Do you like tomatoes? Want some?

This blog has been on my mind a lot lately.  I'm currently typing this while sitting in the breezy shade on the porch, the temperature reaching a mere 82 degrees.  Can you even believe it? On the last day of July, 82 degrees? I simply cannot. I have felt so loved and relaxed by the wind today.  It's as if God knows how much my bones and soul thrive when something spontaneous occurs and so for today, He sent this.  Fall-like weather in the middle of a normally hot summer month. 
 It was last week, while searching through about ten or eleven years of blog posts, that I realized all over again how much this space means to me. I had a blog prior to this one and it is filled with details of Brett and I getting engaged and married, having Anna Ruth, and figuring each other and parenthood out.  Then along came this space, my rosy one.  My rosy gal, Betsy Grace, came along with this blog too.  There's just something magical that happens when you string a million ordinary moments together, I'm just convinced of it.  It's like Ben Rector sings, when he says he knows you can't see it, but extraordinary magic follows you around.  The same goes with the blog.  There's something quite extraordinary about sharing and reading your story or someone else's consistently through the years.  I'm ever so glad so many of you are here. Truly. 
 All that to say, the school year will provide a bit more structure for me and I'm hoping to pop into this space at least a few days a week.  In case you're wondering, I'm also still doing photo shoots and am loving it more than ever.  

But back to why I'm here today. 
I'm a sensitive soul, you know that. Sometimes I drive myself crazy, running circles in my mind, wondering how to help all the needs around me.  There are just so many and I never feel like I'm doing enough.  "Needs" is a big word, but I'm sure you are imagining your own world of need as you read this.  Today I put a small dent in quieting the noise in my head and actually helping in this big, wide world we live in.  And all it took was something so small, so unassumingly mediocre.

I had been around back, working in the garden for a while when I heard the mail car pull up to the mailbox.  After some time I heard the same car give up on trying to put the package in the mailbox, and pull into the driveway instead.  I was especially excited because a new to me book was in the brown, cardboard box.  I ran up to meet the mail lady, thanking her for taking the time to come up the drive and deliver the package.  Then within a space of just a couple of seconds, it was like my desire to help and the circles of need in my mind and the opportunity right in front of me all collided into each other at once.  With my mud-smeared face and hands, I quickly asked "Do you like tomatoes?"  After being met with an enthusiastic "Yes!" from the rather surprised mail lady, my next question was "Want some?"  Within a few minutes she was hustling to get her Wal-Mart bags and I was traipsing back down to the garden.  We exchanged kind words, recipes, and stories as I quickly filled up her bag, sending her on her way with blessings and bright-red tomatoes. 

As she drove away, each of us calling out a blessing to the other, I had the thought that it's really this simple.  This is what showing up in the world and meeting needs looks like.  Some days it's a grand gesture that goes viral, but most days it's feeling my heart beat quicken and actually doing something about it, instead of pushing it aside and letting fear be the boss. 

Maybe it all starts with a simple question, a simple act of kindness.
Maybe we smile at the person outside the library, instead of looking at them suspiciously. 
Maybe we share our home, our garden, or our hearts.
Maybe we check on that friend that keeps popping into our thoughts. 
Maybe we play school with our kids and give them our full attention. 
Maybe we take a foster family a meal, or love on them in some other tangible way. 

Maybe we really look our spouse in the eyes when they get home and kiss them with all our might.  
Maybe we really look at the fast-food cashier as a valuable human being, not just a convenience to us. 

Maybe it starts with a simple gesture, an easy question, and listening to our voice inside.

Happy 10 years to us !! (I would choose you over and over)

An oldie, but a goodie.  As are all of the photos in this post! 
Tomorrow is our 10th wedding anniversary!! 

I feel like this deserves about a million exclamation points. 
I'm just so darn proud and happy and excited to be celebrating 10 years! 
I mean, can you even handle this? 
The girls and I went on a little walk down memory lane, looking through old memories and photographs.  Each time a photo flitted across the screen a thousand memories, lessons, heart aches, joys, and tears caught in my throat.  I'm not being dramatic here, this has just been such a ride with Brett by my side.  
We've traveled to Italy, St. John, Eureka Springs, Florida, camping, and many other places in-between together.  We've honeymooned at Big Cedar Lodge and taken too many boat rides to count.  In fact, we were even engaged out on the lake. 

We first met at church, then started emailing, transitioned to phone calls at night, went on our first date, and the rest they say, is history.  A month after our first date I told my twin I was going to marry Brett.  He likes to tease and say once we went on our first date he couldn't get away from me! (lol) ;)

We've had two babies of our own, seventeen months apart. 
We've been an open home for adoption, as well as foster care. 

We've held Brett's dad's hand night after night, as he was in hospice care.
We've tended the farm, remembering his dad each day.

We've had sleepless days and weeks and months. 
We've dated each other well, having fun at concerts, nights out, bowling, riding the Ranger on the farm, dinners on the back deck, cooking and canning together, and sharing music tastes.

Our first date was at Hugo's, a place we've frequented often since.

(our first, awkward, nervous picture taken together at the Tulsa Zoo)

We've seen Brett graduate with his Master's while we were newlyweds, seen me choose to stay at home with our babies, and now are watching as I go back to work, an old season closed and a new season opening. 

We've been through old jobs, new jobs, and a bit of growing up together.

We've lived in a tiny, one-bedroom condo and then built our house on the farm.  

We've communicated well and communicated horribly, sometimes all in the same day. 
We've learned to love each other really, really well and ease past the in-between moments when we're not our best selves.  We haven't been perfect or really even anything NEAR perfect.  But we're still here, still choosing one another happily. 

We've had home repairs, an emergency c-section, things we saw coming and things we didn't. We've bravely faced heavy, awful, postpartum depression and "then came the morning", as one of our favorite bands sing about. (The Lone Bellow)
We've survived the ice storm that took out our power for days and created months of clean-up afterwards.

Still, we've always had each other.

I was telling my mom-in-law this week that I remember sitting in our boat on Table Rock Lake on our honeymoon, watching Brett from a distance carrying the ice chest.

For a quick minute I remember thinking how strange it felt that me and him, we were together for good.  Day in and out.  All day in and out.  For better or worse.  Of course, I loved him deeply and dearly and wanted to be married so badly to him.  It just felt foreign that I couldn't hide at my own place anymore on a bad day, or cover my insecurities.  They were all there, for Brett to help hold now too.

 It doesn't feel strange now.  In fact, I miss Brett when he's at work and usually have a list of things to talk to him about when he gets home.  He's my favorite person, ever. He's my shelter from life's storms, knows every insecurity I have, and still gladly chooses me and loves me day in and out. He makes me laugh more than anyone, makes our girls squeal with joy more than anyone, is ever so faithful, and loves Jesus better each year.

We're still stupidly stubborn sometimes (ok, well I am at least), say things we shouldn't, and have plenty of room to grow in our love.  I guess it's a good thing we'd choose each other over and over and over.  That's just what we'll do, for years to come.  Plenty to learn still, plenty of belly laughs to share, plenty of adventure to go.

Our story has been beautiful to me.  It's not a story that often makes it to social media because it's ours and sacred.  But today, thanks for letting me share.

Living in fight or flight

Happy Sunday lovelies! I want to pop in and give a quick nugget of truth my chiropractor shared with me during my most recent adjustment.  He asked if I still blogged and I responded with a yes and then told him about the super long foster care post I'd just written.  I said it was too sad/hard for me to have to explain our story over and over so I was hoping the blog post would help clear the air a bit. 

He then responded along the lines of this-
When our bodies/minds/hearts are replaying old hurts over and over we're making our bodies take that "fight or flight" path.  That path for me feels like anxiety, stress, and unnecessary exhaustion. 
The same goes for the future.  When we choose to look ahead and play over and over in our minds what we think will happen, again we are forcing our bodies into that fight or flight reactive mode.  This mode keeps us alive and is necessary for our survival, sure.  

But it's not healthy to live day in and day out in this mode.
I had never realized how much power WE actually have over not only our minds, but our body's physical reactions day in and out. 

There's a Sunday Sabbath truth for you to dwell on! 
Courtesy of my chiropractor. 

(Need an excellent chiropractor who also knows their stuff when it comes to health? 
Check out Generations Health and Wellness in Fayetteville for the sweetest/smartest husband and wife duo for all your chiropractic needs! )

Social media is like sugar.

Listen, can we just call out something for what it is on this hot Friday? The odd little world social media has created is crazy.  I don't know a nicer or more accurate way to put it.  Just this last week I read several women's posts and listened to their IG stories where they confessed the curated, picture-perfect HUSTLE of the internet was making them feel bad.  I even quickly responded to one gal's video and said that yes, sometimes my self-esteem plummets after scrolling through social media.  You can only browse through so many size 4 bods with flat tummies and toned arms before your size 8 bod starts to give the sad side eye.  

Y'all, this is just garbage.  Absolute garbage. 
I often watch my girls play uninterrupted and not once do they stop to worry about the future, lament about the past, or compare themselves and feel bad.  (Ok, except for maybe when playing a game of checkers with their Nana and then their comparison game is strong, lol)  My point is, they just play.  They're free.  Their only thought being "when is the next snack?" and "will mom let us have ice cream?".   

The part I don't want to admit?  We're all feeding the crazy.  We do it to ourselves! 
I think we would all be so much happier and breathe deeper if we put down our phones and lived our lives.  Then, picked the phones back up as a means of connection, sharing our businesses, and closing the gap between your life and mine.  Then, repeat.  Back to our own lives. 

Because if your life is anything like mine, it's always a mix of everything. 
It's made up of healthy days and struggle days. 
Big, belly laughs and sad sighs. 
Deep breathing and falling into bed completely spent after another summer day with the kids all day.
It's a life full of deep friendships that never even make it to social media. 

My life is full with things like boring house chores, friendships, teaching Sunday school, getting to know my neighbors, trying to eat and exercise for health, dating my man (married almost 10 years!), running my photography business, and getting ready to enter the teaching world again. 
My days are full of my girls, the farm and garden, trying to be disciplined and learn and grow as a human being, cooking, and actually getting out into this BIG, beautiful world instead of hiding at home.  My days are both happy and sad and usually a combo of both.  I don't have everything, or much of anything really, "figured out."  I DO have a long bucket list and dreams and hopes and a journal I keep daily. A lot of that (most of it) never makes it to social media either.  

You are the perfect body type.  
You have an abundant life.  Right now. 
The people around you so desperately need you. 
There is beauty to be found in your days. 
Social media is like sugar.  Just a bit is all we need. 
There is nothing wrong with you or I. 
No one is perfecting their marriage, friendships, cooking, outfits, body, traveling, work, children, and social life all at once. I just don't believe it. 
We're all just doing the best we can. 
It's garbage to feel less than after scrolling. 
Just put the phone down and dance it out! 

Years that ask questions and years that answer (our closed foster care home)

 I've been putting this blog post off, shoving it to the back of my mind to let the cobwebs gather.  I just haven't known how to write it or where to start, but today I feel just brave enough to wipe the cobwebs away and take a stab at putting this into words.  May I also say that I'm here not because I feel like I owe the internet an explanation for anything, but because the passion and heartache and need behind foster care is too big to keep quiet.  Plus I keep getting asked questions when I'm out and about and I'd rather just let everyone know so I don't have to keep repeating myself. 

We closed our home to foster care after our little one moved to their new foster home. In short, we didn't ask for them to move or make this decision. 
I have no doubts that it was the right decision for us to close our home after though.  When praying about, discussing, or making these kinds of choices I communicate with Brett and then the girls and that's it.  In the past I've looked wildly around for any kind of feedback or reaction from others to "help" guide my way but it hasn't ever served me well.  So I won't go into great detail in such a public space about our decision, but you can be sure it was the right one for us to make.  But still, more painful than most realize.  

With that said, even though our home may be closed (meaning we aren't taking foster care placements), our hearts definitely are not.  This is a very hard thing to try and describe quickly!  I have been asked "So you're still taking other kids, right?" too many times to count lately and the surprised reaction I get when I answer just feels like such a let down.  As in, like we're letting others down.  For the record, I don't feel like we've let anyone or anything down.  It's just my sensitive heart's reaction to others that I have to keep in check. 
So what do I mean by "Our home is closed, but not our hearts" ?  Well, in short it means that there are so many different needs in the foster care world and every single day I still wake up with foster care on my heart and in my mind.  I expected we'd close our home and that little season of life would move on, my heart and thoughts moving along with it.  But it hasn't.  

Since we closed our home a couple of months ago we have been taking time to find our new normal and try to heal up a bit from the heartache of saying goodbye to our little one.  This is easier said than done.  Can I just say I'm also surprised by people's reactions when I say we had our little one six months and they act like "why are you still so heartbroken?".  May I gently ask-how did you feel about your child after "only" six months?  Would you be able to say goodbye and move on super fast and easily?  

Within the past couple of months we've also been praying about how to help next.  It's been difficult to know how to share our journey without coming across as sounding preachy.  You guys, I read so many posts and updates before we became an open home that didn't encourage me at all to help, but instead just left me feeling rotten because of the ultimatum type statements made about how we SHOULD be doing foster care.  These always felt kind of harsh to me.  That's never my intent here.  I actually don't think every single family should be a foster family.  BUT, I do think there is tremendous need that most of us have no idea about, in the foster care world.  I think most of us have  no idea about the heartache, trauma, and need, happening just minutes from our front doors.  I used to leave the DHS office, and look just a few feet over at the Barnes and Noble and Chick-fil-a full of happy families, and wonder how so much "normal" life was swirling around this building where there are literal angels doing the hardest work on the planet, where children are experiencing trauma we choose to know nothing about. You all, there is TREMENDOUS need and there are a million ways to help, big or small.  I think *almost* all of us, whether you're a Christian or not, can help and should.  I add the Christian part, because I am one and God could not be more clear in his word about taking care of the orphans.  And the orphans abound where I live and I'm sure where you live too.  
So what if you're like me and maybe you don't feel called to take in foster kids but you DO feel called to help?  What if instead of a few people doing a LOT of hard work, we all stepped in to help and lessened the load for others? 
 Let me give you a few small examples: 
Did you know there is a foster care clothing closet?  Think for just a minute-it doesn't get stocked, organized, and shopped all by itself.  Is this your strength?  This is a way to help.  Have nice clothes, baby items, or kid items to donate?  Contact The Call on FB!

Do you love to cook?  People outside of the foster care world don't typically understand (at all) how much "extra" there is with a foster child.  And most foster families have sibling sets, not just one child like we did.  Between the extra activities, therapies, appointments, etc.  taking dinner to a family is a lifesaver.  We had people bring us food a couple of times and it just took a load off.  SO, if you love to cook why not donate some freezer meals to The Call foster care ministry or ask for a family you can bless with a meal.  Don't like to cook?  Buy a pre-made meal or gift card to a restaurant or even drop off groceries.  ANYTHING HELPS. 

The first night we had our little one was unlike anything I'd experienced before. I'll just leave it at that.  It was traumatic.  My sister brought over a giant gift basket with things for our baby and for us too.  This kind gesture still sticks out in my mind as just grace and love in real life form.  Like, I'm gulping tears typing that.  

Project Zero is a non-profit organization in Little Rock, AR that seeks to find homes for children in foster care.  There are many opportunities to volunteer your time, gifts, money, or talents. 

Did you know you can volunteer to be a FFSS (I believe I got that right) family?  This means you can be a Foster Family Support System for an actual foster family.  In short, you fill out some paperwork and then have permission to watch a family's foster kids for up to 72 hours.  I have no words to describe how badly foster parents need a break.  But they are only allowed to leave their foster kids with a FFSS family.  Foster kiddos have been through so much trauma already that it would really benefit them to have another loving, stable family that they know they can stay with for a few hours.  I heard over and over that foster families didn't have ANYONE willing to be their support family and so they just never got a break.  Again, couldn't we all help and then lessen the load?

Another opportunity to serve I can quickly think of is being a CASA volunteer.  This is a volunteer that is an advocate for foster kids in the court room.  We had the best CASA lady I could have imagined helping with our little one.  She was thorough, kind, gentle, and truly wanted the best for our little one.  I'm sure you can google how to be a CASA volunteer!
My last thoughts are: Don't leave your friends or church members out who are foster families! Also, don't assume their lives are just the same as before, but with a few more kids.  Both are false.  Foster families want to be involved in things!  I will say there were certain times I was invited to things and then others shared horror story after horror story about foster care with me while making small talk.  Just FYI, don't do that. (lol)  It's like when moms share their most horrible birthing story with a pregnant mom.  It's just not helpful or restful in my opinion. 

But also, DO know that a foster families life has changed drastically.  I remember often feeling like we were barely keeping our heads above water, but because our little one looked like they could have been mine we would go out and no one knew the true story happening in our home.  I don't mean that we should have gone around breaking privacy rules sharing details of our story or anything like that.  I just mean, when the foster families around you are "quiet", it's most likely because they aren't allowed to share pics or details or they just don't know how to articulate what's going on.  It doesn't mean that life has smoothly sailing along.  I would encourage you to be there for both the highs and the lows. 

Because there were many of both. 
Adoption was a dream of mine for years and years.  In fact, when I hear the word or read a story about it, it still makes me cry.  There's a quote I've heard often that basically says to pay attention to your tears.  I sure do.  Usually what makes me tear up quickly and consistently is hitting on a nerve in my heart that God isn't done with yet.  Why did our story "end", at least for now, without adoption being a part?  I don't know.  But at least for now we have the honor of remaining a bit broken, which in turn gives us eyes to see the needs around us and a heart desperate to help. 

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer."-Zora Neale Hurston 
Before becoming an open foster care home, we had a year that asked a LOT of questions. 
Our year as a foster care home answered many of them.

Now I suppose we're back to another year of questions, and that's ok. 

Our family was tremendously changed (for the better!) by serving as a foster care family.  Not a single regret here.  Now to see what's next!

Do you have additional questions? 
Will you consider how you can be a light for someone living in darkness?
Praying this hits you the right way.  This post was hard for me to write and I must have swallowed a dozen times while typing, trying not to cry.  I hope you hear my heart clearly and with grace and grit shining through.  

The rosy in my real life!

Hello friends! I'm here for another edition of "rosy in my real life!"  I tried to number these and do one for every week o...