My Top 5 Posts of 2019

  It seems we're not the only ones trying to simplify our lives. Four of my top five posts are from my Decluttering and Downsizing series. In fact, the top post of all time is the first I wrote in the series. Part 1 of our Foster-Adoption story made it into the top 5 as well!

My Most popular posts of 2019

Reflecting On 2019

  It's hard to believe we're at the end of another year! 2019 seems to have flown by, and yet the fact that just six months ago we were living in a different home in a different community feels like such a long time ago!

   As always, I've taken some time to reflect on the past year.

Looking Back On the Year's Highlights

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
...from our family at Living Our Lives Well!

Greetings from Our Family

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It's a Cavalier King Charles Christmas!

  It's that time of year when everyone shares their home tours, showcasing their Christmas decor, so I thought I'd share my favourite year-round decor, but with a Christmas theme!

Meet Raven, Avalie and Harley

Featuring our Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Remembering Dad

I know that I know that I know that I know by grace I've been set free.

1 Thessalonians 4:13,14 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

You Know That You Know It

 Dad asked the Lord Jesus Christ to come into his heart and save him in December 1985, at the age of fifty-eight. Dad went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday morning, December 16, 2009. The following is taken from Dad’s own words that he wrote of his testimony of salvation and was read at the celebration of his life.

Our Traditions of Christmas

  Welcome to our Traditions of Christmas series. We had fun putting it together, reminiscing about Christmas seasons past and creating new memories. You can find links to all of the posts here.

Our family's Christmas traditions, inexpensive crafts, and homemade gift ideas.

Traditions of Christmas ~ Our Nativity Scene

 "Gingerbread and candy canes, cookies baked to give away; 
singing carols, Christmas plays, gifts and going to Grandma's place." 

 All of these have been a big part of our family's celebrations, but the most important thing to us has been to instill in our children and grandchildren the true meaning of Christmas. 

 "While some traditions come and go, others we hold dear"

  For the past 25 years or so, the center of our decorations has been our manger scene, depicting the birth of Christ. 

Making a wood manger scene to show the true meaning of Christmas

Traditions Of Christmas ~ Gift Giving Fun

  Giving is one of the most fun parts of Christmas! As a family, there are a few traditions we've had over the years to add a little more fun to our gift giving. 

 One of these traditions was started for practical reasons, and it seems to be a common one with many families. Every year on Christmas Eve, our kids were allowed to open one gift. It was never a surprise to find a pair of PJs in this gift, but we usually added a small gift to make it a little more fun for them! Most years we included a movie or a video game, and more recently we've started adding a package of hot chocolate and microwave popcorn. The best part for us is knowing everyone will look good for Christmas morning pictures!

Traditions Of Christmas ~ The Candy Cane

 This project is a very simple little gift that we've made a few times over the years to hand out to friends and neighbours before Christmas.

A simple way to share the gospel at Christmas time

Traditions of Christmas ~ A Pinate

  Are you looking for something different to do this Christmas? One of our many Christmas activities from years gone by has been making a pinate.

Making a Christmas Pinate

Traditions of Christmas ~ Home Made Gift Wrap and Tags

When our older kids were growing up, there were many years that we had to find ways to save money. Making our own wrapping paper was one of them.

DIY gift wrap and tags

Traditions of Christmas ~ Gift Jars

  Are you looking for a simple gift for a friend, teacher, or co-worker? Maybe you want a project that you can do with the kids. Gift jars are a great gift for anyone, and easy enough for kids to make with a little help from an adult. 

3 different gift jar gifts

Traditions of Christmas ~ Gift Trays

   This is one of my favourite gift ideas and one that we've done many times over the years. Some years have been quiet, with just my daughter Nicole and I getting together, while other years the whole family has been home to take part. No matter who is there, it's always a fun time of making memories.

Making Christmas Baking Gift Trays

Traditions of Christmas ~ Mini Gingerbread Houses

  Many years ago, baking cookies and making a gingerbread house before Christmas became one of our family traditions. The gingerbread houses didn't happen every year, but at some point, all eight of our kids had a turn at decorating a house with candy. 

Easy gingerbread houses

Traditions of Christmas ~ Button Wreath

Traditions Of Christmas

When I was a child, I loved playing with my mom's collection of buttons. Like many ladies of her day, Mom kept the buttons in an old cookie tin. Years later, when my parents were moving from the farm, among their possessions was a huge cookie tin full of buttons. Not the small tin from my childhood, but one that belonged to my great aunt. I'm sure that tin held not only Auntie Bene's button collection, but my grandma's and my mom's as well. I had no idea what I'd do with all those buttons, but I brought the cookie tin home, not willing to leave it behind for someone else to throw away.

Traditions of Christmas ~ In Song

    Anyone else love Christmas as much as I do?!

  Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year. Even though we didn't have a lot when I was a child, Mom and Dad always made Christmas a special time. When our own kids were small, there were many years that we didn't have extra money, so we learned to make do with what we had...sometimes saving money by making gifts. When the kids were older we often made our own decorations and wrapping paper, and baked cookies to give away to family and friends. 

  With the Christmas season fast approaching, I thought I'd share some of our family's Christmas traditions, inexpensive crafts, and homemade gift ideas.
Original Christmas Songs

My Isaac Part 28 Adoption Day

 By May 2012, we had completed everything required for our adoption home study and again we waited for other people to do their part. The day finally came in August! By this time, we were living in a camper trailer while building our house,  but we gladly took a break from work to meet with our social worker and sign the official documents. 

My Isaac

My Isaac Part 27 God is Still Good!

 Having made the decision to move back home, we got busy preparing our house to sell, purchasing property and making plans for our new home. We had also begun a child-specific home study in preparation for adopting our little Princess. It had been a long time coming and of course, that whole process took a long time, but we were almost there!

  It was a busy time and blog posts were few and far between, but I did make a year end post that summed things up...

 "In his time God will work all things for our good and for his glory, and even if we don't ever get to see the whole picture....well, God is still good isn't he!"

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 26 Wherever You Are

  I'm not sure what was going on at this time, or what was on my mind...I do know that Thanksgiving was difficult that year. I was missing our girls and our grandkids. Ten years earlier we had moved...we were only an hour away, but the distance was more than just miles. Perhaps everything had just piled up and I  needed to spend a few minutes wallowing in self pity! 

 I had said to Brian, "I want to move home." And wonderful man that he is, he agreed, and soon we were looking for property and planning our move.

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Family

My Isaac Part 25 Taking a Break

  Another year of waiting. Life went on. Eventually, we would be able to start our adoption home study, but in the meantime calls to take in more foster children continued.

  Another nine months had now passed.
My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 24 Seek the Lord and His Strength

 We had been preparing ourselves for our Princess to return to her birth mom. They had been having regular visits and cfs was looking at extending visits. Because of some circumstances in her birth mom's life, transition home would probably not happen until springtime....several months away. 

From an email:
 During one of the visits, Danica was telling the social worker about some red leaves she took to Sunday School, and said, "It's amazing what God can do!" So....I guess we both need to just remember that..."It's amazing what God can do!"

 Then in November of 2010, there was a surprising change of plans. We received the news that her birth mom was giving up her parental rights. Out of respect to Princess's birth mom, I won't share all of the details of how this came about...we were just thankful for this amazing turn of events!

  There was one condition, however... That no adoption plan be made for one full year! 

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 23 You're In His Hands

 We'll take it one day at a time, put one foot in front of the other....and trust the Lord to take us through...just as he always has...but sometimes a reminder is needed. *sigh

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac, Part 22 Victoria Day & Victory

 I know I could have condensed these posts into a shorter series, but there`s a method to my madness... I`m hoping by now you have some idea of what it was like living through the ups and downs and twists and turns of this process, and enduring the endless waiting! Just when we thought we were going one direction, the plan would change, forcing us to adjust to our new reality. 

 Not my will, but thine Lord...the ONLY way to victory! 

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 21 Whose Best Interest?

  After giving her birth mom every opportunity to make the changes the judge had listed in the previous trial, the decision had been made to once again go back to the court and ask for a permanent guardianship order. 

 In March 2010, Princess D's birth mom spoke to me about the possibility of us adopting her. It wasn't what she wanted, but she felt like she had no other option. Of course, there were details to work out, but we seemed to be in agreement. All we could do was wait and see.

 The next two months were a series of meetings and court adjournments which we were not a part of. In May 2010, birth mom and her lawyer presented a plan to the social workers, and it was agreed that she should have one more chance to turn things around.

  Whenever feasible, reunification is the best choice for children, but this living in limbo was taking it's you can see in this post.

My Isaac, Our Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 20 Precious Moments

 Not all of the details of this saga were included on my blog, but an email from that time filled in the gaps.

"Jan 16, 2010
We got good news this week. CFS had their meeting on Thursday, and they're going back to court for the permanent order. We still have to wait for a court date, so it's far from over yet, but at least we know they're headed in the right direction."

I was feeling hopeful.

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 19 Reflecting On the Past Year

   It was the end of another year, and though uncertainty about our foster daughter's future remained, other matters also occupied my thoughts...Even when we're living in limbo the world keeps on spinning, and the rest of life and all that entails continues on.

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 18 I'll Keep Trusting

Living in limbo...

I'm not sure there`s any way to describe it to someone who has never experienced it.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of 'in limbo'
 1: in a forgotten or ignored place, state, or situation; orphaned children left in limbo in foster homes and institutions. (How fitting...and a little disconcerting that this situation is so common it`s an example in the dictionary.)  
2: in an uncertain or undecided state or condition (Yup, that`s accurate too!)

 Although I`d become accustomed to living in this forgotten, ignored, uncertain, undecided place, it was still a struggle.  All I could do was determine to keep trusting in my Lord.

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 15 Cutest Back of the Head

  While we waited for an answer from the judge, life went on. And with each passing day, we grew to love this little girl more and more. Because of confidentiality, foster parents are not allowed to mention the names of foster children or post pictures of them on social media. We got very adept at taking good 'back of the head' photos! 

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 14 In His Time

  "All things work together for good, the Lord has promised in his word. And in his plan we will put our trust, for it was he who lent you to us."

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 13 Hannah's Heart

  As often happens, God used one of my own songs, based on his word, to speak to me during this time. Not the specific circumstances, but the message... "Hannah’s heart had learned to trust and pray."

 "What a difference it makes when we just put our trust in the Lord, and realize, as Hannah did, that there is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God!" 

1 Samuel 1:1 –1 Samuel 2:21 (please read the account in your Bible)

Jeremiah 17:7,8 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 12 Waiting

  The trial to determine Princess's future had begun in February. She'd been with us since June....8 months; a very long time in the life of a child. Visits were going well, and I felt that with support, reunification could be successful. We thought, finally a decision would be made! 

  Unfortunately, because of bad roads, an expert witness wasn't able to make it, so further trial dates had to be set in March and April.

My Isaac, Our Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 11 Surprise Packages

 And just like that, we were back to being foster parents! We hadn't planned to take more kids, but it wasn't long before the phone began ringing again.  I'm so glad we said yes because these were two of the most rewarding experiences we had during our fostering years. The circumstances in each situation were completely different, but both had a happy ending, and we were blessed to have a small part in the lives of these children and their families. 

Isn't it amazing what the Lord can do when we put Isaac on the altar!? 

Philippians 2:14 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

My Isaac Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 10 Not My Will, But Thine Lord, Again

  We'd been retired from fostering for just two months; my book had been printed, 24 of my songs had been recorded, we were helping with a building project at our church and preparing for a children's ministry to begin in the fall. The path ahead seemed pretty clear. 

My Isaac, Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 9 Stepping Stones Along My Journey

 It was time to celebrate! 

 Not only were we now retired from fostering, but I was also about to turn 50. I had decided to give myself a gift. For several months I had been busy compiling things I had written over the years to put into a book. 

 The preceding posts are found in this book and as far as I was concerned my Isaac story had come to an end. Little did I know that several more chapters were to come.

My Isaac

My Isaac Part 8 He Will Make a Way

  During a spring revival, a preacher asked the question, 

“Why did they wait on the banks of the Jordan?” 

He was referring to the account in Joshua 3:1 where the children of Israel came to Jordan and lodged there three days before passing over. I’m not sure why they waited for three days, but the preacher made an interesting application with the story. He said that if you stand too long on the banks of what God wants you to do, you will never cross over because sin enters in. It’s not the size of the Jordan that’s important, it’s who you’re trusting. The Jordan will always be there, even if you close your eyes. God opened up the Red Sea, and he can get you over Jordan, but the water won’t part until you put your feet into the water.

Joshua 3:1,13 And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.

My Isaac, Foster Adoption Story

My Isaac Part 7 Establishing My Thoughts

  Not My will? Taking my hands off? I needed to stop focusing on circumstances and look to God's word... 

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established. Proverbs 16:3

Foster Adoption Story My Isaac

My Isaac Part 6 Taking My Hands Off

  I shouldn't be, but I'm always amazed at how the preaching of God's word can speak so clearly to whatever situation I'm facing. I was still struggling with surrendering my will when God provided exactly what I needed to hear.
My Isaac

My Isaac Part 5 Lovest Thou Me More Than These?

  To provide some context for this post... At the time, our three boys were ages 11, 8 and 5, and we were fostering two sibling groups. The two sisters were about 6 and 3, and although their future was yet to be settled, it was looking like they would not be returning home, and would need a permanent foster or adoptive home. The others were a 5 year old boy and his baby sister, who was almost a year old. These two would soon be returning to their mom.

My Isaac

My Isaac Part 4 The Song

What Is Isaac?

 During our church’s camp meeting in July 2007, an evangelist preached a message called, “What Is Isaac?” He talked about what must have gone through Abraham’s mind when God asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. He had to travel three days to reach Mount Moriah, and though we aren’t given any details, he had to have agonized about what he was about to do. He must have wondered why God would ask him to sacrifice the son he had promised him; his hope for the future. But there is no indication that Abraham ever questioned God or tried to bargain with him. The only way he could possibly have carried through with it was by putting his complete trust in the Lord.

 The account is found in Genesis 22:1-13….get thee into the land of Moriah...And they came to the place which God had told him of, and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

 I'd recently spoken with someone who was struggling with an issue concerning one of his children. As I listened to the preacher's message, I couldn't help but think about that conversation, as well as the fact that there were some issues with my own grown children that I clearly needed to let go. It wasn't long before a song began to form. 

 You may wonder what this has to do with foster care or adoption. Well, at that time, nothing! But God has a way of using my own songs to speak to me.

Genesis 22: 1-13

My Isaac Part 3 Not My Will

Not My Will, But Thine, Lord...

Words written on a scrap of paper...I've kept that scrap of paper in my Bible all these years, as a reminder of how God can work when we surrender our will to His....even though it may take a while to get there!

My Isaac

My Issac Part 2 Meant To Be

 Over the course of our 30 years of providing foster care, we had close to 300 children come through our home. Some stayed just a few hours, some stayed for several years. A few came to stay permanently....they were meant to be.

My Isaac

My Isaac Part 1 A Foster - Adoption Story

 This series was originally posted for Adoption Month.

Foster care has been a huge part of our lives and our adoption journey.

 Five of our children came from the foster care system, and most of their stories were included in my book, Stepping Stones Along My JourneyWhen it was published, I thought that chapter had come to an end. Little did I know God had another plan. As this new chapter unfolded I shared bits and pieces of it on my personal  blog...the good, the bad and the ugly! I've taken some of these book excerpts and blog entries and created a series of posts. 

 Parts of our story may not be particularly encouraging to anyone hoping foster care is a quick path to adoption, but it does have a happy ending, and more importantly, it's a story of how God works in our lives, using his word and the preaching of his word to direct us...sometimes in the most unexpected ways!