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Posts Tagged ‘happylittlesigh’

We sat side-by-side at the edge of our bed, the mobile held up between us, on speaker phone.

“Three years old or younger,” we said adamantly to the adoption worker, with nods of our heads, “and not a year more.”

Three years old or younger–smaller than Little Bear. And it was our agency’s policy to only allow adoptions in birth order, anyway, and wasn’t I just longing for sippy cups, and unicorn onesies, and frilly socks? All the things I never got to have with a daughter of my own.

And so we began. First came the lists to review–the requirements for each country. Average age of adopted child. Common disabilities. Cost. And it seemed wrong to even choose a country, like one chooses a house, but before anything could be signed, and any path taken, decide we must.

My heart was set on Eastern Europe or Latin America. In these countries I had first seen children on the streets. Digging through trash cans at McDonald’s. Begging for a meal. And yet from all we were told, adopting a younger child from either of these places could mean a long, long wait–sometimes 5 years or more. And I knew that we could not.

And so after confusion, and tears of frustration, we settled at last on China. The paperwork was printed, our names signed on the dot. And hadn’t the children and I been learning Mandarin for the past five years? And didn’t we have friends who had adopted from there? And didn’t we long to see this beautiful country? And didn’t it all make sense?

And yet something in my heart felt the disquiet of a wrong road taken, and would not be put to rest. And so even as we started down one road, I found myself searching for something that felt lost. At night times I would pray, and scan the waiting child list, just searching for I knew not what.

Then came one night, at about eleven, all my scanning stopped. I stared at my phone, and staring back at me, the dark eyes of a beautiful 14-year-old girl from Colombia. I couldn’t sleep that night. Not one wink. And again, a few nights after that. Finally, I mentioned her to John. Everything about her–the description, the pictures, the smile–tugged deeply at my heart.

“After we adopt a toddler, we need to go back and adopt a teenage girl,” I said.

“One child at a time,” he said.

I smiled. But even after that, it was not enough to think of someday adopting some girl. I could not forget about this girl, today.

And so again, I brought her up. And all the reasons I had been telling myself for why she wasn’t right for us, and why this didn’t make sense, were echoed in his words. We wanted a toddler. We’d already decided on China. The deal was set.

Weeks went by. I couldn’t forget. Tears would come during the day. At night I’d tuck in the boys, kiss them goodnight, and I’d long to go and do the same for her. She felt like ours in a way I could not understand.

And still I felt the weight of it–the choosing of a child. This burden was too much. Not something that I, with all my limited wisdom, could possibly do. In tears, I laid it all before the Lord. He knew which child. He knew my heart.

And His answer was this: if you take the leap of faith to trust Me, you need to follow where I lead. I had told God that if he gave me all boys, I would know that there would someday be a girl out there who needed us. And He had answered. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the type of girl I had expected it to be.

And I realized something else–Yes, this might be my last chance to ever have a baby girl. But we were likely her last chance to ever have a family. To have a future. To know the love of a mum and a dad.

In Colombia children age out of the orphanage system at 16. In other countries they are as young as 13. Most of them are much younger emotionally and mentally. A good many end up on the streets. Involved with prostitution. Drugs. And for those that manage to get a decent job, and make some kind of life for themselves, they will forever be without people. Their children will never have grandparents. There is no home to go for Christmas. They are alone in the world.

We didn’t need to adopt. Our perfect little life and family was quite complete without the addition of another child. But there are hundreds of thousands of children whose lives are NOT complete. And it is within our power to make a difference. To give them the unconditional love they all long for. Not all of us can adopt. But we can all do something. This is not only my heart, it is the heart of our God.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

~ James 1:27

And so, friends, we switched agencies. We switched countries. And we are desperately excited to share with you that we are working hard to bring home our boys’ BIG sister, hopefully by the early part of next year. We didn’t know, but God did, and we already love her so.

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Avonlea x

For more inspiration, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men,

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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March now, and so time to bring out my Daffodil needlepoint cushion that I bought my first year in Scotland. Time to replace my heart wreath on the porch with my Easter one. Time to purchase a hyacinth and marvel again as I watch it bloom. Little things that bring me joy, give my boys an appreciation for the passings seasons, and bring a bit of beauty to my home.

Beauty. That’s what my little corner of the Internet is supposed to be about. Opening our eyes to beautiful things–everyday, in the world around us. And I haven’t stopped looking, though I’ve been hibernating this winter, as much as I possibly could. The pause has done me good. I’ve been grateful for Arctic temps that meant canceled activities and an excuse to stay in. Grateful for the glorious sharp white light and blue winter skies that are so unusual for my state. Grateful just to rest.

But resting is not often simply resting, but often thinking, too. And I’ve asked myself again about this beauty and what it really means. And I know that beauty is more than a Pinterest-perfect home or wardrobe. More than an appreciation for nature. More than adventure, or being organized, or a success. Real beauty only exists in the external when it reflects the internal. Beauty, in its essence, is love.

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And so with the beautifying of my space comes the desire to lavish beauty on others. To welcome them to my home (or make my own family feel welcome here!). A space where they, themselves, are made to feel more beautiful because of how they are loved and served here. Loved and made to feel accepted and valued no matter what they’re wearing or what car they parked in my garage. Loved enough to be served a scrumptious feast on my best dishes–or enough to have pizza ordered so I can sit with them on the couch while they speak, whichever way is loving them best.

We do not always have to bring others into our home to bring them beauty. We can take it to them with a genuine smile, with a hug or warm handshake, with our focused attention as we ask about their life.

I’m reminded of a scene in Catherine Marshall’s book, Christy, when she visits the humble home of mountain woman Fairlight Spencer–“in a chipped cup she had put trillium and violets . . . ‘the very first,’ she told us, and unself-consciously reached out slender fingers to caress the flowers.” Next came gingerbread, and roasted chestnuts, and dulcimer music. The surroundings were humble, and the company could have been called that, too. But because there was yearning for the good and beautiful, and a desire to share it with their guests, the Spencer family lifted Christy’s heart.

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And that’s what real beauty–in our homes or on our faces–will do. It does not seek to invoke jealousy in others. It does not make them feel less. Instead it invites them into the beauty, makes them feel part of it. Gives them glimpses of the Author of beauty. Glimpses of His love.

May you find many a small violet or beam of sunshine to make you pause and smile this springtime. May the beauty you see bring you peace and make you both feel, and long to share, our Father’s love.

Avonlea x

For more inspiration, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men,

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

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We sat across from each other at the table for two. Busy Friday night hum. Instruments and speakers toted past as a band set up for a live show. Between us, two gluten-free Greek pizzas, lavender drinks, and so much to say.

We met on Valentine’s Day, age eight. Instant friendship. From then on, we were sisters–she, and I, and her twin sister, and her cousin. Four kindred spirits. Through the rest of childhood and the teenage years, we shared it all. Our secrets. Our dreams for the future. Our clothes. We blushed over boys. Cried hard tears on each other’s shoulders over heart-breaks and family drama. Made plans for many more adventures together.

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Then early adulthood, and choices were made. And we went our separate ways. I moved to Scotland. With an ocean between us for years, it wasn’t hard to grow apart. That, and we each had our demons to fight. But then I returned, back to the USA. We saw each other once, twice, then several times. And with each meeting came more trusting, more sharing of the parts of our stories we’d missed.

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And as we sat in that noisy restaurant last Friday night, we spoke again of the particulars of our lives. Of our mistakes, our regrets, and how we’d grown. She said something nice about my house. I smiled dreamily as she spoke of her daughter–something I’ve never had. And it occurred to us both–occurred to us that we can never see our own life as it looks from the outside. Did you hear that? Other people will naturally and unknowingly take what they see on social media, what they know of your possessions and your family, and the personality you portray in public, and for better or worse, will construct a movie-trailer-like idea of your life. And this, they will think, it what it must be like to be you. And we, in turn, do the same for them.

We look at other women, and so often we see only what she has that I don’t. That child. That house. That career. That husband. That body. That confidence. And we think because she has some of those things that we don’t, she must be happy. She must feel complete. It’s easy to miss the in-between bits. The hurts and the struggles. The tedious times. The longings each of us have. The depth of each human soul.

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It’s easy to forget all that. Easy to forget that others are praying for what we already have. That we, ourselves, once prayed for the many blessings we now enjoy. So today, instead of comparing your life to the false picture you’ve concocted of someone else’s life, let your mind dwell on the many blessings in your own life. For comparison is nothing but a thief of joy.

Avonlea xo

For more inspiration, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men,

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

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We can wait decades. Sometimes more. Hoping, praying, begging that God would make a thing come true. And you pray, and you wait. And sometimes you recall some sweet blessing, or some specific prayer that was answered in the past, and you faith is boosted a bit–just enough to keep you hoping, even when it all seems to fall on deaf ears.

Other times the seeming silence makes you feel you might crumble right down to nothing but dust. And sometimes dust is just what you wish you could be.

For the waiting, and the longing, they can work away like long years of labor on tender heart, leaving you just . . . tired. And the world, with all it’s beautiful places and beautiful faces can begin to seem like the only comfort you’re going get. And sin is drug-like, and it smiles so sweet, and the lies it tells you never look like lies at all.

Sin can begin to look more beautiful than . . . well, than God himself. And you find yourself wondering if He really is so good.

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.

But I’m here to tell you–as I’m here to tell myself–that whatever it is the world is offering you, it will never bring you the peace and fulfillment you desire. Whatever it is you’re being tempted by, God is better. He is BETTER. And He is GOOD.

Yes, I’m waiting. Long, long waits. And I’m asking God so many Whys–about family, and relationships, and these books, which I’ve written but have yet to land in a reader’s hands. And it’s ever-so-hard when a burning desire–an ability, a gift–we think God has given us, seems to bounce off the ceiling and land right back in our laps.

And I can’t give the answer to that for my own life, as I can’t give the answer to that for yours. But I am determined to choose what is BEST. No matter what the outcome, no matter if I go to my deathbed still whispering these prayers, I am determined to trust the One who gives me breath. The One who made me and placed me just as and where I am. The One who calls me His own.

May God give you the strength to do the same. For the dear ones in your life. For your own self. For the glory of Christ. May you determine to walk the narrow path of life. To “set your face like flint, determined to do His will.” Isaiah 50:7.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

happylittlesigh.com                                                                                                                  Finding beauty in the everyday 

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Everywhere, there were walls. Day by day, they’d grown up around us till every house and shop and school and road had its own borders, its own barriers. Keeping things out, keeping them in. Walls, running all over this frozen land. Walls made of snow. Not that the barriers were intentional, when we all went out with our shovels, blowers, and plows. But the walls came anyway, as we made a path from door to car, from car to sidewalk, from sidewalk to road. But at our house, we also had a path. A path between our neighbours’ house and our own.

Not that we’d used it often, that imaginary gateway, that break in the wall. No, not in such a winter when the snowfall set records and people had to shovel their roofs so they wouldn’t collapse under the weight, and icicles hung like thick stalactites from gutters, and the painful wind and cold brought tears to your eyes and chapped hands and cheeks and lips. No, not in such a winter.

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But then there came a day, one soft and snowy Sunday, when we did. Church had been canceled after an ice storm left thousands without power. So we were home, the day before us a little lonely and uncertain and unfilled. But then there came a knock.

I shuffled to the mud room in my slippers, found the tall frame of our neighbour filling the glass door. Expecting him to ask John’s help with the snow or maybe something to do with frozen pipes, I reached for the handle, hoping all was well.

“We’re not going anywhere today, and neither are you,” he said. “We’ve got a ham in the oven and we’re hoping you’ll come over and help us eat it.”

Well, such an invitation! Such a welcome invitation on such a silent, snowy day.

And so we put on our boots, didn’t bother with coats, and filled the silence with our chatter as we walked that path, that break in the wall of snow, and into our neighbours’ large kitchen.

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We stayed for hours. And I couldn’t tell you what it meant to sit round their table, surrounded by photos of their grandchildren and a collection of Eiffel Towers. But it was more than the ham and potatoes and veg that we ate while we talked and laughed. More than the tea and cookies and jello that came next. More than the stories from days past, told with such animation that we laughed over till our sides hurt. More than our neighbours themselves, who had begun as kind strangers and turned into friends.

It was the sum of it all that filled us that day, warmed us from the inside out, made us feel that winter was the most wonderful of seasons because it had brought us together–could bring us close to other family and friends–before spring came and the world opened up and let us sprawl out, warm in the sun but far from each other.

March is nearly upon us, but the temperatures are still frigid, and until the warmth comes to melt the mountains of snow and banish the walls, we will have winter. And for as long as it lasts, for all those long Saturday afternoons and black winter nights, I’ll be searching for ways to warm our home, to warm the hearts of our friends. With big pots of chili, and spontaneous tea parties with plates of shortbread taken from the rations John’s parents bring.

And that is the best way to not just survive winter, but love it.

It is said that good fences make good neighbours, and I agree. Good fences, good walls, they make good neighbours–but only when there is a gate.

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And there is quite a different sort of conversation around a fire than there is in the shadow of a beech tree…. [F]our dry logs have in them all the circumstance necessary to a conversation of four or five hours, with chestnuts on the plate and a jug of wine between the legs. Yes, let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.

~Pietro Aretino, translated from Italian

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Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.

~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

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Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

Instagram @happylittlesigh

Facebook @happylittlesigh

OR for EXCLUSIVE photos & inspirations get my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

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He met the Queen, my husband, John, did. As in Her Majesty, The Queen. Elizabeth II. Mother of Prince Charles. Grandmother to Princes William and Harry. Great-grandmother to the little royals. John grew up in a small fishing community in the Northeast of Scotland, far from the gilded elegance of London. But it’s one of those things, I suppose, that the longer one lives in the United Kingdom, the more likely one is to meet, bump into, or at least see one of them–a member of the royal family.

It’s like being an American in L.A. Sooner or later you’ll recognize someone from the Silver Screen. Two of my siblings lived there, and seemed to post weekly pics of famous people they’d helped in their retail jobs. Jackie Chan, Helena Bonham Carter, and the list goes on. My brother ended up with a part in a YouTube video with Richard Simmons (which thankfully didn’t involve exercise). My sister made a friend who lives in the same gated community as Reese Witherspoon. He let my sister use his house for her birthday party one year (which I got to attend!). We all chuckled at the story of Reese coming to his house trick-or-treating with her kids. He handed out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and in her sweet Southern voice, she replied, “Very funny.” I can just hear it.

There’s something just a bit different, though–a little more magical and surreal–about meeting The Queen and all her family. And stories, both magical and surreal, are what I mean to tell.

Wouldn’t we all have loved to be a university student at St Andrews, where Prince William and Catherine met and fell in love? The daughter of a minister at a church we attended was a student there, and one day got a lovely surprise when Prince William himself opened a door for her. Always the gentleman. Sigh.

And wouldn’t the scenery in the hills of the Scottish highlands have seemed all the more green and glorious had a group of poshly dressed people come along the trail–and one of the them was Prince Charles, who bid you good day? That’s exactly what happened to a woman from our church.

But not all of my stories are of chance encounters.

John met the Queen at 14. He was active in the Boys’ Brigade, a sort of Boy Scouts with Christian roots, and one summer his troop was on parade at Windsor Castle. As the Queen inspected the ranks, she stopped every so often to speak with one of the boys. I like to think it was my husband’s bright crop of ginger hair that caught the Queen’s attention.

“And where have you traveled from?” she asked him, in the way only the Queen could.

He answered, all earnestness and Scottish brogue.

“My,” she smiled, “you have come a long way.”

It wasn’t the lengthiest of interactions, but quite special none-the-less, and a story I surmise we’ll pass down to our grandchildren.

My sister got to see the Queen and Prince Charles. John’s great aunt had secured tickets for the Royal Highland Games (think bagpipes, and kilted men tossing large logs called cabers). The games were held at Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s highland residence, which first belonged to Queen Victoria. John and I had only been married a year, and as he had the day off, I decided to forego Balmoral and stay home with him. Ah, young love. And so I missed my chance to see the Queen, although my sister showed me her photos!

And what of the younger royals? University friends of ours attended a charity event and got near enough to Prince William and Catherine Middleton to snap some close-ups (which they kindly shared with me–hope you like them!).

But my stories don’t end here. Next time–your personal invite inside the gates of Buckingham Palace for The Queen’s Garden Party, and even more up-close and personal stories of the Royal Family.

And if you didn’t catch the story of the weekend I spent in England with some almost royals and totally embarrassed myself, you can find that here.

Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

Instagram @happylittlesigh

Facebook @happylittlesigh

OR for EXCLUSIVE photos, inspirations, & videos, sign up for my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

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Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

 

 

 

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The London days are the worst. That feeling I wake with, or that settles over me in the almost twilight of an afternoon, to be somewhere exotic yet familiar. Buzzing with activity, yet gracefully weathering the passage of time. Somewhere able to give me the rough grittiness of ancient castle stone and surround me with the intoxicating fumes of a double decker bus. Somewhere with all the imagined romance of a Charles Dickens novel, all the contemporary romance of William and Kate. Somewhere that can always give you a hot cup of tea, a good deal on a new pair of shoes, and a crisp set of white sheets at the end of the day. London.

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It’s hard, you know, when you’ve been to a city like that. Especially when you’ve been enough times that you begin to find your favorite haunts, your favorite stops on the tube, but where the scenery is still something like a living painting, dazzling before your eyes.

I get other sorts of days, too. Florence days, where I long for the lazy air of a sun-drenched piazza, pistachio ice cream dripping down the cone and over my hand, though I’m glorying too much in the beauty of it all to notice. Edinburgh days, when I ache for Princes Street, and shortbread, and hearts, dear hearts of friends.

But there is something about the otherworldliness of London that can catch like a gasp in my throat, and I have to breathe it out. Breathe it all out.

Because it took a million miracles to get us here. Here, in this little yellow house in the country in the middle of America. At the edge of the river and the edge of a town founded when America was still quite new. Here, where I wake and breathe in the now of my life.

Most of those miracles passed by unnoticed, like most every moment of an ordinary day.

A few of them seemed more like tragedies than miracles at the time. That house in the city. The break-ins, where they took so much, and yet left so much pain and fear and those awful dreams. The bat in our bedroom. The garbage. And the bugs.

And then there were those events that came about in such strange, unexpected ways that we had to look at each other, my husband and I, and we just knew. This house, which seemed a half-decade or more away, was scrolled past on the computer just for fun one Wednesday night. We didn’t know the thieves were coming that Sunday while we sat learning, praising, smiling in church. That we’d come home to find they’d been in our room—just there beside the bed, rummaging through the drawers and taking that pocket watch I bought him for our first anniversary. And the money and the phones, and worst of all the computers with the pictures of our babies and all those files of my research and words, lost. We didn’t know, and it seemed like the worst thing ever, and we didn’t know why.

Looking back, it seems as strange as ever. But so does this house. Six minutes from my mother, and six years earlier than we thought we’d be here. An empty house. Just waiting.

And then there are our neighbors—kinder, and with more joy and home-baked cookies than we know what to do with, and it feels like they’d been waiting. Just for us.

That night they came for dinner and I heard the story about the truck crash that ripped the top off the trailer like a tin of sardines and yet left their five-year-old son curled up behind the seat fast asleep. That night I felt it heavy upon us. That miracle. That grace.

And I could go on and say more about our baby. Our silky-soft butterball of a baby boy who joined our family in December. I call him Wonderbaby. Did a child ever laugh so much? I prayed over him, prayed over my stomach that God would give me a child of peace. And He did. Wonder.

 

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But I couldn’t see it all so clearly, wouldn’t treasure it so dearly, if I hadn’t first stood drenched, umbrella-less in the torrential rain that lifted us up and floated us here.  Here, to this house and this place in our lives. Here, where our hearts are full of love for our children, and for every hurting person who has known our pain and worse. Here, where we’ve dropped everything else and our arms are empty as we go running through fields in the gleaming sunlight to Him.

These are the days I’ll want back. These days of wonder and want. Of nappies and sticky hands. Of gifted dandelions, and legos, and laundry, endless laundry.  Of never, ever enough sleep, and staggering from bed to lift my smallest one and tuck him close so he can drink.

London can wait. We’ll take them one day, our boys, and show them where the Queen lives, and that roaring T-Rex robot in the V & A. And we’ll have our cream teas, and it will be grand.* But for now, here, where we live and breathe today, I’ll show them the wonder. The miracle of a God who doesn’t stop loving, who doesn’t stop thinking of them as if it’s just them. For every glimpse I’ve gotten, I want them to see more.

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It took a million miracles to get us here. And for all the days we have to come, however many that will be, whether they are London days or laundry days, I want to live them with my eyes open to it all. To every miracle. Every gift.

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

*This post was originally written in 2013. The very next year, we did go to London, and these photos are from that trip.

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