nice routine:

Mondays and Wednesdays Israel goes to daycare at the cerebral palsy center. I can't say enough wonderful things about our UCP branch. I love these people, they love Israel, and he has flourished under their care over the past few years. He loves school and on school mornings he pats the back door asking when he can "go?!" He giggles when we pull in the parking lot and beams as we walk into the school. The precious lunch workers give him kisses as he walks down the hall and he works hard with his awesome teachers all day. Meanwhile, Edith and I have good time together. We run errands and just play at home. It's during this time I really get to invest in her and see her little imagination at its best. I usually have to wake Edie up from her nap to go pick Israel up, and then we have the afternoon to take walks, watch for daddy out the window and play outside if the weather's nice.

Monday nights Will goes to Engage /college ministry (on the rare day we have a babysitter I get to go too!) so he tries to come home early and spend an hour or so with the kids before he heads back to the church until late at night.

Tuesdays Israel goes to Kitty Stone Elementary for 3 hours where he is in a pre-k class and receives therapy. I also have a college bible study on Tuesday nights and that is one of my favorite parts of the week. My dear friend Brittany and I co-lead this group, and we have some amazing students that we are getting to know and love.

Thursdays Israel gets an hour of therapy at Kitty Stone, so I usually drop him off and run a quick errand or two with Edith during that time. Often we will stop by and see Will at work because he leaves the house at 5:30 on Thursday mornings to lead "Pastor School" - a class he is teaching to 20-something young men who want to go into ministry! After we pick up Israel we usually hang out at home, watch Elmo and wait for storytime at the library. We go almost every week. I have much more to say on this but I love our little library and I'm so thankful for their patience with my little crew.

Friday mornings Israel gets another hour of therapy in the morning (I sit in this one with him) and we sometimes get a family day if Will has the day off.

We've got a routine and I like it. Sometimes I am bursting to get out of the house, but the day-to-day is really fun. Israel is really picking up on things and wanting to stand and say new things all the time. Edith is so imaginative and silly.

In other news, I have the opportunity to do several more homestudies with the agency I am contracted with. I was able to begin the interviews for one family this week and I just have to say it is such an honor to sit with prospective foster families and hear their stories and be a part of their journey into fostering and adopting. I've been in their shoes as a prospective adoptive parents and it can be scary to not really know what is ahead. I love being able to use my gifts, education and experience and be a part of adoption and foster care in this way. The hours I get to do this work really energizes me and makes me feel so blessed.

So that's our little world right now. Lots of chauffeuring and playing and the occasional interviews and writing. I'm thankful for it and taking it for what it is... a good gift.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Adoption Story on Mom.Me

My friend Kristel writes for Mom.Me and she asked me to write a little about our story. You can check it out here. It's mainly talking about adoption a special needs child and our journey to finding a diagnosis. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Edith: 18 Months Old

Dear Edie,

You are 18 months old! You are a ball of spunk and fun. You love to tinker and play, you want to open every cabinet and touch everything. You are fearless and an adventurer! You will go down slides by yourself and climb up playground equipment meant for big kids. You climb on tables and get stuck in weird places. The other day I caught you unscrewing your crib. You keep us on our toes and make us nervous and excited about your future. If you are this spunky at 18 months, what is your future going to be like?!

Your vocabulary is taking off! I have no idea all the things you know. You and Israel say the same things - but my favorite new words you have are "wee!" when you go down a slide, and "bubbles!" when you see them. You are so stinking cute! Your favorite toy is Dog Dog, your gray stuffed animal. You now have two identical Dog Dogs since your cousin gave you hers! You loved stuffed animals.

Your play is really creative. You have turned your play high chair over and you use it as a slide. You are good at puzzles and you love to feed your stuffed animals saying "nom nom nom" as you feed them. You copy me when I make airplane noises when I try to feed you.

Speaking of feeding... you are a picky eater. You would eat fruit all day long, especially bananas and blueberries. You are pretty decent with a fork. We've been kind of weaning with the paci, and you only get it in the crib or in the car sometimes. You know to toss it behind when you are done with nap. You don't want to be rocked or coddled for naptime, we just put you in your crib and you fall right asleep, holding your Dog Dog and various other stuffed animals.

You love dress up and wearing bunny ears and beads. You blow kisses and prance around like you own the place. Edith, you are very much a diva princess still. You love Daniel Tiger to a very crazy degree. When we stop by your dad's church office you will run up and down the hallways, open every cabinet and wave at everyone. You are still a handful at Sunday School, because you prefer to roam free.

We're so proud of you, Edie Pete. We love you so much and we are just smitten with you. You bring us so much joy and laughter. You have so many cute facial expressions and you do the cutest things. We love you baby girl!


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Saving Money

Will and I started Dave Ramsay's "Financial Peace University" a few weeks ago. It has been a really fun course so far, and we have been challenged to name every dollar and make sure we are setting ourselves up financially for goals that we have. We'd love to buy a house one day and adopt again if possible, but we need to be in the right financial position first. 

Will and I are not financial wizards by any means, but I feel like we are pretty frugal in general. We don't eat out often, we don't go shopping ever, and we don't waste money on cable or extravagant things. Here are a few things that work for us: 

1. Utilize FREE resources. We love the library for movie rentals and books! We go to the park with the kids and try to limit the amount of things we bring INTO our house. We go on a date every 2-3 months, when we have free babysitting! We do have the upside that our kids go to bed around 7pm every night, and so we do have plenty of quality time at home together. We try to make date nights in special and will make sure to set the phones/technology down during "date night" time if we have a special movie or game we are playing.

2. Invite People Over. Community is really important to us, and we love eating with friends and students. It is cheaper to eat in than eat out, so we will have people over - splitting responsibilities over the cost of food (pot luck style). Also, it's always FREE to have playdates in your own home! 

3. Declutter and Purge. Last year I read "Clutterfree with Kids" and it was really insightful into living with less while having kids. I love following "minimalism" blogs like Becoming Minimalist and The Art of Simple. I think it is important to have a good mindset in relation to stuff and a reason WHY you are going to live with less and save money, or else you won't stick with your guns. I'm always trying to get rid of things in a donate pile or by selling online. 

4. Consignment. I love consignment for several reasons. First, I love to SELL on consignment - either my clothes on Twice or my kids clothes at a local consignment sale or online yard sale sites. I've decided to keep the bare essentials for my kids, but not EVERYTHING because we may not even have any more tiny babies, and they may not be in the same size/season anyways. 
 >>>> More on Twice. Have you heard of it? I have seriously bought an entire winter wardrobe for FREE! Here's how. First, sign up using this link and you (and I) will receive $10 for signing up! Then, download the "Twice" app on up to 3 apple devices (can be your spouse's!) and log in, and you will receive $10 credit per app. If you share YOUR unique referral code with friends, you can get $10 per referral. Also, if you sell clothes, you can get money back in store credit or cash. You'll also get a $10 bonus the first time you sell. The first time you buy clothes on twice you can use a 50% off code for your first purchase (just google for it because it changes). So you can put $80 worth of clothes in your cart and get them all for FREE if you use the link, and download up to 3 apps. It's a lot of fun and there's always new stuff on the site. 
>>>> I recently tried to sell stuff on, and although I like purchasing kids clothes off of the site, I didn't really have a good experience selling items. It was more work than it was worth in my opinion. 
>>>>>I haven't used ThredUp yet, but I've heard good things. 

5. Menu Plan. Use grocery items that can stretch among recipes and buy items when they are on sale and in season. There are so many blogs out there with menu plans and free resources on eating well and inexpensively. 

What other saving money ideas do you have? I think the best thing is to make a plan, set goals, and stick to it!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Park Day

Yesterday I met some friends at the park (even though it was deceivingly chilly out!) with the kids to play. It's really hard to go places with both kids alone so I'm thankful my friend was there (and one of our college students ended up coming by, and Will even came by at the end!).

One of my favorite things was watching them on the slide. Edie is SO independent these days. She can slide down on her own, scoot off the slide and walk around to do it all over again! She is so smart!! Israel has also gotten much better on the slide. Slides used to really scare him but now he can scoot his way down it and it makes him happy!

 Sometimes it is just nice to GET OUT of the house, you know? This park has been pretty special to me, because we have been coming here for several years. I have loved watching Israel's legs get longer and longer as they poke out of the same swing. He has been growing in independence and personality.

Edie wanted to go and explore everything. She didn't want to follow us around the park but wanted to do her own thing. She wouldn't come when I called but would go and explore the opposite direction!! She is her own little person and she wants to see it all.

I'm thankful for good days. For days where it seems like "we can do this!" and the kids are happy and growing. I often feel inadequate but this particular day I felt joy in seeing my growing kids. It is an honor to watch them flourish and explore. I love seeing their unique personalities and how they are making milestones and developmental progress. What a gift it is to be their mom. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Purpose And Calling

What is my purpose? What is my calling? These questions have been really pressing on my heart for the last few years. I loved my undergraduate season, and remember thinking that I really wanted to work. I wanted to bless and serve others using my social work degree. I thrived in the work environment with to-do lists and deadlines. I loved feeling useful and utilizing my skills and knowledge. When we started the adoption process, it felt like the best care for our adopted child-to-be would be me staying home. We moved to Alabama in August 2011 and I decided to stop working because we could get a referral anytime. It was May 2012 when we finally brought Israel home, and that long season of waiting was really hard. I struggled to feel useful. I hated waiting but didn't want to take a job and then quit it a few months later. 

After being a stay at home mom for a few months, I knew I wanted to get my master's. I saw that I needed something else to occupy my brain or else I might burst. I longed for some sense of structure and purpose. Israel's arrival really limited my involvement in our college ministry, so I really felt like my overall contributions to the world were really limited to just being a mom and wife. I was accepted into grad school right about the time we found out I was pregnant with Edie. 

We decided that I should go ahead and go for it. I completed my masters in August 2014, surviving a long year of juggling grad school with a pregnancy, birth, nursing, and having a special needs child. It was a really long year that showcased my limitations and need for grace. But I really loved school! I loved working again and having deadlines and papers. I loved using my brain and writing about subjects that I was passionate about. 

Returning briefly to the working world for an internship, I was reminded of my enjoyment of structure and life as an employee. I loved serving others and being a part of a job. I enjoyed planning projects and documenting my work. 

When grad school was over, it was relieving but also left me with a gap in my time. For over a year, I had a purpose. What was it now? 

So this is where I have been for the past few months. I've really struggled with my identity and knowing how to use my time. I have wanted to work, but Israel's schedule requires that I am flexible to take him to appointments and therapies. I love having a season where I am primarily at home with my little kids. They are only little once! I have been working contractually for an agency writing home studies, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I wish I had more opportunities to sit with families and talk about fostering and adopting, but there aren't any open doors right now. 

The last year or so, and specifically the last few days, I have been reminded that my purpose and calling are more general than I typically expect. God has called me to be faithful. He has given me the task to love others and to love Him. If I am loving God and loving others, then the specifics of that don't really matter too much. One of my friends wrote this post and I really loved it. (Sarah is a wonderful writer, and she often writes posts that just speak so well to my heart!!) It reminded me that my calling is to Christ first, then all others second. 

I also just started listening to Edie Wadsworth's podcast and her first episode on a Life of Calling was so, so good! From her blog: "The premise of this episode is that you will find joy, peace and incredible fulfillment when you learn to live at the intersection of your passions and your neighbors needs.  The paradox is that when we stop worrying so much about our specific calling and serve the neighbors in front of us today,  we’ll actually begin to discover what it is we’re made to do.  The greatest joys in life come from giving ourselves away. "  

She also said in her podcasts that some callings are for a season. We have time to figure it outand there may be seasons where we are primarily at home, or primarily in a specific job or role. That was encouraging to me because I sometimes feel like I am waiting for my purposeful season to happen! I'm in a purposeful season always, because God has specifically appointment me to be in the location I am in, with the neighbors I have, to use my gifts and abilities to serve others. That may be changing diapers for my toddler neighbors in my house, or it may be using my social work skills to equip others, or my adoptive mom skills to encourage other moms. I have a purpose! I have been strategically placed! It doesn't matter about the specific details of that as I look at how to plan my calendar year... God has divine appointments already in place, regardless of my employment status. 

So maybe you're in a similar place? Let's encourage each other to remain faithful to our callings and seasons. We each have a unique gifting and strategic location. The details and big picture aren't always known, but our mission remains the same: faithfulness and love. 

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