Monday, December 26, 2011

Gotcha Day #4

Almost six years ago God confirmed His calling on our lives to adopt. We had looked and looked for days at a 8 x 10 picture that Jim and Donna Houston gave us. That photograph was of a precious little boy in Guatemala. We had NO intentions of was NEVER on our radar. Our family was set. God's family was not. He set the lonely in our family just as He says He will do. And, we felt it...strongly. It would NOT go away. So, we followed God's calling and set out on a ride that would change our lives.

Fast forward 23 months to December of 2007 when we walked into Eagle's Nest orphanage in the mountains of Guatemala. Sitting on the floor was the same little boy with the biggest brown eyes. One of the nannies was tying his shoe, and my heart burst at the seams. Everything I had done (copies of birth certificates, phone calls, doctor's visits, recommendations, meetings, raising money, etc) and every second we had to wait (almost 2 years) came flooding back. God spoke to me clearly and said, "I have pursued you the same way you have pursued this child." My heart was full. I KNEW the Father's love for me, and I rested in in.

I do not post the following pic because it flatters me in ANY does just the opposite. It shows the overwhelming love that God showed me that day. I was so overwhelmed with His love for me and the thought that He wanted me to love like that....Oh the joy and the responsibility!

That first year was hard, difficult and lonely. But, that was a previous blog....

Fast forward 4 years to the amazing Josiah Jett Turner who keeps us on our toes ALL the time. He is a precious gift from God. I do not remember the time before he was ours. He's our first son, and we adore him. Just this year he gave his life to Christ and is working through the discipleship material now to be baptized. About 6 weeks ago, he meandered up some stairs at Brook Hills and waited shyly outside of the office of Pastor Jim Houston. (Jim and Donna are the ones who first found Jett in Guatemala and were with us with we were united with our son.) In a way that only Jett can, he scooted into the office and gave Jim a big hug. Then, he said, "I have to ask you something." Jim said, "Of course, go ahead." And, with a huge smile on his face, Jett asked, "Since you found me in Guatemala, will you baptize me here?" It wasn't too hard to see the tears in Jim's eyes but they were a little blurry considering the tears in mine. Full circle had come...God was praised and is well with my soul.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

School is out....

With 5 children we often get asked questions about how we handle various life circumstances. One of those is school. Five is not so different than three now that we prioritize what it is that God wants us to teach our children.

It is not a neat, clean-cut schedule that works every day. In fact, no two days during a week look alike. And, God is teaching me patience and flexibility. I'm not so good at either of those...technically, I stink at both of them. I like order. I like a plan. I like a schedule. Label makers, new pencils, math games and school/office supply stores simply make me giddy. I admit it..I am a school geek. And, I like it.

But, not all of my kids are wired that way. I have five VERY different children when it comes to learning. One is an independent worker and needs little guidance. Another loves to discuss everything and shoots for grades of A+ on everything. A different child struggles with just following directions and sitting still for longer than 3 seconds but has a passion and trap mind for science (not my forte, by the way). Still another loves to hear words of affirmation when he gets something right and does a little happy dance each time he hears, "I am so proud of you." And finally there is one who does not like to be wrong but takes great pride in pointing out letters to anyone and everyone who will listen (including during the sermon at church).

So, in taking all of that into consideration, we made a plan for school for this year. And, within one week, we were adjusting that. So, we all made another plan....adjustment again. Another plan...another adjustment. By adjustment, I do mean that we crumpled up the schedule and threw it in the garbage and went back to the drawing board. I would have burned it, but since our house burned down 6 years ago, no one here is fond of the smell of smoke. So, we are now operating on our 4th schedule for the year, and it has been working fine for the past 16 weeks.

JT and I get up fairly early but not before one of our children who is the earliest riser in the house (she wants to get her shower/quiet time, etc in before the littles get up). We exercise, peruse emails and have our quiet times before we ever hear anyone stirring. After breakfast and Bible time with Dad, school starts around 8:00 (please KNOW that we aim for 8:00 but lately, we haven't been hitting that mark either).

At 8:00 my oldest daughter reads to the 2 youngest children which has been a HUGE blessing to me. It gives me time to work with Jett on reading and phonics as well as explain his tasks for the day. We are still working on getting his independent work done INDEPENDENTLY.... In addition, my second daughter takes the littles for about 20 minutes to work on counting and math. I teach the littles their letters (one a week) and follow up with games and books especially ones that deal with colors, shapes, numbers or letters. We thought that our goal for this year was to teach them all of their ABC's, sounds of the alphabet, how to write letters, counting to 20, cutting with scissors, coloring, shapes, and basic colors. That will be a GREAT year for 2 people who spoke a different language one year ago.

For me, sitting down with my children to actively engage them in games is NOT easy. It does not come naturally to me. But, God has shown me so much through investing my time and energy into playing. They LOVE it, and now, I'm starting to look forward to it as well.

So, here's the schedule:


Zeke could hear affirmation all day makes him smile (and me too).

Elly LOVES to get stickers when she does a great job. However, asking for stickers is not allowed.

Jett loves science and the more "hands-on" something is, the better.

Inevitably, someone has binoculars at some point during the day looking at deer in the backyard.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where did the time go?

Kaitlyn, our resident photographer, takes a rare photo of herself. Hard to believe she's about to be 15!

Sweet Madison does a great job reading to her siblings. They adore her.

Sweet Elly loves to pick out her own clothes and show them off to everyone.

Zeke is still fighting for survival, but we are seeing regular glimpses of trust these days!

There are many decisions that we make daily that impact our family. For me one of those decisions is to blog or not. While I enjoy blogging, it is just not a priority with all of these people running around here. Even now I am surrounded by one child trying to convince me that she needs medicine ('cuz I'm still sick), one who is singing Jingle Bells while dancing, one who is peeling eggs for breakfast, another who is working through a math test, and the last one who is puny on the couch with a cold. They are my priority.

That is our/my life these days....making decisions that are best for all of us. We made so many mistakes when we brought Jett home even though we stayed home a lot. We still traveled too soon, had people over too soon, exposed him to too many new things right away, etc. We learned our lesson the hard way. And we have chosen, by God's grace and mercy, to walk the journey differently this time.

We have pretty much been homebodies with the exception of weekly excursions to church. While we have traveled for trips, we have severely limited that travel because of our children. We will fight for them to adjust and adjust well. We will sacrifice and give up and do whatever we need to do to make this a safe environment for them. We want them to trust us and to know that we have their best interests in mind.

Isn't that the same thing that God does for us? He advocates for our best..what is best for you and for me. Sometimes we don't like it or enjoy it or even understand it. But, we rest in knowing that He is Sovereign and He knows what is BEST...ALL the time! So I trust Him in this stage of life with the lonely, the isolation, the worry, the fears, the joys, the leaps of faith...all of it. And if I don't blog on a regular basis, no worries. My priorities are elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Just a week ago I was asked to be part of a panel of homeschool moms to discuss time management. When thinking about how I use my time, one of the points I got the most questions about was "once a month cooking" (hereby known as OAMC because I just don't want to type it out over and over). JT and I started OAMC over 15 years ago when we were both working and just didn't have time to cook dinner every night. It was a constant discussion, "Where do you want to eat?" or "Should I just pick up something and bring it home?" We were tired of eating out and didn't need to spend the money anyway. Oh, if I could go back and have that money we so carelessly wasted!

I heard about OAMC on a morning talk show and immediately found the book they were referencing in a local Christian bookstore. We tried it and it worked for our family. This is KEY. It may not work for your family and/or you might have to tailor it to your family’s preferences and needs. Do what works best for your family’s schedule, dietary needs and what helps you the most!
We still manage to do OAMC about twice a year. Unlike the name suggests, it generally makes enough meals for 2 months for us. Sometimes, I can even go 3-4 months depending on how often I use the meals. We do NOT use them every night. We use them when we need them the most. When we have more time to cook, we do. When we don’t have much time, we pull out a OAMC meal.
Several people asked for my fabulous wisdom ingenious plan tips on how we do this, so here goes:
1. Cook with several other people or alone – this is the choice you must make first. If you choose to work with others, make sure you actually like one another and want to be around one another for extended periods of time first. This is truly critical as you will want this to be pleasant. We tend to cook with 2-3 other families that have somewhat similar family sizes.
2. Make a menu. Choose 8-12 items that freeze well. There are a ton of OAMC websites dedicated to recipes that you can use. Use recipes that you already have (spaghetti sauce, a chicken casserole, chili) and add some new ones that your family might enjoy.
3. Decide on freezer containers that you want to use. We personally prefer disposable aluminum pans that have a top that can be written on. We use two sizes of pans and label them on the top and side with contents.
4. Empty out your freezer. This is important as you’ll want to start with as much space as possible. On our cooking day last time, we actually rented another refrigerator/freezer because we had so much food (it was CHEAP)!!!
5. Be sure to designate an administrator for your group who will collect all the recipes and develop a shopping list. That person will send out a shopping list to each participant. Each person/family shops for their list only.
6. The day before “cooking day” is generally the day when each family pre-cooks whatever meat is necessary (e.g. cooking 20 lbs of ground beef for spaghetti or grilling 100 chicken breasts for sweet and sour chicken and chicken tetrazzini).
7. One person will need to print out labels for all of the dishes. This is simply a label with the title of the dish as well as the instructions on how to cook it. This step is an easy copy and paste job! Be sure to make 2 labels for each finished dish.
8. Recipes should be laminated so that they will not be easily torn or splattered during the process.
9. Each family brings the necessary baking dishes, utensils, etc for cooking day. I’ve heard of some families renting a local church for cooking day. We use my house as my kitchen is open and has plenty of room.
10. The kids are generally gone for the day. I’ve cooked with all of my children here, and I’ve cooked without them. Trust me….let Dad handle the little ones for the day, and you will finish faster! For us our older girls (12 and 14) stay and help with all of the cooking.
11. Since we host the cooking day, we prep our kitchen the day before. EVERYTHING is taken off the counters (phone, cookbooks, utensils, and even the coffee pot). We start with a blank surface.
12. We cover our table, buffet and small side table with large white table cloths). Then, we set out 4 garbage cans (these can just be large boxes lined with a garbage bag).
13. Stations are set up around our kitchen. The first is the sink area. We make sure that there are plenty of dishwashing supplies as there will be a ton of dishwashing to do (people rotate so this doesn’t get so overwhelming). Make sure there is plenty of dishwashing soap, a sponge, a scraper of some sort, a place to put wet dishes and towels for drying (lots of towels).
14. Our French doors that lead to our back deck serve as our menu station. We hang up all of the menus on the doors so that people can easily access them when they are ready. We place them all on one door in the beginning. As each dish is finished, it gets moved to the other door.
15. An ingredient station is made out of two benches we have sitting underneath a high counter. We place all of the dry goods here so that they are readily accessible.
16. Utensils and necessary kitchen items (measuring cups, baking sheets, cutting boards, mixing bowls) are placed on a buffet at the head of our dining area. This keeps everything organized so that we can find what we need when we need it!
17. Pots and pans are placed near the stove for another station!
18. Containers are located in chairs at the end of the table and include the 2 different sized aluminum dishes as well as larger freezer Ziploc bags.
19. The final station is the “office” area. We keep paper towels, Clorox wipes, labels, markers, pens, saran wrap, aluminum foil, tape and garbage bags here.
20. All cold items are either in the refrigerator or in coolers that families bring with them.
21. All families gather around 8 or 9 on cooking day (eat a good breakfast as you’ll be on your feet all day). We use a pre-printed “order of meals” format that is hanging around the kitchen in several places (to keep us on task).
22. We divide into teams of 2-3 and begin working on each meal. Some of the meals are assembly only (tater tot casserole, chicken teriyaki, flank steak in marinade) so they are fairly easy. Others require some cooking (sweet and sour chicken, meatballs) so those are the first priority.
23. As meals are completed, they are labeled and taken to the freezer/refrigerator. We note how many of each meal we have so that they can be easily divided at the end of the day.

There is a lot of work that goes into OAMC when you are first starting it. However, as time goes on, you can use menus you already have laminated, leftover labels, etc. and the process gets easier.

For our family, we are able to incorporate 4-5 of these meals into each week. We simply pull the meal out of the freezer in the morning and don’t have to think about dinner until 5:00. It’s a time-saver for us! An added bonus is that there are times when I need to take a meal to someone very last minute, and I can easily look into the freezer and grab several items! What a joy to be able to share with others in times of need.

So, give it a try and see if helps you…if not, toss it…if it does, try it again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The daily privilege....

Each day we are given is a gift from the Lord to be used for Him alone. It is NOT mine though I often act like it is. I schedule our days and run to and fro and leave Him completely out. How about you?

After adopting Zeke and Elly, we had about 6 months of just being "out of it." For lack of details (as they seem to escape me), we were just tired...a "fall asleep in the middle of a sentence" tired. We were weary. But, God sustained, and we are slowly seeing the light. We still avoid large crowded events with no structure and have to say No to many things. But, we are slowly getting back to our new normal.

I was reminded of how different our family life has become when our sweet Christy came to visit. Whereas we used to be able to actually carry on AND complete a conversation, now the dinner table is a time for each person to tell about their day, ask questions and well, be funny. There's little time for complete conversations these days. And, I am content with that.

God has shown me over the last 3 months how to be content in ALL circumstances. It is EASY to look at the lives of other people may age and covet....covet their time to themselves (just to go to the bathroom), covet their sleep, covet their adult conversations, covet their ability to read a book from beginning to end, etc. But, God has called me to something be the mommy to these five children. So, I'm resting in God's divine calling on my life.

I will never have a ton of blog followers or even readers (so I have no notions of actually updating this blog regularly...), write a best selling book, or be the recipient of praise and adoration. But, I KNOW THIS....I'm obeying the God of our Fathers...and I'm learning to be content in that. He chose me before time began to be the wife of JT and the Mommy of Kaitlyn, Madison, Jett, Zeke and Elly (and who knows who else). And, I trust HIM. And, I believe in HIM. He knows what He is doing, and He is in control. I am content in Him.

Just this next week I have been asked to be part of a panel of other homeschool moms to talk about time management. There's so much I could say...but I hope there's only one thing I should say....let God direct your time. Plan ahead, make your schedule, delegate tasks, teach your children responsibility, and find ways to multi-task...but pray FIRST and then PRAY again and PRAY after you have done all that you can...make sure it is GOD who directs your steps and not you. He is the King of the Ages...He can schedule your day in a way that honors Him better than you can. Trust Him to do that! I am content in His schedule for my day...whatever that may be.

Today, seek to lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus. Lean hard.

Friday, September 30, 2011

But if He does not....

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity around the Turner house. New kids learning more and more English....hearing the words, "probably" and "actually" come out of their mouths is music to my ears. A five year old who hasn't pitched a fit in several weeks AND walked away from the table after only one serving for the first time...can I get a HALLELUJAH!!!! This is huge considering he eats like a grown man training for the World's Strongest Man competition. My precious mother-in-law's passing into eternity....which leads to 7 people grieving 7 different ways...... School with 5 kids ranging from pre-calculus and world geography to Colors, Numbers and Rhyming Words. Ah, it's our life, and I cherish it! It's crazy...but it's ours...well, not really....

That's just's NOT our's His...and for His glory alone! Which brings me to the reason I am writing... this world is truly not our home. So, let's keep our minds set on eternity and His glory. Let's pray without ceasing..interceding for others constantly. God has prompted me so many times lately to pray for people that I barely know and others that I know well. But, how do we pray?

I find myself praying a lot....which means I don't hear much of what's going on around me at times. Truly, I'm not ignoring my children or you when you are talking, but if I don't stop and pray immediately, I'll forget! My is not working properly in the memory I have to obey immediately.

We pray for His glory to be known among the nations. We pray for God to heal...whether on this earth or in eternity. We pray for His glory to be shown in and through situations. We pray for Him to speed up adoption processes or to slow them down for His name's sake. We pray for His will to be done...whether it fits our plan or not. We pray that God will act in such a way that He and He alone gets all the glory. We pray not to manipulate or plan or control...we pray that He controls because He is Sovereign. We pray that He will give us the strength to glorify and praise in the midst of pain and anguish.

My favorite chapter in the Bible is Daniel 3. You know the story. Three guys....three disobedient men...refusing to an earthly king. The king commands them to bow..and they refuse again. Then, they speak with words only God could orchestrate. "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand." I LOVE the confidence they have in God alone. They boast in His great power and majesty. They proclaim His goodness and strength!

But, here's the BEST part! They KNOW what God can do, but they do NOT know what He WILL do. So they say, "But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” YES!!!! YES!!!! YES!!! IF HE DOES NOT, we will praise Him! We will praise in the waiting, in the pain, in the grief, in the longing, in the valley, in the storm. We will praise our God despite the situations and circumstances around us. We will praise our God!

Today, let us praise God for provision, for family, for friends, for all the "good" things...but let us purposefully choose to praise Him for the things that we don't like, don't understand and don't want....because we KNOW that it is for His great glory....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

God's Sovereign Plan

Revelation 21:4 reminds us that "he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." We rejoice in knowing that my sweet mother-in-law, Gena Turner, left her earthly body last week to be with the Lord. Just yesterday, Zeke said, "Where is Meemaw's body?" Before I could answer AGAIN (this had to be the 20th time he asked), he said, "Never mind. She no need her body. She has a new body and a new name!" Hallelujah!

We rest in knowing that God's Sovereign plan included her life of 71 years and her death last Wednesday morning. Job 12:10 tells us that "In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." He is Sovereign in life, and He is Sovereign in death. God Almighty is in charge of them both.

Every person who knew Mom/Gena/Meemaw knew that she had the spiritual gift of bragging...on her grandchildren. She loved them dearly and was always telling someone about one of them. Some people even said, "Oh, she will miss them so much" or "I'm sure she wishes she could hug them one more time." NO, she doesn't! She doesn't miss ANY of us. She is in heaven doing what she was created to do, and she does NOT miss life here! She has stepped into eternity, and she has no desire to do anything other than what she is doing! Praise His Holy name!

We give all honor and praise and glory to God for her life and what she has meant to all of us. It is too early to adequately put it all into words, but she will be missed dearly. Thank you to all of our friends and family who have supported and loved us along the way. We love you!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Count the Kids....

When you go from 3 kids (who can all take a shower by themselves and feed themselves and don't require me to wipe them) to 5 kids....well, it's a stretch. Most days. There are times when I can't remember if I ate or where I am or what I am supposed to be doing. I rarely have a moment to myself...and that's okay.

Here's the kicker...I'm petrified that I'm going to leave somebody somewhere...and then not remember who I left or where I left them. So, I often here myself say, "Count the kids." Or "number off..." But, my life is full...abundantly. And, I wouldn't trade it for anything else.....