I Had an Adoption

Years ago I wrote a blog post addressing what I felt the role of the “church” should be in the pro-life/abortion space. The overall sentiment was if we’re wanting to be the hands and feet of Jesus we should show up for those who are in such turmoil and distress that they would choose an abortion during a crisis pregnancy. We shouldn’t be picketing outside of Planned Parenthood and condemning women who are having to go through tremendous pain, but rather we should be offering them comfort and prayers on their way into and out of the clinic. (Of course, this was under the pretense that the women in this circumstance were non-christians who don’t have knowledge of or a relationship with Jesus.) 

In writing that blog post, I offended some people and then I let the enemy haunt me with that for way longer than I should have. It kept me from speaking up and saying anything because I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. But, to love my neighbor well, it may take offending someone with the Truth. The motive of sharing and bringing to light the truth of the Gospel is LOVE. And without love, we’re just clanging cymbals. (1 Cor. 13:1)

I am exhausted by Christians sitting quietly by and not saying anything about any of the controversial topics being shoved down our throats. Why aren’t we speaking up? Is it because we’re trying to be meek and quiet? (Lest we all forget that time Jesus flipped tables… but I digress.) We don’t want to offend someone? We’ve had abortions/same sex attractions/pornography addictions/racism/etc. in the church and so we let satan shame us into keeping our voices silent? We don’t want to lose friends? We would rather not step on the toes of the lost in an effort to make the gospel more “palatable”? This is just my first draft brainstorm list of what the heck we’re doing as a church.  Certainly there’s loads more of why we’re doing what we’re [not] doing.

In a world that’s screaming that anything goes and everyone gets to take up space and whatever your truth is is right and acceptable, why don’t we Christians get to share our stories? Our ideas and our thoughts? The ACTUAL truth from Scripture in an effort to win lost souls to the kingdom before it’s too late? I don’t get it. So, in the spirit of sharing “our truth” and “taking up space,” here goes:

I believe life begins at conception. I believe God formed our inmost parts and wrote our days in His book before the world was even created. I believe all humans are made in the image of God and consequently are image bearers of God. I believe it is an affront to God as creator for a person to decide that God’s creation is not worthy of remaining alive. So, to summarize, I believe the Bible and I’m “pro birth.” (AND pro life, which I’ll get into shortly.) But I also believe the Bible says that we need to help the sojourner and the oppressed and the poor and the widow and the orphan. (see: all of the Old Testament law) Also, hungry people, thirsty people, strange people, sick people, naked people, people in jail. (Matt. 25:35-36) The church as a whole, sucks at this. There, I said it. We want to scream and shout how horrible a woman is for having an abortion, but we don’t want to help her if she chooses life. There is SO MUCH WORK to be done in this space. Obviously, I’m not going to solve those issues with one post in my little, tiny blog corner of the world wide interwebs. But I do have a story to tell. And so do you. Why don’t we start with just telling our stories?

Because I believe all the aforementioned things, my family and I realized we couldn’t be pro life and do nothing. So in 2018, we got licensed to become respite foster parents. (Foster parents who provide short term relief for foster families who need a break for various reasons.) Up to this point in 2018, I had only served the pro-life mission in a “minor” contribution by volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center when I was first married and had no kids yet. Fostering was a much bigger, harder commitment to serve in the pro life space. Through fostering, my husband and I ended up adopting our daughter in late 2019 and then adopting her twin baby brothers in late 2021. (Lots of opinions on that as well and not something I plan to tackle at this time and in this space.) Our experience with the “system” was eye opening for sure. Proximity tends to do that to us. It sheds light on places we maybe didn’t even pay attention to before. The system is all SO broken. The world is so dark and hard. But if each believer just does something, we can shed light on the dark world. I mean, OUR light. THE light. We’re supposed to be a light like a city on a hill. (Matt. 5:14) So why aren’t we shining? Do we need a new light bulb?? What’s the deal?! 

Am I saying that every single Christian needs to foster and adopt? No. (Although I do believe that all Christians should be doing SOMETHING to help orphans and widows per the command in the Bible, but that could look like dropping off diapers or a meal to a foster family or a million other things that don’t necessarily mean foster or adoption. And it’s worth noting here, that there is LOTS of work to do to help support women in crisis pregnancy and to also provide birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but that’s a debate for another day.) This is just MY pro-life story. I found a way to serve and go beyond yelling and screaming outside of a Planned Parenthood about pro-birth issues. Is this the only way? NO. God can use all of us in a million different ways and in a million different spaces to shine our light and to help save innocent lives in this politically charged space.

Now, what about Christians and people in the church who are pro-choice? This is where things start to get blurry. I am genuinely confused by how a professing Christian who has read the [entire] Bible could choose to promote and advocate for abortion. I’m not meaning that as judge-y and “holier than thou” as it sounds. I’m legitimately confused by this. We see in Psalm 139 that “my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” If we believe that and we believe God is the creator and sustainer of life and that humans are image bearers of Christ, how are some of us proponents of ending the life of unborn image bearers? This is so confusing to me. Are these believers saying that women should have a choice about what happens to the mother’s body but not speaking up for the baby’s body also? Like, I just don’t get it. Is the mother’s life more valuable because she’s alive outside of a womb? And if it’s about “no uterus, no opinion” does this female baby (with a uterus) who is being aborted have a say in the matter or no? Shouldn’t we try and state her opinion on her behalf since she’s voiceless? And is it possible that we’ve made our stance and wanting to be “right,” into idolatry and placed it above worshiping God? There’s an old adage that I teach my kids that says, “Tell me what occupies your mind and I will tell you who your god is.” It goes along with the same idea that how you respond when something is taken away from will show you what place that thing/idea had in your life. I hope that we’re not putting ANYTHING above God in our lives. 

I learned from a pastor once that we should expect unbelievers to behave like pagans. If someone doesn’t follow Christ, then of course they’re going to follow their own desires and not lay down their life daily and pick up their cross or honor God with their thoughts/words/actions. And I think we can all agree that the world is lost and broken and that satan [currently] rules over this earth. And Jesus said that the devil was a murderer from the beginning and that there is no truth in him. (John 8:44) Jesus also said, “but because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me…. He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” John 8: 45. We can’t expect women who don’t know God to make choices that reflect God’s character and commands. So the best advice I can offer to those of us who believe in the sanctity of life (in ALL stages and circumstances), is to trust God and believe He is who He says He is, let our light shine in darkness, change our proximity to difficult situations and get involved in practical ways, and freaking share the Gospel in order to save lost souls from an eternity separated from God. 

So, in conclusion, I’ll go first and share the Gospel here: God LOVES you! No matter what sins you’ve committed He loves you and has made a way for you to be forgiven. God is holy and although He loves you, He is off limits to you unless you are holy and sinless. So He sent His Son, Jesus, to make a way for you to become holy and sinless. Jesus lived a perfect life, died on a cross and took OUR punishment for all of our past, present and future sins. Romans 10:9 tells us “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Upon that confession and repentance, you will receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit and that’s when things really get lit 😉 The Spirit guides and directs you in the words you use, the choices you make, the causes you support. It is for freedom that Christ has SET US FREE! (Gal. 5:1)

Just Over the Hilltop

We recently had a beautiful room renovation happen to our main bedroom. It was long overdue, to be honest. We’ve lived in our home for nine years and up until now, we had never done a single thing to our bedroom – no paint, no curtains, not much cleaning, I confess, and it was becoming the “catch all” room for any of the kids’ junk that didn’t have a home or paperwork that needed to be filed or toys that went to time out; our room was where everything came to die and collect dust and receive curses from me as I went to bed (and woke up) in a space that was for sure not life giving, but rather quite the opposite.

The circumstances of how the renovation took place were quite exciting and will be airing this summer on HGTV, actually! (I’ll write more about that experience later.) Going on this fun, albeit challenging, adventure was the only way for us to bite the bullet and get our house [read: bedroom] in order. So we went for it! We moved out for nearly three weeks with friends, handed the keys over to trusted professionals and then, when the time was right, we had the “Big Reveal” and we got to come HOME and see the beautiful space that had been prepared for us. And beautiful it was! – however, the reveal left me even more homesick.

I couldn’t help but see all these weeks of hard work and this massive team of professionals who worked so diligently on our home and think only of my home in heaven. It made me remember how right now, literally this minute, Jesus is preparing a place for us! We’re in the “move out” phase of the reno of life, if you will. We’ve been displaced earth side at this time, but our home (if you know Jesus as your Savior) is in HEAVEN. And as much fun as you can make it being “displaced” – staying with friends, eating out, making the best of the displacement – you should know and feel deep down in your soul that this world is NOT your home. We should be eagerly anticipating the Big Reveal! I, for one, cannot wait for THAT reveal day! I anticipate it and am so eager for it! I’m so homesick for heaven and to see Jesus and what it is He’s been working on for us this whole time!

The day of our bedroom reveal, when I experienced such great joy and happiness at the beauty and splendor of the transformation and pure amazement at how gifted the designer and her team were, I also had the pleasure of observing the pride and joy of their hard work. It was smiles all around that day! And I picture how proud and joyful Jesus will be to get to reveal to us our eternal home that He has prepared for us.

Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14 : 2-3

There’s an old southern gospel song whose lyrics say, “I’ve got a mansion, just over the hilltop. In that bright land where, we’ll never grow old. And some day yonder, we will never more wander, but walk on streets that are purest gold.” (https://youtu.be/YfZ3qyYnzJ0) I love southern gospel music. I grew up on it, in fact. And the thing I love about what most southern gospel music has to offer is that it’s usually directing your eyes to heaven, to the future coming of Jesus and to the hope that can be found in trusting that He will be back to rescue His church. (Acts 1:11) When I listen to songs like “Mansion Over the Hilltop”, “What a Beautiful Day (for the Lord to Come Again)”, “Going Up Yonder”, “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before”…these songs all remind me that this world is not my home, I have a Savior eagerly awaiting “Reveal Day” that loves me and wants to show me the beauty and splendor of what He has created and that the home there, in heaven, will last for eternity. It will not faint or grow old and weary. It won’t collect dust or need a coat of touch up paint over time.

As beautiful and functional as my bedroom is now, and as much as I love it, it’s still just “stuff.” My treasure is not found in a room, or in a TV show, or in any thing that will be burned up and thrown into the fire. (2 Peter 3:10) I’m trying with all that I have to only store up for myself treasures that are in heaven, where moth and rust don’t destroy. (Matthew 6:19-21) Are you living that way, friend? Are your eyes on eternity? Or on the temporal? We’re running out of time FAST. Now is the time to set your eyes on Jesus. Maybe it’s just resetting your priorities. Maybe it’s a total revamp of where your treasure is. Or maybe you don’t know Jesus at all and I seem like some crazy lady (#hereforit ;)). Whether your final destination is in heaven in a mansion that Jesus is preparing for you, or if the opposite is true and eternal separation from God is where you’re headed, this world is temporal and not your home. This world is a tiny vapor, a mist in all of eternity, and a time for you to hear the Good News of a Savior who loved you, died for you in order to rescue you and is a killer designer and is literally creating a place for you in heaven if you would accept Him and His free gift of salvation.

Ins and Outs of Raising a Herd

Our family has six kids. S*I*X kids. That’s a lot of bodies and a lot of logistics of coordinating a lot of life. I thought a blog post would be a great way to share some of our practical, daily tips and tricks – it may help you, or it may just satisfy a nosy itch you have wondering how on earth families the size of mine are able to keep life rolling smoothly [or at all]. So, let’s begin…..

FOOD

Feeding eight humans every single day, three times a day is a full time job it feels like! Now, to be fair, Hayden doesn’t eat food by mouth, so we’ll exclude him from this particular topic. [He uses a G tube and is on a continuous 24/7 drip of formula from a feeding pump. But, don’t feel sorry for him – he hates food and thinks it’s gross to eat, so he’s fine, yall!]

I start each week with a full meal plan. I sit down usually on Saturday or super early on Sunday morning before church and plan out the week’s meals. This includes dinners, lunches, breakfasts and snacks. It’s summer right now, so we’re all home all day long and we eat every single meal together. (During the school year, my kids bring their lunch to school except for one day per week when they’re allowed to purchase a school lunch.) Our family has some set traditions when it comes to food which include Taco Tuesday (religiously!) and Pizza Friday. Knowing these two meals are set each week, really helps get the ball rolling when it comes time to meal plan dinners for the week. Already having two days filled in is encouraging. We also like to save Thursday nights for “Leftover Night” usually, although, we’re finding less and less leftovers available from each night’s meal (#growingBOYS!) so we are in the process of learning to make more servings at the other weeknight dinners, or just adding in another quick, easy meal on Thursday nights. Historically, my Bible study group (D Group) meets on Thursday nights so it’s nice to know it’s just leftovers for everyone and I don’t have to stress while I’m getting out the door to Bible study.

For breakfasts, I try and plan at least one breakfast casserole for the week and then have other meal prepped high protein options ready for a quick grab during the busy weekday mornings. I like chicken sausage links and turkey bacon as good meat options and have a few hard boiled eggs meal prepped and ready for breakfast or snacks. During the summer, I try to stay as healthy as possible for lunch time meals. Luckily, my kids like salmon and other types of fish, so I try to cook some early in the week that we eat on for a few days throughout the week. In an effort to be overall a bit healthier, I try to get ingredients to make snack options from a “30 Healthy Snack Idea” list we got from a nutritionist at one of the clinics we go to. I keep the snack list posted on the refrigerator so that the ideas are always visible to the kids so when snack time hits (at 10am and 2pm) they have options and don’t have to rely on me to get creative for them.

Once I’ve established that week’s menu, I start an Instacart order on the app on my phone or via computer (depending on how crazy the environment is that I’m in at the time). I add all the ingredients I need for our nightly meals, lunches, breakfasts, snacks and random stuff we may need and put it into multiple Instacart orders if need be. I shop mainly from Aldi because you can’t beat the savings!!! Seriously! (I used to shop there in real life, but then I had four kids and I was no longer in a place to PHYSICALLY ENTER a store ha!) I also do an order from Costco usually bi-weekly for things like peanut butter, Skinny Pop, Topo Chicos, paper plates, etc. I’ll also have a monthly or so order from Sprouts for various supplements and probiotics that we take. Then, I set my order/s to be delivered that weekend – either that Saturday or on Sunday after church. [If you don’t know what Instacart is or haven’t ever tried it, you are for sure missing out!! A shopper will shop for you at a wide variety of stores in your area and with a minimum $35 order at a store, they will shop and bring your stuff to you typically within two hours or less. There is a fee for this [incredibly worth it] service and I opt to pay $100 for the year – much like Amazon Prime. To give it a try, use this link and get $10 off: https://inst.cr/t/MDJSN0wwQkli]

We cook all of our meals 95% of the time and if we do purchase food from a restaurant, it’s just take out and we eat at home. We don’t tend to take the herd to a restaurant as that’s not conducive to eating in this current stage of life we’re in with two one year olds and a teenager in a wheel chair who doesn’t even eat food. Which, honestly, I don’t mind eating at home because it’s healthier and cheaper than anything a restaurant could offer us.

Our weekly menu board, shopping list, and our Summer Bucket List 2021 – in our Family “Hub”/Laundry Room/Pantry.

I mentioned earlier that once I’ve created my weekly meal plan, I write it on a white board in our pantry/laundry room/”home base” station. I write it for my own knowledge, but I also do it so the kids can see what we’re eating on what days and they are aware of what to expect. It also cuts out unnecessary questions and nagging about “What’s for dinner?” and “I don’t like ________.” You don’t have to like everything; but you do know what the options will be for the evening meal. I would say overall, the kids really don’t complain and I try to make meals everyone enjoys, although every night might not be their Most Favorite Meal of All Time – and that’s ok. One thing we have done as well, was to create meals together and I let the kids name the creation. For example, one time I had some chicken breasts I cut in to strips and just baked with some salt and pepper and some Rancher seasoning from Wildtree. It tasted pretty good but wasn’t necessarily in the “Most Favorite Meal of All Time Hall of Fame” or anything. But that night, I asked the kids what we should call our creation and collectively they came up with, “Naked Chicken Deluxe, Yo!” And it stuck! It was a fun name and moved the lame baked chicken up a few notches on the recipe rotation totem pole. By including them in the process, they had a little skin in the game and now they love to help meal plan and request “Naked Chicken Deluxe, Yo!”

ORGANIZATION

Keeping everyone’s schedules organized can sometimes feel like my second full time job! Each week’s success, for us, hinges on something we’ve done for years – a family meeting! We typically do these on Sunday afternoons and all the kids gather around with us and we look at every family member’s commitments for the week. Big commitments for us each week are things like Hayden’s doctor appointments, visits from CPS/CASA/Buckner for the foster kiddos, in office work meetings for Ryan, and sports practices (when in season) for the other kids. Getting everyone on the same page for the week helps EVERYONE, not just Ryan and me. Some of our kids are a little more high anxiety, so it helps them to know where everyone will be and what to expect in the upcoming week.

Any meetings or appointments for kids are written on our family’s calendar in our Family Hub Station. This way, it’s posted for everyone to see. (This even includes Hayden’s nurses who use that same laundry/pantry area to prepare Hayden’s meds and wash his medical equipment. I also keep posted in the “nurse’s station” of the laundry/pantry a hard copy of the nursing schedule which helps alleviate everyone relying on me to know and report the weekly schedule for nursing staff. If it’s posted, it’s a resource for everyone and it takes pressure off of me.) I try to keep the big, dry erase family calendar color coded as much as possible, but the most important thing is just getting the information down. This helps us all tremendously to not feel surprised by our day and to feel a little more sense of calm as we begin each morning.

A practical organization tip I learned years ago from another mom of multiple kids, was implementing something called a “Water Basket.” Rather than having a million cups all over the house, we each have one refillable water cup (I mean, we own more, but we each only use one at a time.) So whether that is a Tervis cup, a Gatorade squeeze bottle, a personalized sports cup, a sippy cup, etc., we each just use one at a time and keep them in our “Water Basket.” We have a Berkey water filter that is located on our dryer and we LOVE it! It filters out all kinds of nasty stuff from our water, and we each just refill our cup as needed, take our drink and ideally, place it back in the Water Basket to grab for the next drink. This helps out tons when the kids are asking, “Where’s my water??” I simply say, “Did you check the Water Basket?” This cute, brown wicker basket is our family’s landing zone for hydration.

Another way we keep order in what could be chaos is by having color coded bath towels for the kids. Each child has a set of three towels, but all three towels are the same color. Each child has THEIR colored towel and it’s their responsibility to use it and hang it up after their shower each night. (We don’t wash towels after each use – sorry if you think that’s gross, but we don’t. You can get a good couple of uses out of one towel if you hang it up to dry, which is what we ask of the kids.) Do they do this right every time? No… not always. BUT, when I go into the bathroom and see a yellow towel on the ground, I know exactly which kid is responsible for it.

Speaking of showering and getting eight people ready daily, we also have mason jars for each kid that has their toothbrush and preferred toothpaste in it as well as floss or floss sticks. This keeps their things organized and no one gets confused over whose is whose. (Hayden does have his own wheel chair accessible bathroom so his operation runs a bit differently….and since our remodel is now complete, we have a bathroom dedicated to the other five kids and guests, as well as mine and Ryan’s bathroom that no child is allowed in – we shared long enough! ha!!)

Mud Room Wall

As part of our renovation, we wanted to find a way to incorporate a “mud room” of sorts. We have a one story, 2,200 square foot home that we were able to creatively turn in to a five bedroom, three bath home with loads of storage and a sink in the laundry room. We got really good at using every square inch of space we could find and that’s how we created our “mud room” wall in our entry way. This wall, has six cabinets, one for each child’s backpack and sports bag/equipment if they’re playing a sport that season. (More on sports in a minute.) The wall also has a bench and cubbies for shoes as well as hooks for jackets in winter and purses for myself and guests. I love this so much and its functionality has been a HUGE lifesaver for me. With the backpacks inside the cabinets, I don’t have to see clutter everywhere, but rather it is contained behind a cabinet door. Again, when the kids go looking for their shoes or jackets, I simply direct them to the shoe cubby or their cabinet and they are able to solve their own problem and locate their belongings.

Time Management

A few years ago, Ryan and I made a decision on where we wanted to put our focus when it came to family. For us, building a strong family unit who knows, loves and serves the Lord together is THE most important thing. Defining what we wanted for our family helped us to determine what we did not want for our family. Family dinners together and quality time for talking and teaching are our priority. Knowing our end game goal, helped us to inform what our day to day life would look like. One of the parameters for our family, is that each child is welcome to play one sport per year. We spent many years playing all the sports and dragging babies and the disabled across all kinds of fields and to practices and games and we were 100% miserable. We don’t want our kids to miss out completely on sports just because we have a large, unique family dynamic, so we put healthy boundaries around recreational sports. And here I would offer a wise quote I love that says, “It’s ok to live a life others do not understand.” And it is ok. You do not have to look like every other family in your neighborhood or in your extended family or like your coworker’s family. In fact, I hope you don’t. I just want my family to look like Jesus and so for us, that means limiting the time we spend on practice fields and fighting on Saturday mornings to get to the ball field to sweat together in misery. But my family is not your family – so I honor and respect whatever it is you choose to spend your time on. (**Note on this: we do let our kids do music lessons and we are more open to activities that don’t require weekend commitments – think Taekwondo and dance lessons. We’re not total sticklers for no fun; it’s just we can’t afford to commit every weekend to a ball field, especially when weekend nurses for Hayden are hard to come by.)

In practical terms, to get all these humans showered and in bed on time, we have stick to a pretty scheduled and regimented bed time routine. **Disclaimer: I know Ryan and I are more type A than the average bear… and we’re fine with that. It works for us. Feel free to judge us. We do not care. We know who we are. ;)** We generally starts baths for the babies around 7:00pm and then it just progresses from there to the older kids. One thing we do to prevent arguments between two of the kids who consistently were arguing about who would shower first, is that we created a schedule for who showers first and posted it in the bathroom for all the world to see. (I did this also for these two as they’re roommates and would fight nightly about who should shut the door and turn off the light. are. you. kidding. me. right. now. So to put a stop to one more senseless fight, I posted a light/door schedule and taped it on the wall. THE END.) Now that the shower schedule is posted, everyone knows who should be where and when. While one person showers, the other person goes and takes their nightly vitamins and then they switch tasks.

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m about to. This is the part where you’ll want to have me committed. Brace yourself. In an effort to be a good steward of each minute of the 24 hour day I’ve been given, and in order start my day off focused and ready to tackle whatever the day may bring, I work out at 5:30am! I wake up at 5am, throw on the workout clothes I laid out the night before and head to either Yoga or Pure Barre. (I’m in a weird overlapping time when I go to both and am trying to determine which activity I love the most.) This has been SO helpful to my mental health and overall attitude about the day. It gives me a chance to get up before the world, to pray out loud on the drive to the studio and give my day to the Lord, and then to accomplish something fully without being interrupted and to get to move my body before [all of] my family is even awake! I never used to be a morning person, but now that I am, I really enjoy it! My body and mental health are worth the investment. And, having to get up so early means I get to bed early as well. Which is better for me anyway! Confession: I used to watch Netflix and eat Skinny Pop and drink a glass of wine and go to bed way too late. But now, I only have wine on Friday nights or the weekend, and I get to bed at a decent hour every night (in fact, I put my phone to bed at 8:30pm and it goes into Do Not Disturb mode so that I set the tone for winding down.)

Family Traditions

As part of our mission of creating a close, tight knit family, Ryan and I decided to start “family traditions.” These seem like minor things, but their OUR FAMILY’S things so they’re big things to us. Some of the simple things we do are traditions like Taco Tuesday and Pizza and Game Night Fridays. These are stable, routine things that we hope make our kids feel secure and connected to our family unit. We eat dinner every night anyway, why not pick one night and just make it a “tradition.” We try to have “movie night” on Saturday nights although we’re not very consistent in that one. Whatever tradition you create doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s ok if it’s not perfect or done with 100% consistency. Just being together and creating memories as a family is the goal here.

Another tradition we do that the kids LOVE is “Fancy Dinner.” We had all this wedding china sitting in drawers and in cabinets and for what? We rarely used it and it just sat collecting dust. So one day we decided to dust it off and let the kids use it as we had Fancy Dinner. They flipping LOVE IT! They feel fancy and honored that they get to use our china. We do this once a month and even if the meal is lame, it still feels fancy because of the plate – I mean talk about upsell!

Since so many social interactions in life are centered around food, we include Hayden in our family dinners each night even though he doesn’t eat food by mouth. We use the time each night, to check in with each other and each family member shares a “Sunshine” and “Cloud” from the day which is their high and low of the day. We also keep a devotional book on the Lazy Susan on the table and we are slowly reading through it together. We added, recently, a book called “What If” and it offers hypothetical situations and each person gets to answer with how they would respond. Obviously we don’t have to use these guided materials, but it’s nice to have some structure as we range from one year olds (clearly non verbal right now HA!) to a teenager and everywhere in between so having something to put us all on the same page is a nice tool to utilize. The main point of all of this is to just sit down with your family and BE TOGETHER. I grew up in a home where this was not a priority and not a routine and I remember each meal I had at a friend’s house where we did sit down together and talk and leisurely enjoy dinner and discussion and I treasured those times and conversations greatly. That is part of our hope in doing our nightly dinners – that our kids will be inspired to converse together, to think and discuss ideas and various topics and to just enjoy being together and that when they’re outside of our home or when they have their own families they will continue in these family traditions.

Now that I’ve given all of our family secrets away 😉 our final one is this. We ultimately just want our kids to know we love them and although we are structured in the way we run things for the sake of the family unit, we are so thankful to have this family we have been given to lead and grow. To us, there is freedom in structure. Which feels like how our heavenly Father leads and grows us as well. We are free in Him and the structure of His word. But this family, and God’s family, isn’t just about rules and religion; it’s about relationship. Our prayer is that in listening to our kids now and in opening the conversations up for topics that might difficult, they will always feel welcome to come to us for advice in the future when the topics are much heavier than who should shower first or whose turn it is to turn off the lights. 😉

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8