vacation 2016.

IMG_6882

Hello from our first ever week-long, just-our-family vacation!

We’re at a timeshare resort in North Myrtle Beach that a generous person with our church’s domination offered us. We don’t know her, she just wanted to bless a pastor’s family. Words can’t describe our gratitude. Four days in, and it’s been absolutely perfect.

More soon, but for now, beach pictures!!

IMG_6893

 

IMG_6871

 

IMG_6909

 

IMG_6843

 

IMG_6819

 

IMG_6782

 

IMG_6791

 

IMG_6881



judah turns 9.

img_6676

Our oldest boy turned 9 years old yesterday.

Can you believe it? Is it possible that I have a 9-year-old?

We celebrated with a breakfast date: Judah, David, and me. The three of us sat on the front patio of Rise Bakery, eating sticky buns, and shooing away the black cat that wound around our ankles, wondering when the last time was that we’d been out together, just the three of us.

Judah requested a whole year ago that he get the day off school for his birthday. He’s the only one of our kids that has a birthday on a school day, and he was very frustrated about it. So from here on out we plan to take September 8th day off (no complaints here).

Back home he opened his gifts from us: a Lord of the Rings Lego set and a chess set.

This is the first birthday Judah hasn’t asked for all toys, and that makes me a bit wistful but also thrilled with the way he’s growing complex, with different hobbies and interests. From family members he got a knife and a sharpener and wood for carving. He got a Hobbit t’shirt, a tin of Pokemon cards and a binder to organize them.

At nine years old he’s growing up, but not so much that he didn’t spend the morning building and playing with his new Legos. I love that.

At nine years old Judah loves playing table tennis with Grandpa, and going to CIU soccer games with Papa and Nina. He’s the most outgoing of all our kids in social situations, is friendly and talks to adults and kids and teenagers alike. There’s an intrinsic confidence about him that I’ve always admired.

Judah is comfortable with who he is.

This year David and I have watched him grow and mature more than any other. He came out of the cloud of stress surrounding our adoption, has passed through anger and adjustment, and loves all three of his siblings. He’s shedding some of his tunnel vision and thinking of others. He’s learning to connect with his little brothers, even though sometimes they bother him. He’s growing kind and tactful, and is very sensitive to hurting people’s feelings. He’s learning to look adults in the eye when they speak to him and answer clearly.

He loves Classical Conversations. The academic philosophy is perfect for Judah. He loves to learn and has a great memory and is interested in the world. His favorite subjects are science and geography.

Unbeknownst to me, he decided to give his first class presentation on living in India. He hasn’t lived there in four years, but he stood up and told his class about preschool and learning Hindi and his friends, about being incessantly pinched on the cheeks and about eating masala dosa.

In his second week of school he recited the poem, The Land of Nod, by Robert Louis Stevenson, in its entirety.

I’m unspeakably proud of my boy.

I’m also more humbled than I can say. As a parent my two biggest temptations are to 1. Feel like I’m constantly falling short of being a good mom, and 2. Fearing the future as my kids grow up and encounter suffering and temptation, longing to protect them from all of it.

And yet. Watching my 9-year-old is nothing short than a testament to God’s faithfulness.

Judah has had several challenges already in his life: many moves, a traumatic time in India with a very sick Mommy (he later told me that he worried that I was going to die), planting a church, adopting two little brothers, a mom who has anxiety, as well as unique challenges he’s faced with the way God created him.

And yet, he stands before me with bright, eager eyes. He does his schoolwork and then knows he needs a break to jump on the trampoline. He’s interested in life and learning and river adventures with his dad. He loves watching The Great British Baking Show with me and learning to make chapati. He enjoys holing up alone to read and also going see his friends at swim practice. He’s bursting with excitement about our CPC church retreat this weekend.

All of this is God’s grace to our family and to our boy. I give Him the glory and I trust Him with Judah: both at 9-years-old and in the years ahead. My hands are open, even as I ache at the ways I fail and the challenges all kids face in growing up. I chose to enjoy Judah right here and now and to live in hope for the future. God loves him so very much more than I do and will work all of it for good in my boy’s life.

He has already.

I love you, Judah.







what i’m learning in counseling, take two.

IMG_6544

Hello friends! How are you this weekend?

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile, mulling it over in my head.

I think when I last talked about my anxiety here, I mentioned looking for a good therapist. This is “Take Two” for me, because I saw a counselor for several years in my twenties when I was first diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It was enormously helpful and a gift from God. She now lives overseas and we transitioned to just being good friends once our official counseling relationship was over.

You’d think because I had this wonderful experience, I’d be fine with diving back in this time around. But actually the opposite happened.

It’s hard to go to counseling, period, in my opinion. It’s hard to hold up a magnifying glass to your junk, week after week. It’s hard to start over with someone new. It’s hard to take the risk, worrying all the time about the awkwardness of quitting if you don’t connect with him/her.

So basically I procrastinated as long as possible. And I’ll admit there was some pride in there, some thoughts of, I’ve done the counseling thing. I know the right answers. I actually counsel other people now and give them answers. I can beat this on my own.

But my stress just grew and grew, until a couple of people said, “Julie, you need to do this. You need help. You need someone to talk to who isn’t your family or your church.”

And right around that time another friend remembered knowing a therapist who has a big family, who’s adopted kids, one as a baby and one as an older child. That felt like the magic answer. Someone who understands in a unique way the exact season I’m in right now.

IMG_6357

I prayed hard and contacted her and sure enough, she had an opening to see me.

That didn’t mean it was easy to go. Last month, when I started, my symptoms were about at their worst. Leaving the house to be in any social setting felt terrifying. Attending Life Group or Book Club was impossible. I would try to do a play date and have to load all my kids up in the van, shaking and sick, to drive back home. I couldn’t handle going to the wine shop for a bottle of wine because it meant I had to make conversation with the owner.

The best way I know to describe it is: I just want to be invisible. I don’t want anyone looking at me, talking to me, asking questions. I want to disappear.

Honestly I’ve lived quite a long time with that swelling undercurrent of anxiety and have brushed it aside. I know all the best ways to hide it in public, to be quite functional in my life. I’ve just pressed on and pushed through, acknowledging something wasn’t right but not really listening to the warning signals. But my mind and body were screaming, “You have to stop.”

And suddenly, I stopped. I hit a wall.

That was when I started to see my counselor.

IMG_6526

At the beginning it was dreadful because, 1. A counseling session generally takes place in a small room (why, why is it in a small room? I want to beg all my doctors to see me outside), and 2. Someone is sitting, looking at me, asking probing questions.

Which is why I found myself before Appointment Number Two sitting out in my van gasping for breath and wanting with everything in me to turn around and drive back home. David called me right at that moment and prayed for me and talked me through it. I knew I could turn around and leave, but if I wanted to get better I needed to make the choice to stick it out.

I walked into her office, basically ignored her greeting, and said, “I’m sorry. Can I just say something?” She said, “Sure.” And I launched in with a flood of tears, “I don’t want to be here. I do not want to talk to you. I can’t handle this.”

That was hard.

Sitting and crying the ugly cry in front of a total stranger was hard.

But she was pretty chill about it. She said, “Okay, tell me about it.”

And so we began.

I have to say that was the absolute lowest point. I was sitting hunched over in this tiny office, every muscle in my body tensed. And we talked, and talked some more. I’d just taken a couple of personality tests and we went over the results and she mentioned possibilities about me that fit like a glove. She wasn’t staring, probing, asking me to talk. She was giving me tools, saying, “Could this be a reason you are where you are?”

And I can’t say why, but that was an enormous relief. Throughout that hour, my body relaxed in tiny increments, until by the end I’d eased back into the sofa, chatting and laughing.

Having someone describe my personality, my responses to stress, my tendencies in a way that made sense normalized everything. From that moment on I’ve ceased to feel like I’m spiraling out of control. Someone else has told me about me in a simple, matter-of-fact way. Someone gets why I’m panicking in weird ways and doesn’t think I’m losing it. She just thinks I’m very stressed and tired and on overload.

I’m beginning to have some good ideas of how I got into this state.

IMG_6510

Friends,

This is a long, winding way to tell you: I’m going to be okay.

That’s what I’m learning in Therapy, Take Two.

I’ll write about some of the specifics as they crystallize in my mind. But that counseling appointment was a real turning point in my struggle. I’ve been to see her twice since then and haven’t felt any of the panic or fear. We talk and she helps me take a step back and look at my responses to life and responses to stress, and it puts things into perspective. She doesn’t tolerate my drama (“My life is falling apart,” “I’ll never do ____ again,” “I’m a failure.”), but she does it in a kind way.

The anxiety is getting somewhat better, I think.

I still have hard days. This weekend I had to back out of going to the beach with a group of women I love very much, because groups are still terribly hard for me.

That was a difficult decision, but I was surprised to find myself at peace with it.

The old me would’ve lived under a mountain of guilt and shame for a decision like that.

I’ve put some very unrealistic expectations on myself and have been caught up in a cycle of perfectionism, pride, and self-loathing that aren’t healthy. It can seem like a badge of honor to say, “Oh, I struggle with perfectionism,” like the person on a job interview who says, “My biggest weakness is that I work too hard.” But the thing is, it’s not good. It’s hurting me and it’s hurting the people around me.

More importantly, it’s not submitting to God, to the way He made me and the season of life He’s put me in. It’s saying, “I know better than You.”

IMG_6265

I’ve had the hardest time this summer — this whole year actually — living under the silence of God. I felt He was blessing me in many ways and yet my anxiety feels like His finger pressing down on me, harder than I can bear.

But the truth is that He’s answering my cries, and the prayers of many around me.

He provided a direction to start in: a new therapist who is just the right fit.

And though I am only at the beginning of this journey of learning peace and humility, I already feel some of the gifts of it. This week was the most beautiful homeschooling week we’ve had yet. I was able to put my energy into creating and learning with my kids and we all loved it.

I’m talking to my husband about what I’m discovering about myself. The idea of what I think he expects from me in my mind is not the reality of what he expects from me. I’m learning to listen and to believe what he says.

I am rooting myself here at home, because that’s the place I have to be in this season. I’m asking God to teach me how to let go of the restless striving, the desire to be anywhere else than where He has me.

I’m baking and cooking more. I’m letting myself drink coffee and eat gluten when I want to. I scrubbed a dozen jars and made two trips to the Indian supermarket and bought a Costco membership and replenished spices and dry goods. I taught myself how to make chapati and have been cooking Indian food.

These small, simple things are bringing me joy.

They don’t feel like settling after all. They’re beginning to feel like gifts.

IMG_6274





around our house at the end of summer, 2016.

IMG_6187

 

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile you know that I like to do a little house tour every summer, because first of all: it’s fun! And also in order to chronicle the way our home evolves, bit by bit. I forget the little details if I don’t take pictures, and while this is my favorite it’s ever looked, there are memories in each of it’s stages, things that make me smile (and sometimes groan).

Mostly things that make me thankful that this is where we wound up putting down roots.

We’ve owned a home for three years. Wow. Sometimes I still can’t believe we’ve managed to stick in one place this long. If you’re wondering why that’s an accomplishment, our track record was 10 homes in our first 9 years of marriage.

The outside looks exactly the same, and is patiently awaiting it’s new roof and it’s master bedroom addition (if only the rest of us were as patient). You know that our single Big Project this summer was Judah and Amelie’s bedroom makeover, which you can see here. Below is a photo to show you the way the room looks often these days:

 

IMG_6185

 

And for my second piece of disclosure: this is what my kids were doing while I scurried around snapping photos, and this is why the house looks particularly neat. Yep, we’ve discovered the PBS Kids app on the iPad and we love it.

 

IMG_5983

 

IMG_6190

 

IMG_6007

 

I’ve done virtually nothing to our living room this year except purge books, buy books, add a couple of house plants, and, mostly importantly, buy throw pillows! I waited quite awhile for this luxury, because: 1. For awhile I couldn’t find what I liked, and then, 2. We adopted two little boys and I knew any decorative pillows/blankets would end up a jumble on the floor.

But finally, this is the summer of new pillows (all from Target), and while they sometimes do still end up in a jumble, they also make our living room feel just a bit more cozy.

 

IMG_5994

 

IMG_6008

 

IMG_6219

 

You can see the door to our current master bedroom off the living room, and one day I felt compelled to switch the furniture around so that the bed is against the far wall. Here’s how our bedroom looked last year:

 

IMG_0875

 

IMG_0886

 

And here’s how it looks today:

 

IMG_6225

 

 

IMG_6228

 

Not only does the room feel much bigger now, but David corrected one of my DIY fails this summer. When I bought and painted the unfinished pine IKEA dresser I didn’t realize I needed to seal the knots first, and they all bled through the white paint almost immediately. So David sanded everything down, added a coat of Kilz, and gave it all a couple fresh coats of paint. My brother Danny found me that Pepsi crate from an antique store and I think it’s so fun.

We do miss our string lights in the reading nook and I keep meaning to put them up again.

This bedroom will eventually be Amie’s, and she loves to roam around and notify me of the changes she plans to make and the things she wants to stay the same (hint: she wants the wardrobes and the gold chair).

 

IMG_6201

 

IMG_6117

 

Our kitchen and dining room are almost the same too; I just like to declutter and shift things around.

 

IMG_6202

 

IMG_6030

 

My school supplies for this year included a new set of curtains, lamp, and clock for the dining room. I log many hours in here and now it’s a space that feels bright, peaceful, and pretty.

Dining room before:

 

IMG_0993

 

IMG_0964

 

And after:

 

IMG_6019

 

IMG_6121

 

IMG_6078

 

IMG_6206

 

IMG_6024

 

IMG_6082

 

Judah and I found the brass unicorn at our favorite thrift store, His House, one day, and just had to have it because, well, it’s a brass unicorn.

Finally, the little boys’ room. Poor Noah slept in a crib until he was nearly three and a half. He was a good sport about it, and since it’s our last crib ever, I wasn’t in a hurry to transition. But when we did Judah and Amelie’s bedroom makeover, the boys got the bunk beds.

On my to-do list for that weekend was to post the crib and boys’ changing table dresser to Craigslist, but David asked me if it would be easier if we just set them on the side of the road. It felt blissfully easier. They were picked up within two hours.

Here’s the boys’ room last summer:

 

IMG_8910

 

IMG_7957

 

IMG_8257

 

And here it is now:

 

IMG_6166

 

IMG_6130

 

IMG_6141

 

They love their bunk beds so much, and just as with the big kids, I did away with top sheets and gave them a duvet. It makes laundry and bed-making simpler.

They also got Judah and Amie’s dresser, which matches all the pine in the room. What can I say? We buy a lot of IKEA pine furniture. It’s so durable and makes wear-and-tear virtually invisible. Sometimes I think of painting it, and then I feel like I need to go take a nap.

A note about knotted curtains: I love big, tall, sweeping curtains that brush the floor, but we have such small bedrooms in our house. When I washed them this summer, I tried knotting them instead and love the more open feel (I also love that they aren’t perpetually dusty from the floor).

I’d like to move the robots down at least 12 inches or find some different wall art, but all our original paint was ruined in last fall’s flood. This means there will be no more touch-ups. I guess I’ll wait until we repaint the room.

 

IMG_6171

 

IMG_6135

 

IMG_6151

 

And that concludes this year’s glance around our house. Just for fun, here’s what it looked like right after we moved in.

Now, I’m ready for a break. I’ll tweak things I’m sure, but my mind needs a rest from new ideas and all my design blogs, and I just want to spend the fall living in our house. We have some plans for the front and back yard as the weather gets nicer, and I can’t wait to be outside more.

Happy Sunday!





august.

IMG_6015

Hello friends!

Can you believe that we’re in the second week of August?

We officially started school last Monday. We attempted to start back in July. I wanted to try my hand at more of a year-round-schooling schedule because I fancy myself to be one of those mothers for whom the world is a classroom and life is our education and every walk outside fosters a love of nature. Why would we take a man-made break from learning for two whole months?

Well, after about two days, we quit viewing the world as our classroom. The little boys loved it because they crave more structure, but the big kids weren’t ready. More importantly, perhaps, I wasn’t ready. I suddenly began to adore the idea of a man-made break.

So we took a few more weeks off and tried again on August 1st, and we all felt much better about the arrangement. We still started a bit early because we’re taking a week-long vacation in September, and I want to be able to leave the school books at home, guilt-free.

I know I wrote an inspiring homeschool post earlier this summer, and last week I was as organized as could be, but the truth is, it’s hard to get excited about homeschooling right now. I feel tired, and I’m still trying to coordinate exactly how to homeschool three grades now that Gabe is starting kindergarten.

But you know what I realized?

I don’t think I’m so much tired because of homeschooling, I think I’m tired because of parenting. I think it’s the natural state for parents of young children to be tired, and also it’s the natural state of people to be discontent. It’s easy to look at my public or private school friends or even my working mom friends and feel that the grass is greener on their side. But I know that just isn’t true. Life generally isn’t smooth sailing for any of us; we just have different stresses, amiright?

Tired as I am, I feel at peace with forging ahead in our homeschool journey this year. Coffee helps.

IMG_5880

Speaking of which, I’m drinking coffee again, even though in the past I’ve quit because of anxiety. But I’m taking a heftier dose of medication and so I just need it. For now, at least. Come to think of it, maybe the medication is another reason I feel tired?

The good news is, my spirits are better and I’m cautiously optimistic that my anxiety is lessening. I’ve had a couple really good days, and at the moment I don’t live in fear of the next social situation. Thanks for your prayers.

But back to school. By God’s grace, even with the other stresses in life, our start of a new school year truly couldn’t have been smoother. I noticed a marked improvement in the little boys’ behavior from the very first day. I realized once again that our normal routine is restful for them. They know exactly what to expect and the world is as it should be. Gabe is beside himself with joy to start kindergarten.

Now I can’t say that the big kids have the same attitude. I know they struggle to get in the rhythm of school before Classical Conversations starts, and that makes sense to me, so I’m trying to give them some space. What this means is we’re doing a lot of school-in-PJ’s.

I’m thankful for a good schedule for this year, and trusting God that we’ll get all our work in. I’m thankful that David will be teaching Judah third grade math, which takes a huge load off my shoulders and makes Judah happy. I’m thankful for lots of fun books to read aloud together. I’m thankful for the blossoming relationships among my children; this past month Judah and Gabe have been connecting in a way they just didn’t before. I love watching them go out to the trampoline together to battle.

IMG_6089

What else have we been up to?

We’ve been trying our hand at some new recipes. David made carnitas last week, and we made our first ever homemade corn tortillas. They were delicious! And then our tortilla press broke. Ah well.

He also tried grilling pizza, and, believe it or not, we made waffles last night for the first time in our married life.

David’s parents babysat Saturday morning so the two of us could go tubing on the Saluda River. We used a company that shuttled us up to the zoo, and we floated/paddled back down to the Gervais Street Bridge. It was so fun! David of course splashed around in the water and jumped off rocks, and I mostly stuck to the tube. We saw wildlife. We chatted. The water felt amazingly cold against the heat of the day, and thankfully we went early enough to avoid getting sunburned.

IMG_6108

We’re on a two-week break from swim team, and still very thankful to be swimming often at my brother’s pool. It’s been a lovely haven for me this summer, to be outside and with our family.

Are you watching the Olympics?

If you aren’t, please watch a bit just to see Rio! It’s probably my favorite Olympic venue ever, and I want to be there so badly! I just finished my first Ann Patchett novel, State of Wonder, which I loved, and takes place in Brazil.

I’m a HUGE Olympics fan, have been all my life. This is my favorite year to watch since we’ve had kids because they really get into it too. We have lots of little gymnasts and hurdlers around here, and I’m positive something in our house will be broken before the two weeks’ are over (hopefully it’s not a bone).

All in all, I’d say our month is off to a great start.

Happy August!