Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Lately has been a bit crazy.  I say that like it is out of the norm, but it does feel harder than usual somehow.  I think the having four kids four and under thing is starting to catch up with us and beat us over the head with its hardness.  But, I won't belabor that point today - it's the week of thankfulness, after all.  And I am so very thankful, though sometimes the thankfulness has been buried under the stress.  It's always sad when that happens.

Here's a quick rundown of what's been going on round these parts via my iPhone camera.  I did get a new iPhone earlier this month, and I like the camera so much more now, which is a major bonus.

This jewel of a pic was on Instagram a while back - it's one of my favorite of the twins so far.

Someone's getting the raw end of this deal.  #twinstagram

Poor William.  Having three sisters can be a bummer, especially when they are all quicker than you - for now.  I have a feeling this won't last forever, and he will get his comeuppance in later years.  Next up is one very sad picture.


Lily said that Bella had bitten her, and she was quite distraught, but I didn't find any bite marks.  The only reason is that she had been wearing long sleeves.  The bite marks were revealed in the leotard later that day.  #bellawashere

In funnier stories about Lily, we were eating dinner at an opportunity center with our church.  We were served chicken.  Chicken that had bones in it, since that is its natural state.  This is the conversation that transpired.
Lily:  "What are those things?"
Me:  (laughing) "Those are bones."
Lily:  "What?!  Who put them there?"
It was at that point that I realized we eat a lot of chicken nuggets, and I only cook with chicken breast meat.  The girl had never had meat on the bone before.

I've had the kiddos on my own a lot lately, because John has had many work things come up.  Like feeding the U of A Marching Band, the Cheerleaders, the Hogs football team and the Mississippi State football team all on Saturday.  Which is awesome for business, but it certainly makes for a crazy weekend.  So, I've been doing stuff like going to Target with everyone to kill time.  People look at me like I am nuts.  And often, they say things to that effect as well, which is not really encouraging.


On the subject of feeling crazy out in public, yesterday, while at gymnastics, Lily had an unexpected total meltdown wailing that she was tired.  Violet had a dirty diaper, so I took the wailing Lily and the dirty Violet to the bathroom.  While in the bathroom, an older woman spent some time asking me what was wrong with Lily.  I was so frazzled and irritated that I'm afraid I was not very gracious with nosy lady.  Not two minutes later, another trying to be helpful woman informed me that Violet might be choking on snot (she was not), and then proceeded to sit her up, though I was right there.  (She was laying on the changing table.)  I knew that Violet was NOT choking, but sounding like her normal refluxy self made worse by a cold.  And I was right there.  All with Lily continuing to wail.  It was a 10 minutes I hope I never have to repeat.  The second lady said, "You've got your hands full," which has become my least favorite expression to hear.  This kind of sums up my normal reality.

Last week we did go take family pictures, which means we all deserve some kind of medal.  Except for Bella, who does her best to not cooperate in these sessions.  Thankfully, we have an amazing photographer/uncle who is patient beyond words with our circus.  I can't wait to see the pics and order Christmas cards!

Family picture preview.  #handsfull #heartfuller #notforthefaintofheart

Here's how William felt after pictures.  Bless him.


While staying at Aunt Ellen and Uncle Luke's house, Violet got buried under the laundry.  Such is the life of the littlest sister.


The girls have taken to reading all cards as if they are letters to Bob and Larry of Veggie Tale fame.  "Dear Bob and Larry, ..................." Fill in all those dots with total nonsense.  It's usually pretty funny.


Before long, I am going to have to start getting the twins out of their car seats and probably using an umbrella stroller everywhere we go.  For now, this is how we roll almost everywhere.  It's like a stroller Escalade, except much less snazzy.  But, it gets the job done.


The other night, Bella was "cooking" and saying, "I'm the Mommy!"  She is a total, lovable crack up when she is not busy biting or otherwise destroying something.

She just said, "I'm the mommy!" Since I regularly dress like one of Tinkerbell's friends while baking, that makes sense.  I do pray that I make motherhood look attractive to my kids.  Sometimes God shows me glimpses.  #bellawashere #itsthelittlethings

Though it is against all that we hold dear to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving, we break this rule when we travel for Thanksgiving.  I just feel too far behind when we get back, otherwise.  So, we have the trees up.  The girls and the cats were all thrilled by this.


Hope that your holiday week is full of thankfulness that isn't buried under stress.  I'm asking God to continue to work in my heart on that one.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Does this blog post seem to be coming at you much more quickly than usual?  That would be because our internet just got upgraded to be four times faster.  Pretty much feels like lightening at my fingertips, which is a little sparky, but overall - Great!  It took the guys 3.5 hours to get everything figured out at our house, but it was worth it.

Anyway - today we are celebrating the twins being 7 months old!  Hooray!


I'm not going to lie to you all.  It's been a long seven months.  Having twins has officially cured me of ever wanting to have twins again.  It's hard work.  BUT - I would do it all over again for William and Violet.  They are precious and joyful, and we adore them.  I'm so glad that I do have twins, and I know it will only get better.

Here's Miss Violet at Seven Months.


Fast facts on Violet:
She LOVES people.  She lights up when she sees someone smiling at her and always smiles back.
She LOVES to bounce.  The jumper is her happy place.  She will bounce until she falls asleep.
She can roll over, and she is sitting up without help for little bits of time.  Bless her heart - her head is rather large, so she often topples just on account of it.
She loves to eat fruit and is starting to be slightly easier to feed.  She loves vegetables much less than fruit, but I totally can relate to that.
She is sleeping through the night most nights, and she does nap predictably now - all in her bed, when we are home.
At her six month check up a couple of weeks ago, she weighed 15 lbs 11 ounces.


And here's Mr. William - or "Little Man" as the girls like to call him.


Fast facts on William:
He is one of the smiliest, easy-going babies.  Until it he is hungry - then you better have that bottle in his mouth pronto - otherwise, you will have one very mad baby on your hands.
Speaking of hands, he still LOVES his.
He can sit up for good bits of time, though he definitely still needs a spotter.
He is the best solid food eater we have ever had, which is such a blessing.  He eats anything you feed him without drama.  Amazing.
He is sleeping through most nights, and he and Violet nap at the same times, for the most part.  It has been a wonderful game-changer.
At his six month check-up, he weighed 16 lbs 11 ounces - exactly one pound more than Violet.
He is behind on a few things developmentally.  He does not roll over, and he does not transfer things from hand to hand.  Because of that, our doctor suggested that we have him  (and Violet, since they will be coming to our house) evaluated in the coming weeks, and we will possibly be doing therapy.  While this is certainly not fantastic news, we are so thankful for all of the ways that he is developing well, and for the fact that he is always progressing.  We wouldn't change a thing about our precious William.

(Don't you love it when a big sister pokes you in the cheek with a Tinker Toy?  He didn't seem to mind.)

We still marvel at the miracle that God put them in our family.  That we get to the their parents.  We love you, Violet and William!

Here are the other Monthly Updates:

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

I love this verse.  Though hard things are always happening, God is good, and we can take refuge in him.  I have tasted the goodness, and I know it to be true.  In the past year and a half, I have tasted a lot of God's goodness by being involved with Immerse AR, and that was certainly the case last Thursday night as we had our second annual fundraising banquet.

I wrote about my amazement during last year's banquet, and this year I was, again, blown away by all the God did that evening.  His redemptive stories rang so beautifully through the room, and the call to do more and be more to those that the world has forgotten was tangible.

Because of the magic of the internet that connect us all, I get to share some of it with you!  Though you won't get to taste the Arkansas Black Apple Pie that rounded out our meal, you can see the videos to get a good feel of the night.

The first two videos have made me cry every time I've seen them.  I'm so thankful to Nolan Dean Films who did a great job shooting and producing these videos.

Want to celebrate what God has done in Immerse in the past year and the lives of these youth?  Watch this video.

In the next video - you can hear Lee's story.  After experiencing severe neglect and abuse, Lee entered foster care at age 7.  He was adopted when he was 12.  At age 15, his adoptive family "disrupted" the adoption and placed Lee back in foster care.  Lee bounced from foster home to facility to group home until age 18.  At 18, Lee entered Immerse.  Hear how God has changed him.  I met Lee for the first time about a week after he met the Lord, and he truly is alive with Christ inside of him.  Amazing.

The last video gives more insight into exactly what Immerse AR does.  

Truly, the night was great, but only because our God is so great.  The funds are still coming in, which is amazing and such a blessing.  I'm so thankful to be able to play a small role in this organization and to work on behalf of these youth who need us to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Sometimes coming up with a title for a blog post feels like difficult work.  For that reason alone, I almost didn't even write about this morning, but that felt like a crying shame.  It was a good morning and worth writing about and darned be the title that I can't think of.  Which is how it landed on "Bloom Brunching & Singing."  I know that was much more explanation than you needed.

I know I always seem to be talking about Bloom here on the blog.  That's because I love it, and it has been a life-line to me in this season of life.  This year, I am a group leader.  To be real honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a leader.  I really wanted to be able to come and just hang out with the friends I already have.  But, then many of my friends became leaders, and I saw quickly that I wasn't going to be able to be with any of them.  So, I figured since it was my 6th year in the ministry, it probably was time to step up to the leadership plate and expand my people horizons a bit, and I did feel God gently cattle prodding me in that direction.  I know that is a really touching story about how I ended up being a leader.

And guess what - God showed up in my group.  He brought precious women together.  Women who have hearts for him.  Women who have hearts for each other.  Women who have been clearly placed together for reasons that God knew ahead of time.  Women who I genuinely like.  Why am I always surprised by God's faithfulness?  It should be the obvious expectation, but I am still amazed at the goodness that God provides.  Thanks, ladies, for being amazing!

(We missed the girls who couldn't be there this morning!)

Terry Jones sang - she was in the Christian group Point of Grace.  She shared from her heart about walking away from her career to spend more time with her family, and then she debuted three new songs from her new solo album.  It was amazing - go here to hear the first single!


At the end of the Brunch, the children came out to perform.  This was Bella's first performance, and since I chronicled Lily's two years ago, I didn't feel like I could not write about it.  Lily also performed, so it was a really fun to watch.  John came, which thrilled both girls.  What we have gathered is that our children are not necessarily natural performers.  They sort of like to do their own thing, which I can relate with.

Bella did put her hands up the very first time there was an action to do.


It did digress from there, as the teacher started using Bella's arms to do the actions.


By the end, she was sitting on the floor, apparently totally over this "singing for parents" thing.  Sweet girl - she did wave enthusiastically when she spotted us.


This year, Lily was a bit more animated - which does not mean she was animated.  But - she did play along with the motions, and I was enlightened to the fact that they had actually learned a song in another language.  She hadn't been making that song up that she had been singing loudly for a couple of weeks at nap time.


I do love seeing my kids in different situations and seeing that they are exactly the way that God made them, and it is just right.  It was a lovely morning, and I will be ready to start back up in January!

Monday, November 18, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from one of my BFFs, Stephanie Claus.  She's made many guest appearances on the John and Carol Show, since we try to get together as families at least once a year - this year we met up with them in San Antonio and did Sea World, which resulted in one of the best vacation pictures ever.  Steph and I roomed together our senior year of college and could often be found playing Boggle in our room when we weren't hanging out with Brian and John or when Steph wasn't studying.  We walked some hard roads that year, since it was the last year of my dad's life and her sister had a recurrence of cancer.  When she asked if she could share this story on the blog, I was thrilled.  It is such a redemptive God story, and Steph (who is a doctor and mother by day) writes so movingly and honestly.

With no more adieu - here it is!  Thanks, Stephanie.

Holy Beauty:
My sister's story and why I haven't given up the faith

I am a doubter. I have a tendency to question, over-analyze and argue myself out of my own convictions. I am naturally empathetic and that empathy more often than not allows me to see quite clearly the validity of another viewpoint. I question why the Old Testament is so full of violent and abusive/oppressive narratives, I question why good people with strong beliefs who happen not to have heard the gospel might not be saved, I question why certain people seem to struggle with so much while others seem to have everything handed to them. In the end I don't really have answers to most of my questions. I have a fair amount of inner struggle and arguing back and forth in my little overwrought head. I have a lot of unresolved questions and a fair amount of doubting my own faith. There have been seasons where the thread holding me to this faith has felt as fragile as a strand of silk, but somehow it has held strong through all my doubts. The one thing that has anchored me through these questions and unresolved issues, the thing that brings me back to a place of peace every time, is story. The story of a God who cares, who risks everything to bring peace and redemption to a people who are difficult to love, the story of a God who is near, who is present, who is all-loving, all-merciful and who can be trusted. The character of God is real and when I hear the stories, whether through a hymn or a Scripture reading or a soul plunging conversation with a friend, my soul is filled with the recognition of Truth. I know that I will always question, always doubt. And in some ways I think it makes my faith stronger, or at least more authentic. But when my faith feels tenuous I look at the beauty of God's story and the stories that He has written, is writing, in my life and others', and my soul finds rest.

The thing about God stories is they're real. They don't have any guaranteed happy endings and you can pretty much count on some messy sin-nature, pain and injustice. But there is a cord that runs through them. A cord of hope, of redemption, of unwarranted joy. And it is that cord that I find myself clinging to even as my doubting mind runs this way and that looking for the logic of faith.  It is a cord of strength, of hope, of holy beauty. So as I have thought through my sister's story over these past several months, I am gripped with awe as I so clearly see my God's loving hand. It brings me to tears every time. It brings me to the heart of God.

Her's is a story of reality at its harshest, of cancer involving the most personal pieces of one's body and soul, cancer not just once as a child but again as an adult. Her's is a story of seasons of depression, oppressive thought patterns and attempted suicide. A story of a womb being lifted out of the belly of a 22 year old virgin with a grapefruit sized tumor clinging to it. Her story is not mine to claim.  Though I walked with her, sometimes closely, I have not walked her road. I have not shed her burning tears. I have not felt the pain and helplessness of looking death in the eye. But in her story there is a cord of hope.  A cord of protection, provision and over all love. And that cord is mine. That is my God. And I cling to that cord because it is my hope and my faith. And because He has written me into His story.


So, ten years later, ten years after that second cancer diagnosis and hysterectomy, I get to see the next chapter of the story. The part that seemed impossible from her hospital room with IV poles and smooth pale head. The part that, if I'm really honest with myself, I did not believe God could do. The joy of family and second chances and miraculous provision. Of twin 8 month old girls received with open hearts of joy last summer. Of watching my sister step gracefully and beautifully into the role of mother. The news of 12 and 14 year old older sisters' stories and lives working their way into my sister and brother-in-law's hearts and their clear conviction that God had opened the door for these too to be their daughters. It has been an incredible story to watch unfold. To see someone beaten down by life in every possible way walk away clothed in joy and peace, without a trace of bitterness or anger. To see your Father respond to every need in a way that so perfectly addresses the intimate details of each void that it leaves you wondering at your own unbelief. To see your sister and dearest friend step up to the courthouse bench, beaming, one daughter in arms and three by her side, stepping into a covenant of love with these four beauties.


But then there was also the part, earlier on in the adoption process, where the CPS worker looked my sister and her husband in the eye and said "are you sure you realize what you're doing? This isn't going to be your fairy tale ending." And they said "yes we do, and we're committed to these girls."  Because they understand that God doesn't commit himself to us only if we don't have baggage, or thinking this is all going to turn out pretty. That's not how a God story works. It is painful, it is unpredictable, it always involves sacrifice and dying to self, and the ending (on this side of eternity) is not guaranteed.

In the end no scientific argument or logic can create the hope that resonates in my soul that I feel when I see God's redemptive story played out in real lives.  There is a hope that can be trusted. My God is here.

Friday, November 15, 2013


I got home on Sunday night and hit the ground sprinting.  Now I am trying to catch my breath a bit, but my lungs are still heaving.  There have been a lot of things happening here.  Every single night of this week took us out of our house.  On the bright side, I haven't had to cook dinner at all.  On the downside, I feel scattered - like pieces of me have been flung to the wind.

Right now I find myself regrouping and rejoicing.  I am enjoying my people right where they are, which is such a blessing - here's what that looks like.

I loved enjoying the late night father/son laughter.  Also, this wasn't that late at night.  That makes it more enjoyable.  The babies are consistently sleeping through the night in their own beds in their own room.  And the angels loudly sang and rained down heavenly confetti.  William has become one of the sunniest kids ever - it probably helps that he no longer has an undetected ear infection.

So fun to have a son.  #latenightlaughter

Violet loves the bouncer.  It got quiet over there, and I realized she had drifted off in the few moments it took to warm her bottle.  Sweet girl.

Even baby bouncers need a break.

Sunglasses inside on little kids are always funny to me.


Hurricane Bella made bed-fall.  Bless her heart.

This never happens.  Hurricane Bella is at rest.  #itsoundedfartooquiet

Last night was the Immerse AR Fundraising Banquet, and it was an amazing night.  I will write a longer post about it with videos included sometime this weekend.  That is one of the main reasons I feel like I am regrouping and rejoicing.  So much goes into planning a major event, and the aftermath feels like a storm came through my life.  I am almost uncertain of what I normally do when I am not thinking of that and making sure I am not missing details.  It's as if this mass of time and energy has opened up in front of me, and I am overwhelmed with the possibilities.

Then I remember that there are 4 little people living here, and they require a lot of time and attention and laundry doing.  I'm behind on all those normal things, so before I can get to anything fun, I probably need to address the "Action Needed" folder on John's desk that hasn't seen the light of day in weeks, among other things.  I just need to regroup up in here.

But, I am rejoicing these days.  It is a conscious choice, because there are heavy things all around me that press in and try to smother.  There's miscarriage, there are poor choices, there's true hardship.  And those things are all real and all should grieve me.  But - after last night, I was again reminded that there is redemption.  We have a Redeemer in Jesus who came here just to save us.  Just to give us a way back.  As we head into the Christmas season, I feel more in awe than ever before of the gift that Jesus is.  The majesty of a story filled with such humility and grace that is offered so freely to all.  Thank you, Jesus.  Let it be on earth as it is in heaven.  I rejoice that someday, it will be.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


While I was gone, my super brave and kind and generous husband held down the home front.  A couple of weeks ago, as everyone was melting down around dinner time and we both felt exhausted, John said, "I'm a little nervous about you going to San Diego."  I said, "Me too."  So we did what any sane adult would do - we called in reinforcements.  This time, that came in the form of John's wonderful mother, Sharon.  Since John's sister also lives with us, that meant there were 3 adults to help wrangle the 4 kiddos, bringing everything back to mostly normal range.  Right now, it just takes a lot to run this circus.

These two babies are getting solid food regularly now, and it is going well-ish.  William is a champ, and Violet likes to laugh when you say "Boo!"  Sometimes food gets in her mouth.


They did have a blast at different times, and I got the cutest videos in the world.  They are so cute that I decided to share.

Violet is sure obsessed with the bouncer, and William is becoming about the smiliest baby in the world - especially now that his tummy is always full.  Amazing how that works.

The big girls did really well.  They got to party with Daddy at CFA on Sunday, which never happens.  It was pretty exciting until there were accidents ending in wet pants for both girls.  Bless John's heart.


John did get to sneak in an Avett Brothers concert, which always makes life a little better.  Or a lot better.


And I came home to the best signs possible, taped to the girls' beds so that I would see them the night I got back, even though the girls were asleep.  Precious.


Also, I could get used to being called "WOW."  I'm so thankful to have a husband who supports me and values the same things that I do.  He believed my San Diego trip was worth it, and he certainly stepped up to the plate.  I am also so thankful for amazing in-laws that help care for and love on my children in my absence.  While I missed my kids, I never once worried that they would have any major issues.  That is a real blessing.

And now I'm back, and re-entry hasn't been as hard as I had imagined.  This is a super busy week, but things feel remarkably calm at our house.  Amazing how time and space away can do that sometimes.  Being back with my family is where I belong, and I'm thankful to even be thankful.  I just realized how cheesy that sounds, but it really is how I feel.  I deeply love my peeps, and I love that God put us together.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Diving right in . . .

Low:  There's the extremely obvious low of the fact that baby Branch will only be with us a short time.

High:  Glenn and Kristin are about the most gracious and positive people imaginable.  This does not mean they are not sad, but they are so healthy and allow themselves space to grieve as necessary and be "happy" when possible.  Spending time with them was delightful, even in the midst of such tragedy.


High:  Every single thing I ate while I was there was AMAZING.  Kristin does food well (Hello!  Her blog title is KristinEats), and she took us to such great places.  I took a ton of food pictures, but I will spare you all of those.  I think I ate my weight in goat cheese, which is to be expected.  San Diego really does have great food.

High:  We did Mani/Pedis with some other mutual friends from CFA.  It was such a treat to see them and to have rocking nails.


Low:  I kept trying to order Diet Coke at dinner.  The part of San Diego where the Murdocks live is a little hippie, and two out of three nights, I got some major kick back.  The first night, our waiter actually said, "We do not serve any soda.  We do not like High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I do have Organic Lemonade."  It sounded a wee bit pretentious.  But, to be fair to that particular waiter, he did redeem himself when he came from the back carrying a Diet Coke.  He had been on a leave and didn't realize they had started serving it while he was gone, probably much to his disappointment.  However, he was gracious and sold it to me.  (I never even tried asking for Diet Dr. Pepper - that goodness was only available at CFA, which we did frequent twice!)


High:  Friday was low key, and we did a little shopping and cupcake eating.  The tiger dresses were a nice touch.

(Love how Kristin is rubbing baby Branch in that pic!)

High:  Anytime we went in the bathroom, which was pretty frequently, no one asked me, "How loud is the flush?"

High:  Saturday was the Day of Glamour.  It deserves special text treatment like that because of its sheer amazingness.  It could not have been farther from any of our normal lives.  The day started off at the Spa for massages.


After incredible massages, we lounged in the relaxing environment, enjoying the steam room (okay, I did not actually enjoy that tiny little part), the whirlpool outside and the fruit and cucumber infused water.


The Day of Glamour continued with a light lunch.  Scratch that, for lunch I had a grilled cheese sandwich (with several incredible cheeses), half a cinnamon roll and half a danish.  It wasn't exactly light, but it was good.  Then we headed to the Salon.  Kristin and Keri got their eyebrows done, and I got a quick haircut.


From there, we headed to a place called Blow Pop.  They wash and dry your hair and then style it for you.  Places like that can survive and thrive in SoCal.  So, I got my hair washed and dried for the second time in two hours.  But, then I got it curled.  We all felt very glam.  Especially in the gold chairs.

(Picture taken from the outside through the glass, hence the glares)

Day of Glamour then took us to Nordstrom's, where we got our makeup done.  It was divine.  They were all so nice to us and then loaded us down with sample goodies - not even knowing what was going on with Kristin.  It was a sweet treat!  Plus, we looked fabulous.


High:  After the Day of Glamour, Glenn took us all out to dinner at a swanky Italian place.  I won't even pretend that it was a light meal.


High:  Even after talking to each other almost non-stop for three days, we didn't run out of things to talk about.  Having good friends who are like-minded people is a real blessing.

High:  Keri and I hit the beach on Sunday morning - we could see it from our room and made a point to visit before we left.  It was so peaceful to have quiet times there before we headed back to our realities.


All in all, it could not have been a better trip, considering the circumstances.  Thanks for being amazing hosts, Glenn and Kristin!  We love you and Branch so very much.